“The Cage,” what an interesting animal. It encapsules so much of the good and bad of Star Trek traditionally so well. First, the premise though. Captain Pike is made prisoner by aliens who control illusion in order to create a slave race with the captain of the last ship that had crashed on their world. It is from here that I’ll explore what happens in the pros and cons.
The Pros – The sense of adventure and sense of wonder. The set is dated but the actors and special effects make it a real world. There are consequences on the world and it is an adventure for Pike and his crew members when they first beam down and later as the mystery of the Talosians (the large headed aliens right out of 60’s sci. fi.). The mystery unfolds within the realm of the rules it lays down in the episode.
Egalitarianism and Equality – Humans are free and against slavery (though their is a con later in relation to how hypocritical said humans are). They also made a point of having both men and women leading even if Captain Pike was uncomfortable with women being on the bridge (this changes by the end since they save him from the Talosians).
Okay – The crew. No one really stands out. Pike and Spock are okay at driving the plot forward but they aren’t able to carry it. Pike’s character’s bitterness doesn’t feel real considering how he looks. He’s a middle aged guy but not old. His bitterness and tiredness at being captain rings false and the Doctor’s offering to comfort him with alcohol comes off as fake.
The Cons – Sexism and hypocrisy – Though the women have a fair amount of agency they are always their as a choice for Pike, especially when the aliens have chosen him for the express purpose to choose a mate. All the women want him even as he talks down to them or imagines an Orion slave girl (The famous green skinned dancing alien) who had actually expressed interest in before. The Federation may not enslave humans but other aliens are fair games if others are the ones doing the selling. They justify this by having Pike’s friend say in the memory, “They like being taken advantage of.” If that isn’t the worst kind of sexism than I don’t know what is. It is in the first introduction of Star Trek and you can find it in different variations throughout the series, it is the biggest problem the series has besides it’s ignorance of LBGTQ folks in relation to the future and certain episodes and they way they deal with race…again with the hypocrisy expressed by the writers in this egalitarian future.
The Episode is still one I’d recommend though know about the sexism going in and the fact that it is slow at times. As egalitarian as Gene Roddenberry’s vision was, he was still a pretty sexist guy and it came out in his work a lot in The Original Series and later in The Next Generation.
Would rate this episode as 6.5 / 10.