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Algernon_Asimov’s guide to The Animated Series

Star Trek: The Animated Series (previously ‘The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek’) is the unloved and rejected stepchild of Star Trek series. For decades, it wasn’t even considered canon. However, after CBS’ acquisition of the rights to TAS in 2006, they incorporated all of its episodes and elements into their canon articles on, thus making it officially canon. (Although, this might simply have been due to the fact that they released the DVD box set of the series that year, and wanted to encourage people to buy it…)

Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it was made for children’s television. But, it was produced by Gene Roddenberry and Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana, two of the main creative talents behind the original series. It was voiced by (most of) the actors from the original series. Many of the writers had also written episodes for the original series. And, some of its episodes are better than some episodes from the original series. For all its faults, it’s still Star Trek. It deserves our attention, as much as any of the other series.

Beyond The Farthest Star (1x01)

Production number: 22004

Summary: Kirk’s crew come across an ancient derelict vessel, but something is still living inside it.

Rating: Engage!

Points of interest:

This first episode of the new series was written by Samuel A Peeples, who also the (second) pilot of the original series, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’.

The crew have personal lifebelts which are humanoid-shaped forcefields (instead of using spacesuits). This series is the only series that uses these lifebelts: they are never referred to in any Star Trek series - but they’d be handy devices. Imagine the fight scene on the deflector dish in ‘First Contact’ if Picard and Worf weren’t wearing spacesuits!

The Enterprise is out “beyond the fringe of the galaxy”, “mission: star charting”.

The science is not strong in this episode: we have a star with negative mass, which attracts the Enterprise more strongly, whereas negative mass should actually repel other mass; there’s a reference to a civilisation which existed three hundred millions years ago, “before life existed on Earth”, when life has has existed on Earth for billions of years (maybe Kirk meant before Human life…?).

However, it takes good advantage of the new medium of animation: there’s an alien ship unlike any we’ve seen before (and unlike most we’ve seen since); there’s a three-armed crewman of a new species at the navigation console on the bridge.

Yesteryear (1x02)

Production number: 22003

Summary: Spock travels back in time to prevent his own demise during his youth on Vulcan.

Rating: Engage!

Points of interest:

This episode was written by Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana, who was story editor during the first two seasons of the original series. She wrote a few classic episodes, including ‘Journey to Babel’, which ‘Yesteryear’ builds on.

This episode contains a number of firsts:

  • It’s the first time we see the planet of Vulcan (what we saw in ‘Amok Time’ was just one ceremonial arena).
  • It’s the first time we see that great big round non-moon object in Vulcan’s sky. (It seems that both Gene Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana wrote “NO MOON!” on the preliminary sketches they were shown… and were ignored.)
  • It’s the first time we see a sehlat.
  • And… more importantly, it’s the first time that anyone acknowledges that Vulcans do actually have emotions. Until this time, it’s been assumed or implied, at best.

It’s interesting to note that Spock, despite the stereotype that Vulcans can’t lie, does actively lie about his identity in the past: he tells his father that’s he’s a cousin, and his name is Selek.

It’s a great episode, and essential viewing for any Star Trek fan.

A weekly episode discussion about this episode in /r/StarTrek.

One of Our Planets is Missing (1x03)

Production number: 22007

Summary: The Enterprise crew learns that a massive, planet-destroying cloud has entered Federation space.

Rating: Just for fun

Points of interest:

This was actually the first animated episode produced; the standard episode order is based on the order the episodes aired.

This is the first time that Lieutenant Arex speaks - he’s the three-armed, three-legged Edosian who sits at Navigation in Chekov’s place.

The Enterprise gets swallowed by the planet-eating cloud, and Captain Kirk has to decide whether to kill a possibly intelligent being to save a planet of over eighty million people.

A weekly episode discussion about this episode in /r/StarTrek.

The Lorelei Signal (1x04)

Production number: 22006

Summary: The Enterprise is drawn to a planet populated solely by women who dominate the male crew members’s minds to the point where Uhura must assume command to rescue them.

Rating: Just for fun

Points of interest:

Lieutenant Uhura takes command of the Enterprise for the only time in any series or movie.

Nichelle Nichols voices the Enterprise’s computer - probably to prevent Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel talking to herself as the computer! In fact, because of the high number of female characters, both Nichols and Barrett do a lot of work in this episode (there were no guest stars).

Captain Kirk says “Beam us up, Scotty” in this episode - which is the closest he ever comes to saying the classic phrase “Beam me up, Scotty.” (He does say “Beam me up” and “Scotty, beam me up” at other times.)

The writer of this episode, Margaret Armen, also wrote three episodes in the original series, and another animated episode.

More Tribbles, More Troubles (1x05)

Production number: 22001

Summary: While escorting a shipment of grain to Sherman’s Planet, the Enterprise encounters three “old friends:” Koloth, Cyrano Jones - and tribbles!

Rating: Just for fun

Points of interest:

This was written by the same writer who wrote the original tribbles episode: David Gerrold. Gerrold managed to get himself drawn in as a cameo appearance (he’s the unknown Ensign in the transporter room).

Also returning was the actor who played Cyrano Jones (although Koloth was played by James Doohan).

It’s a light bit of fun, but it’s good fun.

It also has one of my favourite lines of the series, from Scotty to Kirk: “But we’ve got tribbles on the ship, quintotriticale in the corridors, Klingons in the quadrant… it can ruin your whole day, sir!”

The Survivor (1x06)

Production number: 22005

Summary: The Enterprise encounters the ship of a noted Federation philanthropist, missing for nearly five years, near the Romulan Neutral Zone.

Rating: meh

Points of interest:

This is the first appearance of Communications Officer Lieutenant M’Ress, a female Caitian (she’s a feline humanoid). She is voiced by Majel Barrett.

And, while Uhura doesn’t say or do anything in this episode (her function is filled by M’Ress), Nichelle Nichols voices the guest female role of Security Officer Lieutenant Anne Nored. Quite confusing!

I was a little disappointed that they used the Klingon Birds-of-Prey for the Romulans rather than the Romulans’ own Warbirds.

The Infinite Vulcan (1x07)

Production number: 22002

Summary: A species of intelligent plants, led by a clone of a Eugenics Wars-era scientist, clones Spock with the intentions of creating a master race to keep the peace.

Rating: Engage!

Points of interest:

This is the only Star Trek episode ever written by a main cast member: Walter Koenig. Even though Keonig wasn’t included as one of the voice actors in this series due to budget constraints, he was still asked to contribute a script (Gene Roddenberry had seen another screenplay that Koenig was working on, and was impressed). Keonig auditioned to voice the guest character role, but was rejected (this character, like many many other guests characters in the series, was voiced by James Doohan). Koenig still managed to write himself into the show in a subtle way: the plant that Sulu discovers is called a “retlaw”, which is “Walter” spelled backwards.

Captain Kirk says “Beam us up, Scotty” again in this episode: the second and last time he says this phrase. (See also ‘The Loelei Signal’.)

We meet another refugee from the Eugenics Wars - one of the genetic scientists.

This episode includes only the second reference to the Vulcan IDIC.

And… we see Spock do a “Vulcan mind-touch” with himself!

  • M-5OPB
    6 months ago

    The Magicks of Megas-Tu (1x08)

    Production number: 22009

    Summary: While investigating the theory of creation, the Enterprise is caught inside an energy/matter tornado. After emerging from the storm, the crew encounter a world where magic works and science doesn’t.

    Rating: meh

    Points of interest:

    This episode shares a few ideas with a movie that would follow 15 years later: the writer who proposed this story started with the idea of the Enterprise meeting God in space (although this was changed to the Devil prior to writing the script); the Enterprise goes to the centre of the galaxy to meet God/Devil, and; the Enterprise learns that God/Devil is merely an alien.

    Even for an episode with “magicks” in its title, the science is not strong here. The reason for the Enterprise going to the centre of the galaxy is to find the place where new matter is continually created. Even at the time it was made, this wasn’t accurate science.

    Although Lieutenant Arex doesn’t speak in this episode, there’s some nice attention to detail when we see him in stocks along with the other crew members - and his stocks have a third hole for his third arm.

    Once Upon a Planet (1x09)

    Production number: 22017

    Summary: The Enterprise returns to the shore leave planet where the crew once took shore leave. As with their previous visit, things go wrong when the illusions turn deadly.

    Rating: Just for fun

    Points of interest:

    The crew revisits the “shore leave” planet from the live series episode ‘Shore Leave’.

    Lieutenants Arex and M’ress are both shown as active members of the bridge crew in this episode. They’re not just background.

    Listen out for the line “There is no shame in serving others when one does it of his own free will.” being said by Lieutenant Uhura. I thought this line, coming from a black character, was a nice subtle statement about the difference between servitude and service.

    I found myself admiring the watercolour backgrounds and scenery in this episode - including the opening shot of the Enterprise itself. There certainly are flaws in this series, but the artwork isn’t one of them. The animation leaves something to be desired, and the highly repetitive soundtrack is… limited and repetitive. But the backgrounds are worth watching.

    Mudd’s Passion (1x10)

    Production number: 22017

    Summary: Harry Mudd is back, this time swindling miners with a love potion.

    Rating: Just for fun

    Points of interest:

    Harcourt Fenton Mudd is back, after two appearances in the live series. He is voiced by the same actor who plays him in the live series, and this episode was written by the same author who wrote the two previous episodes.

    Nurse Chapel is back - and still in love with Spock.

    Interestingly, Uhura doesn’t appear in this episode, and Nichelle Nichols doesn’t voice any other character.

    The Terratin Incident (1X11)

    Production number: 22015

    Summary: When a strange flash of light paralyzes the entire crew of the Enterprise, they begin to shrink.

    Rating: meh

    Points of interest:

    Not very many.

    This is a return of yet another writer from the original series.

    The Time Trap (1x12)

    Production number: 22010

    Summary: The Enterprise becomes trapped in the Delta Triangle, an area of space where many starships have gone missing. To make matters worse, the ship also has to defend itself from the Klothos, a Klingon vessel captained by Kor.

    Rating: Just for fun

    Points of interest:

    The council of Elysia has a lot of familiar races, from both the live series and the animated series, including: an Orion, a Vulcan, a Klingon, an Andorian, a Phylosian, a Tellarite, a Human, a Gorn, plus some new races. It’s almost a “who’s who” of Trek races!

    Elysia, where the Enterprise and Kothos find themselves, is “more aptly described as a pocket in the garment of time” than as an alternate universe.

    Commander Kor, who appeared in the live series (and again in DS9) was not voiced here by the original actor, but by James Doohan.

    The Ambergris Element (1x13)

    Production number: 22013

    Summary: The crew of the Enterprise explore a submerged culture on a water world.

    Rating: Just for fun

    Points of interest:

    This episode was written by the writer of ‘The Lorelei Signal’.

    This is the first (and only!) appearance of the aqua-shuttle, and a re-appearance of personal lifebelts (as previously seen in ‘Beyond The Farthest Star’).

    Kirk and Spock get transformed into water-breathers during this episode, which leads Kirk to question whether he can command a ship “from inside an aquarium”.

    The Slaver Weapon (1x14)

    Production number: 22011

    Summary: A group of Kzinti divert the shuttle Copernicus and retrieve a newly discovered Slaver weapon.

    Rating: Engage!

    Points of interest:

    This story was adapted by well-known science fiction author Larry Niven, from his Known Space short story ‘The Soft Weapon’. In the original, the three protagonists are a human married couple and a Pierson’s Puppeteer. In the adaptation, Sulu and Uhura fill the roles of the human male and female while Spock fills the role of the Puppeteer - a pacifistic herbivore (this is essential to the plot). Apart from these three character replacements, the episode plays out almost identically to the original short story.

    This is the only Star Trek episode or movie set in Kirk’s time in which Kirk himself does not appear (apart from the pre-Kirk pilot ‘The Cage’). McCoy and Scott are also absent. The only ongoing Trek characters who appear in this episode are Spock, Uhura, and Sulu.

    There’s a continuity clash in this episode, where Sulu reminds the Kzinti that “The Kzinti fought four wars with humankind and lost all of them. The last one was two hundred years ago.” Given that this episode is set during Kirk’s original five-year mission, which took place in the late 2260s, this places those wars in the mid-2000s - just around the time that the Vulcans made First Contact with Zefram Cochrane. However, it is possible to reconcile these dates with some clever juggling.

    There’s another appearance of the personal lifebelts - plus the introduction of a “police web” (an immobilising device used in Niven’s Known Space universe).

    I personally dislike the basis of this episode, because it brings Niven’s Known Space into the Star Trek universe. That said, it’s commonly acknowledged as a good episode and is worth watching.

    The Eye of the Beholder (1x15)

    Production number: 22016

    Summary: Beaming down to a planet to search for the crew of a missing ship, the crew is captured by previously unknown aliens.

    Rating: meh

    Points of interest:

    Nothing to say here.

    The Jihad (1x16)

    Production number: 22014

    Summary: The Vedala, the oldest known space faring race, summon Kirk and Spock to recover the Soul of the Skorr, a stolen religious artifact that has the potential to ignite a holy war across the galaxy.

    Rating: Just for fun

    Points of interest:

    Kirk and Spock work in a small team of six people from four races to achieve a mission: two Humans, one Vulcan, and three others.

    The only obvious female in the group was also the only other Human - and she repeatedly and openly made moves on Kirk. That animal magnetism at work! Kirk admits to her, for the only time on screen, that he’s had a lot of romantic/sexual liaisons, or “green memories” as she refers to them.

    Interesting. I was going to describe how similar this is in format to ‘Mission: Impossible’ episodes, with each character being selected for a particular ability, all of which will contribute to achieving the mission. Then I did some research and found out that the writer of this episode was also a writer and story editor on the ‘Mission: Impossible’ series!

    The Pirates of Orion (2x01)

    Production number: 22020

    Summary: While Spock lies ill, Orion pirates hijack the drug shipment desperately needed to save his life.

    Rating: meh

    Points of interest:

    There’s an interesting animation error in the first few minutes: When Spock collapses on the bridge, there’s a shot with him lying in the foreground, and Kirk sitting in his captain’s chair in the background - with McCoy standing behind Kirk. Both Kirk and McCoy are shocked at Spock’s collapse. (It’s worth noting that McCoy has no lines in this scene: he’s just there.) The next scene is Kirk stabbing a communications button on his chair to get through to Sickbay - but McCoy is standing right behind him!

    The Orions (prononced “AW-ree-on”, not “oh-RYE-on” like in the live-action shows) are involved, but don’t look like the Orions we’ve seen before.

    There is a reference to the Babel Resolutions (from ‘Journey to Babel’).