TREK-A-DAY: The Menagerie, Part II
EPISODE TWELVE: The Menagerie, Part II
What an oddly prophetic episode. As the trial of Spock continues and the flashbacks to Talos IV continue, the central question becomes about the nature of illusion versus reality. The Talosians desire to create a perfect world for their specimens born of their specific dreams and desires. Think the concept of the original Matrix (the one humans rejected): they plumb the depths of your psyche for scenarios you might enjoy and create them for you. In Pike’s case, this is creating a battle situation (with sword and shield. EPIC!), torment him with images dug from his psyche; yet another Orwellian scenario straight out of 1984, then a trip home to earth, and then finally to an exotic harem with (you guessed it) a green dancing lady! This is easily one of the most visually recognizable characters from Star Trek, the sultry, green, dancing Orion slave girl, in this case played by Pike’s fellow captive, Vina.
Star Trek‘s Slave Leia equivalent.
The Talosians need humans to repopulate Talos IV, as they have become addicted to their illusions and can no longer function as a civilization. Their weird captivity thing is a test ground to save their race; they suddenly become a lot more sympathetic. Pike was chosen as a mate for Vina, as they had read her mind and determined him to be the perfect pairing. She loves him, he is falling for her; but still seeks to escape. He does, of course, but discovers that Vina was horribly mangled in the crash long ago and was rebuilt by Talosians who had no conception of the human form. They’ve given her an illusion of beauty and thus she chooses to stay behind. It is for this reason that Spock has been bringing the newly disabled Pike back to Talos IV, so he can live out his life with Vina as illusions. There’s also a “The Commander in the tribunal was an illusion” McGuffan and Kirk and Star Fleet recognize Spock’s intentions were pure and respect Pike’s wishes to return to the planet.
The episode ends on the prophetic sentiment I mentioned before, as the Talosians tell Kirk, “Pike has his illusion, you have your reality. May you find as much happiness on your way.” (Particularly interesting when considered with Kirk in Generations, living a perfect life in an illusionary world. The more original Trek I see, the more Generations seems to be a fitting end to The Original Series.)
The underlying argument of the episode is between illusion and reality and how illusion is often better. There is a warning about becoming so consumed by dreams that one ceases to operate in the real world (as was the case with the Talosians) but at the same time the show does not condemn living for dreams. The reason I suggest this is prophetic is that for a lot of people, Star Trek IS that illusion; as are many sci-fi and fantasy realms. Sometimes they are more attractive than reality and easier to live in; this is true of games like World of Warcraft, or of fan communities in general. We nerds often like to shake off our reality and join Pike in his illusionary world, where we can look like anything, do anything, BE anything. Roddenberry didn’t know it, but he was essentially defining Star Trek‘s legacy.
There’s a reason this episode won a Hugo Award.