For this week’s edition of Saturday Morning Cartoons, I decided to boldly go where no man had gone before. Well, where I had not gone before. That is to say, I am checking out the first episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series. As you may know, way back in the 1960s there was this space exploration show called Star Trek. You may have heard of it. In it’s initial run, the show lasted 3 seasons, and was then promptly cancelled. The show was put into syndication, where it finally found a dedicated audience. So, what did they do to capitalize on this new found popularity? Why, they created an animated show, of course.
Star Trek: The Animated Series debut in 1973 and lasted for 2 seasons, kind of. There’s a grand total of 22 episodes. What may be notable about the series though is that most of the original cast is doing their own voices. All but Walter Koenig. He was the budgetary cut. Originally, they also hadn’t planned on using George Takei or Nichelle Nichols, but Leonard Nimoy threatened to not do Spock unless they were included to show the diversity of the 23rd Century, and because they really needed work. Koenig wasn’t forgotten by the show, and did write an episode. Since I have never actually seen the show before, I figured that I might as well start with the first episode, “Beyond the Farthest Star,” written by Samuel A. Peeples and directed by Hal Sutherland.
The episode starts off normal enough. Credits similar to the live action show. Captain Kirk starting with the star date voice over. Suddenly, they get a warning alarm. The ship is picking up speed unexpectedly and drifting off course. Spock can only describe the occurrence as hyper-gravity. At the last moment, they are able to get into orbit around the object that was rapidly pulling them in.
While in orbit, they find a very unusual starship. There’s a signal coming from it, but Spock says that the ship is completely dead. In a nutshell, they have no idea what this ship is, as they’ve never seen the metal it’s made out of, and it is 300 million years old. Kirk decides that they’re going to board this unknown ship.
Exploring the ship, the crew notes that there is a lot of similarities to insects, and that every pod of the ship has exploded from the inside. Inside the ship, Spock is still picking up signs of energy. Ha, Scotty and McCoy are starting to get what can best be described as the “heebie jeebies,” and Spock straight up called them primitive beings. He said that the feeling of something watching them is just the reaction of primitive beings when they encounter something they do not understand. Spock is savage.
They explore an inner section of the ship, and find that the air and gravity is close to Earth. Also, all of the electronics are room are on, and drain the energy from their equipment. Suddenly, the door that shut behind them becomes electrified, as if it’s trying to keep something out. After a few moments that I guess were supposed to be tension filled, but really just looked like lazy animation, a bug creature appears on a monitor. Eventually, Spock is able to translate the message from the bug creature. The gist is that the captain of that ship had decided that the best course of action was to blow everything up, and they in that room were only going to be protected until the end of the message. Sure enough, the message ends, and things start exploding. I suppose the explosions knocked out whatever had previously been blocking communication in that room, as they were able to teleport back to the Enterprise.
Oh no, something beamed aboard the ship with them, and is getting into all of the systems. Back on the bridge, everything and everyone is currently fine, but Kirk decides it’d be a good idea to arm the self-destruct switch. You know, just to be safe. Because that’s what the captain of the other ship did. And no one had any objections to this. Suddenly, systems start failing. Somehow, Scotty has gotten himself trapped in a core hatch. Also, the phaser banks activated and blasted the alien ship.
Spock is able to erect a shield around the navigation systems. Kirk deducts that the entity needs a ship to get away from the dead star. A voice comes over saying that that is correct, and threatens them to give him control of the ship. Kirk instructs Spock to manually calculate what they need to do to slingshot out of orbit. Spock helps Scotty fix the auxiliary warp drive. Instead of starting the warp drive, Kirk guides them directly toward the star. After the being gets scared that they’re going to crash the ship into the dead star, it leaves. This gives them the opportunity to perform the slingshot maneuver, and escape the orbit of the dead star. But it all seems a little odd. I guess the ship blowing up would have killed the entity, since it was afraid of that, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, as it appeared to be an energy being. But whatever.
Overall, I wouldn’t say that this episode was particularly bad, it was just really boring. As much as I love all of the actors in Star Trek, I have to say that the voice acting was very flat. There was no real range of emotions on any of the deliveries. Add in that the facial animations were very minimal, I think I saw shock once, and you get a very bland cartoon. This was a 22 minute episode, and this is going to be one of my shorter write-ups. I think the 11 minute Danger Mouse episode I did had more stuffed into it than this episode. I hate to say it, but there’s really no reason to recommend it. I don’t know if I’ll remember this episode later today.