This episode is one of the most well-known and immediately recognizable of any incarnation of Star Trek, and it’s pretty easy to dismiss it as an exciting adventure story pitting Kirk against a man in a rubber suit reptilian monster. And while this may be true, if one scratches just a bit below that surface, one may find a rather interesting morality tale about mercy.

Red Shirt Owned Count: 3

Red Shirt Owned Count: 3

To start with, there are two instances in this episode where there is a glaring lack of mercy. The first is perpetrated by the Gorn in their annihilation of the colony on Cestus III. Aside from the obvious violent nature of the death and destruction, the wounded lieutenant tells Kirk that as the attack began, the colony sent repeated calls explaining their lack of resources, presence of innocent civilians, and even cries of surrender, all of which went unheeded by the Gorn. Upon hearing all of this, Kirk demonstrates an extreme lack of mercy, and in righteous rage, sets off to “punish” the “invaders” at all costs, without any attempt to understand the situation.

In contrast, the virtue of mercy is demonstrated from the beginning in what is a rather unexpected source for such an emotional concept – Spock. As Kirk stews in his indignation over the attack, Spock calls for a non-violent solution: first attempting to convince Kirk to find out what prompted the attack, and later nearly begging the captain to stop chasing the Gorn ship in the hopes that the pursuit alone would deter further incursions. It is rather striking that the character most known for his cold logic is the strongest advocate for the course of action more grounded in emotion. Kirk also demonstrates mercy at the end of the episode in sparing the life of the Gorn captain, but we are actually left a little unsettled by this scene, as Kirk doesn’t actually seem to demonstrate signs of truly-felt mercy, but rather, he has deduced what outcome the Metrons are looking for, and citing his understanding of the reasons the Gorn attacked Cestus III, he “wins” the contest as only Kirk can. While it does show his intelligence and savvy, we are rather sour on Kirk’s attitude throughout this whole episode.

Kirk finally gets around to mercy

Kirk finally gets around to mercy

The Metrons themselves bear a bit of scrutiny here as well, we felt, as they claim to be a much more evolved, advanced form of life, and cite mercy as an “advanced trait”. So if they are so evolved, why would they force such a contest with the stakes of loser’s-ship-gets-blown-up “in the interest of peace”? Even at the end of the episode after Kirk spares the Gorn captain’s life and the Metron representative has applauded the merciful move, he offers to destroy the Gorn ship. How does this make sense? Well, it is our opinion that from the very beginning, the threat of destruction was a bluff – a calculated test meant to draw out the “civilization” in the humans. We don’t think the Metrons ever actually intended to destroy the ship, and were therefore happy and relieved that Kirk learned his lesson (or at least pretended to).

Mercy is often difficult in practice – our innate sense of pride and desire for justice tends to get in the way of forgiving those who wrong us, especially if they do not seem penitent for their actions. But choosing to exercise mercy – deserved or not – is part of what makes us capable of civilization, and that is what this episode is truly about.

That and watch out for men in rubber lizard suits throwing styrofoam rocks around in the desert.


The Galileo Seven

The term “tsundere” is a Japanese word used to describe a character who at first appears cold and harsh (tsun tsun) but over time reveals a soft side (dere dere). An entire sub-genre of anime has been built around this character concept. Many of the better-known tsundere characters are female (Taiga from Toradora! is a favorite of Ando’s), but plenty of males fit the role as well (Kyo from Fruits Basket is a personal favorite). As it gains traction, the term of “tsundere” is being applied more widely, to characters such as Sherlock from BBC’s Sherlock.

Is Spock tsundere?

Galaxy Quest FTW!

I half-expect to see Tony Shalhoub eating a cheese-dipper snack

“The Galileo Seven” shows off many aspects of Spock’s personality– mainly repeating themes we’ve seen before, but this time in more detail. The crewmen of the week openly demonstrate their disdain for Spock’s cold, reason-based decisions while on Taurus II. Team Passive Aggressive take Spock’s perceived lack of grief over a dead crewman as evidence that he considers the crew little more than an expendable resource like any other. His strict adherence to logic and reason means that he cannot have an emotional attachment to crew, even those under his command. As the episode progresses, Spock’s actions appear less cold and more protective. He invokes the classic “go on without me” trope, demonstrating he is willing to sacrifice himself to save his crew. This is a turning point for Squishy Spock, culminating in most of the bridge crew ribbing him about his “strictly logical” act of desperation.

Examples of Spock’s “tsun tsun” nature are plentiful, as his emotionless logic is central to his character. Like any good tsundere, Spock himself insists that he feels no attachment and indeed cares for no person, as those are illogical human emotions and therefore have no place in his mind. In “The Galileo Seven,” Spock’s actions suggest a level of protectiveness that he would never admit to. While later episodes and movies give us glimpses of what could be considered a kinder gentler Spock, it’s not until 2009’s Star Trek, with the introduction of a relationship with Uhura, that we see what could truly be considered tsundere Spock. As is often the case in anime, it takes a romantic interest to crack the shell of a stubbornly cold loner.

I hope Kirk-sama notices me...

Tsundere Spock – image by CanneDeBonbon (DeviantArt)


The Menagerie

Young Spock

A young Spock

There are those who would see “The Menagerie” as just a flashback episode, doing little more than providing a framework to salvage the footage filmed for “The Cage“. But your humble Poore Trekkies see this episode in a much different light. Far from being a throwaway flashback episode, we feel “The Menagerie” presents some of the earliest examples of the character of Spock – as a man – and portray qualities that we will see over and over again throughout not only the rest of the original Star Trek series, but repeated multiple times in the movies, his appearances on The Next Generation, and even his place in the J.J. Abrams reboot movies. And those roots can all be explored by simply asking one question: “Why did Spock do it?”

The obvious first point to consider is Spock’s heritage – as we all know, he is half Vulcan and half Human. This sets up so many conflicts throughout the show and movies that by itself, it’s too broad a topic to cover just once here. Since the struggle between his humanity and Vulcanity – emotion and logic – is such an integral part of his character, we know this plays into the decisions he makes in this episode. We feel it’s important to consider how that affects his decision-making in general; specifically, we believe his Vulcan side with its logic is strong enough that it will serve to overrule any truly bad decisions his human side with its emotion may come up with. And in fact, what this episode demonstrates (and we see repeated many times later) is how Spock will do the human thing the Vulcan way – meaning perhaps he makes an emotion-based decision, but sets about taking action on it in the most logical way possible.

Kirk and Mendez

Kirk and Commodore Mendez, trying to figure out what Spock is up to

As is often the case with unexpected behavior in a known individual, the first “offenses” tend to be relatively small and easy for them to justify. Since Spock carries out his plan at Starbase 11, we see he must have decided that breaking Starfleet’s directive prohibiting contact with Talos IV was logical. And though by legal definition, he technically committed assault against two Starfleet officers, he was only using the relatively harmless Vulcan nerve pinch, so there was no permanent harm brought to those men. So we can see that right at the beginning, the logical conclusion he saw at the success of his plan could easily justify the emotion that led to the plan in the first place.

Captain Pike

Captain Pike’s sad state

Taking a step farther, though, we see Spock’s emotional decision beginning to affect others when you realize that he quite literally kidnaps Captain Pike. From the first moment Pike sees Spock, he knows what the plan must be – Spock even guesses Pike knows why he’s there – and Pike says no. For the next few hours, Pike is essentially sitting in his room screaming “NO! NO! NO!” over and over again, and Spock takes him anyway. Far from consenting to the journey, Pike is a reluctant abductee who is forced onto a court martial tribunal. Looking at it from Pike’s point of view, here is a situation from 13 years in his past, that we’re sure he must have been trying to forget and put behind him. And suddenly, in more vivid detail than even starship logs could ever record, are the events of those days of his life. Though the man is almost totally incapable of movement or communication, we can see in his eyes that he is reliving it all, and after being reminded of everything that happened, only then is he able to answer the question of if he wants to go spend the rest of his life with the Talosians – with Vina – and he says “Yes”. But up until this moment – with the Enterprise already in orbit around Talos IV – Captain Pike is a non-consenting abductee, and Spock could only have had hope – a human emotion – that Pike would eventually change his mind on the matter.


Spock and Jim

Spock appeals to his friend Jim, not his captain

Amid all of the order and logic of the plan, Spock knew that he had to protect his commanding officer. He engineers a setup whereby he can assume command of the Enterprise and leave Kirk behind. He knows Kirk will be angry and betrayed, but he knows that is the only way to protect Kirk. However this is where Kirk’s emotions present a major problem – he jumps in a shuttle, which he knows will never actually catch up to the much faster starship, and follows Spock until the fuel runs out. This forces Spock to switch to Plan B, but The Plan is still in motion, using the court martial as a distraction. There is an obvious appeal to Kirk as more than a commanding officer, when Spock changes from addressing Kirk as “Captain” to pleading with his friend “Jim” to not get in the way of the plan; what is interesting to note here is that this comes right on the heels of Kirk being relieved of duty due to Spock’s actions. This means that Spock feels so strongly about his plan to help Captain Pike that he is even willing to risk the career of his current commanding officer – and good friend. How much farther would Spock be willing to go to make this plan succeed?

Pike and Vina

Ignorance is bliss

The answer is that he is willing to go as far for Christopher Pike as he eventually did go for Kirk, McCoy, and the rest of the Enterprise crew in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – laying down his own life. While it’s true that after Starfleet saw the images the Talosians broadcast that explained Spock’s motivations, they waived the death penalty this time, Spock could not have expected that to happen. As far as he knew, the moment he enacted the plan, his death was certain, and he was willing to lay down his life. This goes to show that Spock valued the quality of Captain Pike’s life even above his own life! We know from Dr. McCoy at the beginning of the episode that the machines keeping Pike alive would do so theoretically for a long time, so it’s not like Pike only had a few days left to live. It appears as though Spock decided that there are things worse than death, and that Pike’s condition qualified as such, and that giving him some semblance of his old self back – even if it was just an illusion created by the Talosians – was worth dying for. He willingly took actions that he knew would inevitably end his own life, just so that Christopher Pike could live out his remaining days happy with Vina.

Though this is certainly not the last time we see Spock doing the human thing the Vulcan way, it’s one of the most poignant. Not very far underneath the seemingly cold Vulcan exterior, Spock obviously carries a great deal of love for his friends. And while he always downplays those feelings – those emotions – as mere logic when confronted about them (it happens right at the end of this episode), anyone who would be a friend of Spock’s could always know that he would consider their needs as outweighing those of his own. So, dear reader, we ask again – “why did Spock do it?”

Mudd’s Women

Mudd's Women

Why don’t we see more cosplays of these lovely ladies?

Katie Mae: When I saw Mudd’s women, I thought this was going to be “the show that launched a thousand cosplays.” But apparently nobody cosplays Mudd’s women. What’s with that? Those dresses were pretty cool…

Ando: Actually I was rather impressed by Harry Mudd’s swashbuckling outfit myself. And that earring…

KM: That earring was pretty impressive. And distracting. I wonder if there’s one on eBay… nope. Etsy? No? There’s something wrong with that. I bet we could make one. It looks like a Christmas ornament. Or those crinkly cat toys. Would you wear it if you got your ear pierced, Ando?

A: Maybe not every day, but on special occasions, when I wanted to look dashing! So I realize Harry Mudd is not exactly what you would call a Star Trek villain, like Khan, for example, but he does make for an interesting adversary for Kirk. He causes more exasperation than anger. He feels like a precursor to Cyrano Jones.

KM: Oh yea, the The Trouble with Tribbles guy! For a second I pictured them as the same guy and wondered if it was the same actor, but then I remembered they really look nothing alike. But they have similar personalities. I think this episode has a similar feel to The Trouble with Tribbles. It’s fairly light-hearted and a little silly.

A: True, but this episode does have a deeper message than The Trouble with Tribbles. That episode really was just a comedy. Mudd’s Women at least had a commentary on true beauty and a pretty stark condemnation of trophy wives.

KM: Yea, I felt like I was getting a nice little Star Trek-style morality dose from Kirk and Mudd, there. What did they say? “There’s only one kind of woman.”

A: “Or man, for that matter.” Wise man, Harry Mudd… I think.

Harcourt Fenton Mudd

Seriously, who wouldn’t want that jaunty hat?

KM: Slivers of wisdom from Mudd. I didn’t see that coming. haha You know, I feel like there has been a fair bit of sexism in this show, but for some reason, this episode didn’t come across that way. Yes, the women wear provocative outfits, but it feels more like it’s all part of a joke. They’re so beautiful/sexy that they distract the men. It’s funny, not offensive.

A: Yes, it was so over-the-top that the viewers don’t see it as sexist. They know it’s wrong from the beginning. The show is not condoning the blatant objectification of the women’s bodies, and you can tell from the first scene how much of a slimeball Harry Mudd is.

KM: But he’s a lovable slimeball! I think he’s one of my favorite guest characters, actually. He’s fun.

A: And he sports a glorious mustache.

KM: It really is. He comes back in another episode later, right?

A: Yes, I, Mudd. He also shows up in an old Star Trek PC game, so I guess you’re not the only person who likes his antics.

KM: I think he really is one of the better characters. I wonder why you don’t see more of him, in merchandise and stuff. They could market Mudd’s Magical Venus Gummy Chews.

A: So what was your favorite moment in this episode?

KM: That scene where Mudd is coaching the women on how to avoid questions, but they kept calling him Harry. The security guard was right there (not giving a damn, by the looks of it) and Mudd kept getting flustered and paranoid. That was pretty funny. And yours?

Spock shrug

Spock has nothing but disdain for your silly human attractions, but he recognizes the significance of a smashing ass.

A: That moment when the women are leaving the conference room after meeting Kirk for the first time and Spock watches them leave, then gives Kirk a saucy little shrug and follows them. Ladies’ man Spock.

KM: This is a pretty good episode. I think I’m going to call it one of my favorites.

A: Fair enough, but there are still some awesome episodes ahead. *Turns to camera* Stay tuned!

Poore Trekkie Mustaches

We love Mudd’s glorious ‘stache so much, we got some of our own.

Charlie X

I’m sure Charlie X is supposed to be about teen angst, or growing up, or something. There’s probably a coming-of-age story behind Charlie Evans’ awkward, slightly creepy vibe. His story is a sad one- he has never know the touch of another human; he was raised by incorporeal beings, so he has no concept of humanity. Charlie’s situation is Kirk’s first encounter with a no-win scenario.

I could talk about how desperate Charlie’s escape from the life he hates is, or how heart-wrenching it is to hear him sob about not wanting to go back to live with the bodyless beings that raised him, or how this is the first (but not last) time that Star Trek deals with starship captains being unwilling father figures to rebellious teenagers, or any number of nice little moments of Kirk/Charlie interplay.

But I just keep getting stuck on

Charlie face 1

That Face

Charlie Face 2

That Face some more

Seriously, I’m sure this episode has some poignant moments, but I just can’t get past the ridiculousness. Spock’s playing this weird harp thing and Uhura’s kinda flirting with Spock. And that’s kinda weird.

Spock and Uhura

Spock and Uhura – Didn’t come out of nowhere after all!

Oh yeah, and we see Spock smiling again. Don’t get used to it.

Spock smiling

Hello, ladies


I’ll leave you with this absurd, out-of-context quote:

“There’s no right way to hit a woman!”
– Captain Kirk

The Cage

Katie Mae: So…The Cage.

Ando: Yup. The first pilot of Star Trek. It’s also our only exception to the air-date-order rule, as this wasn’t technically aired until later. But hey, if Kirk can break the Prime Directive, we can too, right?

KM: Right [laughs].

A: Of course, here it’s Pike, not Kirk. But anyway…what are some of the early impressions you had of this episode?

Number One

Majel Barrett, Star Trek’s First Lady

KM: I think it would’ve been interesting if they’d kept the original cast. I would’ve like to have seen Majel Barrett as Number One.

A: I agree. And I also think it’s interesting to see that the captain and chief medical officer were always intended to be close friends and confidants. Even though here it’s not Kirk and McCoy (it’s Pike and Dr. Boyce), they were just as close as Kirk and McCoy would end up.

KM: It’s interesting to see what changed and what stayed the same. We lost a woman as second-in-command, but we gained a black woman as communications officer, so that’s kinda cool and groundbreaking, in a different way.

A: It was also pretty daring for a pilot to drop the viewers right in the middle of a plot. After all, rather than showing the ship as shiny and new and the crew fresh, they’re two weeks out from a difficult battle where crew were injured and killed. Captain Pike is exhibiting signs of depression and even PTSD. That’s not where you expect to find the first episode of a brand-new series going.

KM: Even modern shows tend to give more of an intro. Maybe they wanted to skip past all the scientific explanation technobabble and get right to the story. And I think they succeeded.

A: I do too, absolutely!

KM: Pike is pretty easy to relate to, especially at the time. This was right in the middle of the Vietnam War. He seems like the strong, soldier type, but he’s also showing his vulnerability- his trauma at what he experienced.

Captain Pike

Captain Christopher Pike

A: And that he felt personally guilty for the deaths of his crew.

KM: So he’s both soldier and cowboy. I think he’s exactly the starship captain America needed at that point.

A: Interesting how they downplayed the soldier role when the character was changed to Kirk. He was definitely more a cowboy than a soldier.

KM: I kinda thought the ladies’ man aspect of Kirk outshone everything else, though. Back to The Cage, though. How groundbreaking were those special effects in the opening? I mean, it’s not terribly impressive by today’s standards, but I’m sure back then it was pretty amazing, especially for television.

A: Oh, yeah. When you consider how the shot of the Enterprise model had to be composited with the crane shot into the bridge set, on what had to have been a small budget since this was just a pilot, that was incredible. It definitely could have looked a lot worse. I think it holds up.

KM: I wonder if it was like The Matrix of its time. That “bullet time” effect is arguably the most groundbreaking cinematic technique of my lifetime. You see it a lot more now, but the first time you saw it…wasn’t it the first time you’d been surprised by a movie in a while?

A: When it comes to special effects, yes it was. That brings up an interesting point. Star Trek is well-known for “predicting” technological advances, with things like touch screens and cell phones and so on. That wasn’t so much the case in this pilot, however.

KM: Yeah, you gotta love how Pike gets a printed piece of paper to sign instead of just bringing it up on screen. I mean, even right now, we have online signatures, and it’s not even the 23rd century!

A: OK, OK, well, I want us to go back for a minute to the topic of women on starships.

KM: I wonder whether it was a network decision or an interpretation of what this time period was supposed to be like that women had the positions they did. It was really nice that they have a woman as second-in-command. I like to think that was Roddenberry intentionally doing something daring. But she was the only one. The only other woman shown on board was an obviously airheaded yeoman.

A: Can’t argue there – even the Talosians said she was most useful for her high libido.

KM: Thinking about this makes me feel like a total feminist film critic. Aside from Number One, the women are literally sexual objects. That is all they’re for: breeding stock.

A: Bearing in mind only the pilot, I concur. That did change throughout the rest of the series, but since we’re focusing on The Cage, I can’t deny it.

KM: I just think it’s a little disappointing that, despite the daring decision of having a woman as second-in-command, they couldn’t just let it be. They had to draw attention to it by having Pike say, “I’m not used to having a woman on the bridge.”  I wonder if that was Roddenberry being in-your-face or being apologetic.

A: I’m not sure. It’s definitely a good topic of discussion, though. And I think that’s part of the beauty of Star Trek- that it can spark these kinds of discussions.

KM: So how ’bout them aliens?


The Talosians

A: So we’ve got one with pointy ears and a bunch with big, veiny heads. Both are considered superior in intellect to humans.

KM: I wonder why humans feel that aliens must be smarter than us.

A: Probably because if we’re the smarter ones, it’s not that different from just a bunch of scientists studying off-world specimens. Later episodes in other incarnations deal with this idea a bit. I think it gets even more interesting when you consider that the writers (Roddenberry at first, but this continues all throughout Star Trek) often put “morality tales” in the episodes. If they portrayed these lessons as humans going around teaching inferior aliens how to be moral, it might come off as pretty preachy and heavy-handed, and easy to dismiss. But by having humanity learning from wiser species, it’s jarring and puts us in the position of still having a lot to learn about life.

KM: Gives “Five-year mission” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? [laughs] Of course, despite their “vast intellect”, why did the Talosians overlook the simple need for genetic diversity when populating a species? Is in-breeding not a thing on their planet?

A: Well, from what we found out in the episode, breeding itself wasn’t really a thing at this point. But you’re right, they should have gotten more “specimens”.

KM: Genetics is a science. It’s something that they could easily have been studying. But I guess this is just an example of the necessity of suspension of disbelief.

A: Really, more of plot overriding science. After all, it takes these vastly intelligent aliens the entirety of the episode to finally get access to the Enterprise’s computers and recognize that humanity hates being enslaved. Honestly, after everything we know about them, why did it take that long? Because they moved at the speed of plot.

KM: Honestly, that covers everything I wanted to cover about this episode, aside from-

A: Favorite moments?


Vina "that face"


KM: It gets me every time. What is with her?

A: [laughs] I have no idea, but I agree, that’s a good one. For mine, I just have two words: “THE WOMEN!

KM: [facepalm] Oh, Spock…

A: Thanks for reading! More episodes coming soon!