[The only onscreen title is Star Trek, but the script (as well as every home media release) calls this "The Cage".]
(airdate: October 4, 1988, as part of The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next)
[The DVD gives the airdate as October 15, but apparently it aired earlier in some markets - the joys of syndication.]
Writer: Gene Roddenberry
Director: Robert Butler
Captain Christopher Pike: Jeffrey Hunter
Number One: Majel Barrett
José Tyler: Peter Duryea
Vina: Susan Oliver
First Talosian: Georgia Schmidt
Mister Spock: Leonard Nimoy
Dr. Philip Boyce: John Hoyt
Yeoman Colt: Laurel Goodwin
The Keeper: Meg Wyllie
Voice of the Keeper: Malachi Throne
Captain's Log: The Enterprise is en route to the Vega colony when it encounters an old-style distress signal from Talos IV. Investigating, the crew discovers survivors from the S.S. Columbia, who crashed eighteen years earlier, so a landing party beams down. However, it's a ruse; the native Talosians capture Captain Pike and place him in captivity, as they want him to breed with Vina, the sole survivor of the S.S. Columbia, and repopulate the surface of Talos IV. Pike rebels, and despite being enticed with pleasant illusions and punished with painful ones, refuses to comply with the Talosians' wishes. The Talosians scan the Enterprise's computers and learn that humans have a unique hatred of captivity; once they learn this, they allow Pike and his crew to leave. However, Vina stays behind with the Talosians; she is old and badly scarred, and the Talosians can provide her with the illusion of youth and beauty. The Enterprise departs, leaving the Talosians and Vina behind.
Whoops!: Why does Vina spend the first part of the episode trying to convince Pike she's an illusion? She doesn't seem to gain anything from it, and neither do the Talosians, so what's the point? Leonard Nimoy is limping in some of the scenes on Talos IV, leading to speculation that he had been injured on the day of filming, but in fact, the script indicated that Spock had been injured, and Nimoy is just going along with it. The main issue, however, is that he doesn't appear to be limping in any other sequence (and there are moments when you might expect him to be). And it's also a little odd how no one on the Enterprise realizes the approaching "thing" at the very beginning is a distress signal. That seems like a pretty terrible distress signal, if you don't know what it is until you physically pass through it.
On the restored color version, the viewscreen from "The Menagerie" can be seen 61 minutes in, as Spock and Number One see Pike beam aboard. [This appears to have been corrected on later editions, but is visible at least through the 2004 DVD release.] And it can't be helped, but there are noticeable differences in sound quality as we switch between the footage used in "The Menagerie" and the mute rediscovered footage that was combined with the sound from Gene Roddenberry's low-quality print of the original pilot; this combination of different sources also results in at least one obvious difference in vocal style for the Keeper. [This is because Malachi Throne, the voice of the Keeper, was in "The Menagerie" as Commodore Mendez, so the Keeper's voice was electronically treated for "The Menagerie" to avoid audiences realizing it was the same person - but any footage not in "The Menagerie" was left alone (the difference in the original B&W-and-color "mixed" version is particularly noticeable). Again, as technology has advanced, this is something that has been improved in later editions.]
Classic Lines: Boyce to Pike: "Sometimes a man'll tell his bartender things he'll never tell his doctor."
"A person's strongest dreams are about what he can't do."
Boyce, after Colt asks which woman would Pike have picked as "Eve": "Eve as in Adam?" Pike: "As in all ship's doctors are dirty old men."
Cringe Lines: Pike being incredibly sexist: "She does a good job, all right. It's just that I can't get used to having a woman on the bridge. No offense, Lieutenant [Number One], you're different, of course."
Alien Love: Vina attempts to romance Pike on behalf of the Talosians, and, in one famous scene, appears as an Orion slave girl, dancing sensuously.
Library Computer: [Settle in, this is gonna be a long one...]
The U.S.S. Enterprise is a space vehicle with the registry number "NCC-1701". It's a light gray in color, and consists of a large saucer with a dome in the center on both the top and bottom of the dish; a cylindrical section located below and behind the saucer, attached by a thin angled pylon; and two long smaller cylindrical sections that are connected by pylons to the mid-back portion of the main cylindrical section. These smaller cylinders are spaced equally apart from each other, rising up to be slightly above the saucer dish and behind it. The tips of these cylinders are rounded and red in color, with an antenna-like point in the center, while the front of the main cylinder has a dish on its front. The dome on the top of the saucer appears to be the location of the ship's bridge. There's an engineering deck, a large briefing room with a monitor and a conference table, and a transporter room. There are also quarters - Pike's appear to be on the upper part of the ship [the hull curves up], with a television and a bed that's too small for him. The Enterprise has a hyperdrive [the warp drive], as well as rockets [an element never referred to again]. The engineering deck can transmit power to a large laser cannon on the surface of a planet, with enough power to blast "half a continent". The crew complement at the time of this story is 203.
The bridge of the ship is a large round room, with computer consoles and control panels around much of the walls. In the center of the bridge is the captain's chair, which faces a large viewscreen. In front of the captain's chair is a large console, designed for two people. If the viewscreen is at 12 o'clock, then at 8 o'clock is the turbolift leading to the bridge. Some of the consoles can produce paper printouts, and reports are handed to the captain as paper copies attached to clipboards. Attached to the consoles and the captain's chair are small display screens on flexible gooseneck arms. The general color scheme is grey, black, and pale blue.
Captain Christopher Pike is the captain of the Enterprise, wearing a greenish-gold tunic. He's an intelligent man in his mid-to-late 30s, with short dark hair and striking blue eyes. He was born in Mojave, a "nice little town" surrounded by fifty miles of parkland that was once a desert. He used to ride horses and owned a pair of them, one of whom was named Tango. Two weeks ago he led a landing party on Rigel VII and was trapped in a deserted fortress by a Rigellian warrior, and while he was inside a yeoman and two other crewmembers were killed; Pike blames himself for their deaths. He does not like being held captive. He was considering quitting the service, but the events on Talos IV made him realize he needed to take the bad with the good. He likes to tell his crew to start the ship moving by saying, "Engage" [a word more commonly associated with Star Trek: The Next Generation's Captain Picard].
Number One [no other name is given] is the Enterprise's first officer, wearing a greenish-gold tunic. She held the rank of lieutenant. A woman in her early 30s, she has long black hair and shows little emotion, although the Talosian Keeper suggested this emotionlessness was largely a pretense. Her speech patterns, however, also suggest a more rational approach to thinking. [She's a lot more like the Spock of the main series than the Spock we see here - this is because her computer-like nature was transferred to Spock for the second pilot, to contrast with William Shatner's more instinctive portrayal of James Kirk.] Despite this calm exterior, she apparently fantasized about Pike.
Mister Spock [no rank given] is the ship's third-in-command and its science officer, wearing a blue tunic. He is an alien [a Vulcan, as we'll subsequently learn] with dark hair, pointed ears, and upswept eyebrows, which all combine to give him a vaguely Satanic look. His skin has a slightly yellow-green tint. He appears to have been wounded in the leg not long before the events here, as he's limping on Talos IV. [This is probably related to the incident on Rigel VII.] He's somewhat eager, prone to exclaiming things loudly, and he seems quite taken with the humming plants on Talos IV, grinning happily at them. [This is difficult to square with what we subsequently learn about Spock and his logical, emotionless nature. Two possibilities that have been suggested are that he was young and didn't have his emotions under as much control as he would subsequently, or that he was attempting to emulate human emotions to make them more comfortable around him. Curiously, this scene is left intact in Part I of "The Menagerie".] He's also something of a pragmatist, prepared to leave Talos IV when Number One and Colt are also captured in order to not risk any more lives. [This moment is not in "The Menagerie".]
Dr. Phil Boyce is the ship's doctor. He's in his 50s, with white thinning hair and a slightly acerbic demeanor which hid a dry sense of humor. He was friends with Pike and advised him not to give up the life of a space vessel captain. He's dressed in a blue jumpsuit, as well as a blue tunic. When the crashed ship Columbia was revealed to be an illusion, he repeatedly cautioned the other crew about the dangers of the Talosian illusions, suggesting that nothing they saw could necessarily be believed.
The ship's navigator [José Tyler, according to production materials] is a young man in his 20s, with sandy hair swept to the side. He wore a greenish-gold tunic, and his right hand was injured [probably because of Rigel VII]. Meanwhile, the ship's yeoman [J.M. Colt, again according to production materials] is a young woman with red hair in her early 20s, wearing a reddish-gold tunic. She replaced the Enterprise's previous yeoman, who was killed on Rigel VII. According to the Keeper, she had "unusually strong female drives", and had fantasized about Pike but considered him unreachable.
There appear to be two types of uniforms on the Enterprise: standard uniform tunic/pant ensembles, and loose all-in-one jumpsuits. Both types come in three colors: a greenish gold, a reddish gold, and a pale blue. The tunics are further divided into two subtypes: the men wear a tunic with a ribbed collar, while the women wear a tunic with a large loose collar that comes to a point in the center. Both genders wear dark pants. [Compare with the miniskirts in the main series.] Each tunic has an arrowhead patch on its left breast, with a small insignia inside: a starburst (as worn by Pike and Number One), two overlapping circles (as worn by Spock and Boyce), a spiral (as worn by Tyler and Colt), and a shaded square with an unshaded circle inside, giving the effect of a squared-off C (worn by two extras on the bridge, including the one in blue at the beginning who tries to offer a clipboard to Pike). Some of the tunics have a single gold band around the cuff of each sleeve, while other tunics are band-less. [This is in the same place as the rank insignia will be in the main series. It's not clear what the band signifies here.] The jumpsuits are open to the waist, with loose three-quarters sleeves and a large print on the left breast of a simple map of Earth's Western Hemisphere, surrounded by a laurel wreath, with the words "U.S.S. ENTERPRISE" printed beneath. [So a lot like the United Nations emblem, but from the side of Earth instead of the North Pole.] Two people are also seen in an Enterprise corridor dressed in non-uniform, casual clothing.
The Enterprise has the ability to "beam" people up from and down to planet surfaces with a transporter: a person stands on one of six circular pads in a small circular area, at which point two crewmembers on the other side of the room operate a console; the bottom pad lights up, followed by the circular light above their head, and a sparkly light pattern begins, replacing the people as they fade from view. Arriving on a planet's surface is heralded by the same light show as the person fades into view; as the person becomes more solid, the lights fade until the person has arrived.
The Enterprise's equipment includes handheld communicators, made in clear plastic with a gold mesh fliptop; hand lasers with gold, silver, and black coloring that emit laser beams that can blast through a clear security partition and can be adjusted by twisting a control on the barrel of the gun, and which can be set to overload by building up a "force chamber explosion"; and a very large laser cannon, controlled from orbit by the Enterprise, which could blast off the top of a mountain in a second. Landing parties were outfitted with harnesses to carry their equipment and dark blue-grey jackets to fit over their uniforms, with a large front panel that velcroed shut.
The Talosian system consisted of eleven planets orbiting a binary star system. The fourth planet appeared to have an orbit strongly inclined relative to the ecliptic [the diagram on the viewscreen has it as nearly perpendicular to the orbits of the other planets], and was the only one capable of supporting [humanoid] life. [Starfleet] had not yet explored the Talos star group.
Talos IV is a class M planet with an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, "heavy with inert elements but well within safety limits", located on the other end of the galaxy from [Earth]. The gravity is 0.9 times that of Earth's. There were rounded metal bits visible [with sensors] from orbit, which were potentially parts of a spaceship hull. The surface of Talos IV is fairly desolate, being primarily rocky with some sparse vegetation, including a plant with tall red spherical blooms and another plant with blue leaves that vibrated, making a musical sound. The Enterprise's sensors indicated that the surface of the planet was too barren to support life. The ship S.S. Columbia crashed on the planet roughly eighteen years ago. There appeared to be a camp of survivors, including a Dr. Theodore Haskins from the American Continent Institute, but this camp was actually an illusion created by the native Talosians. [That said, there probably was a real Dr. Haskins aboard the Columbia who died in the ship crash and was pulled from Vina's memories.]
The Talosians were a race of beings with large bald domed heads that held brains three times the size of humans. They were capable of telepathy, and the veins on the heads pulsed when they were using it. They wore long silver robes made of a metal fabric and large medallions around their necks. Their lifespan was many times greater than those of humans. A thousand centuries ago, a war ravaged the surface of Talos IV, making it uninhabitable and sending the survivors underground. They learned that life wasn't much better there, so they concentrated on developing their mental powers, learning the power of creating illusions. However, they learned too late that illusions were addictive, as their dreams were better than their reality, and so they lost the ability to build, create, and repair things, content to watch thought records instead of living their own lives. They could create illusions not only for themselves but for others, using a person's thoughts, memories, and desires to give them anything they wanted. They could also punish people when they didn't cooperate, subjecting them to painful illusions. However, the Talosians had some limitations: they couldn't actually make someone do something they didn't want to do, they couldn't put illusions of things like intense hunger in people's minds, and they couldn't read thoughts when someone was thinking savage, primitive thoughts, such as hatred. They captured Pike by knocking him unconscious with a blast of a yellow gas. Thousands of them lived in the underground complex, though there was an elevator leading to the surface.
The complex the Talosians created underground included a zoo-like area, where specimens and their descendants from this part of the galaxy lived. These specimens included zoological gardens filled with a variety of plant life, an ape-like creature with reddish fur and a porcine snout, a humanoid bird with an owl-like face and black and white feathers, and some sort of crab-like creature [we only see the shadow of this last one]. They also had a single human female, Vina. They captured Pike as they believed he was a suitable mate for Vina; they hoped that the two of them would breed and help repopulate the surface of Talos IV, under the guidance of the Talosians, to become a race of technicians and artisans serving the Talosians. The cage that Pike was kept in was fairly small, with stone block walls on two sides and a large clear window on the third. There was a silver, comma-shaped bed in the cage, and a small access hatch to administer food and drink in one of the walls. The food was a nourishing protein complex in a blue liquid. Their underground complex may have been powered by a generator creating a magnetic field that the Enterprise sensors could detect. [It's possible this was an illusion too, as they were attempting to ensnare different potential mates for Pike at this point.]
Eighteen years ago, the S.S. Columbia crashed on Talos IV. There was only one survivor, an adult woman named Vina. Vina was dying, so the Talosians repaired her; however, without another human to use as a guide, they didn't quite get it right, and so Vina was badly scarred and physically deformed. Everything in her body worked, but it wasn't pleasant to look at, so the Talosians gave Vina the illusion of youth and beauty (and, later, an illusory Captain Pike as a companion). The Talosians found humanity interesting, and so they set a trap to ensnare a human mate for Vina.
In the last eighteen years, the time barrier has been broken, meaning space travel is much faster now. [This is probably meant to refer to the development of warp drive, but subsequent episodes (and basically all of Enterprise) refute this. We can explain it away by saying Tyler's talking about achieving warp 7 or some such thing.]
Two weeks before the events seen here, the Enterprise was involved in a conflict on Rigel VII that left three crewmembers dead and seven injured [including, probably, Spock and Tyler]. Pike was trapped in a deserted fortress, with large decorative spires on the walls and a dome atop the central tower, by a Kalar [sometimes spelled "Kaylar"] warrior - a tall man, wearing furs, with a tall fur hat and bared teeth - and thus couldn't help his crew. The fortress was littered with primitive weapons, including swords, spears, axes, and maces. Rigel VII had a very large moon visible from the surface, and a purple sky and purple water. Following this incident, the Enterprise set course for the Vega Colony to tend to their sick and injured.
Orion women have dark olive-green skin and dark hair, and long green fingernails. The one we see here (Vina in an illusion) dances sensuously, wearing a copper-colored reptile skin with many large scales all over it, with the tail running down her left leg. The Orion colony includes people who deal in the slave trade, with Orion women as their goods. In the illusion created by the Talosians, Pike is wearing purple and blue robes with an elaborate necklace, while an unidentified [Starfleet] officer is wearing a brown jacket with gold epaulettes and a V neck over a standard uniform tunic. This officer claims that the people on this planet [probably meaning Orion women] like to be taken advantage of.
Old-style distress signals were designed to cause interference with ships, in order to attract attention.
There are businesses are Regulus.
Final Analysis: "There's a way out of any cage and I'll find it." Legendarily rejected by the NBC executives as being "too cerebral", "The Cage" is a smart, standout story. To be fair, you can see the executives' point (there's only one real fight - the Rigel VII sequence - and there's a lot of talking and discussions happening instead), but what even they noted was how cohesive and authentic-feeling this future is. The arguments are interesting, the effects are well done, and the cast is excellent: Jeffrey Hunter shines as the frustrated Pike, while actors like Majel Barrett and John Hoyt never let the side down. It's curious, in a way, that only Leonard Nimoy was retained for the second pilot, as he's possibly the weakest of the main cast here - though that's partly because the character of Spock isn't particularly well-defined. Possibly the most SF story Star Trek ever did, and definitely one to treasure.
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Page originally created: April 6, 2016
Page last updated: April 6, 2016