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Star Trek: The Cage


It was billed as the first-time-ever public screening of Star Trek's original pilot: although it wasn't (Star Trek conventions have shown it for a decade), Trekkies, TV buffs, and reporters gathered at New York's Museum of Broadcasting in August to watch the show and hear Trek creator Gene Roddenberry expound on the whys and wherefores of the pilot and the series.

The show was commissioned by NBC and filmed in 1964 after Roddenberry, a successful TV writer and producer, had sold the network on the idea of an action-adventure series set in space. Jeffrey Hunter, whom Roddenberry had seen in King of Kings as Jesus Christ, was cast as the somber Capt. Pike, while Leonard Nimoy played Mr. Spock, the alien with the pointed ears. The network was disappointed by the show, calling it "too cerebral," but impressed enough with the special effects and concept to ask for a second pilot. This one starred William Shatner as Capt. Kirk and was more action-oriented. ("We even had a fist fight in the end," noted Roddenberry.) Star Trek was born.

The Cage, however, had cost NBC a lot of money. When pressed by budgets and deadlines during the run of the series, Roddenberry incorporated the bulk of the footage into a two-part episode, The Menagerie. Rather than make a duplicate print of The Cage, though, cost-conscious technicians chopped up the only copy, snipping out the scenes they needed.

When Paramount went to release the first pilot on videocassette earlier this year, it discovered the only complete copy was a black and white version owned by Roddenberry. Undaunted, the company mixed color footage used in The Menagerie with the missing monochrome scenes to create the composite they are issuing, (Roddenberry refused to colorize the B&W material, saying that colorization "looks fake.")

The Cage is a fascinating experience for fans, adding texture to familiar scenes from The Menagerie, Although only about 10 minutes has been added back, the restored bits include the opening credits, a silly traveling-through space sequence, and a line that apparently upset NBC censors. When Pike remarks on guest star Susan Oliver's outfit, she replies: "Well, I have to wear something" –pause, suggestively – "don't I?”