Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, June 8, 2015

ST:TAS Season One, Episode One: Beyond the Farthest Star

"Beyond the Farthest Star"
Air Order: 1
Star Date:
Original Air Date: September 8, 1973

And now, a one-act play about how we got an animated series...

(Setting: 1973, four years or so after the end of the Star Trek original series. Characters: Gene Roddenberry, the cast of the Star Trek series, NBC executives, and Star Trek writers. Everyone is seated around a conference table.)
Executives: So your fans still write to us about that show.
Gene Rod: They're cool people.
Executive: Yeah, we were thinking of starting your show back up...
Gene: Sweet!
Executive: ... but it was really expensive.
Gene: Ex-squeeze me? We made that show for pennies!
Executive: How about we do a cartoon?
Gene: Sorry? That's weird. ...Well, maybe we could show some other stuff, because it's animated...                we could do more alien aliens and show some things that we couldn't because the cost of                      filming it was prohibitive...
Executives: We were thinking, because it'll be a cartoon, that we could hook up the characters with                apprentice kids! Like, each character would have a kid that they would mentor! What do you              think of Lil' Spock?
Gene: ...
Gene: ...
Gene: Kindly consume a container of cocks.
Executive: Fine, be that way. We'll take our awesome idea and make a kids in space live-action show.            We're gonna call it Space Academy.
Gene: You do that.
Executives: Okay, so we're gonna bring on The Shat and Leonard and Majel and Jimmy and DeForest            to do the voices, but screw Nichelle and George, because we don't need them.
Leonard Nimoy: Go fuck yourselves. Nichelle and George are important. They lend diversity to our              white-ass cast. Either they come onboard, or I'm gone.
Executives: Leonard, be reasonable. We can have Jimmy and Majel voice their parts as well. We                    don't need to pay more people.
Leonard: Then Jimmy can do my part, too. Scottish Vulcan - sounds legit.
Executives: No, we're not paying more people. This show will already have like, no budget.
Leonard: Imagine the shitstorm of angry nerd mail, raining down on the studio offices again... No                 Uhura, Sulu or Spock...
Executives: Fine, fine. Bring 'em in. (to each other) Let's tell everyone that this was our idea, okay?               People love diversity.
DC Fontana: (to other writers) Let's make sure that history knows that these douchewaffles wouldn't             bring on Nichelle or George until Leonard threatened to quit.
Writers: Agreed.
Executives: Are you sure you won't do the kid show, Gene?
Gene: Yes. We'll do it like always. Same kinds of storytelling, same morals. We're not making                     anything different simply because you want to show it on Saturday morning.
Executives: If you want, we'll buy you out. A crap-ton of money in your pockets, Gene, and all you               have to do is sign over the rights so we can make Our Gang in Space.
Gene: ...
Gene: ...
Gene: ... your mouths are moving, but all I'm hearing is a request for rooster sauce to go on the meal            of man-meat that I offered earlier.

So there it is, friends: Leonard threatened to quit if Nichelle and George were not able to voice their own characters. NBC executives offered Gene Rod a bag full of cash to walk away and let them make a cartoon about the crew of the E hosting little kids. Sadly, there really was no budget to bring on Walter Koenig, so Chekov mysteriously disappeared from the bridge. Worry not, we will see him later! Jimmy and Majel did end up doing a lot of extra voice work, and Nichelle did a few extra characters as well.

I was asked where one might follow along and watch these episodes, and they appear to be on Netflix, Hulu, some episodes (not all) on www.tv.com,  Amazon Prime, and IMDb. In all, a surprising number of places given that there were only 22 episodes made.

*******


So the first noticeable difference between our two shows is that we skip the teaser that typically comes before the credits, and just go straight into our theme. The theme music is the second difference: it's still very sixties-seventies, but it's less exciting. The same: Kirk's intro about boldly going, and shots of the E racing through space. Some of this stuff was even rotoscoped, which is cool. (For those of you not in the know, rotoscoping is an animation technique when footage of live-action film is traced by animators to produce an animated version of live film. My new favorite rotoscoped thing is this Taylor Swift video, which was rotoscoped by first-year animation students.)

Kirk's Log 5221.3: "We picked up some weird radio emissions, and Starfleet wants us to chart the stars in that sector, so away we go!"

When we get to the bridge, red alert is blaring. Scotty reports that they've picked up speed for no reason, so I guess it's just implied that they're being sucked into something? I dunno. I've watched this scene a few times and can't find where they say why they've gone from star-charting to red alert. After the establishing shot of the bridge, we get this one shown from the helm:


So I can't really tell if Sulu looks like Georgie from this shot, or if he just looks vaguely Japanese. When he looks up, it's a better likeness, so we're good. And who is that in Chekov's chair? That's Arax, an Edosian, and dude most definitely has an arm growing out of his chest. He's also got three legs, and I'll go ahead and wait for you to come up with every tripod joke you've ever heard and repeated. 
Actually, email those to me if they're any good.


This is the new Kirk. It does not look like him. It looks like the lovechild of The Shat and a giant sentient beaver. 
Good job on Spock, though. He looks like Nimoy.



Uhura looks close enough to Nichelle Nichols that I'm not going to complain. They made her hair about twice as big, though.


I'm sorry, but on what planet does that look like Jimmy Doohan?


Okay, back to our story: after some scans and stuff, they determine that they're being pulled into a cold star or something, and they have ninety seconds until impact. Uhura reports that the radio emissions that they've been catching are coming from that star. Spock begins counting down the seconds from forty until they hit the surface and disintegrate. Kirk orders Sulu to somehow figure out a way to break the pull while simultaneously bringing the ship into orbit. Spock is now counting down from nine. He gets to four, and Sulu just miraculously puts them into orbit.
Are... you shitting me, Star Trek? I mean, I know you were attempting to build some tension in the first part of your show, but that was seriously the most anti-climatic thing I've ever seen you do.

Who turned out the stars?

Bones magically appears next to Kirk's chair on the bridge without taking the lift. He wants to know how they're gonna get out of orbit, if the pull of gravity is so strong that it pulled them to the dead star. Kirk suggests to Sulu that they do that slingshot maneuver that everyone at every time has always known is bullshit.

The only way this is gonna look like De Kelley is if I drink a whole
bottle of Saurian brandy, then tilt my head and squint.

"I need time to calculate how to do that impossible, improbable thing," says Spock.
Settle in, he's gonna be there for the rest of his life trying to figure it out.
Uhura reports that she's getting that radio emission again, and says that it's actually coming from something other than that dead star.
They turn on the viewscreen, and an alien ship appears, floating in space. This, friends, is why this show works as an animated program. Sure, we can do cool things with CGI these days, but that didn't exist in the same form back then, and this ship would not have been possible in the late sixties. Imagine what the planet killer might have looked like. More terrifying and less... windsock-y.


Uhura says the ship is most definitely broadcasting that signal, but Spock is baffled as to how. He says it's been dead, and there's no life aboard, and nothing works well enough to send any kind of signal. His scans says the ship has been in orbit more than 300 million years.
"They were exploring the stars before life existed on Earth!" exclaims Kirk.
No, Kirk. Life has existed on Earth for 3.7 billion years. Stop trying to science. It's not your strong suit. 

Poll: does Kirk look more like a monkey, or a lemur here?
Also, when did Bones find the time to grow a soul patch?


Kirk decides to board the ship with Bones, Spock and Scotty. Again, Spock and Scotty make sense: we're talking about science and maybe engineering. But Kirk and Bones are not needed here. Kirk is that guy who always takes his friends along for the fun shit, even when someone else is better suited to go.
He orders life belts for the away team, which is something that was invented specifically for the animated series. Remember the ridiculously fabulous suits they wore on "The Tholian Web"? They proved too complicated to animate.


It was far easier to paint white belts and yellow auras on them to indicate life support in an airless environment. Here's the kicker: once they returned to live-action filming, they ditched the life belts, as it proved too complicated to add that yellow aura to every shot in post-production. So the life belts remain an animated-only feature.


Our boys beam down and start taking a look around. Spock says that the design of the ship reminds him of bees and insects, and Scotty notes that they metal used to construct the ship wasn't pounded flat or layered, but spun into filaments and woven. They're pretty stoked about this away mission. Bones notices that every pod has been burst out of from the inside. Spock thinks that the crew destroyed the ship themselves.
Mildly dramatic music...
Commercial break...


Kirk's Log: "Found some alien ship. Recording everything for posterity."

Kirk calls Uhura and asks her if the ship is still transmitting, but she says it stopped when they beamed over. Kirk asks her to beam them someplace else on the ship, which she does. more scans confirm that the ship is designed to draw energy from other things and store it.
"This place is creepy," says Bones.
"Feels like we're being watched," Scotty adds.
"Superstitious crap," answers Spock. "You only feel like that because you're primitive beings in the presence of something smarter."
"Bitch, who you calling primitive?" demands Kirk. "Next to these beings, you're a Neanderthal, too."
They go into some kind of control room, and several things happen at once: the door snaps shut behind them. The equipment turns on. Their life belts, phasers, and communicators cease working. And the air and gravity of the room matches what they are used to.


They find some kind of control panel, but surmise that it's different because the crew slapped it together or altered it in an emergency. Once turned on, every shot begins flashing red, blue and yellow - I guess this is red alert for this ship? (A quick note here: if you get epileptic seizures, maybe don't watch this episode. This scene overlays that flashing for several minutes.) Something is trying to get in through the door in which they came, but an energy field is preventing that from happening. When the viewscreen on the machine clears up, they can see that it's some kind of insect-being. Kirk thinks it might be a captain's log. They don't understand the language, so Spock fiddles with the controls.
Bones yells at Spock to hurry the hell up. Spock barks back at Bones to back the fuck off.
When he finally gets the message cleared, insect-dude says that his ship was drawn into the dead star, and that something (the thing at the door) wants a thing on his ship. Rather than carry the thing into other star systems, the crew elected to destroy their own ship. Insect-dude ends on a dickish note, saying that if someone is getting this message, that they are only protected in that room for the time being. Soooo, you lured another ship here with your broadcast, then you sealed them in the control room, then you told them that they were in danger, and were only safe in said control room. You couldn't have broadcast that out into space? "Hey, future ships that may come by here. Don't get sucked into this dead star like we did. There's an evil thing that wants some other thing, and it's dangerous, so you should stay away."


Maybe the episode wouldn't be as exciting, but the insect-dude would have saved way more lives like that.

Oh, who the hell am I kidding? It's fucking Kirk. Here's how that shit would have gone down:
Uhura: "I'm getting a subspace radio message, sir. It says there's a dead star up ahead that we should avoid so we don't get sucked into. Also, there's some evil thing there. The message says to pretty much give the area a wide berth."
Kirk: "Let's go check it out!"
Spock: "That sounds like a bad time, captain."
Kirk: "The hell with you, Spock. Boldly going, remember?"
I feel like half the time, these episodes are about Kirk engaging in some bear-poking.
This cartoon is the truest thing I've ever seen concerning Star Trek:


So the message ends, and the things manages to break into the control room, only we don't see what it is, because explosions go off everywhere, and Kirk calls for a beam-out.
Remember Kyle, the British crewman that magically seems to serve all positions on this ship, whether science, Ops, or command? He's running the transporter, and he seems to have grown a comical handlebar mustache. He's also voiced by Jimmy Doohan, whose British accent is all over the place, and nowhere near to the one original actor John Winston uses.


So Kyle beams them aboard, then shouts that something else beamed up with them. They see a green glowy thing on one of the pads.
"Beam it off!" yells Kirk, who then leaps from his own pad to try to beam it away himself.
Kirk: when the chips are down, he doesn't trust his own fucking crew to do their jobs. You know what happens? That green glowy thing encompasses the away team, Kirk included, so when he touches the transporter controls, he transfers that glowy thing into the equipment. Good job, you dipshit. The glowy thing then laughs.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!



Up on the bridge, Kirk asks for stats. Everyone is fine, everything is fine, very little change in how the ship runs. Scotty points out that insect-dude said they had to destroy their own ship, so Kirk tells him to prep the ship for self-destruct, just in case.
Then shit gets real. Uhura says that decks five and six are reporting that life support is down and they can't use manual override, so everyone is walking around in life belts. Red alert goes up, even though Kirk didn't call for it. Spock says that engineering is reporting trouble. He and Kirk go down to engineering after calling Bones. 
They all meet up there to find that Scotty is trapped in a core hatch with the lid partially closed on him. The only thing keeping it from crushing him is the life belt that he's wearing.
Um, why is he still wearing a life belt? And in engineering, which is not near decks five and six? Also, I thought the life belt provided atmosphere - does it also prevent very heavy things from crushing you? It's a bit coincidental that Scotty would be wearing that thing and have it on, even though he technically doesn't need it here.


The mechanism is jammed, so they cut him out. Just when Scotty climbs out, Sulu calls over the comm to say that something has taken over the phaser banks and is firing on the alien ship. Kirk turns on some little viewscreen in engineering, and sees the phasers destroy the other ship. In the next shot, Kirk and Spock are magically on the bridge, despite the fact that we never see them leave engineering. I think I'm most thrown off by this abrupt scene change because the dramatic music that started in engineering continues all the way through - there wasn't a break of any kind to indicate that a bit of time has elapsed, which has to happen in order for Kirk and Spock to move from the very bottom of the ship to the top. So in one instant, Kirk goes from watching a viewscreen in engineering to talking to Sulu on the bridge. You don't get to skip dealing with continuity just because you switched mediums, Star Trek.

So the whole ship is breaking down. Power outages reported everywhere, and cargo decks are losing life support with no way to override. Bones and Scotty hustle out of the lift to report more outages. Uhura reports that the thing is going through their computer storage banks looking for information.


Kirk asks Spock if they can make a low-frequency field around the nav console, like the one on the alien ship.
"Can do," says Spock.
So he sets it up, and Bones asks if it's going to do any good, seeing as how the aliens had to destroy their own ship in order to get rid of the thing. In the time he took to install the thing, the bridge crew has put on life belts.
"I've magically guessed that this thing was pulled into the dead star and needs a ship with a crew to escape it," says Kirk.
There's some studded metal ball on the ceiling that Kirk referred to as bridge protection earlier, and now the glowy green pulsating light comes from it and says, "You are correct, James T Kirk. get rid of the static shield on the nav console."
"Fuck you," says Kirk. "Turn life support back on, and we'll talk."
The thing shots a green laser from the studded ball, and Kirk falls back.
"That's my boyfriend!" yells Spock, and the green laser shoots him down.



"I'll do it!" yells Kirk. "Leggo of Spock!"
So the thing stops shooting at Spock, and Kirk approaches the nav console, but he takes of his life belt, dropping it on the console and hitting a button. There's a crackling, and both the life belt aura and a green aura appear around the console. the thing seems satisfied, and Kirk tells Scotty, on the thing's orders, to repair the warp drive.
Spock goes back to his science station and tells Kirk that the thing is a magnetic entity, that it doesn't have mass, but that it can join symbiotically to something like a ship. So basically, the thing is now the ship, and they're just kind of going along for the ride, like "white corpuscles in a body." Also, the thing is getting stronger.
"Hey," whispers Kirk. "Can you do the stupid slingshot calculations without the computer? Like, in your head? So the thing won't see what we're doing?"
"Yeah, but I gotta work with Scotty," Spock replies.
"Hey, thing," says Kirk to the studded ball. "My first officer has to work with my engineer to fix the ship. Cool?"



 The thing doesn't answer, so Spock and Scotty work together at a console, where they set up manual auxiliary control. They're done after a few minutes, and the thing gives them coordinates to steer to. Okay: Spock is working on those dumb slingshot calculations in order to get them out of orbit, but he's doing it on the sly so the thing doesn't know. But these calculations will get the thing what it wants, which is what the crew of the E wants, which is to GTFO. Why are they keeping this a secret? They technically have the same immediate goal, which is to leave. BUT the insect-dude said they destroyed their ship in order to make sure the thing didn't leave the pull of the dead star, which means that the E should probably not leave with it, either.
So they turn on auxiliary control, and Kirk hits a button on the nav console. The E starts to fall out of orbit and toward the surface of the dead star. Kirk yells at them to turn on the warp engines. The thing is zapping Kirk and yelling "No! Don't! Obey!" but then as they get closer to the surface, the thing begins evacuating itself from the ship. The E is seen in space as though through a water-rippling effect.


The E then disappears from sight, and reappears on the other side of the dead star, which now has a green aura.
Spock helps Kirk into his chair, and explains that the thing left the E when it thought they were going to crash. They fly away from the star, and the thing says pathetically, "No... don't leave... please...sooooo lonely"



Kirk's Log 5221.8: "Exact same thing I said at the beginning of this episode about star charting."



So, when comparing the live action Star Trek and the animated series, we have a few similarities and differences to contend with. Similarities: same cast (almost), same writers, same storytelling. Differences: only half the time allotted for each episode in which to tell a Star Trek-type story. Actual non-humanoid aliens are featured. Cooler alien ship that was not dependent on models. Kind of the same: some of the sets of the Enterprise have been enhanced, enlarged, or just altered slightly to accommodate animation. The budget still sucks.

Lets me get this out of the way - I hate this animation style. I always have.
"Isn't it comparable to Scooby-Doo?" someone asked me.
Yeah, kinda. Scooby-Doo was made by Hanna-Barbera, and TAS was made by Filmation, but each was done cheaply, and it shows. The parts that illustrate this best (in my humble opinion) are when a group of characters are moving through a space, and the speed at which the background moves does not match up with the speed at which the characters move. In essence, the characters appear to moon-walking forward. It just comes off as sloppy to me. I'm gonna try not to complain about the quality of the animation too much, though. Don't need to sound like a broken record for the next six months. BUT a rare compliment for this animation: the backgrounds are great. Some of those outside shots of the alien ship are spectacular. Because they don't move, more time can be spent on them. They're almost on par with some of the beautiful matte paintings that we got from the live action show.
The goofy, cheap budget lead to this whole episode literally being voiced by six people total. (While she appears on-screen for a hot second, Christine has no lines.) Jimmy Doohan did the voice for not only Scotty, but also Kyle, the insect-dude, and the thing. This production was really not hiring anyone unless it absolutely had to do so - everything fell into the laps of Jimmy, Majel, and on occasion,  Nichelle.

In all, this was actually a pretty good episode. Far shorter than usual, but with the same storytelling and characterization. The science sucked, though. Please, no more with that damn slingshot maneuver. And it was never properly explained how they got away from the thing. Sure, it abandoned ship when it thought that Kirk had gone kamikaze, but the E shimmered, disappeared, and re-materialized elsewhere. Seriously, what the hell? Did they warp through the star? And Kirk's final log entry of the episode was "still on our way to chart some stars." Was he not planning on reporting any of this to Starfleet? Seems like a good idea to set up a road-block for future explorers.
I think I would file this under "middle of the road, moving toward better than worse."

*******

Roomie sent me some link to one of those Buzzfed-type link dump articles concerning recipes that use tea. One sounded good, so I decided to road-test it at a gaming party that we were having. I made the spiced blondies with chai-white chocolate frosting. My frosting never really set, and so became more icing than anything else (possibly I didn't quite put enough white chocolate in it), but it was good nonetheless. The blondie part was very spice-y. Not like spicy-hot, but spice-laden.
"Tastes like gingerbread," said Roomie. She's right, it does.
It was also mildly dry, and saved by being too dry from that frosting, which was delicious. That frosting could go on damn-near anything.
In all, I feel like it was maybe a better holiday recipe than an anytime recipe.
Here's the blog where it came from:








Tiny-ass Uhura





3 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this one a lot less than you did. I don't know...it seemed odd that at the end, Kirk just said, "Anyway, about those star charts..." I was expecting somebody to comment on the kind of being they just encountered, spin it into a moral about control or something. Instead the "soooooo looooonely" thing just felt like an unintentional punchline.

    What it did well, though? Atmosphere. I'm with you in regards to the whole alien ship sequence. It looked great, it was an interesting premise (with the spun metal), and the mood was perfect. It was tense and...well, alien. I liked pretty much everything, I guess, before the whatever-being boarded the Enterprise.

    Also, at the end I didn't realize the ship phased through the planet (if that's even what happened). I thought they came close to colliding, the being ditched, and then the Enterprise just pulled away. Whatever it was, it definitely wasn't clear.

    Awesome writeup...looking forward to seeing more of this show.

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    Replies
    1. I agree, the ending was lame. I'm kind of being generous here and chalking it up to "trying to cram a Star Trek-style story into half the time." It's as though they mapped out their plot, realized they only had five minutes in which to wrap it up, and sort of tagged something onto the end. Hopefully that will happen less further into this season. So far, this series has actually been better than I anticipated, but to fall flat right at the end was disappointing.

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  2. Hmmm yes, the animation is laughable in this. But this is back in the day when America actually did their own animation, as opposed to outsourcing it to Asian countries like we do now. :(

    I can also say that the character designs do not impress me. Though the animators later got a few of Sulu's reaction faces right (Sulu's face is a national treasure) so I can sort of forgive them. Spock's kind of yellow for some reason instead of green-tinged. (The reboot movies are bad with this too, making him really pale instead of giving him the green-tinged makeup like in TOS. They also fail to show us lots of green blood, despite lots of human characters getting grossly bloodied. They kill more Vulcans in just the first reboot than the rest of Star Trek media does combined, where's the green? You can't have alien characters with cool blood and then not show it. It's like they thought it looked bad and so avoided showing it whenever possible.) I'm just grateful they didn't give Sulu a yellow tinge. That would have been sort of not okay. Still not sure why Spock's yellow, though.

    ReplyDelete