“Space… the funniest frontier?”
Star Trek: The Animated Series first aired in September of 1973, four years after the three seasons of what is now referred to Star Trek: The Original Series. It was a straight sequel that continued the five-year mission of the starship Enterprise. All of the original cast lent their voices to the characters they played in the live-action series with the notable exception of Walter Koenig. Chekov was replaced with an alien that had three arms and legs named Arex, who was voiced by James Doohan, as were many of the other guest characters throughout the two years the series ran. There were episodes that served as direct sequels, and so we were treated to the likes of Harry Mudd, tribbles, and the Guardian of Forever once again. Now Paramount and CBS have brought us a second animated series, and the first season of 10 episodes arrives on DVD straight from its running on the network’s streaming service.
This concept began with an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called Lower Decks. The episode put the spotlight on the service crew that you really never see in Star Trek unless they are wearing a red shirt and … well … let’s just say they didn’t really survive long enough for us to get to know them. When the new Trek showrunners were looking to do an animated series, they wanted something different. Going back to that Lower Decks idea was a way they could deliver Trek from a slightly different point of view. This is also the first Trek series that’s truly a comedy. It’s also intended more as an adult cartoon, and that scared me a little. I was afraid that we were going to see tons of sex and nudity on the show. Fortunately, things don’t go that far. The series does touch on those subjects in ways the other shows either wouldn’t or couldn’t. The language is certainly more adult, but the F-bombs and such get beeped.
The ship is called The Cerritos and is a Next Generation version of a Reliant class ship. The timeline here takes place in that Picard area of the original timeline known as Prime. The show makes sure you understand that by using an original theme that hits beats very much like The Next Generation/Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme. Yes, they were the same theme. The credit fonts use the exact same blue color and appearance as The Next Generation credits. While the series does have a captain and all of the usual bridge personnel, that’s not where the focus of the episodes can be found. We deal mostly with four service members of the crew who live way at the bottom of the ship and way in the back. It’s their job to clean coils and fix replicators. Basically, they get the dirty jobs. That doesn’t mean they lack ambition. Most would love to be bridge officers someday … even captains. Here are your main characters.
Tawney Newsome voices our central character, Beckett Mariner. She’s the kind who thinks of the rule book as something of a suggestion. She’s always looking to play outside the box, and it’s gotten her in plenty of trouble and plenty of transfers to other ships. She’s also the captain’s daughter, a fact they both try to keep quiet. With different last names (her father’s an admiral), they’ve been able to keep a lid on it. But it makes her quite jumpy when Beckett makes a mistake, which by rules of the series must be every 4-minute segment.
Jack Quaid is Brad Boimer. He’s s stickler for the rules. He expects to be captain one day, and he doesn’t want to get involved in the antics but somehow gets sucked into the trouble.
Eugene Cordero voices Sam Rutherford. He’s a cyborg with an implant on his head and an eye something like you might see in the Borg. He is the requisite socially awkward character with little to no self-confidence. It doesn’t help that he’s still learning and adapting to his implant and all of the abilities it gives him.
Noel Wells voices Tendi. She’s a green Orion, and she’s the brand new member of the crew. She’s young and inexperienced, so she goes overboard trying to make friends and fit in. She’s eager to learn and looks upon the grudge assignments as a way to learn. She’s mostly assigned to sick bay where she assists the ship’s medical officer Dr. T’Ana (Vigman). She’s a cat with a pretty grumpy disposition.
Of course the ship has a captain. She’s Captain Carol Freeman, voiced with authority by Dawnn Lewis. She’s pretty strict, but we get to see there’s a side of her that lacks the authority and confidence she displays. Jerry O’Connell voices the first officer, Commander Jack Ransom.
There are a ton of Easter eggs to be found here for Trek fans. You’ll find items and references to every version of Star Trek you can recall. You should really see how many you can catch. That would be a perfect watching game (with booze or without) I counted around 68. There is a feature that gives some away, but there are a lot more than you see there. Let us know in the comments how many you can spot. You’ll also get a somewhat too silly appearance of John De Lancie as Q, and both Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis get some meaty appearances as Riker and Troi.
The animation style and look of the show reminds me of a cross between South Park and The Simpsons. I swear that Flanders is working the transporter controls. Many of the villains remind me of South Park characters, particularly a character being taken to a haven because he’s deformed. He stages a revolution on the ship, and I could swear he looks and acts and sounds like something Parker and Stone came up with. There’s no question that both shows have influenced this one. I was pleased to find it obviously politically incorrect and not over the top with the “adult” depictions. If they can avoid the temptation of going too far, they have a good thing on their hands here.
The 10 episodes can be found on two discs. Each episode has a brief 4-8 minute feature that doesn’t always reflect the actual episode but often does. There are animated deleted scenes as well as a couple of longer features at the end of the set. This is the kind of show you really have to watch as a whole. It’s not so much the stories don’t stand alone; it’s just that it feels different if you just grab an episode here and there. “Popping in is against regulations.”