After all the early instalment weirdness of "The Cage", this one feels immediately and instantly more like the Star Trek we all know.
The uniforms are all different, some of the set trimmings are different, but a lot of it has become instantly recognisable.
It's a much more action orientated take on the concept in, but in my view without losing the strongly philosophical aspect of "The Cage": just masking it beneath a veneer of rough-house action scenes, as per studio feedback on the first pilot beng 'too cerebral'.
I don't think it's really any less
'cerebral' than "The Cage". It just throws those kinds of questions at the viewer in a different way.
Perhaps it's the fact that "The Cage" had already been made, but all concerned behind-the-scenes seem much more confident here, and the unique identity of Star Trek is much more clearly defined.
William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have an instant rapport in their roles as Kirk and Spock. Where the 'Vulcanian' felt like something of a second tier character in "The Cage", here he is immediately elevated to somebody of equal importance to the plot as The Captain. When it comes to the fate of Gary Mitchell, Spock's role is to tell Kirk the uncomfortable-but-necessary truth, even though Kirk doesn't really want to hear it. This is maybe Kirk's most personal episode. We don't see him this raw again very often hence, maybe in "City On The Edge Of Forever" and in a couple of the movies, but seldom elsewhere.
Bones isn't here yet, but 2/3rd's of the series' most important character trio has already fallen easily into place.
"Where No Man Goes Before" is easily a 10/10 in my book.