We join our ship and her crew in this second pilot episode for the Original Series. This one features the crushed velvet uniforms from The Cage and Spock’s overly angled eyebrows. This was Kirk’s very first appearance as ship’s captain, replacing Captain Christopher Pike (who was portrayed by actor Jeffrey Hunter, who did not return for this second go at a series). While the captain was different from The Cage, the Enterprise set was exactly the same, including the captains “study light” microphone on his seat and other hokie-looking props. That is, except for Gary’s silver eyes.
The Enterprise’s mission is to intercept a vessel, which was thought to missing for two centuries. When the ship got close enough, they realized that it was not quite a ship, but a smaller device, perhaps a probe of some sort. Scotty beamed it aboard, and it turned out to be an “old style ship recorder.” As soon as it settled onto the solid floor of the transporter room, it started to transmit again.
Kirk and Spock suspend their game of 3-D chess and report to the bridge. As they enter the turbolift, helmsman Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell jumps in as well. As they reach the galaxy’s edge, Kirk addresses the crew, informing them of the discovery of the recorder from the S.S. Valiant and that the ship would remain as they studied the old vessel was destroyed.
Kirk gathered the department heads, he spoke with Montgomery Scott from Engineering, Lt. Hikaru Sulu from “Astro Sciences,” Life Sciences with Dr. Mark Piper, including Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, who had just joined the crew when they stopped at the Alderbaran colony. Dehner’s main job is to study the crew and how they react under stressful circumstances.
Spock found that the Valiant was swept to the galaxy’s edge by a storm, and when the ship then encountered an “unknown force.” According to the logs, at this point, the crew started searching for any information on ESP or “extrasensory perception” in humans.
Dr. Dehner reported that ESP is a real thing and that some of those “espers” can sense future happenings. Spock said that the captain of the Valliant ordered the destruction of the ship, which Spock took to be a mistake.
The Enterprise then pushed on past the edge of the galaxy, where it encountered some sort of force field. Spock ordered the “deflectors” at full intensity as they entered the area. Controls started to spark, and Kirk ordered Mitchell to take the ship out of the field. As soon as that order was given, Dehner was struck by some sort of power, as was Mitchell, who both hit the deck.
The ship emerged from the disturbance, nine crewmen were reported dead, and the Enterprise was operating on backup power. But the strangest item of note was Mitchell’s silver eyes. The ship now was basically adrift without warp power.
Kirk openly wondered if Mitchell’s “esper” ability was why he would be chosen to be shocked and possibly changed. Dr. Dehner pushed back, saying that his skills had nothing to do with why he survived, and some others did not.
“Watch out for Lt. Kirk… in his class you either think or sink,” said Mitchell as Kirk visited him in sickbay. Mitchell told Kirk that he was fine and that the only effects from his accident were that his eyes reflected back at him in the mirror as he shaved. Kirk ordered Dr. Dehner to keep watch over Mitchell.
As Kirk walked out of the room, Mitchell told him that the captain had better be good to him — with a large, echo in his voice. Kirk whirled around, stunned by the change. Mitchell then started reading the ship’s libraries, absorbing pages of data by merely glancing at them.
Dr. Dehner came next to visit Mitchell, who demonstrated his ability to adjust the medical readings and instruments. He also reported that he remembers everything that he reads from the ship’s library instantly. Dr. Dehner asked Mitchell to recite a poem from the logs, and after he did, Mitchell pulled her close and intimately started asking her how she felt — when crewman Lee Kelso walked in and interrupted.
Mitchell shouted at Lee a warning — not to charge the impulse packs, or they would destroy a deck. Kelso left in confusion. Mitchell reported that he could read Lee’s mind.
Kirk called the department heads to give their opinions on what was happening with Mitchell. Dehner admitted that Mitchell could control objects with his thoughts, while Mr. Scott reported that the controls on the bridge began moving uncontrollably. Spock claimed that he saw Mitchell smiling as this disruption took place. Dehner exclaimed that a “mutated, superior man could also be a wonderful thing!” when pressed by Kirk as to why she did not report these new abilities. Spock speculated that eventually, Mitchell’s powers would overwhelm the crew.
He then recommended to the captain that the ship drop Mitchell off at a nearby planet, Delta-Vega, where there is also a chance of recharging the ship’s power. Kirk did not like that idea, but then Spock said that they ought to kill Mitchell — while they still had time. Kirk agreed to go to Delta-Vega.
As Kirk entered sickbay, he observed Mitchell moving a cup across the room with just the power of his thoughts. After a few words, Mitchell admitted that he could read all of their thoughts and that Spock’s plan (to kill) was probably the correct choice. He then smirked and threw bolts of lightning at Kirk and Spock. Dehner pleaded with Mitchell to stop. He then told them that he wasn’t ready for just Delta-Vega, and he said that he would eventually have the powers of a god. At that moment, Kirk and Spock attacked Mitchell while Dehner sedated him. They dragged him to the transporter room and beamed him to the planet’s surface.
Upon arrival, they put Mitchell into a cell, protected by an energy field. Kirk ordered Kelso to determine a way to destroy everything if necessary with explosive charges.
As Kirk spoke to him, Mitchell tested the energy field and was violently throw back into the cell. His silver eyes disappeared for just a moment. Mitchell got back up and told them that he would just continue to get stronger.
Meanwhile, Scotty was on the ship preparing the damage. Mr. Spock ordered a special phaser rifle to be sent to the planet. Kelso rigged up the explosives, and Kirk ordered him to “hit the button” if Mitchell escaped.
As Kirk planned to leave the planet, leaving only Mitchell behind, the “mutant” used his powers to control a power cable… and strangle Kelso to death. Dehner told Kirk that he would be staying behind, and as Kirk disagreed, Mitchell told them that they should have “killed me when you had the chance!”
He then shocked both Kirk and Spock with lightning and disabled the force field. Mitchell then took Dehner into his cell, where her eyes turned to silver as well. Piper revived Kirk — who ordered the doctor not to revive Spock. Kirk picked up the phaser rifle and told Piper that if the Enterprise did not hear from him in 12 hours, they were to leave the system at maximum warp to the nearest “earth base.” He then recommended that the planet be saturated with neutron radiation. He then stalked off with the rifle.
Dehner and Mitchell walked out into the barren planet’s wilderness, full of desert sands and rock outcrops. Mitchell waved his hand and said “Behold” and created an oasis, complete with flowers and a freshwater pond. Mitchell sensed that Kirk was approaching, and he spoke to Kirk through his powers.
Dehner confronted Kirk and attempted to get him to go back to the ship and leave them be. Kirk appealed to her inner psychiatrist to see what Mitchell would eventually become.
Mitchell appeared, and Kirk fired on him… to no effect. Mitchell created a gravestone for Kirk and began to move boulders which he would use to kill Kirk. Mitchell said that “morals are for men, and not gods.” Kirk responded that while Mitchell was a god, he was still “driven by human frailty.” Mitchell ordered Kirk to pray to him, as Kirk foretold that only one jealous god would survive in the end.
Dehner finally saw it Kirk’s way and attacked Mitchell with the lightning bolts. Mitchell responded. And several volleys of lightning, Mitchell’s silver eyes faded. Kirk then struck with his patented chops to the neck and wrestling moves. Kirk overpowered the weakened Mitchell, but just as the captain was about to bask Mitchell’s head in with a rock, Mitchell’s powers came back. The tide turned, and Mitchell started to win the battle. But with luck, Kirk was able to use the rifle to shoot an enormous boulder down from the ridge above the gravesite, which crushed Mitchell and imprisoned him in the hold meant for Kirk.
Kirk went to Dehner, who died as well.
Back aboard the ship, Kirk recorded the deaths of Mitchell and Dehner in the ship’s records.
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
I thought it another strange choice for one of the first Trek episodes. We had Charlie X, a power beyond human comprehension, and now Gary Mitchell who would have evolved to that point if Kirk hadn’t stopped him. Why so many episodes featuring evil “Supermen”? Unknown.
This was an excellent entry — Trek at its best, featuring the battle between ultimate power and how to be moral. Plenty of action and futuristic gadgets. It is easy to see why NBC ended up signing up for the Five Year Mission after seeing this second pilot.
But I must point out, the extreme similarity to another science fiction franchise, which would explode onto the popular culture scene just 11 years after Star Trek’s debut. If only Gary Mitchell had a red lightsaber, he would have been a perfect Sith Lord.
His powers — mind tricks, moving of objects with his thoughts, quickness and speed, and the ability to shoot lightning from his hands … a bit too familiar. While we may have no proof that a young George Lucas watched that episode and took copious notes, one might speculate that he probably did borrow a few Trek ideas for Wars.
In the end, I wished that Kirk would have just let Gary be. Why? Who cares what Gary would have done. The Enterprise could warp away while Gary and Elizabeth ruled over a dead planet. Gary Mitchell would have made the perfect god to battle within Star Trek V, rather than … whatever it was they actually did fight. Much like The Next Generation episode “The Devil’s Due,” Star Trek would not allow for a god or fake god to terrorize. Unless they are named Trelane or Q.
RATING: 4 out of 5