Warp Factor Trek

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“Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot produced for Star Trek, has had a vitally important, lasting legacy. How it would be received was initially essential to executing Star Trek on TV, and it eventually led to all the other Trek we’ve enjoyed over the years (with the obvious exception of “The Cage”).

Initial Reception

When he saw the final version of “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, Samuel A. Peeples preferred the original script he had written over the one which had been filmed. He first saw the episode in a screening with Gene Roddenberry and James Goldstone, when the episode very much pleased him, Peeples feeling they had kept much to the essence of making the science and technology realistic extrapolations. However, he was critical of the fight scene between Gary Mitchell and Kirk, believing that “an all-powerful man like Mitchell” wouldn’t need to resort to physical violence, even though Peeples also thought that scene was “staged very well.”

Kirk fighting Mitchell (Paramount)

There was a while before Desilu received word that this pilot episode had been sold to NBC. It was January 1966 by the time this news was delivered to the production company and the cast.

Nichelle Nichols, who had appeared alongside Gary Lockwood in The Lieutenant and later portrayed Star Trek‘s Uhura (starting with the next episode to be produced after this, “The Corbomite Maneuver”), remarked about this episode, “The script explored an intriguing question: What if a man was suddenly imbued with the powers of a God? The episode held true to Star Trek‘s loftier goals while offering a few concessions in the form of fistfights and phaser blasts.

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura in “The Corbomite Maneuver” (Paramount)

This episode was shown at Tricon, the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention, on 4 September 1966, before it was ever aired. Having brought a print of the episode to the convention, Gene Roddenberry, sitting in the audience, was nervous and unsure what the audience response would be. The crowd awaited for a juvenile aspect to be presented in the episode, such as a child or a wisecracking robot, but there was none. There were murmurs of, “Did he say this was for television?” as the episode played, as it seemed incredible it could have been achieved on a TV budget, but Roddenberry needn’t have worried; following a moment’s silence, the crowd erupted into applause after the episode ended. Audience member Allan Asherman later recollected that aspects which appealed to the crowd included Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, the Enterprise, and the show’s visual effects.

Depicted with the episode’s original effects, the Enterprise nears the galactic barrier (Paramount)

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” went on to initially be broadcast as the third episode of the series, on 22 September 1966. Herb Solow later explained why it wasn’t aired first: it was “held back because it was too expository in terms of the series concept and characters.” The actual premiere episode, “The Man Trap”, also showcased the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate, was a “planet episode,” which the network always pushed for, and honestly, it had a “monster.”

The Aftermath in the ’60s

Both Peeples and Goldstone were invited by Roddenberry to produce the subsequent episodes of the series but both declined, Peeples’ rejection owing to the fact he was under contract to 20th Century Fox at the time.

A comparison between the Enterprise bridge in this episode and how it looks in “The Corbomite Maneuver” (Paramount)

Whereas this episode had been produced at the Culver City Studios lot, the Star Trek sets, when the series proper began, were transferred to Desilu’s main lot in Hollywood, a facility situated on Gower Street. Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Sulu were retained for the series (the latter becoming a helmsman), whereas Yeoman Smith, Doctor Piper and Communications Officer Alden were dropped from the cast of characters, later to be substituted by such characters as Doctor McCoy, Communications Officer Uhura and, briefly, Yeoman Janice Rand. George Takei and James Doohan meanwhile had their own separate dressing rooms for working on those later installments of the show, rather than being roommates as they had been for the making of this episode. Conversely, Associate Producer was a role Robert Justman not only began on this installment but continued on all three seasons of the series.

Although Roddenberry decided the phaser rifle in this episode looked too gun-like and lethal to be used ever again, the matte painting of the Delta-Vega Station was reused as the Tantalus V colony in the original version of the first season TOS episode “Dagger of the Mind”.

The Delta-Vega Station and Tantalus Colony (Paramount)

The Enterprise also revisited the barrier at the edge of the galaxy twice in the original series of Star Trek; these incidents were, specifically, in the second season episode “By Any Other Name” and in the third season episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” These subsequent crossings produced no cases of extrasensory perception.

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” wasn’t broadcast in the UK until 12 July 1969. It was the first episode of the series to be broadcast by the BBC.

Repercussions in the ’70s and ’80s

The fotonovel of
this episode
(Bantam Books)

The plot of the second pilot was adapted as a short story by James Blish in Star Trek 8, released in 1972. In 1977, the episode was adapted as the second Star Trek Fotonovel.

When James Goldstone and Gene Roddenberry incidentally met at a Christmas party shortly before the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December 1979, Roddenberry commented to Goldstone that the director’s script from the making of this episode, complete with all his notes in it, would be worth an estimated US$10,000. Despite this being an exaggeration, the statement did surprise Goldstone, as it meant the script would be worth financially more than he had been paid to direct the episode. In fact, the entire episode itself cost somewhere in the ballpark of US$350,000 to produce.

It’s often been suggested that a “little blonde lab technician” whom Gary Mitchell refers to in the episode might be a reference to Carol Marcus, Genesis scientist and mother of Kirk’s son David, who appears along with his mother in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

David Marcus with his mother, Carol – possibly the “little blonde lab technician” mentioned in this episode (Paramount)

In the same scene from this episode, Kirk tells Mitchell he’s been worried about him “ever since that night on Deneb IV.” Though this episode doesn’t establish the precise details of that incident other than Mitchell cryptically saying “she was nova” and that he experienced many aftereffects, the planet Deneb IV went on to appear in The Next Generation pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”, which premiered TNG in 1987.

Modern Echoes

The remastered version of this episode, with new CGI visual effects, was released in January 2007, and Gary Mitchell himself (portrayed by Daaman Krall) returned in the Star Trek fan film Of Gods and Men, released in December of that year.

Gary Mitchell in Of Gods and Men, and the cover of the comic “Where No Man Has Gone Before, Part 2” (Renegade Studios/IDW Comics)

There have also been “aftereffects” of this episode related to the so-called “Kelvin Timeline“, beginning in 2011. Then, in the first two issues of their initial comics run which was set in that timeline, IDW Comics released a version of the story of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” as if it happened in the alternate reality, published in 2011. It was even speculated, during the run-up to the release of the 2013 movie Star Trek Into Darkness, that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in that film – whose cover name of “John Harrison” was initially the only name announced for him – might actually be a Kelvin Timeline version of Gary Mitchell.

Nowadays, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” continues to hold a special place in the hearts of fans, and modern Star Trek has been eager to capitalize on this fondness for the episode. For example, Gary Mitchell was briefly mentioned in the Star Trek: Lower Decks pilot episode “Second Contact”, released in 2020, before an animated version of him briefly showed up in the Lower Decks Season 2 opener “Strange Energies”, released in 2021. Also, the episode’s galactic barrier has most recently been referenced repeatedly in the fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery, notably reappearing in the episode “The Galactic Barrier”.

Gary Mitchell in Lower Decks and the galactic barrier in Discovery (Paramount)

In Memoriam

James Goldstone was once told, by a revered film critic, “I don’t care what you do. On your tombstone, it will say, ‘James Goldstone, the date, directed “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.’” Sadly, in the almost fifty-seven years since the filming of “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, Goldstone and many of the other production staffers of the second pilot have passed away. In concluding this article, I’d like to pay respects to them and their achievement. In July 1965, Star Trek was saved for the first of many times.

Paul Fix (1901-1983)

Lloyd Haynes (1934-1986)

Gene Roddenbery (1921-1991)

Samuel A. Peeples (1917-1997)

James Goldstone (1931-1999)

James Doohan (1920-2005)

Paul Carr (1934-2006)

Alexander Courage (1919-2008)

Robert H. Justman (1926-2008)

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Herbert F. Solow (1930-2020)

Reuben Klamer (1922-2021)

Sally Kellerman (1937-2022)

1 thought on “The Legacy of Star Trek‘s 2nd pilot

  1. Very well written review of pilot number two (aka, the co-pilot?).
    Also, thank you for the additional info, very informative. It confused me as a child when I watch the series in it’s premiers, why everything changed with Where No Man Has Gone Before compared with the first episode.

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