Star Trek: The Animated Series is an animated science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe. The series was aired under the name Star Trek, but it has become widely known under this longer name (or abbreviated as ST:TAS or TAS) to differentiate it from the original live action Star Trek. It is also sometimes referred to (such as on STARTREK.COM (http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/ANI/index.html)) as "The Animated Adventures."
The series was produced by Filmation and ran for two seasons, 1973 and 1974, airing a total of twenty-two half-hour episodes. It featured most of the original cast performing the voices for their characters, except for Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig). He was replaced by Lieutenant Arex, a member of a species which had three arms and three legs. Another semi-regular addition to the cast was Lt. M'Ress, a female cat-like alien. (An earlier Filmation proposal had children assigned to each of the senior officers as cadets, including a young Vulcan for Mr. Spock.) Koenig was not forgotten and later wrote an episode of the series, becoming the first Star Trek actor to write a Star Trek story in the process.
It is generally assumed that the episodes in the series take place after the events of the Original Series, possibly during the last year of the NCC-1701's five-year mission. However this is never stated on screen. It is impossible to support this notion using the stardates mentioned in the episodes, since they are often inconsistent with the Original Series. One episode, "Magicks of Megas-Tu" carries a stardate that would place it before the first episode of the series, while another episode carries a stardate well after the date given in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
As is usual for animation, the voice actors did not perform together but recorded their parts separately to avoid clashing with other commitments. For instance, William Shatner, who was touring in a play at the time, would record his lines in whatever city he happened to be in and have the tapes shipped to the studio. Trek regulars James Doohan and Majel Barrett performed virtually all of the "guest star" characters in the series, except for a few notable exceptions (Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harcourt Fenton Mudd, who were performed by their original actors from The Original Series). Occasional other guest voices were also used, such as Ed Bishop (Commander Straker on UFO) who voiced a character in "Magicks of Megas-Tu".
While the freedom of animation afforded large alien landscapes, budget constraints were a major concern and animation quality was generally poor, with very liberal use of stock shots. Occasionally, though, parts of episodes would be animated at a near-theatrical quality level.
Several episodes were novelized by Alan Dean Foster and put into collections of three stories each called "Captain's Logs."
A few episodes are especially notable due to contributions from well-known science fiction authors:
- "More Tribbles, More Troubles" was written by David Gerrold as a sequel to his famous episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" from the original series. Here the infamous Cyrano Jones is rescued from the Klingons, bringing with him a genetically-altered breed of Tribbles which do not reproduce but do grow extremely large. The Klingons, due to their hatred of Tribbles, are eager to get Cyrano Jones back because he stole a creature they created: a predator that feeds on tribbles.
- Larry Niven's "The Slaver Weapon", adapted from his own short story "The Soft Weapon". It includes some elements from his Known Space mythos such as the Kzinti and the Slavers.
- "The Magicks of Megas-tu", by Larry Brody, sends the Starship Enterprise to the center of the galaxy. Its crew find themselves befriended by a devil-like alien whom they must defend against accusations that he has brought evil to the world of Megas-tu. The Enterprise in this series, while supposedly the same ship as from the original series, had a holodeck very similar to the one introduced on Star Trek: The Next Generation which was set approximately 80 years later.
For a variety of reasons (most likely legal ones, such as the use of concepts from Niven's own works), Paramount Pictures does not consider The Animated Series to be true Star Trek canon. Also, Gene Roddenberry reportedly asked soon before his death that the series not be considered canon. There have however been occasions where writers and other production crew have sneaked animation-series references into one of the live-action series, to many a Trekkie's delight. Most recently, the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes "The Catwalk" and "The Forge" included references to "Yesteryear".
See also: List of Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes
In June 2004, several websites reported that Paramount was planning to release the Animated Series to DVD in North America in 2005. These reports turned out to be premature, as the studio plans to concentrate on releasing Enterprise to DVD during the year instead. According to a February 2005 report on the Digital Bits.com (http://www.thedigitalbits.com/rumormill.html#0210) website, the studio is now eyeing a 2006 release of the series, which would make it the last Star Trek series to be released to DVD.
- "Star Trek: The Animated Series (http://www.memory-alpha.org/en/index.php/Star_Trek:_The_Animated_Series)" article at Memory Alpha, a Star Trek wiki
- Star Trek: The Animated Series at Ex Astris Scientia (http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/tas.htm)