When word of Star Trek Remastered hit the web last week, very often discussion mented the name Daren Dochterman. It was a reasonable to speculate that Dochterman was inovled in the new project since he was the digital effects supervisor for ‘Director’s Edition’ of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and had recently launced TrekEnhanced a site dedicated to the notion of adding CGI effects to the original series. The speculation of his involvement was so rampant that after the official announcement from CBS, Dochterman issued an official statement to tell fans that although he had pitched, he wasn’t involved. TrekMovie.com decided to give Daren a ring and talk to him about his history with Trek and the new Trek Remastered project.
Trek: A life-long passion
When you talk to Daren Dochterman you are immediately struck with how passionate he is about Star Trek. Since he was a child in the 70s Daren has been inspired by the classic series and still has the working toy communicators to prove it. After working as an illustrator in Hollywood for years Daren immediately starts playing around with the new digital effects tools as they started to hit the market in the 90s. You can just guess what his first test was “The TV Series Enterprise of course,” replied Docterman “I just wanted to see if I could do it.” Over the years as he and the tools got better Daren would continue to go back to his digital Enterprise and make refinements and share it with friends in and around the business. He first got a chance to show it off to people in Paramount when he worked as a concept artist for Star Trek Voyager in 1995.
Dochterman’s early attempts at a CGI TOS Enterprise
Revamping Trek’s first film
Daren’s next connection with Star Trek came in the late 90s. He was working with David Fein and Michael Matessino on the special edition Alien Legacy DVD box set when the idea came up to do the same for the 1979 film Star Trek The Motion Picture. The team approached the film’s original director Robert Wise who had been quite vocal about how he was never satisfied with his final product, believing that Paramount rushed the production. Many planned effects shots never ended up in the final product and Wise had never even seen the film since its release. Wise was enthusiastic about doing a director’s cut for DVD and he convinced Paramount to fund the project; although Paramount had been issuing Trek movies on DVD they had yet to issue ST: TMP. Daren finally got his chance to show the world his fully digital USS Enterprise (this time the ‘refit’ version used in the film) along with close to a hundred new effects shots for the DVD. “It was such a joy to work with those models and see the film finally realized,” said Dochterman. Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Edition was released in 2001 and is now the definitive version of the film and was widely well received by fans and the media.
Dochterman’s Refit Enterprise from ST:TMP Director’s Edition
The passion becomes a pitch
After working on ST:TMP:DE Dochterman went back to his TV series Enterprise model and redid it from the ground up. The idea of giving the Star Trek The Original Series the ‘special edition treatment’ was born, “Now it really started to look real…we could really give Trek a facelift.” In 2003 Dochterman completed (on his own time) a complete test reel for the episode ‘Doomsday Machine’ with new digital effects for both the live action as well as the space shots. Daren’s labor of love was now an official pitch to Paramount starting with a meeting with a VP. The immediate reaction was very positive and eventually the project moved over to the TV Syndication people “I reminded them that the 40th anniversary was coming up and this would be a great present for the fans.” Then like so many things in Hollywood the project “died a Hollywood death,” some exec who had rejected a similar proposal (see last paragraph) years earlier just lumped in Dochterman’s project with that and it was over…or so he thought.
A YouTube hit…and another chance
After years of no movement on his project within Paramount, Dochterman decided to share it with the world by creating TrekEnhanced.com. On the site he put up his test reel and a bit of history on him and the project, eventually a fan put a copy up on YouTube and the legend was born. The reaction was very positive with many coming to appreciate how you could take a respectful approach to the old show, but bring it up to date at the same time. Then in June of this year Daren got the call he had been waiting for. Dochterman was asked by Trek Remastered Producer Dave Rossi to come back in and pitch again along with some other effects houses (such as EdenFX who worked on Star Trek: Enterprise and Gary Hutzel who does the work for Battlestar Galactica). In the end CBS Paramount decided to do all the work with their in-house team CBS Digital. Dochterman’s feelings were spelled out in his official statement: “am I disappointed? you bet”, but he is also pragmatic noting that he did not have the staff in place to take on the project immediately and CBS was on a tight schedule. TrekMovie.com asked Dochterman what he thought of the first images that have been released, Dochterman paused and then replied “I want to see it move.” He shows his deep understanding of the project whenever discussing it, asking "I wonder how they are handling the transitions," explaining how so many of the space effects use dissolve effects from the live action. Daren does have a lot of faith in the team behind the project, saying “I am glad that Mike Okuda and Dave (Rossi) are involved, they know Trek and know what is good”
Editor’s Note: Daren will be writing the first of TrekMovie.com’s episode reviews for Star Trek Remastered. Each week we will have a new review from a group of selected Trek and CGI industry experts
YouTube Vid of Dochterman’s test reel, see TrekEnhanced for higher res version
Optimistic for the future of Trek
Although Dochterman isn’t working on Trek Remastered he is keeping busy with multiple projects. This summer alone saw three films he worked on: Poseidon, XMen 3 and Monster House. But Daren still hopes that he can again work on his passion citing the future with JJ Abrams. On Abrams Dochterman says: “Paramount did a smart thing by hiring such a talented guy who clearly is a fan.” Dochterman feels that the Abrams team have the right approach to Trek and is excited about the prospect of (the rumored) return to the Original Series era…and of course that Enterprise.
Dochterman concept art for X-Men 3: The Last Stand
The First Pitch for TOS with CGI
As mentioned previously, the pitch for redoing the old show died in Paramount when an exec saw it as just the same as a previously rejected proposal. That proposal was from 1998 and came from a company called Digital Stream. TrekMovie.com tracked down Tim Weinhold, one of the men behind that proposal. Unlike Dochterman’s proposal Digital Stream had no connection to Paramount. “We just sent them a whole package unsolicited," said Weinhold. The Digital Stream team never got a meeting and had just a couple of polite phone conversations with Paramount, but the answer was ‘no’. The DigitalStream team is no longer together, the company was sold years ago to Canon. Weinhold now runs a new company, Blue Fog Media and works primarily in TV and film licensed replicas (such as swords for ‘Blade’). Weinhold told TrekMovie.com that he didn’t even know that Paramount had finally decided to redo the old show with new graphics saying “hey that’s great, I guess it took them 8 years to come around.”
DigitalStream’s first pitch for TOS w/CGI
A couple more shots from Dochterman’s TrekEnhanced ‘Doomsday Machine’
(click images to see higher res version)
And here is Daren’s version of one of the new effects shots from CBS: (click for full size)