|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season One: Ep. 1.12 “The Menagerie, Part 2” – (Original air date: Thursday, November 24, 1966)

TrekMenageriePart2

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 2.”

  • This date in history. On this same day in 1966, the Abbey Road sessions that would result in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band began in London. The two compositions that the Beatles worked on were “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” which were later released as a double A-side single and not included on the album itself.
  • The Supremes keep hanging on to the #1 single in the U.S., “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” The Beach Boys are hot on their heels with “Good Vibrations.” Also in the Top-10 are The Monkees at #7, with “Last Train to Clarksville,” and Donovan at #9 with “Mellow Yellow.” Over all, a good week for music.
  • A good week for Star Trek, too. Spock is still being court-martialed for mutiny and for kidnapping Captain Christopher Pike to take him to the forbidden planet Talos IV. The punishment for going to Talos IV? The death penalty.
  • High stakes. As his defense, Spock makes everyone watch the original pilot for Star Trek, “The Cage.” He says the Talosians are beaming it to them, not NBC.
  • The teaser for this week’s episode is a recap of Part 1 of this story. Then we are boldly going the way we always boldly go, with our Shatner monologue.
  • We continue to watch “The Adventures of Captain Pike” on the viewscreen in the makeshift courtroom. Spock comments that the Talosian Keeper has taken control of what they are seeing. I think the Keeper was the Talosian Butt-Head wearing the Mercedes emblem on a chain around his neck.  Keeper.  As in “zookeeper”?
  • Oh, yeah. When we were kids, my friends and I always referred to the big-headed bald Talosians as Butt-Heads because the backs of their heads resembled naked Sitzfleisch. I know, not very mature. In our defense, we were kids.
  • I’m not any better now, though. I still think of them as Butt-Heads.
  • After being kidnapped by the Talosians, Pike wakes up in a cage in some sort of Talosian zoo. More aquarium than cage, really, with its Plexiglas wall that Pike beats ineffectually on. The Butt-Heads communicate using telepathy, and Pike is somehow able to overhear their conversation. They are a condescending, superior bunch of bum-noggins.
  • They have the best VR gaming systems, though. Pike gets to relive a memory from two weeks earlier, an event that took place on Rigel 7. Only this time, the young woman known as Vina is there with him.
  • Pike realizes that this is an illusion created by the derriere-domes, and that he’s still in his aquarium. Back at Spock’s court-martial, thirteen years later, Spock calls this a brilliant deduction. To which I say, “Eh.” Brilliant seems to be an overstatement.
  • Pike and Vina are attacked by a creature called the Kaylar.
  • To my ear, this sounds exactly like K’Ehleyr, the half-Klingon female who bore Worf’s son Alexander, then died in an episode a couple of seasons later.
  • If Worf’s baby mama had been the one fighting Pike, I would have wigged out. This Kaylar, however, is essentially a caveman Viking. Not much different than a Klingon, now that I think about it, but certainly not as sexy as K’Ehleyr.
  • Pike refuses to fight at first, saying he’s not an animal performing for its supper. Vina convinces him that he’ll feel every moment of what happens to him, real or not. So, Pike fights, of course, and wins.
  • The Kaylar is killed when it is impaled on a huge barbed spearhead that, through the miracle of Standards & Practices, doesn’t protrude from his back as it should.
  • Then, wavy visual effects and we’re back in the aquarium. Only this time, Vina is still with Pike. She looks fetching. I get the feeling that the Talosian ass-skulls are treating these two like endangered pandas who refuse to mate.
  • Then the images stop because, thirteen years later, Captain Pike has dozed off. You have to wonder if this happened during focus group testing of “The Cage” as well. Maybe that’s why the pilot was scrapped.
  • Kirk sees the interruption of the movie by the Talosians as a sign that they care for Captain Pike, a deduction which Spock probably thinks is also brilliant. Spock confirms that they do want Pike back. As they would any escaped and endangered panda, I suppose. One-Note Mendez reminds Spock that he’s on trial and is required to answer all questions. Spock says the answers to the questions must wait until they reach Talos IV, when they will see the rest of the presentation.
  • Meanwhile, we need to get on with Act 2 of this episode.
  • Trial reconvened. On screen, Pike and Vina have a scintillating debate about whether or not she is real. Pike trusts nothing he sees, hears or feels, which seems pretty smart to me.
  • Meanwhile, Pike’s crew are trying to blast through the cliffside where Pike disappeared. Seemingly with no success. Gene Roddenberry’s future-wife (also future Nurse Chapel and Lwaxana Troi) is leading this charge as Number One (the proto-Will Riker). The martini-mixing doctor suggests that maybe their failure to succeed is an illusion as well. Now, that is truly brilliant.
  • Pike interrogates Vina about the Talosians. She sings like a canary. The veiny rump-crumpets were forced to live underground because of war, which also decimated the surface of the planet. Underground, over thousands of centuries, they developed their mental powers. This became like a narcotic because dreams became more important than reality, causing them to give up travel, building and creating, even forgetting how to repair the machines left behind by their ancestors. Specimens like Pike are better than theater to the heinie-heads. They create illusions for Pike, then feed off of his emotions. Emotional vampires. Nice.
  • Vina says the Talosians have a whole collection of specimens, descendants of life from all over this part of the galaxy.
  • Pike deduces that this means they had more than one of each animal. He asks Vina where they intend to find a Earth woman. Vina says she’s as real and as human as Pike is. They are like Adam and Eve.
  • There it is. I’ve read that nothing will get a slush pile science-fiction story tossed in the circular file quicker than an allusion to Adam and Eve. And yet, these types of stories seem to be found everywhere.
  • Flashforward thirteen years. Mendez seems disgusted by the fact that Pike was captured as breeding stock. I find myself agreeing with One-Note on this topic.
  • Feeding time at the zoo. Pike interacts with the Talosian Magistrate Keeper, who offers Pike nourishment and punishment, but no after-dinner mint. Pike seems to come to the conclusion that primitive emotions such as murderous rage prevent the Talosians from reading his mind.
  • Then, Pike and Vina are on a picnic date. There’s a horse tethered nearby, and lots of green grass and trees. Pike seems to know the horse, calls him Tango, and happens to have some sugar cubes in his pocket.
  • Pike continues to resist the illusion, calling it a menagerie or a cage. Two good title ideas.
  • The picnic scene isn’t doing the trick, so the Talosians change channels where Pike is lounging in some pleasure dome and Vina is a green-skinned Orion slave girl. Orions would become a recurring feature through all of the Trek series, perhaps best done in the Enterprise episode “Bound.”
  • Kirk’s voiceover says that Pike is beginning to weaken, because who doesn’t have a thing for She-Hulk? Pike gets up from the party and leaves. He’s suddenly in a torchlit rock room and the door he came through disappears. But then Vina the Orion slave girl is there with him.
  • Pike’s crew is going to send a landing party down, but only Number One and a fresh-faced female yeoman are teleported down. The Talosians seem to be offering Pike his choice of women for procreation.
  • Number One says there was a Vina listed on the crashed ship as an adult crewman. She would now be 18 years older (31 years in Kirk’s timeline). Hmm . . .
  • Time passes and Pike isn’t making out with any of the woman. The Keeper, thinking they are all asleep (I guess Pike is keeping violent images in his mind so his thoughts can’t be read), tries to reach into the cell to get the discarded hand phasers the Starfleet women brought with them. Pike pounces on the Talosian and begins to strangle him.
  • The Keeper uses the power of illusion to make himself look like a stuntman in a bad rubber monster suit. Pike isn’t buying it.
  • The Keeper demands to be released or they will destroy Pike’s ship. Vina tells Pike to listen to him because they could do it.
  • Pike deduces that the “lasers” not working is an illusion as well when nothing seems to happen when he fires at the Plexiglas wall. The Keeper reveals that there is a hole in the wall and Pike and the women go through.
  • The presentation stops suddenly, unexpectedly. Spock wants the judges to wait for it to continue but Mendez calls for a vote. Pike, Mendez and, finally, reluctantly, Kirk all vote Spock guilty as charged with mutiny. Dramatic musical sting and then on to our next act. Number Four, I believe.
  • Once we’re in orbit around Talos IV, the presentation starts again. Pike, the Keeper and the women return to the surface of the planet. Number One sets her laser pistol into a forced chamber overload, which will kill them all. Other Talosians arrive in the elevator and confer with the Keeper. It’s decided that humans are too resistant to any form of captivity to be suitable for their purposes and decide to release them all, even though doing so is condemning the Talosians to extinction. I don’t follow the logic, but trust me on this.
  • Oh yeah. Number One stops the overload before they’re all killed.
  • Number One and the yeoman are returned to the Enterprise. Pike stays behind briefly to find out why Vina can’t come with him. She was horribly disfigured in the spaceship crash and the Talosians put her back together wrong. Her true appearance is revealed to Pike. She’s ugly and crippled: That’s why she can’t come with him.
  • The ’60s were a different era. I don’t think this would be acceptable rationale in a current television series.
  • Talos IV is off-limits to humans because such mental abilities as the Talosians possess would ultimately lead to the downfall of humanity as well. Hence, General Order 7. The power of illusion is the worst drug ever.
  • So, Captain Pike is being brought back to Talos IV because he’s now horribly disfigured and crippled. He and Vina are now a suitable match, able to live out the rest of their existence under the illusion that they are both still attractive and whole. Because, sometimes, illusion is preferable to reality.
  • As the presentation is ending, I heard younger Spock say, “All decks prepare for hyperdrive.” I don’t believe a hyperdrive is ever referred to again in Trek.
  • Then it turns out that Commodore Mendez was an illusion as well.
  • Wait. What?
  • Yeah, that’s right. Mendez was never on board the shuttlecraft with Kirk or on the Enterprise, so the court martial never actually took place. The real Commodore Mendez has received all of the same images from Talos IV and suspended General Order 7 for this occasion. Captain Pike elects to return to Talos IV, of course, and our last image is of Pike and Vina going off hand-in-hand down the elevator. Back to the zoo, I suppose.

How can you not like this episode of Star Trek? It’s a classic.

Sure, I mock and I nitpick. That’s what I do. But, I do love this one, Butt-Heads and all. Now, in my later years, I think the Talosians’ turn from villains to allies is a bit abrupt, and their motivation to breed humans in order to save their own species doesn’t make a lot of sense. In fact, since Vina and Pike are both shown to be significantly disabled (and, especially in Vina’s case, much older than she appears), how exactly do they plan to propagate the species? And, since humans aren’t Talosians, how does that help the Keeper and his smooth-pated pals?

I don’t know. Relax. It’s just a show. Entertainment. Illusion, if you will, which is sometimes preferable to reality. Just ask Captain Pike and his ugly girlfriend.

4.5 out of 5 stars from me. Definitely on the All-Time Best Trek list.

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