Overview – The Enterprise crosses the galactic barrier, and in doing so bestows god-like powers on Lieutenant Commander Garry Mitchell. As his powers grow, he becomes a greater threat to not only Kirk and the Enterprise, but to humanity itself.
|Crossing the barrier|
Score: 8/10 – This is the official (second) pilot of the original series. It is not like your typical pilots in Trek in that it doesn’t serve as an origin story. This is partly due to the time that Star Trek first aired, but it does not necessarily give us much in the way of a formal introduction. Also, as it is with any new series, it looks very different than what it will evolve into. The uniforms are very different. Everyone is wearing more of the drab colors. Thankfully, this changes in the following episodes as we get the more familiar (and, in my opinion, pleasant) brighter red, blue, and gold tunics. We saw something similar in the pilot for the Next Generation. Still, this is an episode that has some significant suspense and action. It’s a great tale that looks at the concept of the corruption associated with power. While not a perfect episode, it is a good one, and it is always interesting to see how the show officially started. Gary Lockwood (Mitchell) and Sarah Kellerman (Dr. Dehner) put in some great performances and create some intriguing characters.
|The first chess game|
Relevance - 3 points. Kirk says that he has been worried about Mitchell ever since that night on Deneb IV. TNG pilot “Encounter at Farpoint” takes place at Deneb IV. Coincidence? I think not. This is also the first episode for a number of notable characters, including Kirk, Scotty, and Sulu (although it should be noted that Sulu is in the science division at this time). Finally, there is the debut of the famous three-dimensional chess game, which has been seen in every Trek series except Voyager (so far).
Continuity - 2 points. We see many of these characters for the first time, and everybody acts the way that we will come to expect them. Not too much is out of the ordinary. One point for character continuity. Universe continuity will also score a point as we establish some important parts of this new universe (e.g. Spock and his views on emotions). What I have to dock a point for is story continuity. This is due to the now infamous tombstone with the name “James R. Kirk”. There have been many explanations given over the years, but since none have been given on Trek itself, I can’t let it slide.
Character Development – 2 points. Scotty and Sulu, while being introduced in this episode, get very little treatment. This is likely due to the fact that in the early days of the show, Roddenberry and company were still trying to get some handle on what this show was all about. This being the official pilot, it is only natural that this is a story about Kirk, with Spock also getting some attention. We see how dedicated Kirk is to his ship and his crew, offering Gary Mitchell a commendation as his death was recorded in the ship’s log. This shows that Kirk understands things like guilt and accountability, but also dignity and honor. Kirk shows compassion for the first of many times, but also shows that he is willing to make the hard decisions that a good leader must have to make at times.
Social Commentary – 3 points. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We feel some sympathy for Dr. Dehner, less so for Gary Mitchell, as the power that they have acquired quickly begins to erode their souls. Often we imagine what it would be like to have god-like powers. We all claim that we would use it to do good things instead of evil, but in all honesty, would we ourselves not be tempted to use them more for our own advantages?
Cool Stuff – 2 points. Have to score a point for traveling through the galactic barrier. This was impressive effects for the day, and in the updated version it is even better. I also score a point for the silver eyes used to show Mitchell and Dehner with their powers. The lenses must have been problematic for the actors, but the effect was quite cool.
Rank – Captain (20 points). I wanted my next set of reviews to be the pilot episodes, and I thought long and hard with my decision over which episode from the Original Series would I consider as the true pilot, this or “The Cage”. I ultimately went with this episode as it was the one that introduces Kirk as the captain and has more consistency with the series than the first pilot. It should go without saying that if you want to watch Star Trek, this is a must see episode.