This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead to a bit of an exposition dump in certain installments.
One thing I’ve noticed in watching these episodes is that they’re lean and mean when it comes to the storyline. With half the running time of original series installments, there is no time for side tangents, filler or padding. This set also includes an episode I have vague memories of watching on a Saturday morning growing up and thinking it was interesting. At this time, my awareness of Star Trek came mostly from ads on the back of comic books for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and from the series of Power Records that were out at the time.*
* I think a whole post on the Power Records series could be coming in the near future since those really helped cement my early interest in all things Trek.
And so, here are my thoughts on the next six installments of animated Trek.
“More Tribbles, More Troubles” One of the first installments of animated Trek that was originally intended for the live-action series but never got made. Apparently third-season producer Fred Frieberger wasn’t a huge fan of the original Tribbles episodes** David Gerold pens the script and it feels a lot like we’re going to the well one more time. Cyrano Jones is back, the tribbles are back, we’re going back to Sherman’s planet, there’s some conflict with the Klingons. This time around, Jones has modified the tribbles so they don’t breed rapidly. They still consume food at a high rate, but this just leads to you having rapidly growing tribbles instead of tons of tribbles around. Meanwhile, the Klingons have developed a new weapon that can immobilize a ship in space but it’s a huge power drain and they apparently can’t fire other weapons while the weapon is in use. It drains your enemy ship, but it also drains you as well. Not exactly the most effective weapon but one that I feel like would have been better explored had there been more than 22 minutes to tell the story. We’ve also got a tribble eating entity called a glommer which in the live-action draft would have moved on from consuming tribbles and begun consuming the crew.
** Confession time…I’m not either. I like it, it’s fun. But it’s certainly not my favorite classic Trek episode and I feel that it’s a bit overrated. Again, that could be another post for another time.
This is one of the stories I recall reading the Alan Dean Foster novelization of because it was a sequel to a classic episode and I was curious about it. And while I think the animated series does a decent job of realizing certain elements on-screen, I can’t help but feel let down because my imagination, with its unlimited budget, created a much richer visual palate — specifically the scene with the Glommer running scared of a giant Tribble. Like the original “Tribble” installment, this one is good but it’s not necessarily great. And I still can’t believe that Freiberger would brings us “Spock’s Brain” over this….
“The Survivor” — I vividly remember seeing this episode repeated during Saturday morning cartoons growing up. Part of it is that it’s a fairly memorable episode and part of it is that it’s one of the more enjoyable installments (so far) of the animated run. The ship comes across a vessel with renowned explore and philanthropist Carter Winston on board. Seems that he’s been missing for a long time and thought to be dead. He’s not and wouldn’t you know it, his fiancee is on-board the Enterprise. But Carter rejects her, telling her he’s grown beyond their relationship. Yeah, into a shape-shifting alien who is quickly knocking people out and assuming their identity.
If it sounds a bit like a re-telling of “The Man Trap,” it probably is. But for some reason, I really liked. The alien looks really good and suitably alien in a way that wouldn’t have worked in the live-action version of the show. While viewing, I thought William Shatner was doing double-duty as the voice of Kirk and of Winston, but that’s not the case. Turns out Ted Knight does the voice of Winston…though I defy you to watch the episode and not think it’s Shatner doing the voice.
That said, this one features a not so strong moment for McCoy when the trio walk into sick-bay it takes Kirk to notice that the alien has disguised itself as a bio-bed and not McCoy!
“The Infinite Vulcan” — While most of the cast members were invited back to lend their voices to the animated Trek, Walter Koenig was not. It’s listed at budgetary reasons, but if you can afford to bring on Ted Knight, why not pay Koenig?!? Anyway, instead of giving us more Chekov, Koenig gives us “The Infinite Vulcan,” a largely forgetable story that features a giant Spock clone, flying creatures and a plant-based alien life form. Any one of those things should make this one stand out and yet, I can’t help but feel this isn’t the most solid effort. It feels a bit too much like a late third-season installment (this is not a good thing) and beyond a few memorable visual things, there’s not much else about it I’d recommend.
“The Magicks of Megas-Tu” — For every Trek movie from the Motion Picture to The Final Frontier, Gene Roddenberry kept pitching one of two plotlines. Either the Enterprise meets God or they go back in time and visit the assignation of JFK.*** This one is a very early, very rudimentary version of the “let’s go meet a deity” storyline and from what I’ve read was originally pitched as a “let’s go meet God” story. Alas, the NBC censors wouldn’t allow that, but they would allow us to go and meet an alien who came to Earth and was the basis for the belief in the devil.
*** Read most of the kiss and tell books by various participants and this thread is abundantly clear.
Hearing that, I feel like somehow this episode could or should have been more memorable than it was. It’s not necessarily a bad one, but it feels a bit uneven. The crew explores an energy field near the center of the galaxy (sound familiar) and meets up with Lucien. Lucien welcomes them as friends, but his alien buddies aren’t rolling out the welcome mat. They’re caught and put on trial in what appears to be Salem during colonial times. Again, there’s a lot of fascinating ideas here, but they can only be explored so far in twenty or so minutes and on a Saturday morning, kid-friendly cartoon. This is another one that it’d be hard to imagine working in the live-action series (the use of magic, for example) but I still can’t help but feel like this is more of a missed opportunity that a hit.
“Once Upon a Planet” — Nothing says relaxation like a homicidal computer on a rampage, right? The crew goes back to the planet for “Shore Leave” only to find the Keeper is dead and the computer has gone a bit haywire. Instead of giving you your every wish and desire, it’s sending things out to kill you. Is it time for Kirk to talk another computer into oblivion?
Maybe not. Instead, it’s up Spock to help reboot the system and call off the dragon and the other modes of death, mayhem and destruction awaiting the crew.
Another sequel to an original episode and one that, quite frankly, I’m not sure was necessary. Possibly because that instead of actually exploring something new or interesting this one is just all call backs to the original installment, right down to McCoy seeing Alice and the White Rabbit. Oh sure, we’ve got dragons attacking people, but it just feels like a cartoon version of the knight killing McCoy. And can anyone tell me why you’d beam down people once the computer reboots given that the last two times you were on this planet, it all went a bit hay-wire? I’m thinking you’d warp on out of there for a different place for some rest and relaxation. But maybe people in the twenty-third century have a different way to relax than I do.
Harry Mudd is back, this time pedalling a love-potion. He gives one to Chapel to use on Spock and before you know it, Spock is pining for Christine. It’s too bad Mudd used the love potion to distract Chapel, take her phaser and ID, steal a shuttle and scurry off the ship with Chapel as his hostage. This all leads to beaming down to a desert planet with giant rock creatueres who fight while the entire crew is doused with love potion, causing a whole lot of flirting to go on.
Interestingly, it’s established early on that the love potion only works between members of the opposite sex. If it’s given to members of the same sex, they just feel really strong friendship for each other. I’m guessing part of this is the it’s the 1970’s and the other part is this is Saturday morning cartoons. The after effect is that the person you were once all hot and bothered for, you will feel a bit repulsed by. So basically, it’s a Saturday night bender without having to drink all the alcohol.****
****Showing the limits of the budget, McCoy hits on a woman who looks exactly like Carter Winston’s fiancee just a few episodes before. And we also see Kirk in a red-shirt at one point while the giant rock creatures are attacking. Because heaven knowns we can’t go back and do a reshoot on the shoe-string budget!
On some levels, it’s a bit fun and wacky with Mudd at the center. And while animated rock monsters sound really, really cool on paper and work better than they should, the image of them from the printed page is much, much better than their practical realization here.