Truth OR Myth? - Implications of The Cage

Truth OR Myth? – Implications of “The Cage”

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Hello and welcome to Truth OR Myth,  a Star Trek web series that looks at the Truth, or canon, information to dispel any myths that have surfaced on any given topic.  In today’s episode, we’re taking a look at Star Trek’s pilot episode The Cage, and some of the more questionable aspects of that show and how it could affect the New Series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds…  I hope you enjoy it…

With no New Star Trek, for a while at least, coming to our screens, fans and YouTubers alike are beginning the waiting game, filling in this void with whatever Star Trek topics that they can dream up, and well, I’m no different, and with the Captain Pike Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds being one of the most anticipated Trek Shows of our time, I thought it might be fun to look back at the Episode that started it all, the original pilot, “The Cage”, and all the ramifications that pilot has for a new series, and trust me there are some major ones…

As most Star Trek fans know, “The Cage” was Gene Roddenberry’s first attempt to get Star Trek on the air.  A well thought out story, “The Cage” would see Captain Pike and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a space ship, trying to escape the influence of the Talosians, Big-headed Alien Beings who can use the power of illusion to influence our intrepid heroes.

USS Enterprise
(CBS) The U.S.S. Enterprise From – “The Cage”

Desilu Studios, later bought by Gulf and Western and incorporated into their Paramount Studios, would justify the rather large budget spent on this episode with the reasoning that if they couldn’t sell Star Trek to the Networks, they could make it into a 2-hour movie of the weak, and recoup their money spent that way, of course though, Star Trek would eventually be bought, after NBC saw the merit in the production, and commissioned a 2nd pilot, deciding the intelligence needed to watch “The Cage” was simply too high for Televisions average audience and demanding Roddenberry make a dumbed-down pilot with lots of fistfights and flashing lights.

And that should have been the end of the cage, as it held almost an entirely different crew and the starship itself looked quite different. But as Star Trek has always proven, what’s expected is never what will actually be.  During the production of Season 1, Desilu, Roddenberry and the production team came upon some problems.  First, they had to keep filming, in order to make release date commitments but were quickly running out of finished scripts to film.

Also, a great deal of money was being spent to make every episode of the show, something which couldn’t be allowed to continue.  So the decision was made to grab the first pilot, create a story around it, and chop it into a 2 part episode.  And overall it worked out really well.

Fandom has always raised the 2 part episode, titled “The Menagerie“, as a Star Trek triumph, but Roddenberry, in doing this to his first pilot, would create a historical canon that is still felt today. Suddenly, the Enterprise had a long history, much longer then fandom had realized, always assuming the Enterprise herself was a new state of the art starship, but it simply wasn’t.

That’s not to say she wasn’t advanced or powerful, but rather, that the ship itself had its own baggage it carried, and fandom always wanted to know more about her unknown history. Many non-canon sources, such as novels, tech manuals, even comic books would tackle this question, but of course, all fandom knows that in the end, those sources are meaningless, hence the term, non-canon.

The Cage
(CBS) Vina, Pike & No 1 – “The Cage”

So when Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, had an entire storyline, that fleshed out the Pike Era Enterprise and some of its history in such a brilliant way, well fans of Star Trek begged, pleaded and petitioned for a Star Trek Pike show, and our wishes have been granted, according to the show runners, Strange New Worlds will follow Pike, Number One and a young Spock during their missions of exploration.  Not only that, But Strange New Worlds will head back to a more episodic nature of story telling, in essence bringing Star Trek itself back home.

Credit has to be given where credit is due though, Ansom Mounts portrayal of Captain Pike in Discovery’s Season 2, along with Rebecca Romijn’s Number One and Ethan Peck’s Spock are truly responsible for the fandom’s hunger for this new series. Their portrayal of these characters, not only was very true to the original, but they seemingly were able to give an updated, breath of fresh air to them, which is an almost impossible task when playing characters with over 50 years of fandom’s history behind them.

They truly wove themselves in to the fabric of Star Trek, both seamlessly and respectfully.

Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, would also see a continuation of sorts to the story line of “The Cage”.

First, we would return to visit the Talosian Home World and become re-acquainted with the lovable big-headed aliens.  Vena would also return, and the love story between her and Pike would be expanded and solidified, adding credence to Pikes decisions to want to remain on Talos 4 with her, come to the end of “The Menagerie”. They also did something very unexpected with Pike in that season, that being with the time crystals showing him the accident that would eventually put the heroic Captain in a chair for life, with only a blinking light to communicate to others with.

(CBS) Talosians – “If Memory Serves”

This added such depth to the Pike going forward, with huge ramifications for him he knows his future, to a point, and yet, in the greatest tradition of Trek Hero Captains, chooses to continue on with his missions “The Cage” itself, however, has a few major problems, some that can be easily fixed, but they are there none the less.

The biggest issue for me, from the moment I saw “The Cage” was in regards to the Starfleet/ Talos 4 problem, “In The Menagerie”, we quickly learn that to even contact Talos 4 hold the penalty of death. So lets put this in to context to better understand the problem with this.  First, “The Menagerie” establishes that this is the last remaining death penalty violation on the books for Starfleet.

Furthermore, it means that a leader like Kodus the Executioner, who murdered 4000 Colonists if captured, would only serve, most likely life, in a Federation prison.  federation prisons being more like resorts rather then actual prisons, as many episodes of Star Trek has told us.

Yet, if I send a subspace message to Talos 4, I could be killed by Starfleet for that.  Does this seem right?

Now, I’ve heard many a fan defend the death penalty rules for Talos as being the only sure-fire way to protect the Federation from its entirety being destroyed.  But of course, this argument doesn’t really make sense at all, see the Talosians say, and I’m paraphrasing here, that our species would learn our powers of Illusion, and destroy ourselves as well and that seems rather logical to want to protect ourselves from the great power, but again, there’s a flaw in that logic.

Vina & Burnham
(CBS) Vina & Burnham – “If Memory Serves”

Vina, who herself has been on Talos 4 for 18 years when the episode begins, has yet to learn those powers of illusion, so just how long would it take for a human on the planet to learn this trait? Even being generous and saying at least 2 decades, kinda throws out the argument that sending a subspace message to Talos warrants death doesn’t it?

After all, you cant simply learn their voodoo in 5-10 minutes over comms.  In fact, there’s no real evidence that you could learn it over communications to begin with, also, the Talosians themselves are an obstacles.  They clearly have no intention of teaching anyone these powers, again their own statements are clear about that, so how exactly would being on the surface of Talos 4 teach someone the power of illusion?

Couldn’t anyone, anywhere, attempt to learn it?

After all, “The Cage” seems to suggest it was an evolutionary development of the Talosians, not an environmental one, so whats the big deal with the Planet then? Any way you look at it, it simply doesn’t make sense. Now out of Universe of course, it does, as it provides drama for the episode.  And “The Menagerie” is a well constructed 2 parter over all, that allows us as fans to over look that problem while watching it, suspending our disbelief in favor of a good story, but when you sit back, after you’ve watched the episode, and consider that issue, the problems with it become crystal clear.

Spock himself is a clear problem in “The Cage”, as the character had not yet become the unemotional character we all came to love.  at times, Spock is excited, or overdramatic in a very non-Vulcan way and so, if Strange New Worlds is to tell the story of Pike’s Enterprise, then we as the audience MUST see the change from the Cage Spock, to the Spock we know and love on Kirk’s Enterprise.

A Young Lt Spock & No 1
(CBS) A Young Lt Spock & No 1 – “Strange New Worlds”

This story thread has huge potential of course, if done in the right way.  it has to be an over time development, a series of events leading Spock to suppress more and more of his emotions in favor of the Vulcan way.  It can not simply be one event and he’s suddenly changed, because, well lets be honest, that’s not how life works.

Sure, as we live and go forward in life, we all change, and grow.  And certain events DO have an effect on our own personalities.  But it all takes time.

As we reflect on whatever series of events that lead us in life, our personalities changes and settle, til we become the person we are today.

So the idea of one week a tragedy happens, and suddenly we get TOS Spock, just wouldn’t work.  It would take away from the character and from the show as a whole.  After all we’re there for the journey, not the outcome.

The U.S.S. Enterprise is another problem.  Not the new look of the exterior or interior of the ship, but rather her crew, take a good Look at “The Cage” and the crew and tell me what you notice?  It should be very obvious that at this point, diversity meant very little to Roddenberry, but diversity is a huge part of Star Trek, and New trek has truly embraced this fundamental philosophy of the show.

But that means, although Pike, Number One and Spock are fairly accurate to their canon characters, the rest can not be, and this fact alone will irritate those gate keepers of the Original Series to no end.

(CBS) The U.S.S. Enterprise – “Strange New Worlds”

They will believe and fight that Strange New Worlds is not being true to canon and Roddenberry’s ideal, even though that argument is of course ridiculous as New Trek has to take that particular Roddenberry ideal and expanded it finally to what it should truly have been unfortunately they will see this as an attack on Trek, they will lie and make up stories to support their arguments and then try and ram those lies down anyone’s throat that will listen to them, and it’s already begun.

Just after announcing Strange New Worlds, you had the haters making video after video about how Kirk was going to be on the Enterprise as a cadet, and how they were making him bisexual for the SJW’s. That’s right, before production or scriptwriting had even begun, these haters were spreading untrue story elements to get people to click their videos and support their hater propaganda.

This is truly a shameful act on anyone’s part, let alone that of a Trek fan.  Never the less, it happened, and some people actually believed it, going so far as to try and get William Shatner himself to demand changing Kirk back to a heterosexual male. I could only roll my eyes at the ridiculousness and pity those haters for sadly not learning any of the basic fundamentals of the show they claim to cherish so much.

I for one look forward to IDIC and anytime it’s shown in all it’s colorful glory because that’s Star Trek

The argument that Trek is shoving diversity down anyone’s throat is equally as ridiculous, as the Original Series ALWAYS shoved sexuality down a person’s throat.  Look at Kirk for example, how many times did he make out with an Alien woman? But what?  Now that it’s 2 men or 2 women it’s a problem?  It is a silly argument that the more you think about it, the sillier it becomes.

(CBS) Anson Mount As Captain Pike

Strange New Worlds has the potential to be the shining glory of this, the 2nd golden age of Star Trek.  Heading back to episodic style, along with updating the look and feel of the show could set Star Trek up once again as a trailblazing series, allowing Star Trek to Continue for the foreseeable future.

And good “Tri-Naries,” I have faith in the showrunners abilities to accomplish this goal.  I don’t always agree with the decisions creatively that they make, but overall I see what they’re doing and I get what they’re doing.

They’re creating a new Star Trek for THIS age of Television, as anyone that takes the time to look at the rating for says The Orville over it’s run thus far can see, Old Star Trek simply doesn’t work anymore.

That may be hard to accept and to hear, but change has always been a part of the show, each series adjusting itself to the demand of the era it’s created in, and New Star Trek is no different and for Star Trek to survive it needed to change, and since personally, I’ve been so invested in Treks Fundamentals, I was ok with that.  And a lot of you fans out there are also ok with that, having made the same realizations I have.

Often times Ill have great chats with you all about what we love and dislike about New Trek, in a respectful adult way that makes me proud to be a part of this community.

For we as fans can not demand that new Star Trek uphold the principles set forth by the franchise while at the same time ignoring the ones we don’t like or not following them ourselves, that would just makes us fools and hypocrites, and that truly would make the Great Bird of the Galaxy spin in his grave.

So let us all celebrate while we wait for Strange New Worlds and other New Trek Series to start up again and embrace the true essence of Star Trek, Infinite diversity, in Infinite Combinations…

Thank you for watching today’s episode of Truth or Myth, are you excited for Strange New Worlds?  What do you hope to see in this new series?  Well leave your comments in the section below and don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to the channel.

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Thanks again for watching, Live long and prosper…

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