40 years of Star Trek

Continuing on the nerd/geek theme, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today is the 40th anniversary of the debut of the original Star Trek series. Forty years, hundreds of TV episodes and books, and several movies later, the franchise is completely ingrained in American culture, so much so that catch phrases like “Beam me up!” are recognized by pretty much everyone.

One thing I’m not so sure I’m all that enthusiastic about is the CBS Paramount project to remaster all of the original 79 episodes, replacing many of the special effects with state-of-the art digital recreations of the space scenes and adding all new music. Come on, guys! This is Star Trek. Don’t you think it’ll be just a bit anomalous to go, for example, from one scene of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on a planet where it’s painfully obvious that the “rocks” are made out of styrofoam and that the background scenery is nothing but a matte painting to another scene of exquisitely-rendered CGI special effects duplicating an original scene of, say, the Enterprise battling a Klingon warship? It’ll just too incongruous. It’ll be even worse than the digital mayhem to which George Lucas subjected the original Star Wars movies, because at least the baseline special effects in the Star Wars movies were much better than the ones in the old Star Trek episodes. (Even so, the new Star Wars effects were jarring in some cases.) You might as well take the old Doctor Who episodes from 30 or 40 years ago with the rubber monsters and plywood sets and give them a CGI makeover. It just won’t look right. And if the producers are, as they claim, going to try to duplicate the “original look and feel” of the series, then why bother to do this at all? Why not just use the technology to clean up the existing original prints as much as possible and to enhance the sound as much as feasible? Oh, wait. They already did that and released the episodes as DVDs. The only real thing that I could see being done to the episodes that might improve them would be to remaster them in HD at some point. Besides, the cheesy special effects are part of the show’s charm, and fans know that the producers did the best that they could with the sets and special effects, given the budget and the technology they had 40 years ago. “Updating” the show to match 21st century standards just seems a bit pointless to me.

Of course, it’s clear that the main reason for this makeover, is to try to milk just a little more money (actually, a lot more money) out of Paramount’s cash cow, now that we’ve just seen the first TV season without new episodes of any Star Trek series. Worse, it wouldn’t surprise me if these “new” versions eventually supplant the old and the originals become unavailable over the next several years. Already, the DVD collections of the original three seasons are rapidly falling in price. They cost less than half of what they cost just a year or two ago, when I bought them over the course of a few months. You can now get each season from Amazon.com for around $40-45, each, less than $2 per episode (which is a total bargain that you should snap up if you’re a fan).

Oh, well. In any case, to all my readers, I say, “Live long and prosper.”

Oh, and buy the DVDs of the original series, while you still can.