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To Boldly Redo What Some Man Had Done Before
June 23, 2006 11:34 AM   Subscribe

In 2003, Paramount proposed redoing the special effects for the original "Star Trek" series and rereleasing the episodes as "Star Trek Enhanced". Two CGI firms redid the effects for the teaser, the opening credits and title, and the first two acts of The Doomsday Machine as a proof-of-concept with no changes to the acting or the story. Paramount ultimately decided not to pursue the project, but it's interesting to see how two different CGI firms handled the transporter, phasers, and starship effects.
posted by fandango_matt (74 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It didn't seem jarring, but anytime I hear updated CGI referenced to as "Enhanced" I want to spit in the face of a Hollywood executive.

I did think the damaged ship was pretty nifty. Sparks. Whee.
posted by Atreides at 11:44 AM on June 23, 2006


I don't like the new Jabba.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:48 AM on June 23, 2006


I think in many cases adding new special effects does enhance the original movie, as long as they're kept within the spirit of the original aesthetic. Making the explosions look and sound better in the original star wars, for example, was completely fine with me, as was adding additional background animations in cloud city. Additions that change story elements or look drastically out of place suck, though.
posted by empath at 11:53 AM on June 23, 2006


"Enhanced" just makes me wonder what they did to Kirk's sex life, frankly.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 12:05 PM on June 23, 2006


...horrible memories of the "enhanced" Red Dwarf...
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on June 23, 2006


Got to agree with empath on this. I'm just about to take a look at the linked movies, but I can say that some aesthetic tweaking is not a bad idea...

...but we all know that Han shot first.
posted by grubi at 12:07 PM on June 23, 2006


I'm surprised they didn't replace Bones with a two-way radio.
posted by brundlefly at 12:11 PM on June 23, 2006


dunno, the biggest problem with opening the door to this is drawing the line between helping 'enhancement' and raping the memories (a la star wars 1-3).

musicians shouldn't try it either, (I'm looking at you, Led Zeppelin). The worst part is the way original contributors will chalk it up to realizing an ideal previously denied them. Like their aesthetics have remained constant for 20 years.

second doomsday machine version was much better, I thought.
The green pods to the side of the 'mouth' didn't do anything for me.

neater lighting effects did, though.
posted by Busithoth at 12:13 PM on June 23, 2006


I'm impressed. It does enhance the episode, but I can see that this doesn't take anything away from the original, which is a thin line on which to balance. Kudos to both effects houses.
posted by grubi at 12:14 PM on June 23, 2006


Has some novelty to it... and part of me thinks it would be neat if they could fix the klingons so that they look like the movies and other series, but I think they made the right decision in not pursuing this. I'd rather watch the original shows.

I would rather see sorta the opposite, a modern series done with 1960's looks and effects, like Starship Exeter.
posted by bobo123 at 12:17 PM on June 23, 2006


The second one has some pretty impressive stuff that reminded me of New Voyages.

God, I love Classic Trek.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 12:18 PM on June 23, 2006


The Star Trek Enhanced site has a blog and a making-of page.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:21 PM on June 23, 2006


They should have pasted Ben Sisko and crew into The Trouble With Tribbles. At least then the continuity nerds could move on to worring about the problems with Enterprise.

Um, I mean go sports team!
posted by revgeorge at 12:25 PM on June 23, 2006


I thought the planet/sun view and the warp nacelles looked better on the first, everything else looked better on the second. The opening credits especially on the second had more "oomph," with the ship passing closer to your field of view. I haven't seen an episode in years, but would enjoy watching the series again with the new visual effects.
posted by Mapes at 12:29 PM on June 23, 2006


Spock shot first.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:30 PM on June 23, 2006


I guess they didn't upgrade the dialog.
Kirk: It's the Constellation. Look at that.
Spock: She may have been wrecked by whatever destroyed these solar systems.
Kirk: Oh, ya think so, lizard boy? Brilliant fuckin' deduction. It's a good thing we keep you around to do the hard thinking for us.

I want Star Trek redone with George Méliès-style special effects and transferred to hand-cranked silent B&W.
posted by pracowity at 12:47 PM on June 23, 2006


No product placement? Missed opportunity.
posted by itchylick at 1:01 PM on June 23, 2006


I'm usually suspicious of "enhanced" CGI effects like these, but, well, special effects aren't usually as bad as they were in the original Star Trek.
posted by moss at 1:01 PM on June 23, 2006


I forgot what big name authors Trek hired for the original series. This one was written by Norman Spinrad who later wrote Bug Jack Barron and The Iron Dream.
posted by octothorpe at 1:03 PM on June 23, 2006


The first was pretty poor CGI work, especially given that it was done in this century -- it looks like it was done on a Mac using Strata 3d or something. The lighting was too flat, and all of the objects looked to plasticy or something.

The second was pretty good. I don't know that it's a necessary do over (apparently Paramount wasn't too sure either), but if the did do the STE series, I'd hope they'd go with the second crew.
posted by illovich at 1:10 PM on June 23, 2006


I agree with Atreides, the damage to the Constellation looks really well done.

And I'm also in the camp of liking the old design on the doomsday machine better (the updating with the green mandibles looked too forced).

This was always one of my fave episodes from when I was a kid, great concept.
posted by Relay at 1:10 PM on June 23, 2006


The second one was really good. The first was good too, and actually pretty impressive if it was made in the early '90's like the description says.
posted by Pryde at 1:11 PM on June 23, 2006


No product placement? Missed opportunity.

Great - then everyone would be whining about "Pepsi Blue: The Final Frontier".
posted by casconed at 1:12 PM on June 23, 2006


On lack of preview and re-reading, I'm a little confused when the first one was made--the youtube description says:

"From the early '90s, this is VERY rough proof-of-concept footage from when Paramount contracted Digital Stream to insert computer-generated effects into the original Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine". Nothing ever came of the project."
posted by Pryde at 1:15 PM on June 23, 2006


"Fascinating."
posted by darren at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2006


The second one is better overall, but I'm of two minds on the reimagined vs. the more traditional rendition of the actual Doomsday Machine itself. I kind of like that the one in the first looks more like an actual machine, but at the same time I have to admit that the traditional design does a lot to make the Doomsday Machine creepy, because it looks more like a mindless creature floating through space just wantonly consuming anything in its path.

I really like the second one. It retouched things without being intrusive, and I would definitely be interested in seeing more of what they could do. The effects shots of the original Trek are more distracting than anything nowadays. Frankly, I'm surprised Paramount dropped the project--they never pass up a chance to milk the fanbase (cf. the lack of a TOS DVD box set for years, the astronomical prices on the ones they have now, and the similarly astronomical prices the DVDs of the other series used to cost.)
posted by Kosh at 1:26 PM on June 23, 2006


Not too obnoxious. I think this could make watching the old eppisodes kinda fun.

I would rather see sorta the opposite, a modern series done with 1960's looks and effects, like Starship Exeter.

I think that could be fun too, but isn't that sort of what they did with enterprise?

I'd love to see a star-wars clone made to look like 70s cinema That would be kind of cool. The 50th element is kind of like that with it's non-CG special effects.
posted by delmoi at 1:31 PM on June 23, 2006


Hey, Star-trek Schmar-trek - if you designers want a real challenge, I'd like to see someone do a proof-of-concept replacing some of the visuals on the original Doctor Who series. Haha.
posted by tgrundke at 1:39 PM on June 23, 2006


An interesting concept; thanks for the link! Aesthetically, the second link was definitely the better of the two revamps.

That said, I'm not sure that updated special effects is needed for Original Trek. I am aware that there are a great number of people who love the modern Trek series but can't stand OT. I suspect it has less to do with the special effects and more to do with the bad acting, bad dialogue and the costumes and sets.

While I don't support the idea one iota, the only true revamp that would get todays kids interested in Original Trek's story is to get new actors, new sets and new, well, everything, and simply remake it. Naturally, this idea is apocryphal, but new effects alone won't do the trick.
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:50 PM on June 23, 2006


Hey, Star-trek Schmar-trek - if you designers want a real challenge, I'd like to see someone do a proof-of-concept replacing some of the visuals on the original Doctor Who series. Haha.

Done.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:52 PM on June 23, 2006


I'd like to see someone do a proof-of-concept replacing some of the visuals on the original Doctor Who series.

And, if possible some of the sets.
posted by Artw at 1:53 PM on June 23, 2006


Which is preferred? Remaking the original series with 'enhanced' special effects, or just recasting the original cast and doing another prequel like Enterprise but with Kirk, Spock & Bones?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:09 PM on June 23, 2006


I wouldn't buy Star Trek: Enhanced. But I might get in line if Paramout released a series of these as Star Trek: Dadaist Interpretations.
posted by aparrish at 2:26 PM on June 23, 2006


... Paramount.
posted by aparrish at 2:26 PM on June 23, 2006


Second one looks better, but I think the idea is missing the point. What made Doctor Who and Star Trek good WAS the awful special effects.

...horrible memories of the "enhanced" Red Dwarf...

How did that work? Four cans of lager and an extra-extra spicy chicken vindaloo?
posted by dw at 2:36 PM on June 23, 2006


reading the FPP, I was ready to denounce this... but watching the result, I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised...

The effects don't steal the scenes and, IMO, 'enhance' the show...

The transporter effects in the second link are better than any other ST series to date... and I think my favorite effect was Kirk walking past the viewscreen and if you pay attention, you can see floating debris... just adds a little realism without being overbearing...

I hate to say this, as a ST fan, but I wouldn't mind seeing a full episode or two have this treatment as long as it is as tastefully and unobtrusively done as the second link...
posted by WhipSmart at 2:37 PM on June 23, 2006


Overall, I thought this looked excellent... it held the flavor of the old series very well, but looked a lot better. It shouldn't be TOO good... it should still look kinda retro, just good enough not to be jarring. I thought they captured that extremely well.

My one complaint is the fast-spinning warp nacelles in the second version... those looked kinda lame.
posted by Malor at 2:38 PM on June 23, 2006


Agreed; they looked hokey, like a bit of a toy.
posted by lilbrudder at 2:50 PM on June 23, 2006


I am aware that there are a great number of people who love the modern Trek series but can't stand OT. I suspect it has less to do with the special effects and more to do with the bad acting, bad dialogue and the costumes and sets.

But that's what made Trek great. You take away the bad acting, dialog and sets and you might as well be watching Next Generation.
posted by octothorpe at 2:55 PM on June 23, 2006


What made Doctor Who and Star Trek good WAS the awful special effects.

I'd argue that what made them good at the time was strong concepts and imaginative and interesting scripts (albeit often terrible in dialogue terms, and in Who often flatas a panckae character-wise).

Of course, looking back at them much of the inovation is no longer apparent, but the effects/sets etc... give them a certain retro charm.
posted by Artw at 3:01 PM on June 23, 2006


You take away the bad acting, dialog and sets and you might as well be watching Next Generation.
The first season of Next Generation had plenty of those things.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:10 PM on June 23, 2006


Your title "To Boldly Redo What Some Man Had Done Before" implies that it is no longer done, (lost or undone), wouldn't you rather say "To Boldly Redo What Some Man Has Done Before"? Then again, I amn't no expert in 23rd century gramarization.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:26 PM on June 23, 2006


Next Generation didn't really hit its stride until, what, third season? That first episode, um... Encounter at Farpoint? Ye gods that was terrible.

Third season original Trek was quite good, as I recall.
posted by Malor at 3:31 PM on June 23, 2006


As with WhipSmart, I was ready to hate this, and was pleasantly surprised. If only there was a way to CGI remove the velour v-neck jumpers and replace them with smart Next Generation style jump suits...
posted by greycap at 3:43 PM on June 23, 2006


"but it's interesting to see how two different CGI firms handled the transporter, phasers, and starship effects"

I watched that 2nd one twice looking for phasers. No luck.
posted by gummo at 3:51 PM on June 23, 2006


Third season original Trek was quite good, as I recall.

Uh, don't you think you should... rephrase that, laddie?

SECOND season was the kickass one. (The beginning of Season 3 was pretty cool, but the last half went pretty far south. And ended with "Turnabout Intruder"... GAH.)

I think the second one was better, but there should have been a lot more texture and detail on the planet-killer in both (I realize these were way cheap POC's). Neither of these takes made it look GIGANTIC and MENACING. It's miles long! It eats planets! Make the damn thing utterly terrifying!

The original shape of it is great, totally unlike a starship, very alien. Just work from that, rough it way up, find a way to frame shots of it with something else in frame to emphasize that it's monstrously huge.

(Gosh. I feel like I was just channeling Gene L. Coon...)
posted by zoogleplex at 4:04 PM on June 23, 2006


Do new effects (particularly any CGI) date faster than old ones do, or do are we just more generous from older effects because we don't expect so much? Or is it just me?

Oh, and where is our friend?
posted by Eideteker at 4:10 PM on June 23, 2006


Bad CG dates at the same rate as bad non-CG work, in my view. It's just that non-CG has an aura of nostalgia and charm. Bad CG just sucks. Except for The Last Starfighter. That rocks.

On an aside, has anyone watched Independence Day lately? I saw that a few days ago, and the FX seemed really dated. More so than other movies from that era. It won the FX Oscar for that year, but it seems to me it's been surpassed by Stargate SG-1, not to mention theatrical releases.
posted by brundlefly at 4:39 PM on June 23, 2006


Except for The Last Starfighter. That rocks.

Now THAT I can agree with 100%. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 5:03 PM on June 23, 2006


Don't fuck with the Trek. I recently downloaded purchased season 2 of TOS, and it's still magnificent.


I think the old effects are beautiful.
posted by stenseng at 5:26 PM on June 23, 2006


Spock looks like Zidane.
posted by wfc123 at 5:56 PM on June 23, 2006


This idea blows, but it's not like you're 'improving' the Mona Lisa by slapping on some nice modern Glidden or Dutch Boy: as long as the originals are still available, you can hire any clown you want to mess up your copies whenever you want. Hell, you can process out the hilarious makeup on the Space Babe of the week and make her look like America's Top Model. You can process in a real Scots accent over Jimmy Doohan's hysterically bad vaudeville-grade imitation. Knock yourself out.

Just don't make the originals unavailable like some kind of Lucasian fuckhead.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:22 PM on June 23, 2006


Except for The Last Starfighter. That rocks.

Now THAT I can agree with 100%. :)


So do I. Even pinned a digital watch circuit board on my shirt for a while.

it would be neat if they could fix the klingons so that they look like the movies and other series

You, of course, never watched the last season of Enterprise, with some of the BEST episodes of ALL Trek series, including a story arc showing WHY the old series klingons are so human-like.
posted by cardoso at 6:39 PM on June 23, 2006


Also of interest, or not, is this little revelation from the blog of Bryce Zabel about his efforts, along with J. Michael Straczynski:

"In our re-boot ("Universe B"), we wanted to start over, use Kirk, Spock and McCoy and others in a powerful new origin story about what it was that bonded them in such strong friendship, and show them off as you'd never seen them before."

(and I apologize for the inevitable jokes that quote will no doubt spawn.)

Blog post here

PDF of Star Trek: Rebooted treatment here
posted by zueod at 6:46 PM on June 23, 2006


Updating outdated effects, if well done, is fine: Spielberg and Lucas do it routinely. However, the new and improved Doomsday Machine was just new — to my mind, the old space stogie was weirdly cool.

And leave the ham-and-cheese human side alone, please. Nobody does scenery chewing like Shatner (although William Windom in this episode acquitted himself well), and as for Yeoman Janice's basketweave beehive — future perfect!
posted by rob511 at 7:11 PM on June 23, 2006


Spielberg and Lucas do it routinely.

This is not a very compelling argument in its favor. In fact, in the latter case it's a towering argument against it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:27 PM on June 23, 2006


Those were horrible. The only thing I liked was the transporter effect from the second video.
posted by Potsy at 7:40 PM on June 23, 2006


Altering the historical documents is so not kosher. This will do unrepairable harm to humano-cephalopod relations.
posted by bonehead at 7:49 PM on June 23, 2006


More so than this?
posted by brundlefly at 8:05 PM on June 23, 2006


As for Doctor Who.. They actually did update special effects for at least one DVD release, The Ark In Space (the CGI version of Space Station Nerva is lnear the bottom). Appreantly you coud choose which version to watch..
posted by Chuckles at 8:28 PM on June 23, 2006


brundlefly, when the Thermians get here, I think are best bet will be to all play dumb. Also, mention that we were on vacation when that all happened, and that the octopus was "probably senile" anyway. Old people, what can you do, eh?
posted by bonehead at 8:52 PM on June 23, 2006


are our. Stupid tentatcles.
posted by bonehead at 8:53 PM on June 23, 2006


You, of course, never watched the last season of Enterprise, with some of the BEST episodes of ALL Trek series, including a story arc showing WHY the old series klingons are so human-like.

Since I'm not gonna watch it, what was the reason?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:15 PM on June 23, 2006


I so DON'T need some nerdy apologetic reason for WHY the old series klingons are so human-like. Deep Space Nine delt with the issue with some class and some dignity, I think we can leave it at that.
posted by Artw at 9:23 PM on June 23, 2006


Am I the only one who wishes they'd redo the effects in a more traditional way with a combination of real models and limited retouching (something like the original Star Wars films)?

Oh, and I loved the models in Space 1999. Just thought I'd mention that.
posted by Meridian at 11:15 PM on June 23, 2006


Deep Space Nine delt with the issue with some class and some dignity, I think we can leave it at that.

Could you please give a brief explanation? I watched the first season or two, didn't have cable for a good few years, and then came back near the end. I've seen enough bits and pieces to know that some pretty cool sounding shit happened during my hiatus but, on the other hand, I did catch the final episode, which was no Sleeping in Light, so I've been reluctant to add DS9 to my Netflix queue knowing it ends with such a "meh..."
posted by Cyrano at 11:24 PM on June 23, 2006


What I like about this is that it looks like what I remember the show looking like when I was a kid. The real thing never lived up to those memories.
posted by oraknabo at 11:36 PM on June 23, 2006


Paramount should open it up for people from the Sci-Fi Meshes forums to do the CGI. I bet they'd all love the opportunity to do official Trek CGI; I wouldn't be surprised if they did it just for the credit, no pay necessary.
posted by jiawen at 11:56 PM on June 23, 2006


Cyrano; Put simply, Worf said (on DS) that it was an internal Klingon matter and that they don't talk about it with outsiders.

While I enjoyed Enterprise's attempt to add some depth to this statement, I agree with Artw; DS9's explanation was really all that was needed.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:18 AM on June 24, 2006


Hi, I'm Dave, long-time TOS fan, first-time commenter on this thread.

I liked it! I was pretty surprised at how much more "oomph" those added little f/x to the overall experience. I would *love* it if someone did go ahead with the Enhanced Trek - all TOS episodes - and got them aired on Sci-Fi or G4.
posted by davidmsc at 5:46 AM on June 24, 2006


The second link seems to have much more respect for the source material, and didn't seem as offensive as the first.

By the way, CG effects were added here and there to the Director's Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the team that worked on that did a really good job. Except in one or two instances, you'd be hard pressed to distinguish the newly added effects shots from the older ones unless you'd seen the prior cut of the film enough times to memorize it.

The Director's ST:TMP also benefits from being several minutes shorter--there's much less footage of crew members starting at V'ger's cloud formations, etc.
posted by Prospero at 8:20 AM on June 24, 2006


Prospero: I agree, they did a very nice job on the update of ST:TMP for the DVD. It actually works pretty well as a movie now, just with a little polishing and tightening. It's a good example of how editing can make or break a film.
posted by octothorpe at 9:09 AM on June 24, 2006


Ah yes, the giant cream horn of doom episode. Good choice for a sfx example, although that cold-war analog episode with the Romulans would also have been cool (oh noes, a NUKE!).

Still, I found the effects themselves jarring. I think it was difference between the soft film in the live-action scenes and the razor-sharp contrast in the CGI scenes. Maybe there's a filter they could apply to the CGI to overcome that.
posted by moonbiter at 4:38 AM on June 25, 2006


Can someone clear up that earlier question about why the FPP says 2003 while the first youtube video it links indicates the footage is from the early 90s? Neither of these videos seems particularly good, even in rough-cut form, for 2003.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 10:24 PM on June 25, 2006


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