The Satanic Hero is a fearful one because he would destroy everything to gain Something. He is Orc who sets fire to the world and who tears Urizen from his throne. He doesn’t care that Innocents will die to bring about the new world. Out of this destruction arises Albion, a wiser, better leader who is a man of compassion as well as action.
I guess the BIG QUESTION is: Would Gary Mitchell have evolved into Albion given time; and would the destruction of the galaxy be worth that transformation? Or, is Kirk right to finally bring about Mitchell’s death because his Otherness is not leading to regeneration. Is Mitchell Orc? Or is he Urizen?
“The Literature of Change” by Christopher McKittereck struck a resounding chord in me for a variety of reasons, but most specifically because of McKitterick’s definition of science fiction as being a literature of change rather than of science. We use science fiction as a vehicle to explore who we are as human beings, to test theories, to alter our own perspectives about our lives, society, and culture. We speculate. Think about “Where No Man Has Gone Before” for example. STAR TREK definitely fits our popular conception of science fiction because of its futuristic setting, alien beings, and use of technology. I don’t think this TV show would have gained such popularity however, if it had not also speculated about the human condition, social change, and the effects of science and technology on humanity.
In this particular episode, the characters are faced with the question, “What will you do if you are given absolute power?” Mitchell gives in almost immediately to the alien power he is given, practically throwing away his humanity in exchange for something more. You have to ask yourself why he would be so eager to give up all that he is to become something alien.
The transformation in Dehner is not as swift, nor is it an obvious conclusion that she is eager to give up her humanity for power. From a sociological perspective, this is unusual because in the time that this script was written women were just gaining power and one myth tied to the women’s movement is that minorities would not know how to use the power that they were given and would abuse it. Although Dehner’s fall is inevitable, it is surprising the writers choose to mask her changes while allowing Mitchell to tumble from grace so quickly. The first hint of Dehner’s inner transformation is her response to Kirk’s query about Mitchell’s ability to control key ship’s functions through ESP. She responds by saying, “No one’s been hurt, have they? Don’t you understand? A mutated superior man could also be a wonderful thing. The forerunner of a new and better kind of human being” , and thus reveals her achilles heel – curiousity.
Archetypally, Dehner’s character seems to be following the pattern of Pandora, Eve, or Delilah — all women who are connected to the ideas of temptation and deception. In comparison, Mitchell’s archetypal pattern is that of fallen heroes like Adam, Lucifer, or Dorian Gray, all of whom gave up their positions of Grace for personal gain or knowledge and in so doing became monsters. In fact, Mitchell even says that the majority of the crew view him as a monster. Historically, Elizabeth Dehner is echoing Nietzche’s concept of the Ubermensch in his book, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. Roughly translated as Overman or Above-Human or most commonly as Superman, the literate reader/viewer of Star Trek would naturally make the connection to Nietzche, and from there to a new Garden of Eden story.
The split between human and other is paralleled by Spock’s and Kirk’s responses to the situation. Spock logically assesses the situation and recommends that Kirk either abandon Mitchell on Delta Vega, an isolated planet or that Kirk kill Mitchell right away. Reasoning that Mitchell’s abilities are multiplying incrementally, Spock hypothesizes that sooner rather than later the helmsman will view the crew as little more than white mice for his experiments. With this future in mind, Spock recommends that sacrificing the one for the many is a viable solution. Kirk, on the other hand, calls for a more compassionate solution and cannot divest himself of his human emotion of “love” for his crew member and former student. Kirk chooses a path taken by many other captains and refuses to leave a man behind, unless the cost to his ship and crew is irrefutable. Further revelation of Mitchell’s deterioration comes when he mocks Kirk’s decision to try and save him, telling Kirk that “command and compassion is a fool’s mixture”.
In the end, however, compassion is what saves the day. Dehner listens to Kirk’s plea to hold onto her human self long enough to defeat the monster that Mitchell has become. What makes her listen to Kirk? Is it the psychiatrist, who has witnessed the nightmares of humanity? Is it the woman who feels for those who are weaker than herself? Is it the “mother” who will fight to the death to protect her children? Nevertheless, without Kirk’s influence, her response would not have been the same as she had already admitted that, “Earth is really unimportant. Before long, we’ll be where it would have taken mankind millions of years of learning to reach. “
Christopher McKitterick ends his article with the line, “Science fiction is a discussion about what it means to be human in a changing world, and everyone is invited. Welcome to the conversation”, which inevitably brings to mind many late night conversations with fellow Trekkies as we dissected each episode. If I were to identify with a character on the Enterprise which character would I be, is a question that I’ve asked myself more than once. I remember watching, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, as a teenager in the 1970’s and I must admit my sympathies lay with Gary Mitchell. There was something compelling about the acquisition of power, especially the power to control things with your mind. His alpha male persona, obvious connection to a male hierarchy, and his good looks swayed my sympathies, I’m afraid, and I spent many an hour re-writing the ending to the episode. To my credit, however, my new ending did include a complete character transformation in the helmsman turned god. Heart of Darkness comes to mine as I ruminate upon the quandary of the characters in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Literally, the entire crew journeys each week into the heart of darkness and is tested like the Knights of Arthur’s Round Table for courage, loyalty, faith, love, honour, truth, generosity and goodness. Star Trek explores the chivalric code in modern terms, sometimes upholding the values and sometimes debunking them when they become too rigid and the “knights” lose sight of their purpose for following the code. I feel for Kirk in his position as captain, simply because the final decision regarding Mitchell’s fate is his alone to make. He can take Spock’s counsel, and listen to Dehner’s as well but in the end Kirk is the only one who can decide if Mitchell must be saved, killed or exiled. In the same way that King Arthur must lead with strength and judge with compassion, so too must Kirk.
This role of wise king can be compared to the Freudian theory of Id, Ego, Super Ego. When all three constructs work together then their roles in the psyche are balanced. For example, when Mitchell is performing his normal role as helmsman, and Spock is doing his job as Science Officer then Kirk is free to perform his duties as captain. The routine of the Enterprise runs smoothly. However, when one of the constructs is given too much power, as happens when Mitchell’s ESP capabilities are boosted then chaos erupts. Spock, the Super Ego, counsels dire measures to contain or eradicate the out of control Id (Mitchell). Kirk (Ego) must balance Spock’s advice against his personal relationship with Mitchell. Only when it is obvious that there is an irreparable imbalance can Kirk (or the Ego) act to destroy the out of balance Id. If the story were to end at this point, however, Kirk would never regain his position as wise king or balanced Ego. The Super Ego, Ego, Id relationship must be restored in some way. This is accomplished when Kirk makes a notation in the ship’s log that Mitchell died during the performance of his duty, because he didn’t ask for what happened to him. Spock takes on the role of Id when he agrees with Kirk by saying, “I felt for him too”.
So … what do I personally learn from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”? Maybe that power is a force that must be respected at all times, and that there is a strong need for balance in our approach to life. Thought becomes action; action creates thought. If I consider my need to balance my spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical needs then I am more likely to make wise decisions rather than spontaneous reactions to random stimuli. When I ignore the signs of one sphere being out of balance, then resentment will build and arguements/fights/alienation will occur. Have I experienced a Spock-like desire to execute an errant thought or irrational act. Yes. At times, this decision was the right one, and like Kirk I managed to save my “ship” by sacrificing the out of balance construct.
Thoughts become actions.
Actions become thoughts.