Star Trek TAS: Season 2, Episode Six “The Counter-Clock Incident”

Stardate: 6770.3 (2270)
Original Air Date: October 12, 1974
Writer: John Culver
Director: Bill Reed    

“No matter where I’ve traveled in the galaxy, Jim,
this bridge is more like home than anywhere else.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Enterprise is en route to Babel (as in the TOS episode “Journey to Babel”) where ambassadors from all Federation planets are waiting to honor a distinguished passenger aboard the Enterprise, Commodore Robert April (James Doohan). He is set to retire after a celebrated career as the first captain of the Enterprise. He was present in the San Francisco Navy Yards when the components of the Enterprise were built. His wife Sarah April was a renowned space doctor and she is carrying a Capellan flower which is soon to die (it is a native plant to Capella IV).

The Enterprise passes by the Beta Niobe nova, a dangerous spacial phenomenon even though the Enterprise is traveling at a safe distance. However, a foreign ship suddenly appears and is headed on a collision course with Beta Niobe –sure to be a suicide mission. Uhura attempts to make contact but instead a backward communication is received from a woman named Karla Five (Nichelle Nichols). Once deciphered using the universal translator, she asks to be released from the Enterprise to continue onward to the nova. In attempting to save the foreign ship, the Enterprise crosses through the Beta Niobe which drops them into a strange dimension where everything begins reversing –Mrs. April’s Capellan flower appears to be getting younger as do all the crewmen aboard the Enterprise.  

A party beams over to meet with Karla Five on the planet Arret where they learn that in this alternate universe people are born in old age and grow younger throughout life. The crew devises a plan to briefly unite the two universes by animating a dead star while crossing into their familiar universe using the speed of Karla Five’s ship. However, this is further complicated by the fact that everyone on the ship is rapidly growing younger and thus forgetting their necessary skills –they are all quickly becoming children. Commodore April, now young again, takes command of the Enterprise as they pass into the threshold back into the known universe. The crew uses the transporter to return to their normal state –Commodore Roberts and his wife decide to return to old age again after having lived a wonderful life.

My Thoughts on “The Counter-Clock Incident”

For the final episode, Benjamin Button meets Star Trek as the Enterprise enters an alternative universe where everything is moving in reverse. I thought this was a compelling multiverse episode right up until the wholly contrived ending wherein the transporter once again saves the day by inexplicably reconfiguring the crewmen and preventing further de-aging.

Thus concludes my survey of Star Trek: The Animated Series –quirky but occasionally fun abbreviated saturday morning cartoon version of The Original Series.


John Culver was a pseudonym for Fred Bronson, the NBC publicist assigned to TAS. He used a pseudonym because he worried it might be perceived as improper. He borrowed “Culver” from Culver City, CA.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • Kirk mentions there are 430 people aboard the Enterprise in this episode.
  • In this episode, the final TAS episode pays homage to the penultimate TOS episode (“All My Yesterdays”) with the mention of the Beta Niobe nova.
  • This episode features the only appearance of Commodore Robert April, however he is referenced in the Trek novel-verse as well as in Strange New Worlds. His name was actually taken from Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek files, it was initially an alternate name for Captain Pike in “The Cage.”
  • Nichelle Nichols voices Sarah April and Karla Five, in addition to Uhura. James Doohan voices Robert April and Karl Four (Karla Five’s son), in addition to Arex and Scotty.
  • In the reverse universe, the captain’s log is also listed in reverse.

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Star Trek TAS: Season 2, Episode Five “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”

Stardate: 6063.4 (2270)
Original Air Date: October 5, 1974
Writers: Russell Bates, David Wise
Director: Bill Reed    

“You will be given one chance to succeed where your ancestors failed.
Fail me again and all of your kind shall perish!”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Enterprise is tracing the origin of a mysterious alien space probe. It approached the Federation homeworld, made a scan of earth’s system, and then signaled outward into space before self-destructing. The Enterprise is now investigating the probe’s trail. Suddenly, the Enterprise encounters a crystalline “wall of clay” wherein the ship becomes entrapped inside a force globe. Then a strange ship appears and it probes the Enterprise before transforming its exterior into the visage of a dragon.

Ensign Walking Bear (James Doohan) seems to know the ship’s shape, Kukulkan, a god among ancient Native Americans. Various crewmen are then kidnapped by the alien life form and sent to an ancient Mayan-esque city in a test to learn Kukulkan’s true purpose. They restructure the city’s central pyramid which reveals Kukulkan true appearance –a giant flying snake (James Doohan). He explains that he once visited earth to allow humans to live in peace, promising to one day return, but he complains that he was never summoned and then forgotten. It was Kukulkan’s probe that circled earth only to be chased and fired upon by the Enterprise.

While Kukulkan chases the crewmen around his private zoo (which Bones notes includes a vicious Capellan power cat), Spock discovers a method whereby he can escape from the force globe. The Enterprise then fires upon Kukulkan’s ship while Kirk manages to use a hypo to sedate the Capellan power cat. Kirk manages to reason with Kukulkan that he was needed as a god for humanity in prior years, but he is now no longer necessary.

My Thoughts on “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”

An homage to TOS episodes like “Who Mourns for Adonias?”, “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth” is rife with Native American lore and religious imagery. Once again, we visit a zoo of aliens, and once again the Enterprise becomes entrapped, this time in a giant force orb. I guess there is nothing particularly new in this episode, though I tend to be impressed by Star Trek episodes which feature ancient human gods roaming through the cosmos. However, admittedly a giant flying serpent was a bit silly, even for this cartoon Trek series. At any rate, there are worse episodes in TAS. At least episodes like this allow the series to venture into unique territory which would have been an impossibility in live action.


Russell Bates knew D. C. Fontana, through TOS producer Gene L. Coon, whom Bates had apprenticed under. Bates wrote several never-produced scripts involving parasites. Bates was Kiowa Native American, and he was keen to develop a story inclusive of Native Americans. Co-writer David Wise, an animator, was added to help fill out the script.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • The title comes from Act 1, Scene 4 of William Shakespeare’s King Lear: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” It is the longest title in TAS.
  • This episode was influenced by the recent death of TOS producer Gene L. Coon.
  • This episode earned TAS a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Series in 1975 (the first Star Trek episode to win an Emmy).
  • Including “The Cage,” this episode marks the 100th appearance of Spock.
  • Ensign Walking Bear says he is a Comanche and he studies Native American history.
  • Kirk mispronounces Kukulkan as “Koo-kla-khan” in this episode.
  • Ensign Walking Bear and Kukulkan were voiced by James Doohan.

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Star Trek TAS: Season 2, Episode Four “Albatross”

Stardate: 5275.6 (2270)
Original Air Date: September 28, 1974
Writer: Dario Finelli
Director: Bill Reed    

“The wanton slaughter of hundreds of people is not a joke, captain.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After successful delivery of medical supplies to the planet Dramia in the remote Dramian star system, Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy are preparing to beam back aboard the Enterprise when the Dramian High Prefect (James Doohan) and his associate, Commander Demos (Lou Scheimer), arrest Dr. McCoy under the accusation of unleashing a plague which had killed hundreds 19 years earlier on Dramia II.

While Dr. McCoy is imprisoned, the Enterprise travels to Dramia II to investigate the situation. Meanwhile, Demos attempts to sneak aboard the Enterprise but he is easily captured and his ship is impounded (Kirk deliberately orders the gateway for ships opened in order to lure Demos’s ship aboard the Enterprise). The crew then encounters an aurora and on Dramia II they follow a Dramian creature as it runs into an underground cave where the crewmen meet an elder survivor of the plague, Kol-Tai (James Doohan), who claims he was actually saved –rather than harmed– by Dr. McCoy. They bring Kol-Tai aboard the Enterprise but he quickly begins turning blue, along with the rest of the crew amidst an outbreak of the plague. Only Spock remains immune.

Spock rescues Dr. McCoy from confinement and, together, they discover that the aurora has been the true catalyst for the virus. Dr. McCoy uses his existing antibodies to cure everyone, and in the end, he is honored by the Dramians.

My Thoughts on “Albatross”

The idea that an ominous (albeit convenient) aurora is causing a brutal plague among the Dramians bears striking resemblance to the computer disruption caused by the energy field featured in the prior episode, “The Practical Joker.” Why did no one else suggest that the unusual glowing aurora is causing the plague? And why would no one think to use antibodies to cure the plague, in the same way Kol-Tai was previously cured of Saurian virus? Unfortunately, many of these episodes seem to be simply recycling narrative themes we have seen many times over as we rapidly approach the conclusion of the Animated Series.


This episode was the only Star Trek written by Dario Finelli. As far as I can tell, his only other work was the 1970 film Scorpio ’70.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • Filmation co-founder Lou Scheimer supplied the voice of a Dramian guard and Demos.
  • James Doohan voiced the Dramian Supreme Prefect as well as plague survivor Kol-Tai.
  • The aliens in this episode are referred to as Dramian, Draman, and Dramen.

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Star Trek TAS: Season 2, Episode Three “The Practical Joker”

Stardate: 3183.3 (2270)
Original Air Date: September 21, 1974
Writers: Chuck Menville, Len Janson
Director: Bill Reed    

“Kirk is a Jerk!”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Enterprise has been conducting a routine survey of Type IV asteroids. At the end of the uneventful survey mission, the Enterprise is approaching the final asteroid to complete its course 72 hours ahead of schedule when the ship is suddenly struck by a Romulan ambush of three battlecruisers. The Romulans accuse the Enterprise of crossing into their territory. The Enterprise escapes into a nearby gaseous energy field where the crew begins encountering a string of odd amateur practical jokes –Scotty is pied in the face by a malfunctioning food replicator (or “food synthesizer”), Spock’s eyes are encircled in dirt by a microscope on his station, Kirk is caught wearing a shirt that says “Kirk is a Jerk,” among other pranks. Needless to say, chaos ensues.  

As it turns out, the Enterprise central computer has “declared war” on the crew. Why? Spock suggests that sub-atomic particles from the gaseous energy field have latched onto the ship’s computer like a disease, causing it to behave irrationally. However, the Enterprise computer decides to play its next practical joke as revenge on the Romulans by sending out a balloon (inflatable dummy Enterprise) as a ruse. As the Enterprise flees from the pursuing Romulans, Kirk tricks the computer and they travel back through the energy field, curing the computer of its disease, but causing havoc for the Romulan battlecruisers.  

My Thoughts on “The Practical Joker”

This is a pretty amusing little misadventure wherein the Enterprise computer turns against its crew! We have seen malfunctions within the transporter in numerous other episodes, but rarely within the ship’s central computer. Also, we have seen a variety of other situations wherein the outbreak of a disease threatens the lives of the crewmen, but now a disease afflicts the necessary technology which governs the Enterprise –an interesting reversal of pandemic inspired hysteria in episodes like “The Naked Time.” However, the best comparison for this episode is likely “Bem,” the prior TAS episode which also features a practical jokester.

While on paper this episode was likely smirk-inducing, but in execution it’s a bit of an oddball situation filled with forced laughter. I’d also add this to another episode wherein Kirk outsmarts a computer run amok –how exactly does traveling through a random gaseous energy field create a disease? And then traveling back through the field somehow cures the computer? I had some fun with this goofy episode.  


Chuck Menville and Len Janson also wrote the first season TAS episode “Once Upon A Planet.” were longtime collaborators working together for a variety of television shows under Filmation and Hanna-Barbara.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • This episode features one of the early iterations of the holodeck, an idea which was intended to be introduced in TOS but it was eliminated due to budget constraints.
  • Filmation co-founders Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott guest starred as the voices of the two Romulans.
  • DC Fontana had left TAS for this second season, and many have cited this as a reason for the show’s continued decline.
  • Majel Barrett voices the ship’s computer in this episode.
  • Apparently, the idea of a balloon resembling the Enterprise reappears in John M. Ford’s novel How Much For Just The Planet? (1987).

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