Friday, January 3, 2014


Hunter as the intrepid Captain Pike
Below is a a bit of film about the actor who played the first captain of the Enterprise, Jeffrey Hunter. While it's framed in a general seediness (it's from "Mysteries and Scandals", after all) it's still an interesting piece. Inevitably it leads us to "what might have been".

Hunter had more good luck in Hollywood than most actors. In 1956 he starred in the epic John Ford Western "The Searchers" with no less than John Wayne himself. The film is considered to be one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – westerns of all time, and Hunter held his own in every scene with The Duke. In 1958 he costarred with the great Spencer Tracy in "The Last Hurrah", and in 1961 he took on his most famous role outside of Star Trek, that of the son of God in "King of Kings".
It was 1964 when Hunter took on the role of Pike in the first Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

Personally, I didn't care for Hunter's Pike, though it was more about the script than the actor. Squared-jawed and heroic-looking, he was written as brooding, humorless and prone to melancholy. There was very little likability in his Pike, in my opinion, especially when compared to Shatner's Kirk. But in the early days of the first pilot, the producers were still trying to find their way and so we got a rather two-dimensional captain. Had Hunter been given something to really sink his teeth into – as he was given in "The Searchers" – I think we would have had a far more interesting character. But the point was made moot by Hunter's own rejection of the second Star Trek pilot.

While I know the Enterprise ended up with the right person at the helm, it's always interesting to think about what would have happened had Hunter taken the role. Would Star Trek have lasted only one season? Would it have run more than three? And most importantly, would it still have a resonance almost half a century later like it does now? We'll never know, of course.

Check out the video for more about his Star Trek involvement and his untimely death at age 42.




  1. I've never been a big fan of THE SEARCHERS -- I could rattle off a dozen Westerns which I like more -- but Hunter's performance in it is quite good (he's also good in THE LONGEST DAY; I haven't seen KING OF KINGS). I think he's pretty good in "The Menagerie," actually, although it's clear to me that his version of the Captain wouldn't have allowed for Spock as we came to know him over the course of three seasons (Nimoy says as much in his memoir). It's a shame the production couldn't get him back to reprise the role when they turned "The Menagerie" into a two-parter; it would have been something to see him and Shatner on screen together.

    1. I agree with you, Michael – his small role in The Longest Day is one of the best parts of the movie, I think. And while I don't think The Searchers is the greatest western either, I, too, think he was quite good (the best thing in the movie, IMO). Thanks for reading.