Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) has been a bit of black sheep of the Trek franchise. At times considered apocryphal, more recently it has been welcomed into the CBS Trek franchise with a proper DVD set, and later, a Blu-ray release. Now it’s getting its due with a coffee table book that digs deep into its history, its production, and its legacy.
The Animated Series stood out as unique as—up until recently—it was the only animated Trek ever produced. Coming on the heels of The Original Series gaining traction in syndication, the show was blessed by Gene Roddenberry and the writing was overseen by Dorothy Fontana, with Trek alumni such as David Gerrold and Samuel Peoples involved in the writing of episodes. Regardless of the official status of TAS, “Yesteryear”, which was written by Fontana, has long been heralded as part of Spock’s backstory, and over time much of it has become worked into live-action Trek. The Animated Series has the distinction of being the first Trek show to win an Emmy; in 1975 it won for Outstanding Entertainment Children’s Series.
The series was brought to life by Filmation, a big name in cartoons during the ’70s. Filmation was known for Batman, Superman, and Archie cartoons, and perhaps most famous at the time — for Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. In the 1980s, they created the wildly popular He-Man and She-Ra cartoons.
Written by Aaron Harvey and Rich Schepis (with an afterword by Dayton Ward), the book is much more than a simple episode guide. It provides an in-depth look at TAS from the early beginnings of NBC trying to resurrect the canceled live show to an overview of how the animation was created, voices recorded, and then brought to TV screens in 1974.
Aaron Harvey has a TAS podcast called “Saturday Morning Trek” where he was able to interview a number of people involved. He used his connections from talking with these folks to get access to behind-the-scenes information, and perhaps most importantly for such a visual show, early concept sketches, which are seen throughout the book. The authors also conducted new interviews to fill in the gaps, looking at everything from the scriptwriting process to the casting, directing, and final construction.
The book paints a picture of the making of the show via quotes from Dorothy Fontana, David Gerrold, Lou Scheimer (co-founder of Filmation), Bill Reed (animation director of TAS season 2), and Bob Kline (Filmation background artist). Bob Kline’s own archive of sketches and personal recollections of making the cartoon help fill in new details never before covered. One such detail is the pervasive urban myth about TAS, which the book officially debunks: the assumption that the abundance of pink, purple, and green in The Animated Series was due to (Filmation’s primary animation director) Hal Sutherland being color-blind. Sutherland was not responsible for the color choices; that was Irv Kaplan, who was known as the “purple and green guy.” He liked those colors and thought they were good for children’s shows.
The episode guide
Each episode gets 4-6 pages (2 or 3 spreads), containing a synopsis and plenty of art, the next pages contain interesting facts about the episode, and a section called “Databank” calls out new or important characters, places, and technology introduced in each episode. Each episode also gets a “Bloopers” boxout that discusses the (mostly) minor errors the animation was sometimes infamously known for, much of it due to the hectic schedule or outright limitations on how many layers of animation cells could be easily combined. There are also fun headers like “Something For The Kids,” “Definitely Not For The Kids,” and “Canon Alert!”
The combination of bright, eye-catching design with tidbits of information, notable quotes, and close-ups of new characters, ships, and planets makes the book a fun read as well as an informative one. You can go cover-to-cover or just flip through it, picking out pages at random.
TrekMovie can give readers an exclusive look at two spreads:
The Official Guide… is a lovely addition to the library of Trek reference books. It’s a gorgeously designed book that carries the motif of the colors of The Animated Series across its pages, and has a whimsical layout with playful headings. A particular thrill for me personally was the inclusion of so many sketches from Bob Kline’s archives, these are the equivalent of seeing rough cuts and/or deleted scenes from a live action show.
If you’re a fan of TAS then this book is probably already on your radar, so go buy it now. If you’re generally interested in this chapter of Trek history The Official Guide To The Animated Series comes highly recommended as well, and it’s a nice book to display on your coffee table.
Star Trek: The Official Guide To The Animated Series is available now