This review is part of a continuing series in which I watch through the entirety of the Star Trek television shows and movies, having only ever seen a handful of episodes from the original series and a few of the films. To boldly watch what lots of people have watched before…
Pilots are always strange to go back and watch once you’ve seen later episodes, and being the pilot for a show that went on to have such fame as Star Trek, The Cage is particularly bizarre. Though technically this is more a rejected pilot than the show’s actual pilot, but that’s splitting hairs.
Captain Pike (who would later be replaced by Kirk) and the Enterprise respond to a distress signal, only for it to turn out to be a trap and Pike gets captured by a group of aliens with advanced cerebral powers. Pike is put through a series of literal mind games: fantasies which play out in his head, through which the aliens live vicariously and also attempt to promote a relationship between him and a female human they have captured named Vina
Back on the Enterprise, Pike’s second in command Number One (who is very coolly played by a female), Spock (the only character who would be carried over into the main show), and Dr. Boyce (a much older version of Dr. McCoy but played quite similarly) struggle to figure out how to rescue their captain.
The episode definitely feels like Star Trek even when some things feel disconcertingly wrong (Spock grinning?). Pike feels basically the same as Kirk: brave, soulful, and with a tendency to occasionally get philosophical. There’s the camp that is expected from the original series, but it also gets thoughtful at times. There are small details that I enjoyed. The crew is supposed to have just finish a tough fight when the episode starts, and several characters wear bandages while Spock walks with a small limp.
All told, there is enough of the Star Trek magic here that you can understand why the network decided to give the show another shot.
I found the ending to the episode rushed and bizarre. Is Vina’s ending supposed to be happy after everything she’s gone through?
At the end of the day you can see the threads that could make Star Trek great hidden in this episode. But I’m excited to move on to the cast people know and love. I’m still in familiar territory with this episode, but it was a good start to my Star Trekking journey!