Weekend Trek “The Ambergris Element”

Filmation animation was renowned for, among other things, recycling animation to save money.  Now, they did the Star Trek series in the 70s, but in the 60s, they had Aquaman.  Anyway, since there are a lot of swimming scenes in this one, I do have to wonder if the recycled some of the Aquaman stuff for Kirk and Spock.

I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

On a mission to the supposedly lifeless, and mostly ocean-covered, planet Argo, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and some other guy are shocked, shocked, to learn that there are living things on the planet long thought dead.  Sensors didn’t pick up anything.  But then some giant sea serpent popped up and attacked the aquashuttle, tossing Kirk and Spock out while McCoy and the other guy managed to get away.  After a lengthy search, McCoy and Scotty find Kirk and Spock lying face down in a shallow pool.  Taking them out proves to be a bad idea because now, all of a sudden, these guys have gills.

Fortunately, McCoy rigs a water tank in Sickbay for Kirk and Spock, but Kirk can’t run a starship from a tank in Sickbay.  Oh, and he has webbed fingers now.  Clearly something happened, and McCoy finds some hormone that reminds him of ambergris from whales in the other guys’ systems, turning them into these aquatic versions of themselves.

Whale oil does that?  I had no idea.

Anyway, someone must have done that, so Kirk and Spock figure they need to dive down into the ocean and find the people responsible.  That leads to scenes of the guys swimming underwater, still wearing their shoes, and finally finding an underwater city where fish people live.  The old timers there don’t trust air breathers, believing Kirk and Spock are spies for some old enemies of theirs that, er, don’t seem to exist anymore.  The younger generation, however, wants to move beyond that and maybe befriend outsiders.

And that, more or less, is this episode.  The young Aquan helps Kirk and Spock find a formula to turn themselves back, that serpent monster comes back a few times, McCoy cures them, and Kirk even uses the Enterprise‘s phaser bank to stop some earthquakes from destroying the underwater city because they aren’t bad people.  Everyone learns a lesson aside from maybe the younger Aquans who already had that whole “let’s try talking to people” thing figured out, and they’re even going to do the transformation thing and breathe air from then on.

Is this episode bad?  No more so than any other episode of the animated series.  It’s just awfully silly with a lot of swimming to fill time.  True, Kirk gained some scales and a dorsal fin at one point, but that’s life.  Some days you find yourself stuck in a tank, other days you grow a fin, and then later you shoot phasers into a planet to stop an earthquake.  Or a seaquake.  Some kind of quake.

Let’s move on from here.

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