The Animated Series (TAS) Season 1 Guest Reviews

Season 1Season 2

 

Beyond the Farthest Star

Synopsis

Stardate 5521.3: Synopsis in main TAS listing

Commentary

This episode is a promising initial outing for Star Trek: The Animated Series highlighting some of the medium's strengths and weaknesses. Although designed as a children's cartoon, the episode is more serious than comedic. The plot rather successfully shifts from crisis to mystery and back to crisis again before its resolution. Nevertheless, despite the 24-minute run time, the pacing always seems a little slow, perhaps because of the relatively cheap animation style.

The design of the ancient alien vessel is impressive and represents the kind of model and sets that would have been prohibitively expensive in the live-action original series. It was nice that every part of the vessel had organic design touches and yet no one was tempted to say the cliché Star Trek line: "It's like nothing I've ever seen before, it's almost as if the ship had been organically grown rather than built." The episode includes the debut of "life support belts" which allow the landing party to experience hostile environmental conditions without space suits. These would have been a welcome addition to the roster of standard Star Trek equipment, but they were not continued in later series.

When the landing party finds themselves locked in the alien control room, under imminent attack by whatever creature killed the ancient crew, the tension mounts nicely. As Kirk and Spock try to revive the ancient captain's log and warning, the episode becomes quite reminiscent of TNG's "Booby Trap," which may have taken this episode as one of its sources of inspiration. It is only in the final act when the malevolent alien is revealed to be an energy being which immediately takes possession of the Enterprise and its computer that the story becomes stale: we have seen this plot device one too many times in TOS - the alien's impotent voice even sounds reminiscent of Rejack's from "Wolf in the Fold." Kirk's solution of bluffing the entity into departing the Enterprise by pretending he will destroy it is likewise cliché.

Annotations

Rating: 5 (John Hamer)

 

Yesteryear

Synopsis

Stardate 5373.4: Synopsis in main TAS listing

Commentary

"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.

Annotations

Rating: 8 (Chris)

 

The Slaver Weapon

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Synopsis in main TAS listing

Commentary

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.

Annotations

Rating: 6 (Hanzou)

 


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