I've had the DVD set for Star Trek: The Animated Series on my shelf since December 2006, about a month after it was released. My dad bought it for me as a Christmas present. I figured one day I would finally get around to watching it and writing the reviews, but I didn't intend to watch it until I committed to reviewing it. At the time, I was still reviewing BSG — and then I was finishing up TNG through 2013 — so TAS wasn't a priority. And then my life got really busy with young kids. And then all the new Star Trek in the streaming era started to be released. And now it's now — 16½ years later.
(I actually watched the first couple TAS episodes one night — back when it was still on Netflix — during hiatuses of Discovery and The Orville more than five years ago — but the timing didn't work out and my reviewing plan didn't materialize. So back to the back burner it went. I had already created the entire website structure, the graphic, and the empty pages for the TAS section. They've been sitting on my PC's local storage since December 2017.)
After Picard closed up shop with its final season in April, I decided to give it another go, to see if I could get the TAS freight train moving ahead of Strange New Worlds season two and my next batch of weekly reviewing. I've found that inertia works both for and against me. It's hard to get started, but once I do, I can usually get on a roll.
So here we are at last: the missing final 22 pieces in the puzzle that is the Complete Jammer's Reviews of the Entire Star Trek Franchise. This was a manageable but sizable project that took up a great deal of my free time over the past several weeks, in between all the things in life. And it may very well be the last mass-update project of its kind for this website, given that it's the last piece of the franchise I still had outstanding. If you're feeling the love for this surprise bonus update, feel free to send some my way, or comment below.
Doubling back to review The Animated Series in the current age of third-generation Trek, with its narrative sprawl and lavish production values (even with TAS's 21st-century kid-friendly equivalent, Prodigy), was kinda strange. TAS is an almost-shock-to-the-system, back-to-basics affair, with single-plotted, 22-minute stories and a bargain-basement production (aside from the legitimacy expense of all the original actors, sans Walter Koenig, all voicing their characters — as well as most of the guest characters).
Filmation was well-known as a cut-rate animation shop. I grew up with Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the 1980s, and even it was (slightly) better-drawn and better-animated than this — although I find it absolutely hilarious (and great) that the characters, when they run in the direction of the camera, both in that series and this one, a full decade apart — have that same fist-clenched forearm in front of them at chest level.
The limitations throughout TAS to keep the budget in line are apparent. Ironically, the animation is probably the least of the selling points of this animated show. Honestly, a lot of the "animation" is made up of nearly motionless stills with some very basic movement, pans, or zooms. The editing — frequently choppy and off-kilter — is also not a selling point in this series, although that's probably also a side effect of the available animation. And I wonder if there are even 15 minutes of total music scored by Ray Ellis (and endlessly recycled) for this entire series. Ellis' score is memorable, but I also wonder if it's memorable because of how many times I heard it in the course of a month. (Binging this series is probably not recommended if you get tunes stuck in your head, because the repetition of the musical themes here may drive you mad.)
But the TV of the 1970s — even for kids — was much different than the TV of today, or even of the 1990s, and the limitations of TAS reflect that. (It probably makes little sense to compare my star ratings here to anything outside the scope of these 22 episodes; they are mainly relative to the TAS episodes themselves.) This is a show that lives and dies on old-school Trek and sci-fi writing, and whether the individual stories could live up to the spirit of TOS. That's mostly what I talk about here. TAS had some real writers at the helm (including D.C. Fontana as the story editor), so the question was whether they had any interesting Trek on their minds.
The answer appears to have been: yes and no. I'll be honest — this show could be a struggle. Even taken on its terms, many episodes suffer from a generally arid clunkiness that's hard to get past, with endings that feel half-sketched and painfully truncated. And as much as I tried not to make it about the animation, I frequently failed; the show made it difficult because the animation was sometimes an active barrier to understanding what exactly was happening. To get the most out of this show, you kind of have to just accept the animation for what it is.
Is TAS worth watching? I guess that depends on what you want to get out of it. The often-plodding mediocrity probably makes this a Trek show for completists only — although anyone watching these episodes or reading this in 2023 and beyond is probably already a completist. (I must say I'm a little surprised at how well this series fared on Rotten Tomatoes.) I suppose there's enough here to find some value; there are definitely bright spots and some charm to find. But I doubt I would ever need to rewatch it. Extracting the stories from the packaging is something I've now completed, and while it was nice to find some of those stories, the experience was not always worth the time, and I wouldn't need to do it again.
There are some winners here, especially "Yesteryear" and "The Counter-Clock Incident" and a few others. TAS is sometimes referred to as the unofficial fourth season of TOS. If so, it's more along the lines of season three than seasons one or two. But let's take a look.First episode: Beyond the Farthest Star
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