Warp Factor Trek

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Even though this might not be the most popular opinion, I’ve genuinely loved very Short Treks. Each episode has kept the viewer entertained while shedding new light on strange new worlds of animation. The show’s fifth and final installment is no exception.


We open with Lower Decks’ Tendi aboard the USS Enterprise, breaking the fourth wall to give us a declaration (meta to the Nth degree) about the original animated Star Trek series. Joining her are TAS characters Arex, Scotty, and M’Ress. Scotty is initially grateful to Tendi for paying respects to TAS but he and his same-series allies then become offended by her phrasing when she tries to compliment the show.

Tendi with the TAS triumvirate of Arex, Scotty and M’Ress

Riker and Sulu arrive, expecting a party. Instead finding an argument, they encourage the others to love each other and make merry music. Tendi takes it too far by revealing to Scotty, mid-song, that she finds him “hot.” Attacked by a fleet of Klingon battlecruisers, the Enterprise then explodes.


I love the character diversity and the musical element in this episode, much preferring this musical over Strange New Worlds“Subspace Rhapsody” (Klingon K-pop aside!). Since Tendi was disappointingly given short shrift in the Lower Decks/Strange New Worlds crossover episode “Those Old Scientists”, it’s good to see her featured here.

Tendi breaking the fourth wall and apparently crossing generations

Having Tendi start the episode with a celebratory announcement about TAS is — on one hand — apt, since very Short Treks was created to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of TAS. On the other hand, it’s a bit odd that Tendi says this celebration is “today.” Perhaps it would have been more fitting if the episode had been released on the anniversary day, 8th September. However, this line could be seen as her suggesting that we can celebrate the occasion on every day of the fiftieth anniversary year. Personally, that’s what I plan to keep doing!

One issue is Scotty’s reaction to Tendi saying TAS “set the stage for modern Star Trek cartoons.” To the insulted Scotty, it sounds like she’s saying the TAS characters are mere stage hands whereas the modern animated Trek characters are like actors. In reality, the work of behind-the-scenes personnel is invaluable to performances and shouldn’t be derided like this. It’s a microcosm of a terrible very Short Treks habit — whereas the title cards of TAS included episode name and the name of the writer of each particular installment, VST instead dispenses with the writer’s on-screen credit in favour of the show’s name. Even though there are episode credits listed in the “Description” part of the YouTube video, there isn’t even a writer’s credit for this one.

The episode’s title card

While Tendi tries to argue that TAS had less budget and technology than modern animated Trek productions, a view of her with the TAS threesome of guest characters clearly demonstrates that the two different styles are simply that — different. The criticism of TAS’s limitations seems unjust, especially considering that there was much more to the show than the limits of its production. The best that VST can manage towards recognising this is when the finale acknowledges that TAS introduced the concept of the holodeck. You’d think Tendi could have at least mentioned how M’Ress was the first Caitian in Trek, preceding her Caitian colleague Doctor T’Ana in Lower Decks.

A theme this episode explores is word choice — for example, Tendi pointing out that TAS referred to its holodeck as the “rec room.” Given this, it’s interesting that the episode isn’t so choosy when it comes to casual uses of the word “cartoon.” The term was actively avoided by DC Fontana, who was determined that TAS be an “animated” rather than “cartoon” show.

The term “rec room” appears in signage in a clip from the TAS episode “The Practical Joker”

Tendi saying that modern animated Trek productions are “standing on the shoulders of giants” (referring to TAS) is a nice callback to Isaac Newton. The quote is attributed to him and he appears (holographically) in TNG’s “Descent” as well as (in person) in Voyager’s “Death Wish”.

Another highlight is when the show admits that Tendi’s eyes are too large to be life-like. However, the episode goes about this the wrong way, with Scotty body-shaming Tendi about her eyes and vice versa.

Riker and shirtless Sulu

Sulu showing off his abs feels out of character, both odd and awkward. Presumably, it’s supposed to pay homage to the TOS episode “The Naked Time”. I do appreciate how it simultaneously references “Ephraim and Dot”, one of my favourite Short Treks, which includes an animated version of the shirtless Sulu scene from “The Naked Time”.

Since this episode breaks the fourth wall anyway, I wish the makers of this finale had gone an extra step by not only having the characters make up at the end but also telling us to love one another. We are all united by our love of Trek, yet the Star Trek fanbase has rarely been so fractured. This episode could have united the fanbase in a highly Roddenberry-esque way.

I like how this episode basically bookends very Short Treks. Just like in the series premiere “Skin a Cat”, word choice humorously keeps accidentally offending a few characters, including M’Ress. Both episodes also end with the Enterprise being attacked by a Klingon fleet and consequently exploding (in fact, the same visual of the fleet assaulting the Enterprise is used in both cases).

Rating: 4/5

Despite some nitpicks, this episode is a great one, seamlessly combining clips from TAS with new animation and ultimately showing respect for IDIC in a toe-tapping way. Kudos for including original voice actors Noël Wells, George Takei and Jonathan Frakes. The trio of TAS characters are also voiced brilliantly, making them virtually indistinguishable from the originals (RIP, James Doohan and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry). My favourite moment is when a view of a sehlat and le-matya — shown fighting in “Yesteryear” — is re-contextualised to look as though they are dancing with each other. All in all, very Short Treks has been exceptional. It’s just a shame they couldn’t have snuck in a reference to Chekov.

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