The Cage
Star-trek tos-season0-0
Season 1, Episode 0
General Information
Series Star Trek
Air date December 24, 1988
Written by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Robert Butler
Episode guide
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The Man Trap
Star Trek episodes


Christopher Pike receives a distress call from a planet and decides to investigate it. When he and his crew arrive on the planet, Pike is captured by Talosians.

Plot Summary

Stardate: unknown

Picking up a distress signal from a planet, Captain Christopher Pike decides to launch a rescue mission to retrieve the inhabitants of the planet. Upon arriving they discover a camp comprised of aged humans who have been surviving by themselves all these years. A young woman is also part of the abandoned crew, with the difference in age between her and the others being explained by her being just born at the time of the crash. Taking note that they simply seem too healthy for having to live off of such desolate planet, the shipwrecked crew decide that it's time to show how they have managed to survive as they have. The young woman takes Pike to show him their secret, however it turns out to be a trap! Instead aliens emerge from an elevator and take Pike, who has been knocked unconscious underground.

Pike being punished for refusing to cooperate. Pike wakes up to find himself inside a cage built into the wall of the underground cave separated from the rest of the hallway by a glass wall that he can not break. Throughout the episode the crew of the enterprise, as well as Pike through his own separate experiences, realize that this species holds the power of illusion. These illusions are so powerful that everything about them might as well be reality, and there's no way to tell the difference. Pike also learns why he has been imprisoned. The aliens, having destroyed their surface world, were forced to retreat underground, where they learned to develop their power of illusion. Unfortunately, having gone this path, they've lost knowledge essential to maintain the devices that their ancestors made in order to make life underground possible. As such, they now require a human slave force in order to rebuild their world on the surface before the machines break down, dooming their species. In order to do this they plan to mate Pike with the young lady who crash landed on the planet 15 years earlier.

Pike learns that he can block out their ability to read his mind by only thinking primitive thoughts such as hate, but even this plan backfires when he can't keep it up for long periods of time. All hope seems lost until the aliens put the final stages of their plan into action by gathering all human knowledge from the Enterprise's database.

Vina's true self

At this point the aliens suddenly decide to let Pike and his crew leave. When questioned on the sudden change of mind, the aliens comment that after attaining the knowledge of human history, they saw that humans have an abnormal hatred of being held captive, even to the point where they would choose death when their freedom is threatened. As such, they are a dangerous choice for a slave force and will not serve their purpose. The aliens accept that their species is doomed to extinction and retreat back underground. Pike asks Vina, the woman who crashed on the planet 15 years ago, to join them on the Enterprise, however after refusing, the aliens undo the illusion on her, showing that she is in fact scarred and disfigured from the crash. Pike accepts her reasons for wanting to live in an illusion, and allows her to go back underground with the aliens.


Production Notes

"The Cage" was originally the first pilot episode of the original Star Trek series. However, it was quickly dismissed by NBC executives who proclaimed it was "too slow" and "too cerebral" with "not enough action". However, they were sufficiently interested enough to commission a second pilot. By this time however, Jeffrey Hunter's contract to portray Captain Christopher Pike had expired and was interested in pursing film roles and passed being recast in the role. This prompted Gene Roddenberry to search for a new Captain of the Enterprise and ultimately resulted in William Shatner being cast in the role of Captain James T. Kirk. This second pilot was "Where No Man Has Gone Before" which convinced NBC to commission the series with "The Man Trap" becoming the first episode.

NBC however quickly demanded additional episodes of Star Trek and in order to fulfill demand, both pilot episodes were utilized due to time constraints. While the second pilot, "Where No Man" was unedited; "The Cage" underwent some significant rewriting and additional new scenes were shot to make it fit into the current continuity of Star Trek. This resulted in cutting the singular episode to create two separate episodes known as "The Menagerie: Part 1" and "The Menagerie: Part 2" (which was the original title of the pilot).

However the process of splicing and editing it resulted in the disassembly of large segments of the original film which caused much of it being partially "lost" and unusable. As a result, for many years this episode was left incomplete and portions were only shown at fan conventions in an incomplete format with certain segments only in black-and-white. As a result of these screenings, the fans titled the original pilot as "The Cage" to differentiate between it and the TOS Menagerie episodes. A NBC film archivist would subsequently discover a misplaced reel with no sound that contained these lost segments and it was re-edited and re-released for the first time in 1986.

Trivia & Quotes

  • When first shooting "The Cage", Gene Roddenberry often visited the sets of The Outer Limits and one of the beasts contained by the Talosians is a reused prop from The Outer Limits episode "The Duplicate Man" known as a megasoid.
  • Among the various objections that NBC executives had to the pilot was that they quickly deemed the utter unbelievably of having a female, actress Majel Barrett in a Command role which resulted in Gene Roddenberry in recasting her in the role of Nurse Christine Chapel. Barrett would also be used as the voice of the Enterprise's computer.
  • Make up artists were puzzled over the fact that they had to redo several footage sessions of the green skinned Orion dancing girl in this episodes. Segments were returned with the Orion in a normal flesh tone hue which caused them to reshoot the scene multiple times with various different shades of pigment only to belatedly learn that the film processing lab had been "fixing" the obvious error and "de-coloring" her skin to look normal.
  • "The Cage" was retroactively dated as being 11 years before Captain James T. Kirk took command of the Enterprise.

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