Star Trek: The Animated Series

"Beyond the Farthest Star"

2 stars

Air date: 9/8/1973
Written by Samuel A. Peeples
Directed by Hal Sutherland

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

After being pulled into the gravitational field of a dead star on the edge of the galaxy, the Enterprise discovers a large and mysterious vessel that Spock estimates has been here for "300 million years." It has no crew, but is broadcasting an ancient radio signal.

The landing party of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, wearing "life support belts" (a device that allows the characters to be in space without requiring the use of EV suits that would require additional character-drawn animation) boards the ship to investigate its origins. After some exploring, the team finds an ancient log that warns of a mysterious lifeform. Spock discovers that the lifeform exists as a magnetic entity and it appears the ship was abandoned to trap the entity on board so it couldn't roam free to other worlds.

"Beyond the Farthest Star" allowed me to recalibrate with the rhythms of TOS-era Trek, but, unfortunately, it feels more plodding than the live-action TOS usually did. The nature of the extremely limited animation for a Saturday-morning production means all the nuance of performance that we would get from the actors is completely absent. We get the voice work, which is welcome, but make no mistake: This is no substitute for TOS.

The animation, spare as it is, does allow this series to think bigger and grander than what could've been possible on the live-action series. The massive interiors of the alien spacecraft are framed against a tiny silhouetted landing party. The designs are bold and peculiar in a way practical sets could never be. And replacing Chekov as the navigator (Walter Koenig wasn't hired as a voice actor in order to save on the budget) is Lt. Arex, a three-armed alien with a design that's not a million miles from E.T.

The episode takes a turn toward some TOS-style ship-in-jeopardy "action" after the team returns to the Enterprise and discovers the magnetic entity has returned with them and found a way to start taking control of the ship's systems. It frequently demands "Obey me!" in a voice that might best be described as "sniveling." This sort of action is not a strong point on a show that's so limited in its ability to depict movement. (Quick aside: This episode might be worth showing my kids, solely so I can use the "Obey me!" line on them for the rest of their lives.)

The most striking — and simultaneously hokey — moment in "Beyond the Farthest Star" is when the alien presence is left marooned on the dead star following the crew's struggle against it. The voice exclaims "sooooo loooooonely" as the Enterprise warps away and leaves it behind. The idea that this alien presence, stranded for some 300 million years, ends up marooned yet again, is a hauntingly poignant concept, even if James Doohan (*) sells it in the most cartoonish way. Alas, the story presents us this moment and then, with an almost cruelly indifferent haste, cuts away, as the Enterprise heads off to its next adventure.

* Doohan is probably the MVP of TAS, having provided a variety of different voices for many, many guest characters that all had their own distinctiveness to them. Even if this voice didn't work, I don't want to minimize Doohan's voice work, which is generally excellent.

Next episode: Yesteryear

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12 comments on this post

Fri, May 26, 2023, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
A classic type of sci-fi episode with the ship being taken over by a malevolent, non-corporeal entity like in "Day of the Dove" or "Wolf in the Fold" and giving the appearance of attempting self-destruction is the way to get rid of the entity.

What I liked is the imagination to conceive of a strange alien ship that had suffered the fate of being taken over by the alien entity some 300 million years ago. Uhura notes how beautiful the alien ship is and its insectoid-like designs are acknowledged by Spock. This did feel like a TOS story but the alien ship is something that TOS could never have produced. That is supposed to be the point of TAS. The life support belts are bit farfetched though. Nothing exceptional here other than a decent sci-fi story and reasonable plot for a 1/2 hour animated show.

Joseph B
Sat, May 27, 2023, 3:04pm (UTC -5)
I remember viewing this as a kid … and being totally enthralled!

At the time, Star Trek had been in reruns for two years and I was concerned that this would just be a Saturday morning “cash grab” with some “kiddie plotting”.

While the animation was predictably stilted, it was still exciting to hear most of the original crew voices; and the episode was penned by a real science fiction author to boot! This may not have been stellar sci-fi, but it was good enough to realize that this was going to be *real* Star Trek and not just kiddie fare.

I alerted all of my fellow Star Trek fan classmates accordingly!
Elizabeth Palladino
Sat, May 27, 2023, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
I agree pretty much with Rahul on this one. I've always thought the alien ship was so beautiful--artsy and imaginative, and nice to look at. Jammer, we are just going to have to deal with old-fashioned, clunky animation on all of these. I kind of like it--it's just so simple. It's true to the times when these shows were made. (We can't read Anthony Trollope and complain that they were all riding horses instead of driving cars. ) My nitpick is with the resolution, where the entity is left all alone like that. Surely they could have figured out some way to offer him some companionship, or at least some plan for how it could be done. It was mean to just dump him.--felt unfinished.
Sun, May 28, 2023, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
@Jammer JAMMER THANK YOU FOR REVIEWING THJS!! WHY did you only give this 2 stars though.??You say it was plodding but that was the only criticism you made..isn't the unique and original alien life form and unique setting enough enough be worthy of 3 stars or more 3.5 as solid, original sci fi with some depth? Hope to hear from you.
Fri, Jun 2, 2023, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
Well I'll be! Never in my life did I think I'd watch a TAS episode. And yet, here I am.

It would be a bit disingenuous to thank @Jammer (given the quality of at least this first episode), but then again, after the drek that has been trek for the last many years, why not boldly go back to the future. Or something.

I agree with @Elizabeth Palladino, the alien ship was amazing. The whole thing reminded me of He-Man, which I loved as a kid, so I'm not really going to complain about the animation at all.

The pacing actually started off spot on - right in line with the cadence of a TOS episode. But then, alas. It. Really. Started. To. Drag, once the alien came onboard. And I found my attention drifting. And I can't say I really cared for the ending (so lonely).

Animated Trek has been a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed Prodigy, and can't stand Lower Drecks. My guess is TAS is a bit closer in spirit to the first rather than the second. Which is promising.

Final thoughts:

- Loved the lower shots of Uhura in the skirt. Don't remember that from TOS! Reminds me of Teela in He-Man. Gosh, the 70's were sexy!

- The voice acting is phenomenal! Amazing what these guys can do. People who said TOS had bad acting - or that Shatner was a poor actor - really had no idea what they were talking about.

- @Rahul, I can't say I like the TAS theme song better, but it is pretty decent. Maybe it'll grow on me?
Fri, Jun 2, 2023, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
@Mal -- it may be sacrilege to not really like the TOS theme song (especially given how much I love TOS) but yes, the TAS theme song did grow on me and I truly think it is better than the TOS one.

One other thing I'd add about TOS and TAS is that for all their shoestring budgets, they did manage to get some of the top composers / musicians of their day and created memorable soundtracks. Ray Ellis for TAS was like winning the lottery.
Mon, Jun 12, 2023, 2:07am (UTC -5)
This episode is near-perfect cartoon Trek, creepy and suspenseful, absolutely bonkers, and just plain impulsive. Just an absolute blast.
Trek fan
Mon, Jun 12, 2023, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Jammer that this episode drags a bit, but I’d go 2 1/2 stars on it because it kicks off a (then) bold new look for Trek post-TOS. The scale and design of the alien ship were cool, plus I liked the poignant ending.

Thanks to Jammer for finally reviewing this series. Actually I’d say it’s like the lost 4th and 5th seasons of TOS (not merely 4th) since it did have a brief 2nd season. Given how short streaming seasons are today, I think it’s fair to count that second season of TAS. Indeed, this neat little series completes the original 5-year mission, albeit not at the same dramatic level.
Thu, Jun 15, 2023, 12:16am (UTC -5)
Yes, nothing to see here really.

It's an interesting villain, But you have to have more than a good villain have a good episode.
Thu, Jun 15, 2023, 6:49am (UTC -5)
"But you have to have more than a good villain have a good episode."

And we have - very interesting alien ship ;).
Mon, Jun 19, 2023, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
Thanks Jammer for finally reviewing TAS. I look forward to your take on the series and to some childhood nostalgia for me.
Sat, Jul 15, 2023, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
"A physiological symptom of latent primal superstition"

Picking on humans based on scientific facts, and helping save the Enterprise by computing the slingshot effect on his head — now thats a well written Spock.

The "life support belts" may be due to budget constraints, but they are very well fitted and justified in the context.

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