Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Star Trek Redux... Not bad, actually

Last night, Dave, Grafton, Jake and I went out to see the newly-remastered Star Trek episode "The Menagerie" at one of our local cineplexes. Seems as if Paramount, in all their infinite wisdom, has decided to "re-master" all of the Original Series episodes. What's interesting (and somewhat alarming) about this is not only do they plan to up the resolution to true HD-DVD, cleaning up the color, removing old dust, scratches and repairing the faded contrast from the original negatives, but they also plan to re-shoot the cheesy model shots using modern digital FX.

While I was at first very, very wary of this - I hated the "updated" Star Wars Episodes 4-6 - I have to say that, overall, I was very impressed with the Star Trek redux. The new visual effects are certainly noticeable, but the re-mastering team seems to have done a good job in replacing only the things that were "distractingly bad" while retaining all the stuff that was "charmingly bad", if you get my drift. Cheesy sound FX, weird, rubbery alien suits, pancake makeup, inches-long fake eyelashes (on the chicks... and possibly Shatner... he definitely has some old skool goth eyeliner action happening in some episodes) - all of that they left wisely alone. In other words: the new Special FX shouldn't have worked, but somehow they did. They felt... respectful. Proper. Well-intentioned.

And the color! Oh, the color! And the contrast! And the sharpness! I really have to say that seeing a 45-foot tall image of Cap'n Kirk in full Technicolor glory was a geek dream come true. When I think of all the hours, days really, that I spent at Star Trek cons, squinting at badly-dubbed Laser Disc or (shudder) VHS versions of the show, projected onto plain white walls, all while packed cheek-to-jowl with unwashed 20-somethings with rubber Vulcan ears... well, let's just say that it was a breathtaking moment.

The one-night-only movie release was really just a big advertising ploy for the Season 1 HD-DVD set that will be released on November 20, but, you know what? It worked. I was indeed the target audience, and they impressed me. They really seem to be doing the remaster not to "milk the cash cow" (as Jake said), but because they really cared about bringing the show up to more contemporary specs and maybe, just maybe, make the show a bit more accessible to the latest generation of viewers. I know that as soon as I get my set, I plan to introduce my son, Grayson (now age 5) to the show, in the hopes that it will stick. Wish me luck and if I might be allowed a total geek moment:

Live long, and prosper.

Other links:

Official ST:TOS Re-master Site

Remaster Compendium - with side-by-side shots, broadcast schedules, etc.


Jake said...

I am forced to agree that it was well done.

That does not change my comments about milking the cash cow. Not that this is anything that CBS/Paramount has are really seeing this as technology changes. First you buy the album. Then cassettes come out. You need one of those to play in your car. Then it's CDs. Then it's dual layer CD's with DVD content on them. Or XX Anniversary Editions with bonus widgets. I find it fascinating that the repackaging of content has such legs.

I should note that I am not immune to this phenomenon...I bought the remastered CD version of Ben Folds Five's Whatever and Whatever Amen just to get the five bonus tracks that they tacked onto the CD. You've not lived until you've heard "Song for the Dumped" in Japanese. :)


Matt Cook said...

OK, I guess I can see your point... Paramount DOES have quite a record of pimping 'Trek. But, I still have to think that updating the series to appeal to the new generation is a good thing. true, it will make them more money in the long run, but it might also re-instill some of the excitement about the future that *I* used to have.