The Art of Star Trek

The Art of Star Trek

by Judith Reeves-Stevens

ISBN: 9780671017767

Publisher Star Trek

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy/Media, Science Fiction & Fantasy/Science Fiction, Arts & Photography/General, Entertainment/Television, Entertainment/General, Entertainment/Movies

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Sample Chapter


A year after the Original Series was cancelled, Paramount began

syndicating the seventy-nine episodes to run in the afternoon and

early evening across the United States. As Spock's logic might have

suggested, the show that had been killed by a late-night time slot was

miraculously reborn by becoming more accessible, finding an audience

that had not shown up in the infamous Nielsen rating system of the

late sixties.

As attendance at STAR TREK conventions grew and the defunct show's

popularity continued to increase, it was inevitable that Gene

Roddenberry and the executives at Paramount and at the television

networks would start to consider ways of reviving the series. And they

did. But as would happen many times in the future, the logistics of

the television business disrupted the process.

In 1972, three years after the cancellation, NBC was once again

willing to consider a STAR TREK series and was prepared to order a new

pilot episode from the studio. However, according to Paramount's

calculations it would require $750,000 to rebuild the sets and

re-create the costumes and props -- an amount the studio wasn't willing

to commit unless NBC ordered multiple episodes. The next time

Paramount faced this impasse with a network would be in 1986, and it

would lead to the studio's decision to make STAR TREK: THE: NEXT

GENERATION 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 TREK

was once again placed on hold.

With production expenses being a perpetual roadblock to STAR TREK's

revival, many producers came up with the idea of creating a

less-expensive, animated version of the show. But of all the animation

producers who approached Roddenberry it was Lou Scheimer and Norm

Prescott of Filmation who finally were able to convince him to take

this next step.

Despite the above illustrations depicting younger versions of the

Enterprise crew, Roddenberry said he decided to go with Filmation

because the company was the first to say it would keep an animated

production true to The Original Series, without the addition of such

Saturday-morning staples as smartaleck children and cute animals. But

though everyone's intentions were good, the animated series eventually

did fall well short of the mark, and is the weakest of STAR TREK's

many incarnations when viewed today.

On the writing side, Roddenberry enlisted Dorothy Fontana as associate

producer and story editor. She in turn approached many of the writers

who had contributed to the Original Series, including David Gerrold,

Margaret Arman, Samuel A. Peeples, and Stephen Kandel (who had written

the two Original Series episodes featuring Harry Mudd, and brought him

back for an animated episode as well). Unfortunately, despite

everyone's talent and best intentions, the demands of transforming the

sensibilities of a one-hour dramatic story into a twenty-four-minute

cartoon for children reduced many of the episodes to little more than

fanciful action sequences, with no chance to develop the dramatic

texture and character interplay all other STAR TREK series are known

for. There are, of course, a few exceptions to the generally

lackluster animated episodes, especially Dorothy Fontana's


The difficulties of assembling the original cast for The Animated

Series also brought their own technical problems. DeForest Kelley,

reprising, his role of McCoy, complained that for many episodes the

cast members recorded their lines at separate times in different

studios, preventing the actors from having any chance of character

interplay. Though Walter Koenig did not return as Chekov, he did

write the episode "The Infinite Vulcan."

But it is the technical realities of television animation in the early

1970s that ultimately dates the animated episodes when viewed today.

Though at the time the series was one of the most expensive ever

produced -- $75,000 per episode -- it could not come close to matching the

quality of theatrical animation, then or now. For example, whereas

twenty-four minutes of Walt Disney-caliber theatrical animation might

require more than seventeen thousand individual drawings, Filmation

created each STAR TREK episode with between five thousand to seven

thousand drawings. Faces, poses, and generic animation sequences of

crew members walking or running were extensively reused in order to

keep costs down, resulting in an unfortunate repetitive sameness to

the look of each installment.

HEIGHT=142 BORDER=0 ALT="Capt. Kirk">

Captain James T. Kirk

STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES debuted on NBC in its 9:30 A.M.

Saturday-morning time slot, seven years to the day from when the

Original Series was first broadcast. It was hailed as being part of

NBC's most extensive children's programming development, and joined

other based-on-live action-series programs, The Addams Family and


Given the competition and the state of animation at the time, most

reviewers praised the series. The Los Angeles Times called it as out

of place amid the other Saturday-morning cartoon shows as "a Mercedes

in a soapbox derby." The Washington Post found it "fascinating," while

wondering if its story lines were suitably simple enough for its

target audience.

HEIGHT=147 BORDER=0 ALT="Klingons">

A Klingon Commander

Cinefantastique, a specialty magazine devoted to science-fiction

media, viewed the series with a more experienced eye, complaining that

it was lacking "the drama and human interest that made the live action

series so captivating at times." The magazine predicted that children

and fans alike would find the series to be "a terrible bore."

Once again, though, in what would become a defining tradition of

almost every STAR TREK production, the series confounded those critics

who found it wanting. After a first season of sixteen episodes, The

Animated Series was renewed for an abbreviated second season of six

episodes. All twenty-two installments were subsequently released on

home video in 1989, coinciding with the release of the movie STAR TREK


Though The Animated Series did not represent a true rebirth of STAR

TREK, it was a valuable intermediate stage between the past and the

future. Clearly, there was still life in the franchise, which even a

disappointing production couldn't kill.

HEIGHT=174 BORDER=0 ALT="Lt. Arex">

Lt. Arex

Copyright © 1997 by Paramount Pictures


Excerpted from "The Art of Star Trek" by Judith Reeves-Stevens. Copyright © 1997 by Judith Reeves-Stevens. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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