50 years ago: A sci-fi classic begins its long trek

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Dec 4, 2014, 11:01 AM EST (Updated)

Yesterday (Dec. 3) marked the 50th anniversary of a seminal moment in science fiction history. Do you know what it was?

It was five decades ago, on Dec. 3, 1964, that one of the longest-running, most influential and most important sci-fi franchises of all time began its journey to "boldly go where no man has gone before."

That's right: It was 50 years ago yesterday that shooting commenced on "The Cage," the pilot episode for Gene Roddenberry's proposed new series, Star Trek. Roddenberry wrote the pilot, Robert Butler directed it, and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise included Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike, Majel Barrett as his "Number One" and Leonard Nimoy as the vaguely alien (his origins as a Vulcan were not yet nailed down) Mr. Spock.

What happened after the pilot was shot is the stuff of TV history. NBC rejected it, saying it was too slow-moving and cerebral, but they broke all network television precedent by being interested enough to request a second pilot. So Roddenberry got back to work: He let go of almost all the cast except for Nimoy -- who the network was not that comfortable with, thinking he looked "Satanic" -- and hired William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk. That second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," was still smart science fiction but had enough action and faster pacing to convince NBC to give the series the green light.

We all know what happened after that. And "The Cage" didn't sit around collecting dust either; much of the footage was folded into a two-part episode called "The Menagerie” that explored events in the Enterprise's past and ended up becoming one of its most popular episodes in its own right.

But it all started 50 years ago on a soundstage in Hollywood at Desilu Studios, and thanks to the legendary Mr. Nimoy for reminding us all of it. Next up: the 50th anniversary of the show's NBC premiere, on Sept. 8, 2016.

We can't wait to celebrate.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

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