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Topics Covered || Plot Synopsis || Topic Technicalities || Part of Set
First Released for general viewing: 1967
The episode starts with Enterprise diverting course to Starbase 11. When they arrive, the Enterprise's command officers transport down to the surface, to speak with the Commodore. Base commander, Commodore Mendez, is perplexed as to the Enterprise's sudden arrival. Kirk tells him that they responded to a message from the starbase. The only problem is Mendez never sent one.
Kirk states that if Spock says they received a transmission (why Spock picked it up and not Uhura, we don't know), then they received a transmission. The signal originated from the former commander of the Enterprise, Fleet Captain Pike. Mendez immediately decries that as impossible. When Kirk asks why that is, Mendez is shocked. He thought Kirk knew what had happened to Pike.
Mendez takes them to the surgeon general's offices, and thus to the starbase medical building, to see Pike. Mendez asks Kirk if he ever met Pike. Kirk did, briefly, during the Enterprise hand-over ceremony. He mentions that Spock served with Pike for several years.
Dr McCoy asks what happened to Pike, as they pass through the medical sections, entering higher care areas. Mendez explains that, whilst inspecting a cadet training ship, Pike was present for a reactor baffle plate rupture. Pike rushed to the reactor, exposing himself to near-lethal amounts of tissue rending delta radiation, and yanking out any cadets still alive. He saved a dozen lives, but in the process, became cripplingly disfigured.
His body can no-longer support him; most of his internal organs are severely damaged, and much of his skin itself is charred. He is confined to a mobile full-body life support system. Worse, his lower brainstem, and the nerve pathways that control the muscles around his eyes both fried. This has rendered Pike a quadriplegic, unable to move even the slightest bit, as the nerves to send commands are fried. This means that not only can Pike not control his own body, but he cannot even move his eyes to communicate with. Even worse still, his brain survived intact. Pike is still as alive and intelligent as he ever was - still the same man - but utterly and completely trapped in the shell his body has become.
Pike's only means of communication with the outside world, is through a brain-machine interface, which links his brain's neurons directly to a flashing light on the outside of the chair. By thinking hard, Pike can make the light blink twice for yes, and once for no.
After Kirk, McCoy and Spock meet briefly with Pike, Spock requests a moment alone with his former commander, and says cryptically to him, "You know why I have come . . . I know it is treachery and it is mutiny, but I must do this."
Pike, unable to even adjust his facial muscles, just stares impassively, his communication light frantically beeping out 'No', over and over again.
Shortly later, in the base commander's office, the topic at hand is the signal that brought Enterprise here. Kirk continues to insist that Spock received a transmission from the starbase and entered that also in his own log. Kirk says that's all the proof he needs. Mendez has Kirk search the record tapes himself to see that there were no messages, no transmissions sent from the starbase. Kirk then says he suspects the record tapes have been changed, as occurred at his own recent court martial.
Kirk tells Mendez the sector of space Enterprise is patrolling, is extremely quiet; no starship crime, no rogue aliens, not even a stray comet. The ship not being where it was assigned to be, has caused no problems, so he is at a loss why anyone would maliciously divert them. Menddez calls down to the starbase's computer core, again a separate building complete in and of itself. He has them recheck the records, and the computer's logic circuitry - presumably in a similar way to the method Spock devised in the previous court martial episode. Again, there is no fault. As the technicians leave the main lab, Spock slides into view, apparently having been in the lab. Since he created the method now used to check computer logic circuits, it is logical he would know how to bypass it. Spock accesses the main base computer, and makes several further alterations, including the beginnings of a new message to the Enterprise.
Back on board, Uhura picks up a message from Starbase operations. They include top secret orders in an encrypted packet, routed from starfleet command directly.
Just as Uhura calls for confirmation from Starbase operations, a starbase tech walks in and discovers Spock, at the message terminal. The tech tells Spock this is a secured area. Spock tells him that he has security clearance. The tech - also the department chief - wasn't notified. He then notices Spock's open computer pathway routing software. The tech tries to stop Spock physically, but is easily out classed.
Uhura's voice calls for the Captian to confirm, and Spock inserts a prerecorded disk with the captain's voice on it, giving confirmation. The Kirk tape then passes command of the ship nominally to first officer Spock for this mission, who will be joining them shortly.
Later, Kirk and McCoy are back with Pike. McCoy utters a profound statement:
"Blast medicine anyway! We've learned to tie into every organ in the body except one. The brain. And the brain is what life is all about. Now, that man can think anything we can, and love, hope, dream as much as we can. But he can't reach out and no one can reach in!"
He reflects on the true tragedy: that Pike's mind is perfectly healthy, no brain damage. It is functioning fully, but inaccessible to the outside world.
McCoy is interrupted by a starbase operations message, telling him there is a medical emergency aboard Enterprise, and his assistance is necessary. McCoy returns to the ship hurriedly.
Suddenly, an unauthorised transporter signal sweeps the medical facility. Captain Christopher Pike, and his life support chair dematerialise. Almost immediately, Enterprise breaks orbit, leaving Kirk on the Starbase, and heads out at warp speed, on a course directly towards the forbidden Talos star system. The ship ignores any and all attempts by the starbase to hail them.
Both Kirk and Mendez are understandably somewhat perturbed by Kirk's heavy cruiser sauntering off without its commander, but before they give chase, Mendez accesses a locked file on the computer system, concerning one of the Talos planets, Talos 4. Kirk knows of the planet, but only very little. The standard briefing given to all starship commanders is that Talos 4 is quarantined by general order 7. : No vessel under any condition, emergency or otherwise, is to visit the planet. To do so, risks execution - it is the only death penalty left on the books, for any crime. Enterprise is making a beeline for that planet.
Mendez and Kirk board a starfleet long range shuttlecraft; the fastest ship currently at the starbase, and give pursuit.
Soon the shuttlecraft has pulled alongside the heavy cruiser, but in order to do so, the shuttlecraft's engines are redlining, and it is drinking fuel like it is going out of fashion. Kirk becomes more and more angry as Enterprise ignores his attempts to raise them, and pushes the craft further past its design limits to close the gap.
After the fuel runs out, the shuttle continues to coast along Enterprise's course, dropping out of warp, and drifting. Sending out a general distress signal, Kirk muses aloud that he half-hopes Enterprise does not come back for them, as if they do, heaven help the person in command of that cruiser.
Mendez reminds Kirk that if Spock makes it to Talos IV, he will be executed. Mendez wonders why Spock would want to take Pike there. In Pike's report he said Talos IV contained absolutely no practical benefits for mankind.
Back on Enterprise, McCoy is musing aloud on the bridge, on who would be mad enough to chase a heavy cruiser at high warp, with only a long-range shuttle. As he overhears this, Spock enters a second datatape into the computer, momentarily overriding the lock-out override that was contained in the earlier 'starfleet command' transmission. He turns the ship around, and heads back to the shuttlecraft. He then programs a delay, and removes the newly-inserted tape, ensuring the course will resume once the shuttle is aboard. Finally, he calls security, and orders an armed detachment to the bridge.
When security arrives, and the ship closes on the helpless shuttle, Spock orders transporter control to beam Captain Kirk from the shuttle to the bridge. Shocked by this order, the confused bridge officers can only stare, as spock submits himself to security for arrest on the charge of mutiny.
Once Kirk is beamed aboard, the Enterprise computer takes over the ship once more, locking out all overrides, and abandoning the drifting shuttle to resume course for Talos 4. Kirk accesses the computer directly, and under his authorisation, orders it to disengage engines. The computer ignores him.
Kirk confronts Spock, and offers a hearing for Spock's issues. Spock declines and instead demands an immediate, official court martial. Kirk denies his request. When Spock asks why, Kirk explains that mutiny requires a panel of three command grade officers and that there are only two available. Spock interrupts to point out that there indeed, are three officers of command rank available -- Kirk, Commodore Mendez and Captain Pike.
Later, at the opening of the court martial, Mendez, as the ranking officer, presides. He directly asks Spock if he is aware of the death penalty for entering . Spock replies that he is. Mendez then asks why. What does it accomplish for them to go to Talos, and why is it so important that Spock take Captain Pike there?
Spock then asks for the viewscreen in the briefing room be activated. When Mendez asks why, Spock says that by doing so, he can comply with Mendez's request that he explain why they must go to Talos IV.
The viewscreen is activated.
On the screen, the panel views the events of the voyage of the Enterprise to Talos IV under the command of Pike, 13 years ago,
The USS Enterprise, under Captain Christopher Pike, encounters a strange distress call using old-fashioned radio waves emanating from The Talos system. From the age of the signal, it has been transmitting for 18 years.
The crew identifies the age and source of the signal, but Captain Pike declines to investigate without any indication of survivors. Shortly afterwards, Spock reports receiving a follow-up message from survivors on Talos IV.
Mendez and Kirk both wonder at the source of this signal: Starship records of the time were nowhere near this detailed. Its almost like watching a fime of the events. (In actuality, the footage from original pilot, 'The Cage' is used. The original pilot had not been aired at this time.) Both officers thus ponder the source of this detailed presentation. Kirk orders playback halted, in order toask Pike if these events are the actual occurances. Pike confirms this.
Mendez asks Pike if any record tapes like this were made during their voyage, to which Pike confirms is not the case. Mendez tells Spock the court doess not have to view evidence without a known source, to which Spock replies that Mendez had demanded to know "why". Mendez reluctantly agrees and the film continues.
On screen, the Enterprise heads to Talos 4.
Upon arrival, and subsequent beam-down, a makeshift campsite is discovered, run by a dishevelled group of scientists who were on the survey ship SS Columbia - a missing starship that apparently crashed on this planet.
Mendez stops playback again to address Spock. He tells Spock that he's impressed with the manner in which all this was manufactured, but this is a court of law, not a theatre. Spock asks Pike to tell the court that what they are watching is not fiction, nor a clever photographic record. Spock directly asks Pike if they are witnessing the actual events of thirteen years previous. Pike states yes, proving that this is so.
Spock then offers to release the ship to manual control if, after watching the complete transmission, the court still wishes to turn the ship back. Mendez is incredulous, telling Spock he's in no position to bargain.
Mendez is shocked, and votes to end this evidence stream immediately. Kirk, fascinated, votes to continue. Mendez goes to overrule him, and Kirk points out Pike also has a vote. Mendez turns to Pike to ask him if he wants to continue.
Pike votes yes.
13 Years before, Pike notices a shyly advancing beautiful young woman among the crowd. The only young person in the group. One of the scientists tells Pike that she was born during the crash, and is called Vina.
Vina examines Pike and smiles, telling him he is "a prime specimen".
The scene switches to a group of strange beings with greatly enlarged craniums, watching everything unfold on a monitor control.
Vina leads Pike away from the group, towards a cavern. As soon as he enters, Vina vanishes, as do the other survivors, and the makeshift camp. Two of the same creatures from earlier, grab Pike, and a previously unseen door slams shut over the cavern entrance.
Uhura interrupts the trial with a message from Starfleet Command to Commodore Mendez. Uhura reads back the transmission. Starfleet's subspace monitors show Enterprise has been receiving transmissions from Talos 4, in violation of Starfleet general orders.
Kirk realises abruptly, where this detailed audio-visual record is coming from. With Spock's confirmation of the origin of the signal, Starfleet command acts. Kirk is commander of the Enterprise, so Kirk is relieved of command, effective immediately.
Mendez looks right at Spock and tells him he knows of the orders regarding any contact with Talos IV and by taking these actions he has deliberately invited the death penalty. He then tells Spock that he's not only finished himself off, but he's finished Kirk's career as well. Spock gets up and tells Mendez that he surely knows that Captain Kirk knew nothing about what was happening and Mendez reminds Spock that a captain is responsible for everything that happens aboard his ship.
Mendez then directly orders Spock to release the ship to manual control, an order which Spock declines. Mendez tells Spock he's earned whatever consequences fall, and declares a recess.
<-- End of Part 1 -->
The Menagerie takes on the topics of virtual reality from The Cage, and builds upon them, by relegating Pike to a quadriplegic state. There are several key topics that flow through this convoluted episode.
One of the4m is how a disabled person is subconsciously ignored by those about them who lack a disability, or considered less able. This will ring true for every disabled person on the planet, 40 years after the episode first aired.
The second point, is rather more philosophical, but no less accurate.
A virtual reality existence as life, is normally utterly intolerable for a person who has full command of their body, and is in great shape. On the other hand, take away that great body, and give the person a broken shell, or a disabled form. They are still just as much a person, but interacting with the physical world becomes an increasing nightmare. Everything is difficult. Now, bring in the same virtual reality system, the same ability to take your body and replace it with one that can be anything you wish it to be.
Suddenly, the VR existence, so scorned before, becomes of great appeal. It becomes a lifeline, a chance for a better, more fulfilling life.
It becomes hope.
Star Trek: The Original Series
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS, built up one by one in chronological order, regardless of the strength of their connection to VR & AR. Set included for the sake of completeness.
Star Trek: The Original Series, & VR
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS which reference virtual reality, alternate lives, AI, ir augmented reality. They are built up one by one in chronological order.