Where No Man Has Gone Before
by Laura Goodwin
OK, I just rewatched Where No Man Has Gone Before on DVD: no cuts, no commercials, digitally remastered and clean as a whistle! Nice. :)
This is the first Star Trek episode (the pilot, in fact) which features several of what later become recurring TOS plot elements and themes -Super-being plays with Kirk (Charlie X, Who Mourns for Adonais?, Gamesters of Triskelion, Squire of Gothos, others), Kirk can't resist the urge to try to piss off his superior opponent although he knows he's hopelessly outmatched (Charlie, Adonais, Gamesters, Squire, others), Kirk deliberately invites torture and doesn't really mind too much when it comes (too many to list), Kirk risks his own life/freedom in exchange for his crew's freedom (Charlie X, Savage Curtain, Gamesters, Squire, others)....
There are some minor bits in this episode that are arguably suggestively slashy between Kirk and Spock. This was early in the show's run, and Spock's character doesn't seem to be fully sorted out yet, but Kirk hit the ground running: he is 100% fully himself. The Kirk we meet in this episode is the same guy we see again and again throughout the show's run, with one possibly significant difference: Kirk doesn't have a shaved chest yet. As I shall explain, we are given some reason to believe Kirk is a masochist, and is possibly Gay (or at least bisexual) as well.
First thing we learn is that the Enterprise has encountered evidence that an Earth ship probed outside the galaxy almost two hundred years before, just as Kirk and crew are gearing up to do the same thing.
First thing we see is Captain Kirk and his exotic Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock, sitting together, playing a game of 3D chess. Mr. Spock is pretty obviously anticipating his impending victory with pleasure.
"I'll have you checkmated your next move." Spock predicts.
Kirk laughs. "Have I ever mentioned you play a very irritating game of chess, Mr. Spock?"
"Irritating? Ah, yes. One of your Earth emotions."
Kirk makes his move, and Mr. Spock is suddenly pretty obviously dismayed, since it seems Kirk managed to foil his plan.
Kirk smiles happily at Spock's obvious unhappiness.
"Certain you don't know what irritation is?" he digs, smiling.
Spock, obviously irritated, offers his excuse: "The fact that one of my ancestors married a human female..."
"Terrible, having bad blood like that!" Jim gloats, grinning, obviously delighted that he succeeded in unsettling Spock.
[NOTE: ...and they're off and running! This highly symbolic scene condenses a highly concentrated encyclopedia of information about these two guys. Kirk and Spock like each other well enough to play chess together for fun. Spock (an alien) is supposedly unemotional, but not really. His excuse? He has a human relative. Kirk plays "illogically" and for him, that works brilliantly. Kirk enjoys making Spock act emotional. Spock really doesn't seem to mind. They already seem to be comfortable and casual with each other (there is no implicit tension or underlying hostility), they seem to enjoy being together, so they are apparently already friends. Since chess is generally regarded to be an intellectual's game, we have reason to believe these guys are both eggheads. OK, so that's one thing they have in common. Count two if you count service in the fleet.]
We sound the alarm, we go to commercial, we come back, and on our way to the bridge we meet handsome and cocky Lt. Gary Mitchell.
Once on the bridge we meet everybody else, including a couple of crewmembers we never see again, like Dr. Piper (No McCoy yet). Kirk wants all his department heads on the bridge for this historic occasion. People don't try to leave the galaxy every day.
We also meet cute blond Yeoman whatsername...
"Jones...?" says Kirk, stepping up and looking her over.
OK, Yeoman Smith. It is her job to stand around looking cute, right in Kirk's way, until he puts a hand out and yanks her out of his way. Why is he so rude to her? We have no idea. She didn't seem to be hurting anybody.
We meet Dr. Dehner, a tall, cool, blond psychiatrist, who turns out to be the big belle of the hour. Is she interested in Kirk? Nope. Is Kirk interested in her? Nope. There's not a flicker of sexual tension between Dehner and Kirk. Never. Not once. Period.
[NOTE: Kirk shows no interest in any female through the whole episode. Some people may think this is unusual for Kirk, but actually, in fact, it's very usual for him.]
Gary Mitchell tries to make a little small talk with Elizabeth Dehner and gets shot down. Now ~there~. That's what you call sexual tension. Sure enough, as the episode wears on you can see GM and ED are in fact magnetically attracted to one another. But I digress...
Spock interprets the information on the old ship's recorder for them all. That Captain apparently ordered the USS Valiant to self-destruct. That's all very interesting, but what does it have to do with us? Kirk decides that there isn't reason enough to not fulfill his mission, so the ship moves ahead at warp factor one to attempt to leave the galaxy, as planned.
Spock suddenly starts shouting out announcements and giving orders from his science station while Kirk remains silent and uncharacteristically passive. That's weird. Hmm.
As the excitement mounts, Lt. Gary Mitchell puts out a hand to pretty little Yeoman Smith, and they hold hands to comfort each other.
[NOTE: ...right in front of the Captain, while on duty. Aww! Isn't that ~cute~! Maybe they are lovers, huh? Hey, why not? He's a handsome guy! They make a cute couple! Hmm. Gary seems to like her a lot. I wonder why Kirk was so rude to her? Hmmmmmm.... And how come Kirk is just sitting there like that, staring at those two like he's in a trance or something?]
The Enterprise runs into a mysterious energy barrier that causes the consoles to explode and catch fire. Kirk suddenly wakes up and orders the ship to retreat from the barrier. Mitchell has a hard time implementing the command since one of his hands remains occupied. Then Mitchell gets a shock which for some mysterious reason doesn't also shock Smith, who's still holding his hand.
Pandemonium ensues. Kirk jumps up to cope with helm controls when loverboy Mitchell falls out of his chair. Spock rushes over to replace Kirk at Gary Mitchell's place. Dr. Dehner also was felled by a shock, but she survives. As Kirk crosses the bridge to check on Gary, Spock puts a hand on his arm to arrest his progress and report that nine people are reported to be dead.
[NOTE: Ka-ching! First contact! Slashy bit number one. Was it really necessary for Spock to grab Kirk to keep him from rushing to Gary's side?]
The ship's engines need repair now too, of course.
Well, this was no fun, so far. There's not much glory in losing nine people to accomplish, basically, nothing. But Kirk keeps it all in perspective. His dearest friend Gary is still alive, so it wasn't a total disaster. He chases Smith away, bends over the fallen Mitchell, puts his hands on him, and holds him as he tenderly, anxiously asks, "Gary, are you all right?"
[NOTE: Gary, Gary, Gary. It's ALL about *Gary*!]
Skip ahead a bit...
OK, there's a conversation between Kirk, Dehner and Spock about how scary ESP people can be, then we cut to Gary Mitchell in sickbay. Gary stops reading, lies back and closes his eyes. Kirk quietly enters and softly approaches.
"Hello, Jim" Says GM. He doesn't even have to look. He apparently knows Kirk by smell alone. Now he looks, and smiles at Kirk. "Hey, you look worried."
Kirk seriously replies, "I've been worried about you ever since that night on Deneb 4."
[NOTE: WHAT'S THIS!?]
Gary, grinning, responds, "Yeah, she was nova, that one! Not nearly as many after-effects this time - except for the eyes."
[NOTE: He's speaking of the fact that his eyes look strangely silvery now, but that doesn't answer the burning question about WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED ON DENEB 4!? All we know is Kirk has been worried about this guy ever since. You know what? I was only worried about Kirk until now. Now I'm starting to worry about both of them.]
Gary tells Kirk that, during his convalescence, he's been taking some time to read the philosopher Spinoza, and some of that other "longhair stuff" that Kirk likes.
[NOTE: more evidence that Kirk is an egghead]
Gary begins to wax nostalgic.
"(Laughing) Hey, man, I remember you back at the academy. A stack of books with legs!"
[NOTE: see? Kirk's an Egghead. He has this image of being a Biff Beefcake type, all balls and no brains, but that is untrue. We were meant to understand from the first that Kirk is brilliantly intelligent, and now we are told he reads a lot of deep and difficult stuff, so it's not just "street smarts". Note that Gary says Kirk likes the longhair stuff, which means Kirk wasn't reading it only because it was required reading.]
Gary continues: "The first thing I ever heard from upperclassmen is, 'Watch out for Lt. Kirk! In his class you either think, or sink!'"
[NOTE: My GOD! Apparently Gary met Kirk while he was a student and Kirk was *a teacher* at the academy. Dig it! A sexy, handsome, egghead teacher and his sexy, handsome young student became ~special friends~. The attraction couldn't have been intellectual. Gary is just now getting around to the longhair stuff. Hmm. I wonder what the attraction was? Hmmmmm.... And what did happen that night on Deneb 4, anyway? BTW, how did they get from the academy to Deneb 4? We don't know. All we know is they went together. But why? We are left to wonder.]
GM: "If I hadn't aimed that little blonde lab technician at you..."
JK: "You WHAT? You *planned* that!?
GM: "Well, you wanted me to think, didn't you?"
[NOTE: yeah but, did Kirk ~specify~ that he had wanted Gary to think about his dick? We are left to wonder]
GM: "I outlined her whole campaign for her."
JK: "I almost married her!"
[NOTE: Gary is a pimp. BTW, Kirk was not at that time very smart about women. I'm not too sure about his taste in men, either.]
GM: "You better be good to me. I'm getting even better ideas here!"
[NOTE: So, um, Gary apparently likes thinking about Kirk (and Kirk's dick?) when he's in bed, n stuff...]
Ohhh...Kay! Very interesting! Kirk and Mitchell apparently have a very strange relationship. Moving on....
The next thing we see is Spock watching Gary Mitchell read, which is kind of like watching paint dry, but he doesn't mind. Obsessive? Just a tad, maybe. Spock tattles on Gary's bizarre reading habits to Kirk.
Next thing you know we have the big scene in sickbay between Dr. Dehner and Gary Mitchell. Gary, Gary, Gary. What has this guy got that is so special!? Dr. Elizabeth Dehner overcomes her own initial mistrust and starts to show a lot of interest in Gary. He shows lots of interest back. They both are pretty hugely interested in each other. He shows off, demonstrating some fancy godlike powers he has acquired, and she is very impressed. She's all over the guy. He likes it, and eggs her on. And so it goes.
Well, pretty soon all the department heads are gathered around a conference table, and they are taking turns complaining to Kirk that Gary is pranking with his new godlike powers all over the ship. We knew he was a prankster, but now he's a prankster with godlike powers. Everybody is horrified about this, everybody except Elizabeth Dehner, who is the only one besides Kirk who still feels sympathy for Mitchell. To Spock she says:
"I know those from your planet aren't supposed to have feelings like we do, Mr. Spock, but to talk that way about a man you've worked next to for years..."
[NOTE: *Spock* worked next to him for years? This is news]
"That's enough!" Kirk interrupts.
ED: (to Kirk) "I understand you least of all. Gary told me you've been friends since he joined the service. That you asked for him aboard your first command!"
[NOTE: Kirk's all, ~Yeah, yeah, but what has he done for me *lately*?~]
Anyway, Kirk dismisses everybody after the discussion and everybody leaves but Spock. Spock stays behind for a private chat with Kirk.
Spock rather coldly urges Kirk to consider either marooning Mitchell on Delta Vega, or killing Mitchell outright, for the safety of the rest aboard the Enterprise. Kirk doesn't like the idea, he hates it, and expresses strong reservations. I mean, when you've been a guy's teacher, and prank victim, and traveling buddy 'n' stuff for so long, you can't just casually scrape him off as if he is nothing but gum stuck to the sole of your combat boot...can you!?
Spock seems to think you can. He honestly wants Kirk to try.
[NOTE: It does seem a bit slashy that Spock seems so overly eager to be completely rid of Mr. Mitchell. This is a very cozy little conspiracy, isn't it? Kirk is all ~My GOD! We are talking about killing my bestest friend, Gary!~ Spock is all ~I know!~, like that just makes it better for him]
Grimly, Kirk says, "Set course for Delta Vega.", thereby in essence agreeing to Spock's grisly plan.
OK, so we next are in orbit around automated lithium cracking station Delta Vega, a desolate, uninhabited world. Officially we are here to steal and adapt some power packs to repair the ship, but unofficially we are here to dump Kirk's ex-"friend" and run.
[Me, I'm thinking: How good a friend IS this Mitchell guy anyway? OK, so he took a poisoned dart intended for Kirk, once. Isn't that his duty? Maybe he was just clumsy and got in the way. It's not like he's really that noble. It's not like he's really all that caring about Kirk - holding hands with a girl right in front of him on the bridge while he's supposed to be following orders 'n' stuff instead. Tsk! Disrespectful! Insubordinate! And he admits to setting Kirk up for heartbreak with that whore of a little blond lab technician! I'll bet that *hurt*! What a cheeseball! Some "friend"!]
Gary does not cooperate with being abandoned. Nevertheless, they eventually get him into a holding cell on the planet surface, but it can't hold him for long, of course. Gary uses his magical powers to kill one poor schlub named Kelso, knocks everybody else out, then grabs Elizabeth, and runs for it.
Elizabeth goes willingly. She not only has the hots for Gary, but she now has developed the silvery eyes that shows she's finally getting similar powers. They are two of a kind, it seems.
[NOTE: MINEFIELD OF KLASSIC KIRKISMS DEAD AHEAD - brace yourself to behold his trademarked eccentricities in full flower]
Here's where things really start to get weird. Kirk comes to, then orders Dr. Piper to *not* rouse Spock until after he's gone, obviously because he knows that Spock would protectively try to prevent him from trying something really stupid, and Kirk doesn't want that.
Jim grabs a pathetically inadequate phaser rifle and runs after GM and ED. Why? Why doesn't he just beam back up to the ship and warp the hell out of there? They have accomplished what they came to do, officially. Well, Kirk apparently has an unofficial agenda that remains as yet unfulfilled. He has some unfinished business with Gary the God, and he insists on going after him to finish it. And by gum, he insists on going alone.
[NOTE: forget about going where no man has gone before, how about going where no SANE man would go, EVER!? That's what Kirk now proposes to do. Kirk is not now acting rationally. He is driven by emotions which I hesitate to try to name. Let's just say Kirk seems to want to get beaten up and humiliated by a godlike opponent, and will allow no interference with that pursuit!]
Well, Kirk encounters Elizabeth the God first, and he now realizes that he doesn't need to rescue her or anything like that. So he naturally breathes a sigh of relief, wishes her and Gary luck, and beams up to warp the hell out of there, pronto! NO, HE DOESN'T. That's what he would do if he was a sane person. He is not a sane person at the moment.
Kirk and Elizabeth have a strange conversation in which Kirk seems to be trying to tell Elizabeth that Gary is not a very nice guy. Hey, he should know. They've been "friends" for ~years~.
JK: "You were a psychiatrist once. You know the ugly, savage things we all keep buried that none of us dare expose! But he'll dare! Who's to stop him? He doesn't have to care!"
[NOTE: Hmm. Apparently Kirk realizes that the inhuman, godlike Gary mightn't be as strongly motivated as the human Gary to, you know, keep his mouth shut about that night on Deneb four. That's why Kirk brought the rifle. Just abandoning Gary isn't enough to ensure Kirk's peace of mind]
Gary appears suddenly and Kirk drops to one knee and blasts him without hesitation. Well, Gary laughs it off. With a magic gesture he sends Kirk's silly phaser rifle flying out of Kirk's hands.
Now things get really ugly. The honeymoon is over. The white gloves are _off_. Time for a little no-holds-barred ex-"friend" weird shit.
GM: "I've been contemplating the death of an old friend."
Kirk very wisely has remained down on his knees, where he darn well knows he belongs. He patiently waits in this posture while Gary magically creates a grave and tombstone for him. God Gary next starts to move a big boulder over to crush Jim with, but Elizabeth raises her voice in protest.
"Stop it, Gary!" she cries.
"Morals are for men, not Gods" he tells her.
Kirk stands up and acknowledges Gary's godhood. "A God," he grants, "but still driven by human frailty!"
[NOTE: Oh, I don't know, Jim, was that smart? It's like you are daring him to hurt you or something just to show you he's not "frail". Seriously, it looks like you are asking for him to open a god-size can o' whup-ass on you.]
Gary loves this. He's up for it!
Jim is magically forced against his will to adopt a prayerful pose: kneeling at Gary's booted feet, hands clasped before him.
[NOTE: Now we can see why they became friends: because they have so much in common. Gary gets off on humiliating Kirk, and now that he's a God, he can really do it with style. Don't kid yourself. That's the real reason Kirk is here. Oh no? Then what DID Kirk think was going to happen?]
GM: "Time to pray, Captain! PRAY TO ME!"
"To you, not to ~both of you~?" Kirk cannily asks.
[NOTE: Oh, way to go, Jimmy-boy. Why have just one god terrorizing you when you can have two? What an insatiable pain slut you are! Boy, you're really gonna get it now. Yee Haw! Pass the popcorn!]
GM: (serenely) "Pray that you die easily."
JK: (still asking for it) "There'll be _only one of you_ in the end!"
[Translation: "The other one can take the front"]
JK: "One jealous god! If all of this makes you a god! Or is is making you something else!?'
[Translation - "Maybe you are really just a great big sissy boy, and not a real god after all!"]
GM: (getting annoyed) "One last chance, Kirk."
[Translation: "I mean it this time. I'm really going to hurt you if you don't start acting scared!"]
Kirk asks Dehner: "Do you like what you see!?"
[Translation: "Do I make you horny, bay-bee!?"]
That does it. Elizabeth Dehner can take no more. Fed up with Gary's mismanagement of this golden opportunity, she zaps Gary with a godlike blast of her own and gets his attention. Gary, who resents having his concentration broken just as he is getting his dick up, blasts her back. It's time for Mutant Godling Titan Smackdown! Winner gets Kirk!
Kirk waits on his knees like a good boy. If he were anybody else, he would get up and run like hell at this point, call the ship, beam up, and warp the hell out of there, pronto! But he's not somebody else, he's himself, so he waits there on his knees for the winner of the dispute to come over and claim his ass. Has any man ever gone there before? We are left to wonder! It's probable that no *God* has ever taken a piece of him before, and Kirk doesn't seem to mind hanging around in hopes that *that* might yet happen.
Gary drops to the ground. Elizabeth drops to the ground. They have exhausted each other.
ED realizes that Kirk doesn't have the wits to save himself, so she tries to tell him to run for it while he can.
ED: "Hurry...you haven't much time..."
OK, NOW Kirk runs away and saves himself. NO HE DOESN'T. He apparently thinks that Gary simply isn't pissed off enough, so he rushes over to him to kick him around and stuff, you know, to further inspire him to godlike acts of cruelty.
So Kirk and Gary now fight, and Kirk gets kicked around and gets all dirty and gets hurt 'n' stuff. His shirt gets ripped, natch! (Hey look! Chest hair! Who knew Kirk has chest hair?) He gets Gary down on the ground and holds a rock over his head and threatens him with the rock and suddenly quails in spirit.
JK: "Gary! Forgive me!"
Suddenly Gary is a God again. Kirk missed his chance *again*! AGGGGGGgggg! I can't stand much more of the suspense! Will somebody, ANYBODY please SPANK THAT BRAT!?
They grapple some more, and Kirk knocks GM into the open grave. Kirk, realizing that his hope that Gary will get with the program is a foolish hope, decides to end the suspense himself by grabbing the phaser rifle and shooting down that big boulder so that it drops into the grave on top of Gary, crushing him.
Gary is dead, and Elizabeth is dying. Kirk hears her last words, then finally calls the ship, since it's for sure that he's not going to get any action, now!
At the end, we see Kirk noting in his log that Elizabeth gave her life in the performance of her duty. Spock strolls over to stand at Kirk's side. As an afterthought, Kirk logs "ditto" about Gary.
Kirk: "He didn't ask for what happened to him."
Spock: "I felt for him too."
Kirk: (pleased) "I believe there's some hope for you after all, Mr. Spock."
And Spock and Kirk swap the first of many trademark ~special glances~. Spock (unemotional, my Aunt Fanny) pretty clearly is happy to think that Kirk thinks there is hope for him.
[NOTE: this episode _begins *and* ends_ with Spock at Kirk's side, sharing an emotional moment]
[Special NOTE: on the DVD case for this episode, the descriptive blurb reads, "The flight recorder of the 200-year-old USS Valiant relays a tale of terror - a magnetic storm at the edge of the galaxy. As the Enterprise nears the same barrier, Kirk elects to probe beyond its depths - with disastrous results. Kirk's closest friend Lt. Gary Mitchell is affected. When Mitchell's mutating ESP abilities threaten the safety of the ship, Kirk must make an agonizing decision: maroon Mitchell on a desolate planet, or kill him while he can. However, as one friendship dies, another is just beginning..."]
"FRIENDSHIP"? Well, that's one word for it, I guess.