The original Gene Roddenberry written “Star Trek” pilot “The Cage,” not televised until Sunday, 27 Nov. 1988, was directed by Robert Butler. Even though this episode was not viewed in its original form until 1988, directors Butler and Marc Daniels used it as backstory incorporated into “The Menagerie: Parts I & II.”
Set some thirteen years before the events depicted in the two-part story “The Menagerie,” the original pilot episode sees Christopher Pike in the captain’s chair. Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter, pre-dates William Shatner’s James T. Kirk as captain of the Federation Starship USS Enterprise.
The only member of the senior command staff common to both captains, played by Leonard Nimoy, is the Science Officer Mr. Spock. By the time Kirk is captain of the famed starship, in addition to being science officer, Mr. Spock has been elevated to the Enterprise’s first officer position, replacing the unnamed senior officer “Number One.” Credited as M. Leigh Hudec, the unnamed character was played by Roddenberry’s wife Majel Barrett.
In this episode, Captain Pike is held prisoner on Talos IV by a mysterious race capable of manifesting lifelike illusions with nothing more than the power of thought.
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 was presenting.
Further, the network questioned the plausibility of female command officers being depicted in the science fiction series. In “The Cage,” Barrett played the Enterprise’s first office referenced as “Number One.” If NBC’s apparent misogynistic views were not bad enough, Nimoy’s now iconic Vulcan Mr. Spock raised eyebrows at the network when executives apparently considered the character’s ears “satanic.”
Despite these quibbles expressed by network executives, Roddenberry stood fast in his commitment to what he created, kept his Vulcan character.