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THE ANIMATED SERIES
A year after the Original Series was cancelled, Paramount begansyndicating the seventy-nine episodes to run in the afternoon andearly evening across the United States. As Spock's logic might havesuggested, the show that had been killed by a late-night time slot wasmiraculously reborn by becoming more accessible, finding an audiencethat had not shown up in the infamous Nielsen rating system of thelate sixties.As attendance at STAR TREK conventions grew and the defunct show'spopularity continued to increase, it was inevitable that GeneRoddenberry and the executives at Paramount and at the televisionnetworks would start to consider ways of reviving the series. And theydid. But as would happen many times in the future, the logistics ofthe television business disrupted the process.In 1972, three years after the cancellation, NBC was once againwilling to consider a STAR TREK series and was prepared to order a newpilot episode from the studio. However, according to Paramount'scalculations it would require $750,000 to rebuild the sets andre-create the costumes and props — an amount the studio wasn't willingto commit unless NBC ordered multiple episodes. The next timeParamount faced this impasse with a network would be in 1986, and itwould lead to the studio's decision to make STAR TREK: THE: NEXTGENERATION as a direct-to-syndication series on its own. But in 1972,that w as not a safe option for such an expensive show, and STAR TREKwas once again placed on hold.With production expenses being a perpetual roadblock to STAR TREK'srevival, many producers came up with the idea of creating aless-expensive, animated version of the show. But of all theanimationproducers who approached Roddenberry it was Lou Scheimer and NormPrescott of Filmation who finally were able to convince him to takethis next step.Despite the above illustrations depicting younger versions of theEnterprise crew, Roddenberry said he decided to go with Filmationbecause the company was the first to say it would keep an animatedproduction true to The Original Series, without the addition of suchSaturday-morning staples as smartaleck children and cute animals. Butthough everyone's intentions were good, the animated series eventuallydid fall well short of the mark, and is the weakest of STAR TREK'smany incarnations when viewed today.On the writing side, Roddenberry enlisted Dorothy Fontana as associateproducer and story editor. She in turn approached many of the writerswho had contributed to the Original Series, including David Gerrold,Margaret Arman, Samuel A. Peeples, and Stephen Kandel (who had writtenthe two Original Series episodes featuring Harry Mudd, and brought himback for an animated episode as well). Unfortunately, despiteeveryone's talent and best intentions, the demands of transforming thesensibilities of a one-hour dramatic story into a twenty-four-minutecartoon for children reduced many of the episodes to little more thanfanciful action sequences, with no chance to develop the dramatictexture and character interplay all other STAR TREK series are knownfor. There are, of course, a few exceptions to the generallylackluster animated episodes, especially Dorothy Fontana's"Yesteryear."The difficulties of assembling the original cast for The AnimatedSeries also brought their own technical problems. DeForest Kelley,reprising, his role of McCoy, complained that for many episodes thecast members recorded their lines at separate times in differentstudios, preventing the actors from having any chance of characterinterplay. Though Walter Koenig did not return as Chekov, he didwrite the episode "The Infinite Vulcan."But it is the technical realities of television animation in the early1970s that ultimately dates the animated episodes when viewed today.Though at the time the series was one of the most expensive everproduced — $75,000 per episode — it could not come close to matching thequality of theatrical animation, then or now. For example, whereastwenty-four minutes of Walt Disney-caliber theatrical animation mightrequire more than seventeen thousand individual drawings, Filmationcreated each STAR TREK episode with between five thousand to seventhousand drawings. Faces, poses, and generic animation sequences ofcrew members walking or running were extensively reused in order tokeep costs down, resulting in an unfortunate repetitive sameness tothe look of each installment.
Captain James T. KirkSTAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES debuted on NBC in its 9:30 A.M.Saturday-morning time slot, seven years to the day from when theOriginal Series was first broadcast. It was hailed as being part ofNBC's most extensive children's programming development, and joinedother based-on-live action-series programs, The Addams Family andEmergency.Given the competition and the state of animation at the time, mostreviewers praised the series. The Los Angeles Times called it as outof place amid the other Saturday-morning cartoon shows as "a Mercedesin a soapbox derby." The Washington Post found it "fascinating," whilewondering if its story lines were suitably simple enough for itstarget audience.
A Klingon CommanderCinefantastique, a specialty magazine devoted to science-fictionmedia, viewed the series with a more experienced eye, complaining thatit was lacking "the drama and human interest that made the live actionseries so captivating at times." The magazine predicted that childrenand fans alike would find the series to be "a terrible bore."Once again, though, in what would become a defining tradition ofalmost every STAR TREK production, the series confounded those criticswho found it wanting. After a first season of sixteen episodes, TheAnimated Series was renewed for an abbreviated second season of sixepisodes. All twenty-two installments were subsequently released onhome video in 1989, coinciding with the release of the movie STAR TREKV: THE FINAL FRONTIER.Though The Animated Series did not represent a true rebirth of STARTREK, it was a valuable intermediate stage between the past and thefuture. Clearly, there was still life in the franchise, which even adisappointing production couldn't kill.
Copyright © 1997 by Paramount Pictures
Posted August 15, 2012
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