'Star Trek': The Unexpected Afterlife of the Doomed First Crew

Star Trek TV Pilot The Cage Still - H 2014
<p>Star Trek TV Pilot The Cage Still - H 2014</p>   |   Courtesy of Photofest
NBC passed on the original pilot, but the characters lived on in comic books and novels

If not for fate — and, specifically, the decisions of NBC network executives in 1965 — the names Pike, Number One and Boyce would be as familiar to audiences as Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Those first three names, after all, were the crew from "The Cage," the original, unaired pilot for Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. (As pointed out by Leonard Nimoy, this week marks the 50th anniversary of the episode's shoot.)

Rejected by network executives, "The Cage" was eventually replaced by "Where No Man Has Gone Before" — a second pilot that introduced the show as it would eventually air. But Roddenberry did something genuinely unusual: He inserted footage from the failed pilot into the show's first season as flashbacks to an earlier time, ensuring that the original crew would live on as part of Trek canon.

What Roddenberry didn't realize at the time was that the move didn't just mean that the original pilot "counted" in the show's mythology. As Star Trek shifted from television show to fan-fueled phenomenon, the amount of spinoff material grew, with comic books and novels telling stories that never made it to the screen — including the adventures of Kirk's predecessors on the Starship Enterprise. It might have taken some time (and it still requires dedication to find the appropriate material), but audiences were finally able to follow Roddenberry's original Star Trek characters as they got to boldly go where no one had gone before.

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The bulk of that material was comic book-related, with two primary series — 1997's Star Trek: Early Voyages and 2009's Star Trek: Crew — providing the majority of stories from that period. (Both are collected together in a hardcover collection, Star Trek: The Stardate Collection Vol. 2: Under the Command of Christopher Pike, released earlier this year.) Both series are made up of stories similar to the original Star Trek television series: short, relatively unrelated adventures exploring the galaxy with the heroes occasionally running into Klingons and other aliens.

Those looking for longer-form stories featuring the characters might want to turn to the novels set during that era, particularly Vulcan's Glory, by original TV series writer D.C. Fontana (a novel that amusingly suggests the real name of Pike's second-in-command Number One is, literally, "Number One").

For the most part, the mythology of Pike and his crew is relatively quiet. They lasted two separate five-year missions on the Enterprise together (don't worry, Kirk fans; he and the crew managed at least three — the chronology gets complicated around the movies), before going their separate ways. Pike was promoted to Fleet Captain before becoming hideously disfigured in an accident, an event that would lead to his appearance in the original Trek, and his eventual retirement on a planet called Talos IV, as detailed in the two-part television story "The Menagerie."

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The end of the career of Pike's medical officer, Dr. Philip Boyce, is far more contradictory. After his time in space, either he retires to teach, leaves the Enterprise to become the doctor on a space station or dies under mysterious circumstances, depending on what you read. Suffice it to say, he ends up out of the picture, for some reason, relatively quickly. You get the feeling that McCoy wouldn't have approved, given his own cantankerous long service.

Number One, meanwhile, had one of the most successful careers of all out of the abandoned first crew — thanks, in large part, to the woman that played her in the original pilot. Majel Barrett would go on to marry Roddenberry and reappeared in two other roles throughout the franchise. Number One would rise through the ranks of Starfleet, without the audience ever discovering her name, to not only become an admiral, but also lend her voice to all the computers in the fleet … because Barrett would be responsible for the computer dialogue from the original Trek through Star Trek: Voyager, 30 years later.

The most well-known character from "The Cage," meanwhile, would prove to be the one constant through all Star Trek history. Spock was merely a science officer with uneven bangs in that first pilot. But he'd go on to become central to the original Trek series and subsequent movies, and would be the connective tissue between Trek as-was and the 2009 reboot of the franchise. "The Cage" might have been turned down by network higher-ups, but the longevity of Spock — and Star Trek in general — shows that Gene Roddenberry knew what he was doing. As seems only fitting for a science fiction concept, he was merely ahead of his time.

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