A medical study into his family history found that several members of his immediate family, and distant ancestors going back six generations on his mother's side, had esper-oriented abilities. One of his ancestors had an interest in "spiritual readings." His esper rating (091), aperception quotient (20/104), Duke-Heidelburg quotient (261), and general knowledge quotient (679532-112) were well above average in all categories.
Mitchell was an Academy friend of James T. Kirk, stemming back to the time then-lieutenant Kirk was serving as an instructor and Mitchell was a first-year cadet. That year, Mitchell aimed a "little blonde lab technician" towards Kirk – as a means to distract his rigid instructor – and, in turn, Kirk almost married her.
Later in their careers, Mitchell and Kirk encountered sentient rodent creatures on Dimorus that threw poisoned darts. Mitchell took one of the darts meant for Kirk and almost died from it.
They also spent a wild shore leave together on Deneb IV. While on that planet, Mitchell showed a marked ability in sensing telepathic communication used by inhabitants of the planet. On at least three cases, Mitchell carried on long telepathic conversations with select Deneb IV natives and scored 80% or higher on comprehension.
Encounter with galactic barrier
In 2265, he was a lieutenant commander assigned as the helmsman aboard the USS Enterprise, by request of Captain Kirk. That year, the Enterprise discovered the flight recorder of the SS Valiant, a vessel missing for almost two hundred years. Examining it, and exploring the Valiant's last known position, the Enterprise penetrated the galactic barrier, an event that proved disastrous for Mitchell, and nearly so for the rest of the crew.
Mitchell was briefly stunned by direct contact with the strange energies of the barrier, but he recovered quickly. As his recovery continued, however, he began to display a widening array of psionic abilities, including but probably not limited to:
- Conscious regulation of autonomic reflexes
- Extrasensory perception of various kinds, including clairvoyance, clairaudience, and clairoratory
- The ability to control energy, including both its directed use as a weapon against other organisms, and an invulnerability to phaser weapons
- The ability to manipulate matter, including the instant materialization and dematerialization of both organisms and objects
These abilities, or perhaps the energy itself, began to fundamentally alter Mitchell's personality; he became progressively more emotionally distant, cruel, ruthless, and convinced of his own magnificence. Worse, with the passage of time his abilities continued to grow stronger at an exponential rate. They were accompanied by only two physical manifestations: a curious silver light or glimmer that appeared in Mitchell's eyes, and a later accelerated graying of his hair, beginning at the temples and sideburns.
Damaged by the galactic barrier, the Enterprise limped to Delta Vega. By the time they reached that planet, Kirk was convinced that Mitchell was dangerous, and attempted to maroon him there. But before repairs were complete, Mitchell had grown too strong to be confined. He killed Lee Kelso and left Kirk and Spock stunned, and escaped into the hills around the lithium cracking station, taking another member of the crew, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, with him.
Recovering, Kirk took a phaser rifle and set out in pursuit. He left orders for Spock; if Kirk had not contacted the ship in twelve hours, Spock was to leave with the Enterprise and recommend Delta Vega be subjected to a lethal concentration of neutron radiation.
Mitchell, meanwhile, was using his power to establish a pleasant environment for himself, materializing trees and other objects. Sensing Kirk's approach, he sent Dr. Dehner to meet Kirk, where Kirk discovered that Dehner had undergone the same transformation. It took a little longer for her, perhaps because she didn't have quite as high an esper rating as Mitchell. Kirk attempted to appeal to her remaining humanity, and when this seemed to be working, a disappointed Mitchell appeared. Mitchell, at least in his own mind, had already transcended mere humanity.
Dr. Dehner had enough Humanity left to be appalled at Mitchell's actions, and she used her new powers to attack him. At the cost of her own life, she weakened Mitchell long enough for Kirk to overpower him. Kirk knocked Mitchell into a hole Mitchell had prepared (ironically) as Kirk's grave. Using a phaser, Kirk collapsed a hillside on top of Mitchell, burying him beneath tons of rock and ending his threat forever.
|Helmsmen of the starships Enterprise|
|Enterprise NX-01:||Mayweather • Hutchison|
|USS Enterprise:||DePaul • Hadley • Hansen • Kyle • Leslie • Mitchell • Number One • Rahda • Spinelli • H. Sulu • Uhura • Walking Bear|
|USS Enterprise-A:||H. Sulu • Valeris|
|USS Enterprise-B:||D. Sulu|
|USS Enterprise-C:||Castillo • Fredericks|
|ISS Enterprise (NCC-1701):||H. Sulu|
|USS Enterprise (alternate reality):||McKenna • H. Sulu|
Much consideration went into the character of Gary Mitchell and his progression to godly status. For instance, in a four-page memo of notes that director James Goldstone wrote about the second draft script of "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Goldstone raised a point about Mitchell's development that the director described as "major," going on to say, "The purpose is dramatic, to create a subtext... My proposal is that from the time Gary suffers the first realization of what is happening to him... once he begins to give in to it, to enjoy it, even, he moves from his human status toward the status of a god within all and any of the criteria we place on such deities in our Christian-Judaic culture. Specifically, I propose that he become oracular, in the sense of Moses or even Cotton Mather. I propose he do this in his stature, his way of using his hands and arms and eyes, silver or normal, his attitude as it applies to the script, aside from those specific stage directions, perhaps physical actions, that pertain to the dialogue. I don't mean to suggest that it become so stylized as to become a symbol rather than a human being. I suggest it happen on a more symbolic level. This can be done by starting him more on the flip, swinging level of articulation so that we don't even notice at one moment that this drops, but it does, on its way to becoming more formal, then more laden with import, more self-declarative, and finally downright miraculous." (The Star Trek Interview Book, pp. 108-109)
In the "final revised draft" script of "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Gary Mitchell, prior to his transformation, is characterized as, "about thirty, extremely likeable, and pleasant type [....] He is obviously well known too and liked [....] It's easy to like Mitchell." After being affected by the galactic barrier, he remarks, "I sort of... lean on people I like," in regards to the incident with the "little blonde lab technician" and Kirk, though this line of dialogue is included only in the script and is not present in the episode's final version. Another ultimately-unused line of dialogue has Mitchell saying about his empathic ability, while confined to sickbay, "I can catch only flashes so far -- mostly strong thoughts, like fear." In yet more dialogue that was scripted but did not make it into the episode, Mitchell promises Elizabeth Dehner, "Soon we will fully control our bodies. We'll never grow old."
A facet of the Gary Mitchell character that was scripted but never made it to screen was a habit of saying "five-oh"; Mitchell uses this phrase twice in scripted dialogue that is not in the final edit. Also, Mitchell's relationship with Kirk and Spock was changed to being less focused on Spock.
One script description of Gary Mitchell's mutated look specifies that makeup was to be used to show that "his skin is now shiny smooth, with almost a metallic solidity."
Samuel A. Peeples, the writer of "Where No Man Has Gone Before", believed that an all-powerful man such as Gary Mitchell would not have to resort to violence and, for this reason, Peeples was opposed to the addition of Mitchell's fight scene against Kirk. The reason the scene remained was that Gene Roddenberry was insistent on its inclusion. (The Star Trek Interview Book, p. 119)
Gary Mitchell was mostly played by actor Gary Lockwood. James Goldstone recalled how Lockwood was cast in the part; "I had a very good relationship with Gary, as did Gene [Roddenberry], and when we did the pilot Gary was our unanimous choice because we wanted that almost animalistic, very physical person." (The Star Trek Interview Book, p. 105) For some shots of the climactic battle against Kirk, Mitchell was represented by stuntman Hal Needham, who was hired by Robert Justman. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 75)
Because Gary Lockwood was extremely busy, Gene Roddenberry at first had to convince him to take the role of Gary Mitchell. The earliest impressions that Lockwood had of the character were colored by a joke that Roddenberry made about "Where No Man Has Gone Before". "He said, 'In it, you'll play a character who becomes sort of God,' and then, he paused and said, 'something, of course, you always thought you were,'" recounted the actor. With a chuckle, he concluded, "I thought that was funny." (Starfleet Access for "Where No Man Has Gone Before", TOS Season 1 Blu-ray special features) Lockwood also remarked, "People always thought I was egotistical, so when I got to play that part, many people laughed and said, 'He has finally found his niche.' That has been a joke among my friends." (Starlog issue #124, p. 44)
In his approach to the character of Gary Mitchell, Gary Lockwood tried (as best he could) to adapt his mindset to that of Mitchell, rather than attempting to make the role fit himself, and endeavored to avoid overemphasizing the character's behavior. He found, however, that playing the part was not easy. "Gary Mitchell was a tough character to reach," Lockwood mused, "because there's no prototype character to look at. So, you create a mental image and try to fill that slot. All I tried to do was downplay the mechanics and not be too dramatic [....] The idea was to go to the character, and not make the character comfortable to me. I'm not Gary Mitchell." (Starlog issue #124, p. 44)
The silver contact lenses worn by Gary Lockwood were extremely primitive. They caused the actor severe pain if left in for more than a few minutes, and when worn, Lockwood could only see through a tiny pinhole opening. Robert Justman later commented, "In order to have any vision at all, Gary had to raise his chin and look down his nose at the other actor in the shot. Happily, this gave him an unearthly appearance that worked well for his character and even helped his godlike progression." (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 80-81) Judith Reeves-Stevens also remarked she was sure that Lockwood tilting his head back, due to having to incorporate the presence of the contact lenses in his performance, was "part of him showing an arrogance, in the character." (Starfleet Access for "Where No Man Has Gone Before", TOS Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
Another element of Gary Mitchell's gradual mutation is that his hair becomes progressively grayer, throughout the episode. Dave Rossi, VFX Line Producer for Remastered TOS, commented that, by giving Mitchell this facet of his appearance, the production staff intended "to use [his abilities] as a drain on his physical body." (Starfleet Access for "Where No Man Has Gone Before", TOS Season 1 Blu-ray special features)
The biographical records that Spock researches indicated that Mitchell's birth city, Eldman, was listed in a state, colony or province starting with "New", but his record was cropped and didn't show the complete name, the nation, or even the planet of his birth. It also lists his age as "23" and his height as "5' 9", but Dr. Dehner's record shows two more letters in the state of "Newst..." which could be the same location. It is unknown if the medical record shown was a recent one or from Mitchell's last examination, but it is later stated that he had known Kirk for 15 years.
The back story of how Kirk and Mitchell met is filled in the three part novel My Brother's Keeper. It explains how they met, Kirk's emotional turmoil at killing his best friend, as well as explaining technical goofs. The "R" for Kirk's middle name is explained as an in joke, in which Kirk had said his middle name was "Racquetball."
In the Q-Zone novels, it was discovered that the Q had set up the galactic barrier to prevent a being called 0 from re-entering the Milky Way Galaxy. Gary Mitchell and Dehner were infected with a "piece" of 0 and that is the origin of their powers.
In Q-Squared, it was revealed that the galactic barrier had trapped the essence of Q after a confrontation with Trelane had scattered him across both time and space. Q failed in an attempt to escape the barrier by attaching himself to a SS Valiant crewmember, but succeeded two hundred years later by attaching himself to Mitchell and Dehner. The same novel also explains the James R. Kirk inconsistency, by placing the events of that episode in a parallel universe ("Track A", as opposed to the normal Trek universe's "Track B") where Kirk has a different middle name.
The Gary Mitchell from the alternate reality created by Nero appears in the first two issues of the IDW Star Trek series; having been assigned to the Enterprise on Kirk's request, Mitchell again succumbs to the barrier's influence – a mind-meld performed by Spock confirms that there is no intelligence in Mitchell after the barrier takes over – but during the confrontation on Delta Vega, while Mitchell is tormenting Kirk, he is defeated when Spock sneaks up on the occupied Mitchell and delivers a Vulcan nerve pinch, incapacitating Mitchell long enough for his real self to take over and ask Kirk to kill him. Mitchell is then "killed" by a phaser blast. His body put into a torpedo tube and blasted into space a la Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Enterprise leaves Delta Vega's orbit as Mitchell's torpedo tube is left floating in space at the conclusion of this issue.