Star Trek’s first pilot, The Cage.

Today was supposed to be about reviewing new releases on DVD. While there is alist of movies coming out today there really isn’t anything on the list that I am interested in. So today I will share my review of Star Trek’s first pilot episode, The Cage, which I watched this weekend. 

The lovely Susan Oliver as Vina. 

The Cage

This is the original unaired pilot for Star Trek. This episode was written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and directed by Robert Butler. NBC rejected the pilot episode in February 1965 calling it “too cerebral.” The network did see potential in the material and ordered another pilot episode, which resulted in the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Much original footage from “The Cage” was later incorporated into the first season two-part episode “The Menagerie.”

I fell in love with Star Trek when I was about 12 in 1975 and cable TV had just come to our little community in Upstate New York. I watched it on WPIX Channel 11 out of New York. I was instantly hooked.

Actor Jeffery Hunter was cast as Captain Christopher Pike of the USS Enterprise out on a deep space mission looking for survivors from a doomed expedition on the distant planet Talos IV. Instead of the heroic Captain Kirk of the series Captain Pike is burned out and experiencing a crisis of self doubt wondering if he made the right choice in becoming a star ship captain. Upon arrival on the planet surface, Pike, accompanied by members of the crew, including a more emotional Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, finds that the survivors of the expedition were merely an illusion except for the vivacious and attractive Vina, played by actress Susan Oliver.

Enter the inhabitants of the planet, the Talosians, a humanoid race with giant pulsating bulbous heads that have the telepathic ability to create illusions within the mind that are as real to those experiencing the illusions as reality is to everyone else. The Talosians also have a menagerie where they house specimens from various parts of the galaxy and want to keep Captain Pike, along with Vina, as examples of the human species. While Spock and the rest of the crew try to rescue Pike from his captors the Talosians, along with Vina’s help, temp Pike to stay willingly by tempting his desires and the self doubts he has in his mind. As Pike angrily resists he soon learns that anger is an emotion that the Talosians cannot defend against and they reject Pike for their exhibit due to mankind’s anger and barbaric tendencies. When he is about to leave Pike requests that Vina accompany him only to learn that Vina is anchored to this planet and the Talosians because her beauty was only an illusion. Being the sole survivor of the doomed expedition the Talosians had never seen a human before and did not know how to repair her.

The show has many of the elements that we would come to know and appreciate about Star Trek. An intelligent and logical female first officer, called Number One, played by Majel Barrett the future Mrs Roddenberry, a wise old ship’s doctor, Dr. Phillip Boyce, played by John Hoyt. NBC wanted to get rid of many of the characters including the alien and Satanic looking Mr. Spock and the female first officer Number One (NBC didn’t think a female officer that was the second in command was realistic!). We also have the ship and the bridge (with different colors) and the transporter room and communicators are all in place. Although this would be the template for the original series and all that was to come under the banner of Star Trek this episode feels more in the spirit of Star Trek: The Next Generation than it does with the original series. The reason for that is the original series also was influenced by the work of producer Gene Coon who tempered Roddenberry’s more intellectual approach with more action and adventure. When Star Trek: The Next Generation came out in the late 1980s it was in syndication and without a network to appease Roddenberry’s more intellectual approach became more apparent.

According to the chronology of the Star Trek universe the events of the Cage take place thirteen years before the first season of Star Trek.


About liamfoley63

I was born in 1963 and that is relevant to my development of my love for science-fiction and fantasy movies, comic books, superheroes and many other things attributed to Nerd culture. In the 60s I watched all the Saturday afternoon Godzilla and monster movies I could take. In the 70s I became hooked on Star Trek. I am also an artist (in my own mind at least) and a musician. I enjoy learning about physics, astrophysics, chemistry and earth silences such as meteorology, anthropology, paleontology. When I reached my late 30s I began to re-explore my nerd roots. I reconnected with my love of science fiction and fantasy movies along with the other science related topics. For this blog I will focus on movie and TV reviews for science fiction and fantasy and post my thoughts on up coming movies. I will also include some fun facts from the various sciences I enjoy along with weather facts and bits from royalty and history. What I will not discuss is religion and politics. I am married to a beautiful woman named Sarah and have a lovely daughter named Danielle.

Posted on May 29, 2012, in Captain's Log... and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “NBC wanted to get rid of many of the characters including the alien and Satanic looking Mr. Spock and the female first officer Number One (NBC didn’t think a female officer that was the second in command was realistic!)”

    That’s the story as Gene Roddenberry told it, and fans accepted it as fact for decades. The truth is that Majel Barrett was Gene’s mistress at the time (while he was still married to his first wife) and the network didn’t want to risk casting the producer’s girlfriend, an actress with limited experience, in a major co-starring role in a weekly series.

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