Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Menagerie"

3 stars

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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88 comments on this post

Thu, Jun 5, 2008, 5:14am (UTC -6)
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.
Mon, Dec 7, 2009, 9:03pm (UTC -6)
"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.
Thu, Jan 14, 2010, 8:23am (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Aug 6, 2011, 1:00am (UTC -6)
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."
Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 10:04am (UTC -6)
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.
Tue, Oct 9, 2012, 5:11pm (UTC -6)
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?
Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
Hard to believe the Talosians couldn't repair Vina outright. Actually, a trip through the transporter with her pre-injury pattern should restore her.
Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 5:21pm (UTC -6)
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.
Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 6:03am (UTC -6)
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.)
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 11:12pm (UTC -6)
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?
Sun, Sep 28, 2014, 5:33pm (UTC -6)
"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.
Thu, Apr 14, 2016, 11:46am (UTC -6)
In 1984, I had a job that was six minutes walking time from my apartment. TOS came on at 5, so I would walk home and turn it on, and always miss the intros. This was back when TVs mostly had dials you had to turn and antennas that had to be adjusted to catch the programs. It was a bummer if it was raining, because no amount of fiddling would make the Star Trek channel come in then, lol.

What I think many of you are forgetting is that "The Cage" was unknown until 1988. I don't think using the old footage was really a money-saving effort, but rather that Gene wanted to use the excellent pilot episode in some way. It deserved to be seen, and this was the only way it could be viewed. Oh, how I wish the network had gone for that pilot--I LOVED Majel's "Number One."

If you view this while blocking out your memory of "The Cage," this is a GREAT episode. Pike is a truly pitiable figure--and that we got to see what he had been through, and the man he once was, was amazing. I give this one high marks!
Thu, Jul 21, 2016, 7:50pm (UTC -6)
So what's with the commodore being a Talosian illusion? Was there any point to that in the slightest? Not only was this plot twist not related in any way shape or form to the actual plot, but it actually hindered the Talosians' goal of getting Pike since the commodore was aiming for a speedy trial of Spock. Furthermore, it completely contradicts the idea of a death penalty for going to the planet, since the Talosians are obviously far more powerful than they were shown to be in The Cage. If they can project their illusions dozens of light years, then the Federation is already doomed. How do we know that any of this really happened the way it played out? How do we know Spock wasn't being tricked by the Talosians to do this, or that the Talosians didn't create an illusion that caused the accident to render Pike an invalid in the first place? Heck, if they really are that powerful, how do we know Pike's actually an invalid at all?

That was my biggest problem with the framing story, but not the only one. Unfortunately, while it started out strong (this is our first sign of Starfleet Command, even if it still isn't called that), it couldn't sustain it. I liked Spock working to take over the Enterprise, and I liked the mystery of what was going on. Spock torn between the loyalty to his current captain and his former one was very subtly played, being as conciliatory to Kirk as he could while ultimately betraying him. Kirk forcing the issue by going on a suicide run in the shuttlecraft was a nice touch. And it's good that they at least admitted that the TV-style direction of the pilot episode wasn't a log recording, but rather a mysterious recording coming from the Talosians. I guess they could have just claimed it was Spock narrating what was going on, but since so much of it was Pike's experience and Pike's alone, that would have been silly as well.

But then Spock plead guilty, the trial was over, but it then continued just to pad out the episode. There was no more mystery or even tension in the real-time story anymore. This is despite the fact that Spock was no longer in control of the Enterprise, yet they were still on their way to Talos for some reason. Did he lock out navigation and the engines? If so, why not have that as the latter half of the framing story? Or have Pike's dilemma be the focus? He clearly didn't want to go to Talos again, although it's not clear if he truly didn't want to or if he was just trying to protect Spock. Then again, if he was trying to protect Spock, once they got to the trial section he should have insinuated it was his idea in order to at least try to get Spock clemency. As it stands, we don't know enough about how Pike feels regarding this whole situation.

After all, the whole point of The Cage was that he was fighting the Talosians the entire time. He clearly didn't like the idea of living out a fantasy life, and he clearly wasn't a fan of Talosian morality (kidnapping him and putting him in a zoo would do that to him, I guess...). So even if he's paralyzed, would he still want to go back? Maximillian has a point that bringing the focus back to Vina at the end would at least give him a bit more justification. As it is, the theme of The Cage is that living a fantasy life is wrong, while here it is that it is just peachy as long as you're disabled. Kinda muddled, isn't it?

Still, The Cage was a decent enough episode to be worth bringing back, and framing the story this way, as something that happened years ago on the Enterprise with a different crew, is a perfect justification for the stylistic differences while making the Trek universe feel bigger overall. A smart decision there.
Peter G.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 12:02am (UTC -6)
@ Skeptical,

I haven't watched Menagerie for some time but from the many times I watched it in the past it was always my assumption that going back to Talon wasn't Pike's idea at all, but that it was a sort of deal struck strictly between Spock and the Talosians. I think they got word, somehow, that Pike (whom they likely respected as a 'good specimen') was crippled, and got word to Spock what they'd be willing to do for Pike if Spock brought him back. SInce we know they can project images and ideas across long distances they may have simply been able to contact Spock telepathically.

If I'm right it does raise the issue about whether they tricked Spock, however they never exhibited any sort of mind control; illusion was their power. Unless Pike was never crippled in the first place then illusion wouldn't have aided them in convincing Spock. Likewise, too many people (the doctors, admirals, crew, etc.) would have to have been tricked to create a convincing illusion of Pike being crippled. Therefore my takeaway is that the Talosians were earnestly doing this to help him, and that Spock agreed purely out of compassion.

I didn't realize this as a kid and teenager, but now that I think about it this episode makes for an extremely strange choice by Spock if compassion was his objection. Certainly the typical Vulcan approach would be to do their duty and follow the rules. Spock certainly does neither here, and although loyalty to Pike is on the table, I don't believe that loyalty alone would warrant doing this; at least not using Vulcan logic. I think Spock is using Human logic, which is maybe our first strong sign that he isn't a purely Vulcan as he likes to claim. There are other instances of this throughout TOS, but I think this would be the first. I'm pretty much willing to discount his smiling in "Mudd's Women" as being them not having quite figured out his 'rules' yet.
William B
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 1:37pm (UTC -6)
As with Peter, the impression I got was that it was not Pike's idea, ORIGINALLY, to go back to Talos IV. I think that the ship was still locked in to go to Talos IV. So what was the purpose of the Mendez illusion? Why, to do the court martial. Why do a court martial? *To get Pike to watch the videos.* And Kirk, too. I think that is part of the magic of this episode. Pike is asked to relive the mission from The Cage, as part of the court martial for Spock, but is now allowed the option of choosing to return to Talos IV on his own terms, where he can live a fuller life again.

I actually don't think there's much of a contradiction between The Cage and The Menagerie. Pike in The Cage would not stay and be a lab specimen to breed. He presumably still doesn't want to be treated like an animal in a zoo. However, eventually in The Cage it is made clear that Vina *wants* to stay. She is disfigured and does not believe she has a life off the planet. Pike returns to Vina now that he is sufficiently disfigured that he does not believe he can have a fully satisfying life off the planet. And he returns with the understanding that, now, the Talosians give him the choice. Illusion is not entirely wrong -- even in The Cage, Vina is a willing participant in the illusions created for her -- but that illusion must be agreed to.

Now, this has troubling connotations. We're not in the TNG era where blindness does not prevent someone from flying, running the engines of, and commanding a ship. Pike is a commodore but will take a life of illusion, where he has the opportunity of experiencing the things life has to offer, rather than continue "in the real world." That is fine as far as the individual is concerned, but it sends a weird message. The bigger problem is with Vina (and it's a problem in The Cage, too). OK, so her face is ugly -- I don't have illusions that 23rd century humans will be fully beyond superficialities, but The Cage treats it as obvious that the whole of a woman's life is in her beauty. The comparison with Pike in The Menagerie is even more striking. Vina is perfectly healthy and has a perfectly functional face, just one that looks aesthetically awful, and the episode implies that the male equivalent of the disability of a woman being *healthy with an ugly face* is being *entirely paralyzed with no ability to communicate save beeping*. This is the season of Mudd's Women so it's rather noticeable (though at least Mudd's Women implies, though it doesn't show, that the Venus Drug has effects on men too and that there is a male beauty standard in the 23rd century, though it seems to have to do with toughness).

I agree with Peter also that this suggests a kind of different model for Spock besides pure logic. I have always thought that Spock's willingness to go to the lengths he does for Pike, and perhaps *without Pike's express permission beforehand*, suggests a level of human emotional connection to Pike and his well-being which is not apparent in Spock's dealings with Kirk and Bones at this stage in the series, though seeds are there. I think it even on some level fits with the kind of angry Spock in The Cage, the idea that perhaps Spock had not managed to damp down his emotions as fully during his tour with Pike; perhaps it was even during his time with Pike that Spock found a way to get by in Starfleet and "find himself," and that this was the reason for his unusual, absolute loyalty to Pike and his emotional well-being.
William B
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
Anyway, a lot of what I love about The Menagerie is how it repurposes The Cage to create a different narrative -- instead of a story about Pike triumphing over the Talosians and showing the indomitability of the human spirit, it becomes one about Pike having rejected the Talosians but then being able to accept them on their terms, once he comes closer to Vina. There is a nice passing of the torch in the way Spock plays something like the Pike-in-The Cage role -- Pike eventually left Vina behind with the Talosians but understood that the Talosians' illusion power was too great to be wielded by Starfleet, and now Spock does something of the same thing now that Pike effectively "retires" to Talos IV. The problem of the illusions on Talos IV is that they are destructive as long as they are central to a society -- the Talosians destroyed themselves, and say that humans will destroy themselves, too, if they are given the illusions too soon. The death penalty has been instituted as a barrier against either the Talosians manipulating any other Starfleet ships or, presumably, the Federation getting a hold of the technology and destroying itself. It is something like the paradise which Kirk says humans are not ready for. But Pike is now "ready" for this heaven now that he sees his Starfleet career is at an end. It is as if Pike, too, gets a "death sentence" -- his old life is over now. No one can commit to the illusions on Talos IV and hope to continue living in the "real" world, and it is extremely dangerous for anyone to believe they could wield the power of illusion outside of the very narrow confines of one's own life. But Pike is not coming back. Spock is effectively giving Pike the choice of whether he wants to accept a very human "euthanization," of having a full and complete "afterlife" and ending his contributions to the rest of the Federation. This contributes to and furthers the themes of The Cage about Pike feeling restless as a Starfleet captain and wanting to live one of the other possible careers he could have (including sex slave trader -- like Dr. Piper, I rather hope he was not really serious about that one). In The Cage, the brush with illusions helped strengthen Pike's conviction that he wanted to be part of the Federation (human) project of exploration and self/other betterment, but post-accident Pike feels that his abilities and desires to do so are limited. And again, that is not great as a message to all disabled people -- Stephen Hawking continues to contribute to the world, after all -- but I am willing to accept the idea that Pike, and Spock, would believe that *for Pike* his limitations (and achievements) were sufficient to earn him an early retirement to isolated love and fantasy.
Peter G.
Fri, Jul 22, 2016, 3:13pm (UTC -6)
Good comments, William. But one thing about your concerns about what Star Trek was saying about female physical beauty. It wasn't Star Trek that suggested Vina's only hope was to live on Talos because she was ugly; it was Vina's desire and hers alone. To assume her position represents Trek's statement on what's important to women in general might be a mistake. From watching The Cage I think it's made fairly clear that Vina is shown to mostly be a shill for the Talosians, trying to undermine Pike and in a certain way betraying him since he couldn't really trust her motives. We learn in the end why she wanted to be there, but that sympathetic note shouldn't alter the fact that she isn't ever lionized by the script in any way. I therefore think it's not at all clear we're supposed to understand that she made any kind of 'correct' choice.

That being said, if we look at her history there are good reasons for her to stay there beyond being disfigured. For one thing she more or less died there and the Talosians put her back together. That alone should mean she owes them her life. They didn't do it quite right, and...well, let's just say that if they got the outside wrong I'm not putting good odds that they got the inside quite right either. Who knows whether she's in a constant state of discomfort of has some kind of other problems. She's alive and functional, but I'm not so sure I'd accept as certain that her *only* problem is her face. But even if it was, it's entirely possible that she actually just liked being there, and that it wasn't just all about her looks. She could literally live any fantasy any time. Talk about holodiction. Your comments about it being a heavenly afterlife are right on point. Plenty of undamaged people would want to stay there as well, cage or no cage. I also got the distinct impression that the Talosians really did care about her and her well-being, so in light of that she might even view them as all the family she has left.
William B
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
Good point, Peter. It also occurs to me that the focus on beauty as the *primary* reason Vina wants to stay can be attributed to the Talosians' fixation on Vina's attractiveness as a mate, which filters down to Vina given her role as shill for the Talosians (as you pointed out), so that we need not even believe that Vina herself necessarily believes that her physical appearance is the primary reason not to leave, or, if she does believe that, it may be more the result of the Talosians' focus than anything about 23rd century human values.

Still, Pike later says that he agrees with Vina's reasons for staying. That he says reasons, plural, suggests that it's not just about the beauty issue but other things too, such as those you list in the second paragraph, but it's still the beauty issue which is the primary thing Vina presents and the primary one he reacts to. Pike is meant to be a flawed individual to be sure, but I don't get the impression that his judgment is meant to be suspect at that stage in the story. By contrast, for example I could imagine Kirk overriding Vina's wishes in basically forcing her to fight for her freedom or Picard talking through Vina's options with her until he is satisfied that she is aware that the beauty standard is not a value that she needs to accept. Pike does not need to be either of them, and ultimately I think Picard and Sisko would accept Vina's choice as her own (and maybe Kirk would, too, eventually, especially given that he accepts this end for Pike). Still, you're right that Vina's choice (and even Pike's support of it) need not be a conclusive statement about 23rd century society or what Roddenberry et al. consider correct.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 9:45pm (UTC -6)
For what it's worth, I was also under the impression that Vina was had more physical deformities than just being ugly, what with the comment about coming back wrong. I assumed she had severe deformities and possibly was even in constant pain. If so, then it isn't just vanity that keeps her with the Talosians, and would fit with this episode's theme that living a fantasy life is ok when you're disabled.

As for the rest of the conversation, I suppose it does make some sense that the Talosians contacted Spock somehow and offered their assistance when they heard about Pike's accident. Perhaps they do feel something for him and have some affection after he demonstrated his abilities by breaking free of their illusions. Maybe they can offer him more now. And I like William's theory that the purpose of the court martial was to get Pike to relive those experiences. But given how antagonistic Pike was during the original visit to Talos, why would they think that would change his mind? What was the reason for changing his mind?

Also, how do they get a hold of Spock? Why him instead of Majel Barret? How can they project their thoughts across dozens of light years?

I think these (and others) are all interesting questions, and I think exploring both Pike and Spock in the second half of this episode would have been great. So I stand by my statement that the framing story falters in the second half. William and Peter bring up interesting points that they could have explored, but didn't. It's why I feel this is just a good episode rather than a potentially incredible one.
Peter G.
Mon, Jul 25, 2016, 1:45am (UTC -6)
@ Skeptical,

Oh, I completely agree that this is merely a good episode, which should have been great. Some aspects of it are outstanding, including Spock's hidden agenda (and even more hidden motives), as well as the completely unexpected turnaround where the Talosians, who were portrayed as antagonists, really turn into Pike's saviors in the end. It turns a straightforward episode like The Cage about monstrous aliens into a contemplative look at what those aliens really offered, and how failing to understand each other is what really caused the antagonism in the first place. A classic Trek message, if ever there was one, but not nearly as hackneyed as how such messages are delivered in later series such as Voyager (where you're hit over the head with it) or Enterprise (where it's shown in a kind of folksy, simplistic tone).

The parts that are unclear both make the episode better as a conversation piece, but also more unclear while being viewed.

To reiterate one thing William either said or alluded to, I don't think Pike *would* have changed his mind unless he was put in an extraordinary circumstance such as Spock put him in. Spock took a huge chance that he actually would, since if he didn't the whole trip was for nothing. He was banking on Pike having to revisit his memories and dealing with aspects of them he likely came out of with anger rather than clear-minded understanding. His takeaway from the event was that it was a bad, dangerous place, and nothing other than reviewing the events could change that. Perhaps it also took reviewing them with Spock, who was also there at the time (his #2), and who might have elicited Pike's sympathies since he had already gotten himself into serious trouble just to try to give Pike a gift.

There may be a side point to be made in Pike choosing to go back with the Talosians, which is what he had felt fed up, restless with his life, with Starfleet. Maybe the constant fighting, the antagonism, wasn't for him. After all, unless I'm mistaken, Pike came from a time during or just after the major Klingon-Federation war. I can see how yet another torturous experience with hostile aliens could give him some serious reservations about thinking that exploring is all so much fun anymore. But by going back to them he could do the one thing he probably always did want to do, which was to get to know new life forms in peace and engage in friendly exchange of knowledge. Heck, maybe he could even help them with their shattered world finally.
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 8:40pm (UTC -6)
No doubt a true Trek classic. Great way to repackage and reinvigorate "The Cage". Certainly an episode to generate discussion. For me, I enjoyed the 1st part much more than the 2nd. In the 1st part, you're left with an immediate desire to get answers to so many questions like why is Spock doing this, what is so bad about Talos IV etc. The 2nd part where the Talosians simply conclude humans are not suitable for their purposes is a bit anti-climactic. The other thing I'm left wondering is what's true and what's an illusion. The part about the Commodore being an illusion while conducting the court martial seems a bit of a stretch to me -- that the Talosians can transmit their illusions to people light years away. I also thought the transmission from Starfleet Command that Spock is cleared of all charges was part of the illusion.
The overall ending arrangement with Pike opting to stay on Talos IV makes sense and provides a nice finish to the epic.
Overall, 3/4 stars for me. One I'd definitely want to rewatch and pick up some more of the subtleties. Just watched the 2 episodes for the 1st time in probably over 30 years.
I wish TOS had more 2-part episodes.
Dark Kirk
Sat, Jun 24, 2017, 9:47pm (UTC -6)
There was a pretty good single-issue comic book story based on the ramifications of this episode.
Trek fan
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 10:47pm (UTC -6)
Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek won a Hugo award for this brilliant two-parter "The Menagerie." I first saw it on TV in the early 1990s before I ever saw "The Cage" -- and I thought it was really compelling. Seeing "The Cage" first spoils it, so I recommend watching "The Menagerie" before the failed pilot it repurposes, as the second version actually improves on the original by adding additional layers of mystery and meaning. I give it 3 1/2 or 4 stars.

This two-parter is essentially a character study of Spock, broadening our sense of him and testing his relationship with Kirk and McCoy. The first part of the episode, in which Spock stages a mutiny with a poker face that only cracks with worry (well-played by Nimoy) when he realizes Kirk will die in the shuttle if he doesn't surrender, remains particularly shocking and strong. Spock is the last person on the crew we expect to see "go rogue" or bring his loyalty into question. The rest of the two-parter, flashing back to Spock's mission with Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) to Talos IV, gradually unspools the truth about Spock: That his personal loyalty to his friends exceeds his institutional loyalty, revealing a more vulnerable human side of him than we've seen previously. This is really the first "Spock episode" of TOS and it's a doozy that keeps us guessing for most of the running time.

The haunted sight of the crippled Captain Pike (Sean Kenney, doing some wonderful acting with his eyes) bound to a high-tech-that-isn't wheelchair in the present-day sequences remains one of the most iconic images in all of Star Trek. That Spock has worked out an arrangement with the Talosians to give his former captain some peace, yet remain loyal to his current captain, is a particularly deft beat in what is probably Roddenberry's best Star Trek script. The episode leaves us with the notion that what is "real to us" is sometimes the best possible reality given the alternatives; the show's insistence on the quality as well as the quantity of life (let's not forget that nobody suggests euthanizing Pike!) shows a deep compassion and empathy for the state of the handicapped that one rarely sees on television.

It's fun to watch the original mission from "The Cage" through the eyes of the current Enterprise crew, comparing two possible visions of the show. I'm always struck by how the original Enterprise set and costumes on "The Cage" look strikingly similar to the drab uniforms and gray-black design of the ship on the much-maligned "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979. In some ways, TMP may be Roddenberry's callback to "The Cage," attempted to reboot the original cerebral vision -- the two products certainly have a lot in common. But the pulpy feel and colorful sets/costumes of TOS (somewhat regained in the movie series by "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) speak to what many viewers came to love about the show's hyper-realist tone as retooled under the more physical Captain Kirk -- it's hard to imagine how "Star Trek" might have succeeded had the producers kept the brooding and unhappy Captaint Pike. Part of the power of "The Menagerie's" solution to Pike's dilemma is that it suggests a character who was unhappy *before* he was crippled has come to have a different view of life because of his suffering and might finally be ready to accept happiness.

Gotta love Commodore Mendez (the strong Malachi Thorne, also Romulan Senator Pardek on TNG) as our first image of Starfleet brass in TOS -- I'm not sure precisely when he becomes an illusion, but I think it's pretty clear that the real Mendez never being on the ship was Roddenberry's way of absolving Spock of the court martial that required three command officers. With only two command officers present, the hearing was never a binding judgment, and Spock is clever in the way he protects the crew by not involving them in his treason in case he fails -- I find it deliciously ironic that the nitpickers in this thread, who typically complain when Trek *doesn't* explain certain plot gaps, now complain here when Trek *does* cover it! In point of fact, it's clear Roddenberry labored extensively on this particular story, working extra hard to cover all the apparent holes in connecting two stories through flashback. I for one recognize the effort and give him credit for it; the story *truly* holds together better than many people here are giving it credit for.

Be that as it may, perhaps the biggest reason I love this episode is the strong character development as we watch the crew trust Mr. Spock even against their better judgment until even McCoy can't take it anymore. Watching not only Kirk but also McCoy defend Spock's loyalty as unimpeachable heightens the drama: We wonder how the heck Spock's actions of mutiny in the taughtly paced first half of the episode, which are pretty darn convincing as these things go in the Star Trek universe, can be reconciled with his loyalty to the crew. And it's truly touching the way Spock risks his own life and career to fulfill what he knows must be a desire of Captain Pike, who himself doesn't want to go to Talos if it will mean the end of Spock's career. Some nice foreshadowing here of the crew mutiny and trip to Genesis in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock."

The flashback footage to Pike goes on a bit too long at times, pulling us out of the more interesting Spock crisis, but it actually adds to the "what the heck is going on" part of the mystery because this episode (the only two-parte in TOS) is so different from all others in the original series. And again, it really helps not to have seen "The Cage" before this one -- far better to see "The Menagerie" first and then watch all of "The Cage" as I did in my own life, as that's the order it aired originally since "The Cage" only had its belated broadcast premiere in the 1980s.

But again, it all comes down for me to the admirable sense of Spock's loyalty and (dare we say it) compassion for shipmates we get in this episode, and finally the haunted image of Pick in his chair being contrasted with his final embrace of a very realistic illusion as the most real thing left in his life. When the cerebral and unhappy Pike is actually reduced to little more than a brain trapped within a body, it seems ironic that he changes his view and longs for an embodied existence again. And who are we to say his reality at the end of "The Menagerie" is any less real than ours? That's the question this brilliant science fiction piece leaves us pondering.
Mon, Jan 7, 2019, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
Re: Menagerie I&II(+Cage)--been away on long holiday, happy to be back to the show! must not be ready to return to real work though because i’ve gone on so long i had to resort to subtitles--hopefully that fades quickly, but yeah, this is going to be in multiple (im guessing at least 5) parts. safe to say this is what the office is paying for today lol.

“they kept us from seeing this, too. we cut through and never knew it captain.”
--number one

like more than half of the trekkies i know, i’ve always been a fan of this repurposing of the original pilot. I have a real soft spot for The Cage so to have it immortalized in canon rather than resigned to an historical footnote in bonus material works for me. but it’s so obvious that if shatner had been on board for it my pseudonym would be pikecentrick right now--in no universe do i think cage was ‘too cerebral’ for the 60s audience as the legend goes. what it lacked was shatnerisma pure and simple. on its own it drags some, a jaded career-captain longing for home is tonally wrong for the beginning of an exciting frontier space adventure, and of course all things considered the chemistry of the actual cast was lightning in a bottle that is absolutely worth the trade of losing ceiling-smasher Number One and a decent story. however, all that aside, shanter would have made this pilot compelling enough for the network through sheer force of will and we’d all be sitting here talking about the delightfully droll vulcan people and majel barrett would have turned up on TNG as a time-travelling starfleet admiral and not lwaxana troi (also, there is a universe in which that trek exists and i’d watch it even if it didn’t end up being better than ours). no disparagement of jeff hunter or the christopher pike we do get--as a great guest star and the tragic former captain of our very own enterprise he’s become a legendary trek figure in his own right. not knocking his performance, i’m just saying whatever failings the episode had writing-wise, cage would’ve been greenlit on shanter’s shoulders. the man is a whirling dervish of the very kinetic energy cage lacked.

random points: lolpoints for the LITERAL shipboard space-fax. points for the blue singing plant; i want one. points for charlotte gercke’s orion slave girl dance--titillation aside, the make-up and performance there are beautiful. The green color of the makeup contrasted with her lively and expressive eyes is really aesthetically pleasing and the shots of her are framed beautifully. attractiveness of the actress notwithstanding (and divorced from the ‘slavegirl’ context), the overall mise-en-scene is gorgeous and her performance is riveting beyond a simple opportunity for ogling, it’s not simply being hot and green that makes her magnetic there.
Peter G.
Mon, Jan 7, 2019, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
What's cool about this one is that it not only establishes continuity between the actual story of the pilot and the show we know - since Spock is the link between both - but it shows precisely how loyalty has *always* been one of Spock's traits and that it's not something he suddenly discovered under Kirk's command. It plays directly into the question of why he, as a Vulcan, is on this ship to begin with, and why he wants to be around humans despite appearing to complain about them all the time. Risking his career to help Pike (and perhaps the Talosians) is exactly the sort of thing we could only learn about Spock through an effort on a grand scale, like a motion picture. Here we're given it in two intallments; first through whatever audience had already seen the pilot, and then through this reexamination of it. So that's a featre-length look at what Spock's logic suggest to him to do, which seems to override things like rules and regulations.

There's also something in this story which ends up being a commentary on Kirk himself. Whether we want to see as a result of Pike's accident, or as always having been part of his nature, Pike does actually seek solace and comfort. He's still young and fights against it on Talos, but they knew that within him there was a desire to just stop fighting it and give in; to have peace and serenity. Now that his accident doesn't permit him to fight it any longer, Spock tries to give him that serenity. But the broader story is that some people do need consolations, comforts, and things to ease them along, wherease some few can actually get by trying to eliminate illusions and face reality no matter how uncomfortable it is. And that, to me, is Kirk: he'll face dangers, even to his own comfort, in order to do his duty and face the unknown. Unlike Pike, he does not secretly yearn for a stop to it all, and so while Spock is needed to help his old Captain find peace, his new Captain doesn't need his help to find peace, but to find danger. The transition from the old to the new, as shown here, really does outline exactly what Kirk brings to the table for the show that Pike couldn't, and how that old notion needed to be put to bed. And in fact it even goes further if we want to stretch out imagination, and perhaps suggests that Trek itself was about challenging the viewer and having them face danger of the mind; that this show wouldn't be a balm to help them get to sleep, but a punch to wake them up to real problems in the world. So Pike's story, while tempting to many, isn't what the show is about: it's Kirk's show.
Mon, Jan 7, 2019, 3:50pm (UTC -6)
“first officer speaking. security, send an armed team to the bridge. transporter room, stand by to beam captain kirk, as senior officer present, i present myself to you for arrest.”

as for the frame story, there’s no denying that despite its effective broad strokes, there are noticeable missteps in some of its logic. while the more obvious oversights can be either endearing or grating depending on my mood, i hedge like a porcupine at harsh criticism of this episode because despite being an obvious rush job, it owes its existence to savvy problem solving in a tight spot--nothing more trek than finding a clever solution to the problem at hand with the clock counting down and a ship to keep the episode has a few headcanon black holes one might get sucked into, since when is that not half the fun? ooooobviously if the bored trapped talosians can project to starbase 11 their telepathic range is such that they are probably scanning and eavesdropping on brains across a vast region of space surrounding talos, mining passerby psyches for experiences to add to the Thought Record as well as looking for appropriate slave/zoo-species to divert--all enterprise would have to do is clip a section of their (arguably huge) territory again and even across lightyears they could have instantly learned pike’s fate and easily communicated to spock with their offer. vulcans are telepathically sensitive too so it’s not even impossible that they are able to reach spock from even further out. duuuh. (wink) oh. and i always enjoy a good trek court martial in spite of most of them being complete rubbish as believable legal proceedings. yeah, more lay people have been to jail than lawschool or MIT--so it’s pretty common knowledge that evidence doesn’t come after ‘guilty’ and no criminal court of any kind really gives a shit WHY you’re trespassing because that’s fundamentally not its job, but you’ve just gotta treat it like technobabble. it’s obvious legalbabble and it’s absurd. on with the show. death sentence makes me laugh but ok, i see the STAKES you’re going for here. spock is not just risking career but DEATH. He cant just tell kirk what’s up cuz DEATH. pike doesn’t just agree to go with him cuz DEATH. I get it, i’m still in it with you, but leave me my quiet snickeyerolling. the fact that the trial is a literal farce of spock/talosian design with a telepathically-projected commodore helps me with this even though it’s obviously meant to be an accurate rendering of starfleet procedure for kirk/pikes benefit. one thing i always wonder about though is the (teleprojected?) starfleet orders relieving kirk of command and threatening a death sentence for him too. spock acts like the orders are real (‘jim please don’t stop me, dont let him stop me’) even when he knows telecommodore ‘taking command’ effectively puts the talosians in command/control of the ship and therefore, free of kirk’s skepticism, enterprise will almost certainly end up at talos. been trying to pretzel my brain into an explanation that lets me keep that ‘don’t let him stop me’ bit because it’s a nice moment for kirspock but it’s totally undermined by the reveal. the red herring largely succeeds at raising stakes again for the audience in the moment, but in-universe there is just no reason i can think of for the talosians to put this death-pressure on kirk themselves or for spock to go along with such conviction even for the sake of the grand deception. is it possible that spock is not fully aware of what is real in the projection either and believes the commodore is real himself? what might be the talosian reasoning behind leaving him in the dark? and alright, fine. yes. pike’s communicative predicament as described in the story is insanely stupid upon literally 5 seconds of consideration--hell, even hector salamanca and his bell managed better than we’re given to believe pike’s super-dalek chair can. but still, i give equal points/negpoints for a) anticipating neurally controlled robotic augmentation and b) completely failing to logically anticipate neurally controlled robotic augmentation--so it cancels out, right? ok ok. i concede. mccoy’s assertion that it will take months to question pike even with just a two word vocabulary strains believability on literally every conceivable level. i like to think it has to do with the nature of pike’s neural trauma, though the episode verbally contradicts that assumption. still, i give it all a 60s-pass and pretend pike has some kind of aphasia that inhibits his ability to use language without impeding his ability to comprehend it. now where were we?
Mon, Jan 7, 2019, 3:52pm (UTC -6)
“and that half is completely submerged. to be caught acting like us or even thinking like us would completely embarrass, yes. I could run off half-cocked, given good reason, so could you, but not spock. It’s impossible.”

oh spock, riddle wrapped in mystery inside enigma--menagerie poses so very many questions about you. spock the mutineer is a fantastic reminder that when a real (harhar burnham) vulcan decides on treachery, careful premeditation and consummate execution are a given even when the decision has an obviously emotional origin. for me one of the deep excitements of menagerie is in its understated, matter-of-fact portrayal of spock’s quiet and appropriately dispassionate display of vulcan deliberateness and calculation in the service of his fascinatingly human motivation. he’s running around literally pinch-dropping starbase techs, impersonating and kidnapping superiors, straight-up grand theft starshipping the enterprise from a federation base like a badass, deceiving his crewmates, and carrying it all off with the easy-breezy effortlessness of a leaping gazelle in his savannah element. aboard ship nimoy really nails the crew interactions. spock is commanding and unflappable in feilding their confused questions, with answers for everything. he’s cool-as-fucking-cucumbers in the face of mccoy’s suspicion. he anticipates potential obstacles and the reactions of the humans around him with assurance and accuracy (he absolutely knows kirk is coming and that shuttle is NOT turning back). and it may seem vulcan-standard--almost blase from a modern trek perspective--but this outing is building ‘vulcanness’ into a recognizable cultural philosophy by mining the contrast between in-universe (human) perceptions of vulcans so far (kirk’s initial defense of spock: ‘a vulcan can no sooner be disloyal than he can exist without breathing/that goes for his present commander as well as his past,’ also mccoy: ‘jim, forgetting how well we both know spock, the simple fact that he’s a vulcan means he’s incapable of telling a lie’), the fact of spock’s biracial heritage i.e. partial humanity, and spock’s actual actions as they unfold. we’re left to extrapolate vulcanness in some sense from what we can assume it isn’t, which makes our insight all the more powerful for not being based in exposition. there is a distinct implication from this storyline that vulcan-human hybrids would be UTTER MASTERS of deception should they choose it--a fleet suggestion of a farfarfuture where human/vulcan hybrids are themselves a differentiated race legitimately blended from their forebears. something out of the trek we’ve really been longing for eh discovery?

“you know why i've come, captain (pike). it's only six days away at maximum warp and I have it well-planned...i have never disobeyed your orders before, captain, but this time i must...i know. i know it is treachery and it's mutiny. but i must do this... have no choice.”

part of what makes spock’s mutiny so compelling is his total commitment to his course of action without pike’s prior approval. the episode’s initial stance is that spock catches pike totally unawares and basically forces the trip on him--that is not in keeping with spock’s general character but it becomes more credible if the extended charade of the court martial is framed as an insistence that pike be given a truly possible, reasonable choice. it is therefore pike, not kirk, who must ultimately see the talosian transmissions. the explanation spock offers for the trial may be as a distraction to keep kirk from regaining control of the ship too soon, but from what we learn of spock’s skillful duplicity in this episode, we need not take him at face value in this story. it is not kirk’s authority to turn the ship around which keeps the ruse going for so long--it’s that until pike has all of the information necessary to freely choose, kirk himself must a) be kept from influencing pike’s decision through appeals to honor/duty and b) still be kept from the bodily danger of being implicated in spock’s crime himself upon return to the real federation, telepathic illusion notwithstanding. so it is in delaying jim’s influence--and not his projected actions--that spock manages to juggle his conflicting loyalties to do what he concludes is best for both captains. he already knows (aside from implicating kirk in the crime) that if pressed he could convince jim to continue to talos for pike’s sake anyway, but only at the risk of contaminating pike’s true freedom to choose. kirk would almost certainly aid/abet him if appealed to--what is interesting then is that although spock’s entire mutiny is predicated upon his reasoned assumption that pike’s happiness/emotional wellbeing may ultimately be increased by choosing to accept the talosian offer, his actions throughout the faux-trial reveal a commitment to protecting pike’s right to make the call for himself. and because he does not--cannot--know with certainty what pike will actually do in the final moment, he must also protect kirk’s innocence. it is one thing to ask jim to disregard starfleet prohibition on a certainty that he is right to bring pike to the talosians. it is entirely another for his presumption of rightness to knowingly consign kirk to death should pike (once again) refuse the talosians and decide to live out a more limited existence among his own kind--both (differently) reasonable choices. there is a very sophisticated level of emotional intelligence involved in his decision to commit to his treason without pike’s affirmation up front. it’s big news! it demonstrates not only that spock’s actions (if not entirely emotion-based themselves) are at least the result of his recognition of a human-based moral imperative here, which could only be arrived at logically through an understanding of the importance of emotional connection for human beings to be mentally healthy. further, he orchestrates the entire affair based on an intuited outcome. he never presumes to make pike’s ultimate choice FOR him, but he does bank on his own guess about pike’s choice being right--a deduction that shows a remarkable reliance on the kind of intimate friend-knowledge of pike as an individual that he might typically deny, but nevertheless clearly possesses and makes use of in this instance. he basically risks life and career not even for pike’s assured happiness, per say, but on the chance that pike MIGHT opt for an alternative choice if given immediate means, and he’s completely willing to take these risks knowing his friend may ultimately reject the offer. obviously, only authentic personal feeling about pike’s fate could be the logical premise from which ANY of his plan is reasoned, but the episode also expertly preserves his vulcan dignity in all this as well through its sparing/subtle use of kirk’s emotional throughline as a reactive counterpoint. speaking of--i’m also (surprisesurprise) a huge fan of kirk in this episode. kirk-detective/kirk-betrayed/kirk-rethinking his preconceptions… shatner once again brings the heft necessary to sell the somewhat flimsy court martial material. as his initially unquestioning defense of spock to the commodore in part 1 gives way to logical suspicion both his amazed second-guessing and his staunch reservation of judgement in the face of mounting evidence of betrayal is powerful. shatner doesnt play up the fallout of this shift like many actors would. after the cat’s out of the bag he reigns it in and lets the atmosphere build around him, holding all but the pressing weight of the mystery back. the last moment of menagerie 1 hangs in the room like a cloud even after the screen is dark, with kirk carrying the dual-weights of command and deep friendship across his shoulders like two heavy buckets of water joined by the same yoke. there is a perfect moment of recognition he gives spock later on in part 2, a little once-over right before the telecommodore disappears. it’s like he’s reevaluating spock as a result of the new information--re-doing his mental calculus on spock, vulcans and friendship to incorporate what this sacrifice for pike has meant to the stoic man before him: just how deep the interpersonal loyalty and friendship might go in this alien-man who denies both...shatner conveys this new understanding like a pro and makes the audience privy to his side of the emotional exchange, elevating the moment of growth for both characters. kirk now knows something more of what spock is capable of. not just masterful cunning and a mutiny he could never have expected, but also what spock would be willing to sacrifice--life, pride, vulcan stoicism itself--not for a captain’s life/safety, but for his mere HAPPINESS (or chance of). when he ribs spock about a ‘tendency toward flagrant emotionalism’ and spock responds ‘no need to insult me sir,’ the levity is not (as usual) based on vulcanness as distinct from humanity, it is, for the first time, in ‘spock-ness’ as distinct from vulcanness--and the reveal rests on kirk’s new grasp of his first officer and on shatner’s acting rather than nimoy’s.
Tim C
Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 6:13am (UTC -6)
I re-watched "The Cage" tonight, because we're heading back to Talos IV on Friday and I haven't seen it in many many years. I was curious to see how it held up. I was especially interested to see whether or not I could see shades of Jeffrey Hunter in Anson Mount's performance.

And yes, I could! I don't know if Mount is doing it deliberately or not, but he plays Pike like a man who has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, which is what we see happening in The Cage. Pike's realisation during the "picnic" illusion with Vina also dovetails nicely with DSC season 2's idea that Pike feels guilt over missing the Klingon war:

PIKE: It's funny. It's about twenty four hours ago I was telling the ship's doctor how much I wanted something else not very different from what we have here. An escape from reality. Life with no frustrations. No responsibilities. Now that I have it, I understand the doctor's answer... You either live life, bruises, skinned knees and all, or you turn your back on it and start dying.

DSC's Pike feels guilty because he wasn't there to stand alongside the rest of Starfleet in their own time of need. It's actually a nice complement to the story of The Cage, albeit one that I don't entirely give the DSC writers credit for.

Aside from that, Majel's Number One is still the most obvious missed opportunity for TOS. Overall though NBC were probably right to ask for this to be retooled. Hunter's good, but he doesn't command the screen in the way Shatner does, and the brighter, more colourful sets that followed this were also more appealing. McCoy is also waaaay more interesting in his first appearance than Boyce.
Tue, Mar 19, 2019, 12:12am (UTC -6)
This is a great ep, the best so far. It has some flaws, but the pilot footage was used very creatively and a compelling, touching story was told.

Deforrest Kelly is so great as McCoy and Nimoy is really coming into his own. The story drags a bit when they're showing the transmission from Talos, but not too badly.

Miss Piper is the mandatory, gratuitously sexy lady in this ep, batting her eyes at Kirk and flirtatiously mentioning his past dalliance with a friend of hers. But Susan Oliver and Jeffrey Hunter win the all-time gorgeous couple award. Wow. Pretty people.

The guy playing disabled Pike is effectively cast, and the yes-or-no beeping was surprisingly moving. A sense of urgency was conveyed despite the limited communication. It was surprisingly obvious that Pike cared for Spock, still had a captain's sense of responsibility toward him, and was begging Spock not to endanger his life and career.

Nicely done!
Sarjenka's Brother
Thu, Apr 18, 2019, 5:24pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Springy above, and I consider this episode a watershed moment for the franchise.

It really helped establish the foundation of our notions of Starfleet and the Federation. Before this episode, the Enterprise was out there going from one thing to another -- extrapowerful aliens, Mudd's womenfolk, mad scientists, mysterious diseases -- but none of it was connected together.

"The Menagerie" did that. We now have context. We're beginning the process of universe building.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
To not forget it. Hilarious scene around minute 9. The female actor is of course terrible but at one point she... I really don't know. Is she winking at him? Is it an Aneurysm?? I have no idea.

Ok the plot on the ship is nonsensical. THERE IS THE DEATH PENALTY FOR FLYING TO A PLANET?!! W T F
And why is there any penalty? How did the video come into existence? Kirk flies with a shuttle which then uses up all it's fuel and they (well the commodore wasn't real) have only two hours of oxygen left?! These things and more one has to ignore to enjoy this two parter.

On thing is somewhat disheartening and it highlights a little dark truth about Star Trek. It played to certain feelings of the male audience. In this rejected pilot women wear the same outfits as men. 4 years later in TOS they wear the miniest of skirts.

The first officer , a woman, is in command for most of the episode. That is pushing boundaries. That in the later serialized show the main female character is demoted to fifth or sixth officer is sad. I guess because Uhura is black that is another way of pushing boundaries but still.

The story itself is ok maybe even a little better. It made me think of discovery Pike. The guy the audience loved and they loved him because he was the only person who was confident and not broken/traumatized/bitter. He was a star trek character. In NuTrek everybody is somehow broken/traumatized/bitter.

PS: the episode certainly killed people because of all the seizures. What the hell was up with the camera work when they were shooting at the door with that big cannon. I had to look away.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 3:42pm (UTC -6)
@ Booming,

I believe most of those plot questions get answered in part 2, in case you haven't watched that far yet.

"On thing is somewhat disheartening and it highlights a little dark truth about Star Trek. It played to certain feelings of the male audience. In this rejected pilot women wear the same outfits as men. 4 years later in TOS they wear the miniest of skirts.

The first officer , a woman, is in command for most of the episode. That is pushing boundaries. That in the later serialized show the main female character is demoted to fifth or sixth officer is sad. I guess because Uhura is black that is another way of pushing boundaries but still."

What dark truth about Trek are you referring to here? Roddenberry wanted women to have a more prominent role and the network literally vetoed it. All things considered, I think it was lucky he got through what he did on the show and made three seasons of it.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:03pm (UTC -6)
And the miniskirts were actually Grace Lee Whitney's (Janice Rand) idea.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:07pm (UTC -6)
"What dark truth about Trek are you referring to here? Roddenberry wanted women to have a more prominent role and the network literally vetoed it. All things considered, I think it was lucky he got through what he did on the show and made three seasons of it."
I believe that. The little dark secret I meant, probably another studio demand, is the sexualization of women. Later it was Troy's cleavage, 7's everything and other things. Shows about a more enlightened future are using the so called male gaze. Nothing dramatic. I just find it a little sad. Especially when you see how it could have looked. Thanks CBS (and probably shitty focus groups who likely said: "I'd rather burn in hell than taking order from some woman!".
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:08pm (UTC -6)
@ Omicron
Your point being?
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:20pm (UTC -6)
@ Booming,

Regarding the specific issue of women's attire (and cleavage), I think there is a huge disconnect if we're talking about (for argument's sake) liberal views on this issue. Basically there are various POV's one can take that are all liberal/leftist and they contradict each other. So even from an anti-establishment POV there is no solid ground to stand on without someone being able to point a finger at it.

In this case I personally tend to agree that I don't care for physical exploitation, however the context of showing off women on Trek involved not just a 'patriarchal' society on the one hand, but a hippy/free spirit movement on the other which was far more hell-bent than the conservative faction was on exposing the female body. Roddenberry comes into it with (IMO) a foot in each department: on the one hand, he seemed to believe in the free-spirit orgy free love concepts of society (very much reflected in TNG S1-2, even more so than on TOS which was by and large a more conservative show), while on the other hand he was a male show exec who clearly was in a position to exercise power over women he worked with. So while I don't have a position on how 'good' or 'bad' it was that this was his POV, it's pretty clear to me that the exposure of women's bodies could just as soon be called exploitative as it could be called liberation, depending on which school of thought on the left you subscribe to. One person's "selling sex" is another person's "the female body is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide."

I see both sides of this issue as having some kind of sense of it, and I find it difficult to parse whether showing cleave on Trek should be described as "a little sad" rather than "celebrating the female form." This whole topic is a quagmire as far as I'm concerned. What I do know is that while I didn't have any harsh feelings for anything depicted on TOS or TNG I was squeemish about VOY's depiction of Seven, and outright hostile to ENT's depiction of T'Pol. Wherever the line is I feel they crossed it eventually, so I suppose I don't blame someone who may feel that they crossed it already in TNG. Of all the shows DS9 is probably the most prudish :)
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:50pm (UTC -6)
Booming wrote:
“Thanks CBS (and probably shitty focus groups who likely said: "I'd rather burn in hell than taking order from some woman!’”

You mean NBC. CBS didn’t buy Star Trek until after ENT ended. Also, gender wasn’t the reason NBC didn’t like Majel Barrett. She was a relatively unknown actress and NBC didn’t think that could carry the show. Roddenberry was dating Barrett at the time and refused the idea of casting a stronger lead woman. It’s in the production history for this episode if you’re curious.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:51pm (UTC -6)

My point being that the real-world reason for the miniskirts in TOS has nothing to do with what you stated. It was an actress who requested it. I'm sure the male executives didn't complain, but it wasn't their idea (let alone their "demand").

The cultural context is also important. In the 1960's, miniskirts were actually a feminist symbol of independence. I know this sounds crazy for the modern ear, but it's the truth.

In summary, any way you try to spin it, you can't blame the TOS producers for this. It looks laughable today, of-course, but that's another story.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 1:20am (UTC -6)
Hmm I didn't think about the hippies. It is somewhat doubtful that the flower kids were happy about a multi billion dollar studio using their symbols and could certainly make the argument that pants were as or more progressive than mini skirts but I get your point.

I mean a little more than that. Dabo girls, Orion slave girls. Even in STP when they were on that sleazy planet (Picard with eye patch doing silly accents) even there we saw huge holograms of women dancing seductively. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to have an equal amount of male versions, when you exploit people for their physical qualities. Risa was one of the few exceptions. There it was men and women. I think DS9 was the first and I believe only ST show that every now and then made men the object of female physical desire.
So for me it isn't about leftism or progressiveness. It is our world leaking into the wonderful non patriarchal ST future.

"She was a relatively unknown actress and NBC didn’t think that could carry the show. Roddenberry was dating Barrett at the time and refused the idea of casting a stronger lead woman. It’s in the production history for this episode if you’re curious."
I'm always a little hesitant to believe these stories. In other instances they could force Roddenberry to do things but they couldn't force him to cast another female lead? And he was so hellbent on casting his smoosh buddy that he refused any other women in a more prominent role? Who knows what forces were at work there.

@ Omicron
"My point being that the real-world reason for the miniskirts in TOS has nothing to do with what you stated. It was an actress who requested it. I'm sure the male executives didn't complain, but it wasn't their idea (let alone their "demand")."

As with Chrome I find these stories often a little convenient. It always portrays the studio in a relatively positive light. "They TV execs didn't want women to run around in mini skirts, NO a female actor wanted it." or "The TV execs totally wanted a strong female lead but Roddenberry wanted to push his paramour." Seems like TV studios could be pushed around like frail nerds on the playground. :D

It may all be true but I hope you see my point.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 8:50am (UTC -6)
Booming wrote:

"I'm always a little hesitant to believe these stories. In other instances they could force Roddenberry to do things but they couldn't force him to cast another female lead?"

We know for a fact that Majel Barrett specifically wasn't liked by the studio. Majel Barrett was a name made up and she also died her hair so the studio wouldn't notice her getting cast. We also know Roddenberry had strong feelings for Barrett, they got married.

The problem with the sexism explanation to me is that there were other shows, even earlier shows, like The Donna Reed show where a female was firmly in charge. So it doesn't stand to reason that NBC wouldn't be open to having Shatner co-star with a female. It just doesn't add up. We may not have all the facts, but it seems like something else was going on.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 10:13am (UTC -6)
@ Chrome
As in almost all cases the explanation is probably not monocausal. I think sexism was a factor. And to your example of other women having more prominent roles. I don't know the Donna Read show but on wikipedia the character is described as follows: "Donna Stone (Donna Reed) is the idealized middle class housewife to Alex, and the mother of Mary and Jeff." That doesn't sound like in charge and the role of commanding housewife is certainly far less daring than the role of a female first officer which in 1962 was impossible to reach for a woman. Westpoint accepted the first woman in 1976. So even with Uhura's diminished role Star Trek was well ahead of it's time. So still pretty good.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 10:42am (UTC -6)
Donna Reed is more progressive than you think. She came earlier than Star Trek and showed how women could be both in charge at home and assert themselves in careers outside the home. That may sound humble to us in 2020s, but she was strong role model of her time when women when were transition from to the workplace. There's an article about the character's positive impact here:

"certainly far less daring than the role of a female first officer"

Perhaps, but you're confusing military ranks with actor status. Why would tv executives be eager to enforce military stereotypes on a Sci-Fi fantasy show? Are you saying they feared army reprisals for inaccuracy or something?
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 1:37pm (UTC -6)
"be both in charge at home and assert themselves in careers outside the home."
What career did she have outside the house? As far as I can see it she was a typical housewife, high heels and dresses and all who never had a paying job and her husband, a university graduate, earns 100% of the family income. But again I don't know the show.

So I have read the introduction and most of the text. It is not as convincing as it may appear. Did you read it? The author admits that she is the only scholar who considers Donna a feminist icon, and specifies her as a so called maternal feminist, a term I have never heard. It seems to be some form of conservative feminism which sounds like an oxymoron. From the text"Reed, a registered Republican, represents this earlier, more moderate wave by pushing back against conceived gender norms, all while supporting women’s roles within the home."
Every other scholar who wrote about the show did not see Reed as a feminist role model, more like the opposite. I can understand that view. The show is in essence not about a woman finding her individuality or independence but about a woman demanding more respect for her role as a housewife. Considering that in the late 50s in the US around a third of women worked outside of the house this is really far from groundbreaking or boundary pushing. Maybe for conservative women.

The author describes one episode where Reed is encouraged to run for local office but abandons that when the family complains and her husband tells her to stop. Her husband often belittles her. In another episode Reed thinks about opening a store for poodles (the poodle parlor) which she again abandons when her husband and the banker discourage her and the business idea itself isn't viable. The shows message to women and especially housewives is, to get out more but family first.

From the text
"While Donna clearly enjoyed being a housewife, she also demanded respect from the men in her life, sending the message that housewives should be applauded for their important function in postwar society." The show is not about independence but about feeling more comfortable and being more respected while continuing to be completely dependent on the husband.

I don't think that it is a very good thesis. Sure it's for the history department who have looser standards but still it is value judgement after value judgement. I have a hard time seeing any theoretical framework or clear definitions.

"Perhaps, but you're confusing military ranks with actor status. Why would tv executives be eager to enforce military stereotypes on a Sci-Fi fantasy show? Are you saying they feared army reprisals for inaccuracy or something?"
Yes, Mrs Reed was more central than the first officer probably would have been even though there is Spock who is fairly central. I'm not sure what you mean with military stereotypes.

For most men having a women in command in some military hierarchy or any hierarchy was almost unthinkable in the early 60s. It was not only unthinkable in the military it was effectively impossible. That is why a female first officer on a ship is pushing boundaries, a lot I might say. Until 1978 women weren't even allowed to serve on navy ships. Only in 1990 was a woman finally commissioned to command a us navy ship.

I hope this isn't all to confusing. It grew organically while I was reading the thesis.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
Booming, we'll have to agree to disagree that housework or running a family isn't important. I think we had this same discussion about Beverly Crusher being a single mom. At any rate, whether it's the female or the male or whichever combination, someone has to keep a house and a family going so it can function well and it's not an easy task. If that sounds like demeaning work to you, so be it. Nevertheless, Donna Reed is the star of that show and we hear from her character and her authority about how to lead life in a positive way.

"For most men having a women in command in some military hierarchy or any hierarchy was almost unthinkable in the early 60s. It was not only unthinkable in the military it was effectively impossible. That is why a female first officer on a ship is pushing boundaries, a lot I might say. Until 1978 women weren't even allowed to serve on navy ships. Only in 1990 was a woman finally commissioned to command a us navy ship."

I see that, but we're not talking about Majel Barrett actually serving in the military, are we? We're talking about a role that very loosely resembles a military rank in a fantasy universe. Again, even if it was unheard of in the military, why would tv producers automatically go that direction? They're portraying the future with an understanding that things will be different than the present. Why would tv producers care where females are in this fictional hierarchy? Kirk's got a female cohort with him every other episode anyway, it would've worked better if he actually had a female first officer or lieutenant. So, whoever's fault, I think the show itself is a bit screwy in that respect.

What's interesting is that in the last episode of TOS, "Turnabout Intruder", the topic of a man stealing a woman's professional career is the main topic of the episode. It might be a self-conscious jab the show is making and its limitations. Anyhow, something to look forward to.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 4:14pm (UTC -6)
I don't think that caring for a family is easy but it is a temporary role, considering that most of the work comes from the upbringing of the children. Sooner or later the housewife will just care for the needs of the husband. The point is that women during that time were forced in a role that in a legal and economical sense was powerless and the Donna Reed show is essentially about women accepting that role (according to the thesis).

I once read an old federal government report from 1973 and in it they estimated how much one would have to pay somebody to do all the jobs a housewife does. In today's money it would be around 5500€. It was a pretty sweet deal for men.
Sadly, I forgot what my point was.

"Again, even if it was unheard of in the military, why would tv producers automatically go that direction?"
because they feared that the mostly male audience would in part not accept a woman in that position and therefor be less inclined to watch. But we cannot look into the now certainly rotting brains of the tv bosses from back then so it is all just speculation.

"What's interesting is that in the last episode of TOS, "Turnabout Intruder", the topic of a man stealing a woman's professional career is the main topic of the episode."
I'm looking forward to it. Thank you by the way for giving me that thesis. Kept me occupied for several hours.
Jason R.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 4:21pm (UTC -6)
"I once read an old federal government report from 1973 and in it they estimated how much one would have to pay somebody to do all the jobs a housewife does. In today's money it would be around 5500€. It was a pretty sweet deal for men."

Haha. Umm ok sure. Full time live in nannies / housekeepers must be driving BMWs.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
They were taking individual tasks and adding them up. Like cook, shopper, childcare and so on.
Jason R.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 5:13pm (UTC -6)
They were taking individual tasks and adding them up. Like cook, shopper, childcare and so on."

In other words, the tasks done by a typical live-in nanny. Incidentally, if that's 1972 currency then forget about a BMW, they'd be driving Bentleys.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
A live in servant certainly could do all these tasks even though they demand different skill sets. If you want average then letting one person do all these things is certainly the way to go. Plus they need a room with a bathroom, medical, paid vacation and what 14 to 16 paid hours a day. Maybe not in the USA but in Germany. I wouldn't want the person who cares for my children to be completely untrained and earn a shitty wage.

They used the wages for professionals.

And it is adjusted for inflation from German mark to euro.
Jason R.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 5:57pm (UTC -6)
Yes that would be a live-in nanny. We have them in Canada too.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 7:11pm (UTC -6)
Booming wrote:
"But we cannot look into the now certainly rotting brains of the tv bosses from back then so it is all just speculation."

Funnily enough, Herbert Solow, the Executive Producer of TOS who helped Roddenberry pitch the pilot with Number One is still alive. He wrote a huge book about TOS and it's his account that the studio would've accepted a female first officer if Roddenberry had been willing to let another actress do it. Not saying you have to believe him, of course, it's just an interesting controversy I stumbled upon while reading your original comment.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 2:35am (UTC -6)
God damn it, is anybody here actually an United Stateian?! But for the sake of it. That tutor, cook and more aka live in nanny earns 20€ an hour which is not that much. 14 hours a day, at least 5 days a week that's 5600€ a month (Wow when I made that calculation I didn't expect it to fit so nicely:). Let's say you really hate your children and want them to fail and have a desire for a significant spit percentage in your food so you find somebody who works for minimum wage (in Germany 9.85€/15.33 Canadian dollars) that would be 2758€/4292 Canada nuggets a month.

@ Chrome
yeah sure. Maybe I will even read it but you must admit it is interesting that the lessened role of women on the show had nothing to do with studio executives like him but was totally Roddenberry's fault.

" William Shatner corroborated this (Studio executives wanting a man) in Star Trek Memories, and added that female viewers at test screenings hated the character as well. Shatner noted that women viewers felt she was "pushy" and "annoying" and also thought that "Number One shouldn't be trying so hard to fit in with the men."

"According to Gene Roddenberry and Stephen Whitfield, the prominence of a woman among the crew of a star-ship was one of the reasons the original Star Trek pilot was rejected by NBC, who, in addition to calling the pilot "too cerebral," felt the alien Spock and a female senior officer would be rejected by audiences, although Roddenberry also related the tale of how women of the era had difficulty accepting her as well."

That sounds like it was more about gender norms than anything else.
Jason R.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 5:52am (UTC -6)
Booming, the Filipino people must be the richest in the world since such a large segment of their expats are pulling neurosurgeon wages. Their country must be like Wakanda by now with all that cash pouring in.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 6:11am (UTC -6)
As I said, you can of course exploit the person that cooks your food cares for and tutors your children.

"In 2018, the average nanny charged $17.09 per hour, with anything in the range $15 to $19 being common. On the higher-end, nannies charged $22.35 per hour while nannies on the lower-end earned $12.72 per hour.
(under additional tasks)
Asking your nanny to do a lot of extra tasks can lead to increased wages. If you want your nannies to run errands or get groceries (which case you should also require them to have a license and vehicle) it looks like you should expect to pay a good deal more."

"The average Live In Nanny salary in Canada is $27,300 per year or $14 per hour. Entry level positions start at $23,131 per year while most experienced workers make up to $39,878 per year."

And finally I didn't do that 1973 report. It was one information in a 400 page A4 size report.

What is your problem?
Jason R.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 7:01am (UTC -6)
"What is your problem?"

None. I don't intend to beat a dead horse.

But it's of interest to me that on one hand, you're suggesting that being a stay at home mom or housewife is menial work, akin to being some kind of servant or slave at the man's behest, but on the other hand, their labour must be worth this fantastic sum of money.

Incidentally, I reject the entire premise that such "work" can be reduced to some economic transaction or that money should be the guidepost when assessing the choice to stay at home or not.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 7:40am (UTC -6)

I’m actually familiar with that material and Shatner’s account doesn’t conflict with Solow’s version of events. Mind you, Solow was trying to sell Number One and this pilot to NBC, so he really doesn’t gain anything from doctoring the narrative like you’re suggesting. I tend to trust him precisely because his account makes it sound like he failed.

Gene Roddenberry himself I take with grain of salt because he obviously has a stake in what happened. He’s always butted heads with studios for not-so-wholesome things like sleeping with cast members.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 7:53am (UTC -6)
"But it's of interest to me that on one hand, you're suggesting that being a stay at home mom or housewife is menial work,"
never said that. I, at several points, actually said the opposite.

"akin to being some kind of servant or slave at the man's behest,"
In the late 50s married women were in many ways completely dependent on their husbands. If somebody works for free all day long and has no culturally accepted options to do something else. What do you call that?

"Incidentally, I reject the entire premise that such "work" can be reduced to some economic transaction."
Yeah, why should work be reduced to an economic transaction??! Crazy! I mean there are so many jobs who require more than 10 hours of work a day and pay absolutely nothing.
You see, I can make snarky comments, too.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 7:55am (UTC -6)
I bow to your far superior trivia knowledge!
Jason R.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 8:11am (UTC -6)
"Yeah, why should work be reduced to an economic transaction??! Crazy! I mean there are so many jobs who require more than 10 hours of work a day and pay absolutely nothing.
You see, I can make snarky comments, too."

I wasn't being snarky.

But if you insist on seeing being a stay at home parent as a "job" like plumbing or driving a bus, then it's understandable, if misguided, to see such people as "slaves".

Respectfully, do you know any stay at home mom's? Have you asked them why they chose to stay at home?
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 9:32am (UTC -6)
You mean the Filipino or Bentley comments and several others weren't snarky.

"But if you insist on seeing being a stay at home parent as a "job" like plumbing or driving a bus, then it's understandable, if misguided, to see such people as "slaves"."
I was talking about the 1950s, not today.

"Respectfully, do you know any stay at home mom's? Have you asked them why they chose to stay at home?"
I do. I also once wrote a paper about the situation of married women who want/ed to work (in Germany from 1949 until 2010).

I find it unwise for economical reasons to become a housewife because if your husband leaves you after 20 years, dies, gets sick, becomes violent or loses his job then what? A housewife would have no job experience, often no job training and be out of the workforce for many years. With that background you will only get low paying jobs if any. So a housewife has a pretty high risk to spent the second half of her life as a working poor and in old age will be barely able to finance herself. If one accepts these risks. Fine.
Sun, Apr 19, 2020, 10:31am (UTC -6)
Jammer, any particular reason why you didn’t review The Cage? Sci-fi devoted a 105-minute segment to it when they ran the special edition airings. In your review of “If Memory Serves”, you state that you’ve only seen the version that was cobbled together from black and white footage and footage from The Menagerie.
Thu, May 14, 2020, 12:48pm (UTC -6)
A venerable classic that is discomforting and familiar. I've read people say that TOS is like "The Twilight Zone" but really I think that characterization distorts what TOS is about. TWZ works by turning reality upside-down putting you ill at ease. TOS does similar upsetting things with science, but by and large the feeling by the end of the episode is a positive one.

Submitted for your consideration, "The Menagerie". Yes, Pike has suffered a gruesome fate from a simple inspection turned horribly wrong. Indeed, it's eerie the form of life that Pike is reduced to. Yet the humbleness of Starfleet officers like Menson, Kirk, and others give Pike this venerable dignity.

Especially compelling are Spock's efforts and loyalty to Pike which are arguably emotionally driven. In an interesting turnabout, much of the episode is premised on Spock being thought of as so logical that he'd never attempt a stunt like mutiny and conspiracy. However, we see Spock can act illogically or at least trick his logic sufficiently to be a wonderfully sentimental person.

One interesting conundrum is the ending where both Vina and Pike condemn themselves to a life of illusion. As outsiders we might not be able to accept this illusion and reject it as a zoo like the original Pike. But if we too were robbed of everything we once were by injury or trauma, we might feel a like as an invalid is an unsatisfying illusion. The need to return to one's comfort zone, to one's known life (even if it's quasi-fictional) is understandable.

Weighing this episode down a bit is the awkward framing device which at times exposes the stitches of a show that's, after all, thrown together from old footage for budgetary reasons. But what an unbelievably well-conceived framing device this is.

3 - 3.5 stars. An odd but lovable episode.
Sat, Oct 24, 2020, 9:49pm (UTC -6)
The Keeper totally outs YN Colt - "The other new arrival has considered you unreachable but now is realizing this has changed. The factors in her favor are youth and strength, plus unusually strong female drives." Awkward!
Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 10:21am (UTC -6)
I agree, @Rahul, a true classic! Over the years and decades, counting TV-marathons, regular syndication, when these things came out on DVD, Netflix, what have you - I can hardly keep track anymore how many times I've seen The Menagerie. And yet it never fails to satisfy and impress.

@JTIBERIUS, you have scribbled perhaps the very best definition of The Shatner I've ever seen: the man is a whirling dervish of kinetic energy. Amen brother, preach it!

I see a few people asking why Veena might have decided to stay on Talos. I half expected @Peter G., with his very theatrical write ups to have picked up on this. The Glass Menagerie is actually a very, very famous play.

In The Glass Menagerie, Laura has a limp and rarely leaves the house. Today we would call her an introvert, but basically her disability has left her very shy. She's slowly turned the house into a menagerie. You'll find that Laura's monologue is one of the most popular pieces for young actresses. I have to believe that there was a lot of Laura when they wrote that twisted Veena at the end. Laura, and maybe a hint of The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Star Trek was so literary. It was a gem! No wonder I can watch this episode 20 times and easily imagine watching it 20 more times before I tire of it.

@William B, what man hasn't dreamed of leaving behind all his responsibilities and running off to be an Orion slave trader? I love the purple robe Pike was wearing as he watched Veena dance. Very Roman.
Peter G.
Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 11:30am (UTC -6)
@ Mal,

"I see a few people asking why Veena might have decided to stay on Talos. I half expected @Peter G., with his very theatrical write ups to have picked up on this. The Glass Menagerie is actually a very, very famous play."

Huh. I guess the name "Menagerie" wasn't enough to set off the comparison for me, to say nothing of the fact that I knew The Menagerie backwards and forwards from age 8 or so, but only got familiar with Tennessee Williams in my 20's (although we did read it in high school).

That being said, I'm not quite sure I see the analogy as being intentional. Or at least if it is they played that super close to the chest. For my part I think there is one significant distinction, which is that in The Menagerie we have what initially look like villains ultimately turning out to be unfortunate and even pitiable people, who finally do actually have compassion despite their desperate need to save themselves. Keeping Veena with them does have a dose of being self-serving, and yet I distinctly get the idea once Pike joins them that they in fact do have affection for both humans and want them to be happy. So Veena's damaged state is actually why they have something to offer her: they can offer her a beautiful illusion. Contrast with Glass Menagerie, where I think Amanda (the mother) is portrayed as infantilizing and over-protecting Laura to the point where she has metaphorically crippled her and rendered her incapable of taking care of herself. I've actually heard of this happening IRL, it's quite sad. So Laura ends up living in a make-believe world, but one that is incredibly fragile. So it's a cage, but one with walls that could be easily broken if one realized one could. That's why, I think, Tom is going ballistic and needs to get out of there. So in the Williams play I think 'the cage' is one that is harmful to the inhabitant, whereas paradoxically the Talosian cage is a merciful one where they in some sense do have good intentions.
Jason R.
Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 6:15pm (UTC -6)
"Huh. I guess the name "Menagerie" wasn't enough to set off the comparison for me, to say nothing of the fact that I knew The Menagerie backwards and forwards from age 8 or so, but only got familiar with Tennessee Williams in my 20's (although we did read it in high school)."

I always remembered that play quite well but I can't say I ever made the connection either! I am intrigued by the parallels and the connection between Laura's predicament and Veena. I guess Pike is supposed to represent Tom O'Connor... or Jim maybe?

Ya I gotta say I see some parallels here but like Peter I am a little dubious that the two stories really match thematically. I am pretty sure Kirk would have rejected the Talosians and their fantasy cage which I guess would have lined up more with Jim abandoning Amanda and Laura?

Uggh scratch that. I just don't see it sorry.
Mon, Dec 14, 2020, 5:24am (UTC -6)
“The device used to tell this story is clever, if a little forced”

This is true, but it IS forced, right? The trial (and more) is an illusion, a clunky charade within the story.
Bob (a different one)
Mon, Feb 22, 2021, 11:36am (UTC -6)
I prefer The Cage to the Menagerie. The whole death penalty/court martial plot just seems contrived. Malachai Throne turning out to be a mental projection doesn't really work for me either.

The original version of The Cage is great though. I'm a big fan of it because it has such an old school sci-fi "Forbidden Planet" vibe to it. I'm a fan of Jeffrey Hunter's Pike too. I'm not sure he is as good as Shatner at his best, but I also doubt he would have been as bad as Shatner at his worst.

p.s. Here's an animated gif of Vina dancing if anyone is interested:
Wed, Aug 25, 2021, 4:03am (UTC -6)
As far as obligatory clip shows go, The Menagerie at least creates a genuinely interesting premise and added in just enough fresh footage to almost make you forget you're watching a clip show. 2.5 out of 5.0 for effort. 3.5 out of 5.0 overall episodic rating.
Peter G.
Sun, Apr 3, 2022, 11:18pm (UTC -6)
Since this is the first all-in rewatch of TOS I've done in many years, I thought I'd leave the occasional comment on episodes that I know very well but which take on a new color when placed directly in the context of airing order. IMO this is really the first really good episode of TOS, relatively speaking. I'd take any episode of this series before all episodes of Enterprise, but this is the first one where I started to get a strong sense of Spock, and especially the human/Vulcan situation. It was quite right to point out that his entire plan was a drawn-out emotional outburst, one of risking everything to save his old friend from suffering and uselessness. To bring Pike to Talos was illogical, and served no productive purpose to the Federation, unless one factors in things like compassion, well-wishing, and even affection. Duty and loyalty to Pike alone wouldn't explain it, because his duty to Pike never included tanking his career and that of another Captain to send his former CO to a resort. So this is a really nice look at what decency looks like to a half-Vulcan: cold, calculated, efficient, and full of mercy. If fact it's almost a step back from this to consider Spock's behavior and lessons learned in The Galileo Seven, which follows this.

What's also remarkable is that the economy involved in this two-partner: they salvaged all that unused footage from the failed pilot, chucked the worse parts and kept the better, turning into into not only a story about Spock but also a much *better* story than the original was. The Cage asked whether a dignified human can tolerate a cage if he knows it's a cage; but this one goes much further and asks under what conditions a person would agree to alter his own perceptions. In Pike's case I mean the perception of his own pain, his incapacity, and the imprisonment in the cage that is his body. Is the truth valuable in principle if in practice it merely represents being useless? Of course it does suppose that being hopelessly crippled does render you useless, which is perhaps just an opinion that many would disagree with. Maybe it says something about Pike in particular rather than about all of us. But I suspect that, contrary to what The Cage shows us, it's not only the weak who would accept the delights of being a zoo pet for the Talosians; it's not true that only advanced people like Pike could resist it. In fact Menagerie suggests that Pike himself could be shown a scenario (his accident) where he would no longer consider an illusion beneath him. Granted, the death sentence around approaching Talos IV seems to be based on the Talosians' own account that their advanced ability destroyed their civilization, which in turn it would do to any other that learned these secrets. But if we ignore the sci-fi premise regarding the Federation possibly learning these mental powers, and only focusing on whether an individual should (or shouldn't) resist being subject to the Talosians' delights, then the question becomes what your sensory apparatus is for in the first place. If it's to enjoy life, then it seems to me that enjoying it via illusion might be as good a way as any. You'd have to present a cogent argument that there's something more you're supposed to be doing as a human - even in a state of incapacitation - in order to argue that you should reject such illusion on principle. Spock certainly seems to believe that Pike no longer has a reason to reject it, and it appears he's right. What's interesting is the episode never says why.
Wed, Apr 13, 2022, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
In a way I wish the first pilot had not been turned down and we had gotten that cast, how would a much more serious Sci-Fi show have turned out? Would it now be a mostly forgotten series with no movies or sequel series made or would it have been much bigger and better?

The line that they had never seen a human and that's why they put Vina together like one of Frankenstein's monters always annoyed me a bit considering they don't look all that different from humans themselves. I also wonder why with 24th century technical and medical knowledge they couldn't have come up with a better way for Pike to communicate other than a single light flashing for yes or no. We could (and did) do better than that by the end of the 20th century.
Proud Capitalist Pig
Sat, Apr 16, 2022, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
The Talosians are the first alien race I've seen on this show that looked intriguingly and cryptically "alien" for 1960's television limitations. What an outstanding makeup effort. The salt-sucker in "The Man Trap" looked like a guy in a cheap Halloween costume, but these aliens were far more interesting and believable. They reminded me of the Taelons in "Earth: Final Conflict," an awesome (and posthumous) Gene Roddenberry effort from the late 1990's.

I liked Kirk's verbal sparring with Mendez. There's real tension there but you can tell they still respect each other as fellow officers. And while Jeffrey Hunter plays a good Captain, it's obvious that Shatner is so much better in the central Star Trek role. What I like about this "Cage" framing-job is that not only was it a business-conscious way to save money, but it gives Star Trek an historical tapestry especially in regards to Spock. As much as I despise the term "world-building," that's exactly what the result is here.

As this is mostly set-up, "The Menagerie, Part I" is solid if not exciting, and I'll save further thoughts for Part II.

Now about "The Cage." I haven't watched it yet, but it's listed as Episode 0 on Paramount +, before "The Man Trap," waiting patiently. Is it worth a watch after "The Menagerie?" Do I even need to bother with it or did they just show me all the relevant clips I would get from it anyway? What do you all think?

Best line:

Kirk -- "A computer expert can change record tapes, duplicate voices, say anything, say nothing!"

Even in the 1960’s they knew about Twitter hacks and deepfake.

My Grade: B-
Proud Capitalist Pig
Mon, Apr 18, 2022, 10:11am (UTC -6)
This post is for "The Menagerie, Part II." Sorry, I didn't realize until now that both episodes were combined on the same page.

I found myself getting wrapped up in "The Cage" narrative a lot more than the courtroom scenes, so I'm not sure they did a good enough job with balancing the two threads here. For one thing, "The Cage" scenes go on for so long that it's almost as if two shows are on, competing for attention, but it's okay because "The Cage" is the one that's far superior.

Ultimately, "The Cage" scenes evoke a wonderfully intelligent, thought-provoking story. It's all here: Orwellian thought-crimes ('Wrong thoughts will be punished," is the Talosian's Woke retort when it's finally had enough of Pike's challenges), a Baudrillard simulacra/simulation philosophy meditation, the pros and cons of both passive and active resistance, the creepy notion of the Talosian telepathy being so powerful that they can affect destruction on an orbiting ship, and the revelation that Vina actually wants to stay on the planet because her heartbreaking reality is worse (I agree that it's not that she's frail and ugly, it's that she's probably in a lot of pain and disabled like Pike).

Jeffrey Hunter's Pike came alive in the Part II "Cage" scenes, and although I still believe William Shatner makes for a better series lead, I now think Hunter would have still been perfectly entertaining in his place. Pike gets some pretty badass one-liners throughout his imprisonment on the planet:

"There's a way out of any cage and I'll find it!"

"I'm not an animal performing for its supper!"

"Is your blood red like ours? I'm going to find out!"

"You want me to test my theory out on your head?" (That one got me rolling)

I loved the verbal sparring between Pike and the Talosian zookeeper in the scene where it occurs to Pike that primal thoughts (especially murderous ones, haha) might block their telepathic intrusions and the Talosian deflects his attempts to confirm this with more analyzing and observations. The dialogue between Pike and Vina is often just as lively, with Vina, the more experienced captor, woefully trying to persuade Pike that any efforts to outwit their captors will prove futile (maybe hoping that he'll get worn out and stay with her?).

My favorite goofy moments -- Pike leans back to charge at the glass, but when the lead Talosian accurately explains to the others, "The creature will throw himself against this transparency" just as he is about to do so, he stops suddenly, but then carries out his plan anyway (as if to say, "Fuck you.") And come on, who can't love the cheesy fight scene with Vina screaming like Fay Wray and futilely trying to fend off Chuck Norris in a cheap community-theater Viking costume by batting him with a walking stick, while Pike gets thrashed around until finally flinging a sword right into the bastard's ass? I had to pause the show to compose myself.

I agree with a lot of comments above in terms of first-officer Number One. She was a welcome presence, and her steely competence and resting bitchface a great foil for the stereotypical blonde damsel-in-distress vibe that Vina often presents throughout the show. It's too bad that One was dropped from further Star Trek plans once they had to film a new pilot, though I think it had less to do with NBC's skittishness about potential negative audience reactions concerning such a forceful female lead and more to do with their concern that she was blowing the boss (yes I did my homework). But whatever the reason, I'd be game to see more of the character.

I was also thirsting for an explanation about why Starfleet forbids travel to Talos IV on threat of death, and I think they adequately but simplistically explained it: the Talosians can take control of your mind or even the mind of your entire crew remotely if you aren't careful, through convincing illusions, and that's just, like, way too much power man, whoah.

Then there's a final, delicious trick when "The Menagerie" collides with "The Cage" and plays its last card--Mendez was a simulation orchestrated by Spock and the Talosians the whole time, so that "he" could prevail over Spock's court-martial, stall Kirk and get Pike to watch the Talosians' presentation in a new light. It's convoluted and reaching, sure, but brilliant.

And even without "The Cage," "The Menagerie" does have some value on its own in regards to the character of Spock. His entire hijacking mission seems completely illogical at first glance, and Kirk calls him out on this. But Spock has a human side, and I like that his emotional loyalty and dedication to both Kirk and Pike maneuvered his risky actions in a way that he himself is able to excuse as a perfectly logical plan given the circumstances. One thing confused me: Spock still HIJACKED THE SHIP and assaulted several crewmembers in order to do all this. Shouldn't he still be guilty of that, despite his altruistic motives?

Ultimately, "Menagerie"-Pike ending up back on the planet he fought incessantly to leave the first time, and now *choosing* to live a life of fantasy with Vina (bringing a new meaning to that last shot of Jeffrey Hunter that's still one from "The Cage"), proves to be a pretty poignant, thoughtful ending and a great way to honor Star Trek's first pilot while also closing the book on it.

Best Line:

Talosian Zookeeper: "You are now on the surface, where we wished you to be. With the female of your choice, you will now begin carefully guided lives."

Pike: "And start by burying you."

(Seriously, Pike's a hoot in this episode)

My Grade (for Part II): A-
Part I, in my earlier comment, still gets a B-
Sun, May 8, 2022, 9:43am (UTC -6)
Do we know if "The Cage" takes place before or after Strange New Worlds?
Tue, Jul 12, 2022, 10:32am (UTC -6)
A shot of Pike in The Cage reminded me of Similitude so here's a composite of Pike and Porthos:
Thu, Jul 21, 2022, 12:54am (UTC -6)
@JTIBERIUS: "pike’s communicative predicament as described in the story is insanely stupid upon literally 5 seconds of consideration--hell, even hector salamanca and his bell managed better than we’re given to believe pike’s super-dalek chair can."

Heh, glad I thought at the last moment of doing Ctrl-F for "hector" because I was thinking the same (or about Stephen Hawking, also capable only of binary interaction but with a computer-aid that scrolled letters until he chose one).
Fri, Aug 5, 2022, 8:45am (UTC -6)
I think that The Cage is better than The Menagerie. There are too many little problems with The Menagerie. The cheap drama of the death penalty for one thing. The illusory commodore for another. And there are too many niggling "Why couldn't they just do ___?" moments, too.

I do admire their cleverness in making use of existing footage however. The ending on Talos is also good.

The Pike novel Burning Dreams by Margaret Wander Bonanno ends with a nice scene of Spock re-visiting Talos many years after the events of this episode. I liked it.

p.s. TrekCore has an on the set photo of Susan Oliver as Vina. It's an ok pic but it's very magenta-y. I tweaked it a bit:
Sun, Aug 28, 2022, 8:06pm (UTC -6)
The ending was always a letdown for me.

If all it took was the Talosians to communicate with the real Mendez to give the Enterprise permission to visit the planet, then the entire court martial and other histrionics was pointless.
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 31, 2022, 12:25am (UTC -6)
@ Steve,

"If all it took was the Talosians to communicate with the real Mendez to give the Enterprise permission to visit the planet, then the entire court martial and other histrionics was pointless."

Don't forget that if the purpose of the 'trial' was to convince Mendez, they would probably have staged it in a manner other than by making him watch a fake version of himself in a courtroom. The question then becomes, who is this mock trial for?

I don't think we've had a huge discussion about Menagerie here, regarding what the point of the episode actually is. Yes, there's great Spock stuff, but that's not a story, just nice character development. Mostly I think Menagerie is treated as an excuse to trot out The Cage during the regular series run, and at best it's seen as a clever way to use old footage. But I think Menagerie does much more than just give us a two-parter using footage from the pilot: it gives us the actual resolution to the pilot, a finale to that story.

The story of The Cage is about Pike. The Talosians have him confined, trapped like an animal, with seemingly exciting choices for him (among women, fantasies, food, etc) and yet having no appeal to him. All of this mirrors his actual life prior to coming to Talos IV, and the drama on the planet serves as a way of us seeing the inner life he had already confided to his doctor. He had an exciting career with many choices open to him, including no doubt his choice of women, and yet he is somehow in a cage within his mind. And the episode's end, with him escaping through discipline and guile, doesn't solve his problem with is rather emblematic of it: he seemingly can't have any of what he wants unless he gives up on his duty and his resistance to pleasure. The ending, despite Pike overcoming the Talosians, is essentially a sad one.

The Menagerie does something deceptively clever, which is to give Pike a more literal prison, which this time is his body. So not only did he never escape the career that confined him, but not he's so immobilized he can't do anything at all. His indecision has literally paralyzed him. That alone is a fascinating if morose follow-up to where we left off with The Cage. But the trial and all the maneuvers by Spock and the Talosians to get Pike on a ship are part of an attempt to help him. What we see of the Talosians at the end of The Cage isn't a pathetic and dead race, but actually a wise and empathetic people who were desperate to survive. What they did we consider monstrous, but it seems apparent that they can in fact care for humans, and unethical as their methods may have been, they appear to be benevolent in their own way. And The Menagerie seems to me to pick up that thread and spin it into a brand new story, where their powers of deception are this time used to help Pike face up to what he gave up the last time he left Talos. He really could have had his fantasies all come true. And although they would have been 'fake' Spock and the Talosians may well be making the case that after a life of service to the Federation a man like Pike can allow himself to finally rest and cease suffering under the burden of command.

The question the episode seems to be asking is how someone like Pike could be persuaded to go back to live out a fantasy after having faced so many grim realities in his life. Would it be selfish? Would it lack meaning in some way to do so? I think the extreme extent of Pike's suffering by this point presents us with the idea that it might simply be merciful to get him to agree to live out the rest of his life with someone who actually cares for him, even if their experiences are guided and aided by the Talosians. After all, if Federation technology would be used (if it could) to improve his quality of life, why not the Talosians' psionic technology? He could still make his own choices and exercise agency within the fantasies, maybe even create a fake workshop and do real research or some other productive activity.

The biggest issue would be trust: could he believe the Talosians wouldn't start tricking him again? And The Menagerie is neat because we really do get the sense that they're good and trustworthy, despite what they originally put Pike through. The last scene in the episode tells us clearly enough that Pike is among friends and is going to have a second chance at life. The trial, therefore, was a means of convincing him that going back to Talon wouldn't be a betrayal of his duty and his colleagues. And the fact that the nature of the trial was to examine Spock's actions, it shows that Pike would in fact be going along with the best wishes of his colleagues (who want him to be happy) and even with his duties (to find Spock not-guilty, on the grounds of taking these actions to save Pike from his tortures). If someone as logical as Spock is making the case that Pike must go, then it wouldn't seem after all to be a selfish betrayal to finally stop fighting and to resign his commission.
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 11:14am (UTC -6)
))women dancing seductively. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to have an equal amount of male versions, when you exploit people for their physical qualities.((

Men are visual creatures. The male "lizard brain" is titillated by the sight of two or three simple but well-placed curves sketched on paper. Women are not, to the same degree, visual creatures - at least, not when it comes to arousal. Images of men dancing seductively would benefit only a very small percentage of the viewing audience (likewise consisting chiefly of men); there would be very little "benefit."
Sun, Dec 18, 2022, 11:19am (UTC -6)
On what are you basing this?
matthew h
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 5:17pm (UTC -6)
In Methusaleh, Spock unilaterally out of compassion love and loyalty mandates his current commander to "forget", but in Cage/Menagerie Spock unilaterally out of compassion, love, and loyalty mandates his former commander to "remember".
matt h
Sun, Jan 15, 2023, 7:31am (UTC -6)
SOme legal thoughts from someone who has practitioned:

1) THE Talosians ensured that Mendez on Enterprise would be an illusion because even they could guess that Federation law would allow the overturning of a death penalty on the grounds that one of the judges was an illusion. And another was a material witness.
2) Pike's lawyers told him to blare out "no" over and over so he could have denial of Spock's plot, because otherwise if he cooperated with Spock HE , Captain PIKE would risk the death penalty himself without evidence of resistance to the plot.
3) WHy is it there are often no lawyers in many Star Trek proceedings -- Measure of a Man, the Wesley hearings, etc. And no rights of appeal mentioned?
Non-lawyery thoughts:
All this trouble just to smuggle an invalid a few days travel. Mudd or C. Jones would have done it for booze?
The Talosians trying to go into the retirement resort business? Team up with SHore Leave planet.
Peter G.
Sun, Jan 15, 2023, 9:48am (UTC -6)
@ matt h,

All of the subterfuge was done in order to force Pike to watch the recordings and hear Spock's remarks about them. He would normally have refused outright, but being part of the senior staff on the Enterprise at the time he was bound to participate in the trial, which therefore required him to observe all of the evidence presented. As a result he was given another chance to give up his resistance and to accept an illusion to ease him of his suffering. It was a mercy mission.
Tue, Feb 28, 2023, 7:28pm (UTC -6)
All these histrionics only to have the real Commodore Mendez at the starbase give his permission after being directly contacted by the Talosians.
Fri, Jun 9, 2023, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
This is a fantastic episode, or episodes I guess, particularly in the creative way The Cage was repurposed into a sub-narrative that forms a sort of pseudo-clip show. Although it’s important to remember that virtually no one had seen The Cage when Menagerie aired so it shouldn’t be viewed with the same derision that normal clip shows often deserve. I’d be very interested to know the perspective of viewers at the time and how they saw this retooled footage. Did people know it was from an unaired pilot or did they think these scenes were shot specifically for The Menagerie? I guess I’ve got some googling to do.

I have to dispute some of the comments above arguing that Spock’s motives and actions were uncharacteristically emotional. While emotional elements like friendship and loyalty definitely played a major role here, Spock’s plan ultimately makes logical sense to me.
- Pike’s condition was fundamentally dire, presumably he was in a state of hopeless mental and physical agony. The profundity of his suffering would have been intolerable, especially given that there’s another option.
- Kirk and Pike had to be kept in the dark to avoid implication. Had Spock appealed to either of his captains, he may have found support, but he would have increased the potential fallout of his plan.
- Spock had first hand knowledge of what the Talosians could offer Pike, including an apples to apples comparison with Vena and her willing and beneficial participation in their illusion powers.
- The Enterprise was the best overall option for a covert mission such as this. A shuttle would have been inadequate, as shown by Kirk himself while in pursuit, and hiring a ship would have increased the risk factors while eliminating the advantages of Spock’s command position and intimate knowledge of the Enterprise’s systems.
- The federation’s draconian policy towards Talon(Talos?) was itself illogical. Clearly the Talosians can project their powers across vast distances, they obviously don’t need people to be close at hand or on planet to be influenced. So the federation’s stance is basically empty authoritative posturing.
Thus, the most sensible, least harmful path was to hijack the Enterprise, deliver Pike to a better future, and thereby restrict the broader consequences to a single person, Spock himself. The Mendez illusion was a necessary component of the plan because Spock had naturally calculated that Kirk would pursue his ship by any means available, even to the point of death, and Spock would be unable to allow that to happen, so surrender en route was inevitable, but the presence of a ranking officer would stop Kirk from immediately turning the ship around or from taking even more drastic steps(sabotage, self destruct, etc…), thus allowing time for the Talosians to make their case to both Kirk and Pike amidst the subterfuge of a staged trial.

As a Vulcan, or Vulcan/human(Vulman?), Spock can still be motivated by emotion as long as the dominant decision making process is logic, and the path he chose is the one that had the highest chance of success with the lowest amount of harm done. Fairly logical, if in a self-sacrificial sort of way.
One could argue that defying star fleet policy weakens the institutional integrity of the federation and is thus illogical. However, you could also make the case that adhering to arbitrary rules pitched by some pencil pushing bureaucrat leaves the federation to operate at less than peak efficiency and is also therefore illogical. So, the balance falls on the side of delivering Pike to salvation. Incidentally, it strikes me that Vulcans would be the most ardent subversives in the face of systemically ridiculous policies or the idea of standing on absurd ceremony/tradition which is how I view the whole “stay away from Talos or DIE!!” decree.

The only criticism I’ll accept of this episode is Pike’s beep-chair. That was a pretty goofy failure of imagination.
Kristina A
Fri, Jun 16, 2023, 5:44pm (UTC -6)
No. 1 was a high status female way ahead of her fashion times, attitude and power manicures included. What a romp down memory lane it all is. Wonderful.
Sun, Jun 18, 2023, 1:26pm (UTC -6)
@kristina a

We were all cheated of the opportunity to see No 1 as a character in the series. It really is a major collective misfortune. I’ve heard that part of the decision to scrap that character was due to how poorly she tested with female viewers, which, if true, would go to show just how difficult it can be to move the social dial forward. It’s not just the capriciousness of network execs and corporate goons, there’s also a pernicious cultural factor that’s much stickier and tough to quantify. But at least we got The Cage/Menagerie.

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