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Star Trek: The Animated Series (Blu-ray Review)

Star-Trek-AnimatedThere’s that sigh of relief from fellow Trek fans, as there’s a sort of gamble that paid off.  Previously, Star Trek: The Animated Series was only available in the 50th Anniversary box set that came out back in September from Paramount.  As a matter of fact, aside from having everything from the original crew in one nice package, the only new draw to it was the Blu-ray deubt of the 1970s animated series.  Most of us assumed it would receive its own standalone release down the line.  Surprisingly, we only had to wait just a a little over two months to find out our hold out was worth is.  It now comes in a nice little 3-disc set of its own with some limited edition small art prints that are posters for episodes and all the bonus material featured on the previous DVD release of the short lived extension.  You’ll be able to pick this one up for purchase on November 15th.  Rejoice!  Your Blu-ray collection of Star Trek (Original Crew) is complete!

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Series 

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!

Star Trek: The Animated Series was the first revival of Star Trek following its Cancellation in 1969.  Known just as “Star Trek” back then, it began airing in 1973.  Syndicated episodes of the original series in the past 4 years had proven so popular that this was the response to bring the show back.  It was met with critical success, winning a Daytime Emmy Award, but not so much with its ratings (Like the original show).  Especially, it wasn’t connecting with the kids’ demographic that the series was aiming for.  It was let go, and the last we would have from Star Trek until The Motion Picture in 1979.

While there has always been debate and back and forth about the show being canon, at the time it was released, it was pretty much believed to be.  Ported over from the original live action series were its writing staff and all but one of the original cast for vocals (Walter Koenig was left out due to budgetary reasons, but did write an episode becoming the first cast member to write for the show).  Also coming on board in the writing room were many notable science fiction authors of the time.  Since it was animated, the show would be able to show some bigger ideas, like more elaborate aliens, places and events.

Said animation, though, was of the Filmmation style, which was popular among Saturday morning cartoons of the 1970s.  And because of that, this show becomes a hard sell for me.  If you’re not familiar with the animation, its very primal.  Basic color are used and the image is a very stationary one with lots of “stock” animated footage that gets repeated.  You basically are treated to a stationary picture with a mouth moving and then maybe a slight movement.  Coming with that are a lot of glaring mistakes in the animation, due to the repetitious use of some shots.  Yes, it looks cheap because that’s exactly what it was.

However, for me, and I think many of my fellow Trekkers, the scripts in this show are strong enough to get past the kind dumpy animation.  There are a handful of episodes that are follow ups to ones on the original series, which actually kind of play like retreads or remakes of the episode they are linked to.  But, there are others and ones that bring about fun, unique and new adventures for the like of Kirk and company.  While it is enjoyable, you kinda just have to forgive or look past the animation.

While the debate wages on of whether this show “counts” or not, I say count it.  I’m one who is fine with looser continuity and things and also have an understanding and forgiveness for things like that.  I get it, I know how things are made and work and don’t get bothered by things being super neat in their connection. Plus, we get things that are still in play today from this series, like the “T” for Tiberius as Captain Kirk’s middle name.  This show also sets up the holodeck which would come into play later for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  So, really this animated series is not even close to being a loss.

To me, as tough as it can be to watch or whatnot, I still consider this to be that 4th season of Star Trek that we never got.  Year four of the five year mission.  Boldy going where many an animated show in the 1970s had gone before.  And for Trekkies of that era who were fans of the show, I understand the embrace you have and people probably can’t imagine a time with so little Star Trek to consume and the worry that there never would be any more.  This show is a little bit of a cult item within a cult item and is a great little bonus to have as well as a collector’s item within having all things Trek.

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Episodes

Disc 1

Beyond The Farthest Star

Yesteryear

One Of Our Planets Is Missing

The Lorelei Signal

More Tribbles, More Troubles

The Infinitive Vulcan

Disc 2

The Magicks Of Megas-Tu

Once Upon A Planet

Mudd’s Passion

The Terratin Incident

The Time Trap

The Ambergris Element

The Slaver Weapon

The Eye Of The Beholder

Disc 3

The Jihad

The Pirates Of Orion

BEM

The Practical Joker

Albatross

How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

The Counter-Clock Incident

Star Trek Animated 1

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  As incredibly simple as the animation was on this show, the previous DVD iteration looked pretty great.  This here is a step up, but marginally. The image features the obviously improvement in sharpness and a crisper look.  There’s a little thicker look to it as well, creating a more bold and confident appearance.  Overall, I think people will be happy though.

Depth:  This is a pretty flat, 2D as you can get 2D of a show.  That’s the animation, not this Blu-ray’s fault.  Its not too bad though, as movements are smooth and there is some sense of loose fluidity between characters, ships and backdrops.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and dark.  They do a good job of outlining characters and objects as well as filling them in with solid color.  No crushing witnessed on this one at all during my viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Color is an area of noticeable improvement.  While still not maybe as big of a change as I’d have liked (They’d probably actually have to recolor the whole thing), its still impressive.  Reds, blues and yellows are all stronger and bold because they are primary and not a lot of different tinting and shading is going on.

Flesh Tones:  N/A

Noise/Artifacts:  There are some dirt/specs in the episodes, but for me, it kind of adds to the look and charm of the show.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Mono, German Mono, French Mono, Italian Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, German, French, Italian, Dutch

Dynamics:  Star Trek: The Animated Series features a surprisingly well realized 5.1 audio track.  The audio sounds pretty clear and clean and less analog than you think it would.  The effects, vocals and score are all much more loose of one another in a well balanced mix.  Effects have a good distinct full sound to them.  Its a loud track that will fill the room more than the show ever has before.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Some decent rumbling gets done with the subwoofer in this mix.  Some explosions, ship shaking and bass in the score feels a nice, while not thunderous boom.

Surround Sound Presentation:  What this one does quite well is fully realize the environments, names the bridge.  You can hear beeps, computer hums and more.  There are some distinct sounds and the like that carry in the rear speakers too.  Movements and actions are documented pretty decently.  No, this isn’t going to be Star Trek Beyond, but its pretty solid for a piece of vintage animated television.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is plenty loud and well captured here.  Everyone is clean and clear.

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Extras 

Star Trek: The Animated Series is a 3 Blu-ray Disc set.  The bonus material appears on Disc 3.  This set comes with a collectable gather of cards featuring some poster art for some of the episodes.  All the bonus features are ones carried over from the 2006 DVD release of the series.

Drawn To The Final Frontier: The Making Of Star Trek The Animated Series (SD, 24:31) – A little retrospective with writers going over the life span of this short lived animated series that kept Star Trek alive.

What’s The Star Trek Connection (SD, 7:12) – This goes over things in the animated series and their relation to all the other films and TV series in the universe.

Show History – Playing like still gallery, this is a written history of the show.

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Summary 

Star Trek: The Animated Series is definitely for Trek fans, but I doubt it’ll extend much beyond that.  Hampering that is how you feel about the animation. This Blu-ray is a nice step up, but due to the simplicity of the animation before, the DVD already looked quite good.  But, hey, an upgrade is an upgrade and this looks and sound better. Also cool are the little posters they have inserted and its appreciated that the extras are carried over.  The price is a little steep for this (Especially since its been on Netflix), but for a fan its worth it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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