- Series Title: Star Trek: The Animated Series
- Season: The Complete Series
- Date: 1973 – 1975
- Episodes: 22
- Discs: 4
- Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett
- Original Network: NBC
- Production Network: Paramount; Filmation Animation
Star Trek: The Animated Series (ST:TAS) does manage to feel like original Classic Trek, especially towards the end of it’s run. The main drawback to this series is the animation – it’s Filmation, not the best animation company, and it’s very flat. Now animation is much better than this – but even back when ST:TAS was made there were other companies and other countries that produced much better animation. Also the early episodes in ST:TAS often are remakes or sequels to episodes of the original series. As the Animated Series moves on, though, the stories become more original, and by the end of the animated episodes there are a number of pretty good episodes – or at least good ideas.
The second criticism for this series is it is a kids’ version of Star Trek. I wouldn’t really say it’s “dumbed down” (because among other things I hate that phrase). But especially the early episodes seem to play for laughs and for children. Later episodes improved a bit and ST:TAS felt more like the Classic Trek we know. The series does feature the cast from the original series, with the notable exception of Walter Keonig (Chekov) who gets to actually write an episode – so that’s something. The navigator is Mr. Arex – an intelligent being with three hands. We don’t learn much about Arex, a missed opportunity, but I did like him. We also occasionally see a Catperson as Communications Officer instead of Uhura. However, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, and James Doohan all did extra voices according to the special features on the set’s last disc. At times you can tell a “guest” voice is Nichelle or Majel or George Takei, which can be distracting. On the other hand, the actors were given a chance to show their range – and all did an excellent job playing various aliens.
The aliens on the show were some of the most inventive we’ve seen on Star Trek (though, flat, because: Filmation). But it was nice to see Star Trek doing aliens that looked alien and alien vistas that didn’t look like Southern California or a Paramount back lot. The entire Animated Series also manages to stay away from dipping in to the Paramount Studios cast offs which were so common on the Classic Series (which did Rome/Greece several times, as well as Nazi Germany, and 1930s Chicago Gangsters). It was nice to get away from the lack of originality of visiting historic Earth periods in Outer Space.
One of my favorite episodes was “The Eye of the Beholder”, Kirk and Company were investigating the disappearance of a Federation scientific team – only to discover the planet was a zoo belonging to a highly evolved species – and the previous crew were taken as exhibits (as were Kirk and his beam-down team). But I liked the aliens which looked like purple and pink snails – but were more intelligent and scientifically advanced than Kirk and company. “Albatross” has Dr. McCoy arrested for murder, because after he administered a common vaccine – the entire planet succumbed to plague. McCoy angsts about whether he made some soft of ghastly mistake, while Kirk and Spock travel to the planet to figure out what happened. It’s a good medical mystery, not immediately obvious (other than McCoy’s non-guilt of course) and I liked the cooperation between Spock, McCoy, and the aliens of the episode. There are other good stories here too, so the show is worth watching.