The latest in a (more or less) weekly series of reviews throughout 2010, on randomly-selected episodes of the original Star Trek series, and presented in a “live blog” format as I rewatch the episode. Why? Well…why not?
original unaired pilot
Summary: It’s the first pilot, baby! The Enterprise journeys to the mysterious planet Talos IV in response to a distress call, and hijinks ensue. Yes, this is the one with Captain Pike, and the bumpin’ and grindin’ Orion Slave Girl. Boo-yah.
The Enterprise soars onto the screen, and we drop down into the bridge to see everybody hard at work. A very young looking Mr. Spock is shouting what passes for technobabble in 1964 (“Check the circuit?” Which one, logic dude? Throw me a frikkin’ bone here.). Something is heading directly for the ship; something other than the “meteoroids” they’re passing. Then an alarm siren that’s pretty damned annoying starts whining, and you can see from the look on Captain Christopher Pike’s face that he’s ready to shove it somewhere dark and wet.
Some guy sitting at the communications station, who in the forthcoming reboot(s) will first become a black man and then finally a black woman, calls out that it’s a “radio wave; an old style distress signal,” which apparently was designed to scare the crap out of anybody who might happen across it. The distress call indicates a vessel, the S.S. Columbia, has encountered difficulty and has been forced to crash land, and we quickly learn that the signal is coming from the “Talos Star Group,” a remote area which has never been explored, and that the ship apparently crashed eighteen years ago.
So, what does Pike decide? “Eh, fuck ’em.” Without any evidence that there might be survivors after all this time, checking out some heretofore unknown dustball is just gettin’ in the way of his golf game. He opts to continue on to the Vega colony where injured members of the ship’s crew can be treated…because the Enterprise‘s sick bay apparently sucks donkey balls. Anyway, I guess this mission came before that whole “explore strange new worlds, seek out new life, blah blah blah” credo.
No wonder Roddenberry had to start over.
That decision made, Pike turns over command of the bridge to his first officer,
Nurse Chapel “Number One,” before heading down to his quarters. You can tell he’s distracted, because he doesn’t bat an eye or even sneak a glance at the ass of that hot young female crewmember in the snazzy miniskirt as he passes her in the hallway. Instead, he heads straight into his Fortress of Solitude, orders room service, and then plops down on his bed. He doesn’t even have time to see if there’s any decent porn on Pay-Per-View before there’s a knock on the door and this old geezer just waltzes on in without even waiting to be invited. Prick. It’s Doctor Boyce, carrying a man-purse or some such damned thing, and he asks Pike about the distress call. Pike’s still like “Sucks to be them,” and all that. Boyce, apparently knowing when to let the captain do his thing, agrees with Pike’s assessment before handing the skipper a martini. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! The only problem? I’ve been given bigger cups to piss in at my doctor’s office. If you’re gonna offer a man a drink, then don’t go cheap on the booze, all right?
Boyce, having successfully started the process of liquoring up his commanding officer, proceeds to ask Pike about his feelings following the crew’s previous mission, that being an incident on “Rigel” which caused three fatalities and seven other members of the crew to be injured. Naturally, Pike’s feeling down on himself for what happened, convinced that he should’ve done something to avoid the resulting casualties. Boyce tells him to sack up, for fuck’s sake, but Pike’s not listening. He’s tired of this bullshit, and its way past time he got drunk, laid, and caught up on his TiVo backlog (or something). Nope, a vacation’s not good enough; he’s ready to hang up his spurs and head home. Boyce ain’t buying it. He knows the captain pretty good, you know, so he knows that Pike’s not the kind of dude to be satisfied hanging out at the house when he can be commanding a ship, and so on and so forth. There’s a few more seconds of sulking on Pike’s part before Spock calls from the bridge. Hey! They just got a whole new message! Guess what, dude! There are survivors in the Talos system.
Wow. That’s odd, to…you know…be getting that message so soon after Pike’s decided to blow this Popsicle stand. I’m sure there’s nothing sinister to that.
Back on the bridge, we’re treated to a presentation of
1960s 2250s computer technology as a printout is ejected for Pike to read. It’s pretty dire: “We’re here, but….” Now, who’s gonna resist that? Not even Pike can let this one pass, so he orders his navigator, Tyler, to make a course change for the Talos system, and step on it. “Time Warp Factor Seven, yo!”
Aside: As the ship’s underway, we learn that — apparently — Pike has to be shown with finger puppets how many “seven” is. If only this guy Tyler had been on the Reliant with Chekov in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, he might’ve shown those folks how to count to six, and they would’ve realized a whole planet was missing from the Ceti Alpha system. Of course, that probably would’ve been a boring movie if Chekov had suddenly said, “Aw, shit, Khan’s here. We should probably press on to the next system, huh?”
Getting off-track? Yeah, I guess so. Move on? Okay.
We also learn that Pike’s a bit of an old-fashioned sort. After nearly running over his new yeoman, Colt, and scaring the shit out of her, the captain ruminates aloud that he “can’t get used to the idea of a woman on the bridge.” Number One offers him an expression that screams, “DID YOU SERIOUSLY JUST SAY THAT, DUMBASS?” and you just know that if this had been filmed last summer, she would’ve gestured to her chest and said, “Say hello to my tits. They’ve been right here under my shirt since I reported for duty, Captain Observant.” Realizing he’s dicked up, Pike attempts to back-pedal but steps into an even bigger pile of shit when he says, “Oh, hey, no offense. You’re different.” Yeah, that’s a real ego-booster. No wonder you’re single, Skipper.
Once the Enterprise arrives at Talos IV, a scan shows metal fragments on the surface which might be the remains of a ship. The planet’s atmosphere can definitely support life, so Pike decides to beam down and see what’s the happs. He leaves Number One in command, much to her chagrin. In the transporter room, the landing party dresses in their swank field gear and after a process that feels like it takes about as much time as waiting through an MRI, Pike and company finally transport down to the planet. Though it looks like they materialized on the set of Lost In Space, I backed up a few times here and found no traces of tracks left by that damned robot.
The team spreads out, checking out the lay of the land and all that jazz, including a momentary distraction by a gaggle of “singing plants.” By the look on Spock’s face, you’d think he’d found a secret stash of spontaneously regenerating wacky-weed, complete with an accompanying tray of brownies and White Castle sliders. A moment later comes one of those classic bits where a nondescript crewman is supposedly looking around, searching for signs of life, and apparently misses all the activity taking place in his peripheral vision. It’s not until he turns to face that direction that he realizes, “Holy Shit! Look what I found!”
By the looks of things, the Enterprise landing party has crashed a mini Burning Man festival.
A group of bedraggled old men greets Pike and company, and of course they look moderately enthused at the thought of being rescued. However, it’s not until the attractive young blonde, Vina, shows up and wastes no time giving Pike “The Look,” that stuff starts to get interesting.
Vina continues to give Pike the once-over even as the captain and the rest of his team prepare to take the Columbia survivors back to the Enterprise. Dr. Boyce is rather mystified at the relative good health of everyone in the camp. C’mon, Doc: Don’t you know that simple livin’ is good for the body, mind and soul? Vina wants to show Pike “the secret” behind the group’s good health. Whatever could it be? She takes Pike away from the camp and points to…well…nothing. Naturally, Pike is wondering what the hell this chick’s been smoking, but then she, the other Columbia survivors, and their entire camp simply disappear as though they never existed.
That’s the question on Pike’s mind as a secret doorway opens in the side of a nearby hill and out pops Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th, Part 2 (that’s right; before the hockey mask, by golly) and his twin brother, both of whom are dressed in what I can only figure are two of the higher-end shower curtains available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The first big-headed bald dude pops Pike with some kind of tranquilizer/neutralizer spray thingee and the captain collapses. As the landing party reacts to the attack, the aliens grab Pike and drag him back through the door in the side of the hill, which closes behind them. Spock and the others try to blast their way through the door with their phasers (or lasers, or whatever they’re called at this point), but it’s no joy. Spock is forced to report that Pike’s gone, the victim of some kind of alien trap, and all those mother fuckers are gonna pay. They are the ones who are the ball-lickers!
Pike awakens inside some kind of prison cell (or “Cage,” if you must), and he notes that he’s not alone. In other cells are specimens representing a variety of life forms, none of whom look as though they’d be any fun at parties. That’s when a couple of “Talosians” (or, as I used to call them while watching reruns of “The Menagerie” in the days before home video, “Evil Butthead Aliens”) show up and stand before the window to Pike’s cell, checking out the captain as though he’s a department store mannequin or maybe a selection of beef at the local butcher shop. In short order, the EBHAs confirm that this whole business with the distress call was a setup, with the only thing missing being Ashton Kutcher waiting behind one of the Styrofoam boulders. Oh, and there’s that whole thing about talking without moving their lips. Are they ventriloquists? As there appear to be no hands jammed up any asses, we’re forced to go with a secondary theory, that being the Talosians possess telepathy.
Damn. Evil butthead alien ventriloquists sounds like an awesome Vegas lounge act. Off-Strip, of course.
Though amused at Pike’s “limited intelligence,” and predictable emotional reactions to being imprisoned, the Talosians determined that the captain is ideal for “the experiment,” which is set to begin shortly. Maybe it’s just me, but the look on Pike’s face seems to say, “Aliens? Experiment? Oh, hell no. I saw Fire in the Sky, you sons a bitches! You keep that shit away from me.”
Just me? Okay.
Back on the Enterprise, Spock, Number One, and the others are discussing the current situation. Who are these Talosians? Where do they come from? How do we get the captain back? Blah, blah, blah. The crew realizes they’ve been suckered, with the aliens somehow able to project illusions directly into their minds. Number One decides it’s time to break out the big guns and unleash a whole new can of Whoop-Ass down on the planet.
Back on Pike’s cell, the Talosians are probing the captain’s thoughts, and they soon generate their first “test scenario” by putting Pike back into the events that recently transpired on Rigel VII. It’s just as he remembered it, except for the new addition of Vina as a damsel in distress. Pike follows her into the ruins of a crumbling castle, looking for weapons or a place to hide, but then they’re confronted by a giant alien warrior, the Kaylar, who looks about six or seven kinds of pissed off. I would be, too, if forced to wear the outfit this dude’s sporting. Unable to kill his tailor, the Kaylar sets his sights on Pike, and a brief skirmish ensues. This Pike guy certainly doesn’t have the accomplished fighting skills of James Tiberius “Flying Drop Kick” Kirk, that’s fo damned sho. For reasons surpassing understanding, Pike’s still able to defeat the dude after a lucky throw with a short sword, after which the Kaylar decides it’d be cool to jump at the captain who happens to be readying a Really Fucking Huge Sword Sort of Thing, upon which the Kaylar impales his own dumbass self.
Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark.
With the fight over, Pike and Vina find themselves back in Pike’s cage, and the captain sees the Talosians watching them, skeevy perverts that they are. After they leave, Vina tells Pike that she can be anything she wants him to be, do whatever he asks in order to please him. Pike, of course, figures the Talosians are getting their rocks off watching them, or perhaps even vicariously experiencing whatever he thinks and feels. Eeeeeewwwwww.
On the planet’s surface, Number One and a landing party are preparing to unleash the awesome power of a phaser/laser/whatever cannon on the doorway leading into the hillside where Pike was taken. The weapon is receiving energy directly from the Enterprise itself, which will result in – as the Army sergeant said so eloquently in Blue Thunder – “a shit storm in anybody’s language.” Well, the shit storm is unleashed and….nothing happens. Some rock is blown away, but the door holds. Or…does it? Dr. Boyce makes the not un-ridiculous notion that they might very well have shot the hell out of that hill, but the Talosians could be using illusion to hide the damage. Sneaky cocksuckers!
Meanwhile, Pike is plumbing Vina (get your minds outta the gutter) for information about the limits of the Talosians’ ability. Aparently, the Talosians suffered a massive nuclear war generations ago, and the survivors retreated underground in order to survive. They spent the ensuing time developing their mental ability, to the near-exclusion of all else. Now their society is dying, and they need to find a way to repopulate the planet and save their race from extinction, and Pike and Vina are their prime test subjects. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.
Okay, you can get back in the gutter now.
Vina apparently says too much, for she suddenly collapses in pain before disappearing. Pike turns to see the Talosian “Keeper” watching him, but the alien promptly disappears. Butthead. Later, Pike is looking for a way out of his cell when a trap door opens and deposits a cocktail (or whatever). It’s a Monster Energy Drink or something, as the Talosian informs Pike, able to provide him sufficient nourishment. If the form sucks, Pike can just imagine it as a Big Mac Value Meal or an Atomic Burrito, whatever floats his boat. “Well, maybe I ain’t gonna eat this shit,” Pike says. “Well, then maybe that’s your ass,” the Talosian answers, before inflicting upon the captain the illusion of being thrown into
a Fred Phelps prayer meeting Perez Hilton’s bachelorette party the flames of Hell. Yeah, that’ll teach you not to finish your dinner, eh? Honked off by this treatment, Pike lunges at the cell’s transparent front window, and discovers that he caught the Talosian by surprise. What’s that? You little bald bastards can’t read through strong emotions like anger? Oh, Pike’s got your mother-fucking number now.
The Talosian scrambles to turn the subject of Pike’s attention to Vina. When Pike calls for the Talosians to get off her case and punish him for not cooperating, the Keeper is pleased. Way to fall into their trap, Captain. The next thing we know, Pike has been “transported” to a new location, some kind of
Astroturf grassy meadow on the outskirts of that funky city from Logan’s Run. There’s Vina again, this time dressed like June Cleaver (with or without garter belt and g-string is anybody’s guess at this point). Even his horse, Tango, is there, impatiently waiting for the sugar cubes the Talosians have thoughtfully placed in Pike’s pocket. Pike’s not interested in the illusion, knowing that any children he and Vina might have as a result of this forced pairing will simply become slaves to the Talosians. Vina is starting to freak out, knowing the Keeper will only put the smackdown on them again.
When Pike doesn’t buy this scenario, which he relayed to Boyce earlier in the episode as a possible alternative to life as a ship’s captain, Vina realizes that the illusions based on Pike’s real-life experiences aren’t sufficient. Oh, no. The real party’s in the dirty, nasty stuff we all have tucked in the back of our twisted little minds. Awwwwwwww, yeah. So, BAM! Goodbye proper little housewife. Heeeeelllllooooooo, sexy green alien stripper chick. Yeah, that’s Vina, charging a special rate for lap dances in the Champagne Court, and giving us a whole new meaning to the term “Pike’s Peak.”
Admit it; you laughed right there.
Pike, embarrassed that the little captain might not be behaving himself, runs off to find the restroom, but all he finds is an underground tunnel from which there is no apparent escape. Then Vina appears, in full-blown Orion Slave Chick ensemble. Meeee-ow.
On the Enterprise, a daring mission is being put into action: Number One is to lead a landing party which will be beamed into the Talosian’s hidden Batcave. But what if the sensor readings and transporter coordinates are an illusion? Well, then it’s gonna be a bad day for a whole buncha people. The landing party gets on the transporter pad and the beam out process starts, but only Number One and Yeoman Colt dematerialize, leaving the dudes standing there with befuddled looks on their faces and prompting Spock to utter The Most Memorable Line Of the Whole Damned Episode:
To this day, I still chuckle at that.
Number One and Yeoman Colt materialize inside Pike’s cell, where Vina is treating the captain to Thai massage. She’s pretty pissed about this interruption, infuriated that the Talosians have seen fit to bring two more chicks to this party. Pike snaps out of whatever illusion he’s experiencing and promptly rips open Colt’s field jacket (Yeeeee-HAW!) to grab her laser pistol. Taking Number One’s weapon, too, he sees that both pistols are without power. That’s right, the lasers are as useful as a magazine rack in Sarah Palin’s bathroom. Number One’s communicator isn’t working, either. Pike’s ignoring her, now doing his best to stir up enough hate and anger to block his thoughts from the ever-eavesdropping Talosian pervs. Meanwhile, Vina and Colt get into a verbal catfight, and Number One shows her who’s boss by demonstrating her ability to do basic arithmetic like they taught the rest of us in second grade. Math nerd for the win!
The Talosian Keeper shows up, letting Pike know that he’s got a whole harem in which to, uh, “update the captain’s log,” if you know what I mean. After all, Number One’s got brains and a hot bod, so she’s liable to pop out a smart kid or two. However, Yeoman Colt looks to be a real wildcat in the sack. Pike, however, is focused on wanting to rip the Talosian a new asshole in the back of that ugly butthead of his. The Keeper fires back with some of that illusory punishment before flipping Pike the finger and leaving.
On the Enterprise, Spock’s on the bridge, and he hasn’t even waited for Pike or Number One’s bodies to cool before taking over and ordering the ship out of orbit. However, Tyler and the chief engineer reports that the ship’s controls are out; nothing’s responding. It’s like Time-Warner Cable, only without the shitty DVR. Dicks.
Pike and the others are dozing in the cell, when Pike sees the trap door at the back of the chamber ease open. A Talosian hand is reaching for the discarded laser pistols, and the captain jumps on that little bald fucker like soccer moms at the Toys R Us the day after Thanksgiving. Pike’s got his hands on the Talosian’s throat, and the Keeper tries to scare him with the illusion of turning himself into Rosie O’Donnell. Whoops, I mean Marla Hooch (What a hitter!). Whoops, again, I mean a disgruntled DMV worker. Whatever. Pike’s not buying it and threatens to rip off the Talosian’s head and shit down his neck. The Keeper in turn threatens to destroy the Enterprise if Pike doesn’t back the fuck off.
Back on the ship, Spock and the others are working to repair their systems when the computer suddenly fires up. Someone or something is accessing the Enterprise library banks, sifting through every byte of information they possess. So far as I can tell, the Talosians were unsuccessful in finding Tyler’s hidden porn stash on library computer tape A-47.
Meanwhile, Pike releases the Talosian and aims one of the apparently powerless lasers at the window and presses the trigger. Nothing appears to happen, but the captain smells bullshit. Theorizing that the weapon worked and that the Keeper is just preventing them from seeing it, he aims the pistol at the Talosian’s head and offers to aerate him. Now properly motivated, the Talosian blinks his eyes, or wiggles his nose, or does whatever the hell he does to summon some of that voodoo magic, and the next thing you know, a whole shaped more or less like the Octomom’s vagina appears in the window. Well, whaddaya say about that? Heh.
Leading the Keeper at gunpoint, Pike and the others make their way to the surface, where they discover that the top of the hill with the Talosians’ secret entrance has been blown all to shit. However, the Keeper’s now saying, “Well, you’re here. We’ve got you right where we want you, dumbass. So, start fuckin’ and save our race.” Since Talosian life spans are much longer than humans, they’re looking forward to training any future Pike/female companion offspring into a whole host of worthy heirs to Talosian society. Pike volunteers to stay with Vina in exchange for Number One and Colt being sent back to the ship, but that just ain’t gonna set right with Number One, who promptly sets her laser pistol to overload. Way to overreact there, lady. Ain’t no way the Talosians are breeding a race of slaves; no way, no how, bitches. The Keeper, understandably, craps his diaper to the point of overflowing, not believing the humans will kill themselves.
When more Talosians show up, Pike orders an abort to the overload, and the buttheads commune telepathically, yammering amongst themselves about the infodump from the Enterprise computers. That done, the Keeper now realizes that he’s totally fucked up when it comes to humans. They’d rather die than live in captivity, no matter what kinds of cool toys and gadgets, free food, and unlimited boning with hot young chicks might be available. This is crazy talk to the Talosians, who set Pike and company free. Our bad. No harm, no foul, yo! This was the last chance for the Talosians, as no other race had shown humanity’s apparent level of adaptability. The Talosians will soon be extinct, but hey, Captain, you and your ship just head on out. We’ll be fine! :: pouty pout ::
Pike tries to get Vina to come with them, but then it’s revealed that her beautiful countenance is itself another illusion. If you ever wanted to know what the offspring of Phyllis Diller and the Elephant Man might look like, well…here you go. Vina was found by the Talosians in the wreckage of the crashed Columbia, and though they were able to rescue her, they had no guide for reconstructing her body in the wake of the traumatic injuries inflicted upon it. I’m guessing the rest of the ship’s crew were fed through a wood-chipper or something. Anyway, she can’t leave, because at least here the Talosians care for her and give her the illusion of beauty and health. And hey! Now they’re adding an imaginary friend: Pike! The happy couple are heading back down to the Batcave now, no doubt bound for a nice relaxing game of shuffleboard while dining on tea and sandwiches.
Once Pike’s back aboard the Enterprise and on the bridge, Pike is asked by Colt who might have played “Eve” to his “Adam.” The question naturally garners several questioning looks from various crew members, but only Tyler is stupid enough to open his mouth. If you’re wondering why you never saw him after this episode, here’s your reason right here. After putting up with that bullshit for a few more seconds, Pike orders the ship out of orbit and on to its next destination, secure in the knowledge that his crew’s next adventure will be along in a week or so.
Despite the snark that characterizes these reviews/live-blogging sessions, I still love “The Cage.” It’s definitely different than what we ended up with after the second pilot sold and the series went to production, but there’s still enough there to showcase what Roddenberry intended with his “Wagon Train to the stars” concept.
“The Cage,” as longtime Trekkies know, never aired on television during the broadcast run of the original series, though a significant portion of the pilot was integrated into the two-part first-season episode, “The Menagerie.” Gene Roddenberry screened a black and white work print of the original pilot at conventions from time to time, but the general Trekkie public didn’t get to see it until it was released on home video in 1986, as part of the celebration of Star Trek‘s 20th anniversary. At the time, no color version of the episode was believed to exist, with the only surviving color segments being those used in “The Menagerie.” The decision was made to splice the color footage into the B/W work print, and that was what was released on VHS (and later Laser Disc), complete with an introduction and closing comments from Roddenberry himself.
However (lo and behold!) the remaining color footage from “The Cage” was found a year or so later, though the audio tracks for that footage remain lost. All of the color footage was combined with the audio tracks from the work print to create a full-color version, which eventually was aired in 1988 on television to the same syndication markets which were running Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was in its second season at that time. This version also showed up on VHS, Laser Disc, and both versions of the original pilot have since been included on all subsequent DVD and Blu-ray releases. For this review, I watched the version that I first saw, that being the black-and-white/color hybrid (in this case, from the original third season DVD box set), with all of its film skips and jumps, and background audio hiss and various other artifacts. As with all of the wayback reviews, this version does not have the new computer-generated effects footage of the Enterprise, planets, and so forth.
To be honest, I’d rather they had kept this entirely in black and white. I would’ve loved having that as part of my collection, as I’m such a nerd for old-school B/W science fiction and horror movies from the 1950s and early 60s. I know, I know…I can hear voices from the peanut gallery shouting, “Turn down the color on your TV!” but you know that doesn’t work. B/W films were shot a certain way because they were B/W films, so the lighting, colors for clothes and sets, and so on, were all deliberate choices to provide the best possible effect for the medium. For example, old-school geeks like me know that the costumes worn by Kirk Alyn and George Reeves for the original Superman movie serials (as well as the first two seasons of TV’s Adventures of Superman) weren’t actually red and blue, but rather gray and brown, in order to look better when shot in B/W. As for the “work print” version of “The Cage,” it naturally doesn’t benefit from any of that planning, as it was always intended to be broadcast in color, but it still looks pretty decent in B/W.
As for special optical effects, I have to say that the opening shot of the Enterprise, where it tilts toward the camera and then we’re on the bridge, is still pretty effective, all things considered. Of course, other than the opening credits, that initial flyby, and at the end, you don’t get to see the Enterprise during the episode itself. The practice of using a shot of the ship in orbit or traveling through space as a transition from one scene to the next wouldn’t show up until the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was filmed. The initial shot of Talos IV from orbit as seen on the bridge viewscreen is still superior to anything shown during the entire run of the original series.
As for the sets, though most of what you see are familiar Enterprise interiors, they lack much of the color which would characterize them once the series entered production. The decision to all but over-saturate sets and uniforms was based on NBC’s marketing as the first “full-color network,” and Star Trek seemed like the perfect showcase for the new “innovation” in home entertainment. For “The Cage,” though, most everything is more subdued, dominated by grays and beiges. The bridge color scheme in particular is something of a foreshadowing of what would be seen fifteen years later, when the sets for Star Trek: The Motion Picture were constructed.
On the “planet exteriors” set, the backdrop at the rear of the set features far more detail than would ever again be seen during the series’ run after the filming of “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” It’s a shame they never reused it, but I suppose that was more a function of budget and time, as I’d read in the book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (by Herb Solow and Bob Justman) that the original backdrop was a pain to light correctly after being painted. So, a simpler and cheaper method was devised when the series went to production: Using a neutral backdrop and applying colored filters to the lights set up to illuminate it. Makes sense from a filming standpoint, but the planet set would never again look this convincing.
Jeffrey Hunter is, of course, the definitive Christopher Pike, but I don’t know if he ever would’ve brought the warmth and humor which we now know was a very significant part of William Shatner’s portrayal of James Kirk. Star Trek with Hunter as the lead would’ve been a very, very different show, I think. And while no one can ever replace the beloved DeForest Kelley as McCoy, I’ve always been a fan of John Hoyt’s and would’ve liked to see him again as Dr. Philip Boyce.
The Talosians are interesting enough, but they and their story is one which ultimately will become a Star Trek cliché, with a superior alien race imprisoning or otherwise testing representatives of humanity and eventually learning they’re not as high and mighty as they thought they were before encountering “people from Earth.”
One other small item of note: I always dug the “field jackets” worn by the landing parties in this episode, and in hindsight wish they’d used something like them during the series itself. One of my chief complaints about uniforms on the various Trek series was always their lack of practicality for certain situations.
“The Cage” is a unique entry in the Star Trek mythos, for what might have been as much as what would survive and evolve not only with the original series but its spinoffs, as well. Final grade: Seven tentacles up.