STAR TREK:
- The Original Series (TOS)
- The Animated Series
- The Movies
- The Next Generation (TNG)
- Deep Space Nine (DS9)
- Voyager
- Enterprise

THE ORIGINAL CREW:
- Season One
- Season Two
- Season Three
- "Season Four"

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

-"The Counter-Clock Incident"

Star Trek: The Animated Series

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
~ Mahatma Gandhi, 20th century Indian spiritual & political leader

"Season Four":
The Animated Series
(1973-1974)

22 episodes
@ 25 minutes each
Standard DVD:
Region 1, NTSC, U.S.
Region 1, NTSC, Canada
Region 2, PAL, U.K.

Yesteryear

(Star Trek Animated episode #22003 in production order)
written by D.C. Fontana

Let me hereby declare that I love this Star Trek cartoon series from 1973-1974. The original Star Trek writers penned the episodes, the original cast reassembled to provide voices, Gene Roddenberry oversaw the endeavour as executive producer and was probably much more involved here than on the third season of the TV series, and you can watch it all on your television screen. Plus they could achieve vistas, creatures, and effects that they would never have been able to afford for live action, thus imagination was unleashed to another level. What more could you want from official Star Trek? So, even if Paramount disagrees, I will always consider these 22 adventures to be part of the "official" Star Trek canon.

That established, the cartoon series offers a few time travel stories of its own, furthering the twisted view nurtured on the original Star Trek series and helping to perpetuate it as the franchise grew. "Yesteryear" is probably the most famous and influential of these, and is perfect for demonstrating a dichotomy that helped partially excuse the portrayal of time travel in Star Trek.

First, let's be clear on how the time/space/choice continuum is more magnanimous than most 1960's Earth minds could comprehend. All possible histories coexist simultaneously in parallel universes. Coexist simultaneously. The experience of one does not negate the existence of another. Before we get too excited and run off to experience all the possibilities shown on the show "Sliders", let's see how well "Yesteryear" fares here.....

"Yesteryear" is actually pretty good, at least in terms of what is actually shown to happen on screen. However, the first eight minutes of the show are also a horrendous display of the fact that Starfleet personnel know diddly-squat about time travel and can't explain it to save their souls. Better explanation is sorely needed, so here goes....

A full set of library cues for "Star Trek Animated" by Yvette Blais & Jeff Michael is available here:
Star Trek 50th Anniversary
Animated Series Library /
The Hunted / Qpid

4-disc Audio CD set

Find out more....

As the episode opens, Kirk, Spock, and a guy in a red shirt step back out of the Guardian portal on the City on the Edge of Forever. Yes, we're back to that place again. No, they apparently didn't learn the first time. At least the vista now looks like a forgotten forever, and they're up on the edge of it. Cool. What Kirk and Spock don't realize is that they haven't just returned from the past - they've also just slid into a parallel universe where an Andorian has Spock's job. History has not been changed; they're just experiencing a different one, and faced with the problem of finding their way back to the one they know.

The exploration of this parallel universe here may have the potential to be as rich as that of "Mirror, Mirror", but never quite becomes so. The crew's lack of recognition of what this really is, and the constant idiot babble of their 1960's time travel theory taking its place, drag the episode down many notches. But it's all just characters' speculations, not actually backed up on screen by anything that favours their theory over mine.

What really makes this episode great are the latter two-thirds that show young Spock's development on Vulcan and his relationships with his parents. This is character GOLD. Leonard Nimoy is on hand as Mr. Spock, and Mark Lenard makes his first return as Spock's father Sarek. And we see Vulcan society and architecture with no holds barred. What more could you want in a TV episode?


Older "Selleck" Spock's experiences here are very interesting with regard to the time travel / parallel universe theories. This is basically the second time he is experiencing these same sequences of events, and as he remembers it one way as a child, it unfolds differently again for him in the adult "Selleck" position, while the Andorian parallel future hints at how things would turn out if no version of Spock ever came back to play the "Selleck" role here.

As in Fontana's "Tomorrow is Yesterday", Starfleet characters here spend a lot of time trying to figure out which actions will change history and by how much. Remember the Heisenberg principle: The simple act of observing is enough to change the result - which has really become part and parcel of modern quantum physics. See "Blink" (Doctor Who story no. 190) for a riveting demonstration.

In somewhat simpler terms, we human beings are accustomed to making constant choices in our lives by which we navigate through the dimension(s) of parallel universes that branch out of the moments we live through, and we take this ability for granted. In "Yesteryear", Spock now experiences the very setup that would be required to bring the impact of all these micro-level choices to the conscious mind. As a boy, he and Selleck had an interaction for several days, made several thousand small decisions along the way, and found themselves at a certain point in the time/space/choice continuum at the end of that, a point from which they could move further forward. Coming back now to play the Selleck role, it would be nearly impossible for Spock to make all the exact same complementary choices to come up with the exact same interaction as what he remembered experiencing as a boy. He manages a very similar outcome, but not an exact one.

And this proves that it was a parallel Spock who became Selleck and helped our Spock when he was a boy, just as our Spock now becomes Selleck and helps a parallel boy Spock. Equally acceptable.

One other problem with the Guardian portal as a time travel device was glossed over in the original episode "The City on the Edge of Forever". When you're in the past, and you're ready to come back, how do you do it? Is there a mysterious invisible hole waiting for you in exactly the same spot where you first entered the past? Like its predecessor, "Yesteryear" also conveniently leaves out any scenes that would tackle this question. Kudos must go to the original series' actual best time travel episode "All Our Yesterdays" for dealing with this problem head-on.

So Spock jumps back to the future and resumes his old life again.... or does he? If he now takes the place of a Spock who had lost Ichiya all those years ago, he isn't quite home yet. He's still in a parallel universe, albeit one that will allow him to continue leading basically the same life that he knows.

What is perhaps more interesting is the fact that Kirk originally slid with him into the Spock-less Andorian universe, and Kirk then stayed there while watching Spock run off into the Guardian portal to fix things. This equally valid line of history will continue to exist no matter what Spock does, since all possible histories coexist simultaneously on parallel dimensions. So our original Kirk may yet still be waiting at the portal in that universe for some kind of result. A second Andorian may yet come back through, before Kirk realizes he needs to get in there and slide his own way back to his home universe......


The ultimate question is, do we come out of this episode with the same Kirk, same Spock, same universe, and same guy in a red shirt that we started out with, all together again? Who knows! Fascinating....

It's clear that what D.C. Fontana intends is that there is only one universe in play here with one line of history, and Spock's actions at any point in time magically alter everything that came after it. The Andorian expects to sacrifice himself when Tinker-Bell's magic wand of time wipes him out in favour of Spock's family connection, just as Kirk expects the universe to magically change all around him depending on what Spock does in the past. This brings into play all kinds of bone-headed and unfounded prejudices over which history is "correct" and which is an aberration, which will lead to all the types of conflict that traditional Star Trek principles would like to rise above.

It really is better to realize that the time/space/choice continuum doesn't operate that way anyway. You have ultimate freedom to make any choice you want, experience any line of history you choose, because it will all exist anyway whether it is remembered as the chosen path or not. And no wave of magic is on its way to alter everything you have ever known in a flash. If you want to "slide" to a parallel existence, YOU have to make the move.

Thankfully, no special effects are brought to bear to show any magical alterations anywhere in this episode. We always follow those who do the moving, into or out of the Guardian portal, thus the actual on-screen action of the episode continues to hold up under the more enlightened theory of the time/space/choice continuum. Sadly, it just can't articulate as much through the characters' dialogue.

This remains a rich and touching episode, heartily recommended to all Star Trek fans. Enjoy!


The Time Trap

(Star Trek Animated episode #22010 in production order)
written by Joyce Perry

Of course, with a name like "The Time Trap", you know a Star Trek episode will find its way into these time-travel articles. As it plays out, however, this story has much more to do with parallel/pocket universes and space travel. It uses a Bermuda Triangle concept of an area of space famous for disappearances as a one-way gate to a smaller pocket universe. The parallels with Doctor Who's E-Space Trilogy are huge, only in this case the pocket universe is so small, there isn't even any room for any stars or planets - just a collection of spaceships.

The title isn't completely inappropriate though, because time appears to have different properties inside the trap. Standard living beings age far, far more slowly, while dilithium crystals go through their entire lifespan in less than a week.

I read somewhere that the lead Klingon Commander in this story is Kor, previously played by John Colicos in "Errand of Mercy". The story doesn't make much of this; it's detail that is hard to notice. Kor's character has little impact on early aspects of the story, but begins to come out nicely in the second half, where you can believe that it's him again, if indeed you first remember that it is him. Too bad Colicos wasn't on hand to do his voice - that would have sealed the deal. As it stands, we're probably listening to James Doohan's vocal flexibilities once again.

I don't think Filmation handled the entrance to the "Time Trap" pocket universe very well. The disappearance of Kor's ship looks like a fade out to commercial, which is followed by dialogue on the Enterprise that takes a painfully long time to make its point. All the more reason to get the visuals right immediately. Based on Spock's description, and the visuals for the second disappearance into the trap universe when the Enterprise has its turn, we now get something resembling the effect of a Klingon/Romulan cloaking device being turned on. This isn't much good either - the episode's dialogue needs something that clearly looks different. Later struggles with the trap entrance are an improvement, and work decently.

The animated format isn't really taken advantage of very much in this tale. We do get more spaceships and a wider variety of aliens than the live action show could probably have afforded in its third season, but these all have very limited screen time. It's mostly Enterprise and Klingon ship interiors today, all easy, standard (overused) sets from the old series. Visual imagination is somewhat lacking, although the inclusion of the plant creatures from Walter Koenig's "The Infinite Vulcan" is a nice touch. Majel Barrett is not to be heard in this episode, requiring Nichelle Nichols to voice all female characters. She does a good job of Uhura naturally, as well as the Orion woman, but her voice for the telepathic Megan is embarrassingly silly. A larger cast would have done the episode good.

Well, this episode keeps its time travel theory clean, largely by not traveling through time in the first place. It remains an interesting and fairly well-written adventure, with only a few very minor nits. Well done.


The Counter-Clock Incident

(Star Trek Animated episode #22023 in production order)
written by John Culver
directed by Bill Reed

Once again, the animated series does a time-related story by using a parallel universe with different laws of physics, VERY reminiscent of (and a huge improvement on) "The Time Trap", as well as reminding us once again of Doctor Who's E-Space Trilogy. This time, the parallel universe is no small pocket. As astronomical charts get compared, there's a whole galaxy in there equal to our own in size, and who knows how much further both regions of space extend....

As in "The Time Trap", the flow of time in the new universe is different to what we expect. Instead of going forward at a different rate, it here flows "backwards". Fascinating.

The episode is a stand-up example of true science fiction, as little time is spent looking for the usual conflicts between characters. Instead, most of the time is spent exploring ideas and concepts from reverse universes, reverse time mechanics, super nova astronomy, the culture of the planet Atar, and ideas of aging, retirement, and contribution. A rich tapestry. The visuals are a vast improvement over "The Time Trap" as well, chiefly with the segments on the planet Atar, although they also give us a lovely effect for the Nova. Even while on the old Enterprise bridge, we have two unmistakably unique characters in Commodore Robert April and his wife, plus interesting visuals from Mrs. April's orchid that serve as an indicator to the flow of time. Nice device. Somehow, even the bridge scenes in this adventure flow better and keep up a more interesting pace than in most other episodes.

Although one may well question the Atarian life cycle, particularly in comparison to the way similar ideas were further developed to a ludicrous extent on the show "Mork and Mindy", here it is simply a bizarre one-off concept in the Star Trek canon. "The Counter-Clock Incident" remains a clean story in terms of the time-travel mechanics that are usually messed up in Star Trek, largely because the story doesn't really involve time travel, just a different flow of time depending on "where" you are. Cool.

All in all, a very satisfying episode, and a good one for the animated series to bow out on. Enjoy!




These "Season Four" / Animated Series time travel 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 article: Prime Directive - Season Four



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