One student explores the best moments from the animated spin-off
After the original Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, it went into syndication shortly afterward. Since syndication was breathing life into the series, an effort was made to bring it back to television, and it came along fairly quickly. Star Trek: The Animated Series (known officially as The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek) ran for 22 episodes from Sept. 8, 1973 to Oct. 12, 1974 and is technically the second series following the original.
Produced by Filmation Animation in conjunction with Paramount Television, the series aired on Saturday mornings and were a half-hour in length, and it boldly went where no part of the franchise had gone before. Thanks to animation, viewers got to see alien landscapes that would have been too hard to visualize in a live-action version.
Like The Original Series, The Animated Series featured almost the entire original cast, sans Walter Koenig due to budgetary constraints, but he got to write an episode called “The Infinite Vulcan.” Koenig’s role of Chekov was instead played by a newly-created character, Lieutenant Arex, voiced by James Doohan, who played him in addition to his regular role of Scotty and other male characters. In addition, to save money—sans a few exceptions—Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and Majel Barrett played multiple roles in the series. To this day, it is not considered canonical (original creator Gene Roddenberry had said that on numerous occasions in interviews), and is the only Star Trek series to win an Emmy for Best Series, winning one for the 1974-1975 season. Presented in no particular order, here are my top 10 Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes.
1. “Yesteryear” (aired Sept. 15, 1973)
A sequel of sorts to the Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” Spock is found not to exist when he, Kirk, and a historian travel back from the past of a distant world. Spock must time travel back to the time of his Kahs-wan ritual, a ritual of endurance inside Vulcan’s notorious Forge. A lot of current elements of Spock were revealed here, including an instance of him being bullied for his half-human heritage, something that got its “canonical” appearance in the 2009 film. To add additional authenticity, Mark Lenard returns as Sarek, Spock’s father. Lenard and two others are the only actors to reprise their roles from The Original Series.
2. “More Tribbles, More Troubles” (aired Oct. 6, 1973)
Another sequel to a popular episode (this time it is “The Trouble With Tribbles”), Cyrano Jones (voiced by original actor Stanley Adams) escapes with a Klingon Tribble predator called a Glommer and seeks refuge aboard the Enterprise. He brings along his famous tribbles and discovers that these tribbles don’t multiply, instead they get fat and—once phasered—become a whole tribble colony. All of the familiar gags from the original (including the one where Kirk sits on a tribble) are all updated for this sequel.
3. “The Infinite Vulcan” (aired Oct. 20, 1973)
This episode deals with the issue of eugenics, similar to “Space Seed.” In this episode, Kirk and a landing party investigate the new planet of Phylos, a world with quite unusual humanoids who are made up entirely of plants. Also on the planet is the scientist Dr. Stavos Keniclius, a student of the Eugenics Wars. Keniclius says that the galaxy is in need of order and he will try to impose it with the Phylosians, who believe in the same philosophy. The title of the episode refers to a giant version of Spock in order to help Keniclius achieve his goal. This episode was written by Walter Koenig, who got an opportunity to write an episode following his snub of being a part of the Enterprise crew in this series.
4. “Mudd’s Passion” (aired Nov. 10, 1973)
The third and final installment of the Mudd trilogy, following “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd,” has some hilarious elements as well. In this installment the Enterprise crew picks up notorious criminal Harcourt Fenton Mudd (voiced by original actor Roger C. Carmel) who has sold love crystals to a primitive mining colony. When several of the crystals break and hit the air supply ducts, the crew realizes the crystals actually do work and begin to feel affectionate towards one another.
5. “The Time Trap” (aired Nov. 24, 1973)
In this episode, the Enterprise and a Klingon ship, the Klothos, become trapped in the Delta Triangle, a region of space where starships have been disappearing since ancient times. They also become a part of Elysia, the name of the pocket in the space-time continuum where time moves slowly, led by a Vulcan named Xerius.
6. “The Slaver Weapon” (aired Dec. 15, 1973)
In the only animated Star Trek episode to not feature the Enterprise or Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, or Mr. Scott, Spock, Sulu and Uhura are traveling by shuttlecraft to drop off an ancient weapon discovered on a planet belonging to a race called the Slavers, who ruled the galaxy millions of years ago. Unfortunately, another race called the Kzinti also want the weapon and take control of the Federation. The Kzinti are never seen again, but a planned fifth season episode of Star Trek: Enterprise would have brought the Kzinti into the franchise.
7. “The Jihad” (aired Jan. 12, 1974)
The Enterprise has been summoned to an asteroid to attempt to find the Soul of the Skorr, a religious artifact of the Skorr people who are an alien avian race that appear only two times in The Animated Series and this was their last appearance in Star Trek ever (maybe they’ll make an appearance in the new series, we’ll never know). However, if the artifact is not found, the Skorr, previously known as a warrior race, would launch a holy war on the rest of the galaxy.
8. “The Practical Joker” (aired Sept. 21, 1974)
The Enterprise comes into contact with a mysterious cloud to avoid the Romulans and upon exiting it they discover the computer is behaving erratically. The computer begins to play practical jokes on the crew, ranging from changing the air supply to nitrous oxide (laughing gas), to simple ones like writing “Kirk is a jerk” on one of Kirk’s uniforms. The Recreation Room—a precursor to The Next Generation’s Holodeck—makes its debut here.
9. “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth” (aired Oct. 5, 1974)
An alien starship makes contact with the Enterprise and it turns out to be a version of Kukulkan, an ancient God from Mayan and Aztec theology. This also marks the first appearance of a Native American crew member aboard a Federation starship, 20 years before Robert Beltran was cast to play Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager.
10. “The Counter-Clock Incident” (aired Oct. 12, 1974)
The finale of The Animated Series has the Enterprise accidently traveling to an antimatter universe where everything flows backward, including time itself. The episode also makes the first mention of Robert April, dating back to the earliest days of developing The Original Series where April was made the captain of the Starship Enterprise by Gene Roddenberry.
Those are the top 10 episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series. There aren’t many left, but if there were any that you feel should have been mentioned, let us know on Facebook or Twitter!
Photo: (CC BY 2.0 by Daniel I Scully)