So, I managed to get, on average, roughly 800-1,000 words each for most episodes of the original Star Trek run. But now we’re looking at the animated series that ran for 22 episodes over two seasons of Saturday morning cartoon fun. Will I manage the same amount of words?
Probably not. These episodes run about 20 minutes each. I doubt I’d be able to say that much.
Actually, I think I can say a bit on this first episode. I saw a YouTube video recently on the series’ background.and how it came to be. So, I’ll say a little about that now.
Essentially, the animated series acts something like a continuation of the original show. Everyone involved saw certain advantages to going the animated route. Animation could do what the live action show’s limited budget wouldn’t allow. There could be some real creativity on this one that the original show just couldn’t pull off.
But then there’s the other problem: the animation studio was Filmation. Now, over the course of the company’s lifetime, Filmation did do other animated revival/spin-off shows, often with the original casts, for properties like Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, and even a Batman series featuring the voices of Adam West and Burt Ward. So, getting the original Trek cast back was entirely in the company’s wheelhouse.
However, animation requires money too, and Filmation was, like many TV-animation specialists in those days, not exactly a studio known for big budgeted shows. The animation often repeats itself, and as much as having the concept of “life support belts” is a cool way to show crewmen walking around in, say, the vacuum of space, it also means they don’t have to draw characters in spacesuits. Heck, Filmation tried to get away with not hiring back a few of the original cast members. They’d asked James Doohan and Majel Barrett if they could also play Sulu and Uhura, respectively. Only Leonard Nimoy, threatening to walk otherwise, got Nichelle Nichols and George Takei hired, and the two needed the work at the time.
As for Walter Koenig, well, he did write one episode..
But for fans, they still got Star Trek back. For this pilot episode, we can see some attempts at pushing boundaries. There’s an alien starship that once held an insect-like crew, a transporter tech with a great handlebar mustache, and one alien crewman named Arex, voiced by Doohan though he doesn’t speak here, who had three arms and supposedly three legs but was never seen anywhere but behind the ship’s navigation console in Chekov’s usual spot. Doohan, instead, supplies a voice for the episode’s villain, a disembodied being who has taken control of the Enterprise.
The script for this one actually came from a Trek veteran, and it shows a bit. Kirk does some fancy (if so-so animated) flips to save the day, Spock analyzes, McCoy frets about the health of the crew, and Scotty for the health of his engines. There are some cartoony sound effects we probably wouldn’t have seen before, but Kirk bluffs his way out, tricking the entity out of his ship, only to have it call mournfully to come back because it’s so lonely.
Hey, maybe if you didn’t try to muscle people into doing what you wanted, they’d stick around longer. Stupid entity.
If anything, the episode feels like it rushed through a standard Trek plot in half the runtime. The end result is…fine. Poorly animated, but the cast is there to bring some life to the characters even if the animators can’t. Heck, they apparently all worked together for the first three episodes before going to separate recording sessions. But I’m not expecting much from the Animated Series aside from maybe some unintentional laughs.
We do have a giant Spock in one episode.