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Star Trek - The Original Series: The Cage

Classics and Science Fiction & Fantasy TV show

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You can see the seeds of the Star Trek phenomena

  • Jun 22, 2004
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The only way to view this video is with your mind firmly locked into the historical context. When Gene Roddenberry first proposed the Star Trek series to network executives, the American television viewers were in the midst of their love affair with the western. Therefore, he described the proposed series as "wagon train to the stars." However, that is not what he gave them, and there were some objections, so a second pilot was requested.
The idea of a woman second in command was immediately rejected and while the crew of the pilot was not as integrated as the later ones, there are people of other races shown on the ship. The acting was not well done, Spock is smiling and emotional, there are some bad gender clich├ęs and Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike is beset with self-doubts. Therefore, William Shatner, cast as a more swashbuckling Captain Kirk, replaced him.
Nevertheless, from this episode, it is possible to see how the Star Trek idea could spawn a series of major films and three subsequent very successful and long-running television series. For Star Trek has always been about the exploration of human ideas.
Fresh from a mission where the Enterprise suffered casualties, Captain Christopher Pike is facing intense self-doubts and is talking about resigning. The Enterprise encounters a distress signal from a scientific ship that has suffered severe damage and then a follow up message that there were survivors marooned on a planet that could support life.
The Enterprise goes to the planet and apparently finds survivors. However, it is all an illusion created by the inhabitants of the planet so that they could capture Captain Pike. Countless years before, a war had devastated the surface of the planet and the inhabitants of the planet want Captain Pike to be paired with the lone survivor of the crash, a female, so that they could repopulate the surface. Captain Pike rebels at being a specimen and eventually is released. Some parts of this pilot were incorporated into the two-part episode "The Menagerie" of the original series. The parts that were used in the episode are in color and the remaining segments are in black and white.
In this episode, we see matter transporters for the first time, the swooshing sounds of the doors of the Enterprise, an alien regular member of a ships crew, intelligent interactions with a different species and a spaceship that appears to function without a lot of meaningless flashing lights. The dialogue isn't quite up to Star Trek standards, but it is pretty good when you consider the historical context.
The number of network television firsts that took place on Star Trek is most impressive. From the first swear word, to blacks in positions of authority to the first inter-racial kiss, Star Trek set new and generally higher standards for what would appear on commercial American television. It all started with this series pilot, so it is also a piece of history, the first in a series of dynamic stories about humanity reaching for new worlds to explore, but not necessarily conquer.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
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Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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Watching "The Cage" is like visiting some parallel universe. That's theStar Trektheme song, and there's theEnterprise, and that's Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock... but wait--he's smiling and firing weapons. And who are the rest of these duds manning the controls? If this were any other series pilot, it would probably be laughed out of the galaxy with its wooden acting, silly costumes, and cheesy special effects. But this wasStar Trek's dry run, and so it is a must-own collectible for every Trekker, as well as instructive viewing for anyone interested in the evolution of a TV show. Now, there are some who staunchly believe that Jeffrey Hunter's Christopher Pike was theEnterprise's best captain. Pike doesn't exactly inspire confidence in his leadership abilities; reflecting on a recent devastating battle, he anguishes, "I should have smelled trouble when I saw the swords and the armor." He is also "tired of being responsible for 203 lives" and is considering resigning his Starfleet commission. But Pike is roused from his ennui after theEnterpriseanswers a distress call on the planet Talos IV, and he is imprisoned by super-intelligent aliens with the telepathic power to manipulate memories. Susan Oliver guest-stars as Vina, whom the aliens select as Eve to his Adam. The lackluster (and virtually all-white) crew includes Marjel Barrett as a somber Number One and John Hoyt as Dr. Boyce, who dispenses martinis as well as advice. This episode never aired, but some scenes were used in ...
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Genre: Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Studio: Paramount

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