Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Star Trek: The Jihad

My friends and I are embarking on a new journey to watch all 22 episodes of Star Trek's animated series.  We'll be posting on Wednesdays.  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of our adventure.

Episode: "The Jihad"
Series: Star Trek: The Animated Series
Season 1, Episode 16
Original Air Date: January 12, 1974
via Memory Alpha
Jihad is a word of enormous gravity in the global politics of the 21st century.  I somehow doubt it would have carried the same weight with the Saturday morning cartoon audience of 1974.  In this week's story, Kirk and Spock are summoned to help search for the "Soul of Skorr," a stolen artifact of great importance to the Skorr, an avian race.  If it is not recovered, it is feared that the Skorr will embark upon a holy war against the rest of the galaxy.  A team of specialists from various alien species has been assembled for the task, including Tchar, the hereditary Prince of the Skorr.

A team of adventurers on a quest for an object of great value: it's a classic fantasy template but an unusual choice for Trek.  For some critics, that was a good thing.  For others, not so much.  Personally, I'm always happy to see a break from formula.


*****

Thoughts on Season 1

General Impressions

I don't know if the animated series would be enough to sell a newcomer on Star Trek but it's a lot of fun for the faithful.  The animation technology was hardly cutting edge by 21st century standards but it was still light years ahead of the live action capabilities of the era.  The writers for the series were encouraged to take full advantage of the broader canvas.  The result is a deeper experience of Trek's universe.


Favorite Episode: "Yesteryear"

"Yesteryear" is the most important TAS story in regards to the overall Star Trek canon.  In fact, it provides more back story for a principal character than any TOS episode either.  Through the miracle of time travel, we visit Spock's childhood on Vulcan.  While that would be enough on its own to qualify "Yesteryear" for the top spot, the clincher for me is the character of Thelin.  Thelin is the Enterprise's First Officer in an alternate time stream.  Even though he knows it will have significant consequences for himself, he gives Spock his blessing to go back and set the past right.  His generosity is well in keeping with the spirit of the show.


Least Favorite Episode: "The Infinite Vulcan"

I've gotta say, there aren't too many clunkers in this collection.  While the best TAS episodes fall well short of the best TOS stories, the quality of the first TAS season is reasonably consistent.  The writing for "The Infinite Vulcan" isn't the greatest (sorry, Walter) but even so, there were story elements I enjoyed.  For instance...


Favorite New Character: Agmar
via Memory Alpha
Scanners failed to detect intelligent life on the planet Phylos because the Phylosians are plant-based.  Agmar, essentially a walking, talking dandelion, is the landing crew's primary contact with these beings.  I love the idea of intelligent plants.  I realize their mobility challenges the definition of what a plant is but that's why I like it.


Onward

Amazingly, there are only six episodes left.  The second and final season of TAS was a short one.  1974 was all about Watergate.  By the time Trek returned in September, Richard Nixon had resigned as President of the United States.  The day after the second season premiered, Nixon was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.


If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Also, be sure to join the gang for the live Twitter feed on Tuesday, June 23rd, 5 pm EDT, #StarTrekTAS.  Next week: "The Pirates of Orion."

 

24 comments:

  1. From the introduction to the planet of "the oldest spacefaring race" and Tchar's lament,(we are) "slaves to the illusion of peace" to the closing lines ["How will he {Tchar} be punished?"; "He will be healed of his madness."], I recognized the lovely and gentle storytelling of D.C. Fontana. What a fine episode!

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    1. It is definitely one of the stronger ones.

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  2. These are such fun reviews! I never imagined there was an animated series, and now I'm intrigued. I wonder if my library has the DVD...
    V:)

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    1. They are on both Hulu and Netflix streaming.

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  3. They did that whole story in 22 minutes? That's... impressive.

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    1. They do make good use of time in these. I mean, it's not Seinfeld but they do manage to cram a lot in.

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  4. Great fun and interesting review of this series.
    Animation lets us go places that a live show can't.
    Rather like the mobility of plant life.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Animation definitely expanded the possibilities for trek.

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  5. Somehow Agmar reminds me of a b/w movie called maybe "The Day of the Triffids"? Tall shaggy monsters attack humans and no weapon stops them, until they are sprayed with (salt?) water?

    I like Agmar better.

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    1. Day of the Triffids sounds like fun. Good RiffTrax fodder, perhaps?

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  6. The mad planet was very impressive with its volcanic eruptions, snow storms and earthquakes. A lot of creativity goes into these animations, the stories and characters are for the most part quite entertaining far more than the animation itself but then is it really fair to compare TAS with todays new fangled cartoons? It really is fun reliving these adventures, I can't recommend it enough.

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    1. No, it's definitely not worth comparing to today's technology.

      I've enjoyed this exploration. It has me pondering prospects for more animated Trek in the future. Obviously, they've made it work for Star Wars.

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    2. PS - I nominated you as a creative blogger passing the happy vibes around. I hope you don't mind. I posted more details in my most recent blog post.

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    3. I am honored and flattered that you thought of me. I'll stop by shortly.

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  7. I getting tired of the word "Jihad." You're the only one I'm going to allow to use it (sorry for the burden...but you got it).

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    1. I doubt one could give such a title to a kids' show now.

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  8. This was a surprisingly deep episode and pushed the boundaries of children's television. That's why it won an Emmy. Because it dared to talk up to children instead of down to them. Agmar is awesome alright but Lara is a close second

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    1. In a franchise of legendary eyebrows, Lara is champion.

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  9. I'm familiar with that template, and I think it's good to break out of formula. Sometimes I watch a show thinking that it's unlike the other episodes, but I'm okay with it.

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    1. I always applaud a break from formula. Even if it doesn't work, it's important to challenge your audience and yourself.

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  10. I was shocked to see Jihad used in the early 70s... that's interesting.

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    1. Obviously, it's not a new word but I expect a lot more Americans are conscious of it than would have been 41 years ago.

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  11. Now that is a new one...Jihad word used way back and for such innocent thing...hmmm...interesting.

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    1. Frame of reference makes a huge difference, doesn't it?

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