Saturday, 8 June 2013

My trek through Trek (Part 1) - Escaping The Cage

What we’re watching: The Cage - Pilot of the Original Series (1964)

Martian Spock and Surly Pike molest some Talosian vibrating
flowers. Notice Pike seems ticked these flowers aren't women.
My Rating out of 5 Tribbles: 2 Very Small and Sickly Tribbles

A Snapshot of my after episode thoughts: “Roger Sterling commands the Enterprise and  proves that sexism and surliness make for a boring journey.”

Pros: Talosians are cool. Yeoman Colt is stunning and perhaps one of the most beautiful woment to stand on the bridge of the Enterprise. Majel Barrett has more then three lines and doesn’t hit on Picard once.

Cons:  Jeffrey Hunter. Emotional Spock. Creepy rapist Doctor.   

Recently I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness. This experience caused me great distress. Not only was it a shoddy film, it also did not resemble a Star Trek movie beyond having the same characters (and vaguely at that). I resolved then in the cacophony of explosions and Cumberbatch diphthongs to rewatch all of Star Trek from the beginning to the end. I intend to watch from the Pilot, right through the films, Next Gen, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. Enterprise will be most interesting as much to this Trekker’s shame, I never watched it when it was on the air. I intend to put my finger on what  the soul of Trek is. Tonight, I began my journey into the rich galaxy of the Federatio with a review of The Cage. I also remembered that I had a blog (that I rarely use because of some unpleasantness) and I thought I’d keep a journal record of this trek. (Ok. I’ll attempt to cut down on my usage of the word Trek. Trek. Trek.) 

It is alienating to go back and look at The Cage knowing all that we do now about the Federation universe. Not only is the Enterprise populated by strangers, Spock, perhaps the protagonist of Star Trek as a whole, is unlike Spock. Aside from the Vulcan pointy ears, Spock is petty much unfamiliar. He even cracks a smile at one point. It is amazing how uninteresting Nimoy is in the pilot. He seems like a young school boy actor whose energy is flying all over the screen.  On the other, what Spock became in the later episodes is embodied by Majel Barett’s Number One. She instead is the cold logical advisor. Alas, there also something disjointed in her character. The soul of the Enterprise is missing. That soul is the Captain. 

The role of “the Captain” has always been integral to Star Trek. Much like Doctor Who’s Companion, the Captain is the human character the audience can draw in on to help them navigate through the absurdity that is high Sci-Fi. Hunter’s Christopher Pike fails in  almost every regard to do this. He lacks any form of humor; the one joke he cracks at the end to the Doctor, is frighteningly disgusting.  As a commander he seems lost and more interested in selfish pursuits of pleasure. The first goal he declares is that he wants to quit! The majesty of the universe is to be guided by a man who has lost his passion for adventure. When he first descends to the Talosian surface it seems like this is a job requirement, not an expedition for knowledge and after all happening of this episode he begrudgingly returns to the bridge. 

Pike and his harem of women. 
Ok. I am sure you are saying “Julian you are wasting your breath harping on about  characters.” You are right, but I found myself feeling disconnected to the plot as frankly I did not care if Pike made it back to the Enterprise or not. 

The most striking thing I take away from the episode is the inherent sexism. I forgot that at the beginning of this widely ahead of its time show, it was a bastion of orchestrated 60s moralism in space. Yes, there are at least two women in the main crew, and this is ahead of its time. But the yeoman   character is largely the classic airhead women of sixties television.  Number One, a women of power, does not make a single decision for herself as commander, which would not make her a women of much power. All decisions are made for by the smiling Mr. Spock or the nameless male yeoman is the blondest guy I have ever seen and I am pretty blonde. It is amazing how timid The Cage is compared to the episodes that followed. It’s a miracle the show ever made it past the Pilot. 

I have knowingly not delved into the themes and philosophies of this episode because I will engage with those again when I reach The Menagerie episodes later in the first the season. These episodes present the same ideas with far more thought and investigation then The Cage ever throws a blue Talosian flower at.

Sports Fans what can we say about The Cage? It is a good thing Jeffrey Hunter thought Trek was beneath him and returned to a very short film career. He is unlikable and a dinosaur. His leering at the female characters would have stunted any of the political commentary of the later episodes. It is a great thing that Roddenberry was able to creep out of the overbearing fists of network executives and produce the genius that is only episodes away. The Cage should remain where it is, at the beginning and stuck behind a forcefield under the Talosian surface. 
The Brains of the Organization. (See what I did there?)

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