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Star Trek The Animated Series: The Counter-Clock Incident

Mikey Heinrich and Billie Doux discuss the Animated Series finale, "The Counter-Clock Incident."

Mikey Heinrich: It's "Enterprise Babies!" as our gallant crew inadvertently winds up in a crazy parallel dimension where time runs backwards.

I really enjoyed this one. The whole "Parallel world where time runs in reverse" concept wasn't new, even in 1973, but they use it in some fun and interesting ways here. The concept that you lose knowledge at the relative age at which you gained it in our universe makes for a good ticking clock, although the internal logic of how the reverse time universe functions doesn't entirely hold up.

And for some reason I really love the image of the Enterprise flying backwards against a stark white universe with black stars. I don't know why, it's just really striking.

Convenient, really, that the Enterprise just so happens to be carrying two passengers who are old enough to de-age to the right age to take charge of the action once Kirk and Co. reach the diaper stage. And Commodore April and his lovely wife once again verify that everyone else in the universe is either James Doohan or Nichelle Nichols. Had we ever seen or heard of Captain April, first captain of the Enterprise before this point? I know we saw him later in Strange New Worlds where he was very much not played by James Doohan.

So, the Enterprise is taking some VIPs to the planet Babel, and stops to admire the supernova from "All Our Yesterdays." That's a little fan-servicey, but I honestly would never have noticed the reference to AOY if I hadn't checked Memory Alpha to see where else we'd seen Robert April. Which means it wasn't gratuitous enough to disrupt the story. I did know the reference to Babel, FWIW.

The sprinkle donut of doom

I'm having trouble finding much to say about this one, just because I like it a lot. It's a solid story, told well, that develops at a good pace and doesn't try to cram forty-five minutes of TV into twenty-three. Holding off on the reverse aging until the third act meant that they didn't have to try to milk more out of the gimmick than there was to be milked, and getting dragged into the other universe because they lassoed a passing ship to try to save it felt very in keeping with all parties involved.

I will note, warp 26 appears to be a thing here, despite every other discussion of what warp parameters are. It didn't bother me overly, but it did feel a little odd. Isn't warp 10 supposed to be a natural constant that acts as a limiting factor? I'm sure more informed minds than mine have tackled this question.

What do y'all think?

Billie Doux: Yeah, this was a pretty good one. The plot wasn't unique and a couple of things didn't work logically, but there could have been so much worse episodes on which to end the series.

The easter eggs and call backs were everywhere. Robert April was Roddenberry's first choice for the name of the Captain of the Enterprise. "All Our Yesterdays," as you said, Mikey, and "Journey to Babel." Philip K. Dick wrote a novel entitled Counter-Clock World in 1967. I was a bit surprised that they actually ripped off the term "counter-clock."

Like you, Mikey, I really loved the Enterprise traveling backward through the reverse-photography starfield. Loved the absolute ridiculousness of the "runaway horse" tractor beam at warp 36. (Can you even use a tractor beam on another ship in warp?) I also liked that Sarah April had been an innovative chief medical officer. And that they addressed, of all things, the unfairness of a mandatory retirement age.

There were a couple of things I didn't like. How unbelievable is it that Robert April would decide to throw away a second chance at youth? If you asked a thousand people aged 75 if they would like to magically de-age to 30 again, I am willing to bet every one of them would jump at it.

But the thing I disliked most was using the transporter to fix everyone. If that actually worked, couldn't you get everyone to go through the transporter when they turned 21, store their pattern, and have them report and de-age at, say, mandatory retirement age? Wouldn't every disease or accident later in life be curable with your age-21 pattern? Am I missing something?

(Ooh, look what Wikipedia has! An article about reverse chronology literature and films!)

Mikey: I meant to mention that about the easy transporter fix, too. It was particularly egregious here, since it pointed out that they could have easily done the same thing in the reverse chronology universe and kept resetting themselves every time they got a bit too young.

I also couldn't believe that Commodore April would pass up another round at life.

Billie: Maybe it's because of the Kook-la-kan thing in the previous episode, but I noticed William Shatner pronounced "Beta Niobe" two different ways in the space of a few minutes. At least he is consistently inconsistent.

Since we've reached the end, I've been thinking about this series as a whole and wondering why it didn't take off. Did they spend most of their budget paying the original series actors instead of better writers and animators? Did they just have trouble figuring out the tone when they transformed an adult science fiction series into a Saturday morning cartoon?

I'm just glad they didn't kill the franchise.

Mikey: I've been thinking about it, and I think the biggest hurdle that they had was figuring out how to tell a Star Trek story in 23 minutes. So many of the lesser episodes suffered from being completely overstuffed with things which should have been trimmed out. The other recurring problem was a lack of ambition in a few cases where they clearly had no broader plan than to just retell a story from the original series.

Also, not nearly enough of the episodes featured a giant, ridiculous vase. Disappointing.

Billie: Which episodes did you like best, Mikey?

Mikey: I think "The Magicks Of Megas-Tu" and "The Terratin Incident" were my favorite, although "Yesteryear" is an objectively better episode. How about you?

Billie: Definitely "The Terratin Incident," Spock and his sehlet (and the horrible kid costumes) in "Yesteryear," the giant vase and the women in command in "The Lorelei Signal," Kirk and Spock as fish in "The Ambergris Element." I think I enjoyed "The Practical Joker" the most.

While the episode itself isn't a favorite, my favorite review of ours was "One of Our Planets is Missing."

Mikey: That one was a heck of a lot of fun.

Billie: So how to rate "The Counter-Clock Incident"? Three out of four juvenile crew members?

Mikey: I'm going to go with eight out of ten conveniently short-lived plants who exist to visually explain the central premise.

I really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed this entire project.

Billie: Me, too. Thank you so much, Mikey, for proposing and leading these discussions. I'm so glad we did it.


  1. This ep was way better than the last one. I quite enjoyed it once I got over my sudden craving for a pink-sprinkled donut.

    It definitely had some head-scratching moments, like tractor beams during warp and the non-automatic use of the universal translator.

    I can understand April’s view on a redo of life. If you were happy the first time, why go for another take? Even if it was bad the first time, there’s no guarantee of improvement…… Getting a youthful body back is one thing, relearning everything is another.

    Nice info on All Our Yesterdays. One of my favorite episodes.

    Thanks for these fun reviews, Mikey & Billie. Will you start a new series? Hope so!

  2. Måge, you're so welcome. They were a lot of fun. We're thinking pretty seriously of doing these discussion reviews for Star Trek: Lower Decks.


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