TV shows and movies are a form of art, and art can be interpreted in two ways: as being an image of society or an influence on society. Science fiction is even more powerful, because it not only draws inspiration from society, but it influences society more profoundly by asking What If. What if we could explore the uncharted realms of space? Would we find beings like ourselves? How would they be different? Would their similarities create a mirror of our own behavior…perhaps one we did not want to see?
Science fiction influences society more profoundly by asking What If…
Star Trek can explore controversial topics, but it is not usually considered an edgy or controversial show because its premises create the illusion that the stories are far removed from our own. On the contrary, Star Trek very often challenges issues of racism, war, ethics in science, religion, perception of reality, and societal concerns; this was its creator Gene Roddenberry’s original aspiration for the show. From its humble beginnings, to multi-million dollar movies and a dedicated fan base, the series has definitely come a long way.
As I begin my tour through every Star Trek episode ever made, it seemed natural that I would want to start right at the beginning. However, there is some debate within the fandom as to what qualifies as the actual pilot of Star Trek (subsequently branded The Original Series to differentiate it from later spin-offs). The first pilot that was pitched to NBC in 1965 was called “The Cage”, and was sent back for revision, but the network surprisingly saw enough potential in the show to pay for a second pilot. Incorporating the changes, and with some negotiation, another pilot, “Where no man has gone before”, succeeded in marketing the show to NBC. Even so, when the show first aired, the network actually chose to first broadcast the sixth episode that was produced, “The Man Trap”.
As for the first pilot produced, its footage was collected and aired in the two-part flash-back episode: “The Menagerie”. With all this being said, one can reasonably make a case for any of these four episodes being the true beginning of Star Trek. “The Cage” was the first pilot produced, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was the second pilot produced and initiated the show, “The Man Trap” was the first episode aired, and “The Menagerie” was a rehash, essentially airing all of the footage from the first pilot.
For the purpose of my blog, I will consider “The Man Trap” to be the first Star Trek episode, because it was the first episode to be broadcast to the public as the beginning of the series, and it appears as the first episode on most DVD/streaming releases which I have encountered. I will not do a special post for “The Cage” as it was never publicly aired during Star Trek’s original broadcast, but instead will incorporate my thoughts on it into my review of “The Menagerie”. In the end, I hope you find my views and opinions on these episodes to be entertaining and informative. Feel free to disagree with me if you like, but in honor of all things Star Trek, at least be inspired.
Star Trek® is owned by Paramount Pictures and CBS