The Original Series
Disc No :
First Aired :
22 Sep 1966
Kirk's tombstone has "James R. Kirk" on it, even though his middle initial is later well established as T.
Kirk achieves a winning position in his chess match with Spock because he makes what Spock believes to be an illogical move. How on Earth can a move which puts you into a winning position be considered an illogical one? Contrary to popular belief chess is certainly a game whose great players can and do display a high degree of intuition - the image of the perfect chess player as a cold, calculating emotionless machine is false, or at least very incomplete. So it is indeed plausible that Spock might have a very logical method of playing, always making the moves that he calculated would help him the most - playing like a chess machine plays, in other words - whilst Kirk could be inferior in that respect but still win because he had a greater intuitive feel for the game. That's fine! But to take that down to a level where one individual move will convert the entire game from a what appeared to be a certain loss into what appears to be a certain win is pretty ridiculous.
Dehner's onscreen bio states that she is 21 years old. She must have been some kind of amazing child prodigy, to have achieved a Doctorate that fast! It's technically possible, but by today's standards it would put her within hailing distance of being one of the youngest people ever to get a Doctorate. And on a related topic... one doesn't like to judge, but Dehner really doesn't look like she's 21. (The actress was 29 at the time of filming.)
At one point Dehner says that women professionals "do tend to overcompensate". Um, overcompensate for what, exactly?
Great Moment :
Mitchell's ever increasing powers, coupled with his ever decreasing Humanity, are my favourite parts of this episode.
There's a wonderful little touch just after the teaser when Kirk, Spock and Mitchell board an elevator. The doors close, and then open a few moments later on the bridge. it's done in one uninterrupted shot, making it really look like the elevator has moved from one place to another. In actually fact the wall outside hid the bridge set - when the doors closed, set hands hurriedly moved it out of the way!
When They do board the bridge, the screen is showing a flashy grey/white pattern whilst it is not in use. Could this be the first known depiction of a screen saver?!
Body Count :
At least three - Kelso is strangled by Mitchell, while both Mitchell and Dehner are killed at the end.
This episode does not have the famous "Space, the final frontier" introduction.
Leonard Nimoy is the only cast member from the original pilot to carry over into this episode.
Two explanations have been proposed for the infamous "James R. Kirk" mistake mentioned above. Peter David's novel Q-Squared suggests that this episode takes place in a parallel universe in which Kirk's middle initial is indeed R, whilst Michael Jan Friedman's trilogy My Brother's Keeper shows that on their first meeting Mitchell asked Kirk if he played racquetball, to which Kirk humorously replied that racquetball was his middle name, after which Mitchell always referred to him that way as a running joke.
The Enterprise is travelling near the edge of the Galaxy when it discovers an object floating in space. Beaming it aboard they find that it is an old-style ship recorder, something vessels would jettison in case of an emergency. Since it is damaged Spock surmises that the vessel it belonged to was destroyed. The recorder is triggered and begins transmitting its records.
The officers go to the bridge where Spock scans the message. The recorder was jettisoned by the SS Valiant some 200 years ago. Kirk informs the crew about the discovery and meets Dr. Dehner, a psychologist who is aboard to study the effects the stresses of shipboard life have on Starfleet personnel. Gary Mitchell tries to flirt with Dehner, and is strongly rebuffed - prompting him to refer to her as a "walking freezer unit".
Spock interprets the rest of the Valiant's message, reporting that the ship was thrown clear of the Galaxy by a magnetic storm. Although the record is damage he finds repeated references to ESP capability in Humans, including searches of the computer for information of the subject which he classifies as being almost frantic. Dehner claims that there are some Humans who can see the future or manipulate objects with their minds, though this is never very powerful in Humans. Spock continues with his report - he finds records of deaths aboard the Valiant, more ESP research, and then a self-destruct order by the captain.
Although concerned, Kirk decides to proceed with his mission to probe beyond the edge of the Galaxy and takes the ship ahead. They discover a massive energy barrier and are able to penetrate it, but the ship is badly damaged and both Mitchell and Dehner seem to suffer some physical distress as a result. When Mitchell opens his eyes, they have become silver in colour.
Kirk takes the ship back on impulse power, with the warp drive damaged beyond repair. Spock does some research and finds that both Mitchell and Dehner have been recorded to have a high ESP rating, with Mitchell the highest. Others killed during the encounter with the barrier suffered damage to a specific region of the brain.
Meanwhile Mitchell is reading in sickbay. He claims to feel fine - better than he ever has, in fact. But his manner seems odd, arrogant and almost threatening. After Kirk leaves he begins to read at an extraordinary rate, digesting whole pages in an instant. Spock is monitoring this, and he and Kirk assign security to keep an eye on Mitchell. In sickbay Dehner talks with Mitchell and he begins to demonstrate unusual abilities - causing his life signs to blank out at will, showing his as dead on the monitor. He also reveals that he has not only read by perfectly memorised countless books. Lieutenant Kelso arrives for a visit, reporting on the sad state of the engines. Mitchell warns him to check the starboard impulse engine packs, explaining that there is a problem which they have missed and which will cause the entire deck to explode if they don't correct it.
Kelso checks and reports to Kirk that Mitchell was indeed correct. The officers discuss the situation, with Scotty reporting that the controls in engineering started working on their own a short time ago - and each time it happened, Mitchell could be seen smiling on the monitor. Spock suggests that Mitchell's power is growing exponentially, and that he will inevitably come to see Humans as insignificant compared to himself. They decide to hear for a nearby automated outpost on the planet Delta Vega, hoping to cannibalise it to repair the warp drive and strand Mitchell there where he can do no harm.
They successfully repair the engines, but Mitchell kills Kelso by using his powers to strangle him, and escapes his confinement. He knocks out the others and finds that Dehner has also developed silver eyes - she is undergoing the same transformation, just more slowly since she had a lower ESP rating in the first place. The two escape the station together. When Kirk recovers he takes a phaser rifle and goes after them.
Mitchell and Dehner begin converting part of the desolate surface of Delta Vega into a garden-like environment. Mitchell is declares himself a God, with Humans suitable only to be his worshippers. He tries to kill Kirk when he finds the pair, but Dehner rebels against his arrogant attitude and attacks him with her powers. He survives the attack and strikes back, killing her, but his abilities are temporarily drained. Kirk fights with him, and finally uses the phaser to blast a large rock off a cliff side, killing Mitchell when it falls onto him.
Back on the Enterprise, Kirk grieves over the loss of his friend as the ship heads back on warp drive.
The second pilot is about what one might expect from such an early episode. The network had asked for something "less cerebral", and Gene served up a more action-oriented story in which the hero wins out by having a good old fashioned fist fight with the bad guy. The basic idea works pretty well; it's quite notable that even in this more action styled episode the show avoided the simplistic cliche of an evil alien bad guy... in fact it did so even better than The Cage had; that episode gave us an alien threat, but one which had complex motivations for their actions. Here we get a threat that isn't even alien at all, but rather grows from within. We don't learn a lot about Mitchell but there are telling details - his attitude towards Dehner is especially telling. He takes an immediate run at her, and when rebuffed, instantly classes her as frigid. Even by the standards of the day this probably came across as making him a bit of an ass, but viewed in a modern context it makes him look positively creepy. Kirk is something of a hound dog himself, but even this early you can't see him as being quite so unpleasant about it. In fact the difference is so marked that I actually wonder at how the two can be such close friends.
Having painted him as kind of an asshole at the start, it is all the more believable that he would respond to his rapidly increasing power with arrogance and growing contempt for everyone else. Their response to it represents the dilemma they are stuck in. Logically they should kill Mitchell whilst they still can - yet he hasn't actually done anything to deserve that, so how can it be justified to do so? Killing to protect yourself is justified, but doing to against an attack that has not come and for al you know may not ever come? Rather less so. Stranding him on Delta Vega is something of a compromise, but you have to wonder what would have happened if he had just gone along with it. Would Mitchell just keep getting more and more powerful forever? If so then leaving him on Delta Vega isn't a great idea, because it just means that one day he will be powerful enough to come back on his own, possibly still bearing a grudge. It's a difficult situation without an ideal solution - which is what makes it interesting.
The bit I don't like is Mitchell's reaction to his being marooned. He kills Kelso and knocks out the others, but having done so he just leaves to create his little Eden on the planet. Well, if that's what he wanted to do then why kill anybody? Why not just sit there and do nothing, steadily growing in power as Kirk and the others leave? Once they are away he can easily escape and go make his Eden. But he has to attack so that Kirk has a reason to chase him, and Kirk has to chase him so we can get our action finale and wrap the storyline up. It's a bit "he did it because it's in the script".
There a bit of "early show clunkiness" and a bit of "budget limitations" going on here, too, which I am somewhat forgiving of. The early uniforms just don't look great, the phaser rifle looks absurd - seriously, it looks horribly awkward to hold and use, and the barrel looks like you could bend it by sneezing on the thing. Fortunately we'd never see it again after this. perhaps the most awkward moment is Mitchell's creation of his Garden of Eden setting. It looks like what it is - cheap, tacky, hurried, and very bad. He's so proud of it that you can't help but laugh. Such production limitations are par for the course back then, of course, so we mustn't be too hard on them.
The special edition release features all new effects for the space shots; a much improved depiction of the Galactic barrier and of Delta Vega, along with a nicer view of the Lithium Cracking station. Kirk's phaser rifle blast has also been improved.