Production: Filmnation Norway, Paramount TV Service
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**
Running for a mere 22 episodes four years after the original Star Trek series was cancelled, the animated series can be seen as an unofficial fourth season to the live action show. While the animation was cartoon-like and rudimentary compared to the incredible CGI animation we have today, the scripts and stories were actually very sound. Many of the original cast members lend their voices too, so the show is not a mere cheap cash-in. Moreover, the stories featured the U.S.S. Enterprise boldly exploring space and beyond, capturing the dramatic essence of the original show.
While it was short-lived there some fantastic episodes in the animated series. The animation allowed for more expansive and weird-looking alien creatures, especially as the make-up and effects budgets would not be stretched as on the live action show. Some curiosities I noticed while watching were the inclusion in one episode of the “holodeck” or rec room. Plus, Kirk also referred to himself, rather weirdly, by his full name James Tiberius Kirk.
Many of the episodes had strong emotional and science fiction concepts. Although, given the twenty-four minute running time of each they often felt rushed to conclusion. Indeed, some of the stories could fit a feature film no problem and perhaps the recent reboot could have looked at some as a starting point; perhaps they did? Overall, I enjoyed the show but was surprised to read it won an Emmy in 1975 for Outstanding Entertainment – Children’s Series. Then again, it was certainly smarter than your average Hanna Barbera cartoon.
Of the twenty-two episodes I would say my favourite FOUR were:
Yesteryear (S1 – Ep. 2)
Spock must travel to the past to rescue his younger self from danger.
The Time Trap (S1 – Ep. 12)
The Enterprise and a Klingon battlecruiser are drawn into a space vortex and end up in a timeless dimension.
The Jihad (S1 – Ep. 16)
Kirk and Spock are summoned to retrieve a holy artefact which could ignite a galactic war.
The Counter Clock Incident (S2 – Ep. 6)
An unusual spaceship pulls the Enterpirse into a negative universe where time flows backwards.
TO BOLDLY REVIEW #3 – STAR TREK THE ORIGINAL SERIES – SEASON 3
My voyages on the first Starship Enterprise came to an end after seventy-nine intelligent, crazy, moving, mind-blowing, occasionally silly but always fascinating original series Star Trek episodes. Thus, having recently written reviews on the first and second series I have now completed watching the third series. In tone, the third and final season was probably more serious and I actually found the lack of comedy or parody worked in its favour.
Often maligned by some fans and critics alike for having some of the worst episodes of Star Trek ever filmed, the third season, in my opinion, is actually very good. There are a few episodes, notably Spock’s Brain, that are just ridiculous and some, like Turnabout Intruder and Elaan of Troyius, that are rooted in regressive sexism. Plus, there’s a very familiar formula feeling too with contrived space-set situations echoing episodes from prior seasons. But to be honest I actually like that formula, which is why I still enjoy watching shows such as Quantum Leap, Doctor Who and indeed, Star Trek.
Thus, while formulaic familiarity set in, the budgets were cut and Scotty’s hair was all over the place from episode-to-episode, Season 3 still had some really memorable moments with great monsters, energetic villains, handsome actors and solid science-fiction concepts. Okay, some of the writing was at times lacking the snap, crackle and pop of say Gene L. Coon’s or D.C. Fontana’s scripts but I enjoyed the series very much. Here are six episodes which I feel still stand the test of time in terms of ideas, stories and drama.
THE ENTERPRISE INCIDENT – SEASON 3 – EPISODE 2
This terrific episode has a brilliant spy versus spy plot as Kirk and crew attempt to steal a Romulan cloaking device. Crosses, double-crosses, fake deaths and conspiracies occur as the Enterprise finds itself at the mercy of Romulan vessels. Spock shows himself adroit at firstly betraying Kirk and then “romancing” the female Romulan Commander. While it doesn’t seem appropriate for his character to act this way it is of course part of a very logical plan. Nimoy’s performance is excellent and he again proves, underneath all that Vulcan make-up, he’s able to portray an emotionless character with much verve and charisma.
SPECTRE OF THE GUN – SEASON 3 – EPISODE 6
One of the over-hang scripts from Gene L. Coon’s reign as executive producer and show-runner successfully melds sci-fi with the Western genre. Kirk, Spock, Chekov and McCoy are transplanted by darned Melkotians into a virtual reality version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. The only problem is they are all destined to die in the gun fight and must find a way of overcoming historical fate. Despite the contrivances in the narrative, the episode has much to offer thematically on violence and guns; as Kirk must decide between using force or peaceful means with which to overcome his foes.
FOR THE WORLD IS HOLLOW AND I HAVE TOUCHED THE SKY – SEASON 3 – EPISODE 8
Season three had some wonderfully pretentious episode titles and this one was no exception. However, it is a very effective episode that finds the Enterprise attempting to prevent an asteroid from colliding with a Federation planet. However, the asteroid is not in fact a hurtling lump of space rock but a planet civilisation that provides a home to highly devout religious people. The clash of the Federation rules with the religious group’s rules provides much impetus for the drama. Moreover, the added woe of McCoy discovering he is dying and finding solace in the love for Natira of Yonada, makes this both an intriguing and moving episode.
WHOM GOD’S DESTROY – SEASON 3 – EPISODE 14
The lunatics have literally taken over as memorable villain of the piece, former Fleet Captain Garth, gains control of the insane asylum at Elba II. Using shapeshifting abilities Garth is able to hoodwink Kirk and crew and take them prisoner. It’s a fun episode which finds the seasoned TV actor Steve Ihnat revelling in his role as the maniacal egomaniac Garth. There are lots of twists and turns throughout and the final fight scene involving Kirk fighting “himself” is most memorable as Spock must decide who the real Kirk is or who is Garth in disguise. While it’s quite a theatrical episode set in one location there’s load of fun to be had.
LET THAT BE YOUR LAST BATTLEFIELD – SEASON 3 – EPISODE 15
Arguably the best episode of the season finds two battling humanoid aliens who will stop at nothing to wipe each other off the face of their war-torn planet. Frank Yorshin – who I recognised as The Riddler from the 1960s TV show Batman – portrays Commander Bele as a fanatical zealot. With his special telekinetic powers Bele takes control of the Enterprise and will stop at nothing to take his rival, Lokai, to trial and death. Indeed, Kirk is even forced to set the Enterprise in self-destruct mode to counter Bele. This is thematically a very strong episode as it critiques mindless racism and the senseless path of endless war. It’s also quite bleak at the end as a brilliant montage symbolises the potential destruction of Earth. Okay, so the message could be seen to be broad, and literally black and white, but it remains brave writing given it was released in the 1969 when civil unrest in the USA was rife.
ALL OUR YESTERDAYS – SEASON 3 – EPISODE 23
All Our Yesterdays found Kirk, Spock and McCoy dispersed back in time on endangered planet, Sarpeidon. I guess the ticking time bomb narrative of a dying world had kind of been done to death by now but it did not detract from an entertaining storyline which found Spock and Kirk in different timelines having entered a time portal by mistake. Kirk goes back to a medieval setting and is accused of being a sorcerer; while Spock and Bones are bombed five thousand years back to the ice age. Spock even finds time to fall in love as his genes regress with the age. Sounds silly but as Spock might say, I found it “fascinating.”
Having written extensively about my love of Star Trek (The Original Series) in this article HERE – I have over the last few months completed the viewing of the second season.
My mission was to boldly watch every Star Trek episode ever made and report back with the findings. The second season, as a whole, compares favourably to the first in terms of writing and performance and concepts. One could say that season 2 drops slightly in quality toward the end. This could be explained by the uber-producer Gene L. Coon leaving as the day-to-day showrunner, plus Gene Roddenberry was less hands-on too. Nonetheless, while the ratings continued to dip, the consistency of dramatic, comedic and science fiction or fantasy on show was in my view of an excellent quality. One notes that certain repetitions of format had obviously come to the fore in the format. I mean we still get Spock, Kirk, Bones and the rest of the crew fighting a slew of alien life forms or mad computers, yet such genre familiarity is also part of the major appeal.
With the budget (still sizable for its day) of each episode being lowered and NBC moving the second season to a later time slot on an unfavourable day the ratings suffered somewhat. So much so the show came perilously close to being cancelled. However, a core of Star Trek and science fiction fans protested physically and in writing to the studio and eventually they relented and gave the crew of the Starship Enterprise a third, and alas, final frontier season.
With regards to Season 2, there were some excellent episodes and I noted a move toward more comedic tones. Here are SIX episodes which captured my imagination in terms of narrative, drama and humour.
AMOK TIME – Episode 1
This classic episode is the only one of the Original Series to feature scenes on the planet Vulcan. It also is the first time the Vulcan hand salute is shown. It further marks the first appearance of the phrase which accompanies the Vulcan hand salute, “Live long and prosper.” The story finds Spock with a form of Vulcan heat and it demands he finds a mate to marry. Cue some wonderful acting from Leonard Nimoy and classic hand-to-hand combat between Spock and Kirk. The exploration of Vulcan culture adds a depth to Spock’s characterisation and this adds texture to an already fascinating character.
MIRROR MIRROR – Episode 4
The episode involves a transporter malfunction that swaps Captain Kirk and his companions with their evil counterparts in a parallel universe. It’s a wonderfully nifty sci-fi concept and has the cast stretching their acting chops playing nefarious versions of themselves with gleeful abandon. Moreover, the Trek theme of duality of psyche and split personalities is explored in a very entertaining fashion. When I first saw this it reminded me of the Red Dwarf episode ‘Parallel Universe’; but of course sci-fi is full of doubles, parallel and mirrored narratives within the genre.
THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE – Episode 6
This very cinematic episode is an absolute storming drama with echoes of Moby Dick and Jaws (1975) in space, as the crew of the Enterprise are caught within the path of a gigantic monstrous machine dubbed ‘the Planet Killer’! All throughout the stakes are incredibly high because if they do not stop it whole galaxies could be destroyed. The episode is intense and nail-biting with Shatner absolutely nailing his performance, while guest actor William Windom brings an impressive mania to his role as Commodore Decker.
METAMORPHOSIS– Episode 9
This is a wonderful episode for a number of reasons. Firstly, the photography by Jerry Finnerman was absolutely beautifully lit with warm hues, ambience and glow. The lighting compliments the gentle nature of the story which finds the Starfleet trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy pulled down to a planet by a mysterious alien force called “The Companion.” There they find a missing Starfleet scientist Zefram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett) and discover he has not aged at all; but the price is he cannot escape “The Companion”. The drama plays out gently and is assured in its thematic exploration of loneliness, romance and the curative powers of love.
JOURNEY TO BABEL – Episode 10
This multi-layered episode finds us meeting Spock’s parents for the first time as the Enterprise ferries an array of Ambassadors within the United Federations to the Babel conference. Throw into the mix Spock’s dispute with his father and a murderer on board attempting to derail an important mining contract between the planets, and you get a mature work of political science fiction writing. The screenplay from Star Trek stalwart DC Fontana is full of great dialogue and a suspenseful murder mystery. Having already appeared in Season 1, as a Romulan Starship Captain, Mark Lenard as Spock’s father Ambassador Sarek is the stand-out guest star.
THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES – Episode 15
Aside from a wonderfully alliterative and fun title, The Trouble with Tribbles is often cited as one of the most entertaining and humorous Star Trek episodes ever. The episode was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation at the 1968 Hugo Awards, with the award instead going to The City on the Edge of Forever. Tribbles are of course, hamster-like-rodents which mate like rabbits and through sheer mass cause havoc on the Enterprise. Shatner is on top comedic form as Captain Kirk, dealing with the furry pests and a raft of Klingons sharing an uneasy truce; that is until a right-royal bar-fight breaks out in this laugh-out-loud fifteenth entry of the season.
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, Mark Jackson
Executive producer(s): Seth MacFarlane, Brannon Braga, David A. Goodman, Jason Clark, Jon Favreau (pilot), Liz Heldens, Lili Fuller
Production company(s): Fuzzy Door Productions; 20th Century Fox Television
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**
If you search YouTube for Star Trek fan films you will find hundreds of them. In fact, I myself have written and produced one myself called Chance Encounter (2016). However, you will not find a shiny and more expensive Star Trek homage and fan film – in all but name – than Fox’s big budget science fiction series, The Orville. It was written and created by uber-talented Seth MacFarlane and joins the stable of shows and films he has been involved in, including: Family Guy, American Dad, Ted (2012) and A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014).
The Orville is set on the titular U.S.S. Orville (ECV-197), a mid-level exploratory space vessel in the Planetary Union, a 25th-century interstellar alliance of Earth and many other planets. Seth McFarlane portrays Ed Mercer, a journeyman officer who is depressed due to his wife’s infidelity, and constantly turning up to work hungover and uninterested. A chance at redemption comes when he offered the captaincy of The Orville. He is then joined by his first officer, Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), who so happens to be his ex-wife. This slightly clichéd dramatic turn does actually become a positive fulcrum for the twelve episode run, providing many jokes and bitter asides between the two. Their dedicated crew is a mix of aliens, humans and a genius robot called Isaac; who may as well be called Data to be honest.
The Orville is an interesting show to review because I could understand someone watching it randomly because of say, liking Family Guy or Ted, and then not enjoying this at all. Because aside from the odd sight gag or wicked one-liner, this is not all out comedy. The Orville is instead a really solid science fiction show which mixes satire, action, comedy and drama. Indeed, while there is much to smile at, many episodes feature contemporary moral dilemmas involving: relationships, religion, social media, race, gender issues and sex. Most of all this is Seth Mcfarlane’s tribute to Star Trek. He even goes as far to enlist Trek producer Brannon Braga to executive produce and helm several episodes; while Jonathan Frakes also directs episode 6 – Pria.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show because of its similarity to Star Trek and because the characters drew me in too. Seth Macfarlane is not the greatest actor but he is a very likeable everyman. He is also ably assisted by a very committed supporting cast and the slick production. Many episodes whizz along at a decent pace and it doesn’t take itself too seriously either. There’s some excellent supporting characters along the way portrayed by Charlize Theron and Rob Lowe. There’s also some brilliant science fiction stuff which I loved including: space weapons; space ships; time travel; worm holes; ion storms; alien creatures; special powers; cannibal monsters; and hologram devices. Basically everything that Star Trek had The Orville has and that’s why I enjoyed it.
THE HOLY CORE – A STAR TREK FAN FILM – PRODUCTION UPDATE
Just a quick update to say that another short screenplay I have co-written has just been funded and has entered the pre-production phase. It’s a follow up to our Star Trek fan film Chance Encounter called The Holy Core.
Alas, the Kickstarter campaign did not reach its target but out of the blue a private donor gifted the full budget to enable Gary and Fix Films to make the production a reality.
So, we are very grateful to the donor and to everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and look forward to making The Holy Core.
It is an exciting script which we would describe as a thoughtful science fiction adventure story examining the values of faith and science set against a backdrop of religious fanaticism and romantic love.
TO BOLDLY REVIEW #1 – STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (SEASON 1)
Having re-watched the whole of the new Doctor Who seasons a few years back I decided, this year, to boldly go and watch every season of the long-running Star Trek show from the original series onwards. There’s no time limit to this project as the original, Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise and Discovery seasons are all available on Netflix. So, save for the occurrence of World War 3, the Zombie Apocalypse or Netflix going bust, I expect this viewing pastime to last the next few years.
The show has given birth to all manner of prequels, sequels, sidequels, and cinema releases. Indeed, it continues to be a multi-billion dollar franchise today with festivals, exhibitions and conventions dedicated to this cultural phenomenon. This demonstrates the genius, long-standing quality and sustainability of Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Train to The Stars.Episodes are deftly written with high concept sci-fi ideas, imaginative alien races and a zeitgeist approach to the themes of the day. Many of the episodes really shone and while the special effects are obviously dated the imagination and themes still maintain their power today.
Watching the first season of Star Trek space adventures of Kirk, Spock, Uhuru, Bones, Sulu, Scotty etc. brought back interstellar memories from my youth. As entertainment now the show definitely stands the test of time (and space!). This, in no small part, is down to the solid premise, rules of the world, wonderful writing and committed performances by an awesome cast notably the Enterprise’s yin and yang; played perfectly by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The storylines and characterisation are always intriguing and on reflection the show was pioneering in regard to representations of gender, race and sexuality.
Containing thirty episodes the first season is metronomic in its delivery and structure. Each show would begin with the Starship Enterprise continuing its core mission of travelling around the many galaxies and planets seeking out new life forms as well transporting supplies, equipment and people from planet to planet. Invariably encountering a new star system, colony, planet, race of aliens or an evil scientist would bring rise to a conflict with which Kirk and the crew must overcome. Many episodes are inspired from a genre perspective; while others are driven by powerful themes which reflect the socio-political, gender, race and psychological fears of the late 1960s. Many of these themes are still relevant today which is why the original series remains highly watchable and is not just kitsch sci-fi to be mocked.
Of course, a genre formula was followed closely with the Enterprise and crew always overcoming their various foes by the end of the show. The Enterprise would also more often than not sustain damage which would threaten the lives of the crew and “ticking time-bomb” plot device would up the narrative ante too. Kirk would usually show his bravery and physical prowess often finding his uniform ripped during physical combat. Simultaneously, the ever reliable and logical Spock would provide the mental strength to overcome any negative situation. While the status quo is always maintained by the end of an episode the crew would always learn something about themselves and Aliens such as the Romulans, Archons, Klingons etc. They would also make important scientific discoveries relating to: Artificial Intelligence, time and space travel and alien technologies. To keep the quality the show employed various writers of high renown to boost the narratives including: Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, Jerry Sohl and Richard Matheson to name a few. Consequently the first season is full of exciting episodes with many fascinating storylines of excellent quality.
From a genre perspective Star Trek used science fiction, drama, horror, and at times where Kirk was concerned, romantic tropes throughout. Rogue Frankenstein-type scientists featured in episodes such as: Dagger of the Mind and What Little Girls Are Made Of. In The Enemy Within, Kirk splits into two different personalities echoing Jekyll and Hyde; while in The Conscience of the King we witness a Shakespearean influenced drama dealing with the pursuit of an intergalactic war criminal. Balance of Terror is brilliantly shaped around the beats of a submarine war flick and Arena reflects the structure of Roman Gladiatorial films. Court Martial too, does what it says on the tin, with court room dramas used as the model for the episode.
Thematically, as aforementioned, Star Trek was not shy of examining the scientific, political, consumer and sociological events of the time. For example: Mudd’s Women contains a damning critique of quick fix drug therapy and plastic surgery; Operation: Annihilate presents an alien invasion which could be interpreted symbolically as highlighting the threat of religious or political hysteria. Indeed, the dangers of the lust for war or invasion are featured also in Errand of Mercy; nuclear threat is critiqued in Taste of Armageddon; while the deadly potential of technological advancement features in The Return of the Archons. Of course, environmental threats are also prominent as seen in The Devil in the Dark; with plants threatening peril in the episode This Side of Paradise, where the warnings of recreational drug use are implicit within the subtext. Comedy is also used to support the drama as the Bones and Spock often lock metaphorical horns overs the latter’s lack of emotion.
Thus, Star Trek – Season one, original series – contains a wealthy of intriguing themes, ideas, narratives, worlds and characters within the thirty episodes. I personally enjoyed them all but to close this opening piece on my Star Trek voyage I would like to nominate my favourite six episodes of season one.
MIRI (1966) – EPISODE 8
A brilliant episode finds the Enterprise crew discovering an exact duplicate of Earth, where the only survivors of a plague are some of the planet’s children
THE MENAGERIE (1966) – EPISODES 11 & 12
A two-parter which expertly splices events from the original pilot called The Cage and finds Mr Spock going rogue, defying both logic and Starfleet orders.
TOMORROW IS YESTERDAY (1967) – EPISODE 19
A superb temporal paradox narrative finds the USS Enterprise travelling back to 1968 Earth and correcting damage they caused to Earth’s timeline.
SPACE SEED (1967) – EPISODE 22
Kirk and Spock et al meet an incredibly charismatic foe who threatens to take over the Enterprise; with Ricardo Montalban stealing the show as the deadly Khan.
ALTERNATIVE FACTOR (1967) – EPISODE 27
I loved the Sisyphean plot as the crew find “reality-jumper” Lazarus, a man trapped between parallel universes threatening the whole of existence itself.
CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER – EPISODE 28
An incredible episode full of brilliant time-travelling concepts and a heartfelt love story, with Kirk finding he has an almost impossible choice to make.
A couple of years ago I was involved in the writing and producing of a Star Trek fan film called CHANCE ENCOUNTER (2016) and it was a very satisfying project. For those of you that didn’t see it we are 51,000 views and counting. Here it is:
Now, we are boldly going where we’ve actually been before and making another Star Trek fan film called THE HOLY CORE. Please check out our Kickstarter campaign we’ve created and share and get involved here: