Apr 4, 2013

[TV] Star Trek: The Animated Series

Being the completist that I am, I recently ventured into finally watching the complete 22-episode run of Star Trek: The Animated Series. I had seen a few still images of the show over the years but for one reason or another I had never found the time to actually watch any of the episodes. And given the lack of an active Star Trek TV show at this point in time, this Trekkie is happy to watch any Star Trek series in the hopes of new stories.

What I wasn't expecting was for a generally serious attempt at a science fiction cartoon that was largely at par with the original TV series. And while some of the aspects of the cartoon were clearly toned down given the younger target audience, the rest of it was very much classic Trek - and that's a very good thing.

And of course the animated nature of the series meant that it could explore more exotic locations and stranger aliens without the limitations of a FX budget, which helped expand the Star Trek universe even further.


Synopsis: Star Trek: The Animated Series was a science fiction cartoon produced by Filmation (the same folks behind shows like The Adventures of Batman, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and Bravestarr) for NBC. It ran for two seasons for a total of 22 half-hour episodes (including commercials of course).

One of the more interesting aspects of this cartoon is how a lot of the events depicted into the show were later incorporated into the overall Star Trek "canon" as being officials stories. It helped that Gene Roddenberry maintained creative control over the series despite its animated nature, thus generally keeping things focused and in line with his overall vision.

The show featured most of the original cast as voice talents save for Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, who was not in the show at all. Instead we had two more "alien" crewmen in the form of the tri-limbed Edosian Lieutenant Arex and the feline Caitian Lieutenant M'Ress. While I do feel bad for Chekov, it was nice to have non-human crewman serving on the Bridge for a change. No offense meant to Spock.

The show also got to dabble in somewhat more exotic technologies, more likely as attempts to save on animation. Thus for away missions the crew would be equipped with personal life support belts instead of the bulkier environmental suits. And we also had more space battles including the perk of having Commander Kor in charge of the Klingon battlecruiser Klothos.

The series had its fair share of connections to some of the writers who had worked on the Original Series including David Gerrold for "More Tribbles, More Troubles" as a sequel to the TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" along with D.C. Fontana's "Yesteryear" which featured The Guardian of Forever. Fontana has also helped bring to life a number of TOS episodes including "The Enterprise Incident.

To be fair, the show had some rather silly episodes like "The Ambergris Element" which turned Kirk and Spock into somewhat fishy individuals and "The Practical Joker" where the ship's computer becomes self-aware with a nasty sense of humor. But that's all balanced out by episodes like "The Slaver Weapon", written by Larry Niven of Ringworld fame. On the whole the show had a lot of interesting stories, especially for a half-hour children's show.

Star Trek: The Animated Series is no mere cartoon. It was certainly a way for the show to find new life (and a new audience) in a different format. And we should all take the time to watch it sooner or later as lovers of all things Trek. The series as a whole gets 4 references to the original series (like Harry Mudd!) out of a possible 5.


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