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Star Trek: The Animated Series

Entry updated 12 November 2020. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (1973-1974; original title Star Trek; vt The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek). Filmation Associates, Norway Productions, Paramount Television. Creator and executive consultant Gene Roddenberry. Story editor and associate producer D C Fontana. Directed by Bill Reed and Hal Sutherland. Writers include D C Fontana, David Gerrold, Stephen Kandel, Walter Koenig, Chuck Menville, Larry Niven and Howard Weinstein. Voice cast includes Majel Barrett, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and George Takei. 22 24-minute episodes. Colour.

Though the original Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, its success in syndication led to the commissioning of this animated series. Most of the main cast returned: Captain Kirk (Shatner), Spock (Nimoy), Doctor McCoy (Kelley), Uhura (Nichols), Sulu (Takei), Scotty (Doohan) and Nurse Chapel (Barrett). Budgetary constraints meant not all the original actors could be hired, so – after a proposal that Nichols's and Takei's roles be played by Barrett and Doohan was dropped when Nimoy objected to the show's only non-white actors being excluded – Koenig (who had played Chekov) drew the short straw, although he did write an episode. His role was taken by an Alien, Lieutenant Arex (Doohan).

The stories included a 300-million-year-old alien Spaceship (see Time Abyss) orbiting a dead Star; an energy being invading the Enterprise; Time Travel and Time Paradox; a planet-eating sentient cosmic cloud; Pocket Universes, space pirates, Shapeshifting aliens, the crew Miniaturized, a backwards-running universe, mad Computers, intelligent plants, god-like beings and Identity Transfer; also, tribbles, a giant Spock and beautiful Vampire women that drain men's lifeforce. The latter episode gives Uhuru a chance to shine, commanding the Enterprise – though some of its Feminism is undermined by having Spock make the key decisions.

With the familiar cast and many writers who had written for the original show, plus Roddenberry and Fontana in charge, it is unsurprising that this feels very much like a continuation of what has gone before: most stories, whether good or bad, would not have seemed out of place in the earlier series. The animation is limited (though the opportunity is taken to make aliens look less like people in rubber masks and to vary the planetary landscapes) and the majority of the cast's inexperience with voice acting is noticeable. Leaving aside the (substantial) pleasure of experiencing the familiar characters again (with some amusing banter) the quality of the episodes is by and large unexceptional, ranging between poor and fairly good. Larry Niven's "The Slaver Weapon", based on his Known Space novella "The Soft Weapon" (February 1967 If), is the strongest.

Despite introducing much that is now part of the franchise – such as the Virtual Reality Holodeck, here called the Recreation Room; Spock's childhood, in the episode "Yesteryear"; and how the "T" in James T Kirk stands for "Tiberius" – Roddenberry held that the animated series was not canon, though Fontana and Gerrold treated it as such. Since Roddenberry's death, however, it has generally been accepted that these 22 stories (originally broadcast as two seasons) are effectively season 4 of the original series. [SP]

see also: Star Trek: Lower Decks.


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