TL;DR – A love letter to the past and a beautiful story in its own right
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
It has been a long time since Star Trek ventured into the realm of animation, indeed, The Animated Series to this day fits awkwardly into the Star Trek universe thanks to the question marks as to its canonicity. But today Star Trek takes some steps back unto this uncharted frontier with a Short Trek full of joy and beauty.
So to set the scene, we open in on a documentary called The Tardigrade in Space as it explores the life of a humble tardigrade Ephraim flying through space looking for a place to lay her eggs. A place that is warm and safe, which is what she found right up until the moment the USS Enterprise appears out of warp and trashes the asteroid she had picked. But then a starship with a nice warm warp reactor would be the perfect place to lay her eggs, unfortunately, a DOT-7 maintenance droid called Dot has different ideas.
There is so much to talk about this beautiful episode that it is hard to know where to start, so let’s first look at the animation. It is charming right from the start as we see a slightly more anthropomorphised version of the tardigrade called Ephraim. It is a very stylised form of animation, but that absolutely fit the tone and content of the story. It also helped sell the kind of Tom and Jerry or Wall-e and Eve banter between Ephraim and Dot. We get quite a lot of slapstick humour, including some laundry shenanigans, and it is all realised perfectly.
When it comes to the story, it is one that is difficult to work out if it is a real story in-universe or a more abstract story that exists fictionally within the Star Trek world and I don’t mind which one it is. Part of this stems from there being a Narrator (Kirk Thatcher) and the overall presentation fitting into a style that is reminiscent of a nature documentary or a morality tale. Also, a fun fact that the Narrator Kirk Thatcher is a producer that has worked in Trek before and you may know him as the “Punk on the Bus” in The Voyage Home. To add to this the very nature of the tardigrade exists within a very flexible notion of space and time amping up charming oddness of it all. But in all of this oddness, there is a story of two creatures trying to protect something dear to them, Ephraim is trying to protect her eggs and Dot is trying to protect the Enterprise.
Because of this abstract sense of space and time, we get events from all over The Original Series blending together into a delightful melting pot. Indeed, when Ephraim first arrives on the Enterprise she jumps from Space Seed, to The Trouble with Tribbles, to The Naked Time all in the space of a few moments. Which means we get the joy of KHAN (Ricardo Montalban) and shirtless Sulu (George Takei) back to back. This is accelerated throughout the episode and we get a joyful jump through all the major events in the life of the USS Enterprise. A lot of these events are depicted in the same stylised version of animation but they were great to see again, even if they mixed up the –A towards the end.
In the end, do we recommend Ephraim and Dot? Absolutely. The director Michael Giacchino brought real warmth and joy to two characters that never speak a word. You care for them, you laugh at the hijinks they get up to, and I found myself feeling really emotional towards the end. All of this is captured in such a short amount of time and that is a credit to everyone who worked on it. I love that they are using these Short Treks to real experiment in the Star Trek universe and I would like to see more of them.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Star Trek Short Trek
Directed by – Michael Giacchino
Written by – Chris Silvestri & Anthony Maranville
Created by – Bryan Fuller & Alex Kurtzman
Starring – Kirk Thatcher & Jenette Goldstein with William Shatner, George Takei & Ricardo Montalban