Beyond the Farthest Star
As noted in my TMP writeup, The Animated Series was made in part due to vocal fan pressure. Dorothy Fontana sent a letter to a fanzine in 1972 confirming this.
Fontana invited Samuel Peeples to write the pilot episode, as he had previously written Where No Man Has Gone Before. The episode is named for a lesser-known Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, though when interviewed for the Captain’s Logs book, Peeples was unable to recall any specific influence for the script. The first draft was dated 10th May 1973. A revised draft was submitted in the 17th of April, though certain pages were revised the following month and so it bears that date.
Lieutenant Kyle, a regular background cast member in TOS is shown operating the transporter in this episode, with brown hair and a moustache, totally unlike his appearance on the show. Like most male characters outside the main cast, he’s voiced by James Doohan.
Also in character appearances, Arex appears on the bridge in various scenes but has no lines. This marks the first appearance of a non-humanoid Starfleet officer on-screen.
This episode was one of the three who’s dialogue was recorded on or around the 4th of June 1973, alongside Yesteryear and More Tribbles, More Troubles. As noted upthread, this was a media event as it was the first time the Trek cast had been together in public since the show’s last filming session in 1969.
Gene Roddenberry remarked during production that animation allowed for far more impressive vistas and setpieces, as they weren’t limited by practical effects. Ironically, Robert Kline, a background artist on the show said that coming up with an acceptable design for the insectoid ship was one of the most challenging jobs on the show, saying it took “literally 100” attempts.
NBC held a private screening of the episode in September 1973, at which the failing LA Times critic Cecil Smith was overheard to remark “this definitely isn’t a kids’ program”. He followed this up with a positive review of the show, published on the 10th of September. it also got a positive review in Variety, though Trek fan publications were less kind. Exact ratings were not recorded but apparently it did not fare well against other shows broadcast the same evening. Like other TAS episodes, airing of this episode was delayed in LA as George Takei was running for local office at the time and it would have been deemed unequal advertising if he appeared on TV as an actor during the campaign.
The episode was adapted by Alan Dean Foster and published in Star Trek Log 1 alongside adaptations of Yesteryear and One of Our Planets is Missing.
There’s a lot of dodgy science in here, even for Trek. First of all, the Enterprise is “beyong the fringe of our galaxy”, which is quite some distance from what we know of The Federation. And there’s no sign of the Great Barrier that was mentioned in TOS (which is a different Great Barrier from the one in STV)
Kirk mentions using a slingshot effect to break orbit from the dead star at various points, but the real-life slingshot is when a spacecraft enters the orbit of a body on a course that sends it back out of orbit, using the body’s gravity to accelerate or decelerate. You couldn’t slingshot from a body you’re already orbiting.
It’s interesting to compare this episode to Yesteryear. When we were talking about that episode, I noted the pacing, that the dilemma and Spock’s mission were set up and he was on the way into the past in 5 minutes. Here, the Magnetic Entity isn’t seen until about 8 minutes in, and takes over the Enterprise around 10 - almost halfway into the episode. That back half is taken up with the entity doing his thing, Kirk and Spock figuring out their solution, and the escape. The pacing is not as tight as Yesteryear, but that relatively leisurely first half allows the show to present a number of setpieces that the live-action show could never match.
And also in comparison to Yesteryear (and More Tribbles, More Troubles), the voice acting is the most accomplished of the first three episodes recorded. DeForrest Kelly is the most improved, but Shatner also has some great line reads - even if he mentions a mutual override rather than a manual one at one point.
The story is quite bog-standard Trek, but it’s very well executed. The back half moves very fast, and fits some great archetypical moments in there. Kirk capitulates when Spock comes under threat, but is scheming and planning as he does. The solution to the episode is basically the same as Charlie X, but it still works.
Overall I wouldn’t give this a bad rating, but it’s not as exemplary as Yesteryear was. It’s elevated above middling Trek mainly by the scope of the first half and the character work in the second.