“The Cage,” the first pilot episode of the original Star Trek series, will air the weekend of May 2 on Star Trek: Remastered. This episode marks the final new installment of the incredible Star Trek: Remastered experience. Star Trek: Remastered airs each weekend in syndication and features updated special effects and other enhancements to the original Star Trek series.
Under the command of Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), the Enterprise encounters a distress signal from a long-lost vessel and diverts to planet Talos IV. Pike is captured and quickly learns that he has been lured into a trap.
Albeit in a rough, early form, 1964’s “The Cage” is undeniably Star Trek. It includes a circular bridge, a transporter, communicators, and other familiar gadgetry. Leonard Nimoy even appears as science officer Spock, though the character does not yet restrain his emotions.
“The Cage” also features many recurring Star Trek concepts, among them:
- Strong female characters: The Enterprise‘s first officer, Number One, is a woman (Majel Barrett), which is quite revolutionary for 1964.
- Sexist portrayal of women: Pike’s fellow prisoner, Vina (Susan Oliver), is forced to appear as a green-skinned Orion slave girl in an attempt to seduce the captain into submission. Perhaps “The Cage” best exemplifies the inherent conflict in Trek ideals by containing both progressive and traditional female characters: Women as equals versus women as eye-candy.
- Doctors as bartenders: Dr. Phillip “Bones” Boyce (John Hoyt) offers alcohol and counsel to Pike, much like Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy later does for Kirk. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, the counselor role was formalized into a separate position. Now that I think about it, so was the bartender.
- Beauty as an illusion: The end of this episode is quite similar to “Mudd’s Women,” among others.
- Super-intelligent races compelled to study humans: What makes us so interesting, anyway?
Though Hunter, Oliver, and Nimoy gave strong performances, NBC famously rejected the pilot for being “too cerebral.” In addition to wanting more action, their main request for an unprecedented second pilot was to lose the guy with the pointed ears.
Despite NBC’s objections, that second pilot (1965’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) retained Nimoy as Spock. However, it also included new star William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk. It sold the series, which made its debut on NBC in September 1966.
Portions of “The Cage” were later used in “The Menagerie,” which received the Star Trek: Remastered treatment in 2006. The stand-alone version of “The Cage” (with original effects) did not air until 1988, nearly twenty years after NBC cancelled Star Trek.
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My thanks to Star Trek: Remastered producer (and Trek legend) Michael Okuda for providing various promotional materials for use here throughout the Remastered run. The Film Frontier is just a speck of stardust in the galaxy of Star Trek sites, so Okuda was terrific to do that. I wish him the best of success on his future projects, which I personally hope will include updated editions of the Star Trek Encyclopedia and the Star Trek Chronology.