Many fans of the Star Trek franchise have been waiting to see what would be the next new project; since Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled, there hasn’t been a ‘Trek’ television series in production for the first time in nearly two decades.
There’s a new film in the works, but it’s apparently still in the very early stages and may or may not serve as a prequel to the original series. I don’t like prequels. I’d rather know what’s going to happen next.
But television viewers who spot episodes of Star Trek on local stations these days may notice that the 1960s sci-fi hit has undergone a makeover! The original matte shots of outer space, which were costly and as advanced as television could afford when they first aired, may seem somewhat primitive to today’s younger viewers. So while the series was being restored for high-definition, someone came up with the idea to redo all of the ship exteriors and outer space shots.
The image shows a computer-generated version of science fiction’s most famous starship, the Enterprise. On the newly-restored episodes, any time we see a shot of the ship itself, or a planet, or an alien spacecraft, what we’re seeing is something new that has been inserted into the original films.
I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this.
Computers, unquestionably, can do it better when it comes to creating new and different angles of the ship. The crew of computer animators responsible for ‘Trek’s’ new look took measurements of the original ship model now on display at the Smithsonian.
In the most recent “restored” episode I saw, there was an interesting shot of the ship “shot” from below looking up at the ship’s underside as it passes by…an angle we never saw before. The tips of the engine nacelles are animated, glowing with spinning colors that look better than the old version. The ship — and more importantly the “camera” — moves in ways that technology couldn’t produce back then. So there’s definitely something cool about seeing the classic ship as we’ve never seen it before.
At the same time, the nostalgia buff in me sort of enjoys the “primitive” look of 60s special effects. Yes, sometimes the keys break up as the ship moves across the screen. Yes, sometimes you can see a matte as a smaller ship enters the frame. Once in a while, it looks like a cheesy special effect instead of “reality.” And I think there’s something charming about that.
The animators have already stated that they’re not redoing the interiors of the ship, or even the computer displays (with one or two minor exceptions). So I wonder, once the project is complete, how well the 2007 footage will mix with the 1967 footage.
Even more sad, I think, is the possibility that one day the new, restored version of ‘Trek’ will be the only one available on DVD or on the air. The old version will be gone, unless you’ve managed to record them or buy them on the current DVD releases. (I have.) The purist in me, the same purist who hates to see classic black and white films colorized, wishes they’d just leave well enough alone.
Some things don’t need to be improved upon.