Friday, September 22, 2006

The New Trek

Paramont announced that they are going to upgrade the original Star Trek. All shots of models will be replaced with CGI. Scenes set on other planets will have some atmospheric effects digitally added.

So what should we make of this?

I haven't heard much of a reaction yet but I haven't been looking, either. Maybe no one cares any longer.

When the show was originally shot they used the best available effects that they could afford. The writers knew the limitations of the day and the scripts were written with these in mind. For example, the transporter was used because it was more expensive to film a shuttle.

But time marches on and many of the effects now look cheesy. The space station in Trouble With Tribbles is especially bad and sometimes you can see stars through the Enterprise where they didn't mask it properly.

Will new effects improve the show? Probably not. Will they ruin the original Trek? It doesn't matter. A look at history shows why.

In the mid-1990s, George Lucas announced that he was going to upgrade the original Star Wars movies. Most of the changes were limited to the first one. Recently he announced that the original versions are going to be released on DVD.

In the early 1980s, a process called colorization was developed. This let technicians add colors to movies filmed in black and white. There was an uproar. Some directors from the days of black and white made effective use of it and it offended modern purists that their work could be diluted. Of course, many directors simply filmed and had no clue how to use black and white to advance the movie. These movies often look muddy and are helped by colorization.

The first few colorized movies released looked pretty good. They were done in pastels so no one would confuse them with bright Technicolor. As more colorized movies were released it was obvious that leas and less time was spent on the process. The later movies had a very limited pallet - usually brown and either blue or green.

I haven't seen a colorized movie in years. They served their purpose which was to get people to watch old black and white movies, at least a few more times. Now, the black and white versions are back in circulation and the colorized ones are moldering in a vault somewhere.

Come to think of it, New Coke did the same thing at the same time.

This is what will happen with the new Star Trek. The new version will be released with great fanfare but a few years from now the only version seen will be the original.

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