As part of my ongoing rewatch of Star Trek in chronological order, I watched Star Trek: The Animated Series for the third time and realized that the Animated Series did try to go where “no live action Star Trek has gone before”:

  • Undersea civilizations
  • Aliens that aren’t just actors wearing makeup (cat aliens, three-armed aliens, a disassembling alien, …)
  • A holodeck! (Called the Rec Room in the episode “Practical Joker.”)
  • Giant alien monsters
  • People growing (a giant Spock clone!)
  • People shrinking
  • People reverse aging to children.

Of course, it all too often went where the original series had gone before. Sequels:

  • “Yesteryear”—featuring the Guardian of Forever from “The City on the Edge of Forever”
  • “Once Upon a Planet” —revisiting the planet of “Shore Leave”
  • “Mudd’s Passion” —Mudd appeared twice in TOS
  • “The Infinite Vulcan” —featuring the Eugenics Wars from “Space Seed”
  • “More Trouble, More Tribbles” —you know…

Reskinned plots:

  • “The Survivor”—like “What Are Little Girls Made Of”
  • “Time Trap”—requiring cooperating with Klingons, again
  • “The Eye of the Beholder”—the landing party are imprisoned in an alien menagerie
  • “How Sharper than a Serpents Tooth”—instead of encountering an alien worshipped as a Greek god (“Who Mourns for Adonais”), they encounter an alien worshipped as Kukulkan
  • “The Magicks of Megas-tu”—the crew meet the being originally regarded as Lucifer
  • “The Counter-Clock Incident”—the crew age backward in time instead of forward in time as in “The Deadly Years”

In general, the IMDB ratings show a decline from TOS:

  • TOS, Season 1 – 7.7
  • TOS, Season 2 – 7.5
  • TOS, Season 3 – 6.9
  • TAS, Season 1 – 6.6
  • TAS, Season 2 – 6.5

In fact, only one episode scores above the average TOS rating of 7.4: “Yesteryear”, by D.C. Fontana, at 8.0, about Spock’s childhood. Tied for second place, at 7.0, are three episodes: “More Tribbles, More Troubles”; “The Slaver Weapon”; and “The Counter-Clock Incident.”

Lower Decks shows how much is possible in an animated Star Trek, but there weren’t many cartoons intended for adults in 1972-4 when TAS was made. It was intended as an educational cartoon for children. And the writers and producers were shifting from an hour-long format to a half-hour format, so B stories had to go.

Assorted weirdness—

  • I thought the Story Records were based on The Animated Series, but they aren’t at all. They’re wretched, but I enjoyed them as a kid. Before VCRs, records with an accompanying comic book were the closest you’d get to being able to watch a TV show on demand.
  • The “Slaver Weapon” is the first episode without either Kirk or the Enterprise, focusing on Spock, Uhuru, and Sulu on an away mission. Written by Larry Niven, it makes the Kzinti part of the Star Trek universe.
  • Dr. Sarah April claims to have been the “the first medical officer aboard a ship equipped with warp drive.” Even Phlox wouldn’t claim that title.
  • Although most other Star Trek episodes had pronounced Orion as /oh-RYE-on/, the word was pronounced /OR-ee-un/ throughout “The Pirates of Orion”.
  • The crew of the USS Enterprise want you to keep America beautiful!

I discovered my new favorite quote from all of Star Trek: “Look at this place…a tank! I can’t command a ship from inside an aquarium!”

This is from “Planet of the Sea Monkeys” “The Ambergris Element.” This episode is bad even by ST:TAS standards, but I couldn’t top this fun review. (Worth clicking on for the image of Spock alone.)

Photo by Paramount on