EXCLUSIVE: A couple of weeks ago TrekMovie.com talked to the producers of the Star Trek Remastered project about the "The Ultimate Computer," their big episode for February sweeps. We now continue the conversation with the trio, talking about the project as a whole, fan reaction, surprises and what they would do differently if they had the chance. We also have some preview images for this weekend’s episode "Operation — Annihilate!".
TREKMOVIE.COM: How far along are you guys into the project and when do you think it will be finished?
DAVE ROSSI: We’re well into the third season, and we expect to be finished with the effects work this spring. The remastered episodes will continue to premiere in syndication for the rest of the season. Including “Operation — Annihilate!” this week!
MIKE OKUDA: Most series these days do around 22 episodes per year – or less. But we’re premiering 40 newly-remastered episodes of the original Star Trek this season. Set your TiVOs!
TREKMOVIE.COM: After completing so much and following so much of the fan reaction, how do you think the project has gone?
DENISE OKUDA: We’re obviously happy with the episodes and with the fan reaction. We knew, going in, that there’s no way to please everyone – but I think that once fans realized that we respect Star Trek as much as they do, they loosened up a lot and just started enjoying the episodes.
DAVE: For me, it’s about young kids out there who don’t understand the “charm” of the original effects. I have a friend’s 10 year old (and his dad too!) who used to laugh at Captain Kirk because he couldn’t get past the bad matte lines. Now we watch those episodes together and he’s digging it.
TREKMOVIE.COM: What has been the biggest surprise along the way?
DAVE: I think one of the biggest surprises was when we all took the “Which Super Villain are you?” test on-line, and Niel Wray [visual effects supervisor] turned out to be Venom! He always did creep me out!
MIKE: Yeah, it made us a lot more careful the next time we wanted to ask him to revise a shot.
TREKMOVIE.COM: Early on in the project it seems you guys were trying to go ‘shot for shot’ but eventually you started to evolve and do new angles and new takes on things…was this a conscious change or did it just evolve?
DAVE: Our plan was always to start very closely to the original, then to keep it interesting by creating more variations as we went on. We knew that many fans would be understandably skeptical of new effects, especially at the beginning. That’s why we wanted to demonstrate our respect for the original material. But we also wanted to introduce some variety that the original series couldn’t afford and to give the show a little more of the scope and drama that the stories demanded.
MIKE: We usually try to do the same thing within most episodes. A typical episode starts out with a couple of orbit shots, which are usually the same stock ship shots. Oftentimes, we’ll use the same camera angles as the originals for those early shots. Later in the episode, if we cut back to see the ship in orbit, we’ll usually mix it up by using different shots from different angles.
DENISE: Gene Roddenberry called the Enterprise the “home base” of the series. He felt it was really important that the audience be comfortable with the starship, to feel that it was their home-away-from-home in the vastness of space. We try to use the familiarity of the original camera angles to help maintain that “home base” feeling. But the new shots help keep the ship fresh and interesting.
DAVE: In the original version of the series, they had about a dozen basic ship shots that were used over and over and over again. Now, CBS Digital has over a hundred stock shots to choose from and the work continues.
TREKMOVIE.COM: You guys have gone out of your way to make the planets more realistic and ‘Earth-like’ and many of them look great. However, some feel that you guys are taking the ‘strange’ out of ‘strange new worlds’…do you feel that is a fair critique? And can we expect to see some really ‘strange’ new worlds coming up?
MIKE: Fair question. We know a lot more about real planets in 2008 than they did in 1966. Back then, we hadn’t seen Jupiter, or Saturn, or Neptune, or any of their moons close-up. We hadn’t even landed on the Moon or seen the Earth as the big blue marble in space. Now, the general public has seen a lot more of these planets than any scientist back in the 1960s. I think if we had slavishly maintained the original planet styles we would have hurt the show’s believability, because people know better now.
DENISE: That’s not to say that we’re being scientifically obsessive. We’re storytellers. We want our artistic decisions to be informed by science, but Job One is to provide an exciting, credible background for the adventures of Kirk and company.
DAVE: It all depends on the story. When the script calls for an Earthlike planet, we’ll do that. But we definitely try to make the planets strange and fun, especially the non-Earthlike worlds. Max Gabl, who is an amazing matte artist, has painted a lot of our planets. I think he has done a wonderful job of making our Class-M planets look believably Earth-like, and our non-Class-M planets look suitably inhospitable. And even a little weird.
TREKMOVIE.COM: If you had the chance to do it all over again…what would you do differently (if anything)?
DENISE: Whenever you work on a big, complicated project, you always learn a lot. What we would do differently would also depend on the requirements and circumstances of doing it again. But the main thing I would change would be to reschedule the Monday evening meetings at CBS so I wouldn’t miss Monday Night Football!
Images courtesy of CBS, taken from Star Trek Remastered Season 1 HD DVD