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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. The result is a show that might not have the best animation, but still boasts 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, and was so good that it won the franchise's first ever Emmy Award.

The Animated Series remains the shortest-lived series of the Star 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, with the film series and The Next Generation. 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, as well as the introduction of the Holodeck and Kirk's middle name, and the fact that many of the Star Trek writers and actors were involved with the production, many fans consider it a part of their personal Star Trek canon, 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 Star Trek 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.
  • AI Is A Crap Shoot: The planetary computer in "Once Upon a Planet", as a result of the Caretaker's death in the time since the Original Series episode "Shore Leave". It creates things like the Queen of Hearts and dangerous animals when nobody is thinking about them, and it captures Uhura.
  • Alternate Universe: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" has a world in which practicing magic is the norm and "The Counter-Clock Incident" has a universe in which everything works backwards, including aging.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Kukulcan in "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth". He visited Earth in the distant past and was the basis for the Mayan god of the same name, the Toltec god Quetzalcoatl, and the Chinese dragons.
  • Animated Adaptation: The best example thereof in the 1970s.
  • Apocalyptic Log: "Beyond the Farthest Star". The dead ship's log entry/warning.
  • Artificial Gravity:
    • The Enterprise's computer shuts off the gravity in "The Practical Joker."
    • The fortress in "The Jihad" loses its gravity when the questers try to get at the MacGuffin in its center.
  • Ascended Meme: "Beam me up, Scotty!" is famous for never being actually spoken in the Original Series, but it appears in this one.
  • Ass in Ambassador: The title character in "Bem". He swaps out Kirk's and Spock's communicators and phasers for counterfeits, runs off from the away team, doesn't even bother separating himself to escape when he is first captured, and leaves Kirk and Spock in their wooden cages when he does manage to escape.
  • Asteroid Thicket: In "The Pirates of Orion", the Enterprise pursues the Orion ship into one.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Lt. M'Ress, who wears a full Starfleet uniform, except for footwear. Justified because she has digigrade paws (meaning she walks on her toes).
  • Cat Folk: The Caitian Lieutenant M'Ress, as well as the Kzinti in "The Slaver Weapon". Some of the Expanded Universe material around it suggests 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: In "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.
  • Cloning Blues: In "The Infinite Vulcan", the giant clone of Spock experiences an existential crisis when he realizes he is quite out of scale with the Enterprise and everything he is familiar with. He ultimately elects to remain on the planet.
  • 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.
  • Detachable Lower Half: The title character in "Bem" has the ability to separate his body into different parts.
  • Everyone Is a Super: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" has beings who have the ability to practice magic.
  • Fish People: "The Ambergris Element" features fish-like aliens who can only breath underwater.
  • Five Year Plan: The three seasons of The Original Series and the two seasons of The Animated Series comprise the "five-year mission to explore strange new worlds" from the famous Opening Narration (which is present in full in this 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.
  • For Want of a Nail: In "Yesteryear", if Spock hadn't saved his past self, he wouldn't be alive in order to be part of the Enterprise crew.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: "Life-support belts" that allow the crew to survive in vacuum without spacesuits only ever appear in this series.
  • 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.
  • Girls' Night Out Episode: In "The Lorelei Signal", Uhura and Chapel have to lead an all-female rescue team due to the planet's inhabitants' ability to drain men of their life forces.
  • 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".
  • Haunted Technology: The Enterprise computer gains a prankster personality in "The Practical Joker".
  • 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" includes a proto-holodeck in the Enterprise's rec room long before TNG's. McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu are trapped in it when the Enterprise computer gains a trickster mentality.
  • 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 takes advantage of the animated format to avert the trope whenever they can 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 I.Q.: The Lactrans in "The Eye of the Beholder". A six-year-old Lactran has an IQ in the thousands.
  • In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: Life-support belts take this to its logical extreme—the production team doesn't have to draw spacesuits, but can simply use its normal character models with a belt and a glowing outline.
  • Life Drinker: "The Lorelei Signal". The women of the planet Taurus II drain the Life Energy of men to maintain their youth, causing Rapid Aging in the men.
  • Limited Animation: Filmation's Signature Style. Lacking much range in facial expression, the onus was on the voice cast to convey the characters' emotions, which (being made up of mostly Original Series alumni) they largely succeeded.
  • Losing Your Head: The title character in "Bem" has the ability to separate his body parts.
  • Lost Colony: Terra Ten in "The Terratin Incident"... only it wasn't really lostójust shrunken to an extremely tiny size.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: In "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth", the animals in Kukulcan's zoo believe that they are living in their natural environment, a hallucination generated by Kukulcan's machines.
  • Louis Cypher: Lucien claims to have been Satan, in "The Magicks of Megas-Tu".
  • Love Potion: "Mudd's Passion". Mudd himself thought it was Snake Oil, and is shocked to find out it works.
  • 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.
  • Merlin Sickness: Inhabitants of the alternate universe in "The Counter-Clock Incident" age backwards.
  • 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.
  • Morph Weapon: The titular device in "The Slaver Weapon" has settings from "stun" to "atomic bomb".
  • Mr. Exposition: Ensign Walking Bear, a character never seen before or since, just happens to be on duty on the bridge at the proper moment to explain how Kukulcan is important in the history of his people, in "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth".
  • My Future Self and Me: Spock uses the Guardian of Forever to travel back in time and meet himself as a child in "Yesteryear."
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: It was actually in this show that Kirk's middle name was first revealed to be Tiberius, though it wouldn't officially enter canon until the sixth film.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The Slavers' stasis boxes.
  • Never Say "Die": Actively averted, which became a rather large source of controversy in the episode "Yesteryear".
  • 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"—Kirk tricks it into taking the Enterprise back through the Negative Space Wedgie the other way, by pretending to be scared of it.
  • People Zoo: The Lactrans in "The Eye of the Beholder" capture the away team and put them in their zoo.
  • Petting Zoo People: Lieutenant M'Ress is a Caitian, an anthropomorphic cat.
  • Planet Eater: "One of Our Planets Is Missing" features a space cloud that eats planets.
  • Portal to the Past: The Guardian of Forever returns from the Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" to provide a portal to Vulcan's past in "Yesteryear".
  • 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 Men Wear Pink: The Klingons in "The Practical Joker" and the Kzinti in "The Slaver Weapon", courtesy of a colorblind director.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: The planet Megas-Tu in "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" is in a part of the universe where reality breaks down. One character has their arm break off of their body and drift away.
  • Reality Warper: The inhabitants of the title planet in "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" can bring anything into existence with but a thought. While they were on Earth they were considered to be witches and magicians due to their powers.
  • 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, reprise the roles they played on the original seriesóWilliam 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 replace 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 reprises his role of Sarek in "Yesteryear", Stanley Adams reprises his role of Cyrano Jones in "More Tribbles, More Troubles", and Roger C. Carmel returns 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" (named after Walter Koenig, the episode's author), 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".
  • Snake Oil Salesman:
    • Harry Mudd in "Mudd's Passion", though he is unaware that the Love Potion he's peddling actually works.
    • Cyrano Jones in "More Tribbles, More Troubles" tries to convince the Enterprise crew that his new breed of tribble is harmless, without the Explosive Breeder properties of the original. (Instead, they grow so large, they eventually explode into a pile of tribbles anyway).
  • 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.
  • The Time Traveller's Dilemma: It's unknown what happens to Thelen the Andorian (who replaced Spock as Science Officer) after the timeline is fixed in "Yesteryear".
  • 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 synthesizer, it sprays food all over him, including a custard Pie in the Face.
  • Winged Humanoid: The Skorr show up in several episodes.
  • Witch Species: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" features aliens who are able to practice magic.
  • World of Chaos: The planet in "The Magicks of Megas-Tu", and the so-called "Mad Planet" in "Jihad".
  • Wrongly Accused: In "Albatross", McCoy is falsely accused of indirectly killing people of a plague they weren't cured of.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: This occurs in the titular 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.

This series 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.