As I go through these reviews it is my hope that each one will be better than the one before. As such I am going to take a different approach this time. I will assume that you have seen the episode in question and instead just talk in general about it.
Today we might be inclined to think of this episode as a clip show. However it is not a traditional clip show. The clips, from the first pilot, had not been seen before. Oh and by ‘traditional clip show’ I mean shit – you can see Shades of Grey for an example of that – no…not that Shades of Grey!
We are introduced to Captain Christopher Pike who is confined to iron lung/wheelchair and can only communicate by beeping! You have probably seen this parodied somewhere – it was done on Futurama on at least two occasions. Unfortunately this part of the story doesn’t make any sense.
If Pike can only beep then shouldn’t he be able to use Morse code? Even if, for some reason, it wasn’t there are other options. This was shown in an episode of The Simpsons and also in SG-1.
I could give you the Stargate SG-1 example but for some reason I feel like using The Simpson’s! In Treehouse of Horror XXII – Homer can only communicate by farting. Lisa recites the alphabet to him and he farts when he gets to the right letter. This would be easily doable for Pike – the basic method not the farting.
And yes I did just say the Simpsons did it better. Farting beats beeping.
Yet in the story they act as though the only way would be to question Pike in a Twenty Questions sort of way. All he needs to ‘say’ is that Spock is planning to take him to Talos IV. I realise that I am analysing this in a world where predictive text has been a reality for some time but even so it is hard to believe that the writers wouldn’t have spotted this.
McCoy and Kirk discuss the message that the Enterprise supposedly received diverting them to the star base. The evidence points to Spock faking a message. McCoy doesn’t believe it.
Me, yes I could run off half-cock, given a good reason. So could you, but not Spock. It’s impossible.McCoy (Star Trek: The Original Series: The Menagerie: Part 1)
I like that McCoy stands up for Spock here. They frequently have an adversarial relationship but clearly McCoy understands Spock.
Of course McCoy is wrong in this instance!
Then we get a scene which makes very little sense to me. Mendez shows Kirk the file on Talos IV. At this point in the story the Enterprise has yet to be hijacked by Spock so why is it considered significant? The only thing I can come up with is that there is evidence of some conspiracy going on and this file is a classified one that Spock and Pike know about. And the base must be relatively close to this world. It is flimsy but that is all I have got.
Perhaps even more bizarre the document is signed by Spock as Half-Vulcan – as if that was his rank. I also have no idea why.
Pike is beamed suddenly from his room and the Enterprise breaks orbit
We are also given a nugget of information that visiting Talos IV is the only death penalty left in Federation law. I am not sure if it was called the Federation at this point (they seemed to go through a few names) but it is the one I am going with. It is this threat of death that drives the narrative but that two doesn’t really work.
I am against capital punishment anyway, and a discussion of it is beyond the scope of this review, but if you are going to have it why have it for visiting some random planet and not for a serial killer?
Kirk and Mendez go after the stolen Enterprise in a shuttle.
These ‘shuttles’, they are a formidable craft?Master Bra’tac (Stargate SG-1: The Serpents Lair)
Apparently Starbase 11 has no ships. For some reason in Trek there being no ships available is a common trope. In this case the reason, out of universe, is that the shuttle can’t catch the Enterprise so it forces Spock to reverse course and pick it up – or let Kirk die but Spock won’t go that far. There is no sensible in universe reason that I can see.
Spock has himself confined to quarters – creating confusion for the security men since it was Spock who ordered them to the bridge in the first place!
Spock has also locked the Enterprise on course for Talos IV in such a way that the crew cannot disengage it.
Losing control of the ship, either completely or being unable to stop one particular function, happens a lot in Star Trek. Here it is perfectly justified as Spock is the XO and a computer expert. In season three hippies take over the ship but lets not dwell on that at the moment.
Kirk calls a hearing for Spock which Spock quickly gets turned in to a general court martial. Spock waives his right to council and presents his evidence – clips from The Cage – also known as the historical documents!
If you don’t get that reference go and watch Galaxy Quest right this second!
We see the Enterprise as it was 13 years before and it receives a distress signal from Talos IV – an M class world.
I have no idea what the first episode I ever saw of Star Trek was but it was almost certainly in TNG – and I had seen DS9 before this episode – so it is quite a fun fact for me that M class was something established right from the start.
Actually I tell a lie. I have this vague memory of my parents watching The Devil in the Dark when I was very little. My early memories are third person – and I have the memory of a small me, carrying my duck that I took everywhere and still own, seeing the episode on the tiny TV we used to have and leaving the room. I don’t even know if it is a real memory. However discounting that the first episode I intentionally watched would have been TNG.
So we are introduced to Dr Boyce, in the past, who brings Captain Pike a martini – then we get something odd to say the least…
Pike considers retiring…
Or I’d, I’d go into business on Regulus or on the Orion Colony.
You, an Orion trader, dealing in animal women slaves?Pike and Boyce (Star Trek: The Original Series: The Menagerie)
Yes Pike considers becoming a slave trader – kind of messes up the perfect future bit doesn’t it? I really have no idea what is going on here!
Commodore Mendez tries to end the proceedings, believing the images to be fake, but Kirk and Pike vote to continue.
So we pick up with the landing party of 13 years ago as they beam down to Talos IV.
The party find the encampment with a group of old men, the scientists from the ship who’s distress signal they picked up, and in the group there is one woman – Vina.
While the men are all odd Vina is only 18. Pike immediately takes a liking to her. Meanwhile Doctor Boyce reports that the condition of the survivors is too good for the conditions they have been living in. One of the scientists says there is a reason for this and Vina can show him.
Vina leads Pike away from the group and he is soon taken captive by the Talosians.
I like the Talosian makeup. It is basic, it was the 60s after all, but it gets across very well that these are very intelligent alien beings. We see them speak in the next episode and that too makes them creepy.
The episode comes to an end with it being revealed that these transmissions have been coming from Talos IV. Mendez is ordered to take command of the Enterprise, and to stop it from reaching the plant. Kirk orders Spock locked up.
The mystery in this episode is well built up. We know the character of Spock by now and that he must have a good reason for doing what he is doing but we still don’t have an explanation of why.
As I said there are a number of logical hiccups in this story, mainly the beeping Pike, but overall I like this story. I am not sure why the beeping was necessary. Surely Pike being paralysed and speaking through a computer would still have got the point across – but that might just be the opinion of a guy born two decades after this episode aired.
This was the only two part episode for TOS and I will try to be back with the next part soon. I am still finding my way with doing these reviews.
I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.
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