For the last couple months, I’ve been contemplating a new brand of post here called “Sci-Tech.”
The mission of such a post is to gaze at the technology/production design of popular cult-tv series over the decades.
After all, film and television are visual media, and one reason we enjoy these cult TV shows (even ones that have been around for decades…) involves the look of the program in question.
Many of us are science fiction TV/film fans in the first place because we appreciate the imaginative, or speculative hardware of these futuristic programs.
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, for our first such Sci-Tech post, 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.
Future installments will include an Alphan edition (Space: 1999), an Altrusian edition (Land of the Lost), a Robinson edition (Lost in Space), a Batcave edition (Batman) and even a Rambaldi Edition (Alias).
Feel free to comment on any other TV series (or movie…) tech you’d like to see reviewed in imagery here in the weeks and months ahead.
Now, tell me what you see…