11/20/2012

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In 1973, just four years after the cancellation of the original Star Trek, the sci-fi legend returned to television. This time, Star Trek aired in cartoon form, and fans embraced the animated series' dedication to following and expanding on the original series. Thanks to Netflix, I've been able to experience this long-lost gem. I wanted to know more about what went into the show, and here are the seven most surprising facts.

1. The Two Star Treks - When the show first aired, it was only titled Star Trek. I guess they figured it wasn't like they were going to get mixed up, since the original series had been canceled four years earlier. Later, the cartoon became known as "the animated series" to distinguish it from the original series.

2. Silly Rabbit, Star Trek Isn't For Kids - The show aired on Saturday mornings, making it a children's show. Yet everyone behind the show saw it as an extension of the original series. Written by established sci-fi writers such as D.C. Fontana and Larry Niven, the show tackled adult themes like death and fear, all while showcasing real science fiction. They even used the same show bible or writer's guide as the original series. Meanwhile, Paramount wanted to make the show more kid-friendly by giving all the crew members child sidekicks as "space cadets." Ultimately, the determination to keep the show on the adult level may have been its undoing. Even though the show was one of Filmation's highest rated series, the animated series didn't do well among children, which meant the advertisers weren't happy, so the network pulled the plug.

3. The Gang's (Almost) All Here - One of the highlights of the animated series is that it includes most of the original cast members as voices. Yet that was not the studio's intention. Originally, the studio only wanted William Shatner (Kirk), DeForest Kelly (McCoy), and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) to reprise their roles. However, Nimoy insisted he wouldn't return unless they also hired on James Doohan and Nichelle Nichols to play Scotty and Uhura. He argued they were essential to the show's diversity. Yet the studio couldn't afford the entire cast, so Chekov (William Koenig) was replaced by a three-armed, three-legged alien named Lt. Arex. Sadly, Koenig didn't find out about the snub until he heard the announcement with everyone else at a convention. Yet Koenig was able to participate. He wrote an episode for the show called "The Infinite Vulcan," becoming the first (but not last) Star Trek actor to write for Trek.

4. The Animated Series Did It First - There were many firsts on the animated series of now-classic elements of the Star Trek universe. For instance, the first appearance of the famous holodeck wasn't on The Next Generation. It was right here. Roddenberry had wanted the virtual holographic playroom on the original series, but couldn't do it. It made it onto the animated series in the episode "The Practical Joker," when it was called the Rec Room. The Animated Series also first revealed Kirk's middle name, Tiberius.

5. The Animated Series Isn't Canon. Oh, Wait, Yes, It Is - At the end of the first season of The Next Generation, Roddenberry's office announced that the animated series was not canon, and banned any other property from using material from it. However, the fans' love of the show has brought the show back into the universe, unofficially. Numerous shows have made reference to Lt. Arex's species, the Edosians. For instance, Enterprise's Dr. Phlox used Edosian slugs in his medical bay, and Deep Space Nine mentioned Edosian orchids. The Vulcan city Shi'Kahr, which first appeared in the episode "Yesteryear," also made an appearance in Star Trek III, the remastered version of "Amok Time," and an episode of Enterprise.

6. The Animated Series Was Color-Blind - Trek has always been known as being progressive in regards to racial equality, showing that in the future, everyone will be color-blind, figuratively. Unfortunately, that became a problem in the case of the cartoon show. That's because the director, Hal Sutherland (unknown to the rest of the crew), was literally color-blind. That's why typically gray objects like the tribbles, the Klingon uniforms, and a Kzinti spaceship ended up a shade of pink. Even without Sutherland's intervention, mistakes still cropped up due to the animation process. There was even an occasion where Uhura was colored Caucasian, but they managed to catch it before the film was developed.

7. James Doohan Was the Mel Blanc of Star Trek - We all known Doohan's gift for the Scottish accent, but he really is a more masterful voice than most fans realize. That's because Doohan not only did the voice for Scotty, but fifty-four other characters on the show, including Lt. Arex, the Guardian of Forever, Transporter Chief Kyle, and the Kzin.

What do you think of the Animated Series?
[Image Source: Nerdb**tards]


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9 comments:

Tony Laplume said...

It was worth finally watching. And I'll be watching it again at some point next year, when I get around to writing about it.

Nigel Mitchell said...

The stories are as good as the animation is bad.

Noble Smith said...

Great piece! I loved this animated series when I was a kid. Yeah, the animation sucked, but the stories were riveting. Just imagine if that crew of writers had had access to the cheap computer effects we have nowadays?

Nigel Mitchell said...

Noble, I agree, a new Star Trek with modern effects would be awesome.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The director was color-blind - now that's funny.

Has it really been that long since it aired? Crap, I guess my childhood WAS that long ago.
Remember the creature with the Godzilla roar?

Nigel Mitchell said...

Alex, I do remember that roar! "Yesteryear." Filmation was cheap

Jon M Wilson said...

I spent several years in the late 90s and early 2000s as the only one of my Trek fan friends who had seen these episodes, and my VHS collection got loaned out to several people. I was over the moon when they finally got a DVD release!

Nigel Mitchell said...

Jon, you had a rare treasure. I never got to see it until a few weeks ago

Pat Dilloway said...

I've actually liked watching the animated series on Netflix. The animation sucks like most Saturday morning animation of that era, but the stories are just as good as the original series.

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