Michael Giacchino is one of the most admired film and TV composers working today, but now you have a chance to see him in a different light: as a director. CBS All Access is now streaming a new entry of their “Star Trek: Short Treks” anthology called “Ephraim and Dot.” It’s an animated short, and, given his stunning music for multiple Pixar films, it was a no-brainer for Giacchino to choose it as his next directing project, following the 2018 short “Monster Challenge” which paid loving tribute to kaiju and Japanese game shows.
But as he says in the exclusive video above, it was more the zany cartoons of the past, particularly the work of Tex Avery, that inspired the way Giacchino told this story. “Ephraim and Dot” is a decades-spanning tribute to “Star Trek” lore featuring a Tardigrade, those aliens that seem to exist just slightly of time and space on “Star Trek Discovery.” This friendly beast is a loving mother-to-be who’s just looking for a place to lay her eggs. Well, what better place than the U.S.S. Enterprise?
Since time works a little differently for Tardigrades, she spends years waiting for eggs to hatch, during which time she witnesses Khan first being welcomed aboard the ship, Sulu displaying his shirtless fencing skills, the Tholian Web, the Doomsday Machine, and Khan’s devastating revenge on the Enterprise aboard the U.S.S. Reliant — all the way up to the ship’s heartbreaking destruction over the Genesis planet as seen in that underrated classic, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.”
As the decades pass, the Tardigrade runs afoul of a Dot-7, one of the engineering and maintenance robots glimpsed on “Star Trek: Discovery.” Their adversarial relationship recalls Tex Avery’s ink-and-paint battles between the Road Runner and Wile-E-Coyote. Hand-drawn two-dimensional animation was Giacchino’s main reference point: “I want, when a character stretches, for their whole arm to stretch,” he said. “Now in 3-D animation you generally don’t do that. They try to make things look as real as possible. But I wanted… the things they used to do regularly in Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, all the cartoons that we grew up with and loved.”
Giacchino’s extraordinary musical ability also comes into play, weaving several different themes from throughout the history of the franchise, including Alexander Courage’s main title for the original series, plus James Horner’s battle theme from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” On top of that, actual audio of Ricardo Montalban as Khan and George Takei as Sulu from the original episodes is looped in for their cameos.
Watch Giacchino talk about his love “Star Trek” and what inspired his direction of “Ephraim and Dot” in the video above.