The third episode of the first season, Where No Man Has Gone Before, is a strange third episode, since it was actually conceived as the first episode of the series. And of course it was! It’s easy to tell due to the many scenes made to present members of the crew like Scotty and Sulu. On the other hand, McCoy and Uhura are missing, and Spock’s skin is of a rather horrendous yellow color, and thankfully it was decided not to keep it that way for the rest of the series!
The plot is based on another concept that was already familiar to me thanks to my knowledge of TNG, in this case thanks to the episode The Nth Degree (S04E19) in which Barclay acquires incredible powers thanks to an alien probe. In this case, it’s Gary Mitchell (played by Gary Lockwood), an old friend of Kirk and at the same time one of the USS Enterprise’s bridge officers, who acquires superhuman powers and loses his mind in the process. Mitchell develops ESP powers (again! Like Charlie X in the second episode!) and begins to feel like a God, so Kirk follows the advice of Spock and decides to abandon him on the uninhabited planet Delta Vega (en passant: the matte paintings of the planet and of its mining facilities are great). Then, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman) also develops ESP powers…
The episode is beautiful and it’s almost more of a horror piece than a science fiction one. The silver eyes of Mitchell are disturbing (among other things, I read that the lenses used to create them were dangerous and poor Lockwood wasn’t happy at all to have to wear them), and the tension created by the fact that the entire Enterprise is in the hands of an arrogant and constantly changing super-man is palpable. Then, it all ends in a classic fist fight Star Trek-style, and maybe we should all be grateful for it because it seems that it was the thing which convinced the studios to give green light to the production of the series.
The sound department of the episode is remarkable, with the sound effects of the infirmary machines when no one understands what is happening to Mitchell that reminded me of the score of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and make the scene very disturbing. As for the rest, the orchestral soundtrack could easily be one of an actual movie: perfect in every scene, and pleasant to listen to.
What else to say? This is yet another episode with an “amazing” sexist joke against Dr. Elizabeth Dehner guilty of not flirting with Lieutenant Gary Mitchell who calls her a walking freezer unit… And finally, Scotty is here, with James Doohan doing his best to imitate a Scottish accent that he’s just unable to reproduce (the poor guy was Canadian)!
In short, let’s proceed to the next episode, warp factor 1! Ciao!
Previous episode: Charlie X
Next episode: The Naked Time