Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality..."


Bill Shatner (left) with actor Malachi Throne (center).

Star Trek's first pilot "The Cage" is the only episode of the original series to not feature Bill Shatner - and it arguably suffers for it, lacking energy and humor.

"The Cage" - made in 1964-65.

During Star Trek's first season, Gene Roddenberry devised a way to re-use, by means of flashback sequences, footage from that never-broadcast pilot in two new episodes. Helping to ease broadcast deadlines, only a limited number of new scenes would be combined with that existing footage. A unique opportunity was thus created to add the dynamics of both Bill Shatner and his toupee into "The Cage" in a new two-part episode called "The Menagerie".

Through shot composition, director Marc Daniels frequently used the toupee to give clues about the themes in "The Menagerie".

We've occasionally said that Star Trek owes much of its initial dramatic success to Bill Shatner's toupee and "The Menagerie" is but one example of the inspiration that the toup gave both writers and directors. Marc Daniels, who directed the new material for "The Menagerie" only needed one look at the toup to understand that this was a two-parter all about illusions versus reality. The way that Daniels framed shots featuring actor Malachi Throne (whose baldness mirrored Bill Shatner's), alias Commodore Mendez, and Bill Shatner helped to underline this concept.


One actor was wearing a toupee, the other represented Bill Shatner toup-less. We later learn that Mendez was an illusion created by the Talosians (who had giant bald heads) - interestingly, Throne also provided the dubbed voice for the lead Talosian (his voice was pitch-shifted upwards in "The Menagerie" to differentiate it from the character of Mendez - scroll down this page to hear the difference).

Symmetry

At the end of the episode, the Talosian tells Kirk "Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality; may you find your way as pleasant." The concept is reversed - in reality, Shatner has the illusion, while Kirk has the reality (the character's hair is real). Bill Shatner's toupee is only now gradually gaining its rightful recognition as one of the chief creative inspirations in Star Trek - may that recognition continue to grow.

Was the subtext of this scene Gene Roddenberry thanking Bill Shatner for his toupee?

UPDATE: Corrected Thorne is Throne - thanks for telling us!

11 comments:

  1. that scene in the shuttlecraft - that is a bald spot visible at the back of kirk's head and not a trick of the light?
    Also, Captain Pike has much hair but is seriously crippled. Perhaps this is a message that a full head of hair is not a panacea.

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  2. Actually, the toupee on this particular episode is one the best

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  3. It's Malachi THRONE.

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  4. The Malachi THRONE fan club has spoken!

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  5. Totally agree - I've always felt his best toupee looks from TOS were from Season 1.

    Also I thought the acting was very good in this episode. The music too really brought out the tension.

    As for the Cage, I liked it. It was probably too cerebral for its day. The show would've probably been a bit more serious if Hunter had stayed on. Though they probably would've had humor that would've played off of him.

    Also consider, the actual story itself started off with Pike blaming himself for his crew's deaths. I imagine if it were Shatner's Kirk, he'd have been quite the grump as well.

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  6. The few humorous moments in The Cage were removed when it was folded into The Menagerie.

    In one scene, Pike razzes Number One that he "can't get used to having a woman on the bridge" but that "you're different, of course".

    There's also the traditional Trek humorous ending. When Yeoman Colt asks the Captain "Who would've been Eve?", she gets a stern look. Then the Navigavor asks the Captain, "Eve?" Another stern look. Then the doctor (very similar to McCoy) "Eve, as in Adam." Captain Pike: "As in all ship's doctors are dirty old men."

    I think Hunter could play humor, but I don't believe he would have been capable of Shatner's/Kirk's improvisational brilliance like the Fizzbin skit in A Piece of the Action.

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  7. One question.. The guy who did Captain Pike was wearing a rug too?

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  8. Star Trek actors http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/08/arts/television/08vinc.html

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  9. Shatner to toupee: "You complete me."

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  10. http://www.trekkiegeek.com/Sean_Kenney_07.jpg

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  11. Toupee to Shatner: "No. You...complete...ME"

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