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The Cage

Review

Series : The Original Series Rating : 2
Disc No : 1.2 Episode : 1
First Aired : 27 Nov 1988 Stardate : 2713.5
Director : Vincent McEveety Year : 2259
Writers : Gene Roddenberry Season : 1
Guest Cast :
Adam Roarke as First Crewman Garrison
Anthony Jochim as Survivor #3
Clegg Hoyt as Transporter Chief Pitcairn
Edward Madden as Geological Technician Fisher
Georgia Schmidt as 1st Talosian
Janos Prohaska as Anthropoid ape
Janos Prohaska as Humanoid bird
Jeffery Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike
John Hoyt as Doctor Phillip Boyce
Jon Lormer as Doctor Theodore Haskins
Joseph Mell as Earth trader
Laurel Goodwin as Yeoman J.M. Colt
Leonard Mudie as Survivor #2
Majel Barrett as Number One
Malachi Throne as Keeper's voice
Meg Wyllie as The Keeper
Mike Dugan as Rigel VII warrior
Peter Duryea as Lieutenant Jose Tyler
Robert C. Johnson as 1st Talosian's voice
Robert Phillips as Space officer
Sande Serena as 2nd Talosian
Susan Oliver as Vina
Stunts :
Frank Vinci as Stunt doubleRobert Herron as Pike's stunt double & stunt captain
Moral :
Captivity : The customs and history of your race show a unique hatred for captivity. Even when it is pleasant and benevolent, you prefer death!
YATI : When Number One is asking for more power on the laser cannon she talks into the communicator, but when she wants to shut it down she just shouts at the sky.
Great Moment : I love the scene where the crew use the laser cannon against the alien metal.
Body Count : Zero
Factoid : Oscar Katz pitched four different Star Trek story ideas to NBC executives - two which would deal with life on the ship, one which featured a planet whose inhabitants were much like Earth, and one where the ship encountered a planet whose inhabitants were not at all like Humans. NBC chose the last because they wanted to see if the producers could rise to the challenge

The original versions of this story depicted the Talosians as even more alien creatures, resembling giant crabs!

Whilst the Talosians all have male voices, the actors playing them are all female. This was a deliberate choice to make the Talosians look and feel rather androgynous.

This was the most expensive episode of the original series ever made, with a total cost of $630,000.

When DeForest Kelley saw this episode he told Gene Roddenberry he had no idea what it was about but "it's either gonna be the biggest hit or the biggest miss God ever made." When Shatner watched it he said that it was a very imaginative and vital idea, but took itself "a little too seriously."

Quote : "Check the circuit." - Spock to helmsman; the first words ever spoken on Star Trek

"I'm tired of being responsible for 203 lives, and I'm tired of deciding which mission is too risky and which isn't, and who's going on the landing party and who doesn't... and who lives, and who dies." - Pike to Boyce

"I'll break out of this zoo somehow and get to you. Is your blood red like ours? I'm gonna find out!" - Pike to the Talosian

"We had not believed this possible. The customs and history of your race show a unique hatred for captivity. Even when it is pleasant and benevolent, you prefer death!" - Talosian to Pike

"Engage." - Pike to Number one; the first time the word was ever used in Trek

Plotline

Whilst heading back for base after a stressful mission, the USS Enterprise picks up a distress signal from the Talos star group. Since the signal was transmitted 18 years previously, Captain Pike elects to disregard it and continue on course. Pike is stressed and despondent after losing crew members on a recent mission on Rigel VII, to the extent that he is considering resigning from the service.

A follow up transmission indicates survivors on Talos IV, so Pike directs the ship to head there. They beam down and find a group of survivors in an encampment on the surface, including the young and beautiful Vina, who seems very interested in Pike. Vina was born just about the time the party was stranded on Talos, and seems to have a strange manner of talking. She leads Pike away from the camp, promising to show him something, but it is a trap - a group of aliens stuns and capture Pike, taking him below ground, and the camp and all the human survivors suddenly vanish into nothing. The Enterprise crew try to blast their way into the alien base, but have no success.

Pike wakes in a cell with a large glass wall, one of many specimens in some form of alien zoo. The Talosian aliens return, communicating with him via telepathy. They are able to use this power to make Pike experience illusory worlds, worlds that feel very real to him. Vina is in each illusion, always attempting to convince Pike to go along with the Talosians and participate in their telepathic worlds. Eventually she reveals that the Talosians have lost their civilisation because of their great mental power, as all they do now is seek out new telepathic experiences rather than trying to build or expand their culture. They want Pike to breed with Vina to create a new slave species, so that they can enjoy their imaginings and use them to maintain their world. The Talosians punish Vina for revealing this information by inflicting visions of pain on her, much to Pike's anguish.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise's First Officer orders a heavy weapon transported down and used to blast into the alien base. The attempt fails, but as the ship's doctor points out they really can't be sure of anything that is happening around them. For all they know they did blast into the alien base, but the Talosians simply projected an image into their minds saying otherwise.

As Pike continues to resist the Talosians, they decide that perhaps Vina is the problem and so abduct two female officers from the Enterprise to provide him with more choices. Pike, having discovered that the Talosians have difficulty reading minds that are filled with primitive emotions like hate, uses this to capture one of the Talosian jailers. He threatens the man with a weapon, stating that even though the Talosian can make it seem like it isn't working this won't help if Pike shoots him with it. He is able to make his way to the surface with the rest, discovering that the Enterprise crew did indeed blast through the entrance of the base, but the Talosians reveal that this was their plan all along - Pike and the others will now begin to create the new human slave race.

The First Officer decides that this would be wrong, and sets her weapon to produce a forced chamber explosion, a detonation that will kill everybody present. Pike allows the Talosians to leave, whilst Vina decides to stay with them as having even one Human on hand might prompt the Talosians to try again.

Before the explosion, the Talosians reveal that they have scanned the Enterprise's databanks and found that Humans have a strong disgust for slavery, and would honestly rather die than live the life the Talosians have planned for them. They decide to free Pike and the rest, mourning the fact that their society will now stagnate and fall into oblivion.

Pike suggests that it might be possible to establish a mutually beneficial relationship of trade and technology exchange but the Talosians decline, stating that Humans would learn their telepathic powers of illusion and destroy themselves just as the Talosians have. Pike offers to take Vina with him but she reveals the truth - she was not in fact born on the planet but was an original member of the expedition, the only one to survive the crash. Whilst the Talosians could heal her body they had no idea what a Human was supposed to look like, so she is badly deformed as well as being rather old. Her youthful, beautiful appearance was merely another Talosian illusion. She feels that this means she has no place in Human society, and Pike agrees. As the Enterprise prepares to leave, the Talosians show Pike that they will provide Vina with one last illusion - that he chose to remain behind with her, allowing her to live out her life in happiness.

Analysis

The one that started it all! The original pilot episode of Star Trek is streets ahead of the other science fiction that was around in the 60s. We're given a smart, thoughtful story about the nature of reality and the mind, the potential joys and dangers of being able to experience anything that anybody can imagine at any time. It's said that the pilot was considered "too cerebral" by the network, who wanted much more in the way of action and excitement. Personally I think it works very well, and of course looking back it's those cerebral aspects that worked so well and elevated Trek above some of its contemporaries.

What works... the Talosians are very alien aliens. Yes, they are once again just humans with big heads, but bear in mind the budgets of the day! Half the time you only knew somebody was an alien in Star Trek because he had a funny name, or an odd hairstyle. By those standards, the Talosians look gorgeous with their huge craniums covered in pulsating veins. More importantly, they are alien in terms of their culture and motivations and those differences make sense. You can absolutely imagine a society like ours stagnating and falling if it discovered the sort of power the Talosians have. What I also like is that they're not evil at all - they're desperate, in the face of their own extinction. When they find that their plan can't work as they want they seek no revenge, make no effort to lash out. Instead they simply let the prisoners go.

What's bad about the episode? Well, the usual pilot episode teething troubles really. Spock is a rather odd character at this point in Trek. He's stiff, rather strange - given to yelling a lot when he doesn't really need to, and rather emotional here and there. The depiction of the ship going to warp is also oddly goofy... you can see that they want to make it out to be a big deal, emphasise that something very strange and futuristic is going on here, but it really doesn't work very well. The uniforms, weapons, communicators and such all look a little cheap and tacky compared to what we would get later on, though it's interesting that the female versions of the uniforms all have long trousers on them just like the mens, rather than the miniskirts that would appear in TOS.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 4,627 Last updated : 24 Nov 2014