Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Star Trek-The Cage

                        En route back from the planet Rigel 7 the Starship Enterprise,under the command of Captain Christopher Pike,receives a distorted distress beacon from a survey ship called the Columbia,which had disappeared near the Talos star system eighteen years earlier according to science officer Mr. Spock's research. Captain Pike,himself deeply affected by the loss of seven crew members (including his yeoman) on Rigel returns to his quarters and takes council from ships physician Doctor Boyce. Upon arriving at Talos IV,sensors indicate their are survivors. When Captain Pike beam down,he and the away team encounter survivors-one of whom is a young orphan named Vina,who convinces the Captain to remain to see the secret of their survival. In truth,there are no survivors,Pike is abducted by a pair of aliens and despite Spock and Mr. Taylor's attempts to phaser him out,the have to return to the Enterprise to attempt to rescue Captain Pike.

                     On Talos,Pike awakens to find himself in an underground menagerie surrounded by many unrecognizable alien specimens. While attempting vainly to escape he soon encounters the aliens who abducted him,who communicate with him telepathically in regard to the fact they created the illusion of survivors to lure him to the planet to begin an experiment. While the Enterprise crew reach the same conclusion,and even try equally in vain to blast through the area where Captain Pike was abducted by transferring ship's power,Pike himself is subjected to one illusion after the other. Using his attraction towards Vina as a lure the Talosians allow him to recreate the encounter on Rigel,a domestic scene in his home town,and a titillating encounter with Vina as a green Orion slave. While punished for her revelation by the Talosians,Vina reveals at Pike's insistence that the Talosians were nearly destroyed by war millennia ago,and concentrated on developing powers and how they were trying to re-populate their world with other species who could breed and thrive.

                  Onboard the Enterprise,the systems begin to fail as the Talosians run through the ships computer records at lightning speed. On the surface the Talosians also abduct Pike's female first officer and yeoman from the transporter while going to mount a rescue. This done on the assumption of Pike's rejection of Vina as a mate. During this,Pike blasts a hole through the wall while he and the trio of women exit to the surface. When offered a life on the surface with the "female" of his choice,they Enterprise away team elect to destroy themselves save of being enslaved. The records taken from the Enterprise then reveal to the Talosians that human beings are not well suited to captivity and are free to return. When Pike offers Vina a chance to return to the Enterprise with him,it's revealed that her appearance is an illusion-that she is an adult survivor of the Columbia,the sole survivor and was badly deformed in the crash,since the Talosians didn't understand human biology when treating her. Upon Captain Pike and the away team leaving Talos IV to continue his mission,Vina is given an illusion of the captain for her companionship.

                  When Gene Roddenberry presented this story to NBC in early 1965 he pitched it as a "wagon train to the stars". Considering the popular of machismo celebrating Westerns at that time,it was not surprising the network rejected this pilot. Also there are some elements to the story that,while typically thought provoking as Star Trek is,were rather controversial for the era. The plot itself is extremely psycho sexual. For one Vina,played compellingly by Susan Oliver,has an interaction with Jeff Hunter's Captain Pike that plays up not only his dreams,but perhaps his physical fantasies to the degree of near fetishism on occasion. Pike's openly hostile reaction to the emotionally distant but mentally powerful Talosians reflects the characters own conflicts in the story,but also make him seem callous and even mildly cold hearted at times. The sexuality of Majel Barrett's nameless female first officer Number One,an implicitly independent female character was another sore spot with test audiences as well.

               This was also combined with the fact that each of the female characters are played very much to certain sexual archetypes. Number one is portrayed almost as a bibliophile,Pike's female Yeoman as something of an immature "fan girl" of the Captain and Vina as a tortured,and somewhat possessive woman suffering from a good deal of survivors guilt. This led to NBC pronouncing the story as "too cerebral",with it's emphasis on the psychoanalysis on human imagination and psycho sexuality. These were concepts rather frightening to the mid 60's. However this story superbly introduces the very qualities that made Star Trek such an enduring and successful phenomenon. It's intelligently written,superbly acted and the plot is filled with elements that excite the eye and the mind as well. Not only that but it anticipates both the sexual revolution and woman's liberation by several years. Following this pilot Roddenberry would completely recast the series and,for the first time in network history commission a second pilot for Star Trek. Still this is one of the highlights,at least for me, of the original Star Trek series,even if it wasn't aired for decades after it's creation.

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