An Opera in Three Acts
Libretto by Lincoln Taiz, Lee Taiz, and Ben Leeds Carson
Music by Ben Leeds Carson
Based on Star Trek teleplays “The Menagerie” and “The Cage” by Gene Roddenberry
The story: Lieutenant Spock, a half-human, half-Vulcan Federation Starfleet officer, deceives his captain and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, leading them to a remote starbase where an accident has left his former commanding officer Christopher Pike gravely injured. When they arrive, Spock conspires to abduct Pike and commit mutiny, setting a course for a forbidden region of the galaxy. His prisoner, a former captain of the Enterprise, is paralyzed and unable to communicate, but fully conscious, and aware of his surroundings. Though he cannot resist, brain imaging technology reveals Pike’s deep anxiety at what lies ahead: mixtures of loathing, desire, hope, and fear—the workings of an active mind, contrasted with his still body.
Commander Tor, a Vulcan officer at the starbase, is distraught at Pike’s disappearance, and suspects Spock of treasonous intentions. She joins James T. Kirk—Spock’s current captain, and a flame from her past—to chase the Enterprise in a smaller craft. When other Enterprise officers learn of the mutiny, Spock submits himself for arrest, and allows Kirk and Tor aboard, but he will not release the ship from its locked guidance system. While they speed toward an uncertain fate, Spock refuses to speak until Kirk and Tor agree to put him on trial immediately, for crimes of mutiny and high treason.
In his own defense, Spock tells of Pike’s attempts, long ago, to rescue a band of humans lost on Talos IV, a planet in an unknown region of the galaxy. The planet’s inhabitants are longtime enemies of the Federation, able to produce powerful illusions drawn from an adversary’s own psyche. Spock supports his story with a strange and dubious holographic record of Pike as a younger man on the planet, lured into conflict against his own inner drives, nightmares, and delusions. At the core of Pike’s struggle is Vina: a woman who might be a concoction of his dreams, or a figment of blurred memories—a Eurydice to his Orpheus, awaiting rescue from this surreal underworld. Or maybe she is real—a woman whose initiative and determination, obscured at first by Pike’s fantasies, could restore Pike to a virtual body and renewed life.
As Spock’s testimony intensifies, he entangles his jury in mixtures of past and present, fiction and truth, frustration and hope. Captain Pike experiences his own past anew, while Kirk and Tor, aware of the peril that awaits them aboard a vessel they can’t control, struggle to make sense of their slowly unfolding fate.
Composer’s note: Our story differs a little from the 1966 double-episode “Menagerie”. Most significantly: to create prominent soprano, mezzo, and alto roles, the role of Vina is made more central to the plot, and two male characters are remade as women: Dr. Boyce and Commodore Mendez (now Zuna Tor). In the television episode, Captain Pike expressed himself only through lights indicating yes or no; in our version he communicates emotions along a gamut from affirmation to negation, attraction to repulsion, through his visible neural activity—foregrounding the original episode’s overarching message about the mental union of virtual and actual life. Behind those developments, however, we maintain one of Star Trek’s most compelling emotional landscapes: that of Spock’s evolving sense of self and purpose in his mostly human surroundings.