Monday, January 2, 2012

Recap: The Cage (2 of 4)

This is the second part of a recap of the original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage", that I posted to the rec.arts.startrek.misc newsgroup back in November 2005 under the screen name Empok Nor. The first part is here. The starship Enterprise, under Captain Christopher Pike, has been lured to the planet Talos IV by a fake distress call, and Pike captured by the telepathic Talosians. We pick up the story in

Pike wakes up in a cell. He's lying on a silver bed shaped like a comma, with a thin silver blanket covering him. Behind him, taking up one whole wall of the cell, is a big window showing a corridor with a bunch of other cells facing it. The cell's other walls are rough stone. The soundtrack is the Menagerie theme, a quiet, percussive version of the Talosian theme.

Pike throws off the blanket, sits up, and looks around. He notices that his sparkly jacket, harness, laser pistol, and telecommunicator are gone. He stands up and knocks experimentally on the window. Then he throws himself against it, producing a bwong sound. Looking out, he sees an ape creature in one of the neighboring cells, and a bird creature in another. A Talosian appears down at the end of the corridor. Closer at hand, an elevator opens with a pling sound, the Menagerie theme gives way to the Talosian theme, and the Keeper and his posse enter. They approach his cell. Looking at them from behind, it's hard not to notice how much the backs of their heads resemble asses. It's true: the Talosians are the original buttheads.

The Keeper and a member of his posse, whom I'll call Butthead, stand in front, while the other two Talosians, Beavis and Stuart, remain a few steps behind them. Pike and the Talosians stare at each other for a couple seconds before Pike asks, "Can you hear me?"

No response from the Talosians.

Pike continues, "My name is Christopher Pike, commander of the space vehicle Enterprise, from a stellar group at the other end of this galaxy. Our intentions are peaceful. Can you understand me?"

The veins in Butthead's head start pulsing, and though his lips don't move, we hear him say, "It appears, Magistrate, that the intelligence of the subject is shockingly limited."

The Keeper's veins pulse in reply and we hear: "This is no surprise, since its vessel was baited here so easily with a simulated message. As you can read in its thoughts, it is only now beginning to realize that the survivors and encampment were a simple illusion we placed in their minds."

"You're not speaking, yet I can hear you," Pike points out.

"You will note the confusion as it reads our thought transmissions," the Keeper smugs.

The Captain is starting to get ticked off at the Talosians' attitude, and who can blame him? He crosses his arms as he says, "All right, then, telepathy. You can read my mind, I can read yours. Now, unless you want my ship to considering capturing me an unfriendly act --"

Still smugging for all he's worth, the Keeper interrupts with, "You now see the primitive fear-threat reaction."

Cut to a shot of Pike, showing him becoming even more annoyed.

Back to the Keeper: "The specimen is about to boast of his strength, the weaponry of his vessel, and so on."

A frustrated Pike readies himself for another body-blow against the glass wall, but pauses as the Keeper continues, "Next, frustrated into a need to display physical prowess, the creature will throw himself against the transparency."

Pike does so, producing another bwong sound, then again, and again. Bwong. Bwong. The Keeper smiles a particularly smug smile. God, what an asshole.

"If you were in here, wouldn't you test the strength of these walls too?" Pike snarls. "There's a way out of any cage, and I'll find it!"

"Despite its frustration," the Keeper observes, "the creature appears more adaptable than our specimens from other planets. We can soon begin the experiment."

Musical sting as we get a close-up of Pike glaring at the Talosians.


We see a drawing of a planet as Mr. Spock provides voice-over: "The inhabitants of this planet must live deep underground."

Cut to a wide shot of the briefing room. At one end of the table we see the planet, Talos IV, on a bulky video monitor. Talos IV looks suspiciously like the Earth's moon. Seated around the table are Tyler, the Geologist, Number One, Spock and Boyce. Yeoman Colt is standing behind Number One with her hands behind her back. Number One has her chin resting on the backs of her hands again. Spock continues, "Probably manufacture food and other needs down there."

A shot of Spock, Boyce and the video monitor as Spock manipulates a control. The drawing of Talos IV is replaced by a photograph of the barren surface. Spock says, "Our tests indicate the planet's surface, without considerably more vegetation or some animals, is simply too barren to support life."

Shot of Number One and Colt as the former says, "So we just thought we saw survivors there."

Back to Spock and Boyce as Spock nods. "Exactly. An illusion, placed in our minds by this planet's inhabitants."

"It was a perfect illusion," Boyce notes. "They had us seeing just what we wanted to see: human beings who'd survived with dignity and bravery. Everything entirely logical, right down to the building of the camp, the tattered clothing, everything."

Cut to a shot of Number One leaning back in her chair.

Cut to a close-up of Boyce: "Now, let's be sure we understand the danger of this," he explains to the viewers at home. "The inhabitants of this planet can read our minds. They can create illusions out of a person's own thoughts, memories and experiences, even out of a person's own desires. Illusions just as real and solid as this tabletop," Boyce raps on the tabletop to make his point, "and just as impossible to ignore."

Number One asks, "Any guesses on what they might want one of us for?"

Spock answers, "They may simply be studying the Captain to find out how Earth people are put together. Or it could be something more."

"Then why aren't we doing anything?" Tyler demands, as the Geologist looks on. "Now, that entry may have stood up against hand lasers, but we can transmit the ship's power against it, enough to blast half a continent!"

Spock looks uncharacteristically amused at Tyler. "Look," he says as he flips a switch, causing a rough drawing of a Talosian to appear on the video monitor. "Brains three times the size of ours. If we start buzzing about down there," he continues rather flippantly, "we're liable to find their mental power is so great, they could reach out and swat this ship as though it were a fly."

Tyler isn't convinced. "It's Captain Pike they've got," he reminds them. "He needs help, and he probably needs it fast." He looks to Number One, as do the rest of them.

She sighs and says, "Engineering deck will rig to transmit ship's power. We'll try blasting through that metal."

Wide angle of the briefing room as Number One rises, followed by the others. They troop out of the briefing room stage right with the Geologist bringing up the rear, a binder in his hand. He may not have many lines, or even a name, but the Geologist has all the cool props.


Pike in his cell, pacing. We can see that the back wall of the cell consists of stone blocks, rather than the rough stone of the walls bordering the transparency. Pike is probing the stone blocks for a weak point when we pull back to show that he is being watched on the Talosians' irregularly shaped monitor. The Talosian theme resumes. We cut to a shot of the Keeper and Butthead. Butthead thinks out loud, "Thousands of us are already probing the creature's thoughts, Magistrate. We find excellent memory capacity."

The Keeper nods and thinks back, "I read most strongly a recent death struggle in which it fought to protect its life. We will begin with this, giving the specimen something more interesting to protect."

Back to Pike, still testing the stone blocks in his cell. There is a vroon sound as the background behind him shimmers, changing from his cell to a hillside with red tumbleweeds mixed among some rocks. Pike himself looks the same, except that he's now wearing a field jacket over his gold tunic. He looks around as the Talosian theme gives way to a quicker-paced version of the Vina theme with a beat behind it.

We get a Pike's-eye view of a landscape dominated by a huge walled building with golden cupolas and silver minarets standing on the rocky shore of a still body of water. A huge cratered world hangs in the sky behind the building, with a much smaller ringed world to its left. The sky is purple, shading to pink near the horizon.

Cut back to Pike as a female voice offscreen calls, "Come on! We must hide ourselves!"

Cut to another shot of the building, slightly closer now. We see the tiny figure of Pike, his back to us, standing in the road while the equally tiny figure of a woman in a billowing white and orange dress approaches him from the building. The female voice continues, "Come! Come! Hurry!" The woman reaches Pike and takes him by the hand, saying, "It's deserted. There'll be weapons and perhaps food."

Cut back to Pike as he says, "This is Rigel VII." Yup. Remember that conversation he had with Boyce in his cabin? He was trapped in a deserted fortress and attacked by a Rigellian warrior.

Cut to the woman. It's Vina, in damsel-in-distress mode. Her blond hair is longer and done up in a braid looping over her head. The white dress has a floral design and a low neck. Behind her, we see a gate flanked by two blue-painted columns. Damsel Vina, a look of terror on her face, says, "Please! We must hide ourselves!"

Back to Pike. "I was in a cage, a cell, in some kind of a zoo. I must still be there."

Damsel Vina, tugging at his arm: "Come on!"

Pike, still not coming on: "They've reached into my mind and taken the memory of somewhere I've been."

Damsel Vina looks fearfully to her left as we hear a gutteral roar. "The Kaylar!" she exclaims, and turns to run back into the fortress.

Pike keeps hold of her as he says, "It's starting just as it did two weeks ago."

Damsel Vina gives Pike one last terrified look before freeing herself from him and hightailing it for the fortress.

"Except for you," Pike finishes, before following her.

Shot of Damsel Vina and Pike running for the gate.

Shot of Pike as he passes the gate and enters the courtyard. There are more red tumbleweeds, as well as various broken swords, maces, spears and whatnot littering the ground. Pike looks around before spotting Damsel Vina and joining her behind a cart. "Longer hair," he says, "different dress, but it is you, the one the survivors called Vina." There's another gutteral roar and Damsel Vina starts looking around for somewhere to hide. Pike, though, ignores the approaching Kaylar. "Or rather," he continues, "the image of Vina. But why you again? Why didn't they create a different girl?" A third gutteral roar. Pike and Damsel Vina both look up.
Shot of the gate as the Kaylar enters. He's got a big round fur hat with metal cheekplates and a horsetail (or perhaps his own hair) coming out of the top. A fur jerkin with a wide metal belt, baggy animal-hide pants, and tall furry boots complete the ensemble. He's carrying a triangular golden shield on his left arm and a nasty-looking axe in his right hand.

The Vina theme gives way to dramatic music dominated by horns. We cut back and forth between the Kaylar stalking into the courtyard and Pike and Damsel Vina crouching behind the cart. Damsel Vina tells Pike, "Quick! If you attack while it's not looking . . . "

"But it's only a dream," Pike insists.

Back to the Kaylar, who roars again just before tearing a door off its hinges and stalking into the chamber beyond.

"You have to kill him, as you did here before," Damsel Vina tells him.

"You can tell my jailors I won't go along with it," Pike answers. "I'm not an animal performing for its supper."

"It doesn't matter what you call this," Damsel Vina says. "You'll feel it, that's what matters! You'll feel every moment of whatever happens to you!" She accidentally knocks over a shield, and an uh-oh expression crosses her face. Women, huh?

Cut to the now-doorless doorway as the Kaylar stalks back out into the courtyard. We get a close-up of the Kaylar's bearded face, and boy, is he ugly! He's got narrow slitty eyes and a set of sharp, crooked teeth that would put a Ferengi to shame.

Cut back to Pike. "Please!" pleads a distressed Damsel Vina. "Don't you know what he'll do to me?"

Keeping Damsel Vina behind him, Pike edges back from the Kaylar. The dramatic horns build to a climax as he propels Damsel Vina over to a stairway, then picks up a mace from the ground, holding it double-handed in front of him. The Kaylar approaches Pike and swings the axe at him as the dramatic horns go into overdrive. Pike ducks under the axe and slams his mace against the Kaylar's shield, driving him back a few paces. As the Kaylar recovers, Pike picks up a round red shield with a six-pointed gold star. The Kaylar charges at Pike and swings the axe again, which Pike again avoids, giving the Kaylar another slam on the shield with the mace. This time the Kaylar stands his ground. He takes another swing at Pike, then another, with Pike dodging each one. Pike, though, is backing up, and we see Damsel Vina behind him, retreating up the stairs. Pike throws the mace at the Kaylar, beaning him with it, and the Kaylar bounces off an ugly statue and falls to the ground.

Pike takes advantage of the respite to ask Damsel Vina, "Why would an illusion be frightened?"
Glaring at him, Damsel Vina says, "Because that's the way you imagined me."

"Who are you?" Pike wonders. "You act as if this is real to you, too."

"Careful," she exclaims, and heads up the stairs.

The Kaylar gets back on his feet. Pike picks up a spear and levels it at the Kaylar. The Kaylar doesn't seem to notice. His eyes are wide, now. Wide, and bugfuck crazy. A swing of his axe chops Pike's spear in two. Pike drops his half of the spear and throws some dirt into the Kaylar's eyes. As they reach the top of the stairs Damsel Vina picks up something that might be an oversized cricket bat and shawns it at him, but the Kaylar stops it with his shield.

Pike and Damsel Vina are backing down a landing, throwing things at the Kaylar as he advances on them. Pike picks up a scimitar and hacks at the Kaylar, to no effect. The Kaylar knocks it from his hand, then pushes him off the landing, leaving Damsel Vina at his mercy. Pike lands in the dirt of the courtyard and lies there, stunned by the fall.

Damsel Vina picks up a morningstar on a chain and swings it at the Kaylar, to no effect. The Kaylar throws away his shield and axe and grabs Damsel Vina, who screams. Pike staggers to his knees and grabs a dagger, throwing it into the Kaylar's back. A pissed-off Kaylar turns to glare at Pike, grabs the morningstar from Damsel Vina, and prepares to jump down. Pike grabs a jagged spearhead and plants it in the ground. The Kaylar, thrown off balance by a last-second shove from Damsel Vina, impales himself. The dramatic horns climax, the Kaylar tumbles over, and Damsel Vina turns around.

The quieter Vina theme returns. As Pike looks up at Damsel Vina, the background behind him shimmers, accompanied by the vroon sound (which is different from the bwooby sound made by the disappearance of Survivor Vina and the encampment). We dissolve to a shot of Vina, her back still turned, her own background shifting to the cell. She turns around, looks at the cell, exhales, smiles in relief, and says, "It's over." This is Default Vina. Her neatly brushed blonde hair reaches down to her neck, and she's wearing a sleeveless scoop-necked minidress in Talosian metallic gray. Default Vina approaches Pike, who is now standing in the middle of the cell, wraps her arms around him, and rests her head on his shoulder. Pike doesn't react. Default Vina glances to her left, stiffens, steps back from Pike, and straightens her dress.

We cut to the Keeper and his posse, looking in at them as the Talosian theme resumes. The Keeper and Butthead join Beavis in the elevator. The elevator door closes with a pling sound as Stuart heads back down the corridor.

Pike turns to look at Vina. "Why are you here?"

Default Vina gives him a girly smile and says, "To please you."

"Are you real?"

"As real as you wish."

Pike isn't buying it. "Oh, no, no, that's not an answer." He moves away from her. "I've never met you before. I've never even imagined you."

Vina gives him another girly smile. "Perhaps they've made me out of dreams you've forgotten."
"What, and dressed you in the same metal fabric they wear?"

"I have to wear something," she says with a little shrug. "Don't I?"

Pike rolls his eyes.

"I can wear whatever you wish," Vina continues, "be anything you wish."

Pike is starting to get angry. He approaches Vina again. "So they can see how their specimen performs? They want to see how I react, is that it?"

Vina is starting to sound a little desperate. "Don't you have a dream, something you've always wanted very badly?"

But Pike has something else on his mind. "Or do they do more than just watch me? Do they . . . feel with me, too?"

Vina isn't giving up that easily. "You can have whatever dream you want. I can be anything, any woman you've ever imagined. You can have anything you want in the whole universe." Turning him to face her, she takes him by the shoulders and adds, "Let me please you."

"Yes," says Pike. "Yes, you can please me. You can tell me about them." A disappointed Vina draws her hands away from him as he continues, "Is there any way I can keep them from probing my mind, from using my thoughts against me?" Vina's starting to look scared. "Does that frighten you? Does that mean there is a way?"

Vina shakes her head. "You're a fool."

"Since you're not real, there's really not much point in continuing this conversation, is there?" Pike turns and walks away from her again.


Back on the surface, we can see Number One and four other Enterprise crewmen, including Tyler and Vincent. They're all wearing jackets, and they all have goggles hanging from their necks. Two of the crewmen are operating controls on a device of some sort. Number One is on the telecommunicator, saying, "All circuits engaged, Mr. Spock."

We hear the filtered voice of Spock respond, "Standing by, Number One."

As we pan around to get a better look at the device, Number One calls out, "Take cover." She and the other crewmen (including, we now see, Boyce), pull their goggles up over their eyes and duck behind some rocks. Number One ends up kneeling down next to Boyce. As the device starts to hum, we see it's some sort of big-ass gun, and it's pointed at the rocky outcrop. We hear the filtered voice of Spock counting down from ten as the hum gets louder. When he hits five some flashy lights start going on and off in the barrel. When he hits one a blue beam shoots out and hits the rocky outcrop, blasting away more rock. The hum continues to get louder, sounding now like the warp engines ramping up to maximum speed.

"Increase to full power," Number One calls to Spock.

More rock blasting out. When all the rock is done being blasted, we can see the metal doors of the Talosians' elevator. They're glowing red, but that's it.

"Can you give us any more?" she calls.

The beam gets brighter, and the metal doors are glowing white, but that's it.

"Our circuits are beginning to heat," Spock calls down. "We'll have to cease power."

"Disengage," she finally calls out.

The blue beam cuts out, and the hum dies down. The doors quickly fade from white to red to dull gray.

Number One and Boyce pull off their goggles as Tyler leads the other crewmen back to the device. "The top of that knoll should have been sheared off the first second," she says.

"Maybe it was," says Boyce. "It's what I tried to explain in the briefing room. Their power of illusion is so great we can't be sure of anything we do, anything we see." He gets up and joins the other crewmen, leaving an uneasy Number One.


Default Vina is standing in a corner of the cell, saying, "Perhaps if you ask me some questions I could answer." She walks over to join Pike, who is sitting on the comma-shaped bed.

"How far can they control my mind?" he asks.

"If I tell you," Default Vina bargains, "then will you pick some dream you've had and let me live it with you?"

Pike turns to look at her and says, "Perhaps."

Not the firmest of committments, but it's good enough for Default Vina. "They can't actually make you do anything you don't want to do."

"But they can try to trick me with their illusions," Pike guesses.

Nodding, she says, "And, uh, they can punish you when you're not cooperative. You'll find out about that."

Pike reflects on this for a moment, then asks, "Did they ever live on the surface of this planet?" She nods.

"Why did they go underground?"

"War, thousands of centuries ago."

"That's why it's so barren up there?"

Default Vina nods again. "The planet's only now becoming able to support life again."

"But the Talosians who came underground found life limited here," Pike hypothesizes, "and they concentrated on developing their mental powers."

Another nod from Default Vina. Her tone of voice becomes analytical. Clearly, she's given the Talosians' lifestyle a lot of thought. "But they found it's a trap, like a narcotic. 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 re-living other lives left behind in the thought-records."

"Or just probing the minds of zoo specimens like me," Pike adds.

"You're better than a theater to them," Default Vina assures him. "They create an illusion for you and watch you react, feel your emotions. They have a whole collection of specimens, descendants of life brought back long ago from all over this part of the galaxy."

Pike is starting to put two and two together. "Which means they had to have more than one of each animal."

Default Vina realizes she's said too much. "Please . . . "

"They'll need a pair of humans, too. Where do they intend to get the Earth woman?"

While Pike is asking this, the elevator door opens and the Keeper emerges, accompanied by the Talosian theme.

Default Vina objects, "You said that if I answered your questions --"

"But that was a bargain with something that didn't exist. You said you weren't real, remember?"

Default Vina catches the Keeper's eye. Does he nod at her, giving her permission to tell Pike the truth about her, or is he giving her a "this is your last chance" look? It's difficult to say. At any rate, she says, "I'm a woman, as real and as human as you are. We're like . . . Adam and Eve. If we --" Abruptly, Default Vina looks up at the ceiling as a look of terror crosses her face. "Don't! Please! Don't punish me! I'm trying! I'm trying!" She collapses onto the bed and starts writhing in pain, then vanishes in a blur, leaving her dress behind.

Pike prods at the empty dress before turning and catching sight of the Keeper. The Keeper turns and walks back to the elevator, which closes with a pling sound.

(continue to part 3)

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