I’ve never been one for replacement CGI. Both Star Trek and Doctor Who have received CGI effects makeovers which please many, but I’ll always stick with the originals
The opening shot of The Menagerie part one is a case in point. The matte effect may look a little artificial, but it’s also rather beautiful. The other thing which caught my attention during the pre-credits teaser was Bill Shatner’s little acting choices. The way Kirk slightly bumps his knees when he, Spock and McCoy beam down immediately focuses your eye on him. Say what you like about Shatner, he always knew how to grab the limelight. The lecherous look Kirk gives a young and pretty female Federation walk-on is also something of a stand out. I doubt that was in the script …
It’s well known today that The Menagerie was a mid season cheapie, written purely to recycle material from the unaired pilot. I don’t think this was common knowledge back in the seventies through. At that time I simply accepted that the scarred and mute Christopher Pike was the same man (and the same actor) we later see in the lengthy flashbacks.
The early part of the episode sets up an intriguing mystery. Why has Spock gone rogue? Duffing up the workers on Starbase 11, faking Kirk’s voice to convince Uhura and the others that they have a new mission, hijacking the Enterprise to ferry Pike to a planet called Talos IV. It all seems a tad out of character.
Whilst Spock is skulking about and putting his plans into operation, Kirk and McCoy – also both still on Starbase 11 – are exchanging harsh words. Kirk’s beside himself that someone’s interfering with the smooth running of his ship and decides to take it out on Bones. It’s unusual that they part with their differences still unresolved – normally their brief spats only last a few minutes.
I do love the notion of Spock comanderring the Enterprise, leaving Kirk stranded on the Starbase in the process. The tension then slowly ramps up as McCoy becomes more and more suspicious (this is resolved only after Spock finally admits that he illegally stole the Enterprise and requests that he be put under arrest).
Quite why Kirk and Commodore Mendez (Malachi Throne) decide to pursue the Enterprise in a titchy shuttlecraft isn’t quite clear. But maybe this was all part of Spock’s plan.
With Kirk and Mendez now onboard the Enterprise, but with the ship still locked on course to Talos IV, the stage is set for Spock (standing trial for mutiny) to present his case. Why they’ve decided to hold the court martial here and now is a mystery (although obvious in story terms).
Will Spock be able to tell a convincing tale by the time the Enterprise reaches Talos IV? I’ve a feeling he can …
The Cage segments give us a glimpse into a Star Trek universe that might have been. Jeffrey Hunter is a bit stiff as Pike, but remember this was only the pilot. Over time would he have softened and shown a little more light and shade? Maybe, but I think we got the better deal with William Shatner.