The Case Against The Animated Series
(Spoiler Alert: It's Pretty Bad!)
Star Trek: The Animated Series is not for me. I understand that many people appreciate its kitschy charm, retro vibe and out-there stories, but for me it’s a complete mess that denigrates everything I love about Star Trek (which includes at the top of the list: smart storytelling and great production values).
As a starting point let me say that I actually love the look and feel of the show. The animation aesthetic is fantastic, especially the majestic lines of the NCC-1701 in its full rotoscoping glory. What I can’t do, though, is give it a free pass for its horrendous overall production quality.
I’m sure many of you know about the travails of Filmation, the company responsible for Star Trek: The Animated Series. Filmation was well known for using animation techniques that, well, tried to use as little animation as possible. Imagine that.
To accomplish that goal and keep costs down, the company reused segments of animation over-and-over. They also used stagnant pan-and-scan techniques that would drag out shots without any animation required. Another Filmation trick? How about using poor frames-per-second-ratios to stretch costs? All of these elements were front and center through every episode of The Animated Series.
Oh, and don’t forget the music! As a piece of standalone music I have absolutely no issue with the theme for The Animated Series. As a piece of music used ad infinitum through 22 episodes of non-animated animation? Well, that could be the greatest single torture device ever created. Just thinking about it playing over and over and over and over makes me break into a cold sweat.
When it comes to the stories being told, no matter how you squint and play with the angles, these scripts are ultimately fantastical, whimsical stories designed for kids, not adults. And, for me, that is not Star Trek. Oh sure, “Yesteryear” is a strong story and script, and gave us our first look at the beloved Sehlat, but unfortunately I can’t say that about any of the other episodes. I just can’t.
The false narrative is that the animated series stories are smart and grand and not bound by the constraints of televised fiction, but in reality they are lazy, sloppy and childish. It's just not good. And I refuse to give any of it a free pass.
To sum it all up, if you were able to create the greatest concept for an episode of Star Trek ever known to man. And then you scrawled that story onto a used cocktail napkin, then sorry, I’m not interested in enjoying that piece of Star Trek.
The Animated Series is Star Trek scrawled on a cocktail napkin.