Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Person's Strongest Dreams Are About What He Can't Do: Star Trek, episode 16, "The Menagerie" Part II

Welcome back for our discussion of "The Menagerie" Part II, which continues, obviously enough, on from our discussion of "The Menagerie" Part I.  I was somewhat surprised to find upon rewatching the second episode that there really isn't as much here to discuss as I expected.  This ought not to have surprised me, though; after all, the vast majority of this episode consists of reused footage from "The Cage."  Only about 10-11 minutes of this is newly-filmed material.

For a discussion of "The Cage" itself, I will point you again toward this post, which more or less covers my thoughts on the subject.

I'll have a lot less to say about "The Menagerie" Part II than I had to say about "The Cage," but that's only because this second episode really does exist as an original-pilot delivery system, in a way that Part I arguably does not.  That doesn't mean there's nothing to say at all, though, so let's turn to a handful of screencaps and use them as an opportunity for discussion.





 

The episode opens with a recap of the previous episode, which is atypical in that it is not composed entirely of footage from Part I.  It begins with a mildly surrealistic bit in which we see Spock pleading guilty to the charges Commodore Mendez is leveling against him, while Kirk looks on; the three of them stand against a black background, like they're on an expressionistic set.  I assume this was filmed explicitly for use in this manner, but it's possible it is footage cut from Part I.  In Part I, we are told that Spock has plead guilty to the charges against him, but we do not actually see it happen; so it's not inconceivable that it was filmed with the intent of being used there.

Either way, it helps give this recap sequence a bit of extra interest.  Also helping: the captain's log style voiceover narration from Kirk.  Here again, we see evidence of Star Trek being more adventurous with television tropes than was typical of the era.



Minus the high-tech wheelchair and the facial scarring (and, let's face it, the full head of hair), this was me watching episodes of Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 a few days ago.


Not appearing in this episode, somewhat unaccountably: McCoy.  Well, it's unaccoutnable in story terms, at least; I mean, what the fuck else has Bones got to do other than tend to the tremendously crippled Fleet Captain?  But as a money-saving maneuver, it makes production sense; other than simply showing he's there, there's no need to have McCoy involved in the story.  Uhura and Scotty are also no-shows, though we do hear the former when she relays the message from Starbase 11.





"They're like animals," Mendez says of Orion women.  "Vicious, seductive; they say no human male can resist them."  Cut to Kirk, looking anxious (see above).  This amuses me, and all Star Trek fans.







After the crucial detail -- that Vina was a badly crippled woman whom the Talosians were allowing to live a life of elaborate illusion and fantasy as an act of kindness -- is revealed, the Talosian Keeper contacts the ship.  We learn that Commodore Mendez has been an illusion, as well.

While watching Part I, I remembered that Mendez was not real, but could not remember whether the specifics of this were ever revealed, so I fretted a bit about whether it makes any sense.  Turns out, yes, it's explained in full.  Everything that happened on Starbase 11 was real; that Mendez is real, Ms. Piper was real, etc.  However, the Menez who joined Kirk was a Talosian projection.  We don't know point-blank how that happened, but can infer it easily enough: "You had no right to come along," says Kirk to the man in Part I.  This is well after they've departed, and it's easy enough to imagine that Kirk was surprised by him joining in at the last minute; he perhaps even beamed aboard (or seemed to, technically).  Either way, Kirk would have had zero reason to suspect this was anyone other than the genuine Commodore Mendez, so it works pretty well from a plot standpoint; the real Mendez and everyone else at Starbase 11 thought Kirk had, quite properly, gone off in pursuit of his starship, and Kirk thought he was accompanied by his commanding officer.

Only Spock and the Talosians knew the truth.  "It was thought the fiction of a court martial would divert you from too soon regaining control of your vessel," says the Keeper to Kirk.  Though the risk of charges was real, the proceedings themselves were not; in fact, only two of the required three command officers were present, so Spock's plea of guilty would not nonbinding.  And since the real Mendez on Starbase 11 is revealed to have been witnessing the Talosian broadcasts right along with Kirk, he's able to make a command-level decision to temporarily suspend the general order pertaining to the planet.  Clearly, Pike being allowed to live out the remainder of his life with an illusion of health and happiness is a fitting reward for his years of service.

It is not stated outright, but Spock must have logically arrived at the conclusion that that would be Mendez's reaction.  He has logically determined that human emotion would be the only way for friends and colleagues of Christopher Pike to react to his plight ... but that they might have to be goaded into it so as to cut through the red tape.  In other words, Spock has concluded that while they might be resistant to the idea of Pike surrendering to fantasy, once the full weight of saying no it to it was in front of them, they would be unable to do so.  Spock here has correctly concluded that by taking human emotion into account, a logical manner of handling it can be arrived at.

If one were inclined to do so, one could argue that this is the result of him having learned from the experiences of "The Galileo Seven."  I'd be wary of crediting a late-sixties television series with anything remotely near that level of continuity, but it's there in this instance (if only accidentally) if one wants it to be.





The Talosian shows Kirk this image of Pike with Vina, both of them seemingly happy and healthy, mere moments after Spock wheels his former Captain out of the briefing room.  So ... wait, now, how did Pike get down there so fast?  Well, fret not; worst-case scenario, we can say this is Kirk being shown a sort of preview of events that are about to occur.

 

Kirk is initially a little reluctant to let Spock off the hook, asking for an answer to the question of why Spock didn't confide in him.  Spock has a perfectly logical answer: why risk it?  Not merely for Pike's sake or his own, but Kirk's?  This is plausible-deniability territory; all of Spock's actions were undertaken not merely to help Pike, but to keep Kirk -- whom Spock must have known would have helped him if asked in a persuasive enough manner -- out of potential trouble.  Spock's actions during the first half of Part I seem shadowy and unhinged, but they are the complete opposite.

From this, a picture begins to form as to what the morals of these episodes might represent.  I am reluctant to impose upon them any meanings which are not there, but consider: what if this is a standin for an argument over an individual's right to die?  The post-accident Pike is living a horrific life.  He can communicate only by "saying" yes or no; he is otherwise stuck in a chair, unable to move, unable to do much of anything apart from simply being.  I guess he could catch up on his Netflix queue, but shit, he can't even really choose what to watch.  He's at the mercy of the universe.  Now, I don't know about you, but ... if that were me, I'd want that to be over and done with pretty fast.  It's not as bad as that poor fucker in Metallica's "One" Johnny Gut His Gun (what is?), but it's pretty damn bad.  Spock has a way to set him free from that, and takes it.

Of course, here it's a considerably happier end than a Kevorkian-style mercy killing.  And it's worth remembering that "The Menagerie" is not merely a reuse of footage from "The Cage," it's a sequel to "The Cage."

"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 Dr. Boyce to Pike in "The Cage."  Pike will repeat a variant of this to Vina later: "You either live life -- bruises, skinned knees, and all -- or you turn your back on it and start dying."  Ah, but what does this mean in the context of being unable to do anything but sit in a chair and communicate in binary fashion?  (Let's leave aside the notion that Pike could be taught to communicate using Morse code, by the way.  Nobody seems to have thought of that at a screenwriting level, and I'm okay assuming that that is because Pike's brain is not functioning well enough for it.)  What does it mean to live THAT life as it is happening to him?  Bruises, skinned knees, destroyed limbs, crippled mind, and all?  What would Dr. Boyce advise THIS Captain Pike to do?

I argue in my analysis of "The Cage" that it represents the American ideal of constantly moving forward, finding frontiers to explore, refusing to be penned in.  But what happens when there are no frontiers left to explore?  What if we simply ARE penned in, and there's nothing that can be done to reverse it?  Even then, we have our imaginations.

"A person's strongest dreams are about what he can't do," intuits Vina to Pike in "The Cage," and this strikes me as a stone-cold truth.  All Pike has left is his mind, and his dreams would certainly be a big part of that.  And with that comes the potential for active, non-dreaming fantasy.  Now, what if there's a way in which those fantasies can be made to seem true?  Presumably at that point, "living life" would encompass embracing the Talosians' offer fully.  This is especially true if in doing so, Pike could be of further assistance to poor Vina, who has likely been stuck on Talos IV since the Enterprise left thirteen years previously.  She's going to be happy as can be when Pike shows up again, suddenly much more amenable to partaking in the wide world of illusion with her. 

There must have been a danger of this turning some aspects of "The Cage" on its head.  And bear in mind, by the way, that that would have been totally fine; after all, in practical terms "The Cage" did not exist in 1966.  It was an unused rough draft, one might even argue; Roddenberry and company owed it nothing.  The fact that he managed to avoid contradicting it is kind of marvelous; not only did he not contradict it, he arguably expanded upon it and resolved it.  That's kind of astonishing, and it once again speaks quite well to how invested Roddenberry was in Star Trek.  He cared about this series; this was not a job, it was a way of life that he was living by proxy.

Dare I be this obvious?  Yeah, why not?  In some ways, Gene Roddenberry was living in the universe of Star Trek by producing the television series.  He couldn't sail the stars, going from planet to planet; but he could invent a story in which others did so.  And it wasn't just Roddenberry who got to do so; so have I.  Nothing special about me in that regard; untold millions of other people have done the same.  Some of them are people who are as profoundly crippled (or disabled) as Christopher Pike; back when conventions were still a thing, you might see dozens of them, attending events designed to celebrate this thing they loved dearly.  Any number of Trek actors have spoken eloquently about what this aspect of their stardom means to them.  That, friends, goes beyond something being merely a television series.  That's an actual force in the world, affecting lives directly and impactfully.

It's difficult not to have that spring to mind when watching "The Cage," and it's impossible (at least for me) when watching "The Menagerie."  I suspect that it's "The Menagerie" itself which has been a big part of forging that bond with its disabled fans.  How many people in similar positions must have seen Pike in his lonely chair and said, "That's me!" over the years?  How many of them felt seen for the first time by television or film in that moment?  It's still relatively rare, but in the sixties it must have been damn near unheard of.  The eighties at least had the real-world relevance of Stephen Hawking; what did the sixties and seventies have?  Ironside, I guess, but even that was about a guy who was quite communicative.  I'm no expert on television of this era, so maybe there's something I don't know about; but if so, the mere fact that I don't know about it says something.

No, there's really never been a whole heck of a lot like "The Menagerie" in that regard.  Here was a show that said to people as badly hurt as Captain Pike: we see you, and we will fight for you. 

I'm not sure how much it actually counts for, in the end.  I mean, it's two episodes.  But they're two impactful episodes, no doubt about it.  The character of Pike remained a fan favorite after they aired, and when the series was rebooted for the J.J. Abrams films, he was brought back and proved (as played by Bruce Greenwood) to be one of that first film's best roles.  That version of him was an Admiral, one whose brief mentorship of a young James T. Kirk has a tremendous impact on him.

Then, for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery he was resurrected again, and this time he was still captaining his original ship, the Enterprise, post-Talos IV and pre-accident.  I hate Discovery, for the most part, and even I thought Anson Mount's version of Pike was a nearly-unqualified success.  He was an instant smash, so much so that he's being spun off (along with Spock and Number One) into a new Enterprise-set series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.  Jeffrey Hunter, Bruce Greenwood, and now Anson Mount: three Pikes, all indelible.  He is proving to be one of the most enduring Trek characters of all, and that begins, in some ways, with "The Menagerie."

You know what, though?  There's a fourth Pike actor we haven't mentioned yet, and for millions of people he was the first: Sean Kenney, who played him in the chair and under heavy makeup.  I'm not sure his performance can be given much of the credit for Pike's longevity, but then again, it obviously didn't hurt anything.  Kenney's Pike elicits tremendous sympathy; you see him, and you want something better for him, just like Spock does.

All of this adds up to a prime example of Star Trek at its best.  It looks at the human condition and says, "this is what we are," or sometimes, "this is what we could be."

Sometimes, both.

*****

Normally, I run a set of screencaps of the effects from the Remastered versions of the episodes after my analysis is complete.  This time, there's just not enough there to make it worth doing.  So we move along instead to reading some behind the scenes info.




I was surprised to find that there wasn't as much as I expected.  I've only got a few tidbits, in fact, so apologies in advance for the paucity of this information:

  • Marc Cushman refers to the episodes as being about "honoring an individual's freedom to choose when, where, and how," so clearly I am not the first person to connect the dots on this being applicable in a right-to-die sense.  Not that I thought I was, mind you; I doubt I've ever had a thought that wasn't had by about a trillion people before me.  Fine by me!  I am by no means an island.
  • I was surprised to learn that the idea to reuse "The Cage" was not, in fact, borne out of desperation as a cost-cutting measure.  It absolutely had that effect (and ending up helping the series avoid having to air repeats during two weeks, as opposed to merely once), but that was not the origin point.  Instead, Roddenberry expressed the idea to Herb Solow that "The Cage" could be repurposed into a two-part episode as early as two months before filming began on the first season.  Cushman suggests, logically, that Roddenberry's motive was not cost-consciousness but a desire "to bring to the airwaves a work of which he was immensely proud."  And you know what?  He damn well should have been.  And given the fact that "The Menagerie" is an acknowledged Trek classic, I think his instincts here -- driven by ego though they may have been -- were right on the money.
  • Viewing the two episodes, you will notice that the first's credited director is Marc Daniels, whereas it is Robert Butler credited on Part II.  Butler directed "The Cage," and since the reused footage dominates Part II, it was decided that he should have credit there.  Daniels directed all of the new material, and since it dominates Part I, that's where his credit appears.
  • Apparently pre-production had already begun before anyone thought to look into the issue of whether any of the original actors' contracts on "The Cage" permitted for their work to be reused in this way.  They didn't, apparently, but a series of additional payments helped secure the necessary rights.  Jeffrey Hunter, for example, was paid an additional $5000, and so forth.  One actor who was left out of this process: Leonard Nimoy, who asked for, but was denied, an additional $1250.  The thought process was that since Desilu had already paid him for the work, it owed him nothing further.  This is baffling to me; if you've got to repay Jeffrey Hunter or John Hoyt or Majel Barrett (billed in these "new" episodes as "M. Leigh Hudec"), then why would you not have to pay Nimoy?  Just because you've already got him under contract?  That's a load of horseshit.  Even if you're legally in the clear (and they must have been), it's the wrong decision to make; it can only create bad blood, and apparently it did just that.
  • I guess I knew, somewhere in the back of my brain, that Malachi Throne (who plays Commodore Mendez) had also been involved in "The Cage," but I'd forgotten it.  But indeed he was: he is the voice of the Talosian Keeper!  So in a sense, Mendez really IS a Talosian the entire time.  That's kind of cool.

And that's it; that's all I got on this one, surprisingly enough.

To make up for that, and to serve as a hopefully-intriguing replacement for Blishful Thinking, and also just because I feel like it, here comes a review of a Pike-era novel from the eighties run of Trek tie-ins from Pocket Books.





I read this one back in the day, but, like most of these novels (which were hugely important to my Trek fandom), I remember nothing about it.  Would I love to launch an extensive series of in-depth reviews of them?  You damn right I would.  I'd probably set parameters for it: likely, I'd only cover the books that I read during what I think of as my prime Trekkie years (let's call those 1982-1994), and maybe some of the notable ones which came after.  Or whatever caught my eye.  You know, make it up as I went along.

But for now, even that is outside my reach.  I hope it won't always be, so maybe this can be a little preview of what something like that could look like.

In any case, Vulcan's Glory automatically has Trek street-cred that most other Trek tie-in novels lack in that it was written by a really-for-real Star Trek writer.  I mean, freaking D.C. Fontana wrote this.  I wouldn't go so fas to say that that makes it canon, but it leans in that direction, for sure.

I think what we'll do here is a running-commentary type thing.  I would imagine that relatively few of the people who read this post will have read Vulcan's Glory, so providing some level of plot summary strikes me as advisable.  Chapter by chapter seem right?  Let's do it.

Chapter One

The novel opens on a beach in Hawaii, where Spock is taking leave.  He has recently concluded his tour of duty as third officer aboard the Artemis under the command of Captain Daniels -- an homage to director Marc Daniels, I assume -- and will soon begin his duties as second officer on the Enterprise.  In a somewhat conflicted manner, he is burying his toes in the sand, as his mother once recommended that he do.

As he sits there, he reflects on an incident from his youth -- the events of the episode "Yesteryear" (from the animated series) -- in which an older "cousin," Selek, helped save his life.  He has since questioned the likelihood of such an event, but has not found the issue important enough to merit a full investigation.  I kind of expected this line of thought to go someplace, and maybe it still will, but it does not during this chapter.  I think the idea is that Spock's mind has been so occupied with duty during his Starfleet years that he literally does not think about things like the Selek incident.  [Sidebar: given this chapter's Hawaiian setting, I would like to make some sort of a "Tom Selek" joke.  Regretfully, I have none.]

Now, Spock has received a summons from his father, Sarek, to return to Vulcan for unspecified "urgent matters."  Spock has not, at this point, spoken to his father in eight years.  (Worth remembering: as of the time of "The Menagerie" itself, viewers have not yet met Sarek and Amanda.  We are appraising Vulcan's Glory from the standpoint of its publication in February 1989, however.)

Leaving Spock, we hop to Vulcan itself, where we find Amanda in a reflective mood.  Sarek shows up and the two engage in some light banter.  Amanda is concerned as to why Sarek would send for Spock now; Sarek replies that Spock has obligations to his family and to his Vulcan heritage, and it is unclear as to whether Amanda understands the specifics of what he is referring to.  We'll find out as the novel progresses, no doubt.

The chapter ends in a nice bit in which Amanda walks outside in the twilight heat of a Vulcan winter and, proving herself to be her son's mother, burrows her toes into the warm sand.  She recalls a scene from her honeymoon with Sarek in which she went off on her own to the beach and was relaxing there with dirty feet, unkempt hair, and no makeup.  Up until this point she had always taken pains to present herself to Sarek in as perfectly-groomed a manner as possible, so she is surprised when he shows up on the beach.  Later, he told her that he had never seen her look so lovely.  Amanda has still never been able to persuade Sarek to wiggle his own toes in the sand, however.

Chapter Two

Arriving at home, Spock is informed by Amanda that after dinner there will be a family council.  Sarek will not be in attendance; he will be viewing from a different room, however, and Amanda, using an earpiece, will relay his words to Spock.  This struck me as being both plausiable and implausible.  It's definitely the kind of thing a super-dick father would do to avoid going back on his promise of uncommunicativity, and Sarek at this point in their relationship is a known super-dick of a father.  However ... really?  I mean, really?  If there is a need for communication to take place between Sarek and Spock, then surely logic must dictate that it is ineffective to do so impersonally.  If an impersonal form of communication is sufficient, then there was no need for Spock to be physically present; this business could have been conducted remotely.  However, this is par for the course as it relates to Star Trek's grasp on logic, so it's no worse an offender than any number of episodes.

That business that "urgently" needs to be discussed is twofold.  First, the issue of Spock's obligations to his "hereditary estate," which evidently means some sort of farm he owns.  He has established an estate manager to oversee this business, which is profitable, but Sarek believes that Spock must take a more active hand in administering this concern.  Fontana doesn't tell us much in terms of what any of this means, but clearly the idea is that Vulcan operates on at least some sort of capitalistic system, with some families owning property that produces and sells crops of some sort.  This passed to Spock via inheritance of some sort.

The second issue: the matter of Spock's betrothal to T'Pring.  It seems we are going to hear more about that in subsequent chapters.

Fontana asserts that Spock applied to and entered Starfleet Academy at the age of sixteen, which would, if I am not mistaken, make him 24 during the events of this novel.  If "The Cage" took place thirteen years prior to "The Menagerie," then at minimum the Spock of the first season of the series is 37.  Nimoy himself was 35, so that's close enough to be workable.

The rest of the chapter finds us meeting up with the Enterprise, in spacedock at Earth.  Number One goes over some personnel files with Captain Pike.  We learn that she was formerly his executive officer aboard the Yorktown, and we also learn that Pike is a little uneasy about having a Vulcan on the bridge; Number One points out that her own logical efficiency has not proven to be an issue, which Pike admits is so.

As the chapter ends, they are about to review another file: that of engineering officer Lieutenant (jg) Montgomery Scott.

Chapter Three

Spock drives to T'Pring's father's estate.  There's already been a surprising amount of driving in this novel.  It seemed weird to me from the first, but I did not immediately think of why.  It dawned on me at the top of this chapter, though: it's because on the series, people just transport everywhere (the occasional shuttle excepted).  In a less budget-conscious version of Star Trek (which prose certainly ought to be), would it make sense that people would take vehicles while on a planet's surface?  Even across short distances, would transporting not be more efficient?  I'm guessing you could write scenarios to cover either answer.  I suppose it comes down to these issues: which method consumes more energy; and which is the personal preference of the involved traveler(s).  My own take is that from a storytelling standpoint, it makes sense to leave your options open.  So if Spock is driving around in a landspeeder or whatever he's got here, I'm okay with assuming it is a valid decision on Fontana's part.

I'm also going to assume that the section of this chapter in which Spock and T'Pring interact with one another is canon-appropriate.  I had it in my mind that Spock had not seen T'Pring since they were initially betrothed at age seven, but I skimmed through "Amok Time" seeking to verify this and could not do so.  Must have been my imagination, then, which is a relief; I'd have had a hard time carrying on with this novel if I thought Fontana had made so large an error.
  
T'Pring's father, Solen, reflects upon the fascination his youngest son, Senak, has for Spock.  The young man is considering joining Starfleet, which Solen can permit because his older siblings are able to maintain the family business.  This raises the idea in my mind that Fontana is asserting Sarek's objections to Spock's own service to be not due to a bias against Starfleet but instead to a need for Spock, as an only child, to be aware that he must take his familiar business obligations seriously.  I don't mind this too much as an explanation; the Vulcan-capitalism thing is throwing me a bit, but it's got enough merit to it that I can kind of get onboard.  And if I do that, then the notion that Spock would have familial duties as Sarek sees things does indeed make sense.  
  
I guess I'll goo ahead and raise a couple of specters.  First, Sybok, who had not yet quite come into existence, is obviously not mentioned.  However, we can assume that if Sarek felt Sybok to be a complete washout as a firstborn son, the pressure on Spock would actually be more intense.  So even if one wishes to take The Final Frontier into account, I think it actually makes this stuff more logical.
  
Second: the dread Michael Burnham.  Look, in terms of any serious -- or even semi-serious -- conversation of Star Trek (meaning the original series), Michael Burnham does not exist in this blog's eyes.  Discovery is, from this perspective, a universe unto itself; none of its events impact TOS (or TNG and its spinoffs), in my mind.  In my headcanon, if you insist.  So if you do not find any mention from me that the events of this novel contradict Spock's arrival on the Enterprise as seen in the Short Treks episode "Q&A," that is because I do not accept that episode as being pertinent to TOS.
  
As they talk, T'Pring insists that Spock set a marriage date.  He, in turn, insists that he is unable to do so because he has no way of knowing when he will be available.  He suggests that perhaps she should seek another husband, but she's not interested in that.  She demands that he begin paying a "bride price" due to the delay, and he agrees.  She in turn agrees to allow him to set the date when he is able.  They essentially kick the can down the road until pon farr necessitates the issue be resolved.  This raises a question: if we know it's been thirteen years since the events of "The Cage," and we know that pon farr strikes every seven years, and we know that these two lovebirds have been betrothed since they were seven...  Well, what I'm saying is this: we've established that Spock, circa "The Menagerie," is roughly 37.  I don't mean to be crude, but what's done vis a vis busting a nut during his other times of pon farr?  What's T'Pring done?  Is it like having a cat, where you just lock 'em indoors for a week and ignore the meowing?  "Amok Time" suggests things could become fatal if not properly resolved.  So I guess what I'm saying is, pon farr don't make no goddamn sense.  If that bleeds over into Vulcan's Glory, so be it, I guess.  
  
Fontana seems to leave an out of sorts, possibly not just for this novel, but for the entire series: "Most Vulcan males," she writes, "experienced it for the first time when they had achieved the age of twenty and in seven-year cycles after that.  He had dreaded its onset, but so far it had not happened to him."  She goes on to say that some doctors have speculated to Spock that his human genetics might prevent him from experiencing pon farr at all.  The implication is clearly that what we are seeing in "Amok Time" is Spock hitting his first pon farr really freaking late.  Which works as an explanation for me!
  
After Spock leaves, Stonn steps out of some shadows, and T'Pring, twirling her metaphorical mustache, tells him what has happened.  Their marriage will be announced, but will not occur until Spock's pon farr, which might well never come.  Until then, she and Stonn have each other, and Spock's payments.
  
Chapter Four
  
Back at Earth, Spock sees the Enterprise for the first time.  In somewhat illogical (but resonant) manner, he opts not to transport aboard, but to board via shuttle so that he can see the ship's exterior.  Works for me; the moment foreshadows Kirk's shuttle tour of the exterior in The Motion Picture, and though the sentiment of it is somewhat illogical, one could argue the opposite: members of a starship's crew would presumably have few opportunities to see the outside of the ship on which they serve, so why not take one when it arises?  Oh, and (adding to the harmonization with The Motion Picture), Lt. Scott is also on the shuttle with Spock.
Pike delivers a pep talk to the new crewpeople, then pulls Spock for a one-on-one.  During the course of that, we get a sort of origin story for Number One.  Pike tells spock that she is from the planet Ilyria, where genetic manipulation is designed to create perfection and "excellence is the only criterion that is accepted."  He adds, "She is technically designated as being the best of her breed for the year she was born."  Hence, surmises Spock, she would be known as Number One even if she were not the ship's executive officer.  Well, there you have it; no need for Number One to have an actual name.  I wonder: if you finish considerably lower on Ilyria, is your name, like, Number Three Thousand Eight Hundred And Seventy-Six?  This is a goofy concept, and I don't like it.  Just reveal that her name is Pam and that Pike calls her Number One because that's what captains call their XOs.  Sheesh.
  
Pike informs Spock that they will be shipping out with another Vulcan science officer: T'Pris, who will be joining them from the Musashi.
  
Scotty meets his roommate and the two share a bottle of engine-room hooch.
  
Spock makes T'Pris's acquaintance.  She is a window, her husband having been killed on a mission during the time aboard the Musashi.  She is taller than most Vulcan women, but less "well endowed" than T'Pring.  (!)  She comes from a family as old and honorable as Spock's own.  Sure does seem like there is instant chemistry between these two...
  
Chapter Five 
  
Here, we learn that the Enterprise's mission is to a planet called Areta, where a nuclear war occurred nearly two thousand years previously.  There are three primary factions: urban-dwelling folk, nomads, and mutant outcasts.  Pike's assignment is to try to broker peace between these groups in the interests of making the Aretian civilization viable once again.  Hey, uh ... Prime Directive, anybody?  No?  Well, if that's how you feel about it...

Pike has been to the planet before; this is an ongoing mission, not a new one.  Apparently he is the only member of the crew who actually visits the planet's surface during these missions.  We get a scene of the ship's head of security -- Lt. Cmdr. Orloff -- discussing his dissatisfaction with the Captain taking such a risk.  He's talking to his junior officers, who have served with Pike longer than he has, about the issue.  Good luck, pal.  Pike believes in leading from the front, not the rear.  Orloff presents his opinions to Pike; it doesn't go particularly well, and the Captain reminds the security officer that he's got experience to back his actions up.

Pike receives a message from Starfleet, after which he calls Spock to his quarters.  He asks Spock what he knows about the Vulcan's Glory gem, and Spock tells him that it is a large green gem from Vulcan's warlike days.  The gem vanished at some point while being ferried via starship for ceremonial reasons; its loss was, and is, seen as a cultural disaster for the Vulcan people.  Though a relic from warlike times, the gem came to be seen as a symbol of "the heart of all Vulcan," and when the philosophy of the Vulcan people changed, so did their view of the gem's symbology, "from passion to logic."  Pike informs Spock that two doctors at the Vulcan Science Academy have developed a new extrapolation of where the ship carrying the gem might have ended up; the Enterprise has been ordered to divert there to check it out.  Pike wants Spock to head up the landing party.

Number One plays null-G ball with the ship's chief engineer, Caitlin Barry.  Afterward, they have a drink and talk about Number One's crush on the Captain.  The engineer recommends that she let Pike know how she feels.  Somewhere, Starfleet HR goes on red alert.

On the night shift in engineering, Scotty teaches a colleague the fine art of brewing superior hooch.

Chapter Six

From the ship, Spock and T'Pris assess the surface of the planet where the He-shii might have crashed while carrying Vulcan's Glory.  A robotic probe has found metallic fragments which are of ancient Vulcan origins.  Spock assembles an all-Vulcan landing party of six crewmembers -- there are evidently eleven of them onboard -- and they beam down to the surface.  They discover that the fragments definitely belonged to the He-shii.  Spock finds a message beacon; he almost smiles at this discovery, but stops himself just in time.

Back aboard the Enterprise, they learn from the beacon that a smaller lifepod -- albeit one with engineering powers comparable to warp 2 -- was ejected carrying the gem.  It was provisioned for three months, and -- plot-contrivance coincidence alert! -- its trajectory was taking it on a course that would have passed the planet Areta.  Pike begins speculating about the planet's mutants possibly having pointed ears.

Later, Spock is meditating.  He has received a message from T'Pring which includes the amount of her bride price; it is steep, but nothing his estate cannot afford.  He is disturbed that he, even with his perfect recall, is having trouble picturing her face.  Instead, he is thinking rather a lot about T'Pris.  Her face; her figure; you know, the normal stuff.  She visits him, interrupting his meditation.  He doesn't much mind.  T'Pris reveals that she wept after her husband's death (unseemly, according to Spock); Spock reveals that he is betrothed.  After she leaves, Spock reflects upon the fact that they did not once address each other as officers, but instead as friends.

The Enterprise arrives at Areta.  Number One points out that the He-shii's lifepod would have arrived on the planet before any real environmental recovery from the nuclear war had taken place, which makes it unlikely any of the Vulcans were able to survive.  After a sensor survey, Spock locates traces of Vulcan metal debris in one of the planet's more desolate regions.  Pike orders Spock to take a landing party to the surface.  They find the cairns marking seven graves, and a skeleton of an eighth body (the one who did the burying).

And they also find the Vulcan's Glory.

Chapter Seven

Pike finds himself thinking about a woman named Janeese, with whom he has been involved recently on Earth.  Some two years previously, she had become interested in entering Starfleet thanks to their relationship, and is now in the Academy as a result.  Unfortunately for Pike, she has since entered a relationship with an instructor.  Starfleet HR ain't shit, boy.  Y'all need to get your house in order.

Pike is readying for his away mission to Areta, where he will assess whether the diplomatic talks he instigated between the urbanites and the nomads four years previously has yielded any results.  We learn that he will be carrying a universal translator with him, and that Dr. Boyce has implanted a small microphone for it inside Pike's ear.  No word on whether Boyce learned this trick from the Ferengi; likely not, but one can not be sure.  The device has been programmed to somehow suggest suitable responses in Aretian, which Pike can then repeat.  Seems like a recipe for a lot of delays in conversation, but hey, it's better than nothing.

Before he leaves, Pike is stopped by Lt. Cmndr. Meadows, the ship's chief geologist, who asks him for permission to study the Vulcan gem.  Pike refuses, saying that the gem is Vulcan property; he's welcome to apply with the Vulcan High Council for permission, but failing that, it's a no from Pike, dawg.  Meadows seems real butthurt about it, and after he is gone Pike calls Spock and orders him to keep the gem secure.  Spock, somewhat confusedly, agrees to do so.

On the planet's surface, Pike tents up for the night, and falls into sleep troubled with dreams of Janeese.

On the ship, T'Pris is surprised by Meadows, who wants to ask her some questions about the Glory.  She answers the ones she can, but that goes only so far.  Meadows asks her, in her capacity as a scientist and Vulcan, to put in a good word for him with the Captain; she refuses to do so, as that would be inappropriate.  Meadows leaves the room, dejected but accepting.  T'Pris finds herself thinking of Spock, who, she admits to herself, "roused in her desires that her lifelong friend and husband had not."  She visits his quarters to report the incident with Meadows.  She wonders if the geologist ought not be allowed to conduct his study; after all, he only wishes to record it for posterity.  Spock agrees that that seems like a harmless enough agenda, but allows that there could be more to it; it should be Captain Pike's decision, and T'Pris has acted correctly.  They then begin to flirt, and a slash-fic scene breaks out: they touch fingers.

Then, and I'm making this whole paragraph up, Spock says that he can sense T'Pris is aroused.  He feels it is illogical for her to leave in such a state, which could be observed by others.  He regrets that he is unable to satisfy her in the traditional manner, since it is not currently his time of pon farr.  However, he is familiar with a technique that human males use to pleasure their women, particularly in the region once known as France.  If she will permit him to enact this technique, it could forestall any suspicions on the part of their crewmates.  Anyways, that doesn't happen.  But it seems like it could...

Apologies for that whole thing.  I fell into a time tunnel and briefly found myself pitching for an assignment writing for a fanzine circa 1971.

An Aretian named Bardan sneaks out of the city for a rendezvous with his lover, a nomad woman named Silene.  Evidently they would both be in trouble in their respective people knew this was going on.  Montagues and Capulets, anybody?  They are evidently bonding themselves to each other, and are traveling to another city.

In engineering, Scotty is working of his first batch of Enterprise hooch.  Undetected, a microfracture in the dilithium crystal causes some energy to be discharged into the piping in the wall.  Not sure if this anything to do with the hooch.  I'm sure we will hear more about it either way.

Bardan and Silene are fooling around a bit when suddenly they are set upon by mutants, who sack 'em both up and haul 'em off in the direction of a mountain range no normals have ever returned from.

Chapter Eight

Fontana gives us some backstory about the Aretian people at the top of this chapter.  It's alright, but nothing I feel an urge to summarize.

Pike enters a nomad camp and finds it in an uproar because of the disappearance of Silene.  They intuit that she has run off, because they know she has been forbidden to meet with the boy from town.  Pike agrees to help track them, due to his ability to, if needed, converse with the townspeople.

On the Enterprise, Meadows takes a forged document from "Pike" authorizing him to take the Glory out of security's custody.  The officer in charge of it at the time allows him to do so.  Meadows plans only to study it, but we know this is unlikely to end well.

Boyce invites Number One to sickbay after her shift has ended, and the two of them break in the first batch of hooch of the new mission.  Neither of them knows who made it, but they are both quite impressed.

Pike and the nomadic leader, Farnah, run into a band from the city, who are doing some tracking of their own.  They are led by Aliat, the father of the boy Silene ran off (and was abducted) with.  Pike talks everyone into understanding that Silene and Bardan have eloped with one another.  He offers to go after them and bring them back; Farnah and Aliat agree, but decide to accompany him, to Pike's chagrin.

Spock and T'Pris are playing chess after their shifts end.  I might not have been AS far off in that slash-fic paragraph above as I thought.  "As one, they moved to the bed," Fontana writes.  Red alert!  It's not certain that there is actual sexual intercourse about to take place, though; they are probing one another's minds and sending increasingly intense sensations to one another's nerve endings.  Still, for Vulcans, this seems like it's pretty naughty.  Sadly, the moment is interrupted by Number One, who calls Spock to the geology lab.  As he leaves, T'Pris refers to him as master of her heart, a term of endearment traditionally used between betrothed couples; Spock returns the compliment.

In the geology lab, he finds that Meadows has been murdered.  The Vulcan Glory is not mentioned; so presumably, it has been stolen.

Chapter Nine

Number One and Orloff launch an investigation into the murder of Meadows, which is quickly determined -- by Spock -- to have been caused by a Vulcan defensive move called lan-dovna.  This is one-handed strangulation.  (Sidebar: Fontana also has Spock mention a Vulcan move called tal-shaya, which breaks the neck.  I can't imagine this is anything but a coincidence, but does that not sound a bit like Tal Shiar, the name of the Romulan secret police?  Who, by the way, did not get created until 1993 in TNG's "The Face of the Enemy."  I kind of like the notion that the Romulan CIA is named something loosely translated in the language of their genetic ancestors as "neck breakers."  Like I said, pure coincidence, but the kind that I like.)

All seventeen -- seventeen? I thought it was eleven -- Vulcan onboard are suspects.  T'Pris is eliminated because she is verifiably left-handed, whereas the killer used their right hand.

One aspect of this I have a hard time believing: apparently, nobody has thought to check the Vulcan's Glory.  I have a hard time believing that Spock would not have had this thought almost immediately, especially considering that a geologist was murdered, and that he had asked T'Pris to speak with the Captain on his behalf in regards to examining the gem.  This, to me, is a big oversight on Fontana's part, and it is almost certainly because she wants to punt that ball down the field a ways before dealing with it.

On Areta, Pike and the rest of the party which has built up in search of the wayward teenagers discover tracks indicating that they were taken by mutants.  Everyone except Pike writes them off as dead; apparently mutants are reputed to eat their prisoners.  They have not been so close to non-mutant territory in recent memory, however, so something about this seems odd.  Pike calls the ship, is informed about the murder, and tells Number One that she will have to continue to handle it for now.  He orders for Spock and a couple of other non-human crewmembers to beam down.  They are introduced to the parents as mutants, and Pike says that with them he will pursue the kidnappers and find the kids, if anything is left of them.

Chapter Ten

Number One is approached by the security officer who allowed Meadows to take the Glory; he tells her about the signed order the victim had from Pike.

On the planet, Pike waits until he and and his crewmembers wait are out of sight of the locals, then he calls the Enterprise and has them conduct a scan for lifesigns.  The mutants seem likely to be clustered in one large group, so Pike has the ship beam his landing party to a position a kilometer away from them.

T'Pris tells Number One and Boyce that the whole thing with Meadows' murder doesn't add up for her.  It is possible that a Vulcan could commit such a deed, but extremely unlikely, and even if one did they would be bound by honor to turn themselves in afterward.  Something about this whole thing, she says, is very un-Vulcan.

Scotty returns to his cabin after his shift, and is tuckered out.  His roommate, Bob Brien, says they've got a lot of hooch orders to fill, but Scotty just wants to sleep, and does.

Pike, Spock, and company sneak up on the mutant encampment and observe that there is a hut where it seems as if prisoners are probably being held.  Pike tells Spock he has a plan, which involves using "something like an old Indian trick."  Spock asks if it usually worked for the Indians, and Pike says that in fact it did.  Alright, look, let's just deal with it: not terribly couth for Fontana to resort to cowboys-and-Indians type talk.  Even in 1989 that was probably a bit out of touch.  But only a bit; the memory of Americans discussing Native Americans that way was still relatively fresh, and it's worth also keeping in mind that much of the readership for Star Trek tie-in novels would have passed right by this without blinking.  On top of that, remember that Captain Pike was played by Jeffrey Hunter, who counted among his most notable roles that of Martin in The Searchers, which is unquestionably one of the greatest Westerns ever made.  To some extent, Pike himself would be seen as something of a quasi-Western figure flung into the future, so I don't think it's entirely inappropriate for Fontana to remind us of that aspect of the character.

Number One announces that a ship-wide search for the stolen gem will be mounted.  Scotty and Brien fret over what to do with their still.

Boyce and Orloff use a truth detector on the Vulcan suspects; they are all cleared by its results.

Pike and Spock (while the other officers create a distraction) sneak into the prisoners' hut.  They find Silene and Bardan alive, but are attacked by the teenagers.

Chapter Eleven

After they are able to subdue the teenagers for long enough to get them to listen, Pike tells them they are there to rescue them.  The teenagers say they don't need to be rescued, nor do they want to be rescued.  They are not actually prisoners: they were abducted, by by a mutant leader named Panlow who only wants to persuade them to help broker peace with his people, who are not the savage monsters they are alleged to be.  Pike says he can work with that.
 
On the ship, the search for the gem has yielded no results.  Number One is highly confused.  T'Pris asks for permission to follow her theory that the murderer might not actually be a Vulcan, and Number One agrees, and instructs the junior officer to bring her her findings in terms of who else aboard might theoretically be able to perform the lan-dovna.
 
Dr. Boyce realizes something: he's been seeing a lot of smiling personnel lately.  People seem to be drunk a lot when off duty.  He reports this to Number One, and they speculate that it must be the new hooch that is circulating around.
 
T'Pris has been studying personnel records, which Starfleet has unsealed for her perusal at Orloff's request.  She tells Number One that she has the very beginning of an idea, but it is not sufficient to discuss as yet.
 
Boyce makes a discovery: people are getting sloshed on merely a couple of drinks of this new hooch.  This is highly unusual, and suggests some sort of contamination, likely accidental.  Normally, engine-room hooch is ignored as a sort of tradition, but in this instance the still is going to have to be located.
 
T'Pris has seemingly found the answer she has been looking for.  Tired but elated, she continues her work and, just a bit too slow, hears the sound of boots behind her.
 
On Areta, Pike and his team return to camp, with Bardan and Silene following, and a group of mutants as well.  The teens have been adopted by Panlow, and have also been appointed the mutants' ambassadors.  Their parents are outraged by this initially, but when it becomes clear that all involved parties are working toward honorable interests, things become quite cordial.  Declaring their work done, Pike and the other officers remove themselves from the scene and beam up to the ship.  Number One is waiting with bad news: T'Pris has been murdered in the same fashion as Meadows.
 
Chapter Twelve
 
Spock is devastated, and struggles to not let it show.  He more or less wins that struggle until he is alone with her body, at which point he is wracked by sobs and tears.  After composing himself, he seeks out Pike and Number One and expresses guilt that it was not he who was investigating Meadows' murder and T'Pris who was on Areta; Pike won't let him get away with putting himself on that sort of guilt trip, though, and doesn't.  Number One tells him what she knows of T'Pris's line of inquiry (which is not much, basically just the fact that she was reviewing extensive personnel records), and he sets off on the same line of inquiry.
 
And since he is an A-5 computer expert (whereas the best most people can attain is an A-3 level), he finds some footprints of the information T'Pris was working on.  It will be a time-consuming process to reconstruct it, but it can be done; Spock gets to work doing so.
 
The saga of the engine-room hooch continues, with Brien trying to talk Scotty into setting up again so they can fulfill their orders, which are evidently for paying customers.  Scotty wants to let the issue sit for a while.  This whole subplot is aggravating.  Scotty deserves better.
 
The chief engineer, Caitlin Barry, is inspecting the dilithium crystal in the warp core, with Bob Brien assisting.  She discovers the microfracture, and we hear a bit about the process of replacing a damaged dilithium crystal that sounds a bit like the process for replacing the xenon lamp in a projector.  (My old line of work!)  Barry also discovers evidence of a still having been in use.
 
Spock cracks the case, and takes his findings to Pike.  The motive is as yet unclear, but the murder was committed by a Vulcan.  Pike questions this; haven't all the Vulcans been cleared?  All known Vulcans, says Spock, who requests that he be allowed to draw the killer out on his own and get a confession.  Reluctantly, Pike agrees.
 
Barry addresses her entire engineering staff and informs them that the dilithium microfracture permitted a small quantity of gamma rays to get into the hooch; not enough to be dangerous, but even so, that's the permanent end of hooch distillery on the Enterprise.  Scotty, not quite confessing, pushes back a wee bit, but ends up accepting the fact that tradition is not everything.
 
Spock goes to his suspect, Lt. Reed, and confronts him.  Reed is, like Spock, part Vulcan, but with a more dominant human part thanks to his racial mixture -- which came via his great-grandmother marrying a human -- being more diluted over time.  Even so, Reed gets the drop on Spock, runs to a transporter room, and beams to the surface of Areta, straight into mutant territory.  Spock, chagrined, convinces Pike to allow him to pursue the man alone.  It is a matter of Vulcan honor; Pike agrees, once again with reluctance.
 
Chapter Thirteen
 
Spock tracks Reed and gets him to monologue for long enough to explain his motives.  His Vulcan great-grandmother had been exiled from her family thanks to being raped by a human (not the one she later married, that union happened after she went to work on Earth for a wealthy family).  Her former family -- and therefore Reed's rightful family -- was of House Archenida, who were the stewards of the Vulcan's Glory at the time it was lost.  With the gem, Reed can force them to admit the wrongs they have done to his great-grandmother, who is still alive. 
 
Mutants sneak up on both of the Starfleet officers at this point.  Spock gives them a sign he learned from Panlow, and they accept him; but Reed has no such sign, and he is disarmed.  He and Spock fight, and Spock considers killing him in retribution for T'Pris's murder, but is able to stop himself.
 
Aboard the ship, Spock is able to refute a claim Reed has made: unlike what his great-grandmother has told him, the Glory is not a fake.  It is a genuine emerald, and if he had simply taken no action, his family might have (as part of the crew which returned the gem to its home) been hailed as heroes and permitted back into Vulcan society.  Thanks to his being coerced by lies, that is no longer possible; Reed is, now, truly defeated.
 
Boyce counsels Pike a bit about the success of the mission, and also hints that he should pursue Number One romantically.  More work for Starfleet HR.  Good God.
 
On Vulcan, Spock attends T'Pris's funeral and reflects that there will never again be a woman whom he feels about she made him feel.  Her father refers to him as "the son of Sarek of the House of Surak."  Hey, is that true?  There's nothing in canon to say so, if my research is accurate; but it seems that some of the Pocket Book tie-ins of this era bring that idea into the mix.  I've got mixed feelings about that, the same way I would if we found out that Kirk was a descendant of Kennedy; like, I kind of get it, but ... no.
 
The novel ends with the Enterprise setting course for its next mission, and Pike informing Number One that she will be having dinner in his quarters at 1900.  Weird note to end on.
 
Final thoughts:  It's not particularly good, but it is a painless enough read.  Fontana knows how to write for these characters, and for the setting of the Enterprise.  Even so, she makes some missteps.  She's really into the romantic stuff.  I mean, big time.  I can live with some of it.  Spock's relationship with T'Pris is a bit overwritten at times, but I don't necessarily object to a scenario in which a young Spock loved and lost and found that the rest of his life thereafter is the lesser for it.  It arguably explains his apparent move toward a more logical, and less emotional, approach to life later on.  But wouldn't that have made more sense if it were pitched as a thing that happened after "The Cage" rather than before?  And also, hey, these two only knew each other a few days.  I'll allow the idea that Vulcan mind-melding accelerates things in a way humans can't know, but still.
 
I'm not taken at all by the Pike / Number One stuff, which just seems wrong.  I get it, it's hinted at in "The Cage."  But it's just not really something that works for me here.  Luckily, there's not that much of it.  That actually makes the button the novel closes on seem that much weirder and inappropriate, though.
 
And the less said for the Scotty-as-moonshiner subplot -- which goes nowhere and has no real relevance to the main story -- the better.
 
If I were putting a rating on this one, I'd go with a ** 1/2.
 
And with that, I call this mission to "The Menagerie" completed.  Up next: "Shore Leave."  Looking forward to it!

2 comments:

  1. (1) "it's worth remembering that "The Menagerie" is not merely a reuse of footage from "The Cage," it's a sequel to "The Cage." I love that aspect of it. It's such a unique experience.

    (2) I don't know if anyone would choose death or the life of an invalid over a life with the type of full-body illusions the Talosians have to offer. I bet one wouldn't even have to be near death or an invalid, truly.

    (3) "...a work of which he was immensely proud." And you know what? He damn well should have been." Amen.

    (4) You know, I can't recall if failure to pay Nimoy for use of his earlier acting came up in his list of grievances against the studio in "I Am Spock." I remember a few of the other ones but not that one. Either way, yeah that's lame.

    (5) This was an interesting and comprehensive overview of the "Vulcan's Glory." As well as the imaginary bit(s)! I feel like I read it and that I didn't really care for it all that much. I started scrolling after awhile. I think I have this one in my Trek stacks. I'd love to figure out a way to read all my old trek stuff, too. I've been trying for years!

    (5.5) I have to watch it again, but is tal-shaya mentioned in "The Enteprise Incident?" I just did ctrl-F of the transcript and found nothing. DC Fontana wrote that one - maybe that was her original name for the Vulcan Death Grip and someone forced the change? (shrugs)

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    1. (2) I'm sure *somebody* would, but that person would not be me. I'd opt for it right now. Sold! Where you at, Talosians? Oh, right, on Talos IV. Well, let me figure out how to get there and it's on.

      (4) I don't think he mentions it in that one, but the feeling I get is that by then there were so many such grievances that that one didn't stand out to him. Which is a sad commentary.

      (5) Yeah, it's not much of a novel. It was kind of interesting and in some ways read like genuine Star Trek, but I'll never read it again. I don't blame you for scrolling past most of it!

      (5.5) I don't think it is, but it's been awhile since I saw that one. I'm pretty sure she just made it up for this novel.

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