Star Trek: “The Cage”


In case you don’t know the story, “The Cage” was the first attempt at a pilot episode for Star Trek. When it was shown to NBC, they loved the concept but hated everything else.

For one, they didn’t like Jeffery Hunter as Captain Pike, they didn’t like the idea of a woman as second in command of a spaceship, and they really hated the pointy-eared guy. They told Roddenberry to get rid of them and start over from scratch.

Of course we all know that he ended up keeping the pointy-eared guy, but Pike, Number One, Boyce, Tyler, and Colt were shoved out the nearest airlock to make room for some guy named Bill Shatner.

One of the complaints about this episode from the network was that it was “too cerebral” and had no focus on action. In hindsight, “The Cage” became representative of what good Star Trek and good science fiction was all about – ideas. Watching this episode, you can almost see how Star Trek became The Twilight Zone in Space.

The episode itself is cerebral, I suppose, and I’m not counting that against it. It’s an hour of the best kind of science fiction and quite amazing that it was filmed in 1964 because its tone seems more contemporary and timeless than your average episode of Lost in Space or latter episodes of Star Trek.

Jeffery Hunter shoulder’s the part of Pike very nicely while Majel Barrett sinks comfortably into the cold robotic personality of Number One. It would have been great to see how the relationship between these two might have evolved had the first pilot had been purchased – and how the smiling and emotional Mr. Spock would have played out.

“The Cage” is an entertaining episode and a fun peek into the “what might have been” of Star Trek. It’s amazing to me that this episode wasn’t picked up given how good it is, but in hindsight, I suppose that it’s best that it wasn’t.


Interesting Fact: When this episode was being prepared, the producers were concerned about the green body makeup for the “Orion slave girl”. The shade of green on film might look different than it did in the studio. Majel Barrett did a screen test in green body makeup. The prints came back with her looking normal. They tried darker shades to no effect. Eventually, it was discovered the the film developers didn’t know that she was supposed to be green and had been adjusting the color balance to make her look normal.

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About the author

Jason Donner

Jason Donner devoured the universe and you are all living inside him.