Star Trek : The Cage

September 30, 2014 in Guest Blogs, Star Trek by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Mindless-Droid

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This week we go back to the beginning of Star Trek with The Cage or actually before the beginning. The Cage was the original pilot episode that the network rejected. This week I thought I would take a look at the actual episode and next week discuss its amazing history.

After a dangerous mission on Rigel VII the USS Enterprise commanded by Captain Christopher Pike is on its way to the Vega colony to recover when it picks up a distress call from an Earth vessel The SS Columbia that disappeared eighteen years ago. Without proof of survivors Pike decides to ignore the call but a second message indicating survivors changes his mind. On arrival at Talos IV Pike leads a landing party to the surface and discovers the survivor’s camp but it is an illusion placed in the crew’s minds by the native Talosians and Pike is captured and taken underground. As the Enterprise crew tries to figure out a way to rescue their captain Pike learns that he is a specimen in a cage which he may never escape.

A quick little observation if you notice the details several crewman have bandages from the ships encounter on Rigel VII which sets up the discussion between Pike and Boyce. I like how they set up the relationship between Pike and Dr. Boyce. You get a sense that they have served together awhile and that they are good friends. It was also a great way to show Pike’s concern for his crew and how the weight of command falls on him this would be important later in the episode. A nice bit of foreshadowing and when Boyce talks about two kinds of customers the living and the dying it is a nice parallel to the Human civilization and the Talosians. Their discussion also has some nice foreshadowing.

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I always liked Number One her character is very interesting and the first in a long line of Roddenberry’s forward thinking and optimistic vision of the future. Arriving at Talos IV we get our first look at the transporter room and a beam down. The idea of beaming down to a planet was actually a cost cutting device it was much cheaper and easier to create the transporter effect then to land the ship on a new planet each week. There is a slight mistake when Tyler talks about the time barrier being broken if faster than light travel was only just discovered then there would be no way the Columbia could have gotten this deep into space but that’s what recons are for and it really is a minor mistake given the time the episode was produced.

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The first look at the Talosians and the eerie music surrounding them really pushes home the idea of an alien culture. The makeup and effects of the Talosians was really well done from their large heads indicating superior mental abilities to their pulsating veins as they used that mental ability really made them alien but not over the top monster of the week alien.

The laser guns were a nice prop and precursor to the hand phaser. The laser canon tied to the ships power was a prop I wish we would have seen again in the series. I like the eerie music as Pike observes the other aliens in the Talosians menagerie.

The briefing on the Enterprise is another good way they showed how powerful the Talosians mental powers could be it set the table for what was to come. The next scene is the first complex illusion the Talosian force on Pike and you get an idea of their real motivation. Vina is the only constant on the planet and the only survivor that wasn’t an illusion. The Talosians were forced underground due to war centuries ago and in the confined space focused on developing their mental abilities but at the cost of everything else. It is the Talosians goal to breed a stock of humans as basically slaves to serve their civilization as they have become too dependent on their illusions and have forgotten the basics of living as Vina explains they can’t even maintain the machines left by their ancestors.

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A quick aside Susan Oliver who portrayed Vina was an accomplished pilot in real life with quite an impressive resume. The matte painting of the Rigel VII castle with the large moon behind it is quite impressive and would be seen a lot during the run of the series in the closing credits. During the fight sequence I like how Pike fights the illusion trying to maintain his reality. Those Talosians sure are creepy. I like the contrast between Pike and Vina Pike resisting the lure of illusion and Vina who has succumbed to it. When the laser canon fails Boyce is right about the Talosians making it appear that it failed but would that mean one or more Talosians would have to concentrated constantly to maintain the illusion.

The scene as Vina explains the Talosians history is quite interesting but it gives Pike confirmation of his suspicions. The one thing I don’t get if Vina is real how the Talosians make her disappear in that scene and previously on the surface. I’d have made the vial with the nourishment turn into shrimp and steak but it shows Pike’s determination not to give in to illusion. Next Pike is taken home to Earth as he discussed with Boyce in his cabin earlier by the Talosians and the lure of living an illusion with Vina becomes harder to resist. It’s also one of the only times we see Star Trek era earth in the series.

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Pike resists and suspects that emotion of hate and anger block the Talosians mental abilities but as Vina explains it is hard to keep up and that the Talosians wear you down with punishment and temptation as Pike now whisked away to Orion where Vina is now the infamous Orion slave girl and I know that song will be stuck in my head for a couple of days now. Pike has resisted every illusion so the Talosians aware of the Enterprise beaming down a rescue party fool the crew in to only beaming down Number One and the Captains Yeomen so Pike has a selection. Through it all though Pike is shown to be determined to escape.

Back on the Enterprise Spock determines that all is lost and attempts to leave but the Talosian prevent them from doing so. Spock even orders rockets to be used to escape another out of place reference but understandable given it was the pilot.

Pike’s determination pays off and he along with Vina and the others escape to the surface but it is what the Talosians wanted. Pike shows his devotion to his crew as he volunteers to stay as long as the ship is safe. The Talosians having scanned the Enterprise’s memory banks realize that the human need for freedom makes them unsuitable for their needs and frees them. Pike offer diplomatic solution but the Keeper says that humans would learn the Talosians power of illusion and destroy themselves too. Vina decides that she will stay and to prove that her desire is an honest one the Keeper show Pike her true appearance. She was badly injured and deformed to the point of great discomfort in the crash as the Talosians didn’t know how to put her “back together” and the Talosians gave her an illusion of beauty. As Pike prepares to leave the Talosians show him that Vina has the illusion of happiness with him.

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I really like this episode. I can understand why the network at the time turned this down as it was something other than what science fiction had become at the time. It was much more then just the monster of the week. The pilot was truly a ground breaking moment even though it was at first rejected it opened the door for the actual series. The Talosians were very interesting aliens and in the end not as evil as you thought they were. I liked this crew of the Enterprise and it’s interesting to think what the series would have been like had the network approve this pilot. Since there are no red shirts in this episode none were harmed actually no one was harmed except the warrior on Rigel VII. Next week a look at the history of Star Trek’s beginnings.