THE CAGE (1966)
Pilot Episode for “Star Trek”
Article 2444 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-11-2007
Posting Date: 4-21-2008
Directed by Robert Butler
Featuring Jeffrey Hunter, Susan Oliver, Leonard Nimoy
Starship Captain Christopher Pike attempts to rescue survivors from a crashed expedition on a distant planet, only to find out that the survivors were an illusion and himself a prisoner of a race of beings with super mental powers.
I don’t know if this qualifies as a “movie”, but nevertheless, here it is, the first pilot for what may be the most famous science fiction TV series of them all. It was never aired as such, though ample footage of it was used to fill out the two part episode of the series, “The Menagerie”. If you’ve seen that episode, there really isn’t much in the way of surprises here. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to speculate on the differences between this and the series; Jeffrey Hunter gives the role of the captain a different flavor than William Shatner did, and I wonder if Spock would have developed the way he did; here, he shows marked emotions on occasion. It’s a little hard to gauge on some levels; since this version incorporates unaired black and white footage along with the color footage used in “The Menagerie”, you can tell that changes were made; the voice of one of the Talosians changes noticeably from one scene to the next, for example. The basic feel of the series remained intact, though only two members of this original cast remained, and one of them (Majel Barrett) would be given a decidedly different role. Perhaps the best thing about this is seeing how strongly Gene Roddenberry was willing to go against the grain to suit his vision, by allowing a multiracial crew and concocting a story that allowed him to deal with concepts a little too adult and sophisticated to be generally allowed on TV at this time. Even in its earliest stages, it’s easy to see why this series would catch the imagination of a devoted audience.