So, okay. After “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”–an episode which was obviously supposed to air around Thanksgiving, a holiday that I’m kinda surprised to discover we still apparently celebrate in the future, albeit with synthetic meat loaf–we’re now circling back to “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” TOS’s pilot after their last pilot got trashed.
This . . . this isn’t one of my favorites.
There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY
The Enterprise finds a distress signal, which turns out to be emanating from a
weird little trash can recorder from the long dead SS Valiant. The data that Spock recovers states that the crew of the Valiant came across a weird energy field, began researching ESP in humans, and eventually blew up their own ship. So, it’s no big surprise when the Enterprise also comes across a weird energy field, although it’s more, heh, shocking when two crew members–psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Denner and Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell–are struck by an equally weird electrical charge. Both recover, but Mitchell ends up with some eerie ass silver eyes.
Turns out, both Denner and Mitchell were targeted because they have higher-than-usual ESP levels. Mitchell soon begins exhibiting all kinds of new psychic powers and mental abilities, and it’s clear that he’s on his way to becoming all-powerful. Spock offers two solutions: either desert Mitchell’s ass on Delta Vega (not this one) or outright kill him before it’s too late. Kirk, who’s been friends with Mitchell for the past fifteen years, is initially disinclined to go along with this plan. He gets over it pretty quickly, though.
Mitchell is sedated and taken down to the planet. We briefly get a glimpse of the old Gary after he runs into a force field, but he soon becomes that evil, glowing-eyed bastard again, killing some people and escaping in the company of Dr. Denner, who has fallen in love with him, or something. She also gets her own Silver Eyes of Evil. Kirk then appeals to what’s left of Denner’s humanity, and she eventually turns on Mitchell, weakening him but getting fatally injured in the process. Kirk and Mitchell fight, and Mitchell ends up getting buried alive. (In an open grave he intended for Kirk, no less, albeit with the wrong middle initial on the tombstone.) I really don’t know why this stops someone with godlike powers, but whatever. Mitchell’s done.
Later, the Enterprise flies away, and Spock admits to Kirk that he, too, felt for poor Gary Mitchell. And I’m like, “Yeah, okay. Whatever you say, Spock.”
I don’t know who the fuck I’m rooting for in this episode.
Take Gary. Gary’s an asshole, and I mean well before he gets struck by evil ESP lightning. He hits on Dr. Denner, who’s not remotely interested. Gary’s response? He leans over to the guy next to him and calls her a “walking freezer unit.” So, yeah, Gary’s charming.
That being said, Silver-Eyed Gary’s barely done more than speed read some shit, screw around with his own vitals, recite some love poetry, and warn a dude about a big danger to the ship before Spock’s like, “This motherfucker has got to go.” (Okay, yes, he did also mess around with some of the ship’s controls. But not, like, life support or anything.) Now, I get that SE Gary’s being creepy AF, and that the captain of the Valiant decided to blow up his own ship after similar incidents, but seriously, we don’t have, like, any specifics about what led to that decision. Like, what if the guy who got zapped back then was already a total sociopath? What if not all humans react to the ESP lightning in the exact same way? Maybe SE Gary will suddenly plateau against all expectation? Not to mention, everything on the Valiant happened over 200 years ago, right? Maybe there are, like, medical treatments we could try that they wouldn’t have had two centuries ago? (Especially after we discover the Normal Gary is still somewhere in there? Like, holy shit, we’re not even going to try to figure out a way to save him?)
Nope. And that’s a problem for me because it all just happens too fast. Yes, SE Gary ends up being an evil murderer who rants about stepping on people like insects and the like, but none of that happens until Spock has already decided on banishment or death. I mean, if my captain/BFF decided to maroon me on an abandoned planet, shit, I’d attack him, too. And look, I get it: the theme is “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and we’re trying to establish how logical Spock is in the face of those pesky human emotions and all, but SERIOUSLY: marooning a dude or straight-up execution, all for the crime of maybe becoming all-powerful? You know what that reminds me of?
“He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”
Yup. Spock kind of became Batman from BvS in this episode. That’s all I’m saying.
I find it mildly interesting that this episode has absolutely no interest in explaining and/or solving what caused the ESP lightning in the first place. (That’s not a knock. It just surprised me.)
So, I’ve heard of Gary Mitchell before, but I’ve never actually seen him–so when this guy gets on the turbolift, all “hey, Jim,” or whatever, I’m like, “Whoa, slow your roll, buddy. You’re not Bones. What’s this Jim nonsense?” And then someone calls him Mr. Mitchell, and I’m like, Huh, that sounds familiar, and then later they specify “Gary Mitchell,” and I’m like, “Right! You’re the dude that people briefly thought Benedict Cumberbatch might play before it became insanely obvious he was playing Khan!” And then Gary’s a total ass to Dr. Denner, and I’m like, “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about getting too attached to you. Dick.”
Oh my fucking God, Dr. Denner. Okay, so initially, Denner’s not into this guy, right? But then he gets his Silver Eyes of Doom and apologizes, which is apparently enough for her to immediately agree that “women professionals do tend to overcompensate,” which, gah, rage. And then she’s, like, immediately and irresistibly attracted to him? I don’t even know. Like while Spock’s all “GARY MITCHELL IS MUTATING INTO SATAN, COME TO KILL US ALL,” Denner’s like, “You fools! He’s a step forward in evolution, the perfect being, WORSHIP HIM AND HIS HOT BOD.” Meanwhile, I’m sitting on my couch, like, “Jesus Christ, could we get some kind of reasonable middle ground here?”
Denner just keeps getting worse, BTW. Kirk actually has to explain to her that he can’t just ignore warnings and potential evidence from his department heads simply because he and Mitchell are friends. She doesn’t report scientific and potentially dangerous findings. And later, on the planet, she’s so fucking besotted with this guy that she decides to stay behind. On a deserted planet. Presumably for the rest of her life. WTFF.
On a completely unrelated note, how many goddamn deserted planets are in this universe, anyway?
Like most pilots, this episode has some rough edges. Spock, for instance, has weird eyebrows again, and they’re clearly still working out his makeup. (Not to mention, uh, he yells an awful lot for a guy with no emotions.) Bones, Uhura, and Janice Rand aren’t in the episode; meanwhile, Sulu is in the episode, but in the wrong department. Not to mention, Kirk and Spock are now wearing, like, green-yellow turtlenecks. What are we calling that color, exactly? Chartreuse? Let’s all be happy we didn’t stick with chartreuse.
I’m hoping the show also quickly abandons the whole “pretty female yeoman getting underfoot on the bridge” bit, cause that shit’s really not playing for me.
This is a strange episode to watch right after “Charlie X.” IMO, “Charlie X” handles the whole “absolute power” theme much more effectively, although to be fair, that’s never really been one of my favorite morals. On the upside, I genuinely like the creepy silver eyes here.
Here’s something I find interesting: for a show often praised for its wonder and optimism, I’ve just watched four back-to-back episodes (including the unaired pilot) that deal with tragic antagonists who can’t be reasoned with, the dark consequences of power, and/or the inevitable extinction of a species. Like, this is the kind of shit I’d expect to see more from, say, The Twilight Zone, not from the franchise starring a captain who famously doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect all happy, all the time, but TOS has gotten off to a considerably bleaker start than I expected.
Luckily, I know “The Naked Time” is up next. God, I look forward to it.
LINE OF THE EPISODE
“Morals are for men, not gods.”