Star Trek: The Animated Series

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"Star Trek Animated" redirects here. For the fanzine, see Star Trek Animated (Star Trek zine).
Fandom
Name(s): Star Trek: The Animated Series
Abbreviation(s): STA, ST:TAS, TAS
Scope/Focus: Memory Alpha; Wikipedia
Date(s): September 8, 1973-October 12, 1974
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Star Trek: The Animated Series ran for just over a year. The series used almost all of the original cast's voices (minus Walter Koenig), and animation allowed for more aliens and fantastical plots and sets. The animated series introduced a three-armed, three-legged, long-necked, alien member of the bridge crew, named Arex, and a cat-like alien crew member named M'Ress.

the crew
a 1973 letter by David Gerrold encouraging fans support the show by passing this flyer on to fan clubs and other places, to write letters

Although the show never caught on with all fans, many elements within it carried over into fanon and canon. Just a few:

  • Amanda's maiden name, Grayson
  • the appearance of sehlats
  • Kirk's middle name was revealed in this series as Tiberius
  • Spock was bullied as a boy
  • the Recreation Room, a precursor to the holodeck
  • Klingon commander Kor's command of the battlecruiser Klothos.

The show was heavily promoted by fans and by D.C. Fontana in newsletters and letterzines, often accompanied by pleas to "give it a chance." One source of detailed info about the show is In Her Own Words: An Interview with Dorothy Fontana (1974).

A letter from David Gerrold in Star Trek Action Group #2 (June/July 1973) implored fans to watch the new show, saying "this is NOT a kiddie show."

See the transcription of a speech: I'd like to talk about STAR TREK, past, present and future, and I don't know whether you're going to like what I have to say. by D.C. Fontana.

See David Gerrold's 1973 comments at You have asked what you can do to help bring STAR TREK back on the air..

In 1974, Gerrold had a lot to say about this series in 2-5YM Interview with David Gerrold.

From Gene Roddenberry, an "Executive Memo":

With respect to the "new" STAR TREK, I think we should be careful that we do not get the wrong idea about the animated version. First, it is not aimed to be a "kiddies' show", although it will appear during the Saturday morning childrens' hour. I asked for and obtained creative control and intend to see it presented, within the limits of animation, as STAR TREK was originally presented in the evening. We all still believe that children are much more intelligent than generally assumed by the television industry and that the STAR TREK animation version should aim at the same quality as the original show.

Why are we doing it? First, we feel it will help keep STAR TREK alive and success in an animated version will only strengthen our chance of getting back on the air in the evening, or into the movie house as a feature release of STAR TREK. Next, the animation will allow us to do some special effects, characters and stories which are impossible in a live version. Finally, it is a source of income for the stars and other people involved in STAR TREK, all of whom would like to keep eating regularly while they wait for the original show to return to the air. Sincerely yours, GENE RODDENBERRY, Executive Producer, STAR TREK [1]

Is It Canon?

From an undated interview with David Gerrold, who contributed two stories to TAS:

Arguments about "canon" are silly. I always felt that Star Trek Animated was part of Star Trek because Gene Roddenberry accepted the paycheck for it and put his name on the credits. And DC Fontana—and all the other writers involved—busted their butts to make it the best Star Trek they could. But this whole business of "canon" really originated with Gene's errand boy. Gene liked giving people titles instead of raises, so the errand boy got named "archivist" and apparently it went to his head. Gene handed him the responsibility of answering all fan questions, silly or otherwise, and he apparently let that go to his head. [2]

Writer-producer D.C. Fontana discussed the TAS Canon in 2007:

I suppose "canon" means what Gene Roddenberry decided it was. Remember, we were making it up as we went along on the original series (and on the animated one, too). We had a research company to keep us on the straight and narrow as to science, projected science based on known science, science fiction references (we didn’t want to step on anyone's exclusive ideas in movies, other TV shows, or printed work). They also helped prevent contradictions and common reference errors. So the so-called canon evolved in its own way and its own time. For whatever reason, Gene Roddenberry apparently didn’t take the animated series seriously (no pun intended), although we worked very hard to do original STAR TREK stories and concepts at all times in the animated series. [3]

Fan Art

Fan Craft

Fans Online

Fan Reaction

1973

As far as the stories go, they are not entirely up to par with the original. A few resemble former episodes, and some take the crew to planets they have already visited. There is some kind of new monster every week. There are exceptions, however, and the 22 minutes of air time severely limits the story." She also points out that the Starfleet uniforms are the same, except that the men's trousers are grey instead of black and that the planet scenes are marvelous but the latter is due to the fact it's easier and cheaper to draw them than to build a soundset. [4]

1974

Now that the animated Star Trek is well into reruns and is on a half hour later, most of you have been able to see quite a few of the episodes. A lot of you like it, but there are a few of you out there that don't like it or down tight hate it. To these people it is still a cartoon (SHUDDER!!) and think of it as such. Agreed it does have its bad points, but you must remember that it is only animation and you can only do so much with animation. Also the fact that its only a half hour long doesn't help it any. The biggest complaints that I have found with the animation is not with the story, so much but with the artwork. Things like spools of tape on the Enterprise (in the computer, "The Time Trap") and other things like pink tribbles (David Gerrold was not at all happy with that) and red photon torpedoes etc... I have also found that some of the plots used in the animation resemble those used in the Star Trek comic book "The Time Trap" and S.T. comic book number 15 "Museum at the End of Time" have the very same plot). Filmation is doin' a good job but are some thing that need work. We all hope (and if enough people write in about it) the animated Star Trek will come back next Season on a week night and be a full hour long. [5]

It is my opinion that this program would have received more acceptance had it not been for the propaganda campaign that proceeded it. I for one, would have watched it- with an open mind, regardless. But after the propaganda blitz of fandom's so-called 'big wigs,' I be came quite skeptical. After all, when too many people start touting something it must be pretty bad, otherwise it could probably sell itself.

They blew the 'quality' of the program out of proportion, desperately trying to convince us that it was our only salvation. Well, the product they were selling failed them. It just did not measure up to the expectations they painted for us. I feel that if it's a poor substitute in our eyes, they're responsible.

[...]

As a cartoon, it is equaled only by the late Sealab 2020 (also of NBC) in terms of quality, art work, scripts and con cepts. Both programs are obviously well researched and far outshine their Saturday morning peers on all levels. Cartoons are two dimensional renderings. Due to to this and budget limitations, their characters often (if not i always) appear stiff and wooden, i and backgrounds and movement sequences are constantly repeated to indicate time, size or distance. In comparison to the media we are used to, it is inferior and phoney. But we can't compare film and cartoons, they share no common bonds, excepting the film which records them. Therefore, as a cartoon, one must admit it is excellent. If, however, this were a movie cartoon, with a large budget and a staff of people (artists) who knew what ST was about, it could be better. As an artist, I know that a lot more could have been done with the media. The product was made without Star Trek* s main ingredient, Imagination. Everything looks alike, backdrops, 'bug-eyed monsters', crew men(?), everything. And worst of all, everything is done in the same colors, week after week. As Science Fiction, there is a slight problem. Most Sci-fi is in the form of film or books. Both media far surpass the TV-cartoon in quality and style. Therefore, as a Science Fiction entity, I feel it canft measure up quality-wise. Its main limitations, media and time, prevent it from adequately utilizing the firm Science Fiction foundation of its plots.

The only fault I find with most of the scripts, other than that they are either inadequately or too rapidly resolved, is that they are often redresses of established Sci-fi or old STs (eg. "One of Our Planets Is Missing") This in itself wouldn't be so bad, if they would do something novel with them. As they are now, the are predictable if you are a Sci-fi reader or an old STfan. The 'live' ST was rarely predictable (unless you're seeing it in the fortieth rerun or are watching a 3rd season one), why shouldn't its 'son' be?

[...]

Star Trek? They've scrapped values and philosophy for voices! It’s not the stars that most of us watch it for. It’s the total concept, which includes the Kirk/Spock, , Spock/McCoy, McCoy/Kirk/ Spock interactions and the divergent points of view and philosophies they represent. Without these key ingredients, you have a kiddie 'sci-fi' show that uses ST-like characters. If the characters don’t mean something, and aren’t people you can,, in some way, identify with, you can’t maintain viewer interest (hence Starlost’s failure). This goes for films and cartoons. This void in the cartoon makes most Strekkers as comfortable watching it as Rockerfeller [sic] would be living in a Ghetto.

For three years, plus the rerun years, our minds have been tantalized by the epic works of the late Gene L. Coon, the one and only Roddenberry, Miss Fontana, Harlan Elison [sic] and other masters of their field. We are used to quality of script and acting, so what did Paramount throw us? — a moving comic book. (An animated fanzine? — No, they would have better artwork.)

Even with live actors doing these scripts, they would fail. The key ingredients are missing. If you think about your favorites, you will note that they are usually the ones which were well rounded with the characters humanized in some way, and an excellent plot and storyline.

Yesteryear, Tribbles, Time Trap, The Slaver Weapon and a few others were, in my opinion, Star Treks. The rest merely Trekkie appeasement. (("Let them hear Spock's voice, maybe that'll stop them from writing those letters.))

[...]

What happened to The Loreli Signal? We've all been waiting for Uhura's turn at the Com. After all, she is ranking officer after Scotty. I feel that that program was a cop out. It had a good premise but was poorly done. Why, in the name of all that's logical, would she take over the ship and then wait for a rescue order, when rescue was her intent when she took over? It can't be explained away as the Illogic of Woman, because her training as an officer superceeds [sic] it. The female of the species may be illogical, but what she did was ridiculous. 'Nough said. [6]

1975

Despite super-limited animation and terrible cases of underacting from the cast, the series was an intelligent one, compared to its competition. Compared to the old series, it suffered dreadfully. [7]

1976

After reading about Gene Roddenberry's problems with Mr. Spock, I find it rather amusing/surprising that two other aliens should be introduced into the series. (I must admit that I would like to see Lt. M'Ress in a live action version.) I think that, with the live action series the actors were able to pull up a not very good story and make it at least interesting, but with animations this, is not possible. This means that the stories have to be good to start with; however in 22 minutes this is going to be very difficult to maintain. It would be very interesting if someone would write "The Making of the Animated STAR TREK" so that the problems and difficulties met with in the production of the live action and animated versions could be compared... From talking to people who are not STAR TREK fans as such but do watch the programme (yes, such creatures do exist!) I gather that the response to the animations has not been as good as the response to the live action version. However since my survey (?) was carried out while I was working in an office and most of the people I asked were female it could merely be the absence of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the rest of the cast in the flesh! One thing which surprised me, I had read the "Log One' book before I saw the episodes and I was pleased by the way Alan Dean Foster had kept to the programme. What did not please me was the introduction by the original writer of several pieces of equipment which wore not in the original series. (Like the Bridge Defence System and the Life Support Belts.) [8]

1979

Way back in 1973 something happened that promised STAR TREK a whole new image and a whole lot of new viewers. Avid fans were already disgruntled because the best thing that had ever happened to science fiction on television had been pulled, despite all their efforts, and the news of this deviation shocked their already overburdened systems.

The gallant Enterprise and her noble crew were to ride again, albeit in a slightly different guise. Filmation Studios announced the new, animated STAR TREK - to a chorus of dissenting hisses!

No longer the slightly paunchy captain with care-worn features, or the 'lived-in' face of the cynical but much-loved doctor. Instead the well-known characters created by Gene Roddenberry were to be miraculously transformed into cartoon -characters by Filmation Studios, from which Batman, Superman, Aquaman and other delights of the wonderful world of cartoons had emerged.

Within the obvious economic limitations Filmation Studios claimed it made up for the limited animation (which it did at least admit to) by the quality scripts, voice tracks and art designs used. It was even suggested - somewhat rashly - that the cartoon might surpass the original, as there would be no patently fake studio creations representing alien landscapes.

A number of the most zealous "Trekkies" were so incensced at the idea that they launched numerous petitions and crusades to get the project taken off the air before it had even had time to draw breath.

But there were some consolations. Filmation Studios had had the good sense to engage William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelly and a large proportion of the original crew to record the voices. At least if you closed your eyes while it was on you could pretend it was the real Gene Roddenberry was engaged in a creative capacity "so as to ensure that the show is faithful enough to the original to satisfy the purists... Star Trek will be Star Trek, with only minor alterations. They dare do it no differently."

Many of the programme's original scriptwriters were engaged, with Dorothy Fontana as script consultant. They wanted to avoid the usual hackneyed drivel, - comforting in some small measure, I suppose.

So what was STAR TREK to lose? In America N.B.C. television had it slotted into the Saturday morning line-up at peak viewing time - 10.30 a.m. A lot of the violence that might have been in the original evening shows had to go - after all, we mustn't corrupt the children (who revel in blood and gore,) must we? And "Trekkies" were also told that there would be no real sex element to speak of either - same reasoning.

However, in spite of these "minor alterations," it would still be the same STAR TREK we all knew and loved, and not just another stereotyped kids' cartoon show to watch over cornflakes and the week-end papers. But alas, all these brave promises came to nothing. As far as most people were concerned, the twenty-two animated STAR TREK cartoons, which were screened in Britain in 1974, were a dismal failure.

The series was transmitted twice, except for three episodes; "The Magicks of Megus-Tu," "Bem", "Mudd's Passion."

Perhaps they thought the public might grow to like them the second time around! The British rights, once held by Paramount T.V., have since expired and thankfully there are no further plans to revive them. The cartoons have hopefully bitten the dust once and for all.

For in spite of all of the efforts to recapture the spirit and spontaneity which made STAR TREK a veritable institution in itself, there is really very little to commend it to STAR TREK fans.

What we are left with is not much more than a stereotyped kids' cartoon show, best watched with the television turned off!

From The Clipper Trade Ship #48 (July 1985):

As for my dislike of animated Treks, I admit it all began at an Equicon, when DC Fontana announced their existence by saying "their" (Filmation's) animation was superior to Hanna Barbera's et. al., which knowing damn well the reasons it was called "limited animation" in the first place, I took immediate and ever-lasting umbrage at it. Also, her insistence that they weren't "cartoons" but "animated episodes" rankled me no end as well. Hell hath no fury like a Bullwinkle fan scorned. [9]

Further Reading and Meta

Notes

  1. ^
    A new Star Trek: the Animated Series Web site has emerged, at:

    http://www.mainengineering.simplenet.com/tas_main.html

    This site features high-quality screen-grab images (including a few of our favorite Caitian) and sounds. There's also a fan art section, virtual postcards, and a Message Board where you can exchange ideas with other Animated Series fans. Be sure to check out the "Featured Episode"--an entire TAS show in Real Audio format, along with pictures and AVI files.

    Paul S. Gibbs comment

References

  1. ^ printed in a flyer for Equicon #2, reprinted in Star-Borne #11/12
  2. ^ The David Gerrold TAS Interview
  3. ^ D.C. Fontana On TAS Canon (and Sybok), July 22, 2007
  4. ^ from Star Trek Action Group #9 (September 1973)
  5. ^ from Sub-Space #1
  6. ^ by Germaine Best in Tetrumbriant #1/2 (April 1974)
  7. ^ from Star Trek Today #6
  8. ^ from Star Trek Action Group #17 (April 1976):
  9. ^ from Starship Exeter Organisation Newsletter v.2 n.5 (February 1979)