A Look Back on the Star Trek Pilots and the Future of Trek

StarTrek_Capns

I want to end the “Star Trek Pilot Episodes Series/Star Trek Pilot Series,” with a reflection on the episodes and what I see in the future of Star Trek.  Star Trek at it’s best deals with issues of justice and dilemmas in modern day while giving us the hope for the future…the hope that we can be more and better. Each of the series barring much of “Voyager,” and nearly all of “Enterprise,” understood this and that was why they are so popular.

I still remember my first Star Trek convention, I was in Middle School living in Michigan at the time and I got to meet Vaughn Armstrong, who has played multiple characters on Star Trek as well as Roxann Dawson who played B’Elanna Torres on “Voyager,” in Middle School and High School was what motivated me to write sci. fi. My first sci. fi. idea ever was a Star Trek crew run by the outsiders or enemies of the Federation (Cardassian, Borg, Romulan and Ferengi were who I had in mind), and that motivated me to write my own stories post Middle School.

Before I get into the future of Trek I’m going to do one last recap of the Pilots…from best to worst with a summary.

Emissary

1st) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Pilot – “Emissary Parts 1 and 2”

This pilot knew what it wanted to be and lived that fully, keeping the tone and dilemmas true throughout the entire series. It dealt with war, post-war and post-occupation and all the consequences on the species involved. Captain Sisko is my favorite of the Captains and the fact that it was an ensemble cast served the story…we got to see the Cardassian perspectives through Damar, Dukat and Garak, to Bajor with Kira and Kai Winn, to the Ferengi and even an extra named Morn got his own episode. The series showed the consequences of war and abuse of power and provided actual dilemmas. I was never bored watching the series and enjoy following certain arcs (especially the “Dominion War Arc”) to this day. I look forward to reviewing more episodes and that arc.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/star-trek-deep-space-nine-pilot-emissary-part-1-and-2/

9 / 10

star-trek-the-man-trap

2nd) Star Trek: The Original Series Pilot – “The Man Trap”

This pilot captured the wonders and dangers of space travel the best out of all the pilots. Where “Deep Space Nine,” looked big TOS started small. We get introduced to a new species that is the last of it’s kind and are forced to face the dilemma to kill it in “Kill or be Killed,” and we get to see most of the crew being active. TOS at it’s best used all of it’s crew members and captured the wonder and dangers of exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/star-trek-the-original-series-the-man-trap-red-shirts-and-the-thing/

8 / 10

The Cage

3rd) Star Trek Original Pilot: The Cage

The original pilot was really the Pike and Spock story. Most of the other characters don’t even have names and are so replaceable they are basically Proto-Red Shirts. What drives this story and elevates it over it’s problems of sexism (the aliens capture two crew members who are women so Pike can choose a mate in the cage they’ve created). What elevates it is that it deals with an actual alien species (Talosians) who are nearly extinct. We see the dilemma that is faced and Pike and the aliens come to an understanding. This episode captures the essence of “New Life and New Civilizations,” really well.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/star-trek-original-pilot-the-cage-before-there-was-captain-kirk/

6.5 / 10

star-trek-farpoint

4th) Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Encounter At Farpoint Part 1 and 2”

“The Next Generation,” began with a very rocky start. It was trying to be “The Original Series,” when it clearly was not. This brought down the episode as well as the fact that besides Patrick Stewart and John De Lancie, no one else was any good as an actor. It captures the essence of Trek with exploration, it just doesn’t fully achieve it since it wastes the potential of Q and Farpoint Station (and the aliens are ideas, not actual interesting species).

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/star-trek-the-next-generation-pilot-encounter-at-farpoint-part-1-and-2/

6 / 10

Caretaker part 1 and 2

5th) Star Trek: Voyager – “Caretaker Part 1 and 2”

This is the point where there are a lot of interesting ideas but very poor execution. Maquis and Federation are pulled across the galaxy to the Delta Quadrant…but after they just get along. There is no conflict and Janeway is just assumed to be Captain even though the Maquis had a captain too. The species are poorly explored as well with Kazon as weaker versions (both physically and in writing) of Klingons and the Ocampa are poorly realized Space Elves. The whole getting stranded in the Delta Quadrant because of Janeway’s choice is never addressed either. In the end, it was average Star Trek.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/star-trek-voyager-pilot-caretaker-part-1-and-2-lost-in-space/

5 / 10

Broken Bow

6th) Star Trek: Enterprise – “Broken Bow Part 1 and 2”

How do you miss the point of Star Trek? You do what Enterprise did. You write people as needlessly antagonistic, not very smart, objectify them sexually and create enemies who are mysterious for the sake of being mysterious and than do nothing with it…oh, and also forget all about all pre-established Canon in the Star Treks that came before. This was the series that killed Star Trek, and this pilot fully captures the reasons why. If your characters are useless and unlikable, your story goes nowhere and the only things you seem to care about are sex and violence…you’ve missed the entire point of Star Trek and your series deserves to die.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/star-trek-enterprise-pilot-broken-bow-part-1-and-2-missing-the-point-of-star-trek/

1 / 10

With Abrams new “Star Trek” movies I have seen new fans being created of this series. This gives me hope that we’ll be seeing another Star Trek series sometime in my lifetime. There has already been talk of “Star Trek: Captain Worf,” which would be awesome (http://www.blastr.com/2013-8-20/michael-dorn-reveals-his-capt-worf-star-trek-tv-series-not-dead-yet) since he was part of what made “The Next Generation,” and “Deep Space Nine,” so interesting and Netflix has been talking about doing a series too (http://uproxx.com/gammasquad/2014/06/netflix-wants-to-make-a-new-star-trek-series-happen/). I am down for either of these or a different one, since I think the mistakes of “Nemesis,” and “Enterprise,” have been learned from. This universe is rich with stories that can be applied to our own and help us to grow, understand and appreciate one another…for it is in those great stories of Trek that we have the chance to think deeper about ideas and in that Universe being offered as a good possibility, it gives us a future worth striving for and to boldly go where we haven’t gone before.

Advertisements

Star Trek: Enterprise Pilot – Broken Bow Part 1 and 2 – Missing the Point of Star Trek

Broken Bow

We end the “Star Trek Pilot Series,” with the worst of them all, “Star Trek: Enterprise.” When I first heard about “Enterprise,” back in High School I was excited…early human exploration and making contact…the Romulan War, the fallout of the Eugenics War…these stories that the “Original Series,” had suggested left so much potential for this prequel series. This of course was assuming the writers knew what they were doing after the horrible “Voyager” finale and the later “Next Generation Films,” which if I had a lot less optimism would have brought me closer to how disappointed I would be.

Without further ado, I’ll get into the reasons why:

Pros: The premise – Again the premise is exciting, the first military/exploration vessel from Starfleet going out to make contact with new life and new civilizations. We even have a Klingon as the catalyst as he was attacked by a mysterious enemy known as the Suliban. Sadly this doesn’t go anywhere.

The Special Effects – Like the later TNG films “Enterprise,” had a very sleek look and the best Special Effects since “Deep Space 9,” and later “Voyager,” this is one of the few things I have to give it, because the rest is just bad.

Cons: The Human and Vulcan Relationship Dynamic – What the Hell was Brannon Braga thinking? He starts out with Archer calling the Ambassador pointy eared as an insult when he was a child…and we see later nothing has progressed since then. T’Pol the first officer and Vulcan liaison is condescending to every human she comes in contact with (“I was told English would only be spoken on the Bridge,” (to Hoshi the communications officer)) and countless other examples. The humans aren’t much better and Archer is the worst. “You felt emotion therefore you are a hypocrite and wrong,” basically…and Trip the Engineer is the same way (and same way on Ryjal judging every alien he comes in contact with). I expected tension but not hostility between allies, it missed the entire point of First Contact and Roddenberry’s bright future.

The Characters: The characters are either inept and useless or condescending jerks. There aren’t any characters who are in the middle. “Voyager,” was average and way too focused on proving Janeway right, but it at least had SOME interesting character dynamics and characters.

Captain Archer – Who thought it was a good idea to put this guy in charge? He doesn’t think things through, he condescends to those who don’t agree with him and is more prejudice against his Vulcan allies than Kirk ever was towards the Klingons. It’s a shame there is on one on the ship who could replace him…this is a ship of imbeciles. Also he keeps putting Trip in charge of things just because Trip is his friend. No way that isn’t corrupt.

T’Pol – From going on her high horse towards those who eat meat, to saying humans are irrational and unready to travel…Braga missed the point of the Vulcans. It isn’t logical to alienate your allies and that is exactly what she does…and she is supposed to be a diplomatic liaison. I don’t think that’s why she was created though. She was made to sexualize Vulcans (see the picture above). Blalock is a model and Braga and Co. fully embraced that rather than creating a well rounded character.

Trip Tucker – Once again, how did this guy become an engineer? He crashes the shuttle in dry-dock into Enterprise and has no idea what is going on in the entire episode. It’s like he hasn’t even been in space yet is expected to be an engineer of a space ship. He is purposefully ignorant and just doesn’t care (when he’s learning to fly a Suliban vessel just says it can’t be too hard (he crashed a Federation Shuttle) and acts like it is easy when Mayweather is trying to teach him to pilot).

Malcolm Reed – Is the least bad but still bad. He doesn’t do anything.

Mayweather – The pilot does nothing but talk about being in space. This would be his character for the entire series.

Hoshi Sato – The communications officer who is afraid of everything. This is a shame too since she gave up her University position to join the ship. The writers never use her though or deal with what she gave up. It is only a factor at the beginning and never again. She is there to be the damsel in distress.

Phlox – Up there with Reed as being the least bad at this point in the series, he just doesn’t do much. He is there to be an alien.

The Villains: The Temporal Cold War was a wasted idea…as were the Suliban (who are only in this series). These issues never get resolved and the big bad jokingly known as “Future Guy,” is just that in the end. He isn’t a character or even all that competent of a villain (even this inept crew could stop his plans throughout the series). A War through time and space yet we see none of that in this episode… not in relation to the Vulcans or Klingons (who you think the Time Agents would be using since their tech. is already the most advanced). It goes nowhere, same with contact with the Klingons…we don’t see any of their advanced Imperial Culture that we did from the Original Series…they’re just space barbarians. Suliban, Temporal Cold War, Klingons, Future Guy…wasted antagonists on a waste of a show.

The sexualization of T’Pol/When Star Trek went Soft Core Porn – See the picture up at the start. This decontamination chamber will be used in this way all through the show. Characters will strip and lather each other down. What is this, a Michael Bay show? We see T’Pol’s erect nipples and other characters junk in this chamber…it was here that I stopped watching originally. Star Trek has had problems like this before, but never this blatant…it was like this was what was being sold, not the exploration…certainly not the characters. Just special effects, sex and violence. Things that when taken all together…miss the point of Star Trek.

It is for these reasons I did not accept this show as Canon. It has moments where it feels like it could be tied to Star Trek Canon but so much of it misses the point. From sexy Vulcans to a useless crew…to a species/racist Captain and Engineer. I couldn’t get past the other stuff because the crew was so useless or unlikable. There are some okay episodes I’ll review in the future, but this where Star Trek died. “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Star Trek: Nemesis” were the two things that killed Star Trek, and they deserve that responsibility. They had turned Star Trek into the worst kind of action movie where sex and violence were more important than substance. It is for this reason as much problems as the Abrams reboot has…it never gets this bad to this degree. So glad “Enterprise,” got cancelled, it’s just a shame it didn’t happen sooner. There was never enough good to keep it going since it started things out missing the entire point of what made Star Trek, Star Trek.

1 / 10. I’m only giving it a point for Special Effects…and it isn’t the worst episode. That will be reviewed later in this blog.

Star Trek: Voyager Pilot – Caretaker Part 1 and 2 – Lost in Space

Caretaker part 1 and 2

The fourth week of the Star Trek Pilot Series brings us to “Star Trek: Voyager,” a series that had an interesting premise that it failed to realize. The premise is that a Starfleet vessel and Maquis (Ex-Federation citizens fighting against the Cardassians) having to work together in a new area of the galaxy (the Delta Quadrant) and far away from home. The name Caretaker comes from the entity who pulls them to the Delta Quadrant.

Here is the assessment of the two part pilot:

Pros: Tom Paris – Is an interesting character, he is an ex-convict, former Maquis.

The Doctor – Is funny and fantastic. You see him rising up to the challenge of being the only medical personnel on the vessel too.

Okay: The story – the idea of a powerful entity pulling a federation and Maquis vessel to an unexplored Quadrant is pretty cool. How they execute this is okay…A Maquis (Torres) and Federation (Hary Kim) officer are taken by the Ocampa to help the Caretaker find a mate so there will be someone to look over the Ocampa. They escape and the Caretaker dies telling them the Kazon must not get the array. You’ll find my thoughts on the Kazon further down…but no third option is explored. There is no explanation why in this instance the Federation should get involved in these politics or for the Maquis to care at all. It is contrived but not bad…making the story of the episode okay…

Captain Janeway – We never see her have to fully face the consequences of leaving them in the Delta Quadrant…she is right because she is the captain. This hurt a potentially awesome character. Not to mention her being a scientist remains unexplored in this episode in every sense.

Chakotay – Same issue as Janeway. He just forgets he’s a Maquis and becomes a Starfleet Officer, we see none of the survivalist mentality of a rebel group leader…and we never see him confront Janeway about her choice. Okay, but unrealized potential.

Torres – The Half-Klingon crew member is briefly explored in that her anger comes from her Klingon half and who she is conflicted over that. But you never see why she joined the Maquis, we don’t get her motivations at all. Though that goes for the majority of the characters too.

Kes – The Ocampa who left her people. What an awesome idea…sadly she is with Neelix which I don’t understand. This guy exploited his allies and nearly got Kes killed by turning the Voyager crew into hostages of the Kazon. He is more dangerous than the Kazon cause he thinks he knows what he is doing.

The Caretaker – An interesting idea that is never fully realized. An advanced species taking care of a species they hurt is a cool idea…but we never know it fully. He worse than Q at “Encounter at Farpoint,” as far as how see him showing us those motivations.

Ocampa – Interesting species that isn’t fully realized. I don’t think the writers knew what to do with them.

The Special Effects – Are decent but not great. There are some great moments though like the space battles.

Cons: Neelix – He  exploits the crew, lies to them and is annoying. I don’t know why he was added to this series.

Kazon – Are weaker versions of Klingons…they have a unique look, but were never threatening in the episode.

Execution of Premise – For two very different ideologies there is no conflict (Maquis vs Federation)…the Maquis just join Voyager…there is no tension and Chakotay submits to Janeway really fast. After seeing Eddington and Sisko in DS9 this just feels false.

In High School I enjoyed watching Voyager when it was on…but that as mostly the later seasons. When I went back to earlier seasons I couldn’t get through them. Like Early TNG trying to be TOS, much of Voyager was trying to be TNG and this hurt the almost Battlestar Galacticaesquepremise. This is would stay true through the series. Magic reset buttons and playing it safe…there was hardly any conflict, hard choices and survivalism…it was just exploration and holodecks when it could have been so much more. It was average Star Trek and rarely elevated it…just like It’s pilot.

5 / 10, an average Star Trek episode, and not the worst of the Pilot Series…It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t confront us with any dilemmas or capture the essence of Star Trek anyway beyond travel and being stuck somewhere new.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Pilot – Emissary Part 1 and 2 – The Fallout of War and Occupation

Emissary

“Ironic. One who does not wish to be among us is to be the Emissary.” -Kai Opaka

The third week of the Star Trek Pilot Episodes Series brings us to “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” is one of my all time favorite Sci. Fi. shows. The themes it deals with (Religion, War, Occupation and Politics). The Episodes follow Commander Sisko  (the first Captain who doesn’t begin as a Captain) and his arrival at Deep Space Nine after losing his wife to Captain Picard as Locutus in the Battle of Wolf 359, the series was a spinoff of The Next Generation and you can see it with Picard leaving O’Brien behind to be Sisko’s Chief Engineer. We then jump three years forward to Sisko arriving on a broken DS9 and Post-Occupation Bajor, both places are wounded and broken a reflection of Sisko who is feeling the death of his wife that he has refused to face. It is a powerful opening and when Sisko arrives he meets all the players (the Ensemble cast, Dukat and the Bajoran Prophets).

Here is my assessment of the Episode:

The Tone: Unlike “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Emissary” starts with so much at stake. Bajor is at stake and Sisko and many others are in a new place they have no idea how to deal with, they could easily mess things up with Bajor or have another war with Cardassia. You can see this in the broken spaceship and broken Sisko who is still living the Battle of Wolf 359, it isn’t bright and happy…it captures the true realities of what people face, which is important to see so front and center on a show.

The Characters – DS9 is my favorite crew. There is Odo the only of his kind at this point (an alien shape-shifter and security officer), the everyman O’Brien (who has a history of bad blood with Cardassia having fought in the war), Quark (the first 3 Dimensional Ferengi, a practical bar owner), Garak (a former Cardassian spy), Jazdia Dax (the next Dax (Kurzon being Sisko’s former mentor), Bashir (the idealistic Doctor) and Major Kira (the former Bajoran Resistance Fighter) and of course Dukat (the former Prefect of Bajor, the man responsible for the occupation).

The themes: Occupation (a recovering government who is looked down upon by the Federation – Bashir’s “I chose the wilderness,” implying Bajor is the wilderness. Religion (the Bajoran orbs and Sisko being chosen as the one to speak for them (The Prophets are Bajor’s Gods and also Wormhole aliens), Moving on (Sisko facing the death of his wife Jennifer and choosing to live and help heal Bajor and the Station while dealing with his own healing).

The Ensemble cast – Not everyone who is a main cast member is a member of the crew, which you didn’t see in Trek’s up to this point with the exception of Guinan. This was perfect because it showed that the Federation was not perfect by giving those other perspectives. Not to mention that we have children on the station in the role as children (Sisko and Nog as examples). The set up was perfect and they had a great payoff. The Federation is important but not the only players…there are Bajoran, Cardassian, Civilian and Federation players right from the beginning.

Gul Dukat – The best villain in Trek. A complex baddie who is a charming meglomaniac.

Benjamin Sikso – Avery Brooks does a masterful job playing Commander Sisko, from dealing with the post Wolf 359 Trauma of losing his wife, his conflict with Picard and the station’s crew members and with the Prophets (teaching them about corporeal linear life forms and them teaching him how to move forward). There is a reason Captain Sikso (as he would be later) is my favorite of the Captains.

The ending – Sets the stage for later conflicts. Bajor is still going through political and religious strife as well as with the Cardassians and Federation. Sikso also has accepted his place and is able to resolve his differences with Picard on a professional level since he has finally left the ship where his wife died and is ready to command Deep Space Nine.

Okay – Some of the acting. You can tell some of them are new…none of them are as bad as Troi or Wesley though so I won’t put that in the cons. None of the actors are ever painful to watch and there are some good performances, but a lot of okay ones too.

Music – Isn’t memorable. Not bad, but not great. This would be standard Trek since TNG they got rid of their composer, at this point Star Trek only had stock musical varieties to try out that aren’t bad but aren’t good.

“Emissary,” is the best of the pilots. It establishes what the series will cover in full in regards to themes and establishes Dukat as the primary protagonist and the Prophets as one of the main people to shape the series (and even Odo as being the Outsider who was discovered around this area). All of these things that the Pilot establishes have payoff later, even receiving more good from TNG (O’Brien and later Worf), which only adds to the political and philosophical complexity of the show. I highly recommend this show for any lover of political sci. fi…it is here that you see many of the seeds and themes that Ronald Moore would use later in the new Battlestar Galactica. This is a show I’ve enjoyed watching since High School and don’t see ever getting old. “Deep Space Nine,” is the best of the Star Treks.

I would rate “Emissary” as 9 / 10. There are enough great themes, acting and writing to elevate over a simple good episode.

DS9

Star Trek: The Next Generation Pilot – Encounter at Farpoint Part 1 and 2 – Show Don’t Tell

star-trek-farpoint

Today continues the second week of the Star Trek Pilot Series. This week we turn to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and the return of Trek to television after 17 years since cancellation. Suffice to say it is a very mixed return in this episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” a two part episode that shows some of the best and worst of Gene Roddenberry at the head of his creation. This again would be for better and for worse…much of what was wrong about the “Original Series” carried over into early “Next Generation,” until it was able to find it’s own voice. To get into more of what I mean.

The premise of “Encounter at Farpoint” is it is the first time The Next Generation Crew is put into action and they are challenged by Q to prove they have evolved and are worthy of being out to investigate the stars and are not the bad they were in the past by solving the mystery of Farpoint Station. Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The crew – The crew is interesting and they are given things to do throughout the episode. Everyone has a role even if the actors don’t pull off that role well. We have Picard as the voice for humanity against Q and the one who reasons through situations, Riker as the investigator, Yar as the voice of the past (grew up on a post apocalyptic type planet), Worf as the alien perspective, Data as the critique of humanity and Crusher and Troi as the empaths (the healers of mind and body) to keep the crew functioning. The show starts out with a great dynamic, that they tell us about but don’t always show us…

Q: The introduction of Q in the guise of the judge is fantastic. Some of his other stuff is less subtle but John de Lancie does a good job elevating the terrible script to at least be an intriguing antagonist. He is what makes the plot interesting since the story around Farpoint is pretty weak.

Dr. McCoy guest appearance: DeForest Kelley makes a great guest appearance speaking about the love of a crew for it’s ship which also added more to it.

Okay: The actors – They just started and are a mixed bag. Frakes does alright as Riker and McFadden does alright as Dr. Crusher. Sirtas as Troi and Wheaton are just bad. Stewart is good as the Captain and Delancie is good as Q…there are no great performances though. The episode isn’t elevated by the actors the way “The Man Trap” was.

The Special effects – The Special Effects are alright, they aren’t as good as they would be later, but they are much better than the original series. It at least gives us some interesting things to look at when the script drags, which happens often.

The Ending – It isn’t amazing, but it isn’t terrible like some of the episodes in Trek, it just feels empty considering that this was the chance for the crew to shine but we don’t get to see it really. Nothing of consequence really happens that wouldn’t happen anyway (the Space Jellyfish meeting, the introduction of Q), in that way I would say the ending of “The Man Trap” and even “The Cage” are superior. They have more awareness of themselves and the actions that occurred in the episode.

The Cons: The script – The script is bad. It made me miss the writing in the original series. It tells us rather than shows us evolved humanity most of the time which makes the crew come off as no better than Q…which wasn’t the writers’ intent I’m guessing. It is far to busy preaching (especially in regards to the aliens that inhabit Farpoint) rather than presenting a dilemma.

The tone: It never felt like the crew was ever in danger because the script presents Q as such a huge joke. He never feels dangerous, though he does look cool in his Inquistion robes, but that doesn’t change the fact that he comes off as a clown not otherwordly threat because of the episode unable to fully realize what tone it wants to take. It wants to be the “Original Series,” (Otherwordly mysteries with a something discovered about how humanity has grown) but also be “The Next Generation,” (new crew, new time, new place).

The Romance: The romance between Riker and Troi feels tacked on in this episode. I had a hard time they’d loved each other being this was the first time we as the viewers see them meet. It is believable in later episodes, but not the first one.

The “Original Series” also suffered from a few bad scripts and being too preachy at times (showing not telling), one thing the pilots do well though is show us the message rather than tell us. They present us with the danger of travel and the possibility for wonder. Here the message is preached to us by Picard with a badly written foil through Q and the sense of wonder falls flat since the aliens are just concepts. The aliens in “The Man Trap” and the “Cage” were more than just ideas…they were living creatures and had complexity, the Space Jellyfish have no complexity at all, they just wanted to mate…and we have no idea how many of them there are or what they do in the larger scheme of the galaxy. It is for this reason I have to rate this episode as less than the other pilots.

I would rate this episode as 6 / 10. It had a lot of potential (both with the conflict among the crew) and outside threats (Q and Farpoint) that were never fully realized.

Star Trek The Original Series Pilot: The Man Trap – Red Shirts and “The Thing”

star-trek-the-man-trap

“The Man Trap” is the first time we’re introduced to the Original series crew (though Chekov is missing) and the time we actually get to see Nimoy act. Spock was mostly doing action but not much characterization in “The Cage.”

The basic premise of “The Man Trap,” is along the lines of “The Thing,” (shape-shifting alien kills off people one by one in a mystery) The crew arrives on planet of Dr. McCoy former lover and crew members begin dying as an alien infiltrates the crew, it has a twist though since it introduces a moral dilemma which is classic Trek and one of the things I love about the series. Now for the assessment:

The Pros – The Crew – Every crew member has a chance to shine. Sulu and Yeoman Rand talk plants and notice the crewmember the creature is disguised as. Uhura survives the creature trying to lure her in with a pretty face (Uhura never gets enough credit from the fans and the writers…), Spock advises Kirk and helps calm the powerlessness Kirk feels at his crewmembers dying, McCoy does a great job as both himself and when he plays the creature and Kirk gives the reason he is so famous…he feels and acts while respecting those around him and always seeking more information. He’s curious and not bitter like Captain Pike.

The music – Is good at adding tension and adds more to the situation as the stakes grow throughout the episode.

The dilemma – The Salt Creature/Vampire is the last of it’s kind. It is a thinking creature just trying to survive that at one point even advocates for itself. It is still a murder and never deals with the crew honestly but it still presents a dilemma. It is a creature that ends up being a worthy adversary. Later Trek series will try different versions of this creature (via Shape-shifting aliens, possession and illusion) but most will fail to rise up to this one or have such a dilemma as the beast being the last of it’s kind.

Okay and Con – Red Shirts die like flies. For the first time we see Kirk he does not do a good job protecting his crew. It isn’t until it has already killed 3 or more people that his actions begin to mean anything to catch it. It was here that the meme and trope of the Red Shirt was first born. For those who don’t know. Red Shirts are expendables…crewmembers who are only in the episode and show to die. The meme exists outside of Star Trek at this point too…but it was here in the Original Series that it first originated. Under Pike’s first episode no one died…Kirk not so much. I rated it as a negative because it did nothing for developing minor characters (main crewmembers like Harry Kim would suffer this treatment later) but it was good at showing the consequences of exploration. Not all aliens are nice or benevolent and space and exploration are dangerous. That is why I give the okay.

This is an episode well worth watching. It shows that the writers may have had McCoy, Spock and Kirk as the main focus but that they did in fact develop the rest of the crew…something most of the Original Series Movies would later forget (and the abomination “Generations”). That development was part of what made Star Trek great. It was an ensemble show. Kirk maybe the most famous but it is about the crew of the Enterprise and their adventure exploring strange new worlds.

I would definitely recommend this episode and give it a 8 / 10. Not the greatest episode of the Original Series but a solid and good one.

Star Trek Original Pilot: The Cage – Before there was Captain Kirk

The Cage

“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.