Monday, July 23, 2012

Star Trek: The Next Generation - BluRay...the New Frontier

It had been a few weeks since I first saw the local theatre's advertisement announcing the July 23, Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG from here on out) special event. When I saw the poster I first lost control of my lower jaw and then turned to my wife to share my combined shock and overly expressed joy. She accepted my weirdness and we went on with viewing some forgettable film. Then came today, Monday, July 23.

Logging in to the local theatre's website out of general curiosity I was reminded of the event I swore I would not miss. Lucky for me that I thought to look for otherwise I would have drastically let myself down. So I purchased the tickets online, knowing that I wasn't going to live with missing this, and then I prepared myself for the coming blessed event. This involved digging out my ST:TNG wearables, like my communicator badge, sans batteries for courtesy sake, and readying my mind for maximum information absorption so that I could come back and write this (ta-dah!).

The theatre itself was fairly full but not sold out. A few fans stood just outside holding a sign to attract members of their party, both of them wearing Classic Trek shirts. As I walked in I was marvellously assaulted by the booming of the Alexander Courage/Jerry Goldsmith theme and I beheld a massive screen full of Trek trivia. The questions were very well thought out (surely in some way their creation involved Michael and Denise Okuda). I was incredibly excited to see that there was even a multiple choice question which asked about the character Q but snuck in a reference to Trelane (a Q-like alien from Classic Trek, The Squire of Gothos) as one of the options. I found myself answering them with ease and excitement as the minutes counted down to start time. 

The fist thing we saw was a commercial of sorts for the July 24 release of ST:TNG on BluRay. This was the reason behind the event and something I grew more and more excited about as the evening went on (I don't own a BluRay player and am therefore not currently as interested as I would be if I did). Following this was a roughly ten minute look at CBS Digital's restoration of the series. The first episode, beginning with an introduction by the Okudas, was Where No One Has Gone Before, and then it was on to a ten to fifteen minute documentary about the origin of ST:TNG (titled Stardate Revisited: The Origin of ST:TNG). The night ended with the last episode (also introduced by the Okudas), Datalore, and then a preview of what we had to look forward to in the Season 2 BluRay set, including a cast reunion special feature that makes me want to run out and buy a BluRay player!

Regarding the restoration, the folks at CBS Digital skillfully took the well assembled filmed composites from back in the late 80s and brought them to a wondrous 1080p clarity. Everything that the original crew filmed was faithfully used and made to look more pristine than ever before. The special effects which weren't originally filmed but instead applied in post-production were reworked by teams who again remained true to the originals and enhanced them in such a way that would make George Lucas blush (more on this later). The two episodes screened were meant to show off some of these new and fabulous effects and CG updates. The effects of the Traveler's advanced Warp were stunning and yet completely familiar. The crystalline entity from Datalore was gorgeous and fully faithful to the original 3D model. As far as sound, they updated the audio from Lt/Rt to 7.1 surround sound. Basically, they took what was already impressive for its time and made it look and sound like, as Marina Sirtis put it, it was shot yesterday. Cheers to them and to whoever picks up the BluRay set. Those lucky nerds are in for a treat!

Now, to touch a little bit on my feelings towards the restoration and update as it compares to what George Lucas did to his Star Wars films. CBS Digital could have taught Lucas a thing or two when it came to fidelity and the true meaning of restoration. They didn't take away, replace, or add anything. They cleaned up the film, enhanced the details which were practically nonexistent thanks to Standard Definition, and they managed not to insert anything too distracting to detract from the enjoyment of the episodes. Now, we've seen what Mr. Lucas has done, and granted those are his movies, but what he claimed to do from the beginning versus what he actually did were two different things. Apparently the Star Trek people care more about the content and the fans than those who hold the leash for Star Wars. That's all I'm saying. 

It was a night to remember and I intend to remember it for the rest of my life, or at least until they find a new medium to which they can convert this loveable series and then create another wonderful event like this to promote it. This was also a night that reminded me of how much I love Star Trek, how much the cast and their creation means to me and has meant to me since I was a little boy, and how great the fans can be when they're all assembled to beam their love at the titanic wonder that is Star Trek. Being there amidst all the laughter and applause as I shared in a fan-love moment with my peers was almost overwhelming. Thanks to CBS and everyone else involved for the wonderful evening. Make sure to buy the BluRay, fellow nerds! You really, really won't regret it.

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