- Created by Gene Roddenberry
- Produced by Filmation, Norway Productions, and Paramount Television
- September 8, 1973 to October 12, 1974
- Capt. Kirk-William Shatner
- Mr. Spock-Leonard Nimoy
- Dr. McCoy-DeForest Kelley
- Sulu-George Takei
- Uhura-Nichelle Nichols
- Scotty-James Doohan
- Nurse Chapel-Majel Barrett
This is the continuing story of the crew of the USS Enterprise and its five-year mission.
This is the first Star Trek spinoff series and was created as a response to the original series proving popular in syndication. I have heard it said at one point the original series was on some channel somewhere on the planet every hour of the day. Speaking from my local TV experience I could believe that. It was not impossible to have a Trek block at some point in the day just by changing the channel.
Star Trek: The Animated Series (originally airing as Star Trek and as The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek) however did not enjoy that level broadcast time. It was known but the first time I recall actually seeing this was when it was part of a Saturday morning animation block on Sci Fi (now Syfy). Those were the days on that channel.
You could call this show the fourth season of the original Star Trek. The episodes are extremely stripped down versions of what you would get from the original series. The pace is rapid and lacks some of the extra one might get from an hour-long episode that would slow things down. Not that I am calling that a bad thing here. The episodes are much deeper than what you might find on Saturday morning cartoons of the time despite their condensed structure. For example “The Counter-Clock Incident” is about a person not being useless in old age.
But it also has many of the hallmarks that made, in my opinion, the action-oriented cartoons from that time until the late 80s or so much better than what they pinch out today. The action is fast. The stories are to the point. The dialogue wastes nothing. And at no point were you talked down to as a viewer.
The animation was done by Filmation who used the cheaper style of animation of Saturday morning of the time. They were behind such shows as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and its successive iterations, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, The New Adventures of Flash Gordon, Blackstar, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and its spinoff She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Bravestarr (their last production) just to name a smidgen of what they created. If you grew up in a certain era and watched Saturday morning cartoons with a bowl of high sugar cereal, then you saw something they did. This show was in good hands from the start.
The series often refers to original series episodes in some manner. Admittedly there was much less canonical Trek back then, but the show sparingly connected with its predecessor which is a wise move for any spinoff. You cannot rely too heavily on what came before but rather need to stand on your own two feet. David Gerrold wrote “More Tribbles, More Troubles” as a sequel to his original series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” “Yesteryear” is an episode which features The Guardian of Forever from the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Harry Mudd returns and engages in another scheme in “Mudd’s Passion.”
The majority of the original cast returns to voice their respective TOS characters. Walter Koenig is the only series actor that did not return but technically he was not original cast having joined the series in Season Two. He did write “The Infinite Vulcan” which referenced the Eugenics War. Still it would have been nice to see him return as Chekov just once.
The show itself was considered canonical until Gene Roddenberry decided it was not though over the years bits and pieces of material that were used in the show have made their way into Star Trek canon again. A holodeck was first used in the show along with the “T” standing for “Tiberius” in Captain Kirk’s name. Robert April was also named as the first captain of the USS Enterprise here and that was a bit of information used in Star Trek: Discovery. There are others but those are the ones that jump out.
I’ve heard it been said that Star Trek: Lower Decks is a way to introduce children to Star Trek. If you’re going to introduce someone to something like Star Trek through animation, make it like Star Trek. Make it thoughtful. Make it like this. This is not silly or goofy (at least in the context of the day) but something more serious.
Star Trek: The Animated Series was a fun and interesting take on the Star Trek concept of the time. It perfectly re-captured the spirit and essence of the original series in Saturday morning form. If you have a chance to watch this, you should.