"The Cage"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no.Episode 1
Directed byRobert Butler
Written byGene Roddenberry
Featured musicAlexander Courage (uncredited)
Production codes
  • 001 – restored version
  • 099 – original version
Original air dates
  • February 1965 (1965-02) (first screened to NBC)
  • October 14, 1986 (1986-10-14) (VHS release)
  • October 15, 1988 (1988-10-15) (TV premiere; restored to full color)
Guest appearances
List of episodes

"The Cage" is the first pilot episode of the American television series Star Trek. It was completed on January 22, 1965 (with a copyright date of 1964). The episode was written by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Robert Butler. It was rejected by NBC in February 1965, and the network ordered another pilot episode, which became "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Much of the original footage from "The Cage" was later incorporated into the season 1 two-part episode "The Menagerie" (1966); however, "The Cage" was first released to the public on VHS in 1986, with a special introduction by Gene Roddenberry, as a hybrid of the color footage that was used in "The Menagerie" and black and white footage which was not used in "The Menagerie". It was not broadcast on television in its complete all-color form until 1988. The black and white version and all-color version were also released in various standard-definition media including LaserDisc, VHS, and DVD formats.

The story concerns a starship crew's investigation of a far-off planet which was the site of a shipwreck eighteen years earlier and their encounter with telepathic aliens who seek a human male specimen for their menagerie. The pilot introduced Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, who was the only cast member to be retained for the series in his original role.


"The Cage" has many of the features of the eventual series, but there are numerous differences. The captain of the starship USS Enterprise is not James T. Kirk, but Christopher Pike. Spock is present, but not as first officer. That role is taken by a character known only as Number One, played by Majel Barrett. Spock's character differs somewhat from that seen in the rest of Star Trek; he displays a youthful eagerness that contrasts with the later more reserved and logical Spock. He also delivers the first line in all of Star Trek: "Check the circuit!" followed by, "Can't be the screen then."[1] The weaponry used in the pilot also differs from that seen in the series proper, identified as lasers rather than phasers, and different props are used for the communicator and handheld weapons.

NBC reportedly called the pilot "too cerebral", "too intellectual", and "too slow" with "not enough action".[2] Rather than rejecting the series outright, though, the network commissioned a second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before",[3][4] which led to an order for the series for fall 1966.

Footage repurpose for series

During the first season, the need for new episodes to be delivered to the network to meet airdates became urgent, and a framing story with the series regulars was written around most of the original footage from "The Cage" resulting in the two-part episode "The Menagerie".[5]

The process of editing the pilot into "The Menagerie" disassembled the original camera negative of "The Cage", and thus, for many years it was considered partly lost. Roddenberry's black-and-white 16mm print made for reference purposes was the only existing print of the show, and was frequently shown at conventions. Early video releases of "The Cage" used Roddenberry's 16mm print, intercut with the color scenes from "The Cage" that were used in "The Menagerie". It was only in 1987 that a film archivist found an unmarked (mute) 35mm reel in a Hollywood film laboratory with the negative trims of the unused scenes. Upon realizing what he had found, he arranged for the return of the footage to Roddenberry's company.[6]

According to "The Menagerie", the events of "The Cage" take place thirteen years before the first season of Star Trek, in 2254. No stardate was given.


The U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, receives a distress call from the fourth planet in the Talos star group. A landing party is assembled with Pike in command and beams down to investigate. Tracking the distress signal to its source, the landing party discovers a camp of survivors from a scientific expedition that has been missing for eighteen years. Amongst the survivors is a beautiful young woman named Vina.

Captivated by her beauty, Pike is caught off guard and falls into a trap set by the native Talosians, a race of humanoids with bulbous heads who live beneath the planet's surface. It is revealed that both the distress call and the crash survivors (except for Vina) are telepathic illusions created by the Talosians to lure the Enterprise to the planet. While imprisoned, Pike uncovers the Talosians' plans to reclaim their ravaged planet, using him and Vina as breeding stock for a race of slaves.

The Talosians use their powers to tempt Pike into mating with Vina; first they present her as a Rigellian princess, then as a farm girl from Earth, and finally as a seductive, green-skinned Orion dancing girl, and Pike begins to weaken. Number One, the Enterprise's first officer, attempts a rescue, only to be captured along with Pike's yeoman and imprisoned in his cell to tempt him further. By then Pike has discovered that primitive human emotions can block the Talosians' mind-reading, and he and the others escape to the surface, taking the Talosian Keeper with them.

The Keeper points out that Pike hasn't escaped the planet, and speaks openly of the Talosians' plans for him. Pike is willing to stay with Vina in exchange for the others' freedom, but Number One sets her weapon to overload, threatening to kill them all. Pike stands with her, as does Vina, to forestall a future attempt. This confirms what the Talosians have learned from the Enterprise's computers: humans hate captivity too much to be useful.

Now free to leave, Number One and the yeoman beam up immediately, but Pike remains behind with Vina, urging her to leave with him. Vina explains that she cannot leave. An expedition had indeed crash-landed on Talos IV; Vina was the sole survivor but was badly injured. The Talosians healed her, but due to their unfamiliarity with human anatomy, she was left permanently disfigured. Only with the help of the Talosians and their illusions is she able to maintain her beauty and health.

Pike accepts this and agrees to leave her with the Talosians, who create an illusion of Pike as a companion for her. The Keeper sends Pike off with these words: "She has an illusion, and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant."

Primary cast


Jeffrey Hunter had a six-month exclusive option for the role of Captain Pike.[7] Although he was required to continue if the series was picked up by the network in that time, he was not required to film the second pilot that NBC requested. Deciding to concentrate on motion pictures instead, he declined the role.[8] Gene Roddenberry wrote to him on April 5, 1965:

I am told you have decided not to go ahead with Star Trek. This has to be your own decision, of course, and I must respect it. You may be certain I hold no grudge or ill feelings and expect to continue to reflect publicly and privately the high regard I learned for you during the production of our pilot.[9]

Two weeks after the option expired on June 1, 1965, Hunter formally gave his letter requesting separation from the project. He died on May 27, 1969, one week before the original series ended its run. Roddenberry later suggested that he was the one who—unhappy with interference by Hunter's then-wife Dusty Bartlett—had decided not to rehire Hunter; however, executive producer Herbert F. Solow, who was present when Bartlett, acting as manager, refused the role on behalf of her husband, later said in his memoir, Inside Star Trek, that it was the other way around.[10][11]


"The Cage" was filmed at Desilu Productions' studio (now known as Culver Studios) in Culver City, California, from November 27 to mid-December 1964. Post-production work (pick-up shots, editing, scoring, special photographic and sound effects) continued to January 18, 1965.[12]

Gene Roddenberry paid a lot of attention to what The Outer Limits team was doing at the time, and he was often present in their studios.[citation needed] He hired several Outer Limits alumni, among them Robert Justman and Wah Chang, for the production of Star Trek.[13] One of the creatures in the cages was reused from the episode "The Duplicate Man" of The Outer Limits, where it was called a megasoid. The prop head from The Outer Limits episode "Fun and Games" was used to make a Talosian appear as a vicious creature. The process used to make pointed ears for David McCallum in "The Sixth Finger" was reused in Star Trek as well. The "ion storm" seen in "The Mutant" (a projector beam shining through a container holding glitter in liquid suspension) became the transporter effect.

The Talosians were designed with an androgynous look and were portrayed by females with male actors providing dubbing audio. This was done to give the impression that the Talosians had focused their efforts on mental development to the detriment of their physical strength and size, while also making them suitably alien to viewers. However, the deep voice of Malachi Throne as the Keeper in "The Cage" was electronically processed to sound higher-pitched[14] for "The Menagerie", as Throne also portrayed Commodore Mendez in the latter. The Keeper's voice from "The Menagerie" was kept for both the remastered and new "original" versions of "The Cage" which would be released later. Throne's unaltered voice work as The Keeper only survives as a brief sample that can be heard in the preview trailer for "The Menagerie" (Part II).

Releases and availability

"The Cage" was first released on VHS in 1986,[4] with a special introduction by Roddenberry, and was aired for the first time in its entirety, and in full color, in late 1988 as part of The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next,[4] a two-hour retrospective special hosted by Patrick Stewart.

Although most of this episode was edited into the original series episode "The Menagerie" (aired November 1966), no stand-alone version of "The Cage" pilot was available until a 1986 VHS release.[15] Gene Roddenberry had in his possession a black-white film workprint version on 16 mm film, while the original 35 mm print was literally cut up in editing for "The Menagerie"; this left Roddenberry's copy as the only known surviving version when the VHS version was made.[16] Thus, the original VHS release has a mix of full-color from existing footage with black-and-white from the 16 mm copy.[16]

In 1987, the excised film sections were discovered by archivist Bob Furmanek in an abandoned and unlabeled film canister at a film laboratory in Los Angeles. He arranged to return the footage to Gene Roddenberry, thus making it possible to complete a full-color version.[16] The restored color version was broadcast in October 1988, which was the first television airing of "The Cage".[16] It was broadcast as part of a television special hosted by Patrick Stewart called The Star Trek Saga: From One Generation to the Next.[16][17] It contained interviews with Gene Roddenberry, Maurice Hurley, Rick Berman, Mel Harris, cast members from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, clips from both series and the Star Trek films I through IV with a small preview of Star Trek V. It was later rebroadcast on UPN in 1996 with a behind the scenes look at Star Trek: First Contact.

"The Cage" was released on LaserDisc in the United States; this version mixed B&W and color footage as well as 9 minutes of introduction and closing with Roddenberry, bringing the total runtime to 73 minutes.[18] On October 10, 1990 a Collector's Edition of "The Cage" with a runtime of 64 minutes featuring all-color footage, minus the Roddenberry introduction and closing, was released on LaserDisc in the US.[19]

"The Cage" was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC2 on 19 August 1992.[20][21] On 19 August 1996, "The Cage" was broadcast on BBC2 on the first day of a season of programmes on the 30th anniversary of Star Trek.[22][23]

Two VHS versions were released in the United Kingdom with one being the restored color version.[24][25]

"The Cage" was released on PAL-format LaserDisc in the United Kingdom as part of The Pilots collection, in April 1996.[26] This included the color version of "The Cage", "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Encounter at Farpoint", "Emissary", and "Caretaker" with a total runtime of 379 minutes.[26]

Both versions of "The Cage" were included on the original series Season 3 DVD box set, along with the introduction by Roddenberry.[27]

The B&W/color version of "The Cage" was originally listed as episode 1 on VHS covers upon its initial home video release. When the all-color version was found and released later, it was given the designation “episode 99”. When released on the DVD format in 2001, the designations were reversed as the DVD cover for Volume 40 describes the all-color version as “episode 1” and the hybrid as “episode 99”. These reversed designations have been followed on future DVD, blu-ray and streaming presentations as well.[28]

Gene Roddenberry in fact had another personal 16mm copy of "The Cage" which he gave to a friend and advisor in California shortly following production and accompanied by another 16mm reel labelled "Star Trek Out Takes". All three film reels were subsequently acquired by a private collector who has kept them in secure storage ever since the acquisition. It is understood the film has not been run in a projector since around 1972 and it is also believed that this is the only surviving complete original 16mm print of "The Cage".[citation needed]


In 1996, in a review of the episode in The Times, Elizabeth Cowley said it was "unintentionally hilarious", but Star Trek fans would enjoy watching it.[23]

In 2010, SciFiNow ranked this the third best episode of the original series.[17]

In 2016, SyFy ranked "The Cage" as the fifth best out of six Star Trek TV show pilots, with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Emissary" in first place.[29]

In 2017, Inverse recommended "The Cage" as "essential watching" for Star Trek: Discovery.[30]

In 2023, Den of Geek ranked "The Cage" as the best pilot episode for any series in the franchise.[31]

Follow-up and spin-off

In 2019, the Star Trek: Discovery episode "If Memory Serves" saw Pike and Spock (now portrayed by Anson Mount and Ethan Peck, respectively) return to Talos IV; the recap at the beginning of the episode used scenes from "The Cage".

CBS All Access officially ordered Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to series in May 2020[32] featuring the characters of Captain Pike, Number One, and Spock. At 55 years between The Cage and the announcement of Strange New Worlds, co-showrunner and executive producer Henry Alonso Myers calls this the longest pilot to series pick up in television history.[33]

See also


  1. ^ ""Star Trek" The Cage (TV episode 1986) – Quotes". IMDb. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  2. ^ Shatner, William (2008). Up Till Now: The Autobiography. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. pp. 119. ISBN 978-0-312-37265-1.
  3. ^ Michael (April 5, 2016). "Star Trek Fact Check: Second Pilot Episodes Before Star Trek?". Star Trek Fact Check. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c McMillan, Graeme (December 3, 2014). "'Star Trek' Flashback: Leonard Nimoy Notes 50 Year Anniversary of Original Pilot Shoot". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  5. ^ Whitfield, Stephen E & Roddenberry, Gene (1968). The Making of Star Trek. Ballantine Books. p. 115.
  6. ^ Bob Furmanek, post to Classic Horror Film Board, April 21, 2008. The reconstruction used the soundtrack of Roddenberry's 16mm print for those scenes otherwise without sound.
  7. ^ Joel Engel, Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, Hyperion, 1995. ISBN 978-0-7868-8088-1.
  8. ^ J.D. Spiro, "Happy In Hollywood," The Milwaukee Journal, July 4, 1965. (PDF)
  9. ^ David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 244. ISBN 978-0-451-45418-8.
  10. ^ William Shatner and Chris Kreski, Star Trek Memories, Harpercollins, 1993. ISBN 978-0-06-017734-8.
  11. ^ Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek, Pocket Books, 1996, p. 63. ISBN 0-671-89628-8.
  12. ^ David Alexander, Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc, 1994, p. 218. ISBN 978-0-451-45418-8.
  13. ^ The Outer Limits Official Companion, Schow & Frentzen, p.361.
  14. ^ "The Cage Page: Behind the Scenes of Star Trek's First Pilot". StarTrekHistory.com. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  15. ^ Wildermuth, M. (May 1, 2014). Gender, Science Fiction Television, and the American Security State: 1958-Present. Springer. ISBN 9781137408891.
  16. ^ a b c d e Clark, Mark (April 1, 2012). Star Trek FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the First Voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Applause Theatre & Cinema. ISBN 9781557839633.
  17. ^ a b Rundle, James (March 26, 2010). "Top 10 Best Star Trek Original Series episodes". SciFiNow. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  18. ^ "LaserDisc Database - Star Trek #106: The Cage: Disc #26 [LV 60040-106]". www.lddb.com. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  19. ^ "LaserDisc Database - Star Trek #106: The Cage: Disc #26 All-Color Collector's Edition [LV 60040-99]". www.lddb.com. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  20. ^ The Radio Times, Issue 3581, 15 August 1992, reprinted at BBC Programme Index
  21. ^ Roland White, "Star Trek", ("TV Choice"), The Times, 19 August 1992, "Life & Times" section, 19 August 1992, p 10
  22. ^ The Radio Times, Issue 3786, 17 August 1996, reprinted at BBC Programme Index
  23. ^ a b Elizabeth Cowley, "Star Trek: The Cage" in "Choice", The Times, 19 August 1996, p 43
  24. ^ "Star Trek: Episode 1 -The Cage". www.videocollector.co.uk. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  25. ^ "Star Trek: Episode 1 -The Cage". www.videocollector.co.uk. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  26. ^ a b "LaserDisc Database - Star Trek: The Pilots [PLTES 34071]". www.lddb.com. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  27. ^ "Star Trek: The Remastered Series Seasons 1, 2 & 3 review". Den of Geek. May 20, 2009. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  28. ^ "DVD - Star Trek - the Original Series, Vol. 40 - Paramount - USA".
  29. ^ Roth, Dany (January 15, 2016). "First Contact: Every Star Trek pilot, ranked". SYFY WIRE. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  30. ^ Plante, Corey (September 21, 2017). "5 Essential 'Star Trek' Episodes to Binge Before 'Discovery'". Inverse. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  31. ^ Chris Farnell, Ryan Britt, Star Trek Pilots Ranked From Worst to Best: From The Original Series to Strange New Worlds, January 19, 2023, Den of Geek
  32. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (May 15, 2020). "'Star Trek' Pike and Spock Series Set at CBS All Access". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 15, 2020. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  33. ^ "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds | Bringing a New Series to Life | Paramount+". YouTube.