Star Trek TOS: Say It Ain’t So, Rebellious Spock Goes Rogue

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Star Trek — The Original Series

Season 1, Episode 12

The Menagerie Part I

On Starbase 11, Kirk and the crew encountered a shell-of-himself Captain Pike, totally ravaged by delta rays when a baffle plate ruptured on his ship. Stunned by his maimed appearance, Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy contemplated their own morality without words. 

Spock told Pike he had something up his sleeve, presumably to change time and somehow repair Pike. It would involve mutiny — which Pike did not endorse — but Spock’s humanitarian ways were out in full force. And he wasn’t even fully human. 

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A frustrated Kirk was miffed that he was summoned to Starbase 11 with no origins of the request. Then, the plot thickened as Spock was theorized as a conspirator contributing to the request out of undying loyalty. The idea of Villain Spock is brand new — and weird. Although, the viewer learned that Spock is wholly incapable of lying — a trait that makes it tricky to be a true villain or merchant of mutiny.

Throughout the episode, Kirk stared at a live video of Pike, pondering his own vulnerability due to the “captain connection” between the men. 

It was also revealed that a visit to Talos IV — the planet that hosted Pike’s cage— warranted the death penalty. Foremost, this was a humongous statement about Star Trek’s denouncement of the death penalty in space. If a mere visit to a lousy planet brought out the guillotine — but not actual murder — Star Trek was wildly progressive in its anti-death penalty stance for the 1960s. This also explains why the first eleven episodes don’t dole out death to punish the various creatures that wreaked havoc. Star Trek rejected hero-villain-death tropes. 

Indeed, Spock flexed and set sail for Talos IV. Death penalty be damned. Kirk was faced with the prospect of an insane Spock, creating an obvious schism toward his friend and Kirk’s wantonness to understand just what in the hell was going on. 

The tea leaves were easier to read — a little bit — when Spock did an arrest kamikaze. He knew his antics would generate incarceration, so he surrendered before anyone understood his Talos IV plot. It was self-fulfilling mutiny. Kirk called the hullabaloo “the most painful moment” he ever faced in his service — quite the statement for someone as celebrated as Kirk. 

In his trial, Spock offered archived video evidence of Pike’s existence as captain of Enterprise. This was noteworthy because the court attendees were floored that video footage from 13 years ago could even exist. 

The Menagerie Part I broadcasted verbatim the greatest hits of The Cage to teach the court about Pike’s Talos IV mission. In real life, The Cage would not air for the general public until 18 years later.

At a break in the footage, Starfleet informed the trial members that Kirk, too, was facing the death penalty because it was under his command that the Spock-to-Talos mischief occurred. 

The episode carried over as a two-parter, leaving viewers with a fundamental question: 

Is a righteous man’s path to mutiny excusable because his mission is just?

Themes: Mortality, Death Penalty, Mutiny

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).