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."
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.
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.
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