Review of Balance of Terror Remastered September 18, 2006by Daren R. Dochterman , Filed under: Review,TOS Remastered , trackback
I’m torn. Torn between my reaction to the IDEA of this project and the final realization of it. Also, I’m torn between knowing the dedication and talent that the people responsible for this obviously have, and my ho-hum reaction to the final product.
Bottom line… Star Trek Remastered is ok. But it is mostly a wasted opportunity.
Why just ok? I don’t know… honestly. After one episode, all I can think is that I hope it gets better… because right now, it isn’t justifying its existence. Obviously, the new HD transfer is lovely… I just wish it were being broadcast that way. The original film elements look excellent. The effects seem flat. I guess having those transfers paid for is reason enough to do this project, since theoretically all the new transfers will be made available in the future in their original form. But frankly, the new additions aren’t up to snuff just yet.
The good things:
The new transfers look gorgeous. I watched the digital transmission of local station KNBC in Los Angeles, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of clarity and depth of color. ( I admit to some joy at seeing the NBC logo down in the corner. It seemed like a bit of a homecoming.) I’m surprised at the amount of hype generated about it being HD, and the lack of actually DELIVERING IT in HD. I can only imagine how good the film elements look in 1080i. But I would have likened it to NBC showing the original in 1966 with the famous “living color” peacock logo at the beginning, and discovering that the transmission was in black and white.
The opening sequence music re-recording is lovely. It really sounds balanced and reverent to the original… Apart from the clarity of the recording, and a decidedly different note at the 1st season trim of the main title, it is pretty much identical in sound to the original. The female vocalist was happily not included in the mix until the second season episodes, apparently.
The main titles are slavishly copied from the original. Down to the multi-planar star patterns. The ship movements are more organic and fit in a 3d world now, mimicking the optical printer zoom and pan of the elements in the original. I was glad to see that the main title logo itself is unchanged… (I have noticed lately on licensed Star Trek items that the TOS logo is wrong… substituting the commercially available sharp edged capital “E” for the correct “E” with the curved top edge.)
The Enterprise looks drab. There seems to be a fear to give some contrast and texture to the exterior space shots. I don’t think the flatness of the effects are due to the lower latitude of contrast from HD to Standard… I think it’s just in the lighting they are using. In their efforts to make the “quality” of the images better, they’ve sacrificed some of the contrast that was inherent in the original shots. They seem to be using plain ole white lights. (One exception was a quite nice shot of the top of the 1701… I just wish the exteriors all looked like that.) There is a definite feel of the technicians feeling their way around and seeing what works on our time… since it’s doubtful there was enough time for experimentation and R & D. I have no doubt that the model itself is accurate, though I would have preferred an attempt to duplicate the style of the later space shots of the ship from the 3rd season. I also got no sense of scale here. I think some of that has to do with the lenses being used in the 3D world… there doesn’t seem to be enough perspective in the shots to match those of the originals, which used fairly wide angle lenses at closer range.
The Romulan cruiser was a bit of a disappointment, especially in the newly created shots… again, no sense of scale… the panel markings on the top are horribly mis-scaled and make it look like a model on a string. I would have thought this would be the best time to showcase what could be done with the new technology… bringing in subtlety in texturing that can give new reality to the action… but instead I was constantly reminded that the shots looked hokey. The movements were not those of a large ship. It lacked the ominous and weighty movements that would have convinced me of its reality. I’m now in full nit-pick mode, and will say that the decloaking looked decidedly “video”… and not in the range of what a film optical would be. There are several ways to fake a “film-look” to video opticals… I just think they didn’t have time to explore them.
Speaking of video opticals, the proximity phasers were a disappointment as well… looking like cheap computer game shots. There are simple fixes for these… they just need to concentrate on mimicking the look of opticals made on film. Also totally missing were the dynamic star filter look of the originals. If there was any time that the Enterprise needed to be more darkly lit, it was at this moment when the phasers lit the surface of the hull.
I think most of the problems I have with the new effects can be easily dealt with. Most of it, I’m sure, is the crew finding their way and getting comfortable with the style of the show, and the subtleties of duplicating a look of film effects. I do think their hearts are in the right place… but I think they need to develop the eye for this kinda thing… it’s a tricky and very specific look that needs to be emulated.
I was disappointed that there was no attempt at slipping in some previews of future effects in the end credit stills… I would think this would be the perfect place for a sneak peek at what is to come. (Of course, I’ll bet they barely finished the episode, so it’s unreasonable for me to expect any more.)
Hope for the future
Of course I’ll be there every week to see how it goes… but I can’t help but think that a great opportunity is being missed by a rushed schedule. Just a little snide comment to end this… If the studio had committed to doing this three years ago when I last pitched this exact plan, there would have been plenty of time for experimentation and finessing of shots to make this truly a worthy project. I have confidence that “Trek Remastered” will finally find its way, and be quite exciting and entertaining… but it will be after a number of “missed opportunity” episodes.
Daren R. Dochterman was the Visual Effects Supervisor on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition” and is the Creator of “Star Trek Enhanced”
Read the recent TrekMovie.com interview with Daren Dochterman
(includes video and images from Trek Enhanced and a new image for comparison to CBS’s Trek Remastered)