Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, November 11, 2013

Season 1, Episode 16.5 "The Menagerie, Part 2"

"The Menagerie, Part 2"
Production Number: 16
Air Order: 12
Stardate: 3013.1
Original Air Date: November 24, 1966

I come from a service family, so I'd like to give a shout out to friends and family who have been in the service, have given their lives to the service, or are still in the service.


And a poppy for our mates across the pond


*******


So a lot of people argue whether this two-part episode is one episode or two. The DVD lists both parts as production number 16, which is certainly true, because both halves of the envelope were shot at the same time, and then edited together. But one could also argue that it is two, as together, it is two hours long, and required two one-hour blocks to view on television. Frankly, given that it's one episode, split in two, and enhanced with other scenes, one could also make a decent argument for it being three episodes. But just to illustrate how few fucks I give, and to make the blog easier to access and read in order, I'm labeling this episode as 16.5. Deal with it.
So in case you missed last week's post and are too lazy to scroll down and read it for yourself, here's the low-down:
Gene Rod and Co had a budget so tiny you couldn't find it with an electron microscope, and they were forced to utilize the un-aired original pilot episode, which had a completely different crew, and would make no sense when set within the rest of the series. So they cut it in half, wrote some scenes to go around the old material, and made two episodes very cheaply. It's brilliant in both story and budget.
So for the story, Spock has quasi-kidnapped the previous captain of the Enterprise, who is now a  thinking vegetable after being injured while rescuing orphans from a burning building. Spock has also hijacked the Enterprise to take this captain - Christopher Pike - to the planet Talos IV. To go to Talos IV rates one the death penalty within Starfleet, so dude is risking both his career and his neck by doing so. Kirk and a commodore - Jose Mendez - catch up with him and begin to court martial Spock. Spock's testimony for these deeds is shown on a projector in the make-shift courtroom, and is, in fact, footage from that original pilot. When we left off, the Enterprise was still under Spock's control, still hurtling toward Talos IV, and Spock's fate (along with Pike's) rests in the hands of Kirk and Mendez.
*A side note: the un-aired full-length pilot, "The Cage" was aired on television in 1986 under the production number "episode 0", creating a third chronology within the series... because they really didn't hate me enough.

*******

Kirk's Personal Log (because he's been relieved of duty by Starfleet command) 3013.1: Kirk recaps last week's episode, scarcely believing that Spock would act in that way. Mendez is butthurt because Starfleet has ordered no contact with Talos IV, but Spock tells him to suck it up because the Talosians have control over the screen.


We pick up on the broadcast where Pike awakens to find himself in a glass enclosure underground. An elevator in front of his case opens, and some Talosians get out.


I have to mention here what sound the elevator makes when it opens and closes. Do you remember those storybooks for kids that came with records or tapes or CDs or whatever they come with these days, that would read the story to you as you followed along? Do you remember when, at the beginning, the narrator explains that "You'll know it is time to turn the page when you hear the chimes ring like this"? THAT IS THE SOUND THE ELEVATOR DOORS MAKE. THIS MAKES ME IRRATIONALLY HAPPY, AND I DON'T KNOW WHY. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, kids. Yay, storybook chimes!


Wait, I'm digressing: Talosians approaching Pike in the mime box. He's pretty pissed off, and he tells them who he is and that his ship is on Talos IV peacefully. Instead of answering, they communicate telepathically, calling him stupid, and admitting that they lured him in (like a pike, ha!), and trapped him there under an illusion. Of course Pike can hear all of this, because we're using this convo to establish that the Talosians are douchecanoes. They guess what he'll do before he does it, talking about him as though he wasn't there. Then they mention an "experiment".


In the briefing room, the crew gathers to discuss the situation. The surface of the planet is too barren to support life, so the crew is guessing that the Talosians live underground. They also guess exactly what the Talosians admitted to Pike, about reading human minds and creating illusions from them. A young gold shirt with an engineering badge suggests putting the might of the ship behind them to blast through the door in the mountain. The first officer Number One pretty much tells him to Make It So. Number One is a badass. Did I mention that? Yes? Well, not enough. I would totally follow her on an away mission. I would even wear a fucking red shirt, despite the fact that this crew does not wear red.


Down on Talos IV, the Talosians are watching Pike on a monitor, because Pike must never do anything that isn't witnessed by at least one or more people. So far, this episode is like a living Rococo painting. The Talosians see the recent Rigel VII mission and decide to recreate it. The background shifts behind Pike, and he's back on the surface of Rigel, which is played by this awesome matte painting.


A girl runs up to him, frantic that they need to get inside the fortress, and she tries to pull him there.
"WTF?" says Pike. "This was like, two weeks ago! Am I still in that damn cage?"

We switch briefly back to Spock, who confirms that the Talosians control Pike's brain and can create any illusion they want, using any or all of his senses. Make a note of this, kids: the Talosians run The Matrix.

Thirteen-years-ago Pike recognizes the girl in the Matrix as being Vina, the crash survivor. A giant scary dude in fur comes out of the fortress, and he and Pike engage in hand-to-hand combat. (I don't know why the execs complained that there was not enough action. We almost got Ripped-Shirt Pike here.) So the costumes are awesome, the sets look hella good, and even the music sounds more expensive. I can totally see why the network execs said "This is fantastic, but way too pricey."


The furry dude goes after Vina, and Pike kills it, only to have the Matrix melt away into the cage again. Vina is in the cage with him, wearing this cute-as-hell dress that I'd totally wear. They're being watched by Matrix agents Talosians.
The screen in the Enterprise  courtroom shuts off, and Spock explains that the Talosians can sense that vegetable Pike is tired, and are concerned about him. I'd like to point out that it was mostly just a good place to put a commercial, but they worked it in as motivation in the plot. Slow clap, writers. Slow clap.

Kirk's Personal Log 3013.2: I guess Pike took a nap or something, because he appears rested. Somebody probably watched him sleep, too. Anyway, the Enterprise is only an hour out from Talos IV.
Getting back to caged Pike, he asks Vina if she's real. "As real as you want me to be," she answers, but he calls her on that shit. She continues to try to sell him on the idea of having any dream he wants, as though she's got them all stashed in a giant trench coat that she's wearing. He asks if there's any way he can keep the Talosians from reading his mind, but Vina keeps her trap shut.


Meanwhile, Number One and some crew members are outside setting up a laser cannon. They turn the cannon on full-blast using power from the E, and shoot at the door in the side of the mountain. There's a cool bit of animated effects here, but the door remains intact. Dr Boyce* suggests that they blasted through it, but the Talosians have implanted the suggestion that they haven't.
(* Last week I identified the doctor from The Cage as being Dr Royce, which I got from the subtitles on the DVD. This is incorrect. He is listed on IMDB and in The Star Trek Encyclopedia as Dr Boyce. My bad.)


Pike and Vina strike a deal - if she answers some questions, he might pick a fantasy that they could act out together. Vina reveals that the Talosians can't make him do what he doesn't want to do, and that he can be punished for lack of cooperation. She says the Talosians moved underground hundreds of thousands of years earlier, when the surface was destroyed by war. It was over this time that they developed their mental capabilities. But their own dreams became stale enough to start a zoo of sorts, where they could relive and feel right along with their specimens. Pike correctly guesses that they need a matching pair of humans to start their own family unit. The head Talosian (Agent Smith) comes in as Vina is admitting that she's human, and they are meant to be Adam and Eve. Oops. Said too much. She screams "Don't punish me!" as she disappears.
Pike is trying to figure out how to break out of the menagerie later when a vial appears at his feet. Agent Smith (using his mouth this time) tells him that it's a "nourishing protein complex". He tells Pike to drink up or he'll be punished. Smith flexes his atrophied muscles, and suddenly Pike is surrounded by fire, his arms covered in what is either maggots or cooked oatmeal. Either way, it's pretty clear that it sucks to be him just then.

"I was hoping for the kind in the packets with the freeze-dried fruit!"

Pike grudgingly drinks the substance, then runs at the glass of the cage. Smith jumps back and Pike guesses that primitive emotions block mental telepathy. Smith leaves and the Matrix shifts again. Pike is back home, in a clearing with some horses, a picnic lunch, and a freshly-punished Vina. He keeps trying to wheedle info from her, and she keeps trying to make small talk about the weather and living inside dreams. He asks if primitive emotions block thoughts, and she admits that they do, but that it's not possible to keep it up. Girlfriend has been here for 18 years and tried it all. Now she's totally broken it, saddled and looking for a rider. Whether she's fishing for sympathy to win him over, or she actually does feel badly about it, it's effective. He feels for her, and says he's attracted to her. The thing is, the Talosians read her mind long ago, and selected him based off of her thoughts about the perfect man. Then she wonders out loud if he's not buying into the dream thing because  Rigel VII and home are both "been there, done that" situations for him.

Check this out: detailed foreground, cool painted backdrop, and actual horses. In the series that followed, with it's tiny budget, those horses would have been stagehands in horse costumes.

So the voyeuristic Talosians waves their hands and now Pike is an Orion trader. His fellow traders are skeevy, like casting directors with super-comfy couches. And there's Vina, dark-haired and green, as the Orion slave girl, dancing rhythmically to the music. It's probably one of the most often cosplayed female characters, right up there with bikini-top Princess Leia. Pike clearly wants her, and his fellow traders are pretty much egging him on to give into the Talosians.


He leaves out of frustration, and finds himself back in his cage. Green Vina appears behind him, and her look isn't so much "come hither" as it is "praying mantis."


Upstairs, Number One confidently gathers her team. "This could suck a lot," she says, "so if you want to stay here, no one will give you shit later." She's awesome, so no one backs out. But when they try to beam down, only she and a ginger female disappear. The Talosians have beamed them both into Pike's cage, and left the sausage fest behind on the transporter pads. Vina, now blonde and people-colored again, is hella pissed. She knows what's up. Pike isn't taking to her like the Talosians wanted, so they're presenting him with alternatives. Dude, I'd be pissed, too. "We found you the perfect man, but he doesn't seem interested, so we're giving him to some other chicks instead."
(Side thought: what if Vina had turned out to be a lesbian? "Find me the perfect woman to take as a mate. Then go out and find us the perfect donor man." The Talosians would have been so fucked. This thought makes me laugh so hard.)

Pike rips open the away mission jacket of the ginger girl, and she seems surprised. Don't lie, you were, too. We all thought he was gonna pull a Kirk. But he grabs her phaser instead, which doesn't work. Vina starts a bitch fight with the new girls, declaring the ginger to be stupid, and implying Number One is a computer. The irony of that line is delicious, as the actress playing Number One (Majel Barrett) provided the voice of pretty much every computer on pretty much everything attached to the name Star Trek. Smith comes in and tells Pike that he now has more selection with Number One and the ginger girl.


Smith says that Number One would give Pike super-smart kids, and that the ginger girl has "unusually strong female drives" and has recently decided that Pike is do-able. That must seriously suck for the ginger girl. It is not cool for a telepathic alien to announce to the whole cage that you are DTF. Tact: the Talosians lack it. Pike tries to block his thoughts with hate (probably because he's imaging a four-way), and Agent Smith punishes him. In the corner, Vina facepalms.

I think this might be the first recorded ST facepalm. It has since been perfected over the years...


Later, everyone in the cage is sitting around apathetically when Smith slides a panel in the wall open to collect their phasers. Pike grabs him and tries to throttle him, but Smith becomes what I can only describe as South Park's ManBearPig.



The Talosian threatens to destroy the Enterprise. Pike tries to blast a hole through the glass cage to no avail. He then turns the phaser on Smith and asks if he actually blasted a hole in the glass but Smith has covered it with an illusion. "Maybe," says Smith, and the blasted hole appears. They escape with Smith in tow.

The screen goes unexpectedly blank, and the court decides to take the opportunity to vote Spock guilty. Dramatic music! Commercial break!
The bridge calls Mendez to let him know they are orbiting Talos IV. Spock tells him the Talosians control the ship now. The screen comes on again.

Pike and the others come through the elevator on the mountain, where they now see that the laser cannon worked. Smart, smart Dr Boyce was right.
"Haha! We wanted you up here!" says Smith. "Now pick a bitch, hit that thing, and then get your asses downstairs to bring up plants to reclaim the planet's surface."
Damn. They have to be zoo specimens and help build their own cage.


"That's bullshit," says Number One. She sets her phaser to overload.
"Wow, okay," says Smith. "Hadn't banked on you choosing death over liberty. You're no good to use in our menagerie. GTFO."
"You're shitting me," says Pike. I guess that was all it took.
Smith tries to give him some kind of "you've doomed our race!" guilt trip, which doesn't make much sense to me, but Pike shrugs it off. 
"Let's get the hell out of dodge," he says.

The make-up budget for this episode must have been awesome. The head Talosian had air bladders just under the skin of the "skull cap" (ha!) to inflate and collapse to show that he was thinking very hard.

Number One and the ginger beam back to the Enterprise. Pike offers to take Vina, but she refuses, and time-lapse photography shows us that Vina is old and deformed. She was an adult when the ship crashed, the only survivor, but the Talosians had never seen a human before, and rebuilt her into FrankenVina.


Upstairs, Pike beams aboard. He tells his crew that Vina has a right to stay where she is, with her glamour intact, and they leave.

The screen goes blank. Kirk thinks for a moment, then turns to Mendez, who promptly disappears.
"Dafuq?" says Kirk.


Agent Smith comes onscreen to tell Kirk that Mendez was an illusion both on the Enterprise and on the shuttlecraft. Essentially, Kirk has been talking to himself for two days. That's fucked up. Smith says that the fake court martial seemed like a good enough distraction while they took over his ship.
Kirk is pretty pissed. "Spock, what the hell? You couldn't just explain? I mean, shit - I'm reckless enough to just agree to go along with it!"
"Naw, cuz then you'd be put to death, too," says Spock.
Then, in what can only be described as fucking convenient, Uhura patches through to read off a message from Mendez at Starbase 11. Given the historical information and Pike's current situation, they've decided to okay Pike's transfer to Talos IV, and nobody will get into trouble. Spock receives no court martial, Gryffindor wins the house cup, and the USS Mary Sue triumphs again.
Spock takes Pike to the transporter room, and far too soon for the transfer to have taken place, Pike is shown on the screen as whole again, going into the mountain with with a young, beautiful Vina.

In The Cage, Pike sees Vina go into the mountain with an illusion of himself, which will keep her happy. In this way, kindness is being shown to Vina. In The Menagerie, Pike is beamed down to become an illusion himself with Vina, and the kindness is done to both of them. 

Agent Smith bids Kirk a kind farewell, and all is right in that corner of the universe.


*******

Today's killer artwork is "Vina (The Longing)" by Isabel Samaras

I like that she's holding a photo of Pike. 
Can't afford a Samaras painting? You should get her book "On Tender Hooks", then you can have lots of her paintings!
Or, if you're stupid-broke like me, you can get a postcard book. Take them out, tack them up on your wall, and when people ask about it say "I'm an art patron."

*******

And now it's time for a rousing round of "Are You As Awesome As Uhura?"


Champion Uhura

Are you moderately attractive? +1
Are you good at your job? +1
Are you a team player? +1
Do you have a innate sense of style? +1
Do you have a talent? +1
Are you immune to Damsel in Distress Syndrome? +1
Are you sane? +1

The score to beat is lucky number 7.



Challenger Number One


Are you moderately attractive?  Yep. She's a bit like Vivien Leigh - classic beauty, with slight Bitchy Resting Face. Also, Majel Barrett is foxier with dark hair, IMHO. For evidence, please access files for Lwaxanna Troi. +1
Are you good at your job?  Hells yeah! +1
Are you a team player? Runs that shit, but accepts suggestions from other crew members. +1
Do you have a innate sense of style? Rocks those Starfleet-issue pants and cowl-necked sweater. +1
Do you have a talent? Leadership skillz. Pike trusts her to run the ship while he's gone. +1
Are you immune to Damsel in Distress Syndrome? She actually offers her away team an opportunity to back out if they need to, while making it clear that she will not. +1
Are you sane? Absolutely. +1

Congratulations, Number One! You are as awesome as Uhura! Unfortunately your prize, as dictated by television executives, is to be demoted to ship's nurse. *sad trombone*

*******

This week's tea came from the Adagio Juicy Slices Sampler ( http://www.adagio.com/teabags/juicy_slices.html ). I tried the Citrus Green green tea, which is available on it's own as well.



So the tea is pretty light, but the citrus is pretty refreshing. It very loudly says LEMON & LIME, but it's heavier on the lime than lemon, which I liked. (I dunno, sometimes lemon seems super-cliche when it comes to tea. Also: lime kicks ass.) Try this if you enjoy green teas, and when you want something a little less delicate than a white tea.



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