The shirt came from K-Mart. Or maybe it was Target, I’m not sure. In any case, the recent trend toward retro fashions has resulted in the availability of some really awesome clothes and my wife, knowing what a die hard Trek geek I am, couldn’t resist getting me the dark green T-shirt depicting the lead characters from Star Trek in their 1970’s animated form. So enamored am I with my retro TAS (The Animated Series) shirt, that I wore it on the first day at Creation Star Trek Las Vegas. Today’s post has its genesis in a conversation about that very shirt; a conversation involving Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and myself.
For those very few readers who may not be aware, the aforementioned gentlemen portrayed Cmdr. Will Riker and Lt. Cmdr Data (respectively) on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I had the good fortune to meet them in the dealers’ room at the con and we were discussing something completely unrelated when Spiner commented on my shirt. “Are those cartoons of the original series guys?”, he asked. “Did they have an animated show?” When I told him that they had, indeed, done a Saturday morning Star Trek cartoon, he leaned over toward his costar and inquired, “Hey Frakes, did you know the old guys did an animated show?”.
Mr. Frakes was well aware of the existence of the ’70’s Star Trek cartoon series and suggested to Mr. Spiner that the Next Generation cast should do something similar, “We could do that.”. “Yeah”, said Spiner, “…and we wouldn’t even need to look good!”. When I suggested that either one of them could voice Picard if Patrick Stewart were unwilling or unable to do it, Brent Spiner regaled me with his excellent impression of Sir Patrick and we all had a good laugh.
It was a memorable moment for more than one reason. Obviously, as a fan, I was thrilled to even be talking to those guys. However, as a fan who believes there hasn’t been any really good new Star Trek since Voyager went off the air, it really got me thinking about how great an animated version of NextGen could be!
It’s an affliction from which we Trek fans suffer – we are forever hopeful that our favorite characters from our favorite show(s) will return to television or theatrical films in one form or another. And why not? With rotoscoping and other awesome animation techniques now being possible (and affordable) on computers as well as the wealth of experience the cast has in voicing cartoon characters, it seems that good writing would be the only other element required to produce a phenomenal TNG cartoon series. Personally, I’d love to see that happen.
The 1970’s animated Star Trek was actually fairly cheesy in many regards but it included the voices of [most of] the original cast and it did have good writing. In fact, it won an Emmy in 1975. I can’t think of any reason, except perhaps the prohibitive salaries of the actors, that a TNG animated series couldn’t be made and be ten times as good.
I know I’m not the only person who’s ever thought of this either. Several years ago CBS/StarTrek.com artist David Reddick had a similar idea and even prepared an image pitch depicting Captain Jean Luc Picard as he might appear in animated form. A slightly altered version of his original image appears to the right. It is fairly obvious that he chose to emulate the animation style of the old ’70’s animated Trek … and that’s fine. Although I still contend that better animation would be easily and cheaply achievable. All the same, there might be something rather novel about a TNG cartoon that borrowed the visual characteristics of its classic Trek predecessor. The quality of the stories and the believability of the voices would really be the keys that could make it work. Terrific animation quality would just be a bonus.
As exciting as the prospect is though, it seems wildly unlikely. After all, if there were a market for a TNG cartoon, someone would probably have seen to it already. Furthermore, Sir Patrick Stewart himself indicated at the Vegas con that he would have no interest in reviving Captain Picard in animated series (other than Family Guy anyway). Oh well. Maybe, by some miracle, it can be made to happen and, if need be, Brent Spiner can do his very convincing Picard impression on a weekly basis.