15 February 2009

DVD: "Star Trek: The Animated Series"

Star Trek: The Animated Series - The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek
Directed by Various
Written by Various
Starring: William Shatner (voice), Leonard Nimoy (voice), DeForest Kelly (voice), James Doohan (voice), Nichelle Nichols (voice), George Takei (voice), Majel Barrett Roddenberry (voice)
DVD Release Date: 21 November 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
List Price: $54.99

The Television Series
For years, fans have debated whether or not to include this animated series in the Star Trek canon.  Creator Gene Roddenberry disavowed it, but others such as producer and writer D.C. Fontana rightly argues that the scripts were not dumbed-down, standard Saturday morning cartoon fare and that the series deserves to be recognized.  The early 70s animation, especially its frequent use of roto-scope and the oft-reused unattributed music, have not aged particularly well.  Still, the scripts could easily have been expanded for use in the hour-long, live-action series and they hold up very well.  And aside from an unusually subdued Shatner, the vocal performances are pretty engaged, as well.  This is an imaginitive, thought-provocative series and it's worth noting that it contributed many things to the overall Trek canon, from Captain Kirk's middle name (Tiberius) to the only Emmy Award ever earned by a Trek series.

The DVD
Unlike some of the Trek spinoff series, there are a handful of text and audio commentaries for this series.  There are only two featurettes, one that explores how the series came to be, how it was produced and a debate of its merits; the other traces story elements that originated here that were revisited in subsequent films and spinoff series episodes.  There is also a storyboard gallery.

The Recommendation
The animation looks vibrant, and the sound is crystal clear, though the aesthetics themselves have not aged well.  Still, once you acclimate to this it's a well-scripted series.  There is a temptation to disregard animated series, but this is a mistake.  Star Trek: The Animated Series is science fiction in its purest form--made before the franchise took its own mythology so seriously that it lost its ability to tell thoughtful, imaginative tales.

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