Holodecks, Klingon cloaking devices, de-aged crew members, old crew members restored by the transporter, a Native American officer — all things from Star Trek of the 80’s forward right? Nope. All of these things and more (50ft. Spock!) can be found in Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) which arrives in a stand-alone Blu-ray set this week in North America.
The Blu-ray set features all 22 episodes, presented in 1080p HD, spread across three discs, with audio and text commentaries, storyboard galleries and a 24 minute documentary that includes interviews with TAS creators, as well as 22 poster-style cards, one for each episode, created by artist Juan Ortiz.
Star Trek: The Animated Series originally known simply as Star Trek but also known by the palindromic mouthful of Star Trek: The Animated Series — The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek is the 1973 animated Star Trek that is the defacto fourth season of the Enterprise’s original five year mission.
The series was critically acclaimed, it was the first Star Trek series to win an Emmy Award, and the stories still hold up today. Writers from Star Trek The Original Series (TOS) penned many of the episodes so it has that original series feel even though it was made for Saturday morning television.
And speaking of Saturday morning television, let’s address the animated pink elephant in the room so we can move on. I spend a large majority of my time when I talk about TAS defending Filmation, the animation studio that created the show. People wish someone else had animated it because it would have been “so much better”. Have you seen other cartoons from the early 70s? ANY Saturday morning cartoons from ANY other animation company? None of them hold up to our current standards of animation. Batman The Animated Series, Justice League, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, those were all decades away. TAS is of its time, but if you really pay attention you notice very few repeating backgrounds, unlike The Flintstones where they run and pass the same building over and over and over again, and the backgrounds are gorgeous. The characters are dead on including getting certain facial expressions down pat and Kirk even balls up his right hand when he rests it on the arm of the captain’s chair, just like in TOS. So I hope people will be able to project themselves back to a time when this was the new Star Trek on TV and have fun!
I own the DVD should I get the Blu-ray?
Unless you just got the DVD on a lark, if you purposefully sought out The Animated Series and intend to watch it again, that’s an emphatic yes!
The video, presented in the original TV 4:3 ratio, is glorious! If you have watched TAS on Netflix you’ve had a preview of the what the Blu-ray is like, but even I was unprepared for the clarity and vibrancy. The colors pop and you can see line and background detail that is mushy on the DVD.
The audio has a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track in 5.1 surround, and for the purist there’s an option for a mono Dolby Digital sound track. It sounds extremely clear, no scratches or pops. The clarity of the music and voices given the technological limits of the recordings of the 1970s, and the inconsistency of the recording devices as from time to time the actors would record while on the road, is quite good!
It’s so clean and clear, in fact at times the sound effects feel a bit more overwhelming, but this may just be a TOS/TAS preference of those behind the scenes.
- Text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda for “Yesteryear”
- Audio commentary by David Gerrold for “More Tribbles, More Troubles”
- Storyboard gallery for “The Infinite Vulcan”
- Text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda for “The Eye of the Beholder”
- Audio commentary by David Gerrold for “BEM”
- Audio commentary by David Wise for “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”
- Text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda for “The Counter-Clock Incident”
- “Show History” – a brief introduction to the show.
- “Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series” – a look at the production’s history as well as its place in Star Trek history.
- “What’s the Star Trek Connection?” – shows how TAS ties into other Star Trek series
Here’s where the Blu-ray falls down. OK, let me walk that back. If you don’t own the DVD, these extras are fine. They were shot and created in 2006 and nothing has been done to them to upgrade them. The short “Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series” is a good overview of the series. The text commentaries were created by Mike and Denise Okuda who love the animated series as much as anyone, and even incorporated parts of TAS into the TOS Remastered project.
The “connections” vignettes are nice and the storyboard galleries are interesting to compare to the final version, but there is a lot more they could have done.
A look at the Alan Dean Foster’s “Log” series adaptations of the episodes into novels, new episode commentaries, early script drafts, even a ‘remaster’ of the 1970s “Keep America Beautiful” PSA staring the animated cast and a trip to the “Rhombian Pollution Belt”. I started working on cleaning it up a few months back but without a good source copy it’s kind of fruitless. But there was a lot of low budget extras that could have been added. Much to my delight there is no dearth of people who want to talk about their time working on TAS.
New to the set are 22 colorful poster-style cards, one for each episode, created by Juan Ortiz. I really like Ortiz’s style, but he didn’t really nail the concepts like he did for TOS. For example “One of Our Planets is Missing” a quintessential original Star Trek story about a living cloud that devours planets. All the crew works together, everyone gets a chance to shine and after Spock does a “Vulcan mind-touch” with the cloud they convince it not to eat the planet. So the poster is a Andy Warhol-esque picture set of Lt. Arex? Don’t get me wrong, they look great, but I don’t feel they capture the episodes as well as his TOS sets did.
I have to say this is where the DVD has an advantage. The DVD comes in a hard shell with a translucent Trek delta and all of the extras are clearly spelled out on the included booklet. It’s really nicely built.
The Blu-ray comes in a cardboard box, the Ortiz cards come in a very nice, slick black cardboard pouch, but the discs are in that standard thin blue plastic case that every Blu-ray comes in and you have to look through each episode on the menu to find the extras (we’ve noted what each disc holds in the Bonus Content section, to make things easier to find). Granted, it’s a bit thinner and will disappear on a bookshelf easier, but I really liked the attention to design put into the DVD case. I may get a used DVD set and put the Blu-ray in there.
So, should you get it? Yes! If you are a fan of the animated series or even just a completist and want to have all the Trek media on your shelf it’s a great addition. Is it disappointing we didn’t get new extras? sure, but the quality of the audio and video is pretty good compensation! Besides, you know you want to see Kirk, Spock and the devil have a pint of ale!
Help support TrekMovie by using our Amazon links to buy Star Trek: The Animated Series