Star Trek: 5 Reasons Now Is The Perfect Time To Rewatch The Cage

Fifty five years after its first broadcast, why is Star Trek's pilot more important now than ever?

Star Trek The Cage

Starring Jeffrey Hunter, Majel Barrett and Susan Oliver, The Cage was the first pilot episode of Star Trek. It was commissioned by NBC Studios, who then rejected it once they saw the finished project, deeming it to be 'too cerebral'. In a rare move, they commissioned a second pilot, which would be 'Where No Man Has Gone Before.'

However, fifty five years after this failed pilot was written off by the studio, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is set to take up the story of Captain Pike and his crew.

While this is largely thanks to the wonderful performances by Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck on Star Trek Discovery, it is also a testament to the timeless ideas introduced in that first hour, all those years ago. The Cage introduced a broken Captain, with an aversion to inclusion and a fantastical Star Ship that had just broken the time barrier.

The blueprints for much of what the Star Trek franchise would become are all there in that first episode, which is really rather wonderful. The subsequent thirty four seasons of Star Trek (to date) have all, in some way, held on to the ideas, the technology and the presentations that were present in The Cage.

As the franchise now warps toward its eleventh iteration, including the animated Lower Decks and the as-yet unproduced Section 31, it is an excellent time to travel back to Talos IV and revisit Star Trek's first Captain.

5. That Original Starship

Star Trek The Cage

Walter Matthew "Matt" Jefferies designed the most iconic ship in science fiction, with the ship coming together in stages. He initially designed a three foot model to show to Gene Roddenberry. Once this was approved, an eleven foot filming model was created. This model would go through several redesigns for both the second pilot and the main series.

Matt came to the attention of Roddenberry primarily due to his work on the 1957 movie Bombers B-52, on which Jefferies served as production designed. The two met and immediately took a shine to each other, sharing war stories as they had both served on Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses during the war.

Roddenberry was clear with Jefferies on what he didn't want to see as part of the ship. Jefferies then went away and began to work out the design, a process that took 'about six weeks of frustration', during which he 'spent a pretty good batch of Lucille Ball's money'.

The result was a three foot long testing model that was sent to Roddenberry for approval. Jefferies had designed the now-familiar cylindrical drive section, with two nacelles and the saucer section above it all. The large deflector dish sat at the front of the drive section, with pointed spikes leading out from the bussard collectors at the front of the nacelles.

In more than fifty years of Star Trek, many of the ships produced since have stuck close to that original layout. The Enterprise that was redesigned for Discovery is a loving tribute to Jefferies' original design.


Writer. Reader. Podcast Host. I'm Seán, I live in Ireland and I'm the poster child for dangerous obsessions with Star Trek. Check out my weekly podcast on all things....well all things film! Check me out on Twitter @seanferrick or at the website