Seasons: 2 (technically 1.5)
Original Run: September 8, 1973–October 12, 1974
Let's look at this from the point of view of the era in which it was aired. It was 1973, Star Trek had been out of production for a good four years, but was doing very strongly syndication. Roddenberry and the team thought they could tell some more stories, but this time, in order to do them without the constraints of makeup and effects budgets, they would make an animated series. One small step to get the Trekkies excited before any talk of a movie could be had. So, what happened?
By the time the 70's rolled around, America had already been introduced to the Flintstones and the Jetsons and Johnny Quest and all those classic cartoons. A Star Trek cartoon seemed like a good fit for the Saturday morning crowd, which consisted not only of children off school, but also adults off work. The new adventures of the USS Enterprise was sure to capture their interest since they'd been watching reruns for the past four years. And the stories written for the series were just as they should have been. They had the feel of classic Trek, but upped the ante in the visual department with complicated aliens and exotic locations.
But when it came to pacing the animation, it just fell flat. It was a common practice to reuse shots in animated shows of the day to save time and money, but Star Trek seemed to do a little more of it and some of the awkward pauses and camera angles just made watching what should have been a great story more of a drag. Watching the Enterprise orbit over a planet, for example, should be a glorious visual, intriguing from all angles, but instead it was mired in waiting for the cell to get across the screen. Kirk seemed to be hyper-ready for his close up in awkward angles that allowed animators to skip out on moving his lips. And the slightest action was accentuated as characters leaped from their positions to help another, making for stilted sequences.
It's a shame that the animation wasn't better. A lot of these stories would have been so engaging had the format not taken us out of it. Unfortunately, no amount of story could have survived the animator's brush this time. No matter, though, for it is but a mere pit stop on our way to the glories of the Original Series Movies! First stop, Star Trek: The Motion Picture!