"The Cage" Started 50 Years Ago Today
The official 50th anniversary of Star Trek is still a ways off, but it unofficially begins today. Why? Production on “The Cage,” the first pilot for Star Trek: The Original Series, kicked off on this day in 1964. Gene Roddenberry’s initial stab at Trek – which was rejected by NBC, but impressed them enough to order a second pilot -- included some of the elements that fans came to know and love, but it also in many ways differed tremendously from what viewers saw later upon the premiere of “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” To celebrate the occasion, StarTrek.com has compiled factoids about “The Cage,” many of which will be familiar to longtime fans, but should prove, to borrow the word of an old Vulcan friend, fascinating, to Trek newcomers.
-- "The Cage” cost NBC $630,000 to produce.
-- Jeffrey Hunter starred as Christopher Pike, captain of the USS Enterprise. After NBC rejected “The Cage,” Hunter walked away from Star Trek, declining to do “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which was his contractual right. Hunter died in 1969.
-- At various points, before Hunter came on board as Pike the character was going to be named Captain Robert April or possibly Captain Winter. Other actors whose names were floated for the role either by NBC or Roddenberry included Efrem Zimbalist Jr., James Coburn, Peter Graves, George Segal, Patrick O’Neal, Rod Taylor and some Canadian actor called William Shatner.
-- Leonard Nimoy played Spock… with just a touch of emotion (he smiles broadly in one scene). Nimoy had guest starred previously on Roddenberry’s series, The Lieutenant. He also, interestingly, shared the screen briefly with William Shatner in “The Project Strigas Affair,” an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that aired on November 24, 1964.
-- Majel Barrett played Number One, the ship’s second in command. The story goes that NBC, when they OK-ed a second pilot, compelled Roddenberry to pick either the pointy-eared alien or the female first officer; he could not have both. Barrett, who went on to marry Roddenberry, later portrayed Nurse Chapel and provided the voice of most of the computer systems heard throughout the Trek shows and movies. Barrett-Roddenberry passed away on December 18, 2008, not long after voicing the Enterprise computer one last time for Star Trek (2009).
-- John Hoyt played Dr. Phillip “Bones” Boyce in “The Cage.” Portions of his performance can be seen in “The Menagerie” two-parter. Trek was but one credit in a long and prolific career. Many TV viewers of a certain age remember Hoyt as Grandpa Stanley Kanisky on the sitcom Gimme a Break! He passed away on September 15, 1991 at the age of 85.
-- What famous Trek bits did audiences NOT see in “The Cage”? Well, Captain Kirk for starters, but also there were no tricorders or phasers or… red shirts.
-- Nimoy landed the role after it was turned down by DeForest Kelley and Martin Landau. As history would have it, after Star Trek concluded its run, Nimoy joined the cast of Mission: Impossible… following the departure of Martin Landau.
-- The outfits are markedly different between “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” as are the sets. Case in point: The Starfleet insignias in the original pilot are much subtler and less visible than those used later.
-- The very first line of dialogue belonged to… Spock/Nimoy. The line? “Check the circuit.”