Interview: Trek Remastered Producers + Preview Images From “Operation — Annihilate”

EXCLUSIVE: A couple of weeks ago 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!

Denevan colonist gets a little too much sun,
from the remastered "Operation — Annihilate!" (click to enlarge)


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.

New shots of Enterprise dropping a satellite
from "Operation — Annihilate!" (click to enlarge)

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.

Another often repeated stock shot bites the dust, replaced with a new shot
from "Operation — Annihilate!" (click to enlarge)


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.

Deneva, another world that is now a little less strange,
 from "Operation — Annihilate!" (click to enlarge)


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

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first – looks cool.

I wish they could “remaster” the flying pancakes.

Very video gamey. I truly hate to say it, but I am going to call it as I see it.

Come on, guys! You can even see the polygons (flat edges) on the Enteprise on the pic with the probe coming out of the bottom of the secondary hull!

Where’s the detail?

Man, there are times when CBS-Ds work looks pretty good, but again…Daren’s work is MUCH better.

Too bad this interview wasn’t done after the HD-DVD stuff hit the fan. Would be interesting to get their “take” on it PLUS the future of remastered DVD sets.

Forgot to say…can we get some NEW planets???

I think I’ve seen Deneva in about ten episodes.

Come on, guys…

As much as i like Daren’s work, can you people please just get off that kick? It’s getting to be pathetic! Go watch PHASE2


I’m very torn about all of this. I’ve seen still shots and several of the reimagined TOS episodes.

On one hand, some of the shots do indeed look better while maintaining believability. On the other hand, I feel strongly that some of the “charm” has been invariably sucked out. The original starfields were grainy, sure. But look at the new shots – there is an undeniable loss of color… a loss of vibrance… and life. I guess I enjoy a variety in the color palette of the starfields we are used to seeing. Now, it all looks pretty soulless. Not the end of the world, that’s just how I see it.

Frankly, I think a lot of the reason why tey did the effects “in house” were due to the exclusive deal they had with the Hd-DVD industry. It’s looking that way now, to me at least.

#6 — Um no.

When I see great work, I am going to say so. Would you do any different?

Anyway, moving along…just don’t tell others what to post about.

That’s all I have to say.

Oh boy! Me and my cat are totally gonna watch Operation-Annihilate! this weekend. We love that episode!

Your pussycat likes certain episodes of Trek?

I’ve asked this question before, and I’ll ask it again. Will there be another edition of the STAR TREK CHRONOLOGY?!?!

And yeah, #3, that’s what I’ve been saying as well. And I’ll say it again: The E in particular looks very much like it came from a CG-rendered video game cinema (the stuff you see in-between levels). Okay, maybe the original physical model appears a bit hokey, grainy, etc – but as far as I’m concerned, this new stuff just does not – look – real.

operation annihilate is a favorite of mine and overall a good scif story with a little bit of horror mixed . There is more then a few elements that they could improve upon namely the alien creature which looked like flying plastic cow flop. one of the crew upon viewing the alien menace on the floor said “sir it doesnt look real.” not the sort dialogue you want when your special efffect budget is shoestring i hope they gave the aliens some much needed updating. the episode itself. other this the episode itslef is one of treks better ones.

#8, 14 —

I think what we’re missing in those starfields is the layered look that the original ones had. There was nearly always a multi-plane effect with the old starfields — some of those planes moving slower or faster than others. Anyway, it gave them a lot of depth that the new ones only occasionally show.

Every now and then CBS-D has a shot that makes me go “COOL!!”…but almost every one that does that there’s another that causes a groan.

Still, I am glad they made the effort to redo these visuals. I do look forward to seeing them every weekend. There will be a void when these finish their run.

Cool , keep em’ coming guys, we’ll keep tuning in each week!

I’ve watched the ‘new’ episodes to see how they do things and what changes they make, but if I’m going to watch ST, I prefer the way the episodes were originally done. I *love* seeing *real* models in shows and movies.

I hate the overuse of CGI that is so rampant in the industry now. It looks horrible. In many cases where models would have been used in the past, the answer seems to be “Oh, no! Use those computers instead!” and the result is horribly cartoony.

I’d rather see a model on par with the Liberator rather than the cartoon stuff. I would rather have things left to my imagination, rather than have this obvious mix of cartoon and reality.

I’m not saying what people should post about. I love Daren’s work and there a things I love about CBS Digital’s, and things I hate. What I am saying is…this project is almost over and some of you are still calling (implied or otherwise) for Daren to be doing this. Or, comparing his work to theirs. That’s like comparing James Cawley to JJ. Abrams. Both do fine work at times, with merit…but one is in the driver’s seat of the franchise at the moment, and the other is doing things for the love of it. Both are doing worthy things, but I seriously doubt many are going to say (after seeing Star Trek in May 2009), Abrams sucks, Cawley’s work is better. Sorry if I offended anyone.

I’m so glad I have my original box sets of the the series unaltered.
Those episodes are like old friends and the altered ones just look wrong.
I’ll be glad when this “let’s fix everything in the world with CGI” attitude has passed (if ever).

OK — still reading, but I’m gonna get this in before the hit count goes sky high.
I LIKE REALISTIC planets. Roddenberry stuck mostly to Class M for a reason — because we’d meet strange new civilizations we could relate to. Besides, the groovy planets of the 60’s looked way outta date even by the early eps of TNG.

Anyway — this looks really cool!

Meh. Personally I see the whole thing as having so many missed opportunities. Very little sprucing up of sets and matte paintings to add scale and believability. Phasers and computer displays untouched completely taking you out of the moment. Even the space battles were boring due to the limited time allowed by the original FX/ musical timing.

Personally I like the new planets. The scale is rarely right when compared to the Enterprise, but the look of the planets works just fine for me.

Overall, I’d say if they were looking to bring in a new audience and appeal to any 10 year olds forget it. They paid too much attention to being overly faithful for the old fans; they left too much alone. The painted lines for phasers needed changed in the space shots, so they needed changed coming from the hand phasers. A 10 year old also knows when a strange new world is just a soundstage with colored backdrop.

That 10 year old isn’t just still laughing, he’s wondering why the space shots look modern and the rest doesn’t.

I am happy with the work they have done, but they have not done enough in my opinion. The time and budget constraints that Paramount put them under is unacceptable for a project of this importance.

I will say the Enterprise has never looked better IMO. These people that bitch about how the E looks in these SD photos and screen captures do not make any sense. Look at it in HD and then judge.

In HD the ship looks perfect, especially with the newer model they used starting with Tribbles. In some shots I am actually stunned how good it looks. That said, Balance of Terror should have been re-done. The E looks horrible in that episode.

For all of us that have the remastered box set, I still am not totally moved with the earth like planet. We have already seen it too much!!! The only thing cool in this episode is the satellite drop!! Well done! I would really hope they will give the cage an extra special touch. For example, since TREK is our future. The bit where the keeper probes the ships computers you get what happened back in the 1960’s current events! Lets use the Iraqi War, Quick images of 9/11, space shuttle disasters, presidents deaths and so on. Could somewhat out there tell me what you think of that?? Also we never get to SEE the Enterprise do anything! I think a shot of them assuming orbit of Talos IV quickly instead of that planet RUSHING to them!! I dont mean to offend any sensitivities, especially with 9/11. But it is now earth history.


Yeah, his favorite epsidoes are (Ironically enough) Catspaw, Balance of Terror, and The Enterprise Incident. He’s got a thing for Romulans.

(Almost) Every staurday since he was born we watch an episode of Star Trek. He perks up whenever I say “Star Trek!”. And one weekend, when it wasn’t on because of football, he came up to me when it was supposed to start and started meowing. When I told him it wasn’t on he walked away dejectedly and refused to let me pet him for the rest of the week. I made it up to him though, we had a marathon the following week.

I’m totally serious! Captain Kirk’s namesake LOVES Star Trek!

Also maybe a behind the scenes featurette

I thought that was going to try to get remastered previews for these episodes. What ever happened to that?

Definitely one of my favorite episodes, really neat how Spock seems blind at the end.

#13: “I’ve asked this question before, and I’ll ask it again. Will there be another edition of the STAR TREK CHRONOLOGY?!?!”

I am not in the know, but I can say that unless ‘Star Trek’ becomes hot again, it’s not all that likely.

I’d like to see an ‘NX-01 Enterprise Companion’ and an updated ‘Star Trek Encyclopedia’ that takes into account what we know about Captain Archer’s time. Sadly, I am not holding my breath.

That said, we all know TREK isn’t the hot property it was back in the mid 1980s. Hopefully, the movie will re-energize and excite the fan base into a buying mood again.

To Denise, Mike and Dave: I enjoy the new CGI footage, but I hope you can guys take more time to more fully execute your renderings. Overall, I think all of the effects are well placed, well thought out and executed, but on occasion I feel they are a bit too cartoonish.

It’s been great seeing some new ships (the freighters, for example).

Someone mentioned altering the charm of the original shots. I have to agree to a small degree. I sometimes feel the scale of the Enterprise is lost in CGI (don’t feel bad, I think the same thing about the Enterprise E in CGI). There is something missing.. not sure what, but to me, CGI just doesn’t seem to have the same 3D feel.

Okay I admit it, I prefer models… and again, I am not picking on you guys. Lucasfilm sold their model shop a few years back giving preference to CGI; this saddens me greatly (and stock in model companies has surely plummeted now that no one is canabalizing their kits anymore). :-D

I applaud the hard work you’ve done. Has any word been given on what’s to happen to the TOS DVDs now that HD-DVD has been all but declared dead?

Duck and run Spock!

Too bad there wasn’t any up close battle damage in “The Ultimate Computer.” They missed the boat on that one. Unless the syndicated cut doesn’t tell us everything.

Just wondering, for any of the Canadians here….do any of you get the remastered episodes? If so, where?

Is it now canon that Deneva doesn’t look cool from space anymore?


I agree with you Jeffrey.

I was hoping to see something akin to the damage that we saw of the USS Constellation in “The Doomsday Machine.”

Personally, I find that it is a realistic-looking planet that gives me a sense of awe.

A plastic light buld with some land and sea painted on it does not evoke in me the sense of a “strange new world”


Nothing being shown as far as I know…………

I’m in Vancouver and I see them on cable from stations in Tacoma and L.A.

TOS-R. I am ambivalent. Was it everything I could have hoped for? The color restoration was great. Most of the new fx were good. The new mattes were very cool. The new ships in Space Seed and Charlie X were memorable. Tholian Web was disappointing. Ultimate Computer would have been better with one or two different ships types Overall the syndication edits sucked.

But I’m glad they did it and I’m looking forward to the rest of the episodes. Thanks Denise Dave and Michael and your team.

It’s nice to get some insight from the Okudas on the TOS-R effort. This may be an unfair criticism. but I felt like they were being a little too smug. Those cracks about Monday night football and the villain test were a little annoying, not to mention that they just ignored the questions altogether.

Did this bother anyone else?

I continue to be baffled and amazed that people blame the syndication edits on the TOS-R people or use the edits as a criticism of the whole remastering project. I’m sure they’d prefer their work be broadcast unedited as well and they have no more control over the necessity of the episodes being edited than they have for the commercials shown during the act breaks. Criticize their work, yes, but don’t blame them for something they have no control over.

Yup, I found the comments a bit off topic too.

They should have re-done the ending sequences and done a better job cleaning up the final print, I can still spot “pops” and “scratches”. Not cool when dishing up over $100.00 for the DVDs.

You mean like the picture above of the viewscreen? A bunch of very obvious bits of dust and scratches.

39 – Yes, I did notice that those questions went unanswered. But then again, you will notice that many of those answers are the same crafted and pre-prepared answers. The “villian” and “Monday Night Football” answers seem intentionally evasive.

I just think that “respecting the original style” aspect, in a way, seems a little insulting. I really think that if they money and ability was there, the original effects would have been more glorious. I think this project limited itself by keeping a limited scope, and I’m just not down with that.

#3 I don’t think those are polygons. In closeups of the remastered big E there’s a faint grid like structure under the hull, like a superstructure that was plated and painted over. On big screens it gives the big E a sense of scale. In still frames they make look like polygon edges.

16 has it. New images are detailed 2D. Old were fuzzy sort of 3D

Sorry fellas but that picture of the Denevan sun on the viewscreen is horrific.
First of all the sun looks like it was rendered in “watercolors” as it has absolutely NO ILLUMINATION whatsoever. Secondly, check out the dozens of little dust particles that were “supposedly” cleaned-up for the HD version.
This is awful work.
Star Trek deserves much much better.
This was thrown together in 15 minutes by me.

Surely someone at CBS can do better than 15 minutes by an amateur?


“Strange new worlds” have been turned into “new worlds”… ;-)

I think that Denevan sun shot is a good example of not being quite finished, and loosing “something”. I would add more light interaction with the bridge plate, (as the viewscreen is supposedly holographic and capable of a contrast range/brightness near to human eye) by adding subdued soften repeated sun layers in various blending modes such as the rails and the wall around the screen. Bridge plate clearly needs dust busting. Then the CG plate is way too clean and needs more grain.

Then the sun seems brighter and the comp ties together better to me at least! I know this is with a still, but I could do this in AE with the 16 bit cineon plates in an hour or so at a cost of £80!

Nice work!