Star Trek Rewind: “Beyond the Farthest Star”
“Danger! Danger! The dead star… we are being drawn to it! Rather than carry this malevolent lifeform to other worlds, we have decided to destroy our own ship! There is no other answer! If you understand this message, you are protected only for this moment in this room! This thing, it wants…”
The popularity of Star Trek in syndication as well as the success of the early conventions prompted Gene Roddenberry to pitch the idea of an animated series to NBC, which picked up 16 episodes for broadcast starting in September of 1973. The show was produced by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott’s Filmation studio.
My generation will recognize Filmation from syndicated shows such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra, and Ghostbusters (based not on the 1984 horror/comedy hit, but the 1975 live-action series starring Larry Storch). Filmation’s work was typically characterized by static (or stiff) animation with very little detail and action.
Filmation often repeated images of characters against visually striking backgrounds rather than photograph new animations. This enabled the production company to work on multiple shows at once rather than one production at a time at lower budgets than most animation studios.
This was a necessary choice for Roddenberry, who brought back the original primary cast (with the exception of Walter Koenig) as well as having James Doohan, Majel Barrett, and Nichelle Nichols provide multiple voices for additional characters in each episode. Roddenberry would also commission top-tier science fiction writers such as Larry Niven, Sam Peeples, and Russell Bates to pen episodes. Star Trek: The Animated Series was a cartoon written for adults.
Peeples’ “Beyond the Farthest Star” enables Kirk and crew to board an amazing alien ship built by an insect-like race. The ship had been transmitting ancient radio signals, but an alien monster (voice of James Doohan) beams to the Enterprise with landing party and takes over control of the ship. It’s sort of unintentionally hilarious that the voice keeps shouting, “Obey me! Obey me!” as Kirk threatens to crash the ship into a dead star to get rid of it.
The episode is heavy on action and short on characterization, which is par for the course with the Animated Series. Because of the show’s 25 minute running time, Star Trek: The Animated Series relied on fans to fill in the gaps, so there was very little room to relax into a given story.