It is the year is 2254 – eleven years before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission commanding the USS Enterprise.
Two weeks after a battle on Rigel VII that left seven crewmembers injured and took the life of three Enterprise crewmen, including Captain Christopher Pike’s yeoman, the ship encounters a space distortion on a collision course, according to helmsman José Tyler. It turns out to be an old radio distress signal, “keyed to cause interference and attract attention.” The crew says it was sent eighteen years earlier from the Talos star group, but first officer Number One notes they have no Earth colonies or vessels that far out. Pike declines to investigate without any indication of survivors but proceeds to the Vega colony to care for the crew’s own injuries.
Pike calls the Enterprise’s chief medical officer, Dr. Boyce, to his quarters but Boyce instead fixes Pike a martini to induce Pike to talk about the battle on Rigel VII. Pike has been thinking of resigning, burdened with making lethal decisions, but Boyce counsels against it. The science officer Spock interrupts on the intercom that a follow-up message from Talos IV indicates there are eleven survivors. Pike returns to the bridge and orders the ship to Talos, at “time warp, factor seven.” He bumps into a young woman, J. Mia Colt, his new yeoman. The ship’s first officer, a woman named Number One, says Colt is the captain’s replacement yeoman. Pike expresses discomfort with “a woman on the bridge,” assuring Number One that she is an exception, as she’s “different, of course.”
Pike leads a landing party to the surface of Talos IV and finds the makeshift campsite of a disheveled group of male scientists from the crashed survey ship SS Columbia. The scientists identify themselves as an expedition of the American Continent Institute and Lieutenant Jose Tyler describes technological advances while they have been marooned, particularly in the time barrier being broken. A beautiful young woman approaches them. She is Vina, born almost as the group crash-landed on the planet. Vina strangely tells Pike he is a “prime specimen” – as three aliens with huge, pulsating heads watch the landing party through a viewing screen.
Boyce provides his medical report to Pike and reports that the survivors are in good health, “almost too good.” The scientist Theodore Haskins offers to show Pike their “secret,” and Vina leads him away from the others. Vina suddenly vanishes, along with the scientists and their camp. Talosians render Pike unconscious and abduct him through a doorway in the rock. The landing party fires laser pistols at the door to no avail and Spock advises the ship via his communicator that this “is all some sort of trap. We’ve lost the captain. Do you read?”
Pike wakes up without his jacket, communicator, and laser, inside an underground cell with a transparent wall, through which he sees several creatures of different species in nearby cells. Several Talosians arrive and make callous scientific observations about him, which he perceives not through sound but telepathy. They note that Pike is more adaptable to his new surroundings and prepare to begin “the experiment.”
The Talosians intend to make Pike experience illusions based on his memories, in order to interest him in Vina. The first illusion returns Pike to Rigel VII, with the new task of saving Vina. Pike is not interested in participating, telling Vina he is “not an animal performing for its supper,” but he is interested in learning the parameters of the illusions and of his captivity. Nevertheless, he manages to survive the illusory attack from the Kalar and is returned, with Vina, to his cell.
He learns from Vina that the Talosians have severely weakened their world and themselves by reliance on their telepathic powers. They want Captain Pike and Vina as breeding stock for a new, stronger race to repopulate the barren surface of the planet. The Talosians punish Vina for revealing this information to Pike.
The Talosians provide him with a vial of liquid nourishment and insist that he consume it, even offering to make it appear as any food he wishes. Pike proposes to starve himself instead, which results in the Keeper punishing him with an illusion of being surrounded by scorching flame and threatens to punish him more severely for continued disobedience. Pike appears to relent by consuming the liquid, but then displays another outburst of attempting to break through the containment, unexpectedly startling the Keeper. Pike realizes that the Keeper was unable to read his mind during his outburst of anger and tries to inquire more as to why this is. The Keeper, still unable to probe Pike’s mind, attempts then to distract Pike by changing the subject to Vina. Pike relents again, and the Keeper reveals that Vina was the sole survivor of the Columbia crash and confirms what she inadvertently revealed previously – that Pike and Vina were being kept to propagate Humanity and repopulate Talos IV. The conversation ends with Pike demanding that the Talosians punish him instead of her, since he is the one being uncooperative, which the Keeper regards as an excellent development in their relationship.
The next illusion is a pleasant picnic just outside Pike’s hometown of Mojave, with Vina attempting to entice Pike with the familiar setting, but with Pike still resisting, knowing that all of it is just a mere illusion. Vina then realizes that scenarios with which Pike is already familiar have not been successful in enticing him to cooperate, and surmises that he might be more easily swayed by a forbidden fantasy. The Talosians next tempt Pike by making Vina appear as a dancing Orion slave girl.
The Enterprise tries without success to channel the starship’s power to the surface to blast a way to Pike. Then Spock locates the Talosians’ power generator and prepares a landing party. However, only the females (Number One and Yeoman Colt) are the only ones transported, as the Talosians seek to give Pike a choice of mates; and their weapons and communicators appear not to work. Vina resents the competition; Number One says records indicate Vina cannot be as young as she appears.
As the rescue attempts have failed, Spock orders the Enterprise to leave orbit, but the Talosians immobilize it and scan its records, convincing Spock that the ship’s utility to the Talosians is at an end and that they will now “swat… this fly.”
Pike determines that any strong emotions keep the Talosians from controlling his mind and uses this to his advantage. While Pike feigns sleep, the Talosian magistrate tries to recover the female officers’ lasers from the cage. Pike seizes the magistrate and ignores the illusions. He reasons that the malfunction of the lasers was itself an illusion and uses the laser pistol to compel the magistrate to stop deceiving him. He now sees that they had blasted away the wall of the cage on their first attempt.
He escapes with the women to the surface and sees that the blasting operation on the door had also succeeded, despite an illusion made to appear otherwise. But the communicators still don’t work, and the Talosian says that the original goal was to put the group on the surface. Pike offers himself as a captive for the freedom of the others and the Enterprise, but Number One begins a “force-chamber” overload of her laser pistol, intending to destroy herself and her shipmates to thwart the Talosians’ plans. She tells the Talosian magistrate that it is wrong to create a whole race of Humans to live as slaves.
The magistrate’s aides arrive, presenting the summary of the ship’s records. The records have shown that Humans possess a “unique hatred of captivity,” even when pleasant, making them too dangerous for the Talosians’ needs. The magistrate does not apologize for the imposition but concedes that they will now become extinct. Pike asks if commerce or cooperation might not restore the planet, but the magistrate replies that Humans would learn the Talosians’ power of illusion and destroy themselves, just as the Talosians did. The crew members are free to go, but Vina says she cannot join them. After the others transport aboard, the Talosians show Pike Vina’s true appearance: underneath the Talosian illusions, she is badly deformed from the crash of the Columbia. They were able to make it so that she could remain alive, but could not restore her appearance. The Talosians agree to take care of Vina and they provide her with an illusory Captain Pike to keep her company.
Pike returns to the bridge, reassuring Dr. Boyce that he is completely refreshed for work, and waving off a query from Yeoman Colt about whom he would have chosen as a mate, as well as accusing the doctor of being a “dirty old man” for inquiring into the meaning of Colt’s remark. The Enterprise departs.
This show should not be compared to the later Star Trek series, except for the title. This sci-fi ouclassed other shows of the time 2 to 1. There had never been anything like this on television up to this point. Jeffery Hunter was pretty good as Captain Pike, though I did wish he was a little nicer to Colt. The supporting cast do an admirable job, too. Leonard Nimoy (who was just finding his character’s footing) of course was great as Spock, and I’m I enjoyed seeing him actually show emotion here.
Sure, the effects look cheap, but, this was a PILOT for the series. And the Remastered version fixed most of that. Overall, while it’s not the people were used to, its still an effective start to the series.
RANK: 4 out of 5
Next we end the year with some plans for the new year, and one more review to end out the Year of Star Trek