Thursday, April 21, 2016

To Boldly Draw Where No Man Has Drawn Before

Bones, take this man to sick bay and pump him full of Prozac
I recently watched my new copy of Star Trek: The Animated Series and, while I agree for the most part about what the series did for fandom and Trekdom, I still have mixed feelings about it after all these years.

Lemme 'splain.

First off, I'm only a part-time Trekker – I don't have any shirts, trinkets or other geegaws that a die-hard Trekker would have, nor do I go to sci-fi conventions (gaming conventions are my vice) but I do enjoy the Original Series enough to have it in my DVD collection. Now I have The Animated Series (TAS) my Trek collection is complete. I might get the first movies but that's about it. I like TNG, DS9 and the other series but for me, it's Trek Classic.

I remember the Animated Series and I like it for what it is. I say “for what it is” because first off, Filmation made it. This runs right into a prejudice of mine: 60's, 70's and 80's Saturday Morning animation. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Golden Age Animation buff. My allegiance will always be with Disney, Warners and the other studios who did full animation. Yes, I watched the HB, Ruby-Spears and Filmation junk growing up but give me a good Looney Tunes marathon over Scooby-Doo any day.

My biggest gripes were reserved for Filmation's output. These were what Warners director Chuck Jones was talking about when he said that TV cartoons were “illustrated radio.” They made Hanna Barbera's stuff look good. Cycles, reused poses, no facial movement and characters who face the camera in ¾ view so the animators don't have to animate mouth flaps (a particularly irritating practice that still goes on today). I know they had a tight budget, etc. Still, they could've put a little more into it. ESPECIALLY if they're going to do Trek.

Okay, having said that, it's still in the core of my being, but I've also mellowed over the years and have actually found good qualities to HB, Filmation and the rest. And, yes, there have been some good series (Flintstones was a funny show and I love the first Jonny Quest series). As for Filmation, their strong suit was character and background design (too bad they couldn't move the characters very much). I mean Groovie Goolies were pretty good cartoony versions of the old horror monsters. Also, having admired the output of other studios that don't have great animation but great scripts and voice acting (*cough*Jay Ward*cough*) I would be remiss if I didn't give props to these studios.

Still with me? Good.

And now we come to ST: TAS. This was like mana dropping from Roddenbery's hand into Filmation's lap. PLUS getting all the original actors minus one (poor Chekov) to voice their old roles (if they hadn't got them this show would've bombed faster than Nixon did on Cambodia), not to mention a stable of writers from the original show, this is made of win. Even Filmation's production values couldn't louse this one up.

Okay, But how are the episodes themselves? I am happy to report, with a couple reservations, they're like concentrated Trek goodness all done up in 30 minutes. It sounds like it, looks like it and FEELS like it. It's the rest of the 5 year mission, plain and simple.

And as far as Canon goes, to hell with Roddenbery's minions, it's canon. Enough hints and references were dropped in subsequent Trek shows that it can't be any other way.

The reservations? Well, aside from not getting Walter Koenig (who nevertheless wrote one episode) I really wish they would have gotten Alexander Courage's theme music. It sounds close, but it feels like a Muzak Sounds Like version.

Also, and this goes back to the budget, I admire that they did this show considering the constraints (time and money) they were under but it really could've used fuller animation. ESPECIALLY if you have Shatner in the cast. Could you imagine if, say, Disney would've done it? Think of the gloriously hammy Kirk emoting you would've gotten!

In the end, it's a great series, full of beautiful alien vistas (as I said before, one of Filmation's strong suits), great writing and iconic voice acting. This goes on the shelf next to my Trek Classic DVDs without shame.