Truth OR Myth – The First Captain Pike

Hello and welcome to Truth OR Myth, a Star Trek Web Series that looks at the Truth Or Canon of Star Trek to dispel the myths surrounding it.  In today’s episode we’re taking a look at the life of Jeffery Hunter, the Original Captain Christopher Pike, and the Character he brought to life for us all.

With the completion of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, fans have been chomping at the bit to get CBS to commission a New Star Trek Series Based Around Anson Mounts Version of the classic character Captain Christopher Pike…  But what about the First Captain Pike?  What was his story?  Sadly it was a tragic one…

Sometimes when I’m figuring out a topic for these videos Ill stare blankly at my computer screens not knowing what to do…  Sometime this will last for hours.

Sure I have a huge list of episode possibilities that I always glance at, but I have to feel the story to tell it.  So on the day, I’m writing this I was staring at my screens once again lost in thought while having the YouTube Home Page up and running.

(Cinerama) Jeffrey Hunter “Custer of the West”

There I noticed something odd, a large number of videos on that page were about Captain Christopher Pike.  So I thought to myself, hey what about the original actor Jeffery Hunter what was HIS life like?  And whatever happened to him? 

So I began scouring the Internet and what I found shocked me, all these years, and I didn’t know the tragic fate that befell him…

Jeffrey Hunter, whose real name was Henry Herman McKinnies, was born on November 25, 1926.  Born to Edith Lois and Henry McKinnies Sr, he would have a very traditional Irish Catholic upbringing in his home city of New Orleans Louisiana.

In the year 1930, his family would move to Milwaukee Wisconsin where he would grow up, attend high school and graduated from Whitefish Bay High School.

He loved Sports and in his early teenage years would begin acting in local theatre plays as well as acting on the new medium known as radio.

From 1942-1945, he toured with the Northport Players, a theatre company from New York.

When he graduated from high school at the age of 19, the young and talented Jeffrey made up his mind and joined the United States Navy.  he was assigned to the Naval Communications Division.  And although ready and willing, Jeffrey would not see any combat duty as he had suffered a broken arch-bone that prevented it in a high school football accident.

Jeffrey was discharged from the Navy in May of 1946 and decided to attend Northwestern University and major in Speech and radio.  His minors were English and Psychology.

(MGM) Jeffrey Hunter “King of Kings”

His first film role would come to him in 1949, when he was cast in the movie Julius Caesar, a movie which stared a VERY young Charlton Heston as Mark Antony.

Graduating on August 26, 1949, Jeffrey would pick himself up and move to Los Angeles California to pursue a masters degree at the University of California in Radio.

And in 1950, talents Scouts attending the university production of All My Sons, spotting Jeffrey and screen tests were set up for him by 20th century Fox and Paramount Pictures.

After a bit of battling between the 2 Networks, Fox won out and Jeffrey signed a Long term contract with the studio.  And this is When he would change his name at the studio’s request and Jeffrey Hunter the Star was born.

At Fox, he would star in many pictures such as Lure of the Wilderness in 1952 and Sailor of the King in 1953.  And as was the studio’s policies at the time Fox would loan out Jeffrey to other studios and as such, Jeffrey’s name has become a household name.

In 1957 Jeffrey was supposed to star in a movie for Universal called Appointment with a shadow but was replaced after he collapsed on a return trip from Europe.  he was diagnosed with hepatitis and as a result, was off screen for 14 months recovering.

From then on he would star in other movies such as King of Kings where he would play Jesus Christ.

Guest starring on Television Shows since his career had begun, Hunter was offered a contract with Warner Bros where he would play a Texas lawyer on the NBC series Temple Houston.  And he accepted that contract and played the role from 1963-64.

(CBS) Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike in “The Cage”

And now we come to Star Trek.  In 1964 Hunter accepted the Role of Captain Christopher Pike in the First pilot created for the show. A True science fiction think piece Jeffrey Hunter would fit right into the role and make it his own.

After it was decided that Star Trek would receive a second pilot, he was  again offered the Role of the good Captain but turned it down citing, “I would have been tied up far longer than I cared to be.”

The truth, however, is a bit more sketchy.  As told by William Shatner is his Star Trek Memories Book, Jeffrey Hunter’s wife, model Dusty Bartlett would frequently storm into Gene Roddenberry’s office making outrageous demands like “My Jeffrey can only be shot from a certain angle from now on.”  As a result of all the tantrum and demands, Gene decided he could do an entire series with Jeffrey Hunter and let him go…

Other sources also place the blame on his wife.  Herbert Solow has maintained that after screening the first pilot for Hunters wife, she turned to him and said, Jeffrey would not be returning for the second pilot, as he was a “movie star” and did not do television.

Whatever the case was It’s pretty clear it was his wife’s meddling that prevented him from doing Star Trek Again.

Jeffry Hunter would continue to do movies and films up until 1969, and these roles would receive mixed reviews.

In November of 1968 Hunter sustained an injury on the set of Cry Chicago, when a window of a car near him that was rigged to explode outwards, accidentally exploded inward.  As a result, Jeffrey sustained a Serious Concussion. 

(CBS) Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike in “The Cage”

On the plane ride back to the United States, Jeffrey went into shock and couldn’t speak and hardly was able to move at all.  After landing he was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles but doctors there could not find anything seriously wrong with him aside from the aforementioned concussion and a displaced vertebra…

Then on the afternoon of May 26, 1969, Jeffrey suffered an intracranial haemorrhage while on the steps of his home.  He hell and knocked over a planter and struck his head on a bannister fracturing his skull.

He was found unconscious by his wife and rushed to Valley Presbyterian Hospital where he underwent brain surgery in an attempt to fix the problem.  unfortunately, they were unsuccessful and Jeffrey Hunter died at 9:30 am the next morning at the age of 42.

His funeral was held at St Marks Episcopal Church on May the 31st and he was buried at Glen Haven Memorial Park.  He is survived by his 4 Children, Christopher, Steele, Todd and Scott…

it’s quite a sad turn of events for such an amazing actor.  Now I love William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk, and wouldn’t want to give him up for anything.  But if Jeffrey Hunter had continued in the Role of Christopher Pike I think he would have made just as big of a mark on fandom as Shatner has.

(CBS) Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike in “The Cage”

I mean consider it.  The Original Pilot was chopped into a 2 part episode entitled the Menagerie, and from that, we, the fan base, have always known who he was, and what he means to Star Trek.

Since then, there have been 2 versions played off the character on screen.  Both were excellent and both brought something different to Star Trek.  But I guess that’s my point they WERE different.

The Ease and charm in which Hunter’s Pike is played is an instant crowd pleaser.  Those eyes are deep and filled with emotion.  You feel this is a caring Captain that’s truly struggling with the recent losses he had suffered while at the same time being strong to escape the clutches of his captures.

As I sad, it’s sad and unfortunate that we didn’t get to see more of him in the role, but at least 1 good thing came out of it all, and that’s what Jeffrey Hunter will always be remembered as a living legend by the Star Trek Community as the First onscreen Captain of the Starship Enterprise…

Thank you for Watching today’s episode of Truth or Myth, I know this was a sad one, but I hope you still liked it.  Have something though you’d like to add to the conversation? Well leave a comment below, and don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to the channel, hitting that little bell icon so you would miss a single video we release.

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Thanks again for watching…  Live Long and Prosper…

Watch episode 77: