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Star Trek: The Original Series episode
"The Cage"
The Talosians
Episode no. 1
Prod. code 001 - Restored Version
099 - Original Version
Remastered no. 67
Airdate October 15, 1988
Writer(s) Gene Roddenberry
Director Robert Butler
Guest star(s) Susan Oliver
Meg Wyllie
Peter Duryea
Laurel Goodwin
John Hoyt
Clegg Hoyt
Malachi Throne
Michael Dugan
Georgia Schmidt
Robert C. Johnson
Serena Sande
Adam Roarke
Leonard Mudie
Anthony Jochim
Ed Madden
Robert Phillips
Joseph Mell
Janos Prohaska
Year 2254
Stardate Unknown
Episode chronology
Previous "None"
Next "The Man Trap"

"The Cage" is the original pilot episode of the original Star Trek science fiction series and resulting franchise. It was completed in early 1965 (with a copyright date of 1964), but not broadcast on television in its complete form until 1988. The episode was written by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Robert Butler. It was rejected by NBC in February 1965, but they ordered an unprecedented second pilot: "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Much of The Cage's original footage was later incorporated into the first season two-part episode: "The Menagerie".


Primary cast


"The Cage" had most of the essential features of Star Trek, yet the differences between this episode and the series proper were manifold. The Captain of the starship USS Enterprise was not James T. Kirk, but Christopher Pike. Spock was present, but not as First Officer. That role was taken by a character known only as Number One, played by Majel Barrett. Spock's character differs somewhat from that seen in the rest of Star Trek: he displays a youthful eagerness that contrasted with the more reserved, logical Spock that is better known. He also gets the first line in all of Star Trek: "Check the circuit!"

NBC reportedly called the pilot "too cerebral", "too intellectual", and "too slow" with "not enough action".[1] Rather than rejecting the series outright, however, the network commissioned — in an unusual and, at the time, unprecedented move — a second pilot: "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Rather than abandon the expensive footage, most of it was recycled in the later Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Menagerie" (leaving the pilot itself to revert to its earlier name of "The Cage"[2]), a two part episode (episodes 016-1 and 016-2), which revisited the events of the pilot, and made it part of the continuity of the rest of the series. The episode "The Cage" is sometimes listed as episode 80 when shown. On the VHS home video releases, it was credited as episode 1.

The process of editing the pilot into "The Menagerie" disassembled the original camera negative of "The Cage", and thus, for many years it was considered partly lost. Roddenberry's black-and-white 16mm print made for reference purposes was the only existing print of the show, and was frequently shown at conventions. Early video releases of "The Cage" utilized Roddenberry's 16mm print, intercut with the color scenes from "The Cage" that were used in "The Menagerie". It was only in 1987 that a film archivist found an unmarked 35 mm reel in a Hollywood film laboratory with the negative trims of the unused scenes. Upon realizing what he had found, he arranged for the return of the footage to Roddenberry's company.[3] In some fan circles this is disputed and alleged (incorrectly) that the black-and-white 16mm footage was simply colorized.

"The Cage" was aired for the first time in its entirety and in full color in 1988 as part of The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next, a two-hour retrospective special hosted by Patrick Stewart. It contained interviews with Gene Roddenberry, Maurice Hurley, Rick Berman, Mel Harris and cast members from the old and new series, clips from both series and the Star Trek films I through IV with a small preview of Star Trek V. It was later rebroadcast on UPN in 1996 with a behind the scenes look at Star Trek: First Contact.

According to "The Menagerie", the events of "The Cage" take place thirteen years before the first season of Star Trek. No stardate was given.

Plot summary

Captain Christopher Pike with Mr. Spock

The USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, receives a radio distress call from the fourth planet in the Talos star group. A landing party is assembled and beamed down to investigate. Tracking the distress signal to its source, the landing party discovers a camp of survivors from a scientific expedition that has been missing for 18 years. Among the survivors is a beautiful young woman named Vina.

Captivated by her beauty, Pike is caught off guard and is captured by the Talosians, a race of humanoids with bulbous heads who live beneath the planet's surface. It is revealed that the distress call, and the crash survivors, except for Vina, are just illusions created by the Talosians to lure the Enterprise to the planet. While imprisoned, Pike uncovers the Talosian's plans to repopulate their ravaged planet using himself and Vina as breeding stock for a race of slaves.

The Talosians try to use their power of illusion to interest Pike in Vina, and present her in various guises and settings, first as a Rigellian princess, a loving compassionate farm girl, then a seductive, green-skinned Orion. Pike resists all forms, so the Talosians lure Pike's first officer and yeoman — both women — down from the Enterprise to offer further temptation. By then however, Pike discovers that his primitive human emotions can neutralize the Talosians' ability to read his mind, and he manages to escape to the surface of the planet along with his landing party.

The Talosians confront Pike and his companions before they can beam up, but the captain refuses to negotiate, even threatening to kill himself and the others rather than submit to the Talosians' demands. Frightened at losing their only hope in their future, the Talosians analyze the Enterprise's records and realize the human race is far too "violent" to be of adequate use to them.

Faced with no other options, the Talosians let the humans go. The others beam up, but Pike remains behind with Vina, urging her to leave with him. Vina then claims she is unable to leave the planet. It is discovered that an expedition had indeed crash landed on Talos IV, and Vina was the sole survivor. She was badly injured however, and left horribly disfigured, but with the aid of the Talosians' illusions, she is able to appear beautiful and in good health.

Realizing that the continued Talosian illusion of health and beauty is necessary for Vina, Pike is ready to return to the Enterprise, but in an act of goodwill, the aliens show him that Vina sees an image of Pike next to her, and they walk up to the entrance that takes them into the Talosian habitat, and then Pike beams up after the Keeper's closing words, "She has an illusion and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant."

40th Anniversary remastering

Although not aired in this form as part of the original series (1966–69), this episode was remastered in 2006 and had been scheduled to air April 26, 2008 as part of the remastered Original Series. It was to be preceded a week earlier by the remastered "Mudd's Women" and was to be followed a week later by the remastered "Assignment: Earth". However, at the last minute the episode was pulled and was first broadcast the weekend of May 2, 2009, as part of the promotions leading to the release of the new Star Trek film the following weekend. It is included as part of the Third Season Remastered DVD set.

Changes include:

  • New CGI exterior shots of the pilot version of the USS Enterprise.
  • New version of the shot that zooms in from the outside of the ship, in through the dome to the interior of the bridge. The entire bridge and all characters were recreated in CGI and blended in with the live action shots which begin with Spock's first line of dialogue.
  • A moving starfield is visible from the window in Captain Pike's quarters.
  • New computer images during the scene in which the Talosians scan the Enterprise's memory banks.
  • Reformatted main and end title credits to conform to the rest of the series.
  • In the syndication version scenes with Spock showing emotion were left out (Spock smiling when first seeing the Talosian flowers and showing panic when the Yeoman and Number One beamed off the ship without the men).

The Menagerie

Of the 63-minute pilot, some 52 minutes were used in the two-part Menagerie episode, although the final surface scene was altered slightly and used as the Talosians' final message to Captain Kirk. Pike, now able to enjoy the illusion of being healthy and independently-mobile again, accompanies Vina up to the entrance to the Talosian habitat. What had been the Keeper's final words to Pike become the final words to Kirk, slightly altered: "Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant." The voiceover, however, is placed over the threatening scene earlier when the Keeper communicates, with a smug nod, "We may soon begin the experiment."

According to The Menagerie, Starfleet as a result of the Enterprise's first encounter with Talos IV, placed the planet under strict quarantine, the violation of which was the only crime that still carried the death penalty. Not only that, but when Spock violates the ban, Kirk (as his commanding officer) also becomes eligible to be executed. It is never clearly explained why such a harsh sentence was warranted, although the Keeper tells Pike that if humans and Talosians were to maintain contact, "Your race would eventually discover our power of illusion and destroy itself, too." At the end of The Menagerie, Starfleet allows an exemption for Kirk and Spock, but it has yet to be established in Star Trek canon whether the death penalty punishment for breaking the Talos IV quarantine was ever repealed.


"The Cage" was filmed at Desilu Productions' studio in Culver City, California from November 27 to mid-December 1964. Post-production work (pick-up shots, editing, scoring, special photographic and sound effects) continued to January 18, 1965.[4]

Jeffrey Hunter had a six-month exclusive option for the role of Captain Pike.[5] Although he was required to continue if the series was picked up by the network, he was not required to film the second pilot that NBC requested. Deciding to concentrate on motion pictures instead, he declined the role.[6] Gene Roddenberry wrote to him on April 5, 1965:

I am told you have decided not to go ahead with Star Trek. This has to be your own decision, of course, and I must respect it. You may be certain I hold no grudge or ill feelings and expect to continue to reflect publicly and privately the high regard I learned for you during the production of our pilot.[7]

Roddenberry then asked if Hunter would be willing to film additional scenes to allow the rejected pilot episode to be released as a theatrical feature instead (as was the pilot for Hunter's recent NBC series Temple Houston). Hunter declined.

Two weeks after the option expired on June 1, 1965, Hunter formally gave his letter requesting separation from the project. He died in 1969. Roddenberry later suggested that it was he — unhappy with interference by Hunter's then-wife Dusty Bartlett — who decided not to rehire Hunter.[8] However, executive producer Herbert F. Solow, who was present at the refusal, later said in his memoir, Inside Star Trek, that it was the other way around.[9]

All of the Talosians were portrayed by women, with their telepathic voices recorded by male actors. This was done to give the impression that the Talosians had focused their efforts on mental development to the detriment of their physical strength and size, and also to give that much more of an alien feel to the Talosians. However, the deep voice of Malachi Throne as the Keeper in The Cage was redubbed with a higher-pitched voice for The Menagerie, as Throne also portrayed Commodore Mendez in the latter.

The phaser cannon prop appears only in this episode.

One of the creatures in the cages was reused from the episode The Duplicate Man of the TV series The Outer Limits, where it was called The Megazoid.


  1. ^ Shatner, William (2008). Up Till Now: The Autobiography. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. pp. 119. ISBN 0-312-37265-5.  
  2. ^ Whitfield, Stephen E and Roddenberry, Gene (1968). The Making of Star Trek p. 115. Ballantine Books.  
  3. ^ Bob Furmanek, post to Classic Horror Film Board, April 21, 2008. The rediscovered 35mm trims were of image only, without the soundtrack trims. The soundtrack of Roddenberry's 16mm print was used instead for those scenes.
  4. ^ David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 218. ISBN 978-0451454188.
  5. ^ Joel Engel, Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, Hyperion, 1995. ISBN 978-0786880881.
  6. ^ J.D. Spiro, "Happy In Hollywood", The Milwaukee Journal, July 4, 1965.
  7. ^ David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 244. ISBN 978-0451454188.
  8. ^ William Shatner and Chris Kreski, Star Trek Memories, Harpercollins, 1993. ISBN 978-0060177348.
  9. ^ Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek, Pocket Books, 1996, p. 63. ISBN 0671896288.

External links



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