Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS), is an American animated science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry. It originally aired under the title simply as Star Trek, subtitled Created by Gene Roddenberry, on Saturday mornings from September 8, 1973, to October 12, 1974, on NBC, spanning 22 episodes over two seasons. The second series in the Star Trek franchise, it features mostly the same characters as Star Trek: The Original Series. Set in the 23rd century, when Earth is part of a United Federation of Planets, it follows the adventures of the Starfleet vessel USS Enterprise as it explores the Milky Way galaxy.
After the cancellation of The Original Series (TOS) in 1969, the live action show proved popular in syndication and generated significant fan enthusiasm. This resulted in Roddenberry's decision to continue the series in animated form. Much of the original cast returned to provide voice-overs for their characters. Show writers David Gerrold and D. C. Fontana characterized The Animated Series as effectively a fourth season of The Original Series. After the conclusion of The Animated Series, the adventures of the characters continued in live-action theatrical films, the first being the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Initially, Filmation was only going to use the voices of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Doohan and Barrett. Doohan and Barrett would also perform the voices of Sulu and Uhura. Nimoy refused to voice Spock in the series unless Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were added to the cast, claiming that Sulu and Uhura were proof of the ethnic diversity of the 23rd century and should not be recast. Nimoy also took this stand as a matter of principle, as he knew of the financial troubles many of his Star Trek co-stars were facing after cancellation of the series. According to Scheimer, when Nimoy pointed out that the casting would cut the only two minority actors from the series, "We were horrified at our unintended slight, made all the worse because we were the one studio who had been championing diversity in its output." Koenig was not forgotten, as Filmation were able to assuage Nimoy's complaints on his account by buying a script from Koenig for one episode ("The Infinite Vulcan").
Voice recording began in June 1973, with the first three episodes recorded as an ensemble, i.e. all the voice actors for the episode in the room at the same time. Later episodes used the more typical model of recording the voice actors separately to work around their other commitments. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who were both touring in plays at the time, recorded their lines in whatever city they happened to be performing in and had the tapes shipped to the studio. Doohan and Barrett, besides providing the voices of their Original Series characters and newcomers Arex and M'Ress, performed virtually all of the "guest star" characters in the series, with exceptions such as Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd, who were performed by the original actors from The Original Series. Other guest voice actors included Ed Bishop, who voiced the Megan Prosecutor in "The Magicks of Megas-tu", and Ted Knight, who voiced Carter Winston in "The Survivor". Nichelle Nichols performed character voices in addition to Uhura in several episodes, including "The Time Trap" and "The Lorelei Signal".
Similar to most animated series of the era, the 22 episodes of TAS were spread out over two brief seasons, with copious reruns of each episode. The director of the first season (16 episodes) was Hal Sutherland and Bill Reed directed the six episodes of season two, though the first four episodes of season two erroneously credit Sutherland.
Star Trek: The Animated Series was the only Star Trek series not to be produced with a cold open ("teaser"), instead starting directly with the title credits sequence. However, some overseas versions of the original live action series, such as those aired by the BBC in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s, were edited to run the teaser after the credits.
The animated series dispensed with the original series' theme music, composed by Alexander Courage, in favor of a new theme credited to Yvette Blais and Jeff Michael, but actually written by Filmation composer Ray Ellis. Ellis used the pseudonym Yvette Blais (the maiden name of his wife) due to complications with royalties and publishing companies, while Jeff Michael is a pseudonym for producer Norm Prescott, who received a pseudonymous credit and a cut of the royalties on all of Filmation's music as part of a standard deal for the time. Writing on Facebook's Starlog Magazine official page in March 2021, Gerrold revealed that the reason for this was a longstanding feud between Courage and Roddenberry over residual payments for airings of Star Trek: TOS episodes using the original theme: "When Courage turned in the original music, Roddenberry added his own lyrics to it, thereby depriving Courage of half his residuals. Courage never forgave Roddenberry and refused to give permission for the reuse of the theme. That's why new music was written for the animated series and again for the movies."
Star Trek: The Animated Series was named the 96th best animated series by IGN. They declared that although the series suffered from technical limitations, its format allowed the writers far greater freedom and creativity than was possible in the original live-action series. In 2019, CBR ranked all 31 seasons of Star Trek television shows, placing season 1 of TAS at 23rd, and season 2 at 24th. Similarly to IGN, they commented that "The animation is definitely limited by today's standards, but the idea of an animated Star Trek makes perfect sense, since concerns over budget and scope would be very different. Although only two seasons long, we were given some memorable moments."
In the original Star Trek series, the main character was given the name James T. Kirk. It was not until the animated series that writer David Gerrold expanded on the "T", establishing Kirk's middle name as Tiberius. By coincidence, on Gene Roddenberry's first series The Lieutenant, the principal character was William Tiberius Rice. According to Gerrold, he had been influenced by I, Claudius, and had approached Roddenberry with his choice of middle name, who agreed; Gerrold did not learn about the earlier use of the name until 2014.
The animated series introduced a three-armed, three-legged alien member of the bridge crew with a long neck named Arex and a cat-like alien crew member named M'Ress. According to Roddenberry, budget limitations would have made it impossible for either alien species to appear in a live action series of the time.
The episode "The Lorelei Signal" provides a rare instance in early Star Trek in which a woman took temporary command of a starship. Due to the male crew members being incapacitated, Uhura assumes command of the Enterprise from Scotty. Other instances occurred on the first and last adventures filmed in the original series:
At the end of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, all licenses for Star Trek spin-off fiction were renegotiated, and the animated series was essentially "decanonized" by Gene Roddenberry's office. Writers of the novels, comics and role-playing games were prohibited from using concepts from the animated series in their works. Among the facts established within the animated series that were called into question by the "official canon" issue was its identification of Robert April as the first captain of the USS Enterprise in the episode "The Counter-Clock Incident".
In a related vein, this work (i.e. book) adheres to Paramount studio policy that regards the animated Star Trek series as not being part of the "official" Star Trek universe, even though we count ourselves among that series' fans. Of course, the final decision as to the "authenticity" of the animated episodes, as with all elements of the show, must clearly be the choice of each individual reader.'
Since Roddenberry's death in 1991, and the subsequent exit of Richard H. Arnold (who vetted the licensed tie-ins for Roddenberry's Star Trek office at Paramount during its later years), there have been several references to the animated series in the various other Trek series. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Once More Unto the Breach", Kor referred to his ship, the Klothos, which was first named in the TAS episode "The Time Trap". Other DS9 episodes to make reference to the animated series include "Broken Link", where Elim Garak mentions Edosian orchids (Arex is an Edosian) and "Tears of the Prophets" where a Miranda-class starship is called the USS ShirKahr (sic) after ShiKahr, the city from "Yesteryear". In the episode "Prophet Motive" the title of healer is resurrected from "Yesteryear" as well. Vulcan's Forge is also mentioned in "Change of Heart", in which Worf wants to honeymoon there with Jadzia Dax, as well as in episodes "The Forge", "Awakening" and "Kir'Shara" from Star Trek: Enterprise.
Carter Winston, from "The Survivor", has a small but important role late in the 1984 tie-in novel The Final Reflection by John M. Ford. In recent years, references to The Animated Series have also cropped up again in the licensed books and comics. M'Ress and Arex, characters from the animated series, appear in the Star Trek: New Frontier novels by Peter David, in which M'Ress and Arex are transported through time to the 24th Century, and are made officers on board the USS Trident. (David's previous use of these characters, in TOS movie-era comics published by DC Comics, had been ended by Gene Roddenberry's office.) 2b1af7f3a8