Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “Beyond the Farthest Star”

“Beyond the Farthest Star”
Written by Samuel A. Peeples
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Animated Season 1, Episode 1
Production episode 22004
Original air date: September 8, 1973
Stardate: 5221.3 

Captain’s log. On a routine star-mapping mission, the Enterprise is pulled off course by something Spock describes as “hyper-gravity.” It’s yanking them toward a dead star that is transmitting odd radio emissions, and which is reading almost entirely negative on Spock’s sensors.

Uhura picks up another signal, and Sulu manages to maneuver the Enterprise into orbit around the star. Also in orbit with them is an alien vessel that shows no energy readings—and which Spock dates as being three hundred million years old.

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty beam over to the alien ship, wearing life-support belts. The ship is made up of several individual pods that look as if they were spun rather than forged. Also every pod has an opening created from the inside.

Star Trek The Animated Series: Beyond the Farthest Star

Uhura stopped picking up the radio signals as soon as they beamed aboard. The boarding party continues to explore the vessel, finding a strange device that collects energy. They proceed to another pod that generates gravity and air, but which also blocks communication and has drained their phasers. That pod also has a console that looks as if it has been jury-rigged, and their presence triggers a communication from an alien being.

Something attacked the ship, and the aliens destroyed their own vessel rather than let it escape into the galaxy, trapping it in that pod. However, their presence triggers a self-destruct, causing the pod to explode. Kyle manages to beam them back, but a green energy cloud beams aboard with them.

Star Trek The Animated Series: Beyond the Farthest Star

The cloud starts to move throughout the ship, deactivating life support on two decks, freezing the self-destruct mechanism, and using ship’s phasers to destroy the alien vessel. Kirk has Spock jury-rig a containment unit on the navigation console similar to that on the pod on the alien vessel, but by the time Spock does so, the cloud has completely taken over the Enterprise.

It threatens the lives of both Kirk and Spock, and eventually Kirk gives in and agrees to do what it says. However, he tells Spock to compute a slingshot course around the star. Kirk then navigates the ship toward the sun, and the alien believes that it’s a kamikaze run and flees the ship, taking over the dead star. But then the Enterprise slingshots around the sun and continues on its way. As they move away from the star, they hear the alien begging them not to leave him alone.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The alien ship is made up of pods connected by filaments, created by an insectlike species. The being is a magnetic lifeform that has no mass, but the ability to inhabit magnetic fields, such as ships and computers and such. 

Fascinating. Spock is able to plot a course for a slingshot around the sun without using the ship’s computer. Because he’s just that awesome.

Star Trek The Animated Series: Beyond the Farthest Star

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy’s sole purpose on the boarding party is to complain about things. 

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu manages to get the Enterprise into orbit around the star rather than have the ship plummet into it. Because he’s just that awesome.

Star Trek The Animated Series: Beyond the Farthest Star

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura actually picks up the star before Spock does thanks to the radio emissions from the alien ship.

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty is blown away by the alien vessel. He totally nerds out about the place the whole time he’s on board.

Forewarned is three-armed. Though he has no dialogue, this is the first appearance of Lieutenant Arex, the new navigator. Either an Edoan or a Triexian, depending on which tie-ins you believe, Arex is the first fully non-human crew member to be seen on the Enterprise, a benefit of doing an animated series.

Star Trek The Animated Series: Beyond the Farthest Star

Channel open. “Obey me!”

The words spoken most often by the alien cloud. 

Welcome aboard. Recurring regulars James Doohan, George Takei, and Nichelle Nichols provide the voices of, respectively, Scotty, Sulu, and Uhura, with Doohan also providing all the other voices (including Kyle). This would be standard operating procedure going forward—while the three stars only provided the voices of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, virtually all the other characters were voiced by Takei, Nichols, Majel Barrett, and especially Doohan.

Trivial matters: Since Samuel A. Peeples wrote “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Gene Roddenberry thought it would be fitting to have him also write the first episode of the animated series, and so he suggested that D.C. Fontana call him up and see if he wanted to write something.

Just as James Blish adapted the live-action series episodes into short-story form, Alan Dean Foster did likewise for the animated episodes, in the Star Trek Log series, which was published by Ballantine rather than Bantam, who had all other prose Trek rights. This episode, along with “Yesteryear” and “One of Our Planets is Missing,” was adapted in Star Trek Log 1. Unlike Blish, however, Foster did much longer adaptations, adding significant material, and also embedding more inter-story continuity across the adaptations. Foster would later go on to write the stories that were told both in audio and comic book form by Peter Pan Records, received the story credit for The Motion Picture, and wrote the novelizations of the 2009 Star Trek and of Star Trek Into Darkness.

The life-support belts debut in this episode, belts that project a force field that allow the wearer to move more freely than they can in environment suits.

To boldly go. “Don’t leave me alone!” This is a surprisingly dry start to the animated adventures. The potential here is great, but it’s mostly left untapped.

For starters, the opening is almost soporific as the Enterprise is drawn toward the dead star in the most unsuspenseful scene ever. A lot of this is probably due to the actors not being used to voiceover work (only James Doohan had any experience doing such, as he started out on Canadian radio), as the voice work is awkward in many spots, with the added stiffness of the Filmation animation.

The storyline also feels a bit derivative, treading over territory already better mined in “Charlie X,” “The Changeling,” “The Squire of Gothos,” and “The Immunity Syndrome,” among others. The ending, where the creature begs the Enterprise crew not to leave him alone, is a surprisingly heavy and nasty end to a story on a Saturday morning cartoon, but nothing is actually done with it—we get no reaction, no regret, no wishing they could have found a way to work with the creature instead of being threatened by it, like what we got in “Charlie” and “Gothos.” Which is too bad, because the pathos would’ve been welcome. As it stands now, the ending is just awkward.

Having said that, we do get the wonderful alien ship, which provides the best parts of the episode. Part of it is Scotty geeking out over it—and Doohan’s greater experience with voice work means he actually conveys that much better than any of the others manage—and part of is the superb visual of the ship. It really looks alien, the first of many examples of the show taking advantage of the format to really give us some nifty looking aliens and alien landscapes and, in this case, alien construction.

Still, this is a rather limp opening to the animated adventures.

 

Warp factor rating: 4

 

Next week:Yesteryear

Keith R.A. DeCandido wishes everybody a happy Thanksgiving.

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