Captain’s Blog: Episode 308, 06.03.2017

Greetings, captains! This week brings us–what else–more Discovery news! But first, a little news about Deep Space Nine.

As our crew mentioned, the crew of the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind is looking into obtaining original footage from the series in order to remaster said footage in high definition. I want to stress this will not be an independent project: the remastered clips will be used in the documentary. However, the enthusiasm for the project and the remastering may demonstrate to CBS that a remastered series would be worth the time and effort.

You may have wondered why the Powers that Be bothered to remaster the original series and Next Generation, but not Voyager or DS9. TrekNews has a great article discussing this issue in depth. I recommend you read it, but I’ll run down a quick summary here: prior to the 1980s, TV shows were shot, finished, and stored on 35mm film, which has great resolution. Remastering the original series was thus mostly a question of touching up the special effects. Next Generation was also shot on 35mm film, but due to the nature of post-production work, it was finished and stored at what I’ll call videotape quality. Remastering it was a Herculean effort that basically required the entire show to go through post-production again. They did finish Next Generation and release it on DVD.

Still from 'Next Generation' episode 'Redemption'

Note the cleanness of the edges and the color depth.
Picture courtesy of TrekNews.

However, streaming services were quickly outpacing physical media as the preferred method for watching TV shows, and it was clear to CBS that remastering and physically publishing future TV shows wouldn’t recoup the amount of money or time they put into it. Furthermore, Next Generation filmed its live-action and model photography on 35mm film, which, as I mentioned, has excellent resolution. Voyager and DS9, on the other hand, both used a lot of videotape-quality CGI for their special effects, and it’s impossible to scale that up with any kind of picture quality. To quote Robert Meyer Burnett, the producer of the Next Generation and Enterprise remasters, “These VFX could be upscaled 5x, but they’d have no detail. The Starship Defiant would look like a fuzzy, grey blob.”

"Still

The edges are blurrier and there’s less color contrast.
Picture courtesy of TrekNews.

(If you’re wondering how the heck Enterprise still managed to get a high-definition release, it’s because those episodes were shot in 35mm and finished in high-definition. Basically, it was already in high-definition quality.)

The challenge the documentary filmmakers are therefore facing is that if they do obtain the footage they’re looking for, they’ll still have to have visual artists go in and overhaul the visual effects to bring them up to modern standards. So if you’re jonesing for high-definition DS9, you should probably make sure you throw the IndieGoGo page some money. Better hurry: the funding phase ends in three days.

On to Discovery! It’s official: Star Trek: Discovery‘s premiere date won’t be until late summer or early fall. So says the president of CBS, Les Moonves, speaking to investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on February 27th. This further postponement had been hinted at earlier by Doug Jones, speaking with the Triumph & Disaster podcast. He said, “It’ll air… probably in the Fall. Maybe September-ish.” While on the one hand it’s nice to have a firmer date than “Eventually, 2017,” it’s also a little dismaying to have the show put off again. Add the loss of Bryan Fuller, the possibility of the spikiest Klingons ever, and the limited viewing platform, and you might be able to understand why some fans, including our crew, are feeling dispirited.

It’s the choice of platform that’s my biggest concern. (I guess I’m Worried Wendy?) Despite Mr. Moonves saying the delay is because “it’s important to get it right,” I’m not entirely sure CBS is making the right call. Mr. Moonves justified the restriction of Discovery to All Access by saying:

There are millions and millions of Trekkies out there. We know for a fact that the other versions of Star Trek — there were seven other series, some of them were great and some of them were terrible — they all did really well on Netflix. That gave us great confidence that this was the right choice to put the full court press on All Access.

First of all, I find it very odd that Mr. Moonves moved from calling Star Trek “the crown jewels” to saying that some of the jewels are rocks.

The Imperial Crown of England

All the stones in this crown are extremely valuable except for the paste ones.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.

Second, he’s assuming we fans will subscribe to the All Access platform simply because it’s got new Star Trek episodes. Is he right? Not to sound like an advertisement, but a Netflix subscription gives you access to a lot of commercial-free movies and TV shows in addition to Star Trek. It’s a pretty good value. With All Access, if you don’t follow any other CBS shows, you’ll basically be paying $6.00 a month for one additional show with limited commercials. (It’s $10.00 a month for the commercial-free stream.) And, as far as I can tell, a cable subscription doesn’t get you any kind of discount. Speaking purely for myself, at this point I’m inclined to wait and see what the critics say about Discovery. There’s just so much that’s uncertain about the show at this point that I’m not inclined to commit myself to what at times feels like a big hot mess.

We did get some more casting news: Discovery finally has herself a captain! Jason Isaacs, probably best known around fandom circles as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies, will be Captain Lorca of the USS Discovery. Also announced is Mary Wiseman, who will be joining the crew of the Discovery as “a Starfleet Academy cadet in her final year of study.” Yes, she’s assigned to the Discovery, not the Shenzhou.

Jason Isaacs and Mary Wiseman cast in 'Star Trek: Discovery'

Captain Isaacs and Cadet Wiseman reporting for duty!
Picture courtesy of CBS.

At this point, I think I’m going to make a table of who we know has been cast and where their character has been assigned.

USS Discovery USS Shenzhou Klingons Others
Jason Isaacs Michelle Yeoh Shazad Latif Terry Serpico
Sonequa Martin-Green Maulik Pancholy Chris Obi James Frain
Doug Jones Sam Vartholomeos Mary Chieffo
Anthony Rapp
Mary Wiseman

Okay, most of our known characters are assigned to the Discovery, which is good, since it’s titled Discovery. However, I still couldn’t tell you for the life of me where I think this is going from the casting. Wikipedia has Michelle Yeoh listed as a recurring character, not a main one, so maybe the majority of the action really will be on the Discovery and not the Shenzhou. I’m also wondering why there are cadets on board both ships. I don’t remember other ships having personnel who were still in the Academy. Plus, we’ve got Sarek, who literally stopped speaking to Spock for choosing Starfleet over the Vulcan Science Academy, hanging out on a Starfleet ship. I really hope they explain why he’s making an exception in this case. (Maybe he can explain it to Spock: Adam Nimoy suggested he’d like to see a Peter-Cushing-style appearance for Spock on Discovery.) But really, my biggest question is: why did they feel it necessary to tell us Anthony Rapp’s character is an astromycologist? Are space mushrooms a big plot point in the show? I know I’m starting to think mushrooms are involved in some way with the production.

Picture of mushrooms from Wikipedia

Mushrooms will explain everything, I’m sure of it!
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

What do you think, captains? Would you like to see Leonard Nimoy’s Spock make an appearance on Discovery? Why is Sarek putting aside his dislike of Starfleet? How important are space mushrooms in your life? Let me know in the comments, or share with me via whitby at priorityonenetwork dot com. That’s all for this week!

Whitby, out.

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