‘Where no man has been before’: an episode of great dialogue, fantastic acting, climatic action and some thought provoking themes. There’s little that this episode does wrong as a whole, and proves to be quite an exceptional hour of television.
The episode begins rather slowly, allowing us to get to know the crew just a little, with much focus on Kirk, Spock and Gary. A lot of discussion takes place on the bridge about ESP which admittedly did seem tacked on, in order for the rest of the episode to have some grounding. Finally however, things start to pick up as the Enterprise travels through the galactic barrier and begins to loose control. The action is all really well directed, with some great visual effects really adding to the chaotic atmosphere within the bridge, and it all works well enough to set up the rest of the show and get you interested.
Following this however, things start to slow down again and we are treated to a whole host of interesting scenes with intelligent and though provoking dialogue. Specifically we have the scenes with Gary when he exchanges words with Kirk and the doctor. Both moments are as important as each other as we are welcomed in to see two sides of the new Gary. With Kirk he is subdued, relaxed and trying to prove his recovery. With Elizabeth however, he shows off his opposite (and real) side which harnesses great power of the mind, much to the doctor’s fascination.
This then leads on to a discussion between the key members of the Enterprise, regarding the situation and what to do with Gary and the broken engines of the ship. The majority of it is practically reiterating what we already know and could probably send you to sleep, but it’s the last minute or so when Kirk and Spock are left alone that we see what is really going on beneath the surface and the dilemma that Kirk and indeed the rest of the Enterprise faces. Spock believes that they should strand Gary on the planet that they use to refuel the ship, much to the disgust of Kirk who asks him to ‘feel’, which of course Spock can’t do. Here we see the beginning of a debate that carries on through the entire series of Star Trek, even through onto the spin-offs and indeed it is the key interest of ‘Where No Man Has Been Before’. It is the debate of logical approach versus that of a emotional approach, which consists importantly of compassion. It’s not the greatest of exchanges that the show will see in its many episodes and films, but it is important, and brought to life very well from both Shatner and Nimoy.
There’s another key scene following the crew’s descent onto the planet where Gary is shocked by the electric field he is held captive by and his power disappears for a few seconds. He takes this time to ask Kirk for help, but of course before Kirk can do anything, Gary’s power comes back and any hope of help from his captain is all but gone. It’s a short moment, but it reveals to the audience that our ‘villain’ isn’t really in control of his power and is really just that: Pure power with no real control or developed thought. This is an idea that will be further developed later in the episode when the captain and his long time friend butt heads for the last time. For now however it is interested to note that even as Kirk notices his friend’s helplessness, he shows no real emotional response to the realisation. It could be a front, for the sake of keeping his crew in line, or it could simply be a lack of emotional input from the writers. Either way, it comes off interesting, especially seeing as he has known this guy for a long time and shared quite a few memories together.
As we reach the final ten minutes of WNMHGB, we are probably expecting a showdown where the protagonist and antagonist go ahead and fight to the death but we more than likely didn’t expect was the battle of words and ideas that takes place directly before the typical contest of brawn. Here we are given a great set of lines from both Kirk and Gary, all fantastically performed, which draw you in, make you think and weigh each characters view point and show you the real conflict at hand that has been lurking throughout the entire episode since the Enterprise went through the barrier. In the end it would appear that Kirk comes out the ‘victor’ as he delivers some very justified views and intelligent insight into Gary’s position. This in turn, angers the ‘God’ as he now likes to think of himself, and a battle ensues, which again Kirk wins through the use of that stupid looking rifle. The action scene itself I was impressed with. The choreography was done well and the climax not only simply cool, but symbolic in that Gary was unaware he was simply digging a grave for himself the entire time. It’s a shame it had to come down to a battle of muscle rather than brain, but either way, the episode comes to a close effectively and the pay-off is more than substantial.
As a whole, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ is an episode with some key Trek messages (although still a little half-baked), some great action and a more than decent plot to take you through it all. Performances from the entire cast are well done, with special notice to Gary Lockwood who played Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and made him one of the most memorable Star Trek ‘villains’ to grace the series.