Trek Review: “The Menagerie” Part 1

It wasn’t cheap to make Star Trek, even by 1960’s TV budget standards.  Fairly early on, the show was running into not only a money crunch, but was also coming dangerously close to not meeting their airdates.  It got to a point to where they probably would have to consider doing the show live, or even worse, in a gestational phase that is beyond description.

(That last sentence is not meant to be taken seriously.)

I have always thought that while Star Trek had its ups and downs in its first season on the air, it wasn’t as big of a struggle as it was to just get NBC to buy the show altogether.  As you probably well know, the first pilot, “The Cage was rejected for not being the series pilot they had hoped for.  That pilot cost over $600,000 to make and yet it was sitting around, collecting dust.  So, Gene Roddenberry devised an ingenious idea, to write a new frame story around the existing footage, and thus, you end up with a dynamic, excellent two-part episode.  Essentially, two episodes for the price of a lot less than one.

So, fast forward to November 10th.  The broadcast of “The Corbomite Maneuver” is on NBC, and at the end, the preview of next week’s show goes out on the air at approximately 9:28pm Eastern time.  The 1966 version of me, along with a lot of other people in the audience upon seeing the clips of the first pilot at the end of this preview, would have more than certainly been saying, “Who were those characters!?”

I, the 1966 viewer, after seeing that promo most assuredly would have been locked in on this:  The frame story as written is a thing of beauty, giving a great added layer to the already great drama that was inherent in “The Cage”.  What you see of the first pilot (in this case having never seen it before) makes you want to see it again so you can see all of the nuances of the show that were different at this stage of the game.  My drive for information about what this pilot actually was would have been at the forefront.  Keep in mind however that the internet obviously wasn’t around then, so the best way I probably could have determined what that first pilot actually was and the story behind it would have been to take a trip to the local library and possibly look up Variety or Daily Variety.  However, a local library in Knoxville, TN probably wouldn’t have been getting that publication.

So, onward to Part 2, and take note here of some obvious differences between some things you hear in this Next Week preview and what you will hear in the show. More on that next week!