Star Trek: The Animated Series

“The Terratin Incident”

3 stars.

Air date: 11/17/1973
Written by Paul Schneider
Directed by Hal Sutherland

Review Text

While answering an unknown signal with the word "Terratin" repeated twice within it, the Enterprise follows the transmission to a distant world, which emanates an energy beam of an unknown type that envelops the ship. It fries the dilithium in the warp core, making warp speed impossible. Soon afterward, everyone aboard the ship begins shrinking — or the ship itself is getting larger (an alternate theory that is soon debunked).

So strange and odd, this phenomenon! The simple concept of the shrinking crew makes for an appealing premise with good visuals well suited to this sort of animation (or comic book pages, which this often resembles, with the animation being so static). Figuring out how and why the crew is shrinking (a question, to be sure) is a secondary concern for them because they must do first things first: take any sort of desperate action to stop this before everyone is too small to work the controls on the ship.

"The Terratin Incident" is well paced, with a nice sense of urgency that pulls the story forward with a clear goal-oriented momentum that's often lacking on this scattershot series. (While trying to figure out the nature of the shrinkage, Spock learns that a certain testing procedure he had planned would provide an "analysis that will take approximately eight years." Kirk says, matter-of-factly, "Bypass that analysis." The deadpan understatement is its own punch line.)

After managing to survive various falls from consoles and into tubs of water, the crew is able to get Kirk to the transporter where he beams down to the planet and finds his size has been restored by the transporter (or temporarily made super-size, as indicated by the tiny communicator he now holds; this was a little unclear). The surface has active volcanoes that are erupting all around him, with lava flowing freely — and threatening a tiny city that sits in the middle of the chaos.

The city is populated by the citizens of Terratin (which is actually "Terra 10," an Earth colony that has been here for so long that the world's properties have shrunken them all down to miniature size). They harnessed these properties to "infect" the Enterprise crew with the affliction of sudden miniaturization, as a way of drawing their attention to Terratin's imminent destruction without outside assistance. After working out their differences, the Enterprise crew is able to transport the colony (which is about the size of a serving plate) to another world for relocation. Overall, this is a fairly fantastic voyage, and possibly the most successful example of using TAS's open canvas to tell a story in TOS's style.

Previous episode: Mudd's Passion
Next episode: The Time Trap

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4 comments on this post

    A fun, well-written , well-paced science fiction adventure type of story. I wonder if Paul Schneider got the idea from Dr. Seuss's book Horton Hears a Who. ("A person's a person, no matter how small.") I thought the shrinking lab animals were a riot--the halo fish became the size of a tadpole, and the gossamer gophers became mouse-size, or whatever. Hee-hee...cute. My only nitpick...and maybe I just missed something here: If Kirk became normal size by beaming up in the transporter, why didn't the Terratin people become normal size at the end when they were beamed up?

    Some of the stronger elements to this episode have to do with showing how resourceful the crew can be to have to do their jobs while shrinking. The sense of panic came through. The science to determine how long they had was reasonably well justified. The idea of a plea for help turning into a nearly deadly ordeal for the plea's recipients is a bit questionable, given communication was eventually established.

    Kirk in TAS does seem to initially take a very realpolitik approach in that here, he is determined to destroy the tiny city if they don't return his bridge crew and then leave the colonists behind, but Spock objects.There's the happy ending, although it was a bit arbitrary in turning on and off the beam that shrinks. This one had some decent sci-fi and felt somewhat original. It reminds of "Wink of an Eye."


    I love the ingenuity of this one and how it uses animation to visualize something that would look more hokey in live action. I especially enjoy the little miniaturized colony and the amusingly horrifying scenes of the crew getting too small to run the ship. The plot cleverly keeps us guessing at the right moments and doesn’t have an easy solution in immediate sight. I give it 3 1/2 stars because it has a hint of poignancy and mystery.

    Their voices should've got higher as they shrunk... Besides that, I mostly enjoyed the episode. So far, TAS has positively surprised me! I was expecting it to be a lot worse.

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