31 May 2015

... and the Orion Slave Girls are green (Review: 'Star Trek 1.12': "The Menagerie: Part II")

Before I start, I really want to say something about Alexander Courage's theme music. The opening four notes (Ding... Ding... Ding... Ding...) are some of the most recognisable in science fiction and combined with Shatner's narration make a great opening.

Yep, this is definitely stuff from "The Cage", I'm certain of it. In the second part of this story, after an excellent recap delivered via the captain's log device this show made famous, the ship continues heading towards Talos IV, a world of big-headed aliens with the ability to cast very convincing illusions and with a decent sense of humour (there's a great bit at the beginning where they chastise Pike's "primitive reactions"). They want Captain Pike for breeding purposes... not with them, but... no I won't spoil it.

Nearly of this episode consists of the 'flashbacks' to Talos IV and the similarities between Pike and Kirk are clear to see. Both in fact are in a line of square-jawed heroes going back past Dan Dare and probably into the 19th century, while going forward into the 21st (Captain Jack Harkness is one of these); Kirk's version of it is so memorable (mainly because of Shatner's excellent portrayal) that many go for parody because they can't hope to top it.

Via the illusions we get a rather entertaining fight between Pike (along with Generic Princess in Distress) and a barbarian with a big fur hat, as well as bad teeth. Not content with the odd knife in the back, Pike ends up giving him one in the front as well!

Another of the illusions is one of the most famous characters in Star Trek - the Orion Slave Girl, who's been popping up in the closing credits for a while now. I sense William Theiss was involved somewhere... and I wonder how long it took to apply all the green make-up! It's a much spoofed scene, although the original isn't all that good, IMHO[1].

Overall, it's clear from watching the 'pilot' that there's a good many problems. Pike is too stoic and reserved; it's like Cary Grant (who retired from acting in this year) or Jimmy Stewart got command of a starship. The method of solving the main problem just isn't Star Trek to me. Few of the planned regulars really stand out at all... and I'm sure that the execs weren't too keen on the female uniforms.

The twist at the end is quite nice and there's a lovely scene between Kirk and Spock at the end.

To be honest, I was really rather bored with this by the end. There's some good ideas, but the execution was lacking and I can see why Desilu went for a major revamp for the main series.

As I was watching this on 29 May, I noticed a message on my watchlist saying that the content expired in 2 days. I took that as meaning that Amazon's deal with CBS expires on the 31st; a similar message also appeared against Community, also owned by CBS/Paramount, IIRC. If a new deal is signed, I'll carry on watching via Amazon Prime, if not by the end of June, I'll have to fork out for the DVD.

I'm not done with this voyage yet by a long chalk.

[1]As a side note, a good few years ago, CSI did an episode involving a murder at a convention, which featured Hodges holding his phone communicator-style and saying "He's dead, Jim" to lead detective Captain Brass, then followed up with some fantasy sequences featuring the lab staff apeing various Trek character, including Wendy Simms as said slave girl.

As a second side note, there is an episode of Castle set in a convention which also does some TOS spoofing, including Kate Beckett delivering one truly epic prank.

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