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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old August 7 2012, 01:47 AM   #1
Captain Shatner
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Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Personally, I think "The Cage" was one of Star Trek's most interesting episodes. It's much deeper and introspective than, oh, say, "And the Children Shall Lead". The question is, why was Pike dropped, but Nimoy retained as Spock? The pilot set up everything, a chain of command, and even romantic interplay between Pike and two of his officers. (Ironically enough, Gene repeated that theme of "long-running relationship" with Kirk and Yeoman Rand for the first season.) But by the next episode, (the one with the salt-eater, which wasn't nearly as deep) Pike and his entire bridge crew (minus Spock) have disappeared. Of course, Pike reappears later on, but even so...why did Roddenberry decide to drop him?
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Old August 7 2012, 01:55 AM   #2
Greg Cox
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

You have it backwards. Roddenberry didn't drop him. Jeffrey Hunter, who played Pike in the original pilot episode, didn't want to come back.

Or so I understand.

Remember, all Hunter did was shoot a pilot--which the studio rejected. He wasn't obliged to come back and shoot another pilot for a show that might never get picked up.

So, like any working actor, he moved on to other gigs.
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Old August 7 2012, 04:23 AM   #3
Nerys Myk
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
Personally, I think "The Cage" was one of Star Trek's most interesting episodes. It's much deeper and introspective than, oh, say, "And the Children Shall Lead". The question is, why was Pike dropped, but Nimoy retained as Spock? The pilot set up everything, a chain of command, and even romantic interplay between Pike and two of his officers. (Ironically enough, Gene repeated that theme of "long-running relationship" with Kirk and Yeoman Rand for the first season.) But by the next episode, (the one with the salt-eater, which wasn't nearly as deep) Pike and his entire bridge crew (minus Spock) have disappeared. Of course, Pike reappears later on, but even so...why did Roddenberry decide to drop him?
He didn't drop the character, he changed the characters name to James Kirk because, as noted, they had to recast when Hunter declined to do the second pilot. Perhaps in the back of his mind Roddenberry had already considered using the pilot as a way to cut costs.
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Old August 7 2012, 12:52 PM   #4
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Which is a good thing too. I know there are a lot of running jokes made at Shatner's expense but I swear Hunter didn't change his facial expression the entire episode. For some reason he seemed generally pissed off the entire 45 minutes. I'll grant him that he didn't really get much of a grace period to evolve his character. That being said, I loved the episode.
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Old August 7 2012, 12:57 PM   #5
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

I think Hunter was unavailable because he was working on a film when the second pilot was being made.

But Roddenberry did say much later that he was glad to start with a fresh character because the romantic triangle was an unnecessary complication.
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Old August 7 2012, 01:59 PM   #6
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Although really, early first-season Kirk is the exact same character as Pike -- a serious, driven, brooding, lonely starship commander. He only evolved into a different character as Shatner's performance influenced the role and (probably) as the writers came under network pressure to make Kirk a more conventional '60s action hero.

After all, the name change to "Christopher Pike" happened very shortly before shooting began. For most of the development process, the captain was named Robert April (which eventually got used as the name of a separate character in the animated series), and I think it was briefly Winter or something before he settled on Pike. So changing "Pike" to "Kirk" was just another name switch to start with.

So theoretically, Roddenberry could've just hired Shatner to take over the role of Pike, the way pilot actors are often recast in the series (like Willow in Buffy, Ginger and the Professor in Gilligan's Island, Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H, the entire pilot cast of the UK Being Human, etc.). And by the same token, he could've just recast Dr. Boyce with Paul Fix and then DeForest Kelley (who was the actor he wanted all along anyway), since Boyce, Piper, and McCoy are also essentially the same character. But instead he decided to change the names each time he recast a role. Maybe that was because he had the foresight that he might want to recycle the pilot as a flashback (especially once the network pretty much nixed the entire pilot cast as inadequate), or maybe it was just because he kept changing his mind about what to call his characters.
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Old August 7 2012, 02:26 PM   #7
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

^ Interesting points!......
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Old August 7 2012, 10:59 PM   #8
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Use of Time wrote: View Post
Which is a good thing too. I know there are a lot of running jokes made at Shatner's expense but I swear Hunter didn't change his facial expression the entire episode. For some reason he seemed generally pissed off the entire 45 minutes.
I wouldn't say Hunter was a bad actor, but he did have limited range. He could do "angry" and he could do "brooding." And minor variants thereof.

And remember, the second pilot was completely recast except for Leonard Nimoy as Spock.
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Old August 8 2012, 12:36 AM   #9
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Christopher wrote: View Post
Although really, early first-season Kirk is the exact same character as Pike -- a serious, driven, brooding, lonely starship commander. He only evolved into a different character as Shatner's performance influenced the role and (probably) as the writers came under network pressure to make Kirk a more conventional '60s action hero.
I beg to differ. I think they were similar, but not exactly the same. Kirk was more serious in the beginning, but he also had a sense of humor and at least cracked a smile from time to time.

I do prefer Captain Kirk from Season One over the others, but on the whole I'm glad Shatner had the role instead of Hunter. While Hunter might have been entertaining in a different way, I don't feel like he'd have lightened up enough based on how I've seen him characterize other roles. Shatner has a more approachable appearance about him as well. He's just easier to like.
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Old August 8 2012, 01:06 AM   #10
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
Personally, I think "The Cage" was one of Star Trek's most interesting episodes. It's much deeper and introspective than, oh, say, "And the Children Shall Lead".
I think, ultimately, that was the problem. Pike was a guy who, in the pilot, was tired of being a captain, tired of the responsibility, and wanted -- or thought he wanted -- a quiet life on earth. Can anyone imagine Kirk being the anti-hero of "The Cage?" Not possible. Kirk is a guy whjo *must* be in command, *must* have that responsibility. While I think that makes Pike more realistic, more human, for the kind of adventure show NBC and Roddenberry wanted, I think in the end they needed Kirk to be the captain, someone who isn't going to question his own command abilities.
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Old August 8 2012, 01:22 AM   #11
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Captain Shatner wrote: View Post
Personally, I think "The Cage" was one of Star Trek's most interesting episodes. It's much deeper and introspective than, oh, say, "And the Children Shall Lead".
I think, ultimately, that was the problem. Pike was a guy who, in the pilot, was tired of being a captain, tired of the responsibility, and wanted -- or thought he wanted -- a quiet life on earth. Can anyone imagine Kirk being the anti-hero of "The Cage?" Not possible. Kirk is a guy whjo *must* be in command, *must* have that responsibility. While I think that makes Pike more realistic, more human, for the kind of adventure show NBC and Roddenberry wanted, I think in the end they needed Kirk to be the captain, someone who isn't going to question his own command abilities.
Well we're viewing Kirk through the lens of three seasons of TOS and six or seven movies. But if you look at the Kirk from those early season one episodes he's not all too different from Pike. With Pike we only have that one episode. IIRC, the Cage was just one of the possible stories they might have used as a pilot. I wonder what our view of Pike would be it they used on the other ideas.
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Old August 8 2012, 02:54 AM   #12
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Gary7 wrote: View Post
I beg to differ. I think they were similar, but not exactly the same. Kirk was more serious in the beginning, but he also had a sense of humor and at least cracked a smile from time to time.
First off, a lot of that was a difference in the actors' interpretations. Pike has a few lines that could've come off more whimsically had Shatner delivered them, like "Now you're talking like a doctor, bartender."

Second, as Nerys Myk says, we can't assume the way Pike was portrayed in "The Cage" was his normal personality. His crew was recovering from a violent incident that had taken several lives, including that of the captain's yeoman. He was in mourning, he was bitter, and he was wondering whether it was all worth it. But as we saw at the end of the episode, his "vacation" on Talos IV shattered his illusions about another life being better than what he already had, and he returned far more content than he'd been at the start.



Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
While I think that makes Pike more realistic, more human, for the kind of adventure show NBC and Roddenberry wanted, I think in the end they needed Kirk to be the captain, someone who isn't going to question his own command abilities.
Are you kidding? Kirk questioned himself all the time. In "The Naked Time" his big freakout was about resenting the burdens of command and just wanting a woman to hold and a beach to walk on -- that sounds exactly like how Pike felt in "The Cage." In "Balance of Terror" he expressed plenty of doubts about his command judgment and needed McCoy to talk some sense into him, just as Pike needed Boyce.

And realistic and human was exactly what Roddenberry wanted. His goal from the start was to make an SF show that was on the same level as the most acclaimed, serious, naturalistic dramas of the era, as far as possible from the cartoony, fanciful stuff like Lost in Space. He used comparisons to the acclaimed drama Wagon Train to pitch it and the series bible encouraged writers to approach it with the same character realism and credibility they'd bring to writing for Gunsmoke or the documentary-style police drama Naked City. The show strayed from that somewhat in the latter seasons, and the movies even more so, which has led to the modern perception of the TOS cast as larger-than-life space-opera heroes. But they were meant to be very naturalistic characters, believable people doing a job that just happened to be in space, and in the first season you can see that very clearly.
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Old August 8 2012, 03:12 AM   #13
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Christopher wrote: View Post
The show strayed from that somewhat in the latter seasons, and the movies even more so, which has led to the modern perception of the TOS cast as larger-than-life space-opera heroes. But they were meant to be very naturalistic characters, believable people doing a job that just happened to be in space, and in the first season you can see that very clearly.
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Old August 8 2012, 03:41 AM   #14
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Use of Time wrote: View Post
Which is a good thing too. I know there are a lot of running jokes made at Shatner's expense but I swear Hunter didn't change his facial expression the entire episode. For some reason he seemed generally pissed off the entire 45 minutes. I'll grant him that he didn't really get much of a grace period to evolve his character. That being said, I loved the episode.
He smiled at his horse, Tango, for a couple of nanoseconds.

scotpens wrote: View Post
Use of Time wrote: View Post
Which is a good thing too. I know there are a lot of running jokes made at Shatner's expense but I swear Hunter didn't change his facial expression the entire episode. For some reason he seemed generally pissed off the entire 45 minutes.
I wouldn't say Hunter was a bad actor, but he did have limited range. He could do "angry" and he could do "brooding." And minor variants thereof.

And remember, the second pilot was completely recast except for Leonard Nimoy as Spock.
The only non-Trek role I've ever seen Jeffrey Hunter play is Jesus. I've seen numerous movie portrayals of Jesus, and Hunter is the best that I've seen. I loved the whole part of the Sermon on the Mount, and I'm atheist!
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Old August 8 2012, 05:13 AM   #15
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Re: Why Did Gene drop Christopher Pike?

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Jeffrey Hunter, who played Pike in the original pilot episode, didn't want to come back.
My understanding is that Hunter's decision came from career advise he received from his wife, she wanted her husband to push for movies roles, and she didn't take seriously this little science fiction series out of a declining studio.

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