Friday, October 28, 2016

May You Find Your Way As Pleasant: Star Trek episode 0, "The Cage"

Today, I'll be launching a project that I've been looking forward to ever since I had the idea: a lengthy sojourn through the original Star Trek series.  I hesitate to call it a five-year mission; that would be lame.  Also, I doubt I'll actually be able to finish it that quickly.  That's okay with me.  I'd rather do the job well than do it fast, and if I can avoid making any ambitious commitments -- tackling an episode per week, for example -- then I can avoid stumbling and falling on my face.

I'm going to cover the original series (often referred to colloquially as TOS), followed by the animated series (TAS), the six movies featuring the original cast (I'm counting Generations as a Next Generation movie), and whatever else strikes my fancy (original novels, comic books, fan-produced episodes like Star Trek Continues, etc.).  From there, it's entirely possible I'll continue on to The Next Generation, but we'll go through that wormhole (or not) when we get to it.

How long will this take?  I have no idea.  But I fully expect it to be a work in progress on the day I die, and that seems fitting: one of my earliest memories involves being fascinated by the cover of a Star Trek book by James Blish (more on which later); so why wouldn't my ever-further-reaching quest to figure out what that cover was all about last for as long as I myself last?

How could it not?

I don't want to drown us in preamble, but saying a word or two pertaining to the format I'm going to use is probably warranted.  I'll be going in production order, and not in order of broadcast.  There's no continuity to speak of in TOS, but I do believe that watching the episodes in production order yields beneficial results.  As such, the only place to begin is "The Cage."  An argument could be made that watching it first dilutes the effectiveness of the two-part first-season episode "The Menagerie," but you won't catch me making that argument, or agreeing with it.

The reviews themselves are going to consist of whatever thoughts happen to come to my mind about the episodes.  I'm not sure "reviews" is even the right word; I'm shooting more for essays than reviews, which is often the case with my blogs.  Copious screencaps are going to be presented, all them taken from the Blu-rays, which I ripped to my PC and allowed to consume quite a large amount of storage space.  I'm watching each episode a minimum of three times: twice via Blu-ray on my television (the original version followed by the remastered-with-new-effects version) and then once on my computer for note-taking and screencap-harvesting purposes.  I'm spreading that work -- "work" -- across multiple weeks, so as to live with each episode a bit longer.  So, in other words, once per month is about as frequently as these essays will appear, and bi-monthly might be more likely.

I'm also going to include behind-the-scenes information gleaned from several nonfiction books I'm reading as I go, plus reviews of the James Blish prose adaptations.
So let's get to it!

I won't delay this revelation: I fucking love "The Cage."  Sorry to be crass about it, but that's just how it is.  Is it great Star Trek?  Well, some of the elements that would come to be taken as bedrock elements of the series were not yet present: the Prime Directive, the Federation, IDIC, the five-year mission, etc.  Not to mention the fact that this is an almost-entirely different crew.  So maybe it's not great Star Trek if you're looking at it from those perspectives, but my perspective is that it's good science fiction, great television, and (especially) great sci-fi tv.

My initial goal for Where No Blog Has Gone Before was to go back to the beginning of filmed science fiction and explore all of the movies and television series that (in my view) influenced and led to Star Trek.  This would lead to an exploration of Star Trek itself, which would give way to an exploration of the show's many descendants.  That's a worthy idea, but it's a wildly ambitious one that I'm simply not capable of bringing to fruition.  So for now, I'm going to narrow the focus.

I say all of that as a prelude to saying this: I don't think (I had hoped to prove it) there had ever really been anything like "The Cage" on television prior to 1965 (the year in which it would have aired, if it had been taken to series).  The most notable sci-fi tv shows that preceded it included:

  • Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (which ran for 39 half-hour episodes in 1954)
  • Flash Gordon (another half-hour show that ran for 39 episodes, these across 1954 and 1955)
  • Science Fiction Theatre (a half-hour anthology series that lasted two seasons and 78 episodes from 1955-1957)
  • The Twilight Zone (which ought not to need an introduction from me)
  • Men Into Space (a one-season drama about near-future space exploration that is said to have had a realistic-though-speculative viewpoint and, despite the title, included a few female astronauts)
  • The Outer Limits (see comments about The Twilight Zone)
  • Doctor Who (a British half-hour that was ostensibly for children but often contained horror elements, as well as historical elements, thanks to the time-travel conceit)
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (a spinoff from the popular movie that began its four-season run in 1964)

I've seen a decent amount of Doctor Who and a smattering of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, but the others are mostly a mystery to me.  Men Into Space sounds intriguing, though, and I'm always up for a good (i.e., bad) space-opera show about rocketships and laser pistols.

My opinion of "The Cage" is that it is an amalgam of the various approaches of these shows: a classed-up take on the space opera of Rocky Jones and Flash Gordon, with a starship in place of a rocketship; an extrapolation of Men Into Space from the near-future to a future several centuries hence (although I don't think this is specified in "The Cage"); the serious-minded quasi-existentialism of written science fiction, as found in the anthology shows like The Twilight Zone; and a focus on exploration, as seen in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Doctor Who.

Sci-fi was still thought of by most people (he said, armed with zero data to prove it) as either a kid's genre or a pulp genre, but "The Cage" seems to have been a conscious attempt to avoid that fate.  It's been said by wiser observers than me that the episode bears a resemblance to the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet; both are about a starship that lands on a planet to investigate a crash site, both involve illusions prompted in part by a gorgeous female survivor to whom the ship's captain takes a liking; both wrestle (albeit in different ways) with notions about mankind's propensity toward violence.  "The Cage" and Forbidden Planet also share a similar tone: both are straight-laced, serious-minded attempts at showing space exploration to be something other than a thing for the kiddies to ponder on Saturday mornings.

I don't consider "The Cage" to be a ripoff of Forbidden Planet, though.  The worst you could say of it in that regard is that it's a jazz musician playing a cover version of the song that is Forbidden Planet; it repeats enough of the melody to let you know what the song is, and then goes off into its own directions.

The thing I took away from "The Cage" as I watched it for this post was that it's all about Captain Christopher Pike.  Played by Jeffrey Hunter, Pike is a starship captain who has recently -- two weeks previously -- had a really bad time on a mission to the planet Rigel VII.  He inadvertently got his landing party into a conflict with some locals there, a conflict which turned bloody: two of his crew died, and seven others were injured.  As a result, Pike has fallen into a deep funk that has him questioning whether he wants to remain a space-faring captain or not.  He might be happier living on a ranch, or as a Regulan merchant, or ... well, almost anything else seems preferable right this second.

As the episode develops, Pike will be offered the ability to follow any or all of these options, with one catch: while the road he takes will look and feel real, it will only be an illusion.  And in order to enjoy it, he will have to submit to imprisonment for the remainder of his life.  What seems to be a limitless horizon of opportunity is in fact a closed room with no option whatsoever.

Pike never even considers opting for the illusion; without freedom, nothing else matters.  He's been influenced in that regard by advice from his ship's doctor, Boyce, who hears his complaints about the roads not taken and cautions him against taking the easy way out.  "A man either lives life as it happens to him, meets it head-on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away," says Boyce, who sounds a lot like Red from The Shawshank Redemption (presumably still one of the world's favorite movies several centuries hence).  Pike doesn't seem overly swayed by Boyce's words, but later on he will rephrase them for Vina's sake: "You either live life -- bruises, skinned knees, and all -- or you turn your back on it and start dying."  Get busy living or get busy dying, one might say.

The underlying sentiment here is that taking the easy way out -- opting for the attractive illusion in favor of the hard-scrabble reality -- is antithetical to humanity.  I think I agree with that, although I'm not sure I like the fact that I'm agreeing; and I'm equally unsure that I like the fact that I don't like that fact.  After all, if some Talosian showed up on my doorstep and offered me the ability to live a life consisting of whatever illusion I wished, I'd take him up on it.  I wouldn't think very hard about it, either.  He'd tell me that I had to live in a cage for the rest of my life, and I'd say, okay, where is it?  I'd "read" a lot of "books," pretend to be James Bond every so often, and "eat" whatever I wanted.

Is that a good urge on my part?  Well, no, of course it isn't.  But you deserve my honesty, and you shall have it, and that's the truth: I'd be a Talosian's captive any day of the week.

That's why I'm no Christopher Pike.

Later in the episode, after he has examined the records of the Enterprise, the Talosian Magistrate expresses embarrassed surprise over the fact that humans disdain being trapped; even when the cage is a pleasant one, they want out of it.  The implication is that this is a somewhat unusual attitude among sentient races, and the subtext is clear: it is this trait which drives humanity; it is that very quality that is going to lead humans to the stars someday.  I've been watching Netflix's Luke Cage series recently, and that show's mantra during the first three episodes is "Forward, always."  It's one that Captain Pike -- or, if not him, then certainly Doctor Boyce -- would endorse, and it feels as if Gene Roddenberry would have as well.

It might be worth mentioning that that ideal -- keep moving, even if it's difficult and unpleasant -- is part of the American mythos; Manifest Destiny and all that.  This is perhaps merely an offshoot of British colonialism, which is itself perhaps merely an offshoot of the drive toward Roman empire; but we've quickly strayed well beyond the limits of my knowledge.  (Under my Talosian tutelage, I'd learn ALL that shit for sure.)
My incomplete knowledge notwithstanding, it's always going to be well worth remembering: Star Trek was, and is, the expression of a specifically American dream.  It might in fact also be a dream shared by the rest of the world, or by humanity in general, but this is by no means a given.  Star Trek and its fans sometimes forget that, and I think it'll be worth a reminder once in a while during this project, if only for the purposes of keeping myself honest on the subject.

None of that should be taken as an implication that I disagree with that ideal, by the way.  It's just that ... Trek fandom has created a fair amount of dogma over the years governing how Trekkies look at the franchise and at their involvement with it.  Some of this has practically been written into a sort of canon (and I say that in the sense of a formally-approved set of religious [or, in this case, quasi-religious] beliefs and practices, not in the storytelling-continuity sense).  One of those pieces of dogma is that the series represents a human view of the future that will and does resound worldwide.  And fuck, for all I know, that's exactly the case.
But it's a mistake to assume it is.  And it's a mistake to not remember that this is predominantly an American dream (and perhaps not even a dream of all Americans at that).
Those givens-challenging caveats aside, it does feel true that moving out among the stars is the natural trajectory for mankind.  As a people, we do tend to explore, and once we've gotten to where we were going we do tend to look around and say, "Alright, where to next?"
What "The Cage" is saying is that this urge to explore is tied up with an innate human need to not be fenced in.  We cannot abide a motionless life; it will cause us to wither and die.  At no point does "The Cage" suggest that this urge is an outgrowth of our evolution -- that instinctual urge forward (always) that took us from sea to land, from four legs to two -- but that's okay, I'll suggest it on its behalf.  Because if that is built into who we are as a people, then surely it must be written into our very DNA.

The question eventually becomes this: can we abide seeing others who are fenced in?

We'll probably talk about this on occasion throughout this series, but there is a tendency on the part of Trekkies to boast about how progressive the series is.  You can't walk through a room of Trekkies without hearing one of us talk in a glib and smarmy manner about how forward-thinking the series was to have a diverse crew on the bridge of the Enterprise: not just white men, nosir, but also women, blacks, Asians, even -- gasp! -- Russians!  Eventually we even made a black man and a white woman captains on the shows.

All of which is true, important, and vital.  But unless they've got an artful way of doing so, I don't ever need to hear another Trekkie talk about it.  I've heard enough of the self-congratulation that accompanies that to last me a lifetime.  It's past its sell-by date.  At some point, it stops being edible and becomes pure liberal propaganda.  I say that as a liberal, by the way; as one who knows enough to know when we are high on our own farts, a not-uncommon state of affairs.  Was it important that a black woman was part of the cast of Star Trek?  Yes.  Did it change the world?  Maybe.  Do I need to hear you tell me about it?  Only if you've got something new to say about it.
I mention all that so that I can say this: for what's it worth, I do believe that progress -- !PROGRESS! -- is written into the DNA of Star Trek, because it's right here in "The Cage."  It's easy to miss because it's mostly not present in the form of a political statement (of either the explicit or implicit variety): the crew is, with one barely-there exception, quite thoroughly white, so the all-nations-all-colors mission statement was not yet in effect.

However, in Pike's near-instinctual aversion to imprisonment, I think we have a nascent version of that progress in the form of a declaration that progress is the human ideal.  What came later via the literal push for diversity was perhaps merely an outgrowth of this more fundamental and generalized belief in the fact that humans don't want to be restricted.  This seems to have been Roddenberry's stated ideal for humanity as a whole.  If the decades of bleating from Trekkies about the diversity of the crews have soured you in any way or made you think that Roddenberry was making a political statement merely for the sake of appearing to be high-minded and benevolent, I think it's worth considering that via Captain Pike, Roddenberry wrote that innate yearning for progress into the series from the very beginning.

Pike is played by Jeffrey Hunter, who is terrific.  He's forceful, he's believable, he's got movie-star good looks, he's equally capable of intensity and tenderness; he's so good you almost wonder how he ended up on a failed sci-fi tv pilot.  Hunter was best known then for two roles: as John Wayne's reluctant sidekick in The Searchers and as Jesus Christ in King of Kings.  It's intriguing to wonder what the fate of Star Trek would have been with him (and not William Shatner) as the lead.  Impossible to say for sure, but my gut tells me that it would have worked well in the short run but less well in the long run.  Shatner brought an unpredictable set of variables to the equation that I'm not sure Hunter possessed; Hunter was arguably a better actor in a formal sense, but he was also a more limited performer in some ways.

In any case, we got what we got, and it worked out pretty fine.  You won't catch me regretting it.

I've got plenty left to say about "The Cage," but I've just had (via email) a somewhat lengthy political conversation -- hi, future McMolo! you will recognize this when you read it -- and my brain has gone Gumby on me.  I don't know that I've got it in me to press forward in an ordered fashion while remaining coherent (don't laugh, it's not nice); so instead, let's turn to the gajillions of screencaps I took.  I have a feeling some of them will provoke commentary.

The first time we see the bridge of the Enterprise, we swoop through the stars and directly into the ship via the dome on the top of the saucer section.  It's an ambitious shot for sixties television, and while it's not entirely -- some might say "not remotely" -- successful, you've got to admire the intent.  The approach director Robert Butler seems to have been taking was to place the viewers inside the action: this was a science-fiction series, but they wanted to make us a part of it, for us to be along for the ride as opposed to merely witnessing it.

"Check the circuit!" hollers Spock, who gets the first line of Star Trek dialogue.

Somebody sell me a poster of this.

As mentioned a few sentences ago, "The Cage" was directed by Robert Butler.  You may not have heard of Butler, but he had a distinguished career as a director, mostly in television but with at least one feature to his name that I loved as a kid (Hot Lead and Cold Feet).  He directed this pilot, which is a pretty big deal, but did quite a few other notable first-episodes as well: Hogan's Heroes, Batman, Hill Street Blues, Remington Steele, and Moonlighting, to name a few.  He directed plenty of other episodes of big-time tv shows such as The Twilight Zone and The Fugitive.  Dude had himself a career, no doubt.
I think the screencaps you'll see throughout this post show why.  I took well over a hundred of them, and in many cases it was simply because I liked the image so much that I felt like I needed it in my collection.  I think I ended up at 130, which makes nearly two per minute of screentime.

Not bad, Butler; not bad.

Peter Duryea as Lt. José Tyler

I don't think the episode ever actually names him as such, but that's Lt. Tyler, played by Peter Duryea.  You know that; you read the caption.  Why am I saying this?  I have no idea!
I like Duryea in the role.  He's got a little bit of the gung-ho youthfulness that Walter Koenig would later bring to the role of Chekov, but none of the shitty hair or awful accent.  He doesn't have a lot to do here, but I like what we get from him.  I hope there's a spinoff novel all about him that I can read someday.

That's one of my favorite things about "The Cage," actually.  There is a fairly large group of featured crewmembers, and they all feel individuated in a way that is not always true of Star Trek going forward.  That's not atypical of a pilot episode, though; they often have more money to spend than does an actual episode, so the casts tend to be larger.  Still, it's another of the point in this episode's favor.

"Sometimes a man'll tell his bartender things he'll never tell his doctor," says Boyce.  Probably true.

The scene between Pike and Boyce is one of the standouts of the episode.  I suspect that it's a scene which would have resonated with any number of men circa 1965, particularly men who'd served in WWII or Korea.  Pike expresses disdain for having to choose who lives and who dies on his missions, and while it feels as if his choices are a bit less literal than that, you've got to figure that the passion with which Hunter conveys the sentiment would have played powerfully for a lot of people, particularly men who really had made decisions of that nature during their military service.
It's indicative of where Roddenberry's philosophies came from that the first major character-based scene in Star Trek contains these viewpoints.  It's the sentiment of a man who has fought, and is weary of it, and wants to never fight again.  And yet, the very moment Pike is put in a position in which fighting is needed -- even if it's merely the illusion of fighting -- he will do so.  I don't think this is an inconsistency on the part of the screenplay; I think that instead, the tension between violence and passivity is related somewhat to the tension between reality and illusion.
This could be said to form a large part of the subtext that lurks behind Trek as a concept (not merely TOS as a series): after all, how many of the movies aren't filled to the brim with death and destruction?  How many episodes of all the series put together don't involve the crew fighting or otherwise dealing with a villain of some sort?  Even if there isn't violence, there is the threat of its eruption.
The overall sweep of Star Trek seems to confirm that as a people, we are just like Pike: we say we want to stop fighting, and we mean it, but somehow we continually end up fighting; and in some cases, doing so seems to reinvigorate us.  Violence and conflict are huge elements of Star Trek, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise; they are trying to foist an illusion upon you.

Moving on...
Boyce was played by John Hoyt, who had a lengthy career but never quite managed to find the role that could turn him into a star.  Sci-fi fans might recognize him from When Worlds Collide, or perhaps from X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, although he had starring roles in neither.  He was in Spartacus and Cleopatra and The Blackboard Jungle, too.  On television, you might see him in the occasional Twilight Zone or Outer Limits or Perry Mason or Gunsmoke.

For me, though, he's always going to be Dr. Boyce, the would-be Star Trek character.  Boyce has a completely different energy than DeForest Kelley would eventually have as Leonard "Bones" McCoy.  However, Boyce is asked to fulfill something of the same role McCoy would often have: the voice of Humanity.  Boyce is Pike's conscience, almost in a Jiminy Cricket manner: as we've noted, it's Boyce who reminds Pike that if he's content to stop moving, he may as well lay down and die.

It's also Boyce who first truly understands the implications of the Talosians' powers of illusion.  Not Pike, not Number One, not Spock; Boyce, who seems profoundly unsettled by the potential unreality into which he has stepped.  In my headcanon, Boyce requests a transfer not long after this and begins working with the appropriate Federation officials to place the visitation limits on Talos that we will later see in "The Menagerie."

"Time-warp factor 7," orders Pike.  (There's a Rocky Horror Picture Show joke here, but I can't quite find it.  Maybe even something to do with Forbidden Planet!)  "Engage," he says, and we're off to Talos with Alexander Courage's theme music playing.  I've not mentioned Courage, but boy is his score for this episode great.  Not merely the iconic theme, but the entire score.  TOS would use bits of it for seasons to come whenever the occasion seemed to fit.

As mentioned previously, the Enterprise is two weeks removed from a mortal struggle on Rigel VII.  Pike mentions that they are headed for the Vega Colony to have their wounded tended to, and one thing I like about "The Cage" is the subtlety with which this is worked into the episode.  Pike says something about it once, and then it's mostly not dealt with again except for the "illusion" of his fight with the Kalar warrior.

However, you can see at least two crewmen wearing bandages of one type of another.  Nice touch.  You can also see Spock limping quite severely upon the landing party's arrival on Talos, and while I suspect that this might have been to some sort of injury Nimoy sustained, it still works in the episode's favor.

One of the familiar faces in "The Cage" is Majel Barrett, playing the ship's never-named first officer.  Trekkies will be quick to point out that her name is Number One; I will be quick to point out that that is also what Picard calls Riker in The Next Generation (created by Gene Roddenberry as surely as "The Cage" was), and it's obviously meant to be a designation, not a name.  Every now and then you find a fan who claims she's supposed to be a robot or something, but that's silly; the Talosians would probably have been smart enough to not pick a robot for potential breeding.
In any case, I think Barrett is just fine here.  She'll come back as Nurse Chapel, but she rarely had anything of note to do in that capacity.  Here, she's the first officer, and she has to make a crucial -- though ultimately pointless -- decision in the captain's absence.  I think it's meant to be a huge deal to contemporary audiences that she is able to take command in that way, and in that sense, I guess you'd have to say that this episode does contain some of the political progressivism that I earlier said was absent in relation to later Trek.
The screenplay drops the ball a bit in that regard, however, in my estimation.  Some folks watching with their 2016 glasses on instead of their 1965 glasses would almost certainly accuse the episode of sexism.  It's not unfair.  Of Yeoman Colt, Pike says that he just can't get used to having a woman on the bridge.  Number One whips her head around in surprised disappointment when Pike says this, and Barrett is great in this scene.  Pike tells her no offense was intended; she's different, of course.  This prompts another sort of surprised disappointment from poor Number One: Barrett here plays a sort of implicit romantic yearning for her captain.  She does it well, but none of this is exactly one of the prouder moments in Trek's history of gender relations.

Still, give Roddenberry credit for at least trying.  He was under no mandate to do so in 1965, and if he bungled it, perhaps a failed effort is better than no effort at all.

Let's stay in that vein for a bit and talk about Vina, as played by Susan Oliver:

Those eyes...!

From the moment she appears on screen, I believe Vina is intended to represent some sort of ideal of sexual desirability.  The screenplay couches it in terms of Adam-and-Eve-type reproduction, but the subtext is clear: what Vina represents is a LOT of potential fucking for Christopher Pike.  She can appear as anything he wishes her to be, from a plain-jane (though lovely) housewife to a green-skinned Orion hellcat.  Probably all manner of things between those options, too, not to mention whatever madness lurks beyond them in either direction.

Star Trek will wrestle with these sorts of depictions of femininity over the three seasons of TOS, and arguably beyond.  I don't know that critics could persuade me that there's a huge amount of actual misogyny present in TOS ("Turnabout Intruder" being a possible exception), but there is certainly a massive amount of objectification of women.  I think that "The Cage" shows the tension between the need/desire for some men (with Gene Roddenberry certainly counted among their number) to do so and the need/desire to move beyond doing so
"The Cage" is probably better at that than most of the rest of TOS.  Vina does seem to be presented initially as a sort of fantasy-fulfillment figure of femininity, but it's important to remember that to some extent, she is a fantasy: if her introduction seems dreamlike, it's because Vina is a dream as much as she is anything else.  In fact, given what we know about the power of the Talosians, isn't it theoretically possible that she doesn't exist at all?  I don't believe that to be the case, but who can say for sure?

Either way, a decent amount of "The Cage" is spent with Pike assuming that Vina is, indeed, purely an illusion, and while he believes that that's all she is, he wants basically nothing to do with her.  Later, when he founds out she is real, he becomes more interested, but even then only if he can play on his own terms.  Star Trek will wrestle with this idea of illusion versus reality off and on over the years, and the decision typically comes down on the side of opting for reality.  Illusion is fine provided the one having the illusion knows it for what it is; but passing an illusion off as the real thing is a no-go for most of Trek.  And yet, via one of the series, Trekkies will eventually have The Doctor, a holographic character created to make us question our feelings about what "real" means.  What on Earth would Pike make of The Doctor?!?  That's a heck of a reversal.

And that's probably a good thing.  It would be a shame for Trek to be frozen in amber, even as it relates to definitions of reality itself.

In any case, Vina is unquestionably objectified in this episode, nowhere more famously than in this scene:

I'm reminded that "Vina" is a bit reminiscent of "vino," which is a key component of the Latin phrase "in vino veritas."  This scene is an intensified version of what the Talosians are claiming: that being drunk on illusion is its own sort of truth.  Or maybe that's just some bullshit I thought of to make a comparison between "Vina" and "vino."  Could go either way with that ruling, to be honest.

·         I like the look on Vina’s face when Pike runs away from her dance.  She’s still in character; you can see that when she is in scenarios like this, she is still conscious of herself, but is almost a different person while it is happening.  There is a sort of haunted ferocity in her movements, a conscious wildness that both is and isn’t imposed upon her.  She is a willing vessel, and what she is doing both is and isn't an act. This is an illusion, but in its way, it's also a sort of reality.  Fascinating!
Vina's dance of Orion seduction doesn't screencap as well as one might wish, but it's fairly sexy stuff, especially by mid-sixties television standards.  I object to objectification, but I must confess to enjoying taking part in it.  I'd like to think that I do so in a humane and discrete manner, but the bottom line is that whether I do or don't, it doesn't change the fact that Susan Oliver as an Orion dancer is hot as balls.

Part of what makes it work here is the unattainability of Vina in this guise.  There's something off-limits about this for Pike; the implication -- is it stated? (I can't remember) -- is that this incarnation of Vina is a slave of some sort.  Well ... that's obviously problematic.  And Pike knows it!  He's sweating up a storm, and tries to get away from the whole thing.

Speaking of which...

That's Laurel Goodwin playing Yeoman Colt.  Laurel Goodwin was a peach in 1965, is what I'll say about that.  She was good enough for Elvis Presley in 1962's Girls! Girls! Girls!, so that's something.

Lechery aside, I do like Goodwin in this part.  Colt is -- as her name hints -- an obviously novice young crewman, one who has only been vaulted into her role as yeoman by virtue of the fact that Pike's previous yeoman died on Rigel VII.  She's obviously nervous as hell around Pike, and the screenplay wants us to believe that this is because she's got the hots for him and has no idea how to approach resolving that tension.  Number One has the same tension, incidentally; but she's more seasoned, and is therefore better at hiding it.

All of this objectionable; from a certain point of view, at least.  From another, it's not so bad.  Put yourself in the shoes of the average person -- man or woman -- in 1965.  They'd see the Enterprise as a military vessel; and the rank designations of its crew would do nothing to dissuade them of the notion that the ship is essentially a Navy concern in outer space.  For most people at that time, it would be unthinkable for men and women to serve together on the same ship in a military capacity.  I mean, we're still having that conversation in 2016, to some extent, so walk fifty years backwards, and I don't think you have much trouble getting into that mindset.

The objection you'd have in that scenario would be that there's no way men and women won't "fraternize" if you put them in that situation.

What you get in "The Cage" is an attempt to have the cake and eat it, too.  Roddenberry seems to be claiming that men and women serving together is no problem, even though Pike can't quite get used to women being on the bridge.  You see a man and a woman in casual attire walking down a ship's corridor as pleasant as can be in one scene; nobody seems the worse for it.  What about the fraternization, though?  Well, Roddenberry feels that his two most prominent female crewmen can't help but want a captain's dick, but with Number One this desire doesn't seem to be causing any difficulties, and with Colt it's due as much to greenhorn inexperience as it is to anything else.  Roddenberry might have been hinting that even if everyone WAS fucking their brains out all the time, it wouldn't keep the ship from running at top level; but I think he's definitely hinting that an innate professionalism would prevent such things from being an issue at all, because everyone would simply repress those feelings and get on with their work.

If you buy into one or both of those notions, is "The Cage" still objectionable in terms of how it handles women and the objectification of them by men (including the viewers)?

I leave it to you to decide.

Colt, by the way, would never appear again, but we'll see a different captain (Kirk) with a different yeoman (Rand) during the first season of TOS.  Rand would never quite take off, either; and the questions I have about where Yeoman Colt might have gone will only be echoed by her replacement.

Leonard Nimoy is, obviously, one of the most important of all elements of Star Trek (not merely TOS, but all of its incarnations).  He hadn't quite gotten his approach figured out in "The Cage," but that's no knock against him; it's very common for a character in a pilot episode to not be fully-formed in the way they will become over the course of a series.  Expecting them to be is a very recent thing, so let's not apply that (ahem) logic to a pilot from 1965.

The most famous Spock incongruity comes in this moment:

(I dig the singing flowers, by the way.)

Spock smiles!

Let's remember, though, that Spock was not even referred to as a Vulcan in this episode; and the concepts of adherence to logic and lack of emotion had not yet been invented for the series.  It doesn't make this moment any less jarring the first time you see it, though; or even the second.

Nimoy is good in the episode overall, but he does deliver what has to be the single worst line reading of his Trek career: "The women!" he blurts, arms frantically spread, when he realizes Number One and Colt have been taken by the Talosians.

Some of the tropes of Star Trek were present right from the beginning, including the transporter.  It's still cool even today, and it must have been flat-out awesome in '65.

The gentleman in the background is, if I'm not mistaken, the only non-Caucasian seen on the Enterprise.  Better than none at all, I guess, but it definitely goes to show that Roddenberry's approach to diversity had not quite coalesced yet.

Meg Wyllie as the Talosian Magistrate

How cool are the Talosians?  Star Trek usually did a pretty good job with the aliens during the TOS years, and it's nice to note that that began with the very first episode.

The Talosians were mostly played by women, but were voiced by men whose voices were sped up for effect; this adds an interesting layer to that reality-versus-illusion theme we've been discussing.  Everything about this works for me.  I'd forgive you if you thought it was cheesy, but I'd disagree with you and would probably accuse you of being a hipster who didn't know how to watch pre-CGI movies.  So go back to your Bernie Sanders and your Pokemon Go and leave the Trek talk to me.

Anyways, that random vitriol aside, I do think that by 1965 standards, the Talosians are great.  I love the makeup, I love the costumes, and I love Meg Wyllie as the Talosian Magistrate.  She's uncredited, if you can believe that, and let's take a moment to let it sink in that in 1965, an actress could play a role as big as this one and not receive screen credit for it.
Wyllie herself, though, is terrific, despite not having her own voice.  She got her first screen role in 1952 and kept getting them through the mid-nineties.  She appeared in all sorts of television episodes, and in 1964 had a part in one of my favorite (semi-)obscure Hitchcock movies, Marnie.  She would later appear in John Carpenter's Elvis, and also had a role in The Last Starfighter.

These corridors look as if they could have come from Forbidden Planet's Altair IV.

I love that whichever of the crew drew a police-type sketch of the Talosians put a smile on their face.

·         “There’s a way out of any cage, and I’ll find it,” promises Pike.  Kirk would give this a thumbs-up.  (I’d like to create a fake Facebook profile for Christopher Pike, and another for James T. Kirk.  I’d then make a status update for Pike saying, “There’s a way out of any cage, and I’ll find it.”  Then, I’d sign into my Kirk account, have Kirk "like" Pike's status, and take a screenshot of the whole thing.  Lulz aplenty.  But I’m too lazy to do any of these things, so somebody else should do it and then send me a screencap of it.)

For my money, this is one of the all-time great matte paintings.  Yeah, you can sort of see the line; but still, just gorgeous.  Rigel VII is a thing of beauty.  And, again, the slight unreality of it works in favor of the episode, not against it.  The matte painting is by Albert Whitlock, who was kind of a big deal.

I have been puzzled for YEARS as to why Vina makes this face in this moment.  Pike, figuring out what's happening, says something about this being the way it all started two weeks ago, and then she makes this face.  Is it a sarcastic wink?  WHAT THE FUCK IS SHE DOING?!?

I haven't said anything about this, but I really can't stress enough how great this series looks on Blu-ray.  All the screencaps are drawn from the original versions of the episodes unless otherwise specified; and I'll have more to say on that in a bit.

Look...I know that's not actually Richard Kiel, but I'm inclined to pretend it is.

·         The fight isn’t a bad action sequence by sixties-television standards.  And if I’m not mistaken, Hunter does the majority of Pike's stuntwork.

·         “Are you real?” asks Pike.  “As real as you wish,” answers Vina.  “Oh, no,” refuses Pike; “no, that’s not any answer.”  Vina goes on to say, "Perhaps they've made me out of dreams you've forgotten."

·         “When dreams become more important than reality, you give up travel, building, creating,” says Vina, telling Pike of the stagnation of the Talosians.  This, perhaps, is the fate that Pike instinctively wants to avoid.  Perhaps it’s the fate that all of Star Trek instinctively wants to avoid.  Forward, always.  “You just sit, living and reliving other lives,” Vina says.  Perhaps you become a blogger.  Ahem…

·         “From a fable you once heard in childhood,” says the Talosian of the illusion of Pike suffering in what seems to be a lake of fire.  The guys at the Mission Log podcast took this (if I remember correctly) to be a representation of Hell, and specifically the Christian Hell, and took the whole thing to be an indication that in this future, humanity mostly looked on religion as nothing more than fables.  They're probably right, but is there any chance this represents some specific fable, and is not in fact a dig at religion?

·         The second illusion Pike experiences is of being back home in Mojave, which is apparently no longer a desert but is a major city with fifty miles of parkland surrounding it.  This implies that in the future, Earth has perhaps learned to turn its more desolate spots into garden spots; terraforming, of a sort.  What would have happened to the species that grew out of and thrived in such environments?  Would it even be ethical to do such a thing?  Food for thought.  Speaking of which, Vina says to Pike, "These little white sandwiches are your mother's recipe for chicken tuna."  What in the blue blazes is chicken tuna?

·         I’m not typically a fan of imposing my own meaning by flatly contradicting what a story states, but I have to wonder: is the old and broken version of Vina also just an illusion, one designed to make Pike want to leave her behind?  Not sure why the Talosians would do that, but I’m also not sure I buy the idea that they wouldn’t be able to repair the damage to her body better than that.  After all, she was an adult, so they could extract whatever information they needed from her own brain.  They notion that they wouldn’t know how to put her back together simply doesn’t work, so it’s either bad writing – which is probable – or it’s a case of the Talosians making us think something.  Either way, it is not to Pike's credit that he doesn't at least offer to take her with them; I think the episode wants us to see it as an act of kindness, based on her preference for illusion, but I'm not so sure I see it that way personally.

This image fascinates me.  What we are seeing is a real Jeffrey Hunter playing a fake Christopher Pike as he looks at a fake Jeffrey Hunter (his stand-in) playing the real Christopher Pike.  The Magistrate says, "She has an illusion and you have reality.  May you find your way as pleasant."

What is this dude's deal?  He's constantly standing by the turbolift, and he looks like the prototypical Sad Bastard.

"Who would have been Eve?" asks Colt sheepishly.  She's rebuked by Number One, and after Tyler and Boyce both question Pike about it and are rebuked in their own right, the episode ends.

Good stuff, guys.  Not flawless, but deeply good.

Let's have a look at a few screencaps comparing the original version of the episode to the remastered version.  For those of you who aren't aware of this, in 2006, remastered-for-high-definition versions of TOS episodes began airing in syndication, complete with new CGI effects in many scenes.  The idea there was that people with HD-capable television sets didn't want to see shitty-looking old model effects, so the fix for that was to get rid of the model effects and offer up something that looked like it could have been filmed yesterday.

It was sort of a disaster, in my opinion.  I understand the urge, but it's just not necessary.  The whole show looks and feels like a product of 1965-1969, so why bother to replace the effects when you've still got the makeup, costumes, sets, acting styles, dialogue, music, and philosophy hollering MID-SIXTIES at the top of their lungs?  If you are pitching this to people in an attempt to fool them into thinking it was made in 2006, then you're going to fail; so why not just give them the real deal?  Plus, by 2016, it's very evident that the upgrades were made in 2006, and they no longer look all that much like upgrades.
In any case, that's what they did, but the Blu-rays that I own give you the option of choosing between the two versions.  You will NEVER get a Remastered TOS screencap from me unless it is labeled as such, and then you will only get it as a comparison with the original.  Speaking of which, here are a few:

Remastered.  I actually like this quite a bit; the addition of the nebula is a nice touch.

Remastered; it looks okay in a still image, but in motion it's not even as convincing as the effects you can currently see in some fan-produced films.

Remastered (I neglected to get a shot from this part of the Original)


Remastered; looks even worse than it does in the original, at least in motion.

Original; this shot essentially shows Talos rapidly increasing in size as the ship approaches it, but does not show the Enterprise itself.

Remastered; this new shot shows the Enterprise approaching Talos, and it looks okay.

Original; not great, to be fair.

Remastered; here, they've probably made an actual improvement, and one that does not scream "CGI."

Original; Talos as seen on the viewscreen in the conference room.  At first glance, it appears to be an entirely different planet from the one seen previously.  But I think the green section toward the bottom is close enough to what the previous effects showed that it works.

Remastered; it looks fine, but I kind of prefer the sickly, uninviting look of the original.


Remastered; here again, they've arguably improved it, but to what end?  It looks good enough originally.  Plus, how dare you replace an Albert Whitlock matte painting?!?

So anyways, there you have it, a few examples of the Remastered effects.  I plan to keep watching those versions, simply so I can say I've seen them; and when the mood strikes me, I'll give you some comparisons.

But know ye one and all that in my mind, there are no versions of these episodes except the originals.

Let's next have a look at one other version of "The Cage"; the partially-black-and-white 1986 VHS release, which is presented on the Blu-rays for posterity.

Released in 1986 for the show's twentieth anniversary, this was the first time most Trekkies had an opportunity to see the pilot outside of the clips that appeared in "The Menagerie."  Roddenberry himself provided bookend intro/outro material, which was self-congratulatory and mildly vapid, but is nevertheless worth seeing if you (like me) have a love for the Great Bird and what he brought to the world.

One thing that's cool about this is that if you watch it, the scenes which were not a part of "The Menagerie" are presented in black and white.  The reason for this, says Roddenberry, is that that is the only manner in which that footage survives.  An all-color version was apparently found at some point after this VHS release, however; that version would be broadcast in 1988 as part of a two-hour special called The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next, which I remember watching with rapt attention.  Online research informs me that that program was part of the efforts to find ANY kind of Trek-related programming to fill airspace during the Writer's Guild strike that affected the second season of The Next Generation.  1988 Bryant didn't know about any of that, he was just glad to get to see "The Cage."

I'm obviously very glad that they found the all-color version, but I really enjoyed taking an hour out of 2016 and watching the version with the black and white footage; I'm kind of a sucker for black and white, and it was nice to have that reminder of what was and what wasn't used for "The Menagerie."  So what the hell, let's look at a few screencaps of that footage:

I might not ever watched the Remastered version again, but this version?  Yeah, I'd watch this version again for sure.

And with that, let's turn our attentions in another direction and consider some behind-the-scenes tidbits gleaned from several different books.  We'll begin with the first one ever, this handy little tome from 1968:

This book justifies the name "Roddenberry" being on the cover almost from the outset, by printing Gene's lyrics to the Star Trek theme song as an epigraph.  Because we're into that sort of thing, let's have a look:

The rim of the star-light
My love
Is wand'ring in star-flight
I know
He'll find in star-clustered reaches
Strange love a star-woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

Fascinating!  It's worth unpacking this a bit, and I think you have to begin by asserting that the lyrics are written from a female perspective.  This is a sort of sci-fi version of a "my man has gone to sea" type ballad, and while the lyrics have never -- somebody correct me on this if I'm wrong -- been sung in any official incarnation of Trek, it's worth remembering that the melody is sung wordlessly during the opening credits of the three seasons of TOS.  Specifically, they are sung by Nichelle Nichols.

The lyrics tell the tale of a woman whose man has gone out into the stars, presumably to chase some alien nookie.  The "star trek" of the show/franchise's title is here revealed to be at least partially a galactic pussy-hunt.  And since the lyrics were written by a man, what's really going on is that a man is fantasizing about being "at sea" chasing nookie while a (presumably-faithful) lover pines away for him back on land.

It's easy to dismiss this as misogynistic -- apologies for the fact that that word doesn't precisely fit (I'm using it as shorthand) -- claptrap.  I get that, I really do.  But y'all, I'm here to tell you: to some extent, the male mind really does work that way.  It certainly must have in the mid-sixties, when a man like Gene Roddenberry would have grown up believing -- because it's what he'd been taught -- that a man's purpose in life was to become a husband and a father, and to root himself to a job so as to enable him to be as good an exemplar of those things as he could be.
Did it matter whether he liked the job?  It did not.  Did it matter whether he liked the wife?  Not particularly.  For that matter, it only mattered marginally whether he liked the children.  Liking one's lot in life wasn't necessarily even possible, much less an expectation.  That's how it was for the average white American male, at least; and Gene Roddenberry would certainly have been counted among that number for the first few decades of his life.

Evidence seems to indicate that he wanted more, though; and not just more, but different.  This, presumably, is at least one potential way one creates a show like Star Trek: one feels trapped by one's career and marriage, and in seeking a way out of the former one also finds -- for better or worse, morally-speaking -- a way out of the latter.

I suspect you do not need me to spell out the parallels this has with "The Cage," so I won't bother doing so.  But it's worth pointing out again that this aspect of Roddenberry's personality is practically fused into the DNA that makes up Star Trek.  As this series of blog posts progresses across the next few years, I suspect that we are going to end up doing a hearty bit of female objectification.  We've already done it within this very post.  I will almost certainly apologize for it here and there, because I truly have no wish to offend anyone, or to make anyone feel as if I'm lessening them as people.  I promise to do my best to limit the leering; you won't catch me talking with Billy Bush about things we'd like to do to that one crew(wo)man in, say, "Day of the Dove."

However, as I've already asserted, I do also want to always be honest when I'm writing these posts, a goal which is true for not merely this series, but for whatever writing of ANY sort that I do.  And so I'd find it difficult and dishonest to never talk about the prurient interests that are occasionally prompted by these episodes.  I don't want to be a creep about it, and think I've got it in me to avoid that trap; but I have to confess that somewhere within me -- and probably not very far under the surface -- I've got a seafaring man whose romantic nature is yearning for expression.  Distant ports off distant shores call to me, too, and if I deny that about myself, then I'm just a liar.  You want the illusion that these thoughts don't happen, perhaps, but I can't give you that; I can give you a moderated version of reality.

And anyways, could it be more evident that expressing those desires are hardwired into the Star Trek of Gene Roddenberry?  I don't think so.  I think it's every bit as vital a component of TOS as it is of Ian Fleming's James Bond.  With Bond, it becomes mixed up in metaphors for British colonialism and empire; with Trek, it becomes mixed up in metaphors for American expansionism and Manifest Destiny.

What's fascinating is considering that perhaps those things really are one and the same.  A topic for a brighter mind than mine, but a strong possibility.  And, I think, it will be mandatory for us to try and remember it as we proceed.

Speaking of proceeding, let's return to The Making of Star Trek, which includes as part of its first chapter a deeply wonderful read: Roddenberry's original "Series Format" outline, which he used to pitch the series to networks.  This is the original version of that proposal, the very one that convinced NBC to produce "The Cage."  I'd love to slap the whole thing up here, but that'd be copyright infringement, so let's stick with fair-use exploration and have a few bulletpoints of relevant info:

  • The principal character is listed as Captain Robert T. April, a "strong, complex personality" who is "capable of action and decision" but who also "lives a continual battle with the self-doubt and the loneliness of command."  His "primary weakness is a predilection to action over administration, a temptation to take the greatest risks onto himself.  But, unlike most early explorers, he has an almost compulsive compassion for the rights and plights of others, aliens as well as human."  Boy, that last sentence is a hell of a thing.  Roddenberry is essentially arguing for a sort of anti-colonialism that expresses Manifest Destiny without any yearning for empire.  If that seems a contradiction, welcome to the world universe of Gene Roddenberry: it's a rather wonderful place, in its way.
  • Among the other continuing officers, we have the "executive officer," who is never "referred to as anything but 'Number One'."  She is "almost mysteriously female," and is "slim and dark in a Nile Valley way, age uncertain, one of those women who will always look the same between years twenty and fifty."  Referring to her as "extraordinarily efficient," Roddenberry specifies that she "is probably Robert April's superior in detailed knowledge of the equipment, departments, and personnel aboard the vessel."  In other words, she's more cut out for the job than he is!  You can -- and should, perhaps -- accuse Roddenberry of a certain amount of sexism, but god dang it, you cannot dispute that his initial intention was for the ship's second-in-command to be a woman who smashed the glass ceiling before anyone even knew there was such a thing.  The series ended up going in a different direction, but the desire was there.
  • "The Navigator" is "José (Joe) Tyler," who has a "Boston astronomer father and Brazilian mother" and is "a phenomenally brilliant mathematician and space theorist.  But he has also inherited his mother's Latin temperament."  He "is young enough to be painfully aware of the historical repute of Latins as lovers -- and is in danger of failing this challenge on a cosmic scale."  Well, okay then.  I can't help thinking about the fact that the series ended up being produced by Desilu.  Desilu, of course, was comprised of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and Tyler's parents sound like partially-role-reversed versions of Lucy and Desi.  A complete coincidence, I'm sure; but interesting.
  • "Ship's Doctor" Philip Boyce is "worldly, humorously cynical," and is "engaged in a perpetual battle of ideas and ideals with José."  Boyce is referred to in this outline as "Bones," and if this "perpetual battle" doesn't ring some McCoy/Spock bells, I don't know what would.
  • "The First Lieutenant" is the "Captain's right-hand man, the working-level commander of all the ship's functions -- ranging from manning the bridge to supervising the lowliest scrub detail.  His name is Mr. Spock.  And the first view of him can be almost frightening -- a face so heavy-lidded and satanic you might almost expect him to have a forked tail.  Probably half-Martian, he has a slightly reddish complexion and semi-pointed ears.  But strangely -- Mr. Spock's quiet temperament is in dramatic contrast to his satanic look."
  • And then there's the description of Yeoman J/M. Colt, who has "a strip-queen figure even a uniform cannot hide."  She "serves as Captain's secretary, reporter, bookkeeper" with "surprising efficiency" and "undoubtedly dreams of serving Robert April with equal efficiency in more personal departments."  In other words, she's a wank fantasy for Robert April Gene Roddenberry.  There's no defending this, really.  I mean, sure, I'd like to think that this doesn't mean Roddenberry thought of his secretaries/reporters/bookkeepers in this way -- by which I mean that I'd like to think he didn't hire women specifically in the hopes that they would turn out to possess qualities of both one AND the other nature -- but I don't know that I can actually do so.  If Mad Men taught me anything, it's that men in the sixties hired secretaries with at least one eye toward barely managing not to get them pregnant.  Or if they didn't hire in that way, they certainly had the ability to do so.  It's impossible for me to not think of that when reading Roddenberry's description of Colt.  It's just a wank fantasy.  And, in all honesty, a pretty good one.  But still...not Roddenberry's finest moment.

Chapter Four of the book includes Roddenberry's eventual eighteen-page outline for "The Cage" itself.  What the hey, may as well skim that sucker, too:

  • "The landing party is beamed to materialize on arid, rocky Sirius IV" -- it's not Talos IV here -- "a quarter mile from the wrecked ship.  They move in carefully, maintaining defense security, come upon a small encampment containing the few half-starved survivors who are almost unable to believe that rescue is finally here.  One of these is a young woman, Vina, provocatively lovely, showing so few effects of the ordeal that Dr. Boyce becomes suspicious, and he finds other things that somehow do not seem to make sense to his medical mind."  Only a bit of Boyce's skepticism remains in the finished pilot, but this all tracks.
  • "At an appropriate moment we pull back and realize all this is also being watched on a strange-shaped televisor screen by crablike creatures.  Although in no way human, they are obviously intelligent and have digital capabilities via six multiclawed arms and legs."  Okay, now this got my attention.  One of my pet peeves regarding Star Trek overall is how relatively humanoid the aliens tend to be; ever since I was a wee little kiddie, I've been thrilled any time Trek found an excuse to have a really alien alien.  So here, finding out that Roddenberry's initial conception was for the Talosian/Sirians to be distinctly non-humanoid, I'm pleased as punch.  But it totally makes sense to me why you couldn't do that on television in 1965; shit, you can barely do it in 2016.  But this makes some of "The Cage" more meaningful: the inability of the Talosians to correctly reconstruct Vina's broken body, for example.
  • When April comes to in his cage, he finds the crab-creatures outside, observing him.  He takes his "telecommunicator" out of his shirt and "moves to the transparent wall.  Outside, his captivity is creating considerable interest among the creatures; we can hear the snapping and clattering of their claws and external armor-skeleton.  April stealthily tunes his telecommunicator until the clattering noises blend into an atonal translation."  I love it.  I'm one of those weirdos who occasionally finds himself getting hung up on the fact that all of the aliens just speak English.  Yeah, yeah, I get it: they've got Universal Translator tech.  I can roll with that, but I wish we got to see it in action.  (Sidebar: a couple of days ago, I saw the recent Black Mirror episode "Men Against Fire," which contains some scenes in which soldiers use a piece of translator tech that is worn on their uniforms.  It translates a language that might be Swedish or Norwegian or Finnish or Danish [not sure which, if any] into English and vice versa.  It's fascinating, and nowhere near as dramatically ponderous as you might think.  I believe we are at a point where a hypothetical version of Star Trek could do the same.)
  • This story-outline version plays a bit more than does the finished episode with the notion that Vina presents herself as an illusion; she tells April that she is, and even engages with him on the notion of her having been drawn directly from his mind as a sort of amalgam of desirability.
  • The weapon the crew uses to try to blast their way into the underground chamber is revealed here to not actually be a weapon: it's a "matter-converter," which obviously has great offensive potential but is not specifically intended for that purpose.  While this is happening, Tyler is furiously computing ways to peer into the planet's surface, but no no avail.  I'm reminded of how Chekov is presented in the Kelvinverse films as a bit of a mathematical/computational genius.
  • Rather implausibly, Vina gives April a "space-boat ax" she has been hiding ever since the crash.  April uses this to smash out of the cage.  Weak stuff, and Roddenberry clearly realized it at some point and then came up with something better.
  • As they are escaping, April looks into one of the other cages and sees "a huge six-legged spider-anthropoid with saber tooth fangs."  "Vina identifies this as the spider-ape of a Rigel planet group."  Not sure how she knows that, but I appreciate the info, because I will never go to a place that has spider-apes.  So fuck you, Rigel.
  • Other cages contain "a writhing mass of intertwined, hissing, snakelike bodies with vague humanoid faces and atrophied arms.  Another enclosure contains incredibly delicate and elongated (special camera lens) winged 'angel' creatures, perched on ledges of what appears to be a 'zoo' mock-up of a wispy sky-spire city.  And another, mongoose-like rodents, but clothed and weaponed like a feudal civilization, complete with a tiny castle, moat, ramparts, etc.  It's night; oil lamps can be seen burning through the tiny toy-sized windows.  This last civilization April himself has seen -- the intelligent Lemur-life of a Class M planet in the Arcturus system."  I find this all to be wonderful.  In some delightful parallel universe, there's a version of TOS in which Roddenberry was able to get some of those more vibrantly alien beings onto the screen.  Sounds like fun to me.
  • It's Tyler -- not the transporter tech -- who computes the delicate transporter coordinates.  Tyler's character took a big hit by the time the finished version rolled around; a shame, that.
  • A parallel between the civilization of Sirius IV and Earth is revealed: "to kill is considered wrong.  Their laws do not permit them to be responsible for death to another creature ... even if it means the death of their own civilization."  I wish this had been retained in the final episode.  "They will seek other solutions," writes Roddenberry.  "If it is the will of the Creator of the Universe that they live, a solution will be found in time."  This reference to religion -- which is not the only one contained within the outline -- comes as a bit of a surprise to me, but it makes a certain amount of sense given the occasional quasi-religiosity that pops up in TOS.
  • Vina's true form -- a broken and haggard middle-aged woman -- is revealed.  Interestingly, it is not point-blank said that the Sirians' lack of familiarity with humans prevented them from correctly healing her.  Vina pleads to be allowed to stay on Sirius; the Keeper (as the Magistrate is called in this outline) asks April if he wants to take Vina with him, and "before April can answer, the crab-creature Keeper intones that he reads April's answer and understands."  This is a rather ambiguous resolution: is April exhibiting kindness toward Vina or disgust for her true form?  Roddenberry doesn't even ask the question, much less give us the answer.
  • Colt asks April which of them April would have chosen, and April muses about how Vina "was much more eager and cooperative" than either Colt or Number One.  This earns him a sharp look from Number One, and prompts some of Tyler's Latin interest.  Tyler wants to know if the illusion was beautiful.  "April nods, adds that there is nothing lovelier than an illusion.  Or more dangerous."

This is a fascinating -- that word again! -- read.  It's rough in some ways compared to the finished pilot, but I find that it also deepens the story, and is provocative in any number of ways.
A few other anecdotes from other parts of the book:

  • Test footage of an actress -- not Susan Oliver, apparently -- in green makeup was sent off to be printed, and came back with Oliver being pink-skinned, as if no makeup had ever been applied.  There was much confusion, so the film was sent back for reprinting, and came back the same way.  Eventually, it was discovered that the lab tech assumed the green skin was an error of filming, and was color-correcting to compensate for it.
  • In another green-skin incident, a doctor was brought in to treat a "very tired" Susan Oliver with a shot of vitamin B.  Nobody warned him about the green skin, and he was so flustered that "it took him almost five minutes just to find a spot to administer the shot."
  • "In the lesser roles, a mixture of racial types was featured."  Oh boy.  That's jarring to 2016 eyes.  "A number of people expressed concern that the viewer might reject the concept of different races, particularly Negro and white, working side by side.  Others voiced the opinion that segregationist elements would cause the show to be banned in certain areas of the country."  Now, somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but there's nary a Negro -- which, coincidentally, is the title of David Duke's autobiography (Nary A Negro: My Vision) -- to be found in "The Cage."  So were these dissenting voices heeded?  Or is this a bit of revisionist history on the part of Whitfield and Roddenberry?  That's unclear, but it's clear that The Making of Star Trek is insistent that a multi-racial future is the only future worth considering.  Roddenberry is quoted thus: "This approach expresses the 'message' basic to the series: we must learn to live together or most certainly we will soon all die together."  Trek fandom often tends to be a bit hagiographic when it comes to this message of diversity, and there are some circa 2016 who feel that "diversity" is a bit of a liberal weapon.  I'm not interested in having that discussion, per se; but it's worth pointing out again that whatever your feeling on this matter, and whatever your feeling about the extent to which Trekkies have overpraised this element of TOS, it was nevertheless a semi-radical stance for a television producer to take in 1968 (when this book was published).  It didn't go as far as might be preferable from a 2016 standpoint, but from a 1968 standpoint, Star Trek walked the motherfucking walk, regardless of whether this claim of "The Cage" containing a multiracial element is wildly exaggerated.

The Making of Star Trek is well worth reading if only from a historical standpoint, and we will possibly come back to it in considerations of other episodes.  For now, though, let's move on to this book:

This 2013 publication is over 600 pages long and is merely the first part of a trilogy.

My Mom got me this for Christmas a few years back, bless her.  I've been holding off on reading it until the time seemed right.  I'm going to read it piecemeal, reading along as I progress through the episodes for this blog.  So far, I like it quite a bit.  Let's take a look at a few nuggets of info:

  • The first day of filming was scheduled to comprise the scene between Pike and Boyce in the Captain's quarters, "to be followed by all transporter room scenes as well as those in the ship's corridors and in the briefing room."  I find it satisfying -- certainly within a consideration of "The Cage" -- that the first filmed Star Trek scene was one about the captain's existential dilemma.  However, the first day didn't go as planned:
  • "Sound issues began immediately.  The first delay came from pigeons that had nested in the ancient rafters above."  The pilot was being filmed on a stage that had been built for silent-film production, and had virtually no sound-proofing.  "With the commotion below, and heat rising from the bright lights, the pigeons became anxious and tended to coo whenever Jeffrey Hunter and John Hoyt delivered their lines."
  • "The soundtrack suffered further because of the water and sewer pipes that ran along the walls.  Money had been saved many decades earlier when a second wall had not been placed between the lavatories and the stage.  In the silent film era, there was no need for this.  Now, whenever a faucet was turned on or a toilet flushed, the sound was picked up by the sensitive microphones.  Filming would stop.  Then, after the old pipes settled down, it would begin again.  Then another flush.  And another delay.  In desperation, a red light was put into the bathroom so visitors would know not to flush when the camera was rolling.  They flushed anyway."  Reading something like that, you have to conclude that it's probably a minor miracle for a movie to be competently completed, much less ever end up being good.  As for great, which "The Cage" arguably is...?  That's when you begin to get into major-miracle territory.  Film is magic of a sort.
  • Filming -- particularly of her transition from young woman to old -- was more intense for Susan Oliver than she had been led to believe it would be by Oscar Katz, a Desilu bigwig who was in charge of production on "The Cage."  Katz knew it was going to be that way, and proactively avoided going to the set to visit lest Oliver call him out for having deceived her.  His avoidance became an open secret, so much so that Oliver -- who was forced by going over schedule to miss out on a vacation to Hawaii -- had a photographer take a shot of her holding a sign that read "OSCAR WHERE ARE YOU?"  The photo was sent to Katz, who still didn't show up.

That's just a taste; the book has plenty more gold in them there hills.  For example, a good bit of time is devoted to exploring Gene Roddenberry's pre-Trek career, including the short-lived series The Lieutenant, which was canceled not long after an episode about racial prejudice in the military put the network at odds with the Army.  Even before TOS, Roddenberry was indeed walking that walk; don't forget it.

A damn solid book so far.

Next up, this:

Also a damn solid book based on what I've read of it thus far, this is a 500-page-plus book that is merely the first part of a two-volume retrospective of the entire history of Trek.  It was published this year to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary, and consists of quotes from interviews Gross and Altman conducted over the course of decades with a wide array of people, many of them distinguished Trek alumni (ranging from Roddenberry to actors to writers to you name it), others distinguished Trek fans of all varieties.  Just in the first fifty or so pages, there is deeply terrific stuff; and that's before the narrative turns to the actual production of "The Cage."

Don't roll your eyes at that Seth MacFarlane introduction, either; it's marvelous, and please remember that MacFarlane did the world a favor by helping bring Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey into the world, so he knows at least a bit about sci-fi.

Anyways, there are a great many gems here among the observations.  Here are a few that are germane to "The Cage" specifically:

  • Among the candidates to play the role of Christopher Pike were Rod Taylor, Robert Loggia, Sterling Hayden, Leslie Nielsen, and Jack Lord.  Robert Butler (director of "The Cage"): "Whether Jeff Hunter was a compromise candidate or whether everyone believed in him at the time, I don't know.  When the eleventh hour approaches, you finally have to take your money and bet it.  That's always the case."
  • Robert Butler on casting the role of Dr. Boyce: "I'm not really proud of this, but I was against DeForest Kelley being cast, who was the person Gene Roddenberry wanted."
  • Majel Barrett reveals that it was her in the infamous test footage of the green makeup that was inadvertently botched by the colorist.
  • Other actresses under consideration for the role of Vina: Yvette Mimieux, Jill St. John, Ann-Marget, and Carol Lawrence.  Lee Meriwether was a potential Number One, and Jill Ireland a potential Yeoman Colt.
  • Felix Silla, who played one of the Talosians: "As Talosians, we wore these really big heads with the veins sticking out.  The problem was, every time we went to lunch -- a friend of mine and I -- we couldn't even talk to each other because we couldn't hear each other.  So we had to do sign language, even though I didn't really know how to do it."
  • Doug Drexler: "Have you heard what Neil DeGrasse Tyson said about the Enterprise during the Starship Smackdown at ComicCon?  'What did that spaceship look like at the time it came out compared with anything that had been imagined before, like the flying saucer from The Day the Earth Stood Still and its weaponry was the guy in the silver underwear?  When you consider that, the Enterprise is the most astonishing, awesome, beautiful, seductive spaceship that has ever graced the screen.'  The man speaks the truth."

And so forth.  Deeply good stuff.

We are next going to turn our attentions to a consideration of "The Cage" from a different angle: the prose adaptation by sci-fi writer James Blish.   Before we do, though, I can't resist a bit of a lead-in in the form of a personal anecdote.
I've been a Star Trek fan since before I ever even saw an episode of Star Trek.  When I was a very young child, I was fascinated by a hexagonal end table my parents owned.  It had two doors that swung open, and my father kept paperback books inside it.  Something about the combination of that table's unusual shape and the contents held within its chamber fascinated me.  Among the books:

I didn't read any of the books inside that table, including Star Trek 2; I don't think I even knew how to read at that point.  All of the books fascinated me, though; reading them was beside the point, it was the potential of them that drew me to them.  I probably don't have to explain this to those of you who are avid lovers of books; I probably can't explain it to the rest of you.
The only books I can recall being among the inventory of that endtable are 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke and The Exorcist by William Peter BlattyLike that of Blish's Star Trek 2, the covers of those books are burned into my brain.

It seems very possible to me that I became a Star Trek fan based purely on that one image of Spock and Kirk, lounging on the bridge of their starship beneath that terrific cover design.  I didn't know what a Star Trek was; I doubt I even knew that "Star Trek" is what the book said.  But the image spoke to me sufficiently that when I, at some point later in life, saw those two men on the television I was enchanted by the sudden manner in which they'd suddenly come to life for me: no longer were they merely a picture on the cover of a book.  Movies and television seemed like literal magic to me during my formative years; it may even be that this could have been the moment in which that feeling was seeded in my brain.

Who can say for sure?  Not me; my memory is too foggy to permit certainty.  It's a nice story though, and if it's not true, I wish it were.
Just this year, I finally obtained a complete set of the Blish books; for years, I'd only had the one pictured above (which my father had eventually given to me).  As my collection of Trek books swelled over the years, that one was always my favorite.  I lost it -- and all the rest of my collection -- when I moved from one apartment to another in 2003; at least twenty years' worth of collecting Trek books vanished into thin air; or possibly -- probably -- into a dumpster, accidentally discarded like trash instead of treasure.
Nevertheless, I finally decided to get the entire set of Blish adaptations, and so I'm going to read each episode's adaptation after I watch the episode, and review the stories so as to shine a light on what Blish brought to the table.

For me, Blish was there at the beginning of this whole thing; I feel like I owe it to him to make him a crewman on this journey.  He was always a member of the crew of my personal Star Trek Trek, so let's treat him like it.  And at the end of this process, I pledge to read at least a few of his non-Trek novels (such as A Case of Conscience, probably his most notable work, and a Hugo winner at that); he deserves that, too.

That said, I expected him to have sit out this inaugural post; after all, "The Cage" didn't air on television until the mid-eighties, and consequently I assumed that Blish's novelizations had adapted not "The Cage" but "The Menagerie," the two-part episode for which "The Cage" was cut up and used as flashback segments within another story.  It was used in that manner fairly gracefully, about which we will talk more later down the line; but I had no expectation that Blish had done anything other than adapt the two-parter that was aired.

This turned out not to be the case.

Star Trek 4 was, obviously, the fourth in Blish's series of episode adaptations.  Published in July of 1971, the book contains an introduction in which Blish mentions that he often used fan requests to help make his decisions about which episodes to adapt, and evidently "The Menagerie" was a frequent request.  (Blish uses that title, as opposed to "The Cage.")  The format of the episode(s) presented an issue, however.  In a footnote on the first page of the story as it appears in Star Trek 4, Blish says that the framing story set on and about Kirk's Enterprise is "highly effective" dramatically; "but told as fiction, it involves so many changes of viewpoint, as well as so many switches from present to past, that it becomes impossibly confusing.  (I know -- I've tried!)"

In other words, Blish was at least as concerned with shaping these stories into solid, functional prose as he was with faithfully adapting the teleplays.  That, my friends, is a sensible way to approach novelizing a screenplay.  I've always been firmly convinced that there is no reason why a genuinely great novel couldn't be fashioned out of adapting a movie or television show.  After all, it works going the other direction; so why not reverse the polarity and come up with a great novel that, for example, retells the first season of The Wire?  To my knowledge, such a thing has never happened; maybe it never will.  But I firmly believe that it could, and one of the most important decisions the author of such a novel would have to make would be to deviate from the source any time the needs of the medium dictated that such a move be made.

Anyways, that's not what's happening here, exactly; but Blish is at least making a few feints in that direction, and I think the end result is a short story -- it's a bit shy of thirty pages -- that more or less works on its own merits.  Would a reader who'd never seen the episode get the gist of it based on reading Blish's "The Menagerie"?  I think so.
What that hypothetical reader would read is a story that takes place entirely from the viewpoint of Captain Christopher Pike.  None of the scenes with the rest of the crew of the Enterprise in his absence -- the briefing-room scene, the scene with the matter-converter, the transporter scene, etc. -- are included.  And that approach works just fine: you don't need them.  What little information from those scenes that ends up being needed is conveyed via other means.  Here's an example, from the scene in which Pike is subdued and abducted:

     In the same instant, the gas hit him and he was paralyzed, still conscious but unable to move anything but his eyes.  The two creatures stepped forward and dragged him into the opening.
     "Captain!" Spock's voice shouted in the distance.  Then there was the sound of running, suddenly muffled as though the doors had closed again, and then the lift dropped with a hissing whoosh like that of a high-speed pneumatic tube.  Above, and still more distantly, came the sound of a rock explosion as someone fired a phaser at full power, but the lift simply fell faster.
     With it, Pike fell into unconsciousness.

A few things about this: first, I really like the way Blish reflects Pike's descent into unconsciousness with his literal descent beneath the planet's surface.  Second, it's also effective for that to be contrasted with the flurry of activity that springs into life on the surface in the wake of the Captain's abduction.  Finally, it's actually Tyler who yells "Captain!" in the episode.  Blish has wisely given the moment to Spock, who otherwise gets very little to do in this story thanks to the restricted point of view.

Another example of the restricted POV comes later on, when Pike's illusion of Vina as a green-skinned slave girl is interrupted by the arrival of Number One and Colt.  In the episode, that happens from the vantage point of the female officers, but Blish keeps us in Pike's perspective:

     The scene lightened and the torch vanished. Vina, her skin white, her body covered with the Talosian garment, continued to hold her empty hand aloft for a second.  They were back in the cage.
     Vina's face contorted in fury.  She ran to the transparency and pounded on it, shouting out into the corridor.
     "No!  Let us finish!  I could have..."
     "What's going on here?" another woman's voice demanded.  Both Pike and Vina whirled.
At other times, Blish wields the power of prose to say something explicitly that was perhaps only implicit in the episode (or explicit but only by way of the actor's performance).  There is a memorable moment in the episode involving Pike reacting to hearing the Talosians mention that he is going to be part of an experiment.  The moment is punctuated by a dramatic look from Jeffrey Hunter, which is aided by a dramatic close-up by the camera and a dramatic flourish of music from Alexander Courage.
Here's how Blish conveys the moment:

     "Despite its frustration, the creature appears more adaptable than our specimens from other planets," the Magistrate continued.  "We can soon begin the experiment."
     Pike wondered what they meant by that, but it was already obvious that they were not going to pay any attention to anything he said.  He began to pace.  The telepathic "voices" continued behind him.

I admire the fact that Blish doesn't try to literally replicate the moment.  Admittedly, some of this may be due less to good prose sense on Blish's part than to the fact that he evidently worked from multiple screenplay drafts and NOT from the finished episodes.  Remember, kids, in 1971 one could not simply track down an episode of one's favorite television series; or even an episode of a television series one had been professionally hired to turn into a book.  It was the grim old days of not being able to see whatever you wanted whenever you wanted to see it.  You could probably see a specific episode of Star Trek in syndication eventually, but you were at the mercy of whoever was doing the scheduling; you had no control over it.
Which, of course, is a big part of the reason why books like Star Trek 4 were interesting: they gave Trekkies an opportunity to "own" six episodes of Star Trek forever.  It's not even a little bit difficult for me to imagine a large number of fans reading these books so frequently that Blish's versions became the "real" versions to them.  There is simply no equivalent of this in 2016, not that I know of.  And that's a good thing, on the whole; but don't you find there to be a little bit of romance to the not-on-demand world of the past?  There's a different level of urgency there; not better, perhaps, and maybe worse on the whole, but certainly different, and different is compelling.  A Trekkie in 2016 need only sign onto Netflix or whatever and bam, there it is.  Failing that, buy the Blu-rays and have the episodes in perpetuity.

But for a Trekkie in 1971, it was a hard-scrabble existence, where one had to fight for the opportunity to indulge that love.  I'm not going to outright say that that form of love is more genuine; but in some ways, it HAD to have been, right?  The world of now offers opportunity for extended deep-dives and more precise reflection, though, so perhaps that's where things begin to even out.  Still, for at least one entire generation of Trekkies, books like Star Trek 4 provided a vital service, and it's a service that deserves to be honored more often.

A few other thoughts and issues that came up for me while reading Blish's story:

  • Blish mentions the injuries sustained on Rigel (presented here as Rigel VIII and not Rigel VII): "Spock, for example, was limping, though he was trying to minimize it, and Navigator Jose Tyler's left forearm was bandaged down to his palm."
  • In one of the story's only real failings, the Captain's-cabin scene between Pike and Boyce is omitted.  It is recalled in an offhanded way by Pike later in the story, but in a manner that doesn't really get across the point of the scene as ably as it might.
  • Blish describes Number One by pulling almost verbatim from Roddenberry's original series pitch: "Slim and dark in a Nile Valley sort of way, she was one of those women who always look the same between the ages of twenty and fifty, but she had a mind like the proverbial steel trap and Pike had never seen her shaken in any situation."
  • Remember that weird look Vina gives Pike in front of the Rigellian castle?  I was hoping Blish would somehow explain it.  No dice; it's not mentioned at all.
  • Of the skirmish on Rigel VII(I), Blish says this: "Breaking the Kalars' hold over their serfs had been a bloody business, and made more so by the hesitancy of Starfleet Command over whether the whole operation was not in violation of General Order Number One.  Luckily, the Kalars themselves had solved that by swarming in from Rigel X in support of their degenerate colony..."  You've got to admire Blish taking such a valiant stab at reconciling this Rigel business with the Prime Directive.
  • In the episode, during the Mojave illusion, Pike greets one horse, Tango, by name.  He ignores the other, but Blish names her: Mary Lou.
  • During the green-girl illusion, the trader asks, "Do any of you have a green one?  They're dangerous, I hear.  Razor-sharp claws, and they attract a man like a sensation of irresistible hunger."  Pike is put off by this, but feels a sort of familiarity to the last phrase.  "Now and then," says the trader, "comes a man who tames one."  
  • Blish gives Number One a snappier comeback to Vina's insult: "They'd have better luck crossing him with a computer," Vina snarls, to which Number One coolly replies, "Shall I compute your age?"
  • The Talosian Magistrate describes Yeoman Colt: "The factors in her favor are youth and strength, plus an unusually strong female emotion."  In the episode, it's "unusually strong female drives," a description which seems to have made both Colt and Blish blush.  Plus, there's no such thing as "female emotion."  That's dumb.
  • "Do you understand now?" asks Vina.  "Do you see why I can't go with you?"  Pike seemingly does, but damn it, I don't.  Couldn't they fix her on the Enterprise, or at a starbase or something?  The episode hinges to some degree on the notion that Vina's true appearance is too off-putting to make her viable as a human citizen.  That's an uncharitable viewpoint, and not a particularly Roddenberrian one.  But this was early work, after all, so maybe I shouldn't judge him too harshly.

How does Blish wrap it all up?  Like this:

     As the Enterprise moved away from Talos IV, routine re-established itself quickly, and the memory of all those illusions began to fade.  They had not, after all, been real experiences -- most of them.  But Pike could not resist stealing a quick look from Number One to Colt, wondering which of them, in other circumstances, he might have picked.
     When he found them both looking at him as if with the same speculation, he turned his eyes determinedly to the viewscreen and banished the thought.
     He had had plenty of practice at that, lately.

Well done, James Blish.  That's a good way to go out.

We here at Where No Blog Has Gone Before, however, don't believe in graceful endings, so let's do something I plan to make a regular feature: have a look at the screencaps of the episode I didn't use.  I'm going to caption some of them with pertinent excerpts from Blish's story.  Here they come:

"But almost at once, Tyler picked up reflections from the planet's surface whose polarization and scatter pattern indicated large, rounded chunks of metal, which might easily have been parts of a spaceship's hull."

"Several fairly old men were visible, all bearded, all wearing stained and tattered garments."

"The two groups approached each other slowly, solemnly; Pike could almost feel the intensity of emotion."

"Although her hair was uncombed and awry, her makeshift dress tattered, she looked more like a woodland nymph than the survivor of a harrowing ordeal."

"She led him to a rocky knoll some distance from the encampment, and pointed to the ground at its base."

"A cloud of white gas was rolling toward him, through which he could see an oddly shaped portal which, perfectly camouflaged as a part of the rock, had noiselessly opened to reveal the top of a lift shaft.  He had an instant's impression of two occupants -- small, slim, pale, human-like creatures with long elongated heads, in shimmering metallic robes; one of them was holding a small cylinder which was still spitting the white spray."

"Some sound he had made must have penetrated into the corridor, for suddenly there was a wild snarl, and in the cell -- cage? -- to his left, a flat creature, half anthropoid, half spider, rushed hungrily at him, only to be thrown back, its ugly fangs clattering against the transparency."

"Startled, Pike looked to the right; in this enclosure he could see a portion of some kind of tree."

"Then there was a leathery flapping, and an incredibly thin humanoid/bird creature came into view, peering curiously but shyly toward Pike's cage.  The instant it saw Pike watching it whirled and vanished."

"Now the forehead of the creature with the pendant pulsed."

" 'Next, frustrated into a need to display physical prowess, the creature will throw himself against the transparency.' "

"Pike, his act predicted in mid-move, felt so foolish that he canceled it, which made him angrier than ever."

"He was standing alone among rocks and strange vegetation which, on second look, proved to be vaguely familiar."

"He turned to see Vina, her hair long and in braids, dressed like a peasant girl of the terrestrial Middle Ages."

"Then the bellow sounded at the gateway."

"Vina shrank into the nearest shadow, pulling Pike with her."

"She was now wearing her own, shorter hair, and a simple garment of the metallic Talosian material."

"Pike eyed her speculatively."

"Pike looked up to see the creature called the Magistrate watching through the panel."

"With the usual suddenness, Pike found himself writhing in bubbling, sulphurous brimstone in a dark place obscured by smoke.  Flame licked at him from all sides.  The instant agony was as real as the surprise, and a scream was wrenched from him."

"Almost simultaneously he tossed the vial aside and threw himself at the transparency."

"It bounced him back, of course -- but the Magistrate had also stepped back a pace."

"Around him, in full day, was richly planted park and forest land, with a city on the horizon."

"There was a change in the music; it became louder, took on a slow, throbbing rhythm.  The slave girls turned hurriedly, as if suddenly anxious to escape.  Looking toward the musicians, Pike saw another girl, nude, her skin green, and glistening as if it had been oiled, kneeling at the edge of the pool.  Her fingertips were long, gleaming, razor-edged scimitars; her hair like the mane of a wild animal.  She was staring straight at him."

"Pike was unable to tear his eyes way from her."

" 'He'd stumbled into a dark corridor,' the trader's voice said, 'and then he saw flickering light ahead.  Almost like secret dreams a bored sea captain might have, wasn't it?  There she was, holding a torch, glistening green...' "

"Brushing the curtains aside, he found himself in a corridor.  It was certainly dark, and grew darker as he strode angrily along it.  In the distance was a flickering light, and then, there indeed was Vina, holding aloft a torch..."

" 'Now there's a great chance for intelligent offspring.' "

" 'No -- don't -- help me.  Just leave me alone.  Got to concentrate on hate.  They can't read through it."

"Instantly, Pike's hands were around his throat."

"The Talosian vanished and Pike found himself holding the neck of the snarling anthropoid spider creature he had first seen in a cell across from his."

"He loosened his hands slightly, allowing the Magistrate to gasp for breath."

[Bryant's note: SHE IS LOOKING RIGHT AT ME.  This screencap is merely the result of a single frame during the action of Laurel Goodwin looking from one side to the other, but screencaps occasionally offer up weirdness like this.]

"Noting the Magistrate's forehead vein throbbing again, Pike raised his phaser and said in a voice of iron, 'I want contact with my ship.  Right now.' "

And with that, I believe we shall take our leave of the good ship Enterprise, at least for the moment.  I'll be back at some point in the not-too-distant future with the next episode: "Where No Man Has Gone Before."


  1. Pt. 1: I look forward to this exhaustive journey through all things Trek. A thousand-quadrant journey begins with a single blog, so I say onward.

    "Under my Talosian tutelage, I'd learn ALL that shit for sure." Nice. Yeah, that's a tough one. I'd say we're all existentially Talosian pets already, so having an even deeper "more real" illusory experience makes an appealing amount of sense. But I like the idea of humanity being distinguished by this one peculiar and stubborn anti-captivity/ anti-delusion streak. It gives me hope.

    On the subject of Star Trek being an American dream, or the dream of an Anglo-American, Judeo-Christian, Germanic-Roman tradition, as honed through mid-2oth century sensibilities, I think you're right to point out that a lot of Trek fans (sci-fi fans in general perhaps?) don't always consider this. I mean, Starfleet and even the Federation are more or less an extension of the UN. On one hand, I'm a firm believer of making the story make sense to your audience. It's not racist or exclusionary, for example, if you have a population of 99.9% Hindi to market programming geared towards Hindus. If that includes projecting into the future from a Hindi viewpoint, that's just the way it goes. I only make this point because sometimes - and it seems the prevalent wind blowing these days - things go too far and it's like purists insist on creating an actual international colony in space in order to make a film about space monsters (or whatever). Tails should never wag the dog! Rant ended, where was I... oh right: The Outer Limits deserves some credit for trying a few episodes of a "United Earth Command" where other traditions are mentioned and represented (albeit as packaged to be consumed by an audience steeped in the UN / more Trek-ian tradition.) It's a fascinating topic to me, really, and a recent rewatch of the first season of "Star Blazers" (the old one not the revival) really brought this home. I wish every country on Earth had its own-centric space show; I bet that would be truly eye-opening.

    From a storytelling viewpoint, I of course accept and understand the shortcut of making a One World Earth, in the same way I accept and understand not actually building the space colony / not having the entire film in Aramaic. (looking at you, Mel, you crazy old bastard! I'll check out "Hacksaw Ridge," though, for sure; all is forgiven.) But as you again rightly point out it leads to dogma. And dogma lead to being high on one's own farts, and even to giving rise to legitimate anti-dogma. An inevitable cycle. But yeah - what if there was a more traditionally Chinese approach to "progress" at the Federation's core? What if there was World Communism on the Soviet model before setting out to the stars? What if a fully diverse all-Hindu crew made first contact with Vulcan? All tips of the iceberg, but I'm very encouraged by your line of inquiry here and look forward to more as it materializes.

    (Sorry for the lengthy political interruption! Election year blather and all.)

    I continue to maintain that some of the bad dialogue in "Turnabout Intruder" aside, the underlying feminism of Janice Lester gets unfortunate short shrift. Something to look for on your next rewatch!

    1. Re: "Sorry for the lengthy political interruption!"

      I meant the one mentioned in-post, that is, not anything in my comment.

      - B "White-Out" McMolo Hashtag-Not-a-Racial-Thing

    2. I wonder if it's possible to track the popularity of Star Trek via the relative American popularity of the UN as an idea. I've got no clue, but it's certainly correct to point out that the Federation is an idealized sci-fi United Nations. Which is fine by me!

      I agree that it isn't racist (or, in many cases, "ist" of any kind) to adopt a _____-centric view within one's own culture. Those are muddy waters, obviously, and many of us are unwilling to wade into them; many who do insist on not wearing a diving mask and can't see a damn thing. I'm one of them on occasion, probably. We can't see shit!

      The potential problem we Americans are running into is that the logical end result of the process is for us to kind of infect every other culture, Thing-fashion, at which point it becomes necessary for "American" to mean all things simultaneously. And we're struggling to figure out how to do that. This is especially true given that a large amount of the population seems determined to define "American" much more narrowly, and turn it into a restrictive rather than an expansive designator. In this scenario, the Prime Directive would mean that no Vulcans or Klingons are allowed on Earth, or something. That's an exaggeration, of course, but only by degree.

      The other side of that equation is that some folks believe that progress should have no limits, and that the failure to embrace all aspects of it makes one contemptible. Any and all means seem to be on the table in combating this scourge. All warp speeds must be set of 9.9; warp 1 is not acceptable, and don''t even mention impulse speed. That's lame AF.

      In short, I agree: tails wagging dogs is a bad thing all the way around.

      I now look forward to "The Outer Limits" even more than I already did.

      I second the call for all peoples to have their own outer-space sci-fi shows. There are almost certainly some I don't know about, of course.

      "Hacksaw Ridge" looks great; I'm willing to give Mel another chance on an artistic level.

      Anti-dogma becomes dogma of its own fairly quickly, I suspect. That sounds like a condemnation, but I have no problem with dogma, provided that it is consistently re-examined and revised when needed. A sort of living dogma, you might say.

      No worries on that lengthy political interruption! It was enjoyable and instructive.

      My memory of "Turnabout Intruder" is too vague to really permit me to take a stance. I had a sense that I'd better throw a qualifier on that when I mentioned it!

  2. Pt 2:

    "go back to your Bernie Sanders and your Pokemon Go and leave the Trek talk to me." Preach it, brother. Incidentally, don't both Bernie and Pokemon Bro seem like forever ago? The media cycles are so intense, relentless, and brief these days, yet they feel like a small eternity in the moment. There is something very Talosian about all of this, actually.

    I've always read Vina's face at the moment as a wink of sorts, myself, like she's acknowledging his realization that it's just fantasy.

    I've made my peace with the remastered versions. They're cool for what they are. But give me the original visual design (particularly the planetscapes from orbit) anyday.

    I friggin LOVE "The Cage" in black and white.

    I'm always fascinated by some of the recurring ideas in Trek that almost-were, Or settings, rather. One of those is Renaissance-era Trek. The closest anyone ever came was "All Our Yesterdays" and (in TNG) "Thine Own Self." I might be missing one or two. But I can think of several more ("Insurrection" most notably) where this idea was in several early drafts, then discarded. Each generation of Trek writers keeps trying to get them there.

    God bless Mark Altman forever for "Free Enterprise," but I was shocked to discover how radically we disagree on a wide variety of Trek episodes, when I picked up "Trek Navigator." I've been wary of reading anything else from him since. Glad to hear the Fifty-Year Mission book is good, though. The excerpts here - and from the other books you mention - are all great. Kudos on picking up all the Blish Treks, that's a pretty sweet set for the shelves. I enjoyed this reverie of Blish bringing you to the series. As someone who has explored my own Trek entrypoints and humble origins, I know how satisfying it can be to piece together the physical evidence/ crime scene, as it were, of the first sparks of Trek fandom. I loved this section of screencap/ Blish-quotes - please do that wherever possible for all subsequent posts! Cool idea. Coincidentally, I'll be looking at "Where No Man Has Gone Before" pretty soon, myself. Let's synchronize our Stardate-watches! (I'm sorry.)

    1. Pokemon Go really does seem like forever ago. But I'm sure it's still alive and kicking, and that's fine so long as I don't have to be deluged by the knowledge of it every fucking day. No offense to anyone who plays it, of course; at least one of my best friends does (or did).

      Yeah, I remember you mentioning how much you diverged from Altman in his opinions. He and his co-author on this book are mostly curators, rather than contributors, so I don't think you'd be too worried by him. Not based on the first hundred pages, at least.

    2. By the way, forgot to mention this, but yeah, I'd be down for that synchrony of Stardate-watches. Let me know what your plans are.

      I also forgot to mention that I will absolutely continue to supplement these posts with Blish-captioned images. I really enjoyed doing that.

    3. Glad to hear the Fifty Year book is good so far. The bits you mentioned in your post indeed sound pretty sweet.

      This reminds me (somewhat randomly but 60s day by day production journal being the segue): I've been meaning to read that Beatles in the Studio log, and walk through their catalog day after day. I've got a similar book for all their touring and another one for all their "extracurricular" activities, so if I read all three of them at the same time I can almost completely recreate the decade. Nice. I love stuff like that.

      But, we'll see. It's a few dozen books / projects down the queue.

      Back to the Trek - I keep meaning to start that Trek Left Behind project. I'll be starting chronologically, as well, so yeah we'll both be rendezvous-ing with "WNMHGB" sometime soon. Not sure exactly when! I'll keep you posted and you do the same. I have a feeling if this one is any indication, your analysis will be several grades more comprehensive than mine, so it might just be better for me to include a "For a much more exhaustive analysis, click here" line in each of mine.

      I often wonder if "America" as a concept is finished. I assume it'll shamble on some shape or form for another hundred or two hundred years. But (re: what you were writing up there) I don't think any country can sustain the level of cognitive dissonance and rebooting this one undergoes every other year, every other week. I have a sad feeling we live inside a pinata that is rapidly running out of candy and once it does, the powerbrokers of the world will lose interest in propping up the fantasy.

      Dawn would call this one of my "Saturday mornings with Dad..." sort of moments. Anyway! I'm sure we'll self-destruct in other and more spectacular fashion long before we see the Visigoths over the city walls.

    4. We'll see. There certainly do seem to be a large number of folks who are determined to thwart progress at any and every turn. I keep thinking they'll all just die off, but that seems not to be happening.

      That Beatles project sounds like one well worth undertaking.

  3. This is amazing and couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for me. I am on my own Star Trek rewatch at the moment – in release order (although I did start with The Cage) – through all the series and movies. I started about 3 months ago (we have a newborn so in the first few months I was up all night and could get through 6 episodes or so!) – now I’m up early in the morning and can watch 2-3 episodes before heading to work at 8. Just this morning I was able to watch The Best Of Both Worlds Parts 1 and 2. Pretty good way to start the day! I was always more of a Doctor Who fan than Star Trek but owned all the movies on DVD and had assumed that I had seen lots of TOS episodes when I was younger, turns out I had only seen about 5 or 6 episodes (that I remember anyway). Now that I think about it, whenever a Star Trek episode was shown it always seemed to be Mudd’s Women…at least on UK TV. I had seen literally zero TAS episodes, but I think they were rarely, if ever, repeated on UK TV, certainly not when I was young. As for TNG I think there was only about 2 episodes from the first 3 seasons that I HADN’T seen, which was strange because I didn’t really watch the show regularly when they were originally on. I guess I must have seen a few at the time and the rest on repeats over the years.

    I think it took me until the late 80s/early 90s to really know that shows were on at specific times on a specific day or that the story would continue from one episode to the next. I would just turn on the TV and hope that Knight Rider was on but if Airwolf or Street Hawk was on I’d be just as happy. Or I would randomly catch episode 3 of some Tom Baker Doctor Who and think it was really weird the way they start the show with the Doctor captured.

    I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep this rate up, hopefully as my daughter gets older she starts sleeping through the night more and I don’t have to get up at 4am! I did have a hope that I might get through it all before the new series starts next year but that will never happen in a million years, and there are a million other things I want to read/watch at the same time, i/e The Crown with Matt Smith for one.

    So you have Star Trek, Stephen King and James Bond blogs…you don’t happen to have a Beatles, Dylan, Genesis or Yes blogs on the go? :)

    1. No, but I could handily find enough to say about Dylan to start one. It's unlikely to ever actually happen, but never say never.

      I did a massive all-Treks watchthrough over the course of a few years around the time of the first Abrams movie. I'd seen much of it, but had never watched most of Voyager or Enterprise, and only about two thirds of DS9. Well worth getting caught up on.

      I've determined that I'm never again NOT to going to be watching one of the series, even if it's slowly.

      I'm also watching once per week as the podcast Mission Log marches through it all. I started that when they got to TNG, and it's been fun to take that one in once-per-week fashion. Good stuff; and most of it holds up.

  4. Wow! This is fantastic!! As one who always felt like an outsider, Star Trek - and specifically Spock - were an oasis of light in a dark desert that existed for us baby boomers that grew up in the pre-Internet, instant access days. Over my life journey, while Spock and Leonard Nimoy will always hold a special place in my heart and mind, as I matured and grew more comfortable with myself and my feelings I really came to appreciate the more human/emotional perspective that Bones offered.

    Thanks for this - wonderful screen caps and all!

    Look forward to trekking through your memories of this great series.

    1. Can you imagine how many thousands -- maybe even millions -- of people connected with Spock in that way? And with the series in general? In that sense, one probably cannot overstate the impact it has had.

      Pretty groovy.