Revisiting Star Trek TOS/TAS...

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Warped9, Mar 13, 2011.

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  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Recently I've been revisiting TNG :eek: a series I haven't really watched in at least fifteen years. I was curious to see if my current perceptions of the series were in sync with what I remembered, and to see if time might have altered my view of the show. Context can mean a great deal since when TNG was in production there was really little else to compete with it on television, and the only other Trek was TOS and the films The Motion Picture through to The Undiscovered Country. It was also a time before dvd boxed sets became available and popular and allowing you to go back and see something without having to wait for it to be rerun on television.

    And so now to add some variety to my revisiting schedule (I'm presently just beginning TNG's Season 5) I've decided to revisit another series I haven't seen with any regularity for some years.

    Over the past several years I've caught TOS periodically in a lunch time rerun and never an entire episode. Presently SPACE is rerunning TOS-R daily. At this time I've decided not to bother with picking up the TOS-R sets and I'll resort to using my original TOS dvd boxed sets.

    The last time I watched TOS in its entirety was when the original dvd sets had been released some years ago. This could prove interesting since a lot of SF has aired on television since then. I've also watched and enjoyed Babylon 5, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.

    I've decided to view the episodes in production order and I'll immediately follow the original episodes with the animated series episodes. I'll review the originally unaired pilot "The Cage" first yet not include it in my overview of Season 1. Then I'll proceed through the episodes in production order to get a better sense of progression and series evolution, just as I've done with TNG. Lastly I'll go through TAS in production order only I'll overview the series as a whole since there are only twenty-two episodes.


    I should have "The Cage" reviewed sometime this afternoon to get started.

    Rating system
    ***** Excellent
    **** Good
    *** Fair
    ** Poor
    * Bad
     
  2. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I've enjoyed your reviews and really look forward to your TAS opinions. I'm fairly TOS like you, so giddyup.
     
  3. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    "The Cage" *****

    Captain Christopher Pike is captured by aliens and subjected to convincing illusions for some unknown purpose.

    If you're old enough you can't help but view this from two alternating perspectives. How this might have been seen like in 1964/65 and how it stands today with everything that's come along since.

    By early 1960s standards this is a first-rate piece of work. I think you can clearly see influences of the better SF films of the 1950s and early '60s yet you can also see similarities between this and productions like The Twilight Zone and most particularly The Outer Limits. Yes, it has some limitations of television production from that era and yet I don't see too much difference between this and what you could have seen in a feature film.

    For me the most obvious limitation---and this may have been a constriction of time and budget rather than ability---is the lack of good external shots of the Enterprise filming miniature beyond the opening sequence. And I still like that iconic introductory shot of the Enterprise. Yes, it is limited by the miniature not being lighted and by the awkward f/x work as the p.o.v. zooms into the bridge from overhead, but there's still something about it that somehow didn't get translated into the TOS-R version of that same shot. The use of the 3ft. filming miniature isn't as good except for those first high-speed flyby shots.

    When it comes to set design it's hard to beat the original bridge. And I must say I quite like how it looks in this first viewing of it. It certainly evokes an atmosphere we will see agin many years later in Star Trek - The Motion Picture.

    The f/x work here is mixed. Some of it is still respectable even in our cgi saturated era while other parts show their age. Most notably I'm thinking of the moments when Pike glimpses something in other cages near his. Another limitation is when illustrations are used on monitor screens instead of photographic images. That said the transporter f/x is still good although I find the musical chiming effect to be a bit odd. The sight of hardcopy printout at first seems anachronistic until you realize the likelihood of electronic smart paper that we may see introduced within the next few years. However, the old-fashioned clipboards definately look outdated.

    In terms of story, writing and acting "The Cage" still holds up well. It effectively introduces all the basic elements for a television series concept without beating us over the head with any of them. I think the writing is generally tight and the characters all behave and speak in a credible manner. I like how Captain Pike quickly begins figuring things out for himself---a nice touch where the viewer is likely no further ahead than the character (assuming you've never seen this before).

    One last anachronism is Pike's reference to women on his bridge after we've already been introduced to Number One and moments earlier we also a another woman manning one of the other bridge stations as well as women in the ship's corridors.

    Although it's widely known that "The Cage" didn't sell Star Trek as a series it did, however, sell Star Trek as a concept for television, prompting NBC to ask for a second pilot episode. It's also interesting to speculate what kind of series we might have gotten and how different it might have been if NBC had bought Star Trek as a series based on "The Cage." Note that at this point we don't really see much evidence of a multiracial crew on Pike's Enterprise. It's fair to assume if the series had gone ahead based on "The Cage" that Roddenberry and company would have tweaked their ideas for series production, but what might they have done and how far might they have gone? It's possible having a second try at a series pilot allowed them to refine their concepts before being neck deep in series production.

    Even with its limitations "The Cage" remains a respectable and polished work even in comparison with later Trek pilots. It certainly made for a solid basic template to further flesh out for what was to come.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011
  4. Green Shirt

    Green Shirt Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I too wonder if Star Trek would have been able to "fly" as a series if it would have been produced using the concepts and values as shown in The Cage.

    I guess its safe to say that its rejection forced a good deal of rethinking, as Roddenberry himself stated that he got "carried away" and produced a story that wasn't what he had originally promised.
     
  5. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Perhaps it isn't what he supposedly promised the network, but they were the ones who chose the story of three that were submitted. And I think it should be noted that "The Cage" touches on ideas including sexuality in an adult manner without any real nudge-nudge, wink-wink attitude. And it still works.

    Today they'd likely try to insert even more sexual innuendo if not even some measure of nudity. Can you imagine the creators of ENT trying to do a similar story? :rolleyes:

    "The Cage" was something more akin to better SF literature, better films and The Outer Limits, straight serious minded SF as opposed to just escapism.


    There was another unexpected and unplanned for value in "The Cage" in that it would later allow the series staff to allow us to see some pre TOS history. Otherwise it would have been just too prohibitively expensive to show us that in any later episode.
     
  6. BillJ

    BillJ Canon Warrior Premium Member

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    They definitely hit it 'out-of-the-park' in their first at-bat. :techman:
     
  7. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I think the prevalent sexism evident in "The Cage" is a little more troubling that something that can just be written off as an "anachronism." Mind you, the series regular can be far worse (i.e. "Turnabout Intruder"), but the first pilot also features Vina, a character who ultimately decides that she would rather live an illusion than return to society because she is physically disfigured (and Pike agrees with her!).

    On one hand, it's a shame that Roddenberry was so stubborn that he refused to cast a better actress in the role of "Number One," which resulted in the character's elimination from the series in the second pilot. On the other hand, the trinity of Kirk-Spock-McCoy is a primary reason why the series still holds up, and the dynamic would be very different with Number One still on-board.

    I'm glad you noticed the lack of racial diversity among the crew in the first pilot. It often goes unnoticed, no doubt due to Roddenberry's extensive claims that his racially integrated crew (Who? The Asian transporter co-operator who doesn't speak?) infuriated NBC Executives. Thankfully the series made a bit of forward progress in this area, though never as much as the supposedly "visionary" Roddenberry would later suggest.

    I still think it's an adequate episode, and I rather like the world-weary character of Pike, as well as Courage's music. But it was a pilot, and, as with most pilots, a number of flaws are evident.
     
  8. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    The sexism is more apparent because, a) it draws attention to itself and, b) the time when it was made. The smart thing to do would have been just to have the women characters there and not comment on it. But they felt compelled to remark on it.

    As for Vina she had lived with horrible disfiguration for eighteen years and the Talosians offered her a way to live that she possibly thought impossible in her real society. Who is to say what choice any of us would have made in a similar situation?
     
  9. Gojira

    Gojira Commodore Commodore

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    In my opinion The Cage feels like it could be a TNG episode. I remember reading that the criticisms of The Cage was that it was too cerebral. So it looks like to me that after the success of TOS and their movies Roddenberry was able to make TNG more in that cerebral fashion. Don't get me wrong I love The Cage and TOS as well as TNG but it does seem to fit more in the TNG mold.
     
  10. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I think chalking up the sexism entirely to the time the show was made is giving Roddenberry a free pass. Certainly, sexual politics were different in the 1960s than they are today, but at the time "The Cage" was made a number of prominent (and strong) female characters were appearing on other shows without so comments so dismissive (and incongruous, considering the other women on the bridge).

    A choice which Pike completely agrees with without any comment? I'm not sure I'd make a different choice, either, but Pike's total agreement makes the message pretty clear.
     
  11. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    ^^ I think you're being unfair. I understand your view, but considering the time when the episode was made it's difficult to assess what they thought they could and could not get away with.

    Consider also that some of the sexism isn't apparent until "The Cage" is finally seen in its complete form many years later. Before that all we saw of it was in "The Menagerie" two-parter where Pike's comments on the bridge had been edited out.

    Yes, other shows were making inroads with women, but it was still early goings and not everyone was on the same page.

    I disagree that "The Cage" is too cerebral and more like TNG. TNG has never been more cerebral than TOS. It simply had a different style. And the main distinction between "The Cage" and TOS is style and the lack of TOS' character dynamic.
     
  12. Gojira

    Gojira Commodore Commodore

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    The network found The Cage too cerebral and while I think it is cerebral I think that is a good thing. :)

    I don't think that TNG was more Cerebral than TOS but there is something in the style of the Cage that reminds me of the type of work Gene would later do in TNG.
     
  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Agreed. "The Cage" feels more sedate (for lack of a better word) than what we got later in TOS. It doesn't have TOS' sense of vitality and enthusiasm.

    One thing "The Cage" underlines even though it would be tempered throughout TOS is the more adult and straight approach to SF in the visual medium. "The Cage" and TOS tried to eschew many sci-fi conventions and tried to set itself apart from what most others were doing. This is completely the reverse of what ST09 did which was to embrace sci-fi cliches and mimic what everyone is doing.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Who is "they?" Roddenberry? It seems clear from the accounts of others (as well as internal production memos) that the restraints as to what he could "get away with" were greatly exaggerated.

    That is interesting, actually, and suggestive that Roddenberry may have had second thoughts. Is that true in the non-syndicated version of the episode as well?

    No, but it seems that NBC was on the same page, and I doubt the studio owned by Lucille Ball was about to complain about a female co-star or women in a position of authority.

    Considering Kirk's propensity for fist-fights, and Picard's propensity for talking problems out, I don't think the distinction is an incorrect one (though, at times, it is no doubt exaggerated).
     
  15. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    A couple of things I overlooked mentioning. First was that I liked the music in the episode. Most particularly I liked this first version of Alexander Courage's opening theme.

    The second thing that occurs to me that with some additional footage, including some more ship exteriors with lighting, I think it might have been interesting to see how this would have done if released theatrically, assuming it hadn't sold as a series.
     
  16. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Roddenberry had in fact contacted Hunter with a proposal to expand the episode with 10-15 minutes of extra footage in order to release it as a theatrical feature. Since Hunter wasn't interested, and Roddenberry hardly had the authority to offer authorize the money to film further scenes, the idea never went forward.

    I do wonder what extra scenes would have been added. In the original script, there's an interesting prologue (which was deleted due to production concerns) where the Enterprise docks with another ship and takes on replacement crew. Pike also has a confrontation with a departing crewman who didn't follow his orders and opened fire on an away mission, resulting in the deaths that haunt him during the episode.
     
  17. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    "Where No Man Has Gone Before" *****

    Crewman begin to mutate after the Enterprise encounters a strange energy field at the edge of the galaxy.

    :techman: This is first-rate SF television, at least as good as anything The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits could field. As good as "The Cage" is this second pilot episode is better. The acting is more naturalistic. The whole thing feels more finished. We get nice external ship shots (of a lighted miniature)---I particular like that ending shot of the Enterprise departing Delta Vega. The story and episode has an energy level to it the first pilot effort didn't quite have. There's added detail and nuance here. Everything about this just feels more natural.

    An important note is that this is more representative in style and overall feel to the series that will follow. It's certainly more colourful and not in a bad way...although I quite liked the colour scheme of the bridge in "The Cage." We can also see the beginnings of a more multiracial crew aboard.

    With all deference to Jeffrey Hunter but William Shatner lights up the screen here. Pike is good but Kirk is magnetic. Shatner gives him such an easy going charm and approachability. We also begin to see Spock's evolution and the kernels of the Kirk/Spock relationship. Another aspect that lifts this up is the calibre of the guest characters, Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner and Lee Kelso. Each of them bring a somehow already fleshed out feel to their performances.

    Two words really come to mind in regard to this production: smooth and energetic. Outside of Star Trek SF on television won't be anywhere near this good for decades to come. Other than TOS Star Trek won't see this calibre of storytelling until a couple of episodes in TNG's second season---namely, "The Measure Of A Man."
     
  18. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I think the best episodes of The Prisoner are equal to Star Trek in their level of story-telling; it aired contemporaneously with the second season of Star Trek. But I think you're right that there isn't much else at that level between the end of the 1960s until the late 1980s.

    Anyways, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is just about perfect, save for the uniforms and production designs that haven't quite been finalized yet. The cast still isn't quite right yet, though. There's an African-American in the cast now--Lt. Alden-- but he is thoroughly a non-entity. NBC would ask Roddenberry to write him a new part or drop the actor, Lloyd Haynes. Haynes would be released and go onto bigger and better things. And the sole regular female character--Yeoman Smith--was even less of a character. Apparently, Roddenberry hired Andrea Dromm for the role because "he wanted to score with her," according to the director of the episode, James Goldstone. Justman and Solow speculate that Roddenberry struck out. Either way, the non-character of Smith would be gone when the series began regular production.
     
  19. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I always found it amusing when some people would say that it could take a season or two for a series to gel (in defense of TNG's rough early goings) and yet here TOS was batting it out of the park and hitting the ground running pretty much right off. :lol:

    This isn't a bash on TNG (which I'm presently revisiting as well), but a remark on the rationalizations some folks will resort to.


    Oh, yeah: love the music, something no Trek spinoff will ever equal. Although, I do prefer "The Cage's" version of the main theme to this somewhat more electronic sounding version.
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Many television series have had to take their time finding a voice before they established themselves. Seinfeld is a notable example, but there are many others. Star Trek was lucky that it hit the ground running, especially since it would start to lose this voice sometime during the second season (no doubt you'll disagree on that point, Warped9, but let's table that discussion until you get there).

    Oh, and, yeah, the music was often great (though sometimes a little over-the-top for my tastes). The franchise never had anything nearly as good under Berman's reign, although Enterprise was a noticeable improvement.
     
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