Clickerbox: Star Trek 1×01 “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

OMG It’s the first new-format review! I’m excited. Are you excited? I thought it’d be fitting for the maiden voyage of the new reviews to discuss the maiden voyage of  the USS Enterprise. Well, not the maiden voyage. Its television debut? No….uh..

JUST READ THE DAMN REVIEW

So, this is technically not the first episode of Star Trek, counting the unaired original pilot “The Cage”, which featured an entirely different crew, except for Spock. NBC didn’t like it at the time, but thought the concept had promise, and so a second pilot was written, this time with (sort of) the crew we know and love and a rookie captain, none other than William Shatner’s Kirk. This one they did like, though for some odd reason it was aired third.

I’m not going to be reviewing “The Cage” itself, because like NBC, I didn’t like it either. Even so, I feel it’d be a little redundant, since the events of that episode are retold by Spock later in the season.

I felt it appropriate to start off these episodic reviews with original recipe Trek, since it was the first television show I ever loved that wasn’t aimed at kids. For all one of you watching along at home, please be aware this series debuted in 1966, there is a cheese factor and some truly awful shit, but it’s a classic for a reason. If the old effects bug you, there is a Remastered edition available with new spiffy CGI effects.

So, the show hasn’t even started yet, and already I’m getting all sniffly. The stupid DVDs have a trailer for the Twin Peaks box set. No. What are you doing, DVDs? That shit is like kryptonite to me. I will never be over its cancellation and omg it’s so beautifulsdfsdfavadffwdfgber

Anyway, in this very first episode, the Enterprise has been ordered to leave the galaxy and explore what lies beyond it, the first Earth ship to do so. But then the impossible happens: Enterprise picks up a distress signal from in front of them, from another Earth vessel. A vessel that had been missing for two hundred years, and off goes the Enterprise in search of an answer to that age-old question: what the fuck?

This is an interesting premise, sorta reminiscent of the Outbound Flight Star Wars novel (just for you, Jake). But there’s a bit of a problem with it.  Enterprise simply shouldn’t be able to reach the galaxy’s edge in any reasonable time span. Even at maximum warp, it would take decades, according to the Trek universe’s own canon. It seems really weird to me that the first episode of Voyager flings the eponymous, much more advanced ship, across the galaxy, and on that show, the journey back will take around 70 years. So how could the comparatively shitty old Enterprise do it like it’s nothing?

Maybe like…

If the blue dot is Earth, and the red arrow is Voyager‘s intended route then maybe the Enterprise COULD do it, going straight out instead of crossing the whole thing.

ANYWAY

So Kirk and Spock are hanging out, playing chess while waiting for an update from the bridge. There are two things that strike me about this scene. First is that when Kirk mentions irritation, Spock has to pause for a moment and think before remembering what that even means. He even says one of his ancestors married a human female. Uh, you mean your dad? We know Spock’s half human, and we know he served aboard Enterprise under its previous captain. He should know damn well what irritation means. The other weird thing is that the uniforms are completely fucked up in this episode:

No srs wtf are you wearing?

So the Unfortunate RedshirtBeigeshirt of the day calls them and says they’ve discovered the origin of the distress call, a small object far too tiny to be a ship. They beam it aboard to find that it’s a small probe looking thing, and Kirk recognizes it as an old ship recorder, which would be cut loose if anything happened to the ship, and judging by the extensive damage, something certainly did.

So, wait this is like a black box on an airplane? Did they even have those in the 60s? DID STAR TREK INVENT BLACK BOXES??

Scotty tries to get some information out of the thing, and Kirk for some reason orders the ship to red alert, and heads to the bridge. Why this is a call for a red alert I’ll never guess, but whatever. Also, the music here, and throughout a lot of the series is just cheesy and overbearing. It’s like they realized they had a whole orchestra and thought a good way to underscore suspense would be to have every goddamn instrument scream at you.

Finally, William Shatner delivers the iconic space…the final frontier… narration for the first time, and the Trekkie in me squeals with glee, having forgotten all the tomfoolery of the teaser. Oh, and these credits do have lyrics by the way. From what I recall, Gene Roddenberry wrote them so he’d own the music and not the network. I think. There’s a youtube video of Tenacious D singing them, if you’re curious.

The interplay between Kirk and Spock during the scene where they ride the turbolift, along with Kirk’s pal Lt Commander Gary Mitchell, to the bridge just goes to show even in episode one, Kirk just can’t resist trolling Spock. It’s kind of cute. They are made for each other. TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRTS AND KISS.

Working on this bridge would drive me fucking nuts because it’s so full of fucking horrible noise. According to 1966 logic, if something is technologically advanced, it beeps and whistles. Constantly.

The ship approaches the edge of the galaxy and comes to a stop and hey guys I don’t think it’s like an exact line like that. It turns out the distress call was from the SS Valiant lost nearly 200 years ago.

BULL

SHIT

Bullshit, I say. Enterprise (the series) takes place maybe like 100 years before then and it was the first long-range Earth ship. Barring fuckery from like the Q or some shit there’s no way a ship from like 2066 is making it out that fuckin’ far. And if I remember right, by the series’ own timeline, that’s only three years after the very first warp-flight and first contact with the Vulcans.

Kirk gets on his weirdo intercom thing and summons all the department heads to the bridge and WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?! Okay, so there’s Sulu, who for some reason is head of the Astrophysics department. He’s on the helm by next episode so maybe he fucked up bad and got demoted. Whatever. Scotty’s there for engineering, and all is right with the world. McCoy has apparently not joined the crew yet, as the CM here is some crusty old fart I don’t know. Oh, and there’s a blonde psychiatrist woman I don’t remember seeing before.

Wait.

YOU GAVE THEM THE IDEA FOR TROI, DIDN’T YOU, BITCH? I’LL KILL YOU I’LL KILL YOU>>>ASGADFSBGNFDGf

Mitchell tries to flirt with the psychiatrist, Dr. Dehner, but gets shut the fuck down. He then calls her a “walking freezer unit” like a little bitch.

Spock tries to pull what he can off the black box’s records but:

The tapes are badly burned, Captain.

Tapes? LOLOLOLOLOL, oh 1966, you’re too cute. Turns out, the canon-breaking Valiant encountered a magnetic storm-barrier thingy on the very edge of the galaxy, and that several crew members accessed computer files about ESP. Wait, ESP exists inStar Trek humans? According to Dr Dehner, the answer is yes, but it’s never very strong.

Spock announces that according to the black box, several of the Valiant‘s crew died and the ship suffered extensive damage. The captain ordered the ship to self-destruct. Charming.

Kirk, being the brilliant mind that he is, decides to order the Enterprise to keep moving towards the edge of the galaxy anyway. Sure enough, they fly straight into the purple storm thingy and Enterprise starts getting zapped. It’s here the Remastered edition’s effects prove their worth. They’re pretty damn good stuff, and unlike the Star Wars special editions, they do a great job of modernizing the action without looking out of place.

The idea of a barrier around the galaxy is intriguing to me, and I’d like to explore that idea further. Is it a natural phenomenon, or is it put there to keep us in? Or, perhaps, to keep something out….

Spock starts yelling about his gods-damned sens-ORs and monit-ORs and the ruddy delfec-TORs, while Mitchell does his best to feel up Dehner whilst she’s distracted.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we only made it a whole nine minutes and thirty seconds into Star Trek without a console blowing up. It’s kind of cool, though.

Mitchell and Dehner both get zapped by space lightning and pass out, and successfully pulls a U-turn out of the storm. Mr Sulu rushes over and starts rubbing Mitchell’s shoulders in a very seductive fashion. They turn him over and O SHIT HIS EYES ARE SILVER!!

While the ship is being repaired, Spock and Kirk look over the medical files on the zapped crew members, specifically at their ESP ratings. Oh, my God, Starfleet personnel get graded on their ESP capability. This is amazing to me. Is there a Psi Corps like onBabylon 5 oh please say yes.

Both Mitchell and Dehner have high ESP ratings, Mitchell’s being higher. Dehner, who I guess has woken up, insists that ESP is not harmful but Spock seems suspicious.

Meanwhile, Mitchell is lying in sickbay, hooked up to a monitor with some wicked bass going on, reading books on his bedside monitor when Kirk comes in. Mitchell seems to have developed a British accent for a few lines, realized it wasn’t working, and stopped.

Mitchell: I’ve taken the time to read some of that long-hair stuff…

LONG-HAIR STUFF? Oh god, are there space hippies? They reminisce  about their days at Starfleet Academy, where Kirk was apparently quite a bookworm. Now that’s hard to imagine. Oh, and Gary set Kirk up on his first date. He’s been responsible for Kirk’s sluttiness the WHOLE TIME.

Kirk fucks off to join Spock, who is spying on Mitchell’s computer use. Gary begins to read through the Enterprise library at an inhuman pace. Why is superfast reading always the mark of unearthly intelligence? Doctor Who does this shit too, and I’m kind of tired of seeing it. The pace of his reading keeps increasing, until he turns to look right into the camera in a genuinely creepy moment and tells Kirk he’d better be nice to him.

Dr Dehner is sent in to see him next, and Mitchell apologizes for being a sexist twat, and Dehner gives us this gem:

Women professionals do tend to overcompensate.

How very progressive.

At this point, Mitchell’s become like River from Firefly. He’s psychic, he can move objects and fuck with machinery with his mind, he’s starting to act a little crazy. He tricks Dr Dehner into believing he’s died by willing the beside monitors to flatline. A man gains superpowers and his first instinct is to use them for trolling. He then recites her some poetry that was apparently written on a space colony in 1996. O RLY?

Beigeshirt Kelso butts in to update them on the engine repair. Mitchell tells him exactly where the problem is, but Kelso assumes he’s joking. Mitchell gets pissy. Aside from that why is a helmsman repairing the engines? Where’s Scotty?

It’s clear Mitchell’s powers are advancing at such a rate that he’s beginning to view humanity as beneath him.

In the briefing room, Kelso tells the department heads how Mitchell was able to correctly pinpoint the location of the damage, and there’s a debate on what to do with him. In the end, it seems Kirk must make a choice between stranding his friend on the desolate Delta Vega mining facility or just killing him outright while he still can. Kirk orders the ship to Delta Vega. Oh, and they briefly talk about money. Didn’t Picard say the Federation doesn’t use money?

So this episode is basically just the plot of X-Men, years before the fact. I kind of sympathize with Mitchell here. I mean, he didn’t ask to mutate like this, and the rest of the crew fears and distrusts him because he’s different. Though, to be fair, he is kind of a dick. It’s quite an interesting scene to have Kirk consider marooning one of his crew and for Spock to flatly suggest just murdering the guy. . They really like to hammer home that Spock has a logic-boner in this episode. Much more so than later on. Despite the usual Shatner’s cheese, he does manage to convey what a tough choice this is.

Mitchell’s powers continue to grow as Enterprise arrives at Delta Vega. They manage to subdue him and beam down to the surface, locking him in a small room in the mining facility behind a force field, while the away team gathers supplies. Mitchell has proclaimed himself a god and has lost interest in the insect-like humans, other than dominating them, of course.

Spock doesn’t trust him at all and has a phaser rifle beamed down, which looks both badass and ridiculous. He keeps urging Kirk to kill him. Dark, much, Nimoy? I like that during a huge crisis like this, Kirk still takes the time to update his Captain’s Log every four seconds. I mean, Shatner’s facial expressions remind me of Stephen Colbert, only it’s not a joke.

Mitchell kills our first Beigeshirt with telekinesis, and manages to force-lightning his way out of his little prison. He knocks out both Kirk and Spock, and takes of with Dehner, whose eyes have also turned silver.

Kirk comes to, grabs the rifle, and goes after them, working his way through an alien landscape which is quite clearly a sandbox and a matte painting. Shatner’s attempt at “sneaking” is pretty fucking hilarious, however his rage over what’s happened to his friend is rather effective.

He finds Mitchell and Dehner and they have a debate which basically boils down to “too much power too fast corrupts”, as humans have not yet developed the wisdom to go along with those powers. Mitchell actually succeeds in being creepy here, telekinetically forcing Kirk to his knees and making him pray to him.

Dehner, clinging to the last of her humanity, force-lightnings Mitchell and he and Kirk fight. It’s a pretty good one, too by Star Trek standards. Shatner gets his tunic ripped, bringing our Shirtless Shatner count to 1.

It counts, dammit.

Kirk gets the better of Mitchell and kills him, but not before Mitchell fatally wounds Dehner. Well, so much for that character.

Back on Enterprise Kirk tells his log they were both killed in the line of duty, and Spock admits that he really does have feelings. Judging by Kirk’s reaction, this is a first.

I have to say, this was quite a good episode. It’s far, far better than “The Cage”, in my opinion, though I think many Trek fans will yell at me for saying so. I like how it uses themes of distrust and suspicion and how people can abuse power they’re not mature enough for. Mitchel and Kirk seemed quite close and the choice to get rid of him was a hard one. I wonder if this incident will be brought up again, or if it will inform Kirk’s later choices. Overall, quite a strong debut for a classic series.

RED SHIRT DEATHS: 1

UNNECESSARY ROLLS: 1

SHIRTLESS SHATNER: 1

Next time: Star Trek 1×02 “The Corbomite Maneuver”

About Random Assault

Random Assault is a collabaration of nerds who get together every Sunday to talk about whatever they want on their show Random Assault Podcast. What makes us unique is that we bring on guests from all walks of life who are just as passonate about entertainment as we are, guests including you! Just drop us a line and we'll put you on the list of guests, it's that easy!
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