Friday, July 8, 2011

Star Trek Remastered

NetFlix 3.9/5
IMDB 8.6/10
My Rating: 9/10


The best Star Trek TV series.  Watch the original Trek and you'll see the basic plotlines for nearly every episode of TV Trek since.

Here is another TV blast from the past - The original 1960's Star Trek TV series in newly-remastered and digitally-massaged form.  Star Trek: Remastered is available on DVD and is also on Netflix streaming now. And it looks GREAT. Those of us old enough to remember watching this growing up will recall well the hazy FX and background matte paintings that rendered this space adventure for us.  Back then, it didn't matter - We were watching on 14" screens in wooden cabinets with local reception that came and went with the weather.  With this series set, the original Trek has been cleaned up and enhanced throughout using modern computer effects and digital matte replacements.  And...  While ordinarily this would be the sort of thing that would leave me frothing at the mouth, it works.  The colors and sharpness are excellent and you get to see Kirk and Spock and crew adventuring again while looking as if they filmed this yesterday.  The real kicker is the redone FX. Space scenes and backgrounds have been redone in CGI and look gorgeous, if I do say so, and I do.

We've watched a few eps of this now and enjoyed them a lot. What has impressed me the most is that the redone FX do not in any way detract from the stories (*Cough*, Star Wars, *cough*). You are not constantly being distracted by some stupid added CGI thing in the background. The Enterprise bridge is not full of screens showing different CG displays and flying, buzzing robots, and the hallway scenes aren't suddenly filled with slapstick Jawas. Nor do we suffer with scenes altered to reflect "modern sensibilities" - No phasers replaced with flashlights, and Kirk shoots first every freaking time.  It's the original Star Trek just like you remembered it, but with better background FX.

Also, they integrated the new stuff REALLY well. It does not stand out and look pasted in. And it matches the 60's look of the show, too - They haven't redone the Enterprise with an impossibly complicated model, for instance. So many times in these remasters, the modern bits stick out crazily... If they'd put the 2009 movie Enterprise in this, for instance, it would have jangled like hell and kicked you straight out of the story every time it appeared.  This version looks just like the original Enterprise model, it's just shot more gracefully and clearly:


It's an interesting approach because the Enterprise still looks like a toy, but a very pretty toy. It matches perfectly with the rest of the show in colors and general 60's ambiance, so it doesn't feel like you're switching from a 40 year old show to a jarring modern FX scene, suddenly. They look like 60's effects, but sharper and with a better budget.  If I were going to be maudlin for a moment, I'd say that the finished effect is the Star Trek that I remember from age 6-9, back when the entire concept was fresh and new, and just seeing a space ship traveling the galaxies during dinnertime reruns was an amazing thing.


They take a similar approach with the planet FX. City backdrops are still matte paintings, they just have more depth. They do not suddenly look "real", with a million background details and stuff whizzing around, they just look like nicer matte paintings.  I am thankful once again that no one in the computer department was allowed to cram 200 moving objects into every background scene - Trek was always about story when it was at its best, not overwhelming visual noise, and it's great to see that the people who worked on this new version respected that central truth of the original series.


I know there are fans out there who are apoplectic over this remastering.  Maybe I'm just not religious enough about Star Trek, or maybe they just did an extraordinary job of integrating the new with the old. Whatever, I like it. It looks good and lends a nice, odd beauty to the show that helps it look less like the alien planet was filmed on a 20x20 soundstage with a couple of tumbleweeds thrown around. For me, what makes it work in ways that other remasterings/restorations like this have not, is that you can watch a whole episode and never really notice the new FX. They don't jump out and shout, "LOOK AT ME!" Instead, you just think, "Wow, Star Trek hasn't looked this good since my memories of it from age 8."




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