|Continuing to go where no cartoon had gone before, Filmation’s Star Trek was beamed down to Saturday morning audiences in the fall of 1973. Following in the footsteps of its live-action predecessor, Star Trek chronicled the voyages of the USS Starship Enterprise. Set in the 23rd century and still following the Prime Directive set by the United Federation of Planets, the Enterprise’s main mission was to discover and befriend life forms on other planets, without disturbing the growth of those planets’ civilizations.
The cartoon was basically a rehash of the series, employing many of its original plot lines, writers, characters, and executive producer Gene Roddenberry. Still helmed by Captain James T. Kirk, the ship saw the return of all of its principal crew members, voiced by the original actors: Vulcan/human Mr. Spock (Kirk’s first officer), “Bones” McCoy (the ship’s doctor), Nurse Chapel (Bones’ assistant), Uhura (communications officer), Sulu (helmsman), and Scotty (chief engineer). The only original member not on board was Walter Koenig’s Lt. Pavel Chekhov, though Koenig did come on board as a writer. Other characters from the series made cameo appearances, like the lovably annoying Tribbles and con man Harry Mudd, and the stars also lent their voices to several other crewmen, aliens and the like.
While the cartoon proved to be a bit over the heads of its intended younger audience, it was both critically and popularly received by adults, winning an Emmy Award in 1975 in the Outstanding Entertainment Children’s Series category. Perhaps more impressive was its acceptance among the original Star Trek’s super-critical, cult-like fan base. The animated series was also at an advantage over its live-action predecessor, in that it was able to employ a wider variety of aliens, lizards, creatures, and Klingons without spending exorbitant sums on actors, sets, make-up and wardrobes.
The animated series lasted only two seasons, but the franchise continued well on into the next decades, with new syndicated variations and several feature films.