Star Trek

Star Trek

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Season 1, Episode 02 "Where No Man has Gone Before"

"Hey, where the hell is episode 01?"
You may have noticed that this blog starts with episode 02, and the answer to "where is 01?" requires a bit of background. When the Star Trek pilot was shot and presented to NBC execs in 1965, it contained an entirely different cast and captain. While the story was good, the studio decided not to green-light it. They did, however, give the ST team another shot, asking them to do another pilot with a much, much smaller budget. They liked the idea of a weekly sci-fi show, but weren't confident that it could be made cheaply enough. So Gene Roddenberry & Co. went back to the drawing board, paring down the cost of things left and right, and wrote a different story. Jeffrey Hunter, who had played the captain in the first pilot, "The Cage", was no longer available, so he was replaced by William Shatner. The only crew members kept were Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Majel Barrett, who had played Number One but was recast as Nurse Christine Chapel. (Apparently, NBC was not okay with a female in second command. I know this was the mid-sixties, but I'm giving NBC the finger for that. Majel Barrett's Number One was a BAMF.) While "The Cage" was costly, and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was as well, the second pilot was much less expensive than the first, and NBC decided to air the second with the promise that the budget would get smaller still. Keep in mind, the US and the USSR were knee-deep in the space race, and NBC probably figured a sci-fi series would help them cash in. Because the budget became such an integral part of the series, I almost think of it as another character on the show. I'm not reviewing "The Cage" first because Madam Budget dictated that they use the very different pilot, and so they did, later in the season. It'll be reviewed then.
One of the behind-the-scenes features on the disc set that I'm watching has one of the cast members comparing the cost of one episode of ST:TOS to the bill from one episode of a modern show's craft services table. That's a ridiculous budget. It's amazing to think that they might have made a lousy show with that kind of money, let alone a good one that spawned a cartoon show, a slew of films, three spin-offs, and a very active fandom.


Episode 02 "Where No man Has Gone Before"
Stardate: 1312.4
Air date: September 22, 1966
This disc set has offered me the option of including pop-ups with additional information placed throughout the episode - score! I'll drop those in sometimes and add on others at the end of the summary.
When we open, our intrepid crew has picked up a distress signal from a ship lost 200 years earlier. Kirk (in his first appearance of the series) and Spock are in the rec room playing three-dimensional chess and discussing the human emotion of irritation. Spock smiles. It's... unsettling. This was still really early in the series and it hadn't been established that he rarely emotes, if ever. This is also not to say that Leonard Nimoy doesn't have a nice smile, because he does. It's just that seeing Spock smile is sort of on par with a pacifistic Klingon: it's kinda weird. As is the fact that they put Spock in gold for this episode.



Also, they're wearing the old-school sweater-style uniforms from "The Cage". While these are more formal, they seem clunkier and kind of hot. I like the newer style better, which has less stuff going on. Between the thick, ribber collar, the ship insignia, and the stripes at the cuff, it's a little much. The newer style (which looks a bit like jammies) were probably cheaper to produce as well. Budget gets a gold star for that.
The bridge lets Kirk know that the distress signal is coming from something smaller than a ship, and they head to the transporter room to beam it aboard. For some reason, Scotty is running the transporter, and also wearing gold. The thing beamed aboard turns out to be some kind of black box device, and it looks like a beat-up Dalek with legs. It starts transmitting again, and the ship goes to alert.



It's time for the intro, but Kirk's speaking part is absent. It'll show up next time, borrowing the phrase "where no man has gone before" from the title of this episode. I can't get used to the opening music. I keep expecting to hear the Next Gen theme, but instead I get the bouncy 60's sci-fi / fantasy music, kind of similar to Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Ah, 1960's... you were an awesome time for television.

Kirk and Spock climb into the lift with another guy who appears to be wearing gold as well, but after a few minutes you realize that it's just a really similar tan. Glad they got rid of that. Can you imagine the fan arguments? "No, he was wearing command gold!" "What have you been smoking? That dude is wearing Lackey Tan!"
(Take a second to check out the cool lighting in the lift, with the overhead simulated grill and the yellow strip on the wall that makes it look as though the lift is traveling upward. I have to give a lot of credit to the lighting guys on this episode. They do a lot to make the "traveling in space" feeling more real.)



The new guy in the lift calls the captain "Jim" which seems insubordinate, but maybe they're friends. When they reach the bridge, he takes his place at the helm next to a guy who is Not Sulu.
A bunch of Blue Shirts enter the bridge. One is Sulu. (The pop-up tells me that in this episode, he's the ship's physicist, but when the series was picked up, he was promoted to helmsman... and also the ship's botanist?) Another of the Blue Shirts is an older guy who I'm fairly certain is the doppelganger of Dr Kelso from Scrubs. (Credits claim he's Dr Piper, played by Paul Fix.) The third Blue is Dr Elizabeth Dehner, a psychiatrist who is there to study crew reactions to emergency situations. About her costume: the female version of the sweater has a shawl collar, which is flattering but probably expensive to produce. Also, she and the yeoman are wearing pants, which seems strange for TOS. How is a female crewmember supposed to do her job properly without her ass hanging out of her uniform?



The insubordinate Tan Shirt ( Lt. Gary Mitchell) makes a smart-ass remark to her, and she replies with a "Bitch, please", before he mutters that she's a "walking freezer unit".
Spock begins relaying the info off the black box Dalek thing, and he tells us that the lost ship got caught in a magnetic space storm. It had encountered some unknown force, and there's garbled stuff about ESP. The pop-up box reminds me that in the mid to late sixties they were doing studies in ESP. I had forgotten that. Thank you, pop-up box. Dr Dehner admits that her ESP rating is high.
Kirk decides to leave the spot where the black box was found, but flying away, they encounter a big pink band barrier. The pop-up wants to know why they didn't just fly around the barrier. I wanna know that, too. Mitchell grabs the hand of Yeoman Smith, as this big pink thing is kind of scary.
Dude is sort of lax. He calls Kirk by his first name, is an a-hole to the psychiatrist, and now he's getting touchy-feely with another crewmember.



When they crash into the barrier, you can see where a chunk of the budget went in this episode. The production crew set several consoles on fire and filled the bridge with smoke. Also, good use of fireworks and animation. Both Dehner and Mitchell collapse. In the aftermath, the pop-up draws my attention to the barrage of voices coming in over the intercom, "reporting in." It gives the illusion of the ship being far bigger than the handful of people that we're shown. These voice recordings were re-used throughout the series. Another gold star for the budget.



Dehner seems okay, but Mitchell is banged up. When he sits up, his eyes glow a silver-blue color. Oh shit, Mitch. Now the whole universe knows about your Spice addiction.



Kirk's Log: the ship is dead in the water, so to speak, and they're too far from any Earth base to limp there. (Yup, they call it an Earth base in this episode. This is actually pre-Federation, and they use several different terms throughout the first season to talk about the organization they're a part of - so they're Earth bases rather than starbases.)
While they repair the ship, Spock reveals that Mitchell has the highest esper rating of anyone on the Enterprise. Kirk wonders if ESP is dangerous. Dehner assures him it is not.
Later, Mitchell is in a sick bay bed reading off a screen, and the pop-up informs me that modern hospitals used the sick bay beds as inspiration for their own. Awesome Points to fiction for creating fact. What else can we get out of Star Trek? (Besides Bluetooth. Those glowing ear cockroaches are annoying as hell.) I hate cooking, and Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration states that I can't make food appear out of nothing. Where's my replicator, bitches?
Oh, wait - we were talking about Old Silver Eyes. Kirk comes in to visit, and Mitchell says he's feelin' fine like sunshine. He tells Kirk that he's been reading the academic stuff that Kirk likes. Say fucking what? Kirk an academic? That seems totally Out Of Character. Picard is an academic. Spock is an academic. Kirk wrestles people in half-torn shirts and hits on space girls.
So Mitchell admits to talking a blonde Academy lab assistant into tapping Kirk, and Kirk gets pissed because he almost married that girl. Now, I don't like Mitchell, but that shit is funny.



Mitchell wants to go back on duty, but Kirk tells him that he's putting him under the observation of Dehner. When Mitchell protests, his voice becomes oddly amplified for a moment. Great. Now he's an asshole with mutant powers. Kirk seems concerned.
The pop-up says that the guy playing Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) had trouble seeing out of the silver contact lenses that he had to wear, and the only way that he could see was to tilt his head back and look down on people. Coupled with his smug attitude, it's effective. He is fast becoming the arch-nemesis named Super Douche. I hope his costume comes with a fucking cape and he gets sucked into the impulse engines.

Kirk returns to the bridge and Mitchell begins reading again, clicking through the pages faster and faster. On the bridge, Spock watches him from the monitor. Mitchell turns and stares at Kirk as though determining when the best time would be to eat his heart.



Back in sick bay, Mitchell plays with his powers, which creeps Dehner the fuck out. Then he hits on her. Lee the helmsman comes in to check on him, and Mitchell informs him of a ship part that needs to be repaired, otherwise the ship will blow up.



Turns out he's right. At an officer's meeting, Lee tells Kirk that Mitchell magically knew what part to fix. Spock thinks Mitchell is too big for his britches. Dehner calls Spock a heartless bitch for being a Vulcan in regards to Mitchell. Scotty tells the group that the controls on the bridge were acting of their own accord, and Spock says Mitchell was on the monitor smiling evilly whenever it happened. Dehner shouts that maybe he's evolved into a better human being. Hell no, sister. Boyfriend is a mutant.
After the meeting, Spock suggests marooning the now-dangerous Mitchell on an empty planet nearby, or else killing him.



Captain's Log: 1313.1 The captain goes Hamlet over the idea of marooning his old friend. We get it. You're the Horatio Hornblower of space, and now you have to play "Maroon, Kill or Marry" with Mitchell.
In sick bay, Mitchell reveals that he's aware that they want him off the ship. He electrocutes Spock and Kirk, and sprouts some crap about needing a planet "to use". Well, that escalated quickly. They hypo-spray Mitchell and drag him onto a transporter pad, beaming onto the surface of Delta Vega, which contains an unmanned lithium-cracking facility.

Take a look at this incredible matte painting, you guys. It's beautiful and desolate and worth every penny spent. Because matte paintings were expensive, they only had so many made, and tried to re-use them. This one particular painting was later re-touched and re-used in another episode, I think "Dagger of the Mind".



Kirk puts a drugged Mitchell in a cell behind an electrical field, and when he comes to, Mitchell tries to guilt Kirk into letting him out. He gets angry and throws himself at the forcefield, where he is blasted back. His eyes become normal for a second, and he seems kind of pathetic. But then his Spice eyes return, and he's more powerful than ever! [Insert evil laugh here.]
The landing party busies itself getting lithium crystals for their limping ship, and Spock puts in an appearance as a phaser rifle-toting badass. He is the Vulcan Sarah Connor, and I would follow him into the Robot Wars any day.



Kirk is still Hamlet over this whole thing, but has Lee rig a self-destruct button to blow up the facility if Mitchell gets loose. Too bad Mitchell uses his powers to telepathically choke Lee to death with some cabling in the control room.


Dehner says she's staying with Mitchell, which sounds like a great future. Trapped on an unmanned planet with a megalomaniacal creep. Good choice. Mitchell electrocutes Spock and Kirk again, shutting down the forcefield. Dehner's eyes glow, alerting us to the fact that she's clearly been drinking the Spice-laced Kool-Aid. Only I guess because of the color and weird powers it was like Spice Jacked.


Dr Piper finds and revives Kirk and Spock, and reports that Lee is dead, and that the Creepy Eye Twins are gone. Dehner and Mitchell wander around the bleak landscape, and Dehner remarks that it'll be tough to live there. So Mitchell waves his hand and says "Behold!" and a garden with a water feature appears.

 I'm imagining this show called "Home Design By Douchebag". A couple welcomes Mitchell into their home and we get some "before" shots. Then he reads their minds and waves his hand, and everything changes. The couple exclaims that it's just what they wanted (because it is), and then Mitchell electrocutes them and takes over the house because he can. The show segment is 5 minutes long and is interrupted by 55 minutes' worth of Home Depot commercials.


Mitchell and Dehner go into the garden and he talks about them being gods. That was easy. Complex confirmed. They sense Kirk coming and Dehner goes to talk to him. Kirk begs her to help him stop Mitchell. She advises Kirk to leave.
Mitchell shows up, and Kirk shoots him with the phaser rifle. The pop-up tells me that the firing effects were animation re-used from "The Cage". You're so smart, Budget. High five for recycling.


Mitchell digs a grave for Kirk. The tombstone he provides reads "James R Kirk". Oops. He then forces Kirk to pray to him, because you know, he's a god and stuff. You know, I bet we could come up with some new middles names for Kirk that start with R. Ones that are just as impressive as "Tiberius".


Dehner decides that she's sick of Mitchell's shit and she electrocutes him. He does the same to her and they battle it out until they're both drained. Kirk starts a fistfight with Mitchell while he's weak, and they duke it out. At one point, Kirk has him pinned and is about to bash in Mitchell's skull with a heavy rock. He apologizes for what he's about to do, but then Mitch gets all glowy again, and they resume the fight. Somehow, Kirk's shirt gets ripped. From what I've seen, this happens every time he gets into a physical fight. I wouldn't be surprised if the costuming department had a pre-ripped Kirk Fight Shirt that they had to pull out every few episodes.
The captain finally knocks the not-quite god into the open grave and uses the phaser rifle to get a giant slab of rock to fall on top of it. Dehner apologizes, and dies.
Kirk's Log: 1313.8  Kirk records the deaths of Mitchell and Dehner, and notes that they died in the service of their ship. He then tells Spock that he wanted their service records to reflect that way, and that it wasn't Mitchell's fault that he lost his mind. Spock agrees and says that he "felt for" Mitchell. Kirk then ends the episode on the signature note of telling Spock in a teasing way that he is more human that he thinks. Apparently, that joke was there from the beginning.




I guess the moral of the story is that "absolute power corrupts absolutely", but in Mitchell's case, I'd be willing to add "once an asshole, always an asshole."

*Bonus pop-up stuff:
- In "The Cage" the weapons are laser-based, but Gene Rod felt that his weapons might be called upon to do things that lasers cannot, so he changed the name to "phasers" for this pilot. The new name stuck.
- The transporter console in this episode is actually the helm from the bridge. The transporter room would get it's own console later.
- Leonard Nimoy's sweater-style shirt has a zipper like the others' on one shoulder, but has additional snaps at the other to open the collar more to accommodate Spock's ears.
- Rather than dispose of them, the old sweater-style shirts were worn by guest starts posing as members of other ships.
- "Stardates" were used to keep the time-frame of the show vague, giving hints about the real years as being anywhere from 200-800 years in the future. They later decided that this episode takes place in the year 2265 (about 200 years after 1965); however, that doesn't match up with stardate converters. When including stardates, writers were encouraged to come up with a four digit number that had a decimal at the end, and to try to get the dates to gradually increase. As they weren't keeping very good track of these dates, they sometimes bounced around. It wasn't until Next Gen that someone sat down, did the math, and began converting stardates correctly. Next Gen stardates can actually be matched to today's calendar dates. The base for these later stardates is January 1, 2323 (stardate 0).


"I iz help you write blog?" 
No, Kirk. You iz help me eat note-taking pen.

This week's consumed tea: Kamiya Papaya Oolong from Teavana, mixed with a spiced green tea. Delicious as both iced and popsicle forms.