This animated series continues the adventures of the USS Enterprise, taking advantage of the visual freedom of animation to present stories with more alien elements. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
This was a sort of follow-up to the original Trek series, which ended in '69, using, to a large extent, the same characters and time frame of the original 5-year mission; in fact, this is the closest we got to a 4th season of the original show. It's somewhat of a shame that this batch of 22 episodes is largely considered non-canon in the Trek mythos (there are exceptions: Capt.April, introduced/depicted in the last episode, is now regarded as the actual 1st captain of Enterprise NCC-1701 and Kirk supposedly acquired his middle name 'Tiberius' in the episode "Bem"). I suppose this may stem from an attitude of regarding animation as a different universe from the live action stuff - a less realistic universe, maybe. But, in spite of many comments dismissing this series as aimed for children, there's no degradation in script quality or thought-provoking ideas. In fact, the main difference, for me, was less use of violence or brute force to get the ideas across as the stories progressed. So, in some ways, this series adhered even more to Roddenberry's concept - the use of our minds and powers of speech to address various problems, cosmic or otherwise. Indeed, some of the episodes ("The Time Trap") fairly preached a sense of higher morality that humanity should follow. All the regular actors of the original (except Walter Koenig) returned to voice their characters, so, even in the acting dept., there was very little reduction in quality. The show also utilized the talents of many of the same writers, such as David Gerrold and DC Fontana. Koenig even had a script produced (the episode "The Infinite Vulcan").
Of course, many point to the limited animation (by Filmation) as the reason for the lack of action. Filmation was clever in reusing the same stock poses and movements of characters, placed over some impressive background paintings. The obvious advantage to the show was in depicting landscapes and giant creatures which were not possible on the original series, as well as ideas such as shrinking the crew ("The Terratin Incident"). The actor James Doohan voiced a multitude of other characters besides Scotty (Doohan was close to being overused), as did Majel Barrett, and Nichelle Nichols & George Takei also got into the act; you heard Takei as a Klingon in one episode and Nichols as a god in another. But, they did bring back a few key actors for guest roles - Mark Lenard as Sarek, for example, Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones and, of course, Carmel as the conman Harry Mudd, in episodes which functioned as sequels or follow-ups to original series episodes ("More Tribbles, More Troubles" and "Mudd's Passion"), but these actors were not credited (stock credits at the end of each episode). We also revisited the "Shore Leave" planet in "Once Upon a Planet." Chekov (and Koenig) seemed to be away on leave in these episodes (budget cuts!); instead, we saw the feline M'Ress and the extra-limbed Arex as part of the bridge crew. One bit of progressive evolution involved a more aggressive approach by the female characters: Uhura took command in one episode ("The Lorelei Signal") without so much as a by your leave and Nurse Chapel even karate chops the scoundrel Mudd in "Mudd's Passion" - so much for non-violence. What a difference just 4 years makes - clear evidence of the female liberation movement - right here in Trek!
But, the most eye-popping sequence of scenes for me was something I'd forgotten, until viewing "The Practical Joker" episode again: here we see the first use of a holodeck, in the Enterprise's 'recreation room.' So, this was not invented for the TNG show over a dozen years later! The TNG creators took the idea from an earlier Trek series! Many of the episodes were suffused with humor, usually very subtle for a supposed children's show, and main actors Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley were probably attracted to the material because of this adult approach. No, this certainly was not just a kid's show. The best episodes: "Yesteryear" - re-utilized the Guardian of Forever from "The City on the Edge of Forever" original episode, including another mind-bending time travel paradox and an expanded look at the planet Vulcan; "The Slaver Weapon" - a reworked Larry Niven science fiction story of stasis boxes containing ancient items, involving an ultimate weapon, and a great new villainous race in the Romulan/Klingon mold (but taking advantage of animation), with only Spock, Uhura and Sulu appearing as the regulars; "The Jihad" - exciting 'quest' action epic, which, despite the limits of the animation, was still as tense and suspenseful as many of the live action episodes; and "The Eye of the Beholder" - a unique perspective on zoos and intelligence, in that order; that title was also used on a Twilight Zone episode. I also liked "The Survivor," which used similar story ideas to "The Man Trap," but, as usual, without any death scenes and resulted in a more poignant version. Yes, maybe this animated series reused too many story ideas from the original, but it was still darn good Trekking. We had to wait another 5 years for the next new Trek vision - "Star Trek the Motion Picture" in '79.
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