**** (4 stars out of 5)
Avid nerds know "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was the second pilot, taking place before "The Man Trap" but aired thirdly. So imagine you're seeing these people for the first time. You're so lucky! It's a real treat. A celery, color cubes, and styrofoam cup o' coffee treat!
Exploring a thin, pink line at the edge of the galaxy (or the more BARRIER-like barrier in the CGI special edition) the crew is horrified by the mutation of two of their number into dangerous super-beings. (Side effects of becoming gods may include blindness due to silver contact lenses.)
Say hello and good-bye to ship's psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman). "Walking Freezer Unit" or not, they DO have shrinks on starships! Too bad for Charlie X- Liz Dehner died and was never replaced. In fact, this is the highest death toll of the original series: 12 crew killed in all by the radiation effects of the galactic barrier. Or at each other's frenzied hands.
We are told here that ESP, pyrokinesis, precognition, and x-ray vision are facts of life in the future. Telepathy remains a factor in many later stories. The others... don't come up so much. And spinning webs (any size) remains rare as well.
The guys at the table don't seem to agree when Dr. Dehner gushes optimistically: "A mutated superior man could be a WONDERFUL thing." Despite how things worked out, I admire that sentiment. Power need not always corrupt... I hope.
Show of hands- which would you rather hang out with: Gary Lockwood's slightly sleazy Lt. Mitchell (pre-mutation insanity, of course) or the near-automaton Frank Poole (pre-death, if it makes any difference) from the revered and stunningly dull '2001: A Space Odyssey'?
Hands down. It's Gary Mitchell, let's not kid ourselves. And the likable lug is KIRK'S pal, too. Gary was Kirk's student at the Academy, introduced Jim to a girl he nearly married. The stakes are high, and we're personally involved.
And now, alongside the Captain, we're going to have to bring down the murderous freak who used to be our buddy. That's good TV.
"Did you hear him joke about compassion?" Kirk expounds. "Above all else, a god needs compassion."
Just as in "The Man Trap" our heroes exhaust all the other options, then strike when they have no choice. Phasered!
And, just to remind us what 'exponential' means, physicist & maths expert Mr. Sulu tells us if you double a penny for a month you'll be a millionaire. It also reminds us they still use money in 2265. This will soon change. Get it? Change?
Now Groan Where No Man Has Groaned Before.