Cartoons

Cult Cartoon Essentials: Star Trek – The Animated Series

Star Trek: The Animated Series was an animated science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe following the events of Star Trek: The Original Series. The success in syndication of the original live action series and fan pressure for a Star Trek revival led to The Animated Series from 1973–1974, as the source of new adventures of the Enterprise crew, the next being the 1979 live-action feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The Animated Series was the original cast’s last episodic portrayal of the characters until the “cartoon like” graphics of the Star Trek: 25th Anniversary computer game in 1992, as well as its sequel Star Trek: Judgment Rites in 1993, both of which appeared after the cast’s last movie together in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The series was critically acclaimed and was the first Star Trek series to win an Emmy Award, which it won for “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”.

The series was produced by Filmation in association with Paramount Television and ran for two seasons from 1973 to 1974 on NBC, airing a total of twenty-two half-hour episodes. An early Filmation proposal for this series had children assigned to each of the senior officers as cadets, including a young Vulcan for Mr. Spock. According to interviews with Norm Prescott, Paramount offered Roddenberry a substantial sum of money to abandon creative control of the project and let Filmation proceed with their “kiddy space cadet” idea, but Roddenberry refused. Filmation would later develop the idea into its own original live action program, Space Academy, in 1977.

The writers of the animated series used, essentially, the same writers’ guide that was used for the live-action Star Trek: The Original Series. (A copy of the “series bible”, as revised for TAS, is held in the science fiction research collection at the Samuel Paley Library, Temple University, Philadelphia.)

While the freedom of animation afforded large alien landscapes and believable non-humanoid aliens, budget constraints were a major concern and, as was typical of most Filmation productions, the animation quality was generally only fair, with liberal use of stock shots. There were also occasional mistakes, such as characters appearing on screen who were elsewhere, or a character supposed to appear on the bridge’s main viewing screen, but then appeared in front, indicating bad ordering of animation plates. These were typically isolated errors; parts of episodes would be animated at a near-theatrical quality level.

The series featured most of the original cast performing the voices for their characters, except for Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), who was omitted because the show’s budget could not afford the complete cast. He was replaced by two animated characters who made semi-regular appearances: Lieutenant Arex, whose Edosian species had three arms and three legs; and Lt. M’Ress, a female Caitian. James Doohan and Majel Barrett, besides performing their characters Montgomery Scott and Christine Chapel, performed the voices of Arex and M’Ress, respectively.

Initially, Filmation was only going to use the voices of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and Majel Barrett. Doohan and Barrett would also perform the voices of Sulu and Uhura. Leonard Nimoy refused to lend his voice to the series unless Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were added to the cast — claiming that Sulu and Uhura were of importance as they were proof of the ethnic diversity of the 23rd century and should not be recast. Nimoy also took this stand as a matter of principle, as he knew of the financial troubles many of his Star Trek co-stars were facing after cancellation of the series.

Koenig was not forgotten, and later wrote an episode of the series, becoming the first Star Trek actor to write a Star Trek story. Koenig wrote “The Infinite Vulcan”, which had plot elements of the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” blended into it.

As is usual for animation, the voice actors did not perform together but recorded their parts separately to avoid clashing with other commitments. For instance,William Shatner, who was touring in a play at the time, would record his lines in whatever city in which he happened to be performing and have the tapes shipped to the studio. Doohan and Barrett, besides providing the voices of their Original Series characters and newcomers Arex and M’Ress, performed virtually all of the “guest star” characters in the series, except for a few notable exceptions such as Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harcourt Fenton Mudd, who were performed by their original actors from The Original Series. Occasional other guest voice actors were also used, such as Ed Bishop (Commander Straker onUFO) who voiced the Megan Prosecutor in “The Magicks of Megas-tu”, and Ted Knight who voiced Carter Winston in “The Survivor”. Nichelle Nichols also performed other character voices in addition to Uhura in several episodes, including “The Time Trap” and “The Lorelei Signal”.

4 replies »

  1. True,some aspects of the animation have not withstood the test of time. The production did as well as could be expected given the level of animation technology that was available for television in that era.
    The small budget and tight shooting schedule also were challenges for the producers.

    Still and all,they created some marvelous scripts for the show that remain entertaining to this day.

    Beyond the Farthest Star,One of Our Planets is Missing,Once Upon a Planet,The Visitor are all terrific episodes.

    D.C.Fontana’s Yesteryear episode is considered the high point of the animated series. Coincidentally it involves the Guardian from Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever which is considered by critics and fans the finest episode ever done on the live action show.

    Like

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