Western Animation: Star Trek: The Animated Series

Star Trek: The Animated Series is an Animated Adaptation and the first Spin-Off from the original series, continuing the initial five-year mission.

Given the reality that it was produced by Filmation, the animation is typically the studio's ultra-cheap style. However, they more than made up for that with most of the original cast and the writers as well (although Larry Niven was a tad lazy in squeezing The Slaver Weapon from his Known Space universe into that of Star Trek). The result is a show that might not have the best animation, but still boasted spectacular imagery and believably non-human aliens that the original show could never depict, while still reasonably keeping to its artistic spirit. As a result, this series is the best example of the Animated Adaptation concept in the Dark Age Of Animation that was so good that it won the franchise's first ever Emmy Award.

The Animated Series remains the shortest-lived series of the Trek franchise, with just 22 episodes airing over a 13-month period in 1973-74 on NBC. It was also the last Trek series to air in first-run on network television until Star Trek: Voyager debuted in 1995 on UPN.

However, the franchise creator, Gene Roddenberry, later insisted that the animated show be kept out of continuity since he never anticipated that Star Trek would later be revived in live action on such a scale as would happen. Still, many fans insisted that at least the best episode, "Yesteryear", be counted, considering that it gives a valuable look into Spock's youth and character as well as the planet Vulcan as told by the most authoritative voice on the matter, D.C. Fontana. Because of the information about Vulcan presented in the show, the introducing of the Holodeck, giving Kirk his middle name, and the fact that many of the Star Trek writers and actors were involved with the show, many fans consider it a part of their personal Star Trek canon of it depicting the final two years of Enterprise's five year mission. In addition, the producers of Star Trek: Enterprise used numerous references from this series. The Expanded Universe, already having less of a need to adhere to strict canon, even went so far as to revive the series' Sixth Ranger alien crew members, Cat Girl Lt. M'Ress and tri-symmetrical Lt. Arex.

CBS declared this series full canon around the time they released it on DVD.

The title used here and on the DVD release is a back-formation, as the show originally aired as simply Star Trek. It's also known by the more ponderous title of The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek.


This series provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: Everyone except Spock, Sulu, and Uhura in "The Slaver Weapon". Chekov is absent the whole series.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu". The inhabitants of Megas-Tu do this for their own bodies and their planet's surface for the benefit of the Enterprise crew.
  • Asteroid Thicket: In "The Pirates of Orion", the Enterprise pursues the Orion ship into one.
  • Cat Folk: The Caitian Lieutenant M'Ress, as well as the Kzinti in "The Slaver Weapon". Some of the Expanded Universe material around it suggested that the Caitian relationship to the Kzinti is essentially the same as the one between the Vulcans and the Romulans, only with the ones that left (the Caitians) being the "good guys" that ended up part of the Federation and the ones that stayed (the Kzinti) as the militaristic bad guys with historic conflicts with the Federation (and possibly with some ill-advised genetic engineering on the part of the Kzinti).
  • Cat Smile:
    • The cat-like Lieutenant M'Ress has one constantly.
    • Averted by the Kzinti in "The Slaver Weapon", and in particular their telepath (Kzinti telepaths in general are stated to be manic-depressive).
  • Chekhov's Gun: "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth". Dr. McCoy's medical kit provides a hypo to calm the Capellan Power Cat.
  • Children Are Cruel: In "Yesteryear", we get our first glimpse at Spock's childhood... and it's not pretty.
  • Contrived Coincidence: "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth". If Ensign Walking Bear hadn't been on the bridge, Kukulkan would have destroyed both the Enterprise and the entire human race.
  • Creator In-Joke: Captain Robert T. April in "The Counter-Clock Incident". April was the original name for the character that eventually became Kirk.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than most other cartoons on television at the time. The Animated Series tended to work with the same style of cerebral stories that the previous live-action series did, and references to death were not glossed over at all. In fact, "Yesteryear" deals with a child version of Spock losing his beloved pet, and the "death words" weren't glossed over or replaced with Lighter and Softer equivalents. This has helped the series gain a strong following within the Star Trek fan community, as well as with the creative staffs involved with the franchise.
  • Fountain of Youth: The reverse-entropy universe in "The Counter-Clock Incident".
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Spock, in a blooper in "Yesteryear".
  • Friendless Background: "Yesteryear" lets us see Spock having this. His agemates torment him endlessly for being "a Terran" and Sarek, who expects his son to act like a Vulcan, is disappointed by Spock reacting to their teasing.
  • God Guise: Keniclius 5 with the Phylosians in "The Infinite Vulcan", and Kukulkan by the ancient Mayans in "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth".
  • Healing Hands: "The Infinite Vulcan". Spock's clone revives his original with a mind meld. Because of the difference in scale (the clone is a giant), he uses just one fingertip.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: "Beyond the Farthest Star". The Enterprise crew discovers a highly advanced alien ship in orbit around a dead star. The alien ship's interior structure is made up of interlocking hexagons.
  • Holodeck Malfunction: "The Practical Joker". McCoy, Uhura and Sulu are trapped in it.
  • Hollywood Psych: "Mudd's Passion" mixes up two types of love: friendship and eros.
  • Human Aliens: Although there are still a fair few, this show took advantage of the animated format to avert the trope whenever they could and come up with more divergent alien designs.
  • Humanity on Trial: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu." Humanity is put on trial by the Megans, for the crime of being xenophobic jerks. The trial is actually for "humanity and those who would aid them" in order to account for the nonhuman crew members. Humanity initially has its sentence suspended because it is concluded that they do not pose a threat to the Megans since it is nearly impossible to locate the Megan homeworld. Humanity is found not guilty after Kirk risks his life to protect a Megan who had been sentenced to A Fate Worse Than Death for associating with humanity. When asked why they didn't just use the Enterprise's records to discover for themselves that humans were capable of things like a Heroic Sacrifice the Megans reply the records could have been faked.
  • Improbably High IQ: The Lactrans in "The Eye of the Beholder". A six-year-old Lactran has an IQ in the thousands.
  • Lost Colony: Terra Ten in "The Terratin Incident"...only it wasn't really lost just shrunken to an extremely tiny size.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Kukulcan's zoo animals in "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth".
  • Meaningful Name: Bem, which means "Bug Eyed Monster" in SF fandom.
  • Mega Neko: The Kzinti in "The Slaver Weapon", as well as Lieutenant M'Ress.
  • Mobile Fishbowl: "The Ambergris Element". At the end of the episode, two Aquans (aliens who can only breathe water) are shown on the bridge of the Enterprise wearing water-filled helmets on their heads.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Kirk and Spock in "The Jihad" when the Vulcan gets thrown from a vehicle into the path of a lava flow.
  • Novelization: All of the animated episodes were novelized by Alan Dean Foster for a series of books published as the Star Trek Log series, 10 in total. Initially, Foster adapted three storylines per book in novella format. The last few books, however, saw the writer take some of the 25-minute teleplays and expand them considerably into full-length standalone novels.
  • Now Do It Again Backwards: How the computer is repaired in "The Practical Joker".
  • Power Perversion Potential: In "The Magicks of Megas-Tu," Sulu uses the magic of Megas-Tu's plane of existence to summon a beautiful woman... who transforms into Lucien when he goes to make out with her.
  • Psychic Static: Used to defeat the Kzinti telepath in "The Slaver Weapon".
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: In "Albatross", when a native from the planet that put McCoy on trial follows them.
    Kirk: Besides, he'll be sure to take advantage when he sees that we've carelessly left our shuttle bay door open.
    Uhura: But we didn't, sir.
    Kirk: Oh yes. See to that little oversight, will you, Mr. Sulu?
  • The Quest: The hunt for the "Soul of Alar" artifact in "The Jihad".
  • Rapid Aging: What the Life Energy draining by the women of Taurus II does to men in "The Lorelei Signal".
  • Real Klingons Wear Pink: courtesy of a colourblind director.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Well, duh, it's Filmation. While yes, this was also done on The Original Series, it definitely wasn't to the same extent.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Carter Winston (actually a shape shifting alien).
  • Robo Speak: Any computer voice done by James Doohan.
  • Role Reprisal: The entire cast, minus Walter Koenig, reprised the roles they played on the original series William Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as McCoy, James Doohan as Scotty, George Takei as Sulu, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry as Nurse Chapel.
    • Instead of providing Chekov another voice actor, they instead replaced him with two new characters: Arex (voiced by James Doohan) and M'Ress (voiced by Majel Barrett). Koenig would wind up contributing to the series by writing the episode "The Infinite Vulcan".
    • For guest stars, Mark Lenard reprised his role of Sarek in "Yesteryear", Stanley Adams reprised his role of Cyrano Jones in "More Tribbles, More Troubles", and Roger C. Carmel returned as Harry Mudd in "Mudd's Passion".
  • Rotoscoping: How the animation of the Enterprise was created.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: The retlaw plant in "The Infinite Vulcan", and the planet Arret in "The Counter-Clock Incident".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can
    • "Beyond The Farthest Star". An evil Energy Being is trapped in a 300 million year old starship orbiting a black hole.
    • Played with by the eponymous weapon in "The Slaver Weapon". Spock and Sulu discuss the potential for such a weapon to destabilize the entire galaxy if it were to fall in to the wrong hands; however, the weapon is self-aware to the extent that it can determine that it's not being handled by an authorized user and self-destructs when the Kzinti try to activate it.
  • Secret Test: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu". The Megans test the Enterprise crew to verify their good intentions.
  • Self-Destructing Security: "The Slaver Weapon". The title device tricks the Kzinti into using a self-destruct setting to destroy it...and them.
  • Self-Guarding Phlebotinum: In the episode "The Jihad", the Soul of the Skorr is protected by a force field.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Spock behaves this way toward Nurse Chapel for a large part of "Mudd's Passion", because he's reacting to a Love Potion.
  • Single-Biome Planet: A Volcano Planet in "The Jihad", an Ice Planet in "The Slaver Weapon" and a Water Planet in "The Ambergris Element".
  • Starfish Aliens: Edosians, Vendorians, Phylosians, Lactrans, and M/3/Green. The production team was clearly thrilled to not have to worry about budget constraints when designing the aliens, to the point that they probably went overboard with it.
    • Also, if the aliens naturally fly, swim, or slither, you don't have to animate them walking.
  • Steal the Surroundings: In "The Terratin Incident", an entire miniaturized city is beamed aboard the Enterprise in order quickly to save the inhabitants from impending doom.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "The Slaver Weapon", a hand weapon capable of generating a Hiroshima-like detonation complete with shockwave!
  • Title: The Adaptation: As noted, however, this is only the case for the re-releases. It originally aired just as "Star Trek," with no subtitle.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Hints of this in "The Pirates of Orion". McCoy and Scotty are suspicious when the Orion captain asks Kirk to beam down to an asteroid to get the medicine he and his crew stole. Kirk agrees that it's dangerous, but he also knows that "without it, Spock doesn't have a chance."
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Thanks to a blooper involving the mustached Lt Kyle, one shot of Scotty working the transporter momentarily showed him with a mustache, five years before his live action mustache's debut in Star Trek The Motion Picture.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: "The Practical Joker". After the Enterprise passes through a mysterious energy field, the ship's computer starts playing practical jokes on the crew. When Scotty tries to obtain a sandwich from the food synthesiser it sprays food all over him, including a custard pie in the face.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: In "Yesteryear" Spock wants to prove to his father Sarek that he is a true Vulcan by undergoing the Kahs-wan ordeal.
  • World of Chaos: The planet in "The Magicks of Megas-Tu", and the so-called "Mad Planet" in "Jihad".
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: This occurs in the title area in "The Time Trap".
  • You Are in Command Now: Lt. Uhura in "The Lorelei Signal", something which never happened on the live-action show.
  • You Can See That, Right?: Kirk to Spock in "The Time Trap" when the Klingon battlecruiser disappears.
  • You Won't Feel a Thing: In the episode "The Pirates of Orion"...
    McCoy: (about to give an injection) This won't hurt a bit, Spock. Spock: An unnecessary assurance, doctor, in addition to being untrue. McCoy: That's the last time I waste my bedside manner on a Vulcan.


Provides aversions of:

  • Lighter and Fluffier: One of the main reasons given by Gene Roddenberry as to why he chose Filmation out of all the animation companies who made a pitch at doing The Animated Series is because they were the only company who didn't suggest giving the Enterprise crew "funny animal sidekicks". Interestingly, after getting the job, the idea apparently did surface at pre-production meetings... but it was quickly (and rightly) kyboshed by Roddenberry. Regardless, Filmation didn't let the concept of "funny sidekicks in space" go to waste and created the live-action series Space Academy a few years later.