**** (4 stars out of 5)
The trial for Pike's future and Spock's life resumes. Even listening to the presentation has gotten Kirk in crap with his commanders. But who can resist opening other people's diaries, or in this case a wide-screen look at Christopher Pike's dreams...?
In an illusion of Pike's home town, Mojave, we get our only original Trek glimpse at twenty-third century Earth. Greenery side-by-side with strange, gleaming buildings. A guy, a girl, some horses, and a picnic lunch. Looks pretty nice. Who wouldn't want a future like this?
Speaking of greenery...
Picnic lunch didn't lead to any hanky-panky, so the Talosians dig a little deeper and cast Pike as some kind of Prince (or just a guy with a harem). This time, Vina appears as his dancing Orion slave girl. "They say no man can resist them..." muses Commodore Mendez.
I'd like to take the opportunity to say... Thank You, Star Trek. Is this sort of thing sexist, venal, exploitive, degrading to women? I'm pretty sure I know the answer and I find I haven't got the wherewithal to complain. Mmmm. Groobies...
"Do they do more than just watch me... do they FEEL with me, too?" Pike on life with an audience.
"When dreams become more important than reality... you give up travel, building, creating." You only sit and watch the thought-records. Vina sums up the stagnant culture of the mentally astonishing but physically diminishing Talosians. Maybe she's thinking of somebody else's culture as well.
The Keepers add more girls to Chris' menagerie: Number One with her brilliant mind, and Yeoman Colt with her "unusually strong female drives". (That's Talosian for skank.) Telepathic scan reveals both have harbored fantasies about their captain. Surely THESE will do? Pike's not made of stone, right?
Talosians will have to settle for thought-record squelchies tonight: none of the humans are sufficiently amorous. However, a jail break is in the offing, and it turns out horny and strong beats desperate and smart, as long as smart is also small and frail. These exasperating creatures will never make good breeding stock for a slave race to rebuild war-torn Talos. The Talosians will not agree to a cultural exchange or even contact: they fear that if they mingle, humans will learn the illusion power and destroy themselves, too.
They are free to go: except Vina, mangled and badly reassembled 18 years earlier in the Columbia crash. Even Pike agrees with their reasoning:
Of course, vegetables can't be too choosy, so...
You get the idea: 13 years on, and Pike's ready to go back in The Cage, as long as Vina's there, too.
Malachi Throne is great as Jose Mendez, the "bad cop" or, the voice of authority, really. He seems like a compassionate man in a difficult situation. Or, as it transpires, the ILLUSION of such a man. If Mendez was a Talosian fake all along, then it makes the Talosians seem kinder, sincere in their desire to give Pike and Vina comforting virtual lives together, with no ulterior purpose. Certainly a breeding pair doesn't seem too likely, now. Vina's in her fifties at least, and Pike's very likely sterile. Plus, oldster antics? Ick.
It's not 'the golden years' most people look forward to- but there may be truth in illusions, too.