I just watched Star Trek TOS’s “The Menagerie” and it raises the question of how I would withstand treatment similar to Captain Pike. If I was allowed to choose any woman to be my mate, would I be able to resist choosing the failed love of my life? Would I be able to restrain myself from the pleasures of fulfillment? I don’t know. The punishments meted out to those who do not cooperate are based on the specimen’s own fears. What if I were subjected to such images as irresistible zombies reaching out for me on city streets, or animals being tortured, or myself, being slowly killed by a laughing Vincent D’onofrio like in The Cell? What would I do? Bugs, blades, fire, disasters, my family being murdered, friends burned, terrible visions of un-sane cruelty, just to get what they wanted from me? To induce my sense of sympathy, my earthly connections, my grip on my life, and make me beg for it? Would I prefer such punishments over the pleasures of every earthly desire fulfilled instantly: millions of women, gallons of liquor without fear of sickness, or death, drugs and fame and possessions beyond my wildest dreams? Could I resist that for the sake of freedom, purity, reality as I KNOW it? Would I sacrifice my epistemology, or alter it, to suit someone else, if that someone else could provide me with, literally, everything I could possibly want? My Dad, and Stefan back from the grave? My father’s father and mother, for me to meet? A body free from illness or injury? A life, totally without hardship or unhappiness of any kind? WHAT WOULD I DO? Would I give in? Would I lose my way and accept the way that’s given to me? I don’t know. I like to think I would resist them, but when the offer of the woman, any woman to love, was made, I felt myself founder. Imagine, all this life, all the pains in the ass of living, gone. Imagine every unfulfilled hope, made flesh. It’s impossible to imagine such a thing, and that makes the choice impossible to resist. How could I? Yet, for my soul….for my SOUL. Would I prefer to face all my fears than to accept all my wishes?
Because of the all the extremely important questions–about humanity, pleasure, rebellion, truth, reality, the will–that the episode urges me to ask, I have to say that The Menagerie is one of the best, perhaps THE best, Star Trek: TOS episode I’ve ever seen. In addition, the suspense, quality of the writing (pure Roddenberry), unusual storytelling technique, and ease of sympathy with the characters (despite the mostly bad acting and one or two awkward occasions involving the camera angle) provide a situation of such mind-boggling ramifications and “What if it was ME?” profundity as to be completely off the meters.
I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction.