Reviews of Curt Danhauser's Star Trek Animated by Bernd
Stardate 6923.4: During the investigation of the effects of an ion storm in the Kalandra sector, the Enterprise discovers a radio transmission from the pre-industrial planet Navarra II and an alien ship in orbit of that planet. Kirk agrees to help the owner of the alleged courier, Revik, with necessary repairs after the ion storm. Spock soon discovers inconsistencies, as Revik's vessel is too slow and has too much cargo capacity for a courier. Further investigation comes to the result that the ship has been in orbit for many years. A landing party beams down to Navarra II and finds some kind of church with a rudimentary transporter. This is apparently used to transfer the population's offerings to a god named "Reevok". In the meantime Scotty has discovered a cloaking device on Revik's ship. It is now clear that Revik has been exploiting the Navarrans for decades by posing as their "invisble god". But there is nothing the Enterprise can do against him because of the Prime Directive. Kirk orders Arex to break orbit, but then to head back to Navarra II and assume a position directly ahead of Revik's ship. Revik attacks, so that Kirk is allowed to return fire. Sulu fires the phasers, just destroying the cloaking emitter that allowed Revik to fool the Navarrans.
The episode is built on a rather conventional "false god" plot, and the crew handles the situation somehow as if it were a TNG episode, rather than one of TAS or TOS. Still, everyone is perfectly in character and almost everyone contributes a bit to the story.
Overall "And Let the Heavens Fall" appears to be a bit more mature than most TAS episodes from the 70s. It does not have knee-jerk action but thrives on well thought-out dialogues with a little dose of humor. Of course, this may have been a necessity to a certain extent, because stock footage of general bridge duty is comparably easy to re-use, as opposed to action scenes that usually have a specific setting. This may also be the reason why the rather dialogue-heavy story needs some time to gain momentum. But it never becomes boring. I actually like how the true story of Revik is gradually revealed, instead of Kirk or Spock drawing premature conclusions just because an animated episode is slated to be fast-paced.
The episode relies on a good deal of stock footage, which is quite understandable because creating an animation is a huge effort still in the digital age. And the re-use does not impair the viewing pleasure in any fashion, considering that already the original TAS used lots of stock images. Overall, "And Let the Heavens Fall" shows us almost perfect composites of old and new TAS imagery, and all this with lip-synchronous animation. For someone who doesn't know TAS it would be hard to tell what is old and what is new. There are only very minor technical shortcomings, such as Spock's jittering viewer. I like the new imagery created for the episode, such as the character of Revik and the courier ship, whose style is spot-on. The best of all is the engineering on Revik's ship and the village on the planet. They are well designed and beautifully pictured, as it seems with somewhat toned down colors compared to similar images in the original TAS.
More praise goes to the new voices, which suit the familiar characters very well. I was under the impression that there were about four or five different actors speaking, but to my amazement the end credits revealed that Curt Danhauser voiced all male characters, while Phoebe Danhauser lent her voice to Lt. Uhura. James Doohan would be proud of you!
Summarizing, Curt Danhauser doesn't promise too much when he announces "And Let the Heavens Fall" as the first TAS episode in 35 years. He has produced a fan film single-handedly, and he has done a terrific job. If this were an authentic old TAS episode (avoiding the word "canon"), it would rank well above the series average.
- Continuity: I like how the crew quotes precedents of aliens posing as gods on Earth, namely Kukulkan (TAS: "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth") and Apollo (TOS: "Who Mourns for Adonais").
- Inconsistency/oddity: Spock fails to catch the famous quote from Hamlet, "Something's rotten in Denmark." But he is familiar with the rather obscure Latin quote "Fiat justitia, ruat caelum." ("Do justice, and let the heavens fall.") He can translate it and knows its exact history.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Yes. Something's rotten in Denmark." - "I fail to see how the situation of the courier ship relates to conditions on a small nation in a Nordic region of Earth." (Kirk and Spock)
Stardate 6947.4: The Enterprise is going to investigate the sudden appearance of an advanced satellite in orbit of Sigma Draconis VI and beams over a mission specialist from the Yorktown. This specialist turns out to be the formerly immortal Flint, who has devoted his remaining lifetime to the study of ancient cultures. When the Enterprise arrives at Sigma Draconis VI, the theta radiation from the station requires the ship to keep a distance of 100,000 kilometres while a landing party investigates the station. The landing party finds out that it was built by the same civilization as the already known underground complex on the planet below and that it is a huge library of very advanced knowledge. Despite the distance from the station, the Enterprise's systems begin to deteriorate and ultimately the warp engines fail. On the station, Kirk comes to the realization that the knowledge may be a great danger if it falls into the wrong hands. As two Klingon battlecruisers are approaching the system, he orders Scotty to prepare the destruction of the station and decides to secure only medical and other humanitarian data. Flint feels very bad about the prospect of destroying all the knowledge, as this reminds him of the loss of the Library of Alexandria. In order to gain time, the technology of the station is used to slow down the approaching Klingon vessels. Back on the Enterprise that could be repaired using the station's technology, Flint urges Kirk not to blow up the library. But Kirk decides to carry on with the plan. Just after he has released the Klingon ships, however, the detonation devices are suddenly deactivated. Flint has beamed over to the station again, in order to save it. He activates the station's advanced ion drive to take it out of reach of the Klingons or the Federation. The Klingons arrive in the system, looking in vain for something they can take possession of. The Federation reports that not only the Klingons but the whole quadrant was slowed down for 6.4 hours. As the Enterprise is going to leave the star system, Kirk disappears from the bridge and finds himself in the realm of the Metrons. A Metron tells him that he passed another test when he decided not to use the station against the enemies of the Federation.
Curt Danhauser has finally completed this second animated episode. The story combines themes from three TOS episodes ("Spock's Brain", "Requiem for Methuselah", "Arena"). I am usually opposed to such a form of continuity porn (which is too often used as an excuse for original plot ideas). But it makes a lot of sense to bring together Flint and the library instead of introducing yet another expert in history and yet another ancient civilization that has left behind incredible technology. I only wouldn't have included the Metrons. In my view that overshoots the goal of the story, not only as continuity is concerned but also in the sense of an unnecessary act to a drama that already has a perfect bittersweet ending with Flint's departure.
What I like most about "Ptolemy Wept" is the maturity of the story that doesn't revolve around action but around far-reaching matters that are discussed more extensively and more consequently than in many TOS episodes, let alone in TAS. The whole episode is quite cerebral in the best sense. But at times there is just too much talking in my view. For example, when the landing party has hardly begun to explore the station, Flint and Ericsson begin to talk about Flint's very personal matters, which feels like a wrong moment in light of the fascinating technology they are about to study. I also think that the flow of the story is protracted especially in the parts 5, 6 and 7. The discussion about whether or not to blow up the station and how and which data to save and how to get that done goes back and forth. This may seem realistic but for the sake of the drama less would have been more.
There is another problem, at least for me, to follow the long dialogues of "Ptolemy Wept". As already in his first episode, Curt Danhauser voices almost all male characters (plus M'Ress) and he produces an amazing variety of timbres. Well, his Arex croaks like a parrot but we hear him only a few times in the whole episode. His Spock sounds great, but Kirk mumbles very much and McCoy is hardly comprehensible at all (at least for non-native speakers).
There are a few weaknesses in the directing. For instance, the sudden appearance of Flint should have been more of a surprise to Kirk. In TOS, there would have been a fanfare and a close-up on Kirk's baffled face. Well, the fanfare is not the way it would be done today and a close-up may not work in the animated episode. Still, the discovery as it is actually shown strikes me as too casual. "Oh, I see... (it happens all the time.)"
When Flint gave his concert and all we could see was the Enterprise from the outside and people doing their job I initially thought it was a waste not to show Flint himself. But then I recognized that not everyone could attend and that people were enchanted with the music even as they were doing their jobs. That part is well done.
The animation includes a good deal of new images (compared to what could be re-used from TAS), including notably a couple of new characters, new shots of the Enterprise and the interiors of the space station. On the outside, the station looks like a sculpture with its round central section and the fin running through it. It is only a pity that there are only shots from straight angles that give it a rather two-dimensional appearance.
Overall, "Ptolemy Wept" is a fan episode that brings together the best from TOS and TAS. It is a bit talkative but that is appropriate most of the time -- and perhaps necessary, as the animation naturally lacks the possibility to let the characters "speak" and relay emotions through facial expressions. There is a lot of emotion the episode, and it leaves me impressed despite the small weaknesses in the script and the execution.
- Editing error: We can still see the Enterprise in orbit in the window behind Flint after he has activated the ion drive. Well, perhaps it is a viewscreen and he left a camera in orbit.
- The Eymorg are known to have advanced ion drive technology from "Spock's Brain", so it makes sense for the station to have ion drive, although the technology as it is defined today would not be capable of FTL propulsion.
- The "Teacher's knowledge" refers to the "Teacher", the helmet that McCoy used in "Spock's Brain" to learn how to perform a brain surgery.
- Remarkable quote: "You said that there are always possibilities. Give me that possibility. That's an order." (Kirk, to Spock)
- Remarkable facts:
- Glenn Miller was another one of Flint's past identities. Spock believes that Flint was also Isaac Asimov. And as Flint himself says, he was a friend of Henry Archer. After his return from Holberg 917G two years ago he wrote or co-wrote 47 books on the history of Earth and the colonization of solar system.
- The alien library includes data on a wide variety of advanced technology, including slipstream drive, stable wormholes, transwarp, planetary cloaking, positronic androids and zero-point energy.
- The Metrons did not create the ion storm that damaged the cloaking of the station in the first place. But they slowed down the repairs so the Federation could discover it.
Chief Engineer Scott is in command of the Enterprise while Kirk and Spock attend a peace conference. On the way to pick the two up again, the ship has to make a course change to avoid the Bentari Dead Zone. In order to make good use of the time needed for the detour, Scott orders continued battle drills, while he himself gets some rest in his quarters. The Enterprise then runs into some sort of buoy, and a little later into a ship of unknown configuration. When that ship attacks, Scott orders to return fire, upon which the attacker is disabled. But the enemy ship quickly repairs itself. No matter which tactic Scotty applies, the fight continues. He eventually orders a saucer separation and destroys the other ship by a combined use of the tractor beam and the phasers. This buys the Enterprise some time to reach the edge of the region of space, marked by a second buoy. An alien vessel of a similar configuration appears, whose captain tells Scott that the buoys mark some kind of training ground and that the attacking ship was nothing but a quintain - a dummy for battle training.
Curt Danhauser produced this episode as a homage to James Doohan, who would have turned 100 on March 3, 2020. The episode takes several minutes to delve into the personal life, family and hobbies of Scotty. He sifts through technical journals, then looks at pictures of Scotland and of his love interests from TOS. He grabs a bottle of whisky and watches a message from his nephew Peter Preston ("Star Trek II"), who is seven years old at the time. All this is done in loving detail and is heartwarming as a homage to James Doohan's famous character. Yet, it is just a recount of facts we already know, even as Dr. McCoy enters (with another bottle of alcohol) and asks Scotty if he shouldn't pursue any hobbies besides his job, or perhaps romantic love. As a fellow engineer who can relate very well to the world of Scotty, it strikes a chord with me but there could have been a bit more about it.
Star Trek: The Animated Series is known for being less verbose than TOS and for packing a lot of action into a run time of just over 20 minutes. "The Quintain" recaptures this spirit very well in the Enterprise's continued fight against the alien "quintain". It never gets boring, thanks to Scotty applying a wide variety of tactics to defeat the attacker. Also, the visualization of the battle is very versatile and a lot better than in the original from the 1970s. Not only the saucer separation but many more pictures and sequences were newly created for this episode.
The final act of "The Quintain" is very conciliatory and Trek-like. Although the alien civilization may not be very friendly, they didn't put up the buoys and the attack drone to destroy any ships that enter their territory. They merely set up a combat training ground. Also, the story about Scotty's personal life is wrapped up nicely. He decides to talk to Peter directly, rather than only sending him a message.
On the technical side, as already mentioned the episode profits from many new drawings that make it visually more interesting than the two preceding installments of the series and than many official TAS episodes. One slight imperfection is the blend of very crisp and rather blurred elements, especially in the scenes set in Scotty's quarters, which confused my eyes because they created an unwanted depth-of-field effect. Well, I watched the episode on a big TV screen, so this may be complaining on a high comfort level.
Although Curt Danhauser once again single-handedly voiced almost all characters, it sounds as authentic as it did in TAS. He really did a marvelous job, especially with Scotty and Sulu.
- Remarkable characters: There are two new characters on the Enterprise, the possibly robotic Lieutenant J'Karl and the purple-skinned, fish-headed Lieutenant Junior Grade Thrax. These designs originate in Issue 15 of Gold Key Comic's Star Trek comic book (August 1972), which featured the story The Museum at the End of Time by Len Wein. According to Curt Danhauser, this comic also was the basis for TAS: "The Time Trap".
- Remarkable buoy: The design of the buoy with something sticking out from a triangular base looked oddly familiar when I watched the episode. Curt Danhauser explains that they are a homage to the original bases for the AMT kits of the Enterprise and the Klingon battlecruiser.
- Remarkable shuttles: Two egg-shaped small shuttles are set to collide with the enemy ship. These belonged to the Enterprise's inventory in TAS: "Mudd's Passion" and "Once Upon a Planet" but were not actually used.
- Remarkable technology: For the first time in a "real" episode, we can see the tractor beam emitter of the original Enterprise, sticking out from the lower engineering hull just behind the deflector dish area, as sketched up in the blueprints by Franz Joseph. We also see a saucer separation, as mentioned in TOS: "The Apple" and planned in the storyboard for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".
- Remarkable maneuvers: Three of Scotty's maneuvers are named for Travis Mayweather, for Jonathan Archer and for Captain Garth. The latter refers to the saucer separation to attack from two sides.
- Remarkable 47: It takes 47 seconds for the alien ship to repair itself each time.
|Last modified: 28 Sep 2021