For the first time since 1974, there is a new animated Star Trek episode out in the wild. Two, in fact! A pair of animated Short Treks have been released, the first of which features the return of a Tardigrade, a key animal species from Discovery season one. This new episode, the child-friendly “Ephraim and Dot,” follows the adventures of a Tardigrade as it tries to protect its eggs onboard the Enterprise. While this plot is as cutesy as it is entertaining, it also raises several questions that might leave some fans wondering exactly how to feel about this latest entry in the Star Trek franchise.
First, we will assume this episode is indeed canon, as has been every other Short Trek. Relating the Tardigrade’s journey along the Enterprise is a great idea. We know the creature can travel vast distances across space, and they are small enough where they wouldn’t get in the way of a starship’s operation (in the same way, say, a Gormagander would). Having the animal witness the Enterprise’s adventures is, in a word, awesome. We get to see a few memorable moments from The Original Series and TOS movies. Providing a foe for the animal is a DOT-7 repair bot, last seen in Such Sweet Sorrow, Part II. The bot makes for an entertaining obstacle for the Tardigrade (after all, it’s just doing its job and protecting the ship), and on the surface, this combative pair works well for the eight-minute episode.
Here are some problems that may bother die-hard Star Trek fans.
- While the Discovery-era Enterprise design is perfectly fine for the years for when Discovery takes place, this episode asserts that the modern design is used for the TOS years, which of course is in contrast to TOS itself. Before this episode, fans could assume that the ship received a refit between the Discovery and TOS years, which would explain the low-budget appearance in TOS. But this episode throws that out the window.
- Speaking of windows, was there ever a window in sickbay through which the Tardigrade could view the scenes with Khan. No, right?
- At the very least, why didn’t the refit crew in The Motion Picture notice the nest of Tardigrade eggs in engineering?
- Are DOT-7 bots programmed with emotion, and therefore able to determine if the Tardigrade’s eggs should be saved?
- Having the Enterprise and Tardigrade encounter so many landmark moments so quickly was a great callback, and also shouldn’t be taken literally (in case this wasn’t clear). Like any good montage, that scene was a way to display the passage of time. But this begs the question: why couldn’t the Tardigrade catch up to the Enterprise during its five-year mission whenever the ship was in orbit or stopped in space?
This episode, on paper, is a great idea, and it would be super interesting to see it played out over a longer runtime. But in any case, what is presented here is enjoyable – and perhaps a great way to introduce kids to both new and old Star Trek. The premise of the Tardigrade accompanying the Enterprise is one rife with nostalgic potential, and the best place to try out this story is via animation. So in this sense, Short Treks has succeeded again in experimenting with a new and interesting take on Star Trek storytelling.
Longtime Star Trek composer-turned-director Michael Giacchino gets credit here for crafting a well-paced (and well-scored) tale that squeezes in some fantastic moments. But what is the cost of this? For anybody who may worry about canon or plot holes, here’s some advice: this episode is great when viewed through the right lens. Don’t worry about what “Ephraim and Dot” means for Star Trek canon. Like the Tardigrade itself, just try to enjoy the ride.
Stay tuned to TrekNews.net for a review of the second animated Star Trek: Short Treks episode released today: “The Girl Who Made the Stars.”
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December 13, 2019 at 10:18 am
Agree it’s not worth getting into the nitpicking to the point that you can’t enjoy it, but a few other nits to pick:
* The scene from “The Naked Time” follows the scene from “Space Seed” even though “Space Seed” was produced a half-season later. Not implausible that they happened in the other order, but it does create a mental discontinuity.
* The “movie” Enterprise has the registry NCC-1701-A even though all of the scenes were from The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock. (Though the battle damage the Enterprise gets feels more like what we see in Undiscovered Country IIRC.)
* Don’t think the Enterprise was designed to crash into asteroids. Was the deflector dish asleep on the job?
That said, it was fun, I feel like this short wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously (and maybe not even canonically), so not really worth dwelling on these, but I did find them to be distracting all the same.
I feel like any time Short Treks tries to do a tribute I alternate between appreciating what they’re going for and saying “But… wait…”
December 15, 2019 at 12:12 am
Stamets sees and experiences time out of order once he has tardigrade dna, so it stands to reason a tardigrade would experience time other than linearly as well. We were experiencing the timeline the way Ephraim did, not the way Kirk and the crew did, so that was the Enterprise-A in Undiscovered Country before going back to Search for Spock and it’s destruction, and Khan was on board before Sulu’s Naked Time experience for Ephraim.
December 16, 2019 at 3:06 pm
Except that doesn’t explain seeing the “-A” in the registration during the battle with the Reliant or when the Enterprise explodes. And was the robot chasing it traveling back and forth in time as well? What about the eggs? If that truly was Undiscovered Country, even if you accept some timey-wimey stuff about the eggs not being destroyed because they were going to travel back and save them, how did they get on the new ship in the first place? Surviving the refit is enough of a stretch; being transferred to a different ship that has the same name is a bit much.
To be clear, I think it’s a fun episode and not worth worrying about too much. Just saying the explanations SyFy Wire came up with don’t really help explain anything without raising further questions.
If we really do want to try to rectify these things, I’m more inclined to write off the “-A” as a production error and the Undiscovered Country-looking damage as coincidence (intended to be Search for Spock damage).
For the “Naked Time” timing glitch (and the extra windows and such), I’m just viewing it as dramatic license. I guess if you really want we can assume the episode (or “Space Seed”) took place out of production order. Though my favorite option may be that Sulu just randomly went around threatening people with a rapier even when he *wasn’t* under the influence of a virus. 😉
December 14, 2019 at 11:23 pm
The animation and character design is terribad. The science behind tardigrades wasn’t just way off; It was no way. This show needs a science consultant like Naren Shankar. He worked on Star Trek:TNG as a science consultant. But now, oooops! Oh yeah he’s Executive Producer for, The Expanse.
It also looks like they are trying to get buzz by making an episode this way. Nothing can save this dumpster fire. I like to watch dumpster fires.
April 27, 2020 at 4:53 am
On one note though, the bots doesn’t need to be programmed with emotions to do the saving. It’s one of the robotic laws in place today is that a robot should save a sentient’s life when they see it in danger. So the programmers of those robots are sure to be in compliance with the law.