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Star Trek TOS - Season 1 - Episode 12

Star Trek TOS - 1x12 - The Menagerie, Part II

Originally Aired: 1966-11-24

Synopsis:
Spock hijacks the Enterprise to return an injured Captain Pike to Talos IV. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 3

Fan Rating Average - 4.61

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 69 11 8 7 30 19 23 24 27 18 26

Filler Quotient: 2, filler, but an enjoyable episode nevertheless. You can skip this one, but you'd miss out on some fun.
- Neither the first, nor the second part of The Menagerie is essential viewing if you're trying to plow through only Star Trek's essential exposition and stand-out classics, but it's definitely among the better episodes. If you do decide to watch The Menagerie, I recommend skipping The Cage unless you're willing to put up with the clip show to get the additional texture.

Problems
- This episode unfortunately inherits many continuity errors due to reusing material from The Cage. See my review of The Cage for a complete list of them.

Factoids
- This episode (both parts) won the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Remarkable Scenes
- The revelation that the commodore was an illusion.
- The Talosians welcoming Pike back to their world.

My Review
The pacing of part two crashes hard. Even if you opted out of seeing The Cage prior to watching The Menagerie, the plot still seems to spend a conspicuous amount of time making excuses to put as much of Pike's flashback experiences with the Talosians on screen as possible. At one point Spock is even asked why he doesn't just explain to the court what he's trying to demonstrate and his absurd response was that they wouldn't believe him if he simply explained it, so he has to show it instead. The court then proceeds to make a unanimous vote finding Spock guilty, a redundant action seeing as how he already entered a plea of guilty in part one, at which point despite having both admitted his guilt and having been found guilty by the panel of judges, Spock astonishingly continues to be allowed to present testimony.

All of this nonsense gets justified at the end by the rather meager excuse that Spock and the Talosians were working together to create delays, including the illusion of the commodore's presence aboard the ship, so that Kirk would not attempt to regain control of the ship in time for it to arrive at Talos IV. Using the Talosians' power of illusions to misdirect Kirk was a reasonably good idea for a plot point, but hinging the entire second part of the episode on misdirecting the audience as much as Kirk (annoying the audience in the process) all so the episode could get away with having as little plot as possible was pretty weak.

What's worse is we learn that the whole reason why Talos IV is a forbidden world is because the government bought into the Talosians' absurd fear that establishing some kind of normal trade relations would result in their power of illusions spreading, destroying others as they've destroyed themselves. This fear is a shoddy justification for barring any travel to or communication with Talos IV and an even worse justification for enforcing such a nonsensical law by enacting the death penalty. I was hoping for some new exposition that might at least attempt to give some rational reason for the existence of such a draconian law, but the episode didn't even really bother. What points I grant this episode are mostly riding on the well executed dramatic premise and potential of part one, which part two satisfactorily concluded, but largely failed to do justice to.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From jaylong on 2007-10-09 at 12:12am:
    not really a review. but for people who stumble upon this, how do you guys feel about these two episodes being chosen to be remastered and released into the theatre?

    i really think they could have chosen a better two episodes, but i'm down.

    here's the info if you've been under a rock;

    http://www.fathomevents.com//details.aspx?eventid=685

    "An in-theatre exclusive greeting from creator Gene Roddenberry’s son, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry is included, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how the episodes were digitally re-mastered from the original negatives – including the reinvention of the old TV show special effects using new CGI animation, and the orchestral re-recording of the show’s theme music."

    Nice, new CG? I hope Jar Jar isn't in it...
  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2007-10-12 at 10:55am:
    Yeah, I can't wait to see this episode in the theatre. I kind of wish they would show a couple of other epidoes instead, but this episode is still classic.
  • From rhea on 2008-04-27 at 1:37pm:
    Not a full review, just two additions to yours, which I agree with, especially when it comes to the blatant absurdities. Overall, I still enjoyed the episode very much for the thorough character portraits it gave us.
    - an additonal problem: I do not understand how Spock could get off the hook this easily. This is a military organisation, and insubordination is a major crime, whatever the reason. Now, if a commanding officer is unable to perform his duty, then mutiny should of course be accepted, but compassion is usually not a reason for the military to spare someone a court martial and/or punish them. Not credible, now way.
    - an additional highlight: Kirk. This is one of the very very few times we see Kirk in full military commander mode: calm, cool, deadly, convicting a friend to death because this is what his duty demands of him. Usually, he is all buddy with his crew and very angry/emotional or con-manish with his enemies, but hardly ever the hardass officer who can send a man to his death if he has to. Now we know why he got command of a vessel with 400+ crewmembers. It's powerful, and very well acted out by Shatner.
  • From CAlexander on 2011-04-15 at 2:04pm:
    I love the Cage, but to the extent that the Menagerie is considered separately from the Cage, I am not fond of it. I find it to be a rather forced framing device to re-show the Cage. Everything about the trial is artificial. In particular, the concept that Spock risks the only remaining death penalty on the books is just ridiculous, a totally unnecessary attempt to pump up the drama. Really, Spock risking his career would be quite bad enough.
  • From menagerie on 2011-08-21 at 3:25pm:
    I agree that the second part largely lacked plot or original exposition, and at times made me feel as if I was re-watching "The Cage." But I disagree that any of it is very absurd or particularly annoying.

    I don't think it's fair to criticize the episode for "misdirecting" the audience. Something like 25 - 50% of all of Star Trek seems to be "misdirection" - arguably, that's the best part. In any case, it's almost universally used towards good dramatic effect, and this episode really isn't any different.

    First of, the trial and it's semi-absurdity is explained quite well by the context and the Talosian involvement, including of course the fabricated commodore. And Kirk was going along with it and glossing over its absurdity because he was captivated by the story and wanted to know the truth.

    There's some question about whether it was necessary in the first place, but to give the show credit, Kirk asks that question outright! And it does make a certain amount of sense. Would Kirk otherwise disobey Starfleet orders, risk court martial (and even execution), to assist Spock in helping Pike? Someone he deeply respects, for sure, but has almost no personal history with? To clinch the whole matter, we have to remember that Pike was initially opposed to the whole thing! The trial and the recap was as much to convince Pike as to convince Kirk as to convince us, the audience. In my eyes, it makes sense, and is done well (although I do agree that the sheer amount of reused footage starts to feel a bit contrived and was perhaps a bit much).

    So we are left with the final criticism. Why the travel and communication ban? Why enforce it with the death penalty? I think it makes sense if you consider it. There's more than just the face-value reasons, the threat of Humanity developing "the power of illusion" and meeting the same fate as the Talosians.

    Consider also the sheer power represented by the Talosians. A handful of these folks (perhaps even one) took complete control of a Starfleet flagship, and outmaneuvered its entire crew, its first officer, and its captain. Even at the very end, after Pike escaped from his menagerie, he had no way to get back onto the ship. They were completely at the mercy of the Talosians - the only card they had to play was committing suicide.

    It's safe to guess that this is the most powerful species Starfleet has ever encountered. Sure they proved "too intelligent to kill for no reason," and quite reasonable and benevolent even, but wouldn't it be prudent to stay clear of something so completely out of your league? Especially when they have a history of treating humans as we treat "lower" animals? And even if they were benevolent, what if some renegade captain, or crazed scientist, or even a random stowaway or something learned how to replicate their powers? The threat would potentially be worse than a WMD going on the black market.

    Compound all that with the one explicitly suggested reason, the hypothetical danger of "the Keeper's" prophecy - that we would all become as helpless and on the verge of extinction as they - and the draconian ban begins to make some sense.

    Facing something of nearly limitless power, something they could not even begin to understand or control, in the hands of mysterious beings on a mysterious planet, fleet command decided to, for the time being, just strike the whole matter from the record, classify the whole thing - so no one gets either too freaked out or too curious - delete Talos from the map, and forbid all contact. It shows prudence, and it makes some sense.

    So, in conclusion, I think this two-parter is fantastic - I concur with the reviewers compliments, and even disagree with some of his critiques.
  • From Wiley Hyena on 2012-05-12 at 12:38pm:
    This is one of the site's most inaccurate review ratings. Menagerie II is one of the best, if not the best, episodes in all of Star Trek. The reunion of Pike and the girl, beginning with Pike's wish to go, is great drama.
  • From Schreck on 2013-05-23 at 6:17pm:
    I did not like the second part nearly as much as the first…it could have something to do with the constant rehashing of The Cage…I give it a 6.25 and my brother a 7…Our average ratings for the two parts are a 6.63 for myself and a 6.75 for my brother

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