Doctor Who

Review of The Menagerie Part 1 Remastered

You say ‘yes,’ I say ‘no…’
The Enterprise visits Starbase 11, ostensibly because Spock has received a request from his former captain – Christopher Pike – to divert there.  Right away we learn two important things:

  1. Uhura’s not a gossip.  There’s been "subspace chatter for months" about the fact that Pike was crippled in an accident, yet she’s never passed that information on to anyone aboard the Enterprise (except, apparently, Mr. Spock)
  2. Morse code, binary digital computing, and the game "Twenty Questions" do not exist in the "Star Trek" universe.  As a result, although the otherwise mute Pike can signal in two distinct ways – one beep for "yes" and two for "no" – it’s considered virtually impossible to get specific or complex information from him (like, say, the answer to the question "is Mr. Spock lying to us?").

McCoy, for one, considers Spock lying to be "absolutely impossible."  Embarrassingly for him, then, Spock tells a few more whoppers and steals the Enterprise in order to return Fleet Captain Pike to Talos IV:  "the one forbidden world in all the Galaxy."  When Kirk and Commodore Mendez catch up and put Spock on trial, his defense consists of making them watch an old “Star Trek” rerun.  Luckily for them, it’s a good one that they haven’t seen.

Enter the “Star Trek Universe”

Despite the superficial and too-convenient logic of the “envelope” story concerning Spock’s crime and court martial, "The Menagerie" itself is one of Trek’s best episodes.  It’s seminal in its contribution to the sense of a real future world, one with its own “history,” that has contributed so much to “Star Trek’s” enduring appeal for many of its most devoted fans. The clever use of material from a pilot shot years before featuring different actors and substantially different sets, effects and faux technology successfully evokes the illusion that the Trek Universe had existed and evolved for far longer than the few weeks the series had actually been broadcast. A “flashback” manufactured specifically for the episode in 1967 would likely not have been nearly so persuasive or gripping in its details.

The pilot telefilm “The Cage” from which the Pike sequences are drawn cost Desilu in the area of $600,000 (1964 dollars).  The production values are extravagant, for the time; the recreated alien surface of Talos IV stands up well next to similar designs used in films like “Forbidden Planet.”  Add to this the several hundred thousand dollar budget of a production “Star Trek” episode – including the Starbase 11 sets and matte paintings – and the two-part “Menagerie” compares favorably to any Hollywood feature science fiction film of the pre-“2001” era.

What’s bad in the remastered version?

Well…nothing.  My single complaint with the CG in the last episode I reviewed ("City On The Edge Of Forever") was the poor "spinning light" effect in the Enterprise’s nacelles.  That entire model has since been replaced, and the lighting effect is just fine.


The ship (and nacelles) are looking good

What’s good?

Space shots of the Enterprise.  After a bit of a steep learning curve, CBS Digital has nailed the look of the Enterprise in space.  In most instances the ship’s surfaces, its motion and scene lighting are everything one could ask for.  The images are faithful to the atmosphere and design of the original series effects while adding detail.  Like many another long-time fan, I’m glad to see the return of TOS’ multicolored star fields as well.

Unlike last week’s episode (“Space Seed”) the CG artists this week have stuck close to the composition of familiar original series model shots.  In one early shot, they’ve recreated the famous orbital-approach-to-camera but moved the POV much closer to the ship and planet for a stronger dramatic effect.   In another, they’ve re-rendered an angle of the Enterprise breaking orbit first recreated for the remastered “Miri,” and the vast improvement over their previous effort is easily apparent. CBS Digital has been spot-on at rendering planetary globes from the very beginning of this project, and both examples this week continue that success.  The surfaces of both the Starbase 11 planet and Talos IV remain nonspecific, so swathed in cloud and splashes of color that any actual terrain features are only hinted at.  The artists continue their practice of tying the dominant colors of the globes to the environments we see in the live-action surface sequences – something done haphazardly if at all in the original shots.  The very close shot of the limb of Talos IV as Jose scans out those “rounded metallic bits of spaceship hull” is particularly striking.

The shuttlecraft space exterior is also good, and the ship now bears specific Starbase markings.  The interior shots of Kirk and Mendez feature a subtle, moving star field visible through the forward window instead of the static backdrop originally filmed.  A similar moving star field can be seen through the window of Pike’s cabin later in the episode. Another nice touch: a view of the Enterprise’s nacelles, visible in a rear-angle Main Viewer shot.


CBS artists name their first shuttle ‘Picasso’…it is a bit cubist

Extraordinary Digital Mattes

The most remarkable, and remarked-upon, new effects on display in the remastered “Menagerie Part I” are of course the digital model used to create mattes of Starbase 11 and the new zoom-in-through-the Bridge-dome shot which introduces us to the first crew of the Enterprise (don’t nitpick me on the “Robert April” thing, kids).

The Starbase matte is a fine piece of work, used to stunning effect in several distinct ways.  The first is during the opening beam-down of Kirk and Spock and McCoy.  Here the digital model creates a sense of true scale and perspective that was only partly conveyed by the excellent original painted matte.  People are now visible moving about in the middle and far distance.  The brilliant sky and ringed world overhead still evoke the romance of old “Golden Age” science fiction pulp magazine covers.

A day-lit image of this model is now visible through Commodore Mendez’ office window in the next shot, clearing up a minor continuity glitch: the cut-out towers originally used outside the windows on the Starbase office and hospital sets were black, set against a deep blue “sky” backing, and lit to suggest a cityscape at night..  However, since our people materialize in the plaza at what looks like high noon this left us to wonder how many hours Kirk and cooled their heels in the waiting room before being granted audience with the Great and Wonderful Commodore. A few moments later, when we meet the crippled Fleet Captain Pike, the camera follows him wheeling about in his support chair.  The parallax view on the CG cityscape outside the window changes in a much more realistic way than the cutouts placed only a few inches beyond the sill could. The original silhouette towers and backdrop are still used in later scenes in Mendez’ office.  Here, though, they’re enhanced by the addition of moving lights representing Starbase flying vehicles crossing the night sky.


Starbase 11 now gets day and night  

The push-in on the Bridge of Pike’s Enterprise is a particularly challenging shot for a number of reasons – two of which are that the digital version includes a transition from a CG model of the Bridge set and crew(!) to live action and that the camera POV zooms in on the live action at an angle which is too low.  In the 1965 version, the difference in angle between the outer saucer and the stage floor is obvious.  In the recreation, it looks to me as if the digital “camera” actually moves in on the exterior model at an angle similar to the original and then, as the shot transitions from digital to live action actually drops down into the scene to match perspectives. I have a little experience with the particular challenges involved.  CBS Digital pulls it off nearly flawlessly.

What’s left alone

I like to note things that one might expect the artists at CBS to consider touching up but which they choose not to tinker with.  This may well be simply because of lack of time or interest, but I can’t help hoping that sometimes it’s a matter of deliberate restraint.  This week, aside from leaving the extraordinarily detailed Talos IV soundstage “exteriors” entirely alone, I notice that nothing appears to have been added to the overhead Bridge displays on Pike’s Enterprise. The pilot version of the Enterprise Bridge shown in “The Cage” included continually changing displays above each perimeter station.  This was accomplished via the use of slide projectors and back projection.  Supposedly, union rules required that each projector be manned by a separately assigned crewperson, so the effect was deemed prohibitively expensive.  Therefore, when “Star Trek” went to series the overhead displays remained static most of the time. One might think there’d have been a temptation to add a new graphic here or there and I’m glad they didn’t do it.  The story of Christopher Pike and his strange adventure on Talos VI deserves, more than almost any episode of “Star Trek,” to be preserved as a kind of an historical document.


Pike’s  bridge just fine as is

About those missing credits…

The folks at CBS Digital are doing fine and often inspired work, week after week, at a breakneck pace.  Does CBS Paramount ever intend to add their names to the credits at the end of these remastered episodes?  If not, why not?

See More Screenshots 

Dennis Russell Bailey is the coauthor of two episodes of Star TrekThe Next Generation, "Tin Man" and "First Contact." Most recently he’s served as co-producer, writer, CG effects and design artist and bottle-washer for the independent film ‘Starship Exeter

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ety3
November 27, 2006 6:53 pm

Fine review; I agree with it all.

And may I also add how immensely I prefer “Starship Exeter” to any of the other fanfilms I’ve seen thus far.

My only complaint is that they aren’t getting out fast enough, but that’s hardly a surprise, is it?

ety3
November 27, 2006 6:55 pm

A note on “Exeter”s effects: I am most pleased with how they seek to honor the original series’ sensibilities. This really hit me in a recent installment of “The Tressaurian Intersection” when the Exeter “lurches” away from the camera to change course, much like the Enterprise did in TOS.

I laughed out loud and clapped my hands in delight. It was perfect.

November 27, 2006 7:40 pm

Very comprehensive review. Very good.

John A.
November 27, 2006 7:43 pm

I assume that the names of the CBS staff will be added to the DVD’s when they come out. With the editing being done to the episodes so they can be aired on tv, to add more names to the credits now might mean more trims from the actulal show being aired. That would suck!

TomBot2006
November 27, 2006 7:57 pm

Pretty good review… I mostly agree as well. Yes, the blinking chair was totally for dramatic effect, especially since the actor who portrayed Pike was unavailable, I believe. I mean Spock could mindmeld with Pike right? Yes, we know he would have lied his green ears off. And weren’t there other telepathic/empathic races, even in the TOS era? Oh well, it’s all grease to get to main story which is “The Cage”.
My, they sure did have large and clunky sd cards in those days, didn’t they? ;) It was nice touches that Starbase 11 had some of that old fashioned tech around, such as the War of Worlds’ intercom viewers, to link up with the Cage pilot. I’m not sure, because the photo’s kind of small, but weren’t the globes on the shuttle nacelles supposed to be frosty or glassy looking? Not a gripe, just wondering.
As usual, I am enjoying this trip back in time. :)

Gary Gneffke
November 27, 2006 8:25 pm

Nice review, especially the wise cracks at the beginning. Funny stuff.

November 27, 2006 9:21 pm

Dennis who?

Litenbug
November 27, 2006 9:24 pm

Excellent review… thanks Mr. Bailey.

Ety3…. The fanfilm thread was a couple stories back.

November 27, 2006 9:32 pm

Ety3, thanks for the kind words about “Starship Exeter.” We all wish that we could get the acts out more quickly than we’ve been able.

Scott, don’t make me hurt you.

November 27, 2006 9:48 pm

LOL!

And FWIW, I agree with your approval of the untouched bridge displays on Pike’s Enterprise. It’s a shame that arcane union rules and budget constraints kept those dynamic bridge displays from being used in the regular series run, but it makes the visit to the past all the more special.

Excellent review, Dennis. :)

November 27, 2006 9:55 pm

Great review, I agree with all your point Dennis.

Chris
November 27, 2006 10:12 pm

Is that Kirk in the window of the Shuttlecraft???

The effects in this episode were really good. I think they finally figured out what the Enterprise is supposed to look like. The nacelles are much improved. The camera diving into the bridge was really well done.

Buckaroohawk
November 27, 2006 10:27 pm

DB,

A fine review, and I loved the pithy comments at the beginning.

I’m new to this site, so I just learned that you are Dennis Russell Bailey, author of two of my favorite TNG episodes, “Tin Man” and “First Contact.” It’s an honor to meet you, even if it is just over the internet.

Also (and I’ve said this before), the work that you and the “Starship Exeter” crew are doing is fantastic. I’m an amateur CGI artist myself, and I know how long it can take to get decent looking shots together for any kind of film project, let alone get live action scenes done as well.

If you don’t mind the shameless plug, you can see some of my CGI work on Youtube.com. Just go to the site and type “buckaroohawk” (without the quotes) into the search bar. I’ve never had my work reviewed by a professional, so I’d appreciate the input.

Keep up the great work here and on the “Exeter” site. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of “The Tressaurian Intersection.”

seangh
November 27, 2006 10:51 pm

Here’s that awesome ext to int Dome shot of the Enterprise:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXTXzIjbDLY

:-)

Josh
November 27, 2006 10:59 pm

I agree.

These artists deserve MUCH credit. MUCH credit.

They have achieved the daunting, impossible task of doing JUSTICE to a timeless classic.

Abi Brady
November 28, 2006 1:36 am

IIRC, the Star Wars special editions didn’t involve changing the credits, either, even when new actors got introduced.

Adam Cohen
November 28, 2006 2:10 am

Another excellent review for yet another fantastic episode.

Trek fans, we’re officially being spoiled after suffering years of neglect. Now, we wait for Abrams’ next move…

ety3
November 28, 2006 2:16 am

#8 Litenbug –

I brought up “Exeter” only because the author of the review works on it. It seemed to be an opportunity to directly congratulate the man for his efforts.

Cervantes
November 28, 2006 6:21 am
A very good review Dennis. It is great to see all this excellent site’s screenshots and videos of the ongoing remastering every week, and so another big thankyou to Anthony and all the other contributers to this site…and its forum visitors too. As a HUGE fan of special effects of all kinds over the years, this project has been a wish fulfilled for me, where the Original Series of Star Trek is concerned. While I shall ALWAYS cherish the original work, it is just so much fun to see additions that were not achievable back in the day. It’s not just the obvious stuff like the new Enterprise shots that impress, it’s the stuff like the excellent planet colourshemes that now properly tie in with the colours of the set-scapes, and little touches like moving starfields seen through windows in the background. These are all turning events into a more rounded whole throughout the episodes, giving a more complex production value look to everything. I LOVED this episodes new purple sky with ringed planet look, the shuttlecraft, the rear view of the nascelles, and of course the “fly through from above” into the Bridge. As we here in the U.K. have not seen these first few episodes yet, this site is an invaluable reference and stopgap. I look forward to some more shots of the front and rear of the Enterprise from an ABOVE viewpoint in the future episodes, as they were always my favourite if you hardworking CBS Digital… Read more »
Dip Thong
November 28, 2006 8:02 am

“What’s bad in the remastered version? Well…nothing.”

Except the dome fly-in screwed up the position of the turbo shaft doors. Otherwise a nice piece of work.

November 28, 2006 8:24 am

Nah – the angles of the ship and the live-action insert were a choice rather than a mistake. I approve (we made the same choice on “Starship Exeter”). :)

November 28, 2006 9:52 am

Not to nit pick – but no one mentioned anything about the Second planet!

The space shot shows the Enterprise in orbit around a single planet – both the original episode and the Re-mastered one. But on the planet surface there is a very big ringed planet in the sky.

Why did they not add that to the ship shots??

John
November 28, 2006 9:59 am

Dave — a good catch, one that I noticed as well.

Dip Thong
November 28, 2006 10:35 am

#21: “Nah – the angles of the ship and the live-action insert were a choice rather than a mistake.”

Dennis, are you confirming that from CBS or is it your own speculation? Because if it was a “choice” (as opposed to a mistake or a cheat) and the Okudas are making canon the fact that the turbo elevator doors are in a different spot INSIDE the ship as to where the shaft is clearly located on the OUTSIDE of the ship, then that would be interesting news to fans. It would be nice to know, then, what that big (now useless) bump of the back of the dome is for. It would be nice to know how a turbo shaft would fit inside the curve of the dome given the geometry and architecture we see on screen. It would be nice to know that crew members steering the Enterprise MUST sit facing forward, despite the silliness of that requirement.

Really, is your need to imagine the crew sitting facing the bow so important that it negates both the actual architecture on screen and 40 years of supporting materials — materials produced and approved by TPTB? Because if so, you’re creating a whole new reality to replace what’s already established. And before you respond that “The Cage” IS establishing the reality, what we saw in the original shot was misaligned optical compositing. CBS could’ve aligned the interior to the exterior. They should’ve. They didn’t.

litenbug
November 28, 2006 11:12 am

#18 ety3
My apologies.

November 28, 2006 11:15 am

“Because if it was a “choice” (as opposed to a mistake or a cheat) and the Okudas are making canon the fact that the turbo elevator doors are in a different spot INSIDE the ship as to where the shaft is clearly located on the OUTSIDE of the ship, then that would be interesting news to fans.”

It’s already “canon,” by the only definition that actually matters: it’s been shown to be so on-screen, in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie.” It’s been “canon” for over forty years.

Why people believe that the meaning of “canon” includes “absolutely logical and consistent” puzzles me. Even the dogmatic or canon beliefs of various religious sects — the context from which the word’s usage is ultimately derived — are often mysterious and self-contradictory.

There is “Star Trek,” the artistic creation of a great many people over many years, which is not wholy consistent or logical but which represents immense creativity and energy — and then there’s this Star Trek that some fans seem to want to will into existance by trimming and discarding and rationalizing bits of the canon until they’re comfortable that all the dots can be connected in visible and immutable ways. The latter is at best an exercise in criticism of a not very interesting kind.

November 28, 2006 11:19 am

Dennis Bailey did a cool job with his version of the bridge “fly-in” shot in Starship Exeter. I am impressed with his generosity and professionalism in recognizing the great work in CBS-Digital’s fly-in shot and in the rest of “The Menagerie.” Thumbs-up all around!

litenbug
November 28, 2006 11:20 am

My opinion is it’s a goof, unless someone on the remastered staff says otherwise… and I only skimmed these threads… did someone say what it was?

But, if it’s a mistake, by now they know .
Either way, the earth did not stop revolving.

Captain Pike
November 28, 2006 11:20 am

If by “40 years of supporting materials” you mean Franz Joseph’s blueprints and tech manual, there are lots of details in them that don’t match the on screen reality of Trek. I was always uncomfortable with the bridge being skewed as he depicted. I much prefer to think the bridge is aligned with the ship’s axis and the elevator makes a short jog before it goes down the shaft to deck 2.
They should have fixed the “nub” on the model back in the day. Even more sensible would be to not have the elevator exposed on the exterior at all – too vulnerable to accident or enemy action.

Picardsucks
November 28, 2006 11:28 am

Everyone go check out Exeter’s recreation of the zoom in on the bridge scene. Astounding!!!!!! The Tressurian Intersection blends in perfectly with Star Trek continuity. They have really captured the style, the feel, the effects the sense of peril and the most importanty the single greatest ingredient that all the Next Gen (except DS9) era shows most sorrowly lack: that sence of warmth among the crew. The effects are really terrific. Go now and view the Tressurian Intersection and support their efforts with a generous donation!!! I beguile you to do so with the power of the Shatner!!!!!! Starshipexeter.com and for nice info and pictures and clips of the production go to exeterstudio.com (Dennis kodos but how about an update????) May you all find at least a little Shatner in your lives!!!

FlyingTigress
November 28, 2006 11:30 am

#29 If by “40 years of supporting materials” you mean Franz Joseph’s blueprints and tech manual, there are lots of details in them that don’t match the on screen reality of Trek”

Agreed. I believe that the Great Bird himself never considered FJD to be consistent with ‘canon’. A great piece of work, but, among other things, the FJD single-nacelle (scouts/destroyers) and tri-nacelle (Federation-class Dreadnaught) configuations were considered to be “Not in MY S/T Universe”.

November 28, 2006 11:31 am

The folks at CBS Digital followed the design of the shot that already existed in “The Cage.” The shots don’t design or animate themselves, or happen “by accident” such that they turn out to match what was done previously.

And thanks to Commodore Z and others for the kind words regarding “Exeter.”

November 28, 2006 11:35 am

I always loved THE CAGE, and would usually watch it as a double feature with FORBIDDEN PLANET. I think the episode stands on its own as a good 50s/60s science fiction film.

November 28, 2006 11:41 am

FWIW, I think when the series finally makes it to DVD (HD-DVD or Blu-Ray?) we’ll see not only the full and complete episodes, of course, but extended credits.

Can hardly wait for the full version of THE CAGE.

I’m also checking the iTunes Store almost daily for the possibility of buying the re-mastered theme (both the non-vocal and vocal) as well as episodes. I’m kind of surprised that this wasn’t worked out in advance; I know people who DVR “Battlestar Galactica” every week but still buy each episode as it comes out at the iTunes Store (and then eventually get it on DVD for the extras & etc.).

Was this “revenue stream” overlooked, or was it a matter of legalities (i.e., CBS Digital does not have the right to sell the materials)?

November 28, 2006 11:53 am

BTW, there are at least two other “Exeter” clips up at YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBU_–2qkeY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0ZVYly557A

November 28, 2006 11:55 am
November 28, 2006 11:57 am

Okay, the software here seems to replace a double dash with an emdash or something, so the first link doesn’t work. The second one does.

Chris
November 28, 2006 12:38 pm

Looks coool…..anyone know if The Cage has be Remastered as well ?

November 28, 2006 12:39 pm

It supposedly will be. Guess they’ll have a leg up on that, with all the footage they’ll have completed for “The Menagerie.”

Old School Trek Nerd
November 28, 2006 12:42 pm

Wow, dudes here certainly take their turbolifts seriously!

So far, I am most impressed with Exeter’s look on screen. That is an original CG model, yes?

I liked NV’s CG work under Max Rem, but I’m not thrilled with the work on their latest feature. Some of it was good, some very VERY bad. For a comparison, the second trailer for “To Serve All of My Days” features work discarded in the final film, and it’s pretty. damn. good.

Also Daren D.’s beauty shot on the Enterprise on his site is very impressive as well. I think with a little more work on lighting and render, CBS Digital will get their model looking just like the real thing.

And Dennis, Kudos on your TNG eps. I always liked “Tin Man” and the concept of actual space-borne lifeforms (which was followed up on in the episode with the giant space calzones. “Space Child” or something like that, maybe?), and Bebe Neuwirth’s alien groupie “First Contact” was funny as hell.

November 28, 2006 12:53 pm

Thanks. And yeah, that’s an original CG model in “Exeter.”

November 28, 2006 1:41 pm

I always thought Morse code would be a great way for the dumb to communicate — in fact, that’s what prompted Samuel Morse to invent it in the first place! And why Captain Pike wasn’t rigged up with a Morse sounder is inexplicable, especially considering that it was a standard technology and readily available skill in 1964.

Morse was used extensively by Amateur Radio operators, military units, Naval and merchant marine vessels, spies, Boy Scouts, space satellites, and even honest-to-gosh telegraphers still employed by Western Union.

Why did it take until Star Trek V for Morse to be used in Trek???!!! The world wants to know!

73,
W3JY

Lao3D
November 28, 2006 2:28 pm

Trek has always had the ability, at least for me, to conjure that “willing suspension of disbelief” crucial to great drama, especially sci-fi drama.

But for those unwilling or unable to suspend disbelief, how about this: Just as stroke victims often have speech sections of their brain affected, leaving them unable to form complex sentences, perhaps Delta rays have a similar effect. Pike might have been unable to master complex strings of morse code, but could muster simple yes/no responses.

Eh? Eh? How ’bout that for justification?

Imrahil
November 28, 2006 2:30 pm

Well, given that nobody outside of cub scouts now learns morse code, don’t you find it odd that Kirk (and Spock) knew it in the first place? It was a few years ago now that the last official morse code transmitter station went offline .

Jeff
November 28, 2006 3:10 pm

Good review. Yes, the nacelles are looking good now. It was the only thing that stuck out. Now the episodes are pretty much spot on from week to week.

FlyingTigress
November 28, 2006 3:41 pm

#42

But, that would have spoiled the plot… Wouldn’t it? LOL

As has been pointed out in MANY discussions, Trek was not intended to be a ‘no conflicts’ scientific discussion: an episodic “Nova”. Entertainment or ‘message’ drove the Big “E”, not (not necessarily, anyway) full scientific accuracy.

Dr. Image
November 28, 2006 3:42 pm

Love the review, DB.
A sense of humor is something that only enhances the enjoyment of all things Trek!
Carry on!

November 28, 2006 3:47 pm

#44 — actually, Morse saw quite a bit of service in Afghanistan, and of course it is still a requirement for an amateur radio license with hf privileges (but not for much longer).

seangh
November 28, 2006 3:50 pm

I know this has strayed off topic, but since it’s DB’s article and he’s hanging here at the momnet,

Here’s a comparison of the Original Exeter opening and the Latest from TTI:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYRxTa6ypGE

I actually really like model shots – well done except for those Nacelles – which seem to be the bugaboo (both for CG and models)

Buckaroohawk
November 28, 2006 3:54 pm

Just watched the “Exeter” news clip on Youtube. Fun! Loved the fact that the news camera operator shook the camera every time the PA shouted “Boom!” And the wink the reporter gives is priceless. Looks like she was having a great time.

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