"Original Star Trek TV Pilot"
Transcript of Commentary by Gene Roddenberry on original pilot episode: "The Cage"
From Star Trek DVD Season 3, Disk 7
Gene Roddenberry: "So, back to the beginning.
The first Star Trek pilot was meant to demonstrate to a network what a new series would look like each week. This sixty minutes is today considered something of a television document. And some regard it as perhaps as exciting as any Star Trek episode that has since been filmed.
When the networks saw what you soon will see, they rejected it. From that day until now, the first pilot has never been seen in its original form. This Star Trek pilot story is called “The Cage” It begins on the bridge of a recognizable Star Ship Enterprise commanded by Captain Christopher Pike, played by the late Jeff Hunter. So far so good. Except that TV in those days was at the peak of its love affair with the Western story. I wanted to sell my series, so I promised the network that my Star Trek idea would be little more than a Space Western, a "Wagon Train" to the stars. Zap guns instead of six-shooters. Space ships instead of horses.
But as I began writing that pilot, I suddenly realized that here was a chance to do the kind of drama that I had always dreamed of doing. I had seen science fiction movies before but I’d always thought to myself: not enough characterization, not enough motivation. Perhaps I could use this as an excuse to go to far-off planets with little polka-dotted people if necessary, and be able to talk about love, war, nature, sex, all those things that make up the excitement of the human condition. And maybe the TV censors would let it pass because it all seemed so make-believe.
So, instead of a Space Western I did a very different kind of story, one which dealt with the strange dangers of illusion, enormous powers of imagination, with whole worlds that could come from inside peoples’ heads. And as if that wasn’t enough, back in those days before the phrase “women’s lib” was even heard, I put a woman second in command of our star ship, on top of which my script required our actress, Majel Barett to play this woman as having a highly superior, computerized mind.
You might have thought that the ladies in our test audience would have appreciated that. Instead, their comments were: “Who does she think SHE is?”
And I had written in another character who wasn’t even human, who looked like Satan himself, complete with pointy ears. Was that all? No. I was uncooperative in other ways, too.
For example, no one aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise smoked. And tobacco advertisers were key to network profits in those days.
Also, I had refused to cast our crew “sensibly,” which meant all whites. And when the network finally saw the pilot, some of their executives were outraged. And I can’t say I really blame them. For the considerable money they had put up, they certainly did not get a “Western” space opera. In fact, nothing even faintly like it.
But this part of the story isn’t as simple as good guys vs bad guys either. The network’s very top program executive was impressed by the fact that this film made him feel like he had actually been flying in a spaceship. Doing something almost never done before, the network ordered a second pilot. And this one better be action-adventure. Or else.
And so the second Star Trek pilot was made. It was accepted, and the rest turned into our shared history
Well, if social fashions change, economics never do. By the time we got into the series, a money crunch was on, and we folded our pilot into another story, which you know as The Menagerie, a two-part movie. That’s how Captain Kirk me Christopher Pike, and learned of his tragic fate.
. . . [shows reconstituted original pilot episode: "The Cage" . . .
I just wanted to share with you something that may lift your spirits as it did mine those many years ago. All that nonsense about the dangers of mixed races living together on a space ship, or anywhere; how some parts of our country were certain to refuse to televise Star Trek because we showed such things; the hatred that would supposedly flood our mail and turn sponsors against us. In all the years of Star Trek, we never received so much as one such letter. Not one.
Humans are capable of so much more than we yet understand. We’re really something. Star Trek fans believe that. And so do I. For us, no limits."