written by Don Harden
originally published in Stardate 18, March 1983
The animated Star Trek series produced by Filmation Studios can be divided into two parts. The first season of sixteen episodes, in which Dorothy Fontana functioned as Associate Producer and story editor, and the second season of six episodes in which Fontana was not involved. Gene Roddenberry was listed as Executive Consultant.
In Enterprise Incidents #7, Dennis Fischer asked Fontana about some of the problems encountered during her stint with the show. She also explained why there were so few shows made in the second year. "Hell, thats how it works in the animated area. They buy X number. We did sixteen that first year, and they only bought six the second year. This is how most cartoon shows go. Then they just rerun them and rerun them because it takes such an enormous amount of time to do the animation. It takes three months to do an animated half hour, which is really twenty-one minutes, and thats a lot of time. That is far more time than an active production company in the early 1970's would be spending. If youre working with live action it would takeat the minimum if youre rushingsix weeks. Wed like to have more time, but you can do it in six weeks. Three months is different. Its twice that, and it all has to be done by hand. In the 70's, everything was still done by hand except that they could Xerox the cell backgrounds and some of the animated pieces. That was the only real advance that animation had had for 30 years until the computer revolution, so it was tedious work in that sense. It took three months to do it. But it also allowed that we could draw any type of alien we wanted because we didnt have to worry about whether the make-up looked right, just does it look right on the cel. We could have any kind of background we wanted, which was nice because we didnt have to worry about the cost of the set. You could say Rome burned, and they could draw it for me; therefore, it was the kind of thing where you had freedoms in one dimension to do all those aliens we always wanted to do and all those sets we would have liked to have seen-like going underwater. Doing underwater stuff live is difficult. It takes a long time. A lot of times it doesnt look really well, but in animation it didnt matter. He could just say heres the ocean, here they are moving around in it, whatever we wanted to do. It would have been hideously expensive if we had done it live, whereas in a cartoon, we just draw it. It is no more expensive than drawing anything else. I think a lot of people liked the first year of the animation generally. We didnt write our scripts as kiddie shows. We were writing for the Star Trek audience and we didnt think they were twelve years old, so we tried to keep the quality of the show. The second year, I didnt have anything to do with it, so I dont know. I do know that they did most of the scripts we rejected in the first year, but again, I had no say in this."
In many ways, the animated revival of Star Trek became something of a bone of contention among Star Trek fans. Many have seen and enjoyed them, while others totally ignore them and still others have never seen any of them. Leonard Nimoy, in a talk at Georgia Tech in 1975, said that he feels pretty good about the animateds. "We didnt get terribly involved in it as actors because there was no communal effort involved--the scripts were done and all we did was read the lines. Theyd then draw the pictures after wed done that--they did the soundtrack first. And we were together very rarely to do that--in fact, it wasnt really necessary. If I were traveling as I am now and there is a script ready, theyd simply mail me a script and I would go to a local radio station like WREK or something, rent some time and record my dialogue and literally mail in my performance. So there was really no involvement--you couldnt get involved with changing, rewriting or building character structure because it would affect everyone elses lines, everyone was scattered--it was just too complicated. Now, I was very concerned when they first started to do it because Im sure that none of us wanted to be involved in doing a Mickey Mouse version of Star Trek and Saturday morning shows being what they are--there was that danger. But I think in retrospect that they came off quite well. And that most of the shows made sense--some were even intelligent--and they were able to explore visual ideas that they couldnt do in the original series... With the first couple of shows that went on the air, I watched the half-hour before, then I watched the Star Trek half-hour, then I watched the half-hour after to get a feel of the context that the series was being shown in and I must agree with the Los Angeles critic who said that putting Star Trek in that time slot was like showing a Mercedes Benz in a soapbox derby. Really, I think the stuff was pretty good compared to the zap-pow-hit-em-again- sell-them-something kind of stuff thats on the rest of Saturday morning." In a November 1974 interview, William Shatner added that "It is very strange reading your lines alone. It feels so disembodied."
In Starlog #6, Filmation spokesman Malcolm Klein said that it was the studio itself that came up with the idea for a proposed animated Star Trek series. They approached Roddenberry and Paramount, the rights were granted and NBC bought the show. All of the regular performers (except Walter Koenig, who did get to write a script) returned to do their voices, and many of the original series writers were called back in to do the scripts, including well-known science-fiction names like Larry Niven. In a 1973 interview, Fontana reported that she "didnt get one turndown" from any of the writers she called in. She added that David Gerrold was one of the first writers to be contacted. Interestingly, Gerrolds scripts for the animated "More Tribbles, More Troubles" and "Bem") were originally intended and proposed for the original live-action Star Treks third season, but they were rejected by producer Fred Freiburger, who told Gerrold, "Star Trek is not a comedy." In addition, Fontana also rejected "Bem" for the first animated season, but it was picked up by Filmation along with other rejects for the second season after she left the series.
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