TAS: another look....

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Warped9, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    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.
  2. Poltargyst

    Poltargyst Captain Captain

    Jun 12, 2014
    My eight-year-old self either didn't mind the problems or didn't notice them at all and thought TAS was awesome.
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  3. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Some things are more apparent now then they were to my 14 year old self, but even back then some things didn’t make sense.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
  4. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Commodore Commodore

    Apr 19, 2013
    Last place in Australia to get the NBN
    I think we were so lucky to have TAS as an adult animated show with no magic cat or monkey sitting on Spock's shoulder or anything like that.
    To me the problem with TAS was that it wasn't spectacular enough. That they didn't take enough advantage of the animation possibilities.
    Also I think the acting needed for animation is different for live action. Spock could tell us many things with the raise of his eyebrow, where he put his hands, his supposedly stoic expressions in TOS. All this was lost in the animation. And in TOS, Shatner was full of wonderful expressions and mannerisms and I hate to say unique fighting styles. In TAS I think Kirk was rather bland.
    Still the animated series was mostly wonderful, with great stories and very true to TOS.
  5. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Indeed a lot of the nuanced facial expression, body language and voice in live-action was lost in TAS. I don’t think we would see anything like that until twenty years later in Batman TAS in the ‘90s. It also didn’t help that except for the first two or three episodes produced the TAS cast did not record their parts together. They each recorded their parts separately and then often just literally mailed them in.

    Another area where they sometimes fumbled in terms of voice acting was the regular cast doing the voices of guest characters. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. One particular fumble was Doohan doing the voice of the Guardian of Forever in “Yesteryear.” He did it completely different than how it had been done originally in “The City On The Edge Of Forever.” Nichelle Nichols also fumbled with some of her character voices by pitching them too high and giving us characters that sounded like young girls, most notably the character of Anne Nored in “The Survivor.”

    Bottom line, though, was the TOS cast had no training or real familiarity with voice acting.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
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  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    I've come to realize this is essentially a myth. TNG and DS9 both referenced elements from TAS (backstory from "Yesteryear," the Klothos) during the time that the so-called "ban" was supposedly in effect. The "ban" came solely from the Gene Roddenberry-Richard Arnold memo issued to the public, and neither Roddenberry nor Arnold had any actual control over the TV shows at that point, since the ailing GR had been eased back to a basically ceremonial position. The only real impact the "ban" had (aside from its impact on public perception) was on the tie-in books and comics, because Arnold had approval over those while he was employed at Paramount, and the policy lingered for a few years even after he was gone.

    I'd say that pretty much describes any television series. There are always compromises that have to be made and things that have to be settled for.

    I've come to suspect that's part of the reason Roddenberry turned against TAS in later years. I gather that he'd been fighting with Fontana and David Gerrold over whether they were entitled to co-creator credit for TNG, and so maybe Roddenberry wanted to discredit Fontana's contributions to Trek, to paint them as less legitimate than his own.

    The Flintstones and Jonny Quest were originally prime-time shows. So it wasn't unheard of, though I don't think it was really done anymore by the '70s.

    Although it's interesting how little actually was toned down. Onscreen violence was diminished and onscreen death was all but absent (except in "The Slaver Weapon," and "Yesteryear" if you count I-Chaya), but many TAS plots revolved around the threat of death or the aftermath of earlier offscreen deaths, often on a massive scale. An alien crew that killed itself to prevent a monster from reaching the galaxy, and Kirk being willing to do the same. A whole planet in danger of extermination and the governor making the wrenching decision to save only the children. A race of seductive women who prey vampirically on men's life force to survive. A crewwoman reunited with the impostor of her dead fiance. The nearly-extinct Phylosian race planning to conquer the galaxy. The shore leave planet's computer running amok after the Caretaker died. And so on.

    And while sexual/romantic content was heavily reduced, it wasn't entirely absent. I mentioned "The Lorelei Signal" and its focus on seductive women. There's also Devna in "The Time Trap," whose Orion allure isn't directly acknowledged but who's wearing a far skimpier outfit than either of TOS's Orion women.

    Oh, that's interesting. I'd noticed the giant size of the Phylosians' ancestors' corpses, and I figured that Keniclius enlarged the clones intentionally so they'd be the right size to work the Phylosian invasion fleet's ships. So the answer was there; you just had to look closely enough (and I never thought of it until a year or two ago, admittedly).

    I think that was more of a production issue. The fact is, nobody in TAS ever wears anything except the standard uniforms, except Spock in "Yesteryear," and even then you can see his uniform collar under his Selek disguise. Because Filmation's stock animation system relied so heavily on reusing the same standard cels over and over, they needed to keep the characters' wardrobes constant so that they could drop a stock shot into any sequence. True, the shots of Kirk and Spock swimming had to be newly drawn (though they were probably traced from existing swim-cycle cels from earlier Filmation shows), but the standard character shots were still used in close-ups.

    That's also presumably why they used force field belts instead of spacesuits, so they could just drop quickly-drawn "field outline" cels on top of the standard character cels.

    Alan Dean Foster's novelization explained that he turned himself into a replacement for the sabotaged components in the shield generator.

    Since it's just a balloon, it wouldn't be that hard to fabricate. And we saw in "Once Upon a Planet" that the ship (at least as interpreted in TAS) had robotic waldo mechanisms that could assemble components under computer control.

    There's no making sense of that mess. Foster's novelization retconned the whole thing into an illusion, but even then, it doesn't make sense that Spock ever fell for such an incoherent illusion.

    I tend to assume that the "real" version of the stories depicted in TAS is somewhere between the onscreen versions and the Alan Dean Foster versions. Where they conflict, I usually assume the aired episode takes precedence (except in cases like "Bem" where the novel version is more plausible), but Foster fills in a lot of worthwhile detail that enriches the episodes and makes more sense of some things.

    Like Warped9 said, it was as good as it could've been by early '70s standards. It may look crude today, but you wouldn't have found anything else on Saturday mornings at the time that looked better. I think they did an impressive job telling big stories and creating expansive alien vistas, exotic creatures and ships, and the like.

    There are lots of adult women with high-pitched, "girlish" voices -- Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, or my best friend from college. There's nothing wrong with it.

    That's true of Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley, but not the rest. Doohan had worked extensively in radio. Nichols was a trained singer and stage performer, so she certainly knew how to use her voice well. Takei had done dubbing work for the English-language releases of Japanese movies including Godzilla Raids Again. And of course, Majel Barrett did plenty of voice work for TOS as the Enterprise computer.

    But I find that Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley gave much better performances in the 6 episodes of TAS's second season than they did in the first 16. Either they had better direction in that season, or they'd learned some lessons in voice acting since season 1. It makes me wish the series had run longer.
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  7. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Feb 12, 2011
    standard orbit
    There's also Lara openly hitting on Kirk in "The Jihad."
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  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    ^Yeah, but the Lara/Kirk flirtation is pretty mild compared to what TOS would've done with it. Ditto for the love potion in "Mudd's Women" -- people are swooning over each other, but there's no smoochy stuff going on.
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  9. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    By now it’s well known that the holographic recreation room (later known as the holodeck in TNG) got its start in TAS’ “The Practical Joker.” What many might not know is that the holodeck, as well as the life support belts, were actually conceived during TOS’ production. Although conceived during TOS they were not used given they were then considered too expensive and f/x intensive to depict in live-action, particularly during TOS’ third season.

    Candidly I have to disagree with that. The personal energy fields of Bele and Loai seen in “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” are very similar to what we saw of the life support belts in TAS. While realizing a holodeck in TOS could have been challenging TOS had been doing similar illusionary scenes since the beginning with “The Cage.”

    It’s interesting to note that one or two stories in TAS were originally conceived for TOS on the off chance there had been a fourth season. David Gerrold conceived “BEM” for TOS and even had ideas on how it might be done, but even he concedes it was highly unlikely to be convincing. Even so it was a facepalm moment when he finally saw how his colony being idea was finally depicted after all his detailed notes on how it should have been depicted. “More Tribbles, More Troubles” was another story pitched during TOS, but by third season Freiberger wasn’t interested. Sadly it still managed to get done for TAS.

    The writers for TAS were encouraged to be quite detailed in visualizing their stories so as to avoid silly mistakes. This is where Fontana not getting to see final cuts before episodes were shipped to NBC led to more than a few visual errors onscreen. Spock and Kirk swimming underwater had to be drawn from scratch so there was absolutely no reason (other than laziness/carelessness) why they shouldn’t have been drawn wearing wetsuits (as well as swimming trunks when they were aboard the Enterprise in a temporary water tank). She was quite miffed about that one.

    Fontana was not sold on all the stories produced, but Roddenberry had the final say on that. Apparently he sometimes saw something he liked in a story that simply eluded her.

    In regard to story content Roddenberry, Fontana and the writers practiced sleight-of-hand with the network censors. They gave them obvious things to object to and needing to be toned down as a distraction from other things they really wanted to do. It’s how they got they got to explore adult topics (like death and religion) on Saturday morning television.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
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  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Yes, indeed. The Making of Star Trek mentions that the unseen recreation center on deck 8 includes a place to watch immersive 3D movies by "a sophisticated extension of holography," or to watch holographic messages from home so, by amazing 23rd-century technology, you can actually see your kids growing up rather than just reading a letter about it!

    I'm with you. It wouldn't really have been that hard to shoot. As long as the holograms looked solid like they did on TNG, you could just have an actor standing there pretending to be a hologram, and the only special effect you'd need would be a simple jump cut or dissolve to show them appearing or disappearing. And showing a holographically simulated environment would've been no different from showing any other set or location. TOS could've used it the same way TNG did, as a way to save money by reusing backlot locations or historical props and set pieces, more credibly than the "parallel Earths" trope that served the same purpose.

    Foster's description of Bem and the Pandronians is a lot more credibly alien. The animated version was far too humanoid. Trek has conceits for justifying the existence of humanoid aliens, but even if you accept those, it's implausible that one such species would've evolved the ability to split apart, or that independent colony organisms that evolved into a symbiotic form would happen to resemble human body parts so exactly.

    As I said above, the reason was probably so that they could reuse their standard character shots in close-ups. And the swimming shots were probably retraced from earlier Filmation shows (I think I may have seen the same swimming motion used for characters in Filmation's Journey to the Center of the Earth series).

    I'm surprised to learn he had that much involvement. I got the impression that he just let Fontana do it all for him. If he was that hands-on, it makes it even more hypocritical that he renounced it as "not real Trek" later in life.

    TOS did the same thing to get past the censors -- they sent them shots with more skin, sex, and violence than they actually intended to use, so that they could then cut them down to what they wanted all along and make the censors think they'd won the argument.
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  11. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    “Beyond The Farthest Star” (Sept. 8, 1973)

    An excellent jumping off point for the animated series. It makes full use of the advantages of animation and gives us a story that feels very much like TOS. Something like this could have been done in TOS, but it would have had to have been reimagined to some degree and a more generous budget would have been required.

    This was written by Samuel Peeples, who had written TOS’ second pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Peeples again captures that sense of the Enterprise being far beyond known territory and deep in unexplored space.

    Peeples’ original treatment was distinctly longer and more complex than what we eventually got, but it really doesn’t feel like too much is missing in the aired episode. Although the TAS episodes had no opening teaser Peeples’ original story began with Kirk and Spock playing some sort of null-gravity game around and within a spherical body of water! It was a fascinating idea and could certainly have been realized in animation, but it was dropped in order to get into the main story faster.

    The high tech life-support belts also make their first appearance here. Apparently Roddenberry thought this was a new idea (and loved it) and he seems unaware that Judy Burns first conceived of the belts for her story TOS' “The Tholian Web.” It’s not surprising GR didn’t remember or know of the belts’ earlier conception given his involvement with TOS was minimal at that time.

    The most eye catching aspect of this episode has to be the depiction of the ancient alien starship. This is something that simply couldn’t be realized in live-action until decades later when cgi would become prevalent and more proficient. The alien ship’s interiors would have required at least a feature film’s budget and f/x resources to have been realized back in the day.

    “Yesteryear” (Sept. 15, 1973)

    Following an excellent premiere we get another superb story that bats it out of the park. This again feels like another genuine TOS story and bolstered by Mark Lenard returning to voice the character of Sarek. Dorothy Fontana got her chance to bring Spock’s childhood pet sehlat to life and she had a very distinct idea of what I-Chaya would look like—definitely no cute and cuddly teddy bear animal suitable for Saturday morning television. This was very adult level materiel for the era’s usual fare for Saturday morning television.

    The advantages of animation once again are showcased wherein we get to see more of Vulcan while exploring Spock’s time as a child. This simply couldn’t have been done to this extent as live-action on a constrained television budget including recreating the Guardian of Forever set as seen originally in “The City On The Edge Of Forever.”

    Two small disappointments in this episode. One is the voice of the Guardian which sounds rather weird compared to how it was done originally in TOS. The second is that Jane Wyatt wasn’t able to do the voice for Spock’s mother Amanda. There is no mention as to whether she was unavailable or she simply wasn’t invited because they couldn’t afford more than one guest speaking part.

    A small continuity error crops up here. Andorians from TOS were established to have bluish skin, but here Commander Thelin has gray skin. The likely explanation is the artists felt blue skin while wearing a blue Sciences tunic would not come off well. Or one could rationalize that Andorians have varying skin tones just as humans do—a neat idea actually.

    “One Of Our Planets Is Missing” (Sept. 22, 1973)

    Mark Daniels was a recurring director during TOS yet here he tries his hand at writing a Star Trek episode. He had originally pitched an idea for TOS with the working title “A Question Of Cannibalism,” but it was passed on given NBC was most unlikely to green light the subject matter. Nonetheless Fontana worked with Daniels to create this very TOS like adventure story.

    There are a lot of familiar ideas in this story previously seen throughout TOS, but they still manage to pull off a decent and strong showing here. The strongest echo is its basic similarity to “The Immunity Syndrome,” but there are many other familiar resonances as well.

    This is a quintessential bottle show where all of the action takes place aboard the Enterprise. A familiar character from TOS’ “The Ultimate Computer” returns as former Starfleet Commodore Robert Wesley is now civilian governor of the Federation colony planet Mantilles. Regarding Wesley, Dorothy Fontana was a bit annoyed to see him still wearing a Starfleet uniform (and a blue one at that) when it had been clearly spelled out that he should be wearing civilian attire. Barry Russo, the actor who portrayed Wesley originally, did not return to voice his animated version. Wesley was voiced by James Doohan.

    Given what we had seen in TOS a story like this one could likely have been done live-action. While we see animation used to good effect there really isn’t anything here that couldn’t have been done for TOS given what we had already seen win “The Immunity Syndrome.”

    It’s notable that the story idea of 82 million people in danger of being annihilated en masse was pretty heavy for younger members of the audience who could be watching.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
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  12. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Feb 12, 2011
    standard orbit
    So, all of these claims about what happened behind the scenes on TAS, are they being drawn from Cushman's book? Is that the plan for the rest of the thread: to just present the behind-the-scenes accounts from Cushman's book on the assumption that they're true? If so, then it needs to be pointed out that Cushman was not a reliable researcher for the three volumes of TATV covering TOS, and sometimes he has been proven to have made things up out of whole cloth.

    Do posters like @Harvey, @Maurice, @Indysolo, and @alchemist have any idea what Cushman's track record is on the volume mentioned in the OP of this thread? Do they even consider it worth, uh, considering?
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  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    A lot of these remarks are taken from what is attributed to what Dorothy Fontana and the episode writers themselves are quoted as saying. So unless the author is fabricating what he was actually told then I feel reasonably sure at taking them at their word regarding what they remember.
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  14. TIN_MAN

    TIN_MAN Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Aug 26, 2007
    Mr. Scott could have used one of those life support belts in "That Which Survives".
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  15. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    “The Lorelei Signal” (Sept. 29, 1973)

    Margaret Armen had written three TOS episodes (“The Gamesters Of Triskelion,” “The Paradise Syndrome” and “The Cloud Minders”). Here she was invited back to try her hand writing for TAS.

    This story borrows from ancient tales of Sirens luring seafaring men to their deaths, only now set in deep space. Armen was already well familiar with Star Trek yet even so her original story treatment was much too long for the allotted 22-minute running time. It had to be seriously pruned with Dorothy Fontana’s help. The obvious sexual overtones to this story had to be toned way down given the show’s time slot. Even so enough of it still manages make itself felt.

    Fontana was disappointed with a couple of aspects of this episode. One was the limits of the era’s animation failing to deliver the facial and vocal nuances so easily done in live-action. The second disappointment was the Lorelei women being depicted normal size when the script called for them to be shown as larger than average. If the alien women had been shown as larger than average than Uhura’s command to almost immediately use their phasers to stun them would make more sense given the Enterprise women would be at risk trying to physically tackle someone larger, more imposing and likely physically stronger.

    Of course, the standout element of this story is that Lt. Uhura finally gets her due and takes command of the Enterprise as well as the landing party to rescue Kirk, Spock and McCoy. This is something that would have been nice to see during TOS as it would have really made a statement back in the day.

    Like the preceding episode this story is something that quite likely could have done during TOS with little revision. In terms of visuals it wouldn’t have been that demanding.

    “More Tribbles, More Troubles” (Oct. 6, 1973)

    David Gerrold returns to pen a direct sequel to his “The Trouble With Tribbles.” After the popularity of the original tribble episode Gerrold pitched an idea for a sequel for TOS’ third season. The idea didn’t fly. When TAS was getting started Dorothy Fontana invited Gerrold to try again. And here we are.

    There are two distinct things in Gerrold’s original idea that didn’t make it onscreen: He initially resurrected the character of Nils Baris and the glommer (tribble predator) bred nearly as quickly as tribbles themselves. Roddenberry nixed both ideas as well as prohibiting the feeding noises Gerrold had in mind for the glommer. However, Stanley Adams did return to voice Cyrano Jones.

    Your mileage may vary in individual opinion of this episode. Some will find it comfortably familiar and even heartwarming while others may consider it a waste of time and effort. I fall into the latter camp as it doesn’t offer anything of real substance to the Trek universe. It is essentially a pointless rehash of the original episode. For me this was TAS’ first real disappointment. Ugh.

    The only item of interest I saw in this story was finally seeing a new Federation ship design: the robot cargo ship.

    “The Survivor” (Oct. 13, 1973)

    The initial working title for this story was “The Chameleon.” Suffice to say that had to be changed so as not to give away a major element of the story too soon.

    The original villains of this story were Klingons rather than Romulans. The Carter Winston imposter was always meant to be a spy, but his original intent was somewhat different. And there was no long lost love in the form of Lt. Ann Nored in the original treatment.

    There are a lot of familiar Trek elements in this episode that harken back in some form or other to TOS. Nonetheless it still manages to come off as something distinctive enough in its own right. The episode also takes full advantage of animation by giving us the very cool alien octopoid Vendorian which couldn’t possibly have been done live-action even though everything else in the episode could have been realized during TOS. Also Dorothy Fontana finally got the chance to establish McCoy having a daughter by having her referenced in the story's early dialogue after Carter Winston is beamed aboard.

    I found this a welcome rebound after the uninspiring Tribbles sequel.
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  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    It's weird that both of Peeples's scripts involve the Enterprise heading out beyond the fringes of our galaxy. What did he think was out there besides empty space?

    Although there is a valid reason why traveling outside the galaxy would be good for star charting as stated in this episode, assuming you travel out perpendicularly to the disk. That would let you get "above" the plane of the galaxy and see more stars with less stuff in the way -- like standing on a chair to try to spot someone in a crowded room.

    I think the exterior could've been achieved with a model, though it would've been an incredibly delicate model and probably taken more time and care to make than they could've managed on a TV schedule. But yes, the interiors would've been impossible to achieve on a TV budget. It certainly is one of the most striking ships ever depicted in Trek.

    Although it's not the only Filmation episode to deal with the death of a pet. The Isis episode "Lucky" from October 1975 involved a boy having to cope with the death of his dog. I remember seeing it as a kid -- it stood out from your typical Saturday morning fare.

    Most likely the latter. I don't think they ever had more than one "name" guest actor per episode, and there were only a few of those -- Lenard, Stanley Adams, Roger C. Carmel, Ted Knight, Ed Bishop (although Knight had been part of Filmation's repertory company on several shows).

    The story is that Filmation's color director was colorblind and thus made odd choices like gray Andorians and pink spaceships.

    I've always found it strikingly similar to ST:TMP -- the Enterprise confronts a giant cosmic cloud threatening a planet, travels through its innards to its central brain, prepares to self-destruct if necessary to kill it, but ends up convincing it to go away on its own thanks to Spock contacting it through a mind meld. I used to wonder if Alan Dean Foster was influenced by his memories of novelizing this episode when he developed the original story outline that evolved into TMP, but when I read that outline, I saw that all the similarities were added by other writers in later drafts, so it was just a coincidence.

    I think they found ways to show us things that couldn't have been depicted in live action, like the visit to the ship's warp reactor.

    Oh, so that's why Foster described them as giantesses in the novelization.

    The main disappointment for me is that all the women had the same coloration, not only of skin but of hair and clothing. It was a bit monotonous-looking.

    One of the best things about TAS is how it gives Sulu and Uhura more focus than they ever got in TOS or even the movies. Well, Uhura's gotten more focus in the Kelvin movies, but Sulu is still a background player there, and a waste of John Cho's talents.

    It is a pretty implausible coincidence that Cyrano, tribbles, and Koloth & Korax all simultaneously show up just when the Enterprise happens to be delivering a triticale variant to Sherman's Planet again. Failure of imagination there.

    It's also inconsistent that the Klingon stasis weapon freezes the transporter the first time it's used but has no effect on the transporter the second time. And it's strategically problematical that Kirk beams the tribbles to the Klingon ship before making his ultimatum. That's not how threats work. You lose your leverage if you've already done your worst.

    Yes, all good points, plus a nice guest turn by Ted Knight. And Anne Nored is the first female security guard in Trek with a speaking role, though it's a shame she's defined purely as a love interest.

    And speaking of adult themes... consider the ramifications of Nored choosing to stay with the impostor of her lover after discovering he's actually an alien tentacle monster! :lol:
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  17. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    “The Infinite Vulcan” (Oct. 20, 1973)

    This was written by Walter Koenig and it was his first screenwriting credit. Koenig pulled no punches and packed a lot of ideas in his story, any one of which might have made for a story on its own. As such this episode feels rather truncated given it covers so much ground that it feels it deserved more running time to be told more completely.

    This is a return to early TAS form as it feels like a genuine “strange new world” TOS story albeit with fantastic aliens and landscapes that couldn’t possibly have been done live-action. It really works.

    Unfortunately all the good is marred because of the well known WTF moment when we see a giant Spock clone four times the size of the actual Spock. Without any explanation as to why the Spock and Keniclius clones are oversized it comes across as pure Saturday morning kiddy stuff.

    However, Koenig had written a scientific basis for the giant clones in his original story treatment. He established that the original Stavros Keniclius had been normal sized when he arrived on Phylos. When he first cloned himself he incorporated a hormone from the original oversized Phylosian ancestors. Consequently Keniclius’ clone mutated and resulted in a being four times the size of the original. Furthermore Koenig rationalized the hormone (if introduced at the embryonic stage) not only promoted giantism but also accelerated growth to maturity. This explains why Spock’s clone is not only 25 feet tall, but also fully grown when the Enterprise crew find him mere hours later.

    Sure, the science is suspect, but at least Koenig made the effort to make it look like giant clones hadn’t been pulled out of thin air. Sadly none of Koenig’s scientific underpinning made it onscreen. The sole onscreen clue pointing to what Koenig was thinking is the depiction of the Phylosian ancestors as massive creatures.

    I still like to pretend the giant clones didn’t actually happen because otherwise I think “The Infinite Vulcan” is a first-rate adventure.

    “The Magicks Of Megas-Tu” (Oct. 27, 1973)

    Again utilizing the advantages of animation we get a mind-bending story where the Enterprise travels near the heart of the galaxy and encounters a being that just might be Lucifer the devil of Christian faith.

    Okay it isn’t spelled out quite that blatantly, but the story doesn’t really shy away from it either. The viewer is left to wonder if the half man, half goat being known as Lucien could indeed have been taken as the devil on ancient Earth. The original story called for the Enterprise crew meeting a being claiming to be God, but NBC nixed that idea. So they turned the idea around and had the crew perhaps meeting the Devil and the network oddly didn’t have a problem with that. But just to make sure Fontana and the writer injected a good amount of violence that the network demanded to have cut or toned down if the episode ever hoped to see the light of day.

    This story harkens back to a lot of TOS stories, but most particularly “Who Mourns For Adonis.” As such it appears ancient Earth was just teeming with extraterrestrial visitors all over the planet. Maybe Earth was a convenient alien tourist spot back in the day and the tourists couldn’t resist messing with the local rubes.

    I must say I think “The Magicks Of Megas-Tu” impresses me more than when similar subject matter is again revisited in TFF sixteen years later. It comes across as a much more complete and polished effort even if it could have used more running time to more fully explore the story. It not only touches on aspects of religious persecution, but it’s also rather ballsy to make “the Devil” a sympathetic character.

    “Once Upon A Planet” (Nov. 3, 1973)

    For the second time TAS does something of a direct sequel by having the Enterprise revisit the Shoreleave planet first seen in TOS’ first season. The difference here is that it doesn’t feel like a mere rehash of the previous story. It introduces a new situation and introduces new elements never seen previously and accomplishes it with more polish than the previous sequel effort. It’s not outstanding, but it’s serviceable and not cringe inducing. Of course, your mileage may vary.

    It certainly plays on the strengths of animation as the creations that arise to torment the Enterprise crew could not have been realized in live-action. Yes, such a story could have been adapted for TOS, but by losing the more fantastical things seen in the animated effort the story would feel less distinctive from the original source materiel.

    Unlike “More Tribbles, More Troubles” I am on the fence about this episode. I don’t care for it being a somewhat direct sequel, but the again it isn’t badly done.

    Something like this had been proposed for TOS’ third season. Gene Roddenberry had assigned Theodore Sturgeon to write a sequel to “Shore Leave,” but the assignment got cut off when Fred Freiberger took over running the show. Five years later a pair of new writers took a crack at it. Some of the ideas from Sturgeon’s effort, such as the levitating mechanical caretakers, might have been resurrected for the TAS story.

    As usual it appears the original story was full of fantastic things that simply had to be pruned out to get the essentials to fit within the allotted running time.

    “Mudd’s Passion” (Nov. 10, 1973)

    Roger C. Carmel returns to voice Harry Mudd. You may or may not rejoice. A third Mudd instalment had been considered for TOS' third season, but it never came to fruition. See, third season wasn't all bad.

    Forget character growth. Mudd returns in familiar form as the interstellar conman always peddling some scam or other. This time it’s a “love potion” he is—once again—peddling to unsophisticated miners.

    This episode feels more in the vein of “More Tribbles, More Troubles” than the more polished effort of “Once Upon A Planet.” It largely feels like same old, same old. It doesn’t bring anything new to the game. It’s just an excuse to rehash something already familiar. And in the vein of earlier seeing giant pink tribbles the whole thing feels dumbed down and just a going-through-the-motions exercise.

    The only small point of interest here is getting to see a new shuttlecraft design, which sadly gets trashed by two massive alien dinosaurs.

    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    If we go by Roddenberry's TMP-novelization-preface suggestion that TOS was a 23rd-century dramatization of the Enterprise's real adventures that was sometimes "inaccurately larger than life," then TAS might be its cartoon spinoff that sometimes embellished details of the actual adventures to make them more fantastic. So it's easy enough to pretend that the clones were normal-sized in the "real" version of events.

    Then again, Apollo was able to pull off being a giant, so clearly it is somehow possible in the Trek universe.

    It's a good premise for a Trek episode in most respects, and a nice statement against persecution and intolerance, but it's badly marred by the whole "center of the galaxy" thing and its dependence on the continuous-creation theory of cosmology, which by that time had already been largely discredited in favor of the Big Bang theory, with only a few diehards like Fred Hoyle refusing to give it up. It's the equivalent of watching a story about jungles on Venus.

    "Once Upon a Planet" is terrific, because it's a sequel that has more depth and substance than its original. If you think about it, "Shore Leave" is a story with no stakes. There's no actual threat, just the characters' misunderstanding of something totally harmless. But "Once" puts the characters in genuine peril and has them achieve meaningful change at the end by persuading the foe with a statement of their principles. It's a better Star Trek story all around. Plus the better use of Uhura and Sulu continues.

    Worst of all, it treats Nurse Chapel very poorly, portraying her as rather pathetic and desperate in her crush on Spock.
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  19. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Aug 3, 2003
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    “The Terratin Incident” (Nov. 17, 1973)

    Star Trek meets The Incredible Shrinking Man as the Enterprise crew race against time to solve the dilemma of them shrinking in size before they reach a point when they can no longer operate the ship.

    Paul Schneider wrote three previous stories for TOS: “Balance Of Terror” and “The Squire Of Gothos.” His third story, “Tomorrow The Universe,” had been planned for the second season, but never made it before the camera.

    Tiny people in science fiction and fantasy is certainly nothing new. They show up in Gulliver’s Travels, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Fantastic Voyage (both live-action and animated) and more recently in Land Of The Giants. And that’s just a sampling. They were also familiar in superhero comics. In Gullivers Travels and Land Of The Giants tiny people were just naturally tiny in the world they inhabited. In other works people were made tiny by means of magic or some pseudo science such as exotic radiation or energies. TAS takes the latter route as an unknown energy beam initiates the Enterprise crew (as well as their organic based uniforms) rapidly growing smaller.

    At least the story offered up some sketchy science to explain what was happening and how. They even touched on the idea it was the space between molecules that was reducing and as such their mass remained the same even as they shrank. Given that a fall from what otherwise might not be a significant height could be quite dangerous. Also, if one’s body mass remained the same then wouldn’t their muscle strength also remain much the same? Just asking as I don’t know.

    It does present something of an interesting dilemma, but that doesn’t overcome the visual depiction of the characters getting ever ridiculously smaller even as they try to maintain control of the ship. The entire exercise is treated seriously, but a viewer can be forgiven if they find the whole thing too absurd, as it was for me. It was just one of those ideas I did not feel fit in Star Trek (and, yes, there were things in TOS I wish they had passed on).

    Creatures are the size and form they are because that’s how they are best adapted to their environment. An ant, or any insect, works in size and form because it is small. A dog or lion sized ant wouldn’t even be able to walk given it would collapse under its own weight. It’s tiny mass even allows it to defy gravity and as such it can navigate practically any surface no matter what its orientation. Humans could never have evolved to be ant sized as the bipedal form would be completely unsuitable to function in the environment an insect handles with ease.

    Yes, Star Trek allows us to ponder fantastic circumstances, but even here the suspension of disbelief is at the breaking point, just as it was when we were supposed to accept that people could somehow exist at a highly accelerated state as seen in TOS’ “Wink Of An Eye.”

    This story could never have been done in TOS even though it is largely a bottle show. The resources simply didn’t exist for a 1960’s television budget. Seeing it done on TAS and particularly with the show scheduled for Saturday mornings really makes it look like they were trying to appeal to the kiddies, even if that was not the intention.

    “The Time Trap” (Nov. 24, 1973)

    The Bermuda Triangle has an interstellar counterpart where the Enterprise and a Klingon battle cruiser soon disappear.

    Klingon Commander Kor, last seen in TOS’ “Errand Of Mercy,” returns in this original (and not spun off) story where the Enterprise and a Klingon warship, the Klothos, find themselves trapped in a deep space Sargasso Sea brimming with lost alien starships. And to cap it off time within the strange region passes very slowly such that the crews of starships that disappeared centuries earlier are still alive when The Enterprise and the Klothos arrive. There is also a race against time to escape as the power levels on their ships are fading.

    Sadly John Colicos does not return to voice Commander Kor. Pity—it could have been glorious. Even sadder the animated Kor doesn’t even look like the live-action Kor. TAS’ Kor was voiced by James Doohan.

    The Starfleet and Klingon crews are forced to work together to escape as each are unable to do so on their own. It’s an interesting visual to see the Enterprise and Klothos affixed together in order to combine their diminishing power to make good their escape. Of course, things are complicated by the Klingons’ plans for the Enterprise to self-destruct once they have escaped.

    I have always liked the character of Kor. Despite his ruthlessness I did see intelligence in the character. I was irked to some degree by seeing him and the other Klingons reduced largely to caricatures. I would like to have seen more nuance with Kor given that’s part of what made him interesting in his live-action persona.

    This story is made further interesting visually by the collection of exotic alien starships within the void as well as the gathering of alien races who have learned, out of necessity, to peacefully coexist.

    This isn’t a bad story, but I fear it doesn’t bat it out of the park either. It’s okay, but it could use more to flesh it out as none of the characters really stand out. There is no nuance to it and so little backstory as to how these stranded people really learned how to adapt and coexist.

    It’s okay, but the story could leave one wanting.

    “The Ambergris Element” (Dec. 1, 1973)

    Margaret Armen has written some good Star Trek before, but here she stumbles with an effort more appropriate to Filmation’s Aquaman or the 1960’s series Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (where they actually did a story where air breathers were converted to water breathers).

    This is Trek by nature of its name, but like “The Terratin Incident” I feel it really doesn’t belong here. Of course, that can also be said of any number of live-action Trek episodes and films from throughout the franchise.

    Seeing Kirk and Spock floating in a laboratory tank and swimming in Argo’s oceans while still wearing their Starfleet uniforms is cringe inducing. No wonder Dorothy Fontana was miffed over that oversight. Seeing Scotty wearing a life-support belt while underwater was also rather bizarre.

    There isn’t much to this story and there are few interesting elements. The aquashuttle is an interesting idea as is the odd looking surface launch Scotty uses while searching for the missing Kirk and Spock. The Argosian sea serpent is also visually interesting.

    Suffice to say in no way whatsoever could this episode have been done live-action, and that’s a good thing. This is pretty close to being a kiddified story for Star Trek.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    The "science" didn't make any sense at all. They said it was the spiral DNA molecules tightening that was causing organic matter to shrink. But that's stupid, because organic matter isn't made exclusively of DNA. The only place DNA is found is in the chromosomes in cell nuclei. And the shape of the molecule is vital to how it interacts with proteins and enzymes. Twist its strands tighter (if that's even possible) and it wouldn't be able to control cell functions anymore. It wouldn't cause someone to shrink, it'd just kill them.

    My handwave is that the explanation we were given was simplified, and that the radiation's effect was something more like the subspace compression field in DS9's "One Little Ship," a dimensional warp effect rather than molecular compression.

    I'd say no, because the shorter limbs would have a lot less leverage.

    I don't see that. As you say, there have been a lot of movies dealing with miniaturization, like The Incredible Shrinking Man and Fantastic Voyage. It's not a "kiddie" idea, it's just a sci-fi idea.

    And don't forget, we did see miniaturization already in a TOS episode, when Flint shrank the Enterprise in "Requiem for Methuselah."

    I'm not sure how original "The Time Trap" really is, because its premise is strikingly similar to Gold Key's "Museum at the End of Time," which was published in 1972. Of course, coincidental resemblances between stories happen all the time -- I'm usually the first to point that out -- but the resemblance here is so close that even I find it suspicious. Memory Alpha summarizes the comic thusly:
    Decades later, Voyager would do its own riff on much the same premise with "The Void."
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