'Star Trek' Series Soaring on Blu-ray4 Apr, 2013 By: John Latchem
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The team responsible for producing the Blu-rays of the “Star Trek” TV shows assembled at the Anaheim Convention Center March 29 to update fans about how their work is progressing.
In a follow-up to their standing-room only panel from the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International, the team presented highlights from the latest “Star Trek” Blu-ray releases, including Star Trek: Enterprise — Season One and Star Trek: The Next Generation — Season Three, from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.
The panel included Blu-ray producers Roger Lay Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett, consultants Michael and Denise Okuda, and “Enterprise” co-creator Brannon Braga, a longtime producer of the “Trek” shows and films.
“I saw what [they were doing] with the ‘Next Generation’ Blu-ray, which was truly amazing,” Braga said. “When [they] said ‘Enterprise’ was next, I wanted to be able to help by providing whatever I happened to have.”
Braga appears on the Enterprise: Season One Blu-ray in several candid interviews, including an hour-long conversation with longtime franchise executive producer Rick Berman, who oversaw production of all four shows of the modern “Trek” era —“The Next Generation” (1987-94), “Deep Space Nine” (1993-99), “Voyager” (1995-2001) and “Enterprise” (2001-05).
“If you’re a fan of this 18-year period of ‘Star Trek,’ Rick was there for all of it, and he never does interviews,” Braga said. “So it’s a real treat if you’re a fan to get his insights.”
“Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” were filmed on 35mm, but the visual effects were composited on videotape and the finished episodes were not suitable for high-definition. To bring “TNG” to Blu-ray, CBS decided to remaster the series using the original negatives and re-creating the visual effects by using the original film elements. Doing so brought with it the prospect of also using CGI to clean up the show, which the panelists said was done minimally.
“We have so much technology now it’s really tempting to go in and change things and mess them up,” Lay said. “But that was never the decision that was made here. This was about presenting the show in true high-definition. This is that show we all fell in love with, not a different version of it in any way.”
“The ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ you see today on Blu-ray is really the same show you saw way back when, except it’s clearer, sharper, has more vibrant color and is just overall better looking,” Michael said.
“It’s like watching the show [for the first time] because you’re seeing details you never saw before,” Braga said. “You’ve never seen it this way.”
“Every week we have a VFX meeting where we review the shots that have been done in the past week, and sometimes the room just has to stop because the shots are just so beautiful,” Denise said.
“I remember when we first saw the masters, they were jaw-droppingly beautiful,” Burnett said. “Season three is like candy. I wish I could lick my computer screen just to taste it.”
Paramount April 30 will release the third-season Blu-ray of “TNG,” as well as both parts of “The Best of Both Worlds,” the season-three cliffhanger and fourth-season premiere, edited together as a single film, and will promote the release with a special Fathom Events exhibition at 7 p.m. local time Thursday, April 25, at movie theaters nationwide.
“You have to set your mind back to the end of the third season,” Michael said. “It was the first cliffhanger ever done for ‘Star Trek.’ [When] it cuts to black, you heard a collective groan across the country [about having] to wait all summer to see how it ends.”
The releases of the first two seasons were also promoted with theatrical exhibitions of episodes from those seasons.
“I think all of us were just waiting for this moment where we could show ‘Best of Both Worlds’ on the big screen,” Lay said.
“We pushed production of ‘Best of Both Worlds’ ahead in the pipeline so we could do this,” Michael said.
One of the biggest concerns in remastering the episodes is missing footage, requiring upconverting standard-def video to fill the gap. Such was thought to be the case with the third-season episode “Sins of the Father,” which used 13 seconds of upconverted footage when it was released as part of a sampler Blu-ray in early 2012. However, panelists confirmed that the original footage has since been found, remastered and inserted into the episode in time for the season-three Blu-ray.
“They have 99% of the original material,” Michael said. “Occasionally there will be footage missing here or there, and certainly there are some visual effects that need to be re-created, but I’ve got to tell you I am astonished by how much stuff they are finding.”
As a special treat for the third season, the panelists revealed that a scene featuring the original guest star of the episode “The Most Toys” has been reconstructed.
“The actor was recast three days into principal photography, so we thought it would be a beautiful thing to utilize that footage,” Lay said.
“David Rappaport was set to play Kivas Fajo, and he had to drop out rather quickly,” Denise said.
“We took his takes and all the other takes from the actual finished episode, and we rebuilt the scene, and we’re going to do it as an Easter Egg,” Lay said.
“He had played the leader of the gang of dwarves in Time Bandits,” Burnett said. “He’s a little person so his take on the character was very different than (replacement actor) Saul Rubinek, and it’s very interesting to see sort of the ‘Trek’ that might have been and that’s actually on the disc.”
Using such footage to shed new light on an episode is not unprecedented.
“One thing that’s been interesting is that for season two of ‘Next Generation’ is that [we had] a videotape of the original editor’s cut of the episode ‘Measure of a Man,’ which is considered one of the great episodes of ‘Next Generation,’ 15 minutes longer than the version you guys have been watching for the past 25 years,” Burnett said. “And because of that videotape and because of the restoration process, Michael and Denise were able to oversee them rebuilding that original editor’s cut on 35mm film, so on season two of ‘Next Generation’ there is the first extended version of a ‘Star Trek’ episode that has ever existed.”
Season two also includes a cast reunion, and Lay said that season three gives fans a 70-minute reunion of the show’s writers moderated by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, who is a huge “Star Trek” fan.
“It’s an amazing piece where you get to go literally inside the writers’ room and get a sense of how these guys redefined storytelling, not only for the show but for all of genre television for the past 20 years,” Lay said.
“What was most interesting to me was talking about how certain episodes came about, especially the episodes that went awry, and wondering what we were thinking,” Braga said.
“There’s a wonderful thing that happens when you put people together again that have been removed for so long, and the dynamic kind of takes on a life of its own,” Lay said. “So we definitely want to do more of that, getting the groups together. I think as we go into further seasons that’s going to be something we try to re-create.”
Burnett said he also enjoys putting together blooper reels for the Blu-ray.
“We’re trying to show the camaraderie and how much fun the actors are having,” Burnett said.
While an extensive restoration is required to present “TNG” in HD, Lay said “Enterprise” was originally produced in HD and, thus, was ready for Blu-ray with minimal preparation.
The Enterprise — Season One Blu-ray landed in stores March 26, and Lay urged attendees to pick it up at Best Buy, where they could see exclusive bonus features through the chain’s CinemaNow online service.
Lay even teased material for releases that haven’t been slated yet, such as an extra planned for the “Enterprise” fourth-season Blu-ray detailing an unproduced episode that would have guest-starred William Shatner reprising Capt. Kirk.
Potential “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” Blu-rays would require a remastering effort similar to “TNG,” but Lay said his team is eager to work on them if CBS decides to release them.
“We couldn’t do this without the full support of CBS,” Lay said. “All the way from the top, everyone has wanted to make this the definitive release of the show. It’s a costly proposition, and they did it.”
The panelists also agreed that the success of the 2009 Star Trek film was vitally important to the franchise.
“What J.J. Abrams did was give the franchise a much-needed shot in the arm, and he opened up the ‘Star Trek’ milieu to an entire new generation of people all over the world … who suddenly are now enjoying ‘Star Trek’ for the first time,” Burnett said.
“I think it’s a great thing that now there’s an audience out there that wants to see the older shows, and it’s the perfect time to come out with all these Blu-rays, so now they’ll get to see them better than ever,” Lay said.
“I really want people to discover these shows, especially ‘Enterprise,’ and fans of the shows will love these [Blu-rays],” Braga said.
(L-R): Blu-ray producer Roger Lay Jr., Brannon Braga, and Michael and Denise Okuda during the ‘Star Trek Into High Definition’ panel at WonderCon.