Pretty much ever since the Blu-ray remasters for the original Star Trek series and The Next Generation were unveiled, fans have wondered when DS9 or Voyager would get a similar treatment. But according to Robert Meyer Burnett, who worked extensively on the HD re-releases those series, the odds of such a thing ever happening are incredibly low.
We will never see the beloved Janeway Manoeuvre in full HD glory.
Speaking to Trek News in an incredibly lengthy interview, Burnett detailed the reasons why fully HD versions of Deep Space Nine and Voyager would be Herculean tasks for CBS and Paramount to release. Basically, until recently, TV was shot on 35mm film, which is already high resolution — too high resolution for the early days of television.
The film footage was edited together, archived and then shrunk down to the more manageable NTSC video resolution for broadcast. As such, the Blu-ray release for the older Trek series could use the original negative to create a full HD release relatively easily, as each episode’s film was already edited together.
By the mid-1980s, video technology had advanced enough to the point that many TV shows — including Star Trek: The Next Generation — were no longer editing the 35mm film footage, but scanning it into computers, transforming it into the lower, TV-friendly resolution and edited from there to save money. In TNG‘s case, that helped make the VFX work on the show easier, but it also meant there all the show’s film was left in separate pieces.
Essentially, for the HD release of Star Trek, all people had to do was scan each episode. For The Next Generation, they would have to scan all those original pieces of film and then edit together each episode again, themselves. It’s more difficult, more expensive and much more time-consuming.
What’s amazing is that they actually did this for TNG‘s Blu-ray release, which was a radical, unprecedented and incredibly daunting task. Following the edited tape versions that were originally broadcast, a new team painstakingly recreated every episode of the show from the 35mm film footage, a process that cost millions and millions of dollars. But as TNG is the jewel in the Star Trek crown for legions of fans, it was seen as worth it.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually worth it. Sales of the extravagant TNG remaster — original retail price $US118 ($154) for just season one — failed to reach CBS and Paramount’s expectations.
A similar process would have to be done for both DS9 and Voyager — and would actually be even harder. Both shows extensively used CGI effects that were only ever rendered in the lower videotape resolution, which means all the shows’ special effects would need to be completely recreated. But neither show is anywhere near as popular in the public consciousness as TNG, it’s simply too much effort for not enough of a value proposition.
So, a long story made short and depressing: Deep Space Nine and Voyager aren’t popular enough to be worth the incredible effort it would take to make them available in a high-def format. It’s not an impossible task — just an unprecedented and incredible challenging one. Who knows, maybe one day it will happen. But for now, you’ll only ever see DS9 and Voyager in sub-HD resolutions.
Burnett’s full interview covers all this — the painstaking work done for TNG‘s Blu-ray releases, and the future of behind-the-scenes featurettes on Star Trek releases — and is absolutely worth the read, even if it’s a bit of a downer. Check it out at the link below.