Who is Captain Christopher Pike?

A lot of excitement was generated a week ago with the announcement that Anson Mount had been cast to play Captain Christopher Pike, Kirk’s predecessor on the Enterprise. Although Pike is a character that is revered in Star Trek canon – we saw him referenced on Star Trek: Discovery last season when Saru asked the computer to pull information on a list of the best Starfleet captains – we really know very little about him. We don’t even know how long he served as Captain of the Enterprise or what he did prior to the Enterprise. The Christopher Pike of the Kelvin timeline in the movies doesn’t add any observations to the character backstory either. In fact, everything we know comes from The Menagerie, a two-part story from the first season of TOS. I figured we needed to examine that information. I decided to dig through it seeking anything else that might give us possible clues as to what we might see in Season 2. So let’s look at five clues and a sixth “It Could Be Something or Not”

Originally, creator Gene Roddenberry wanted Christopher Pike to be the ship’s captain for Star Trek. Played by film actor Jeffrey Hunter, the character appeared in the unaired 1965 pilot episode, The Cage. NBC didn’t like it and asked for another pilot but Hunter declined to return. The episode never aired in its entirety but huge excerpts were incorporated in The Menagerie.

Sean Kenney as the crippled Christopher Pike.

CLUE 1: In The Menagerie, Part 1, we are told by Commodore José Mendez, the Starbase’s commander, that Captain Pike was injured during an inspection tour of a class-J training vessel. Unexpectedly, one of the baffle plates ruptured, bathing everyone in deadly delta rays. Pike reportedly retrived as many injured or unconscious trainees as possible. As such, Pike was exposed to massive amount of delta rays that severely disfigured him. When we finally meet him, he is introduced as a crippled fleet captain living out the remainder of his life on Starbase 11 under 24/7 medical observation. In addition, the incident stole Pike’s ability to communicate verbally. His only mode of mobility is a computerized wheelchair that cybernetically responses to his every command via brainwaves. He can answer questions – as long as they require a yes or no – by flashing a light on the front of the chair. Once for yes. Twice for no.

This experience reveals Pike to be extremely heroic and selfless. The great compassion he shows for these helpless trainees, putting his own well-being at jeopardy, is an example of the caliber of character we see him display with Vina, the trapped human female he encounters on Talos IV. Therefore, empathy and a desire to protect the innocent are core elements to who he is. We could see more of this in Season 2.

CLUE 2: It’s been reported that Gene Roddenberry developed his model of Star Trek’s captain from the fictional character of Horatio Hornblower. Hornblower was introduced in the 1937 novel The Happy Return, called Beat to Quarters in the U.S. The protagonist of a series of novels by C. S. Forester, Hornblower is a Royal Navy officer serving during the Napoleonic Wars. 

A pensive Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter).

Trek fans have usually discussed the influence Hornblower may have had on shaping the character of James T. Kirk. However, I think there is greater benefit in looking at the commonalities between the heroic seafarer and Christopher Pike. In the books Hornblower is presented as a courageous, intelligent, and a skilled seaman. Likewise, in the video transmissions beaming from Talos IV during Spock’s court martial we are introduced to a younger Captain Pike helming the USS Enterprise. He is presented as an experienced Starfleet officer. Respected by his peers and crewmembers. From what we’ve seen and heard the description of Hornblower is easily reflected in both Pike and Kirk. But on further inspection we see that Hornblower is reported to be burdened by an intense reserve, introspection, and self-doubt. Despite numerous personal feats of extraordinary skill and cunning, he belittles his own achievements by numerous rationalizations, remembering only his fears. These particular personality characteristics sounds more inline with Pike’s behavior than they do Kirk. Again, in The Menagerie, Part 1, Pike is massaged into discussing his concerns with Dr. Boyce, his Chief Medical Officer. He is troubled by something. Pike confides to Boyce that he is fatigued at the weight of his responsibilities. A recent away mission he led to Rigel VII concluded with three dead crewmen and the injury of seven others. Blaming himself, Pike debates resigning his commission in order to pursue a completely different life. In this exchange he’s presented as a man questioning his own actions much in the same way Hornblower is described as doing. This observation might give us an insight on how Christopher Pike may behave in a manner differently than we’ve seen from other ship’s captains. This could be a major contrast to the alpha male behavior of Mirror Garbriel Lorca or even Kirk. There is a possibility that the Christopher Pike we are introduced to this season could reflect a personal style similar to that of Benjamin Sisko, the most introspective Star Trek captain we’ve ever seen.

Vina and Pike experience an illusion of his home created by the Talosians.

CLUE 3: As far as any additional background information, we are likely to be introduced to a Pike that is a single man without a specific romantic interest in his life as is the case in The Menagerie, Part 2. Neither at the time of the Talos IV incident or as an older man do they speak of him having anyone in his life. In fact, Pike’s sense of loneliness is part of how the Talosians attempt to manipulate him. The illusions they create for him are designed to capitalize on a desire for Vina that began once he first saw her.  This explains Pike’s willingness to live out his life with Vina on Talos IV, even if it’s just an imaginary life.

CLUE 4: Pike speaks very briefly of his earlier civilan life. In that conversation he names his hometown as Mojave. We don’t know where Mojave is, per se. Is it on Earth or some other M-class planet? We see a depiction of it when Pike experiences second imaginary experience with Vina in The Menagerie, Part 2. Although he doesn’t specify a location, we can imagine he could mean Mojave, California, a small southern California town 50 miles east of Bakersfield, CA.

CLUE 5: In The Menagerie, Part 2, Pike says he had two horses back home in Mojave. One of the horses was named Tango that is seen as part of the previously mentioned illusion. We never hear what the other horse is named. This could indicate Pike’s relationship with animals or other beasts of burden.

IT COULD BE SOMETHING OR NOT: My final observation is only an oddity I discovered when reviewing these two episodes for this article. It could be something or not.

During one of the first scene in The Menagerie, Part 1, we discover that Spock served with Pike on the Enterprise prior to serving under Captain Kirk. He states that their tour of duty together lasted for 11 years, 4 months and 5 days, to be exact. Yet, later on in the episode Spock says their encounter with the Talosians on Talos IV occurred thirteen years ago. That would make the stardate for the encounter roughly 2253. The stardate for the first episode of Discovery was 2256. So Talos IV happened three years before The Vulcan Hello. Now I know this is a minor detail. Sometimes TV writing can be filled with mistakes in chronology or unforeseen contradictions. But I find the story possibilities this contradiction creates very fascinating. This anomoly creates an almost 20-month discrepency in the tenure of these two characters who we know served together. We know that Pike was the captain of the Enterprise before Kirk but we don’t know if there were any breaks in that appointment. If the Discovery writers are aware of it they could capitalize on in Season 2. This could mean Spock wasn’t serving on the Enterprise for the entire thirteen year period. Potentially, it could be used to explain why he may be absent in Season 2’s first and second episodes which will deal with the Pike and the crew of the Enterprise. Another possibility is that Pike wasn’t the Enterprise’s Captain for 20-months for some reason. This is the possibility I find more interesting because it could be used to create some very exciting scenarios. Those scenarios could play out in Season 2’s story arc. Either way, this is an interesting gap in time.

I think that’s enough speculation. Realistically, we could see some of these ideas, none or all of them. I think several things discussed here could lead to some great storylines. Stay tuned to see which one’s pop up and which don’t. #LLAP

3 thoughts on “Who is Captain Christopher Pike?

  1. During one of the first scene in The Menagerie, Part 1, we discover that Spock served with Pike on the Enterprise prior to serving under Captain Kirk. He states that their tour of duty together lasted for 11 years, 4 months and 5 days, to be exact. Yet, later on in the episode Spock says their encounter with the Talosians on Talos IV occurred thirteen years ago.

    If Spock served with kirk for more than 2 and a half years, then 13 years ago would be correct, and it would indicate talos was one of spocks first missions with pike in command.

    1. According to StarTrek.com, Spock joined the Enterprise crew in 2252. Pike’s experiences during the Talos IV incident happened in 2254, two years later. Also, Kirk was promoted to captain of the Enterprise in 2264, ten years after Talos IV. That would mean the events of The Menagerie must happen in 2267 (the citation on StarTrek.com says 2367, but that’s impossible given that it would put it during the time of The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine). The only problem with your timeline is StarTrek.com states that when Kirk was “promoted to captain, in command of U.S.S. Enterprise for a five-year mission” in 2264. To make this work Episodes One through Ten of Season One of TOS would have to cover adventures of the first through the third year of that mission. That’s the only way The Menagerie could take place during 2267. We still have a 20-month to a ​two-year gap in time.

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