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- Season One
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- "Season Four"

"Season Four" Animated:
-"The Magicks of Megas-Tu"
-"The Time Trap"
-"How Sharper Than
A Serpent's Tooth"

-"The Counter-Clock Incident"
-"Season 4" Rankings

Star Trek

Prime Directive Season 4

"Season Four":
The Animated Series

22 episodes
@ 25 minutes each

The Magicks of Megas-Tu

(Star Trek Animated episode #22009 in production order)
written by Larry Brody

This story is interesting in the way that the Prime Directive is now treated as a fully developed concept, finding uses outside its usual settings. Kirk and company are put on trial by beings more advanced than them, and Kirk proudly uses their adherence to the Prime Directive as one of humanity's best defences. Indeed, there is nothing presented here to really indicate that the Directive applies only to Federation interaction with societies too primitive to have developed warp drive, or that any kind of technological or astronomical secrecy is the means to the intended noble end. The emphasis is on respect for other cultures, and where the other culture is advanced and aware and civilized, it certainly does look good. Here's to a noble Star Trek story that presents the Prime Directive well.

The tale has other elements to recommend it: plenty of bizarre settings and otherworldly sights, and an atmosphere of promoting good relations where archetypal conflict previously seemed inevitable. The essence of the kind of integration that defines the best of New Age philosophy is here, mirroring that of "The Enemy Within" (Star Trek production #5), but getting at the subject matter in ways that more readily challenge most people's assumptions. Cool.

This is definitely one of the better and more worthwhile Star Trek episodes. Go ahead and help yourself to this feast for thought.


(Star Trek Animated episode #22018 in production order)
written by David Gerrold
directed by Bill Reed

This turns out to be one of Star Trek's most interesting Prime Directive stories so far - largely because we have four (count them, four) distinct cultures interacting and trying to figure out what is the best policy here, and without the usual Federation-Klingon rivalry distracting their motives.

Where other stories show primitive cultures that parallel Earth humans, often way to closely, or in later cases we have the Mintakans paralleling early Vulcan/Romulan societies, this adventure tackles a primitive society which looks as though it parallels the Gorn seen in "Arena" and "The Time Trap". Very nice use of the animated format utilizing its flexibility.

The other three cultures interacting here are the Federation through the Enterprise crew, the newly discovered and equally advanced Pandronian culture represented by Commander Bem, and the mysterious local disco-light being that Nichelle Nichols gives voice to as it lays claim over the development of the primitives.

In all the various permutations of interactions which get satisfyingly explored in this episode, the basic message seems to be about spending less energy removing the speck in your neighbour's eye, and more energy on removing the log from your own. Healthy advice, and a sound foundation upon which to build the Prime Directive in the first place.

Starfleet's own core interaction with the primitives here is interesting for several reasons. The Enterprise is the second ship to encounter the planet, and seems to be almost forceful in its need to study this culture.... as we later find out, all to determine whether or not the Prime Directive should apply. For right or wrong, the Heisenberg principle seems to have been thrown out the window here.

Of course Bem does things quite differently to Starfleet, what with his newly encountered race not being a part of the Federation... yet. And these differences fuel most of the conflict and debate in the episode. No need to discuss much of that here; the story itself is most eloquent. It is nicely refreshing (and more real) to see the Federation attempting so many first contacts with races of varying types at the same time - an avenue ripe with rich story opportunities.

Perhaps the most interesting interaction is that between Disco-Nichols and the primitives. Even if Bem and the Federation agree to non-interference with the primitives, why would the psychedelic creature need to be directing their development? On the surface, it seems that the Disco creature is violating the Prime Directive. Even if it never agreed to one, it sure is keen to enforce one on Bem and the Federation. Who is really to say what the proto-Gorns' natural development should be?

The episode actually makes more sense once pre-cut rules and labels like the Prime Directive are put aside, and values are studied in context here with all four cultures treated equally. The proto-Gorns and the Disco lights are local, get along harmoniously with each other, and are content to remain on their own. Bem and the Federation both understand and respect that, while taking steps to offer contact and learn about them. All is good. Everyone learns something, perhaps even the proto-Gorns whose memories supposedly remain intact. Too bad the Gorn characters weren't developed a little more to say what their take on the adventure might have been.

In the end, Star Trek has another great adventure in its canon, perhaps the most thoughtful piece David Gerrold has contributed yet to the series. Nice one.

How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth

(Star Trek Animated episode #22022 in production order)
written by Russell Bates & David Wise
directed by Bill Reed

Here's another classic "reverse prime directive" story, very much in the same vein as "Who Mourns For Adonais?", yet taking full advantage of the animated format's capacity for strange beings and massive landscapes.

Basically, the "reverse prime directive" type of story puts advanced aliens on Earth interfering with human development, doing the very thing that Star Trek characters forbid themselves to do. Yet again, most of the usual arguments for and against non-interference are bandied about here, without anyone actually using the term "prime directive". Most of the arguments presented here feel like canned responses by now, but once in a while a new perspective on it shines through the dialogue.... particularly in the end sequence. Indeed, by the time it's all over, this has become one of the essential Prime Directive stories of the Star Trek canon.

And it does so by shining light on a fascinating ancient Earth culture that probably was visited and heavily influenced by extra-terrestrials. Kudos! This tale has the essence of truth charging through it, and does a good job of bringing the Mayan culture to life through the enjoyable visual design work of the story. Where it may fall quite short is in the anthropomorphizing of the aliens' motivations; and indeed it will have to differ somewhat to allow enough creative freedom to flesh out an interesting (yet sympathetic) antagonist to make the story work.

And you've got to love a Capellan Power Cat. Nice one! This episode certainly cuts no corners in coming up with cool new creatures to put on screen as well.

In the end, this has to rank as one of the best animated Star Trek episodes, and, in tandem with "Who Mourns for Adonais?", perhaps demonstrates that the concepts of the Prime Directive often work better in reverse than when played out with Starfleet's usual secrecy and manipulation.....

These "Season Four" / Animated Series prime directive stories are available on standard DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek The Animated Series Standard DVD Box Set:

Get your copy of this 4-disc DVD set
from the links below:
Region 1, NTSC, U.S.
Region 1, NTSC, Canada
Region 2, PAL, U.K.

Watch the legend stay alive and continue to innovate during the 1970's in this slightly different TV format. Set contains all 22 episodes from the two seasons of the animated series of Star Trek in their original wacky U.S. national broadcast order.

DVD Extras include:

  • "Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek The Animated Series"
    featurette including interviews with producer Lou Scheimer, director Hal Sutherland, writers D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold, Larry Brody, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Mike Sussman, and others (24 min.)
  • Audio Commentary by writer David Gerrold on his episodes "More Tribbles, More Troubles" and "Bem".
  • Audio Commentary by co-writer David Wise on his episode "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth".
  • Text Commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda on "Yesteryear", "The Eye of the Beholder" and "The Counter-Clock Incident"
  • "What's the Star Trek Connection?" featurette(s) (6 min. total)
  • Show history text pages
  • Menu-based Storyboard Gallery for writer Walter Koenig's "The Infinite Vulcan".
  • DVD previews for Star Trek & other shows

Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "The Counter-Clock Incident"

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