Star Trek: The Animated Series Reaction:
“How come we always end up like this?”
- Kirk to Spock after being captured by the natives in “Bem”.
The animated series of Star Trek ran from ‘73-‘74, and had a great Scooby-Doo-like animation style. The animation in this case is meant to explore possibilities that wouldn’t have been possible in the old show. As such, we revisit some characters and locales like Harry Mudd, The Recreation Planet, and Vulcan, which now has towering spires in the desert, and doesn’t just look like California.
Also, I enjoyed some of the alien creatures, though many exist to re-hash old themes in the older show. The point of The Ambergris Element is re-hashed from The Cloud Minders. The point of The Survivor is pretty much the same as The Man Trap. But, the true reason you’ll want to watch this series (Apart from seeing the conclusion to the original 5-year-mission.) is the animation itself, which allows the crew to visit strange new worlds.
There's plenty of far space episodes, an episode on Vulcan, (“Yesteryear”) a "we're all tiny" episode (“The Terratin Incident”) and an underwater episode. The first episode “Beyond The Farthest Star” is particularly effective in showing a vast alien civilization in outer space with the animation. It was written by sci-fi author Samuel Peeples. Other returning writers include D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold, and even in a first, Walter Koenig (Chekov; who wrote a great episode “The Infinite Vulcan”.) The series itself even adds to canon. It’s here in the fantastic episode “Bem” (The crew deals with an alien who can disassemble his body!) that we first learn Captain Kirk’s middle name is Tiberius.
Despite the fact that the animation is used to good effect and adds incredibly to the “alien” environments of the series, the medium itself has a few pitfalls. For example, it has re-used shots, all the voice actors sound tired, (But, it is the original actors! Legend has it Shatner spoke his lines into a tape recorder while on vacation.) Scotty provides his best impressions for all the other aliens they meet…he even created Lieutenant Arex, the alien navigation officer. But, it is all noticeably James Doohan.
What I’m saying is, this series deserves another look. It was, in a sense, the first successful re-boot of the classic Star Trek. Which I might add, was able to re-visit episodes, keep the morality of the show, and add to canon! And the animation is something to look at! (It’s Rotoscope, I think. Anyway, it reminds me of Scooby-Doo.) Look, the notion that somehow the animated series isn’t canon is ridiculous. J.J. Abrahms, this is how you re-boot. It has the original actors, some original writers, preserves the morality tale format, and uses the “effects” to explore new alien possibilities, not re-tread old ground. Without the animated series, we’d have no Star Trek movies, and without those first movies, no Next Generation!
If you get a chance, you should watch Star Trek: The Animated Series. You can watch all 22 episodes for free on StarTrek.com, or do what I did and watch it on Netflix. After Into Darkness left a bitter taste in my mouth, it was good to see a re-boot that could be faithful to the original series. And it manages to be funny, and adventurous and add to canon! Give it a watch, and visit some alien worlds that finally don’t look like California!
(The series adds Arex and M'ress, alien officers.)
("Beyond The Farthest Star"; The "force-field belt" never caught on in later Trek series.)