Star Trek: The Animated Series – DVD Review

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Gene Roddenberry

Voice Cast:
William Shatner….Captain James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy…..Mr. Spock
DeForest Kelly….Dr. McCoy
James Doohan….Scotty
Nichelle Nichols….Lt. Uhura
George Takei….Lt. Sulu
Majel Barrett….Random Voices

Paramount Home Entertainment presents Star Trek: The Animated Series. Running time: 526 minutes. Four DVDs. Unrated. Episodes aired: Sept. 8, 1973 to Oct 12, 1974. DVD release: November 21, 2006.

The Show

Normally when a live action show is transformed into an animated series, it becomes a sad and pathetic mess. When they pulled the plug on The Partridge Family, the network squeezed an extra season out of them by painting them into the future as The Partridge Family 2200 A.D.. This is one of the most painful cartoons that ever aired. Gilligan’s Island, Happy Days and The Brady Bunch became lame parodies when they became cartoons. Amazingly enough, when Star Trek was revived as a Saturday morning cartoon, it didn’t meet this fate. There’s not that much embarrassing about watching the animated show compared to the live action version.

There are three simple reasons why ST:TAS can be embraced by those who enjoyed the original series. First, Gene Roddenbery worked on the animated series. The creator had approval so the folks at Filmation didn’t turn Kirk and Spock into planet hopping rock stars solved mysteries with a talking dog. Second, nearly all the major characters returned as voices of their animated counterparts. The only person missing is Walter Koenig (Chekov) and he contributed a script. We’re not forced to hear impersonations of Kirk and Spock like what was done with the Harlem Globetrotters when they met Scooby Doo. Third, many of the episodes were written by the original series screenwriters. They had only half the time to tell their stories. Since the show was aimed to a younger audience, they cut back on the fighting and Shatner humping green women. But the writers maintain a level of story quality beyond the average Hanna-Barbera production. This isn’t as dumb as The Robotic Three Stooges. This wasn’t simply cashing in on the names and likeness of the series. This show was truly an extension of the series.

Because Filmation was in charge of production, the show pulls out all the creative limited animation tricks. There’s a lot of reused shots. The spaceships seem to be a single cell dragged across the backgrounds. The least amount of motion is used in a shot. They used an eye blink to maintain a dinner scene. Anything was done to avoid painting a new cell. While this was a high budget show for Saturday morning, it’s not animated to the level of The Simpsons or Assy McGee.

By going animated, the aliens, spaceships and worlds were more elaborate than stuff built on the Desilu soundstages. Chekov’s replacement isn’t just another guy in a red shirt, but a freakish alien with an extra arm in his chest. They even give us a view of the planet Vulcan in “Yesteryear.” The animated version allows us to see stories that were light years beyond the effects budget that live action show could afford. Plus Shatner’s over acting moments are smoothed out in the paint. You can’t even tell he’s wearing a toupee on this show.

Besides having the original cast in the recording booth, they even brought back familiar characters in their proper voice. “More Tribbles, More Troubles” has Cyrano Jones and those cute hairballs beam back onto the Enterprise. Stanley Adams, who played Jones on the original series, reprises the role. “Mudd’s Passion” has Roger C. Carmel return as the intergalactic pimp Harry Mudd. They could have just had James Doohan do their vocals. But the producers cared enough to bring in the real talent instead of fooling the audience.

There’s a big debate as to whether ST:TAS is truly canon in the Star Trek Universe. Some “experts” consider this fan fiction instead of true Enterprise adventures. With so much talent from the original show attached to the animated version, what’s there to debate? If you’re entertained by the episodes, does it really matter? Maybe it matters if you gave your wedding vows in Klingon.

Even though the show ran for two years, they made 16 episodes for the first season and only an additional 6 episodes for the second. This short sophomore run allowed NBC to save a couple bucks and fool the kids into thinking they were getting all new shows. Unlike every other Star Trek related series, ST:TAS wasn’t rerun to death. You might think that such is the fate of a series with 22 episodes. But The Jetsons had only 24 episodes and remained a Saturday morning staple for decades. With all the ST:TAS episodes securely inside the boxset, the cartoon adventures might finally get the respect it deserves.

The DVD:

Presented in 1.33:1 full screen. The transfers look great.

The soundtrack is English 5.1 Surround, English Mono and Spanish. Audio commentaries are from screenwriters David Wise on “How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth,” and David Gerrold on “More Tribbles, More Troubles” & “Bem.” The commentaries have subtitles. The subtitles for the episodes are in English, Spanish and Portuguese. There’s Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda on “Yesteryear,” The Eye of the Beholder” and “The Counter-Clock Incident.


Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series (24:20) presents a history about how the show worked as a bridge between the live action TV series and the feature films. The only letdown is the lack of Shatner or Nimoy commenting about the cartoons.

What’s the Star Trek Connection? (5:44) points out how the animated series is linked with the various live action shows and movies.

Show History is a rather weak text summary of the show that has material covered in the documentary.

Storyboard Gallery is an option on “The Infinite Vulcan.” Get a peek at what the folks at Filmation roughed up to get an episode on the rails.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Star Trek: The Animated Series
(OUT OF 10)