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These Were The Voyages

January 11th, 2007

The end of the holiday season and subsequent Christmas tree removal means that we once again have space for our treadmill in the living room. That’s important because I have put on a few more pounds than I am comfortable with, said discomfort mostly in the area of my waistline. So, once again I find myself walking…and walking…and walking…and not getting anywhere.

The only thing that makes the treadmill tolerable is that it gives me a reason to pull out my TV-on-DVD boxed sets. A half-hour show minus commercials allows for about 23 minutes of workout, which is usually the point at which I begin wishing that I had a gun.

Currently in the DVD player is the copy of Star Trek: The Animated Series that my dad got me for Christmas. It was produced by Filmation–makers of Masters of the Universe and about a billion other low-budget kids’ TV shows–back in 1973, only a few years after the original live-action Trek was cancelled. Until the launch of the movie series in the late ’70s, The Animated Series (TAS) was the only other “official” Trek material to be watched.

I write “official” because the people who decide such things declared that TAS was not considered canonical; in other words, it didn’t really happen even more than the rest of the fictional universe in which it was set didn’t happen. Never mind that everyone agrees that the entirety of Spock’s childhood established in the episode “Yesteryear” is canonical. As is the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Robert April (depicted in “The Counter-Clock Incident”). Oh, and James T. Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius (first mentioned in David Gerrold’s “Bem”). The Holodeck? Introduced in “Practical Joker.” But the rest of it absolutely, really didn’t happen. Mostly.

The argument always struck me as ridiculous. Here was a series in which seven of the original eight cast members returned to voice their characters (only Walter “Chekov” Koenig was left out, and he got to write an episode). It was story edited by D.C. Fontana, who performed similar duties on the live-action show. Nearly half of the episodes were written by people who’d worked on the original, and several of these were sequels to previous installments. Mark Lenard, Stanley Adams and Roger C. Carmel came back to voice returning guest characters Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd, respectively.

Granted, the caliber of the production wasn’t exactly top-notch. The limited animation typical of Filmation meant that it’s often like watching an illustrated radio show, and the stock music can get annoying. Plus, it’s pretty obvious that James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett were doing about half of the “guest star” voices.

Still, the stories were generally ambitious, and being animated allowed them to create characters and environments that would have been unthinkable on a ’70s live-action show. Among the additions to the crew were the cat-like Lt. M’Ress, and the six-limbed Lt. Arex.

Of special interest to sci-fi fans is the episode “The Slaver Weapon,” adapted by author Larry Niven from one of his own non-Trek short stories. It’s a rare crossover between fictional universes, specifically the setting of his Ringworld novels.

A big thanks to my dad and the fine folks at CBS Home Video for making my endless treadmill treks a bit easier to take!

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