The Animated Series’ “Beyond the Farthest Star” in Review
Star Trek: The Animated Series is exactly fifty years old, inviting reflection on its beginnings and series premiere. How did the show start? Was the first installment enjoyable? Let’s delve into the details.
On an intergalactic star-charting mission, the Enterprise accelerates due to hugely strong gravity from Questar M-17, a gigantic dark globe. Spock implies it’s a dead star. Despite efforts to reverse, collision appears imminent! In the nick of time, the starship enters the sphere’s orbit thanks to Sulu’s skillful piloting.
The Enterprise discovers a massive organic-looking alien ship. Kirk notes it’s damaged and assumes that, like the Enterprise, it too was drawn into orbit. Spock concludes it’s essentially lifeless. Though its origin and metal remain a mystery, Spock determines it’s been in orbit for over three hundred million years. Uhura admires its beauty and Spock suggests it once had warp drive.
Wearing life-support belts, a landing party — including Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty — beams onto the ancient hull. The ship’s occupants seemingly were insectoid. Scotty is awed by the metalwork. The exterior has pods that have all been split open from the inside. McCoy guesses this was accidental but Spock hypothesises that the vessel was destroyed by its crew.
Preparing to enter the craft, Kirk has the Enterprise lock a transporter onto the landing party. They find a mass of tall wands. The ship starts reactivating, designed to draw all sorts of energy through the wands to store elsewhere aboard ship. McCoy and Scotty admit to feeling watched, but Spock dismisses this.
Spock uses his phaser to open a huge hexagonal door. Inside, machinery activates. There’s artificial gravity and air ideal for the humans, but communication with the Enterprise is blocked and phasers are disabled. Kirk finds a control center, where Spock notices a jury-rigged console meant to shield the room from an invading lifeform. As an energy being attempts to enter the room, a screen activates and shows the vessel’s commander warning about a malevolent lifeform and planning to destroy the ship to stop it. The room starts to explode. The landing party is beamed aboard the Enterprise, inadvertently bringing the energy lifeform. It escapes into the ship’s workings.
The automatic bridge defence system and self-destruct are prepped. The energy being cuts life-support to the lower decks. Rushing to engineering, Kirk and Spock find Scotty trapped by the hatch to the engineering core. Hatch cut, officers free him. The alien uses the Enterprise‘s phasers to destroy the insectoid vessel. The lifeform has been waiting for a starship to commandeer in order to escape the dead star. It seizes control of the bridge defense system and fires at Kirk and Spock until Kirk agrees to comply.
Feigning repairs, Spock and Scotty rig auxiliary controls, which the Enterprise uses to engage warp. The alien flees and envelops the dead star. The Enterprise slingshots around it, leaving the lifeform pleading for salvation from eternal loneliness.
Debuting seven years to the day after TOS premiered with “The Man Trap”, this sophisticated sci-fi installment probably wasn’t the best episode to begin Star Trek: The Animated Series. A more character-driven bottle show could have worked better at refamiliarising the viewers with the TOS ensemble. Even if the episode’s complexity dissuaded some people, at least it let the audience know what they were in for, reassuring viewers that it’s still Star Trek despite being animated.
Although writer Samuel A. Peeples also wrote the Star Trek pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, this outing has more in common with “The Corbomite Maneuver”, with the Enterprise crew marveling at a couple of spacebound discoveries, starting with a massive, strange sphere. However, Peeples’ telltale fingerprints are nonetheless noticeable in this episode — at the start and end of the story, the Enterprise is said to be beyond the galaxy’s perimeter, similar to how “Where No Man Has Gone Before” sees the starship cross the galactic barrier.
It’s interesting that this episode introduces Arex, without dialogue, and features the slingshot effect before it was famously used in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The same tactic was first employed in the TOS episodes “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and “Assignment: Earth”.
The inclusion of recurring TOS character Kyle operating the transporter adds another nostalgic touch. However, I wish he was voiced by John Winston, the actor who originally played him, rather than James Doohan, since Doohan’s voice is slightly too recognisable in the role. He does better at voicing the energy lifeform, antagonistic right up to the end — where its heartfelt pleas of loneliness evoke sympathy. The alien has similarities to Charlie Evans from the TOS episode “Charlie X” and Armus from TNG’s “Skin Of Evil”.
The animation excels at portraying the alien starship’s enormity but is not quite so good at portraying the dead star. I appreciate that we get a rare glimpse into Spock’s scope, since TOS never shows us this. There’s also a nice wipe-across-screen transition to Kirk and Spock hurrying to engineering.
The episode somewhat lacks novelty, except for the huge insectoid spacecraft, the life-support belts, and the bridge defence system. Of those, the life-support belts were suggested but unused for TOS (intended for “The Tholian Web” specifically) and the other two elements never reappear.
There are a few bloopers in this production. Early in the episode, Kirk’s legs match his shirt colour and Scotty’s torso is the only visible part of his body. Later, Scotty has captain’s rank stripes while stuck under the core hatch.
Despite lacking originality, this episode feels epic in scale. Each TOS main cast member has something to do and the plot is fairly exciting. The use of animation avoids the pacing issues of “The Corbomite Maneuver” close-ups, instead conveying awe through voiceovers. Ultimately though, this episode is decidedly average and I’d rather be watching DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars” than “Beyond the Farthest Star”.
Editor of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinates the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly features live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.