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Star Trek: The Animated Series

Star Trek: The Animated Series (also known as The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek) is an Emmy Award winning animated science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe and a continuation of Star Trek: The Original Series. The series was aired under the name Star Trek, but it has become widely known under this longer name (or abbreviated as ST:TAS or TAS) to differentiate it from the original live action Star Trek.

Production

The series was produced by Filmation and ran for two seasons from 1973 to 1974 on NBC, airing a total of twenty-two half-hour episodes. An early Filmation proposal for this series had children assigned to each of the senior officers as cadets, including a young Vulcan for Mr. Spock. According to interviews with Norm Prescott, Paramount offered Roddenberry a substantial sum of money to abandon creative control of the project and let Filmation proceed with their "kiddy space cadet" idea. Roddenberry refused. Filmation would later develop the idea into its own original program: Space Academy.

The writers of the animated series used, essentially, the same writers' guide that was used for the live-action Star Trek: The Original Series. A copy of the "series bible", as revised for TAS, is held in the science fiction research collection at the Samuel Paley Library, Temple University, Philadelphia.

While the freedom of animation afforded large alien landscapes and believable non-humanoid aliens, budget constraints were a major concern and the animation quality was generally only fair, with very liberal use of stock shots (as was often the case with many of Filmation's shows). There were also occasional mistakes, such as characters appearing on screen who were elsewhere, or a character supposed to appear on the bridge's main viewing screen, but then appeared in front, indicating bad ordering of animation plates. These were typically isolated errors however. Occasionally, though, parts of episodes would be animated at a near-theatrical quality level.

Voice casting

The series featured most of the original cast performing the voices for their characters, except for Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), who was omitted because the show's budget could not afford the complete cast. He was replaced by two animated characters who made semi-regular appearances: Lieutenant Arex, whose Edosian species had three arms and three legs; and Lt. M'Ress, a female Caitian. James Doohan, and Majel Barrett, besides performing their characters Montgomery Scott and Christine Chapel, performed the voices of Arex and M'Ress, respectively.

Initially, Filmation was only going to use the voices of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and Majel Barrett. Doohan and Barrett would also perform the voices of Sulu and Uhura. Leonard Nimoy refused to sign up to lend his voice to the series unless Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were added to the cast — claiming that Sulu and Uhura were of importance as they were proof of the ethnic diversity of the 23rd century and should not be recast.

Koenig was not forgotten, and later wrote an episode of the series, becoming the first Star Trek actor to write a Star Trek story. Koenig wrote "The Infinite Vulcan", which had plot elements of the original Star Trek episode "Space Seed" blended into it.

As is usual for animation, the voice actors did not perform together but recorded their parts separately to avoid clashing with other commitments. For instance, William Shatner, who was touring in a play at the time, would record his lines in whatever city he happened to be in and have the tapes shipped to the studio. Doohan and Barrett, besides providing the voices of their Original Series characters and newcomers Arex and M'Ress, performed virtually all of the "guest star" characters in the series, except for a few notable exceptions such as Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harcourt Fenton Mudd, who were performed by their original actors from The Original Series. Occasional other guest voice actors were also used, such as Ed Bishop (Commander Straker on UFO) who voiced the Megan Prosecutor in "Magicks of Megas-Tu", and Ted Knight (Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show) who voiced Carter Winston in "The Survivor".

Episodes

The 22 episodes of TAS were spread out over two brief seasons, with copious reruns of each episode. Most are directed by Hal Sutherland.

All the episodes of this series were novelized by Alan Dean Foster and released in 10 volumes under the Star Trek Logs banner. Initially, Foster adapted three episodes per book, but later editions saw the half-hour scripts expanded into full novel-length stories.

Star Trek: The Animated Series was the only "Star Trek" series to not feature a cold open ("teaser") and started directly with the title sequence (although some overseas versions of the original live action series, such as that run by the BBC in the UK in the 1960s and 70s, ran the credits before the teaser).

The writing in the series benefited from a Writers Guild of America, East strike in 1973, which did not apply to animation. A few episodes are especially notable due to contributions from well-known science fiction authors:

  • "TAS)" was written by David Gerrold as a sequel to his famous episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" from the original series. Here Cyrano Jones is rescued from the Klingons, bringing with him a genetically-altered breed of tribbles which do not reproduce but do grow extremely large. (It is later discovered that these are really clusters of tribbles who function as a single tribble, and it is decided that the large numbers of smaller tribbles are preferable to the larger ones.) The Klingons, due to their hatred of tribbles, are eager to get Jones back because he stole a creature they created: a predator that feeds on tribbles. This episode was originally written with the intention of being an episode of the live-action original series, but this was vetoed by Fred Freiberger who wanted serious sci-fi episodes instead.
  • "Yesteryear" is a time-travel episode in which Mr. Spock uses "The Guardian of Forever", a time gateway from the original series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", to travel to his own childhood past. This is the only animated Trek episode written by original series and later Next Generation writer D.C. Fontana. This was the first actual appearance of Spock's pet sehlat, first mentioned in "Journey to Babel" and finally named I-Chaya in this episode. It is worth noting that Star Trek: Phase II "In Harm's Way" features the Gateway and nods at Spock's knowledge of it from this episode.
  • Larry Niven's "The Slaver Weapon", adapted from his own short story "The Soft Weapon". It includes some elements from his Known Space mythos such as the Kzinti and the Slavers. This is the only Kirk era TV or movie story in which Kirk didn't appear. This episode also has the distinction of being the only animated episode where anyone dies or is killed onscreen.
  • "The Magicks of Megas-tu", by Larry Brody, sends the Enterprise to the center of the galaxy. Its crew find themselves befriended by a devil-like alien named Lucien, whom they must defend against accusations that he has brought evil to the world of Megas-tu.

Influence on later Star Trek and Filmation series

The U.S.S. Enterprise in this series, while supposedly the same ship as from the original series, had a holodeck very similar to the one introduced on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was set approximately 80 years later. It only appeared once, in Chuck Menville's "The Practical Joker" and was known as the Rec Room. This feature was originally proposed for the original series (see, e.g., Gerrold, The World of Star Trek) but was never used.

Filmation later went on to produce the hit He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-85), which occasionally used modified character and set designs from Star Trek: The Animated Series, mostly as background material. (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe also had several Trek-similar stories, most notably "The Arena", which is very similar to Star Trek: The Original Series's first season episode, "Arena"). Later series also shared many of the stock sound effects from both Star Trek: The Animated Series and Star Trek: The Original Series. Filmation also recycled some of the background music for Star Trek: The Animated Series in their later shows Shazam!, Tarzan and the Super 7 and Sport Billy. (Some of the music had already been reused from the previous season's Brady Kids and the Treasure Island feature, and were shared with that season's Lassie's Rescue Rangers).

In addition, a few facts introduced in the animated series have been referenced in the live-action productions:

  • The holodeck makes its first appearance in "The Practical Joker", in which it is called the Rec Room.
  • Kirk's middle name, Tiberius, was first introduced in "Bem". After subsequently being referenced in several Star Trek novels (most notably the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Roddenberry), the name was conclusively established as part of the Trek canon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).
  • Amanda's maiden name, Grayson.
  • A second exit for the bridge, referenced in Franz Joseph's Star Fleet Technical Manual and seen in the refitted Enterprise and the NCC-1701-A from the first six Star Trek movies.
  • The kahs-wan ritual Spock endures in "Yesteryear."
  • Klingon commander Kor's command of the battlecruiser Klothos.
  • Doctor Phlox uses Edosian slugs in his medical bay, and Chef once served up Edosian sucker fish, similar to Earth's catfish, as a meal, in the series Star Trek: Enterprise. They come from the same planet as Lieutenant Arex, as do Edosian orchids mentioned by Elim Garak in Star Trek: Deep Space 9.
  • The Vulcan city, ShiKahr, has been referenced in multiple series (sometimes misspelt "ShirKahr"), and can be seen in an episode of Enterprise. A Vulcan city which looks very similar to the ShiKahr of Star Trek: The Animated Series was shown in the new CGI establishing shots used in the special edition of "Amok Time".
  • Some of the worlds and aliens in the series were included in the 1989 book called Star Trek: The Worlds of the Federation.

Novelties in the series

A personal force field technology known as the life support belt was seen only in Star Trek: The Animated Series. In addition to supplying the wearer with the appropriate atmosphere and environmental protection it permitted the animators to simply draw the belt and yellow glow around the existing characters, instead of having to redraw them with an environmental suit.

The episode "The Lorelei Signal" provides a rare instance in early Star Trek in which a female took (temporary) command of a starship. Due to the incapacitation of the male members of the crew, Uhura assumes command of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Scotty. Other instances occurred on the very first and very last adventures ever filmed of the original series:

  • "The Cage", in which Number One took command after the abduction of Captain Christopher Pike, and
  • "Turnabout Intruder", in which Dr. Janice Lester took over the body of Captain Kirk and assumed command.

"The Lorelei Signal" and "The Infinite Vulcan", the latter written by Walter Koenig, are rare occurrences where Captain Kirk comes close to actually saying, "Beam me up, Scotty" (long erroneously believed to be a Star Trek catchphrase), when he commands "Beam us up, Scotty." Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home arguably comes closer to it by having Kirk say "Scotty, beam me up".

Canon issues

At the end of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, all licenses for Star Trek spin-off fiction were renegotiated and the animated series was essentially "decanonized" by Gene Roddenberry's office. Writers of the novels, comics and role-playing games were prohibited from using concepts from the animated series in their works. Among the facts established within the animated series that were called into question by the "official canon" issue was its identification of Robert April as the first captain of the USS Enterprise in the episode "The Counter-Clock Incident".

The Star Trek Chronology by production staffers Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda does not include the animated series, but does include certain events from "Yesteryear". The timeline in Voyages of the Imagination dates the events of the series to 2269-2270, assuming the events of the show represented the final part of Kirk's five-year mission, and using revised Alan Dean Foster stardates.

Since Roddenberry's death in 1991 and the consequent firing of Richard H. Arnold (who vetted the licensed tie-ins for Roddenberry's "Star Trek Office" at Paramount during its latter years), there have been various references to the animated series in the various live-action series. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Once More Unto the Breach", Kor referred to his ship, the Klothos, which was first named in the TAS episode "The Time Trap". Other DS9 episodes to reference the animated series include "Broken Link", where Elim Garak mentions Edosian orchids (Arex is an Edosian) and "Tears of the Prophets" where a Miranda class starship is called the USS ShirKahr (sic) after Shikahr, the city from "Yesteryear". David Gerrold, who contributed two stories to TAS, stated in an interview his views on the canon issue:

Writer-produer D.C. Fontana discussed the TAS Canon issue in 2007:

More DS9 references to the animated series include the episode "Prophet Motive" where the title of healer is resurrected from "Yesteryear" as well. Vulcan's Forge is also mentioned in "Change of Heart", where Worf wants himself and Jadzia Dax to honeymoon there.

The Star Trek: Enterprise episodes "The Catwalk" and "The Forge" included references to "Yesteryear", the latter featuring a CGI rendition of a wild sehlat. The remastered Original Series episode, "Amok Time" featured Shikahr in the background as Spock beams up at the episode's end.

In recent years, references to the Animated Series have also cropped up again in the licensed books and comics. M'Ress and Arex, characters from the animated series, appear in the Star Trek: New Frontier novels by Peter David, in which M'Ress and Arex are transported through time to the 24th Century, and are made officers on board the U.S.S. Trident. (David's previous use of these characters, in TOS movie-era comics published by DC Comics, had been prevented by Gene Roddenberry's office.)

A race introduced in the episode "The Jihad", represented by M/3/Green, is named the Nasat in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers e-book novellas. These stories feature a regular Nasat character, P8 Blue. The Vulcan city of ShiKahr also appears in many books. Paula Block of CBS Consumer Products is responsible for approving proposals and all completed manuscripts for the licensed media tie-ins, and has granted many such uses of TAS material since Roddenberry's passing.

Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. has — as part of its license for the Star Fleet Universe series of games — incorporated many aspects of the Animated Series into its works, not least being the inclusion of the Kzinti, although in a modified form. In addition FASA used elements from the animated series in its sourcebooks and modules for its Star Trek role-playing game.

Star Trek: Enterprise producer Manny Coto has commented that had that show been renewed for a fifth season, the Kzinti would have been introduced. Starship designs were produced which closely resemble the Kzinti/Mirak ships from the Star Fleet Universe, a gaming universe that includes the boardgame Star Fleet Battles and its PC analogue Star Fleet Command.

On June 27, 2007, Star Trek's official site incorporated information from the animated series into its library section.

Ratings

This was Filmation's only hit series on NBC. The eight other shows (The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty, Archie/Sabrina Hour, Young (Space) Sentinels, Fabulous Funnies, The New Adventures of Flash Gordon, Batman & The Super 7, Kid Super Power Hour With Shazam, and Sport Billy) lasted one season or less.

The animated series was, according to the Nielsen ratings, not popular enough with young children. According to series' producers it was intended to be enjoyed by the entire family. Although the accuracy of the ratings system conducted by the ACNielsen company has been vehemently disputed by its supporters and detractors since their first implementation, these results have been cited by fans and critics as justification for the show's brief run of only 22 episodes. However, in the 70s, very few animated series went beyond a few seasons as it was usually more profitable to start a new series. The series did receive critical acclaim and a Daytime Emmy award, the first such award for the franchise. According to both Roddenberry and an NBC press release, this was the justification for six additional episodes being ordered by the network for the series' second season.

Video and DVD releases

  • The complete series was first released in the USA on eleven volumes of VHS tapes in 1989. For UK, seven volumes (1x4 episodes and 6x3 episodes on PAL VHS) from CIC Video completed the series (Released in 1992 in the UK). Although CIC-Taft Australia negotiated an Australasian release, they did not proceed with their plans.
  • A boxed set of the complete series on laserdisc, was released for the US market in 1997.
  • A Region 1 (USA) DVD box set of the show was released on November 21, 2006, and has since been released internationally for other Regions. It was the last series of Paramount's Star Trek television franchise to be released to DVD.

See also

References

External links

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