Star Trek TOS: The Managerie Pt. 2:
“Because when dreams become more important than reality, you give up travel, building, creating. You even forget how to repair the machines left behind by your ancestors. You just sit, living and reliving other lives left behind in the thought record.”
- Vina, explaining why the Talosians need human slaves
Last time, we talked about the Menagerie Pt. 1. Spock is on trial and shows a video of his former captain 13 years ago, which will apparently explain why Chris Pike, former Captain of the Enterprise, needs to return to Talos IV. This is his story. He went to Talos IV originally to rescue a crew, but they turn out to be illusions and Pike is knocked unconscious by a wand. It turns out all the Talosians (and their big old heads!) have the power to create telepathic illusions with their huge brains!
The Talosians brag that they captured him and keep him in a cage, where he gets acquainted with Vina, supposedly one of the crash survivors. The Talosians create illusions from his memories such as a picnic, a battle with a giant medieval ape-like warrior on Rigel VII, and even turn him into a sultan, with Vina being one of the famously seductive green Orion women. Pike logically deduced (as Spock explains in court.) that if none of these memories had Vina in them before then, the Talosians must be tricking him, and playing with his memories.
Meanwhile, Vina begs him to stay and pick some dream with her to live in. He makes her promise that she’ll tell him about the Talosians first. She agrees, and tells him that the Talosians became so involved creating illusions they forgot how to operate the machines of their ancestors. Vina is punished by being telepathically choked, until Pike gets angry and tells them to stop. Later, a Telosian comes by with food in a tube, and Pike refuses to eat. He soon deduces that Telosians can’t read violent emotions after he throws himself at the jailer.
Then, they kidnap two other women from the Enterprise and put them in the cage with Pike, hoping he’ll select a more agreeable mate and give in to their illusions. But, Pike takes their guns and blasts a hole in the cage, which does not appear to be there, but he reasons it’s an illusion. Vina begs him to stay, and the Talosians offer him one more chance. Then, Captain Pike threatens to kill himself and they let him go. Before he leaves, they reveal Vina’s true appearance, a horribly disfigured woman, and the only crash survivor. Her desire to stay was honest, and he leaves her with her illusions.
Now, Kirk sees why Pike must go back to be with Vina and live a full life. Behold! The whole courtroom scene was an illusion created by the Talosians in order to welcome Pike back. Kirk asks Chris Pike if he really wants to go back, and he blinks “yes.” With that, Spock wheels Pike out and he meets with Vina again, now able-bodied (Able-bodied Pike is played by Jeffrey Hunter, of 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.) The Talosians on screen tell Kirk that now Pike has his illusions, and Kirk has his own reality.
I like this episode primarily because it is about using fantasy as a coping mechanism for disability, and yet achieving a balance between fantasy and reality. Although at first Pike treasures truth so much that he escapes the illusions; when he is disabled, he sees the benefit of using fantasy to make good realities, and possibilities, even though Vina warns him of the dangers of living too much in the imagination: if you don’t believe you can do something, even with a helpful myth, you give up trying. Though it was highly illogical, Spock gave his former captain a better life.
(PS: The Menagerie is reportedly Shatner’s favorite episode, as well as one of mine.)
Pike was so influential, he played a key role as Captain of the Enterprise in the alternate (2009) Star Trek universe. After becoming a wheelchair user due to injuries from Nero, he passes Enterprise to Kirk. Pike lives on!