Space - the final frontier. These are the two-dimensional voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new 2-D worlds, to seek out new 2-D life and new 2-D civilisations, to boldly go where no cartoon character has gone before.
-Unfortunately, the show's producers didn't use this introductory speech.
This series is essentially a near exact clone of the original Star Trek series, only done in animation. It was officially known simply as Star Trek while on air, but to distinguish it from the original TV version it's now known as Star Trek: The Animated Series, or TAS for short.
When low ratings caused the cancellation of Star Trek in 1969, many Trekkers1 were left with a void in their life. Their very reason for living had been cruelly taken away from them. But never fear, for four short years later TV network NBC commissioned a new half-hour children's cartoon series to continue from where Star Trek left off.
The show's premise is identical to that of the original live-action series. It's the 23rd century, and Captain James T Kirk is commanding the Federation starship USS Enterprise on a five-year mission. Although it is never stated in the show, it is widely believed that the series takes place during the final year of Kirk's five-year mission, which was never shown in the live-action series due to its cancellation.
In addition to the exploration of strange new worlds, this series also had a number of follow-ups to episodes from the original series, including 'More Tribbles, More Troubles' which is a follow-up to 'The Trouble with Tribbles' and 'Mudd's Passion', which followed-up 'Mudd's Women' and 'I, Mudd'.
The show's cast is almost identical to that of the live-action series, with the noticeable exclusion of Chekov. The show makes use of the animated format to introduce two new alien characters that wouldn't have been possible in the live-action version. All the actors from the live-action series do the voices of their animated selves.
Captain James T Kirk (William Shatner)
Captain Kirk is just the same as his character in the live-action series, except the fact that he's more buff. As captain his job, as always, is to listen to the options given to him by the logical Spock and the emotional Dr McCoy and try to find a middle ground to solve that week's problem. This normally comes in the form of a shirt-ripping fistfight. It's in this series that we finally learn what the T in his name stands for: Tiberius.
Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy)
Everybody's favourite Vulcan (well, half-Vulcan) returns and as always, he's the voice of logic in an illogical universe. Although he's no longer the only alien in the cast, he forever remains the outsider who is confused by human behaviour.
Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley)
The crabby medic from the American South returns too, and as always, he's the voice of emotion in a cold uncaring universe. The triumvirate between him, Kirk and Spock remains, and he's just as untrusting of transporters.
Lt Commander Montgomery Scott (James Doohan)
Scotty is still the ship's miracle working chief engineer. His hometown is still never mentioned.
Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu (George Takei)
Sulu remains as the ship's helmsman about whom we know little.
Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols)
Uhura remains as the ship's communications officer. The mini-skirt also returns with her.
Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry)
Lieutenant Arex (James Doohan)
Arex was an Edosian, a tripodial species, and replaced Chekov as the conn officer.
Lieutenant M'Ress (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry)
M'Ress was a Caitian, a cat-like alien, and she would replace Uhura if she wasn't on the bridge. It seems that only women are allowed be communication officers.
The ship is almost exactly the same as the one from the live-action series. The exterior of the ship looks a bit more detailed, partly because it's easier to animate the Enterprise than to use models. One odd issue is the fact that its weapons are red, and not blue as they were in the original series.
The inside sets are the same as those in the series. One notable addition is the inclusion of a Holodeck, a room that can become anything that you want it to be, an idea that is later used in The Next Generation.
The show was originally made in 1973 by Filmation4 and the first season had 16 episodes. The show was envisioned as a way for Star Trek to be produced cheaply. Many times in the live-action series they were unable to carry out interesting episode concepts because they couldn't afford the sets, or the amount of actors required. Strange new aliens were impossible to do in live-action back in the 1970s, which is why aliens in Star Trek often looked almost human. Animation seemed like an easy way to get around these problems.
The show suffered from lack of funds from the start. Initially it was decided that Sulu, Uhura and Chekov wouldn't appear as a way of saving money, but Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, refused to do the show unless they were in it too. Unwilling to let the most popular character go, they managed to bring Uhura and Sulu into the show, but not Chekov. Walter Koenig wasn't forgotten however and he wrote an episode for the show, making him the first Star Trek actor to do so. Several of the original Star Trek writing team also wrote for the animated series.
The low budget led to some unusual problems. Stock shots would be used repeatedly, much to the detriment of the series, in the view of Star Trek fans. In one episode, aliens kidnap Spock, yet later on he is clearly seen at his station on the Bridge. In another episode, a reverse shot of Scotty shows him with a moustache because they accidentally used stock footage of transporter chief Kyle5. James Doohan and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry had to do all of the guest voices, although some episodes had guest actors reprise their roles from the live-action series.
Fans greeted the show icily. Some were glad that Star Trek was finally back on TV screens. Others thought that a cartoon series was nothing short of sacrilege. The show was intended for a child audience, and in that regard it won some success and won the Emmy Award for Best Children's Entertainment Program.
A second season of six episodes was produced in 1974, and then no more.
Canonicity in Star Trek is a contentious issue among fans. The canon is the collected works of a series or franchise. If something is stated or seen in one episode of a show, then theoretically all the other episodes must follow that line. If something in an episode contradicts that which is stated in a previous episode then it can send fans into panic trying to decide which of the events is the more 'canonical'.
Different franchises have differing rules in regard to canonicity. In Star Wars, for instance, all six films along with all the Star Wars novels are considered canonical, and all new novels are forced to fit in with it. The Star Trek canon is different. In Star Trek, only what is stated in an episode of one of the live-action series or in one of the films is considered to be canonical. Anything that is stated in books is considered to be fan-fiction6.
The Animated Series was stricken from the Star Trek canon for several reasons. Gene Roddenberry asked that the show be made non-canonical shortly before his death, although he never gave any reason why. He is once quoted as having said that if he had known that there would one day be a new live-action Star Trek series on TV then he would never have made the animated version. He felt that the show had many episodes that he never would have allowed in a live-action series, but which he did allow because this show was geared towards children.
Another possible reason is a legal one. Famed sci-fi author Larry Niven wrote for the show and included several concepts he had used in his other work. Potentially, he could have sued if those concepts were used in the later series, so it's best just to pretend they were never there.
The 'de-canonisation' of The Animated Series has proven to be controversial among fans. Some believe that the show should be considered canonical, while others feel that it isn't worthy. Some things stated in the show, such as the fact that Robert April was the first captain of the Enterprise, are so well known by fans that they're considered to be near-canonical. Other things from the show have been canonised by being mentioned in the later live-action series.
The Animated Series had very little impact on anything; in fact, most fans tend to forget about it. Some episodes such as 'Yesteryear', an episode in which Spock goes back in time to save himself as a child, are critically acclaimed, however most of the series is easily forgettable.
The characters of Arex and M'Ress were later used in the New Frontier series of novels. But as the novels aren't considered to be canonical, their existence in the Star Trek universe has yet to be made official.
Science fiction author Alan Dean Foster converted all the episodes into novels. A number of audio recordings were also released on vinyl and cassette.