I remember when I first heard about Star Trek: The Animated Series. It was the early 80s, and I seem to recall having received a Best of Trek book one Xmas or birthday. It was a compilation of some of the most popular articles and stories from Trek magazine, an unofficial Star Trek fanzine. Inside it was this pull-out order card, that offered painted cells from The Animated Series (just called Star Trek at the time) for sale.
I was dumbstruck by these images. There were two whole seasons of a Star Trek show that I hadn’t seen. That was impossible for me to believe. And cartoons, like all kids my age, were my jam. When was this, where was this, how had I missed this? When the original animated series was being broadcast, there were only three channels on the dial of my television, and Saturday mornings, I could watch the live action series, and had never even contemplated that there was another option.
Of course, since it’s release to DVD and Blu-Ray, I’ve seen each episode a number of times, and enjoyed them immensely, and got caught up in a debate that is now almost defunct. Is it canon? The series featured the original writers and actors, how could it not be? Sure the animation budget necessitated the creation of things like the life-belt as opposed to spacesuits, but everything else, surely was canon? There’s the introduction of the holodeck, Kirk’s middle name, Uhura taking the center seat, and Spock’s story from his youth, all of which have impacted the Trek universe.
That argument is now pretty much moot thanks to the new animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks, which not only features alien beings that first appeared in TAS (The Animated Series) but even other series had made tentative tie-ins with it. So it totally counts! And on top of that, it kept Trek alive in a time when it was truly building up its syndication momentum and allowing our journeys with the U.S.S. Enterprise to continue, until she leapt to the big screen in 1979.
Over the course of two seasons, the Emmy winning show (Trek’s first) allowed Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) to boldly go, exploring strange worlds and new civilizations. And it looked gorgeous doing it.
Animation freed up the imagination in terms of the creation of aliens, vessels, planets, and stories, but there were still budget constraints, which made it necessary to find work arounds, while still presenting Star Trek stories.
Authors Harvey and Schepis take us through all of these things in their in-depth exploration of the series, in the gorgeously illustrated, Star Trek: The Official Guide to The Animated Series, available now from Simon & Schuster. The art, the layout, the design of the book itself feels wonderfully 70s future retro.
Their labor of love takes us through the backstory of the series creation, its production (how many voices did James Doohan (Scotty) do anyway?), how it was created, how it came together, and how its creator, Gene Roddenberry, and showrunner Dorothy Fontana saw it as continuation of The Original Series. From there, they take us through each episode, breaking down its story, its production, its bloopers, it’s tie-ins to the live-action show, and a database of things that are introduced in that episode.
Filled with recovered memos, interviews, stunning production and artwork, including reproduced cells, it’s a gorgeous book that gives us a long overdue look at this series, that some fans knew nothing about, and now has become a beloved part of the franchise.
The authors definitely have a sense of humor about the show, as well as Star Trek in general, and it comes out exactly where you would expect a fan to make a comment. But it’s not meant to ridicule, it’s to poke gentle fun at something we all love. This is a book that I not only read cover to cover, but know that I will revisit it countlessly. It makes me long for new series of classic Trek, animated or not, and the sheer wonder of discovering new stories with these characters.
I truly do love my Trek.
This is a guide that will appeal to all Trek fans, young and old, and like all Star Trek, may inspire. It definitely makes me want to draw out my own sketchbook and create, while watching The Animated Series all over again, knowing all the ins and outs of the series thanks to this highly enjoyable book.
And while I never got my hands on any of those animated cells I came across on that order pullout so long ago, I can delve into the art and the images of The Animated Series any time I like with this fantastic book, and I will continue to boldly go…
Check out Star Trek: The Official Guide to The Animated Series, one of countless Trek titles available from Simon & Schuster! Beam one up today!