There are some people *cough*Buckler*cough* who think I spend a little too much time talking about Star Trek. All I can say is, guilty as charged. It’s a cultural touchstone for me. And, if that doesn’t sit well with you, I hope you will enjoy the many other non-Trek posts on this blog. This one’s going… where no one has gone before (except I’ve gone there before a lot.)
Let’s get down to brass TAS
In the early 1970s, Star Trek was found on a daily basis on a UHF station in most cities. The show got better ratings in some cases than it had during its original run in 1966-1968. There was a growing secondary market for magazines, short stories, toys, and other Trek-related stuff. The very first fan conventions, precursors to Comic-Con, were starting up and they were all about Trek.
It was in this climate that the original producers of the show tried to revive it in any way possible. It wasn’t possible (yet) to convince Paramount to put an hourlong live show together, but they partnered with Filmation, a leading producer of childrens’ TV shows, for a half-hour program, originally just called Star Trek. For clarity, fans call it The Animated Series, or TAS.
Surprisingly good for its time but…
This new iteration was able to bring back most of the original cast, production staff, and some writers. They also attracted the top sci-fi talent of the day, authors like Larry Niven who were fighting poverty at the time. These same people went on to become the leading lights of science fiction.
By using a lot of recycled shots, limited animation, and a really limited color palette, these shows could be made very cheaply. The show looked cheap, to be sure. However, with animation came the freedom to have different aliens, special effects that weren’t possible with live TV, and the most outlandish sets possible.
If you’re curious about what Star Trek: The Animated Series looks like, here’s a clip.
The full episodes are available to stream on Paramount+.
The Next Generation: The Animated Series?
YouTuber “Gazelle Automations” took a scene from one of the most well-known episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They then hand-animated the scene using Photoshop to simulate the look and feel of the old animated series. They even featured the music cues, limited animation style, and odd use of purple which was so common in the original.
I have to say, as a fan of the original animated series, this is an amazing love letter to it. It’s not going to ever convince someone to hand animate Star Trek, but its charming nature made it a lot more fun for me than some of the episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy, which I find to be the worst of the series’ many outings.
But enough of me waxing poetic, take a look for yourself.
Back next week with more fun
I’ll be back next week, and while I can’t promise it will have nothing to do with Star Trek, the odds are pretty good.