REVIEW: The cartoon “Enterprise” returns in “Star Trek: Remastered”

Star Trek (Remastered): “Balance of Terror”
Remastered Episode #1 (9/16/2006)

With a sense of irony, I find myself reviewing Star Trek: Remastered less than five days after reviewing Star Wars: Unaltered.

In a year of surprises, one of the biggest was Paramount announcing the return of the original Star Trek to syndication in a remastered format, including updated special effects.

First off, “Balance of Terror” has always been one of the finest hours of any version of Star Trek, including the movies. It is a natural choice as the premiere of 2006’s remastered episodes. It serves a better introduction to the series than, say, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” or “The Man Trap.”

The dramatic content is great. But I already knew that. I’ve been watching this since I was a kid. What about the new stuff?

Unfortunately, it is a mixed bag.

The CGI Romulan bird-of-prey and some other upgrades, such as the comet, look nice.

The big disappointment, though, is the computer-generated Enterprise. Considering that this effect needs to carry from episode to episode, it simply doesn’t look very good.

Devoid of detail, the CGI Enterprise would have been a great enhancement for the animated Star Trek series but the cartoony look only served to pull me out of the episode each time it was on screen.

Re-creating the original Enterprise is a tough challenge for those responsible for the CGI. The original 1960’s physical model did not require a lot of surface detail to meet the needs of the era. Attempting to exactly duplicate it in the 21st century with CGI serves only to bring that lack of detail to the forefront.

The conundrum for those creating the CGI version is that if they added previously unseen surface details, purists would undoubtedly moan about that decision. So, instead, we get the cartoon Enterprise.

For me, the cartoon Enterprise is not an improvement over the original. Yes, there were matte lines and all sorts of other problems with the original model. But I’m used to seeing it that way.

When I watch the unaltered Star Trek, I don’t see these effects limitations. I “see” the Enterprise and the other effects as they are “supposed” to be, not necessarily as they are. As a long-time viewer, I believe in the Enterprise.

Unfortunately, this blurring of my vision does not occur with Star Trek: Remastered. The cartoon Enterprise stands out each time as looking not quite right. Why are these live-action characters traveling around in a cartoon vessel?

Absolute purists won’t like changes to the episodes at all, no matter how “accurate” they are. With that being the case, why not add some more detail to the Enterprise CGI? Make me believe in her, like I did the original and the Enterprise-A.

The “new” opening credits are a fairly accurate reproduction of the original opening credits, but with the cartoon Enterprise doing the flybys. Apparently, cartoons have an even bigger whoooshhh in space than physical models.

The “new” effects sequences would better be described as “reproductions.” The shots really aren’t any different, they are just presented with CGI. If the full advantages of today’s CGI are not to be used, this leaves me to wonder, “Why bother?”

I give Paramount credit for what they are attempting here, though. As we enter the high definition era, shows like Star Trek will need certain upgrades to fit in with the new format.

“Balance of Terror” ultimately leaves me with the impression that Star Trek: Remastered was brought to television too quickly–most likely rushed to capitalize on the series’ 40th anniversary. What could have been the revitalization of the original series is, so far, just a curiosity.

All in all, not bad. It could have been a lot worse, but it deserved to be great. I can’t imagine ever choosing to watch the remastered “Balance of Terror” over the original in the future. Since this is only the first episode, however, hopefully there is still time for the techniques and the Enterprise to improve.

Dramatic Content: 10 (out of 10)
Effects Upgrades: 4
Overall Experience: 8
Recommended: To casual Star Trek fans; to first-time viewers of the original Star Trek