So, Star Trek had a hard time making deadlines given how long it took to produce episodes on a special effects-heavy show. The answer was to find a way to recycle older footage as much as possible for this two parter.
And, well, it sure does look familiar.
It ought to. Most of the second part is just recycled footage from the failed pilot “The Cage”. Now, little things like that obviously helped Gene Roddenberry meet his episode order. There is new footage here that adds to the story. This episode is one of the classics that people remember. Parodies coming from such places like Futurama and South Park help there. The image of Christopher Pike, confined to a wheelchair and unable to answer any question requiring an answer more complex than “yes” or “no,” sticks with people for good reason. Sure, Jeffrey Hunter was unavailable to shoot the new scenes, but the character doesn’t really talk and the replacement looks enough like Hunter under the disfiguring make-up as it is.
That said, actor Malachi Thorne, who played the head alien overseer in “The Cage,” did return. He gave that guy some new lines and played Commodore Mendez.
The episode itself starts off promisingly enough. The Enterprise is visiting Starbase 11 because apparenrtly Captain Pike sent a message to his onetime science officer Spock. That is impossible. It seems a horrible accident left Pike in a condition where he might be better off dead. How can that be? As Dr. McCoy is quick to point out, Vulcans are incapable of lying.
How weird is it that McCoy is the one defending Spock while Kirk immediately thinks Spock is up to something?
Granted, Spock is up to something. It’s something of a thing of beauty seeing how relatively easily Spock can take control of the Enterprise for a period. Being Spock, he simply surrenders when Kirk gets back to the ship. He doesn’t ask for an attorney at his court-martial even though deliberately going to Talos IV is the only thing that can get a person the death penalty at this point in the future.
But then, about two-thirds through the first part, Spock essentially asks the tribunal to watch a transmission that is pretty much the entire unaired pilot. Yes, they take breaks here and there, and there is a slightly changed ending. As much as it works within the context of the story…well, I only rewatched “The Cage” a couple weeks ago. It’s still fairly fresh in my mind. I felt I could get up and clean my bathroom while that portion of the episode was playing.
I had hoped to basically do the sort of thing I did for the AFI Challenge here, namely devote something like 800-1000 words or so to each episode. And here we have a two-parter that, well, I can’t. It’s too familiar. Captain Pike gets a happy ending of sorts, and Spock returns to duty. I have nothing else to add here.
I guess I’ll see you next week, hypothetical reader.