Star Trek Animated Series Re-Watch Wrap-Up

With just 22 episodes, we have come to the end of The Animated Series. Here’s a breakdown of our ratings:

Season 1

Title Eugene’s
1×01 Beyond the Farthest Star
Aired: September 8, 1973
4 4
1×02 Yesteryear
Aired: September 15, 1973
3 4
1×03 One of Our Planets Is Missing
Aired: September 22, 1973
5 5
1×04 The Lorelei Signal
Aired: September 29, 1973
3 2
1×05 More Tribbles, More Troubles
Aired: October 6, 1973
4 4
1×06 The Survivor
Aired: October 13, 1973
5 4
1×07 The Infinite Vulcan
Aired: October 20, 1973
2 1
1×08 The Magicks of Megas-Tu
Aired: October 27, 1973
3 2
1×09 Once Upon a Planet
Aired: November 3, 1973
4 1
1×10 Mudd’s Passion
Aired: November 10, 1973
Impulse 2
1×11 The Terratin Incident
Aired: November 17, 1973
6 3
1×12 The Time Trap
Aired: November 24, 1973
3 3
1×13 The Ambergris Element
Aired: December 1, 1973
3 Impulse
1×14 The Slaver Weapon
Aired: December 15, 1973
6 3
1×15 The Eye of the Beholder
Aired: January 5, 1974
4 5
1×16 The Jihad
Aired: January 12, 1974
3 3

Season 2

Title Eugene’s
2×01 The Pirates of Orion
Aired: September 7, 1974
2 1
2×02 Bem
Aired: September 14, 1974
5 5
2×03 The Practical Joker
Aired: September 21, 1974
2 3
2×04 Albatross
Aired: September 28, 1974
3 3
2×05 How Sharper Than A
Serpent’s Tooth

Aired: October 5, 1974
1 Impulse
2×06 The Counter-Clock Incident
Aired: October 12, 1974
5 6

Are there any ratings you would change?

Eugene: I think in some cases, my ratings may have been slightly inflated, but the only one I would take down a notch is “The Magicks of Megas-Tu,” which has become my standard example of just how outlandish the animated series is. So I’ll revise that one to Warp 2 but let the rest stand.

Unlike the live action series, the animated series never had a chance to hit its stride; it was uneven for the whole ride, and the only basis of comparison was the original show, which is like trying to compare an apple to a drawing of an apple: no matter how well the artist captures the essence of the model, it isn’t satisfying to sink your teeth into a picture and it doesn’t have the same nutritional value. In the end, I tried to appreciate the animated episodes on their own merits and, acknowledging the limitations of the medium, grade it on effort as much as execution.

Torie: I know it’s a cop-out, but I think the answer is no. All of the episodes that Eugene and I disagreed on most (“Once Upon a Planet,” “The Terratin Incident,” and “The Slaver Weapon”) I still, today, remain unpersuaded by his side.

Best episode? Favorite episode?

Eugene: Best episode is a tie for me between “One of Our Planets is Missing” (because both Torie and I rated it highly, and because it manages to feel most like the original series and best showed the true potential of the animated series) and “The Slaver Weapon” (for the opposite reason–it wasn’t necessarily great Star Trek, but it was good science fiction.) I’ll claim “The Counter-Clock Incident” as my favorite, simply because I loved its theme and it expanded on the show’s history.

Torie: Both are “The Counter-Clock Incident.” It hit all the right notes for me and was just a great stand-out.

Most disappointing episode?

Eugene: Alas, “Yesteryear,” which by all accounts is supposed to be the best of the series and just about ruined one of my favorite characters, the Guardian of Forever. I’m a sucker for time travel stories, and I still can’t get behind this one.

Torie: “Yesteryear,” by a mile. D.C. Fontana + Spock = meh? Just wholly uninspiring, and completely nonsensical.

Most cracked-out episode?

Eugene & Torie: Yeah, that’d be the “Magicks of Megas-Tu.”

Eugene’s final thoughts on The Animated Series: I was expecting much more from this series than it could deliver, either because my memory of it was flawed or because I held it to lower standards when I first saw it. I don’t regret watching it, but I don’t think it warranted the same sort of re-watch treatment we gave the original series. Judging by the decreased commenting on the posts for these episodes, most of you agree–there just isn’t much to say, is there? “So, that happened” pretty much sums it up. Far from the often layered meanings and moral complexity of the live action show, what you see here is what you get.

As a fan of animation, I thought the biggest shortcoming of the animated series would be its simple style and the cheap quality of the production, but surprisingly I got used to that, just as I accepted the often bad voicework and the irritating music. No matter how beautiful an animated film is, I can’t truly recommend it unless it has a good story, and where the animated series most disappointed was in its scripts. It’s clear that the writers are talented, that they usually had terrific ideas, but whether they were limited by format, the intended audience, or Roddenberry himself, what made it to the screen rarely fulfilled its promise on paper. On the other hand, shows that look even cheaper than this (regardless of whether that was a stylistic or budgetary decision) manage to be more clever and far more entertaining.

However, I think the involvement of so many of the original cast and writers, and its slavish devotion to the design aesthetics of the live action show, make the animated series a must-see for fans of the franchise. I watched the entirety of Star Trek: Voyager and only got seven brilliant episodes for my trouble; this was a much lower investment for a similar return. The rewards are few and far between, but there are rewards. And as our diverse ratings and comments show, your mileage may vary–it seems many people enjoyed these a little more than we did, and as far as I know, kids may love it.

Torie’s final thoughts on The Animated Series: I confess to being entirely relieved that this series is over.

Rather than episode reviews, each post became a chronicle of failures, shortcomings, and frustrations. Weak scripts and dreadful animation squandered almost all of the series’ potential, and too many of these episodes relied entirely on the “We could never do this in live action” factor. “Beyond the Farthest Star,” “The Infinite Vulcan,” and “The Ambergris Element” are great examples of how choosing a cool concept can never make up for the host of other flaws; an unfilmable conceit just isn’t enough. Ultimately, the series lacked the strong, memorable stories that made TOS great.

Looking at this list of episodes, I feel a kind of hangover headache coming on. What on earth happened? If I saw photos would I remember then? The eleven weeks it took to cover “Beyond the Farthest Star” to “The Counter-Clock Incident” represents a fraction of the time we spent on TOS, and yet I can barely remember plots of episodes I reviewed last month. So many are just bland. They manage to be boring in only twenty-two minutes! I’m getting deja vu of TOS’ third season, where interesting, compelling ideas were also utterly shafted by low budgets and hackneyed shortcuts.

It hasn’t all been bad, of course. At least we got a little bit more Star Trek, and there are enough memorable characters, one-liners, and visible goofs to make the viewing experience reasonably painless. In addition to my only warp 6, “The Counter-Clock Incident,” I really enjoyed “Bem,” “Eye of the Beholder,” and “One of Our Planets is Missing,” all of which were fun but none of which were excellent. Unlike TOS where the highs are high and the lows are low, this is just generally lousy. Four good episodes and ten middling ones out of twenty-two is too low a ratio for recommendation.

It pains me to say it, but I cannot imagine a scenario in which I will ever re-watch this series.

That said, I don’t regret having seen it and I am immensely grateful that it happened at all. Not because it was good, but because it got so many of the people involved with the series back to work, and because it revived enough interest in the franchise to inspire the fans writing letters, keep the studios interested in the property again, and set up the next great adventure: the films.

Next up: The Star Trek Movies Re-Watch! We’ll begin at the beginning, with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Housekeeping note: Eugene’s got a book deadline coming up and I’ll be out of the country for two weeks so we will likely not begin the movie reviews until September.

About Torie Atkinson & Eugene Myers

TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books. EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young adult fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is available now from Pyr.