Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Star Trek TOS S1 Ep11: The Menagerie, Part I

"I thought highly of him.  He would have made a grand captain."
-Gene Roddenberry commenting on actor Jeffrey Hunter in Starlog #231. The now defunct magazine noted correctly that he was the "first hero of Star Trek."

The Menagerie is perhaps one of the strongest cases for the talents of television editors ever committed to television. The importance of editing would almost lead me to proclaim, "it's all about the editors."  They literally create a new story here out of the ashes of original Star Trek pilot The CageThe Menagerie is a seamless weave of new material, relative to 1966, coupled with extracts from the original Star Trek pilot, The Cage, penned by writer/creator Gene Roddenberry.

Looking back, there is plenty of back story surrounding just how The Menagerie became the much lauded and equally classic direct descendant of The Cage.  William Shatner with Chris Kreski capture the period best in the book MemoriesThe Cage was fantastic for many reasons and things as you'll discover throughout two-part The Menagerie.  Concept Ideas like the U.S.S. Yorktown and Captain April yielded to the iconic creations of the U.S.S. Enterprise and initially Captain Christopher Pike for The Cage.  The then married Roddenberry had been falling in love with actress Majel Barrett.  He created the role of Number One for her.  The iconic reference of Number One would live on with greater resonance and impact on Star Trek: The Next Generation in the form of William T. Riker played by Jonathan Frakes.

Sadly, Roddenberry's ideas were allegedly rejected by CBS who ultimately pillaged those ideas and applied them to their own series... the almost equally beloved Lost In Space, at least according to Memories.  Ultimately, not only did CBS pass initially, but the folks Roddenberry intended to impress over at NBC passed too.  The executives felt it lacked "sufficient action" and was "too cerebral."  It was ambitious and the executives knew it, but as Shatner pointed out, "it was smart, beautiful, intellectual and thoroughly engaging.  In other words a flop."  At least as far as the suits were concerned.

Despite being a striking, splendid piece of television The Cage was turned down.  Compounding matters, Number One was too "pushy" and even women found her "annoying."  This was the 1960s mind you.  Further, the suits also "loathed" Spock.  The two characters had to go if Roddenberry was to continue.  To the surprise of many, despite a $686,000 dollar pilot flop, NBC green-lighted a second pilot.

To move forward several stipulations were in place.  The executives wanted Number One and Spock to be removed.  There was no room for a Satanic-looking alien nor an independent woman in the 1960s helming a starship.  There was apparently no desire to see her boldly going anywhere at least on television anyway.  So Number One was inevitably removed following The Cage in part and with the hopes Gene Roddenberry would be able to retain his Spock character as a pivotal part of the dramatic fulcrum for which he had in mind for his Star Trek tales.  Roddenberry fought tooth and nail to keep Spock to the detriment of Barrett's role for his impassioned vision.  Ultimately, Nurse Christine Chapel and other roles awaited Barrett and her love and affection for Roddenberry never dimmed despite disappointment over her removal.  And though Roddenberry promised to make Spock a background character he had every intention of defying his network masters.

What came next, of course, was the second official Star Trek pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before.  Number One was out. Spock survived and would endure.  The budget was tightened.  More action was provided yet the cerebral was largely retained.  Somewhat unexpectedly, actor Jeffrey Hunter, who performed impressively as Captain Pike, was out largely due to the conflicts over the role and the meddling by his then wife.  Hawaii 5-0's Jack Lord was a potential replacement but demanded too much.  Fortunately, an already stunningly wild production was made even better when the creative team behind Star Trek landed a coup in William Shatner who had been enjoying success in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone.  The hopes and dreams of Star Trek fans the world over was nearly cemented.  George Takei as Sulu and James Doohan as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott were added.  Where No Man Has Gone Before greenlit the series.  First episode, The Man Trap, sealed and completed the deal with the addition of Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Janice Rand and most importantly DeForest Kelley as Chief Medical Officer Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.  The rest is history as they say.

The Menagerie offers a wonderful glimpse into the seeds of Star Trek as a fusion of The Cage combined with its Shatner-driven vision.  Roddenberry knew one day The Cage would see the light of day and The Menagerie weaves his original story and ideas into this wonderfully complex and beautiful tapestry that would once again be a hallmark of an outstanding first season of Star Trek: The Original SeriesThe Cage is cleverly reworked into the appropriately titled The Menagerie, an episode, by definition, is luxuriously edited and stunningly curious in all of its dramatic splendor as a science fiction story. It is an ingenious mix of found footage (so to speak) and science fiction storytelling and one that had a profound effect on me as a young boy.

Even as a young person, the message of a handicapped man, crippled by physical limitations, essentially set free by the advanced technologies of a greater intelligence, was at once liberating and profoundly moving to me as a statement and representation of the possibilities of science fiction. It's impact did not come lightly and Star Trek: The Original Series, while maybe not the first, was my indeed one of my first encounters with the great potential of science that we witness impacting the human race today.

The impact of Season One of Star Trek: The Original Series certainly cannot be understated on me and many others.  There was rarely an episode from that season or the series, that didn't somehow leave an indelible mark or impression on me.

Stories were played and replayed in syndication and I spent many nights with my grandmother watching them.  She was a fan too.  How often does a series cross generational divides?  Episodes like The Man Trap, Charlie X, The Naked Time, and Mudd's Women all left a significant imprint on me.  I recollect them with ease and effortlessly play them back in my mind.  They remain unforgettable to me and others.  This is why Star Trek lives on for so many as the incontrovertible science fiction classic.  Space:1999 and Battlestar Galactica are two that have their special place, but none have held the kind of nostalgic strength coupled with indisputably memorable characters and the lasting storytelling genius of true science fiction writers.  The Menagerie is no exception.  It represents one of my earliest memories of Star Trek and also one of the most unusual viewing experiences combining creepy science fiction with bold characters like nothing I had ever encountered in my young life.

My heart bled for Captain Pike, played in The Menagerie's new footage here by a heavily made-up Sean Kenney, who helplessly sat motionless and near stone-faced in that chair. Kenney was so convincing to me in that limited and limiting role, along with the superior talents of the series make-up and production department, I fully believed the realities of The Menagerie. I also fully believed Kenney and Hunter were one-in-the-same actor as Pike.  My young eyes never differentiated the two actors in the story.  The story was also truly disturbing, heart-wrenching stuff surrounding the tale of a once great man now disabled and disfigured. How could fate be so cruel? It was one of those early lessons in life regarding the remarkably random nature of life's unpredictable cruelty. It had my undivided attention along with my empathy which seemed to be awakened in my young self through episodes like this one.

As alien as the solutions were and as defiant as Spock's actions in The Menagerie, we connected to the internal logic of man's potential to live and will to live.  But more importantly, the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock seemed to recognize the value of living too and the value of human dignity and the outcome seemed somehow sound in its determination. We rooted for Spock and Pike and prayed for them.  Spock's actions may have defied Starfleet and dumbfounded Kirk, but somehow seemed logical on a human level, and ironically, an emotional one.  Spock responded heroically.  Roddenberry saw the value and benefit of his conflicted Spock character to the series and The Menagerie is a fine example of that vision.

Let us return to the confinement of physical man and the potential for humanity to transcend the body, ascend if you will, free the mind and spirit to live again. Let us look at the spiritual renewal of Star Trek: The Original Series, Season One, Episode 11, The Menagerie. This was the baby of one Gene Roddenberry at his very best.

Captain James T. Kirk, Spock and Leonard "Bones" McCoy, the standard bearer of casting triangles, divert to Starbase 11.  Greeted by the latest in a long bevy of beautifully adorned red shirts, Miss Lt. Piper, the triumvirate is escorted to see the Comodore.  Kirk explains that first officer Spock received an urgent sub-space message from one Captain Christopher Pike.  Comodore Jose I. Mendez is surprised and Kirk asks "Why?"  An air of mystery is generated immediately with the scene as viewers immediately desire to know more about what happened to Captain Pike.  The Comodore takes them to the intensive care unit.

Kirk met Pike when he became a fleet captain.  Spock served with Pike for eleven years, four months and five days.

As it turns out, the once handsome Pike toured a cadet vessel, an old class J starship.  One of the plates ruptured and Pike was burned severely by radiation exposure to delta rays while he made every effort to save young cadets.

Again, when Pike does appear on screen physically disfigured we have no idea that this is no longer Jeffrey Hunter, but rather Sean Kenney in the role of Pike, at least my horrified, young, innocent little eyes had no discerning idea back in the day.  The visual deception still holds up exceptionally.  The Star Trek production team was that good.

Pike, now deformed, paralyzed and living in a chair, communicates with a series of lights and beeps.  Two (2) flashes/beeps means NO.  He is disinterested in meeting with the visitors.  Spock requests a moment of his time to which he responds with one beep.  Additionally, Pike's eyes immediately look to Spock clearly stimulated by the voice of his old shipmate.  As a child, I never really noticed Pike's eyes moving and the emotion in those moments.  Perhaps the details went unnoticed in all the generalized wonder of each episode.  The others leave and Spock speaks with Pike alone.  Spock tells him he should know why he has come.  There is indeed some kind of loyalty there for Spock.  "It's only six days away at maximum warp and I have it well-planned" to which Pike flashes twice perhaps out of concern for Spock.  Spock suggests to his old Captain, despite Pike's rejection of his plan, that he must do this for him despite never having disobeyed his orders before.  Clearly, Spock, a Vulcan, has heard the sub-space chatter regarding Pike's condition and expresses an empathic human connection.  His plan may indeed be a treacherous act of mutiny, but Spock is willing to commit that risky act demonstrating either one final act of loyalty to his old Captain or, fascinatingly, the human emotion compassion to the potential detriment of his career.

Later, a further investigation by Kirk regarding Spock's report of Pike's sub-space transmission turns up nothing coming or going out of the Enterprise.  Kirk is annoyed even angered by the Comodore's questions, because Kirk understands it calls into question certain facts and Kirk has great faith in the men and women aboard his starship vessel particularly Spock.  If anyone aboard the ship has embraced the green-blooded Vulcan it is indeed Kirk. By default it calls into question Kirk's judgment.  Kirk is forced into a defensive posture attempting to make sense of the undocumented and support his first officer despite having no proof the transmission ever happened.  Kirk, in effect, realizes something is amiss but makes every effort to give Spock the benefit of any doubt incurred.  Kirk proves he will go to the wall for his crew.  But one thing is certain Kirk will be displeased with any omissions by his people or at least look for a logical explanation. Until then, Kirk doesn't even consider a deceit by Spock because he would have granted leave if requested without question.  So why would Spock do it?

The Comodore and Kirk check computers.  Meanwhile on Starbase 11, Spock enters the computer room and his act of sabotage feels very unnatural when one contemplates the logic of Spock and puts viewers in a position of discomfort and unease.  Therefore, something logical must be in play.  Will it be enough to justify Spock's actions?  Spock exacts a quick Vulcan Neck-pinch and his plan to alter or modify the computer begins.

Miss Piper (through the traditional Star Trek filtered lens - the handiwork of Jerry Finnerman) reports, but first mentions a Miss Helen Johanssen as a woman who brought Kirk to her attention. The simple moment adds to the womanizing mystique and legend that is Kirk and his conquest of the ladies.

Miss Piper reports that Spock's years of service and "extreme loyalty to this former commander" are the only two factors that remain noteworthy from her investigation.  Kirk perks up, "A Vulcan can no sooner be disloyal than he can exist without breathing that goes for his present commander as well as his past."  This statement is entirely logical and stands in stark contrast to the actions on display by Spock.  Miss Piper confirms that it would be impossible for Pike to send a message.  The Comodore confirms he speaks in affirmatives and negatives and that he is kept alive mechanically. His mind is active and fertile but he is incapable of real communication.  Kirk begins to realize that Pike would be unable to even request such a message be delivered.

Back in the computer room, Spock is embroiled in a physical altercation with a tech and a truly violent confrontation ensues before Spock implements his second Vulcan Neck-pinch to subdue his assailant.  Spock is doling out and throwing down on the Vulcan nenck pinches.  Once again, we are truly concerned with Spock's actions clearly in opposition to the behavior of a Starfleet first officer.  Would someone please explain the reason for this strange behavior? [Quote from Skin Trade by Duran Duran].  Well, as it turns out, in order to get the crew of the Enterprise to comply with Spock's directives he utilizes Kirk's voice through a pre-programmed disc that informs them they are to accept instruction from Spock.  In essence the subversive Spock informs the crew on the bridge of the Enterprise to remain silent until instructed.  One aspect of Spock's character that does remain true is an almost cool, calm, methodical approach to whatever it is he is trying to achieve on behalf of Pike. This was indeed always one of the qualities that drew us to his character and the series.

Elsewhere, Kirk and Bones monitor Pike who continues to flash.  Why? wonders Kirk.  "The brain is what life is all about," admits Bones, but Pike is unable to express himself outwardly and no one is able to reach him or at least be satisfied in the knowledge that he comprehends them.  Kirk begins to wonder if Spock is involved.  This is the kind of fiery exchange we grew to love between Kirk, Bones and Spock along the journey that was Star Trek: The Original Series.  In this heated moment, Kirk is at a boiling point and Bones demonstrates his loyalty to Spock as a colleague and friend, despite his sometimes combative stance with the green-blooded Vulcan.  Down deep Bones exhibits a genuine belief in Spock's actions as founded in something righteous because his humanity or that which could possibly be irrational is essentially "submerged."  Kirk questions recent actions, because as the Captain he must and he pulls no punches even with Bones suggesting he would suspect him if necessary.  Shatner always delicately walks that line of captain and friend to brilliant effect.  Kirk is accurate in pointing out one point of fact, that the Vulcan is also half-human.  It is this inner conflict in which Roddenberry envisaged a great many dramatic flashpoints.

Bones is summoned back to the Enterprise. The Comodore presents a log book of Talos IV to Kirk.  It is marked TOP SECRET FOR EYES OF STARFLEET COMMAND ONLY.  Kirk understands General Order 7 applies to Talos IV.  "No vessel under any condition emergency or otherwise is to visit Talos IV."  To do so could result in the death penalty.  This severe punishment is the only remaining death penalty charge on the books.  The log reveals that only one ship ever visited Talos IV, the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Both Pike and Spock have recommended "no human should ever visit it again."  During their discussion Piper realizes Pike is missing from their monitors. The computer room on Starbase 11 informs Kirk and the Comodore that the Enterprise is leaving orbit.  We get that classic camera zoom on the alarmed face of Kirk.  His expression is only heightened by the accompaniment of one of the best television scores to ever be assembled and recorded always arriving at just the right moment with just the right amount of dramatic punctuation.

The Enterprise leaves the orbit of Starbase 11.  Spock is all business and orders Uhura to maintain radio silence. Spock informs the crew he has been placed in charge and that their destination is secret.  Furthermore, Kirk has been instructed to take medical rest leave according to Spock.  This raises a Bones' eyebrow when he enters the bridge.  Spock confidentially escorts Bones to Pike's location. Upon arrival in Pike's quarters Spock plays a message from Kirk informing him to "follow Spock's instructions to the letter."  Bones is not to disturb Pike, but simply care for him.  The falsified message from Kirk could only be the gift of future technology - a technology that exists today.  But Bones is intuitive and knows something is amiss.

A Starbase 11 Galileo-styled shuttle craft pursues the Enterprise.  A frustrated Kirk and Comodore Mendez pursue the Enterprise. Spock demonstrates his concern for Kirk's fuel reserves to which the computer [voiced by one Majel Barrett-Roddenberry] reports Kirk has flown beyond the measure required to return safely to Starbase 11 without running adrift.  Spock demonstrates concern within character.  Kirk and Mendez have two hours of fuel and life support.  Kirk knows should he reach the Enterprise Spock will likely be court-martialed.  Mendez wonders why Spock would be heading for Talos IV.  Kirk knows there must be some logical explanation for his decision. Spock is balancing the lives of two captains and loyalty to both.

Spock brings the Enterprise to a dead stop.  The tractor beam is readied for Kirk to beam aboard.  Spock orders armed red shirts to the bridge and presents himself to Dr. McCoy for arrest citing mutiny.  Bones is uncomfortable with the orders to arrest the first officer and actually looks to Spock for confirmation regarding the decision of confining him.  Spock confirms the decision is "adequate."

With Spock confined and Kirk and Mendez aboard, the ship resumes its path to Talos IV under control of pre-programmed instruction by the computer.  Space:1999 wasn't the only series to be held hostage by Computer.  Spock understands his decision to be a difficult one as his head hangs low.

Kirk submits in his log that the preliminary hearing of his first officer's actions required by Starfleet culminates in "the most painful moment I've ever faced." At the meeting it is interesting to see Kirk demonstrate cool.  In the face of many questions Kirk presents calm leadership and civility toward his first officer in the knowledge there must be some explanation.  Kirk's actions as a leader were almost always impressive to me as young man.  Spock waves his rights and counsel and requests immediate court-martial. Kirk denies the request citing a requirement of three command officers to be available for a board decision.  Spock notes there are three in Kirk, Mendez and Captain Pike.  Kirk forcefully denies the request once again citing Pike as a "complete invalid," though Spock notes he is is still on "active" duty. Mendez suggests Spock is correct and has planned his strategy well.  Kirk is clearly running interference for a deeply held faith in his first officer.

Captain's Log Stardate 3012.6. The general court-martial has convened and Spock has waved all rights and plead guilty.  Mendez reminds Spock of the death penalty and inquires on the need to return to Talos IV.  A video screen is used as evidence to examine found footage of The Cage mission.  Through this device Spock takes us back thirteen years to the crew of the Enterprise as commanded by Captain Pike.  A brief glimpse of Pike,  Spock and crew moves Kirk to pause the footage and ask Pike if that was really him.  He confirms Yes. The crew is astonished by such complete footage as no such footage was normally recorded in the data banks.  Pike confirms this to be true.  No footage was normally documented.  Spock refuses to explain the source of the video.  Of course, the source is Gene Roddenberry and his dream to create a first pilot called Star Trek's The Cage.  Rejected by NBC, Roddenberry gets the last laugh re-formatting for The Menagerie.

Archive footage presents stars Jeffrey Hunter, Leonard Nimoy and the then beautiful M. Leigh Hudec, a.k.a.a Majel Barrett, as Number One.  The Enterprise picks up a distress signal from a ship in trouble, the S. S. Columbia, on Talos IV.  The planet is class M - oxygen-based, the class base for most of Roddenberry's planned missions for Star Trek.  Captain Pike orders the Enterprise continue to the Vega colony and not break from their course.  Hunter is indeed impressive in his own Star Trek debut.  He also had quite the penetrating eyes.

Actor Jeffrey Hunter [1926-1969] made two appearances for Star Trek: The Original Series, here in The Menagerie and in the original pilot from which The Menagerie takes its edits, The Cage [1965].  The handsome actor was just 42 when he passed away.  The Cage was completed 1964-1965 when Hunter was just 38 years old.  The Cage never aired, but that pilot and this re-edit of it through The Menagerie offers a good glimpse of what kind of captain Hunter would have made and what might have been.  To a degree he was the Star Trek equivalent of Babylon 5's Michael O'Hare before replacement by Bruce Boxleitner for the remaining four seasons of that series.  He mirrors the brief appearance of Darren McGavin as Oscar Goldman in the pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man [1974-1978] before being replaced by Richard Anderson.  Still, his character is unique within the Star Trek universe.  Surprisingly, Hunter passed away before the conclusion of Star Trek: The Original Series Season Three believe it or not and would never have the opportunity to experience the legacy of Star Trek or his place in it.  As everyone knows, any affiliation to Star Trek is indeed epic and Hunter's contribution is by no means small having shared the screen with Leonard Nimoy and Gene Roddenberry's future wife, Majel Barrett.  Yes, Hunter's impact was profound within the Star Trek mythology and universe and The Menagerie offers ample evidence of his contribution.  Let's face it, lesser actors and and lesser parts have done well on the convention circuit.

Oddly, real life would mirror art for Hunter upon his death in a strange way.  Here in The Menagerie, Sean Kenney plays the Pike role as an invalid and as disfigured following an unfortunate accident.  Hunter, too, who played Pike, suffered a similar real fate in his final days.  While in Spain filming in 1969, Hunter was involved in an on-set explosives accident.  He was the recipient of facial burns and skin lacerations.  Returning to the USA to recover, Hunter's arm became semi-paralyzed and his speech became slurred.  It was determined cerebral hemorrhaging was the cause.  Weeks later Hunter became dizzy and suffered headaches from additional bouts resulting in a fall whereby he fractured his skull.  He never regained consciousness despite efforts to save him in a most tragic end for the young actor.  One can't help but wonder what might have been had he remained with Star Trek despite his then second wife's overtures to move away from science fiction.  Would he still be with us given the events that transpired in Spain?  Would he still be here to celebrate the existence of Star Trek as a national treasure?  Hunter certainly believed in the series at the time of the pilot.  According to Starlog #231 he said, "It will be like getting a look into the future and some of the predictions will surely come true in our lifetime."  Boy, he couldn't have been more right.  He added, "The basic underlying theme of the show is a philosophical approach to man's relationship to woman."  While the series sometimes demonstrates the existing inherent 1960s sexism of the day there was certainly a ring of truth to his statement and that can be appreciated throughout the series.  What's more fascinating is just how much Hunter would have benefited from the sexual encounters had he stayed with the program.  Instead of Shatner it could have been Hunter that was revered as legend with the ladies.  We'll never know and as it turned out (and it turned out fabulously), Shatner would be one of the key components to the success of a series we would one day revere and identify with on a culturally iconic level.  We wouldn't have it any other way.

Returning to the story of The Menagerie, Part I, drawing from The Cage, Pike returns to his cabin.  Dr. Phillip Boyce, played by John Hoyt, visits.  Hoyt would be replaced by Paul Fix as Dr. Mark Piper in the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, before ultimately being replaced by one DeForest Kelly as Dr. Leonard McCoy as Roddenberry's preferred choice du jour.  In his exchange with Boyce we discover the kinds of conflicts that reside within the man and the scene offers a fairly nice snippet of the kind of work we might have come to expect from Hunter.

The Enterprise received information concerning eleven survivors on Talos IV.  Pike orders warp factor 7 to Talos IV.

Cutting back to the court-martial room Mendez suggests Spock has concocted some kind of technological manipulation.  Spock turns to Pike who confirms the images are true.  Spock submits that the board hear and witness the experience of Pike on Talos IV and if not convinced of the need to return there, Spock assures he will return the Enterprise to manual control. Mendez votes to stop this charade.  Kirk votes to continue.  Pike votes in favor of Kirk and the trial and footage of the events that surrounded The Cage and Talos IV would indeed continue.

The Pike story continues as Kirk notes, "to the one forbidden world in all the galaxy."  Gracefully the story segue ways back to the crew of Pike's Enterprise.  A landing party of six is assembled and Number One is left behind as the most experienced officer to remain with the Enterprise.

Upon arrival on the planet it's clear Spock walks with a significant limp.  I suspect there is well told story behind that.  Apart from discovering beautiful blue, quivering alien plants, the team finds the survivors of the wrecked ship, a group of old men and one woman.  The woman is no ordinary woman, she is the remarkably beautiful Vina, a child born almost to the day of their crashed ship.  Her parents are gone but Vina lives and is a sight to behold and behold her Pike does.  As the men exchange hands, strange aliens with large, veiny, pulsing heads called Talosians observe them from afar.

As they prepare to leave Talos IV, Boyce notes the survivors surprisingly exceptional health.  Vina will show Pike how it was possible.  Upon walking up the face of a small rock ledge, Vina informs Pike he is the perfect specimen, the perfect choice.  Without warning she disappears as do all of the men from the camp.  Everything dissolves.  Pike is knocked unconscious and taken by the Talosians inside of the rock face.  Spock and the others fire phasers upon the entrance way, but apart from some minor debris have little success.  Spock reports to the Enterprise that the whole thing appears to be some kind of trap, a man trap?

As the scene cuts to the court-martial review, we begin to realize Roddenberry and company present what is perhaps one of the best filler episodes ever committed to film.  Okay, $686,000 dollars of unused filler, but in the can nonetheless. Kirk is informed by Uhura that they are receiving transmissions from Talos IV.  Those transmissions Spock confirms are the archival footage of Pike and company's visitation upon the planet.  Uhura relays a message from Starfleet command that Mendez is ordered to relieve Kirk of his command and prevent the Enterprise from making contact with the planet.  Mendez orders Spock to relinquish control of the vessel but he declines and Mendez calls a recess of the court-martial.  A rare display of Spock's emotions.

A somber and grim faced Kirk still questions what is in play and asks Spock if he has lost his mind.  Spock turns to "Jim" and request that he see the rest of the information for the sake of his command and Pike's life.  Kirk orders Spock to be confined. Kirk stands alone in quiet contemplation of what to do next as the episode has excitingly set up events to come for The Menagerie, Part II. Part I has indeed cerebrally left us fascinated and quietly wondering where this tale will take us.

Besides a terrific tale and great performances, one of the most impressive things about The Menagerie then and now was the make-up. By God, the scarred Captain Pike, played by Sean Kenney, felt like one Jeffrey Hunter from The Cage to me. For a series to sell me on their concepts and their characters with nigh a waver in that belief is really something of an achievement by the creators of a series. As a child that effort may have been easy, but even today this man, The Sci-Fi Fanatic, remains a transported believer.  And while as a child I was in tune and sensitive to the dramatic weight of this story, it still remains as powerful today, which is even more of a feat.  I was thoroughly moved by the plight of Captain Pike and The Menagerie was a deeply emotional experience then and now.  The Menagerie is a magnificent accomplishment in science fiction drama.  It's truly no wonder it won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.  Dramatic it is, but it is indeed a splendid hybrid of human drama and science fiction at its very best.

The Menagerie, Part I: A. Writer: Gene Roddenberry. Director: Marc Daniels.

Dead Crewman: 0. Dead Crewman To Date: 10. Babe Alert: 3. Babe Alert To Date: 13.

Actress Footnote: Julie Parrish [1940-2003]. American born. Lt. Piper.  Parrish appears in The Menagerie, Part I.  She also landed a role in Elvis Presley film Paradise, Hawaiian Style [1966] alongside Marianna Hill from Star Trek: TOS, S1, Ep9, Dagger Of The Mind.  Parrish also appeared in Bonanza, Gunsmoke and the original Beverly Hills, 90210.  She passed away at 62 from a battle with ovarian cancer.

Actress footnote: Susan Oliver [1932-1990]. American born. Vina. The gorgeous actress appeared in loads of television.  She was also an aviator.  She appeared in The Twilight Zone [People Are Alike All Over] [1960], The Alfred Hitchcock Hour [Annabel] [1962], The Fugitive [1963], My Three Sons [1966], Peyton PlaceOur House [1988] with Wilford Brimley and much more.  She even directed an episode of M*A*S*H [1982] and Trapper John, M.D. [1983]. Her last appearance was on Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare On Elm Street: The Series [1988]. She passed away from cancer in 1990.

Actress footnote: Laurel Goodwin [1942-present]. American born. Yeoman J. M. Colt.  She also appeared in Elvis Presley's Girls! Girls! Girls! [1962].  It's pretty clear if you were an Elvis Presley girl you were expressly intended to be Star Trek girl material.  Amen. The Star Trek people were casting geniuses. In fact, the overtly aesthetic appeal of many of these women was largely due to the costuming work (or lack thereof) provided by one Bill Theiss. See Star Trek, S1, Ep6, Mudd's Women.

Actor footnote: Malachi Throne [1928-present]. American born. Comodore Jose I. Mendez.  Throne appeared in a number of Irwin Allen productions including Lost In Space [S2, Ep9, The Thief From Outer Space] [1966], Land Of The Giants [The Secret City Of Limbo] [1970], and The Time Tunnel [The Death Merchant] [1967].  He also appeared in Mission: Impossible [Season One and Season Four], Batman [1966] and The Six Million Dollar Man. Throne also played opposite William Shatner in The Outer Limits [Cold Hands, Warm Heart] [1967].  He enjoyed a role as a Romulan senator on Star Trek: The Next Generation [Season 5, Ep 7 and 8, Unification] [1991].  He played a crucial role in the J. Michael Straczynski series Babylon 5 in The Coming Of Shadows [1995] as a Centauri Prime Minister who is assassinated mirroring in many ways the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by the Black Hand in 1914, the triggering event to World War I in much the same way Throne's character's death would trigger the Narn-Centauri War.  The Coming Of Shadows won the Hugo Award.

Additional Commentary:  It's funny, but my timing seemed to be impeccable with this entry.  I was able to draw from my recent reading of the terrifically entertaining book by William Shatner with Chris Kreski called Memories [1993].  The book has a number of different printings but I found a copy of the Harper Collins original.  That was completely unintentional mind you.  Shatner really captures the spirit of a bright eyed period as ushered in by Gene Roddenberry and the excitement by all fabulous talents that surrounded his breathtaking ideas that would one day become legend in the form of Star Trek.  In fact, Shatner recounts Roddenberry's early days pretending to fly a spaceship as a youngster in what amounted as nothing more than a box in his yard.  I was floored by the story because memories of my own stargazing childhood came flooding back.  I'm sure many of you had similar experiences.  Who knew one day in the 1970s I had been channeling the childhood of Gene Roddenberry.  I knew there was something I loved about this guy and his Star Trek.  Well, The Sci-Fi Fanatic, too, spent many a summer day inside piloting what amounted to nothing more than an empty wooden, vegetable box.  My brother and I would spend hours coloring those boxes. We drew instruments and gadgets on the interior and exterior of those little wooden ships merely to proceed to rock to and fro within them as if we navigated asteroids, aliens and space battles.  We were doing this before I ever knew of Star Trek or Space:1999.  We made those little wooden boxes into something special and we spent many hours daydreaming and imagining what lay in front of us as we sat within their hearty cockpits.  Who knew I was channelling the great Gene Roddenberry, but I suppose we all unlock our imaginations in inventive ways to enter realms of the fantastic -  at least those of us fortunate to have been gifted with an appetite to imagine the possibilities.

Stay tuned for this Sci-Fi Fanatic's reflections on the teaser for Star Trek: Into Darkness and my final musings on The Menagerie, Part II from the classic Star Trek: The Original Series.


le0pard13 said...

What a fantastic and triumphant piece of writing for Star Trek the original series, SFF! You nailed what drew a number of us youngsters (along with our feelings) to this TV series. I can watch 'The Cage' and the two-part "The Menagerie' with equal and distinct pleasure. So glad you pointed out Jeffrey Hunter and his unique contribution to Star Trek with this his lone stint in the captain's chair. This really reached this fan with your writing and admiration of the program. Loved this!

John Kenneth Muir said...

Another beautiful retrospective of TOS, SFF.

This quote resonated with me: " It represents one of my earliest memories of Star Trek and also one of the most unusual viewing experiences combining creepy science fiction with bold characters like nothing I had ever encountered in my young life."

I feel very much the same way. I saw The Menagerie before I was six, I'm sure. And I was creeped out but fascinated by the Talosians, and particularly the weird, jagged door in the mountain, through which Pike was stolen. After I saw The Menagerie, all my childhood artwork featured weird jagged doors carved into mountains. :)

Your ongoing retrospective is a highlight of the day, the week and the season!


Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

You outdid yourself on this one, Sci-Fi Fanatic!

Not only do you give a thoughtful and concise review of the episode The Menagerie, but you also include a fascinating bit of historical information and background on the episode and the creative people behind it. Bravo!

Quite frankly, The Menagerie has never been one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: TOS, but I have always admired the skill with which Roddenberry constructed this episode around the original pilot episode of Star Trek. I have not watched it in many years, but after reading your review, I was inspired to watch it again this evening. I will say that not remembering exactly the plot of Part Two, I found myself really intrigued by the motives that Spock had for high-jacking the Enterprise. Part One of The Menagerie holds up well as an important episode in the development of Spock’s character. Even Kirk has his doubts as to how Spock cold so blatantly defy Starfleet regulations!

The differences in the tech (phasers and uniforms most noticeably) and Spock’s alien make-up, have always been distracting to me when watching the “transmissions from Talos IV” footage in The Menagerie. It does also make for some entertaining viewing; particularly when concentrating on the various technical and costuming design differences. I still find myself being distracted from the story by all the wonderful 1960’s-era futuristic Star Trek design work. Also, check out the amazing use of the matte painting work used on the pilot episode! Not only is it used on establishing shots, but on the background in windows as well.

Keep on Trekkin’ Sci-Fi Fanatic!

SFF said...

Gents, first, thank you for the very supportive words. I really appreciate it.

I want you all to know that I am writing in reply to you from an actual home computer with an actual keyboard because, as much as I love my ipad (and I do love it), it's a right pain to type on them. It's always auto correcting and putting in bizarre replacement words. : )

Anyway, Leopard13 thanks very much my friend for the big love there. I definitely have such big bold memories of Star Trek which is probably why it remains my favorite science fiction series ever made and yet I don't consider myself a trekkie in the strictest sense of going to conventions ect... but I do love and adore the show.

And thank you John for the same brilliant support. I know in many ways we sat glued to our televisions and on many days, no doubt, at exactly the same time experiencing the same emotions and feelings towards these programs that shaped us only we were miles and miles apart. It is all very amusing indeed.

I agree with your points about the Talosians jagged doors. My God, I was completely and utterly spooked by this sense there was something truly frightening below ground that had taken the dear Captain. These were powerful beings with their strange fanny-like heads and I kept praying for the heroes to proceed with caution. I was very concerned for them but the story had me sitting legs crossed Indian style with elbows on knees and hands near face.

I might also add that when my brother and I were in those wooden vegetable boxes rocking back and forth in our imaginary world my father was often just a few feet away washing his red Chevrolet and occasionally spraying us to add to the effect. You see even as young people in a driveway with wooden vegetable boxes we were making our very own special effects. : ) So thanks again.

And Fritz my friend, agree or disagree with these classics on our level of appreciation we do share a common interest to be sure. You are always supportive of these entries and I do love to see where we fall in line on them or vere apart.

But thank you for appreciating them sincerely Doc. I definitely spent some time on this particular episode because, like Miri, I had very strong memories of it. Truth be told, that's the case for many of the ST: TOS and my opinion will no doubt be shaded for sure.

And I like how you said you appreciated how Roddenberry "constructed" the episode. It's a masterpiece of editing and assembly from the footage of the original pilot.

I agree with you completely about the crafting of Spock's character in The Menagerie and the juxtaposition of how his character was originally handled in The Cage makes for an odd affair in some ways, but one you can forgive since Roddenberry and company were really trying to establish their footing. So Spock isn't quite Spock in the old footage, but it is fascinating footage to watch. But I can certainly understand what you mean by "distracting."

I too love the matte work. It is simply stunning. Great point! It's simply beautiful work.

Finally, two clips I have set for the next entry really speak volumes about the character and Kirk-Spock dynamic you refer to here. There were some other observations that piqued my interest in the second entry as well.

I will admit that I love The Menagerie Part 1, the set up entry, just a touch more than the conclusion, but as a whole it's a wonderful piece of Star Trek and science fiction.

I sincerely thank you all for adding to the conversation here and hope you enjoy part II which I hope to post before Christmas. And of course Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to you all.

Anonymous said...

Great episodes. I'm reading the book Burning Dreams, which is one of the Star Trek novels about Captain Pike. One of my favorite ST characters.

SFF said...

I love the Pike character as well!