The Cage was a better pilot than WNMHGB

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Kaelef, Sep 16, 2019.

  1. Kaelef

    Kaelef Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I just watched both of these for the first time in years, and am surprised that WNMHGB was seen as a more adventure-filled, audience-pleasing pilot than The Cage. Sure, we get to see Kirk toting a phaser rifle and having his signature shirt-rip, but The Cage had plenty of Pike fighting or wrestling, not to mention an Orion slave girl...

    But really, the story of The Cage is plainly better written, and the whole whole show seems a bit more cohesive than WNMHGB.
     
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  2. Pauln6

    Pauln6 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Cage is a cracking piece of sci fi in its own right.
     
  3. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I've always had a soft spot for The Cage. In retrospect, though, it feels almost more like a pilot for the entire franchise, rather than specifically of TOS, whereas Where No Man Has Gone Before is clearly the blueprint specifically for the next 78 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. In some ways, I feel like shades of The Cage only begin to be felt again in The Motion Picture, and then even more strongly in the Next Generation and it's spin-offs.

    Absolutely. :techman: I always rather felt sad in some ways that it was repackaged as a two-part television episode, as The Cage feels bigger and more theatrical than anything else in TOS. It could easily have been released theatrically as a Star Trek movie, probably in a similar format to the two-parter with the television cast acting as a kind of umbrella story around the original, and stood up well in it's own right ala the 1960s Batman movie. The thought of it being released in theatres may even have tempted Jeff Hunter to come back and record new material as Pike.
     
  4. johnnybear

    johnnybear Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Cage was excellent but I'm not sure if I'd say it was better than Where No Man Has Gone Before! They're both Star Trek but very different from each other!
    JB
     
  5. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    "The Cage" always seemed dull and bland to me. "Where No Man Has Gone Before" always seems exciting and energetic.

    I think it was a dreadful idea to introduce Captain Pike in a depressed state, questioning his place in the universe. Do that kind of thing once you've established the character (see: Kirk in Star Trek Beyond), otherwise it just comes across as if the captain doesn't want to be there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2019
  6. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Agreed. There are times when he breaks into a charming smile, that seem to hint at the character that Anson Mount plays, lurking beneath Hunter's performance. But the whole thing taints our perception of Hunter's Pike as being dour and serious, when we don't really get to see the character at his best during The Cage.
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice ATARI CX5200 Premium Member

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    "The Cage" was a dramatic nonstarter story because Pike is never once tempted by the Talosian illusions because he knows it's all a fake and he's being manipulated. Since there was never really any choice the story is merely about escape. WNMHGB on the other hand puts Kirk in a tremendous personal dilemma of his own making. He decides to probe out in the unknown and ends up losing crew, crippling his ship and mutating an old friend and he spends the rest of the show trying to deal with that. More than mere action that is what sold the show.
     
  8. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It is striking. When Number One sets her phaser to self destruct, it's a cold, dispassionate choice, and the Captain cooly agrees. There's little tension or sense of danger. Compare with Kirk, whose final battle ends with him burying his best friend and lying in the dirt, blood on his face and his uniform in tatters. He's a man whose had to fight tough, and as he records his Captain's Log commemorating the fallen, we are in no doubt this is a real person, whose been left with scars both physical and emotional. It's definitely better written, but also better played by William Shatner.
     
  9. Henoch

    Henoch Commodore Premium Member

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    I dislike stories were our heroes are only along for the ride, totally in control of the god-like aliens. Puppets to the end. Plus it was boring. :mad:
     
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  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'd say "The Cage" is a better science fiction production in a number of ways, but a better pilot? Well, according to Inside Star Trek by Solow & Justman, the network loved it as a story, but it didn't really work as a pilot, because the purpose of a pilot is to show the network what a typical episode of the show would be like, so they could estimate how much it would cost to fund a whole season and decide if they wanted to invest that much in the concept. And "The Cage" was very much atypical from a production standpoint. Desilu survived at that point by renting out its facilities to other studios, and its only production at the time was The Lucy Show, a simple 3-camera sitcom. So they had to prove that they were even capable of mounting the most technically ambitious SFTV show ever made up to that point. Thus, they pulled out all the stops on "The Cage" and made a feature-quality production -- which proved their capability, but didn't let the network gauge a typical episode cost. So NBC asked for a second pilot that would be more representative of a typical episode. (Also that had more action, toned down the sex, replaced the rather bland supporting cast, and included the ethnic diversity that Roddenberry had promised but failed to deliver.)

    So you could say that "The Cage" was made to sell Desilu, and "Where No Man" was then made to sell Star Trek.


    Except that Deep Space Nine: "Emissary" did exactly the same thing with Sisko. Both pilots have strikingly similar arcs for their main characters -- starting out depressed and hopeless, considering resignation, then getting captured by aliens who subject him to a bunch of illusions that help him work through his personal issues, leaving him more resolute and optimistic at the end.
     
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  11. Steven P Bastien

    Steven P Bastien Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That is definitely a good point. However, one thing this does is show us how strong this captain is. He soon finds himself experiencing all the things that he thought he might want: relaxation back home with his horse and a beautiful woman by his side. Any fantasy he wants, he can now live, but he rejects all that and sets himself right again. This is the time he could be broken by the Talosians, but unlike all their previous specimens, he does not break.
     
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  12. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    They're both great, just having the Starship Enterprise and their Alexander Courage music scores. Right there I'm already hooked on Star Trek, and everything else is gravy.

    "The Cage" has, in some way or other, a more cinematic look, a more expensive looking and varied mise-en-scène if you will. But WNMHGB has William Shatner and a stronger role for Spock, and that's the win.
     
  13. Delta Vega

    Delta Vega Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "The Cage" is great Sci Fi but "Where No Man Has Gone Before" set the standard for what was to come.
    Shatner over Hunter as well, its a no brainer.
     
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  14. feek61

    feek61 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The title of this thread is "The Cage was a better Pilot than WNMHGB" which is not true. "The Cage" was wonderful Sci-Fi and looked great on film but it was not a great way to sell a show. Pike seems weak, moody and not even sure if he wants to be a captain; he wants to retire!! Not a very strong start to a shipboard adventure series. I absolutely LOVE "The Cage" but a great pilot it is not and certainly not a better pilot to sell the series than WNMHGB.
     
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  15. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    "Emissary" showed us pre-depression (for want of another word) Sisko and flashed back to happier times. IMHO "The Cage" wasn't so successful in establishing Pike as a regular fellow (or Kirk-like character) going though a particularly rough time. He came across as grim and joyless for the entire adventure.
     
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  16. ssosmcin

    ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Pike was also more businesslike with his crew. Aside from Boyce, he had no friends. Everyone got the icy cold stare.

    That would have been a long 5 years...
     
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  17. JonnyQuest037

    JonnyQuest037 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wasn't there a plan to repackage "The Cage" as a feature film if the pilot didn't sell at all?
     
  18. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    True.

    Clearly.

    Unlike "The Cage"--with its lack of a true moral dilemma for the lead characters, WNMHGB hurled the new captain into a situation he could not deny or walk away from--he was obligated to deal with a situation where there would only be tragic consequences as a solution. He is repeatedly tested as a captain and human, struggling to decide which side's call he would answer. This made Kirk a well-realized character who felt real, a human compelling as a feeling hero--not a cardboard "leader", but a person we would want to follow every week because he grounded the science fiction in human terms. We wanted to see how he--not random leader/lead actor, but how Kirk faced problems and the unknown.

    The action element was minimal in screen time, but it served its purpose, as part of the conclusion, as opposed to "The Cage", where there were set pieces (the fight on Rigel, the crew's attempts to rescue Pike, etc.), which had not true bearing on character development or the outcome of the story.

    Concepts of judgement over who has the right to take or preserve life, starting Kirk's tradition of tearing down anyone pretending to be God, loyalty--the "command and compassion" which Mitchell sums up as "a fool's mixture", not only illustrated what kind of being he turned into, but how Kirk was not a ends-justifies-the-means cutthroat. His values were caught between the frigid, alien pragmatism of Spock ("kill Mitchell while you still can") and Mitchell wanting to force this inevitability, only so he would finally exercise his "place" as a self-identified "god" who would do what Kirk fought against until the last minute.

    Even as Mitchell met his end, he was still a sympathetic antagonist (unlike the Talosians, who were confused / surprised that humans did not like to be enslaved, then washed their hands of their part in the affair), as he--as pointed out by Kirk--"...did not ask for what happened to him." There are near-endless reasons why WNMHGB is the greater pilot (of the entire franchise), but at the end of it all, there's no question why it perfectly set the characters, dramatic/format standards for all that Star Trek was and could be as a series and sci-fi concept / property. "The Cage" was incapable of doing that, which is why it was better served framed by the plot of "The Menagerie" 2-parter; it needed real Star Trek--the WNMHGB-launched Star Trek to tell this bygone story that would not work as a standalone story.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    What's wrong with that word? Depression seems like an entirely valid diagnosis of Sisko's mental state.

    And didn't the Mojave illusion give a glimpse of Pike's happier times?


    If you look at the earliest TOS episodes, Kirk was written as every bit as serious and solemn as Pike -- with both, Roddenberry was trying to portray a very disciplined, regimented military man who was laser-focused on his duty and weighed down by the loneliness and responsibility of his post. He was inspired by Horatio Hornblower, and so I guess he was going for that British stiff-upper-lip kind of military officer type, very unemotional and aloof and manly. It was Shatner's warmth that softened Kirk as later writers adapted the character to fit the actor.

    Roddenberry seemed to like that kind of aloof, coolly intellectual leading man type. In the Assignment: Earth series pitch, he described Gary (or rather, "Anthony") Seven in those terms, likening him to Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel, which Roddenberry frequently wrote for in his earlier days. Questor was somewhat like that too (The Questor Tapes was basically GR's third stab at the A:E premise). Alex Cord was fairly cool and aloof as Dylan Hunt in Genesis II, though John Saxon as Dylan in Planet Earth was the Shatner to Cord's Hunter. And Robert Culp's character in Spectre was basically Sherlock Holmes as a supernatural detective (although far more of a womanizer). Picard was meant to be aloof and reserved too.
     
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  20. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    And it's already Kirk's deadliest mission from the end of Act One on. Nine dead BEFORE Kelso, Mitchell Or Dehner.
    No other Enterprise adventure lost more than five of its crew in TOS.
     
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