I recently finished reading the fourth volume of These Are The Voyages covering the period of the early 1970s following the ending of TOS’ production run to the middle of the decade. This work looks at the growing of Star Trek fandom and more particularly what Gene Roddenberry was up to during that period. For some a fair part of this book might be considered filler as it recounts the television and film projects GR was involved in or trying to get off the ground and into production. It also touches on how William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were really the only cast members who managed to go forward with their careers while the supporting cast basically floundered after TOS. But the bulk and central appeal of this book is a long overdue and appreciated behind-the-scenes look at the production of Star Trek: The Animated Series. Every Trek series makes mistakes, either as a whole or in individual episodes. Sometimes those mistakes are minor and easily rationalized or overlooked and other times it’s an inescapable WTF. One can argue whole episodes or even series or films being a mistake in being made. TAS has long been an overlooked/forgotten chapter of Star Trek. After its initial run it seemed to disappear from the public consciousness except for those fans who were there back in the day. For many fans who came into Trek during the films or during the later live-action series TAS might likely have never even been on their radar. For some time (and for some even today) TAS wasn’t even considered official or “canon” (as many seem to like using that term). But TAS did happen. It was a sincere effort to continue Star Trek in the footsteps of TOS. Gene Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana were heavily involved in its development and production as were most of the original cast and a good number of writers who had written for TOS. One can debate whether Mark Cushman got certain details wrong in this book, but there are some things that become inescapably apparent: TAS as aired was close, but not quite the series Roddenberry and Fontana were aiming for. Why an animated series? NBC almost immediately regretted canceling Star Trek and soon began trying to get the show brought back. But, sadly, Paramount wasn’t at all interested. They didn’t want to put any more money into Star Trek. They also felt a new show could eat into what they were making from what was becoming a profitable syndication property. TOS in syndication was proving to be even bigger than it was during its original run. NBC was impressed by the growing fandom, but Paramount was unmoved until some years later when they also began to notice Star Trek’s growing popularity. Even so they remained reluctant to invest in another expensive live-action series. But reviving the show as a much less expensive animated property was a much less risky venture while still testing the waters of whether a new Star Trek could be accepted. From the beginning Roddenberry and Fontana wanted this to be as mature and adult as TOS had been. They wanted the action/adventure and humanity of TOS as well as the same sense of plausible scientific grounding (within the show’s context). They wanted writers to think in terms of writing for the live-action series, but with the exception of not feeling bound by live-action production constraints. They wanted to see ideas that most likely could not have been realized during TOS, but now could be seen because anything that could imagine could now simply be drawn and painted for the screen. To be clear it becomes apparent D.C. Fontana was really running the show on a day-by-day basis with executive input from Roddenberry. Roddenberry had the final say on what finally made it onscreen, but Fontana was overseeing everyday running of the show. She worked closely with the writers to make sure they hewed to the overall vision for the show in general concept and detail. She also worked closely with the Filmation production crew to make sure the show faithfully visualized what Roddenberry, Fontana and the individual writers were striving for. One problem became apparent almost right from the start. TAS was slotted for the Saturday morning children’s viewing hours. This immediately worried fans that the new show was going to be a “kiddyfied” version of Trek, even despite repeated reassurances from Roddenberry and Fontana that the show would still be the real deal. The perception was that NBC and Paramount were not really taking this revival seriously. This perception could have been overcome if NBC had scheduled TAS during primetime hours during the week, but the television industry wasn’t ready for primetime animation for several more years. The other inherent problem with a Saturday morning time slot was that certain things would have to be toned down or avoided altogether as to not upset the sensibilities of the younger audience that could be watching alongside the traditional Trek viewers who would (hopefully) be watching. Looking at the final result TAS’ creators generally achieved what they were aiming for. TAS was not a kiddyfied version of TOS and they generally maintained an adult tone without upsetting the sensibilities of a younger audience. Where TAS faltered can be traced to choice of stories produced, the challenge of cramming complex stories into a 22-minute running time and mistakes in animation production. Opinions will vary, but it can be debated that certain episodes in TAS (as in TOS and every Trek series) should not have happened. For varying reasons certain stories just shouldn’t have happened no matter how noble the original intent. Your mileage will vary depending on individual tastes—everyone draws their line in the sand differently. It appears many of the stories submitted for TAS initially ran overlong for a 22-minute running time. The writers did as they were instructed and submitted mostly complex stories suitable TOS. Consequently, many of the worthy ideas and nuances in the original treatments regrettably needed to be pruned out of the final product. Subsequently this could be why many viewers feel many TAS episodes feel rather truncated as if scenes were left on the cutting room floor. More accurately worthy scenes or dialogue that could have helped a story make more sense were edited out during the writing process to make the story fit the required running time. Why is there an oversized Spock clone in “The Infinite Vulcan?” No explanation is given within the aired episode and as such we’re left to think they made the Keniclius and Spock clones oversized simply to pander to kiddy tastes on Saturday morning television. Well, not so. Apparently in Walter Koenig’s original story he indeed explains why the clones are oversized, and there is a visual clue for their size in the episode itself. In the aired episode we do glimpse the Phylosian ancestors are much larger than their present-day descendants. When Keniclius came to Phylos and started cloning himself he was affected by something in the local environment wherein his clones mutated to being oversized. Keniclius’ subsequent clones were also oversized and so in extent the Spock clone is similarly oversized. It’s still an unnecessary WTF moment (and one that doesn’t bear scientific scrutiny), but at least there was a rationalization for it which sadly didn’t make it into the finished episode. In “The Counter-Clock Incident” why do the crew grow younger at an accelerated rate? There is a pseudo explanation given in the original story, but it never makes it onscreen. Mind you the whole episode premise messes with your head if you give it too much thought. How can you possibly be born old? How do you actually die as an infant? How the hell do you actually go to the bathroom in a universe where everything runs backwards??? Almost every TAS story has elements left out that could have well served the final product if they had had just a few more minutes of running time. Some mistakes in TAS were borne of a simple fact that D.C. Fontana often did not have the chance to see a final cut of the visuals before they were sent to NBC. This was a serious oversight, and one she was very aware of and complained about. It is because of this we got pink (instead of gold and brown) tribbles as well as a pink Kzinti spaceship. It was because of this we see Kirk and Spock swimming about in Argo’s oceans wearing their Starfleet uniforms instead of the wetsuits clearly described in the story notes. It is because of this we see Bem’s body parts floating through the air rather than scurrying along the ground and tree branches as clearly described in David Gerrold’s story notes (Gerrold had tried to make his colony being idea as credible as possible). Other mistakes were borne of not really thinking things through. Such as how does the Vendorian in “The Survivor” turn itself into a deflector shield? In “The Practical Joker” how does a massive inflatable balloon ten times the size of the Enterprise get manufactured and jettisoned out the Enterprise’s hangar bay? Personally I think pretty much all of “The Counter-Clock Incident” isn’t well thought through. A final element of TAS that cannot be ignored is the quality of animation itself. Candidly this simply has to be seen in context of the era. Yes, better animation was possible back in the day, but that caliber of animation was simply out of reach for an ongoing half-hour television series produced on a television budget and time constraints. What Filmation wrought was as good as it could get in the early 1970s. Nonetheless they still managed to give us some very cool stuff that we likely could never have seen on a live-action television series, particularly in terms of exotic non-humanoid aliens and equally exotic and detailed alien landscapes. I tend to look at much of TAS as a stylized representation of what happened in the TOS universe. From today’s perspective it can seem somewhat rough, but it certainly does whet the appetite imagining what could have been with a bit more time and money.