Classic Trek Gets a Makeover

This could amount to sacrilege. They are updating the special effects for all 79 of the Classic Star Trek episodes, giving them all new computer generated effects shots.

I’m withholding judgment on this until I see the finished product. But I’m not holding my breath, either. The primitive effects are just fine with me. I don’t need my classic Enterprise to have ‘go fast’ stripes.

I’ve never seen the revised versions of the first two seasons of Red Dwarf. They went through a similar process of updating. Like Doctor Who and its ships on strings, there is something appropriate about old campy SciFi having visibly dated special effects, especially if there is an air of humor to the program.

On the other hand, I liked the revised versions of Star Wars, with the exception of the Whussification of Han Solo. So updated effects might be OK with me…

…and then there is the urge to tinker with the show. The episode “The Enterprise Incident” for example. Here’s a chance to finally put the Romulans in Romulan ships instead of the Klingon ships that were originally used. After all, why not? The Klingon Bird of Prey that is used for most of the movies and all of Next Gen owes it’s existence to the mythology that was built up around that one little slip up in Classic Trek. If the updates fix that problem, then why…?

Like I said, I’ll wait for the premiere. I’m just not holding my breath.


Read the interview over at Aint It Cool News with Mike Okuda and the rest of the crew that worked on the makeover. There’s also a Q&A over at Startrek.com and the original announcement from Paramount as well as images of the CGI models they will be using. I have to say, the ship does look gorgeous. But then, she always did.

From the announcement:

The most noticeable change will be redoing many of the special effects, created with 1960s technology, with 21st century computer-generated imagery (CGI). Upgrades include:

  • Space ship exteriors – The Enterprise, as well as other starships, will be replaced with state of the art CGI-created ships. The new computer-generated Enterprise is based on the exact measurements of the original model, which now rests in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • Show opening – The Enterprise and planets seen in the main title sequence will be redone, giving them depth and dimension for the first time.
  • Galaxy shots – All the graphics of the galaxy, so frequently seen through the viewscreen on the Enterprise’s bridge, will be redone.
  • Exteriors – The battle scenes, planets and ships from other cultures (notably the Romulan Bird of Prey and Klingon Battle Cruisers) will be updated.
  • Background scenes – Some of the iconic, yet flat, matte paintings used as backdrops for the strange, new worlds explored by the Enterprise crew will get a CGI face-lift, adding atmosphere and lighting.

The refurbished episodes also feature higher quality sound for the famous opening theme. The original score by Emmy Award-winning composer Alexander Courage, has been re-recorded in state-of-the-art digital stereo audio with an orchestra and a female singer belting out the famous vocals. A digitally remastered version of William Shatner’s classic original recording of the 38-word “Space, the final frontier…” monologue continues to open each episode.

However, when you read between the lines, there is some admission on the part of those involved in the process that there are some digital ‘fixes’ going into the regular scenes, not just the inserted FX scenes and bridge viewscreen images. Text ‘fixed’ on library screens, some of the aliens will be given ‘sparkle’…

…I’m still withholding judgement until I see it. Broadcast information can be found here. For Austin it will air on KNVA at 4:00 pm, Saturday, September 16th.

EUReKA

I’ve managed to catch most of the episodes of this new offering from SciFi so far. I’ve found it quite the most enjoyable bit of television viewing that I’ve stumbled across in a long time. It’s also one of the few shows that I feel comfortable letting the kids watch with me.

I liked the approach of the show introduced in the pilot, and they’ve stuck with it in the episodes I’ve watched. The lead character (Jack Carter, played by Colin Ferguson) is an average Joe who is presented with unbelievable events that he has to make sense of as the episode progresses. You see this never normal town of Eureka, inhabited by geniuses and inventors, through his eyes, allowing you to make the journey from disbelief to understanding with him. Colin Ferguson’s delivery as the straight man in a comedy sketch seems to work perfectly as his character attempts to make sense of the apparently chaotic mess that Eureka is always threatening to become.

Mixed in with the usual SciFi fare is the occasional tidbit of hard science and philosophy. I recommend it. In fact, I mention my interest in the show now, because SciFi will be re-airing the episodes that they’ve shown to date, next Wednesday starting at 4:00 pm. Just in case you want to catch up on the ones you’ve missed.


Additional: SciFi has been airing the episodes out of order. Check the episode numbers for the correct watching sequence. You’d think they’d learn from the mistakes of other networks (Fox and Firefly springs immediately to mind) but perhaps not.

Wrestling isn’t SciFi

All my life, I have had nothing but contempt for professional wrestling and the fans who watch it. Unlike the other pro sports, which have some semblance of realism and rules and are based on amatuer sports that have existed down through the ages, professional wrestling is a complete farce of a sport that takes nothing from the real sport of wrestling, and simply grandstands on the outrageousness of the actors who make thier living engaging in it.

From the implausibilty of appearing to crush someones windpipe, and not killing them, to the appearance of bashing your opponents with objects from outside the ring (a behavior that doesn’t disqualify the atheletes from continuing the exhibition) I find the entire realm of professional wrestling to be unbelievable. A surprising admission for a SciFi fan?

There is nothing scientific about professional wrestling. There is nothing futuristic about it. If anything there is more backwater ‘middle of last century’ stupidity involved in the sport than anything that might qualify it as ‘forward looking’.

So why is professional wrestling on the SciFi channel? Because SciFi was bought out by USA networks several years ago, and USA networks is convinced that everyone loves wrestling. I beg to differ. The only Star Trek series ever to be canceled, Enterprise, was scheduled with wrestling following it. Not only did the geniuses over at UPN schedule these two mismatched genres together, they actively promoted wrestling during the airing of Enterprise. If the show hadn’t have been so poorly conceived in the first place, the intellectually insulting ads for wrestling would have been sure to drive off most viewers.

…As the ads for ECW wrestling, and it’s adjacent scheduling on SciFi with Eureka is probably hurting viewership of that show. Which is too bad. I hate to see a good program like Eureka damaged by programming geniuses at USA who just don’t get it. Don’t get that Science Fiction is an intellectual pursuit (or should be) while Professional Wrestling is anti-intellectual.

UPN’s fascination with teenage boys and their boob babes spelled the end of Enterprise. Here’s hoping that SciFi has some better brains behind it.

Real Invisibility; Just Around the Corner?

Apparently they’ve stumbled upon a Romulan warbird out there somewhere. Here’s a snippet of the article:

The cloak works on the principal of light as an electromagnetic wave, with a longer wavelength than X-rays and ultraviolet and shorter wavelength than infrared, microwaves and radio waves. The electromagnetic waves follow four mathematical formulas established nearly 150 years ago by James Clerk Maxwell.

Light that transmits through the fabric is made indistinguishable from light that passes through free space. “Using Negative dialectic constant materials is likely in principle, as we are discovering things in small scale that are possible in laborites,” said B. Sriram Shastry, physics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Just one more of those things first seen in Star Trek that most people thought was “impossible”. This is something that wasn’t in “How Star Trek Changed the World“. You might want to check out the link under “Metamaterials” before that whole site is classified.

The Hanso Foundation

The Wife and I are movie weirdos. Long after the rest of the theatre is empty, after everyone else who was in the theatre is already in the parking lot trying to get into their cars and beat the traffic home, we’re still sitting there watching the rest of the film. The credits, that is. We’ve gotten into arguments with overly enthusiastic maintenance people many times over the years (‘scuse me, the film is STILL RUNNING!) but occasionally it pays off with a closing sequence or a recognized name. (The monkey at the end of Pirates, and the cat at the end of Slither) The latest time this happened was when we were watching the credits for MI-III. Apparently The Hanso Foundation invests in certain films as well as mucking with the space-time continuum (or whatever it is they are doing on LOST) Right there at the end of the credits, a thank you to the Hanso Foundation.

They’ve been running ads on LOST during the commercial breaks as well, kind of like the ads for “Oceanic Airlines” (found three sites for Oceanic, there was just this one. Now there is an 815 site and this one) in the first season episodes. Try calling Hanso’s number, or visiting the website(s). Excellent time wasters.

Still don’t have any clue what will happen next week. The series has already gone places I hadn’t expected (We watched the “tailies” for what reason now?) I hate to imagine what the teaser promise of “changes everything” and “what happens when the counter stops” means. I can imagine, but I’ll wait for the episode. And then wait for the fall sweeps for the other shoe to drop, just like always.

If this was survivor (which I’ll freely confess to never have watched) I know one LOSTaway that I’d like to see voted off the island right now…

I’ll just echo the Dharma Orientation film and say, “namaste and good luck”

Will the Real Star Wars Please Step Forward?

Turns out that Fox actually has more clout, when it comes to Star Wars, than George Lucas does. Or maybe, George still needs a few more millions in the coffers before he closes the bank on the Star Wars debacle.

In any case, recent news is that the original Star Wars Trilogy will be released in their theatrical versions. This, in spite of the statements by Lucas that the “special editions” were definitive, and that he had no intention of re-releasing the original versions.

The Yahoo story on the subject states “Fan attachment to the originals is strong”. I can’t speak for the rest of the fans, but this SciFi buff wasn’t wasting a dime on Lucas’ watered down version of the Original, Original film. Like his buddy Steven Spielberg who digitally removed the guns from the hands of the gov’t goons in his DVD version of ET. Lucas decided that being a shoot first, ask questions later rough and tumble (read as “more realistic”) pirate was the wrong image for Han Solo, and consequently altered one of the more powerful scenes in the film, Han shooting Greedo in order to escape Mos Eisley with his skin intact. I was OK with the rest of it. I could look past the suddenly populated desert planet (don’t ask where the food and water come from) appreciated the improved space effects and soundtrack; but that revised scene was so jarring that I still take out the “Special Edition” Laserdisc (that’s right folks. Laserdisc) at that scene and replace it with the Original Theatrical release version LD, just to watch it done right. I was beginning to think I was going to have to produce a version of my own (similar to the LOTR Purist edit) for my own personal DVD use.

I’ll never understand the magnitude of self-absorption involved in the decision to modify a film that is the contributive effort of hundreds of people, a film that was more successful than any other film of that year (a kind of success that you can’t create even if you plan it, the last three SW films being a case in point) a film that inspired a whole new series of films on the same subject; and somehow you, the rights holder, can make it better.

Please, enough meddling. Can I just have my old films back? Thank you. Government agents carry guns, and pirates don’t wait for their enemies to shoot first. No amount of wishing for a kinder, gentler world is going to change that.

Star Trek: the Academy Years

Somebody has resurrected Harve Bennett‘s old script for Star Trek: the Academy Years over at Ain’t it Cool News; it seems the guy is really interested in the story. I hate to break it to him, but any story placing the original series crew together in Star Fleet Academy just couldn’t be considered canon; that’s not the way that the series developed originally.

[Not that this would be unprecedented. Of the entire four year run of Enterprise, only two episodes could be considered canon. That would be the “In a Mirror Darkly” two parter. Spock was established to be the first Vulcan in Star Fleet in one of the first Star Trek episodes. There is no way that T’Pol could be an officer on a Starfleet vessel in the normal Star Trek universe. In the “Mirror, Mirror” universe, however…]

I don’t understand this need to mess with cherished memories. Why does Hollywood have to re-invent every show that was ‘successful’ before? Do we really need to make a ‘Star Trek Babies’ movie? Cast someone else in the roles of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the others?

I didn’t need to see Scooby Doo as a live action film. I didn’t need to see King Kong without the stop motion animation. I didn’t need to see The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, etc. on the big screen (in fact, I didn’t) do we really have to go there with Classic Trek? Watch someone else play James T. Kirk? Someone other than Nimoy wear Spock’s ears? I won’t be paying for that, myself.

If they just have to do a Star Trek: the Academy Years do it without including the classic characters, or you can count on this classic Trek fan sitting this film out.

Commander Cochran

Kelso’s column in the Statesman today reveals a side of Leslie that we never knew before.

That he owns clothing other than a bikini and a tiara, for one thing. He was arrested in Utumwa, Iowa (MASH fans will recognize that name) for public intoxication…

…while wearing a Star Trek uniform.

“It’s cold up here, so I put my Star Trek outfit over my normal clothes,” Leslie said, explaining his choice of traveling attire when I talked to him Wednesday on his cell phone. “By the way, I’ve got commander rate, so you can call me Commander Cochran.”

I was captain of a local Star Trek club, years ago. We were always concerned about loosing old membership and getting ‘fresh blood’ into the club. I recruited a few people over the years, some of whom have gone on to make several people ask, “why did you bring him here?”

For the record, I’d like it known that I could have done worse. Maybe.

Andreas Katsulas 1946-2006

Andreas Katsulas and his characterization of G’kar was, in the end, the most memorable part of Babylon 5 for me. His portrayal of the ambassador for the newly liberated Narn was exactly what was needed to give the series ‘an edge’. Despicable, but at the same time likeable, the character matured with the show into the image of a visionary leader of his people, once again oppressed by their old masters.

His story arc was about the only one that came to a satisfying conclusion.

I’ll never forget the convention in Tulsa where he posed for this picture. (Yes, those are puppets, made by a friend of mine) He made the convention worth attending, all by himself.

This pretty much puts an end to the possibilities of a resurrection of B5. Without the characters of G’kar and Dr. Franklin (played by Richard Biggs who passed away in 2004) A story based on the original characters would be quite hard to tell.

I have found the voice over that Andreas did as G’kar at the end of the Episode “Z’ha’dum” to be quite moving at times. It goes like this:

“It was the end of the Earth year 2260. The War had come to a pause, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around it was as if the Universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition, and moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.

G’Quan wrote: ‘There is a darkness greater than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The War we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.’

The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain…”

He will be missed.

ZTeamProductions – Babylon 5: In Memory of Andreas Katsulas – Dec 7, 2008

http://www.zteamproductions.com

LOST – What’s in a Name?

OK. I have to admit this up front. I had not been following this show until O.S. Card threw down the gauntlet last year concerning the worthlessness of Trek (Enterprise was worthless. It also wasn’t Trek. Well maybe Ber-Trek) and the praiseworthiness of ‘Lost’ (and ‘Smallville’. Don’t care what he says about that. His original comments can be found here) I accepted the challenge and took up watching ‘Lost’ just to see what the buzz was about.

Anyway… Trek bashing (by one of the better SF authors that I’ve read to date) aside, I’ve gotten hooked on Lost. It’s a pretty good show (still don’t know if I’d call it SciFi) the episodes are character and plot driven, and they are cut in such a way as to keep you interested in the show, even if you haven’t seen the beginning of the series. I started watching about 4 episodes before the season one finale, and kept right on watching as the repeats started airing. I found myself going “Oh, that explains the scene in the finale where…” and have to shut up, because no one else in the house was watching the finale when it aired previously and I didn’t want to give it away…

I’ve stumbled across more sites for this show than any other show I’ve watched. Example?

…and that’s an old list.

The obsession with names that the fans have (as illustrated here, and several other places) has been earned. Taking into account the meaning of the name “Desmond” (where did he go, anyway?) the symbology behind the Dharma logo, the Bagua (anyone else notice the black/white “swan” looks remarkably like a yin-yang?) and the meaning of the name “Dharma“. How about “Jack” and “John”, the two leaders who have the same first name, but couldn’t be more different.? Aaron, Claire’s child? Mr. Ecko? It seems that the writers are choosing names just to pique our interest. It’s not surprising, and has been done in SF series for years. But it still leads you to wonder…

…Which takes you to questioning where this is all going. Reading through the ideas presented at this link (WARNING, SPOILERS) might give you an idea.

But then maybe he, as well as the writers, don’t know where this is going. I’m still watching.