12 fascinating facts about 'Star Trek: The Animated Series'

The cartoon featured many Star Trek firsts. Did you know it also featured Mary Tyler Moore Show voices?

The 1970s were the golden era of the Saturday morning cartoon. It was common practice to turn hit TV series (well, the ones popular with kids) into animated series. The Filmation production house was king of this cartoon subgenre. The animation studio cranked out spin-offs such as Gilligan's Planet and The Brady Kids (not to mention the M*A*S*H spoof M*U*S*H). Filmation was known for cost-cutting techniques — recycling shots and rotoscoping. 

That being said, Filmation was responsible for one of the great 1970s cartoons, Star Trek: The Animated Series. While the animation may not hold up against Disney classics, these continuing adventures of the USS Enterprise had some serious strengths. The original cast was (largely) back, as was creator Gene Roddenberry. Many of the writers returned as well, giving the cartoon far more brainpower than the average 'toon. Many of the episodes were sequels to classic adventures from the 1960s series.

Here are some fascinating facts about Star Trek: The Animated Series.

1. It was the first Star Trek series to win an Emmy award.


The episode "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" snagged the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Entertainment Children's Series in 1975. The show had been nominated the previous year, but lost to Zoom, a PBS series that encouraged children to "turn off the TV."

2. Filmation originally wanted the series to be about adolescent Starfleet cadets.


The original concept for the series involved the established enterprise crew taking on young apprentices, and it would focus on the youth. Filmation offered Roddenberry a buyout to give up his creative control of the show, so that the studio could pursue its "Child Trek" theme. Roddenberry clearly objected. Filmation kept the idea in its back pocket, and would eventually turn the conceit into a live-action series, Space Academy, which aired in 1977. The program, pictured, featured familiar stellar voyager Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space fame.

3. Chekov was cut from the series due to budget restrictions.


Though an animated series is cheaper than a live-action production, there was still significant belt-tightening. Filmation's budget would not cover all of the original cast, so Chekov was written off the show.

4. Leonard Nimoy demanded that Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were cast.


Filmation sought further casting cuts, suggesting that James Doohan and Majel Barrett provide the voices of Sulu and Uhura. Nimoy stepped in for his fellow cast members, threatening to abandon the project unless Takei and Nichols were given their roles. Preach.

5. However, Walter Koenig did become the first Trek actor to write a Trek episode.


It was not so glum for the cast-off Koenig, however. He became the first Star Trek actor to write for the franchise with his season one episode, "The Infinite Vulcan." However, the tale of cloning was not so easily bashed out. Roddenberry reportedly made him work through 10 drafts of the script.

6. James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett pulled extra duty voicing dozens of characters.


James Doohan was a noted impersonator. When auditioning for his Star Trek role, he read lines in seven or eight different accents, before deciding that Scottish would be best for an engineer. The actor shows off his range in the cartoon, voicing everything from other Enterprise crewmembers (the orange navigator Arek, helmsman Walking Bear) to aliens and rabbits. Nichols also multitasked, providing many of the female voices. Splitting much of that duty was Majel Barrett, best known as Nurse Chapel and Gene Roddenberry's wife. 

7. It features one of just three times a woman takes command of the USS Enterprise.


Now this is a cool bit of trivia. In "The Lorelei Signal," written by Margaret Armen, who also penned three original Star Trek scripts, Uhura takes command of the ship. Interesting, the only other times a woman takes command came in the first ("The Cage") and final ("Turnabout Intruder") episodes produced in the Original Series.

8. Ted Knight of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' did some uncredited voice work.


While he was playing Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore, Knight earned a little extracurricular work adding voices to The Animated Series episode "The Survivor." Here he appears as Carter Winston, a well-mustachioed man in a yellow jacket. Spoiler alert! He's actually a shape-shifting Vendorian.

9. The series was in the official Star Trek canon, then out of the canon, then back in the canon.


This is where it gets a bit complicated. Obviously, originally, The Animated Series was taken to be official canon, part of the official chronological story of the Star Trek universe, as it was a sequel to Star Trek produced with the original cast, under the control of creator Roddenberry. However, in the 1999 edition of The Star Trek Encyclopedia, it was stated that the series was no longer officially canon. However, references to the cartoon were repeatedly made in other Trek productions and novels. In 2007, startrek.com added The Animated Series to its official library, making the happenings of the show part of the canon. Hooray!

10. The final episode established Robert April as the first Enterprise captain.


Part of the canon debate centered around timeline tidbits like this, the fact that The Animated Series established an Enterprise captain prior to Christopher Pike. Should his captaincy be part of the continuity? When Roddenberry first submitted a Star Trek script to MGM Studios in 1964, the captain's original name was Robert M. April. A "Robert April" character also shows up in two episodes of Have Gun – Will Travel written by Roddenberry. Amusingly, the Star Trek Encyclopedia book uses a photograph of Roddenberry himself to depict Enterprise captain Robert April.

11. It features the first appearance of a holodeck.


The Holodeck became a regular fixture of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation, inspired by Gene Roddenberry's conversations with digital projector inventor Gene Dolgoff. Yet the notion of a virtual reality chamber in the starship first appeared in a later The Animated Series episode, "The Practical Joker." However, the Holodeck was simply titled the "Rec Room." Sulu, Bones and Uhura enter the large, empty room and send themselves to a simulated beach.

12. The 2009 Star Trek film borrows from the episode "Yesteryear."


J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek reboot is further proof that Trekkies take the cartoon quite seriously. The blockbuster depicts some of Spock's upbringing, including a scene where the half-human is bullied by other Vulcans, which was directly lifted from "Yesteryear," one of the standout episodes of The Animated Series. Fun fact: Actor Mark Lenard again portrays Spock's father, Sarek.

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JoeSHill 28 months ago
Filmation Associates back then may not have had the kind of animation that many felt the studio lacked, but their cartoons were still well-produced, well-drawn, and their character designs were still exceptional! Their animated "STAR TREK" series for NBC Saturday Mornings was their first-ever for that network, after the successful track record with both CBS and ABC, and their version of TREK stayed true to Gene Roddenberry's storylines and concepts. Ted Knight ("THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW") was an important milestone to Filmation Associates because he had voiced many of their cartoon series in the 1960s, including the narrator to "Superboy", "Aquaman" (he also voiced many of the villains, including "Black Manta"), and Knight also did the main voices of "The Joker", "The Penguin", "Mr. Freeze", "The Dollman", "The Scarecrow", and "The Riddler", along with "Commissioner Gordon", all for CBS's "THE BATMAN-SUPERMAN HOUR" in Fall 1968, while voicing characters in "JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH" and "FANTASTIC VOYAGE", both Filmation-produced cartoons for ABC in the late 60s. so voicing "Carter Winston" from "STAR TREK"s "The Survivor" in 1973, while also voicing "Turner" in "LASSIE'S RESCUE RANGERS", also Filmation-produced, was Knight's final voiceovers at the studio. He also voiced and narrated "SUPER FRIENDS" in its first season (Fall 1973), and it was his second voiceover for Hanna-Barbera Productions. Knight's voicing of "The Joker" in "THE BATMAN-SUPERMAN HOUR" has been greatly disputed, since many believe that it was Larry Storch ("F-TROOP") who voiced the character, But Ted Knight's voice is highly recognizable, even as "The Clown Prince of Crime", way before the likes of Mark Hamill's version for 1992's "BATMAN-THE ANIMATED SERIES". Ted Knight's very last dealings with Filmation was for an LP vinyl called "Hi Guys, Ted Knight" in 1975, the same year he appeared as a guest star on their live-action CBS series, "THE GHOST BUSTERS".
JoeSHill JoeSHill 28 months ago
Oh yes, and I also forgot to point out an episode called "The Ambergris Element", written by Margret Armen. This animated episode of "STAR TREK" had re-used animation footage from Filmation's "AQUAMAN" series ("THE SUPERMAN-AQUAMAN HOUR OF ADVENTURE" from Fall 1967), which showed the height of Filmation's limited budget by reusing certain animation footage, like one they used for "Kirk" and "Spock" swimming in the Alien ocean, viewers will automatically notice that Filmation animators took that footage from "Aquaman", just as they did with "THE BRADY KIDS", when they also used much of "The Archies" animation footage-another cost-covering measure that Filmation used for their cartoons in the 1970s.
Snickers 33 months ago
Loved this series as a kid and own the DVD set now. Really disappointed Chekov was not on the series but they still could add that dumb Arek as helmsman.
RedSamRackham 41 months ago
My favorite animated series character is M'Ress though she was under-used! ♣
MichaelPowers 41 months ago
It also showed shuttlecrafts on the show that were of different designs from one another in several episodes.
The episode "Once Upon a Planet" had the Enterprise revisit the planet from the live action series episode "Shore Leave."
Instead of spacesuits, the animated show saw the crew wearing a life support waist belt that projected a protective force field around them.
An automatic bridge defense system was introduced. It was a half-globed-shaped weapon that protrudes from the ceiling hatch armed with a phaser mechanism and has a full field of fire around the entire bridge.

Writer David Gerrold who wrote the live action episode "The Trouble with Tribbles," wrote the animated sequel "More Tribbles, More Troubles."
Actor Stanley Adams who played Cyrano Jones on the live action episode, provided the voice for the animated Cyrano Jones.

AaronHandyIII 41 months ago
3 more fascinating facts about 'Star Trek: The Animated Series':

14. It premiered on NBC Saturday Morning, September 8, 1973---a good 8 years to the day of the debut of its live action predecessor.

15. It was the first cartoon from Filmation Associates to air on NBC.

16. Many musical cues from ST:TAS' underscore were recycled in later Filmation series (The U.S. Of Archie, The New Adventures Of Batman, et. al.).
JaynDC AaronHandyIII 41 months ago
That music bed is the soundtrack of my childhood. It was used on so many Filmation shows!
HerbF 44 months ago
Ted Knight had a long history of working with Filmation going back to the mid-1960's when he was still a character actor and voice over performer. He worked on several Filmation series BEFORE "Mary Tyler Moore", and several After he became a star of a hit tv series. He's the only non-Star Trek alumni to guest star in the animated series.
HerbF HerbF 41 months ago
Another interesting fact - Ted Knight did the bulk of the voices on The 1968 "Adventures of Batman" Series for Filmation - The Villians, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred (!) But did not return for FILMATION's 1977's "The New Adventures of Batman and Robin" as it was mid-season show and he was tied up with the last season on MARY TYLER MOORE. Making his last Filmation series, "Lassie's Rescue Rangers". (Since the cycle for animated series is different than live-action shows, he was free to do voices during the off season - which is why he still did shows for Filmation during his MTM era.
jeopardyhead HerbF 41 months ago
The example that stands out in my mind is his guest appearance on The Ghost Busters.
JaynDC HerbF 41 months ago
Another bit of Trivia on Ted Knight. His character on the 80's sitcom Too Close for Comfort was a cartoonist!
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