TREK-A-DAY: Where No Man Has Gone Before, Star Trek
EPISODE THREE: Where No Man Has Gone Before
Ah, early season weirdness. This episode was filmed before the previous two, which adds some wacky disfluencies…for instance: the standard outfit includes a weird turtleneck collar, Spock’s eyebrows are at an incredibly sharp angle and he wears a yellow uniform like Kirk, there’s no voiceover on the credits…bizarre.
Anywho, this episode brings the Sci-Fi wackiness to the show in a big way, opening with a large mysterious force field and phantom distress call. A ship was mysteriously destroyed, possibly by psychics and then the bridge explodes a bunch. There are a tonne of firsts here; first exploding panels, first torn Kirk shirt, first big fist-fight, first Mr. Scott (!). The psychic aura infects a longtime friend of Kirk’s, giving him rapidly evolving psychic powers. Get gets wicked cool (and really visually striking) silver contacts (which were probably glass, poor bastard.) He can even throw Force Lightning! The crew quickly realizes that he can infect them too and is learning how to take over the ship, so they opt to maroon him on a planet. There’s some good ‘duty over feeling’ stuff here for Kirk, but the episode really starts cooking when Gerry (the infected crewman) declares that he is becoming a god. He even woos the ship’s psychologist, who insists he isn’t evil and infects her too, beginning a new Eden on this planet.
Kirk is determined to stop his friend, who has already literally dug a grave for Kirk. I wasn’t having a great time with this episode until Kirk launches into his first passionate speech of the series, trying to convince the still somewhat human psychologist to respect human frailty and how it keeps us humble, whereas Gerry is quickly becoming corrupted and cold by his power. Come to think of it, the climax is basically Captain Kirk versus Dr. Manhattan. Psychologist sacrifices herself to weaken Gerry long enough for a good ol’ fashion round of fisticuffs with the Captain (and his erstwhile stunt double) with Kirk finally managing to bury his friend with a well-placed phaser blast.
The episode ends somberly, with even Mr. Spock admitting he felt for the victims. It was an uneven episode to be sure, but with an awesome “great power/great responsibility” story and some great performances by Gerry and Kirk.
It’s a bit too uneven for a first episode (so kudos to whoever shifted the airing order) but a good sign of things to come. Also, it features a potential death (involving rocks on a sandy, barren planet) that mirrors Kirk’s actual death in Generations. A lot of fans were furious about how Kirk died, but having now seen this -the first real big set-piece threat to Kirk’s life- his death seems oddly fitting. It’s links like this that make me really happy I’m doing this.