It’s time for….Star Trek Saturdays #18!
This week’s episode is “The Menagerie, Part II” and while not as exciting as last issue, it still offers a thrilling conclusion with plenty of action.
We begin where last episode left off, with Spock revealing that the footage his court martial has been seeing of Pike’s time on the forbidden planet Talos IV has been coming directly from the planet itself. Mendez (Malachi Throne) orders a stop to it, but Spock insists that they must see the footage and eventually, he relents after Spock tells him that the Talosian Keeper has hijacked the ship and is controlling the transmissions.
In the footage, Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), captured by the Talosians last episode, finds himself inside of basically an exhibit with a plastic barrier keeping him trapped. The Talosians, using their highly advanced mental powers–there’s a reason for their giant heads–make him relive a battle on Rigel VII from two weeks ago, where the blonde woman known as Vina (Susan Oliver), who appeared last time as part of a camp of survivors that were another illusion, but is actually a crash survivor from another Earth ship, appears as a princess.
Pike deduces, however, that he is still in the cell, which Spock calls a “brilliant deduction.” After a brief pause due to the current Pike (Sean Reilly) being fatigued, the footage resumes, and the assembled see the Talosians put Pike in various scenarios with Vina in various seductive poses trying to induce him to mate with her. This takes several forms, most notably an Orion slave girl.
That’s right; 16 episodes in and BAM: green alien woman. Seeing as how this is one of the most iconic things in SF television history, it’s a thrill to see it here.
Why did they do that? Well, as Mendez comments, the Orion slave girls are said to be completely irresistible. But why do the Talosians want the humans to breed? And why on Earth did Spock bring Pike and the Enterprise back to the planet now?
While one could argue that this and its predecessor are basically clip shows in fancy dress, what Gene Roddenberry’s scripts give us here is a story of tyranny and resistance (why yes, I have seen the new Les Miserables film recently; why do you ask?). That’s helped by, as last time, a winning performance by Hunter as the younger Pike, Oliver as the beaten and desperate Vina, and by Majel Barrett and Laurel Goodwin as Pike’s “Number One” and Yeoman Cult, who also play a part here, as loyal crew members. There’s actually a really funny moment here where the Keeper calls Number One emotionless like a computer; it’s funny because in this, TNG and all other Trek shows and half the movies, Barrett was the voice of the Enterprise computer!
Meg Wylie as the Keeper, the leader of the Talosians–voiced also by Malachi Throne–is also effective, giving characterization and depth to what could easily have been a hammy villain part, particularly given the costuming (I understand why Thomas Evans called the Talosians “rump heads”!)
According to Memory Alpha, this is the only two-parter in the entire run of the original Trek, which leaves me disappointed, as many of my favorite TNG episodes are two-parters like “Best of Both Worlds” or “Sins of the Father.” However, I do get it; the show never did well enough ratings wise to justify anything beyond episodic adventures, but it’s a shame all the same. These episodes together won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1967 and it’s easy to see why. Check it out.
OK, that’s it for this week. Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.