Star Trek TOS: How to Conquer a God

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Star Trek — The Original Series

Season 1, Episode 4

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Before departing the Milky Way galaxy, Kirk was warned of the perils entering a strange force field. But this is Star Trek, and the quest for exploration is too juicy to relent. 

Immediately, the ship was rattled to the utmost, upsetting operations and “stunning” an assertive ship psychologist named Elizabeth Dehner and commander Gary Mitchell. The episode morphed into a tale on their developing superpowers.

The viewer knows Mitchell is afflicted because his eyes turned silver, but Dehner’s zap is hidden from the crew. Mitchell — in a quasi-sedated state — begins an accumulation of knowledge and power his shipmates perceive as mutant-like. Dehner, a sensible woman who might have been defending herself at the same time, told a boardroom of men that mutants aren’t necessarily bad.

On this day, that was false.

Mitchell embarks on a reign of terror, culminating in a God complex on the planet Delta Vega. His descent into tyranny might have been prevented — if Kirk listened to Spock, who insisted on killing Mitchel preemptively. Faced with that torturous decision, Kirk declined, hoping for the best from Mitchell. He should have listened to Spock, but his heart was too damn empathetic. 

A HAL 9000 [from 2001: A Space Odyssey] persona engulfed Mitchell. He wasn’t himself, instead inhabiting an aura that was both subhuman and superhuman. His personality gradually vanished, and Kirk was left to decide between coexistence — or conquering him before probably mayhem ensued.

The problem? Mitchell was absolutely unstoppable. His budding powers dwarfed those of Charlie X in the previous episode or the salt-seeking creature in The Man Trap. Mitchell was essentially an unrighteous God. He didn’t evolve that way by any fault of his own — Kirk even noted at the end of the episode that Mitchell wasn’t to blame, noting “he didn’t ask for what happened.”

Before Mitchell was ultimately vanquished, he told Kirk, “Morals are for men, not Gods.” That kind of attitude is indestructible. So, how did Star Trek, the series, not end with Mitchell’s hostile takeover?

Mutually assured destruction. Dehner unveiled her powers, too, but she wasn’t in the business of annihilating her surroundings. Conversely, a goddess-to-be herself, sided with Kirk and zapped Mitchell into a state of mental and physical vulnerability.

Kirk then crushed Mitchell with a boulder, dappling into a classic good guy versus bad guy climax generally downplayed in the first three episodes. 

Every step of the way, Kirk seems to act with mercy aforethought. Mitchell, so far, is the exception to the rule. Hikaru Sulu, an officer on Enterprise, analogized Mitchell’s rapid usurpation of power with pennies doubling by the day. In a month, the penny collector would become a millionaire. And Enterprise’s fleet could not risk that exponential cumulus of brainpower in the wrong hands. 

A woman saved the day. That’s the verdict on Where No Man Has Gone Before. An astute, strong-willed, selfless woman saved Kirk’s life. In theory, Dehner could have joined Mitchell as a Goddess Queen, taking over the galaxy. But she chose a human reaction to combat the ruthless aggression orchestrated by Mitchell. Girl power. 

Themes: God vs. Man, The Perils of Power, Woman Empowerment 

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).