STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES

(TV - 1973 - 74)
With William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett
Filmation Animation
Directed by Hal Sutherland, et. al.
Reviewed by JB

The crew lands on a planet of Paris Hiltons     Filmation was one of the worst things to ever happen to hand drawn animation.  It took the already limited animation techniques of Hanna-Barbera and limited them even more.  If some Hanna-Barbera series were called "illustrated radio", some Filmation series could be called "comic books on tape".  Use of stock shots, long lingering establishing shots and characters in single poses with only the lips moving were all part of Filmation's quest to pump out as much cheap cartoon product as possible.

     But even bad things can have good peaks, and Star Trek: The Animated Series is probably the best series to come out of the Filmation studio.  Although the animation was just as limited as any of their other series, Filmation, in conjunction with Paramount Television and Gene Roddenberry, corralled most of the original cast (Walter Koenig excepted) to voice their classic Trek characters.  Other points in the series' favor are the use of scripts by writers who had worked on the television series (D. C. Fontana and Dave Gerrold, to name just two) and care to create some rather fascinating, other-worldy backgrounds for the limited-animation characters to play against.

     Above all, the stories were generally good and respectful of the original series, spiritually a continuation of the original series itself.  The voice work, often done piecemeal by the actors on the fly while they were busy with their other post-Trek careers, was quite good, with William Shatner surprisingly adept at keeping his ham and cheese on over-acting rye style under control.  In fact, he's almost too laid back at times. Special kudos go to Majel Barrett, Nichelle Nichols and James Doohan, who, in order to save money on outside casting, were called upon to do many voices besides their own (Doohan's characters usually sounded like variations of his Scotty character, making for some amusing moments when he is playing a Klingon).  At 22 minutes, the episodes are like bite-sized Trek stories, but with enough of all the stuff you would expect in a good Trek episode.  Writer Dave Gerrold, who penned the amusing "More Tribbles, More Troubles" episode, once said in an interview: "The only thing we didn't do was give Kirk a love affair in every episode. That gave us an extra twenty minutes per episode for more story and more action."  

     More story, yes.  More action, debatable.  In each episode, there is much standing around and talking, and the reuse of stock shots for characters becomes highly noticable after only a handful of episodes, especially when a character standing next to another is suddenly shown standing behind, thanks to reuse of a standard stock shot.  Still, the show, while sometimes static and talky, was infinitely more intelligent than most other Filmation shows (okay, not exactly hard with competition like Gilligan's Planet and Sabrina and the Groovie Ghoulies) and was the only program from the studio to win an Emmy.  

      The show lasted 22 episodes - 16 episodes in Season One, 6 in Season Two - and may not be required viewing for the casual Star Trek fan, but in truth, many of these short animated stories are more enjoyable and intelligent than half of the stories of the original series's third and final season.  3 - JB

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