Star Trek: The Animated Series: The Magicks of Megas-Tu   Rewatch 
June 3, 2020 8:10 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

While investigating the theory of creation, the Enterprise is caught inside an energy/matter tornado. After emerging from the storm, the crew encounter a world where magic works and science doesn't.

Memory Alpha has all of your history, all of your records for this episode.

Background information
Story and script
  • This episode's writer, Larry Brody, also wrote the story for VOY: "Tattoo".
  • Gene Roddenberry liked the thought of the Enterprise being confronted by God. "Gene thought that was the greatest thing he'd ever heard of," noted Brody. "He said, 'I've been trying, for years, to just get that out in that way. I never really thought about just doing it. So, all right, let's do that.'" ("Drawn to the Final Frontier - The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series", TAS DVD) Additionally, Brody recalled Roddenberry smiling and saying, "I've always wanted to write about the Enterprise meeting God, but NBC's primetime bosses always shot it down. Let's see if we can slip it past the daytime boys." Brody was pleased that the discussion about his plot idea had apparently revealed a kindred spirit. (Turning Points in Television, pp. 129 & 130) Roddenberry also approved of the story's title. Brody later remembered him having said, "Good title. I like it." Agreeing to make a deal for Brody to write the episode, Roddenberry advised the writer to return home and begin to flesh out the installment, which Roddenberry seemed to eagerly anticipate reading. ("Drawn to the Final Frontier - The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series", TAS DVD;)
  • According to Bjo Trimble, an initial moment from this installment referenced a "blinding flash of light" that NBC's broadcast standards found to be "unacceptable." A memo circulated and partly read, "Blinding flashes of light are reserved to God." None of the characters actually stated, "Holy cow! The ship exploded into a blinding flash of light," Trimble explained. "The writer merely indicated to the artist what kind of explosion he had envisioned." Despite this, the censors at NBC were still displeased and the blinding reference therefore had to be dimmed. Trimble concluded that the concept of "finding God" became "finding magic."
Continuity
  • This is the only episode of the series to feature Earth.
  • The stardate of this episode, 1254.4, is a lower-numbered stardate than that of the second pilot for Star Trek: The Original Series, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", which has a stardate of 1312.4. Due to the ambiguous interpretation of stardates, it cannot be assumed that this episode takes place prior to the other. Nor is the stardate here assumed to be an error.
  • This outing, with its theme of magic, has a precedent in the form of TOS: "Catspaw". According to Larry Brody, Gene Roddenberry cited this connection during their pitch meeting. Brody later remembered Roddenberry having said, "We tried to do a show on magic the second year of the series. Antoinette Bower guest-starred. But we were limited then, by the fact that we couldn't do the special effects we wanted. Now we can do it all!"
Poster's log:

Sorry I'm a little late with this one, guys. Next week, back to a Tuesday release schedule.

MA has a lot more information about the writing process for this episode. The decision to have the Enterprise crew find the Devil rather than God, as the former would be less controversial, is fascinating.

One wonders how much of this episode's animating budget went into the incredibly detailed (and super-buff!) Lucien.

Voice actors will tell you that some of their best voices are bad impressions. Lucien, as voiced by Doohan, sounds like an off-brand Cyrano Jones, down to his use of "friend Kirk".

In addition to the magic call-back to "Catspaw", there's a bit of "Plato's Stepchildren" in Kirk's using the Megans' own power to protect Lucien.

The crew would later go on to meet God (or, *A* god) in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
posted by hanov3r (9 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Haven't rewatched this yet--should get to it tonight, or tomorrow night at the latest--but I just wanted to call out this bit: "Additionally, Brody recalled Roddenberry smiling and saying, 'I've always wanted to write about the Enterprise meeting God, but NBC's primetime bosses always shot it down. Let's see if we can slip it past the daytime boys.'" Harlan Ellison (yes, I know, but he was right about this) once said that Gene Roddenberry only ever had one story idea for Trek, and that was that the Enterprise would go out into space and find God, and God was either insane, a child, or both. Having them literally find God, the Judeo-Christian version instead of a stand-in such as Trelane or Charles Evans, that probably wouldn't have been nearly as big of a deal as he might have thought, and as STV would eventually prove.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:20 AM on June 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


Q who?
posted by mwhybark at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


"Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a Megan of wealth and taste"

As much as I am enjoying watching these, there's something deeply frustrating about these episodes, because the ideas in so many of them could have been developed into a full hour, or even two. I mean suddenly having to reconsider mythology as having actually happened. Maybe even running into the temptation of a world where you can use magical powers. Or how Lucifer got his reputation, he was too used to being magic and invulnerable, so that when he started encouraging humans it was too often like handing out flamethrowers in a kindergarten. Which is why he's now determined to protect the humans. They're interesting looks at what could have been at least.

The one other thing it made me think of was John Crichton's line from Farscape: "God-like aliens... man, do I hate god-like aliens! I'll trade a critter for a god-like alien, any day." Which reflects how deeply Star Trek managed to embed the trope in sci-fi, and the reactions against it.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


So I did watch it, and it was quite enjoyable; I may have even enjoyed it more than I did in the original viewing. Since it touched on so many things, I'll just bullet the lot:

- Going to the center of the galaxy and encountering the (seemingly) supernatural makes me wonder if Shatner wasn't more than a little inspired by this when he wrote Star Trek V, although otherwise the stories are very different both in their setup and conclusion. Of course, we know that the galactic core probably can't be visited by anyone short of Q-level beings, since it's a supermassive black hole surrounded by so many stars that the radiation levels would just be crazy. (Voyager either doglegged around it or skipped it in one of their huge leaps forward.) And, also courtesy of VOY, we know that even a 24th-century Starfleet ship would take decades to reach it anyway. But, hey, space magic, especially in an episode with literal space magic.

- Lucien shows off one of the advantages of animation with his goat legs; by contrast, trying to do that in live action at that time without stop-motion animation might have been problematic. (If you remember Torgo from the terribad movie Manos: The Hands of Fate, he was originally supposed to be a satyr, but they didn't have the money to do any sort of special effects or makeup, so they just had the actor walk oddly to convey someone with goat legs.) Also noteworthy is the animation-only character Arex, who gets put in stocks with three holes for all his hands during the trial scene.

- IIRC, one of the objections to Spock in initial screenings of "The Cage" was that he came off as demonic in appearance. Kind of funny how easily Mr. Logic gets that pentagram on the floor and exercises his mojo.

- Speaking of beginner magic, it was also interesting to see Sulu conjure up an attractive woman... only to have her turn into the super-jacked Lucien. Hmm.

- In the past, I've said that the Prime Directive was never directly quoted in the franchise. I now see that I was wrong, since this episode directly states General Order #1, aka the Prime Directive: "No starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society." That's not an ideal formulation--surely, any Starfleet personnel or Federation official, regardless of whether they're on a ship or not, would follow that--but it's a start.

- Even though the Megans were prosecuted as witches, Asmodeus (nice name, dude!) takes the form of a Puritan. Talk about internalizing the oppressor...

- Grimgrin beat me to the observation that Kirk literally has sympathy for the devil.

- One more nice thing about the animation, even though much of it is potato quality, is that many of the backgrounds, especially when they show an alien civilization, have the semi-abstract quality of science fiction paperback covers from roughly the 50s to the 70s. Not super practical architecture, but what they give up in practicality, livability, or even doors and windows, they gain in eloquence.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:11 PM on June 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


The semi-abstract art direction is something one sees in s1 of my personal favorite grimdark serial-numbers-filed-off Trek, Space: 1999.
posted by mwhybark at 10:35 PM on June 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


Grimgrin hit the same point I was going to: frustration, particularly in this case because selling this episode's concept in this animated milieu is a taller order than usual. So, on the one hand, the shorter form of these episodes is kind of refreshing and brisk, but on the other hand, they're still trying to attack these ambitious ideas without enough running time. (Then again, Short Treks demonstrated that it's absolutely possible.)

This episode's writer, Larry Brody, also wrote the story for VOY: "Tattoo".

Ah, so Roddenberry wasn't the only one who recycled his own ideas.

Anyway, I think I'm good on "humanity on trial" stories for the next decade or so, even accounting for our present planetary circumstances.

Speaking of beginner magic, it was also interesting to see Sulu conjure up an attractive woman... only to have her turn into the super-jacked Lucien. Hmm.

I LOL'ed. #ohmyyy

If you remember Torgo

But of course! My first thought with Lucien was The Young Torgo Chronicles, the sexy marketable teen-lit Manos prequel.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:14 AM on June 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


The conflation between the the creation of the Universe and the creation of the galaxy in the opening Captain's Log ("...if our galaxy was created from a great explosion...") threw me for a loop, even at 7.

I mean suddenly having to reconsider mythology as having actually happened

There's at least one more TAS episode in that vein. Another Trek recurring theme, going back to "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and, kind of, "Requiem for Methuselah".
posted by hanov3r at 10:22 AM on June 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


...and it is a notable all-Trek highlight episode in many ways.
posted by mwhybark at 11:25 PM on June 4, 2020


... and I've only just now realized that "Adonais" is not a misspelling of, and pronounced like, "Adonis", but is the plural of "Adonai", an English transliteration of a Hebrew word for "God", and is probably pronounced closer to "ah-do-NOYS".
posted by hanov3r at 9:01 AM on June 5, 2020


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