Star Trek : pilot history and trivia

October 6, 2014 in Guest Blogs, Star Trek by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Mindless-Droid


Last week I reviewed the original Star Trek pilot The Cage as a regular episode. This week I thought I’d take a look at some of the history and trivia surrounding that first attempt to bring Star Trek to television. The story of The Cage is well known to most Trek fans. The network as the story goes deemed it to cerebral and declined the episode but didn’t decline the idea of an outer space series. Roddenberry offered up Where No Man Has Gone Before a more action packed episode and the rest is history.

Looking back to when I was younger and first watching Star Trek in syndication I would always wonder about this other crew of the Enterprise when the two part arc The Menagerie would air. As we know now The Menagerie used most of the original pilot to tell its story of Spock’s devotion to his other captain and his willingness to help him even at the cost of his own life. Back then though there was no internet and many of the technologies we take for granted now. You couldn’t even record your favorite episodes as VCRs where several years away. So you were left wondering about this other crew of the Enterprise. Through time and books and magazines you got to learn the story of the two pilots and how Star Trek came to be the phenomenon it is today.

I thought I’d list some bits of trivia I found interesting while reading up on the episode. I will skip most of what I think is the more well-known aspects of the show like Number One being rejected and Majel Barrett being recast as Nurse Chapel and try to list things I found that I didn’t know or found more compelling.

The Talosians were originally to be crab like creatures (I’m thinking the full Tholian they made for Enterprise) but production costs and the fear that they would resemble the sci-fi monsters of the 50’s so they were changed to the slim bodied large head aliens. The actresses who played the Talosians were cast small as to give the impression that over time they allowed their bodies to atrophy at the expense of advancing their mental powers.

Spock shows more emotion in the original pilot then the series when Number One was dropped he picked up some of her more logical ways. He also uses the term rockets to blast them out of orbit not exactly 23rd century technology. Leonard Nimoy also toned down his portrayal of Spock during the second pilot because of William Shatner’s high energy and exuberance.

During the scene in which the Talosians take control of the Enterprise’s computers and download its information your can see pictures of American presidents Eisenhower Kennedy and Johnson.

Susan Oliver who played Vina was not only an accomplished actress but also a very talented airplane pilot winning the 1970 Powder Puff Derby and was the fourth woman to fly a single engine airplane solo across the Atlantic Ocean. During production of the green Orion slave girl scenes Oliver became ill and a doctor was summoned and well you could imagine what he thought when his patient was green.


The actual film of the episode has an interesting history. The original master color copy had been trimmed and used in The Menagerie. The cut pieces having thought to be lost at the time no color version of the complete episode existed. Gene Roddenberry did however own a full black and white version of the episode. In 1986 the two versions were combined and released as the whole episode on home video giving everyone their first glance at the original pilot. In 1987 the trimmed pieces were found and returned to Paramount but the sound tracks were missing even so the full colored version was restored using some of the soundtrack from the black and white version as well as the soundtracks developed for the Menagerie. The fully restored version on the Blu-Ray collection is very nice and as a bonus you also get the black and white version with Gene Roddenberry’s introduction too. I highly recommend the Blu-ray it has both the re-mastered episodes and the original version plus tons of bonus content.

I wonder what would have been had the network accepted the original version of Star Trek would it have become as popular as it is now, would it have been even more successful in its first run and continued on past three seasons or would it have faded into history as just another TV show. It would be nice to imagine a world where we had a five year mission with Captain Pike and a five year mission with Captain Kirk but that’s just wishful thinking but fun to speculate none the less.