This is one of those “Star Trek” DVD releases that will likely appeal to either diehard fans of the franchise or people like me, who grew up in the 1970s and remember the animated show with a hint of nostalgia. Watching these episodes again after all these years, I have to admit that they’re not as good as I remember them, but they’re still a cut above most animated fare in the science-fiction genre.
While the animation is clunky and the shoestring nature of the budget is obvious to us adults (as a kid, I thought the three-armed navigator was cool; today, it’s obvious that they simply couldn’t afford Walter Koenig, even before learning that fact in the bonus materials), the writing is still typical “Trek,” except they had no constraints on the environments, spaceships, and creatures they could use. What would have been way beyond the budget of the live-action TV show, which was still very high for its time, was now easily attainable, and the writers took full advantage of that.
Paramount has included all 22 episodes of the animated show’s two-season run on four discs, with the bonus materials contained on the final platter. We also get text commentaries from the venerable Michael and Denise Okuda on three episodes, as well as audio commentaries from the writers of three episodes. While some of the commentary information is repeated in the “Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series'” featurette, all of the tracks offer fun tidbits for the fans. Yes, sometimes this stuff veers into the type of material once mocked in a hysterical “Saturday Night Live” sketch with William Shatner (the “Get a life!” one), but I realize there are many hardcore fans who love this kind of minutiae.
That aside, how can anyone not love hearing that the pink color of an alien starship was due to the fact that the episode’s producer was color blind, as is revealed during “Drawn to the Final Frontier”? That 24-minute featurette offers a nice overview of the show’s inception, as recalled by many of the people who originally worked on it. The cast, who reprised their parts from the TV show, are absent (well, those who are still alive), but the writers, directors, and producers do a good job of filling the void.
Disc four also includes a text history of the show as well as “What’s the ‘Star Trek’ Connection?”, a brief bit that covers the connection between different aspects of the animated show and their appearance in the original live-action show and the subsequent TV series and movies. For example, Captain Kirk’s middle name was first revealed on the animated show, and it later popped up in “Star Trek VI.” The cartoon also gave us the first glimpse of an Enterprise holodeck, as well as confirmation that Robert April did indeed once command the Enterprise.