Friday, January 16, 2009

Where No Man Has Gone Before

This episode is a great introduction to the series. There are no punches pulled, that's for sure.

While the premise of a mysterious energy cloud giving certain members of the crew extra sensory abilities may seem silly out of context, it is handled with the utmost sincerity and ingenuity. The science fiction elements are always used subservient to the drama. Everything is working toward a greater whole. Even the extra sensory abilities are put to a greater concept: the corrupting nature of almost god-like power.

The writing of this episode is solid. We open with a character based scene between the ship's Captain Kirk and his alien logic-obsessed, emotion-suppressed science office Spock playing chess. Their banter is quick, plot based, and immediately establishes their characters. It is used also as a segue into the show's instigating action.

The plot structure is tight, and all the characters are woven in pretty brilliantly. One of the affected god-men, for example, was established (in a GREAT scene in the sickbay) as a former schoolmate of our good Captain Kirk. This elevates the drama of Kirk's later decision to maroon him on a deserted planet. (An already inspired concept.)

The action of the plot makes way for very natural inclusion of adventure elements. The climax, where the affected man-god and woman-god face Kirk on the deserted planet is particularly exciting. Not just for the visceral energy of the ensuing fight, but for the dramatic content of Kirk trying to pry at the last remaining bit of humanity from his former ship's psychiatrist. It's an amazing piece of performance from William Shatner.

In fact, the performances all around are pretty fantastic. The arc of the affected crew members is very well formed and believable. That coupled with how well written they are prevents it from ever becoming hammy or campy.

A cursory look at Mr. Spock's attitude toward emotions bookends this episode, and promises potential for episodes to come.

All in all, a superb opening episode. I understand that it was not the first aired in it's original run, however, I stand behind my decision to watch these episodes in production-order rather than broadcast-order. While the episodic nature of the show renders the distinction fairly meaningless, it is still the way in which they were originally conceived by all the artists involved.

Stay tuned tomorrow for "The Corbomite Maneuver."

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