Before the episode, Spock claims to have received an urgent message from Fleet Captain Christopher Pike to report to him at Starbase 11. Upon arriving at the starbase, Kirk is informed that the Starbase sent no such message, and Commodore Jose Mendez rebukes Kirk's argument as impossible, because Pike is in no condition to send any such message. Pike's injuries following an shipboard accident during an inspection tour (one of the baffle plates ruptured, causing severe radiation burns and brain damage) have left him confined to a motorized wheelchair, conscious but unable to move or speak.
Spock, it turns out, is already aware of Pike's plight, and has devised a plan to kidnap his former commanding officer, for whom he has great respect and admiration, and bring him back to the one place he might find happiness. But he is doing so without the knowledge of any of his colleagues, even Kirk, because his intended destination is the one place in the galaxy restricted under penalty of death — Talos IV.
Through Pike's wordless protest (a light on his mobility chair flashes and beeps once for yes, twice for no, and it was flashing twice a LOT), Spock tells Pike of his well-prepared plan for abducting Pike, and shows very clear emotion in his fervor that it must be carried out, that he has no choice.
Mendez and Kirk argue about the message supposedly sent from the Starbase; it could not have occurred, which means that someone must have altered the tapes; who would want to divert the Enterprise, Kirk wonders? In the computer center, Spock sneaks in and nerve-pinches a technician; then as we return to Mendez's office we meet again Miss Piper, who discusses the results of her investigation into the message; Kirk stresses that a Vulcan can no sooner be disloyal than he can exist without breathing; that goes for his current as well as his past commander. But Mendez returns that Pike could NOT have sent the message; he's completely debilitated and reliant on his special chair which resembles a mobile iron lung; his mind is as active as anyone else's, but it's trapped in a useless, vegetating body. His responses and movement are severely limited; he's kept alive with a mechanical heart, as Mendez tells Kirk with some difficulty.
Meanwhile, in the computer center, Spock is doing some hacking and voice alteration, preparing to falsely order the Enterprise crew to retrieve Pike... The extent of Spock's manipulation is necessarily limited, so most of the new orders, including destination, are fed directly into the ship's computer. Suddenly, the technician who communicated with Mendez's office before discovers Spock and his sabotage; a brief shoving match followed by a neck pinch, and Spock confirms his hacked orders with Kirk's voice, and passes the baton back to himself with the same voice.
Monitoring Pike, Kirk notices he's saying, "No! No!" quite a bit again, as agitated as he can ever exhibit. McCoy comes in and laments that the medicine of their time has not been able to tap into the human brain; Pike is capable of all the feelings and emotions that we feel, but no one can tell because his body is so damaged and restricted. Kirk comes to a frightening realization; Spock may have fabricated the message from Starbase 11 to the Enterprise! McCoy calmly reminds Kirk that as a Vulcan, Spock's incapable of lying; his human half, as McCoy claims, remains completely submerged. Kirk refuses to discount Spock as a suspect, while McCoy is recalled with a cryptic message that he's "needed aboard" the Enterprise...
Mendez gives Kirk the top-secret command-level-only file on Talos IV, certifying he ordered Kirk to read it. Not much is known about the planet or its inhabitants, only that it carries the only remaining death order on Starfleet's lawbook: General Order 7, prohibiting any contact with the world or its inhabitants. Whatever's down there is so dangerous, in form or in application, that Starfleet felt the need to bar access in such a brutal, final way, with only the urging of Pike and Spock themselves, who previously visited the planet, as impetus for the order.
Suddenly Miss Piper, monitoring Pike's room again, reports that he's vanished, chair and all! And immediately afterward, the Enterprise warps out, abandoning Kirk. Oh, Crap!...
Spock seems rather pensive, almost guilty, but now set on his course as he paces the bridge, snapping at Helmsman Hansen and Uhura for noting the strangeness of there being no navigator (Spock replies that the computer knows where it's going), and reporting a hail (Spock orders her to maintain radio silence). The next thing he does is shatter to pieces the notion that Vulcans can't tell lies (probably by virtue of his half-human heritage) and announce on intraship that he's been placed in temporary command of the Enterprise, that Kirk's been assigned temporary rest leave and that everyone's to obey Spock's orders as though they were Kirk's. McCoy, coming up behind him when he finishes, demands to know what's going on; Spock, regretting that 'they' have kept certain things from McCoy, beckons McCoy to follow him back into the turbolift...
... into the quarters Spock's prepared for Captain Pike, as negative as ever. Spock plays a message from "Kirk," telling McCoy to follow Spock's orders to the letter; McCoy glares suspiciously at Spock, but Spock looks impassively right back...
Back on the bridge, Hansen looks out at the stars, still utterly perplexed, as Spock comes in. Hansen reports that there's a tiny object flying towards them, about the size of a Starbase shuttlecraft; Spock orders no action be taken, but the shuttle will never reach the Enterprise at their speed...
Aboard the shuttlecraft (dubbed Picasso, at least in the remastered version) are Kirk and Mendez, who keep trying to raise the Enterprise but are, of course, met by radio silence. They agree that Spock's definitely en route to Talos IV; Mendez notes that their fuel is running low, close to the point of no return. But Kirk doesn't want to return, and repeats his hails to his increasing frustration...
Spock scans the shuttlecraft and finds that their fuel has already depleted past the point of safe return. Cue a VERY clear This Is Gonna Suck face...
The shuttle finally runs out of fuel, and Mendez and Kirk have to coast... They have two hours of oxygen left. They angst about Spock being in REALLY deep poop if he comes back for them, but that he's DEAD if he reaches Talos IV. Maybe, Mendez says, maybe he's just gone mad, and should be sent to an asylum instead... Well, by the standards of Vulcans, undoubtedly he's gone mad, showing such compassion and emotion to do this for his old Captain...
Spock orders a special command tape (Able Seven Baker) to be played, which puts the engines into a dead stop. Then, he calls for the transporter room to prepare to take Kirk aboard, then for a security team to the bridge. Spock then presents himself to the senior officer present for arrest: McCoy! He reveals, to Uhura's and Hansen's shock, that he never received orders to take command. McCoy, very much put on the spot, impatiently gestures for security to take him away.
Kirk and Mendez beam aboard, being informed by Hansen that Spock's confined to quarters. Mendez argues briefly that he should be in the brig for what he's done. But then we learn something worse: Spock (who now is monitoring Kirk at transporter control from his quarters) has locked in computer control on a direct course for Talos IV; any attempt to disengage will cross-circuit [the Zeerust term for short-circuit, means the same thing] life support! Nothing, it seems, will keep Spock from delivering Pike to that forbidden planet.
Captain's Log, Stardate 3012.4. Despite our best efforts to disengage computers, the Enterprise is still locked on a heading for the mysterious planet, Talos IV. Meanwhile, as required by Starfleet General Orders, a preliminary hearing on Lieutenant Commander Spock is being convened, and in all the years of my service, this is the most painful moment I have ever faced.
Spock waives his right to the hearing, though, and requests an immediate court-martial. Kirk denies on the basis that only two command-level officers are available while three are required. Spock counters with the truth that Captain Pike is available, and still on the active duty list; the Admiralty, according to Mendez, didn't have the heart to retire him, lampshading Spock's preparations for this situation.
Captain's Log, Stardate 3012.6. General Court-Martial convened. Mr. Spock has again waived counsel and has entered a plea of guilty.
Mendez dutifully rings the traditional (manual, not electronic) ship's bell to signal the start of the court-martial, as a recording tape is loaded into the computer. Spock, acknowledging the fact that the death penalty will be applied if the Enterprise enters the Talos Star Group, requests, as an answer to Mendez's demand of "Why? What does it accomplish to go [to Talos IV], or to bring Captain Pike there?" that the screen be engaged, as what's now being shown on it is a direct answer to Mendez's request...
The Enterprise flying through space, Spock noting 13 years ago, with its Captain, Christopher Pike. The view does a very improbably fancy swoop into the Bridge dome...
(Most of what follows can be read about on the page for the pilot, but some diversions occur.)
Shortly into the very oddly-appropriately angled account, Kirk orders the screen off, and asks Pike whether it's really him on the screen. Pike replies yes. Kirk says it's impossible, that no vessel makes record tapes in that detail, so perfectly. Spock refuses to disclose at this time where the footage is coming from. Mendez is ready to shut the whole thing down unless Spock reveals his source, but Spock replies that Mendez did ask WHY Spock started this whole voyage; Mendez claims he was manuevered into asking, and declares Spock's evidence out of order. Kirk contests that; he wants to see more, and denies it's because Spock's his personal friend. Mendez allows the continuation of playback...
After Pike orders the Enterprise to the Talos Star Group, time warp factor seven, Mendez orders the screen off. He accuses Spock of somehow manufacturing the footage they're watching, which Spock, with Pike's help, refutes. It is actually what happened 13 years ago. Spock says that after viewing the evidence, if Mendez still wants to return to the Starbase, he will release the ship, but Mendez, incensed, says Spock is in no position to bargain. He votes that the playback be stopped; Kirk votes against and Mendez declares a deadlock; but he forgets that Pike is still there and a member of the trial board; he votes that the playback continue, and so it does, after...
Captain's log, supplemental. Mr. Spock, on trial for mutiny, has forced the court to accept unusual evidence. On our monitor screen, the voyage of Captain Pike and the Enterprise to the one forbidden world in all the galaxy.
After Pike's been taken underground by the Talosians, and the crew try (and fail) to blast the rock face open with their phasers, the screen turns off automatically, with Uhura radioing in from the bridge with a call for Mendez, a 'fleet signal.' They've detected that the Enterprise is receiving signals from Talos IV, in violation of general orders! ComSol (Command Solutions?) orders Mendez to relieve Kirk of command and take command himself, and return the ship to Starbase 11 so Spock may face the full weight of Starfleet justice. Spock 'respectfully declines' Mendez's order to release the Enterprise to manual control, and Mendez simply states that Spock has earned the consequences.
The yeoman assigned as Clerk exits, McCoy and Scotty slowly guide Pike in his chair out, and Spock looks absolutely devastated. Kirk asks if Spock has lost his mind, and Spock pleads with Kirk not to stop him or let Mendez stop him. "It's your career and Captain Pike's life. You must see the rest of the transmission!" Dutifully, Kirk orders the security guard present to take Spock to the brig; they exit, and "TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT WEEK" Kirk walks in solitude, contemplatively around the briefing room, laying a hand on the court recorder computer, Face Palming briefly, then finally walks out as the scene fades...
All tropes relating to the pilot episode itself should be placed on its page.
The Troperie: Part I:
- And I Must Scream: Apparently despite his horrific injuries Pike's intellect is fully intact, but he's imprisoned in a body that no longer works and cannot communicate fully. He is well aware of the situation and repeatedly tries to order Spock to stop to no avail.Kirk: He keeps saying "no".McCoy: No to what?
- Bling of War: Kirk has a unique stone/amulet/pendant to the left of his ridiculous colorful triangles.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: One of the earliest episodes to really dig into the idea that Vulcans aren't just people with no emotions and lots of smarts. Spock's loyalty is the impetus for the entire plot, as he cannot simply let Pike suffer, no matter that he has a new commanding officer (to whom he is equally loyal) and hasn't seen Pike in years. Vulcan loyalty is just that strong, to a point a human would consider insane.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: When Spock is first accused of having faked the message calling the Enterprise to the starbase, it's stated that as a Vulcan he's incapable of lying. Though Bones then goes on to state that this is because it would be embarrassing for a Vulcan to act the way a human would, even for a Half-Human Hybrid.
- The Casanova: Kirk visibly appreciates the pretty yeoman sent to greet them, and looks a worried when she mentions knowing a former Love Interest.
- Chair Reveal: Played for drama with a Face-Revealing Turn of Pike's horrific injuries.
- Clip Show: Averted to a degree since they are clips of something we hadn't seen before, though it uses the framing of a clip show to get mileage out of the unused original pilot footage.
- Cliffhanger: Pike has been kidnapped by the Talosians, while in the present day Kirk is relieved of command and Spock refuses to release the Enterprise from computer control. When Spock urges Kirk to continue allowing the transmission from Talos, Kirk has him hauled off to the brig instead. To Be Continued
- Forbidden Zone: Landing on Talos IV is punishable by death, the only death penalty crime still on the books.
- Forged Message: Spock lies about having received a message summoning them to Starbase 11, then uses faked computer instructions and confirmation orders from Captain Kirk to take control of the Enterprise.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Pike was conducting an inspection of a training ship when a baffle plate ruptured, flooding the engineering compartment with delta radiation. Pike saved as many cadets as he could before the radiation crippled him and left him an invalid.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Spock's apparently simple motive for abducting Pike and hijacking the ship.
- Irrevocable Order: Spock has wired the Master Computer so their course cannot be changed, even after he surrenders command of the Enterprise.
- Jerkass: Commodore Mendez, who accuses Spock of fabricating the footage throughout, but chooses to go through with watching it for Pike's sake. Though at the end when he relieves Kirk and (implicitly) orders Spock to the brig, he's Just Following Orders.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Since Spock has already faked several messages when stealing the Enterprise, and he refuses to explain the origin of the footage, Mendez has every reason to be skeptical.
- Loophole Abuse:
- Spock says that he wants to hold the court-martial against him immediately. When Captain Kirk says that they need three command officers and only two (himself and Commodore Mendez) are present, Spock points out that Fleet Captain Pike is still listed as being on active duty.
- After Mendez objects to the presentation of evidence from an unknown source, Spock points out that he is allowed to introduce it in response to a direct question about why he did something. Lampshaded when Mendez grumbles that Spock maneuvered the court into asking him that question.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: What the Talosians set up for their zoo, to keep themselves entertained and their subjects pacified; also, though we only begin to see this motive in this part, it's heavily implied in dialogue that it's what Spock wishes to return Pike to, that he may leave the confines of his broken body and let his mind run free.
- Magical Security Cam: Actually subverted, as Kirk protests that the footage from "The Cage" clearly isn't from security recordings, which is explained in Part 2.
- Once for Yes, Twice for No: The only form of communication left to the injured Captain Pike.
- Selective Obliviousness: At first, McCoy flat out denies that Spock could have lied and forged orders for the Enterprise to report to Starbase 11.McCoy: To question Spock of all people! Me, yes. I could run off half-cocked given a good reason, so could you! But not Spock. It's impossible!
- Stock Footage: A shot of crewmembers on a corridor, listening to Spock's speech on the intercom is recycled footage from "The Corbomite Maneuver". The same shot appears in "Balance of Terror" and "Assignment: Earth" as well.
- Tractor Beam: Used to bring Kirk's shuttle aboard after he deliberately runs out the fuel to force Spock to stop and retrieve him.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Kirk deliberately exhausts the shuttle's fuel so Spock will have to chose between continuing his mission or letting Kirk die, knowing Spock wouldn't allow the latter to happen no matter what the mission may mean to him.
- You Are in Command Now: Spock fakes a message placing him in command of the Enterprise. When Kirk and Mendez catch up to him, he turns over operational command to Lieutenant Hansen and then surrenders to Dr. McCoy (the senior officer present).
- You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Even Kirk thinks Spock is out of his mind. Spock replies, "Jim, don't stop me." Justified as a court martial for mutiny is pretty serious.