A Brief Look At Star Trek: The Animated Series

trek animated

Back in the mid ’70s, the Star Trek animated series was literally one of the few outlets that Star Trek fans had when they were in need of new Trek content. This may seem odd given all the video games, books and whatnot that exists today for Star Trek, but in those times the animated series was the closest thing to new Trek. After all, it was executive produced by the original show’s creator Gene Roddenberry, written by many of the original show’s writers and voiced by most of the original actors.

It may seem easy to dismiss the cartoon today by some elitists who criticize the crude animation and simplistic story lines. But there was a bit more to the cartoon than what was on kzinthe surface. Remember these cartoons aired on Saturday mornings and were under strict parental guidelines. Yet, despite the limitations the series stood out. It even won a Daytime Emmy award for “Best Children’s Series”. Many of the scripts were penned by noted sci-fi writers like Larry Niven (who introduced his warlike aliens the Kzinti in the episode “The Slaver Weapon”), David Gerrold, and D.C. Fontana. Even Walter Koenig wrote one script for the series. In many instances, the series followed up with favorite characters like Harry Mudd and situations like the tribbles coming back to infest the Enterprise.

But more importantly, the animated series was  true to the spirit of Star Trek. Amid the children-oriented trappings of the episodes were morality tales and interesting sci-fi concepts. For example, the final episode “The Counter-Clock Incident” dealt with the value of old people and how they can still make a difference. In the episode “Yesteryear”, considered by many to be the best episode, the story examined the reality of losing a pet, which is traumatic to children.

yesteryear

One issue with the series is about whether or not it is considered canon in the Star Trek lore. For years, Gene Roddenberry and other insiders expressed the belief that the cartoon was not canon. However, elements of the show did make their way into Star Trek-related works and even episodes of spinoff shows. For example, a lot of background information about Vulcan and Spock’s youth that was introduced in “Yesteryear” have resurfaced in other Star Trek shows and books like the Star Trek Encyclopedia. Even James Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius, was first revealed in the cartoon and later confirmed in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, certain features of the animated show were considered canon by Paramount Studios.

Finally, in 2007, the Star Trek official website declared that the show is officially canon. Reinforcing this are statements from Gerrold and Fontana that the show represented the fourth year in the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Think of it this way, the episodes were just simplistic retellings of what actually happened to Kirk and the Enterprise crew during the fourth year.

kirk magicIt is hard to believe that over forty years later, the Star Trek animated series is still looked on fondly by fans. Just like its parent series that it is based on, the Star Trek animated series was more than just a children’s show. At the same time, before the film series and the spinoff TV shows, the animated series was something for fans to treasure and relive the Star Trek viewing experience. It’s regrettable that a new animated show based on Star Trek has not been produced since then. The rich lore of the Star Trek universe will provide so much material for new animated adventures and help keep the fandom thriving much in the same way that Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels has done for the other big sci-fi franchise. This is something for CBS Studios to think about in the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

Lewis T. Grove

Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 1: Episodes 31-50

trek crew

Star Trek, the landmark science fiction TV series will celebrate its 50th anniversary six months from now. It is hard to believe that 50 years after its debut, people are still fascinated with the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and the rest of the Enterprise crew. As some of you might have noticed, there has been an increased number of posts lately focused on Star Trek and its spinoffs and this will continue throughout the year. To commemorate the awesome occasion of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, along with more articles devoted to Star Trek, we’re going to countdown the top fifty episodes from the original series in separate posts. Let us commence…

50.  “A Taste of Armageddon” At a planet at war with another world, a  landing party led by Captain Kirk is sentenced to death because a computer determines them to be casualties in a battle simulation.

taste of armageddon

49. “The Paradise Syndrome” On a planet settled by Native Americans, a weary Kirk loses his memory and becomes a member of a local tribe who see him as a savior.

paradise syndrome

48. “Whom Gods Destroy” Kirk and Spock are trapped in an insane asylum by a former Starfleet captain (Steve Ihnat) with delusions of grandeur. This episode featured Yvonne Craig as a voluptuous, green Orion patient.

whom gods destroy

47. “What Are Little Girls Made of?” Kirk and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) travel to a planet to search for her fiancé (Michael Strong), a famous archeologist who went missing. Instead, they discover a plot to replace key Federation personnel with androids, including Kirk.

what are little

46. “The Changeling” The Enterprise encounters a long-lost Earth probe that was enhanced alien AIs and mistakenly thinks Kirk is its creator. The Enterprise captain then struggles to control the increasingly hostile and deadly probe.

changling

45. “The Squire of Gothos” Kirk and the Enterprise crew contend with Trelane, a powerful but immature being (William Campbell) who delights in torturing the crew with his vast powers. Trelane was clearly an early influence for Q who appeared in the Star Trek spinoffs.

squire

44. “The Galileo Seven” Spock, McCoy and others in a shuttlecraft crash land on a deadly planet with vicious giants and have to fight for survival. Meanwhile, Spock’s command abilities are questioned by the survivors who decry his cold Vulcan logic.

galileo seven

43. “The Immunity Sysndrome” The Enterprise is ordered to destroy a giant one-celled organism that is invading our galaxy. The episode was heightened with some memorable interplays between Spock and McCoy and colorful special effects.

immunity syndrome

42. “The Gamesters of Triskelion” Kirk, Uhura, and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig) are kidnapped by wagering aliens who force them to fight in deadly fighting games against other competitors. An action-packed entry, with obvious stuntman stand-ins for Shatner.

gamesters

41. “The Deadly Years” Kirk, Spock and other members of a landing party experience rapid aging and become very old. The result is that their ability to perform their duties are questioned, highlighted by a hearing where an aged Kirk argues that he still has value.

deadly years

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Star Trek’s Best Romances

kirk gets his groove 

In between the fisticuffs, space battles and technobabble, Star Trek is noted for its dalliances in romances. Captain James T. Kirk is nearly infamous for his numerous romantic relationships which earned him a well-deserved reputation as an intergalactic ladies man. While the original Star Trek series and its characters had many star-crossed romantic interludes, so too, did the Star Trek spinoffs, which had their fair share of romances. In honor of Valentine’s Day and Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, let’s look at some of the most memorable romantic moments from Star Trek.

Will They or Won’t They?

A common romantic motif in Star janeway chakotay resolutionsTrek is that of romantic tension between would-be lovers. They’re attracted to each so why can’t they go the extra step? In Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay’s shared a hidden romantic tension was stronger in the early episodes and led to many fan-fiction stories about them going a step further. The closest the two ever came close to consuming their feelings was in “Resolutions” where they were self-exiled on a planet and over time their professional restraint began to wither. But before they could go further, the two were rescued and the show never re-visited this subplot.

odo and kira 3This also happened in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine between Odo and Kira Nerys. At first, it was a case of unrequited love where Odo was madly in love with her, but Kira was involved with Bareil, a Bajoran clergyman. Odo’s plight was quite poignant thanks to some strong acting by Rene Auberjonois. The situation changed in later seasons when the two finally became a couple (“His Way”)…only to regretfully separate in the series finale “What You Leave Behind”.

Star Trek: Enterprise also featured a long-trip and tpol 2simmering relationship, this one between the Vulcan T’Pol and the Enterprise’s engineer “Trip” Tucker. That romance started off in the typical fashion: two disparate souls clashing with each other in a way reminiscent of the old Spock and McCoy arguments. Except this time, the two participants were growing closer, first as respectful colleagues then friends and finally lovers in the episode “Harbinger”. It was a refreshingly mature relationship that was based on mutual respect and curiosity about each other’s feelings and cultures.

married riker

Arguably the most popular couple falling into this category had to be Will Riker and Deanna Troi. At the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was established that the two were former lovers. Their relationship ended because of Riker’s ambition (never mind that he turned down many promotions during the series and most films). But there were lingering feeling between the two that were never quite re-ignited. That didn’t occur until the movie Star Trek: Insurrection where they rekindled their romance thanks to the effects of being on an alien planet. Thankfully it wasn’t a brief fling because at the start of the next film Star Trek: Nemesis the two had married each other.

Star-Crossed Marriages

The later Star Trek shows featured married couples who were part of the cast and this allowed for the showcasing of marital issues. But in a nice twist, rather than go into dark territories and have the couples separate or commit adultery, many episodes showed how strong a marital bond was and celebrated the married couples’ romance.

miles and keikoOne of the earliest married Starfleet couples we saw was in Star Trek: The Next Generation when in the episode “Data’s Day” we found out that Miles O’Brien was getting married. This development fleshed out his character and made him even more of an everyman to fans. He and his wife Kieko were featured in many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation before becoming regular cast members of the spinoff Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

worf and jadzia

In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes featuring O’Brien we often saw the joys and pitfalls of married life through his and Keiko’s eyes, though the “Fascination” episode took time to explore how the two rekindled the passion for each other. In later seasons, when Worf became part of the crew, he realized his love for Jadzia Dax (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”) after being spurned by a Klingon woman who only had eyes for Quark. Eventually the couple married (“You Are Cordially Invited”) and Worf’s devotion for Jadzia was so strong that in the episode “Change of Heart” he abandoned an important covert mission in order to save his wife’s life.

tom kisses bellana

Another notable relationship that led to marriage was that of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres in Star Trek: Voyager. In the early seasons of that program, the two were strictly colleagues, however in the third season episode “Blood Fever” B’Elanna was afflicted with pon farr and soon she and Tom started a long-lasting relationship that culminated in marriage (“Drive”) during Star Trek: Voyager’s final season.

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A Look At Leonard Nimoy’s Best Spock Moments

spock overheadIt’s still hard to believe that Leonard Nimoy, the Star Trek icon, is gone. As we celebrate his contribution to sci-fi culture let’s look at some of his best moments playing the unforgettable Mr. Spock on TV and film. From stoic, calm and collected to comical or out of character to poignant these are some of truly memorable moments. Live long and prosper, indeed.

Most logical…

A brief moment for love

Funny times

Jammin’ Spock

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Leonard Nimoy: His Legacy Will Live Long & Prosper

rip leonard

Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock the first officer of the starship Enterprise on Star Trek, has died today at the age of 83.

Nimoy not only was renowned for portraying the stoic, emotionless Vulcan, but he was a noted film and TV director, photographer, musician and poet. Among his best known directorial pursuits were Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Three Men and a Baby. The first two films helped to increase interest in Star Trek , which led to numerous successful spinoff films and TV shows. Nimoy also capitalized on his fame and appeared in or lent his distinctive deep voice to other well received TV shows and films like Star Trek: The Animated Series, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, A Woman Called Golda, Columbo, Mission: Impossible, Night Gallery, The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Outer Limits. He also hosted the ’70s paranormal documentary TV show In Search of…, which still has a cult following. His other prominent genre work was appearing as the enigmatic scientist Dr. William Bell in several episodes of Fringe.

But Nimoy will be best remembered for his spockportrayal of Spock. The cool and logical alien on Star Trek was an instant hit with fans and helped popularize the fledging show back in the mid ’60s. Although Star Trek only lasted three seasons, the show’s popularity grew afterwards in syndication and has become an integral part of our modern culture. A large part of merit is due to Nimoy’s performance, which garnered him Emmy nominations.

nimoyStill despite his fame, Nimoy was enigmatic about the benefits of having played Spock and feared being typecast. His ambiguous feelings led to him writing his famous autobiography I Am Not Spock. He was so ambivalent about the Spock character that he was hesitant to reprise the role when Star Trek was revived as a series of films. This was why Spock was killed off in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, since the death would allow him to have some closure with the character. However, as we all know the film was so well done and Nimoy had a positive experience while filming it, that he changed his mind and was willing to continue playing Spock. This led to him directing the next two Star Trek films, the latter being considered one of the series’ best films. He also reprised the role in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and in the last two Star Trek films. By this time, he had embraced the character and realized how it helped open other opportunities for him like his directing and artistic endeavors.

goodbye spockWith his passing, we are again reminded how the past is slipping away from us being that three of the original Star Trek actors are now deceased. But his boundless legacy, which includes introducing the world to the most famous alien in sci-fi culture, will live long and prosper long far into the future.

José Soto