In Defense of an Underrated Star Trek Series

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On Saturday mornings on NBC, from September 8, 1973, to October 12, 1974, Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) lled homes with its bizarre close-ups, a groovy intro, and many familiar voices. This daytime animated Trek show was geared toward families and fans of The Original Series (TOS). My stepdad even recalls sitting down with his family to watch this fun rendition of Star Trek when he was growing up.

However, during its run and after, TAS also caused a stir on the question of canon. This is mainly because, showrunner and creator Gene Roddenberry, didn’t initially want The Animated Series to be considered canon, (according to Ex Astris Scientia). So for many years, a large majority of people considered TAS a one-o non-canon Trek show. That is until Paramount’s 2006 DVD release of TAS decided that the short-spanning show was in fact considered canon Trek. It’s still in debate amongst many Trekkies if TAS is canon, however, as a hardcore Trek fan myself, I absolutely consider The Animated Series canon. With all its fun and goofy add-ons, the show remains true to the core of Trek: exploring strange new worlds. One of the wonderful things about New Trek is bringing TAS canon into the fold. Shows like Enterprise, Picard, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds are ushering TAS storylines and locations into the canon.

Besides the arguments over canon, I don’t think anyone would deny that The Animated Series is good fun. Does it make sense all the time? No. But these bite-sized episodes are the perfect midday Trek snack I love to enjoy. The Animated Series has brought us plenty of delightful moments, such as meeting Lucifer himself, watching Kirk and Spock turn into amphibians, and most memorably, Spock meeting a giant version of himself.

This animated show ran for two seasons and brought some interesting stories to light, such as the addition of a huge galaxy-ending war that occurred millions of years prior by a race called the Slavers. Similarly, in “The Slaver Weapon” we learn of the Kazinti and their bloodthirsty war with the Federation. The Animated Series is wonderful at creating new species like the Skorr, Edosians like Arex, and the Pandroians (which is featured again in the Lower Decks episode “I, Excretus.”) TAS also brings back species we know and love like the Orions, Klingons, and Vulcans; so we are able to see the expansions of their lore. A memorable instance of this is my favorite TAS episode, “Yesteryear” which goes deeper into Spock’s childhood and explores other facets of Vulcan culture.

Another wonderful aspect of The Animated Series lies in the inclusion of Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett, often giving the women more plot-centric roles to play. In “The Lorelei Signal,” we see Uhura taking control of the Enterprise when the men get brainwashed. TAS gave Nichols more opportunities to play major roles as Uhura, instead of her lines getting cut like in TOS. If you listen closely, many of the side characters are voiced by Nichols and Barrett, as well as James Doohan and George Takei.

Not only was TAS a drug-induced joyride, but it also brought some interesting technology to the Enterprise. We see our favorite characters go down to uninhabitable planets with shimmering lights surrounding them to indicate a life-support belt. We haven’t seen this technology since, but it would have been extremely cool and useful tech to have in lieu of EV suits in the following Trek shows. We also see that The Animated Series has the very rst version of what we know now as a holodeck. In the episode “The Practical Joker” we see McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu enter the Rec Room and are able to alter the room to create a barren wasteland, the beach, forests, and even a maze. This is certainly where Roddenberry must have gotten his idea for the Holodeck.

If you are a Star Trek fan and haven’t indulged in the Animated Series, now is the time to do it. Lower Decks is constantly making references and odes to the rst animated Trek series and Strange New Worlds brought back the Enterprise captain, Robert April, who rst appeared in TAS “The Counter-Clock Incident.” Though some people were mad that an African American man,

Adrian Holmes, was cast as April in Strange New Worlds, to them I say, remember the Vulcan IDIC “Innite Diversity in Innite Combinations.” We should be celebrating the return of an Animated Series character instead of squabbling over race.

It’s thanks to TAS that shows like Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks have yet another source of Trek to pull from to make their episodes all the richer. If you’re looking for a fun show to turn your brain o and just enjoy, The Animated Series is it!

Picture of Ashlyn and Rhianna

Ashlyn and Rhianna

Two sisters, Ashlyn and Rhianna, talk Star Trek through a philosophical lens. Each Series explores the ST Universe through a particular theme. 🖖🏽🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

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