Thursday, September 4, 2008

Star Trek

One of the many marvelous opportunities granted by retirement is that of reducing my OOTD list. OOTD stands for "One of these days." Those were things I wanted to do or read or view or visit, but never seemed to have the time. Well, now I've got some time.

One of my OOTDs was to see in its entirety the movie _Forbidden Planet_. I finally managed to do that some time ago. Another OOTD that I just eliminated was viewing the initial pilot for _Star Trek_, the one that never made it to the screen during the series' initial run 1966.

Forty years ago! Has it really been that long ago?

As all Trek fans know, the pilot was "The Cage" and the captain of the Enterprise was Christopher Pike, played by Jeffery Young. The pilot was rejected by the network, and Roddenberry had to submit another one, which finally was accepted.

I've seen parts of it over the years, mostly as part of a two-part episode, "The Menagerie," broadcast later, as an attempt to get some use out of it. At other times, I tuned in too late to see the whole episode when it was being rerun.

So, last night I loaded up my DVD player with a disc that contained three episodes: "Turnabout Intruder," "The Cage," and "The Cage" in color. It was interesting to view "The Cage," the pilot episode, back-to-back with "Turnabout Intruder," which was the last _Star Trek_ episode that was broadcast.

The first version of "The Cage" was a mix of color and black-and-white. The remastered version was completely in color. I watched both and the only major difference I could see was in the voice of the chief alien. His voice was deeper in the b&w version.

The crew of the pilot had vanished except for two characters: Mr. Spock, who actually smiled in the pilot, something he wouldn't do again, I think, for at least a year or more, and Majel Barrett, who played No. 1, second in command of the Enterprise, and later appeared as Nurse Chapel. It was rather daring in 1968 to have a female character a heartbeat away from the top spot. And, in fact, she took command of the Enterprise when Capt. Pike was captured and, moreover, was depicted as performing competently.

The bridge of the Enterprise was generally the same, although some changes had been made. It appeared much smaller and consequently much more crowded in the pilot. One element that disappeared in the series was the sight of crew members carrying clipboards and getting paper printouts from what I presume is the ship's computer. After the pilot, the clipboards disappeared, and the ship's computer gained a voice.

As with most of the episodes, "The Cage" made a point that is even more relevant today than it was some 40 years ago. The issue was whether Capt Pike would accept his imprisonment, regardless of how pleasant it was, and regardless of whatever illusions the aliens could provide (they could read his mind so they knew what his deepest desires were) or would choose die if he couldn't be free. And, it was No. 1 who set her weapon to explode and kill the humans rather than be enslaved.

Today, we seem to have traded in that desire for freedom for a false sense of security.

Now, on to episode 2.


  1. Not to be picky, but I believe it was Jeffry Hunter, not Young. :-)

  2. Scott,

    I knew that. Now why did I say it was Young?

    Anyway, you are right; it is Jeffrey Hunter. According to the Wikipedia entry, Lloyd Bridges turned it down first, and then Jeffrey Hunter accepted the role.

  3. He was young before he got old!!!! :-) Sorry, couldn't resist.