In this week’s episode, the Enterprise makes a strange discovery about the nature of Man itself as we prepare to journey...
First off, I am bloody sorry for yet another delay after last week... Alas, I am having wi-fi issues at home at the moment. And so, greetings from Starbucks as I prepare to talk about Star Trek! Now, where were we?
The episode begins with Kirk and Spock playing chess, which they also did last week. They play a rather interesting version in this show that is on multiple boards in three dimensions. Spock expresses some irritation at the move Kirk plays, which prompts a ribbing from Kirk. Their exchange provides an interesting tidbit of information: apparently, Spock is not a full blooded Vulcanian! It seems that one of his ancestors married a human female.
Interesting tidbits aside, however, it immediately becomes apparent that this episode is a bit different, visually speaking. As you can see in the screenshot above, the crew seem to be wearing different uniforms! They actually seem to have more in common with the costumes worn by the Antares crew in last week’s episode. Maybe someone on the production crew liked those costumes and decided to switch the main characters into them, as well? Personally, I’m not a fan, I thought the other costumes looked more refined. Hopefully they pull what J. Michael Straczynski had planned for Crusade (if it hadn’t been canceled before its time), and these new uniforms all get destroyed in the laundry, so we can go back to the old ones! As a side note, Spock seems to have switched his blue out for yellow!
Costuming isn’t the only difference in this episode. They seem to have dropped Kirk’s “Space, the final frontier!” opening narration. The sets seem to have been revamped, especially noticeable on the bridge. And there seem to have been a lot of casting changes. Yeoman Rand is gone, replaced by Yeoman Smith. (Kirk must be missing Rand, he can’t even remember Smith’s name yet!) Dr. McCoy is nowhere to be found, and instead a Dr. Piper is heading up the Life Sciences division. We meet a Mr. Scott in charge of the Engineering Division. Sulu from The Man Trap is back, but is in blue now (swapping colors with Spock?) and is in charge of Astro Sciences. In Sulu’s old place (and in a blatant example of what TV Tropes calls Remember the New Guy) is Gary Mitchell, an old friend of Kirk’s who the episode treats as having been around all this time. In the seat next to Mitchel is someone named Lee Kelso. And finally, Dr. Piper introduces to Kirk a Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, a psychiatrist who has joined the Enterprise to study crew reaction in emergency conditions. (She’ll very soon get her chance to do so!)
Anyway, back to the plot of the episode: The Enterprise is preparing to travel where no man has gone before, beyond the outer edge of our galaxy. They’re surprised to discover, however, that perhaps they are not the first Earth ship to travel out this way, as they pick up a flight recorder from a long lost ship named the Valiant. Listening to the recorder, it seems that the Valiant encountered some unknown force. Things are confusing beyond that, but it seems that seven crewmen died... or make that six, one recovered. Then the Valiant crew seemed quite interested in information about ESP, almost frantic about it. And then... orders to self destruct?
This all seems rather ominous, doesn’t it? Kirk does conference with his crew, but they decide to press on anyway. And sure enough, the Enterprise, too, soon encounters a weird force field of some kind at the galaxy’s edge.
Passing through it is a rough ride for the Enterprise, and like Valient before her, she does not make it through unscathed. The ship suffers heavy damage, including the main engines being out. Nine crew members are dead. And while there are no fatalities on the bridge, Dr. Dehner and Mr. Mitchell seemed particularly effected by the experience. Mitchel at first claims that he is a little week but otherwise feels all right, but as he turns to face his friend Kirk, it becomes quite clear that something strange might be afoot after all...
Investigation shows that those affected by recent events all had tested high for ESP. (So yeah, apparently that is a thing Humans have in the Trek universe.) Normally, it isn’t that strong, providing little more than flashes of insight or improved perception. But it seem that for Mitchell, that may no longer be the case. At first, he continues to assure Kirk that other than his eyes being a little weird he is just fine, but that proves quickly not to be true.
His already rather self-important attitude seems rather amplified. He’s reading at an inhuman speed with perfect retention. He seems aware when he is being observed on camera. He can alter the dials on his medical read-out, including making them all drop to zero (by actually willing himself dead!) with no ill effects. He sees a missed repair in Kelso’s head and warns him about it. Bridge controls start operating themselves, Mitchell smiling as they do so.
Spock postulates that Mitchell is starting to see the ship and her crew as little more then playthings. He can offer only two recommendations. Recommendation one: There is an automated fueling station nearby on a planet called Delta Vega that can provide fuel and equipment necessary for repairs. Mitchell can be left there, stranded. Recommendation two: kill Mitchell while they still can, before it is too late. Mitchell has been Kirk’s closest friend for fifteen years. Neither option is appealing to him, but Kirk cannot deny the necessity of it, especially as Mitchell brags about what he can do, and how he is almost like a god, and everyone else seems like squashable insects to him. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Mitchell truly has gone where no man has gone before.
Repairs proceed on Enterprise, and they (barely) manage to get Mitchell to the planet’s surface. They trap him behind a force field while they do their repairs, but Mitchell inevitably manages to escape, killing Kelso in the process by strangling him with a telekinetically controlled wire. Dr. Dehner, who had seemed strangely drawn to Mitchel during all of this, opts to go with Mitchell. Remember: she, too, had been affected when Enterprise encountered the strange phenomenon at the galaxy’s edge. It was slower for her, but now she’s begun to change, too.
Kirk orders everyone else back to the ship, and goes after Mitchell after leaving orders that, if he’s not back in 12 hours, Enterprise is to leave without him and deliver a recommendation that the entire planet be subjected to a lethal dose of radiation. Meanwhile, Mitchell and Dehner wander the barren planet. Dehner says it would take a miracle to survive there, and suddenly Gregory Hines rides in on a chariot pulled by a majestic white horse. No, that doesn’t happen, but Mitchell does say that they can make their own miracles. And with a wave of his hand, plants and running water appear as he makes the land before them fertile.
Kirk catches up, and a battle between god and mortal ensues. Mitchell clearly has the upper hand, taunting Kirk the entire time even to the point of magically preparing a grave for his old friend.
Kirk appeals to Dehner, pleading with her to hold onto her humanity one moment longer and see what Mitchell is capable of with infinite power and no humility. Eventually, Dehner sees the truth of this and attacks Mitchell herself. Mitchell fights back, but is weakened to the point where Kirk is able to knock him into the grave and use his weapon to blast a huge rock up on a nearby cliff to come falling down into it, crushing Mitchell inside.
Sadly, Dehner was not unaffected by Mitchell’s counter attack, and she soon succumbs and passes away. Returning to the Enterprise, Kirk reflects on the loss of his friend. In a log entry, Kirk notes only that Mitchell and Dehner both gave their lives in the performance of their duty. Kirk looks to Spock and says he wants Mitchell’s service record to end that way, as he didn’t ask for what happened to him. The normally emotionless Spock attempts to comfort him, admitting that he felt for Mitchell, too.
On the surface, this is the second episode in a row dealing with a human being given god like powers and not having the necessary control to use them with compassion. But in the case of Charlie, he was a young kid who didn’t know any better. Here, the story seems quite different as Mitchell should have known better but still could not stop himself while Dehner was able to hold on just long enough to do something about that. And we have the added tragedy of Kirk having to face the loss of an old friend. Not only face it, but help bring it about for the greater good. So in a way, I’m not mad about such a similar story again so soon, as it was looking at it from a rather different angle. I just hope they don’t make a habit of it!
As discussed above, this episode seemed to make a lot of changes to the crew. Will this new bunch (minus Mitchell, Dehner, and Kelso) be sticking around? Or is there going to be a rotating cast aside from Kirk and Spock? Time will tell, I suppose.
We learn Kirk’s middle initial, thanks to the grave stone Mitchell prepared. And so his full name is Captain James R. Kirk. The stone gives dates of “C 1277.1 to 1313.7.” These must be in the format of the “star dates” that the show uses, as the second one isn’t that long after the date of “1312.4” given in this episode’s opening log. How exactly do these dates work, I wonder? Over the course of just this one episode, we’ve already advanced by 1.3, but there has only been an advance of 36.6 over the course of Kirk’s entire life thus far? In addition, both previous episodes had star dates in the 1500's... Do the dates move forward and backwards depending on where one is located in space or some such? That could help explain how Kirk’s whole life to this point would only be about 28 times the length of this episode, but it would seem to make for one very confusing dating system if it is so subjective!
Spock is gone into a bit more. He had seemed cold and detached in previous episodes, and indeed this seems to be a cultural thing for his people, as he describes “irritation” as “one of your Earth emotions.” Of course, Spock seems to have some humanity in himself as well, even if it is his distant past via one of his ancestors. But it comes to the forefront at the episode’s end as he tries to sympathize with Kirk over his captain’s loss.
Continuing on with our death count: There were a total of 12 deaths in this episode. Nine took place off screen, so alas we cannot be sure what color they were wearing. The red shirts seem to have been done away with (not even anyone in the background was wearing them), so I guess we don’t need to worry about them anymore. We can add two yellow (Mitchell and Kelso) and one blue (Dehner), making the totals thus far as follows:
3 Blue, 3 Yellow. So far, it seems, we’re at a tie!
There was a nice touch with Michell’s makeup. In addition to the silvery eyes, as his powers grew the hair in his sideburns gradually turned gray. The power he was wielding must have been taking quite a physical toll on him. One wonders if perhaps eventually it would have been too much for him and he would have died on is own? Or perhaps before that happened, he would have transcended the need for weak physical flesh?
With her main engines out, apparently bases that would previously only been days away would now take years to get to. The ship must still have some limited faster than light capacity without its main engines, however. Or else Delta Vega is right on the galaxy’s edge, with a pretty complicated automated station on it for a planet that would be somewhere farther out than any ship (save the Valient) had previously explored.
Speaking of Delta Vega, it seems that lithium is used for a fuel. I’m no expert, but lithium is pretty common in batteries, and also has some nuclear uses. Is nuclear power used in Enterprise’s propulsion systems?
The Written Adaptation:
This one adhered pretty closely to what was aired. The main thing it added was clarifying that Mitchell’s appointment as helm officer was a recent one (so perhaps previously he was still on Enterprise, just not on the bridge?), replacing Sulu when he changed positions to become the ship’s physicist.
Well, that’s all for this week. See you again next week (hopefully this time on Thursday when the episode airs!) as space madness kills a science party! Is the crew of the Enterprise next? (And hey... there’s the old uniforms back already.... What the heck?)
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