There are a lot of Trekkies or Trekkers, depending on your level on nerd-dom, who debate one thing about Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1975). Is it or is it not part of the Canon of Star Trek? To those of you who are reading this and not wearing pointy ears, the Canon is something the late Gene Roddenberry once said about the novels people were writing about Star Trek. They were based on his characters, but essentially not part of his Canon of Star Trek. This was Roddenberry’s little loophole if he wanted to go and do something with his characters and they would remain untouched even if one of the books had made Spock and Kirk lovers, had a Klingon-Federation peace treaty or gave Kirk a daughter. It is a brilliant move to make money off of his creation and still be able to use his characters if the opportunity ever came up again, as it did with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
So whether or not you consider it to be in the Canon Star Trek: The Animated Series exists. Now there are many, myself included, who consider the animated series the fourth year in the five-year mission of James Tiberius Kirk and his USS Enterprise. And why not? It features the voices of the original crew (minus Chekov/ Walter Koenig). It was produced by D.C. Fontana who had not only written episodes of the original series but, was personally asked by Roddenberry to overlook the animated series. It featured Star Trek writers who had penned scripts for the original series, but due to its cancellation never had their stories produced. The scripts that are in the animated series are incredible material that adds to the Star Trek mythos and it would have been a shame to never have those stories see the light of day.
I could go into great detail about each and every episode. Since this is an overview of the cartoon, I thought I would let you in on some highlights that may persuade some of you Non-Cannon Trekkies out there to give it a gander. To begin with Lt. Uhura takes command of the ship in one episode. We see the first Holodeck. Kirk and Spock match wits with the devil himself. Spock even travels back in time to his childhood to save himself (an inspiration for the 2009 film). There is even a sequel to the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode (long before there was one on Deep Space Nine). Even Harry Mudd shows up again. That alone should be more than enough to watch the animated series. Though I’ll mention one more thing, funky, non-human looking, animated aliens. Come on you know you want to see that.
I also found that the stories were great for kids and not too naïve that adults couldn’t enjoy them. There were great lessons to be learned and not a lot of adult content. By adult content I mean Kirk wasn’t hooking up with every hottie that walked in. Actually, there was only one time that it was ever even hinted at that Kirk had an interest in someone, but to hear Shatner say, “We have a mission to get to”, was worth the price I paid for the DVD series. Kirk not being the intergalactic playboy is probably what made a lot of the animated episodes, that were originally regular episodes, so easy to cut down. Think about it, how many regular episodes of Star Trek does Kirk have a love scene? The animated series got to the heart of the story and quick. It had to with only 23 minutes to tell it in.
Canon or not, Trekkie or not, watching the animated series is like finding a big stack of comics up in the attic you never knew your Dad had. It was a treat to watch and great to see Kirk, Spock, and Bones on a whole new set of adventures. It was the first time in a long time I could enjoy an episode of Star Trek without thinking, “This is the one where…” or “This one ends with…”. I could just sit back and watch my favorite explorers in search of new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no one has gone before. Trust me, this cartoon will satisfy your fix as we wait for the new Star Trek series to begin in 2017.
Star Trek: The Animated Series is currently streaming on CBS All Access and other streaming services.