The U.S.S. Enterprise
encounters a ship in the shape of
a winged serpent, which turns out to be Kukulkan, a god of ancient Mayan-Aztec legend. Kukulkan is actually
a very long-lived benevolent entity who wants the humans to worship him just as the Mayans and Aztecs did.
PSA epilogue for "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth" - Learn About Other Cultures
This episode's co-author Russell Bates (pictured) is a Kiowa American Indian who began to write while hospitalized in the U.S. Air Force in the mid sixties. He later met Gene L. Coon and worked with him on The Name of the Game. Dorothy Fontana told him about the Animated Star Trek series being planned, and she asked him to submit a script. He submitted one entitled "The Patient Parasites" but it was rejected as being too close to a live film script. That script was later published in STAR TREK: The New Voyages 2 (January 1978, Bantam Books) (pictured at left). Russell Bates then collaborated with a young filmaker/animator David Wise on a second script. This second effort was approved and became "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth." The character of Ensign Dawson Walking Bear actually first appeared in one of Bates' earlier efforts, "The Patient Parasites." When converted into a short story for publication in "STAR TREK: The New Voyages 2", the character of Walking Bear was rewritten into Sulu.
This episode gets its title from a quote from Shakespeare: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child.", King Lear, Act I, Scene 4.
This episode received top ratings for a children's show, got favorable comments and mail and went to The International TV Film Festival in Monte Carlo. This episode also won STAR TREK the 1974-75 Emmy award for Outstanding Entertainment Children's Series (Daytime).
This episode's plot of an ancient Earth god returning in the hopes of being once more revered by mankind was very similar to the storyline in the Original series episode "Who Mourns For Adonais?" This was an intentional homage by Russell Bates to Gene L. Coon, writer of "Who Mourns For Adonais?"
For this episode, co-writers Russell Bates and David Wise were nominated for and won a Peabody Award in 1975 for best writing on an animated series.
This episodes, like all second season episodes, was directed by Bill Reed.
This episode featured the first appearance of a Native American starship crewmember on
STAR TREK, Ensign Dawson Walking Bear. As with the holodeck in "The Practical Joker", the Animated STAR TREK series was there first!
The violent and untamable Capellan power cat seen in this episode came from the planet Capella IV which was the setting of the original series episode "Friday's Child." (Also, in the episode, "The Counter-Clock Incident", Sarah April held a flower in her hand that was a native of Capella IV.)
This animated STAR TREK episode was co-writer David Wise's first professional writing job. With it he won the Peabody Award and an Emmy Award - not bad for your first job!
Interestingly, David Wise completely recycled this episode's story for use as an episode of Filmation's animated Tarzan - Lord of the Jungle series. The Tarzan episode entitled "Tarzan and the Space God" aired Sep. 16, 1978 and was written by David Wise, Kathleen Barnes, Len Janson and Chuck Menville. Five years before, Len Janson and Chuck Menville co-wrote "Once Upon a Planet" (TAS) and Chuck Menville wrote "The Practical Joker" (TAS). "Tarzan and the Space God" was about an extraterrestrial who came to Earth and posed as the Mayan serpent god Kukulkan (pictured right) over 700 years ago. Tarzan comes across the lost tribe of Chichen Itza (pictured left) transported to his coastal African jungle and the ape man helps the inhabitants dethrone the vindictive false god.
Kukulkan's starship was composed entirely of crystalline ceramic and had the interesting capability of generating a translucent image of a huge colorful winged serpent over the shape of its hull. There is a page in this site that examines Kukulkan's Ship that was seen in this episode.
Kukulkan stated that he had visited the Mayan and Aztec cultures on Earth. Mayan culture lasted from
300-900 A.D., and Aztec civilization fluorished from 1100-1520. So Kukulkan must have stayed on Earth for several hundred years as he nurtured these civilizations. This conclusion was suggested by episode author Russell Bates himself.
This episode had a visual error: in an overview of the bridge, Uhura was shown as caucasian.
"How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" was novelized by Alan Dean Foster in Star
Trek Log Six published by Ballantine Books in March 1976. Also novelized in the book was
"Albatross" and "The Practical Joker".