|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season One: Ep. 1.11 “The Menagerie, Part 1” – (Original air date: Thursday, November 17, 1966)



Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “The Menagerie, Part 1.”

  • Any nerd worth his weight in Soylent Green knows that this was the original Star Trek pilot repurposed into a two-part episode of the original series. There are plenty of things that feel out of place in this episode, but most can be explained away by the framing device and footage from a pilot that didn’t quite do the job.
  • On this day in 1966, Daisy Fuentes and Sophie Marceau were both born.  How’s that make you feel?  Also the #1 song in the USA was The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On.”
  • The U.S.S. Enterprise received a subspace message asking them to divert to Starbase 11 immediately. The starbase didn’t send the message. But, the message is purported to be from the former commander of the Enterprise, Captain Christopher Pike.
  • It seems that is improbable. Pike is confined to a wheelchair device, his scarred head and shoulders sticking out of a box while he can communicate only through flashing lights.
  • Pike was on an inspection tour of an old Class J starship when one of the baffle plates ruptured. Pike was exposed to a lot of delta rays.
  • I don’t know what that means either.
  • The upshot of it is that Pike is now in a weird box and can communicate only through flashing lights. One flash for “yes,” and two flashes for “no.”
  • Spock served with Pike for 11 years, 4 months, 5 days.
  • Spock has apparently arranged all of this against Captain Pike’s wishes. He has plans to take the disabled Starfleet officer somewhere. He says it will be treachery and mutiny.
  • Great teaser. And wonderful, memorable framing device.
  • William Shatner goes through his final-frontiering monologue and we get the Supermarket Sweep music.
  • A brief aside: Even though I didn’t know this two-parter was a repurposed version of the original pilot “The Cage” when I was a kid, I knew it was something special. The production values and special effects look much more elaborate on-screen, and it plays more as a science-fiction movie than an episode of television. Plus, the framing device of Spock willing to commit treason to help out his old captain was engaging.
  • The one thing I could never buy, even as a kid, was that our Captain-in-the-Box was the same Christopher Pike as the one played by Jeffrey Hunter, who had once been a blue-eyed Jesus in the movie King of Kings. I realize he’s supposed to have been disfigured by his accident, but the man in the box looks more like Andy Warhol.
  • The commander of Starbase 11 is Commodore Jose Mendez. In Mendez’s office, he and Kirk argue about whether anyone could have summoned the Enterprise from the base. Mendez says no one did and finds it suspicious that Mr. Spock, who used to serve with Captain Pike, was the only one who heard the message. The computer “tapes” seem to back up Mendez’s assumptions. Kirk says none of this makes sense. He would have granted Spock shore leave if he wanted to come see Pike.
  • Meanwhile, we see Spock sneaking into the computer center to create a voice transmission to the ship. He uses the Vulcan Nerve Pinch to take out one of the Starbase crewmen, and, soon after, the chief of the computer center, who discovers Spock as he’s transmitting false voice commands to the Enterprise authorizing secret orders.
  • Spock tells the helmsman, Lieutenant Hansen—some guy I’ve never seen before who obviously isn’t Sulu—that the computers will handle the helm on this mission and that they are not to discuss these orders with ship or starbase personnel.
  • Spock seems to be in full-on Benedict Arnold mode. I remember being a bit stressed out by Spock’s seemingly easy betrayal of his friends when I was a child.
  • Kirk and McCoy watch Pike on a monitor for a while, continually flashing out his luminal code for “No.” McCoy mentions that Pike could conceivably live as long as the rest of them, and he condemns the fact that science can tap into every organ but the human brain. Pike can think, hope, love and dream the same as any man, but he can’t reach out and no one can reach in. Blast medicine anyway.
  • McCoy seems to have an antagonistic relationship with his profession.
  • Kirk begins to have his doubts about Spock. McCoy says that, as a Vulcan, Spock is incapable of lying.
  • Is this true? Is that canonical? It seems I’ve heard several Vulcans tell bald-faced lies over the years. Even if you can chalk up Spock’s occasional falsehoods to his half-human side (humans lie all of the time), that doesn’t explain why the Vulcans on Enterprise seemed to have little problem lying when necessary. And, on Voyager, Tuvok was undercover with the Maquis at the beginning of the series, which meant he had to lie convincingly all of the time. There are countless other examples across all of the series and movies. It seems that “Vulcans can’t lie” is merely a racist stereotype, such as “Asians can’t drive” which Sulu ably disproves by being a helmsman. Except in this episode, apparently.
  • I like the fact that McCoy is defending Spock, even if it is based on a racist assumption. Even if, as is the case, Spock is genuinely guilty.
  • McCoy is summoned to Transporter Control to return to the ship for some vague medical emergency.
  • In the next scene, Commodore Mendez hands Kirk a report on the planet Talos IV, which is marked “For Eyes of Starfleet Command Only.” Mendez says he’s certifying that he ordered Kirk to read it. He asks what Kirk knows about Talos IV.
  • What every ship captain knows, of course. General Order No. 7: No vessel under any condition, emergency or otherwise, is to visit Talos IV. Disobeying General Order No. 7 is the only death penalty left on the books. Only Fleet Command knows why. But we do know that the only ship to visit Talos IV was Enterprise, commanded by Captain Christopher Pike, with a half-Vulcan science officer named Spock.
  • As an adult, I’m questioning why Mendez decided to show this to Kirk at all. This is only moments before Spock abducts Pike and makes a beeline for Talos IV, so this isn’t his motivation, unless Mendez is a psychic. This is a premature exposition dump in an otherwise beautifully scripted episode. It would have made more sense if Mendez had brought out this “Top Secret” report after Spock’s treachery was revealed.
  • Which it is, right at the end of this same scene. Captain Pike disappears from his quarters and the Enterprise immediately warps out of orbit without her captain. Guess where the ship is heading?
  • Spock lies to everyone and takes command of the ship. He even presents McCoy with a “recording” of Kirk ordering him not to ask questions of Captain Pike.
  • Soon, Lt. Hansen reports that they are being followed by a starbase shuttlecraft. I always thought that “Galileo Seven” would be the first appearance of a shuttlecraft, but here we are. Kirk and Mendez are on board the shuttle.
  • When Spock determines that the shuttle has passed the Point of No Return and no longer has the fuel to return to Starbase 11, he executes taped computer instructions and gives orders to the transporter crew to beam Captain Kirk aboard. Then he puts Lt. Hansen in operational command and turns himself over to Dr. McCoy to be arrested for mutiny. Security comes and takes Spock away.
  • Mr. Scott is operating the transporter again. Since he’s third in command, I’m not sure why command of the ship was given to Hansen.
  • When Kirk and Mendez get on board they discover that they cannot override the computer, which is still taking them to Talos IV. Spock rigged it so that the computer couldn’t be disengaged without making life support inoperable.
  • A preliminary hearing is held against Spock. Since three command officers are required to conduct the hearing, Captain Christopher Pike becomes one of the judges.
  • Mendez asks the importance of taking Pike to Talos IV, which allows Spock to present video evidence. This evidence is footage from the original pilot episode starring Jeffrey Hunter.
  • Kirk points out that no ship has video records this detailed. Spock declines to point out the source of the video at this time.
  • This is supposed to be 13 years ago. Spock is there, and so is Nurse Chapel/Lwaxana Troi playing yet a third character, the first “Number One.”
  • The bridge crew of the Enterprise is less diverse that it would become in Kirk’s time.
  • Pike goes to his quarters, where he’s visited by the ship’s doctor, who mixes him a martini. Pike is tired of being in charge of 203 people and making all the life-and-death decisions. He’s at the point of resigning his commission. He discusses this with the doctor.
  • Spock from 13 years ago finds out that there are crash survivors on Talos IV. Captain Pike orders their course set for Talos, warp factor 7.
  • Commodore Mendez, in present time, stops the video presentation. He tells Spock he admires his technical prowess and imagination, but this is a court of Space Law not theater. Spock, who is acting as his own counsel, has Captain Pike confirm, by flashing his light, that they are seeing the actual events of 13 years ago.
  • Mendez votes to stop the proceedings, but he’s outvoted by Kirk and Pike, who want the presentation to continue.
  • Now . . . back to our episode within an episode.
  • Leaving Number One in command, Pike beams down with a landing party of six. They all dress in gray warmup suits.
  • The surface of Talos IV looks like most of the settings on this show. Like a soundstage dressed with a lot of Styrofoam rocks.
  • They come across a humming plant with bright blue leaves that makes Spock grin like a fool.
  • Then they discover a makeshift camp that seems to be formed of ship crash survivors, all of whom seem to be older white men except for the young and beautiful Vina.
  • Now this is getting seriously meta here, but three aliens with huge, bald and veiny heads are also watching this show-within-a-show. They don’t speak aloud but seem to be communicating with each other.
  • The doctor pronounces the health of the survivors as being almost too good. Vina takes Pike to show him their “secret.” Vina and the other survivors vanish in thin air while two of the big-headed aliens come out from a door in the side of the mountain and kidnap Captain Pike.
  • The landing party uses their phasers to attempt to get through the doors, but cannot.
  • Mr. Spock reports to Number One that there are no crash survivors on the planet. It was some kind of trap. And, oh, the captain has been captured by aliens.
  • The transmission stops again. After Uhura interrupts to tell Commodore Mendez that the ship is receiving transmissions from Talos IV in violation of Starfleet General Orders, Spock admits that the video presentation they’ve been watching is a transmission from Talos IV. Starfleet Command is ordering Mendez to relieve Captain Kirk of duty and assume command of the Enterprise.
  • Mendez tells Spock that he has deliberately invited the death penalty and has finished not just himself but his captain as well since Kirk is responsible for everything that occurs on the ship. He orders Spock to return the vessel to manual control.
  • Spock respectfully declines.
  • Mendez calls for a recess. When they are alone, Kirk asks Spock if he’s lost his mind. Spock asks Kirk not to stop him or let Mendez stop him. They must see the rest of the transmission.
  • Kirk orders the security guard to lock Spock up.
  • To be continued . . .

I had forgotten that there was so little of the actual pilot in the first half of this episode. We’ll see more of “The Cage” in Part 2. This one holds up pretty well, both in my memory and on the screen for this viewing, and the framing device of Spock’s mutiny raises the stakes to genuine life-and-death. Very well done.

Of course “The Menagerie” is going on my All-Time Best Trek list. It’s 4.5 out of 5 stars for me.

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