Skip to main content

Here's what you need to know about Star Trek pilot The Cage - the Original Series episode featured in Star Trek Discovery

If you've caught the latest episode of Star Trek Discovery season 2 chances are you either loved the mind-blowing opener... or were very, very confused. Depending on how well you know Star Trek, the old school montage which kicked off Star Trek Discovery season 2, episode 8 might have been the best call back to the Original Series in the show so far or meant literally nothing to you. 

If it's the latter, don't worry, because we're here to help with a quick explainer about the Original Series episode that was referenced and the even better news that it's on Netflix right now! Read on for everything you need to know, but beware of spoilers if you're not up-to-date.

Back in 1965, a TV pilot was made for a new sci-fi series about a starship full of explorers called Star Trek. It was called The Cage and its star was Captain Christopher Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter. Along with his First Officer (simply known as Number One and played by Gene Roddenberry's future wife Majel Barrett) and his Science Officer, a Vulcan named Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy), Pike investigates a distress call from Talos 4 where they discover a group of survivors from a scientific expedition, including a beautiful young woman named Vina (played by Susan Oliver). 

Ring any bells? If you've watched the latest episode of Star Trek Discovery then it certainly should. Long story short, the 'survivors' are actually the local aliens called Talosians who have incredible mental abilities that can make you see and feel anything. Vina is human, but she's terribly scarred from the crash which brought her to Talos 4 and it's the Talosians who make her feel whole again. 

Predictably, Pike and Vina fall in love and Pike asks her to leave with him, but she can't leave the planet without reverting back to her true form, which she's not willing to do, so Pike and his crew leave and Talos 4 becomes a restricted planet due to the potentially dangerous abilities of its locals.

This original Star Trek pilot was rejected by NBC for being "too cerebral", "too intellectual", "too slow", and with "not enough action", so they commissioned a new pilot, which later became Where No Man Has Gone Before, starring a completely different captain: one Captain James T. Kirk played by William Shatner. 

Star Trek viewers were eventually introduced to Captain Pike in Original Series two-parter The Menagerie, which sees Spock abduct his former commander (here played by Sean Kenney), who is terribly disfigured and confined to a wheelchair, and take him to the forbidden planet of Talos 4. Once there, the Talosians use their mental abilities to give Pike a life without his crippling injures and he lives out the rest of his days with Vina. While The Menagerie actually continued Pike and Vina's love story from the original Star Trek pilot, viewers didn't know that at the time and a lot of footage from The Cage was actually used in the two-parter to save money.

The Cage remained under lock and key for some time until it eventually aired in 1988, with Star Trek well and truly back in the public consciousness thanks to the movie series and the newly launched Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now another Star Trek show has incorporated the story into its timeline. 

It's clear from the latest episode of Star Trek Discovery that the events of The Cage are a part of this Pike's (now played by Anson Mount) past, but will we see him eventually follow the same path of The Menagerie and end up terribly injured, but eventually living happily ever after with Vina on Talos 4?

If the short montage from The Cage at the beginning on Star Trek Discovery's latest episode has given you a taste for the Original Series then you can now watch the original pilot, as well as the rest of the Original Series and indeed all the other Star Trek series (!), on Netflix now. Just be prepared... it's very different from the Star Trek you know and love.

What did you think of the latest episode of Star Trek Discovery? Maybe it should make it onto our list of the best Star Trek episodes of all time...

Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar+. Northerner, Whedon fanatic, and English Breakfast tea addict.