Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Menagerie"

***

Air dates: 11/17/1966 and 11/24/1966
Written by Gene Roddenberry. Part I directed by Marc Daniels. Part II directed by Robert Butler

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The original unaired Trek pilot, "The Cage," becomes the subject of the series' only two-part episode when Spock commandeers the Enterprise to take Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter)—the former captain of the Enterprise, who has been paralyzed in a recent accident—to the off-limits planet Talos IV. To reach there would invoke the only death penalty still on record.While en route, Spock undergoes a court martial held by Kirk and a Starfleet Commodore. Part of Spock's testimony is the story of Pike's original visit to Talos IV 13 years earlier. The testimony is broadcast from the Talosians themselves.

Although the episode was designed to save money, "The Cage" is nevertheless a Trek adventure worth unearthing. Although coming across as even more dated than an average TOS episode, it benefits from an ability to say something about a human inner struggle of mind over matter. The device used to tell this story is clever, if a little forced. Spock's theft of the Enterprise was nicely executed, and Kirk's decision to chase the Enterprise in a shuttle (hedging his bets that Spock would have to turn around to rescue Kirk before his shuttle runs out of fuel) also demonstrates ingenuity.

The shifting back and forth between "The Cage" footage and the new footage is sometimes awkward and is accompanied with rather weak explanations, but the suspense factor (What happened on Talos, and why are we going back there?) allows us to forgive all. The ending works pretty well too ... but I still wonder why Pike was so adamant on not going to Talos IV from the outset.

Previous episode: The Corbomite Maneuver
Next episode: The Conscience of the King

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11 comments on this review

Garrison - Thu, Jun 5, 2008 - 5:14am (USA Central)
As for The Menagerie, I always felt Pike didn't want to go to Talos at the beginning of the episode because he didn't want Spock to risk facing the death penalty.
Nic - Mon, Dec 7, 2009 - 9:03pm (USA Central)
"The Cage" set a high standard for the portrayal of women on television in 1964. It's just too bad that the series proper had to revert back to girls in skirts that scream "Captain help!" and dream of being princesses. I wonder if the modern Treks will seem similarly dated in 30 years.
Jeff - Thu, Jan 14, 2010 - 8:23am (USA Central)
In regards to "The Menagerie" I've always felt that Pike initially signals "no" to Spock, because he doesn't want to see Spock in any trouble. I just watched the episode again last night and one new thing that struck me was the look on Pike's face near the end of the episode, when he is looking once again at the image of Vina and realizes he does have a chance to "live" a normal life again even if only in fantasy. One could argue that Pike's facial expression never changes throughout the episode, but I think it's all done with the eyes. I saw longing and hope for the first time.

My mom often wonders why I'm constantly rewatching ST episodes. There are a lot of reasons, but one big one is that on occasion I'll notice something or hear something which I hadn't the first time around (or 2nd, etc.) and the episode or film will mean something a little different the next time around.
DC - Sat, Aug 6, 2011 - 1:00am (USA Central)
Regarding "The Menagerie" having a framing device for the clips that is "a little forced:" A little? It's incredibly forced. For one thing the legal proceedings make no sense (Spock pleads guilty, then gives testimony? Then is found guilty by the panel but still gets to present evidence? Trespassing is punishable by death, and is the only death penalty still on the books? WTF?). It's so ridiculous that the only reason to watch is to see how it ends, and one of the episode's strengths is how it weaves in the ending from "The Cage" to show Pike's fate.

If you haven't seen Futurama's "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" it's highly recommended. Being more familiar with the movies and only seeing the episodes occasionally when I first saw it, I got all the series-wide parodies, but it has some really spot-on parody of "The Menagerie" and "The Squire of Gothos" (which you're way too harsh on in my opinion, that's a 3-star for me if only because Trelane is a fantastic character fantastically acted) in particular. Not just the Pike wheelchair reference, but Zap Branigan's line that trespassing is punishable by "four consecutive death sentences" is even more hilarious now that I've seen "The Menagerie."
Strider - Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - 10:04am (USA Central)
I watched both parts of this yesterday, but I'd already seen The Cage, as well. I thought, and think, that The Cage is boring. What compels me is the connection between the Big 3--Kirk won't even entertain the notion that Spock might have made a mistake about receiving a message from Starbase 11, much less that he lied about it. Even when he starts to doubt, what he asks McCoy is, "Could this have anything to do with Spock," not "Do you think Spock lied to us?" And McCoy is vociferous in his defense of Spock.

Even through the court martial, Kirk keeps insisting on hearing more of the story from Spock, even though Spock's guilt is well-established and the death sentence has been passed (by Kirk!). Kirk still trusts Spock, even though Spock has lied to him and betrayed him in the worst way. Kirk knows there has to be more to the story and trusts Spock when he says it will unfold.

In the end, Kirk tells Spock, "You could have come to me," and Spock replies, "And risk you facing the death penalty, too?" All Spock has done has been for the purpose of honoring his former captain and protecting his current one--all Spock EVER does is to protect his current captain. Those elements of the episode make this a stand-out for me, even if I fast-forwarded through the Cage footage.
Paul - Tue, Oct 9, 2012 - 5:11pm (USA Central)
This one is a classic, but it would be an all-time great if only there were a few less goofy things.

1) TOS was always bad about this time and speed, but how did a shuttle with Kirk and Mendez catch up with the Federation flagship?

2) If a shuttle was that fast, why didn't Spock just steal a shuttle?

3) How did the Talosians project Mendez all the way on Starbase 11? Was there ever a real Mendez?
Jay - Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
Hard to believe the Talosians couldn't repair Vina outright. Actually, a trip through the transporter with her pre-injury pattern should restore her.
Patrick - Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - 5:21pm (USA Central)
I adore this episode (I'm counting parts 1 and 2 and The Cage as one long story). What's so awesome about it, is that it tackles concepts about the nature of reality and illusion 33 years before "The Matrix" blew anyones mind.
Moonie - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 6:03am (USA Central)
I agree with Patrick above. The Menagerie blew my mind. My favorite episode so far. Yes the way the old footage was inserted into the story, is awkward and the explanation weak, but the whole thing makes for one hell of a great story and THAT is what I love about Star Trek. Honestly I don't care much for technical or scientific plausibility, as long as the story is good I am perfectly willing to suspend disbelief.

(And I loved the fact that we had a capable, strong female First Officer in The Cage. Unfortunately TPTB made a few steps backwards after that.)
William - Mon, Sep 8, 2014 - 11:12pm (USA Central)
I liked "The Menagerie" a lot. It's not "City" good, but it's close.

I always felt like this was alien race worth resurrecting on one of the subsequent series. They were fascinating, as Spock would say.

I wonder if there was ever any thoughts of doing that for Next Generation or DS9 or Enterprise?
Maximillian - Sun, Sep 28, 2014 - 5:33pm (USA Central)
"when he is looking once again at the image of Vina and realizes he does have a chance to "live" a normal life again"

I wonder also that Pike had fallen in love with Vena, and part of the reaction was accordingly.
(Susan Oliver was striking btw).

I would have made it far more romantic, and touching, where Kirk asks "Chris, do you want to go there ?"

Instead, "Chris, do you want go there, and be with her ?"

The eternal love of a man for a woman, is dealt
directly from God.

I think they just missed the boat there.

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