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Thursday, August 31, 2006
Did we learn nothing from George Lucas?
Following up on Parmount's pushing forward with the updates to classic Star Trek, here is a sample image of what the newly digital Enterprise will look like.

To quote Mr. Horse from Ren and Stimpy, "No sir, I don't like it."

Maybe I should wait and see it in the context of the new HD episodes, but the image above is exactly what I feared would happen. The ship looks too digitial. It looks flat and lacks any kind of weight or substance. I'm not saying classic Trek's effects and model shots were perfect, but they felt "real." Looking at this picture I go--"Nice rendering but where's the real shots of the ship?"

Am I making too much of all this? Probably so. There's a whole war on terror going on right now and there are starving people all around the world. But, dammit, they're messing with classic Star Trek here! That just shouldn't be done.

And I might be able to live with the new effects and such if I didn't read this:
The TREK TOS will be put through a makeover. New FX for all of the space material. A new title sequence. The effects will be brought to us by the same team who handled CATEGORY 7: THE END OF THE WORLD – an in-house FX group at CBS. One source characterized the overall nature of this undertaking as “incredibly cheap”.

Elements of The Original Series’ score will be reworked or replaced as well. For my money, the original TREK score was among the finest TV scores of all time – sweeping and propulsive. A bit repetitive perhaps, due to a process called “tracking” in which the same cues could be reused time and time again (i.e. generic “action” music, generic “romance” music, etc.) This practice was ultimately banished.
Now hold on just one second here....you're going to replace the original musical scores as well?!? This is the point at which someone over at Paramount (Manny Cotto, where are you?) needs to walk into the suit's office who thinks this is a good idea and ask--"What in the wide, wide world of sports are you thinking?!?"

I'll admit that classic Trek can be a bit repetitive in the musical cues. But for the love of Pete, at least the musical cues were interesting and memorable. Unlike the last couple of series of Trek when the incidental music became so bland you couldn't tell one composer from the other. To my mind, the last great memorable Trek incidental score was "Best of Both Worlds, Part 1 and 2" and that was over ten years ago. We all heard reports that Rick "I am Satan to the fans" Berman had composers scale back the musical cues a bit to be "less memorable" and not to take away from the drama unfolding on screen.

And yet as I type this, I find myself becoming one of those Trek fans I hate so much--those who hate something before they've seen it. But in this case, I can't help myself. I want to be optimistic but they're going to make such sweeping, wholesale changes that honestly it may not even be Star Trek as I recognize and love it anymore.

As I've said before--I love classic Trek warts and all. Part of the charm is the effects, the music and all the little things that both date it and make it timeless.

Earlier this week, I sarcastically said why not digitally edit the two infamous bloopers from the show so they don't happen. I was joking about it then, but the more I read, the more worried I become Paramount might think that's a good idea and do it as well.

UPDATE: TV Guide On-Line has some more info about this, including the fact that the episodes will be shown out of order and will start up once a week on September 16.
We're taking great pains to respect the integrity and style of the original," says Michael Okuda, who spent 18 years as a scenic-art supervisor on Star Trek films and spin-offs. "Our goal is to always ask ourselves: What would Roddenberry have done with today's technology?" Okuda's teammates on the two-year project are his wife, Denise Okuda, with whom he's authored several Trek reference books, and 14-year Trek production vet David Rossi.
I'd love to say that if Gene Roddenberry were around today, he'd be opposed to this. Except that Gene was never one to miss a chance to make a buck off the series--even going back to the early days when he introduced the concept of IDIC to sell some tie-in merchandising.

I am still in no way convinced this is a good idea. The whole "what if we had the technology of today back then?" argument holds little water with me. Star Trek is a product of its time and I just get disguisted when just because we can go and make it look all pretty and new means we feel we have to. Sorry, but these updates will add NOTHING to the shows and serve only to detract from them.
Painted backdrops will also be brought to life: Once-empty star bases will have CGI people milling about, while static alien landscapes have been given slow-moving clouds and shimmering water. Okuda notes that a view of Earth in the 1966 episode "Miri" has been "replaced with a more accurate image, now that we've gone into deep space and looked back at ourselves."

Trek's opening theme is also getting an overhaul: The music has been re-recorded in stereo, and a new singer has been hired to wail those famous but wordless vocals. And goofs will be corrected: In "The Naked Time," there was no beam coming out of Scotty's phaser when he tried to cut through the bulkhead outside Engineering. Now there is.

Maybe I'm just being all old-fashioned here, but none of these things ever bugged me. I never liked or disliked "Naked Time" because Scotty's phaser didn't have a beam coming out of it. In many ways this reminds of the way Lucas added superflous material to Star Wars--esp. in the Mos Eisley scenes. The digital creatures and the crowded marketplace outside didn't help me enjoy the movie more or less. If anything, it was a huge "look at what I can do" moment in the film that took me out of the movie. And that's what I fear is going to happen here to classic Trek.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/31/2006 11:52:00 AM | |
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