Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Star Trek: "The Cage" Tech

Given the importance and prominence that Star Trek has in our culture today -- the origination point for cell phone designs, perhaps? -- I thought we would take a gander today at Starfleet technology as envisioned by "The Cage" all the way back in 1964. 

One of the things I have always admired about Star Trek is that the universe imagined by Gene Roddenberry boasts a distinctive history and feel; and this "unaired" original pilot is a prime example of that aspect of the series.  

Later used in "The Menagerie," the bulk of this episode's footage displays Starfleet technology as it was before Captain Kirk assumed command of the starship Enterprise.  Years earlier, in fact.

But what remains amazing to me is that the tech of "The Cage" -- while futuristic -- nonetheless looks  somehow less futuristic than Kirk's Enterprise.  The view screen on Pike's Enterprise is smaller, for instance.  Then there are these goose-neck intercom transmitters everywhere on Pike's starship.  Overall --- in general -- the equipment in "The Cage" appears bulkier, heavier.

You can even see inside the transparent communicator's circuitry in several shots, a touch done away with for the more familiar communicators of the series. 

And -- I love it -- Starfleet is apparently not yet "paperless" here, as you'll see in one shot of the bridge's science station.

You'll also notice there was far less color on the Enterprise in "The Cage" than in the series proper.  Here, almost everything is shaded metallic gray and blue.  There's also more architectural "noise" on the ship too -- pillars surrounding the table area of the briefing room, etc.  Captain Pike's cabin (not pictured) has this weird low ceiling, maybe some kind of lighting apparatus...

Call me a heretic, but I rather enjoy this "busier" approach to production design and 23rd century starship technology.  Somehow, the Enterprise of "The Cage" feels more like a real working ship than some later renditions of the starship. 

So to start us off on "Sci Tech", here's a look back at the distinctive "sci-tech" of "The Cage," from 1964. 

The transparent communicator, bristling with visible circuitry.

Gooseneck monitor screen.

Starfleet is still using printers.
The science station, under red alert lighting, with gooseneck monitor and printer.
An early, smaller and more "rounded" viewscreen.
An early Enterprise schematic.  Notice the preponderance of blues and blacks here.
There's ore visual "clutter" in this version of the briefing room.  Notice the pillars bracketing the room.
Mr. Spock uses an entirely different-looking type of computer interface.
The original transporter room.
The transporter controls, replete with goose neck screens.  Notice too the "techs" wearing jumpsuits instead of standard issue Starfleet uniforms.
The Enterprise brings its power to bear on Talos IV with a laser cannon.


  1. Since I was a boy in the '70s, I have always loved science-fiction production designs. The Star Trek tech evolution from "The Cage" to "Where No Man Has Gone Before" to The Original Series to The Animated Series to The Motion Picture(1979) has always excited me.


  2. I always thought that lingering shot of the communicator on Pike's table was intended to generate interest at the merchandising potential of the series. Any Sci-Fi show has massive "toy" potential. I'm surprised that there were never toy communicators, phasers or tricorders released during the series' network run as opposed to the multitude of toys released during the show's success in syndication and afterwards.

  3. One smart thing Roddenberry did, get Sam Peeples to write the second pilot. Without him, there would be no Star Trek.