A 50TH ANNIVERSARY celebration!

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Today is a twofer Star Trek anniversary: The original series debuted Sept. 8, 1966, and the Filmation animated series premiered exactly seven years later, on Sept. 8, 1973.

We’ve done a ton on the original series over the years — check out our TOP 13 EPISODE COUNTDOWN here — but we’ve barely touched on the cartoon series at all. But since it’s the 50th anniversary, we’re switching it up: 13th Dimension columnist and Trekkie nonpareil Jim Beard has for you the TOP 13 STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES EPISODES — RANKED, which you’ll find below.

And don’t forget — Jim’s new book, Galloping Around the Cosmos, a selection of essays by a litany of notable writers about growing up Trek, is coming soon! Here’s the not-quite-finished cover:

Far out. Here’s Jim. (Beard, not Kirk.)


When you get to be my age, remarking on how much time has passed since your youth becomes an almost daily occurrence. So, please indulge me on this one: Fifty years? How can it be fifty years since Filmation’s Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered?

I remember it like it was, well, not yesterday, but maybe only a few years ago. I was a Saturday Morning Cartoons junkie and had been for a while by 1973. I was all of 8 years old and when I heard Star Trek was coming to Saturday mornings, there was no way I’d miss it. I was deep into my Trek fandom then, and getting more of a show I already loved was the next best thing to heaven.

For some reason, I walked over to the neighbors’ house to watch it that September morn. I’m not clear today on why, because I had never done anything like that before—Saturday mornings were all but sacred to me—so it’s weird that I did it. And it was pretty much a mistake. My friend next door had beaucoup siblings, and we had to watch it on his mother’s kitchen television… and inevitably, it went sideways quickly. Only a half-hour long, the viewing was interrupted by bored kids, loud adults, and the sickening smell of peanut butter toast. I traipsed back home disappointed, vowing never to watch another Saturday morning cartoon on anything but my own TV in my own living room ever again.

Sadly, Star Trek: The Animated Series was here and gone far too swiftly, but looking back, I don’t see how it could be any other way and consider it lucky we got it at all. It seems a foolhardy project today, doomed from the get-go. I mean, trying to translate Star Trek into a half-hour kids show for Saturday morning?

Here’s the thing, though: They didn’t, not really.

So, for the uninitiated, what is Star Trek: The Animated Series? First and foremost, it’s Star Trek. That’s important to stress. Oh, it’s sometimes goofy and almost always derivative of its “parent,” but with the glorious presence of nearly all our main cast, the sound effects, and a passel of Klingons, Romulans, etc., the animatesdshow absolutely feels like Trek, and that’s to its credit. It’s a worthy addition to the legend, and while its 22 half-hour episodes aren’t exactly considered canon by Paramount, they packed a wallop for a kid who needed more Star Trek past the original 79 episodes.

I did a full re-watch of the series to write this article, and, not having seen much of it since I was a kid, it amazed me as to what it delivers. Not every episode is a gem, but there are a few diamonds among the two “seasons” and a few more pieces of zirconia to help me fill up a basket with 13 stories. In all, it was a distinct pleasure to revisit an old friend… or rather I should say old friends, because Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, and the rest are (almost) all here, along with a few new faces, too.


13. Mudd’s Passion. Yes, Christine Chapel’s being kind of dense here, but this story of another go-round with Harcourt Fenton Mudd, with uncredited voice work by Roger C. Carmel, doesn’t hurt anything. And if I’m being honest, Scotty and M’Ress getting all hot and heavy over each other is a hoot.

12. How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth. This one clocks in with, I believe, the Enterprise’s first Native American bridge officer, as well as equal time for a few of Earth’s mythologies that normally have to stand in line behind the Greeks and the Norse.

11. Albatross. McCoy accused of near-genocide? On a kid’s cartoon show? Yes, and our favorite doctor gets another turn in the spotlight with this one, something he didn’t get enough of in the live-action series, in my opinion.

10. The Terratin Incident. Land of the Giants meets Star Trek — and it delivers a story that probably could never have been given the justice it deserved in a live-action episode. It’s a very fun look at what would happen if our crew began to shrink and shrink…

9. The Lorelei Signal. Sure, it’s the old all-the-men-are-incapacitated gambit, but this one boasts Uhura taking command of the Enterprise, an all-women rescue team, and Scotty singing. Yeah, I knew that would get you.

8. The Jihad. Kirk and Spock join a Dungeons & Dragons group of characters and go on a quest for a mystical object in Mordor. It also offers a Saturday morning look at religious fervor, which for some may be worth the price of admission alone.

7. The Counter-Clock Incident. This was the last episode aired, and for the end, the show went back to the beginning, introducing us to the Enterprise’s first captain, Robert April—yes, even before Pike—and a fascinating look into an alternate universe where time flows backwards.

6. The Ambergris Element. I love underwater stories. There’s no way this one could ever have been done to satisfaction on the live-action show, but here the animation allows a water-breathing Kirk and Spock to discover “a whole new world.”

5. The Magicks of Megas-Tu. Another alien who influenced primitive man on Earth, yes, but the cool thing here is Kirk engaging in a Harry Potter-style magic duel with a dude who looks like Satan. Or Pan. But Pan always bored me, so…

4. More Tribbles, More Troubles. No one could ever mistake me as a fan of “The Trouble with Tribbles,” but there’s just something about this sequel that elevates it above its predecessor. At the very least, it has one of the greatest battles/standoffs with the Klingons ever, so there’s that.

3. Slaver Weapon. Legendary sci-fi writer Larry Niven mashes his Known Space universe up with Star Trek by pitting the amazing team of Scotty, Uhura, and Sulu against the feline Kzin. By the way, you could absolutely do a drinking game with this one: Just take a shot every time someone says, “stasis box.” You’ll be plastered before halfway through the episode.

2. Time Trap. I’m a sucker for stories with Sargasso Seas, as well as councils of alien beings… and boy, does this one deliver on that score. The council boasts so many Trek races, you’ll be smiling to bust your face. It also features the Bonaventure, the first ship in the Trek universe to have warp drive.

1. Yesteryear. Yep, you’ll often see this episode at the top of lists of the best entries in this series, and in my opinion, with good reason. The Guardian of Forever, another deep dive into Vulcan society, Spock meeting his young self, an uncredited Mark Lenard as Sarek, and… the real, honest-to-Toho Godzilla roar. I kid you not. What the Land of the Rising Sun didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, I guess.


— 13 THINGS I Loved About CLASSIC STAR TREK as a Kid. Click here.

— The STAR TREK Top 13 Episode Countdown. Click here.

13th Dimension columnist Jim Beard’s new book of essays, by a typically stellar selection of experts and superfans, is all about growing up Trek. Galloping Around the Cosmos: Memories of TV’s Wagon Train to the Stars From Today’s Grown-Up Kids is out soon — and here’s the official description:

Jim’s latest essay collection, is out soon.

And the Children Shall Lead!

Though creator Gene Roddenberry endowed his groundbreaking 1966-69 science fiction show Star Trek with plenty of substance and style to engage and entertain adult viewers, it also amazingly attracted the attention of younger eyes and imaginations—and in doing so forged entire generations of Trek Kids!

Watching the original series for the first time was a heady experience for a child, so much so it often made such an indelible impression that lasted their entire life. Galloping Across the Cosmos sets out to collect the memories of those who recall those early days in front of the TV for voyages into the Final Frontier alongside the stalwart crew of the Starship Enterprise, characters who became their teachers, mentors, and, yes, even friends along the way.

Beam up to the Federation’s top-of-the-line vessel with writer-editor Jim Beard as he curates a collection of essays from Grown-Up Kids who remember a time when Star Trek was new, fresh, and exciting—and even able to shape the people they would become as adults.

We need warp speed now, Mr. Sulu!

Keep checking 13th Dimension and the Becky Books Facebook page for updates on availability.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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1 Comment

  1. I personally consider this show as canon. I don’t care what Paramount says. As someone who doesn’t really care about any Trek that doesn’t involve the original series and its cast, this show is great.

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