Review of “Where No Man Has Gone Before” Remastered January 23, 2007by Dennis Russell Bailey , Filed under: Review,TOS Remastered , trackback
“If I Ruled The World…”
The Enterprise, leaving the galaxy, discovers the scarred and blasted recorder marker of the only other ship to do so, the Valiant. Upon reviewing the Valiant’s tapes, Spock discovers that the ship hit some kind of “unknown force” and as a consequence of some (inaudible) events involving (tape damaged) and ESP and such that ship’s captain ordered his vessel destroyed.
Captain Kirk decides to forge on ahead, reasoning that since other ships will someday explore this region it’s important for the Enterprise to leave behind its own scarred and blasted recorder marker to warn them off.
Turns out there’s a big Energy Wall around our galaxy, despite the fact that the only thing more scientifically ridiculous would be a big Energy Wall around the heart of our galaxy imprisoning a demon that claims to be God. The barrier (now given the full CGI treatment) zaps a number of Kirk’s crew, most notably his pal Gary Mitchell and Dr. Elizabeth “Hotlips” Dehner.
Mitchell, who’s a real piece of work, develops psychic powers that get stronger over time. Sulu explains how dangerous this makes him by using the “doubling penny” analogy that so many of us unsuccessfully proposed to our parents as a tricky get-rich-quick scheme for our allowances. Dehner doesn’t think anyone should worry, on account of how “Gary-I-Mean-Mr-Mitchell is so totally hot now that I’m withdrawing my sexual harassment complaint for his behavior on the bridge.” Spock and Kirk engage in an impromptu debate on the relative effectiveness of capital punishment versus life imprisonment, and Kirk decides to maroon Mitchell on the planet Delta Vega.
In another boneheaded command decision (collect the whole set!), Kirk leaves a single crewman behind to monitor Mitchell while everyone else goes Somewhere Else to do Something Important. Single Crewman Kelso discovers that he’s not going to be a series regular after all, Mitchell escapes, and Kirk gets his shirt torn off in the ensuing fist fight for the first of approximately 3,224.6 times. In the end we discover the answer to that age-old theological paradox: “If Mitchell is omnipotent, can Mitchell create a rock too heavy for Mitchell to lift?”
The answer is a resounding “you betcha!” and the Enterprise is saved.
Isn’t there some tear-proof miracle fabric in the future?
The Write Stuff
NBC executives were impressed by "The Cage," but concerned by the cost of the first "Star Trek" pilot. Coming in at about 330,000 dollars, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" still cost significantly more than an average production episode of Trek but apparently did satisfy the network folks that the show could be produced on an acceptable budget.
NBC was also reportedly unimpressed by several of the cast members. Many fans credit the recasting of the Captain as key to the show’s eventual success, but I think the crucial difference between the characters in "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is to be found in the script itself. Peebles’ well-structured teleplay energizes the performances. Yeah, Shatner’s charming but Hunter was no slouch either. After all, he’d held his own on screen with the likes of John Wayne and Natalie Wood in big-screen fare like “The Searchers”. On the other hand while Peebles’ dialogue was nearly as stilted and expository as Roddenberry’s, his characters reveal their strengths and weaknesses through action to a far greater degree than we saw in "The Cage."
Consider the scene in which Kirk is introduced – a friend pointed out to me not long ago that Kirk’s intuitive chess play against Spock immediately conveys a propensity for unexpected strategy and successful risk taking that defies the odds. Our main clue to "Number One’s" emotional detachment in "The Cage" was Barrett’s monotonous line delivery; Peebles’ version of Spock demonstrates his lack of emotion by counseling his commander to murder a long-time friend in cold blood for the good of everyone else aboard. When Kirk chooses a more humane alternative (also presented by the dispassionate Vulcan), Spock takes the initiative to arm himself and the landing party against the likelihood of the failure of Kirk’s plan.
Spock: I still can’t believe he beat me…must have cheated
Mitchell is portrayed in word and deed as an arrogant and manipulative man from the beginning ("I mapped out her whole campaign for her"), a contrast to Dehner’s observant and empathetic if somewhat reticent character. Guess which character will, when imbued with the Power Cosmic, attempt to enforce his will upon his crewmates and to which Kirk will successfully appeal ("Hang on to being human for one minute longer…do you like what you see?") for intercession on behalf of humanity?
Finally, Peebles introduces the basic dynamic through which most TOS stories will be successfully told: the Captain’s dilemma when facing a tough decision is dramatized through his interaction with crewmates who stake out extreme positions. Spock weighs in on the side of cold, rational calculation and Dehner represents the unquantifiable imperatives of morality and compassion. Dehner’s role prefigures McCoy’s in the rest of the series.
Dehner – The McCoy prototype
The Effects – What’s Changed
First a word about the restored live-action footage: the colors really pop in this new version of the episode. The distinction between Kirk’s green command uniform and the tan tunics worn by characters like Mitchell and Kelso is finally visible – as is the sallow pancake makeup that Nimoy wears. On the soundstage planet set bold slashes of red and green paint sprayed across the papier mache rocks may detract from the realism of the landscape but add a stylized and otherwordly touch.
The very first new shot of the episode shows the Enterprise approaching camera, the recognizable “stellar cloud” of our galaxy in the background. This is likely homage to the opening of this episode as it was originally presented to the network. That edit, never broadcast, began with a lingering shot of the Milky Way spiral in the distance while Kirk explained in voice-over that the Enterprise was leaving the galaxy on “a new task…a probe out into where no man has gone before.”
Shot of galaxy from unaired version of WNMHGB
While effective in the opening, the re-use of the galactic cloud in the last shot of the show underscores a minor logical flaw in the teleplay by reminding us that we’re still outside the galaxy. If the Enterprise and Valiant are the only ships that have explored this far out, how is it that a “lithium cracking station” has been operating on a planetoid at the galaxy’s edge long and reliably enough for an (according to Spock) twenty-year cycle of ore ship stopovers to have been established?
I’m sure that Trek fans can “explain” that one easily enough, but it feels like a big “D’oh!” to me.
At this point the CBS Digital crew has the dynamics of lighting and animating the Enterprise and the creation of planetary globes pretty much down cold. The model used this week approximates the original appearance of the ship in this episode. It’s not perfect in every detail (nor, for that matter, is the “production version” now used in other new episodes), but the inaccuracies are in all honesty trivial when compared to the wildly-varying versions of the ship that we became used to seeing juxtaposed in almost every episode of the original series.
The use of this faux “pilot Enterprise” in the opening credits sequence of the episode is a nice and unexpected touch, but it does make the decision to include Shatner’s voice-over (originally absent from this episode’s credits) especially puzzling. Mark me down on the “Kirk’s voice-over doesn’t belong there and this was a bad call” side of the debate.
New special pilot model opening credits…are some things best left unchanged?
The matte painting of Delta Vega has been treated with well-deserved respect by CBS Digital’s artists. Like the Rigel Fortress in “The Cage” the original matte is an instance of TOS getting it exactly right to begin with. The mining towers and equipment have been enhanced with bullet lights in one instance, and that’s successful both technically and as a piece of art in the way that it alters the mood of the shot.
The showpiece of the new CG work on this episode is clearly the Galactic Barrier. Seen in motion, with the Enterprise navigating through it as the camera follows, the Barrier is a fully realized three-dimensional environment exhibiting fine structure which distinguishes it from the vaguely B5-ish/”Mutara Nebula” impression given by the pre-release studio still shots.
The sequence is breathtaking, but it troubles me.
Early on, the producers of “Star Trek Remastered” emphasized that “every new CGI shot will mimic the original choices made the original editors and director” and that they were taking “painstaking efforts to match the original show shot for shot, edit for edit.”
My opinion is that in sequences like this one and several in episodes like “Space Seed”, CBS Digital pretty much abandons that brief. I can understand that; in my review of “City On The Edge Of Forever” I wondered “Will there be any novelty left to the project, by the time they’ve done thirteen episodes or so, without a more radical rethinking of these kinds of shots? I guess we’ll find out.”
Well, we’re finding out and the result presents a bit of a conundrum for a reviewer, to wit: by what standard should the new effects now be judged? If the artists are going to produce modern, dynamic and sophisticated CG work with somewhat limited regard for the original effects design is it enough for their imagery to compare favorably to that of TOS? Or ought we now to evaluate it by comparison to the best and most persuasive of such work currently being done for television? For my money that’s to be seen on shows like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Firefly” – and unfortunately by that standard “Star Trek Remastered” falls short.
‘Tis a puzzlement.
Beautiful compared to ’60s Trek, but do these new shots stack up against modern shows?
What’s Left Alone
All of the documents displayed on various of the Enterprise’s viewers remain the crudely typewritten originals (they’re even pre-IBM Selectric!). Since most of these are shots in which the camera is static relative to the screen one wonders how time-consuming such substitutions could have been?
The typerwriter medical record
Kirk remains “James R. Kirk” as far as Mitch the Reaper is concerned. I note this with a relief bordering on glee. The “R” in this case was not an error on anyone’s part. It represents a snapshot, a moment in the evolution of Trek’s often contradictory internal continuity before every detail was locked down tight.
I hope that the crew at CBS Digital remains at least somewhat reluctant to erase these little bits of production history in favor of a foolish and unnecessary consistency.
Another great new matte with few changes…if it ain’t broke…