7 Things To Remember About “The Cage” Before Watching “If Memory Serves”

Before the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery premieres tomorrow, we thought we’d do an overview of the only known television adventure of Captain Pike while in command of the USS Enterprise. “If Memory Serves” is the first episode of Discovery to directly tie into events from The Original Series, so it seemed appropriate to make a primer on “The Cage,” the unaired first pilot, for those fans who are new to TOS or just want a little reminder.

Three years before season two of Discovery, Pike, his first officer simply called “Number One,” and his science officer Spock, explored the outer regions of the known galaxy during their first five-year mission aboard the Enterprise. After a disastrous mission to Rigel VII, the crew and its captain are tired and badly need shore leave when they encounter an old-style distress signal and reluctantly detour to the unexplored system of Talos.

Captain Pike, Science Officer Spock, and Number One boldly go in “The Cage”

USS Enterprise under Pike visited Talos IV 3 years before Discovery season 2

To clarify the timeline of all of the Talos IV visits, the first one took place in “The Cage” in 2254. This will make Discovery‘s impending visit the second one, since it’s taking place in 2257, and the events of “The Menagerie,” where Spock returns with a badly damaged Pike, happen in 2267. The big takeaway here is that Pike’s visit to Talos IV happened three years before this season of Discovery.

At the time of his visit, Talos was just beginning to sprout some new life after a war, some thousands of centuries ago, had left the surface barren. The Enterprise arrived in response to what seemed to be a distress call from the SS Columbia, which had crashed there 18 years earlier. As already mentioned, there were two now-familiar faces on board: Spock, then serving as science officer, and a first officer known only by the name Number One.

Captain Pike and Lt. Spock

Spock acted differently back then

“The Cage” didn’t even identify Spock’s species, and therefore provided no backstory and no details on Vulcan culture. The logical, aloof qualities he would later exhibit belonged to Number One, who kept a cool head and seemed nearly emotionless.

Spock, on the other hand, was more impulsive. He grinned upon discovering that some blue plants on Talos IV stopped emitting a sound when touched, and when the Enterprise set up a landing party to rescue their captain and none of the men were beamed down, Spock famously shouted “The women!” in surprise when he realized they, and only they, had disappeared.

When “The Cage” was turned down by the network and a new pilot was ordered, Spock was the only character to return, and Number One’s calm, cool demeanor was given to him, along with a name for his species, some very specific physical differences from humans, and (eventually) a very complex backstory. So while the difference in his behavior can be attributed to real-life decisions made by producers and writers, Discovery’s co-creator and executive producer Alex Kurtzman says that this will be addressed in-universe this season, filling in the gaps between Spock from “The Cage” and Spock on The Original Series. 

Spock is amused by the singing plants of Talos IV

Talosians are powerful telepaths

The Talosians have incredibly powerful minds, but weakened bodies, due to years of focusing all their efforts on their mental abilities. It was explained to Pike what had happened:

… they found it’s a trap. Like a narcotic. 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.

Despite not being able to build machines and live on the surface, the Talosians were incredibly powerful. They created illusions on the planet’s surface which felt completely real, leading Dr. Boyce to explain, “Their power of illusion is so great, we can’t be sure of anything we do, anything we see.” The survivors’ camp, all an illusion, appeared exactly the way the Enterprise crew expected it to be, and a phaser cannon at full strength appeared to have no effect whatsoever. Illusions could also be projected into space, with the potential to trick the crew into doing whatever the Talosians wanted them to. Later, in “The Menagerie,” the Talosians would be able to send an ongoing visual transmission to the Enterprise (now with Kirk in command), and also create the illusion that Commodore Mendez was on board.

The one limit on the Talosians’ power to read minds was their inability to get through primitive emotions, like hatred and anger, but no human could maintain those kinds of thoughts long enough to keep the Talosians at bay indefinitely, and “wrong thinking,” as the Talosians described it, was reason for punishment.

The powerful Talosians watch their zoo specimens’ fantasies

Pike was captured by Talosians

Captain Pike was deemed a top specimen by the Talosians. He was put in a cage with Vina, who was the only real survivor from the SS Columbia; the others were illusions. Pike was instantly attracted to her, but the Talosians seemed to not understand that humans were more socially evolved than most of the other species in their zoo, and simple attraction wasn’t enough. They put Pike (and Vina) through different illusionary scenarios, each one pulled from the weary captain’s mind, hoping to tempt him into mating with Vina. Most famously, Vina is reimagined as a green Orion slave woman, and Pike as having left Starfleet for a life as an interstellar merchant trader.

Through the course of these events, Pike did develop some feelings for her, but was always suspicious of the circumstances and of whether she was even real. Because of this the Talosians eventually manipulate it so that both Number One and J.M. Colt, Pike’s yeoman, beam down as alternate breeding choices. Pike, thoroughly fed up with the manipulation of his mind and the abduction of two of his crew, forced the Talosian magistrate to reveal the truth: they were looking for a group of reasonably intelligent beings to breed so they could do slave work (like fixing the old machines), and to start to tame the wilderness of the surface which was finally habitable again.

Pike, Number One, Colt, and Vina are put on display

Talosians judged humanity as too dangerous, Talos declared off limits

While Pike was on the surface, the Talosians reached out and scanned the Enterprise computer, absorbing everything they could about humans. Between their computer core dump and the way Pike had behaved, they realized that humans are too dangerous.

The customs and history of your race show a unique hatred of captivity. Even when it’s pleasant and benevolent, you prefer death. This makes you too violent and dangerous a species for our needs.

The Talosians now wanted nothing to do with humans, and certainly Starfleet felt the same way, the ability to create incredibly real illusions is just too tempting and far too dangerous a prospect to let anyone mistakenly fly near Talos.

Because of the events of “The Cage,” we find out later in the first season of The Original Series (“The Menagerie”), that the Federation lists travel to the Talos system as prohibited. Starfleet even creates General Order 7 to deter any ships from going there, stating that “No vessel under any condition, emergency or otherwise, is to visit Talos IV.”

Classified mission documents about Talos IV as shown to Captain Kirk in 2267

Vina stayed on Talos, with “Pike”

Vina tells Pike she cannot go with him. As revealed at the end of the episode, while Vina is indeed real, she is actually middle-aged and physically deformed. The Talosians didn’t know how to properly fix her, so they could do little more than patch her up. “They had never seen a human,” Vina tells Pike. “They had no guide for putting me back together.”

She had been given the illusion of youth and beauty to help lure Pike, and to make her time on Talos more pleasant. When Pike learns of this, he realizes he must leave Vina behind.

There is one key difference between “The Cage,” and when footage of the episode is later reused in “The Menagerie.” In “The Cage,” as Pike departs, the Talosians restore Vina’s youth and give her an illusionary copy of Pike to live out her days with.

An illusion of Pike goes off with Vina as the real Pike looks on

Mission had a big impact on Pike

The Christopher Pike we start with in the episode is quite a bit different from the more relaxed, congenial leader we’ve seen in season two of Discovery. “The Cage” shows us a pivotal moment in time for Pike. He’s burned out on being a starship captain. He recounts to the ship’s doctor and his confidant, Dr. Boyce, the recent mission to Rigel VII where three crew members died and seven were injured in an ambush from the native species there. He’s tired of the weight of command on his shoulders and even considers resigning his commission. Through his ordeal with the illusions, he was able to see the various scenarios he was mulling over in his depressed burned-out talk with Boyce, and each of them isn’t really the escape he was hoping for. It seems as though Pike comes out of his captivity a bit wiser, and with his faith restored in Starfleet’s mission, he returns to the Enterprise ready for the next adventure.

Pike jokes with Dr. Boyce as they leave Talos behind

“If Memory Serves” will be released on All Access on Thursday, March 7th, 2019 at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT. It will air on Space at 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT on the same night. It will be available on Netflix the next morning, Friday, March 8th, 2019.

“The Cage” is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and on most streaming services that offer Star Trek: The Original Series.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

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Y’all think we see Vina?

Lady Gaga is going to play her. She and Pike will sing Shallow. It will be epic.

Chris Lady Gaga on Star Trek! Hell no! LOL who wants that seriously. She is a good singer but a bad actor in my opinion.

. . .and this wins the internets for the day.

Excellent. Excellent response from Chris (applause).

No get Stormy Daniels to play her.


Marcelo we won’t see Vina on Star Trek Discovery when we go to Talks IV again.

why not? She is still there hanging around with illusion pike.

We don’t know that for a fact. She could’ve passed away sometime in the past three years. Yes, Kirk sees Vina and Pike on the briefing room screen at the end of “The Menagerie”. But for all we know, that might not have just been an illusion of a youthful and healthy Pike… it could also have been an entirely illusionary and imaginary Vina.

That’s an even more sad end for Pike. Let’s hope Pike’s injury was faked by Section 31.

Don’t think so. Vina is part of Pike’s story – and by all indications the next episode will not exactly be about Pike. Furthermore, I know it’s a silly presumption, but something tells me that word would have gotten out if they had cast someone as a Susan Oliver look-alike – just a gut feeling.

Yeah, my guess is no Vina here for that reason. Word would have gotten out.

Part of the assessment held true: They did not cast a Susan Oliver look-alike.

I rather suspect the upcoming story will be the full reason for the death penalty.

I’m guessing the death penalty isn’t relevant because only Burnham and Spock know they go to Talos IV. Spock knows how to hack a computer well enough to remove all traces of where the Shuttle has been.

General Order 7 does not exist at this point.

That’s just a guess though, right? Did Mendez or Kirk mention when Gen Order 7 was enacted?

No, they don’t mention it, which conveniently leaves the door open.

I think it’s really hard to square that the Federation would still have the death penalty to a modern audience.

It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s a detail that is glossed over.

It would be a mistake to gloss over that. While perhaps a bit extreme it makes sense that it is the harshest penalty on the books. It’s not like the weird “women can’t be starship captains” thing. Which I heard that had been retconned into THAT woman can’t be a Captain due to her mental instability. Not ALL women.

I think so too. The exact time for GO 7 was never established, thank god for Discovery!

Absolutely. I can’t tell you how my Trek fandom has been incomplete since I never knew when GO7 was enacted.


So going to Talks IV is illegal under Federation law and Starfleet regulations. Michael Burnham and Spock might get the death penalty soon for their actions. Humans are a dangerous race. The inhabitants of Talks IV are absolutely right about that alright. General Order 7 was created for a reason.

Do we actually know when the death penalty rule is instituted? Maybe the events of this episode have something to do with it?

Lots of possibilities for this “Return to Talos IV” episode.
1) It could establish how Spock knew how to contact the Talosians re the events of “The Menagerie.”
2) It could establish that the weak, apathetic Talosians, following their encounter with 203 young, vigorous, adventurous minds from the Enterprise three years ago might be re-evolving into more vital creatures.
3) It might explain why the Talosians were so eager to help Capt. Pike after he was crippled.
4) Could this episode sent up some sort of pre-destination paradox with Capt. Pike’s injuries?
5) Could the war that devastated Talos IV thousands of centuries ago be related to the Red Angel?

All fascinating possibilities. Great post.

I am not sure if you got the pre-destination paradoxon right.
He will be crippled, thats for sure. But there is no need for Timetravel here.
A pre-destination paradoxon is a timeloop paradoxon!

Oh, VERY intriguing theory #5! These are all very well thought out, but you definitely finished strongly with the last one. Well done.

Great summary of what is still, in my opinion anyhow, the basis for the two best hours of Trek ever produced. One small correction: the Talosian war was stated to have taken place thousands of years ago, not over the course of thousands of years.

Actually thousands of centuries, not years, IIRC.

Awesome recap of an awesome first pilot episode!

My hope is that not only is tomorrow’s episode great for us, but that after I see it I can tell my girlfriend, “watch Jeff Hunter, then watch DSC S2, you will enjoy great narrative payoffs.”

Great recap of the original pilot episode! I’m so excited about the possibilities. And I love how the show writers have embraced a part of Trek lore that doesn’t easily lend itself to obvious reboots. DISC is doing the deep dive here! Regardless of where the season ends up, I appreciate deeply such attention to detail.

I read the summary and was impressed with how thorough and comprehensive it was. Then I reached the end and I was wondering who had written it. I guessed it was Matt Wright because it showed such a complete and firm grasp on The Cage/Menagerie. And the. I checked.

If I was a multimillionaire, I would hire the best plastic surgeon available and pay him to transform me to look like a Talosian; that would be awesome…

Um… dare we ask why?!

Because I would look super-awesome if I was surgically transformed to look like a Talosian!

I’d also be able to pick-up chicks, take them to Star Trek conventions and get in for free!

Gee, I hope “If Memory Serves” isn’t “too cerebral.” Actually, screw it. “The Cage” was great. Give me ALL the cerebral.

Hear, hear!

Yeah, I don’t think they meant it was too smart. They were trying to find a 1960’s way to say, “These aliens want to trick a man into having sex with this woman.” That’s not cerebral, it’s pulpy.

Great article, thanks!

So fun how Captain Pike is holding a clip board with paper – on a starship 🤣

Although this remains an ‘alternate/parallel universe’ set of characters for me, I’m looking forward to whatever hijinks the DISCOVERY writers have come up with for their particular ‘Talosian’ storyline.

During my previous rewatch of the entire TOS show a few years ago, I started with the WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE episode, and kept the excellent THE CAGE pilot until the very last…as a more satisfying way to round things off for myself after season 3 ended.

In the meantime, I wonder if DISCOVERY’s ‘Spock’ will be given another momentary, impulsive interaction with a ‘singing plant’ in this episode? That would be fun.

But more importantly than that, if a ‘Vina’ character makes an appearance…will her particular ‘Pike’ mate illusion also still be around in this too, I wonder?

Don’t know, but I don’t see how you follow-up Susan Oliver. With anyone.

If the Discovery creative team has the hubris to re-cast Spock, re-casting Vina should not be a problem. :-)

I think The Cage is often underrated. It’s one of the best examples of genuine, inventive science fiction in the whole canon, a stand-alone science fiction film in its own right, and the idea of a culture atrophying because of an addiction – to escapism, illusions, or whatever – is as relevant now as ever. It’s still the best template for what I think a Star Trek series should be, and seldom is.

never saw someone underate the cage…

The Cage and The Menagerie are far from underrated.

Ok, how about you watch Forbidden Planet and we’ll talk again. It gives you eery feeling of familiarity if you’ve seen The Cage. Obviously, plot veers off after a while, but all, down to look and feel is really close.

I also think “The Menagerie” is brilliant. Can you imagine being the writer given the assignment “Take ‘The Cage,’ then come up with a reason why we have to show almost the whole thing”? Huh? What? But they came up with a lovely tale that makes Spock both sentimental and heroic. SO nicely done!

I’ve read somewhere (sorry, can’t remember where) that Hunter was approached about filming extra scenes for a possible TV movie in the event that the pilot was never sold and/or remade. But he said no.
….. sad.

We’re lucky we got William Shatner instead of Jeffrey Hunter. Not only did Shatner bring a lot of energy to the role of Kirk, but he lived a heck of a lot longer than Hunter did, making the Star Trek movies possible.

I’ve always felt Shatner was underrated as an actor. He’s no Stewart but he’s better than most give him credit for I think.

In season one and much of season 2 Shatner’s acting is brilliant and even understated st times. And yet, (and I love Picard) Shatner’s Kirk is more of a “real” person than Stewart’s Picard, less pretense. Later I think Shatner let himself play Kirk more as Shatner playing Shatner, and he overacted and lost his gravitas. But man, watch him in “Balance if Terror” or “City On the Edge of Forever”. He’s just amazing.

Yeah. Mad Kirk looks like someone you really want to give a wide berth to. Also, the way he played the slow burn in Trouble with Tribbles… Perfection.

Yes. His expression at that moment says so much. He expresses a lot, but yet he contains himself just enough that I always found myself projecting into it what I thought he must be feeling. For me, things like feeling broken, empty, in agony, full of despair, and not really caring about the Enterprise or anything else (maybe his only time not caring about it). And with him trying to hold himself together as captain just long enough to get through that moment and “get the hell out of there” as fast as possible. To be anywhere else in the universe, except right there.
All this from one sentence and five seconds of silent expression.
When he wanted to, that man could act.

GarySeven, I think a great deal of that (Kirk being “real”) is because Picard felt like a perfect character. He had no flaws. He was not someone you would want to hang out with. Kirk, on the other had, felt like a real living breathing person that you could easily approach. Not only was it the actors playing them that way, but they were written that way.

I think Kirk was that way. But more because of Shatner led the way for the character and the writers then followed up on it. If you watch PBS’ “The pioneers of Science Fiction,” in the interview with the Shatner he talks about this. He talks about how Jeffrey Hunter was too formal and he made Kirk much more real and colloquial. At the 2017 Las Vegas convention, Scott Manz interviewed Shatner and observed how Shatner had Kirk down pretty much perfectly right from “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Leonard Nimoy took a little longer for his Mr. Spock to come into focus,but Shatner just naturally knew what he was doing with Kirk from the get go.

I think a lot of people watch nice, clear streaming video on their four-foot wide televisions and forget that in 1966

1. Most TV’s were 13 or 19 inches, so pictures were a LOT smaller.

2. Most broadcast TV was NOT that clear and often was overlaid with small dots that were called “snow.”

3. Color televisions were a luxury item and were owned mostly by the well-to-do; the average viewer had a black-and-white set.

4. At the time, people thought televisions emitted harmful radiation, so most people sat 8 – 10 feet away from these small, fuzzy, black-and-white images.

William Shatner sometimes looks as if he’s overacting NOW, on our big, clear, color TV’s. In 1966, he had to act fairly broadly to get his performance through all the snow.

It’s also true that Shatner tends to be relatively controlled when the script is good; he only resorts to scenery chewing for the bad scripts. And really, if we’re watching “And The Children Shall Lead,” watching Shatner chew the scenery is the most entertaining part. :-)

All of which is to say, yes, I agree with you. :-)

While I yield to no one in my admiration for Leonard Nimoy, it’s also true that the trend towards larger, clearer, more colorful pictures has been a lot kinder to his restrained performance than it has been to Shatner’s. But it’s not Shatner’s fault that televisions are five times the size they were in 1966!


Most are unaware of his credentials in 1950s film noir or Stratford Shakespeare before he pursued a career in the US.

Shatner did Shakespeare on stage before doing television. TOS resented a very stylized universe with Shakespearian stories. Shater’s stylized acting was a good actor’s choice suited to the TOS production. By the time Next Gen was produced the feel of the series and aesthetics in TV and film acting had changed and they went for a more realistic style of acting. However I have seen Stewart do Shakespeare along with other stylized pieces such as Waiting For Godot and he slips into that same stylized acting style that suits those plays.

Star Trek as it became was a perfect storm with all the pieces being in the right place at the right time. Between Roddenberry’s concept and Gene Coon, DC Fontanta, David Gerrold and a ton of others contributions to the show, they put together the right cast at the right time.

Who knows what would have happened had the show been picked up after the first pilot. Maybe it would have been an even bigger hit. Maybe it would have been big in the 60s but perhaps it would have never picked up the massive following the franchise did in the 70s and 80s.

As for Hunter, from what I’ve read he had been injured while filming a movie in 1968 and that’s what ended up contributing to his death a few months later in 1969. If that’s true, he may have had a longer life had they retained him on Star Trek (provided it was a success). Maybe he would have only stuck around Star Trek for a bit and stayed in the movies. It’s a weird thought thinking that Shatner might have ended up being only “well known” from his two Twilight Zone episodes.

I, for one, have always wondered what the Talosians might be capable of doing for Vina in regards to improving her quality of actual physical life after they dumped the Enterprise’s complete database with all its correct information on human anatomy, etc. And I always wondered why they were certain they had properly constructed a functioning reproductive tract for her prior? Recall, they planned to breed her and Pike.

Always wondered the same thing, in all honesty.

She looked as if she were probably past menopause, anyway, so how were they going to breed her?


We have no idea what the “functional” but wrong reassembly of her by the Talosians did to her. Frankly, I’m surprised that you believe that you could discern anything about Vina’s age from her true disfigured form.

The Talosians seemed to indicate their technology could not remove the scarring of their mistakes to restore her original beauty, but I wondered if, at least, now they know how all the pieces fit together, if they can improve her mobility, etc.

Matt Wright,

Well, maybe Starfleet Academy might remain stodgy in entrance age, but I believe the trend as education advances over the centuries would be to lower ages for freshman University matriculaters?

She looked pretty healthy/youthful to me. Her malformed appearance was her without the influence of the Talosians. They even said that showing her as such was to convince Pike she could not leave their influence.

I always liked to pretend that the Pike who walked away with her in the end, was the future Pike. Pike getting a glimpse of his future, without knowing it.

Maybe the death penalty starts with Burnham being executed? That would make Spock’s willingness to risk same in MENAGERIE all that much more impressive in retrospect.

Still not finding her a successful character, so trying to find a convenient airlock for her …

That possibility crossed my mind too (no matter how unlikely).

Forced to agree. Sadly, no such luck for sure. Besides, if they offed her I could see them announcing she would be coming back right after the episode is made public.

Watched The Cage a couple days ago. It is a pretty remarkable work. Don’t know if it is on Netflix, but on Amazon Prime, it is Season 1, Episode 0.

On Netflix it’s the first episode when you select Season 1.

A bit disappointed that Netflix, All Access and Prime don’t have the remastered version of The Cage. Not entirely sure why that is.

Has anyone else here noticed that Jeffrey Hunter in those photos looks just like CNN’s Jim Acosta? ;)

Loved ‘The Cage’ pilot episode, and ‘The Menagerie’ was an excellent re-use and extension to the Trek storyline. My guess, and its a BIG one, is that not only are we are going to see Vina on Talos IV but the actual Captain Pike there as well. The one we have seen to date who has taken command of the Disco is an illusion created by the Talosians, and this will explain General Order 7 and the death penalty. ALL IMO, of course. Looking forward to tonight’s episode

Excited to see this episode tonight.This post, well written, will help for people unfamiliar with The Cage. Discovery’s writers, I suspect, won’t adhere to canon by the letter. I’m sure they’re probably respecting and being guided by canon but won’t let it get in the way of the story.
Leonard Nimoy suggested that we not be a slave to the minutiae of canon. So, if you’re a fan of: “it should be this way, it’s well established that this event happened on this stardate, etc” You might be disappointed a little bit tonight.
Great post Matt

A very nice, comprehensive shout-out to arguably one of the most classic of episodes.

Now when are they going to restore “The Cage” to it’s original version, like the Keeper’s original voice, missing little scenes, original music ( “Excellent, we can now begin the experiment”, cued music from “The Man Trap. Should’nt have had any music.).


Indeed, and one of the problems I have when fans try to canonize the pilot movie is the only versions to make it to air are in various stages of incompleteness because of of the two episodes “The Talosians” made of it as a story they had to tell Kirk and Starfleet.

And then there’s the gray area where Roddenberry exhibited the untouched pilot at a few science-fiction conventions prior to the show’s 1st episode Canadian air, and those conventions were ticket admission affairs which would seem to raise the original version’s canonicity to the same level of the TREK motion pictures?

Great synopsis, but missing a key moment, which could explain Star Fleet’s order prohibiting contact with the Talosians. Toward the end of the episode, there is this exchange:

PIKE: But wouldn’t some form of trade, mutual co-operation?
MAGISTRATE: Your race would learn our power of illusion and destroy itself too.

So the prohibition of contact would be not a matter of protecting us from the Talosians, but rather, protecting us from learning the power of illusion and destroying ourselves.

I never really understood that part. The illusions the Talosians create are clearly a mental power, and how could humans “learn” it? Humans don’t learn to mind meld, just by being around Vulcans; you need to be born into a Vulcan body to have Vulcan mental powers.

Evolution, maybe?

Evolution takes centuries, and mutations don’t happen because of proximity to someone who already has the trait.

I think it was assumed that it would indeed take centuries. It was likely that way with the Talosians.


Once a beneficial mutation occurs, it most certainly spreads throughout a population by being in close proximity to others:sex and its resultant offspring.


The Romulans, who are Vulcans that can’t meld, prove the falsity of that reasoning. Not to mention the second pilot where Dr. Denner notes for canon that a percentage of the human population have esper abilities which the barrier at the edge of the galaxy somehow awakens.

My understanding is The Menagerie IS Canon, but the Cage isn’t. All of the Cage was not in Menagerie. The scene at the end of Menagerie of Pike and Vina holding hands was the shot seen in The Cage of Vina imagining Pike being there. Not that this makes much difference, but just wanted to clear that up.

Quite right!

so when Pike showed up in Menagerie what did they do with Vina’s fake Pike she had for the last 10 years?

I’ve always felt that the 1980s release of The Cage was a conscious challenge to open up fan vision of what Trek could encompass.

I don’t know if the deep archives anywhere include a memo or letters about the release, but the PR around it certainly implied Roddenberry saw it as canon.

Ever since I saw The Cage, I’ve wondered what happened between then and TOS. Given the amount of speculative Trek-lit that’s been written about Pike and Number One, it seems there’s a good deal of pent-up demand to see this on-screen.

I’m really anticipating seeing what Discovery does to fill this in. To me this is exactly what one could ask for in a prequel.

I admit that just hearing Talos IV at the end of Light and Shadows, and seeing the glimpses in this week’s trailer was about all I could absorb for this week.

“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.”

Amazing how relevant this story still is, today! Internet and gaming addiction, the mind-altering power of coming VR/AR applications… people now can spend an entire lifetime living a fiction without ever adding anything of their own. The warning of the Talosians rings true in so many contexts.

The Cage may not be a TOS episode proper, but it is in the top 5 TOS episodes no doubt!

Absolutely! And it’s kinda funny that a man who was in the business of creating “other lives” for us all to live also created a warning against doing so in the pilot of his new show…

Yes I was thinking that too. And how now we are all in it! :)

Hopefully we took Shatner’s SNL advice and got life outside of Star Trek too.

the dogfaced boy

Shatner on SNL was just an actor reciting lines. The advice wasn’t his but that of the SNL insult comic writer, Robert Smigel.

VS I agree that this really is one of the most salient Trek allegorical ‘morality tales’ for the current generation.

And although I understand the parallel elements between The Cage and Forbidden Planet, it’s a very different morality tale in the end.

I’m wondering if social commentators will be willing to add this more consuming societal VR addiction to the list of prescience Trek tropes.

Thanks for the recap! It can’t have been more than one year since I’ve last rewatched “The Cage”, but I tend to forget or misremember some details.
If I may add three more bits of information that can be gathered from “The Menagerie”:

  • • The Enterprise is clearly stated to have been the only Earth ship to ever have visited Talos IV. That of course doesn’t mean a whole lot, except that either Spock or Burnham will have their little trip scratched from the record – a little plot device that DISCO has already employed regarding the Mirror Universe and the simplest possible retcon.
  • • The suggestion to issue General Order 7 and ban all Starships from visiting Talos IV has been signed by Pike and Spock – not Number One or any other members of the two landing parties in “The Cage” – so there’s the possibility that the order was in fact not issued directly following the events of “The Cage” (even though it’s implied in “The Menagerie” – but never explicitly stated), but at some later point.
  • • And lastly: Even though Spock does a lot of tampering with the computer in “The Menagerie”, the computer doesn’t seem to mind setting course towards Talos IV. So even if General Order 7 was already in place during the DISCO-period, the shuttle’s computer not giving out a warning would be in line with everything seen on TOS.

I had rewatched it last week after the previous episode and you know, for all of our conversations about Enterprise being the only Earth ship to get there, how did the scientists get there? They got there on an Earth ship. And what if the Talosians captured other species and their along the way, also with some humans aboard? There is a lot of room to play so it would be fun if the writers left things even more open than just answering our serious questions. Now I want to see the “Talosian Organian Pavian Q/Trellaine War” starring Michael and Saru.

There WERE no scientists; they were an illusion provided by the Talosians. The only real human on the planet until the Enterprise folks beamed down was Vina. It’s true that she got there on a ship, but perhaps crashing onto a planet and being stranded there isn’t considered “visiting.” :-)

But wouldn’t the illusions have conformed to the scientists who were on the ship and died? The ship was filled with humans and we had to assume came from Earth/Federation/Aligned colonies of Earth. Right? Or was Vina there alone, there were never any ship’s fragments, and the distress signal was totally illusionary too, which means anything that they experienced could be an illusion and we don’t know anything except that they had an woman from Earth in a Cage.

As I understood it, a ship crashed there. Vina was the only “survivor”.

Vina says, “They found me in the wreckage,” so unless she’s lying, a ship did crash there.

I find it interesting that the Talosians couldn’t put Vina back together because they “had no guide”, yet they themselves are humanoid (albeit weak versions).

Spock looks almost identical to humans on the outside, but McCoy was always talking about how his “heart was where his liver should be,” so it’s clear that Vulcans are a lot more different from humans on the inside than they are in external appearance. Maybe the Talosians are similar to Vulcans, in that they have a different internal arrangement than ours, even though their external appearance is similar?

I guess they don’t know how DNA works.


It certainly would explain why they wanted to breed Vina and didn’t have corrals full of her clones.

Yeah, that notion does indeed not bear close scrutiny. It’s a bit of toy-logic: “Hmmm, now where does the spleen go? Well, guess we’ll just connect it to this and that blood vessel and put it somewhere above her shoulder.”

While it’s true that we saw Spock smile, shout, and behave emotionally in “The Cage,” it’s clear that this is simply because the creative team hadn’t yet figured out what they wanted to do with the character. By the time of the second pilot, they’d established that Vulcans propagate the myth that they have no emotions, though it would take Leonard Nimoy a few episodes before he really got a handle on how to play such an unusual character. (This is one reason why I think TOS should always be watched in PRODUCTION order, not in broadcast order.)

Personally, I think it makes more sense to politely overlook the bobbles in “The Cage,” and if we need an in-universe explanation, there’s the fact that what we see of “The Cage” in “The Menagerie” is an illusion sent by the Talosians; it’s not a physical recording. So the Talosians could well have given Kirk the illusion that Spock behaved out of character precisely because keeping Kirk enthralled (and thus not trying as hard as he might otherwise to regain control of his ship) was the whole point of the exercise.

I’m disappointed that Kurtzman is taking the production team’s lack of clarity about who Spock should be in “The Cage” and making it part of Discovery‘s canon. I prefer my Spock very firmly Vulcan, thank you. :-)

Overall, I tend to agree. They took elements from a character who was not fleshed out in any way (and was subsequently changed later) on a show that was never meant to be seen by anyone other than network executives and decided something there needed to be explained away.



You are aware that Roddenberry took the reels of that pilot and exhibited it to the science-fiction conventions attending public before the 1st episode ever aired in Canada?

The way Shatner tells the tale Gene drove up onto the lot on his CHP motorcycle and broke the lock with its tools to extricate the reels.

I leave you to ponder whether the price of admission to a science-fiction convention would elevate its canonicity to the level of motion pictures with their admission prices?

And that is relevant, how exactly?


Because the motion pictures stretched canon “airing” to include public exhibitions where the public had to pay admission to view.

So, that means that any fan film that sells admission to see qualifies as canon.


Re: canon

In that canon was always a fan invention initially transcribed on 3×5 cards lovingly hand sorted and collated so as to help them make sense of the disparate scripts filmed on the STAR TREK stage, it is posdible.

However, to date, most fans have chosen only to include what they regard as “legal” Trek. They consider Roddenberry’s antics prior to the show’s broadcast as legal because, back then, he had partial ownership – although Desilu legal most assuredly would take a different view, they never bothered to challenge Gene’s exhibiting the 1st pilot and even made Shatner available for the exhibition of the 2nd pilot in San Diego.

Also consider, eventually STAR TREK will enter the public domain and like SHERLOCK HOLMES, before it, it will unquestionably be in the hands of the fans as to what works are worthy of canonization

Spock isn’t just Vulcan though, so I think it’s interesting to see earlier struggles he may have had with it

But we know he chose the Vulcan way at the age of 7, because we saw him do that during the TAS episode “Yesteryear.” And while everybody talks about “human emotions” in TOS, it’s clear that Vulcans DO have emotions, and in fact their emotions may be stronger than those of humans. So Spock’s being half human shouldn’t make it harder for him to control his emotions than it is for other Vulcans; if anything, it should make it easier.

And actually, if you think about what happens during TOS, Spock controls himself weekly in the face of incredible events that would be once-in-a-lifetime events for a Vulcan who lives quietly on Vulcan. Going blind, risking the death penalty, going back in time 300 years, getting struck by lightning, shot by spores, aging three decades for every day, going out on a suicide mission, sharing his body with Henoch, being captured by the Romulans, declaring his best friend dead, having his brain stolen … the list of things Spock suffers with perfect equanimity is stunning.

So Spock’s ability to exercise emotional control must be greater than that of the average Vulcan who lives quietly on the planet — probably much, MUCH greater — because Spock’s situation is so very different, so full of strange and emotion-provoking events. Spock must be the freaking Grandmaster of emotional control, given how eventful his life is compared to the majority of Vulcans. :-)

This calls for a “Spock Supercut”

I’m sure there are some, somewhere on YouTube. :-)

I figure it calls for a statue of Spock on Vulcan, as an inspiration to little Vulcan children. Something like, “Look, boys and girls, he went blind and showed no emotion; he risked the death penalty and showed no emotion; he went on a mission in which he fully expected to perish and showed no emotion. Try to live up to his example!” :-)


Given the Vulcan lifespan, that’s roughly like a life decision a human three and half year old made. Given the prejudice and bigotry he experienced as a hybrid he likely didn’t come to the realization that he needed to be more Vulcan than any Vulcan to be accepted as an equal until much later. And even at that, his choice of Starfleet seemed an acknowledgement, the effort was futile. I doubt anyone would blame him for dabbling with his human side as his mother often encouraged while deciding where his path ultimately lied.

Absolutely agree, Corylea. If I remember correctly, Nimoy himself said the character wasn’t fleshed out yet at the time, thus why he acted differently.

Not only that, but Nimoy himself said the reason for the Spock smile was because the director suggested he do it. There was no character trait he was crossing at the time.


I’m not sure what the distinction supposedly is about a director suggesting something about Vulcans that makes onto screen is? He certainly wasn’t the only director in STAR TREK to do so, and ideas coming from directors certainly aren’t less caonical when they appear on screen.

They didn’t even know he was a Vulcan at that point.


Re: knowing he was Vulcan

What the production crew knew or didn’t know at the time was ultimately irrevelant, as nothing occurred on screen to indicate that this Spock was NOT Vulcan, and the fact was Roddenberry absolutely knew the character was Vulcan at the time he chose to include the footage as part of the two episodes that aired, making the director’s suggestion part of the collaborative development of the Vulcan Spock character.

Including the director and actors. Futher, what Roddenberry wrote then was drastically changed when he wrote the 2nd pilot. And let’s face it… The one and only one reason that footage was even shown in the series was because of a budget crunch.


Your contention that the reason the Spock smile was used in the episode was because it cost too much to cut it is pure unmitigated b.s. Every scene of THE CAGE was NOT included in the two MENAGERIE episodes. It would have not cost Gene any more to cut the smile than any other of the scenes he chose NOT to include.

And your argument is specious as it tries to imply no other decision about what to include in any other episode or movie of the series was made to address a budget crunch which is blatantly false.

“Your contention that the reason the Spock smile was used in the episode was because it cost too much ”

I never said that. The footage I referred to was what was used to create “The Menagerie”. I thought that was self evident.


Makes no difference, as the production went on to use previously shot footage from the other pilot and previous episodes and movies to address numerous budget crunches. You were attempting to use a “budget crunch” as some sort of special case for using the 1st pilot, which it wasn’t, the second pilot was edited into an episode as well, before it.

Heck, Irwin Allen edited his pilot for LOST IN SPACE, into the first five episodes of that show. It’s just was not that unusual to use pilot footage in series’ episodes as you were trying to paint it.

And who should know, if not Mr. Nimoy? :-)


I’m uncertain what your point about Nimoy “knowing” is meant to convey? He certainly didn’t personally invent the character and everything about him out of thin air. He made his contributions to the character in collaboration with others, who most certainly were not Nimoy and did know.

Spock not only showed emotion in The Cage but he also did so making sly jokes in The Enemy Within and sarcastic comments about irritation in WNMHGB, an emotional outburst in The Enterprise Incident, his sadness in Journey to Babel… and so on. One could argue, his actions in The Menagerie were completely based on sympathy and empathy for his former Captain. Later, he was trying to purge himself of emotion in TMP but failed to complete the Kohlinhar. IMO, Discovery Spock just reconfirms Spock had a lifelong struggle trying to deal with, and eventually live with, his emotions.

I agree. There’s a lot of in universe trying to explain with conjecture how characters and situations changed from the early days to their later incarnations. It’s because like any tv shows they were developing the show. It seems silly of me to make stuff up to explain it. It’s not real! It’s a tv production and that’s why things were like that. That’s it.

You know i wonder…

They’ll have to recap the events of “The Cage” in the next Discovery episode, for those viewers less familiar with Trek…

Will they just do this verbally?

Or will they do that showing flashbacks?

By showing footage from “The Cage”…?

Or… or…

By recreating key scenes with the new actors?? (Mount, Peck, Romijn)…

The last option would be kinda heretic, sure. But also kinda cool…

Are there going to be Talosians? Played by women? I’m just curious — I don’t subscribe to CBS-AA.

The Cage is canon for only the Cage and that is it. Nothing that happens with Pike in canon is canon. But hey ignore everything Gene ever said. Hes only the one that made that show.

Nearly all of the footage from “The Cage” was used in “The Menagerie,” and “The Menagerie” is certainly canon. So most of “The Cage” definitely is, as well.

Gene Roddenberry’s contributions to Star Trek were huge and essential, but he didn’t make it alone. Gene Coon, Dorothy Fontana, Bob Justman, and a host of others contributed things that helped to make Star Trek what it was.

An NBC suit famously told Bob Justman, “The problem with you Star Trek people is you think that ship is really up there!” And Mr. Justman famously replied, “It is!” Every member of the creative team that helped to make sure ALL of us know “that ship” really IS “up there” deserves our thanks. ;-)

Goodness, I’m not trying to speak for Gene; I have no idea where you got THAT from! Or did you mean Ryan?

The sense I got watching Gene Roddenberry was that he loved the attention and adulation of the fans and was happy to do anything that would add to it. :-) In addition to “The Cage,” he also showed the blooper reel at conventions for years, in spite of Leonard Nimoy’s predictions about what a chilling effect it would have on actors if they knew that their mistakes would be broadcast to the masses.

Okay. Whew!

This is a fun and great article. Thanks Matt! One thought, however: “The Cage” is not canon. It is really the episode “The Menagerie” which has a different ending that should be analyzed, not “The Cage.” The events of “The Cage” never happened. In “The Cage,” real Pike beams back to the ship and “illusion” Pike stays on the planet with Vina. In “The Menagerie,” only real Pike beams back. There is no “illusion” Pike. When Spock is allowed to bring Pike to Talos IV in “The Menagerie” the real Pike is shown with Vina, albeit with a restored illusionary physicality.

That I was certain of Matt! Thanks for a fun and great read!

While it’s true that we weren’t shown an illusory Pike after the real Pike left the planet, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if the Talosians used him to keep Vina some sort of company between the time Pike left and the time he returned.

That’s what you call Three’s Company….

Or a threesome.

Good idea. Except that “The Cage” does not exist. If we go only with what is on the screen, there never was an illusionary Pike. There is the real Pike eventually and they make him appear healed, yet there is no illusionary Pike. “The Cage” never happened. Thanks for the idea, Corylea!

Yet if the real post-injury Pike was insufficient for Vina, there’s nothing to say she couldn’t also have the dream Pike. Especially as he came for the dream Vina, not the real one. How is all that going to be rectified?

Also, It would be totally interesting if DSC gets into an obsession Pike might have with Vina in the years inbetween. He might actually think he has a thing for her.

Trek in a Cafe,

Clearly, after Pike’s ship computer dump, the Talosians now know about DNA. Who knows what their life-sustaining tech might be able to do with that?

Good ideas, Matt. However, if we as the audience had not seen “The Cage,” there would be no reason to think that any illusionary Pike was with Vina. It is only because of the original ending of “The Cage” that anyone thinks this. Another example. We have a copy of the original pilot of “Smallville.” In that, the mother is played by a different actress than the TV show and there are a few other differences that the actual first episode. Does that mean that Jonathan Kent was married to another woman named “Martha” and then remarried because of the unshown episode? No, because that episode does not exist in continuity. There are edit differences between “The Cage” and “The Menagerie” and those differences in “The Cage” did not happen as canon. We may wish they happen or conjecture they happened. There is nothing in “The Menagerie” that says there was ever an “illusionary” Pike for Vina (although I suppose someone could argue that the line “and more” implies something more for Vina than mere restoration of her original appearance). If “The Cage” is canon, what accounts for the differences in the Talosian voices, for example? The events of “The Cage” are canon, however the ending is not. I wonder, too, about the idea that merely because something available on VHS, DVD, etc. makes it canon. Would that not mean that deleted scenes are canon? “The Cage” is actually that – the most sophisticated deleted scene in the history of Trek! That said, this is merely my interpretation. I respect yours. Thanks for the discussion!

John Tenuto,

Re: VHS, DVD, etc.

That’s an interesting rabbit hole to visit, since some would be equally correct in pointing out that CBS ALL ACCESS doesn’t “air” any episodes with its technology, either.

And I’ve always held the rise of the TREK motion pictures blurred canonical “airings” to include public exhibitions which brings us right back to Gene “exhibiting” uncut versions of both pilots at separate sf conventions before either’s footage segments appeared in episodes which aired.

Matt Wright,

My problem with taking Pike’s adventures as related in those two episodes as immutable canon is that even though Spock vouches for it, he wasn’t in every event the Talosians revealed in their tale, so there’s no way Spock could know their accuracy or lack thereof.

Second, no matter how accurate the source footage, the two parties had clearly edited their documentary to sell Kirk on actions they were going to execute whether or not he bought it, or rather, I suppose, to delay his taking action so as to eliminate Kirk’s ability to block their preordained decision, i.e. it’s more biased in its presentation than supposedly any other episodes’ tale with the exception of the Finney logs in COURT MARTIAL?

I hope Disco one day explains that TOS Alien Dog. We need a back story.


Especially since we have much more research since that production that canines are much more aware and like us than McCoy summized. It shouldn’t have suffered from shock any more than Kirk.

Just another reason I could never get into TOS. I don’t know why some fans treat it like the holy Bible.

Because it is the origin of the life of the franchise?


You are aware that the holy bible, itself, is as internally inconsistent and wrong about animals?

Not sure if this has been discussed, but wondering if the red angel is Michael Burnham?

@ Sig26 – the notion has been mooted on a previous topic, and someone wasn’t keen on that outcome, if I recall.


Ok, here we go….

The good: Vina’s back! (Surprise!); also the new look of the Talosians is AWESOME!

The Bad: The reasoning behind the rift between Burnham and Spock is absolutely heartwrenching.

The Ugly: Culmets (’nuff said). Also TyVoq is getting to be a bit of a jerk now that he’s wearing that Black Badge.

Great episode. There are a few inconsistencies, however.

Episode starts at Stardate 1530.9. Where No Man Has Gone Before starts at 1312.4. Did they adopt a new Stardate convention like switching to the Gregorian Calendar?

Starbase 11 is a mear 2 LYs from the Talos Star Group, hardly across the Galaxy.

General observation. The USS Enterprise that limped back to Earth at the end of Season 1/Beginning of Season 2 was just coming back from its five year mission so it had to be the 203 crew pre-TOS refit version.

It would seem General Order 7 has not yet been issued, only a ban from going to the Talos Star Group. It would also seem that when it does get issued it may not apply to Spock, the Vulcans and such as it stated that no HUMAN could go there.

I like the Discovery Pike, he should get his own spin-off series.