Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Star Trek at 50: Where No Man Has Gone Before



Season 1
Episode 1: Where No Man Has Gone Before
Filmed: July 1965
First Air Date: September 22, 1966 (3rd episode aired)

Karen: For Christmas this past year I got an excellent book, These are the Voyages TOS Season One by Marc Cushman. It chronicles the production of the first season of the original Star Trek. Just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about Trek, I was proved wrong -and happily so. This book is a treasure trove of inside information culled from interviews with the people who actually made the individual episodes. Yes, they've been interviewed before, but Cushman also uses a variety of documents to support his work -first drafts of scripts, production memos, etc. The whole thing comes together as a very incisive view of the trials and triumphs of  not only the series as a whole but of each episode.

Karen: In this 50th anniversary year of Star Trek, I thought it might be fun to go back and revisit each episode, in the order in which they were produced. I'll comment on them a bit, provide some information from Cushman's marvelous book, and set up a clip as a mental prod for everyone -as if we needed it. I'm sure for many, these episodes are burned into the brain cells.

Karen: Today, we will look at the second pilot (we'll see The Cage when we discuss The Menagerie), Where No Man Has Gone Before. The Star Trek team were still finding their way with this; Captain Pike had been replaced with the more dynamic Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner. The network had demanded a less cerebral second pilot (and a second pilot was almost unheard of), so they got this story of humans turned into gods, with some rough-housing at the end. But even so, it was still probably pretty far-out for most viewers at the time. Psychic powers that let men create gardens out of deserts? You never saw that on Rocky Jones Space Ranger

Karen: Leonard Nimoy was still getting a handle on Spock. He was still grasping for the way to portray the First Officer. The rest of the Enterprise crew wasn't quite set yet - Scotty and Sulu were aboard, but there was no Uhura, and the ship's doctor was Mark Piper, played by character actor Paul Fix.

Karen: Interestingly, according to Cushman, the Gary Mitchell character wasn't even a member of the Enterprise crew in writer Samuel Peeples' earliest draft. The nature of his character evolved and changed as the story was reworked by Peeples and Gene Roddenberry. Making him a close friend of Kirk added much more emotional punch. 


Karen: Here's some nice insights from the old Sci Fi Channel's Special Edition showing of the episode:

17 comments:

Colin Jones said...

Sorry, I'm a bit confused - the pilot was the third episode aired ??? Aren't pilots supposed to be aired first ? And how is Star Trek 50 years old if the original pilot was aired in 1964 - that's 52 years ago.

Humanbelly said...

HBWife got me a DVD collection of ROCKY JONES: SPACE RANGER out of the blue a couple of Christmases ago. Yeesh, I'm sorry to say that I couldn't even get past the first episode. . . (but her heart was in the right place).

You've got me by the nose-ring, Karen-- no question.

I wonder how large the subset of BABsters is here that is indeed old enough to remember Star Trek: TOS in its original network run? That's gonna be right on the cusp of the oldest of us, I think.

Looking forward to chiming back in later today, eh? Gotta get HBGirl to school. . .

HB

Humanbelly said...

Oops-- real quick back atcha Colin--

TV Pilots (a huge seasonal industry all their own) are usually one-shot speculative productions designed to generate producer/network interest and support. Like a very highly-polished rough draft. If they're in good shape, they're often worked into the early run of a show-- or revisited in edited/flashback form later on. Or sometimes discarded completely.

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

Sounds like an interesting book, Karen.
Otherwise, echoing Colin's observation, I always found the order in which the early episodes of Star Trek were broadcast in season one quite odd - especially since the one that first aired (The Man Trap) was actually the sixth produced. Even weirder than this 'first' one being aired third was the fact that The Corbomite Maneuver, the second one made, was the tenth to air. It's really quite jarring when you watch them in that original order.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

First, let me say I highly recommend Cushman's book if you are interested in the behind the scenes stories of classic Star Trek. He has written two more, one for each season of the show, and I plan on getting them both.

As to the production order of episodes versus the broadcast order, there were several factors that caused the shows to be aired out of order. The chief among these were delays due to the special effects. Realize that for its time, Star Trek had some very complicated and high quality effects, and many of these were being innovated as the shows were being filmed. This was a major reason The Corbomite Maneuver was so badly delayed. Roddenberry and the staff really would have liked to have shown that episode as early as possible in the series run, as it is one of the best of the season. But difficulties with the effects pushed it way back in the schedule. At one point, I believe Star Trek had four different effects companies providing services at the same time, just to try to keep on track!

Another reason for delays for some episodes, at least at the beginning of the first season, was the debate between the network (NBC) and the producers over which episode should air first. They had a few ready to go before the air date, but which should go first? NBC was pretty adamant that they wanted one with action, although they didn't want "The Enemy Within" to go first, as they thought it would be a poor introduction to our Captain. "Mudd's Women?" Prostitutes in space? No, not a great idea. They turned down using "Where No Man Has Gone Before" because it didn't have all of the regular crew, and looked slightly different than the rest of the episodes (although they included it later -isn't that more confusing?). This sort of left them with "The Man Trap" which was an uncharacteristic Trek episode, featuring a monster of sorts. After it premiered, a lot of critics wrote the show off as another Lost in Space. Of course, they were wrong. But I'm sure that Roddenberry and crew wished they could have gone with "Corbomite Maneuver" or even "Charlie X".

david_b said...

Great post Karen, hoping to get all three books shortly myself.. I did hear that some liberties were taken with some 'facts', but all in all these books sound pretty awesome. Once I get some bills paid off, they'll be arriving at my door.

As for pilots, yes back in those days pilots typically weren't shown to the public. As mentioned, they were just for selling the show and that's it. As mentioned, they were at times used as later episodes (ie, the Monkees did this..), or action sequences shown in the pilot re-filmed/spread out in multiple episodes (as Lost in Space did for their first 5-6 episodes..). Agreed with Karen, 'Man Trap' was chosen also for the 'monster effect' as the first episode, from what I've read.

Always interesting to hear the Spock character shouting in those initial episodes, but in the original concept of Spock, he was to be quite overly-emotional, before they honed in on the stoic-logic aspect to better play off Shatner.

NOTE: George Takei disclosed to me back in 1977 (at a convention) that he watched the premiere of Trek right here in Milwaukee.

Garett said...

Great idea, Karen! I'll look forward to more of these episode posts.

I remember liking this episode, and how the early uniforms and phasers looked different. I was a big Star Trek fan and saw each episode several times, but haven't seen the series for a while, so these refreshers will be a treat.

Redartz said...

Have to plead ignorance today. I never saw the series until years later, in syndication. During the original run, we had only 1 television and my parents usually chose what was on it. They weren't into Star Trek, more into westerns and detective shows (and Lawrence Welk, faithfully).

Karen, sounds like interesting reading. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

I've read all three of the Cushman books and I love them; I'm a sucker for that behind-the-scenes stuff.

As for this episode: I like it, but as you mentioned, Karen, the cast hadn't been set in stone yet, so it's a bit weird to watch an episode with no Uhura and especially with no McCoy. Gary Lockwood made a good antagonist/best friend for Kirk, but I thought Sally Kellerman was a bit stiff as Dr. Dehner. Oh well, at least she didn't strip down to her undies for cheap thrills in THIS incarnation :)

Mike Wilson

Humanbelly said...

Poor Gary Lockwood, with those painful contact lenses! He does a fine job, but it's just as clear as day (well, if you're not wearing lenses) that they're killing him the whole time they're in. He can't bear to open his eyes all the way or even roll them upward, hence the odd way he tilts his head back so he can see.

For continuity-types, right off the bat here we're introduced to a dear, dear close friend of Kirk's-- someone he's had long friendship with (Gary). I'm sure some ambitious trekkie has worked out Kirk's personal timeline-- but geeze, this series is truly littered with "deep, personal relationships" (mostly women) that Kirk has left in his wake. Usually with a vague "back at the academy" designation. How long was he at the flippin' academy? Seems like there were about 6 that he was nearly ready to marry, even. He's just no old enough to have built up that huge backlog of committed relationships. . .

HB

Garett said...

I read a couple of Trek autobiographies this year: Leonard Nimoy's I Am Spock http://www.amazon.com/I-Am-Spock-Leonard-Nimoy/dp/0786861827 and James Doohan's Beam Me Up, Scotty http://www.amazon.com/Beam-Me-Scotty-James-Doohan/dp/0671520563 . Both were good reads, Nimoy's for his acting and directing memories, and Doohan's for his experiences in WW2 (where he had a finger shot off) and extensive acting career before Star Trek.

Edo Bosnar said...

By the way, since we're discussing "Where No Man Has Gone Before," I can't help but think of the Star Trek fan film made a few years back "Of Gods and Men" (the whole thing's on YouTube), in which Gary Mitchell and Charlie X figure quite prominently.

Martinex1 said...

I am probably an outsider here as I know very little about Star Trek. Sure I've seen some reruns but I wouldn't know the 1st season from any other. But the discussion piqued my curiosity. I will have to find some way of watching the show. Anything to watch for as a first time viewer of some of these? The book sounds interesting; I like learning what happens behind the scenes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah due to the magic of reruns I saw those episodes. It's not surprising to me that some of the episodes were aired out of sequence from when they were shot. Network differences really come into play here. Also, it was quite amusing seeing Nimoy's early version of Spock; you can tell that he was still trying to figure out his character. He even cracks a smile in one of the pilots.

Gosh, ST is 50 years already? Talk about living long and prospering!


- Mike 'can't wait 'till they invent warp drive' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Karen said...

Martinex, I'm really wondering what the experience would be like for an adult first-time viewer of the classic Trek. My thoughts about the show are so inextricably linked to my childhood experiences of viewing it. I do believe it was, for the most part, a quality show; but it was also a product of its time.

However, if you do decide to take a chance on it, particularly the first season, what you may notice most is the evolution of the relationships of the characters. The establishment of the 'triad' of Kirk-Spock-McCoy starts to firm up later in the season. Also, once producer Gene Coon came on board, the series got an injection of some humor, which really helped to give the characters some more dimensions. Of all the characters, Spock grows the most, as Nimoy had difficulty figuring out how to portray an emotionless being, until he realized he wasn't devoid of emotion, he was just controlling them. Or trying to, anyway.

Martinex1 said...

Karen, I will definitely report back if and when I watch some of these. In all honesty, I can only recall brief portions of about three episodes. I recall something where the crew was wearing old fashioned suits on Earth, the tribbles, and maybe evil Spock with a beard (I say “maybe” because I may just have read about it and saw some photos or something). As crazy as it sounds I never saw much Star Trek. I definitely saw the theatrical movies and I know the concept and I watched some of the cartoons, but I just never really watched the television series. I know about transporter beams and Scotty and Vulcans etc just through osmosis, but if somebody quizzed me I’d fare better on “My Favorite Martian” trivia. So if I can find some time to breathe (2016 has started with nonstop work and family action), I will watch and share my perspective.

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