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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Something that I think is generally forgotten about by mainstream audiences is that Star Trek had an animated series in the early 1970s. It was the first real revival of Trek and featured the voices of most of the original cast (sorry Walter Koenig…you were not in the budget). “Beyond the Farthest Star” was the first written episode of The Animated Series as the pilot and was the first aired. However, due to the nature of animation, it was fourth in the production cycle. For my purposes of looking at all the Star Trek pilots, “Beyond the Furthest Star” is good enough for me.
In the episode, the Enterprise is heading out on a star charting mission when they pick up a strange radio emission and are pulled into the orbit of a dying star. While looking for a way out, the crew discovers an extremely old space ship. What they do not realize is that a magnetic organism has been trapped on that ship for millions of years and now looks to control the Enterprise in order to escape its imprisonment.
Even though this episode is approximately twenty-two minutes, it is a rough twenty-two minutes to get through. I found this episode to be extremely boring. So much of it is wasted the crew wandering around the empty alien ship, and the first five to ten minutes is nothing but the crew sitting around on the bridge following ship procedures. I realize the latter was to be “exciting” because it seemed as if the ship was going to crash, but it isn’t. It is because it is animated. In the live-action series, you would have reaction shots of the characters stressing over their situation thereby making the scene more intense. Here, you cannot do that due to the limitations of 1970s animation. It just makes the scene dull.
Now, the rest of the series does improve on this. I think the writers realized that, while they wanted to keep things as they were when making the original series, there were some concessions that had to be made due to the show being animated and placed in a time slot targeted for children. “Beyond the Farthest Star” was a stumbling block as the writers figured out what they wanted to do with the new series.
As for the story itself, it is incredibly simple. Maybe it had to be, but, as mentioned above, it is also dull. I didn’t care while watching this. By the time the episode started to get interesting (when the organism took control of the Enterprise), the episode was more than half over. And, at the end, all the organism wanted to do was to leave. Instead the crew just gives it the finger and leaves it to remain alone forever. No wonder the organism is a bit of a jerk when on the Enterprise.
In some ways, it seems unlike Star Trek to leave the alien in such a way. I am surprised that Kirk didn’t give it a pious speech about being willing to help as long as the organism asked nicely. Beyond the organism’s sudden command of the Enterprise and pushing the crew around, there was no suggestion that it was malevolent if released to the galaxy at large. It just desperate to get out.
I honestly cannot recommend “Beyond the Farthest Star”, and it would be okay if you end up skipping it. It simply is not that good. That said, it isn’t a total representation of the animated series at large. It was just a case of the writers finding their footing as they adjusted to this new format.
Fun Fact: This episode was written by Samuel A. Peeples who also wrote “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, Star Trek’s second pilot.