Do you remember the “Star Trek” original series story “The Menagerie”? Televised in two parts, “The Menagerie: Part I” and “The Menagerie: Part II,” the story was presented to the television viewing audience on consecutive Thursdays, with the first part on 17 Nov. and the concluding part on 24 Nov. 1966.
While future incarnations of the “Star Trek” franchise would see multiple two and three-part stories, in respect to the series that began Trekkers on their long winding voyage into uncharted space, “The Menagerie” was the only two-part production created for the original series.
According to NBC executives, with a noticeable slow pace and a lack of “action,” the reasoning for “The Cage” having been rejected was that it was considered “too cerebral” and “too intellectual.” Clearly, network executives were concerned the television viewing audience of the period did not possess sufficient intellect to enable it to grasp the concepts “Star Trek” series creator Gene Roddenberry was presenting.
Further, the network seemed to have an issue with the presence of female command officers being depicted in the science fiction series.
In “The Cage,” credited as M. Leigh Hudec, Majel Barrett played the Enterprise First Office referenced as “Number One.”
If NBC’s apparent misogynistic views were not bad enough, the introduction of Communications Officer Uhura, played by African American actress Nichelle Nichols, in the James Goldstone directed episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was also initially seen as an issue for the network.
Despite these quibbles, Roddenberry stood fast in his commitment to what he created, the network went ahead with commissioning a second pilot episode.
“The Menagerie,” as many Trekkers will recall this story was developed to make use of the original pilot episode “The Cage.” This first pilot episode was not televised until Sunday, 27 Nov. 1988.
Even though “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was the second pilot episode produced, it is odd that said episode was televised third in the season, on Thursday, 22 Sep. 1966. “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X” were shown on consecutive Thursdays, 8 Sep. 1966 and 15 Sep. 1966, respectively.
With Marc Daniels and Robert Butler seated in the directorial chair for part one and two of the story, respectively, the directors made effective use of Butler’s previously directed untelevised pilot episode, “The Cage.”
Written by Roddenberry, the story told in “The Menagerie,” we see First Office / Science Officer Mr. Spock (Nimoy) kidnap the previous captain of the USS Enterprise, the crippled Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter and Sean Kenney), hijack the ship and then suddenly surrender himself for court martial. During the court martial, Spock attempts to explain his actions with the use of mysterious footage transmitted from the fourth planet in the Talos star group. This planet is the home of a powerful illusion casting alien species.
Since the Enterprise’s first visit to Talos IV some thirteen years earlier, the United Federation of Planets had determined the system off limits to all Federation ships. Consequently, the punishment for breaking this ruling was death.
With “The Cage” fully incorporated into “The Menagerie” story, the original untelevised pilot episode footage was established as an integral component of the starship’s early history.
Although it was archival footage of Hunter playing the younger Captain Pike, the elderly crippled Pike was played by Kenney. Considering the quality of the work put into creating “The Menagerie” was so high, it should not come as any huge surprise to learn the two-part story won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
As a side note of Trek trivia, it was in “The Menagerie” that we were first introduced to the terminology “reality distortion field.” With a superior level of intelligence and technology to that which the United Federation of Planets possessed, the alien species resident of Talos IV were able to manifest illusions of a quality the Enterprise crew were incapable of recognising as false.