Review of Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973)

Parts only

This page describes the individual parts of Star Trek: The Animated Series. The work as a whole is reviewed elsewhere.

“Beyond the Farthest Star” (1973Moving picture, 25 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

On a “starcharting” trip literally beyond the farthest star of the Milky Way, the Enterprise encounters a planet that appears to have caught a huge, organic-looking alien ship in its extreme gravity, hundreds of millions of years before.

The setup is good and there is some surprising specificity to the script, but the conclusion is dull. The pacing is bad, moving more than twice as fast as TOS in half the runtime, despite having nowhere interesting to go.

This episode introduces force-field-emitting “life support belts” as a trick to keep the animation cheap in new environments, whereas TOS used space suits in “The Tholian Web” (1968).

episode moving picture non-fiction

“Yesteryear” (1973Moving picture, 25 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Using the Guardian from “The City on the Edge of Forever” (1967) to study history, the crew accidentally discovers that Spock is required to have interfered with his own history.

I like that Spock gets to go on his solipsistic quest alone, and Vulcan looks better as a set of painted backdrops with monsters than it ever did in TOS. There is less inspiration from Jewish culture, which helps put the camp factor well below “Spock’s Brain” (1968). The Federation having a policy to use time travel is consistent with “Assignment: Earth” (1968), and it’s a strangely gratifying detail that Spock’s prospectively retroactive replacement as first officer is totally fine with his own history being artificially revoked, despite being a hitherto unknown “warrior”.

Alas, I can’t say the episode makes sense. Sending naval officers travelling through time just to look at stuff is a dumb policy when it will change history without leaving evidence, and taking as a premise—here unstated—that all changes are in fact detectable is too conservative. Spock pretends, poorly, to be a cousin. The child version of him is already extremely rational, yet purebred Vulcan children bully him, in the same obviously emotion-driven way as human bullies. There is no saving the Vulcans as a concept by this time.

References here: “More Tribbles, More Troubles” (1973), “Sarek” (1990), “Firstborn” (1994).

episode fiction moving picture

“One of Our Planets Is Missing” (1973Moving picture, 24 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Similar in concept to The Black Cloud (1957), but dumber, with the ship caught inside the lower intestine of the smart cloud. The most impressive part is the unusual sincerity of the evacuation effort, but this is voice only; not a penny was spent animating it.

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“The Lorelei Signal” (1973Moving picture, 25 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

The women of the Enterprise avert disaster when the men are lured by punctual and pleasant alien women.

As the name implies, the script is based on the 19th-century motif of Lorelei as a siren, but this is a lotus-eating situation, not Homer’s sirens. Notice the dip in skin-colour diversity for sexual objects.

References here: “The Perfect Mate” (1992), “The Inner Light” (1992).

animation episode fiction moving picture

“More Tribbles, More Troubles” (1973Moving picture, 24 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

A sequel to “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967), reprising its human salesman with as much focus as the tribbles themselves. Even so, and even more so than “Yesteryear” (1973) or even “I, Mudd” (1967), this sequel assumes viewer familiarity. In this case, it’s familiarity with the normal behaviour of tribbles, which is subverted here. It makes sense to introduce a biological pest control for them, with a design that wouldn’t have worked in live actioin.

Incidentally, this is the most militarily dense episode of either of the two Star Trek series to date, aided by the ability to show torpedoes in flight and damage to ships on cels more easily than it could be shown on the models in live-action VFX shots. It doesn’t look good, but at least it was made possible.

References here: “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (1990).

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“Bem” (1974Moving picture, 25 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

A green colony creature tests the crew.

episode moving picture non-fiction