Have You Watched 'Star Trek: The Animated Series'? Here's Where To Start!
Star Trek: The Animated Series is underrated. Yes, it has some not-so-great animation and some not-so-great episodes. But it also has the original cast doing the voices, some sequels to Star Trek: The Original Series’ stories, and some great episodes. Its 22 half-hour episodes aired on Saturday mornings in 1973-74, four years after the original went off the air. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and George Takei (Sulu) were not cast at first, but Leonard Nimoy (Spock) threatened to leave unless they were hired because they were the part of the Star Trek family that brought diversity to the show. They were then hired to reprise their characters along with the others. Chekov does not appear, but two new characters were added to the bridge crew: Arex (the bald one with the thin neck) and M’Ress (the big-haired one that looks kind of like a feline).
Here are a few episodes to check out:
1) “Yesteryear.” This is the best episode of The Animated Series, period, and is centered on Spock. He time travels (through the Guardian of Forever!) back to Vulcan and his own past to repair the timeline, and meets his young bullied self and his pet sehlat. Mark Lenard returns to voice Spock’s father Sarek. Written by Original Series stalwart D.C. (Dorothy) Fontana, it packs an emotional wallop.
2) “More Tribbles, More Troubles.” This sequel is by the same writer who brought you the famous “The Trouble with Tribbles,” David Gerrold. Cyrano Jones (voiced by the actor who portrayed him on The Original Series) is still selling tribbles, but his new ones are supposed to not reproduce as rapidly as the old ones. The Klingons created a predator for the old tribbles. But Jones’ new tribbles are pink and grow very large…
3) “Mudd’s Passion,” by Stephen Kandel. Another sequel, and the original Harry Mudd actor (Roger Carmel) returns to voice the character, who retains his combover in animated form. Harry has manufactured a drug that makes people…passionate. There are some Spock-expressing-feelings-for-Christine moments. McCoy has a particularly funny moment also. And this ep also provides fodder for Kirk/Spock fic.
4) “The Magicks of Megas Tu,” by Larry Brody. There’s magic in this one. Even Spock uses it. There are also some kind-of Salem Witch Trials in it in which Kirk defends not only humanity but also a guy with horns and hoofs who says his name is “Lucien.” Yes, this was a Saturday-morning cartoon. Check it out for an example of one of the weirder eps.
5) “The Lorelai Signal,” written by Margaret Armen. Have you always wanted to see Lieutenant Uhura as the Captain and Nurse Chapel as the Chief Medical Officer? This is the episode for you. All of the men are hypnotized by some Siren-like villains, so Uhura declares “I’m taking over this ship!” After the male characters are captured, Uhura leads the women of the Enterprise in a mission to save them. [Somewhat similar for her is “Once upon a Planet,” the sequel to “Shore Leave.” Uhura is captured, but she is far from her old “Captain, I’m frightened” self. She is in her captor’s face the whole time.]
Honorable Mention: “The Practical Joker” by Chuck Menville and Len Janson (who also wrote “Once upon a Planet.” It introduces the holodeck. But mostly it’s worth seeing because of this: