There are so many Star Trek shows now. It’s incredibly cool, as someone who got into it back when there were four, only three of which were in rotation on the few channels we had. When Miles and I were talking about Casual Trek and the premise of watching three episodes from different Star Treks at a time, we pondered the animations. It was enough having a two-parter to start us off, covering each of the pilot episodes from the live action shows. Strange New Worlds was only just starting to air so we were able to put that off. Picard was going to be difficult so we could put that off for even longer, which left the question of the animated episodes.
If we covered them, it would give us an increased pool of things to choose from and there were some fun ideas which would only work if we included cartoons. Luckily, there were three Star Trek animated series to choose from, so we were able to build a whole episode where we looked at the pilots of each show.
The Animated Series: Beyond the Farthest Star
I’d heard about the animated series, but I never knew where it aired on TV and managed to fairly easily resist buying the boxed set of DVDs. If I was too casual to get those red, yellow and blue clamshell Original Series DVDs, why would I bother with the weird white and orange animated series one?
The most I knew about it came from The Centre Seat, the Star Trek documentary which was on Prime. I’d heard about the re-used animations and some of the old Star Trek plots which never got used and were converted for this. Also that there were some issues with not being able to afford everyone, so Chekhov ended up being not included as an actor.
Beyond the Farthest Star does a better job than I thought of showing things which you couldn’t in live action, like a big weird alien ship. The enemy is one of those cosmic entities Star Trek has a lot of, although it is a big of a whiner. We also get a glimpse of the alien they replaced Chekhov with, although he doesn’t get any lines yet.
Lower Decks: Second Contact
I was so ready to hate this. I’ve made it very clear on the show that I don’t care for Seth MacFarlane’s whole cartoon oeuvre. I’ve enjoyed The Orville far more than I thought I would, although that’s often despite the Seth MacFarlane of it all. I know this isn’t by Seth MacFarlane, it’s by a Rick & Morty person, which is its own problem, but it bears a lot of the hallmarks of his work.
Lower Decks starts off better than I thought, although I’m pretty sure I left it a little while between the first and second episode. Where I’m at now, having seen multiple seasons, I really like Lower Decks.
I think the main difference is that Lower Decks has its daft fun and its references, but it still buys into the world. The hope, neediness and swashbuckling heroism of Starfleet. The fact that a rage zombie virus is just another day of the week, but you’re not going to be completely aloof and deadened to it. I think this is why I’ve got issues with Deadpool, too. He doesn’t sell investment in the world, unless it’s directly about him.
This episode got ranked fairly low, but being here means that there’s nowhere to go but up and it opens up a lot of fun episodes to mix and match with the live action ones.
Prodigy: Lost & Found (Parts 1 & 2)
The most recent Star Trek cartoon was billed as a kind of “Star Trek for kids” and also “We’ve got Janeway”. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. I kind of didn’t bother reading up on it or seeing the fan reaction, which I assumed was going to be negative.
I watched the first episode on Paramount Plus when I was in a Trek mood and I’d been saving Strange New Worlds to watch with my partner. I wasn’t impressed and figured I’d wait literally until I had to watch it for Casual Trek. Seeing the first episode again for the episode I realised something I hadn’t checked before… it was a two-parter.
The episode’s still got that kind of modern CGI kids cartoon kind of vibe, which doesn’t look at first blush like a Star Trek thing. For some reason in my mind it’s more of a style compatible with Star Wars, but there’s Star Trek peppered throughout this. I gather that like Lower Decks, it only improves from here, so I’m really interested in seeing how it goes and may even watch some episodes outside of the viewing requirements for Casual Trek.
The episodes can be found on all podcatchers, on Spotify or using this link:
The Big List So Far
Spoilers below if you’ve not seen the episode, but as at episode eight, here’s the big list: