Beyond the Farthest Star: In the early 1970s, there was a noticeable dearth of Star Trek. This was before the movies and even Star Trek: Phase II was just a twinkle in Gene Roddenberry’s eye. To continue the mission, fans were treated to Star Trek: The Animated Series, which featured the voices of many of the original stars of the show. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and most of the rest of the original cast returned. But like the show which preceded it, TAS was not suited for its time… slot. TAS was not a kiddy show, but it was shown on Saturday mornings from 1973 to 1975 on NBC.

Beware, true believers, as Gene himself did not consider this show to be “canon,” or part of what really happened in the Star Trek Universe. As the show aired, it was intended to complete the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Had the show completed its run, it would have featured an episode where the ship and crew finally returned to Earth.

STARDATE: 5221.3

The first episode of the animated series began as the Enterprise was on a star charting mission the fringes of the galaxy toward Questar M-17, which is the “source of mysterious radio emissions.” A red alert had been issued on the ship as the Enterprise picked up speed rapidly. Mr. Scott attempted to cut back the power, while Mr. Sulu reported that the ship is not answering to helm controls.

As Kirk gave the order to reverse course, the ship encountered “hypergravity.” Kirk ordered Sulu to attempt to scan further ahead, and Uhura reported that the object creating the hypergravity is the source of the unknown radio emissions. Spock then said that there is a “negative star mass,” according to spectra analysis.

The Enterprise
The Enterprise, beautiful, even while animated. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

While the captain again ordered full reverse thrust, the ship was still being pulled toward the “dead star.” Spock began a countdown until impact when suddenly Uhura announced that she picked up a new signal. Kirk ordered Sulu to attempt to make an orbit around the object, as they were unable to break free of the object’s gravity — which was successful.

Kirk asked if it would be possible to slingshot the ship away from the planet, but the source of the second signal was revealed. It was a cluster of jellyfish-like pods floating through space, many times larger than the Enterprise.

Kirk asked if it would be possible to slingshot the ship away from the planet, but the source of the second signal was revealed. It was a cluster of jellyfish-like pods floating through space, many times larger than the Enterprise.

McCoy was astonished of the sheer size of the “starship” which they now were alongside. It was determined that the ship is “dead” but somehow still the source of the signal. Spock reported that the ship’s internal temperature is absolute zero, which, of course, cannot support life. Spock also was unable to identify the metal, which makes up the ship, and says that the vessel had been in orbit for “slightly more than 300 million years”

Kirk decided that they ought to board the alien vessel. He told Mr. Scott that they will need “life support belts” for the excursion. These were gray metal belts which Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty wore around their waists. They protected the wearer from temperatures as low as absolute zero and other environmental conditions. While in operation, the wearer had some force field protection.

The party beamed over on the outside of the vessel. As they walked inside the ship (through a massive hole in the side of one of the pods, Spock observed that the design of the ship reminded him of Earth’s insects, like the honeycombs of bees. Mr. Scott pointed out that the metal was rolled and spun, and, according to Mr. Spock, created a stronger alloy than anything known.

Kirk pointed out that the pods all had burst open. Spock surmised that the crew of the ship destroyed it themselves. Uhura signaled from the Enterprise that the radio signals from the ship have ended and that they had stopped as soon as the landing party arrived on the ship. Kirk asked that the transporter be “on and locked” as the crew explored the interior of the vessel.

Animated Spock
Spock, as drawn by Filmation, had a greenish hue to his skin. Courtesy of CBS / Parmaount

While the crew stood before a bizarre plant of some kind (which blinked with the same sound effects from TOS sickbay), Spock reported that the plant did register some energy output. Spock said that the strange “wands” of the “plant” were attracting energy in all manner of forms. Mr. Scott agreed, saying that the overall design of the ship was created to capture power.

McCoy and Scott both said that they felt as if something was watching them. Spock poo-pooed this, telling them that they are exhibiting the “fear of primitive people” who are encountering the unfamiliar.

They continued on until they reached a large door, which Spock shot the door’s control with his phaser to open. After they passed through the door, it shut behind them, and they appeared to be in some large control center. Spock reported that artificial gravity is in effect, and the air seemed to be attuned to Earth-like conditions.

Ship to ship
Check out the size of the Enterprise against the alien ship they were investigating. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Kirk tried to raise the Enterprise with his communicator, but some interference has was raised. Scotty tried to use his phaser to cut through the walls so they can escape, but that too did not work.

The party continued until they reached what appears to be the old vessel’s control center. Spock determined that the source of the interference was with the navigational equipment, but it seemed to be something the ancient crew rigged up in an emergency. Scotty asked what then would they rig up to protect themselves against — Spock told him then no known form of life could survive for 300 million years.

Suddenly, the main door, the same one that closed behind them, began to glow and buzz. Spock said that something was trying to get in, but the interference is reacting against it. The crew started to hear a new noise, something that eventually became a voice or message. A large, insect-like alien face was then projected on the door. McCoy wondered if the word could have come from the ship’s crew, from 300 million years ago.

Spock began to work with the alien controls and announced that he might be able to provide a translation. McCoy ordered Spock to hurry. The voice slowly was translated into English, warning that “danger — the dead star, we are being drawn to it!”

The recording revealed that the ancient astronauts decided to destroy their ship, rather than allow this “malevolent life form” to travel to other worlds.

As the crew listened to the message, they learned that they are protected only at that moment from the “thing.” Before the message ended, the door explodes tossing the crew about, and the alien equipment begins to self destruct at once. Just before they too are part of the destruction, the team was beamed away.

The crew
A look at the crew as they prepared to beam away. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Sulu had the crew beamed back just in time by Mr. Kyle (voiced by James Doohan). As they materialized in the transporter room, something came with them — a strange, glowing blob of energy. Kirk ordered Kyle to reverse transport. When Kyle did not react quickly enough, Kirk pushed him away from the transporter controls and touched the display. At that moment, a surge of magnetic energy enveloped the team and promptly disappeared into the lights above the transporter equipment and other electronics. A maniacal digital laugh now came from the door controls to the transporter room.

Back on the bridge, all systems reported normal. Scotty pointed out that the captain of the other ship was prepared to destroy their ship to rid themselves of the invader. Kirk agreed with that sentiment and ordered Mr. Scott to go to engineering and make preparations to destroy the Enterprise.

Spock detected an electronic rhythm, almost like a human heartbeat, while Uhura reported that the life-support systems on Decks 5 and 6 had suddenly shut down.

Kirk and Spock raced to engineering to discover what the problem is, and they find that Scotty was trapped in a core hatch, with only his life support belt preventing him from being crushed. Spock determined that the controls to the hatch have been magnetized, and Kirk ordered the use of “cutter beams” to free Mr. Scott. The men successfully released Scotty.

Just then, Sulu called from the bridge to say that the ship’s phaser banks are locked onto the alien starship. Before anyone could react, the Enterprise’s phasers destroyed the alien ship. Sulu said that the override also did not work — just as Mr. Scott reported that the cutter beams have been drained of all power and that they are now unable to get to the Engineering core.

“It seems to be taking control of the whole ship!” exclaimed Uhura, as the magnetic force spread from system to system. Kirk then ordered Spock to rig a shield around the bridge controls.

McCoy told Kirk that the force would merely outlast the Enterprise crew. Kirk disagreed, saying that the hidden power must be coming from the dead star and was somehow unable to leave the system without the help of a starship.

At that moment, the ship’s defense system on the bridge spoke.

“That is correct, Captain James T. Kirk,” it said. The force then “absorbed the memory banks” of the ship and ordered the shields to be dropped from the bridge consoles.

Kirk refused and was shot with a phaser beam from the defense system. Spock was the next to be attacked. Kirk told the force that he would “obey” if Spock was released. He then approached the bridge controls, removed his life support belt, and attached them to the warp drive controls, which shorted out the entire console.

The magnetic force again ordered for the systems to be repaired. Kirk ordered Mr. Scott to do so. Spock then told the captain that this force had become the Enterprise, and the crew was just organisms within the vessel. He also noted that the magnetic force itself is becoming stronger.

Kirk asked Spock to calculate the slingshot internally, without the ship’s computer for assistance. The force then orders the ship to be directed to “galactic coordinates 036.231,” which Sulu noted are the heart of the galaxy. Kirk told him to plot the course.

Spock then warned that the force can reproduce itself by “mitosis,” and could take over every ship they encounter, plus every planet they pass as well.

Kirk told the alien that they could only control auxiliary warp controls manually. The force agreed. As soon as they dropped out of orbit, the Enterprise began to head toward the dead star. The alien fired on Kirk, order him not to destroy the ship… and then the unknown force is sucked away from the Enterprise and left onto the dead star.

As the ship broke orbit, the magnetic force signaled, asking for it not to be left behind — that it is “so lonely.”

Kirk entered a final note into his log on Stardate 5221.8, saying that they have now resumed their “star-charting” mission.

TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:

The first episode of the “first” series after The Original Series — many people forget that The Animated Series was before the films and TNG. It was the torch bearer during those in-between years before … Star Wars pushed Star Trek to back into the greater pop-culture consciousness.

That being said, this animated episode does not stray far from The Original Series in tone. The animators were probably constrained by a small budget, which explains the use of “environmental belts” instead of space suits, which would have required a different design and additional costs.

I found this entry into the Trek story interesting — basically, it was a story of an alien A.I. trying to take over the Enterprise, which is not unlike the story arch of Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, when Section 31’s A.I., Control, tried to do some of the same things. Our understanding of computers now is more sophisticated than it was back in the early 70s when this show was conceived, and the term “artificial intelligence” was not even used in the script (though the term was coined in 1956), but this episode delivers an exciting ending. I wonder what youngsters in 1973 had to say about this show when they watched it on Saturday morning cartoons.

This one could have easily have been a TOS episode, and no one would have thought any different.

RATING: 3 out of 5

NOTE
Mr. Kyle was a minor character would appeared in several The Original Series episodes, and would also show up in Star Trek II aboard the U.S.S. Reliant.
CREDITS

Created by Gene Rodenberry

STARRING the voices of

William Shatner as Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock
DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy

Directed by Hal Sutherland

Executive Consultant … Gene Roddenberry
General Manager … Rock Benedetto

Special Effects Animation … Rueben Timmins

Storyboard … Sherman Labby, Paul Fennell, Dale Hale, Jack Miller, Michael O’Connor, Louise Sandoval, Ken Southworth, Dawn Huntley

Art Director … Don Christensen
Key Assistants … Mike Hazy, Bill House
Key Layout … Herb Hazelton, Alberto de Mello, Kay Wright

Layout … George Wheeler, Lorna Smith, Les Kaluza, Goerge Jensen, Dick Hall, Warren Marshall, Wendell Washer, Christopher Lane, Glen Keane, Maria Bennett, Ken Leonard, Wes Herschensohn, Jim Willoughby, Cliff Vorhees, Robert Kline, Virgil Raddaz, John Perry, Carol Lundberg, Malcolm Weizer, George Goode, James Koukos, Tom Burton

Director of Color … Ervin Kaplan

Background Artists … Paul Xander, Maurice Harvey, Don Peters, Tom O’Loughlin, Pat Keppler, Curt Perkins, Boris Gorelick, Rolando Oliva, Janet Brown, Karen Shaffner

Animators … Robert Bentley, Jim Brummett, Bob Carlson, Rudy Cataldi, Jesse Cosio, Zion Davush, Lil Evans, Paul Fennell, Otto Feuer, Ed Friedman, Lee Halpern, La Verne Harding, Lou Kachivas, Marsh Lamore, Lawrence Miller, Fred Myers, Jane Nordin, Bill Nunes, Joe Nunez, Casey Onaitis, Jack Ozark, Bill Pratt, Len Rogers, Virgil Ross, Sonja Ruta, Don Schloat, Ben Shenkman, Larry Silverman, Brad Smith, Hank Smith, Bob Trochim, George Waiss, Ron Westlung, Kaem Wong

Checking Supervision … Marion Turk, Jane Philippi

Xerography & Paint Supervision … John Remmel, Betty Brooks

Camera Supervision … R. W. Pope

Camera … Thane Berti, Joseph Ponticelle, Don Dinehart, John Aardal, Bill Kotler, Frederick T. Ziegler, Earl Bendetto, Gene Gropper, Dean G. Teves

Also starring the voices of … George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, James Doohan

Editorial Supervision … Joseph Simon, Doreen Dixon

Film Coordinator … June Gilham

Background music by … Yvette Blais, Jeff Michael

Music Publisher … Shermley Music Co., a.s.c.a.p.

Music and Sound Effects … Horta-Mahana Corp.

Color by … Technicolor

Associate Producer and Story Editor … D.C. Fontana

Produced by … Lou Scheimer, Norm Prescott

Filmation / Norway Productions, 1973