Saturday, July 4, 2015

Growing Up Isn’t So Much (Charlie X)

This post is supported by the generosity of my Patreon patrons.

location:  TOS season 1, disc 1
airdate:  15 September 1966
strange new worlds:  no
strange new worlds so far:  3
new life:  yes
new life so far: 4
new civilisations:  yes
new civilisations so far:  2
amokmindedness:  yes
amokmindednesses so far:  4
The 1961 Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” featured a town held captive and tyrannised over by the whims of a six-year-old boy with vast telepathic and telekinetic powers. 

We may sometimes look like you, but we are not you.
This episode is clearly the chief inspiration behind “Charlie X.”  The nervousness-masked-by-joviality of the Antares crew in Charlie’s presence resembles that of the adults in “It’s a Good Life”; moreover, the Captain calls Charlie a “wonderful boy” and say’s it’s been “an honour having him aboard,” just as the townspeople in “It’s a Good Life” are constantly assuring their tormentor that “you’re a good boy” and “we all love you.”  In addition, Charlie and the child both use their powers to stop someone from singing, and to subject people to grotesque transformations; and Charlie’s vagueness about what happens to the people he causes to disappear echoes the vagueness of the “cornfield” fate in the Twilight Zone episode.

Silence-inducing metamorphoses in The Twilight Zone and Star Trek

By contrast with his Twilight Zone predecessor, however, Charlie is more conflicted, more capable of remorse (or at least regret), and at least marginally more interested in connecting with others – and so more sympathetic.  Usually when I watch this episode I just notice what a jerk Charlie is most of the time; but if one comes to “Charlie X” straight from the story that inspired it, the respects in which Charlie is an improvement are more noticeable.  

Charlie is also reminiscent of the (considerably more well-meaning) main character in Robert Heinlein’s novel Stranger in a Strange Land, who likewise has vast powers including the ability to make people disappear, but who more specifically was raised by aliens without human contact (whence his powers), struggles to fit in with human society, and even surprises his love interest with a gift of perfume.   All the same, I feel a lot more confident in positing “It’s a Good Life” as an influence on this episode than in positing Stranger as an influence. 

Of course there’s yet another obvious antecedent for this story:  “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” two episodes earlier.  Just as episodes 1 and 3 involved the power of illusion and imaginary wish fulfillment, so episodes 2 and 4 feature an irresponsible being with godlike powers; Trek is starting to recycle ideas rather early. 

Enough, Trelane!  Come along.
The theme in “The Cage” of a future human evolution to a more mentally and less physically oriented form is taken here to the extreme of a complete transcendence of the physical (the Thasian mentions having previously been a humanoid centuries earlier), incidentally anticipating the Organians in “Errand of Mercy.”   And Charlie’s complaint “I can’t even touch them! ... They can’t feel. ... They don’t love!” anticipates Spock’s comment in the first Star Trek movie that “this simple feeling [touching Kirk’s hand] is beyond V’Ger's comprehension.  (And the Thasians showing up at the end to collect their wayward charge anticipates The Squire of Gothos.)

Josh Marsfelder thinks that Charlie’s “longterm isolation and godlike powers” are simply a “metaphor for his struggles with puberty” – and, he notes, a lousy one.  He further charges the episode with “youth hating,” on the grounds that what makes Charlie “monstrous” is that he’s “a teenager who doesn’t conform and refuses to grow up in acceptable ways.”
I don’t read the episode quite the same way.  I don’t see his longterm isolation and godlike powers as a metaphor for puberty; rather, they’re the factors that render him unable to deal with puberty in a civilised way.  Moreover, his evil is not that he’s a rebellious teenager per se but that he’s a rebellious teenager liberated from ordinary human constraints.  As we saw two episodes ago, adults liberated from ordinary human constraints are no picnic either.  The next two episodes are variations on this theme also; the shadow of Freud lies heavily on this series (as it does on mid-century popular culture generally).

Janice Rand is from ... France.
Moreover, while it’s true that many of the characters take Charlie’s problems for those of ordinary adolescence, it’s not clear how far the audience is intended to endorse this judgment.  Spock reasonably points out that Charlie’s destroying the Antares showed a “total disregard for human life”; Kirk’s answer that Charlie “doesn’t understand what life is” – not because he’s been raised outside of human society, but merely because “he’s a boy” – seems fairly absurd, and could be taken as Kirk making fairly lame excuses for Charlie out of affection.

That said, this is not one of the better episodes (Uhura’s singing scene aside, of course).  Charlie’s scenes with Janice Rand are generally wince-inducing.  Moreover, there’s no real plot; Charlie causes havoc, getting more and more out of control, until the Thasians arrive ex machina to resolve everything.  the growing conflict between Kirk and Charlie never receives any resolution;  Kirk’s plan to overload Charlie’s capacity for control is interrupted by the Thasians’ arrival before the crucial question of the episode – would Charlie kill Kirk, his father figure? – gets answered.

Admittedly, the scene where Charlie renders the laughing crewmember faceelss is quite effective; it sure creeped the hell out of me when I was a kid.

Miscellaneous observations:

While the crew of the Enterprise have transitioned to new uniforms, the Antares crew (and so Charlie as well) wear outfits  more like those in “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”  No sense in letting old props and costumes go completely to waste.

Between Spock’s smile when Uhura sings, and her flirtation with him both in this episode and in “The Man Trap,” I’ve begun to think the Spock-Uhura romance in the rebooted continuity didn’t come as much out of nowhere as I’d thought.  (Uhura marries a Vulcan in Of Gods and Men too – one of the many ways in which that fan movie anticipates the rebooted film series.) 

The later stereotype of Kirk as a ladies’ man is somewhat belied in this episode by his intense discomfort and embarrassment in talking to Charlie about women.

The fact that McCoy identifies Charlie as human by the development of his fingers and toes rather than by his DNA is perhaps the most dated element in this very dated episode.

Robert Walker as Charlie (well cast with his intense stare) kept reminding me this time around of Glenn Carter as Jesus in the 2000 version of Jesus Christ Superstar.  (Of course some versions of the Gospel narrative do make Jesus sound a bit like the Twilight Zone kid.) 

What is up with Janice Rand’s hairdo anyway?  Even by 1960s standards it’s bizarre.  When I was a little kid watching Trek I thought she was supposed to be an alien.

Charlie forces Spock to recite Blake and Poe, as well as a nonsense ditty about Saturn and Mars. The Blake and Poe poems are both about animals; perhaps more significantly, the poems’ themes are religious awe and inconsolable grief respectively, two emotions in which Charlie seems deficient.

The Thasian’s line “Everything is as it was” will be echoed by a more famous line in “City on the Edge of Forever.”

Mirab, his sails unfurled!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting
 this blog at $1 or $2 per post via Patreon.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I’m an Illogical Woman (The Man Trap)

location:  TOS season 1, disc 1
airdate:  8 September 1966
strange new worlds:  yes
strange new worlds so far:  3
new life:  yes
new life so far: 3
new civilizations:  no
new civilizations so far:  1
amokmindedness:  yes
amokmindednesses so far:  3

“The Man Trap,” as even its title suggests, revisits some of the themes of “The Cage.”  The choice that Dr. Crater embraces is essentially the one that Captain Pike refused – a life of illusion, with a partner who can be any woman (or, as it turns out, man) that one desires.  But Crater’s life is in a way even creepier, since he’s knowingly allowing the murderer of his wife to take her place in his life.

In Nicomachean Ethics X.3, Aristotle presents us with a thought-experiment similar to the Nozickian experience machine I cited previously:  “No one would choose to have the mind of a child throughout life, even if he were to experience the pleasures appropriate to childhood to the highest degree.”  Although both experiments are designed to convince us that we care about more than the pleasant quality of felt experiences, Nozick’s is actually an improvement on Aristotle’s, since a J. S. Mill-style response based on a preference for some kinds of pleasure over others can get a grip on Aristotle’s example but not on Nozick’s.  Still, Aristotle is aiming at the same point as Nozick:  in addition to the way our experiences feel, we care (or should care, or have reason to care. or care when we are thinking clearly) about how things really are; and the value of pleasure depends on what causes it, and not just on how good it feels.  As Aristotle puts it, “pleasures are choiceworthy, but not from these sources, just as being wealthy is choiceworthy, but not if attained through treachery, and being healthy is choiceworthy, but not through eating just anything” (Aristotle probably has cannibalism in mind). 

By Aristotelean standards, then, life with a convincing duplicate of one’s wife is not an adequate substitute for life with one’s actual wife, whether or not one is aware of the substitution; and life with the murderer of one’s wife should be the least acceptable of all. 

So why does Crater defend (what I’ll call) the Buffalo Gal?  He doesn’t come across as unlikeable or superficial – quite the contrary.  (Credit is due here to Alfred Ryder’s delightful performance as Crater; in his twitchy, cranky, yet somehow polite obstinacy he reminds me of Patrick McGoohan.)  Yet one can’t help suspecting that there must have been some Stepfordian flaw in Crater’s relationship with his wife if he can so quickly embrace an illusory substitute.

As I’ve written elsewhere, in connection with Othello:

In a culture where men subordinate and objectify women, it’s no surprise that men have trouble perceiving women’s subjectivity – that notorious “feminine inscrutability” that men have so long simultaneously romanticised and complained about, without asking the “Copernican” question of whether the fault might lie in the vantage point rather than in the object.  Othello compares Desdemona to a statue – “that whiter skin of hers than snow, and smooth as monumental alabaster” – and fantasises about making love to her corpse:  “Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee, and love thee after.”  In thinking of Desdemona as a statue and a corpse, Othello constructs her quite specifically as opaque – even as he endlessly bemoans her supposed opacity.  At the same time, Othello resents the very existence of Desdemona’s subjective interiority, precisely because it cannot be subordinated to him as her body can ....

If Mrs. Crater’s gender led Dr. Crater to devalue her interiority and confine his attention to her superficies, this could explain his ready acquiescence in the illusion.  (And McCoy may be complicit too, since to the end he is so fixated on the Buffalo Gal’s external appearance that he can barely bring himself to save Kirk by shooting her, despite clear evidence that she is not his former girlfriend, but is rather the murderer of his former girlfriend – as though what he loved all along was her external appearance, not her real interiority.)

To be sure, Dr. Crater claims to know, and be concerned with, the Buffalo Gal’s interiority; but it’s unclear how much of this is self-deception.  Crater’s insistence that the Buffalo Gal “needs love as much as it needs salt” is never unambiguously confirmed or disconfirmed in the story, but the impression one gets is that there is more manipulation and less sincerity in her behaviour than Crater has convinced himself to believe.  At any rate, her eventually turning on Crater himself suggests that salt has a somewhat higher priority than love in her personal value scale.  If he is guilty of objectifying her, she objectifies him with a vengeance – all she wants from him is his body, specifically its sodium chloride content.

In the course of defending the Buffalo Gal, Crater argues:  “The creature was trying to survive. It has that right, doesn’t it?”  The answer, of course, is no:  the Buffalo Gal is clearly an intelligent, rational agent, and so the requirements of morality apply as much to her as to anyone else.  For Aristotle, mere survival is no more adequate a conception of human flourishing than subjective pleasure is; just as “sensory experience seems to be shared in common with horse and ox and every animal,” he tells us in NE I.7, so “living seems to be shared in common with plants – whereas what is sought is that which is specific” to rational agents.  Quality of life trumps quantity; the virtuous person will “prefer a single year of noble living to many years of ordinary living.”  (NE IX.8)  Crater and the Buffalo Gal have each chosen a deviant conception of the good life – hers subhuman, and his subsapient. 

To the claim that the Buffalo Gal needed to kill people to feed on their bodies’ salt content, Aristotle’s reply would be one we’ve already seen:  “being healthy is choiceworthy, but not through eating just anything.”  Nor does the Buffalo Gal’s being the last of her kind exempt her from moral law.  “Some things one cannot be compelled to do, but rather must die, suffering the most terrible things; for indeed, Euripides’ Alkmaion being compelled to commit matricide is plainly laughable.” (NE III.1) 

But the relation to “The Man Trap” to “The Cage” is still more complex; for this episode gives us our first real glimpse of the muscle of (what we cannot yet call) the Federation.  Kirk claims the power first to force the Craters to submit to medical examinations (simply on the grounds that they belong to the class of “research personnel on alien planets,” implying a pretty broad scope of jurisdiction) and then to place the Craters in forcible captivity on the Enterprise for their own good (inasmuch as the ship’s mission is to “protect human life in places like this” – whether or not they want protecting, apparently).  This kind of strong-armed paternalism is uncomfortably reminiscent of the Talosians’ explaining that they “wish [their] specimens to be happy” living “carefully guided lives.”  The Enterprise crew have become the very evil they began by combating.  As another classic 60s sf show reminds us:  It doesn’t matter which side runs the Village. ... When the sides facing each other suddenly realise that they’re looking into a mirror, they’ll see that this is the pattern for the future.”

This episode is less irritating from a feminist standpoint than the previous two,  but the show refuses simply to let professional women be professional women, as in the scene of Uhura’s unsuccessful flirtation with Spock – a scene that takes on a somewhat different significance in light of the 2009 movie.  (“The Man Trap” also introduces the miniskirt as standard uniform for female crewmembers.) 

The interracial flirting is nonetheless daring for its day (though the episode makes sure later on to pair Uhura with an imaginary partner of the “appropriate” race), as is having a black female character whose name is based on the Swahili word for “freedom.”  It’s ironic that Uhura in her very first episode is already complaining about doing nothing but reporting frequencies.

Miscellaneous observations:

This episode inaugurates the new standard narration:  adding a split infinitive to the sexism of the second pilot’s narration.  It also introduces McCoy, Uhura, and Rand, as well as the more familiar uniforms.

Bruce Watson is wonderfully cast as the creepily vampiric Crewman Green.

In this episode the show finally seems to have found its way to the Spock we know; the way Nimoy says the line “My demonstration of concern will not change what has happened; the transporter room is very well-manned and they will call me if they need my assistance” is especially good.  (Recall the similar exchange in Sherlock:  “Would caring about them help to save them?” – “No.” – “Then I'll continue not to make that mistake.”)

The sickbay is now called the dispensary, although it was called sickbay in the second pilot.

The author of this episode, George Clayton Johnson, is co-author (with William F. Nolan) of the original Logan’s Run novel.  “Man-Trap” is also the name of a 1961 movie starring Jeffrey Hunter, the actor who played Pike in “The Cage.”

The title “Man Trap” is multiply ambiguous.  There’s the specifically gendered sense of a sexual trap set by a woman to lure a man, and the broader generic sense of any trap to catch a human being – but this last sense could apply to Buffalo Gal’s attempts to entrap the Enterprise crew, or to the Enterprise crew’s efforts to entrap it (since Buffalo Gal counts as human in the sense of being, or at least appearing, humanoid), or indeed (as noted above) to Kirk’s attempt to imprison Crater himself.

Clearer vision through blu-ray:

In the briefing room from 40:00 on, notice how Dr. Crater is looking at the fake McCoy; even before he tells us he can recognise the Buffalo Gal, it’s clear that he knows.

Less happily:  when Sulu’s plant freaks out it’s a little too obvious that it’s actually a glove with a human hand inside it.

Mirab, his sails unfurled!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Outlined Her Whole Campaign For Her (Where No Man Has Gone Before)

location:  TOS season 3, disc 6 (original cut); TOS season 1, disc 1 (final cut)
airdate:  22 September 1966
strange new worlds:  yes (the radiation barrier, not the planet)
strange new worlds so far:  2
new life:  yes
new life so far: 2
new civilizations:  no 
new civilizations so far:  1 
amokmindedness:  yes
amokmindednesses so far:  2

In Nicomachean Ethics VIII.7, Aristotle raises the question whether we should wish for our friends to become gods – and really, who hasn’t lost a few nights’ sleep over that question?  

The problem is that becoming a god seems like a good thing, and we should wish good things for our friends; but friendship can’t survive if the gap between the erstwhile friends becomes too great, as between human and god, so that friendship would commit us, counterintuitively, to wishing for friendship’s end.  Aristotle’s solution is that our concern is for the friend as the sort of being he is, and so does not properly commit us to wishing apotheosis for our friends; nor, given the loss of human connections that such a transformation would entail, would apotheosis be a genuine benefit to the friend, as he now is:

If a large enough gap in virtue or vice or wealth or anything else should arise ... they will be friends no longer .... This is especially clear in the case of gods, since they exceed others in goods to the greatest possible extent. ... Now in these matters there is no precisely defined line as to how far they will be friends, for when much is removed, friendship endures – but when the separation is great enough, as in the case of a god, it endures no longer.  Whence arises a difficulty:  Is it not the case that friends wish for their friends the greatest of goods, such as being a god?  For in becoming gods they would be deprived of their friends – and thus of goods, since friends are goods.  If, then, it was well said that the friend wishes goods to the friend for the sake of the friend himself, then the latter must remain whatsoever kind of thing he is.  So it is to the friend as being a human that he will wish the greatest goods.

Aristotle further elaborates, in IX.4, that no one should wish to become a god himself because he would not truly survive the change:

For existence is a good to the upright person, and each wishes good things for himself.  And nobody chooses to become someone else even if the person they became would have every good – for as things stand, the god has the good – but rather to be whatever one is.

(Aristotle may seem to contradict this judgment in X.7, when he rejects the advice “to think human, being human, or to think mortal, being mortal,” arguing instead that we should “rather immortalise as far as possible, and do everything to live in accordance with what is supreme in us,” the divine element of intellect.  To explain how Aristotle’s various claims here are to be reconciled would take us too far afield for a Star Trek blog, but see my discussion in section 2 of this.)

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” dramatises Aristotle’s VIII.7 dilemma; it’s the story of a man struggling to maintain his friendship with a friend who is becoming a god. 

Like “The Cage,” “Where No Man Has Gone Before” strives to explore the boundaries of what it means to be human; but where in “The Cage” it is subordination to others’ power that falls outside the limits of the human, in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” it is the subordination of others to one’s own power that does so – just as Aristotle in Politics I.2 counsels us to avoid trying to live as either a beast or a god, a subhuman or a superhuman, since neither is compatible with the distinctively human mode of social cooperation through reasoned discussion.  (See also this.)  True humanity requires the rejection of both slavery and mastery.

Another philosopher worth mentioning here is Spinoza, since the episode brings him up explicitly.  Spinoza teaches that the proper goal of human life is the recognition of one’s own unity with the divine – which sounds like a goal that Gary Mitchell could endorse.  But Spinoza also holds that this goal involves overcoming the influence of the passions, which Mitchell sees no need to do, and that the proper attitude toward the divine is understanding rather than awe and submission, which fits ill with Mitchell’s forcing Kirk to kneel and pray to him.  Little wonder that Mitchell dismisses Spinoza as “childish.”

Star Trek’s second pilot comes in two versions, an original cut and a final cut.  The information on my blu-ray set says that the original cut was discovered only recently, but I’ve owned it on bootleg VHS since 1992.  (I know the date because I bought it during my year at the Policy Center in Bowling Green.)

Among the notable differences between the two versions:

●  In the original cut Kirk tells Spock, while looking past him at female crewmembers, that he might someday enjoy having feelings.

●  In the original cut Gary Mitchell is introduced walking down the hallway and reaching out his hand in a creepy groping gesture toward a passing female crewmember before ogling another; more on this anon.

●  The original cut begins with the following narration, including some information on the Enterprise’s usual duties, plus the first appearance of a famous phrase:

Enterprise log, Captain James Kirk, commanding.  We are leaving that vast cloud of stars and planets which we call our galaxy.  Behind us, Earth, Mars, Venus, even our sun, are specks of dust.  The question:  what is out there in the black void beyond?  Until now our mission has been one of space law regulation, contact with Earth colonies, and investigation of alien life; but now, a new task:  a probe out into where no man has gone before.

Of course that phrase, which is also the episode’s title, has a double meaning here; not just exploring uncharted astronomical territory, but also transcending the limits of the human. 

The question of whether, in the wake of Mitchell’s transformation, the gap between Kirk and himself has increased past the point where the attachment of friendship is still appropriate is part of the episode’s ongoing disagreement between Kirk and Spock.  Here we first learn of Spock’s view that feelings cloud clear reasoning, and of his people’s rejection of emotions (initially presented as failing to have them, rather than repressing them).

Josh Marsfelder interprets the episode as taking Spock’s side against Kirk’s. but I don’t read it that way; it seems to me that in representing the debate between Kirk and Spock over whether to risk the crew out of compassion for an individual (a debate that still echoes in the most recent Star Trek movie), the show neatly avoids taking sides between “logic” and “emotion” – as is further symbolised by the fact that Kirk’s “illogical” method of playing chess can defeat Spock’s.   (To say that the results prove Spock’s approach to Mitchell correct would be to confuse ex ante with ex post justification.) Mitchell, in effect agreeing with Spock, tells Kirk that “command and compassion is a fool's mixture,” but Kirk insists on the value of compassion to the end:  “above all else, a god needs compassion.”

The dispute between Kirk and Spock echoes the ancient disagreement between Aristoteleans and Stoics.  For the Stoics, emotions represent distortions of ethical perception; if they lead us to act in the same way that unhampered reason would recommend, they are supernumerary, whereas if they lead us to act differently, they are pernicious.  Hence the Stoic ideal of apatheia, absence of emotion.  For the Aristoteleans, by contrast, while emotions can lead us astray, they belong to the soul’s rational part and can also play a positive cognitive role, illuminating the moral landscape (for some of the reasons for the Aristotelean position, see this and section 1 of this), and so the ideal is not apatheia but metriopatheia, properly measured emotion.

The characters of Kirk and Spock (Spock especially) are effective dramatisations of the Aristotelean and Stoic positions, respectively.  When Kirk asks “what makes you right and a trained psychiatrist wrong?” Spock replies:  “Because she feels; I don’t:  all I know is logic.”  For Spock, feeling is an impediment to correct perception.  For Kirk, by contrast, a failure to feel for Mitchell would constitute a failure to recognise and acknowledge his relation to his friend:  “we’re talking about Gary.”  But Kirk is not blind to the dangers of excessive emotionalism; when Dehner chides him for listening to Spock’s warnings about Mitchell, Kirk replies that it is his “duty, whether pleasant or unpleasant, to listen to the reports, observations, even speculations, on any subject that might affect the safety of this vessel.”

When I say that the show doesn’t take sides between Kirk and Spock, I don’t mean that it’s neutral or ambiguous on the question of whether the total rejection of emotions is a good thing.  Clearly the show is, rightly, on the side of metriopatheia against apatheia (though apatheia is still treated with respect, again rightly – not so much for rejecting emotion as for being so dedicated to reason as to be willing to reject emotion should that turn out to be what reason requires; and the show never makes us want to see Spock entirely converted to Kirk’s approach, any more than vice versa).  But the show’s preference for metriopatheia is consistent with either Kirk or Spock being right on any particular issue; since Kirk grants that emotions can distort, his commitment to metriopatheia in general doesn’t rule out Spock’s having the correct view of whatever emotional influence is at issue between them at the moment.

Moreover, Spock’s commitment to Vulcan apatheia is not absolute, as he will increasingly come to recognise Kirk’s approach as appropriate for Kirk, even if not for himself.  Kirk’s decision to maroon Mitchell on Delta Vega is his concession to Spock’s perspective; Spock’s final line “I felt for him too” is his concession to Kirk’s.

But the episode actually offers us two different ways of thinking about Mitchell’s transformation.  One narrative strand stresses the contrast between the old and new Mitchell.  According to this strand, Mitchell was a genuinely good guy whose friendship with Kirk was likewise genuine, and he bears no responsibility for his transformation.  This is the strand that dominates when we see the easy camaraderie between Kirk and Mitchell in the elevator; when we hear of Mitchell’s risking his life for Kirk on Dimorus; and when Kirk and Spock agree at the end that Mitchell “didn't ask for what happened to him.”

But the other strand stresses the continuity between the old and new Mitchell.  This strand emerges in the sense we get that Mitchell all along has not been a particularly nice person.  We witness Mitchell’s unlovely side in his demeaning description of Elizabeth Dehner as a “walking freezer unit” merely because she rejects his advances (even though there’s nothing particularly frosty about her response – if anything it’s somewhat flirtatious).  Of course we could chalk this up to Star Trek’s usual sexism, but it’s by no means clear that Mitchell’s attitude is meant to be endorsed; it’s not as though Kirk says it, for example.  (Unfortunately, Dehner later partially endorses Mitchell’s comment by saying, apologetically, that “women professionals do tend to overcompensate” – and would that this were true on the show, as then Yeoman Smith wouldn’t behave so unprofessionally as to need, or allow, handholding from Mitchell as the ship heads into danger.)  But if we combine Mitchell’s freezer unit comment with his groping gesture (in the original cut) and his story about sending a female classmate to derail Kirk’s academic performance, Mitchell comes across as a narcissistic, manipulative asshole from the start, and his ascension to godhood merely involves an intensification of traits he already possessed.

Mitchell invokes the first strand when he tells Kirk that “morals are for men, not gods” – i.e., that his change in behaviour is due to his having transcended human limitations.  But Kirk invokes the second strand when he argues that Mitchell’s apotheosis is dangerous because it removes barriers to “the ugly, savage things we all keep buried” – in other words, it gives free rein to tendencies that are present in Mitchell already.  So is Kirk relieved of his duties of friendship toward Mitchell because Mitchell’s transformation has destroyed the basis of that friendship – or because it has shown that Mitchell was never properly Kirk’s friend? 

There’s a similar ambiguity as to why Dehner is reachable when Mitchell isn’t.  Following the first strand, we could say that she simply had, through no merit of her own, a lower ESP profile from the start, and so was less affected by the galactic barrier and underwent a less complete apotheosis.  Following the second strand, we could say that Kirk’s appeals to compassion reach Dehner and not Mitchell because from the beginning she has a superior character and a less manipulative, dehumanising attitude toward other people.  (A third possibility, given the show’s ethos, is that Dehner is more compassionate because she’s a woman.  A fourth, actually raised by Kirk, is that she sees the dangers of apotheosis more clearly because she’s a psychiatrist.)

Miscellaneous observations:

Spock is the only returning character from “The Cage.”  There’s a new ship’s doctor, not yet McCoy.  This episode introduces Kirk, Scott, and Sulu.  Shatner would have been best known to sf fans for rather un-Kirk-like roles in two classic Twilight Zone episodes, both penned by Richard Matheson (who’ll be writing for Shatner again a few episodes from now).

The first pilot featured a human protagonist imprisoned by beings with superior mental powers; the second pilot features a being with superior mental powers imprisoned by a human protagonist.

There’s a nice bit where Mitchell in sickbay is being monitored on a viewscreen, and he eerily turns and watches the viewers back.  Last time the Talosians were watching Star Trek (as are Kirk and Spock at the beginning of this episode); this time Star Trek is watching us.

The shining-eye effect on Mitchell and Dehner is quite effective – if painful for the actors.

The written information on the viewscreens (crewmembers’ backgrounds, the text of Spinoza’s Ethica) is surprisingly detailed, considering that audiences at the time were in no position to freeze the picture to read any of it.

The paper printouts from “The Cage” are mercifully gone; now they use what are presumably supposed to be microform containers but at least look like hard-cased floppy disks.  Likewise, lasers have given way to phasers.  Warp speed is now called “spacewarp” instead of “timewarp.”  The ship’s computer is referred to as “Mr. Spock’s computer,” a proprietary designation it will soon lose.

The identification of Kirk’s middle initial as “R” will later be ... revisited.

With Spock retconned as a member of an anti-emotional people, the grinning is gone; but he still smiles a bit more than he will later.  Spock also speaks of having a human ancestor rather than a human mother, but we are free to interpret this as simple reticence on his part.

The galactic barrier appears to be confined to the horizontal; why doesn’t the Enterprise try flying over or under it rather than through it?  (Likewise, 26 years later in Star Trek VI, we may similarly wonder why the Excelsior flees horizontally, rather than vertically, from the horizontally-expanding Praxis explosion – and indeed why an explosion in weightless space would expand horizontally, rather than in all directions, in the first place.  The dangers of two-dimensional thinking were briefly highlighted in the Mutara Nebula scene in Star Trek II, only to be forgotten thereafter.)

There’s a clumsy exposition scene where Sulu has to explain the concept of geometric progression to people who would presumably know it.

Mitchell’s description of Kirk as having been a bookworm at the Academy seems (mildly, not radically) inconsistent with later depictions of him.