Star Trek: The Animated Series

“The Time Trap”

3 stars.

Air date: 11/24/1973
Written by Joyce Perry
Directed by Hal Sutherland

Review Text

While investigating the mysterious Delta Triangle (a deep-space take on the myth of the Bermuda Triangle), where numerous ships have vanished without a trace over the centuries, the Enterprise is drawn into a conflict with a Klingon battle cruiser, which vanishes right in front of them. When two more Klingon vessels arrive and accuse Kirk of destroying their other ship, the Enterprise retreats into the triangle and is pulled into a pocket in space they can't escape.

Inside, they find a graveyard of ships, some which have been there for decades or even centuries. They also find their weapons don't work in this region. Kirk is transported before the council of a society called the Elysians, made up of the different species who have been pulled into this dimension over many centuries. They don't age because time moves at a near standstill in this pocket compared to normal space, and they've created a peace-oriented utopia where violence is forbidden.

Unclear is how this society can possibly work given that it appears to be made up of only a council chamber in a confined space of nothingness. (Where do they get food or resources? Are they on a ship, a planet, a space station?) The story is not interested in those details. It's more interested in Kirk's intention to escape this pocket of space-time, which the Elysians say isn't possible given its properties, which drain power from the ships within it. But Spock has a plan which involves allying with Kor, the captain of the Klingon vessel that was pulled inside the rift with them. By working together, they can combine their ships' use of power and escape.

This is essentially the same take that Voyager's "The Void" had on a similar story about ships being trapped in a bubble of nothingness. This story works for a lot of the same reasons (touting the values of teamwork and putting differences aside in the face of larger problems), and earns points for its basic storytelling competence. I find that I like TAS better when it's hewing closer to traditional Trek storytelling rather than (poorly) animated strangeness.

This story wouldn't be complete without Kor's duplicity after agreeing to Kirk's plan of cooperation, and his plan is to blow up the Enterprise with a planted explosive seconds after they escape the anomaly. Naturally, this backfires spectacularly, but as TAS goes, this feels more like TOS and less cartoonish than it could've.

Previous episode: The Terratin Incident
Next episode: The Ambergris Element

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4 comments on this post

    I liked this episode pretty well--it was an interesting story, well-told in a straightforward way. My only quibble would be that I would have liked to have seen more of the Council people--where and how did they live? I guess Jammer had the same criticism. The writers had to truncate the story a bit because of the difficulty of cramming everything into 24 minutes. (Wasn't the green Orion girl a little underdressed, by the way? Don't they usually have a belly-dancer type of long, light skirt on over the bikini bottoms.?)

    Another very Trekkian episode that has the Enterprise and Klingons work together for a common good. I think it draws upon "Errand of Mercy" with the peace-loving Elisians, who have developed some tremendous powers and "Day of the Dove." There's also VOY's "The Void" which might have borrowed from this episode.

    The Klingons are as treacherous as ever with Kor back in the mix, but Kirk is as magnanimous as ever. His message about home being where he wants to go could have been emphasized more, if that was to be a key point of the episode. He's fine with letting Kor take the credit as he just wanted out of the time trap.

    There's a ton of plot mechanics here, mostly pretty good. The Elysians prove to be true to their word and don't take steps to prevent the escape. They only want to prevent violence.

    2.5*

    I really enjoy the concept of this episode, and it's nice to see Kor again, even if he's depicted a little flatly. Honestly, it's nothing special, but it's a good approximation of the kind of fun Sci Fi plot I love from Star Trek, and that alone makes it better than much of the rest of TAS.

    I respectfully correct Jammer: Voyager was a similar take on this story, not vice versa. Let’s always remember and credit the version of a classic Trek tale that came first, not the one we happened to see first.

    I like this one better than the Voyager episode because of its superior storytelling economy and intrigue. The Bermuda Triangle of unaging people in space concept is great and better executed here. I also love Kor showing up; nice to see TAS recognizing series history after TOS was largely episodic. It also shows Trek’s galactic conflict points in microcosm. I give it 3 1/2 or (on a good day) 4 stars.

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