Review: ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series’ DVD Set

It has been my pleasure to review’s pre-release copy of Star Trek: The Animated Series on DVD. The animated Star Trek will always hold a special place for me. As a kid I can remember renting the video tape volumes from my local video store. Here was the perfect fusion of cartoons and Trek for a young fan. The Animated Series is the last bit of the Star Trek franchise to be released on DVD and it is a worthy addition to any classic Trek fan’s collection.

The DVD Set
The DVD boxed set comes in a clamshell plastic case that is like the recent season sets of the original series. It could easily sit on the shelf next to the 3 seasons of the classic Trek as a companion.

The box out of the shrink wrap

The discs and pamphlet

The 22 episodes are on four DVDs, selected episodes have a commentary track with the episode’s writer, while three others have trivia pop-ups from Denise and Michael Okuda. Also included is a nice pamphlet that folds open, depending on which way you fold it open you get different information. A quick summary of each episode runs across the length of the pamphlet, if you open it but don’t unfold the full length there is a section that addresses whether The Animated Series is canon.

The main DVD menu

The Animated Series
Produced in 1973-1974, The Animated Series, it could be argued, is the missing 2 years of Kirk’s 5-year mission. Sadly, we only got to see 22 such missions (episodes) in total. The Animated Series [TAS] is a Filmation production, and it shows. Filmation is best known for their cheap Saturday morning cartoons, one example is The New Adventures of Batman which can be seen on AOL Time Warner’s In2TV web portal if you’d like to see another example of Filmation’s work. The animation is rather basic: many times a scene is static with just the key items or characters moving, this is most often seen in a close up of a character which is really a static pose while just the mouth is animated. This isn’t to say that the animation is without merit. The animators took the time to rotoscope some of the common Enterprise shots from the film stock of the live-action series, creating a near exact copy of these sequences in animated form, this helps maintain the feeling that The Animated Series really is just a “lost season” of The Original Series [TOS].

A rotoscoped Enterprise shot

The sound effects were almost all stock library effects common among Filmation productions. While there were of course some of the trademark Star Trek sound effects most were generic “computer”, “machinery”, “weird sounds” and so on, which can been heard in other Filmation cartoons as well.

I may have presented a bit of a bleak outlook for cartoon Trek, however there were incredible stories far above any normal Saturday morning cartoon show. To make the new animated series consistent with Star Trek D.C. Fontana, who was script editor for TOS, was put in charge of the series. The stories were written by Trek alumni and other established Sci-Fi writers such as Larry Niven and David Gerold. Many of the episodes were continuations of storylines that were started in the live action TOS. Such episodes include More Tribbles, More Troubles; Mudd’s Passion; and Once Upon a Planet (which revisits the Shore Leave planet); we also see the Guardian of Forever (City on the Edge of Forever) again. References to places the Enterprise had been in the original series were used quite often. The episode How Sharper Than A Seprent’s Tooth actually garnered a Peabody Award, and the show itself won an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Series in 1975.

Free from the restrictions of 1960’s live action special effects limitations the writers were able to go to totally alien planets and introduce us to creatures that were more exotic than before. We are treated to a look at Spock’s childhood, shapeshifters, plant-like aliens, an alien that was the foundation for a Mayan god, giant clones, and more.

New regular characters Arex, the tri-pedal navigator, and M’Ress, a member of the cat-like Catian race, is an alternate officer at the communications station. Both were exotic looking and certainly not feasible in live-action.

Arex and M’Ress

Most of the original series actors reprise their roles for TAS, with the notable exception was Walter Koenig (hence the new navigator Arex). A special mention goes to Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry for not only doing their own characters but doing nearly every other alien character in the series. Although this multi-tasking was part of the low budget Fillmation approach, James Doohan really shows off his voice talents. Even though Koenig didn’t get to play Chekov on the show, he did write one of the episodes.

The canon question
So here’s rub with The Animated Series — it is not really considered proper Star Trek canon. There are two instances in TAS where I can think canon was violated. The first is an episode that mixed Trek with the Kzinti race of Larry Niven’s Sci-Fi universe. Of course this may be moot because the Kzinti are mentioned a few times in Deep Space Nine. The second issue I can see causing problems is the episode The Counter-Clock Incident. The episode, while laced with great references to TOS, goes out on a limb and portrays Robert April as the first Captain of the Enterprise. To be fair, nothing in TOS said Christopher Pike was the first to command the Enterprise so April could have preceded Pike. Even though the show is not official canon, it did break some new ground. The show featured the first use of a ‘holodeck’ (called a recreation room) as well as establishing Kirk’s middle name as ‘Tiberius’.

For a ton more on The Animated Series check out the great article on Memory Alpha.

Audio and Video Quality
The video seems to be pretty darn good for a rather inexpensive 1970’s cartoon. You can see quite a bit of paint variations and brush detail in the backgrounds, occasionally this brings out flaws such as random specks of paint that move with the action, or a few little jumpy dots in various shots. It is hardly distracting and has very likely always been there; the previous VHS tapes just didn’t have nearly the resolution to expose these little animation flaws. Audio is harder to restore, because if the recording didn’t have more detail in the first place there isn’t much that can be done. That said, the sound is just fine, but certainly nothing special. Presented in Dolby 5.1 it sounds quite good considering this is from a 33 year old mono soundtrack; there aren’t any of the clipped highs which happened a bit on the VHS copies.

The standalone extras on the fourth disc are a bit lackluster. There is what is in essence a simple PowerPoint slideshow of facts and history about The Animated Series called History. The What’s the Star Trek Connection? feature is perhaps the worst. These are little vignette’s that are intended to show the ways TAS is related to previous and future Trek movies and TV shows. While somewhat interesting, each vignette ends in a pitch for the DVD boxed sets of each TV show and/or movie mentioned.

The shining extra is the 24 minute documentary on The Animated Series called Drawn to the Final Frontier — The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series. It includes interviews with D.C. Fontana, Lou Scheimer (the series producer), Hal Southerland (the series director), David Gerold, and others. It looks at the start of The Animated Series at NBC Children’s Programming, on through the production, and touches upon how the show stands today.

I turned on David Gerold’s commentary track for More Tribbles, More Troubles to get a feel for the audio commentaries that are included. David has a lot of stuff to say, some of it is pretty interesting, some of it is more rambling about TAS in general. One of the more amusing issues on More Tribbles, More Troubles is that all the Tribbles are pink; it turns out the production team found out too late that the Filmation colorist was color blind! Another tidbit that was interesting was how the writers had to keep the animation budget in mind and work on avoiding shots with lots of dialogue since it was hard to animate.

To evaluate the text commentary by the Okuda’s I watched The Counter-Clock Incident, an episode I was familiar with, to see what value they might add to a pretty knowledgeable Star Trek fan’s viewing experience. The Counter-Clock Incident was written by the publicist for TAS at NBC named Fred Bronson, he used the pseudonym John Culver. He was a huge TOS fan and so he put in quite a few references to TOS. In this episode most of the references were planet names from 3rd season episodes and so I was happy to have the trivia pop-up tell me which episode the planet was from. The trivia commentary was often annoying, it sometimes seemed like when nothing particularly relevant was available to display on screen the commentary fell back on rather obscurely related factoids.


An exotic alien backdrop

The Phylosians

Alien dragon creature

A tweaked engineering set

One of the rotoscoped Enterprise shots

The classic “looking down at Kirk in his chair” shot

The Klingon ship makes its’ animated debut

The new Shield Belt (a replacement for environmental suits)

The shuttlebay with new types of shuttlecraft in the hanger

The classic “over Sulu’s shoulder” shot gets a new angle in TAS










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I believed it was well established that Captain Robert April was the first Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. I recall the ST Encyclopedia photoshopping Gene Roddenberry’s face onto a description for Captain April. Which I thought was a nice touch.

Just FYI, often, the little specks dancing around on these old Saturday morning cartoons is DUST and other trash trapped between the cells and the backgrounds. It’s one of the drawbacks of hand painted animation, but also part of it’s charm. Every cell-type cartoon is prone to it, but it’s more evident in low-budget Saturday morning toons, probably because of the time constraints.
Sometimes I wish these things could be cleaned up. but it would probably be way too expensive and time consuming to do so.

In “The Making of Star Trek” which came out at the time of the series, the name Robert April appears in the original Gene Roddenberry ideas for the show.

Can’t wait to purchase it on DVD. I’ve never seen them, and I’ve been a fan for 13 years. The last bit of new trek for me, it’s like a treasure. A bit off topic. If Babylon 5 and Stargate can get DVD movie releases why CAN’T STAR TREK! It would be great to see one of the incarnations (or more) come back, or a new creation. I know there have been campaigns like this before, but I think now more than ever Paramount should listen to the fans!

Correct, as the series progressed the name was later altered to Christopher Pike before the cameras rolled.

I always loved these animated adventures. They certainly have their own unique charm, even the stock Filmation music is great fun. And I have to give props to the animators. While this is very limited animation, they somehow managed to capture the likenesses of all the crew with just a few simple lines. Kirk isn’t a easy character to capture, just witness almost ALL of the Trek comic books over the years…but Filmation managed to get it right. Can’t wait till Tuesday!

For what it is worth gentlemen,

How describes the character:

Captain Robert T. April
Played by James Doohan (voice)
Episode: ANI 22023 – The Counter-Clock Incident

First captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 during its initial five-year mission. April, later a commodore, was succeeded by Captain Christopher Pike.

To Eric’s point in post #5… I’ve often wondered why there weren’t efforts to do Star Trek mini-series, ala Roots, or The Thornbirds. In this format you could produce a truly spectacular story that goes beyond both the scope of a 2 hour movie, or the limits of episodic TV. It would also have freed up actors who might not have been interested in committing to additional seasons, or have allowed actors from different series to be mixed (depending on the appropriate story for it).


Unless JJ Abrams mentions Robert April in Star Trek XI, Matt is correct. but more to the point…why does it matter. He is a character from the books and TAS…and so he \’exists\’ in that sense.

Otherwsise thanks Matt for the thoughtful review. TAS is actually the first Trek I saw…as a little kid, yet it is the one I am least familiar with. I look forward to rewatching it and I am sure there are some episodes I have never seen.

RE: Why doesn\’t Trek do what B5 and Stargate are doing
because Paramount have bigger hopes for Trek. I am sure that Paramount could make money doing cheap mini series on SciFi (like Farscape) or straight to DVD, but that stuff is chump change and they want to make real money off the Trek franchise. I imagine that if Trek XI fails they may reconsider and lower their expectations, but don\’t expect low budget direct to DVD Trek until they have given up on both TV and theatrical. That being said I am sure the people at Paramount Home Video wish they had more content. TAS is the end of the line, now all they can do is repackage previously released titles into new formats (like HD) or \’themed packages\’ (like the Fan Collections). The next \’big release\’ will probably be the HD film sets and then Trek Remastered (probably on multiple formats)

Is it wrong to man on beast thoughts about M’Ress? “Cause if it’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Grrrrrrr….

Everytime I visit this site, and its become highly addictive, blast you, I find something to get totally geeked about. And this is another of those things. I too remember TAS fondly from my youth, when it was the only extension of the Trek universe in town. Thanks for the preview Matt, I can’t wait to grab a copy of this.

Right on, Matt — oh, and I know you meant to say Larry Niven under “The Canon Question” with regard to the Kzinti — although I’m sure David Niven’s Kzinti were better dressed and much more polite! :)

I wonder whether characters like Arex and M’Ress are being considered for Abrams’s film. Abrams and his writers have also said that they think even some of the novels have some ‘worth.’

When I think of Trek novels that have ‘worth,’ I tend to think of the likes of Diane Carey’s Final Frontier (featuring Robert April) and Margaret Wander Bonanno’s Strangers from the Sky.

I saw about three of the animated episodes on VHS in the late 1980s, as a kid. I’m really looking forward to watching all of them finally!!

..well, for my money, April is mentioned in the animated series, that’s good enough for me…why? Because that was a series produced by Roddenberry and DC Fontanna, featuring the voices of the original series actors in stories penned by original series veterans in settings of the original TV series with Roddenberry’s blessing. The fact that the show is animated takes nothing away from it being “official” ….especially in a universe that is all make believe to begin with! Animated or not, it features original series actors in original series stories written by original series writers…that’s about as close as it can get. Canon schmanon, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….

…something I would really like to see, since CBS is hot on CGI right now, is a completely new CGI film, using the vocal tracks of the animated episodes. Sure, the characters won’t be photo-perfect, but it can still be very stylized…the CGI animators wouldn’t have any obligation to stay true to the cell animation, just the classic designs of the original series, so they could really knock your socks off, visually, in 16:9 HD. Then score it with the original series music and sound FX in 5.1 surround, and there you have it, yet another 22 episodes they could market to syndication.

Oh well, I can dream….

I like the animated series a lot because it continued using the characters as shown in the Star Trek series with the same uniforms, ship design, etc. Having the actual actors do the voices was another great thing about it. A few of the episodes were as good as all but the very best of the live action series. The artists did a great job of creating likenesses of the crew. I already own the entire series, so won’t be getting the dvd, but I’m happy that it is available for those who haven’t been able to see the whole series.

#10 “Geeze it’s like you all think I don’t know squat about Star Trek, everything that has been pointed out about Robert April I knew already. The fact remains he has never been talked about on any canon show or movie.”

Didn’t mean to make you feel that way Matt. The links and information were not directly pointed toward you since this is an open forum. It was intended to inform others of the “points of interest” regarding the subject. (Since not all visitors to this site have an equal knowledge of all TREK aspects).
Anyone who reads a Matt Wright article or views his Screenshots from the previous weekend’s episode should quickly become aware of not only his ST knowledge and intelligence but his love. No one can put in that much work [this includes Mr. Pascale] and not care deeply about the topic. (Now, that’s enough sunshine)
Matt, if you felt insulted in anyway I certainly wish to apologize and as always great work.

The canon question really amounts to GR and the Paramount exec’s not wanting to be associated with a “kiddie cartoon” even though Roddenberry helped make it!
The sad part is the best of the animated Treks are much better than some fo the mediocre live episodes – and even less “continuity bending”.

Who wouldn’t place Yesteryear above TOS:Spock’s Brain or many episodes of Voyager:Threshold?

Nice review and shots. This is a great site and forum.

#19: I have been thinking the same thing recently: why not totally re-imagine TAS with CGI. With this new release, we’ll all be painfully aware that TAS has 2 really crappy aspects (shoddy animation, repetitive music) and 2 really great aspects (wonderful stories, the original actors’ voices). So, jettison the first two and build new shows around the second two. What a joy that would be: expand them to an hour with heart-stopping CGI and wondrous, dreamy music. Contemporary CGI would really fool us into believing that young Kirk and Spock live again!

#22 Captain Pike…. I am curious how you know of GR’s and Paramount’s desire to not be associated with the Animated Trek? Where did that come from?

#24 Yeah, right…maybe in 20 years or so CGI will be that good. We’re not there yet. Humans and humanoids have a lot of subtleties that have yet to be mastered with CGI.

If they tried that now, it might be a little better than Final Fantasy…but not by enough to fool audiences.

Look how hard it is even for CBS digital to do convincing non-organic CGI.


Captain Robert April was the leading man’s name in Roddenberry’s 1964-vintage “Format” pitch book used to sell the series to NBC and the studio (was it Paramount–or was MGM somehow involved???)

Not really sure where “Pike” came from, except that there was a heretical Episcopalian bishop about that time named Pike. Given that Roddenberry was well on his path from Methodism to Buddhism/New Age/hippie culture, perhaps that had a certain appeal to him.

Re:Post #19; You are not alone in this senitment… although I have fond memories of trying to catch the animated series on tv and reading Alan Dean Foster’s Log Books, when I later in life got a chance to rent them, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the animation. Actually, it’s been so long, I can hardly recall that experience either. I had ideas of wishful thinking along these lines when most of th original cast was still alive for them to do a make over of TAS, perhaps, even adding new adventures. Alas, never to be. I want to see these again, though, just to clarify my stance. :)

#26: good point, dude. yes, we can’t do photo perfect right now. still, we can do rockin stylish good fun. final fantasy was a lot of yrs ago, and things have improved mucho since then. you still need to squint your eyes a bit, i’ll admit, but it’d still be wonderful.

the resta y’all, keep talking up remastered TAS, maybe paramount will notice.

#19, #24, #26, #29: Please allow me to second, third, and fourth that idea of re-tooling TAS in CGI. If there aren’t 2 or 3 exec’s at Paramount reading this and thinking the same thing, I’d be very surprised.

Sure, the CGI would have to be stylized in someway to help bridge the technical gaps, but that’s par for the course as far as I’m concerned. #24, you really hit it on the head with your good/bad TAS analysis.

Me thinks it’s time for someone to make a prototype to show the way…

Boy, I’d love to see what Daren Doc would do with this gig!

I remember watching TAS on Nickelodeon as a kid. I found it completely fascinating in that it was a cartoon where characters “talked” to one another. It wasn’t a toy commercial like G.I.Joe or The Transformers (which I loved regardless). TAS was true to the spirit of Star Trek. I cannot wait to have these shows on DVD. Thank you Paramount for getting this set together.

As for retooling the episodes into extended CG-episodes, I think that’s an intruiging idea, but I’m slightly skeptical. The first priority here is to tell good stories, and to tell them well. Animating TOS characters into more realistic renditions of the live-action show is a tricky proposition. Cost considerations aside, I’m more worried about the “acting” element that these animators will have to render via CGI. Yes, a very careful group of animators, working with an equally dedicated bunch of directors could produce a magnificent product, but it’s not an easy task. Would all that effort be worth it? I don’t know.

I won’t say I don’t like the idea, but I’d prefer Paramount fix and update STV or expand the FX for STIII (make the Genesis Planet look real!) first.

I would prefer they left the animated series alone. Turning it into CGI would just be a collossal waste of time and money. It is fine the way it is. Limited animation – so what? Stock soundtrack music – so what? An enjoyable show just as it is.

#30, Actually there is someone making a “prototype”. Prtrope on the trekbbs has been putting stuff togehter to make Star Trek: Re-Animated, starting with the “Time Trap”. I’ve been watching it for awhile and look forward to seeing the finished result…

Here are some links…First the home-page.

Here is the first thread on the trekbbs.

Here is an “Art of Trek Re-Animated thread.

I think the Trek universe is due for another animated venture, but I’d love to see new stories and characters explored. Use the approach taken by Roddenberry, i.e. get strong SF writers to produce the scripts, develop a new ship and crew, and explore some new ideas. If the movie is succesful, it would be a good way to keep Star Trek alive on the small screen as well. And it would be a good way to support the “move Trek forward” movement at the same time they “reboot” the franchise (or whatever it is they call what they’re doing).

Re #11 – Chump change for direct to DVD releases? I don’t know what you’ve been reading lately, but the budget for the B5 direct-to-DVDs movies is equivelent to half a season worth of episodes. No small commitment on Warner Bros. part. Especially since one of the three films for the B5 project had to be pushed to volume 2 due to the intense pre-production that would be required for it. WB has committed to a string of these releases while JMS figures out how to make a feature film that he can be happy with that does not include Richard Biggs and Andres Katsulus (both deceased).

As for Stargate going direct to DVD… again MGM has a pretty big committment to their project as well. Now that Stargate is the longest running SF series in US history and they have made hugh money on the season sets, their financial committment is nothing less than amazing as well. With them gearing up to revisit Dean Devlins Stargate universe with the final two films in the series, MGM is looking to make a big impact with their direct-to-dvd versions of this series.

These projects are not “chump change” as you so unfairly characterized them.

Back in the mid-seventies at the El Cortez hotel for one of the Filmcons I
was privileged to discuss the possibility of additional animated features
with Gene Roddenberry and several other trek actors in a round table
discussions. The talks were great but even with fan enthusiasm and
a great deal of positive direction Paramount was not interested. The same
talks occured at another convention in late 1982. Again the studio was not
interested. The actors were all available for almost two more decades. Yet
during this time Paramount did nothing. Now with only a few actors left to
do the voice overs for and animated feature they still show no interest.
Potential is a terrible thing to waste. So is time. Soon it will all be hindsight and everyone will lose.

Cafe 5 — such a shame, but not surprising. My hope is that with all the new media outlets out there, DVD, Web, etc., the profit potential might be more attractive to them. And I have to believe a lot of the “fan-based” work on the web now had some impact on their decision to undertake the remastering efforts. Maybe some similar grass roots efforts will take off and get the ball rolling. Come on all you CG masters out there (or any “traditional” animators, if such an animal still exists) — the “remastering” effort has been picked up by the studio, and they finally seem to be getting it right. Let’s see what you can do with some all-new animations!

If this is successful, maybe we can see a CGI resurrection of Hong Kong Phooey…
Really, I am looking forward to seeing the old animated series again. I always thought there should have been more episodes produced.

RE: #33 – Skippy 2k, thank you for the links! There is some very nice artwork on those threads for different episodes of TAS, which would be nice for future re-issues of Alan Dean Foster’s Log books. I have fond memories of TAS, since I was 7 when it premiered. I did get a bit weary, though, of them recycling old TOS settings – even as a youngster I thought that lacked creativity. It was much more fun when they broke out and did more original stories, such as Beyond the Farthest Star.

I enjoyed finding the Star Trek Aurora cartoon as well:

Re: GR & Paramount VS TAS.
A number of the game licensees and novel publishers wanted to do stuff that built on TAS and each time the answer was no. One really silly case was the 25th anniverary PC game from Interplay. Because there was a TAS episode titled Pirates of Orion, the game creator were not allowed to to include the Orion Pirates in the PC game. Make sense? No, but whoever was in Paramount licensing was following the rules to the letter.

The best site for TAS info:

Thanks for the links Skippy and Granger! The AuroraTrek link is very interesting. The human “performances” are quite good and I find it less jarring to see all new characters rather than approximations of the original cast! Very cool!

I consider TAS to be far more CANONESQUE’ than DS9,Voyager, and Boobyprize.

Those series exist for me in some alternate illusory reality in which Kirk had a bad dream that Star Trek sucks in the future.

Thankfully he wakes up.

“The 24th century’s not so tough.”

The Kzinti were never mentioned on Deep Space Nine. The species mentioned were the Tzenkethi. It’s possible that the name was chosen as a play on the Kzinti, but Niven’s creation is otherwise absent from the live action universe.

LOL !…Josh my friend, you kill me sometimes.

Yes indeed, there is much CLASSIC Trek goodness in these animated episodes to be enjoyed by those who haven’t yet seen them.

Bought my copy, watched the first 3 eps last night.

This was ASTOUNDING. I am amazed at how good this was. The stories were brilliant, perfectly akin to the original shows. Cool plots, interesting problems, solid pacing .. all this plus those familiar voices sounding exactly like the TOS era.

I just can’t believe they made these shows for kids! The vocabulary alone outstrips most teens. Check out Scotty’s technobabble riff in “Planet Missing”! And issues of morality and sacrifice and existence? – well, that’s the wonder of Star Trek, the brilliance of not talking down to your audience. I only caught a couple of these back in the day, so for me it’s a whole new universe of brand new Trek. I am in heaven!

BTW, in post #24, I called the animation crappy. I take that back. It seemed to me that the absence of motion was totally compensated by the excellent background paintings. The first episode was stunning eye candy. Comic book style colorful! Yee haw!

Thank you, Josh, #43, for these comments which I wholeheartedly agree with…

“I consider TAS to be far more CANONESQUE’ than DS9,Voyager, and Boobyprize.

Those series exist for me in some alternate illusory reality in which Kirk had a bad dream that Star Trek sucks in the future. “

Anybody else have problems getting a copy of the animated DVD set without the inner DVD holder(s) being damaged? My copy was cracked and one of the trays had been broken right off where it is held together with tape. I went back to the store and had them open two other copies which also had damage to the inner DVD “taped” trays.

This set is great viewing but I am not sure how I am going to get an undamaged set.

Anyone else noticed there hasn’t been an update to this site in over a week? Considering there was one at least every day before…why’d they stop?

Years after I wrote “The Counter-Clock Incident,” Gene made a decision that Robert April was canon.

He read every TAS script, by the way, and scribbled notes in the margins. When Spock tells Kirk that their brains are operating in reverse in the anti-matter universe, Gene wrote in the margin, “Really? How do they pee?”