Star Trek: The Animated Series
The wonderful chemistry that had developed between the main characters in the original series is still here, despite many obstacles. Several episodes, even some of the better ones, feel rushed or underdeveloped at twenty-two minutes, and there is not always room left over for character moments. The stiffness of the animation doesn't help matters. The voice work is mostly good, though after the third episode, most of the cast recordings were done in isolation instead of as an ensemble, and the effect is palpable. (Shatner sometimes taped his readings while on the road with other projects, and in at least two episodes this resulted in Kirk consistently mispronouncing the name of his antagonist.)

Much is made in the extras of James Doohan's talent for voices and dialects, but he and Majel Barrett were made to take on far too many supporting roles. They sometimes voiced as many as seven other characters in a single episode, and an overall sameness of tone tends to creep in. Most of Doohan's extra performanes are fine, if somewhat sedate. One of the few exceptions is his grating, cartoonish turn as the Devil in "The Magicks of Megas-Tu," which undermines an otherwise thought-provoking episode.

I remain puzzled at Gene Roddenberry's decision to declare this series non-canon. He did say in interviews that he never would have permitted an animated series if he had known that a live-action series or films were possible. Perhaps he thought that the medium undermined the seriousness of the material. There are certainly a few episodes with silly or scientifically preposterous premises that might not have made the cut on a more relaxed schedule.

In any case, it is obvious that its creators took the material very seriously. In the interviews and commentaries, Fontana and others refer to the animated series as the fourth season the original show never had. I have heard that Neilsen ratings from the time suggested that most of the audience for the animated series were actually adults (presumably college students working off hangovers, as David Gerrold muses). Maybe it would have fared better in prime time, where its target audience was more likely to have found it.

Overall, I was pleased with this set. I had only seen a few of the episodes when I was a child, so I was curious to see if they would hold up for me as an adult. While I wouldn't recommend this set as a first step into the Star Trek universe, there is much here to recommend it to fans of the original series, despite several flaws in its execution.

DVD Features: 4:3 aspect ratio; English and Spanish audio tracks; English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles; Region 1.

DVD Extras: Episode commentaries; text commentaries; Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series and What's the Star Trek Connection? featurettes; storyboard gallery; show history.
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