So, four days in and we’re finally here, at the show’s second pilot, the one which actually got Star Trek commissioned. Featuring an almost entirely new crew, and a “less cerebral” captain in the form of Jim Kirk, this adventure sees the Enterprise encounter a mysterious energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy. Not only does the barrier destroy the warp drive, forcing the Enterprise to start limping home, but it has a strange effect on Kirk’s best friend Lieutenant Gary Mitchell, who starts gaining super powers. And we all know that in the world of Star Trek, with great power comes great disregard for the common human.
Compared to The Cage, this pilot is much closer to the Star Trek we know and love, but it’s still not quite there yet. McCoy and Uhura have yet to show up, Sulu is introduced as a physicist, Spock wears command gold, women are allowed trousers instead of miniskirts, and phasers still appear to be the ‘lasers’ of the first episode. Nonetheless, we’re getting there – Spock is now a cool,logical Vulcan rather than a generic alien, Kirk has a fight scene, an impassioned speech and even gets his shirt torn, whilst Mr Scott makes his first appearance. That being said, Gary describes the Kirk of his academy days as a walking pile of books, a far cry from the lothario and action hero he becomes during the series!
Having just watched Charlie X, another episode of “human with great powers acts like a jerk” doesn’t really showcase much in the way of originality, although to be fair this time the spin is that Gary is only just now gaining his powers, and they are swiftly outstripping his capacity for empathy and compassion. All of a sudden, he is as far beyond humanity as we are beyond slugs, and he has the same disregard for us as we do for them. Unfortunately, the premise behind his transformation is that he always had a high “esper rating”, since in this episode at least, humans with special powers of clairvoyance are fact rather than fantasy.
Similarly, like more than a few episodes of TOS, the writers are very cavalier about distance, first throwing the Enterprise to the edge of the galaxy, before then placing them near a “lithium cracking” planet mere light days away (no dilithium just yet). At warp drive I can just about accept this kind of thing, but given that the Enterprise spends most of the episode at impulse makes it even harder to swallow.
Since this is a pilot episode, there’s not much to say about character development, except to point out a couple of inconsistencies. Here, Kirk’s full name is given as James R Kirk, although since this was from Gary, it’s possible that he just misremembered his best friend’s middle name. Additionally, Spock claims that one of his “ancestors” married a human woman, which was later retconned into his mother being human. Vulcans claim to be unable to lie, but of course we know that a) they can, and b) even when adhering to that rule, nothing stops them from omitting details or saying things that are technically true but still misleading.
Summary – Where No Man Has Gone Before: Although not a brilliant episode and still very rough around the edges, it was from this pilot that the familiar shape of Star Trek began to emerge.