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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Animation > Star Trek – The Animated Series (1973)

Star Trek – The Animated Series (1973/Paramount DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Episodes: B



Just in time for as full-blown wave of Filmation series arrive on DVD from the now-defunct BCI Eclipse label, Paramount had finally remastered and issued both seasons of Star Trek – The Animated Series from 1973 – 1974 including some extras a while ago and the results remain terrific.  Previously issued on VHS and even a brief-lived 12” LaserDisc box set with no extras, it ironically becomes the final spin-off series from the original 1960s show to make it on DVD and turns out to be truly the best of all of them.


Just as the franchise was about to slowly make the biggest comeback in pop culture history, NBC, Paramount and Gene Roddenberry were about to convince Filmation to create an animated continuation of the original Star Trek.  Like Paramount convincing a reluctant Fleischer Studios to produce an animated Superman, Filmation did not initially want the challenge of reviving the show, but it would turn out to be one of their greatest critical triumphs.


To begin with, Filmation was in peak form as Hanna Barbera’s chief rival.  Also, the company had their tight creative crew in tact.  Their animation was slowly getting better and they were still using an exceptional color palette.  This was good because the show needed to be faithful to the colors of the original series.  The actors who played all the major roles were all signed to continue voicing their characters for this version.  The writing would expand the Trek Universe and enable worlds and ideas to be created that the live action show could never afford.


The episodes that just about completed the famed “five-year mission” are as follows:


Season 1 (1973-1974)

1 Beyond the Farthest Star
2 Yesteryear
3 One of Our Planets is Missing
4 The Lorelei Signal
5 More Tribbles, More Troubles
6 The Survivor
7 The Infinite Vulcan
8 The Magicks of Megas-tu
9 Once Upon a Planet
10 Mudd's Passion
11 The Terratin Incident
12 The Time Trap
13 The Ambergris Element
14 The Slaver Weapon
15 The Eye of the Beholder
16 The Jihad

Season 2 (1974)

17 The Pirates of Orion
18 Bem
19 The Practical Joker
20 Albatross
21 How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth
22 The Counter-Clock Incident



The teleplays are top-rate, faithful to the original show, offering the kind of interesting and challenging science and philosophical arguments sorely missing from the franchise since the fourth feature film went broad and spinoff shows were stuck in the over-technologization of Holodeck and melodrama of soapy space opera void of science and depth that has caused the franchise to implode.  J.J. Abrams needs to really pay attention to this particular show if his revival is to succeed.


As for these episodes, word is that Mr. Roddenberry was not always happy about them and was not comfortable with their status in the Trek “canon” or the like, but the product that has been produced since his departure is so far from the original shows that any idea of “canon” has gone out the window and referencing dozens of previous TV episodes or feature films does not count.  The original heart and soul that made Trek great to begin with is here in full force, something that will be a shock to real fans as well as those who have not seen the show for decades.


The real argument here would be about length of these shows versus the original series and its spin-offs, all of which fit an hour-long timeslot.  This series was meant for a half-hour slot and what is interesting is how the writers were able to fit so many ideas in that time without compromising what makes the show work.  That means dumping melodrama, overacting and cutting down “impossible to get out of situations” between commercials.  It is not unlike comparing the fourth hour-long season shows of the original Rod Serling Twilight Zone with the other of its five seasons composed of half-hour shows.


By 1975, this show may have wrapped up, but the original show was becoming a huge hit in syndication, and the Mego Toy Company began licensing the series in what turned out to be a huge hit in toy stores across the country and eventually worldwide.  Trek was on the upswing and with the arrival of a feature film in 1979 (after a very promising one by Philip Kaufmann was cancelled just before Star Wars arrived) permanently cemented the permanent return of Trek once and for all.  Without Star Trek: The Animated Series, however, none of this would have happened.


The 1.33 X 1 image is just a tad softer than expected, but the prints and any clean up is terrific, the episodes usually very colorful (via the original lab work by Technicolor) and looks better than it ever did the way Fox’s restorations of Return To The Planet Of The Apes now do.  However, these are very watchable and a nice color demo for any HD playback.  Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Mono mixes are offered, but the Mono is actually cleaner, clearer and the preferred playback.  For the record, you can tell the 5.1 just thinly spreads out the mono, but the music and sound effects for this animated series exist in richer versions and a much better 5.1 upgrade could have been created if those stems had been used.  For DTS, Paramount needs to get their hands on the Trek sound effects CD GNP Crescendo Records issued in 1988 with 69 tracks, including four specifically from the animated show.  The recent James Bond upgrades proves once again that older material can sound great if given the proper upgrade.


Originally void of extras in its 12” LaserDisc version, this nicely packaged DVD set (a nice snapcase like the three seasons of the original show) include audio commentary on select episodes, text commentary on select episodes that is made of full color blocks and not just alternate subtitles, Drawn To The Final Frontier: The Making Of Star Trek: The Animated Series, What's The Star Trek Connection?, storyboard gallery and show history.  The result was the most serious non-Superhero action show since Jonny Quest.  You can read more about the original live-action Trek series and other mature animated series that followed at the following links:




Blu-ray Season One










Now, if only Warner would issue Hanna Barbera’s Valley Of The Dinosaurs, a complete portrait of these animated classics would be available on DVD.  In the meantime, never underestimate Star Trek: The Animated Series.  Now that it is out on DVD, its reputation is about to make a comeback.  Hope Blu-ray is next.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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