This rejected Star Trek pilot still ended up in the show

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The Big Picture

  • “The Cage,” the first pilot of Star Trek: The Original Serieswas initially rejected by NBC for being too cerebral and was later reworked into a two-part episode titled “The Menagerie.”
  • Lucille Ball’s involvement and financial support was instrumental in convincing NBC to order and eventually launch a second pilot Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • “The Cage” remained largely inaccessible for decades until it was released on home video in 1986 to commemorate the franchise’s 20th anniversary, and it was subsequently released in its original form. his in 1988.

On September 8, 1966, the world first saw the USS Enterprise and its crew of cosmic explorers when Gin Roddenberryand Star Trek: The Original Series premiered on NBC. By igniting what would become a multimedia empire consisting of television, movies, novels, comic books, and video games, Roddenberry’s original series laid the foundation for a cultural milestone revered by many -faithful and loyal following around the world to this day. But like all iconic entertainment, Star Trek’s road to pop culture glory had its fair share of bumps along the way, not the least of which included behind the scenes before its first release as a series. While The original series often – and deservedly – criticized for prioritizing positive ideas and well-defined characters over action and scenery, the progressive sci-fi franchise has not always been warmly received from viewers who prefer sex sports, and Gene Roddenberry found this out the hard way when the NBC network brass met the first pilot in the series, “The Cage,” with crickets.


Star Trek: The Original Series

In the 23rd century, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise explore the galaxy and protect the United Federation of Planets.

Release date
September 8, 1966

William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Deforest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig

Main Character
Sci Fi

Action, Adventure


Star Trek

Gin Roddenberry

What is “The Cage” about?

Photo via Paramount Pictures

Written by Roddenberry and produced almost two years earlier Star Trek: The Original Series officially released, “The Cage” follows the USS Enterprise as they investigate a distress signal from a distant planet. apart from Leonard Nimoythe actors who would eventually be the cast of the series did not appear, and in the Captain’s chair was Jeffrey Hunter like Christopher Pike. After descending to the planet Talos IV, Pike and his team find a group of scientists who went missing eighteen years earlier. Especially taken by the beautiful Vina (Susan Oliver), Pike suddenly finds himself captured and held by the Talosians, a subterranean, humanoid alien race.

Using their telepathic ability to pick up and cast powerful illusions in the minds of others, the Talosians change Pike’s perception of Vina, portraying her as a seductress in hopes of using the pair as breeders to repopulate the planet with slaves. Struggling with their constant attempts to break him down and tempt his despicable desires, Pike overwhelms the Talosians by showing anger and resistance to the concept of captivity, displaying primitive human instincts which renders their telepathic powers ineffective. Realizing that they will not succeed in their plan, the other creatures in the world release Pike, and Vina, whose true appearance is shown to be far from getting the a show that the Talosians anticipated in the Captain’s mind, choosing to stay on the planet as long as they could. she can maintain a beautiful but ugly self-image.

NBC rejected “The Cage” and ordered a Second Star Trek pilot

Star trek the original image of the series
Photo via CBS

While “The Cage” features several hallmarks that would define Star Trek — philosophical ideas, aliens, a green space girl, phasers — NBC reportedly thought the $600,000 pilot was “too cerebral.” ” In his book The making of Star Trek, Stephen Whitfield writes, “NBC felt that the show would go over the heads of most viewers, that it required too much thought from the viewer to understand.” In an unprecedented move at the time, the network ordered a second pilot and re-aired it with the actors who would play the iconic Enterprise team over three seasons and six feature films later.

A crucial but perhaps lesser-known piece of information about the second pilot, titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was Ball Lucilleinvolved. With her husband Desi Arnaz, Ball oversaw Desilu Productions and the studio space where “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before” were shot. She was instrumental in getting NBC to order a second Star Trek pilot and contributed to its financing. According to the chief executive Ed Holly“If it wasn’t for Lucy, there would be no Star Trek today.” To increase their chances of avoiding anything too heavy and logistically complex, NBC considered three screens and reduced the segment’s budget from $600,000 to $300,000. ” Where No Man Has Gone Before” was completed in January 1966 and, after receiving approval from the network, Star Trek: The Original Series the green light was given for the following first fall.

“The Cage” was later introduced in the Star Trek Two-Part Episode

Photo via NBC

Although quickly canceled in early 1965, “The Cage” would be resurrected in a two-part episode midway through. Star Trek: The Original Series‘ first season. Written by Gene Roddenberry and titled “The Menagerie,” the first half introduces Captain Pike who, after suffering an accident, is physically paralyzed but mentally functional. After serving with the Captain 13 years earlier, Spock (Nimoy) hatches a plan to bring Pike back to Talos IV, where, under the Talosian’s powers of understanding, he could to live the rest of his days in peace and in a healthy physical condition. Hiding his true intentions from Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Starfleet, Spock escapes with Pike, takes command of the Enterprise, and sets a course for Talos IV.

Using a few cleverly structured stories, “The Menagerie” introduces “The Cage” through flashbacks. At a hearing to determine whether Spock will be subject to a court-martial for his acts of terrorism, Kirk and other officers watch the events of “The Cage” on screen, and audiences are bounced back and forth between Pike’s experience on Talos IV and current experience. When they learn the truth about Pike and Spock’s past, and when the court-martial hearing realizes that it was a ruse by the Talosians to buy time for the trip, Kirk lets the sick Captain come reunited with Vina on the planet. Seamlessly connecting two narratives, “The Menagerie” retroactively incorporates the series’ rejected pilot into its current canonical timeline, honoring to the source material while also giving Captain Pike a rounded narrative arc that culminates in closure. Despite being included in a high quality installment of the original Star Trek series, the story behind “The Cage” as its first pilot would not be known for years.

“The Cage” was not available in its original form for decades

The Talosians from Star Trek: The Original Series pilot episode
Through Paramount

After being included in “The Menagerie,” “The Cage” was virtually unavailable as a stand-alone program for twenty years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, only a handful of dedicated Star Trek fans have seen “The Cage.” conventions until 1986, when it was released on home video to celebrate the franchise’s 20th anniversary. It was later broadcast in color and its original format for the first time in 1988 as part of a special program hosted by Patrick Stewart. Although it may have been relegated to relative obscurity in the decades since Star Trek: The Original Series‘ the first time, the revival of the abandoned pilot greatly contributed to one of the most innovative and creative moments of the series, thanks in large part to the inventive and inventive use of content that was previously deleted.

Star Trek: The Original Series currently available to stream on Paramount+ in the US

Watch Paramount+

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