The Animated Series (TAS) Guest Reviews
Stardate 5373.4: Synopsis in main TAS listing
"Yesteryear" is the one TAS episode the puts all other TAS episodes to shame, and many TOS episodes as well. Not only does the story provide a nice background on Spock, the time travel aspect is fantastic and, in my opinion, was more intelligently thought out compared to most other time travel stories in Star Trek. I like the idea of Spock barely remembering a man named Selek from his childhood, and then to eventually travel back in time and actually fill that role. This paradox is similar to the one in TNG "Time's Arrow", however the paradox there is not quite as well thought out. What event caused the Enterprise to find Data's head and get involved in the whole time loop? Was it the chicken or the egg? In "Yesteryear" the time loop does not have the "chicken or the egg" problem, or at least it is not as apparent. Since Spock's memory of his childhood is not clear, Selek could have been some other Vulcan man.
It is surprising how well this story fits in with the rest of Star Trek while so many other TAS episodes are hard to take seriously. With the Vulcan forge and the Andorian officer, "Yesteryear" reminded me a lot of the fourth season of Enterprise (the GOOD season of Enterprise). I especially enjoyed seeing the Andorian Thelin give Spock the Vulcan hand sign. This gave me that nice warm feeling of unity and racial tolerance that I always enjoy in Star Trek.
Remarkable pet: Spock's pet sehlat is the first one we see on screen, and the only tame one. We see only one other sehlat in ENT "The Forge".
Rating: 8 (Chris)
The Slaver Weapon
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main TAS listing
Perhaps the most baffling thing about this episode is that, aside from completely ignoring the established Star Trek canon and characterization, it's actually pretty good.
It's paced, there's a pretty good amount of dialogue, the premise operates on basic logic rather than technobabble, we see racist aliens which is a first for TAS and the Kzinti at least get some kind of characterization, even if it is sort of needlessly evil.
Even if the Kzinti are rather overtly villainous, they do seem to be pretty competent for the first part of the story, showing more intelligence than even the early era TNG Klingons. Consider the scrap of meat found in the slaver box, how many Trek aliens would have immediately bitten into it and dropped dead? The lead Kzinti even remembers that Human women are intelligent, something that Spock goes out of his way to try and use as a ploy, which demonstrates remarkable pragmatism versus the whole racism issue the episode presented beforehand.
Overall, the Kzinti come off as at least vaguely threatening. There's a lot of dialogue that's kind of dry but at least it more or less makes sense, something that contrasts quite a bit with Trek's later love for technobabble.
The saddest thing of all about this story is really that it's not terribly good on an objective level. Compared to Trek classics, even ones that beat you over the head with their message like "Day of the Dove", it's pretty limp and could have been drawn out a bit better. Sure, in comparison to 99% of TAS it's a bloody masterpiece and way higher quality that you'd expect after watching "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" or "Bem".
The thing is, despite how basic the story is, it avoids a ton of Trek clichés, even ones that were present in TOS. Compared to much of Voyager, some of TNG and even a few of the later movies, I'd rather just watch this episode. It's a pretty sobering comparison between Trek and conventional classic Sci-Fi, especially consider it's just an adaptation of a Larry Niven story.
At the end of the day, I'm willing to at least give it points for being interesting.
Remarkable uniforms: Everybody seems to have a problem with the pink in this episode, but I find it kind of entertaining that an evil warrior race would pick pink as their uniforms. It looks funny to us, but would you say that to a six foot tall cat-bear thing? Then again, maybe the treaty forced them to switch to pink to humiliate them.
Remarkable mistake: Hal Sutherland claims he didn't notice all the pink because he was colourblind, but did nobody actually stop and ask the guy about it? How fast did this episode get made? It's not like they spilled paint on one of the drawings and then just went with it because Hal didn't notice.
Remarkable character designs: Generally in TAS, aliens are just copypasted versions of each other, probably for budgetary reasons, but for some reason there's at least three facially distinct Kzinti in this episode. It's possible the presence of Larry Niven made the crew put in some extra effort.
Rating: 6 (Hanzou)
The Practical Joker
Stardate 3183.3: Synopsis in main TAS listing
Like many TAS episodes, "The Practical Joker" is rushed with some plot holes. Most of the jokes are not even very funny. Worst of all, the ship creates itself an inflatable Enterprise of equal size. What the heck? Why would the Enterprise be equipped with an inflatable fake in the first place? Did the computer create it? If so, how? It all seems too silly to me.
Remarkable prank: Kirk has a new shirt made for himself and the computer prints on the back of it "Kirk is a Jerk". Probably the only funny joke of the episode.
Remarkable technology: The rec room. Could it be that Starfleet already had holodecks on some of their ships? This would not work well with TNG where is is assumed that holodecks are a fairly new technology. However, since this series is animated (and poorly at that) we could assume that the rec room is not as realistic as a holodeck from the 24th century. If this were the case, then Riker's comment about being astonished by the perfection of the holodeck would make sense. Also, in "The Practical Joker" the team decides to try and find a wall since the room is only so big. This trick would not work in the many holodeck malfunctions of the TNG era.
Remarkable voice: Majel Barrett seems to provide the voice for the ships computer. Majel would later do the voice for Starfleet ship computers in the TNG era.
Rating: 3 (Chris)