Welcome to Star Trek: TOS Remaster Report Card

I, like many other fans, was eagerly anticipating the arrival of Star Trek: Remastered (RM) long before the project was produced, much less proposed.  I suppose it was while watching one of the 80s Star Trek movies or viewing an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) when the question first formed in my mind: What if contemporary special effects were used to modernize the dated visuals in Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)?  The idea percolated in the back of my brain for years until the Special Edition of the original Star Wars trilogy was released in 1997 (See: “Balance of Terror”).  With renewed enthusiasm over a possible Star Trek: Special Edition, I wrote an unpublished letter to the erstwhile Star Trek Communicator magazine in August 2002:

For the last several years, I’ve been fantasizing about a “Star Trek: The Special Edition,” which would put a modern face on the original series by updating the special effects, ships (battles), planets, aliens, etc. (a la Star Wars Special Edition) without changing the existing dialogue or acting (to keep the purists happy).  The goal would be to make the transition between Enterprise and The Next Generation more smooth, while introducing new viewers to the show as it should have been made, had it been made with today’s technology.  Most episodes wouldn’t need that many changes, but just imagine what “Balance of Terror” would look like with modern F/X.  Redo the lighting on the ship, the viewscreen and its sound effect and the stagnant, generic patterns above Spock’s console and you’re well on your way to bringing the series up-to-date.  Computer animate the Gorn.  The Doomsday Machine.  Planets from orbit and their landscapes, skies on the surface.  Anyway, there’s my brainchild.  Let me know what you think.

Although I wasn’t surprised, I was disappointed that I never received a response to my unofficial series proposal.  Granted, many of my ideas were far too grandiose, not to mention cost prohibitive, to ever see the light of day, but I strongly believed that such a project, if done right, could effectively bridge the series’ gap while attracting younger viewers who just couldn’t get past TOS’s antiquated FX.  It was nearly four years later, in late summer 2006, when I first learned of ST: RM.  Although I was thrilled when the first episode aired, my enthusiasm was soon tempered by the many missed opportunities, FX miscues or second-rate CG renderings that failed to live up to the royal treatment this legendary sci-fi series deserves.

The following analyses are an attempt at grading the ST: RM episodes in a fair and consistent manner, although, despite considerable efforts to the contrary, reviews and ratings will contain personal bias and human error.  These are my opinions, for what they’re worth, but a few disclaimers are in order: 1) I’m not a professional writer (you’ll find that out soon enough as I’m my own editor), 2) I don’t work in the industry, so my terminology may be crude or imprecise at times, especially when dealing with camera techniques and special effects, and 3) These comments are completely unofficial, which probably goes without saying, but I have to cover myself.  Also, though admittedly critical at times, my evaluations are all done in good fun…one trait that’s always been exemplified by us Trekkers is the good-natured manner in which we niggle and nitpick the series we hold so dear.

Now to the burning question: how in the universe could I have given “Elaan of Troyius” an A+?  Here are my grading criteria:

Ranked as High, Medium or Low on a per episode basis

The number of shots that needed to be updated (Quantity)

The degree of visual fidelity of the updated shots (Quality)

The level of difficulty in updating the shots (Complexity)

Answered with a Yes or No

Did they (RM team) fix what needed to be fixed (or ignore it)? (E.g. Hand phasers)

Did they alter elements that didn’t need to be fixed? (E.g. Moving stars behind the planet in “Who Mourns for Adonais?”)

Did they embellish where they didn’t have to or go too far? (E.g. Two moons in “Bread and Circuses”)

Did they go above and beyond what was required by adding appropriate visual enhancements?  (E.g. The Antares in “Charlie X,” ShiKahr in “Amok Time,” etc.)

I’d be remiss if I failed to acknowledge three websites that were instrumental in the creation of this blog.  First, there are several informative articles concerning the ST: RM series at StarTrek.com, including the insightful Q&A piece.  The well written reviews appearing at TrekMovie.com were consulted after I’d written my reviews…just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything major.  My opinions vary from the TrekMovie writers on several occasions, most notably on FX heavy episodes like “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Tholian Web,” but I’ll stick to my phasers.  Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the beautiful screen captures that grace each episode were downloaded from TrekCore.com and TrekMovie.com.

This blog was a labor of love spanning several years of painstaking old/new episode comparisons, writing, editing and finally posting the eighty reviews that comprise ST: RM.  I hope you derive as much enjoyment from reading the below episode entries as I did in writing them.  If you disagree with my assessments, please read and apply the final sentence of my “Arena” review.  Peace and long life.  Trek on!