01) “Balance of Terror” Original Airdate: (12/15/66) Remaster Airdate: (09/16/06)
Digitally remastered and featuring several new or updated shots, the Special Edition of Star Wars fueled my desire to see a Special Edition of Star Trek: The Original Series (hereafter TOS). Ever since SW:SE’s theatrical release in 1997, I’ve occasionally caught myself sketching mental storyboards in my head and daydreaming of how modern CGI could be employed to give TOS—and this episode in particular—a much needed facelift. And so, nearly a decade later, that dream has finally coalesced in the form of Star Trek: Remastered. The results here fall considerably short of what I had envisioned. True, the cat-and-mouse comet sequence and the updated Romulan bird-of-prey (as well as the red and yellow plasma beams it fires) are excellent revisions, but a minimalist approach still prevails in most of the revised shots (many of which are compositionally identical to their counterparts in the original show). Dave Rossi, Michael and Denise Okuda and the Remaster (hereafter referred to as RM) team of FX wizards at CBS Digital are capable of so much more, but their rigid adherence to preserving the original artistic vision seems to have constrained their creativity on this episode. And speaking of graphics expert Michael Okuda, how is it possible that the arcane map of the neutral zone escaped his notice? The insert is so outdated, even by today’s standards, that the thought of this map (with little white blip denoting the Enterprise’s position) passing itself off as a quotidian visual in the 23rd century is quite ludicrous…a “must fix” that wasn’t. Though the RM team has ostensibly rectified the early series inconsistency of phasers appearing and sounding like photon torpedoes (the Q&A article at Startrek.com refers to them as “proximity phasers”), the explosion pattern is similar in each of the three instances and we never catch a glimpse of the Romulan vessel—it would’ve been nice to see the bird-of-prey’s cloak shimmer each time the Enterprise scored a direct hit on its hull. While on the subject of starship combat, the one element I most anticipated in the RM edition of this episode was dogfights. The SW:SE version of the Death Star attack ratcheted up the tension and urgency by replacing static shots with sleek and highly stylized dogfights. How amazing would this episode have been if even a handful of shots depicted the Enterprise and Romulan bird-of-prey trading fire and engaging in evasive maneuvers with both ships in the same frame? Despite monetary and time constraints, this classic TOS episode received considerable attention from the RM team, and yet, it still falls short of what I imagined it could be. Maybe the visions of starships battling in my head will be realized twenty years from now when the re-remastered TOS is released.
Money Shot: The first time the new CG Romulan bird-of-prey activates its cloaking device and fades from view.
Wish List: One word…dogfights.
Remaster Grade: B+