TAS S0E01: Beyond the Furthest Star (4 out of 5 stars). If you want to watch animated Star Trek, now’s the time for you. The enormously warm, funny and cheeky Lower Decks has been given a third series and Prodigy, aimed at a younger audience and not quite as much fun for me – but visually hugely ambitious – is likely to come back for more too. But between 1973 and 1975 Star Trek returned, essentially to complete its five year mission, via the medium of Filmation.

Let’s be clear – these aren’t Disney artists and this isn’t even at The Simpsons level of visual polish (even South Park leaves it behind) but on the plus side, nearly all the regular cast have returned, some of the writers have, and just being animated means that at the very least different budgetary constraints exist. Weirdly, for me it’s rather like watching lost Doctor Who episodes which have been recreated in animation.

Once Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley were onboard, producers initially decided to just get James Doohan and Majel Barrett to do all the other parts (as well as voicing Scotty and Chapel) but Nimoy pointed out that this effectively meant keeping all the white cast and refused to take part unless Nichelle Nicholls and George Takei were hired as well. Following the last-in-first-out rule, that means we won’t see Chekov again until The Motion Picture, but Walter Koenig did deliver a script for the series. His place on the bridge is taken by the tripedal Lt Erix.

So, in many ways, this is the same as before. But in other ways, things are off. The Alexander Courage theme music was presumably too expensive and so a theme tune was commissioned which sounds reminiscent of it, but not so close as to invite law suits – like a set of CDs I used to have of knock-off film and TV music with track names like “Not The Terrestrial” and “Pulp Fact”. And the titles look pretty similar too, although drawing the Enterprise rotating through different angles is tiresome work, even with rotoscoping, so it sometimes strafes sideways in a very peculiar manner. We also don’t have teasers anymore – the titles come first.

The first episode ticks a lot of the usual boxes – exploring a deserted space station, the Enterprise molested by a mysterious entity which tries to take it over – but it’s brisk and exciting enough and the space station is vastly more imaginative and lavish than anything NBC could ever have afforded. The characters are generally recognisable (James Doohan even when – for reasons best known to himself – adopting a silly-ass-British accent for the transporter operator) although those precious interpersonal dynamics are not much on display and Shatner is underplaying everything to the point of near torpor. Maybe as if to compensate, the stock music goes completely bananas even when all that’s happening on screen is the landing party having a little wander.

After a number of episodes which seem heavily padded in order to reach 48-50 minutes, it’s a genuine pleasure to see a tight and exciting story wrapped up in half that time. I just hope future installments also give us something of the people I’ve been watching for 79 episode, even if they are filmed over the shoulder or their dialogue is heard over someone else’s reaction, because that saves having to animate their lip movements.

TAS S01E02: Yesteryear (3.5 out of 5 stars). When in doubt, revisit the scene of past glories, and TOS had few episodes as glorious as The City on the Edge of Forever. So, on the one hand, it’s disappointing to see the portal now named and used as a simple research tool – a walkthrough Wikipedia – but on the other hand, the story potential is amazing and the twist that nobody recognizes Spock when he returns is strong. But the mystery is solved very quickly, and Spock’s plan to save himself in the past is carried off largely without incident. So, I admire the courage of this animated series to, in only its second episode, build a story around character and situation rather than action and adventure, and I greatly enjoyed hearing Mark Lenard again, but the set-up promised rather more than the execution delivered. Maybe if Kirk had joined Spock for the trip into the past, the adventure would have had more substance.

TAS S01E03: One of Our Planets is Missing (3.5 out of 5 stars). A planet-killing cloud is moving towards an inhabited planet. The dilemma of whether to tell the governor of the planet and his dilemma about whom to save in the few hours remaining, all feels very grown-up. There’s even a debate about whether it’s ethical to kill the thing or not (in the end, they just persuade it to move on, which doesn’t feel like a very permanent solution). The idea of a giant amoeba in space isn’t new (in fact, it’s not the first giant amoeba to have absorbed the Enterprise but it’s well thought-through. Shame that the technobabble is scientifically illiterate (but not for the first time, or the last). And I’m still waiting for an episode which really makes use of Star Trek’s main strength – the character dynamics between its leading characters. And there’s another one of those hyper-specific countdowns, this time down to the very second.

TAS S01E04 The Lorelei Signal (2 out of 5 stars). Mash-up of the Bermuda Triangle and the sirens of Greek myth. The menfolk on the Enterprise are bewitched by visions of female beauty and won’t listen to Uhura and Chapel who are unaffected. Even Spock cannot dismiss the effects. Before long they are welcomed to Castle Anthrax (“Bad Zoot! Wicked Zoot!”) and are allowed to watch Star Trek on a view screen. Kirk describes it as “the answer to all a man’s dreams”. It’s fun to see Uhura take command of the ship as the landing party begins aging to death, but this is all too silly and too slow-moving for the stridently progressive elements to have any power. The headbands sap the strength of the men and transmit it to the women, but although they figure that much out, taking the headbands off seems never to occur to anyone. The women search for the escaped men of the Enterprise but never think to ask the Find Anything Machine, which locates them instantly. Eventually of course, it’s Spock who figures out the solution, not Uhura or Chapel. The all female-rescue party, every one of them in mini-skirts can’t help but look like a girl band, and the large guest cast tests the versatility of Barrett and Nichols considerably.

TAS S01E05 More Trouble More Tribbles (2.5 out of 5 stars). What’s better than quadrotriticale? Quintotriticale! (25% better). The initial skirmish with the Klingon ship and the grain transport takes forever and is pretty dull. Captain Koloth never introduces himself and yet Kirk addresses him by name. Despite the promise of the title, it’s many minutes before any tribbles show up. The artwork for Cyrano Jones isn’t bad (he looks more like Stanley Jones than Kirk looks like Shatner for example). Tribbles 2.0 don’t reproduce but they do get fat, which turns out to be almost as bad – the cat which Jones procured to catch the mice turns out to be incapable of handling the obese ones. While the sight of them lolloping around the Klingon ship is fun, this has none of the charm of its progenitor.

Trekday 014: The Way to Eden, The Cloud Minders, The Savage Curtain, All Our Yesterdays, Turnabout Intruder
Oscars 2022: Nightmare Alley, King Richard, CODA