Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Animated Star Trek

Star Trek cartoonUnable to get a network series off the ground after Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, Gene Roddenberry was coming off a losing losing streak when, in the summer of 1973, he got a strong pilot commitment from CBS for Genesis II and a pick-up on NBC, an animated version of Star Trek for Saturday mornings.

The Saturday morning version of Star Trek was, in many ways, more enjoyable than the first Trek series, aliens were more believable when everyone was a cartoon and scripts could be written without regard to budget (at least in some respects).

Almost the entire original cast returned for this new production. The series was headed by D.C. Fontana, Star Trek's story editor and script supervisor, and many of the original script writers returned.

The first episode was written by Samuel A. Peeples, who wrote the second pilot for the original live-action series. Several plotlines were continued over from the original series, including the return of Harry Mudd and those troublesome Tribbles in an episode by the original script-writer David Gerrold.

'The Slaver Weapon' was written by Larry Niven, an adaptation of his short story 'The Soft Weapon'. Science fiction on TV written by top sci-fi writers? That's one reason the animated Star Trek was such a blast. This enjoyable episode utilized Spock, Uhura and Sulu.

Neither Nichelle Nichols nor George Takei were slated to participate at first but when Leonard Nimoy heard their characters were being used (with voices by Majel Barrett and James Doohan) he threatened to quit unless the supporting players were also hired.

Ensign Chekov was cut for budget reasons but Walter Koenig was given the opportunity to write one of the episodes, 'The Infinite Vulcan'.

The rendering was crude and movement was limited, but leaps ahead of what Filmation was churning out with their highly popular Archies and DC Comics series. So what if there were endless stretches of ships floating in space, this was the closest thing to intelligent fantasy we had in the early seventies.

The animated Star Trek cost quite a bit more than other Saturday morning shows, so NBC ordered only sixteen episodes for the first season which won the Emmy in 1974 as "Outstanding Children’s Series." That year there was a flood of prime-time shows converted to cartoon format starring the original cast members on Saturday mornings, a trend that would continue for years.

Star Trek was renewed for a second season but only six new episodes were ordered.

Watch D. C, Fontana interviewed about the Animated Star Trek: