Original Airdate: September 22, 1966
We meet Jim Kirk while he's playing three-dimensional chess with his first officer (ooh, somebody got a promotion when that chilly old female got canned!)
We also meet the new helm guy, Gary Mitchell (played by Gary Lockwood.) He and Jim were best buddies at the academy, and while Jim is as kind and respectful as can be to his half-Vulcan first officer (unlike so many others), Gary's his BFF.
They find a little thingy floating around in space when it sends out a distress signal. They beam it (it's a ship's recorder from the S.S. Valiant) aboard and then they head out toward the galaxy's edge in an attempt to see what happened to the Valiant. They finally locate recordings that give them more information, and they tell the story of chaos aboard ship, repeated requests for information on ESP from the ship's library files, damage, six crewmen dead, and finally the captain giving self destruct orders.
A new psychiatrist on board, Elizabeth Dehner (played by Sally Kellerman) shows up to study the effects of emergency on the crew's reactions. Gary hits on her and she shoots him down sarcastically. He interprets this as her being a "walking freezer unit".
As they pass through the Great Barrier, there's a strange moment where everyone gets all electrified, and Gary & Elizabeth are the most affected. Before, they had the highest ESPer scores on board (Gary had the highest of all), and now he's a super incredible psychic with silver eyes and she's a tad defensive when anybody questions what he might be up to. As time goes on, Gary begins to be able to read everyone's minds and he starts developing a God complex. Meanwhile she attends a staff meeting and says that she thinks Gary is becoming an ubermensch, and maybe that's just fine! TELEKINETICS UBER ALLES!
Spock sees the growing problem first, being the smart guy he is, and he tells the captain, as any first officer would do. Jim wearily understands that Spock's right, especially when Gary does his Zeus impression on them in Sickbay, throwing lightning bolts around.
It's a pretty cold solution, but Gary's behavior forces it ("I WILL SQUASH YOU ALL LIKE BUGS!") – he's to be left on a barren planet, Delta Vega. Gary kills a crewmember shortly afterward, knocks Spock and Jim unconscious, and then Elizabeth, it is revealed, has the silver eyes too. They leave the small prison Gary was confined in, and Jim goes looking for them. Gary proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Elizabeth, goaded by Jim to really look at what Gary's become, begins attacking Gary. They fight for a while, draining each other of power for a brief moment, and Jim attacks. He and Gary have a fistfight, during which Jim manages to get his shirt ripped strategically. Jim finally gets Gary killed. Elizabeth dies as a result of her injuries from Gary's attack.
They leave. Finis.
- I notice this every time I rewatch it: a young, gold-shirt-wearing, smiling Shatner makes me a little swoony.
- Look at the picture below: we get a good look at three-dimensional chess and there's a girl in the background wearing what appears to be the Skipper dress from last episode.
- First Scotty sighting!
- First normal credits: "Space, the final frontier…" Trek was a Desilu production, and I will swear that it is totally noticeable in the theme music. It just sounds to me like the same orchestra recorded the Trek theme as did the Lucy Show theme. With the same instruments, in the same studio, possibly in the same session. And I love it.
- After Spock gives the rundown on what he hears and what he thinks happened to the Valiant, Jim walks over to the department heads and asks "Thoughts?" It's the first time we see him do this, ask subordinates for their take on a situation, and it's one of the many things I love about him.
- First Sulu sighting!
- Oh, we still don't have McCoy, by the way. The gentleman in the middle in the picture there is Dr. Piper.
- Right after the electrifying incident crossing over the Barrier, Spock finds out the commonality of Dehner's & Mitchell's excessive reactions and pulls up typewritten ID cards for them. Heh. I'm most interested in two things on these cards: that the birth date is clearly a stardate and that Gary & Elizabeth are 23 & 21, respectively. To which I call bullshit. More like 33 & 31.
- I love Gary's description of Jim at the academy because it's something we don't get to see much of in him; "a stack of books with legs."
- The little blonde lab technician that Gary says he "aimed" at Jim, "outlining her whole campaign for her," is often assumed to be Carol Marcus. Jim's unhappiness with learning this (because he almost married her) would fit, and the timeline seems appropriate. If true, Jim's already a father at this point.
- When Piper's reviving Jim & Spock after Gary escapes, he gives – or tries to – pills. McCoy always used the hypospray. I think they were right to go with the hypospray – more futuristic and a little more graceful to depict.
- A nice acting choice on Kellerman's & Lockwood's parts: their hands become more limp and awkward the more powerful their psychic abilities become.
- All powerful Gary is such a dick. You see, not only does he force Jim around telekinetically, but he does this whole over the top drama queen thing where he creates a grave and a tombstone for Jim (complete with stardates of birth and death!) and even more dickish? He gets his lifelong buddy's middle initial wrong.
Self-absorbed ass. James "R." Kirk indeed.
Best Line of the Episode
Jim to Gary:
"Above all else, a god needs compassion!"
Sex Appeal Moment
Mid-century Design Moment
Mid-century science fiction: gotta love an overdesigned ray gun. Even if we are calling it a phaser rifle.
Much has been made elsewhere of the beauty of the matte backgrounds, and with good reason.
I See You've Managed to Get Your Shirt Off
Spock is not "Vulcan," despite everyone's calling him that all the time. He's half human, half Vulcan, and according to various episodes of various series/movies, he spends his childhood being taunted about his human side by the other kids, and his teen years being bullied by his father, the ambassador Sarek, to be more Vulcan. (Yes, there is an inherent lack of logic or rationale involved in marrying someone and having a child with her only to openly treat evidence of her genes showing in the child as being somehow worthy of contempt. Sarek has his flaws.) As a result, Spock began overcompensating, being as perfect a Vulcan as possible.
In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, he undergoes the Kohlinar, a process whereby a Vulcan purges their emotions totally, but he is prevented from finishing; by the end of the movie, events have made him understand the worth of his human side. Throughout the rest of the TOS movies, he seems to be more at ease with himself, a little warmer, even – subtly, of course – happier.