The Enterprise is planning on leaving the galaxy, which is something no one has ever tried before as far as they know. Right before hand they see the wreckage of an old ship the Valiant that went missing 2 centuries ago and they recover it's black box. It turns out the captain use the auto-destruct, which is troubling as it makes them wonder what happened to make him want to go to those extremes. They try to leave the galaxy anyway and they encounter a lot of flashing lights, and in particular something happens to a few of the bridge crew. It also blew out the warp drive.
The guy who got hit was Mitchell, and he immediately has fancy blue glitter eyes, so he is obviously taken to sickbay.
While he is in sickbay he develops some really cool powers, he reads half of the ships library while he's there, he can make himself appear dead for a while, he can read minds, he saved the ship from losing it's impulse drive by reading the engineers mind and seeing that he was careless in his last inspection.
Spock says that as Mitchell gains more power he will become more than human, people will be an annoyance to him and he wouldn't hesitate kill us all if it suits him. His solution is to kill him, or perhaps maroon him on the nearby planet Delta Vega. Kirk is upset as he has been friends with Mitchell for 15 years, but ultimately seems to conclude that this is likely going to be a necessary outcome.
It turns out that there is an abandoned base on Delta Vega. I'm not sure why there is an old base so close to a place no one has ever gone, but it's a good thing it's there, because they can use the facilities to repair their warp engines.While they are there the doctor's powers eventually kick in, and Mitchell's power grows to the point that he breaks out of the cell. The two of them run off into the desolate wilderness. He turns a wasteland into a lush area with water and plants and whatnot.
Kirk feels he is responsible and chases after them, he gets in a fight with Mitchell and the doctor sees the bad side of what could happen so she helps Kirk by sapping some of Mitchell's power away. Then Kirk and Mitchell get into a pretty epic fight which eventually leads to Mitchell's death. In the fight Kirk's shirt gets ripped and he gets to show off his manliness for a while. I don't know why but this really cracked me up.
There were three quotes from this episode that I liked, the first two were about Spock's lack of emotions. In the first, Kirk asked Spock if he found something irritating and Spock responded
Irritating? Ahh yes, one of your earth emotionsThe other was right after Spock suggested that the most logical course of action was to kill Mitchell before his power was so great that it would be impossible to deal with him, Kirk yelled at him
Try for one moment to feel, or act like you have a heart!The last quote was from Mitchell near the end when his powers were God-like. Kirk was trying to reason with him that he shouldn't abuse his power, and he said
Morals are for men, not Gods
One of the things I love about science fiction generally and Star Trek specifically is that they use a specific and fanciful setting to tackle ideas that come up in my different setting in real life. Of course things are taken to ridiculous extremes, but that is part of the fun. In this episode there were three things that stood out to me as interesting ideas that they were playing with, the first is the idea that power corrupts. Mitchell was friends with Kirk, and presumably other people on the enterprise, for a long time. And yet, when he was significantly more powerful than them and his interests were very different he became less concerned with their perspective. I think we all like to think that we would not do this in the same situation, but it's hard to not be self-interested.
The next idea is that you should take care of a difficult problem before it gets worse. Obviously killing Mitchell was a terrible thing to do, and yet if he is likely going to get more powerful and try to kill everyone perhaps it is the right move. It turned out that Spock was right here, even though his course of action was something that we would hate to do, it ultimately would have been the right move.
And on the same topic, what lengths would you go to in order to protect those you care about? Would you do something you found deplorable if it meant you would protect your family (or crew)? Kirk found the price too high, Spock did not. Was it worth the risk if it meant giving Mitchell the chance to be good?
Something else I was thinking about a lot while watching this episode was how the writing is a bit more loose than the Next Generation writing, which I watched a lot when I was growing up. I think in the Next Gen era they had a lot of details worked out before hand, in this series I think they were focused on the core story and just let the rest of it fall together as was necessary.
This episode started with them leaving the galaxy, obviously from the later series we see that we are restricted to the alpha quadrant, so this wouldn't be possible there, but in this earlier time it was no big deal. There also seems to be no explanation as to what happened to them when they tried to leave the galaxy. If this were a later series I would expect some explanation like there was an alien species who were trying to contain us in our own galaxy or something. Here it is just "this happened, now let's deal with it" rather than telling us why it happened.
Another thing that I found amusing was that they lost there warp engines near the edge of the galaxy, which is a place that as far as they knew no one had ever tried to go that far. And yet there was an old abandoned base on a nearby planet. It seems to me that if there was a base so old it has since been abandoned, they would have explored outside the galaxy while they were there at some point. And if people had tried that and were eventually destroyed (like the Valiant) there should be a record of it. Not that I think that is much of a knock on the series, it just shows that their writing was more focused on the broad ideas instead of the details.
One final thing that amused me, the Valiant went missing 2 centuries before, but I think the original series only happened about 3 centuries in the future. I suppose that could be optimism on Gene Roddenberry's part that we would be at the edge of the galaxy in 100 years, but I'm guessing it is more than the actual date that this is supposed to happen was not decided on at the time. In fact, I bet that's why they used star dates. "What year did this happen?" "I don't know, really far into the future, so we can do whatever we want, just make up a fake dating system". While I'm on that, at one point in the episode Kirk said it was stardate 1312.9, perhaps this was supposed to be thirteen hundred years after starfleet was founded or something. Who knows.
Something that really stood out to me was that the doctor wasn't McCoy. I think that perhaps the only true main characters at this point are Kirk and Spock. There are several other characters that recur, but those 2 are the only ones that always seem to be there. I wonder if they are trying to give the impression that it is a big ship with rotating crews for different times. It makes sense that there would be multiple people in every important role. On the other hand, the doctor had to die, so maybe that is why there was a new person there.
Spock: We see more attention given to the fact that he is logical and not emotional. He's cold and calculating, will to do the lesser of two evils which would make most of us at least hesitate.
Kirk: He demonstrates his good character. He wants to give Mitchell every chance to do the right thing, but ultimately takes responsibility for not acting sooner.
Do you agree with my rating or any of my analysis? Let me know in the comments.