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Very Short Treks get lost in gross galactic territory

Star Trek may take itself too seriously, but these new cartoons take the successful Lower Decks formula too far ...

Star Trek animation deserves better than cringeworthy Very Short Treks

OK, I tried. I really did.

When Paramount+ recently announced a series of Very Short Treks animated videos to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek: The Animated Series, I was intrigued. I loved the retro style of the original Filmation effort, and recent fan-produced Next Generation- and Voyager era homages to it. Plus, the 1973-74 cartoon is now widely considered to be Star Trek canon, recently earning a place in the official roleplaying game and sort of completing the original “five year mission” of the 1966-69 Original Series, and introducing beloved alien characters that never could have been realized in live action at the time and have gone on to inspire beloved new Starfleet officers in the comedic Lower Decks animated series.

But several of the new Very Short Treks animated shorts have been released online now, and they aren’t good.

While they are unabashedly non-canonical, and that’s perfectly fine to do, they go too far — out-doing even the always-outrageous Lower Decks in unnecessary ways.

Maybe Star Trek has come to take itself too seriously as it reached and eclipsed its golden years. The much-needed episodic TV revival on Paramount+, then known as CBS All Access, with Discovery, then Strange New Worlds and Picard, led to a glorious renaissance that let the experimental Short Treks live-action short-form videos explore unknown corners of the universe; Lower Decks then subverted the formula, refreshing it further with animation and comedy.

But I don’t know what these frankly disgusting Very Short Treks are trying to say, other than maybe the galaxy is a very gross place and, perhaps as the Q entity once said, humanity should rethink its exploratory impulses and stay bottled up inside its own social system once and for all.

Q was right. I said what I said.

Paramount+ plans two more installments of Very Short Treks between now and Oct. 4. Will they finish on a stronger note? Let’s hope that’s the case. For now, though, I can’t for the life of me understand why so many “fans” are up in arms over a creative and powerful musical episode but can seemingly let a glaring misstep like this slide …

UPDATE: OK, so the last two installments are pretty good:

But more damning than anything is the fact that Paramount+ is ostensibly inflicting these shorts upon us to “celebrate” Star Trek’s impressive animation milestone just months after it delisted and disavowed the popular Prodigy cartoon series, a joint venture with Nickelodeon that brought a whole new generation of Starfleet cadets on board. For shame.

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About the author

Jayson Peters

Jayson Peters

Born and raised in Phoenix, Jayson Peters is a southern Colorado-based newspaper copy editor and website designer. He has taught online media at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and now teaches at Pueblo Community College. A versatile digital storyteller, he has led online operations at the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona, followed by the Pueblo Chieftain, Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pueblo Star Journal. He is a former Southern Colorado Press Club president and founder and curator of Nerdvana.

1 Comment

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  • These cartoons are complete garbage. They’re trashier than Lauren Boebert, dumber than Donald J. Trump, more disgusting than Jessica Simpson’s refusal to brush her teeth, and more poorly written than an episode of The Kardashians. And this is somehow supposed to celebrate a highly regarded animated series? What?

    Very Short Treks doesn’t celebrate Star Trek: The Animated Series because it’s nothing like TAS. The ’70s cartoon was an extension of the ’60s live-action show. Same writers, same cast. Very Short Treks utterly fails as a celebration because it isn’t celebrating anything–it’s mocking the subject matter. It utterly fails as a send-up to TAS because there are no similarities at all other than the drawing style. And it fails as humor because it commits the cardinal sin of a comedic venture: it’s not at all funny.

    This has been a complete disaster, and TAS deserves better. The other so-called “celebration,” the IDW comic The Scheimer Barrier, is less gross but just as stupid and poorly written. TAS’s 50th anniversary should have been celebrated by people who actually like and respect TAS, not lampooned as though it were some space flotsam no one enjoys. CBS screwed this one up, badly, and the vast majority of fans and critics are rightly complaining about it.