Question: Since you seem willing to answer two questions as long as they're about the same show, I've got a couple on Star Trek. I seem to remember there was a captain who commanded the original Enterprise before Kirk. Was there one, or am I spacing? Also, who do you think was the best captain on any of the Star Trek shows? Thanks. Space cadet
Televisionary: Well, thanks very much, Spacie. In the many, many months I've been writing this column, there have been few Trek questions and I, a mere casual fan of the show, was perfectly happy with that situation. You see, no other show invites as much hate mail as a Trek show. The slightest misstep (or hint of one) and the tiniest difference of opinion invites a mountain of mail from disgruntled Trekkers (notice I used the politically correct term there) calling for my job.
Be that as it may, here goes: Let's see if I can make it through without anyone getting their phasers in a twist. Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) was the captain of the original-series Enterprise (NCC-1701) in an episode called "The Cage," which served as the first Star Trek pilot and theoretically took place 10 years before Kirk (William Shatner) took the helm.
In the episode, Pike and his fellow Enterprise crew members are lured down to the planet Talos IV, which is run by a race of giant-headed, illusion-casting aliens in need of a stud to help repopulate their planet with strong, healthy stock. Pike, being a strapping, captainly hunk, fits the bill nicely, but he's not interested. He eventually escapes with his virtue intact, but it ain't easy.
"The Cage," incidentally, was never shown during Star Trek's initial 1966-69 run on NBC. However, Pike's character showed up later in the series, crippled by severe radiation burns in a two-part episode entitled "The Menagerie." In that story, which used footage from the aforementioned pilot, Spock hatches a plot to return the stricken Pike to Talos IV, where the big-headed aliens will allow him to live the illusion of a healthier, happier life.
As for your best-captain question, jumping into that particular argument is about as much fun as weighing in on the Mac-vs.-PC fight. There's no upside and it just riles up the zealots. Suffice to say, as I've pointed out before, that my favorite actor to command a starship is, without a doubt, the in-your-face Mr. Shatner and my favorite Trek series is the original. No captain since can match the warp-speed Shatner intensity. Doubt me? Rent Star Trek III and play our hero's "You Klingon bastard, you've killed my son!" over and over until you agree. Failing that, try a steady loop of his tortured "Khaaaaannnnnnn!" from the second flick.
I thought you'd see it my way.