Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Twilight Zone," Season 1 (1959-1960)

There's a signpost up ahead...
  
  
  
  
"Where Is Everybody?"
  
(season 1, episode 1)
  
airdate:  October 2, 1959
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Robert Stevens
  
The place is here; the time is now...
  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

His Alien Love Could Victimize: Star Trek episode 7, "Charlie X"

We're seven episodes in, and already Star Trek is beginning to cannibalize itself.  "Charlie X" shares a few things in common with both "The Cage" and (especially) "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and while it aired before either of those episodes did -- it was the second to be broadcast -- it is nevertheless derivative of them in certain ways.
  
Is this automatically a bad thing?  Nah.  I don't think so.  I think of stuff like this as like unto jazz: you're interested in the changes moreso than in the melody.  And "Charlie X" is plenty different enough from those earlier episodes to keep it from feeling like a mere rehash.
  
If you disagree -- and you might -- then I honestly don't know you would bear watching the rest of this series, because (spoiler alert!) it won't be the last time this happens.  Not even with this plot!  You WILL get more petulant godlike beings; rest assured.  So if that bothers you, I'd recommend pulling the ripcord now.
  
I type that as though I'm addressing people watching the series for the first time.  Lol, like anybody is reading this at all, much less some hypothetical bodies who have never seen Star Trek!  Sometimes I just type this shit because that's what is in my head.  Am I doing that now...?
  
Eh...
  
  
  
  
I'd kind of like for this post to be a bit more succinct than the last few have been.  We'll see if that actually happens, but it's the goal.
  
Don't think that's because I find this to be an inferior episode or anything.  No sir, I love this episode, and if anything I love it more after this deep-dive than I ever have before.

In the spirit of trying to be brief, there are three things I want to discuss regarding this episode.  Let's begin with the perils of adolescence.





Charlie Evans, you may recall, is a teenager who's been living all by his lonesome since (solely) surviving a crash on the planet Thasus when he was a small child.  He's reached adolescence and now, and has been found by a passing Earth ship.  They rescued him and are taking him to an Earth colony to live among his own kind, but the boy has some behavioral issues.  Nothing particularly unusual about having behavioral issues as a teenager (be you boy OR girl).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

No Beach to Walk On: Star Trek episode 6, "The Naked Time"

"The Naked Time" is the episode that I spent years thinking of as "the one where everyone got drunk and acted crazy."  It's never been a favorite episode for me, but I think that might have changed this go-around. There's a deep lake of melancholy lurking beneath the surface of this episode; it's frozen over and covered by a thick sheet of excitement, and the combination of the two creates a heady mixture at times.

  


 

Let's see if we can get to the bottom of that lake.
 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Last of Its Kind: Star Trek episode 5, "The Man Trap"

One of the most celebrated aspects of Star Trek -- among its fans, certainly -- is the ethical nature of many of the inherent trappings of the show.  Go to a Trek convention, and you won't be able to take a step without tripping over somebody giving the show an attaboy for its diversity, its forward-looking optimism, and so forth.
  
I'm not always convinced that these sentiments are entirely earned by the series.  As expressed by Trekkies, these sentiments often feel smug and self-congratulatory.  I should know; I've found myself taking pride in them on occasion, too.  Regardless of whether the fandom could be convicted on charges of smugness, the fact is that the bulk of TOS -- and, for the most part, the series which followed it -- do indeed express an inherent sense of optimism and progressivity.  Here in 2017, we're in a weird place where it's somehow verboten to punch a god damned Nazi in his fucking face: an odd, disconcerting turn of events, and one which gives me pause when I'm considering doing things like criticizing Trekkies for being smug.
  
But I have the thoughts that I have, and the reason why I'm here is to explore them for myself.  And that being the case, I couldn't help but be a wee bit troubled by "The Man Trap," which in some ways is less an example of the optimistic and ethically-advanced Star Trek Trekkies declaim than it is a simpler thing: a monster-movie done for television.
  
Or is it?
  
  
   
  
In a way, it makes sense that the first episode of Star Trek to air was one which is not entirely typical of its philosophies.  Something like "The Man Trap" sits somewhat uneasily beside later episodes like "Devil in the Dark" and "Metamorphosis," or even "The Corbomite Maneuver."  But then there are other episodes like "Obsession" and "The Doomsday Machine" that are more akin to this one than to those.
  
The fact is, Trek has never been quite as consistent in its philosophies as its fans might have you believe.  It's almost as if the show was a raft of optimism that was afloat on a sea of pessimism, one that on occasion got a bit waterlogged and didn't float so much as tread water.  So while we might get something like The Motion Picture or The Voyage Home on occasion, we were just as apt to get something like The Undiscovered Country or "Q Who?"  In the latter, the Federation is confronted by an unstoppable force (The Borg) bent on subjugating and replacing everything in its path.  "The Best of Both Worlds" intensifies that conflict.
  
But then, lo and behold, the sequel to that episode turns it on its head somewhat, with the unstoppable enemy stopped not by force, but by ingenuity and trickery (Data giving their hive mind an order to go into a looped diagnostic mode, i.e., putting them into a sort of coma).  It's not diplomacy, but neither is it genocide; so that's kind of Trek-ish in its philosophy.
  
The franchise would not be able to maintain that stance on the Borg, however, and later episodes would revert somewhat.  Eventually they appeared in a movie (First Contact), where they are no more than monsters to be defeated.  Good movie; bad philosophy (at least within a Trek-ian context, or perhaps just within a Roddenberrian context).

Friday, February 3, 2017

Let's Stop Pretending: Star Trek episode 4, "The Enemy Within"

Tonight's episode:




It's a classic installment, one that has a great deal to recommend; but I'd be a liar if I said it's ever been a personal favorite.  In trying to figure out why that is, I've come up against a bit of a wall.  Here's a peek behind the curtain for you: it is currently 3:57 AM.  Earlier tonight -- when it was still yesterday -- I spent several hours laboring over five or six paragraphs for this post.  The intent was to express a simple idea: I've never been a big fan of this episode, even as a child, and _________ is the reason why.

Thing is, I didn't actually know why.  I kind of thought I did, but as I wrote it out, it made less sense to me every sentence further in I got.  Writing these posts is almost always an enjoyable process for me.  Duh!  Why else would I do it?  The latinum?!?  "Fuck" and "no," my friends, "fuck" and "no."  No, it's for the enjoyment of the thing, and that enjoyment is almost always present when I go looking for it.

It was utterly absent earlier tonight while I sat here and agonized over the words I was typing.  I was doing a poor job of convincing myself, and it showed.  I decided to take a break for a while, so I went and did some housework, and came back to it.  The result: delete, delete, delete.  All that shit had to go, and go it went.

When I find myself in a pickle of this nature, what I often do is steer into it.  Driving on an icy road and your car begins to swerve?  Steer into it.  Blogging about a favorite subject and your thesis abandons you?  Steer into it.
 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Westworld" Before "Westworld"

Since it's been a thing a lot of people have talked about recently, I thought it made sense for me to say a few words about Westworld.
  
Good show!  I love it and am glad it's doing well and will happily continue watching.
  
And that's all I have to say about that, at least for now.  If that doesn't look like anything to you, I get it.  So now is when I reveal that what I'm here to actually discuss is the Westworld(s) that existed prior to the HBO series.





It all began with the 1973 Michael Crichton film.  In case you're unfamiliar with Crichton, he is best known as a novelist who wrote the book Jurassic Park.  He started out as a physician, but decided that wasn't for him, and jumped ship all the way from one side of the fence to the other, opting to become a writer.  He was able to begin publishing almost immediately, and one of his early novels, The Andromeda Strain, was a bestseller that was adapted into a hit film by director Robert Wise.

Crichton somehow parlayed this success into a secondary career as a film director, and Westworld was his first movie behind the camera.  It was a hit: MGM's biggest of the year, bringing in nearly ten times its budget at the box office.  Crichton never had another directorial success like that one, although he did go on to direct The Great Train Robbery (starring Sean Connery) and Runaway (starring Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons).  Plus, as a producer, he had a hand in creating a little show called ER.  So he did okay for himself, apart from being a big-deal writer.

I saw the movie once years ago, during a time when I went on a brief Crichton kick that was spurred by Jurassic Park.  I read most of his major science fiction novels, such as The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, and Congo, and that led me to Westworld.  By the time the HBO series began, however, I remembered nothing about the movie apart from the poster; by the time the HBO series ended its first season, I suspected it had forever supplanted the movie as the thing I'd think of when I heard the title Westworld.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

There's Only One Kind of Woman: Star Trek episode 3, "Mudd's Women"

Tonight's episode:
  
  
  
  
It's by no means one of my favorites.  Don't misunderstand me: if you tell me that you like it, I'm not going to retaliate by coming over and shitting on the hood of your car or anything.  I mean, to each their own and all that: so if you're a fan, I ain't judgin' ya; it's just that I'm not a fan.
  
That said, I found my analysis for this post made me appreciate the episode more than I did before.  There are things here to enjoy, so let's discuss them for a bit and then get while the gettin's good.
  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

There's No Such Thing As the Unknown: Star Trek episode 2, "The Corbomite Maneuver"

Tonight's episode:
  
  


As I write this, it's the day after Christmas in 2016.  The world has had Star Trek in it for well over half a century now.  We humans are a fractious lot, and we show no signs of impending improvement in that regard.  We've got many -- MANY -- more important things to argue about than Star Trek, but make no mistake: those of us who care about it can, will, and do argue over Star Trek at the drop of a pin.
  
I leave it to greater minds than mine to decide whether this is a good or a bad thing.  But I did want to acknowledge it as a means of leading into making a point: when I think of what MY Star Trek is -- the tone and tenor of it, the look and feel of it, the shape and size of it, the (metaphorical) taste and smell of it -- it is this very episode that comes to mind for me.  It's not the only one; I can think of half a dozen others immediately, two dozen more right after that, and a handful of the movies maybe even before all of them.  Nor do I wish to pretend that this take on Star Trek is the only one worth considering; you may think of something completely different, and there's so much Trek in the world that you might come up with a description that would be entirely other than my own.
  
I get that.
  
What I'm saying is that for me, "The Corbomite Maneuver" is on the list of Trek stories that explain and define my love for Star Trek.  In Bryant-ville, they don't get much better than this episode.
  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Impossible Has Happened: Star Trek episode 1, "Where No Man Has Gone Before"

Before we properly begin, a word on naming conventions as they apply to this series of Star Trek posts:
  
As I mentioned during my post about "The Cage," it makes sense to me to proceed in production order, not in the order of broadcast.  My Blu-rays, sadly, are in broadcast order, and I assume this means that that is how streaming services order them.  In other words, I'm bucking the trend.
  
It mostly doesn't matter what order you watch the episodes in; a few mild continuity issues notwithstanding, one could start with episode 79 and work backwards and it wouldn't impact things substantially.  Why, then, proceed in production order?  I'm glad you asked.  It's simple: I believe that while the series has very little storytelling continuity, it does have a good amount of continuity in terms of its performances, themes, philosophies, and overall aesthetic.  One need not pay attention to such things; but if one does, there are rewards.
  
Plus, there are occasional times in which the storytelling continuity benefits from that approach.  Such is the case with today's episode: in no world does it make sense from a story point of view to watch "Where No Man Has Gone Before" as the third episode of the series, given that there are substantial differences in the ship's crew from one episode to the next.
  
Hence, these posts will refer to the episode numbers in terms of the overall production order for the series.  No distinction between seasons will be made.  That seems like the cleanest approach to me.  Anyone who wishes to know what order the episodes go in if broadcast order is followed can find that information here.
  
We good?  Okay, then.  Warp factor one, Mr. Sulu!
  
  
  
  

It's still amazing that Star Trek got a second turn at bat; Roddenberry had swung and missed with "The Cage," and in television, the standard operating procedure is a one-strike-and-you're-out policy.  There are a decent number of shows whose pilots underwent significant refilming for one reason or another -- examples of this include Game of Thrones and Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- but I'm not aware of another series that had two wholly different pilot episodes during two consecutive pilot seasons.  There probably is another example; but Google and I did not find it during our brief research period this afternoon.
   
In other words, it is a minor miracle that "Where No Man Has Gone Before" exists.  The first words we hear in the episode are spoken by Captain Kirk as a voiceover: "The impossible has happened," he says, and I cannot help but hear this as the voice of Roddenberry, expressing awed disbelief over the fact that his show still exists.
  
Perhaps we'll discuss some of the reasons why the series made it to that second-pilot stage later, in our look at what a gallery of nonfiction books have to say about this episode.  For now, though, let's simply accept the miracle for what it is: our good fortune.
  
The big change from "The Cage" to "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was that Captain Pike was out and Captain Kirk was in.  No surprise that actor Jeffrey Hunter was replaced; he apparently declined to be part of the second pilot, and went back to focusing on feature films.  It's a bit more surprising that it was Pike (and not merely Hunter) who went away.  After all, given that nobody had seen "The Cage," there was no reason the new lead actor couldn't play the same role; nobody in the audience would have been any the wiser.
  
Whatever prompted that change, the end result is that beginning with this episode, the universe was gifted with Captain James Kirk, as played by William Shatner.
  
  
  
  
Shatner is terrific in this episode, possessed of a star power that rivets one's attention from the moment it begins and does not let up for the next hour (minus commercials).  A few wonky moments peek through, perhaps; but, as we will come to know over the course of the next 78 episodes, that is part of the allure of Shatner's starpower: even when he's bad, he's good, and sometimes great.  Paradox?  Perhaps; but in paradox lies power, and so, in Gordian manner, the knot becomes even more difficult to unravel.
  
Not everyone is as big a fan of Shatner's Kirk as I am; I cannot deny that fact.  And heck, even I am not as big a Shatner fan as some -- hi, McMolo! -- folks out there.  But even at my level of Shat-fandom, I'm of the opinion that while there is a certain amount of kitsch in his approach to acting, it works FOR Star Trek far more than it works against it.  At times during TOS (The Original Series, aka Star Trek), there's no kitsch factor whatsoever: there's merely a gifted actor playing the role he was born to play, and doing so in a straightforward, charismatic manner.
  
Such is the case here.  Some of the episode's best moments come via Shatner's approach to Kirk.  They include:
  
  • The opening scene, in which Kirk and Spock are engaged in a game of chess (using an awesome multi-level chessboard that is, in my opinion, one of the all-time best sci-fi props).  Spock tells Kirk he'll have him checkmated soon; Kirk literally laughs at him, and asks if he is aware that he plays a most irritating game of chess.  Spock feigns ignorance of the concept of irritation, and then smirkingly concludes that it must be one of his Captain's "Earth emotions."  Kirk smiles, reaches to the chessboard, makes a move; Spock frowns in surprised concern.  "Certain you don't know what irritation is?" jabs Kirk.  With two actors of lesser skill than Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (more on whom in a bit) playing these roles, it would have been easy for this scene to come off as being contentious or adversarial, rather than chummy.  Shatner gives it just the right touch; Kirk's demeanor implies no malice toward Spock, but rather a playful quality that has both respect and honesty.  But resolve is also present: Kirk is not a man who is accustomed to losing, no matter how skilled his opponent.
  • After Spock recommends either exiling or murdering Gary Mitchell, Shatner tonelessly tells Spock to get out of the briefing room.  Ye who persist in believing that Shatner has no ability to be subtle, feast your eyes; he is tremendous here.  He conveys (A) that Kirk resents what Spock is saying, (B) that Kirk is grateful for the advice Spock has given him, (C) that Kirk already knew that these were his two options, and (D) that Kirk will not accept those as being his only two options.  All of this with a mere two words: "Get out."  And while Spock will ultimately be proven correct, Shatner's empathy for what Mitchell is experiencing prevents the episode from seeming to be a larger-scale reversal of that introductory chess match, this time with a different victor.  Somehow, Kirk has still won; even when defeated in different ways by both Mitchell and Spock, it is Kirk who emerges victorious.  Based on the way it was filmed and performed, it could have been a different story; that it isn't is partially due to what Shatner brings to the table in his inherent sense of strength and morality.
  • "What makes you right and a trained psychiatrist wrong?" asks Kirk of Spock toward the episode's end, as Mitchell's powers continue to increase.  There are any number of different ways to deliver this line, ranging from the straightforwardly interrogative to the passionately accusatory.  Shatner, again, goes for subtlety: his delivery is passionate and accusatory, but with a surging undercurrent of openness and pleading.  Kirk doesn't want to kill Mitchell, who he has known for fifteen years; he (in my analysis) feels it is his ethical duty to try to find another option, but he also feels it is his ethical and professional duty to protect both his crew and whoever else could be impacted by the wild card that is the new Gary Mitchell.  His words to Spock are fiery, but they do not close a door; they leave that door open, and invite Spock to make his case.  Shatner is speaking the words, but his tone is saying, "I will listen to you, but you have GOT to give me more than what you've given me so far; and I need that advice, so now's the time."

Those are the standout moments for me, but there are others.  And in general, I'd simply say that Shatner's Kirk commands respect from the very first moment he is introduced: this is a man who you buy as the Captain of a starship.




I love Star Trek, and in some way or another I love every incarnation of it, from TOS to the Kelvinverse movies, and every series in between.  That said, if one were to ask me who my favorite character in all of Trek is, you'd probably be unable to even finish the sentence before I'd answered it with "Spock."  This is not to discount other characters: I'd have some difficulty choosing my second-place character, who could be Kirk or Picard or Worf or Data or Riker, or possibly (though probably not) even Janeway (yeah, I said it) or Trip.

Spock -- specifically, Nimoy's Spock -- takes the grand prize by a light-year, however.

Nimoy's approach to the character had not entirely gelled when "The Cage" was filmed; no surprise, considering that Roddenberry's approach to writing the character had not gelled, either.  Nor has it entirely gelled in the Samuel A. Peeples teleplay for "Where No Man Has Gone Before," meaning that Nimoy's performance remains undercooked if you look at it from the standpoint of having seen everything that comes afterward.

Nimoy has made considerable advances since "The Cage," however, and he is every bit Shatner's equal.  His take on Spock exudes raw competence; it's not yet the nearly-superpowered competence it would come to be, but it leaves no room for doubt as to why such a commanding commander as Kirk would put such trust in Spock.

Spock is not referred to as a Vulcan during this episode; his home planet is mentioned, though not named, and his people are known to be free of emotions.  However, it is openly acknowledged that Spock is half human, and because of that, you see plenty of emotion from him.  He does not have any moments in which he smiles outright, as he does briefly in "The Cage"; but he does express blatant irritation (see above), worry, and anger.  The key is that Nimoy applies a generous amount of restraint in all of these moments, permitting us to see that the emotions are present, but that he is more or less capable of keeping them under control.  When Kirk asks him what makes him right and a trained psychiatrist wrong, he answers, "Because she feels.  I don't," he continues; "all I know is logic."  We sense that this is perhaps not entirely true; but true enough to be useful, and true enough that while Kirk feels free to poke at the balloon that is Spock's Vulcan/Human intermix, he feels no need to puncture it.

Put a mediocre actor in that role, and it won't work.  If Shatner's Kirk is a paradox, then Nimoy's Spock is a contradiction; getting that across requires a delicate touch indeed, and Nimoy brings it in sufficient quantity that if he had never developed it any farther, what he's doing here would almost certainly have been sufficient.  He will go on to develop and refine his approach, however, and I would speculate that in part it was due to the eventual writers of the series seeing what he was doing, and writing with his approach in mind. They would do the same for Shatner's Kirk, as well.

Planning for felicity like this in the casting of roles is impossible; you can merely hope for it to happen, and you are typically going to be disappointed.  Planning for it to happen with TWO roles in the same project...?  Unthinkable.  You may as be a drummer putting an ad for a guitarist and a bassist on a telephone pole, planning to definitely get John Lennon and Paul McCartney to show up for an audition.  That's not how The Beatles happened, of course; but the fact remains that The Beatles DID happen.

So did Kirk and Spock as played by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.  "The impossible has happened," indeed.




Gary Mitchell, the ill-fated lieutenant who (seemingly) serves as the ship's navigator, is played by Gary Lockwood.  Lockwood is probably a familiar face to sci-fi fans courtesy of his appearance in 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Prior to this episode of Star Trek, he'd spent a season as the lead of Gene Roddenberry's military drama The Lieutenant.  Never seen an episode of that; I'd like to some day, though.

I'm not a fan of Gary Mitchell, to be honest.  This is no reflection on Lockwood, who invests the character with a carefree chumminess that carries just enough of a hint of dirty underbelly to make his transformation into villain seem inevitable.  Lockwood's performance is sympathetic enough that the tragedy comes through, too; but on the whole, Mitchell seems like a guy who was probably always headed for a bad end.

My real objection to Mitchell is that he weakens Kirk as a character, and Shatner as a performer.  It's unclear to me whether this is intentional in any way; I wouldn't rule it out, but it feels more like a slightly-less-felicitous quirk of casting.  That is perhaps not entirely surprising, given that Lockwood had been a lead actor for Roddenberry; it would almost be surprising if he did anything BUT come in and threaten to overpower the show's actual lead.  He never had a chance to actually do it; but the threat was there, if only on paper.  And it is there in the screenplay: Kirk seems less like Mitchell's captain than his friend (an in-story problem that only worsens when Mitchell develops godlike telepathic/telekinetic powers).  The two joke around; Mitchell seems only marginally inclined to defer to Kirk; and Kirk seems disinclined to reprimand Mitchell when he is blatantly disrespectful to another officer (Dehner, to whom Mitchell refers as a "walking freezer unit" in front of the rest of the bridge crew when she rebuffs his flirtations).

I'm not a fan of fanfiction, generally speaking.  I've been known to make exceptions, though, and many of those exceptions have come via Trek.  I also have a tendency to create Trek fanfiction in my head; not in any substantial sense, but as a means of filling in the gaps for myself mentally.  Ah, yes, your Earth "fan theories"!  I hate fan theories, except when they are my own.  Anyways, this isn't a theory so much as it is a sort of meta-level explanation for what's going on with Mitchell: if Mitchell is indeed something of a hindrance to Kirk's professionalism and (therefore) his ability to effectively command, then perhaps this episode represents Kirk's final evolution from talented commander to inspired commander.  With Mitchell dies Kirk's propensity toward fraternization with the crew, as well as his tendency to tolerate unprofessional behavior from his subordinates.  With Mitchell on the bridge, Kirk could not get there; in his absence, Kirk is freed.

Do I believe any of that is intended?  I do not.  It's just an idea I like to play around with, and when I finally get around to writing my multi-novel sequence of fanfic that retells the entire story of TOS in a continuity-friendly manner, it's likely that my versions of Kirk and Mitchell will reflect this belief.

Don't bet on that ever actually happening; just be informed that when and if, that's how it might be.

For the remainder of our analysis of this episode, let's shift to bulletpoints:

  • When Kirk says "the impossible has happened" during his top-of-the-episode captain's log narration, he's actually referring to the fact that the Enterprise has received a message from ahead of them.  The episode is a bit muddled on what, exactly, this means.  It seems to be a reference to the fact that the Enterprise's mission is to leave the Milky Way and explore the void between the galaxies.  It is the first Earth ship assigned to do so, and yet, it gets close to the edge of the galaxy and received a message from another Earth ship, the Valiant.  So it's impossible in the sense that it's unexpected.  I guess.  One of the episode's failings is that it never does anything to resolve the question of why the Valiant was there, or why.  The Mitchell subplot takes over, and everything else is forgotten.
  • Speaking of leaving the galaxy, let's address that now.  Trek has been somewhat inconsistent over the years in terms of the ships' ability to travel massive-scale distances.  However, it is important to remember that it is the rest of Trek that is inconsistent with "Where No Man Has Gone Before," not the other way around.  That said, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Trek does indeed take the stance that the Milky Way is so vast that the Federation -- not yet named in this episode, by the way -- has explored only a portion of a single quadrant of its immensity.  In most of Trek as we know it, ships like the Enterprise have not gotten anywhere close to even the closest edge of the galaxy.  So in that sense, I can't help but feel that "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is kind of full of shit.  That fanfic-inclined portion of my brain wants to begin saying that the Talosians are responsible for the crew thinking they are close to the galaxy's edge; or something like that.  The logical side of my brain sees this for what it is: dumping a fresh layer of bullshit on top of the pile that's already on the ground.  Poops on poops, y'all.  Facts: Peeples and/or Roddenberry simply didn't think it was a problem to take their ship to the edge of the galaxy; and when, later, the decision was made to limit the range of the vessels, the person(s) who made that decision either forgot that this episode existed or thought nobody would care about the discrepancy.  I'm not exactly sure where that point is; I'll try to spot it whenever it happens.  Things like this can (and do) drive continuity-minded fans nuts; if you're one of them, I sympathize, but do not wholly empathize.
  • This episode introduces the idea of the captain's log; not in reality, mind you, but as a conceit of Star Trek.  It did not exist in "The Cage."  And, by the way, lest you be inclined to assume it is merely voiceover designed to deliver exposition, we do see Kirk physically recording one from his chair on the bridge; this means that the logs do exist literally.  I'm not sure anyone actually thought they didn't, but if so, you've just received my proof to the contrary.
  • Yeoman Colt is nowhere to be seen, but Kirk has what seems to be a Yeoman of his own.  Smith is her name, and she's played by Andrea Dromm, who didn't do much acting otherwise.  Smith isn't integral to the plot in any way, and could easily have been removed; the fact that she wasn't makes me think that Roddenberry planned to use her more, and that Janice Rand (whom we will meet soon) is merely a reworked version of that idea for a character.  Kirk calls Smith by the wrong name (Jones) at one point, and she corrects him somewhat saucily.  Smith also appears to possibly have a current or former relationship with Mitchell; the two of them grasp each other when things begin to get rough on trying to depart from the galaxy.
  • Mitchell is portrayed (via implication) as a womanizer; viewed from a 2016 perspective, Mitchell's implied exploits -- and his statements on the subject -- might be offensive to some.  But it's all in how you look at it: for one thing, Mitchell is the episode's villain, which means that his attitudes and practices feed into that to some degree; and, also, this is a future in which adults are seemingly allowed to simply be adults and are relied upon to be mature enough to sort things out as needed.
  • Another of the things unexplained by this episode's teleplay: why does our galaxy have a heretofore-undetected energy barrier that seemingly does not permit vessels to pass beyond it?  We'll see this energy barrier again (once each in the second and third seasons, and in another form in the fifth movie), so it must be said that the barrier is an established part of Trek canon.  No canonical story has ever made any sense out of it, though; there are apparently some non-canon novels that retcon it into being a construct of the Q Continuum, put there to keep an exiled being from returning to the Milky Way.  On the one hand, that works for me; on the other hand, what a load of horseshit!  I hold both of those thoughts in my brain simultaneously, and once again we know that madness that is Star Trek "continuity."  That's why I'd like to rewrite it all for myself one of these days; this, too, would be shit, but of my own making, which makes it marginally less offensive, at least to me.  I don't want turds on my floor, but if there are going to be turds there, I'd rather they come out of my butt than yours.
  • "I'm getting a chance to read some of that longhair stuff you like," says Mitchell to Kirk.  He's reading The Ethics by Spinoza, the contents of which sound as if they might be of interest to somebody exploring this episode's themes.  I'm not dedicated enough to go on a dive into those waters, but it satisfies me to know that the text has resonance.
  • "If I hadn't aimed that little blond lab technician at you," Mitchell begins, as a means of explaining how he got around Kirk's somewhat tyrannical zeal for teaching his students at Starfleet Academy.  Many a retcon engineer has shaped this into an allusion to Carol Marcus (of Wrath of Khan fame).  Kirk is aghast; "I nearly married her!" he protests.  Let's have no confusion about this: as of the time of "Where No Man Has Gone Before," Carol Marcus did not exist.  However, as retcons go, this one isn't half bad; it fits, more or less (although referring to a hugely gifted scientist like Carol Marcus as a mere "lab tech" seems a bit off to me).
  • "Consider it a challenge," says Kirk to Mitchell when the lieutenant hints that he'd like a more pliable female to be assigned to play watchdog to him.  Not one of Kirk's more professional moments.  "Women professionals do tend to over-compensate," Dehner says a bit later.  Ah, the sixties...
  • Speaking of Dehner, she's played by Sally Kellerman, whose icy delivery might have made her well-qualified to play Spock's hypothetical sister.  She's good in the episode; like Mitchell, she seems like someone who could have been a part of the show on an ongoing basis, if only the story had permitted it.
  • Mitchell reads briefly from a poem called "Nightingale Woman," by Tarbolde.  This fictional work is said to have been written in 1996, and is referred to as one of the most passionate love sonnets of the last couple of centuries.  In other words, the timeline is circa 2296.
  • "We will never reach an Earth base with him aboard, Jim," says Spock of Mitchell.  It's interesting that even this early in the series, the friendship between Kirk and Spock is sufficient that, in a private moment, Spock feels free to call his captain by his first name when the chips are down.
  • What do we make of Spock's recommendation that they kill Mitchell before he can evolve further?  In some ways, it jars -- massively -- against what we think of as being Spock-like, Vulcan-like, or Roddenberry-like.  But, of course, this was still early days for the series, so it makes sense from that perspective.  I'd go further, though: under certain circumstances, it would absolutely be logical to kill one person in order to save a group of people.  Logic need not always be appealing; in fact, if it is then I would submit that it is not always logic.  (I would also submit that true logic does not actually exist, that it must be founded on a bedrock set of principles that will have at least partially developed as an outgrowth of beliefs informed by emotions.  But I'm no philosopher, so for all I know I am completely full of shit in that regard.)  Either way, it is a very Roddenberrian thing for Kirk to balk at following Spock's recommendation, even though he seems perhaps to know that Spock is right.
  • This makes two consecutive episodes in which the perils of advanced intelligence are explored.  This is a theme that the series -- plural, not merely TOS -- will continue to explore.  Part of the series' philosophy is that progress is both inevitable and desirable; but also that it must be earned, and is inherently dangerous if unnaturally accelerated.  This is the sort of level-headed liberalism of which I approve and in which I am a believer.
  • Doctor Boyce from "The Cage" is nowhere to be found; and we don't yet have Doctor McCoy, either.  We've got Doctor Mark Piper, played by Paul Fix.  Piper fails to pop here, and while that's not Fix's fault, it's not hard to be glad that they invented another character by the time the series was picked up.
  • Series mainstays making their debut: Lieutenants Scott and Sulu, played by James Doohan and George Takei.  Neither have much to do, but they are appealing enough that you see why they continued in their roles whereas others didn't.  Poor Paul Carr (as Lee Kelso) doesn't even survive the episode; Lloyd Haynes as Alden -- one of Trek's first black characters/actors -- lives, but is never seen again.
  • We know Kirk as James T. Kirk, but Mitchell's headstone for his would-be grave read "James R. Kirk."  Retconners insist that this was a mistake not on the part of whoever later gave Kirk the middle initial "T." but on the part of Gary Mitchell, who was losing his humanity and therefore his memory.  Sure, whatever.  the "T." will eventually come to stand for "Tiberius," and with that spirit in mind, I went looking through a list of Roman emperors for a name that began with "R." in the hopes of deciding what Kirk's REAL middle name might be.  The best I could come up with was "Romanos," which works for me.  So welcome to the universe, James Romanos Kirk!
  • "I felt for him, too," says Spock in the episode's final scene.  "I believe there's some hope for you after all, Mister Spock," says Kirk, which makes Spock smile somewhat.  Expertly played by both Shatner and Nimoy.  And resonant: during the briefing room scene in which Spock tries to convince Kirk of his options, Kirk has rebuked his science officer by saying, "Will you try for once in your life to feel?"





Let's now turn our attentions to an alternate version of the episode: the pilot as it was presented to NBC.  It was re-edited prior to its eventual broadcast (as the third episode of the series), and several minutes were taken out.  This version eventually appeared as a bonus feature on the Blu-rays in 2009.

The differences are not massively interesting, but I do like this version, and it seems like a worthy endeavor to literally watch the two versions side by side so as to make a comprehensive list of the variations between them.  Don't say I never did you a favor!

We'll supplement the list with a handful of screencaps of images that appear only in this version, beginning with:




Just as in the broadcast version, this original edit begins with Kirk's voiceover.  However, it begins differently, and is initially set over the image of the Milky Way galaxy.  "Enterprise log, Captain James Kirk commanding," says Kirk.  "We are leaving that vast cloud of stars and planets which we call our galaxy; behind us, Earth, Mars, Venus, even our sun, are specks of dust.  The question: what is out there in the black void beyond?"  We've been panning out and away from the image of the Milky Way, and now cut to a starfield, and to the Enterprise navigating through space.  "Until now," continues Kirk, "our mission has been that of space-law regulation, contact with Earth colonies, and investigation of alien life ... but now, a new task: a probe ... out into where no man has gone before."

The title




zooms out of the stars at the camera, with wholly different music playing than what we are accustomed to hearing.  It's a very brief credit sequence, and only contains a couple of credits:





It ends, there is a beat where commercials would theoretically play, and we come back to:




"Stardate 1312.4," says Kirk as the Enterprise passes from screen left to screen right:




"the impossible has happened," Kirk continues.  And with that, we have reached the point at which the broadcast edit begins.

From here, things play out identically until there is an added line after Kirk says, "Terrible having bad blood like that."  In this version that sentence continues, with Kirk adding, "but you may learn to enjoy it some day."  In both versions, their conversation is at this point interrupted by Kelso, hailing them from the bridge.

Quickly, let's look at some color differences between the two prints in this moment:


broadcast version

unaired version

Once they beam the recorder aboard, there is a difference after Scotty says, "It's begun transmitting, sir."  In the unaired version, there is a cut to:




In both versions, Kirk then orders that all decks be put on alert.  He and Spock then exit the transporter room and head for a turbolift, and in the unaired version a new credit card appears over footage that is otherwise identical:




See that red box on the wall just ahead of Kirk?  In the broadcast version, once they get a couple of paces beyond it, the scene fades out, and the familiar season one main-title sequence begins.  But in the unaired version, the shot continues, and a voice -- Kelso's, I think -- comes over the intercraft speakers: "Bridge to all decks," it says: "condition alert.  Bridge to all decks: condition alert."

Gary Mitchell appears from one end of the corridor.  Yeoman Smith walks out of a door ahead of him; her back to him, she does not know he is there, and he takes the opportunity to reach out a hand to her in a pervy what-I-wouldn't-give-to-get-my-hands-on-that type of gesture.






Smith passes on, and within moments, Mitchell's eye is caught by another woman; as she goes by, he gives her tits a sideways glance, and then turns around to check out her ass once she is past him.  Gary Lockwood's credit then appears, as does Sally Kellerman's.








This should go without saying, but these few deleted moments amplify Mitchell's tendency toward womanizing; he's obviously not much more than a walking priapism, and I continue to believe that the filmmakers want us to see him in a negative light.

The scene continues a bit with an overhead shot looking down through a grate at the bustling corridor, then cuts back to a long shot.  "All decks: condition alert," Kelso continues, over a shot of Piper and Sulu walking up the corridor.




We then cut to a shot of Kirk and Spock finally entering the turbolift, which is where we rejoin the broadcast edit.  From this point on, the episodes are mostly identical except for the title cards designating which act it is that accompany the image of the unaired version as it comes out of "commercial" each time.  (The end credits are also different, with the unaired version using images from this episode instead of the first-season episode images that grace the broadcast edit.)  If there are additional differences, they are so inconsequential that I failed to notice them despite having them play simultaneously on my PC.



  
This was a mildly disconcerting experience, by the way; it took me a while to get the two media players I was using to be in anything even approximating sync.


video

  
This, I assume, is what watching things on really weak acid must be like.




Not what I'd call an optimal way of watching an episode of Star Trek, but it was worth doing just to be able to say I'd performed a thorough comparison of the two edits.  This is how I know that in the unaired version, everyone's pants are kind of purple.




If that don't get me into Heaven, I don't know what would.

While we're comparing things, let's have a look at some comparisons between the broadcast version and the Remastered version:


original

Remastered

original -- from the main-title sequence

Remastered -- the planet's clouds are clearer, but it also somehow manages to make the planet look thinner and less substantial

original

Remastered

original

Remastered

original

Remastered

original

Remastered

original

Remastered

original

Remastered

I continue to be unimpressed by the Remastered project; but I'll soldier on.

Now, following the format of our series of posts, let's turn our attention to an examination of several nonfiction books, beginning with:




Two things about Inside Star Trek:

(1)  it is indispensable and you should own (and read) a copy; and
(2)  I would have included it in the conversation about "The Cage" but neglected to because my faulty memory insisted that its narrative began with the second Star Trek pilot.  Derp!  Got that one wrong.

So let's have a look at a bit of what this fabulously informative and entertaining tome has to say about BOTH pilots, beginning with a trio of behind-the-scenes photos I scanned from it and share for your enjoyment:


John Hoyt, Gene Roddenberry, and Jeffrey Hunter


Susan Oliver, Gene Roddenberry, Robert Butler, and Bob Justman

Majel Barrett, Gene Reoddenberry, and Leonard Nimoy

  • Solow was the vice-president at Desilu directly in charge of producing Star Trek.  Here is his take on Gene Roddenberry: "Much has been written about the personal history of Gene Roddenberry.  Some is factual; some is not.  Gene himself, over the years, tended to intermix fact and fantasy.  But then, that happens with many who are in the public eye.  Yes, as Gene told me during those early years, he was a pilot for Pan-Am who "deadheaded" on a Middle-Eastern flight from Karachi that crashed in the Saudi Arabian desert.  But no, Gene did not pull all the passengers from the burning wreckage by himself, fighting off a raiding band of Arab tribesmen, and walk across the desert to the nearest phone and summon help.  Yes, Gene was a contributing writer for Have Gun, Will Travel, but not "head writer" of that series -- nor did he create it.  That was done by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadows.  But yes, Gene did write more scripts than any other of the show's freelance writers.  Yes, Gene was a police office for the LAPD.  Yes, Gene wrote speeches for Chief William A. Parker.  No, as a sergeant, Gene was not in line to replace Parker as Los Angeles chief.  Yes, Gene created and produced a television series, The Lieutenant.  Yes, the series was unsuccessful, lasting less than one year.  Yes, Gene Roddenberry was out of work.  That's when he showed up on my doorstep."
  • Solow reveals that during the initial development, the title of the series was briefly changed to Gulliver's Travels (and the lead character's name to Captain Gulliver); after a few days, both Roddenberry and Solow realized that they'd made a mistake, and the title changed back to Star Trek.
  • Justman was assistant director on "The Cage," Associate Producer from that point through the end of the second season, and Co-Producer on the third season.  He would later be instrumental in launching The Next Generation; he is officially one of the most important behind-the-scenes figures in all of Trek.  Here is what he has to say about meeting Roddenberry: "He rose to greet me and shook my hand.  'Hi, Bob, I'm Gene Roddenberry.'  He was quite tall, and when he smiled, he was immediately likable."  [Director James] "Goldstone was right; as Gene and I talked, I realized he had great intelligence.  He spoke softly, philosophically.  He asked me about myself, my career, what I wanted to do in the future, and what was important in my life.  No one in the film business had ever asked me about what was important in my life.  I told told him I wanted to use my creativity and contribute ideas rather than merely contributing my time and energy.  Gene smoked throughout our meeting, his long, slim fingers holding the cigarette in a most unusual fashion, midway between the two middle fingers.  When he brought the cigarette up to his lips, the other fingers on his hand remained extended and covered his face from his nose to his chin.  When framing a new thought, he would drag deeply on the cigarette while he gazed upwards toward something else, somewhere else, not in that room, perhaps not in any room."
  • Solow on the score for "The Cage": [Alexander] "Courage and his contribution to Star Trek have never received the plaudits they truly deserved.  Hired after a meeting with Gene and me, Sandy, though not at all a fan of science fiction, wrote a truly exciting score that magnified both the adventure of outer space and the mysteries that lay somewhere in that beyond.  But Sandy's brilliance lay in arranging and orchestrating his main title theme music.  Rather than relying upon a man-made musical instrument, Sandy placed a soaring human voice, that of soprano Loulie Jean Norman, just above the orchestra.  It created an ethereal human quality and sent it out into the galaxy as if opening a door of welcome to one and all who might be out there -- listening, watching."
  • Solow on Hunter not returning for the second pilot: "We had an option of Jeff Hunter for a series, but not for another pilot film.  The idea of a network financing a second pilot film after the first one failed to result in a 'sold' series was unheard of, so there was no reason for such a contract provision.  We therefore had to devise a plan that would enable us to keep Jeff Hunter in the fold.  In the eyes of the New York and Los Angeles television world, Star Trek was already a failure.  But we knew differently and looked forward to running the completed pilot for our star, Jeff Hunter.  We hoped it would convince him to do another pilot.  Gene and I waited in the Desilu projection room for him to arrive.  He never did.  Arriving in his stead was actress Sandy Bartlett, Mrs. Jeff Hunter.  We traded hellos, and I nodded to Gene.  He flicked the projection booth intercom switch.  'Let's go.'  And so it went.  As the end credits rolled, and the lights came up, Jeff Hunter's wife gave us our answer: 'This is not the kind of show Jeff wants to do, and besides, it wouldn't be good for his career.  Jeff Hunter is a movie star.'  Mrs. Hunter was very polite and very firm.  She said her good-byes and left, having surprisingly snd swiftly removed our star from our new pilot."
  • We move now to a discussion of "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and an anecdote from Solow about casting a certain role: "Gene's version of the ship's yeoman role came straight out of old Hollywood movies: cute and shapely, and cute and bubbly, and cute and not too bright -- and cute.  Laurel Goodwin as Yeoman Colt fit Gene's vision for the first pilot, but she was swept away by the NBC broom.  Model Andrea Dromm, also fitting the mold, came aboard for the second pilot as Yeoman Smith.  Actually, it was a non-part.  But during the casting process, director Jimmy Goldstone overheard Gene say, 'I'm hiring her because I want to score with her.'  It was not only a non-part, I'm sure it was a non-score as well."
  • It is revealed that that stuntmen who doubled William Shatner and Gary Lockwood for the climactic fistfight were Paul Baxley and Hal Needham.  Needham would go on to become a successful director, and made, among other things, The Cannonball Run, Megaforce (!), Hooper (which was partially filmed in my hometown of Tuscaloosa), and the biggest-grossing film of 1977 not to be titled Star Wars: the phenomenally successful Smokey and the Bandit.
  • There is something of a bombshell on pages 76-77 in the way of a reproduction of a letter from NBC Programs Vice President Mort Werner.  It was sent to Roddenberry on August 17, 1966, a few weeks before the first episode of the series ("The Man Trap") aired.  In the memo, Werner urges Roddenberry -- proactively, by the way; not in any way that is indicative of Star Trek having already failed Werner in this regard -- to support NBC's policy of non-discrimination by treating members of minority groups "in a manner consistent with their role in our society."  Werner specifies that this applies to all minority groups, but is principally in reference to Negroes.  "We urge producers to cast Negroes, subject to their availability and competence as performers, as people who are an integral segment of the population, as well as in those roles where the fact of their minority status is of significance."  Werner indicates that it is NBC's desire to "intensify and extend this effort," and says -- again, not evidently in a manner that targets Star Trek specifically -- that while noticeable progress has been made, "we can do better."  Bearing in mind that Star Trek's first season went into production in May and June, it is clear that both Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were both already on board prior to this letter from Werner.  However, the tone of the letter implies -- strongly -- that what Roddenberry was doing in casting a racially diverse crew for the Enterprise was fully in line with existing NBC policy.  In other words, the self-congratulatory nature of Trekkie claims about the series practically inventing racial diversity on television is something of a myth.  I don't think that makes Roddenberry any less admirable; all signs point to him having been a forward-looking progressive with or without NBC's influence.  However, the myths about Star Trek have frequently painted it as an entirely us-versus-them situation when it came to its progressive ideologies; and this letter seems to soundly refute that notion.
  • There's a great anecdote about Justman, Solow, and Roddenberry interviewing a candidate for the job of lighting the episode.  Every cameraman in town was booked, so much so that Star Trek had put in a request to see off-the-books people like retirees, and would even consider known drunks!  A somewhat elderly man named Ernest Haller showed up for the interview; none of the trio knew his name, but eventually found out that he had been nominated for seven Oscars ... and had won one ... for Gone with the Wind.  Haller got the job.
  • Filming ran over schedule, so much so that the wrap party was delayed while filming continued on the fistfight between Kirk and Mitchell.  The fight was kicking up so much sand from the "ground" that it kept covering the camera tracks, and to combat this problem, Justman and Solow grabbed brooms and began sweeping the sand off to keep the tracks clear.  At one point, they noticed suddenly that another person had joined in and was helping them sweep: Lucille Ball, who was getting tired of waiting for the party to begin.  "What do I have to do to get you to finish?" she asked.



  • Let's see what Whitfield had to say circa 1968 on the subject of the racial makeup of the cast as it related to the second pilot: "A word of caution (not an ultimatum) was expressed once more regarding the plans for an integrated crew aboard the Enterprise.  There were still those who were afraid of the consequences, from a strictly dollar-and-cents point of view.  By putting a Negro in the crew they might lose the Southern states, by putting a Mexican in the crew they might lose Texas, Arizona, and parts of California, and so forth.  The overseas sales representatives were also greatly concerned about the matter.  A Chinese crew member could lose sales for the show in Indonesia, etc., etc., etc.  Gene began to realize that if he listened to all these people, the Enterprise would end up with an all-white, Protestant, Caucasian crew.  This could then rebound with the same result in a great many foreign countries, because why should they believe that 200 years from now such a ship will be manned by an all-American crew?  So many different people became embroiled in so much controversy that they ended up leaving Gene alone to do it the way he wanted to!"  I don't want to come right out and call this bullshit, so I will settle for strongly hinting toward it, and will simply point up the page toward the previously-discussed letter from Mort Werner.  I don't doubt that somebody, somewhere objected to some element of the show's racial makeup; but the evidence does not support the notion that it was Gene Roddenberry vs. The World when it came to making that makeup a part of Trek.  It sounds better that way in myth-making, though, I guess.



  • It is here revealed that the first actor approached to play the new Captain -- James R. Kirk -- was Jack Lord.  Roddenberry wanted him for the role, but he evidently asked for too many concessions in his contract (in the form of partial ownership of the series and a co-producer credit).
  • Cushman gives us several pages exploring the pre-star Trek career of William Shatner (who, obviously, eventually got the role Jack Lord bargained himself out of).  Cushman does a great job of making it plain that Shatner was already both a well-respected actor and an acknowledged star; not, perhaps, a household name ... but certainly a star.  It had never dawned on me that Shatner was actually a bigger get for the series than Jeffrey Hunter had been; he was perceived as a star on the rise, whereas Hunter was somewhat on the decline.  I've always tended to think that Star Trek made Shatner a star, but it seems that a solid argument could be made that it was Shatner's extant stardom that made Star Trek a hit.  Oh, and by the way...?  Shatner ended up receiving the profit-sharing deal Lord had asked for; but his price was lower, and was therefore feasible.
  • Did you ever wonder who originated the phrase "where no man has gone before"?  Samuel A. Peeples (who scripted the episode) claims it was his phrase, and this book doesn't offer any proof to the contrary.  (This webpage, however, gives two sources where variations of the phrase had appeared before: a White House pamphlet on space travel and, even earlier, the H.P. Lovecraft novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.)
  • Herb Solow brought the idea for the captain's log to Roddenberry as a device for gracefully delivering exposition.
  • Peeples was the credited screenwriter, but Roddenberry made significant contributions.  Says Cushman: "Many highlights of the filmed episode -- the friendship between Kirk and Mitchell, the Captain's difficult decision to strand Mitchell on Delta Vega, the grave that Mitchell opens up in the ground for Kirk, and Mitchell's death, tumbling into that grave as Kirk uses a phaser rifle beam to dislodge a massive rock from a cliff above, which then falls on top of Mitchell, crushing and entombing him -- were all added by Roddenberry, without credit."

Finally, let's talk about the James Blish adaptation, which appeared in this book in November 1972:

  



One of the most notable aspects of Blish's story, which runs 27 pages in length, is the degree to which Blish goes in trying to retcon it into established Trek continuity.  I suspect that the vast majority of viewers back in those days would have no real conception of why certain things about "Where No Man Has Gone Before" were different from other episodes of the series.  For example:

  • Where is Dr. McCoy?  Who is this Dr. Piper guy who is in his place?
  • Why isn't Sulu the helmsman?
  • What's up with the uniform shirts?
  • Where's Uhura?
  • If he and Kirk were such good friends, why isn't Mitchell on any of the episodes before this one?

And so forth.  Remember, guys, it wouldn't have been common knowledge that this episode had actually been a pilot; and even if it had been, the nature of what a "pilot" was wouldn't have been something that necessarily made sense to people.  So if you're a Trekkie in those days, you probably have some confusion over at least a couple of the above questions.

Blish doesn't tackle the Uhura issue, nor does he address the differences in the costumes/uniforms, nor the issue of Mitchell's absence prior to this episode.  But he does tell us that Gary Mitchell had become senior helmsman after Sulu had become the ship's physicist; a neat detail that allows us to figure out for ourselves that Sulu must reclaim the helmsman position after Mitchell's death in this episode.  Nice!  (It's worth pointing out, however, that Kelso occupies the helmsman's seat in the filmed episode; Mitchell has the navigator's chair.  but I can let that slide.)
 
As for Dr. Piper...?  "He was temporary -- McCoy was on a special study leave -- and rather an elderly man for Starfleet service," Blish informs us, "but he seemed to be a competent enough physician."  This is considerably less successful, because it begs the question of where Piper actually came from.  Also, is there no subordinate to McCoy who can take over for him in the event of his absence or incapacitation?  Have we all forgotten Dr. M'Benga?  Is Nurse Chapel -- admittedly just a nurse, but clearly competent -- unqualified?

The answer, of course, is that neither character existed when this screenplay was written; nor, for that matter, did McCoy.  Blish was unable to adequately explain why Piper was the replacement because there is no adequate explanation for it that does not involve changing the story or admitting that McCoy was not yet a member of the crew.  In a way, I admire him for trying to keep this story fully in continuity; it was a lost cause from the outset, but he gave it a good try.

He makes minor changes here and there, such as removing Yeoman Smith altogether.  He also emphasizes some things in different ways to how they are emphasized in the filmed episode; during the scene between Mitchell and Dehner in sickbay, for example, he makes it plain that Mitchell is frightened by what is happening to him.  I don't get that from Lockwood's performance; to me, Mitchell as he plays him seems perhaps a bit timid about the transformation at the outset, but he does not seem at all frightened.  Here's the thing: both ways work.  The way it's filmed makes Mitchell's dangerous side seem all the more dangerous; the way Blish writes it makes the human tragedy of his transformation more palpable, and also makes it a bit more believable that Kirk is able to sway Dehner in the end.

Other things I wanted to mention:

  • When Dehner, in the briefing room, confesses that she has indeed seen indications of Mitchell possessing powers of a high magnitude, Blish gives to Dr. Piper a line spoken by Kirk in the episode: "And you didn't think that worth the concern of the Captain?"  Shatner is famed for his penchant for poaching lines from other characters and reassigning them to Kirk, so I wonder if that's what happened here.  Was Blish working from the teleplay?  If so, then the absence of Yeoman Smith bolsters the implication from above that Andrea Dromm was cast on the fly and given a character and a few lines simply because Gene Roddenberry wanted to make time with her.  (And let's be clear about this: that's abhorrent behavior.  But good lord, man, can you really blame him for wanting to at least take a run at getting her in the sack?  I sure can't; the means he went about it, yes, but the desire, certainly not.)
  • Blish utterly changes the tenor of the post-briefing conversation between Kirk and Spock.  He has Spock refer to Kirk as "sir" a couple of times, whereas in the episode Spock calls him "Jim."  He has Kirk yell "Get out of here!" at Spock, and even italicizes the sentence to make it more expressive.  He then slams his fist on the table before enjoining Spock to try to feel.  Shatner plays the scene much more subtly, and if that was HIS change (if Blish was simply replicating the screenplay's directions), then we have even more evidence on our hands of how masterful a job he was doing as Kirk right out of the gates.
  • Kirk's distress over the Mitchell dilemma is more expressive, too.  After Spock says that he thinks they have both guessed that the captain of the Valiant must have gone through similar concerns, "Kirk groped for a chair.  Spock turned one around for him.  He sank down in it, his face in his hands."
  • Blish -- perhaps via Peeples' teleplay, perhaps not -- has Mitchell's skin also begin to change to a silvery tone suggestive of solid metal.
  • When Dehner sees her own transformed eyes, she screams and flings her arm over them to block the sight.  This is another case where I like both versions.
  • "In God's name, Doctor, make your prognosis!" Kirk pleads with Dehner after telling her that Mitchell's buried savagery will soon be unearthed.  TOS has a few instances of "God" or related concepts being mentioned, so this isn't entirely at odds with the series; but it feels like it.  I'd love to know if this is from Peeples.
  • Despite the fact that they've just been fighting, Kirk (to no avail) shouts at Gary to get out of the way when the boulder begins falling.  I'm not a fan of this.  It makes Kirk seem less resolved; weaker, somehow.  I'm not saying I want him to want Mitchell to die, but I do think that by this point he has accepted that that is what must happen.  So having him make a halfhearted attempt to save his former friend simply doesn't work for me.

As we did last time, let's wrap up with some Blish quotes combined with episode screencaps:



"Kirk and Spiock, a chessboard between them, looked away from the board to fix their eyes on the screen's center.  It held, invisibly, an object detected by the Enterprise sensors; an object that was impossibly emitting the call letters of a starship known to be missing for two centuries."

" 'Irritating?  Ah yes, one of your Earth's emotions, I believe.' "

" 'Certain that you don't know what irritation is?' Kirk asked."

"Kirk decided to risk it.  It was a curious encounter on the edge of illimitable space."



"As the heavy throb of the ship's powerful engines eased, the bridge elevator opened.  First to step out of it was Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, tall, slim, in her mid-twenties, a potentially beautiful woman if she had cared to be one, which she didn't."  Bryant here -- can't help but point out that uh, yeah, she's pretty damn beautiful whether she cares to be or not.  Ah, the seventies...

"As the Enterprise moved past the last stars, the bridge alarm light flashed.  All eyes turned to the large viewing screen.  Against the blackness of deep space a wispy pattern of colors was building up ahead of the ship."  Bryant here again -- that bit about moving past the last stars is daft as fuck.  No, James Blish; no!  Bad adaptor!


"But the sparks had invaded Mitchell, too.  Jerking like a marionette pulled by a madman's strings, he staggered to his feet and then went rigid.  With a last galvanic convulsion, he toppled to the deck, inert, unconscious.  His body rolled as the ship shuddered."

"On his computer station screen, Spock was busily flashing the names of certain members of the ship's personnel.  Among them were those of Elizabeth Dehner and Gary Mitchell.  Noting them, Kirk gave Spock a sober look.  Spock hastily flashed off Elizabeth's name as she approached them."



" 'Do you know for sure, Doctor, that there isn't another kind?' "

"She wasn't sure of anything in the presence of this man with the silver eyes so bright upon her.  But somehow, she suspected that she'd given herself away."

"Kirk, looking at her exalted face, thought, Idealism gone rampant again!  My God!"


"The room emptied of everyone but Spock.  Kirk turned to see his Science Officer inspecting him, creases of worry in his forehead."

"Spock sprang up.  He struck Mitchell with a force that knocked him from the bed.  He started to rise and Kirk landed a hard, fast blow on his jaw.  His legs gave way.  Groggy, he sprawled, supporting himself by his hands and knees."

"But another shot was required.

This time Piper administered it in the Transporter Room where its technicians were preparing the beam-down to the surface of Delta-Vega.  But the torpor induced by the second shot lasted for less time than the unconsciousness caused by the first one.  Mitchell came out of it to begin to struggle so firecely that he pulled himself free of the combined hold of Kirk and Spock."

"He spoke directly to her.  'In time, beautiful Doctor, you will understand, in time.  Humans cannot survive if a race of true Espers like me is born.  That's what Spock knows -- and what that fool there,' he nodded toward Kirk, 'is too sentimental to know.' "





" 'Her feelings for Mitchell weaken the accuracy of her judgment.  Mine tell me we'll be lucky if we can repair the ship and get away from him before he becomes very dangerous indeed.' "

"The full meaning of Kirk's words struck Kelso dumb.  If he hit the red witch, he'd go where the valley went..  He looked at the switch and back into Kirk's eyes.  After a moment, he managed a very sober, 'Yes, sir.' "

"Taking her hand, he led her back into his room and over to a wall mirror.  'Look at yourself, beautiful Doctor,' he said."

"He made a gesture.  The blue sand around them darkened into the rich brown of loam.  It shifted to give way to an upspring of bubbling water.  The scaly, brass-colored vegetation turned green.  From a patch of it, the leafy trunk of a peach tree rose up.  Fruit hung from its boughs.  Mitchell bent to drink from the spring."

"when she had quenched her thirst, he said, 'You'll share this power, too.  As you develop, you'll feel like me, able to make a world into anything you want it to be.  Soon we will fully control our bodies.  We'll never grow old.  You're woman enough now to like that.  Always young, as beautiful as you desire to be...' "

""Kirk stopped.  He had heard the words.  How, he didn't know."

"Hesitating, she stepped forward.  Kirk sensed the presence on the shallow cliff above him, grabbed his rifle -- and recognized the girl."

"Whipping up his rifle,

Kirk fired it at him.  A fiery beam lanced out of it and struck him full in the chest."

"Kirk turned.  Behind him, brown earth was cooping itself out into the neat shape of a grave."




"Spock's Mephisto features were tranquil. 'I felt for him, too, sir, strange to say.' "

" Kirk eyes him speculatively.  'Watch yourself, Mr. Spock,' he said.  'Your compassion is showing.' "


See you next time with "The Corbomite Maneuver."