Original air date: September 22, 1966
Kirk, Scotty, and Sulu were introduced here, along with Spock as we know him (he was in "The Cage", but with some different personality traits). McCoy and Uhura were introduced in the first regular episode, "The Man Trap", along with Yeoman Rand, while Chekov didn't show up until season two (though Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan implied that he was somewhere on the Enterprise as early as "Space Seed").
The USS Enterprise, near the edge of the known galaxy, encounters an old-style ship recorder from the SS Valiant, a ship that disappeared 200 years ago in the same mission to penetrate the "galactic barrier" as the Enterprise. Spock interprets the recorder's message which indicates that the captain of the Valiant ordered a self-destruct on the ship after trying to access information on humans with extrasensory perception (ESP). The Enterprise's newly-arrived psychiatrist, Elizabeth Dehner, comments on the abilities of humans with high ESP ratings - abilities which don't normally go beyond mild precognition. Forewarned, the crew prepare to encounter a magnetic storm at the edge of the galaxy.
The Enterprise is crippled by a mysterious electric field, damaging its engines, killing nine crewmen and shocking both Dehner and Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell. Mitchell is taken to the infirmary where he has developed strange silver eyes. Being an old Academy friend of Kirk, the captain personally attends to Mitchell only to find that he has been speed-reading through the ship's library at the blink of an eye. Kirk and Spock consult the ship's records to find that Dehner and Mitchell scored the highest ESP ratings. Mitchell slowly begins to develop strange powers such as reading minds, telekinetic skills and clairvoyance. While Dehner is taken in by Mitchell's transformation, Spock recognizes that Mitchell is becoming colder, more ruthless and will develop powers beyond their imagination. Spock recommends that the Enterprise head to the planet Delta Vega where a lithium-cracking station could help repair the ship's engines. Bereft of humans, Mitchell could be marooned there. Either that or execute him. Kirk, torn between his old friend and what he has become, struggles with the decision.
Mitchell becomes more confident with his abilities as the Enterprise reach Delta Vega, commenting that he could read Kirk and Spock's minds, knowing what they have planned. Nevertheless, they succeed in incapacitating him for a moment and bringing him to Delta Vega, keeping him in a forcefield cell. Kirk continues to struggle with what to do with Mitchell, even as he becomes stronger while Dehner continues to speak of the possibilities of a new form of human. While the Enterprise is repaired, Mitchell escapes and kills Lieutenant Kelso and incapacitates Kirk and Spock. He takes Dehner with her to the hills of Delta Vega, revealing that she too has developed the silver eyes, and therefore will have the same abilities.
Kirk is woken by the chief medical officer and goes after the pair. Mitchell demonstrates his powers to Dehner by creating a garden from nothing and remarks on what the two of them could do. He senses Kirk approaching and sends Dehner to meet him. Kirk and Dehner have an argument on what Mitchell has become. Dehner tries to defend Mitchell but Kirk appeals to the psychiatrist in her to recognize what Mitchell has become. Mitchell himself appears and easily brings Kirk down. Dehner sees how Mitchell has become inhuman and attacks him with her own powers. He retaliates and deals her a blow but not before his power is sapped and Kirk attacks. A fistfight ensues and ends with Mitchell buried in the grave he had prepared for Kirk. Dehner shows remorse for her actions in her dying breath as she passes, leaving Kirk alone to return to the Enterprise.
"Captain's log, stardate 1313.8. Add to official losses, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Be it noted she gave her life in performance of her duty. Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell. Same notation(...)He didn't ask for what happened to him." notes Kirk, prompting Spock to say that he felt sympathy for Mitchell too. Grimly amused, Kirk comments "I believe there's some hope for you after all, Mr. Spock."
Where No Trope Has Gone Before
- A God Am I: Gary Mitchell rather handily proclaims himself, using his powers to force Kirk to kneel and fold hands before him, demanding Kirk pray to him.
- Apocalyptic Log: The crew discovered the log of the last people to encounter the A God Am I effect of passing through the barrier at the edge of the galaxy. It ends with the Valiant's captain giving a self-destruct order.
- Badass Boast: Looking out over the barren landscape of Delta Vega where they've been marooned:Dehner: It would take a miracle to survive here.
Mitchell: Then I shall make one! Behold. . . (with a wave of his hand, creates a grove filled with plants)
- Beware the Superman: Gary Mitchell.Kirk: You were a psychiatrist once. You know the ugly, savage things we all keep buried, that none of us dare expose. But he'll dare. Who's to stop him?
- Bridge Bunnies: Yeomen Jones...well Smith actually. Mitchell seems to know her well enough as they're Holding Hands as tension mounts as the Enterprise approaches the barrier.
- Characterization Marches On: This episode establishes that Spock's alien background gives him a different emotional spectrum and is the first time he references logic in being this primary focus. But his emotional expression is still subtly expressed through sly grins and hurried exclamations which contrast his more stoic, rational mannerisms that would be solidified in later episodes.
- Clothing Damage: Of course Kirk's first fistfight of the show would get his shirt ripped.
- Compensating for Something: A female version.Dehner: Women professionals do tend to overcompensate.
- Costume Evolution: The uniforms are largely recycled from what was used on "The Cage," before the more iconic uniforms came in. The men have a turtleneck and the women seem to have an ascot-type collar. The color coding gave command a greenish yellow, operations a reddish-tan and sciences were blue.
- Critical Hesitation Blunder: Zigzagged—Kirk is fighting Gary Mitchell while Mitchell's psionic powers are temporarily suppressed. As Kirk is about to smash in Mitchell's head with a rock, he hesitates for a moment as he says "Gary, forgive me." Because of the delay Mitchell regains his powers and Kirk loses his chance to kill him. A few seconds later Kirk gets lucky and manages to kill Mitchell anyway.
- Drunk on the Dark Side: Initially Mitchell doesn't seem all that different, but as his power grows he becomes more aloof and arrogant. It's debatable if this trope, Superpowered Evil Side, or both are at play. The first time Mitchell loses his abilities, he seems to react as though he's waking up from a dream, unsure of what's been happening around him, giving the impression he's not actually in control of his actions. Then again, he quickly becomes much less like the Gary Mitchell we were introduced to as his powers grow.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Given that this was the second pilot (but aired as the third episode), it really shows, from the less-detailed uniforms (and no red shirts!) to the lack of notable characters like Uhura and Bones despite both being on the previous two episodes.
- Initially there was no 'Space the final frontier' narration. This has been 'corrected' in the remastered version.
- Mitchell is established as Kirk's best friend since their Academy days. This characterization would later be given to Bones and Mitchell will never be spoken of again in future episodes.
- It is unclear whether Spock or Gary Mitchell is the First Officer as neither is identified as such and both of them behave in a manner very peculiar to a Number Two. (On "The Cage", Spock had been the ship's third-in-command behind Pike and Number One.) Allegedly the script explicitly names Spock as the First Officer and of course he is for the rest of the series, so many viewers assume the same to be the case here.
- In this episode only, helm and navigation are flipped relative to their usual positions. Gary Mitchell is the Helmsman despite sitting at what is usually the Navigator's station.
- Sulu is present but is not the helm officer (he is the ship's astrophysicist and had a Science Blue uniform).
- Kirk's tombstone gives his middle initial as "R" rather than "T." One of the novels explains this as an inside joke from Kirk and Gary's time together at the academy. Kirk once boasted to a girl that "Racquetball was his middle name" despite never have played.
- The make-up on Spock is noticeably different from the rest of the show, giving him a somewhat comical appearance if you're comparing it to his "normal" look. He also wears command yellow rather than science blue. Scotty also wears a yellow command shirt.
- Spock also does a lot of shouting, in contrast with his later established calm deadpan.
- Spock mentions that "one of [his] ancestors married a human female", which seems an odd way of putting it in retrospect, since it was established only an episode or two later that it was his father who married his mother.
- When Kirk brings up irritation to Spock, Spock replies (amusedly) "Ah, yes, one of your Earth emotions," implying that, as an alien, he's biologically incapable of emotion, at least as humans understand them.
- The "Materializer" (Transporter) is the Helm controls from the Bridge.
- The ship needs lithium crystals to re-energize the ship, rather than dilithium. This was changed early, similar to the weapons changing from lasers to phasers, to attempt an aversion of Science Marches On. Lithium is a known substance with known properties, dilithium is not.
- Kirk is wearing only two rows of rank insignia.
- Everyone else is wearing zero or one, and they look pretty shoddily attached.
- Spock punches Gary while trying to restrain him rather than using the Nerve Pinch. He's also extremely quick to advocate summary execution for Gary, and orders a phaser rifle brought down to Delta Vega without informing Kirk. This was before the Vulcan preference for pacifism was fully established, though this could be excused as Spock just considering Mitchell that big a threat.
- Similar to "The Cage", the music soundtrack makes heavy use of eerie electronic elements that sound like they were borrowed from Forbidden Planet. The series proper would avoid "space music" in favor of conventional sounding (albeit memorable) orchestral elements in their composition.
- They clearly hadn't come up with Vulcans having telepathy yet. Spock is utterly unaffected by the phenomenon changing Mitchell and Dehner, and no suggestion of him using his telepathic powers to resolve the situation in any way. It's quite jarring considering how important Spock's telepathy is in later episodes and films.
- Space travel appears to be much faster than in later series, considering Kirk and company are able to easily fly to the edge of the galaxy like it's no big deal. This would be done again in TOS later on.
- Establishing Character Moment: The chess match between Kirk and Spock quickly establishes Kirk as a man who can beat a superior foe through pure guile.
- Evil Gloating: When Kirk and Spock come to take Mitchell into custody for the trip to Delta Vega, he fends them off with his telekinetic powers, then starts monologuing about how much superior he now is. He gets so caught up in it that he stops paying attention to his surroundings long enough for Kirk to get the drop on him.
- Explosive Instrumentation: This being only the (second) pilot episode of Star Trek, it marks the series debut of this much-worn trope, as the Enterprise's flight through the great barrier causes every single console on the bridge to start sparking or going up in flames. Justified somewhat on this occasion by the unknown properties of the barrier frying most of the ship's systems.
- Face-Revealing Turn: Mitchell has apparently only suffered minor injuries...until he shows his "Uh-Oh" Eyes.
- Fantastic Racism: Kirk makes a quip about Spock's 'bad blood' (his human side). This may be why Spock is reluctant to admit that the 'ancestor' he refers to who married a human female is his own father.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: As Kirk and Spock are reviewing Mitchell's ESP record, it mentions an incident on Deneb IV where Mitchell held a psychic conversation with one of the natives. Later, Kirk and Mitchell mention the same incident, but Gary mentions fewer after-effects, "except for the eyes."
- Freudian Trio: Even before Bones arrives on the series we have this dynamic — Spock coldly arguing for Gary's termination while Dehner emotionally pleads that Gary's ESP powers are harmless, and Just Think of the Potential! of a human with such abilities.
- Future Slang: Mitchell refers to a girl he once met as 'nova'. Assuming she didn't turn into an exploding sun, it presumably means she either had a radiant personality or an explosive temper.
- Guile Hero: It's Kirk's debut episode, after all. He beats a Vulcan at chess, and a nigh-invulnerable, self-styled "god" in a fistfight.
- Ice Queen: Dehner, but only from Mitchell's perspective. It's implied that she's putting up this front because of his reputation as The Casanova.
- If I Do Not Return: Kirk orders his crew to run away and then attack the planet with Neutron Radiation if he does not come back in twelve hours. Reaffirmed with an emphatic That's an Order!.
- "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: Kirk tries this not with his long time friend Gary, but with Dehner who has only just undergone the change, and is a trained psychiatrist.
- I Know You're Watching Me: Gary is Super-Speed Reading as Kirk and Spock discuss how his abilities are increasing. Gary then turns and looks directly at the monitor.
- In Medias Res: As in "The Cage", we open on the Enterprise already on assignment, with its current mission in progress, and the Captain already in command. Every subsequent live action series until Star Trek: Picard would open with the lead character being assigned a new position on a new vessel or station.
- Kirk Summation: Directed at Dehner rather than Mitchell, who has pretty much gone off the deep end. Kirk reminds the doctor that for all his vaunted powers, Mitchell is still human, subject to human frailties.
- Kneel Before Zod: Mitchell demands Kirk to pray to him and then forces him to kneel.
- Late to the Tragedy: Almost a Ghost Ship, but in this case the only thing left is the "disaster recorder", which contains the Captain's log with which they try to find what happened to everyone.
- Mind over Matter: Mitchell is able to tinker with ship controls from his sickbed, and later uses his telekinesis to strangle Kelso with a cable.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Just because Mitchell is getting a bit conceited, everyone jumps to this conclusion because his powers are growing so fast he will soon be uncontrollable. In fairness, they do have the precedent on the Valiant to consider.
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Doubly mysterious, considering it's the last time we'll see this middle initial for Kirk.
- Noodle Incident: After Gary Mitchell is zapped by the mysterious energy field on the edge of the galaxy and sent to sick bay, Kirk visits him, where they share this exchange: note
- Gary: Hello Jim! Hey, you look worried.
Kirk: I've been worried about you ever since that night on Deneb IV.
Gary: (laughs) Yeah, she was nova that one. Not nearly as many after-effects this time...
- Not so Above It All: Spock claims to be above 'human'-type emotions, but definitely gets irritated when Kirk beats him at chess. Kirk enjoys jibing him over this.
- Power Echoes: Gary's voice starts to echo as he gains more power.
- And the first time appears to be a deliberate Mind Screw on Kirk, who turns in surprise.
- Prematurely Marked Grave: Commander Gary Mitchell has gained tremendous psionic powers, threatening the Enterprise and its crew. When Captain Kirk tracks him down and confronts him, Mitchell causes a grave and a headstone to appear. The headstone has Kirk's name and the stardates of his birth and (anticipated) death.
- Pro-Human Transhuman: Dehner, who sides with Kirk (and humanity) in the end. Her Last Words say it all.Elizabeth Dehner: "I'm sorry...you can't know what it's like...to be almost a god."
- Psychic Powers: So great they include Mind Reading, Mind over Matter, Super-Speed Reading, Photographic Memory, body function control and eventually even The Power of Creation.
- Re-Cut: The original edit submitted to NBC (included on the Blu-ray set) was a bit different. It opened with different music and a different narration by Shatner. The teaser was after the opening credits, and once they went to Red Alert we saw scenes of the characters rushing through the halls along with their actor credits. The act breaks had Quinn-Martin-style "Star Trek: Act II" cards. When the show went into production, the pilot was edited to match the style of the main series.
- Red Right Hand: Mitchell's silver eyes, denoting godlike powers. Also, his hair slowly becomes gray, starting with his sideburns.
- Rock Over Head: Kirk hesitates to smash Gary's head in with a huge rock. This was not a good idea, as Mitchell soon comes after him with a much bigger one.
- Sacrificial Lamb: The obvious one is Gary Mitchell himself, as he's introduced as being Kirk's closest and oldest friend, but he's Killed Off for Real by the end of the episode. More broadly, however... the entire cast were talked about in the network sales brochures and the like as if they were all going to be regular characters if the show was green-lit, so unexpectedly killing off Lee Kelso two-thirds of the way through the episode might also count (as we might otherwise have been led to believe he's going to survive and remain the show's navigator).
- Sadistic Choice: Kirk can kill his friend now, or abandon him on an uninhabited planet.
- Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: The Enterprise goes out to explore the very edge of the galaxy, and its main engines are damaged, but it's okay because there's a planet a few light-days away with a mining station where they can make repairs. In cosmic terms, this is like driving out into the uncharted wilderness and breaking down right outside a gas station. (A light-day is approximately the diameter of the solar system; even in the denser parts of the galaxy, far in from the edge, stars are typically light-years apart.)
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: The Valiant's captain gave the order to destruct the ship most probably when they reached the conclusion that Death Is the Only Option.
- Smart People Play Chess: The episode begins with Kirk and Spock playing three-dimensional chess. Spock comments that Kirk's style of playing is irritating, presumably because he's making random moves to throw Spock off.
- Sudden Name Change: Lieutenant Commander Mitchell, possessed of near-omnipotent alien powers, fights Kirk and creates an open grave with a tombstone reading "James R. Kirk". This would normally be a minor matter but given how many times Kirk later introduces himself as "James T. Kirk" it's actually quite jarring.
- Suddenly ShoutingKIRK: Did you hear him joke about compassion? ABOVE ALL ELSE, A GOD NEEDS COMPASSION, MITCHELL!!
- Tempting Apple: When Mitchell is attempting to persuade Dehner of his viewpoint that they're above humanity now, he summons a Kaferian apple tree out of nowhere and splits an apple with her.
- Tractor Beam: Used to recover the object that is transmitting a Distress Call.
- Wham Shot: The shot of Dehner with silver eyes.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played Straight with the psychic Gary Mitchell, in a case of Early-Installment Weirdness. Even before Gary has actually done anything threatening, Kirk and Spock are ready to kill him because he might be a serious threat if his powers keep growing. That said, when Kirk doesnt want to kill his best friend, Spock informs him that the captain of the Valiant probably destroyed his ship because he waited too long to kill or maroon the crewman who was driven crazy with the increased psychic power, so this might be justified.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The scope of Mitchell's abilities pretty much drive him loony.
- Wizard Duel: Mitchell vs Dehner, complete with Shock and Awe.