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Star Trek - The Animated Series - The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek
To be honest I can't remember the last time that I saw an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series. I think it may have been on as a rerun during the 80's or maybe I had seen it on VHS. Either way it was so long ago that I had essentially forgotten about its very existence. When Paramount announced the release of the complete show on DVD the memories all came back to me. Watching the bridge crew walk around with life support belts, witnessing more Tribblesome adventures, and seeing the first appearance of the holodeck were things that I hadn't done since I was very young so you can imagine my enthusiasm.
Airing between 1973 and 1974, Star Trek: The Animated Series had a total of 22 episodes produced. While the Original Series' run came to an end in 1969 the animated adventures of Kirk and the gang was supposed to be a continuation of their mission in space. In many ways this was true with sequel episodes involving Tribbles and an even the nefarious Harry Mudd. If you look at the Stardates though there are many episodes that seemingly took place in between episodes of the Original but I'm not going to get too involved in the nitty-gritty.
In case you have never seen or heard of The Animated Series let's take a step through the Guardian of Forever and look at some Trek history for a second.
The real beauty of The Animated Series is the fact that nearly the entire original cast returned to make these episodes. The only exception being Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) though Koenig did make an appearance to write the episode "The Infinite Vulcan". That meant that Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, Kelley, Takei, and Nichols all reprised their original roles. Majel Barrett and Doohan also stepped up to the plate and provided many secondary character voices.
The simple fact that each of those names was involved on this project helped give it the weight that it needed to be appreciated by fans. Instead of trying something different with a new cast and concept, keeping things the way they were proved key to the show's success (what it did have, at least). There was also a benefit to producing an animated series. Writers were able to accomplish things that weren't possible in the live action Star Trek due to a limited budget such as certain alien races, technologies, and sets.
Most Trekkies seem to have formed their own opinions about The Animated Series. Some love it; some hate it. Many will go on about how things here aren't canon or how terrible the show looks due to shortcuts and a low budget. The simple fact is that Star Trek has always been about telling a good science fiction story. Whether it's a novel, comic book, television show, movie, or cartoon it's the writing that makes the story enjoyable not the quality of the animation. Keep that in mind as you watch many of these episodes and you'll enjoy them just as much as the live action shows. Take "Yesteryear" for example.
In "Yesteryear" the crew of the Enterprise takes another trip to see the Guardian of Forever in order to conduct some research. While Kirk and Spock were in the past something happens that erases Spock from history and before you know it, it's up to our favorite Vulcan to step back into the Guardian and fix time. In order to correct history he has to travel back to a point in his childhood where he was undergoing a Vulcan coming of age ritual. He essentially saves his own life and in the process we learn a lot about the Vulcan people and Spock's past. Mark Lenard also guest starred as Sarek in this episode which was a definite plus in my opinion.
Another must see episode from this collection is "More Tribbles, More Troubles". This particular episode is a sequel to the Original Series' "The Trouble with Tribbles". The Enterprise comes across a Federation ship being attacked by a Klingon vessel and naturally Kirk goes to the rescue. They discover that the pilot is none other than Cyrano Jones (Stanley Adams), cosmic scumbag extraordinaire. Jones is on the run from the Klingons after unloading some Tribbles onto them but he promises to have created a new Tribble that is perfectly harmless. Of course we know this isn't the case because like all good swindlers Jones is not to be trusted.
Speaking of swindlers, let us not forget about Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel). In "Mudd's Passion" he finds himself a spot of trouble when the Enterprise comes to arrest him. He has apparently been trying to sell off some love crystals that are supposed to make anyone fall head over heels. Nurse Chapel gets caught in the middle and is suckered into using a crystal on Spock though oddly enough it actually works. It was not only fun to see Mudd in action again but you can't discount Spock blathering on like a lovesick puppy.
"The Pirates of Orion" was another fun episode that was the first appearance of male Orions. The plot involves Spock contracting a deadly virus and the ship with the cure being attacked by Orion Pirates. Spock's life hangs in the balance and it's up to Kirk to see that his old friend gets out of this alive. They find the Orion pirates and negotiate a meeting. Naturally the Orions set a trap and even more natural is the fact that Kirk basically single handedly saves the day.
Many other episodes from this series are what I'd consider to be good viewing, but there were some that just didn't have a lot of watching value for me. I guess that's just part of the polarizing nature of The Animated Series. You're going to like what you're going to like and if you're a Trekkie you owe it to yourself to pick up this release and find out for yourself. Chances are good that many of you have seen these episodes before but since the show has been out of circulation for such a long time a new generation of fans can experience Star Trek in all its animated glory.
Beyond the Farthest Star
One of Our Planets is Missing
The Lorelei Signal
More Tribbles, More Troubles
The Infinite Vulcan
The Magicks of Megas-Tu
Once Upon a Planet
The Terratin Incident
The Time Trap
The Ambergris Element
The Slaver Weapon
The Eye of the Beholder
The Pirates of Orion
The Practical Joker
How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth
The Counter-Clock Incident
For being over thirty years old the print for Star Trek: The Animated Series is in remarkable shape. Yes you could nitpick about grain, dirt, and color deterioration but the simple fact is that the clean up job done for this DVD set is fantastic. Each episode has been remastered to a point where it probably looks better than it did when it aired and it certainly beats the heck out of any VHS tape you might have lying around. Just like every other Star Trek release Paramount did a heck of a job with this one.
The audio for this set comes in two packages; mono and 5.1. The mono track sounds just like you'd expect it to with a very limited range and less-than impressive quality. When it comes to the newly mixed 5.1 track however, The Animated Series gets some weight. Just like the other Paramount releases for Star Trek TV the sound quality is phenomenal with great use of the rear channels and a fine blend of audio all around. With this option available there is virtually no reason to watch the show in mono. Optional English, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are included.
Like the many Trek sets that came before it The Animated Series receives a decent supply of extras. On the lighter side of things there are a couple of blurbs that talk about the history of the show and the connections that the series had with others. It may not be considered canon by many fans but there are quite a few bits of solid continuity throughout the many series that all tie back to this one. Some audio and text commentaries make it into the fold as well. These provide a lot of insight behind the series and particular episodes and were really interesting as far as Trek lore is concerned.
The best inclusion on this set in my opinion was "Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series". Many of the original directors and writers make appearances here to give their commentary about the creation and production of the series. From what it was like working with Roddenberry to piecing everything together for the show there is a wealth of information here with a personal spin.
Whichever way you slice it though, The Animated Series is an important look at the Trek universe from the dusty recesses of the Paramount catalog. This is the last complete television release for Star Trek (unless Paramount releases remasters) so for any of you Trekkies looking for more adventures of the Enterprise you'll definitely want to pick this up. The animation quality may not be quite as enjoyable as other shows but the stories are what this series was all about. Anyone that considers themselves to be a Trekkie should definitely pick this up. The price is right for 22 episodes of vintage Star Trek.