The Cage (Star Trek: The Original Series)

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"The Cage"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Episode 1
Directed by Robert Butler
Written by Gene Roddenberry
Featured music Alexander Courage (uncredited)
Production code
  • 001 - Restored Version
  • 099 - Original Version
Original air date
  • October 14, 1986 (1986-10-14) (VHS Release)
  • November 27, 1988 (1988-11-27) (TV Premiere - Restored to full color)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Cage" is the first pilot episode of the Star Trek: The Original Series. It was completed in early 1965 (with a copyright date of 1964), but not broadcast on television in its complete form until late 1988. The episode was written by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Robert Butler. It was rejected by NBC in February 1965, and the network ordered another pilot episode, which became "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

Much original footage from "The Cage" was later incorporated into the first season two-parter, "The Menagerie."

Primary cast[edit]

Overview[edit]

"The Cage" had many of the features of the eventual series, but there were numerous differences. The Captain of the starship USS Enterprise was not James T. Kirk, but Christopher Pike. Spock was present, but not as First Officer. That role was taken by a character known only as Number One, played by Majel Barrett. Spock's character differs somewhat from that seen in the rest of Star Trek: he displays a youthful eagerness that contrasts with the later more reserved and logical Spock. He also delivers the first line in all of Star Trek: "Check the circuit!" followed by, "Can't be the screen then."[1]

NBC reportedly called the pilot "too cerebral," "too intellectual," and "too slow" with "not enough action."[2] Rather than rejecting the series outright, though, the network commissioned—in an unusual, and at the time unprecedented, move—a second pilot. This was accepted and Star Trek: The Original Series began production.

During the first season, the producers' need for new episodes to be delivered to the network to meet the original series commitment became urgent, and a frame was written allowing most of the original footage from "The Cage" to be used within the series continuity as a two-part episode "The Menagerie."[3] The original pilot episode "The Cage" is sometimes listed as episode 99 when shown. On the VHS home video releases, it was identified as Episode 1. In the pilot, Robert C. Johnson voiced Clegg Hoyt's role as Pitcairn, the transporter chief of the USS Enterprise.[4]

The process of editing the pilot into "The Menagerie" disassembled the original camera negative of "The Cage," and thus, for many years it was considered partly lost. Roddenberry's black-and-white 16mm print made for reference purposes was the only existing print of the show, and was frequently shown at conventions. Early video releases of "The Cage" utilized Roddenberry's 16mm print, intercut with the color scenes from "The Cage" that were used in "The Menagerie". It was only in 1987 that a film archivist found an unmarked (mute) 35mm reel in a Hollywood film laboratory with the negative trims of the unused scenes. Upon realizing what he had found, he arranged for the return of the footage to Roddenberry's company.[5] In some fan circles, this is disputed and alleged (incorrectly) that the black-and-white 16mm footage was simply colorized.

"The Cage" was first released on VHS in 1986, with a special introduction by Roddenberry, and was aired for the first time in its entirety, and in full color, in late November 1988 as part of The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next, a two-hour retrospective special hosted by Patrick Stewart. It contained interviews with Gene Roddenberry, Maurice Hurley, Rick Berman, Mel Harris, cast members from Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, clips from both series and the Star Trek films I through IV with a small preview of Star Trek V. It was later rebroadcast on UPN in 1996 with a behind the scenes look at Star Trek: First Contact.

According to "The Menagerie," the events of "The Cage" take place thirteen years before the first season of Star Trek. No stardate was given.

Plot summary[edit]

The USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, receives a radio distress call from the fourth planet in the Talos star group. A landing party is assembled and beamed down to investigate. Tracking the distress signal to its source, the landing party discovers a camp of survivors from a scientific expedition that has been missing for eighteen years. Amongst the survivors is a beautiful young woman named Vina.

Captivated by her beauty, Pike is caught off guard and is captured by the Talosians, a race of humanoids with bulbous heads who live beneath the planet's surface. It is revealed that the distress call, and the crash survivors, except for Vina, are just illusions created by the Talosians to lure the Enterprise to the planet. While imprisoned, Pike uncovers the Talosians' plans to repopulate their ravaged planet using himself and Vina as breeding stock for a race of slaves.

The Talosians try to use their power of illusion to interest Pike in Vina, and present her in various guises and settings, first as a Rigellian princess, a loving compassionate farm girl, then a seductive, green-skinned Orion. Pike resists all forms, so the Talosians lure Pike's first officer and yeoman—both women—down from the Enterprise to offer further temptation. By then, however, Pike has discovered that primitive human emotions can neutralize the Talosians' ability to read his mind, and he manages to escape to the surface of the planet along with his landing party.

The Talosians confront Pike and his companions before they can beam up. The captain tries to negotiate, but the first officer sets her weapon on a buildup to overload. Pike and Vina move closer to her, agreeing with her preference for death rather than captivity. After all, if the Talosians have even one human being, they might try again. This demonstration of fatal resolve confirms what the Talosians have been gleaning from the records they've accessed from the Enterprise's computers: the human race far too violent for their needs.

Despite their last hope having been proven unsuitable, the Talosians are not vengeful. They let the humans go. The first officer and yeoman beam up immediately, but Pike remains behind with Vina, urging her to leave with him. Vina explains that she can't leave. An expedition had indeed crash-landed on Talos IV; Vina was the sole survivor, but was badly injured. The Talosians were able to save her, but as they had no understanding of human physiology or aesthetics at the time, she was left horribly disfigured. With the aid of the Talosians' illusions, she is able to appear beautiful and in good health, as much to herself as to any others.

Realizing that the continued Talosian illusion of health and beauty is necessary for Vina, Pike is ready to return to the Enterprise without her. In an act of goodwill, the aliens show him that Vina sees an image of Pike next to her, and they walk up to the entrance that takes them into the Talosian habitat. Pike then beams up after the Keeper's closing words: "She has an illusion and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant."

"The Menagerie"[edit]

With the back story in place, next we have Spock transporting the now paralyzed Capt Pike to the planet. Starfleet contacts the ship and starts to place Spock in court martial proceedings. As the court martial proceeds, we find that Spock was actually trying to get the injured Capt Pike back to the Talosians, so that Pike could now live in a reality where he appears healthy and be with the Vina, the girl he liked. Spock gets Pike to the planet, and Kirk, who was involved in the court martial for almost the whole episode, suddenly realizes that the Talosians had tricked him into believing that the court martial was real. It was actually the Talosians that tricked Kirk into thinking the court martial was actually occurring, but it was all an illusion. In the meantime, the REAL Star Fleet had, in fact, been monitoring the entire episode, and they understood that Spock was trying to help Capt Pike, so they did not apply the death penalty to him. Of the 63-minute pilot, some 52 minutes were used in the two-part "Menagerie" episode, although the final surface scene was altered slightly and used as the Talosians' final message to Captain Kirk. Pike, now able to enjoy the illusion of being healthy and independently-mobile again, accompanies Vina up to the entrance to the Talosian habitat. What had been the Keeper's final words to Pike became the final words to Kirk, slightly altered: "Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant." The voiceover, however, is placed over the threatening scene earlier when the Keeper communicates, with a smug nod, "We may soon begin the experiment."

According to "The Menagerie," Starfleet placed the planet under strict quarantine as a result of the Enterprise's first encounter with Talos IV, the violation of which was the only crime that still carried the death penalty. Not only that, but when Spock violates the ban, Kirk (as his commanding officer) also becomes eligible to lose command of the Enterprise. It is never clearly explained why such a harsh sentence was warranted, although the Keeper tells Pike that if humans and Talosians were to maintain contact, "Your race would eventually discover our power of illusion and destroy itself, too." At the end of "The Menagerie," Starfleet allows an exemption for Spock, but it has yet to be established in Star Trek canon whether the death penalty for breaking the Talos IV quarantine was ever repealed.

Casting[edit]

Jeffrey Hunter had a six-month exclusive option for the role of Captain Pike.[6] Although he was required to continue if the series was picked up by the network, he was not required to film the second pilot that NBC requested. Deciding to concentrate on motion pictures instead, he declined the role.[7] Gene Roddenberry wrote to him on April 5, 1965:

I am told you have decided not to go ahead with Star Trek. This has to be your own decision, of course, and I must respect it. You may be certain I hold no grudge or ill feelings and expect to continue to reflect publicly and privately the high regard I learned for you during the production of our pilot.[8]

Roddenberry then asked if Hunter would be willing to film additional scenes to allow the rejected pilot episode to be released as a theatrical feature instead (as was the pilot for Hunter's recent NBC series Temple Houston). Hunter declined.[citation needed]

Two weeks after the option expired on June 1, 1965, Hunter formally gave his letter requesting separation from the project. He died in 1969. Roddenberry later suggested that he was the one who—unhappy with interference by Hunter's then-wife Dusty Bartlett—had decided not to rehire Hunter.[9] However, executive producer Herbert F. Solow, who was present when Dusty, acting as manager, refused the role on behalf of her husband, later said in his memoir, Inside Star Trek, that it was the other way around.[10]

Production[edit]

"The Cage" was filmed at Desilu Productions' studio (now known as Culver Studios) in Culver City, California, from November 27 to mid-December 1964. Post-production work (pick-up shots, editing, scoring, special photographic and sound effects) continued to January 18, 1965.[11]

Gene Roddenberry paid a lot of attention to what The Outer Limits team was doing at the time, and he was often present in their studios. He hired several Outer Limits alumni, among them Robert Justman and Wah Chang, for the production of Star Trek.[12] One of the creatures in the cages was reused from the episode "The Duplicate Man" of The Outer Limits, where it was called a megasoid. The prop head from The Outer Limits episode "Fun and Games" was used to make a Talosian appear as a vicious creature. The process used to make pointed ears for David McCallum in "The Sixth Finger" was reused in Star Trek as well. The "ion storm" seen in "The Mutant" (a projector beam shining through a container holding glitter in liquid suspension) became the transporter effect.

All of the Talosians were portrayed by women, with their telepathic voices recorded by male actors. This was done to give the impression that the Talosians had focused their efforts on mental development to the detriment of their physical strength and size, and also to give that much more of an alien feel to the Talosians. However, the deep voice of Malachi Throne as the Keeper in "The Cage" was electronically processed to sound higher-pitched[13] for "The Menagerie", as Throne also portrayed Commodore Mendez in the latter. The Keeper's voice from "The Menagerie" was kept for both the remastered and new "original" versions of "The Cage" which would be released later. Throne's unaltered voice work as The Keeper only survives as a brief sample that can be found in the preview trailer for "The Menagerie" (Part II).

The laser cannon prop appears only in this episode, although its clear, circular sighting grid was recycled for use in the shuttlecraft in "The Galileo Seven" and other Star Trek episodes.

References[edit]

  1. ^ ""Star Trek" The Cage (TV episode 1986) - Quotes". IMDb. n.d. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  2. ^ Shatner, William (2008). Up Till Now: The Autobiography. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 119. ISBN 0-312-37265-5. 
  3. ^ Whitfield, Stephen E and Roddenberry, Gene (1968). The Making of Star Trek p. 115. Ballantine Books. 
  4. ^ "Clegg Hoyt". en.memory-alpha.org. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ Bob Furmanek, post to Classic Horror Film Board, April 21, 2008. The reconstruction used the soundtrack of Roddenberry's 16mm print for those scenes otherwise without sound.
  6. ^ Joel Engel, Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, Hyperion, 1995. ISBN 978-0-7868-8088-1.
  7. ^ J.D. Spiro, "Happy In Hollywood", The Milwaukee Journal, July 4, 1965.
  8. ^ David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 244. ISBN 978-0-451-45418-8.
  9. ^ William Shatner and Chris Kreski, Star Trek Memories, Harpercollins, 1993. ISBN 978-0-06-017734-8.
  10. ^ Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek, Pocket Books, 1996, p. 63. ISBN 0-671-89628-8.
  11. ^ David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 218. ISBN 978-0-451-45418-8.
  12. ^ The Outer Limits Official Companion, Schow & Frentzen, p.361.
  13. ^ "The Cage Page: Behind the Scenes of Star Trek's First Pilot". StarTrekHistory.com. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]