TAS: another look....

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

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    “The Slaver Weapon” (Dec. 15, 1973)

    Dorothy Fontana was a big fan of Larry Niven and when TAS was getting off the ground she invited him to submit a story. Subsequently Niven adapted one of his own original stories, “The Soft Weapon,” into one of TAS’ and Star Trek’s most interesting stories. And in it he introduces one of his creations, the ferocious and warlike Kzin into the Trek universe. In Trek they’re known as the Kzinti.

    One of the truly interesting features of this episode is that only three of the familiar Enterprise crew are present throughout the story. Spock, Uhura and Sulu are aboard a shuttlecraft transporting an ancient artifact to a starbase when they are diverted to a small icy asteroid. Here they are taken captive by the large catlike Kzinti who are after the artifact Spock and company are transporting. It then becomes a struggle between the two parties vying to retain possession of the ancient artifact.

    There is an interesting new shuttlecraft design introduced here, too.

    There really isn’t much point to this story other than being an entertaining straight up adventure. If there is a point it’s too much curiosity can kill the cat, and it happens here, literally.

    This is a story I would have absolutely loved to have seen as live-action given a way could be found to bring the Kzinti convincingly to life.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Kzinti is the plural and adjective form of Kzin.


    It's a very unusual adaptation. Usually, when a story is adapted from another source, it's changed to fit the universe -- e.g. Dennis Bailey & David Bischoff's novel Tin Woodman was massively rewritten to fit into the Trek universe as TNG: "Tin Man." But "The Slaver Weapon" changes Star Trek to fit Known Space instead. It's a remarkably exact adaptation of "The Soft Weapon," just streamlined a bit, and Spock, Sulu, Uhura, the force field belts and phasers, and a few references to Starfleet are the only Trek elements in what's otherwise essentially a Known Space story.
     
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  3. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    “The Eye Of The Beholder” (Jan. 5, 1974)

    David P. Harmon was already familiar with Trek. He had written “The Deadly Years” for TOS (with a lot of rewriting by Gene Coon). Harmon also tried his hand with two other stories, “The Expatriates” and “Beware Of Gryptons Baring Gifts,” neither of which came to fruition. Nonetheless he was invited to try again for TAS.

    The result was essentially a retelling of “The Cage” with a change of details. The Enterprise is lured to an alien world while in search of a lost science vessel. Kirk and a landing party beam down to look for the missing ship’s crew wherein after some run-and-jump action avoiding menacing alien creatures they are subsequently captured and put into captivity alongside the remaining members of the science vessel. From there it’s a plodding and talky exercise in trying to convince their alien slug like captors to let them go free.

    Instead of crab like beings Roddenberry originally envisioned for “The Cage” we get oversized slugs with a singular manipulative appendage very much like an elephant’s trunk. The creatures are telepathic and yet even with a manipulative “trunk” it’s leaves you wondering how they could possibly have constructed their exotic looking city.

    The whole thing feels like an uninspired and warmed over going-through-the motions exercise. You can’t help but feel why did the even bother with this.



    “The Jihad” (Jan. 12, 1974)

    It’s somewhat perplexing how the same man who wrote the rehash that was “Mudd’s Passion,” Stephen Kandel, is the same one who wrote “The Jihad.” TAS’ first season ends on a high note with this interesting and exciting adventure featuring only two of the main cast members.

    “The Jihad” is everything TAS stories were hoped to be. There are interesting and varied aliens, exotic landscapes and an exciting and engaging story with mystery, intrigue and danger. The episode makes full use of the advantages of animation. This is a story that really couldn’t have been done live-action given the number of exotic aliens and ever changing planetary landscape.

    Kirk and Spock are the only two main characters set on a mission with a diverse group of aliens to find and retrieve a valuable alien artifact. They follow in the footsteps of two previous expeditions before them who supposedly failed to return. There is friction and suspicion amongst the characters as they struggle to work together to successfully accomplish their mission.

    It’s actually a pretty straightforward adventure albeit with religious overtones that moves right along with character and energy.

    Kandel apparently laced his original treatment with plenty of violent action to give NBC something meaty to object to even as they seemed to have no serious qualms over the story having religious overtones and making references to a religious holy war.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
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  4. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    "The Expatriates" became "A Piece of the Action," for which Harmon received the story credit and a split the teleplay credit with Gene L. Coon.
     
  5. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    From one of the proposals for an animated "Star Trek" before the one we actually got from Filmation. Everyone had a cadet shadowing their usual position - and Scotty gets his TMP moustache before TMP. In this version, Scotty was leading the team of Starfleet kid-ets.

    [​IMG]
    TAS cadets by Ian McLean, on Flickr
     
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  6. JonnyQuest037

    JonnyQuest037 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sounds like a pretty accurate portrayal of Nurse Chapel and her crush on Spock to me.
     
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  7. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    While this had definitely been proposed it was definitely NOT the direction Roddenberry and Fontana wanted to go. It would killed have any chance of TAS being taken seriously.

    An interesting and curious note regarding the TAS episode stardates. Many if not most of the stardates had the animated episodes mixed in with the stardates of the TOS episodes, almost as if the TAS events had been overlooked or skipped over during TOS.
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    There are a number of recurring problems with Cushman's works.

    For one he seems to treat all sources as having equal weight, like a production memo and an anecdote. As @Harvey and I have found going through the Roddenberry papers etc. it becomes readily apparent that the recollections of the actors and production staff are frequently erroneous and do not jibe with the documented happenings. Heck, a few years ago Dorothy Fontana outright contradicted something she herself reported in 1968 and graciously went "mea culpa" when I pointed it out. This is no knock on her or anyone else interviewed, but memory is an unreliable thing. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously untrustworthy, especially at a remove of years or decades, so you can't accept it is the gospel truth if you're actually trying to figure out—as closely as possible—what actually happened.

    Likewise, Cushman has in the past treated various production documents as if they were all equally authoritative, e.g. treating shooting schedules and production reports as having equal weight, whereas the latter always trumps the former because the former is what they planned and the latter is what actually happened on set. Ergo, where the latter are unavailable you can't use the former to authoritatively say what happened, as Cushman has, because the exigencies of the moment can make the best laid plans go awry.

    A major problem is with his writing itself, because he frequently describes events in a "this is what happened" sense when he's merely making logical inferences or outright speculating. For instance, in TATV 3 he writes that someone “opted for four box ads” but there were more ads than that, so he's stated with seeming authority something which is not accurate. Someone "opted" to place ads, sure, but they didn't opt to place only four, which is what his word choice says. I could write "Roddenberry had to fight the network to get an interracial crew," because he often claimed that, but that doesn't make it true, and it isn't at all the same thing as if I write "Roddenberry frequently claimed he had to fight the network to get an interracial crew." The latter is accurate precisely because it reports what Roddenberry stated but is not an absolute statement of the factuality of same. That may seem nitpicky to some but it's a big distinction insofar as concerns historical accuracy.

    For starters.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Hmm. I don't think it ever occurred to me that "The Eye of the Beholder" was that similar to "The Cage." Perhaps because the Lactrans are more alien and uncommunicative, so it doesn't play out the same way. If anything, the Lactrans are more convincing as hyper-advanced intellects than the Talosians, because their minds work on such a different level that they can't even lower themselves to communicate on our level, any more than we can directly understand or participate in our pets' communication. I've always found that quite intriguing.

    There's also the difference that the Talosians are a dying people attempting to repopulate and preserve some trace of their civilization, while the Lactrans are a society in their prime -- which makes them a lot more potentially dangerous, if you think about it. Although of course, this being TAS, there was a peaceful understanding achieved at the end.

    The Foster adaptation of this one is perhaps the most revisionist in a way, because he actually changes the ending in order to lead into the original sequel story he wrote to pad out Star Trek Log Eight to novel length. For a long time, I couldn't remember how the episode actually ended, since TAS wasn't running in syndication anywhere that I knew of. I eventually bought the script and storyboard of the episode from Lincoln Enterprises so I'd know how it really ended. I still have those.


    Even though it's more of a riff on Mission: Impossible in a way. But yeah, it does a terrific job expanding the universe. I wish we could've learned more about the various alien species it introduced. Though several of them have been explored in the novels. Em-3-Green's species was named the Nasat in the S.C.E./Corps of Engineers series and got extensive development. The Gnalish in Michael Jan Friedman's Stargazer novels were eventually, retroactively established as Sord's species, though that wasn't Mike's original intent. I featured the Vedala in Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History. Not much has been done with the Skorr, though they pop up in minor roles here and there.


    That's an example of TAS's tendency to imply more violence than it could show onscreen. It's only mentioned in passing, but this means that the villain of the episode has murdered two entire expeditions already.


    Indeed. Inside Star Trek by Herb Solow & Bob Justman indicated -- with documentation to support their position -- that it was the other way around. Networks wanted ethnically diverse casts, since recent marketing studies had shown the buying power of minority viewers. NBC specifically requested a diverse cast for Star Trek, and Roddenberry failed to deliver in "The Cage," giving them an all-white cast whose only hints of diversity were 1) a blond guy named Tyler whose never-spoken first name was supposed to be Jose and 2) a Chinese-American extra in the transporter room. That's part of the reason they rejected the pilot and asked Roddenberry to try again. The reason we got Sulu and Uhura was because the network pressured Roddenberry to include them, not the other way around.

    We can look at Roddenberry's later pilots for more evidence about his "commitment to diversity." His failed 1965 pilot Police Story did have a black second lead, Rafer Johnson. Genesis II has one black actor in a major supporting role and two white actors playing nonwhite characters -- Harvey Jason as a man named Singh (which seems to be the only Indian character name Roddenberry knew) and Ted Cassidy in redface as a very stereotyped Native American "savage." Its retooled version Planet Earth has an all-white central cast with the (recast) black character in only a minor role this time. The Questor Tapes has an overwhelmingly white cast, aside from James Shigeta in a minor role. And Spectre has essentialy an all-white cast as well. That record would seem to support Solow & Justman's version over Roddenberry's self-congratulatory version. If he had really been that committed to fighting for diverse casting, we would've seen it reflected in the majority of his projects.
     
  10. FormerLurker

    FormerLurker Commodore Commodore

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    This was neither the first nor the last time that would happen. When The Addams Family went off the air, Ted Cassidy took on the role of Injun Joe in the TV version of Tom Sawyer. It's that costume he's wearing in the blooper reel when he carries Shatner off the dungeon set during Bread and Circuses filming. In the '70s he was seen The Man From Atlantis, other shows I don't remember, and as a regular on Filmation's Ark II on Saturday mornings in redface and tribal dress. It's my opinion he was cast in those roles for his voice, to make the characters memorable.
     
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  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Ted Cassidy was never in Ark II. The show had only three regulars (not counting the chimp), Terry Lester, Jean Marie Hon, and Jose Flores. You must be confusing it with the very Genesis II/Planet Earth pilots I'm talking about, which had a similar post-apocalyptic premise.
     
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  12. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Excellent summary @Warped9 and others, I look forward to reading through this thread and adding more observations when I have time, lol, but I'll pick up on the following:

    Absolutely :techman: I always felt like one of TAS's strengths, within context of 1970s children's animation especially, was it's wholehearted attempt to remain faithful to TOS. Down to and including the Enterprise interiors and the original actors being involved in voicing their characters. Look at many animated adaptations of live-action TV shows throughout the 1970s and many are far, far less faithful. The addition of a comic relief cartoon sidekick being only the most obvious. TAS could have followed suit, imagine if you will B.E.M. being a series regular, getting up to hijinks in every episode ala Batmite, but thankfully saner heads prevailed. TAS was arguably one of the earliest examples of an animated version of a property actually trying to maintain faith in the maturity of the audience, and in that regard is in some ways a precursor to things like Batman: The Animated Series in the 1990s.
     
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  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Filmation was generally pretty good at staying true to the source of their adaptations. Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle was in many ways the most authentic screen adaptation there's ever been of the Tarzan novels, aside from the violence being toned down. Filmation's Flash Gordon and Zorro were also quite faithful to the original sources. Even The New Adventures of Gilligan was reasonably faithful to the original, although other Filmation sitcom adaptations like The Brady Kids and My Favorite Martians were decidedly not.
     
  14. FormerLurker

    FormerLurker Commodore Commodore

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    According to IMDb, you are correct. As I never got the opportunity to watch that show, I took my source's word for it, and blame them for my error.;) The costume he wore in Genesis II was very similar to the ones on Ark II, at least in the stills I saw.

    It must be remembered, I am the youngest in my family, and what I watched was at the whim of everyone else's discretion. Instead of many of the great shows we all discuss here, I got to see such things as the Saturday night double feature of Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw. Not a good combination to get a four-year-old to like either genre of music, I must say. The only reason I got to watch Star Trek is that it was on before my dad got home from work.
     
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  15. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Well, there's a "II" in both Genesis II and Ark II, and they were roughly contemporaneous and both post-apocalyptic. Maybe that's what triggered the mis-remembering.
     
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  16. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    TAS’ second season in 1974 would be comprised of the last six episodes of the series. We would also begin to see the release of Alan Dean Foster’s TAS episode adaptations in his Star Trek Log series published by Ballantine Books.

    Foster’s adaptations would take a somewhat different approach than those of James Blish who adapted the live-action TOS episodes. Blish worked from early script drafts and his adaptation were tight and concise resulting in about seven or eight stories for volume. The adaptations could differ distinctly from the actual aired episodes. Foster’s adaptations also worked from script drafts, but he usually hew more closely to what we saw onscreen in addition to adding embellishments to flesh out the stories more thus making them feel more complete. He usually assigned three episodes per volume and he completely ignored the given onscreen stardates in order to use his own stardates to connect the stories in some sort of chronological order.

    Like Blish some of Foster’s added details came to be accepted by fandom in fleshing out the Trek universe. For example none of the new TAS shuttlecraft designs were given any background technical information, other than the aquashuttle and that merely my reference to it as such. However, due to Foster’s description of the various shuttlecraft described berthed in the ship’s hangar bay when Harry Mudd is trying to escape the ship fans assumed the “high speed scout craft” described was the new design seen in “The Slaver Weapon” and the vehicle Mudd actually hijacks was a “heavy lander.” Fans also assumed a large research facility now existed on the Guardian of Forever planet when no such thing is referenced onscreen.

    Years before James Blish had included some historical detail regarding the century old Earth/Romulan war that was never referenced onscreen in “Balance Of Terror.” For years and even decades afterward many fans accepted that as actual TOS historical backstory to the point that many were quite upset when ENT did not adhere to that backstory. Full disclosure: I’m one of those fans as I felt that original backstory detail became cemented in my mind and to me made so much sense that I didn’t take well to it be discarded.


    At the end of TAS’ first season both Dorothy Fontana and Hal Sutherland opted to leave the show. They had fulfilled their contracts and each wanted to pursue other interests. Fontana was also tired and didn’t feel it was worth sticking around even if NBC picked up the option for a second season that would be comprised of just six episodes.

    Hal Sutherland was replaced by Bill Reed as director. Reed began at Filmation as an animator since the earliest days of the company. He advanced to animation director and TAS was his first credit as full-fledged director.

    Some of the stories for second season had already been worked out during the first season so there would be stories ready to go should NBC pick up the option of a final six episodes which, of course, they did. David Gerrold’s “Bem” was originally intended to be a first season broadcast, but delays with it pushed it back and “The Jihad” was slotted in its place.


    “The Pirates Of Orion” (Sept. 7, 1974)

    This story was originally written by a teenaged fan, Howard Weinstein, for his local school magazine. A few years later 19 year old Weinstein elected to submit the story on spec to TAS. Weinstein says the original story wasn’t much different from the final aired episode although the ending is distinctly different. His original ending had the Orion ship self-destruct just like the Orion ship in TOS’ “Journey To Babel.” Indeed he explains that his preferred way of creating a Trek story was by taking some small unexplored element of TOS and fleshing it out for a new story. In this case he was intrigued by the reference to Orion smugglers or pirates and wrote a story featuring them more prominently. Not a bad idea.

    TAS would be Weinstein’s first professional credit yet later he would go on to write Trek novels for Pockets books and later still for Trek comics for DC, Marvel/Malibu and Wildstorm.

    During development of this story they ended up with four alternative endings. NBC opted for what was eventually aired where Kirk prevents the Orion Commander from destroying the Enterprise along with his own ship. This was a departure from how Orions supposedly suicide after a failed mission as seen in “Journey To Babel.”

    “The Pirates Of Orion” clicks as a TOS era story. It’s straightforward and moves along briskly. The characters ring true and the story doesn’t get bogged down. We get to see yet another new and interesting Starfleet ship design along with a new alien ship. The setting of the confrontation between Kirk and the Orion Commander on the surface of an airless asteroid engages the imagination.

    The second season, like the premiere season, was off to a good start.


    “Bem” (Sept. 14, 1974)

    This was David Gerrold’s second effort for TAS. And like “More Tribbles, More Troubles” this story had originally been pitched for TOS’ third or possibly fourth season. Suffice to say this story has a lot more going for it than Gerrold’s pointless tribble sequel.

    I have long felt “Bem” seemed awfully like TNG’s first season episode, “Justice,” where Wesley Crusher inadverdently breaks a local law and is sentenced to death. There, too, a godlike entity is watching over a somewhat innocent and childlike race and doesn’t take kindly to the presence of the Enterprise crew.

    Gerrold’s original story was apparently more involved and was initially supposed to be more humorous. Bem was meant to be some sort of jokester who complicates the Enterprise’s survey of the newly discovered world. The ending of the original take had Bem disassemble himself in shame and self-punishment for his actions, something Roddenberry felt was too downbeat. And originally there is no godlike entity—that was Roddenberry’s idea who felt the story needed something more menacing.

    Bem was revised to be an alien emissary observing the Enterprise crew and to test their reaction to unexpected circumstances. However, as we see he finds himself needing the Starfleet crew’s help when he himself is cornered. The unknown alien entity is added not only as a more menacing force, but also as a way to dissuade Bem from sacrificing himself and learning to adapt from mistakes.

    In some respects “Bem” reminds me of “The Infinite Vulcan” in that everything clicks along well enough until we get a genuine WTF visual moment. In “The Infinite Vulcan” it’s the sudden sight of an oversized Spock clone with no clear explanation as to why. In “Bem” It’s the absurd depiction of Bem’s body coming apart and the separate parts just floating through the air. Yes, we later learn Bem is a colony being, but how the hell do his body parts just float through the air? This was a serious departure from Gerrold’s detailed explanation in script of how Bem’s disassembled appendages were supposed to navigate independently along the ground and along tree branches under their own power.

    There is a lot to like in this story given we get an alien world with natives we could never have had in TOS. It is somewhat similar to TOS’ “The Apple” only here the crew are able to talk their way out of their predicament rather than having to destroy the overseeing godlike being.

    Not outstanding, but it certainly doesn’t suck. It is certainly much better than Gerrold’s tribble sequel.
     
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  17. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    They certainly wouldn't float if they fell in a fish tank. Chapel should've gone straight to the bottom.
     
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  18. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    And of course, Filmation's attempt at a Batman revival made some right moves (rehiring Adam West and Burt Ward), but also some missteps (Batmite).
     
  19. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    At least Bit-Mite originated in the comics.
     
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  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Maybe I'm misremembering (boy have I looked at a lot of documents) but I don't recall seeing any evidence that NBC asked for diverse casting prior to the first pilot or anything to indicate said pilot was rejected in part on that basis. The main thing I know about the casting of the 1st pilot is that the Solow & Justman book states that NBC didn't like the cast except Hunter ("okay") and Nimoy ("fine"). The letter about diversity quoted in Inside Star Trek was from Mort Werner, Vice President Programs and Talent, dated August 17, 1966, only weeks before the show hit the air and long after WNMHGB was produced. What the evidence trail I've seen does show re the pilots and first season is that:
    1. NBC encouraged casting minorities, specifically blacks, after the show was sold
    2. Desilu wanted diverse casting to help with foreign sales, and
    3. Roddenberry sent a memo to Joe D’Agosta reinforcing the Desilu sales force's opinion
    I'm open to being wrong, however. So if anyone's seen anything that indicates otherwise both @Harvey and I would love to see it or have our memories jogged.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
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