Never aired as is during original series run; first air date October 4, 1988
Behind the Scenes:
This is the very first pilot that series creator Gene Roddenberry made in 1965; this is nothing more than a filmed rough draft. In fact, so little of it initially survived intact that a color print of the full episode wasn't found until the late '80s, when it was aired as a special in primetime.
There's no Kirk or McCoy, and God, does the show suffer for it. There is a Spock, but an embryonic one; this one's bangs are too short, and he's very yelly. I think Nimoy once said that he was shooting for that Naval First Officer thing. For the purposes of the show, he overshot. But the moments of emotion are awfully endearing, if strange.
Number One, the First Officer, (yes, "Number One" is her name, and this is the precedent for Picard's calling Riker "Number One") is a woman; she is played by a brunette (a stunning brunette) Majel Barrett. There is no Sulu or Uhura, or Scotty. If you're looking for Chekov, you've got a long wait – he won't pop up till season 2. Instead of McCoy, there's an older man named Boyce. The shirts are those big thick cowl-necked velour shirts like those of us of a certain age wore in the early '80s, instead of the black t-shirt/thin velour v-necks we'll see after this. This is all very proto-Trek.
The captain is a man named Christopher Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter. Hunter's a pretty decent actor, but doesn't have one iota of the charisma (or chemistry with his fellow actors) as Shatner. I've always felt that Shatner has a screen presence like sunshine – full of warmth and energy. Hunter's screen presence is a little more dry and flat, like cardboard.
The usual fan explanation for the different cast/crew is often given as this being the NCC-1701's last mission – or one of them - under Pike.
This being a pilot, it was screened for the NBC executives before it was to be shown on tv. They didn't like it enough to give it the green light and "suggested" revisions. (This is all pretty well documented, but I can't really overlook it.) The suits liked Spock well enough that they told Gene to keep him, but they were uneasy with the more "Satanic" aspects of his appearance. They told him in no uncertain terms to lose the chick – that nobody would ever believe a female first officer. (Major Kira Nerys & Subcommander T'Pol would beg to differ.) To all reports, Gene was red hot about that, but not going along with the suits' demands meant no show, so he reluctantly canned Miss Barrett (temporarily). The show's premise – "Wagon Train to the Stars," as Gene famously referred to it – was fine, but the general tone of the script was considered "too cerebral."
Maybe I'm jaded, but for real? Because I really wasn't taxed overmuch by this.
Anyway, Gene made the changes requested and submitted a new pilot, which is now known as episode #1, Where No Man Has Gone Before.
The Enterprise picks up a distress signal from a ship that crash-landed in the area 18 years ago and goes to investigate; en route, we're shown that the captain is sulky as hell and out of sorts about not being able to have a personal life and is seriously considering retiring. When the ship arrives, they find the survivors – a bunch of old men and the gorgeous grown daughter of one of them.
Pike gets separated from the others and kidnapped by a bunch of big-headed aliens in shiny muumuus; he is thrown in a cell with the daughter (a lovely young Susan Oliver). The survivors turn out to be an illusion, the lure for the aliens' trap. Periodically Pike & Vina find themselves thrown into illusions together – at a castle, with Pike forced to slay a caveman, or Vina as a Green Orion Slave Girl with Pike in the audience as she dances, etc. Pike grows weary of this shit and demands to be released; he very quickly realizes that they're conditioning him to fall in love with Vina. Vina is strangely cool with it, which exasperates Pike. She keeps trying to get him interested in her, in the illusions, and it doesn't work.
Meanwhile, the crew is trying a bunch of different stuff to get Pike back. Spock shouts a lot.
Then the aliens arrange to allow only Number One & the captain's young yeoman to beam down, and then they totally embarrass everybody involved (well, except Vina, who's pissed to see these other chicks horning in) by discussing each woman's suitability to be Eve to Pike's Adam on this deserted planet. Pike manages to get a big-headed alien in a headlock and coerce it (yeah, "it" – they're purposely made androgynous) into freeing them. They do, but they then show him exactly why they did all of it; they strip away the illusion of Vina's beauty, revealing her horrific injuries and disfigurements from the all-too-real crash. Then there's the best line of the episode (quoted later), both poignant and chilling, and then the explanation – that they were just trying to give her some company, some love, some joy, and give her the illusion of beauty and health.
And then the solution is arrived at – allow her to live there with the illusion of a Christopher Pike who loves her. She runs off happily, beauty restored, with her Christopher, and the real Captain Pike leaves with his crew.
- The opening credits. Well, the lack of, really. Jeffrey Hunter and guest star Susan Oliver and that's it? Sucks to be you, supporting cast. More than usual.
- We get a LOT of ship noises as they go to red alert. I think that particular cacophony was designed to let the audience of 1965 know that we're really and for truly on a starship.
- Spock stands in front of a viewscreen expositing while shouting and looking stonily forward at it and then makes a hilariously dramatic and sweeping "next slide please" gesture toward someone. I can't believe I never caught it before.
- Number One is wearing silvery-blue nail polish.
- After Pike stalks off the bridge, there's this quick cut to the corridor and we see the backs of two crewmembers in civvies, and for a moment I think we might be following Ken & Skipper to Barbie's birthday party. I love '60s clothes.
- The distress signal comes from the Talos "star group." Later, they'll simply call it the "Talosian system."
- Pike's communicator as he calls Dr. Boyce to his quarters is amazingly primitive. It's like Kirk's communicator got left in a shitty neighborhood and was stripped for parts.
- Speaking of Pike and his rickety, ramshackle technology, as he walks through his quarters, we see … WHOA!!! Is that a "futuristic" version of a console TV?? Oh my. It is.
- Pike tells the aliens where he's from: "the space vehicle Enterprise." Heh. It's an all-terrain 4X4.
- Speaking of the aliens, the veins in their heads that throb and collapse hollowly as they communicate telepathically make me a little queasy.
- Is that a BIC PEN in Boyce's hand?? Ha ha ha ha ha … talk about rickety technology.
- You know, Hunter really reminds me of Ray Liotta.
- During the first illusion at the castle, Vina – the princess Pike must rescue – she is playing along, quite obnoxiously, with the bimbo-who-must-be-rescued archetype, and does this indescribable thing. The normal version of it would entail flipping her hair, wrinkling her nose, and cocking her head disgustedly. She overacts every bit of it though, to the power of 20. Here's the head cock:
- She is, however, gratifyingly deeper than she at first appears. When Pike questions her about why she's appearing in his illusions, her answer is pretty good; a slightly smarmy "Perhaps they made me out of dreams you've forgotten."
- Indeed – and I'd hate to think that this is what the NBC execs meant by "too cerebral" – the episode has something going for it. The lines are thoughtful; they're not the standard glib toss-offs you usually get. One bit I especially like, besides the above, is Boyce's explanation about how totally suckered in they were by the aliens' illusions; he says that they showed them exactly what they wanted to see – human beings surviving bravely, with dignity, right down to the sense of community and the tattered clothes. Very nicely written, and nicely delivered.
- Good acting by Oliver – when she's telling Pike that she can be any woman he wants her to be, do anything he desires, her desperation is so naked that it's off-putting the first time you watch; once you know why she's so desperate to please him - that the aliens chose him to lure in to keep her company because they read her mind and knew that she would fall in love with him - it becomes touching and sad.
- An alien implies that Hell is a fable Pike read about as a child; an early glimpse at Gene's secular humanistic beliefs, and pretty gutsy for a major network back then.
- In the picnic illusion, the set is a grassy park with a lovely matte backdrop of a futuristic city far off in the distance. As they talk, it becomes apparent that this is Mojave – it's Pike's birthplace and it "used to be a desert."
- I'm a little amazed by the constant hammering away at Number One for being "unnatural" "cold," and "emotionless;" She's a warm, likeable, mature, professional woman. '60s men were freaks.
- Wow, the end credits are especially dorky and cheaply done. It's so endearing. It's like Gene had $5.95 and a dream.
Best Line of the Episode
Vina, to Pike after the aliens reveal her true appearance:
"They found me in the wreckage, a dying lump of flesh. They rebuilt me. Everything works … but they had never seen a human. They had no guide for putting me back together."
(The nitpicker in me wants to ask "they couldn't have read your mind?")
Sex Appeal Moment
Sadly, there really is none on the male side. The closest we come is a sweet young Spock, more open and innocent than we will ever see him again. See?
Of course, a bit of cynicism (and an eyebrow wax) later, and hrmmmm.
On the female side, of course, there's Vina's Green Orion Slave Girl moment:
Mid-century Design Moment
The chairs in the conference room; they are Eero Saarinen Tulip Chairs, or pretty good knockoffs (it's the feet – the real ones had circles) and they drive me mad with lustful yearnings. I will own an entire set one day, I tell you.
Trek 101: A More Better Future and You
If you're joining us for the very first time here in Trek fandom, the first thing you need to know is that the Original Series aired first, from 1966-1969. It takes place about 250 years in the future. Well, from the '60s, not from now. So about 210 years from now.
In that time, humanity has conquered poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, and all manner of other negativity. We also watch our pottymouths, and are better educated and much more mature. We have achieved faster-than-light space travel and formed an alliance with others we've met and befriended out there. It's called the Federation and is made up of many races, but the charter members were the humans, the Vulcans, the Tellarites, and the Andorians.
The exploratory/defense/science vessel arm of the Federation is Starfleet, though Starfleet in its initial form long predates the Federation.
More in the next installment!