Written by Samuel A. Peeples and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by James Goldstone
“Captain’s log, stardate 1312.4. The impossible has happened. From directly ahead, we’re picking up a recorded distress signal, the call letters of a vessel which has been missing for over two centuries. Did another Earth ship probe out of the galaxy as we intend to do? What happened to it out there? Is this some warning they’ve left behind?“
Where No Man Has Gone Before is the perfect title for the first episode filmed in the Star Trek franchise featuring the two lead characters who would become its icons. This was the beginning of television that didn’t necessarily “dumb down” to the viewer. It has a thought-provoking story that does become quite intense. What an alternative this provided to the family sitcoms and westerns of the sixties!
As the Enterprise approaches the edge of the galaxy, they encounter a recorder from a ship that passed this way 200 years before. Kirk decides to follow the same path that ship did, and ends up in the same predicament: a crewman who develops ESP abilities which are growing fast. Lt. Gary Mitchell is also Kirk’s best friend on the ship.
Spock is here, urging Kirk to maroon Mitchell or kill him if necessary, but Kirk doesn’t have the heart to do him in. He seems to be much more comfortable with the idea of marooning him. They must do it fast, however, as his abilities have developed to the point where he can interfere with the normal operation of the ship. The question is if Kirk will be able to do it…
It’s interesting to watch this episode, if for nothing else to see how far they came in such a short time with this series. From the inconsistencies we’ll see later on in the series, it’s very clear that they had no character bible common to most science-fiction today. A character bible usually details all aspects of the character and their background to prevent such inconsistencies as James R. Kirk appearing on a headstone (we will later learn his middle name is Tiberius) and Spock talking about “one of his ancestors” being married to a human female (we later learn his mother is human).
There is no Dr. McCoy in this episode either. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the coloring of the shirts that we will later see denoting the division of the ship (medical & science, command, engineering,).
All these inconsistencies show up because the episode was so rushed. Though it was the first one to be broadcast, it was actually the second pilot shot. The first one was rejected by NBC and they asked for something different. This was what Gene Roddenberry came up with to satisfy the suits.
The script and story are wonderful, so I can speculate that the episode would’ve been better had it been filmed under better circumstances. Still, this episode was voted into the top 10 of Star Trek episodes by fans. This is in no doubt due to the good acting by William Shatner (Kirk), and Gary Lockwood (Gary Mitchell). Perhaps because he has not settled into the role yet, Shatner’s Kirk seems to work really well here. Leonard Nimoy doesn’t quite have Spock’s emotionless nailed down yet, but that’s forgivable.
It’s interesting to note that the character of Mitchell – the Executive Officer – was never replaced, but Spock seemed to just slide into that role as well as remaining the Science Officer.
Viewing this now is so much better than when I watched this as a re-run when I was young. There are no abrupt cuts to commercials due to years of editing and chopping. The picture is clear and the sound is good (even if the title sequence is missing the trademark “whoosh” as the Enterprise goes by). Te remastering has cleared up so much of the detail that was lost through the years, although it’s so detailed now I can really see the makeup the actors are wearing.
This is definitely worth watching again after all of these years.