The scene, earlier today.
The scene, earlier today.
Friday, November 27th, 1964: it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and the first day of principal photography on the pilot episode for a proposed weekly science fiction television series:
Over the next eleven working days, director Robert Butler would oversee filming for “The Cage,” Star Trek‘s original pilot film. The first scene to be shot was set in the quarters of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s intrepid captain, Christopher Pike, who’s suffering from something akin to a mid-life crisis following a recent mission that ended in tragedy. He’s questioning his choice of career, and whether it might be time to hang it all up and retire somewhere, or perhaps find another line of work. That’s when the ship’s doctor and his close friend, Philip Boyce, starts feeding him drinks and knocking some sense into his thick skull.
“The Cage,” wasted no time establishing what would become a few Star Trek staples right out of the gate, namely the theme of advanced aliens capturing and/or testing the Enterprise crew to determine their intentions, threat potential, worth, and so on. It also hints at how the series would handle relationships between the characters, in particular the captain and his closest confidants, and how behind closed doors he’s not above brief struggles with self-doubt. Several familiar Enterprise interiors debut here, as well, notably the bridge, transporter room and briefing room. As for the Enterprise itself, we’re given just a few tantalizing shots of the ship in the opening and closing scenes.
Though NBC passed on picking up the series, network executives were sufficiently impressed with the production that they commissioned a second pilot.
You know how that turned out.
Interestingly, there as a brief period during the first pilot’s production that it was renamed from “The Cage” to “The Menagerie.” Later, after Star Trek as in production and series creator Gene Roddenberry made the inspired decision as a cost-saving measure to create a “wraparound” story incorporating some of the original pilot’s footage, that episode was titled “The Menagerie.” In addition to the obvious benefits to the series’ production budget, framing the events of the first pilot as having happened several years before Captain Kirk’s five year mission aboard the Enterprise provided Star Trek with a substantial and tangible backstory, particularly for Mr. Spock, the only character to survive the multiple cast changes as the series evolved through the two pilot films toward weekly production.
The first pilot, which was never shown on television during the series’ run, would carry “The Cage” as its title when it eventually was released to home video in videocassette and LaserDisc formats in 1986. At the time, it was believed that no color print of the entire episode existed, so the decision was made to release “The Cage” in a hybrid format that included the color footage incorporated into “The Menagerie” along with additional footage from a black and white work print of the pilot. Later, a full-color print was found and was released on home video and was broadcast in the summer of 1988 as part of a two-hour Star Trek special hosted by Patrick Stewart, “From One Generation to the Next.” More recently, both versions of “The Cage” have been included in DVD and Blu-ray releases of the original series.
Though many “Star Trek concepts” would be retooled to varying degrees–for the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and again when Star Trek went into series production–in some ways “The Cage” represents Star Trek in its purest form. It showcases Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for the voyages of the starship Enterprise, before he began refining it as production on the weekly series progressed, as much for his own reasons as to appease the wishes of NBC executives.
“The Cage” is a special, essential component of the Star Trek mythos, existing as a part of its internal history as well as a template for what might have been so far as what ended up on our TV screens.
So, if you haven’t yet had or taken the opportunity to watch it for yourself, what are you waiting for? “Engage!”
With Thanksgiving upon us and the holiday eating/shopping/binge-watching season looming on the not-so distant horizon, we’re getting set to host friends and family tomorrow at Ward Manor 2.0. Michi’s mom will be here, along with a pair of our dear friends whom we’ve known since first moving into the original stately Ward casa. Food is or will be everywhere, and of course we’ll be watching at least one of the games.
But, what if the games suck?
Hey, it happens. Though Thanksgiving as borne witness to no small number of thrilling or even ridiculous gridiron classics, the truth is that as often as not, the games televised on this Day of Thanks tend to be snoozers, doing little except to enable everyone’s tryptophan coma.
For that unfortunate eventuality, we have movies.
Regular followers of this space know I haves me some movies. A bunch of them, in fact. Old ones, new ones, good ones, bad ones, so bad they’re good ones, and so on. A few years ago, I participated in a guest blog over at Forgotten Flix, a site devoted to lost screen gems of yesteryear, in which we all “gave thanks” for a favorite movie that we thought should get more attention or love.
What did I write? Well, now we come to the reason for this here “ReWard” piece. As originally posted over at Forgotten Flix in November 2010:
Let’s see: it’s Thanksgiving afternoon. You’ve stuffed yourselves like Romans, and you’re struggling against the onset of your annual tryptophan coma. The football is a snoozefest, and the only other game scheduled for the day is between two teams whose only chance of going to the Super Bowl is if they get hired to sell hot dogs. What do you do? Of course, you wander over to the DVD shelf, push past all the romantic comedies and Baby Einsteins and maybe even the three Star Wars movies.
What? They made three more? Blasphemy, I say!
Anyway, you bend way down to the shelf near the floor, where “your” movies reside. Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, Arnie, and maybe even Mel Gibson (before the meltdown) are represented, but who’s that? Burt Reynolds? Whoa. It looks like you’ve got a couple of his classics, but a single title stands out among all the others. It’s that one film of Burt’s which showcases the definitive battle between good and evil; that renders into sharp relief the intrinsic struggle between liberty and oppression, and offers hope that one man – along with a woman, another man and that man’s dog – can make a difference.
I refer, of course, to Smokey and the Bandit.
Okay, okay. At its core, this movie is little more than an excuse to film cars driving fast, jumping over things, and getting the crap beaten out of them. The plot is razor thin: Drive from Atlanta to Texarkana, obtain 400 cases of Coors beer – which at the time was not allowed to be sold east of the Mississippi River – and drive back in 28 hours, in order to secure an $80,000 payday. Along the way, Bo Darville (aka “the Bandit,” played by Reynolds) and Cletus Snow (“the Snowman,” as portrayed by Jerry Reed) run afoul of Texas lawman Buford T. Justice, a hilarious parody of every backwater redneck hick sheriff in the history of backwater redneck hick sheriffs and played to utter, sublime perfection by the late, great Jackie Gleason. Justice sets off in manic pursuit of the Bandit and his shiny black T-top Trans Am, and hilarity ensues…particularly when the Bandit stops just long enough to pick up a runaway bride (Carrie, aka “Frog,” played by Sally Field) who happens to be fleeing the scene after leaving Justice’s son, Junior, at the altar.
Got all that?
In and around all this heavy angst and intense character introspection (or lack thereof) are a series of high-speed chases, jumps and crashes, and trash-talking on the finest communications tool ever developed in the civilized world, the Citizen’s Band Radio. Meanwhile, Snowman, driving the rig with all the beer, is just hoping to get back in time to collect the cash. As if that’s not hard enough, he has to stop long enough to fight a motorcycle gang and hopefully get a decent cheeseburger for his dog, Fred, while waiting for his buddy the Bandit to show up, run blocker for the truck, and maybe help him avoid getting arrested. Written and directed by ace Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham, Smokey and the Bandit was to be the first of several collaborations with Reynolds, though none of them match the sheer goofy fun of this, the first and still the best duel ever between a Smokey and a Bandit.
You can read the entire selection of guest postings at Forgotten Flix by following these links:
All right then! In the spirit of what the Forgotten Flix gang set out to do, for what “forgotten flix” do you give thanks?
Grok your grog, yo.
I haven’t been able to find an artist to credit, but if you’re reading this and know who’s behind this little slice of genius, I’d love to send folks his or her way. In the meantime, yes! It’s available on a T-shirt right here
(* = inspired by the “Your Moment of Zen” segments from The Daily Show)
I’m starting to think the Bucs won’t make the post-season.
Bears 21 – Bucs 13
To their credit, the Bucs were leading 10-0 at halftime after seeming to have Chicago’s number in the early going, which would’ve been great if the game could have ended there. However, that silly NFL with their rules and stuff, requires the teams to play out the other fifty percent of the game, which is pretty much when the wheels came off whatever train Tampa had rolling.
Three–count ‘em–three turnovers on successive drives in the third quarter, two fumbles and the second of two interceptions thrown by Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, did much to upend whatever plans for winning the game Tampa may have harbored. Damn shame, too, as statistically the Bucs actually had almost all of it over Chicago. Almost, because of course the Bears ended up leading in the only statistic that truly matters.
So, you know…whoops.
Though the loss snaps Tampa’s 1-game winning streak (Sorry. I couldn’t resist putting that there) and drops them to 2-9 on the season, there amazingly still exists scenarios which could see the Bucs climb their way to the top of the NFC South. They’re only two games behind the current division leaders, pending the outcome of New Orleans’ game tonight, with five games to go.
That’s simply mind-boggling.
Next up for the Bucs? At home to face the Cincinnati Bengals, who are in a dogfight of their own for control of the far more exciting AFC North Division. Every game for them at this point is critical, so the Bengals will be hungry when they wander into the New Sombrero.
Time to nut up, Tampa.
Hey! It seems the Caped Crusader slipped an episode or two past me when I wasn’t looking. But, never fear, Bat-fans! This means I can do a twofer shout-out for all-new episodes of The Batcave Podcast!
While I’ve been occupied elsewhere, host John S. Drew continues gallivanting through his review of the classic 1960s Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, and for the second season’s ninth story (and 17th and 18th episodes), he’s joined by award-winning writer/editor Glenn Greenberg. Together, they take a look back at the episodes that bring us the return of one of the classic Bat-villains, the Penguin, for the first time this season in “Hizzonner the Penguin” and “Dizzoner the Penguin.”
From John’s write-up:
“It’s election season once again and the fair citizens of Gotham City have the opportunity to vote for mayor. It would appear that Mayor Linseed would easily win as he is a fine, upstanding politician, but then the Penguin throws his top hat into the ring.
As with any political process, something new gets the attention of the public, even that of an arch-criminal running for office. There can only be one man who can stand up to this political machine – Batman.”
Tune in to see what John and Glenn thought of these episodes: “Hizzonner the Penguin/Dizzoner the Penguin“
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
We also have Episode 28 of the podcast, in which John is joined by writer/webmaster Dan Greenfield of The 13th Dimension, as they discuss the second season’s tenth story (and 19th and 20th episodes). This time? Another villain not seen since Season 1 makes his dastardly return! It’s Mr. Freeze, in “Green Ice” and “Deep Freeze.”
Here’s what John says about that one:
“Mr. Freeze returns to Gotham City and is looking for love in all the wrong places. He kidnaps a beauty contestant and promises she will love him by making her as cold as he is. Of course, he also has to deal with Batman, but he has a plan for the Caped Crusader that will tarnish his image.”
Do John and Dan give Mr. Freeze an icy reception? Tune in and find out: “Green Ice/Deep Freeze“
So, it’s been a while since we did one of these.
The good people over at StarTrek.com, having failed to learn from past mistakes, have opened their virtual doors and provided me with a bit of room to run around over on their site. Once unleashed, I wasted no time spray-painting the walls with yet another installment of my semi-regularly recurring blog series, “Ten for Ward.”
For those of you who are new to the Fog and need an explanation, here’s the deal: I’m invited every so often to provide a list of ten favorite (and hopefully interesting) Trek-related whatevers based on…well…whatever I can think up whenever my editor rings my bell and asks for a new column.
For this latest installment, I list ten of my favorite Star Trek books that take a peek behind the curtain to show us how the various television series (or films) were made. I’m a sucker for this sort of book, and the development and production of the original Star Trek series in particular has always been a favorite topic of mine to revisit. Obviously there are more than ten such books, but I’ve got a whole theme thing going on over there a StarTrek.com, so I had to stick to my guns…all ten of ‘em.
What did I come up with?
As is the case with these columns, mine is not intended to be a “definitive list, so any and all suggestions are more than welcome. Feel free to offer your ideas here or in the comments section for the column itself.
You can also check out all of my “Ten for Ward” columns just by clicking on this logo-ish looking thing right here:
So, who’s got some favorite books like these?