|By Brett Weiss
Although some Star Trek fans dismiss Filmation’s The Animated Series as little more than low-budget, kiddie fare, many Trekkies and Trekkers view the cartoon as a canonical continuation of the classic, live-action show. And they do so with good reason.
Originally called Star Trek, the program is commonly known as Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) to separate it from its progenitor. The show aired Saturday mornings on NBC from September 1973 to October 1974, for a total of 22 half-hour episodes spread over two seasons.
What makes TAS (as it’s frequently called) work are literate scripts from such Trek luminaries as D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold and voice acting by most of the original cast, including William Shatner as Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as “Bones” McCoy, George Takei as Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Uhura.
Due to budgetary constraints, Walter Koenig wasn’t asked to reprise his role as Chekov, but he did write an episode called The Infinite Vulcan, which tied into the famous Space Seed episode from the original series. There were other tie-in episodes as well, including More Tribbles, More Troubles, which was the sequel to The Trouble With Tribbles; and Yesteryear, in which Spock uses The Guardian of Forever time portal from the The City on the Edge of Forever.
Certain elements of the Trek universe originated in The Animated Series, such as the outing of Captain Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius, first used in Bem, an episode written by Gerrold.
In an interview published on www.startrekanimated.com, Gerrold admits that he and some of his colleagues were skeptical about The Animated Series when it was first announced, but he soon realized that their skepticism was all for naught.
“The folks at Filmation were very serious about doing a good job, and when we saw their first artwork, we began to think that maybe there was a chance to do something special,” he said. “And it was Star Trek, of course, so our enthusiasm began to grow as we got into the job. There were still lots of stories we wanted to tell.”
Although it received lukewarm Nielson numbers, Star Trek: The Animated Series earned a Daytime Emmy Award and was popular enough to generate some merchandise, including: a birthday party table cloth, $12; a set of paper party plates, $15; a set of four Dr. Pepper promotional drinking glasses, $120; a set of three Viewmaster reels, $15; at least two different jigsaw puzzles, $10 to $20 each; a fan-made newsletter, $10 per issue; a paint-by-numbers set, $40; a sheets-and-pillowcase set, $80; and 10 paperback novelizations written by Alan Dean Foster, $3 to $4 per book.
The entire series has been released on VHS ($25 for 11 tapes), laser disc ($50 for the six-disc boxed set), and DVD ($20 for the four-disc boxed set), the latter of which includes audio and text commentaries, a documentary called Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series, and other special features.