I was thinking about this today. 'The Menagerie' was supremely clever for its use of the original pilot footage, given that said pilot episode was effectively unbroadcastable by the time Star Trek made it to air (the format and cast had changed too much). But I was thinking: has there ever been another TV show which did anything similar? Or was it a true stroke of genius on Gene Roddenberry's part, this idea that maybe the footage of Pilot #1 could be salvaged somehow (let alone allowing the broadcast of practically the whole pilot episode)? It just struck me that it seems to be a pretty unique thing.
Actually it was surprisingly common around that time, and "The Menagerie" was not the earliest example. The original 1964 Gilligan's Island
pilot, which lacked Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, and Dawn Wells, was rejected, and only its first scene (with the replaced actors cut out, though a couple of shots of them lying unconscious on the boat's deck remain) was incorporated into the aired series premiere. But later that season, the Christmas episode incorporated much of the unused pilot material as flashbacks within a frame story where the castaways reflected on their first day on the island.
Also in 1964, the pilot episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
had nearly half an hour of extra footage added to it for overseas release as the feature film To Trap a Spy
. The added material was a subplot in which a sexy enemy agent first seduced and killed the UNCLE agent who warned the agency of the assassination featured in the pilot, then later intercepted Napoleon Solo and tried to seduce and kill him as well, with less success. Later on, in early 1965, they built the episode "The Four-Steps Affair" around that extra footage, substituting a different assassination plot that Solo's partner Illya Kuryakin worked to foil on his own while Solo was off with the seductress in the stock footage.
You could also make a case for Lost in Space
. Its pilot lacked Dr. Smith and the Robot, so when those characters were added and the storyline changed, the original pilot footage ended up being distributed throughout episodes 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the series.
More recently, in 1997, Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert produced a 2-hour pilot for Amazon High
, in which a modern-day student (Selma Blair) was sent back in time to live among the Amazons of the Hercules/Xena
universe. When the pilot failed, they incorporated portions of it into the Xena
episode "Lifeblood," as visions of the past experienced by Xena and Gabrielle.
Also, several scenes from the unaired pilot of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse
were incorporated into two or three early episodes of the first season, not unlike the Lost in Space
example only less extensively.
So this has actually been a common practice for decades. Pilots cost money to make, and producers often try to find ways to make up for that cost by working the unaired pilot footage into later episodes. Heck, even the original 90-second demo for The Flintstones
(initially titled The Flagstones
) ended up getting incorporated into the first-produced (though third-aired) episode.