CBS All Access released the first two animated Star Trek episodes since the 1970s with “The Girl Who Made the Stars” and “Ephraim and Dot.”
“The Girl Who Made the Stars”
This tale, framed by Michael Burnham’s father telling her a bedtime story as a little girl, takes place in Africa and is about as far removed from the world of Star Trek as possible. Not that this is a bad thing as I’m always game for Star Trek trying something risky and unique — one of the reasons why I love Short Treks to begin with.
The story tells of a young tribal girl who ventures out into the night against the will of her elders to seek out new farmland when their fields turn barren.
Steeped in lore and legend, the story unfolds like Pixar meets Black Panther meets Star Trek. The story itself is fanciful and contains some neat imagery and imagination, but the problem is that this spiffy CGI story feels like it’s not completely finished. While I understand that the production windows for television are much smaller than feature films, the faces on characters – especially Papa Burnham – feel stiff and unmoving. I swear that the man didn’t even blink after the he finished telling the story to his daughter.
More than that, the mouths just seemed wrong… as if they were animated with software from the early 2000’s when words and lips didn’t nessesarally have to match.
In addition, the dialogue in many places, mostly with young Michaeal Burnham was very forced. The whole “aluminum” thing when she wanted to tell the computer to “illuminate”, telling her father, “I’m just a little girl, I don’t know what that means!” felt just like dialogue written for a child by a completely grown adult trying to write dialogue for a child. It didn’t feel genuine.
Was it a terrible short? Of course not… the visuals, once you got used to the rough look, were inspiring. The look of the Night Beast was actually pretty terrifying and the design of the Light Alien was rather nice.
It wasn’t terrible, but it was distractingly lacking in many departments.
“Ephraim and Dot”
Have you ever wanted to see Tom and Jerry on Star Trek? Of course you haven’t, but after watching this short, all I can wonder is, why has no one ever thought of this before?
Ephraim is a deep-space tardigrade looking for a warm place to lay her eggs when, literally from out of nowhere, the USS Enterprise happens along and her engine room provides the perfect spot. Dot, on the other hand, is a repair drone who sees Ephraim as an intruder and will do anything to put the creature off the ship, even unknowingly separating her from her brood.
What follows is a delightful and joyous chase through the bowels of the Enterprise, through the original series, and even the first three Star Trek movies. “Ephraim and Dot” is incredibly reference heavy, but given that I’m a salty old Star Trek fan, that kind of stuff is right up my alley… seeing and hearing William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Richardo Maltobahn as Khan was a special kind of nostalgia as was seeing the beautifully designed USS Enterprise turn into the beautiful movie refit design from the 80s was great.
More than that, the short celebrates the mad-capped run through Star Trek‘s history by pointing out the strangest and silliest as well as the most iconic scenes from the series. I can only guess how confused someone new to Trek must be be witnessing the sudden and unexplained appearance of Abraham Lincoln in space!
In addition to being genuinely silly and strange, the short is also incredibly cute. The design of Ephraim makes me want a plush tardigrade and the more cartoony Dot design lends itself very well to the cartoon.
I actually want to see more adventures with these two. I want to see more animated Star Trek all together.
After the Captain Pike TV series gets green-lit, at least.