The flight recorder of the 200-year-old U.S.S. Valiant relays a tale of terror--a magnetic storm at the edge of the galaxy!The flight recorder of the 200-year-old U.S.S. Valiant relays a tale of terror--a magnetic storm at the edge of the galaxy!The flight recorder of the 200-year-old U.S.S. Valiant relays a tale of terror--a magnetic storm at the edge of the galaxy!
The original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage", which was rejected by the networks, certainly has its moments (and achieved a resurrection in the superb episode "The Menagerie"). However, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is a much more tightly written story, and the episode that green-lighted the series. Briefly, the story surrounds a star ship captain, James Kirk, who must make a terrible choice as one of his favorite crewmen, Gary Mitchell, experiences a strange transformation and begins to attain god-like abilities resulting from the ship having entered a strange energy field. Should the captain let him live or destroy him?
The thematic writing of this episode is what makes the story a notch above other sci-fi offerings. What Captain Kirk must face in this episode is not black and white but a moral dilemma tinged with gray as we learn not only about Kirk and Mitchell's friendship but about their past. On one side of the argument is his first officer, Spock, who advises the execution of Mitchell. The other side is Dr Dehner, a young psychiatrist, who believes that Mitchell may not be evil. But Kirk is running out of time as his friend becomes stronger and stronger.
The result is a truly satisfying tale that does not rely on cheap stunts or obvious "good vs bad". Is there action? Yes there is. Is there suspense? Absolutely. And yet, there is something a little deeper than just a western set in space, although Rodenberry, the creator, modeled much of Star Trek after the old serial and TV Westerns. There is even a "gun fight". This is Science Fiction at its best in which the story tells us something about the human condition through a tale of hyper-reality. That I think is what Science Fiction and Star Trek are all about when they are at their best, and why there is a difference between Sci-Fi and Science Fiction. Both have their place but Science Fiction has the potential to transcend itself and its readers.
- Aug 23, 2007