The second pilot, and first episode filmed featuring William Shatner as “James R. Kirk”, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” very nearly captures all the elements that make up Star Trek. Noticeably absent from the mix, and to the detriment of the show’s chemistry, is Dr. Leonard McCoy whose brash demeanor and unabashed emotional displays serve to counterbalance Spock’s otherworldy logical exterior. Not to say the episode is without merit, far from it. There are some great performances and it’s far more cohesive than the first pilot under Jeffrey Hunter‘s Christopher Pike. But the episode feels incomplete. The chief medical officer in this episode is Mark Piper played by Mark Fix, a veteran of Westerns and Frontier movies. His inclusion is demonstrative of the original pitch of Star Trek as “Wagon Train” in space. His performance comes across as a ‘wise old man’ there to dish out advice to the young adventuring protagonist, but without being integral to the action, the way McCoy would prove to be time and again. He is calm and grandfatherly, much like Dr. Boyce in the first pilot. This doesn’t work on two levels. The Enterprise is on a mission of exploration. It is dangerous and they are equipped for war. Pitting this doctor as the human side of Kirk’s moral compass would be like seating a social worker next to the Captain’s chair. (No disrespect to Mirina Sirtis. Some of my best friends are social workers)
There’s a lot In this episode that comes across as clunky. It is obvious from the start that they were still finding their feet. Yet the episode remains a favourite for many with some iconic moments and a truly memorable villain in Gary Mitchell. While they had not yet found their feet, the foundation on which they stood was solid and they were clearly poised to create magic.
Gary Mitchell was one of the characters that Benedict Cumberbatch was rumoured to be playing. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. It would have been a bold and interesting choice given Mitchell’s college-boy playfulness.Mitchell, at one point, reminisces about lecherous days at the academy where he was close with Kirk, once again reinforcing that Krik is a dog. However Kirk, somewhat astonishingly, has grown up (and apparently moved on to serious
The chess game that Kirk and Spock play at the top of the episode provides an excellent metaphor for the strategizing and weighing of emotions and logic in the episode, as well as foreshadowing for the questions that Kirk must face and insight into how he faces them. It also gives us a glimpse of Spock’s otherness as he makes reference to Kirk’s “Earth emotions”.
The tension in this episode is captivating, and it all culminates in an exciting fight on a planet’s surface over Kirk’s gravestone. If Start Trek excelled at one thing, it’s presenting weighted pirhic victories. The threat has been subdued, evil vanquished, but Kirk has lost an old friend and this will haunt him.
KIRK: Captain’s log, Star date 1313.8. Add to official losses, Doctor Elizabeth Dehner. Be it noted she gave her life in performance of her duty. Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell, same notation. I want his service record to end that way. He didn’t ask for what happened to him.
SPOCK: I felt for him, too.
KIRK: I believe there’s some hope for you after all, Mister Spock.