In this post I’ll be focusing on the 1965 Star Trek pilot “The Cage”—which the network tossed back to creator Gene Roddenberry as being “too cerebral.” (It’s a miracle the original series was able to stay as long on the air as it did). What does this episode have to do with “Ancient Astronauts,” the Anunnaki, and perhaps even stranger stuff? Stay tuned!
Heading the Enterprise in this episode is not Captain James T. Kirk but Captain Christopher Pike. Pike is played with equal-parts pathos and leading-man good looks by Jeffrey Hunter, an actor best known for portraying Jesus Christ in the movie King of Kings.
Joining Hunter is Majel Barrett as the ultra-serious Number One, and Leonard Nimoy as a somewhat shaggier and rough-around-the-edges Mr. Spock. Certainly not the crew we’re used to—with not nearly the same chemistry—but generally decent enough to help make this an enjoyable episode despite some of the more “primitive” aspects of the pilot. (Think a really great episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.)
“The Cage” focuses on a theme that the series will return to over and over again—that of a superior alien race (or gods, or robots, or what have you) capturing human specimens to observe/enslave. The episode’s antagonists, the large-headed Talosians, see humans as just another animal to keep and study in their menagerie of creatures. What they seek to do in this episode is breed Pike with their captive/”guest” Vina and basically create a slave race of humans to populate their planet—a basic theme that runs through much of the “Ancient Astronaut” and Custodian theories regarding the origins of human life and culture on planet Earth.
“The Earth is a farm. We are someone else’s property,” succinctly wrote researcher Charles Fort early last century. The late Zecharia Sitchin claimed to have translated ancient Mesopotamian tablets that told a tale of a superior aliens, the Anunnaki, who cultivated humanity through genetic manipulation as a hybrid slave race to serve them. What is interesting is that Sitchin’s theories dovetail right into the events in the Book of Genesis in the Bible—specifically, the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark, both specificaly referenced in “The Cage.” The so-called God/gods are, according to the theory, really these Annunaki extraterrestrials.
Building on the Ancient Astronaut research of Sitchin and Chariots of the Gods author Erich von Däniken, author William Bramley in his book The Gods of Eden posited that humanity are the “property” of extraterrestrials/gods he refers to as the “Custodial Society.” As Fort also wrote, these superior beings see the Earth as just a farm, and humans no better than animals.
Seen in light of the Ancient Astronaut/Custodian hypothesis and its relation to myth/religion, the planet Pike lands on, Talos IV, is an Eden of sorts, run by the alien/gods known as the Talosians. The Talosians placate what are essentially their captives/zoo creatures through the use of highly believable telepathic illusions—basically, virtual reality. As long as Pike and Vina choose to not look behind the curtain and accept these illusions, paradise is maintained. Attempts to pierce the veil, however—to metaphorically eat from the Tree of Knowledge—results in terrible mental pain. Just in case viewers miss the allusion to the Biblical tale, Vina repeatedly refers to her and Pike as being an “Adam and Eve” on Talos IV.
(It is interesting to note that von Däniken and other Ancient Astronaut theorists identify the Greek mythological figure Talos as being in reality some sort of extraterrestrial flying craft or weapon)
With their cold, emotionless, behavior, insatiable drive for observation and experiments, and telepathic abilities, the Talosians also bring to mind reported sightings/encounters with aliens. Indeed, the Talosians have the “typical alien look” down pat, with their large craniums and greyish-blue skin. They also bear an uncanny resemblance to the Guardians of the Universe from the Green Lantern comic books (which first appeared in 1960), a (mostly benevolent) alien race who also assumed a role of superiority over not just humans but the galaxy as a whole:
Interesting to note that Roddenberry, like Green Lantern Hal Jordan in the comic books, was an Air Force pilot.
The Talosians—and many described/depicted aliens in general—also look very similar to an extraterrestrial/extradimensional entity occultist Aleister Crowley reportedly channeled in 1918—around roughly the same period in which Fort was writing about human zoos—”Lam”:
Curiously, Roddenberry was apparently no stranger to channeled entities himself, having worked with an organization in 1975 called “Lab-9” who claimed to be in contact with a group of extraterrestrials called The Council Of Nine (who identified themselves as the figures upon which the ancient Egyptians based their gods). The story goes that Lab-9 hired Roddenberry to write a television script based on the “return” of The Nine, and the man based the main character on himself. When the task of revising the script went to his assistant, an additional in intriguing element was added to the story—that Roddenberry’s fictional alter-ego channeled his successful 1960s television show from The Nine!
One has to wonder if Roddenberry really did receive any sort of otherwordly inspiration for the TV show Star Trek, or at least tapped into some collective well of primal, mythological themes. At any rate, while the man was a self-described agnostic and humanist, and allegedly instructed the writers on the show not to refer to religious themes, “The Cage” is explicitly presented as a twisted Adam and Eve tale told with a heavy dose of alien interference. Its message? That humans prefer freedom above all other things, including life (you know, unless you are horribly disfigured in an accident because your silly alien rescuers/surgeons never saw a human before).
Actor Jeffrey Hunter chose not to return to Star Trek after the pilot, and his role was recast in a later pair of episodes based on that first show, entitled “The Menagerie.” In “Menagerie” Christopher Pike is now horribly burned and paralyzed as a result of an accident on his ship, and Spock kidnaps him back to the planet of the Talosians in order that he might benefit from their illusion-creating abilities and live with Vina in a happy telepathically-induced Eden. Like the Biblical Eden, the two can live out their years in a perfect paradise, having no desire, given their true forms, to partake of anything from the Tree of Knowledge and thus break the spell.
Hunter died in 1969, after a series of strokes leading to a fall down a flight of stairs and subsequent brain hemorrhage.
As a footnote, if the Talosian/Guardian/Lam design feels creepily familiar to you at all, consider this:
More to read about on Butterfly Language:
All These Worlds Are Yours Except Europa: “2010: The Year We Make Contact”
Are We Headed For A Star Trek Or Star Wars Future?
Chakotay Calls The “Star Trek” Prime Directive “Fascist”