Stardate: 3012.4 (2267)
Original Air Dates: November 17, 1966; November 24, 1966
Writer: Gene Roddenberry
Directors: Marc Daniels (Part I), Robert Butler (Part II)
“Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality.
May you find your way as pleasant.”
In this classic two-part episode of Star Trek we are exposed to a perplexing mutiny at the hands of Spock. The Enterprise has been diverted from its scheduled mission in order to respond to a sub-space message, an unusual message which was apparently sent from Starbase 11 (at least according to Spock). Capt. Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy all beam down to Starbase 11 where they are greeted by a woman named Ms. Piper (Julie Parrish). Almost immediately, they learn that neither Ms. Piper nor Commodore Jose Mendez (Malachi Throne) can fathom why the Enterprise has arrived at all. Kirk expounds upon the message: it was actually sent by Captain Christopher Pike, former Captain of the Enterprise, instructing the Enterprise to immediately redirect to Starbase 11 (which is apparently located on a planet called “M-11”). This leads to a confusing investigation: Where did the message come from? Did Spock lied about it? Neither the Enterprise nor Starbase 11 have any record of such a message, so Commodore Mendez invites the crew to pay a visit to Captain Pike in the infirmary (they are not aware of his injury, though Kirk is old friends with Pike as they first met in their Academy days).
Here we witness the tragic re-appearance of an injured Captain Pike (now played by Sean Kenney, though it was actually Jeffrey Hunter who initially played Pike in “The Cage”). We learn that Captain Pike was injured some weeks prior during an inspection of a cadet vessel (an old “class J starship”) when one of the baffle plates unexpectedly ruptured releasing a lethal dose of delta rays. Sadly the explosion has left him permanently paralyzed, though during the explosion he was able to rescue the trapped children. Captain Pike is now rendered immobile in an electronic wheelchair, he is only able to communicate via a machine that is connected to his brainwaves, allowing him to indicate “yes” or “no” with a flashing light (one beep means “yes” two beeps means “no”). Pike seems to be entirely unaware of the Enterprise’s arrival, however Spock remains behind with Pike for a private conversation with his former captain. It is an ominous and foreboding moment as we realize Spock is plotting something but Pike does not approve.
Spock then proceeds to craft an elaborate ruse — fabricating communication tapes, attacking staff, and even fully commandeering the Enterprise. Meanwhile Kirk is busy discussing things with Commodore Mendez in his office –in particular Kirk is allowed to review a Top Secret dossier entitled “Talos IV: For Eyes of Starfleet Command Only” in which Talos IV is described as a planet expressly forbidden per “General Order 7” (by order of Robert L. Conrad Commanding Officer) because it offers no practical benefits to mankind. Only one ship has ever made contact with Talos IV –the Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike who was joined by Spock some thirteen years prior. However, Kirk and Mendez peer up at a screen and notice that Captain Pike has mysteriously disappeared. In addition, the Enterprise has departed without its captain. Apparently, Spock has hastily taken command of the ship, much to Dr. McCoy’s deep chagrin. Spock then plays false tapes of Kirk to assuage the good doctor convince him to simply keep watch over Captain Pike rather than communicate much with him. What is Spock’s game here? Has he lost his mind? This behavior seems erratic and unfitting for everyone’s favorite half-Vulcan. Then the Enterprise is pursued by a small “Class F” shuttlecraft helmed by Commodore Mendez and Captain Kirk. However, the shuttle does not carry significant amounts of fuel and thus when it passes the point of safe return to Starbase 11, Spock decides to intercept the craft to save Kirk and Mendez’s lives. Spock then immediately gives himself up. He turns himself in for committing an act of mutiny.
At the same time, Spock sets the Enterprise on an auto-course for Talos IV which is a mere two light years away from Starbase 11. As the ship’s engines adjust to an un-alterable course correction a security team of “redshirts” arrives on the bridge and detains Spock per his request. He is then court-martialed in a trial conducted by Commodore Mendez, Capt. Kirk, and Capt. Pike (who is still technically a legal officer despite his disabled status).
During the extended trial, for which Spock declines his right to legal counsel, footage from the un-aired pilot “The Cage” (feel free to read my review of “The Cage”) is shown as evidence. It becomes apparent that the Talosians on Talos IV are transmitting this video feed for the benefit of Capt. Kirk as well as Capt. Pike –in order to persuade him to return to Talos IV where he will be given a chance to live a fantasy life with far greater freedom than his current status as an invalid. All three officers vote guilty as charged for Mr. Spock but before he can be sentenced the Enterprise suddenly arrives at Talos IV which now controls the vessel (as they once did thirteen years prior).
Suddenly, in a twist ending, the Commodore disappears out of thin air –he nothing more than a mere an illusion! Spock’s court-martial was simply a fiction, deliberately enacted by the Talosians with the help of Spock in order to prevent Kirk from regaining control of his ship, and thereby prevent Capt. Pike from his chance at a new life. A message from Starbase 11 is received from the real Commodore Mendez explaining that General Order 7 is now suspended for Talos IV. All charges are dropped for Spock, though Kirk smilingly chides Spock for his recent string of rebellions. Spock turns around defends himself: Spock claims to have been actually perfectly logical in this whole affair.
While this is an undeniable classic in the Trek series, I found it to be a somewhat puzzling two-part episode. “The Menagerie” raises a number of questions for me. Why is Spock not severely punished for this mutiny? Can Capt. Kirk ever fully trust him again? Is there any other way Spock could have communicated this opportunity without risking his life? Could this unprecedented situation have future implications for other invalids like Pike? Also the limits of the Talosians’ powers are a bit confusing in my view. If they can craft elaborate hoaxes or illusions from lightyears away, what is to stop them from conducting other false scenarios? How do we know that the final message from Commodore Mendez on Starbase 11 is not simply another ploy created by the Talosians? To what extent might this power possessed by the Talosians pose a grave threat to humanity?
Director Marc Daniels (1912-1989) was a World War II veteran and notable television director for a number of different shows. During his career he was nominated for several Emmys, two Directors Guild of America awards, and four Hugo Awards. In this case, he jointly won a Hugo with Gene Roddenberry for “Best Dramatic Presentation” for “The Menagerie.”
Writer Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) is of course the celebrated creator of Star Trek.
Star Trek Trivia;
- This is the only two-part episode of Star Trek TOS.
- “The Menagerie” was actually the working title for the original un-aired pilot episode “The Cage.”
- In this episode, Captain Christopher Pike is played by Sean Kenney as an invalid, but in the flashback scenes borrowed from “The Cage” Pike is of course played by Jeffrey Hunter.
- Spock says that prior to serving under Captain Kirk, he served on the Enterprise under Captain Pike for 11 years, 4 months and 5 days.
- The top secret dossier which Kirk is allowed to read is entitled “Talos IV: For Eyes of Starfleet Command Only” and it identifies Talos IV as located in the third quadrant of the vernal galaxy. These details have been cross-referenced with the 3XY phagrin level – mass computer. The only Earthship that has ever visited Talos IV is the Enterprise under the command of Capt. Christopher Pike and Half-Vulcan Science Officer Spock (as seen in the un-aired pilot “The Cage” whose events take place thirteen years previously). It is then noted in all caps: “NO ONE WILL EVER VISIT TALOS IV.”
- Commodore Mendez uses a unique phrase in this episode: R.H.I.P. “Rank hath its privileges.”
- “The Menagerie” was positively reviewed and won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation that year.
- Gene Roddenberry ranked this two-part episode in his top ten favorite Star Trek episodes.
- The panel in this room from which Spock issues orders to the Enterprise is a re-use of the neural neutralizer control panel from the earlier Season 1 episode “Dagger of the Mind”.
- The Working title for this episode was “From the First Day to the Last.”
- Director Marc Daniels managed to complete Part I in 5 1/2 days rather than the usual 6 days (he directed the latter released episode “Court Martial” back to back with “The Menagerie”).
- This episode (Part I) features the first time Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy all beam down to a planet surface together without any fellow crewmen.
- Sean Kenny’s Captain Pike make-up took five hours to apply. His hair was initially died white but had to be softened with powder because it was too bright for the cameras. As of this writing (2020) Sean Kenney is still alive. He has been a professional photographer since the 1980s. Sean Kenney also later appeared in later TOS as the character DePaul.
- John D.F. Black initially wrote an “envelope” script for this episode but Gene Roddenberry found it unsatisfactory so he re-wrote the whole thing and gave himself sole writing credit. When he found out Mr. Black was greatly upset and he filed a complaint with the Writer’s Guild but it was unsuccessful.
- Jeffrey Hunter was unavailable and too expensive to play Captain Pike for Star Trek this time around.
- Marc Daniels directed Parts I and II of “The Menagerie” but since a significant portion of Part II consists of re-used clips from “The Cage,” Robert Butler (the original Director of “the Cage”) was given sole directing credit for Part II of “The Menagerie.”
- According to James Doohan, Gene Roddenberry originally intended to make the story for “The Cage” into a major motion picture or perhaps a television movie (plans were later abandoned).
- Robert H. Justman convinced Gene Roddenberry to complete this two-part episode using the un-aired footage from “The Cage.” They were looking for a budget saver and by this time had run out of episode scripts.
- This episode created the Star Trek tradition wherein a ship’s bell is used during a court martial instead of a gavel (the idea for the bell came from Don Mankiewicz in his original story outline for the Star Trek episode “Court Martial”).
- All the actors from the original production of “The Cage” were paid again for the re-used footage in “The Menagerie” (excluding Leonard Nimoy who was already a standing regular on Star Trek so he was not paid twice).
- This was the first of four Star Trek winners of the Hugo Award including TOS and TNG.
- Interestingly enough, Malachi Throne originally appeared as the voice of The Keeper in “The Cage.” He also appeared in the Outer Limits as well as a much later Star Trek episode “Unification” in TNG alongside Leonard Nimoy.
- In the inaugural Season 1 “The Man Trap” Kirk makes a slightly prejudiced remark promising to give someone named Jose a batch of chili peppers. Fans have speculated: Could Commodore Jose Menendez be the Jose that Kirk was referencing?
- In this episode, Ms. Piper flirts heavily with Kirk, and she refers to a friend of hers who was close with Kirk named Helen Johanski.