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The book on STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES has finally been written — and I helped (slightly)!

November 7, 2019 1 comment

I am holding in my hands (or was moments ago, since I’m typing now) my contributor copy of Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series by Aaron Harvey and Rich Schepis, the first official Star Trek publication devoted exclusively to Filmation Associates’ 1973-5 revival/continuation of the original series.

ST Official Guide to TAS

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Star-Trek/Saturday-Morning-Trek/9781681884219

And yes, it was a continuation, as direct as you could get — produced by Gene Roddenberry, story-edited (in season 1) by D.C. Fontana, around 50% written by veteran TOS writers (and one director and one actor), and starring nearly the entire original cast. It wasn’t given a Filmation-y name like The New Adventures of Star Trek or something — it was just called Star Trek because Roddenberry wanted it to feel as much like the original as possible. (The subtitle The Animated Series wasn’t officially added until the 2006 DVD release, I think.)

Yet people have always dismissed it for being animated, and in 1989 Roddenberry and his aide Richard Arnold attempted to declare it non-canonical at a point when they had no actual authority to do that, since Roddenberry had been eased back to a figurehead role by then. They were able to forbid the tie-in books and comics that Arnold approved from referencing TAS, but they had no power over the actual shows or films, as seen when TNG: “Unification” referenced Spock’s “Yesteryear” backstory, ST V & VI confirmed Grayson as Amanda’s surname and Tiberius as Kirk’s middle name, DS9 referenced the Klothos as Kor’s ship, etc. Granted, the restriction was partly because the ownership of the series was uncertain when Filmation went out of business. But that was resolved decades ago, and TAS has been getting gradually rehabilitated ever since.

This book will probably be a major part of that rehab effort, since it’s a really nice look at the series, lavishly illustrated with TAS art that looks just gorgeous on the page. Filmation’s work has a reputation for being crude, and it is by modern standards, but as someone who was a kid in the ’70s, I can attest that its animation was about as good as you’d get on Saturday morning TV in that era, its alien and creature designs were wildly imaginative, and its background paintings were gorgeous. (I love how many of those wide panoramic shots are reproduced in the book at their full width, presumably by stitching different frames of the pan shots together.) There were many pages where I just paused to admire how beautifully detailed the designs and art were.

As for the text, while it doesn’t go into quite as much depth as something like the Deep Space Nine Companion did (since it’s more of a coffee-table book), it’s still informative, with a fair amount of new information even I didn’t know, thanks to interviews with TAS contributors like Fontana, David Gerrold, Howard Weinstein, and layout artist Bob Kline, who was the principal designer for the show. It’s not a perfect book; in some cases it perpetuates the 1990s Star Trek Concordance re-release’s erroneous attribution of many uncredited voice roles to James Doohan even though they clearly aren’t his voice. But overall it’s a really impressive piece of work and a loving tribute.

So how am I a contributor? Well, I’m one of the people that Aaron Harvey interviewed for the book’s “Series Legacy” chapter at the end, and I’m quoted somewhat extensively there (well, three longish paragraphs on two pages). Aaron sought me out because I’ve incorporated a number of TAS characters and story elements into my Trek novels over the years (and not just my novels, as buyers of my latest Star Trek Adventures campaign will know by now), so he wanted to get my perspective. (Dayton Ward, perhaps the one Pocket novelist who’s referenced TAS more than I have, wrote the afterword.) In exchange, I got a free copy of the book, which is a marvelous reward for answering a few questions.

I really hope this book helps restore ST:TAS’s reputation as a legitimate and worthwhile piece of the whole, because that’s what it deserves. For me, it’s always been coequal to everything else. I discovered TOS while TAS was still in first run, so to 5-year-old me, Star Trek was just a show that was sometimes live-action and sometimes a cartoon. My first Trek book was Star Trek Log Three, one of Alan Dean Foster’s books of TAS episode adaptations (and by coincidence that very volume is depicted on the page opposite my first quoted statements in the book). So it was all a unified, equal whole to me. So I’m glad to see it getting more equal treatment at last in this companion book. And I’m proud that I got to be a small part of that effort.