BTW, I’m now calling this column “The Star Trek 700″ because
- A) there are 700+ episodes to get through
- B) it sounds more like a race
With Captain Pike rather than Kirk, a smiling Spock, and a woman as first officer, “The Cage” was dramatically different from the fabulously kitchy ST: TOS I’m familiar with.
Some things were the same: the submarine-y sounds of the bridge, the examination of the nature of humanity, and of course, Leonard Nimoy. But, let’s talk about Number One for a moment, shall we?
In 1964, Number One was hated by test audiences. But, even in the 23rd century, it’s indicated that it’s a newfangled oddity to have a woman on the bridge at all, much less as second in command of a starship. However, Number One is conflicted about it, too: her reactions show that she wants to be taken seriously, but maybe doesn’t want to have to be “mannish”. This clip says it all:
Later on, Number One bitchslaps Vina with math and it’s awesome.
Looking at the differences, though, it was for the best that NBC ordered the show reworked.
For starters, “The Cage” is murderously slow and very serious about itself. There’s little sense of fun and that shows in the visuals, the plot, and the captain.
Visually, everything is washed out and bland. The sets, the costumes, all of it. The lone vibrant spot is when Vina appears as an Orion slave girl.
Everyone wears stern expressions all the time, even before encountering the Talosians.
That brings us to the plot, which superficially is about a dying race of giant brained ground dwellers and their attempt to find a suitable species for repopulating (I almost typed “repoopulating”, heh) the surface, but winds up being about the nature of humanity: primitive, emotional, and resistant to captivity.
Then there’s Captain Pike. We’re introduced to him as man weighed down by guilt and haunted by the crew members he lost on the previous mission. Understandable, but a real Debbie Downer and generally unlikeable guy.
I did appreciate that the female crew members not only got to wear pants, but also weren’t relegated to the skintight jumpsuits that passed as pants for shapely women in later years (I’m looking at you, T’Pol and Seven of Nine).
Overall, not a terribly enjoyable episode. However, having seen what Star Trek nearly was, makes me appreciate the things I love about it all the more.