Viewing posts tagged Star Trek: The Animated Series

“The Unreal McCoy”: The Survivor

"Wait...Haven't we done this already?"
On the surface, there's not a whole lot interesting going on with “The Survivor”. Answering a distress signal from a one-person starship, the Enterprise crew is thrilled to discover it's registered to Federation philanthropist and hero Carter Winston, missing and presumed dead for five years. As it happens, Winston's fiance is aboard the ship: Eager to resume the relationship she goes to meet him, only to have him break her heart by saying he's not the same person he was when he proposed. It quickly turns out that Winston is quite literally not the same person anymore, as he is, in fact, a shapeshifting alien Romulan operative who goes on to assume the forms of Kirk and McCoy to divert the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone, giving the Romulans have a reason to justify impounding the ship so they can reverse engineer it. Similarities immediately appear between this episode, “The Enterprise Incident”, “The Man Trap” and any one of the million billion other evil twin stories Star Trek has done for the past decade.

And exasperation is a not entirely unwarranted reaction, as this is definitely one of the ...

“purr purr”: More Tribbles, More Troubles

The absolute pinnacle of limited animation.
Making a sequel to an Original Series episode is a self-evidently obvious thing for the Animated Series to be doing. Doubly so when the episode in question is “The Trouble with Tribbles”.

I don't think there's any disputing the fact “The Trouble with Tribbles” was the moment at which Star Trek secured its immortality. It's pretty much the definition of “iconic” and an absolutely perfect bit of television. No questions asked. In fact, perhaps the most damning evidence the season three team simply didn't understand Star Trek is to be found in Fred Freiberger saying “The Trouble with Tribbles” was too silly a thing for the show to be doing. But that said there's danger in revisiting a story like this: There's a significant risk that, in doing so, the sequel will inevitably cheapen the original's impact and retroactively damage its reputation. Sequels simply are not as good as their source material, and I'm comfortable making that a firm declaration. There are rare exceptions of course and serialized, episodic stories are another matter entirely, but as a general rule that's frankly the way it is ...

“I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman...”: The Lorelei Signal

Uhura and Chapel decide to quit the Enterprise and form an alt rock outfit.
For the fourth episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, D.C. Fontana and her team brings back Original Series veteran Margaret Armen for the first of two contributions to the new show. “The Lorelei Signal” concerns a planet of women with hypnotic powers over men who, in the manner of Sirens (or really, the Rhine Maidens from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen) lure starships to their world so they can drain the life force of their male crewmembers in order to remain eternally young and beautiful.

There is nothing in the above paragraph that evokes hope, inspiration, wonderousness or anything that embodies goodness or joy.

Margaret Armen is the single worst writer of the original Star Trek. At least Gene Roddenberry started to redeem himself a bit at the end with “Turnabout Intruder”, “Assignment: Earth” wasn't entirely unwatchable and there were some good bits in the part of the first season he oversaw. Armen, however, is some kind of Dark Mirror of D.C. Fontana: She's the only other woman writer to contribute more than two scripts during this period, and she ...

“Whatever I see, I shall devour!”: One Of Our Planets Is Missing

There's a bizarre subgenre of Star Trek stories that ape Fantastic Voyage...
The title “One Of Our Planets Is Missing” sort of lets you know right from the start what kind of story you're in for. There's a giant space cloud going around literally eating planets which the Enterprise crew notices when, in fact, one of their planets happens to go missing. It's at once the kind of delightfully mental science fiction concept that can really only be done justice to through animation, but also a plot that's simple and straightforward enough to convey in twenty minutes.

We haven't talked much yet about the difference in runtimes between Animated Series and Original Series episodes. A necessary consequence of changing from a primetime drama to a Saturday Morning Cartoon Show is that the episodes went from being fifty minutes each in the 1960s to only being twenty minutes each on the 1970s. This is largely to Star Trek's benefit: One of the biggest problems with the pulp style of pacing and structure the Original Series so often lapsed into is that it's essentially built around padding. The average pulp action serial plot is ...

“...of a mingled yarn”: Yesteryear

Godzilla vs. Spock was one of the lesser-known Godzilla films of this period...
“Yesteryear” is pure D.C. Fontana.

When returning from a mission of research into Federation history through the Guardian of Forever, Kirk is stunned to find out nobody on the Enterprise seems to recognise Spock, and that he himself doesn't recognise the person the crew is calling the ship's first officer: The Andorian Commander Thelin. A brief scan of the ship's record banks indicates that Sarek and Amanda, Spock's parents, divorced about twenty years ago after the death of their only son, Spock. This is of course, patently untrue as Spock is sitting at the table as the computer relays this information. The computer goes on to say that Amanda was later killed herself in a shuttlecraft accident. Reasoning that history has somehow been changed by their presence in the past, Kirk and Spock return to the planet and Spock recalls that the date he is said to have died is the same day he remembers being saved by his cousin Selek from an attacking wild animal. After being pressed by Kirk, Spock recalls that actually, now that he thinks about it, Selek ...

“ eternity is to time”: Beyond the Farthest Star

"Whoa, guys. Just...Just seriously. Don't drop acid before studying termite mounds."

"Enterprise log, Captain James Kirk commanding. We are leaving that vast cloud of stars and planets which we call our galaxy. Behind us, Earth, Mars, Venus, even our Sun, are specks of dust. The question: What is out there in the black void beyond? Until now our mission has been that of space law regulation, contact with Earth colonies and investigation of alien life. But now, a new task: A probe out into where no man has gone before."

The canonicity, and thus ultimate legacy, of Star Trek: The Animated Series has been a point of contention amongst fans and creative personnel since just about the day it premiered. While I've outlined my thoughts on Star Trek “canon” previously (in brief, I think it's largely hogwash) it's important to consider the general reception works like this attain, as doing so allows us to understand the ebb and flow of the overall work that is Star Trek over time.

If anything has the right to be called Star Trek though, it's surely Star Trek: The Animated Series, isn't it? It served as a ...

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