Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Star Trek: Where No Man Has Gone Before

Episode: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 3
Original Air Date: September 22, 1966
via Fez talks Star Trek and Phase 2

It would seem that Trekkies owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Lucille Ball, of all people.  It was Ms. Ball who convinced NBC management to consider a second pilot for Star Trek, entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before."  Apparently, she really liked creator Gene Roddenberry and believed in the project.  Luckily for all of us, the idea took the second time and the successful pilot was the third episode to air.  "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is the first-filmed episode to feature Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Lt. Sulu (George Takei) and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan).  In this second pilot, Sulu is the ship's physicist, not the helmsman he would become in the regular series run.

A magnetic space storm ignites intensified ESP abilities in helmsman Gary Mitchell, also revealed as a former student and long-time friend of Kirk's.  As Mitchell's powers increase and he shows signs of hostility, Spock recommends killing Mitchell before it's too late.  Kirk resists the idea, of course, and contrives an alternate plan to maroon Mitchell on an isolated planet.

So, why did the second pilot work better?  Some of the answers are easy.  Shatner is a better and more charismatic actor than Jeffrey Hunter who played Captain Christopher Pike in the first pilot (my reflections here).  Also, the character of Spock is better developed - a crucial element in the long-term appeal of the show.  But most importantly, at least in my opinion, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is a stronger story.

Taking in the grand sweep of Star Trek history, I believe there are some narrative templates the franchise handles better than others.  Basic mystery/puzzle solving stories are the default and usually work out well.  Tales involving children, on the other hand, tend to fall flat.  I feel that the very best Trek stories usually revolve around an ethical dilemma.  The question of what to do with Mitchell is an excellent example.

George Takei (rhymes with okay) was born on April 20, 1937 in Los Angeles, California.  The story of his early life is, unfortunately, typical of the Japanese Americans of his generation.  His family spent three years in internment camps during World War II.  
via Travel Arkansas

Takei originally went to UC-Berkeley to study architecture but ultimately graduated from UCLA in theater.  Roles for Asians were hard to come by in the 1950s and '60s but Takei found work.  His first television appearance came in the third season of Perry Mason in 1959.  His first film role was in 1960's Hell to Eternity.
via All hail the glow cloud

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. I was a teenager when ST aired and, in the application of ethics to adventure, it promised a brighter future than I had come to expect. Much of its dream has risen around us, handheld communicators, view screens by which I may visit your site and you mine. Indeed, a new frontier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Much of it has come to pass. World peace still feels a lot way off, though...

      Thanks, Geo! I'm enjoying this project and very much appreciate your comments upon it.

      Delete
  2. Should I say it...? I shall. "OH MYYYYY..." :-)

    We love George Takei round these parts. It's fun to hear his distinctive voice pop up on various cartoons, too... Clone Wars, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adventure Time. Not to mention playing two roles on "Supah Ninjas:" himself and his evil twin. (From that list of TV shows, you can tell I have a 12-year old boy... but I enjoy them too.)

    If you're a satellite radio listener, I hear that George will also be sitting in as guest announcer on the Howard Stern show all next week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm intentionally leaving out later career stuff for now, mostly so I can save them to talk about another time. That said, the recent emergence of Takei as social media megastar is downright life affirming. What an extraordinary man! I think it's good to be reminded that social activism was a part of his life even before he came out as gay. He's been an icon in the Japanese American community for decades.

      For the record, my 10-year old daughter also loves the shows you mentioned, especially Avatar and Adventure Time.

      Delete
  3. I love your Star Trek posts! :)

    George Takei has a great autobiography called 'To The Stars', I highly recommend it. All of the cast members of TOS wrote autobiographies, and Shatner and Nimoy actually wrote 2 or 3, but Takei's is the only one that I still have on my bookshelf, it's definitely a keeper.

    A lot of "The Cage" was incorporated into a 2-part episode in the first season called "The Menagerie". This was the studio's way of not wasting the footage they had shot with the first pilot, and saving money on production for two weeks.

    "Where No Man..." is definitely one of the better episodes, and I think it's still a mystery as to why the network decided to air "The Man Trap" first... so weird.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have discovered my blog at a good time, I think. Embrace the inner geek!

      Thanks for the book recommendation - on the list it goes. I don't know TOS as well as I know TNG and I'm not sure I've ever actually seen "The Menagerie." I'm looking forward to it.

      Delete
  4. What a killer post, Squidman. Last time I was here you said something about the direction you were planning to take with the blog and I have to say, I really enjoyed reading this. We're still waiting on all our stuff to be delivered so we haven't watched any more TOS eps but plan to, soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Suze! Welcome back to the 'sphere. Glad you enjoyed the post. You can count on a lot more Trek at The Squid this year.

      Delete
  5. Nice post, great blog, following :)

    Good Luck :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I shall happily return the favor.

      Delete
  6. I have really been enjoying the TOS revisits, too (thanks to Suze). It's interesting when pilots flop: the first 30 Rock was a stinker, according to Tina Fey herself. And the first Firefly was not actually the one they aired as the pilot. It makes sense that some shows take a while to find their groove.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So often, success is attributable to dumb luck. Roddenberry was darn lucky to have the support of a very powerful friend.

      Delete
  7. This brought back some great memories. Star Trek in the rural Illinois of the 60s was an escape for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The rural midwest - I've spent quite a lot of time in that part of the world. Low horizons, relatively few lights - not a bad place to gaze up into the night sky and ponder the final frontier.

      Delete
  8. Nice post, brought back memories!

    ReplyDelete