very Short Treks’ “Skin a Cat” in Review
Newsflash — Star Trek: The Animated Series returns for the first new episode in forty-odd years or so! Not quite.
In a fusion reminiscent of the beloved Short Treks intertwined with the whimsical spirit and animation style of Star Trek: The Animated Series, Paramount has embarked on a creative venture to craft a brand-new series of comedic short films aptly christened “very Short Treks“. This initiative aims to pay tribute to the enduring legacy of Star Trek on its 57th anniversary while simultaneously commemorating TAS’s half-century milestone. Enthusiasts of the new series can anticipate a total of five installments, with the first episode having just been released.
We open with the USS Enterprise surrounded by a fleet of attacking Klingon battlecruisers, with the shields failing and no real options to win or get away. The Enterprise’s captain (who is unnamed in this episode) tells Spock that there must be an option as “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” This does not go down well with Lieutenant M’Ress.
The captain then apologises but makes another reference about eating fish — to the panic of an Antedian ensign. The short continues in this vein, with the captain apologising for being a dumbass and screwing up — cueing the appearance of crewmen plumbers, one of whom has a screw for a head, and the other is, well, ass-faced. Literally.
While Spock advises him to choose his phrasing more carefully, the captain complains that everything he says conjures up someone to be offended by it — and then he realises that the “conjured up” is the answer. He rambles about there being more than one way to decapitate a woman who loves him and knows the solution to their problems, and will let him play as Australia in the board game Risk. Sure enough, a woman appears, declares her love, and starts to describe the solution. Before she can explain it, the Enterprise explodes, and explosions fill the screen…
There are some very good initial moments here, especially for TAS fans — it’s awesome to see M’Ress again, and Lieutenant Arex. It’s also cool to see some more recent species in animated form, and the initial gag of M’Ress’ reaction to the “skin a cat” comment is great.
Unfortunately, for such a short show, it then manages to drag on, repeating the “captain forgets there are species to match every colourful metaphor” for what feels more like thirty minutes. It doesn’t help that the thing as a whole comes over as a very un-Trek-like painful complaint about “political correctness” causing “harmless jokes” to be censored. Worse, it’s basically the same gag as a 1990s Scotch and Wry gag in which the star tries to tell a “stupid Irishman” joke and then proceeds through a variety of ethnicities who are all present in the bar and would be offended when he makes it about them. Really, Star Trek has never been about “PC censors us,” and it’s bizarre that this one does that.
There are some issues with the casting and making of the show too — Ethan Peck voices Spock, and is even more like Nimoy than in live-action, while the captain is voiced by comedian and voice actor Pete Holmes, from the likes of American Dad! and Bob’s Burgers. The captain doesn’t seem to be James T Kirk, as he looks different and is credited merely as “Captain”. He also is rather annoying and overacts.
Despite the currently ongoing writers’ and actors’ strikes, very Short Treks is officially permitted to be released because animated productions come under a completely different guild and thus are not considered struck work. One question is how long ago this was prepared in relation to the strikes and whether it was an old script used — always possible, seeing as it’s an old gag. The series was announced in July 2023 and was likely produced well before that, considering that animation can take a long time to produce.
In summation, this has a certain TAS nostalgia value, and M’Ress and Ethan Peck are both perfect, so those elements deserve a point each, but really this seems to have an “anti-woke” feel to it that’s the opposite of Trek’s ethos. It’s pretty dire and leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Hopefully, the remaining four episodes of very Short Treks (to be released each Wednesday) will be better than this.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.