Successes like Spock visiting his childhood, Kirk facing off against Orion pirates, and Kirk and Spock joining an impossible mission to save the galaxy justify failures like the crew turning into children, the center of the galaxy being full of magic, and the Enterprise computer becoming a dangerous prankster. The TOS Rewatch does an overview of the animated series.
Best of all, the series enabled Trek to get a bit more alien in its landscapes and creatures, going even further than they went in the third season, where they were heavily constrained by budget. (Though, of course, that was half the reason why they went more alien in season three, but whatever.) It was worth it to give us more far-out crew members like Arex and M’Ress and nifty non-humanoid aliens. Plus, the animated series did something neither the live-action TV series or the movies had the balls to do: put Uhura in charge of the ship, not once, but twice!
We meet the first Enterprise captain, the crew is reverted to childhood, and your humble rewatcher bangs his head against the wall. The TOS Rewatch ends the animated series with quite the whimper as we do “The Counter-Clock Incident.”
The episode isn’t entirely without merit. It’s fun to meet the Aprils, and I especially like that both of them are pioneers. Robert April was the first captain of the Enterprise, and Sarah April was his chief medical officer. Of course, this is still Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek, so every bit of progress involving women comes with an asterisk, in this case, everyone referring to Sarah April, not by her rank or her title, as is proper for someone who was the chief medical officer of a starship, but as “Mrs. April,” because obviously the fact that she’s a wife is way more important than showing her rank and position the same respect that everyone else on the ship gets.
The Enterprise encounters Kukulkan, and it goes about as well as it did when they met Apollo. Only with fewer togas, which is probably for the best. The TOS Rewatch asks, “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth.”
My main source of adoration is that we get the gods-were-really-aliens trope, but it isn’t a god from Europe or North Africa, as is often the default in such tales. The only deities even mentioned in the episode, beyond Kukulkan, are Quetzalcoatl and the dragons of Asian myth.
My main issue, unfortunately, is yet another use of the gods-were-really-aliens trope.