The new mash-up follows an earlier effort that combined a classic episode of TNG with Star Trek: The Animated Series. This one finds a sillier target.
The animation house Gazelle Automations scored an internet hit among Star Trek fans this past April with an ingenious mash-up between Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: The Animated Series. It reimagined one of the franchise’s high points – The Next Generation, Season 3, Episode 26, “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I” – through the deliberately shoddy lens of the ’70s Saturday morning cartoon. The results delighted fans, who loved the attention to detail and the way it quietly chided The Animated Series for its sloppy nature. It was likely only a matter of time before they made another effort.
Their follow-up was released this past weekend; longer, stranger and if possible, even more on-the-nose. While the original video re-imagined one of Star Trek’s best moments, the new mash-up aims at one of its most absurd. The results might even be a step up from the first effort, and regardless, it struck the same bullseye among the franchise’s faithful.
The Animated Series was Star Trek’s first spin-off after the cancellation of The Original Series and its subsequent revival in syndication. It was produced by Filmation studios and ran for two seasons on Saturday mornings from 1973 to 1974. Most of the TOS cast returned to voice their characters, and several of the scripts came from prominent Star Trek figures such as Dorothy Fontana, Margaret Armen and Walter Koenig. Despite that, and some strong episodes, The Animated Series was bedeviled by bottom-barrel animation and poor production quality. Gene Roddenberry was disappointed in the results and essentially pulled the series from circulation for many years. It wasn’t until after his death that it began to be acknowledged more readily, leaving it a curiosity among older Trek fans.
The first Gazelle Automations clip earned praise for the specific details it emulated from The Animated Series. It depicts Captain Picard’s abduction by the Borg using the same stilted cost-cutting techniques as Filmation, like re-using stock footage and using close-ups to limit onscreen character movements. It also features some of the animated series’ more bizarre visual features, such as a recurring (and off-putting) use of pink and lavender, owing to animator Hal Sutherland’s undisclosed color blindness. When used to render the tense and dramatic action of a key Star Trek moment, it became irresistible.
The new clip shies away from Star Trek at its best, and instead finds one of those beloved misfires that fans love all the more for its silliness. Star Trek: Voyager Season 2, Episode 15, “Threshold” occupies much of the same place as The Original Series’ Season 3, Episode 1, “Spock’s Brain,” and for many of the same reasons. After breaching the Warp 10 barrier in the Delta Flyer, Tom Paris undergoes a horrifying transformation, turning into an amphibious humanoid as his DNA undergoes rapid evolution. He eventually abducts Captain Janeway and exposes her to Warp 10 speeds as well. Chakotay finds them on an idyllic jungle planet, where they have spawned and released children into the environment. They’re returned to Voyager and restored to their former selves in a head-scratching bit of arbitrary resolution. Their babies are left on the planet’s surface and the incident is never mentioned again.
Fans embraced it in part because the first three quarters of the episode are effective body horror, with Paris literally falling apart and his crewmates helpless to assist. That makes the finale — weird, goofy and even sexually unsettling – all the more shocking. The new animated short re-creates Janeway’s abduction and the eventual discovery of the transformed couple with the same clunky animation and attention to Filmation’s threadbare details as before. That includes an angular Janeway who’s simply a redressed version of Nurse Chapel from The Animated Series and the appearance of random alien crew members who were never seen on the live-action show.
And while it’s essentially the same joke, the visual inventiveness makes it feel fresh and new. The animators studied their source material closely and know how to render it with perfect clarity. But they’re also Star Trek fans, which means they know exactly which episode will make for the best mash-up. In this case, the ridiculous material works just as well as the classic stuff.
A native Californian, Robert Vaux has spent over 20 years as a professional film and television critic: working for such outlets as Collider, Mania.com and The Sci-Fi Movie Page. His favorite superhero is Nightcrawler and his lucky numbers are 4, 9, 14, 16, 36, and 40.