Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Animated Series
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Star Trek: The Animated Series
The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek
Blu-ray Edition
Created by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Hal Sutherland, Bill Reed
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Majel Barrett
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 15, 2016

When the original Star Trek was cancelled in 1969 after three seasons, it left a void with fans who wanted NBC to renew the television series about the starship Enterprise and its crew’s five-year mission to explore new worlds and new civilizations. Audiences grew to love William Shatner‘s Captain Kirk and his first officer, the half-human half-Vulcan Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, but the ratings just weren’t high enough after the show was moved for the third season to a Friday night “death” slot. While Star Trek got to live on in syndication, it wasn’t until 1973 that new life was breathed into it with Star Trek: The Animated Series, produced by Filmation, the company behind Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

The animated series ran for two seasons, and basically served as a continuing, “further adventures” from the live-action show. A major bonus was that all of the main actors save Walter Koenig (who played Chekov) returned to voice their animated counterparts — Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kelley (Bones), George Takei (Sulu), James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), and Majel Barrett (Nurse Chapel) — and many people on the original show’s creative team were involved, with the approval of creator Gene Roddenberry.

Though the series, which ran for 22 episodes over two seasons, was part of the Saturday Morning Cartoons line-up, its creative team treated it not as a children’s cartoon, but as an animated version of the prime-time show. And it’s obvious. Some of the same writers were hired, so the storytelling has the same feel, as does the direction. Although, since the audience for the animated Star Trek show had expanded to include kids (though teens and adults were still watching!), it allowed for some more fun and lighthearted moments in certain episodes.

Themes and storylines are revisited, such as Harry Mudd (from “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”), Tribbles (from “The Trouble with Tribbles”), and the planet from “Shore Leave.” For “Yesteryear,” Mark Lenard provides the voice of Spock’s father, Sarek (who he played in the original series) in a story that sees Spock use “The Guardian of Forever” gateway from the live-action episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” to travel back in time to his childhood.

Of note, it was in this animated series that James T. Kirk’s middle name was revealed to be Tiberius, which went on to be included in the live-action films and in the recent rebooted film franchise from J.J. Abrams. Also first seen in the animated series is the Holodeck, which was a major part of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Previously available on DVD, the animated series is now being released as a 3-disc slipcovered Blu-ray box set with remastered versions of all 22 episodes — which run around 24 minutes each — along with bonus features. The episodes include options for subtitles in French, Italian, German, and Dutch, as well as English for deaf and hearing impaired. Audio options include English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English Mono, with dubbing available in French, German, and Italian. Inside the Blu-ray disc casing is a list of episodes with their corresponding Star Date and original airdate. The set also contains 22 one-sided Collector’s Cards illustrated by Juan Ortiz that beautifully represent each animated episode; these are housed in a separate black envelope with the Star Trek insignia on it.

For anyone who loves the original Star Trek and wishes it had continued after the third season, Star Trek: The Animated Series is the logical place to go.

Special Features

There are Audio Commentary and Text Commentary tracks on select episodes. To turn these tracks on, you have to select Episodes from the main Blu-ray menu, and this will give you a list of episodes on that disc. You then have to click on each title; if there’s a commentary available, then two options will pop up on the left to either Play Episode or to play the episode with commentary on, and it includes the name of the person providing it. If there’s NO commentary for that episode, unfortunately, when you select it, it will just start playing, which is frustrating. What you can do is scroll to the episode, and then click the Right arrow on your remote, and that should make the submenu show up (it did on my player). This same functionality applies to the select episodes that include a Storyboard Gallery, which you click through screens to view (it does NOT show during playback of the episode). Aside from that minor issue with menu navigation, the commentaries are great, especially the audio ones, which really give a lot of behind-the-scenes information. Definitely watch the “More Tribbles, More Troubles” episode with the audio commentary on.

The following Special Features are housed on Disc 3, with the two video bonus features are in Standard Definitions and include options for subtitles in French, Italian, German, and Dutch, as well as English for deaf and hearing impaired.

Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series (24:31) — Season 1 director Hal Sutherland, writer/associate producer D.C. Fontana, and producer Lou Scheimer, along with some of the show’s writers, talk about how the animated series came about after the original live-action series was cancelled. For the animated continuation, most of the original cast signed on to do the voice work, and this was likely the first time they were all together in the same room since their first show ended. Majel Barrett did a lot of the female voices, while James Doohan did more than just lead character Scotty. The people behind the animated show also got to give Nichelle Nichols more to do and give her room to stretch than she did on the live-action series. While the Star Trek franchise in general has a massive audience, most people don’t know about this hidden gem, or what went into making it. So this lengthy bonus feature is a definite must-watch.

What’s The Connection? (7:12) — This is a featurette that shows the connections between the animated series and other Star Trek properties, like Spock’s childhood pet Sehlat and the Tribbles. Each of the 10 connections can be watched separately, or you can choose the “Play All” function to view them all straight through, including the Introduction. This bonus feature is very cool, and will be a treat for trivia buffs.

Show History (2006) — This is a short text history of the animated show that you have to click through the screens to read.

Boldly continuing where Star Trek: The Original Series left off, these animated adventures chart the progress of Captain Kirk and his crew in a universe unconstrained by “real-life” cinematography! With all characters voiced by their original actors, join Kirk, Spock, Bones and the crew for 22 new adventures: to boldly go where no animation has gone before!

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