Star Trek: The Animated Series Studio: Paramount Home Video Year: 2006 (Original episodes aired 1973-1974) Rated: Not Rated. Aspect Ratio: 4X3 Audio:English Dolby Digital 5.1, mono; Spanish Mono Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portugese Time: 526 minutes. Disc Format: 4 DVD-9’ss Case Style: Plastic hard case After a three year run on NBC from 1967-1969, Star Trek was axed from the schedule. It wasn’t until 1973 that anyone realized this may be a viable franchise and an animated show was developed. Unfortunately, perhaps, the animated Star Trek was cancelled as well after only twenty two episodes, which paved the way for the beginning of a very successful movie franchise a few years later. The twenty two episodes presented here pick up where the original TV series left off and they continue with leaner stories. Gone is most of the character development and interaction that was and is a hallmark of the franchise, instead, opting for plot driven episodes that deal more in action and effects freed from the budgetary constraints of network TV. ST: TAS appears to be quite mature for its age, not playing so much to the Saturday morning kiddie audience. As David Gerrold says in one of the commentaries, they were trying to make, “…adult level science fiction kids could watch.” ST: TAS was notable not only for re-launching the franchise but also using most of the original actors for voice work. Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly and most of the others are represented, even allowing James Doohan to do up to six voices in various episodes. Thanks to this, much of the repartee that is prevalent in the TV series is easily conveyed here. ST: TAS also allowed the producers to be freed of live action budget constraints to introduce new alien species and locales and better utilize existing ones. We get to see more Andorians, a three armed creature playing a harp while on the bridge of the Enterprise, and this was the first major appearance of Vulcan and its cities. I watched several of the episodes in their entirety, and I watched segments of the rest for video and audio quality. The episodes are presented in airdate order, with Stardate’s noted alongside the airdates. The episodes included in this set are: Disc 1 Episodes : “Beyond the Farthest Star”, “Yesteryear” (with text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda), “One of Our Planets is Missing”, “The Lorelei Signal”, “More Tribbles, More Troubles” (audio commentary by David Gerrold), “The Survivor”. Disc 2 Episodes: “The Infinite Vulcan” (storyboard gallery), “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”, “Once Upon a Planet”, “Mudd’s Passion”, “The Terratin Incident”, “The Time Trap”. Disc 3 Episodes: ”The Ambergris Element”, “The Slaver Weapon”, “The Eye of the Beholder” (text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda), “The Jihad”, “The Pirates of Orion”. Disc 4 Episodes: ”Bem” (audio commentary by David Gerrold), “The Practical Joker”, “Albatross”, “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth” (audio commentary by David Wise), “The Counter Clock Incident” (text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda) . Video: The episodes are presented in their original 4x3 format. Paramount seems to continue to do the Star Trek franchise justice by doing a very nice job in restoring this animated show. There is very minor dirt and debris in the picture and detail is good enough to see brush lines and flaws in the original cels. Colors are excellent showing interesting differences between the characters (Spock and Sulu both have different skin tones from, say, Kirk) and they are bold, natural and lush. Saturation levels are excellent, and black levels are suitably deep. Edge enhancement was noticeable but not overbearing. The episodes have never looked quite this good! Audio: All of the episodes have been re-mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it is used to good effect. The voices stay planted in the center channel allowing the rest of the channels to be utilized for the various effects. I was pleased to hear the actors maintained their character voices and inflections without making them too “cartoony” as if they’re playing to a younger audience. The audio is very clear and the voices are accurate. The DD track presents a good surround field with mediocre bass effects. Bonus Features: Text commentaries by Star Trek guru’s Michael and Denise Okuda, and audio commentaries by David Wise and David Gerrold. Gerrold tells us the Tribbles became pink due to a color blind cel painter, so we get fun bits like that in these commentaries. Both types of commentaries are informative and interesting and give some good background on the individual episodes. “The Infinite Vulcan” also has a storyboard gallery of some rough photocopies of the original story boards. Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series (24:19): A good, detailed examination of the series by the writers and producers. As usual, you get the witty asides, but there are some great behind the scenes shots and some historical perspective from some of the current Star Trek writers. Again, the problem of color blindness comes up, as does the real reason Chekov is absent from the bridge. What’s the Star Trek Connection? This is an cool, fanboy perspective on how the animated series is tied to all the relevant live actions incarnations. Show History: A very brief text history of the show. Conclusions: This set seems to complete the Star Trek series on DVD, and Paramount has done a nice job in these re-mastered episodes. Video and audio quality has been improved making the episodes look and sound better than we’ve ever seen and heard them. There are also a few extras that make the set worthwhile to both hardcore and casual Star Trek fans.