Star Trek: The Animated Series ran for two seasons in 1973 and 1974 as part of NBC's Saturday morning cartoon line-up.
Twenty-two episodes were produced altogether. Most were directed by Hal Sutherland, though Bill Reed directed a couple. We'll get to the writers of the episodes next time, but no less personage than D.C. Fontana was the story editor.
|The animation is not great. It re-uses a lot of the same shots and (whether for budget or artistic reasons, I don't know) is particularly fond of bizarre split-screens like this.|
But, as all-around fascinating guy and Trek commentator Eugene Myers mentions here, “First off, if you’re going to enjoy this series at all you just have to make allowances for the animated format, trading cheesy sets and special effects for cheesy designs and rudimentary animation. Filmation was notorious for cutting costs; if you ever watched Super Friends or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, you know what to expect. (...) However, I got used to it once I was caught up in the story and stopped noticing how groaningly bad it looks.”
He also mentions that the guy who did the colors for the Filmation production company was color-blind. That might've been something to look into before hiring the guy, one would think!
The AV Club's official Trek-overseer, Zack Handlen agrees: “Given the presence of most of the original cast, and the surprising amount of continuity with TOS, this is Trek for fans in the best possible sense: it takes a devotee to get past the roughness, but once you accept that this is never going to be perfect, it's a charming, intelligent reward for everyone who ever wondered just what the hell was going on inside the planet of “Shore Leave,” or what Kirk's middle name really was, or what would happen if Kirk and Spock became fish-men. (Everybody wonders that last one, right? It's not just me?)”
You're not alone, Zack.
|The visual design of TOS is upheld pretty well.|
|According to the wiki, the writers used the same guide that was used for the original.|
|A copy of the series bible, as revised for TAS, is held in the sci-fi research collection at Temple University, Philadelphia.|
I'll get to the individual episodes next time, but this comment on “More Troubles, More Tribbles” by the author of Into the Dark Dimension is worth noting here: “The klingon with male-pattern-baldness waiting in line to board the Enterprise... Actually, that whole line looks more like the line for the johns at a Trek convention than a boarding party. Anyway, that particular Klingon foreshadowed what Klingons would later become in The Motion Picture.”
|Although Roddenberry claimed on several occasions the events of TAS were non-canon, many aspects of it are upheld or referenced in the Trek to come. This design for the Klingon ship, for example, appears only a few years after TAS in TMP, and as Zach notes above, it was in TAS where we learned Kirk's middle name, upheld as recently as the Abrams & co.'s Star Trek (2009.)|
|It must have been something Kirk kept close to the vest. His close friend Gary Mitchell, who thoughtfully creates this tombstone for Captain Kirk while trying to kill him in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” didn't even know.|
In addition to the original cast (all but Chekov) reprising their roles, Mark Lenard returns as Sarek, Stanley Adams returns as Cyrano Jones, and Roger Carmel returns as Harcourt Mudd. (I doubt anyone here needs any links or more information on those folks.) The animation format allows for some decidedly non-humanoid bridge personnel, as well,
|such as Lt. Arex|
|and Lt. M'Ress.|
|Ms. M'Ress is particularly popular with one member of my household. Meee-OWW! |
(JULY 2013 EDIT: RIP, Big Boy.)
All other voices provided by:
|and Majel Barrett, also the voice of the computer in later Trek series. (As well as Mrs. Roddenberry, in case anyone lives under a Horta.)|
TAS hasn't inspired the same level of manic fandom that accompanies most of Trek's other incarnations. Part of that is due to its dated animation, no doubt, or its relative unavailability for decades. But that did not stop Curt Danhauser from creating this site, not to mention his own episodes. Non-canon, of course. (Someone should do a spin-off/ unauthorized-sequel to one of his episodes, actually, just for the non-canon-to-the-fourth-power madness of it all. Not that that's a knock on his episodes, or any non-canon stuff; more power to you, Trekkers.)
Or Trekcore from compiling this pretty spot-on “Next Voyage” trailers for the TAS episodes in the style of TOS previews:
|That “SPOCK TWO!!!” bit at the end really cracks me up.|
It's available to stream or rent via Netflix/ Amazon nowadays and should be available on Blu-Ray release sooner or later.
Not much else to say, this time around, except that a lot of people with whom I've discussed TAS over the years (as mentioned last time, I came to it pretty late, only within the past couple of years) remember it less from the tv show and more from the Alan Dean Foster novelizations of the episodes from the 70s.
|ADF was one of the very first sci-fi writers on my personal radar.|
While I no longer have copies of either of the above, I've still got a couple of the below:
ADF was also the man credited with putting together the story for The Motion Picture, so, more about him when we get to the movies.
My TAS least-favorite-to-favorite rankings!
My TAS least-favorite-to-favorite rankings!
(Above clip NSFW, dialogue from Truck Turner)