Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy recycling? We always make sure that our aluminum and plastic gets placed in the correct bins and taken to the appropriate place. I have reused wood to create many projects like bunny hutches and workbenches. Perhaps this is one reason why I enjoy The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2 so much. It was Gene Roddenberry’s greatest recycling trick — and it was marvelous!
The episode begins in the beautiful future on a purple planet. Starfleet officers walk outside on the lush, garden-filled parks on Starbase 11. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam to the surface, responding to a subspace message. They were greeted by Ms. Piper, who showed them inside.
Fleet Captain Pike asked that the Enterprise come immediately. The base commander, Jose Mendez, said that this was impossible and that he would show them why.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy followed the Commodore to the medical area to find out why. On the way, Spock said that he served under Pike for “11 years, four months, five days.” The Commodore said that while touring a cadet vessel (a Class “J” Starship), one of the baffle plates ruptured. Pike went into where the cadets were, no matter the danger of the Delta Rays, to bring them out one by one.
When they walked in, they saw a shell of a man, unable to move on his own and barely able to breathe. Pike’s body was housed in a mechanical wheelchair, and his only means of communication to anyone was a light on the chair, which would light up once for yes, and twice for no.
Pike signaled that he did not want to see them. Before they left, Spock asked if he could remain behind for a moment. Spock told Pike that he had it well planned, and their destination was just six days away at maximum warp. Spock said that he had never disobeyed Pike’s orders, but this time he would. Pike signaled, “no.” Spock noted that he had no choice.
Meanwhile, Kirk and Mendez went over the details of why the Enterprise was there at Starbase 11 one more time. Kirk charged that even though there were no records of the signal being sent or being received, he still argued for Spock. Kirk could not fathom who would want to divert the Enterprise to the base.
Jose called to his computer technician, Chief Humbolt, and asked if he had checked the record tapes to ensure that no messages came from the base. Humbolt said that he had checked and rechecked. Mendez ordered him to check for the “impossible.”
At that moment, Spock padded into the engineering room nearly silently. As another technician worked, Spock used the Vulcan neck pinch to eliminate him. He then began to work.
While Kirk was with Mendez, the Commodore introduced the captain to Piper. She said that she recognized Kirk thanks to the description from Lt. Helen Johansson. While they spoke, Piper found her gaze locked on Kirk. Mendez had to remind her of what she was there to report on, which was the investigation into the situation. Piper said that felt that Spock was hiding something and that there was no way Pike could have sent a message. He was under constant watch. Mendez agreed, saying that the chair responded only to his brainwaves, move around a bit and light up his signals, with a battery-driven heart. There was no way Pike could have signaled to Spock.
In the engineering room, Spock was tinkering with some audio equipment, which he used to send the Enterprise onto a new mission. Uhura responded to this message. Through an altered voice, Spock told Uhura that the new orders from Starfleet would be fed directly into the ship’s computers.
At the base, a member of the engineering staff walked in on Spock as he was working and demanded to know what he was up to. Soon they began to scuffle, and Spock overpowered him with another Vulcan neck pinch. He quickly loaded another memory tape into the computers, which now gave orders with Kirk’s voice.
Crewman Hansen asked for more details on their new mission. Kirk said that Spock would handle any further communications regarding the mission. Spock ordered Hansen to keep this mission a secret, and the ship was to warp out in one hour.
In Mendez’s study, Kirk observed Pike from a security monitor. His light continued to blink twice, over and over. McCoy walked in and said that he was highly agitated. The doctor said that science had tied into every human organ there was except for the brain. Kirk wondered if this had anything to do with Spock. He exclaimed that Spock could have been behind this ruse.
McCoy defended Spock’s actions, saying that he was a Vulcan, and he was incapable of lying. Kirk charged that it was the human half of Spock that was at fault. At that moment, McCoy was recalled to the Enterprise due to some medical emergency.
Later, Mendez gave Kirk a copy of a document entitled “Talos IV,” which was labeled for Starfleet Command only. Kirk said that he knew that Talos IV was off-limits to starships, under General Order No. 7. Mendez added that it was the only offense left that still would merit the death penalty. Only those of Fleet Command rank know why that is, said Mendez.
When they opened the document, it revealed that the only Earth-ship that ever visited Talos IV was the Enterprise, while under the command of Pike. Spock served as his science officer.
While they were discussing this news, Piper realized that Pike had gone, and the base radioed that the Enterprise left orbit. Kirk fumed.
On the Enterprise, Spock addressed the crew, telling that he had been placed in temporary command. He said that Captain Kirk had been placed on medical rest leave at Starbase 11 and that his orders to the crew were that they obey him for this mission. McCoy walked onto the bridge while Spock was speaking.
McCoy confronted Spock about the reason he was recalled, and about the supposed medical leave that the captain had been placed under. Spock asked McCoy to follow him so they could speak on these issues. He then led the doctor to a room, in which Pike was. Spock immediately put a memory card in that broadcast Kirk’s voice. This instructed McCoy not to ask Pike any questions, but take care of him and follow Spock’s orders.
When Pike heard this, he blinked twice.
Back on the bridge, Lt. Hanson spotted a shuttlecraft in pursuit of the Enterprise. Spock ordered him to take no actions and to make no contact.
On board the shuttlecraft, Kirk and Mendez tried to hail the Enterprise, but to no avail. They realized that Spock was headed to Talos IV, but they also noted that they were down to 63.3% fuel capacity, which was just enough to last for the trip back to the station.
Meanwhile, Spock calculated that the shuttlecraft would be unable to reverse course and make it back to the base. Kirk and Mendez soon learned that they only had two hours of oxygen left as well.
Kirk said that he hoped the Enterprise did not come back for them since that would mean Spock would be court-martialed. Mendez said it was even worse — he would be executed for taking the ship to Talos IV. He also wondered why Spock would want to go there, meaning that there were no practical reasons why someone should want to visit Talos IV. Mendez then said that Spock must be “mad.”
Not letting this one go, McCoy continued to ask Spock who was in the shuttlecraft. Spock ordered the ship’s computer to lock onto the shuttle with the tractor beam and execute a pre-recorded ship maneuver. McCoy asked if it was the captain… Spock did not reply.
The Enterprise came to a dead stop, and Spock ordered for a security team to go to the bridge, the transporter room to beam Kirk on board the ship, and Lt. Hanson was put into temporary command.
Spock then turned to McCoy and turned himself in for arrest for the charge of mutiny. He admitted to the doctor that there were no orders for him to take command of the Enterprise. When security arrived, McCoy ordered that Spock be arrested and confined to his quarters.
When Kirk and Mendez beamed aboard, Hansen transferred command back to the captain. Uhura called to the transporter room to report that the ship’s engines came back online. Kirk ordered that whoever was giving orders to stop doing so. Hansen told Kirk that the orders had been pre-programmed into the ship’s computer by Mr. Spock. Uhura said the ship would not respond to commands, due to computer control.
Kirk tried to force the computer to disengage, but the computer responded that any attempt to change its orders would result in the cross-circuiting of the life support system. These instructions would remain until the ship arrived at Talos IV.
As the court martial hearing got underway, the captain told Spock of his rights. Spock responded that he waived the right to counsel and the trial altogether. He asked that instead, the court-martial itself begin immediately. Kirk denied this request because there must be three high ranking Starfleet officers present to conduct a court-martial.
Spock pointed out that Captain Pike would make the third command officer. Mendez told Kirk that he was right.
The court-martial began, and Spock waived his council and pleaded guilty. Mendez reminded Spock that if they arrived at Talos IV, he would also receive the death penalty. He said that he understood. Mendez then asked why he wanted to take Pike to Talos IV.
Spock asked that he be allowed to present his evidence on screen. They agreed. He then began to narrate as footage appeared on the main screen.
“This is 13 years ago,” said Spock, as the image of the Enterprise in flight shown. Pike was in command, and Spock served as his science officer. Spock told Pike that there was something headed their way …
Kirk shut down the display and asked Pike if that was him on the screen. Pike signaled that it was. Kirk said that was impossible because no ship makes record tapes of that detail. He demanded to know who made this evidence. Spock would not say, “at this time.”
Mendez asked Pike if any records were made during the voyage, like the ones on screen. Pike signaled that there were none. Mendez then ruled that they would not enter evidence such as this, but Kirk disagreed and said that he wanted to see more. Mendez backed down, saying that this was his right to disagree. The show resumed.
Spock started to narrate. He told how the Enterprise was on patrol, and they encountered something, which they could not explain. It was heading for the ship at light speed. It turns out; the “something” was just an old style radio distress signal. They learned that a ship had been forced to land.
The crew pinpointed the location of the signal and determined that the ship was part of a survey expedition. Spock said it was the S.S. Columbia, which disappeared 18 years back. There was one planet that was Class M, and capable of sustaining human life.
Pike ordered that they would not investigate this possible shipwreck and that they would continue onto the Vega colony to take care of their own “wounded and sick.”
Pike left the bridge and walked to his cabin. He called Dr. Phillip Boyce when he got there. When Boyce arrived, he began pouring drinks and asking questions. Pike responded that they would not be responding to this distress signal. Boyce said that he agreed with this decision.
Boyce offered Pike a “warm martini,” because sometimes “a man will tell his bartender things that he’d never tell his doctor.” Boyce asked if Pike was still thinking about his fight on Rigel 7. Pike said that he was, after the death of his yeoman, two other crewmen deaths and seven injured.
Pike beat himself up for not sensing an attack on Rigel. Boyce told him that he treated every member of the crew like a human except for himself. Pike agreed, saying that he was tired of taking care of 230 lives and deciding who lived and who died. He said he was thinking of resigning and going back to Earth to take care of his horses or work on Regulus or the Orion colony. ‘There’s a whole galaxy of things to choose from,” said Pike.
It turned out that there were 11 crash survivors on Talos IV. Pike then decided to warp to Talos to investigate.
Back in the present, Mendez charged Spock with fakery. Spock turned to Pike, asking him to verify that the visual evidence was real. Pike blinked once. Spock said that after witnessing the testimony, he would release the ship’s control. Mendez yelled — saying that Spock was in no position to bargain.
Mendez voted to end the testimony; Kirk voted to continue. Pike agreed with Kirk. Scotty continued the presentation.
The Enterprise reached orbit over Talos IV and found evidence of the crash site. Spock, Pike, and Dr. Boyce beamed to the surface, leaving Number One in charge on the bridge.
As the crew explored the surface, they found unusual plant life that shimmered and made noise. Spock smiled when they held the blue leaves of this organism, and the noise ceased. They soon found the survivors who had created a settlement with the remnants of their old craft.
Dr. Theodore Haskins of the American Continent Institute introduced himself to Pike. Haskins and his men were shocked to be found. Lt. Jose Tyler told Haskins that the “time barrier” had been broken, and they would all be back on Earth very quickly.
At once, all eyes diverted to a female form… a tall, white-skinned blonde with beautiful blue eyes. She walked from behind one of the structures.
“This is Veena,” said Haskins. He explained that Veena’s parents were dead and that she had been born almost as they crashed.
As they spoke, another group watched silently, from beneath the planet’s surface. Humanoid beings with massive brains and large arteries pulsing just under their skin took in the scene. They were the Talosians, and they wore silvery gray smocks, which covered their entire bodies and shimmered as they moved.
While Pike and his team prepped the survivors to leave the planet, Veena approached him and said that he looked healthy and intelligent. “A prime specimen,” she told him. Dr. Boyce said that he wanted to make his medical report when Veena said that she wanted to show the landing party their secret.
Boyce said that the survivors were in too good of health. Haskins said that they were not sure if Earth was ready for their secret, but decided that Veena could show Pike what it was. Pike followed Veena the side of a rocky hill, and then she disappeared. At the same time, so did the rest of the survivors.
A wall in the rock wall opened, and the aliens with the giant brains came out from behind it and incapacitated Pike with some smoke-ray. He fell instantly. They dragged him into the entrance, and the rock doors shut. The Enterprise crew aimed their phasers at the spot where the door was. They blew off the rock exterior until they found the metal of the interior doors, which they were unable to penetrate.
Spock called Number One and told her that there were no survivors and that this was all just a trap.
Back in the present, the hearing was interrupted by an urgent message for Mendez. Uhura reported that the Enterprise was receiving messages from Talos IV, which violated Starfleet regulation. Spock then admitted that the images they were watching were transmitted from Talos IV. Starfleet relieved Kirk of his duty and assigned command of the Enterprise to Mendez, who turned to Spock and told him that he would get the death penalty, but he also was taking Kirk down with him.
Spock said that Kirk knew nothing of this plan. Mendez said that the captain of a ship was responsible for everything that happened to and aboard the ship. Mendez ordered Spock to return the Enterprise to manual control. Spock again declined. Mendez ended the court for the day.
After he left, Kirk asked Spock if he had lost his mind. Spock asked Kirk to allow him to continue. It was Kirk’s career, but it was Pike’s life that was on the line.
Kirk told security to “lock him up.”
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
This was a great episode. Roddenberry took “The Cage,” and reworked it into “The Menagerie.” He salvaged what would have been lost (and indeed not Trek canon) and wrapped it into two episodes. Brilliant!
And as Star Trek: Discovery showed us, these episodes were significant to the longer Trek story and timeline. They allowed us to have a glimpse of pre-Kirk command, by another captain. Trek fans never had to wonder what the Enterprise was like before Kirk — they got to see for themselves.
The way that Roddenberry weaved the Talos IV signals into the story, and how he pulled everything together was a masterstroke. So very impressive.
But… a quibble. You’d think that in the 23rd Century we would have baldness solved. It turns out that we didn’t. Not even by the 24th Century, as seen by Jean Luc Picard and Benjamin Sisko’s chrome domes. But that Dr. Boyce and his terrible comb-over! Virginia Darcy, C.H.S., who was in charge of hairstyles for the series, should have demanded that actor John Hoyt comb his hair to the sides (Picard style) or completely shave it off.
The episode ended quite abruptly. I wonder what watchers of this episode back in 1966 thought of this jarring halt in action.
RATING: 4 out of 5