(airdate: September 8, 1973)
Writer: Samuel A. Peeples
Director: Hal Sutherland
Magnetic Organism: James Doohan
Stardate: 5221.3 [Not, as the DVD packaging and menus repeatedly misstate it, 5521.3.]
Captain's Log: The Enterprise is charting stars on the fringe of the galaxy when it picks up a strange radio emission from Questar M-17, a dead star. Dragged into its orbit, the crew discovers an ancient spaceship floating derelict. Upon investigation, the landing party discovers that the crew of the ship sacrificed themselves to stop a malevolent life form from reaching inhabited worlds. The landing party beam back, but they bring that life form with them. The organism takes control of the Enterprise, but Kirk locks off navigation and the engines, preventing it from going anywhere. The organism forces Kirk to unlock the controls, but instead of letting the organism take over Kirk sends the ship hurtling toward Questar M-17. The organism panics and escapes to the dead world, while Kirk pulls the Enterprise out of its dive, leaving the organism behind.
Whoops!: Arex is replaced by a nondescript redshirt for one of the bridge shots. [Get used to this sort of thing; it'll show up a lot during this series.]
The reasons why Questar M-17 has negative star mass and seemingly doesn't register on the Enterprise's sensors - or why it's exerting an unusually intense gravitational pull - are never explained.
Technobabble: Hypergravity is apparently an extreme form of gravity that can drag down starships and which may not register properly on Starfleet sensors.
Library Computer: [Before we begin, let's talk about the canonicity of the Animated Series: in other words, whether or not it "counts".
[At first glance it's somewhat weird to have to discuss this. The pedigree of the show is more or less above reproach: Gene Roddenberry was still in charge, a large number of the writers worked on the live-action version, they were using essentially the same writer's guide as before, and all of the main actors reprised their roles (except for Walter Koenig, but that was because of budgetary reasons rather than because of some hatred of the series; in fact, Koenig wrote an episode of the show). The writers certainly considered the show to be a continuation of the original series. It even won an Emmy. And yet its status is a subject of debate - the official DVD release even includes an oddly defensive note specifically about the argument. So what happened?
[When Pocket Books renegotiated the Star Trek license in 1989, they were told that anything from the Animated Series (with the exception, for some reason, of parts of "Yesteryear") was off-limits. (The novels seem to be the way most people learned about the Animated Series' fall from grace, although DC's ongoing Star Trek comic was also affected.) This was apparently because Roddenberry had declared it to be noncanon, and his assistant, Richard Arnold, made sure that that was the case, insisting that characters from the cartoon (such as Arex, the three-armed Edosian navigator) and other elements could no longer be used in any spin-off material. (We think; as with just about everything involving Richard Arnold and Star Trek, it's difficult to separate the truth from the vitriol.) And so the Animated Series was stricken from the official records. Of course, not everyone bought into this, and with Roddenberry's death in 1991, the restrictions were quietly lifted.
[Now it does seem to be true that Roddenberry had decided at some point that he didn't "count" the Animated Series. But the wrinkle is that he didn't count lots of other things too, including large parts of the third season and elements of the movies. In other words, his personal view of "canon" was whatever he liked at a given moment while feeling free to ignore the rest. So based on that, it's not obvious why only the Animated Series would be affected. But that's because the actual reasons behind the decanonization of the Animated Series appear to be more prosaic: in 1989 (right around when all the Star Trek licenses were being renegotiated), Filmation Associates - the animation production company - was being sold off. Therefore, the question of ownership regarding the Animated Series was unclear, and it was easier to declare the whole thing as off-limits. Now Richard Arnold (who seems to have been the main point of contact between Paramount and the licensees and reportedly wasn't a fan of the Animated Series in the first place) either didn't know that that was the reason why or he didn't care, but regardless he simply stated that it was because Roddenberry had decreed it to be so, case closed. Nevertheless, it seems it wasn't a personal decision but a business one.
[That brings us to the current situation of the show's still questionable canonicity. Neither Paramount nor CBS Studios have ever officially reintroduced the show back into the canon, but this seems to be more an oversight than a deliberate slight, as the old view of "hell no" slowly gives way to the new one of "why not?". (For instance, a number of things introduced in the Animated Series have shown up in subsequent series (notably Enterprise), and the official website seems to be happy to include it these days...) It's the opinion of this guide that the Animated Series counts just as much as any other Star Trek TV series or film.
[Now, with that settled...]
Questar M-17 is a dead star out beyond the fringe of the galaxy. [The galactic barrier, first seen in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (by the same author as this), is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the fringe of the galaxy includes the part between known space and the barrier.] It's been dead for at least 300 million years. [The alien comments on the "dead star".] It was generating strange radio emissions. A spectra analysis [sic] indicated that Questar M-17 was made of imploded matter, but that it had negative star mass. [It's not clear if this means that Spock couldn't get a reading of mass from the star, or if he meant actual negative mass, the hypothetical opposite of positive mass. It's probably the former.] It also had what Spock described as hypergravity, which caused the Enterprise to be dragged toward it, but other than the spectral analysis Spock couldn't get any readings from the dead star. [At least, that's what we assume "every reading on it is negative" means.] There are no G1 stars near Questar M-17.
In orbit around Questar M-17 was a derelict alien ship, looking like a series of lavender and green pods connected to each other by long filaments. It was not a starship design entered in Starfleet's records. It was significantly bigger than the Enterprise, and appeared to have been in orbit around the star for slightly more than 300 million years. It was the source of a second set of radio signals. It was constructed from an unknown alloy, lighter and stronger than any known metal, and was made by drawing the alloy into filaments and spinning it into the desired shapes, much like a spider's web. The hexagonal shape of the windows suggested a similarity to natural insect designs on Earth - in particular honeybees. The ship almost certainly had a form of warp drive. According to Scott, the whole ship was designed to collect and store energy, with giant tendril-like "wands" in areas that collected every type of energy around them, including motion, sound, heat, and light. The ship was originally crewed by an insectoid race, with purple skin, a number of feather-like features sticking out around the head, and large red compound eyes. This race encountered a malevolent organism that took over their ship. They jury-rigged a piece of equipment in their control center to shield it from the organism and destroyed the rest of the ship, preventing the organism from reaching inhabited worlds. The control center itself had air breathable by humans and artificial gravity within two points of Earth normal. The Enterprise, under the control of the magnetic organism, destroyed the derelict hulk of the vessel with phasers.
The magnetic organism is a green gas-like creature without mass. It could take over computer systems and registered on instruments as a slightly higher-than-normal magnetic flux, fluctuating like a heartbeat. It could shut down systems, with a corresponding high magnetic flux reading, and could read the ship's computers. This was essentially a form of symbiosis, using "the electronic control systems of a starship like the mind of a man uses the neural control systems of the human body". Spock theorized that the organism could reproduce itself via mitosis and take over starships, computer centers, and even whole planets. It could speak to the crew of the Enterprise (though it only does so after it's read through the computer storage banks) and could also laugh evilly. The organism fled the Enterprise when it thought the ship was going to crash and was last seen inhabiting Questar M-17, plaintively crying about being lonely.
Prior to the magnetic organism, no known form of life was believed to be able to survive for 300 million years.
The main viewscreen aboard the Enterprise has a cover that can descend vertically to reveal the screen. The bridge also has an automatic defense system in the ceiling, consisting of a large dome with several small "barrels" that could shoot energy beams at any intruders. Auxiliary warp controls can be installed on the bridge, but they can only be activated manually. The Enterprise also has at least five cargo holds [based on the numbering]. The ship can record all data [from the landing party] for the log and a full report. There is a second turbolift between the main turbolift and the viewscreen. [If the viewscreen is at 12 o'clock, the second turbolift is at 10. This is a recent addition to the ship.]
The Enterprise has life support belts - large white belts with a rectangular compartment on the back - that generate a forcefield around the wearer; this field retains oxygen [and presumably converts carbon dioxide to oxygen] and heat. It may also generate an artificial gravity field (based on Spock's comments regarding the alien ship's gravity). The belt can also support a good deal of weight, protecting the wearer from being crushed to death by heavy objects.
Galactic coordinates 036.231 lead to the heart of the galaxy.
Final Analysis: "But nothing, no form of life could survive 300 million years." "Quite right, Mr. Scott. No known form of life." The debut of the Animated Series is more solid than spectacular - one could easily imagine the storyline being done on the original series (as in fact it had been, with parts seeming reminiscent of "Wolf in the Fold"). But that may be intentional, as it clearly demonstrates the through line for the two shows; this is indeed the same series. The advantages of animation are apparent, with a gorgeous alien ship that absolutely dwarfs the landing party being both particularly memorable and the sort of thing that would have been incredibly difficult to achieve with live-action.
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Page originally created: March 31, 2016
Page last updated: October 28, 2017