Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Star Trek: How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth

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: "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth"
Series: Star Trek: The Animated Series
Season 2, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 5, 1974
via Memory Alpha
In this week's episode, the Enterprise encounters a being claiming to be Kukulkan, god of the ancient Mayans and Aztecs.   The story was co-written by Russell Bates, a Native American of Kiowa descent.  Dorothy Fontana, associate producer for the show, encouraged Bates to draw upon his heritage and "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" was the result.

This was the episode that won the Outstanding Children's Series Emmy for Trek.  For me, it's not quite all that.  Our friends have encountered gods in their travels before, notably Apollo in TOS's "Who Mourns for Adonis?"  The lesson, though, is different this time.  Whereas Apollo was happy just to be worshipped, Kukulkan sought to teach humankind to be peaceful and was clearly disappointed in the result.  Once again, the moral judgment of superior beings is an important theme.

While the story is a bit of a rehash, the artwork is beautiful, even by TAS standards.  There were some extra hands on deck for the animation.  A crew of Japanese artists contributed to the work, finishing out their contract from another Filmation project: Journey Back to Oz.

*****
via Wikipedia
Kukulkan originated with the Mayan culture though the serpent god, in various forms, appears in the imagery of other Mesoamerican traditions, notably as Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs.  Throughout the episode, Kirk repeatedly mispronounces the name as "Kuklukan."  Neither Bates nor his co-writer David Wise was on hand during Shatner's recording session to correct the mistake.  Kukulkan is voiced by James Doohan.

I have closed the list due to spam but if you'd like to join us for our last couple posts, let me know.  Please visit the other participants.  Next week: "The Counter-Clock Incident."

Spacerguy
Maurice Mitchell



18 comments:

  1. Can't say I'm familiar with Journey Back to Oz, but I highly recommend Return to Oz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I've seen Journey Back to Oz, but not since the late '70s or so.

      Delete
  2. It's an overused theme but the multi-culturalism added something. It couldn't have been easy to say the name but at least he didn't have to say "sabotage".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It did add something, as did the quality of the artwork.

      I liked your joke on Twitter about having a crew member on board representing each earth culture. It would be funny to see that extended to various subcultures - the punk rocker, the Harajuku girl, etc.

      Delete
  3. I think I remember this episode.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This episode is interesting because Kukulkan, self proclaimed Master of all still retreats when confronted with force!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well yeah, that electrified kitty freaks me out, too!

      Delete
  5. I must try to find this one. The art work sounds interesting.
    I wonder if you were not impressed by the show by looking at it from today eyes and not the year it was made ? But then I rarely agree with any awards given out. I am so weird.

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just wasn't that impressed by the story. Technically, it was quite good and I can see how it would impress. That said, I have enjoyed other episodes from this season more so I'm surprised that it was this particular one that drew the award.

      The other two nominees for the award that year were Captain Kangaroo and Pink Panther. I would say that Pink Panther has held up better over time.

      Delete
  6. Like some above, I am unfamiliar with this episode. I love that William Shatner mis-pronounced the name of the main character. That warms my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This does sound interesting and maybe they won the award because it went towards Mayan culture than the typical Greek and/or Roman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the novelty? Yes, I might believe that.

      Delete
  8. In 1963, I climbed El Castillo at Chichen Itza. It took me somewhat longer than it did Cartoon Kirk. Quetzalcoatl, is the Feathered Serpent or Precious Twin --god of intelligence and self-reflection. But I couldn't entirely separate the name's syllables (Kukulkan) from Coleridge's poem:"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree: / Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man(intergalactic space?)..." The goofy-looking ship surprised me as a prefiguration of the holodeck, in which the menagerie doesn't know they're in cages. Shakespeare title is emotionally apt but Coleridge nailed it, and Kirk who says,"If children are made totally dependent on teachers, they'll never be anything but children." --at which point a Capellan Power Cat comes in handy. Great toon story from Russell Bates and David Wise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to make that climb but I know I'd Chichen out. (So sorry, couldn't resist...)

      Nice connection with the Coleridge poem, sir!

      Delete
  9. I find Aztec and Mayan history and artwork very fascinating. This sounds interesting.

    ReplyDelete