Still looking at fan adaptations this week. It turns out, animated Star Trek fan works are a thing, along with fan podcast series. Two weeks ago, Lost in Translation looked at Curt Danhausen’s memorial to James Doohan, “The Quintain” and how he used Filmmation’s art style and approach to animation to be a one-man studio. This week’s review, Star Trek: The Paradise Makers, looks at what a team can do.
The Paradise Maker is a two-part series from Sagittarii Productions, with special effects by Tommorrows Magic. The feature runs over two hours, all animated. It took the team four years to complete. Animation styles include rotoscoping and chroma-key to add in architecture and iconic Star Trek gadgets.
The feature uses a known idea from Star Trek: TOS, that of Star Fleet officers going rogue. There have been a few in Kirk’s time who have ignored orders and gone their own way, including Commodore Matt Decker in “The Doomsday Machine”, Garth of Izar (“Whom Gods Destroy”), Commander Spock (“The Menagerie”), and even James T. Kirk himself (Star Trek: The Motion Picture among other events). Dr. Xiang LI’s self-aggrandizing fits in.
The animation style fits in with the Filmmation series while being a little more fluid. The aquashuttle comes from the animated series, though not lifted directly. The use of chroma-key allows for using real settings and architectural photos and film to save time. Even then, the small team still needed four years. The regular cast of characters are recognizable in appearance. Lost in Translation has mentioned before on how difficult it is to portray Spock, so props to Jay Prichard for tackling the role and trying to balance cold logic with hidden human emotion.
The Paradise Makers fits in the first season of Star Trek, with Dr. Mark Piper (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) retiring and new Ship’s Surgeon Dr. Leonard McCoy reporting for duty. The Enterprise and the Bowfin appear as expected, with the animated series having influence for stylization and requirements for animation. Animation also allows for sets that the live action series didn’t detail, such as ground installations on airless worlds, something The Paradise Makers shows early in Part 1. There’s always a tradeoff; more time needed but fewer restrictions save those imposed by the setting.
The plot would fit in with the original Star Trek. The feature is a morality play on what happens when ambition is not tempered. Dr. Xiang Li risks the lives of the planet and of the crew of the Enterprise all to become a god. Even Garth of Izar at least waited until he became a captain before playing god. However, as Arthur C. Clarke puts it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” something Star Trek touches on repeatedly.
The Paradise Makers was put together by fans of the original Star Trek. Ideas that appeared in the original and the animated series appear, with nods to the progression of today’s technology. The feature has core elements of Star Trek from the superficial – the gadgets, the sounds, the music – to the building blocks, including the message wrapped up in a captivating story. The Paradise Makers also shows what a team can do to put together a feature, even if it takes them four years to complete.
Continuing the look at fan works today with a Star Trek animated fan film, “The Quintain” by Curt Danhauser, part of his continuation of the animated series. Have a watch; it’s only twenty-three minutes long.
Lost in Translation has reviewed Filmation’s animated Star Trek, a series that is and isn’t considered canon, depending on the episode and how the studio feels any given day. “Yesteryear” is accepted as being part of Spock’s past, but other episodes haven’t been that embraced. For an animated series in theory aimed at a younger audience, the series touched on adult themes, turning the series into a continuation of the original Trek and an introduction into the franchise for pre-teens. The Filmation budget meant reuse of animated scenes and actions, to save time and money, but the restrictions allowed the production team to determine what was important for the episode.
With “The Quintain”, Danhauser wanted to do something for the 100th birthday of James Doohan, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott on the original Trek and the voice of a number of characters on the animated series, including Lieutenant Arex, the Guardian of Forever, Koloth, Korax, and Kor. Danhauser goes further, playing all but three voices in “The Quintain”. The episode brings in a few elements from the movies, including Scotty’s nephew, Peter Preston, who appears in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, adding some more depth to the relationship between the two.
Danhauser mimics the Filmation style well in the episode. The character designs, even for the new characters, would fit into an episode of the animated Trek. Danhauser uses animation to expand the diversity of the cast, adding more Federation species on to the Enterprise, something a live action budget would be hard-pressed to do. For a one-person studio, the Filmation style is an asset, providing a way to keep the animation under control.
“The Quintain” has character moments, action moments, and a satisfying twist. Danhauser caught the essence of Star Trek, live action or animated. The efforts and work as a one-person studio pays off in an entertaining episode that is almost indistinguishable from Star Trek: The Animated Series.
The original Star Trek recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of the air date of its first episode, “The Man Trap”. Since then, the series has had a number of adaptations, including feature films, continuation TV series, games, comics, books, and even a cartoon. However, when the last first-run episode, “Turnabout Intruder” aired, fans had to resign themselves to watching the series in syndication, despite the efforts put into letter writing campaigns.
The dearth of new Star Trek episodes came to an end in 1973, when Gene Roddenberry worked with Filmation to create an animated series. Now known as Star Trek: The Animated Series, to distinguish it from other Trek entries, the cartoon brought back the crew of the USS Enterprise for two more seasons, this time on Saturday mornings. Filmation is best known for series such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, its spin-off series She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Ghostbusters*, and animation techniques that were budget friendly, including long establishing shots and animation reuse. During the series’ two seasons, twenty-two episodes aired.
Budget-friendly animation helped ST:TAS, allowing the series to bring back most of the cast to reprise their roles for the cartoon. With the reuse of animation, artists could ensure that the characters looked like their actors. Also because of animation, aliens were no longer limited to looking like humans in rubber masks. Two new crewmembers were introduced, Lieutenant M’ress, a cat-like communications officer, and Lieutenant Arex, a tripedal navigation officer. Both additions allowed Star Fleet and the Federation to feel larger and inclusive. Thanks to being animated, alien worlds could look alien with no more effort it took to paint a corridor of the Enterprise.
ST:TAS brought in science-fiction writers as much as the original series did. Larry Niven wrote “The Slaver Weapon”, bringing in his Kzinti from his short story, “The Soft Weapon”. David Gerrold, who wrote the original series episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles”, revisited the furry ecological menaces with “More Troubles, More Tribbles”. DC Fontana, who both wrote and was a story editor for the original series, contributed “Yesteryear”, a look at Spock as a young boy. The limitations of the format, a 22-minute long cartoon, was worked around and, in many cases, used to great effect.
For a while, the animated series was considered non-canonical, except for the cases where it was. Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius, was given to him by Gerrold in “More Trouble, More Tribbles”, and stuck. Fontana’s “Yesteryear” provided such a rich look at both Spock’s early life and Vulcan culture that it was more-or-less accepted as is. “Yesteryear” is part of Spock’s story arc, as he evolves from having his Human and Vulcan sides at odds to him accepting that he is part of both worlds, as seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyager Home. Canonicity has returned in bits and pieces, with ST:TAS being mined for background for different characters.
The series continued to delve into social issues and showcased characters that didn’t get spotlight time in the original series. Of note, “The Lorelei Signal”, by Margaret Armen, placed Uhura in command of the Enterprise after the male crewmembers fell under the effect of space sirens. Beings that appeared to be dangerous turned out to be misunderstood. The dangers of introducing an invasive species were explored. The show worked to keep to the spirit of the original series. While there were episodes that fell flat, the same happened with the original series. However, the animated series took what it had and expanded the Trek universe, entertaining fans who were starved for new episodes without disappointing them.
Star Trek: The Animated Series transcended the Saturday morning cartoon format, bringing back the crew of the Enterprise to boldly go, once again, where no man has gone before.
* Not to be confused with The Real Ghostbusters, the animated adaptation of the Ghostbusters movie.