'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' and 'Voyager' May Never See High Definition

Saturday, 04 February 2017 - 5:10PM
Star Trek
Saturday, 04 February 2017 - 5:10PM
'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' and 'Voyager' May Never See High Definition
< >
Within the next couple of months, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager will both be getting new DVD box sets. It's not even the first time they've been re-released on DVD, and this is years after the rise of Blu-ray. So why won't they be getting HD releases on Blu-ray like The Original Series, The Next Generation, and even Enterprise?

Unfortunately, it may never happen. According to Robert Meyer Burnett, who creates special features for other Star Trek Blu-ray sets, the short answer is that time and money constraints won't allow it. There were some major hurdles to remastering all of The Next Generation into HD, and those same problems exist with DS9 and Voyager. While popular, neither show seems like an appealing use of resources for the CBS bigwigs.

The long answer is how specifically each show was filmed. The Original Series in 1966 was recorded and edited on 35mm film before being scaled down in resolution until it would fit onto old TV sets. But with that process, the finished/edited film negatives are still kept over time and they look really, really good. When that show was remastered, CBS only had to pull out those finished negatives while updating some fuzzy special effects like phaser blasts, etc. It was relatively easy stuff.

But starting in the mid-1980s, just before the new wave of Star Trek shows began, the process changed: while still recorded on film, these shows were then moved into digital editing on video before a negative was cut. Essentially, whereas old Star Trek had film-quality negatives of each episode in storage, those resources weren't held onto in this new process. With only low quality video footage, there's no HD to work with in the finished product.

"But wait," you say, "Next Generation did get remastered. What gives?" To say the HD remastering and Blu-ray release of The Next Generation was tough would be an understatement; it was a radical, very expensive process that would be extremely challenging to do again. CBS spent around 12 million dollars reconstructing all 176 episodes from scratch, tracking down negatives of what was basically raw footage and working with those. Burnett explains:
Opening quote
 The enormous sweat-equity involved required the stamina of a long-distance runner. First, ALL the original negatives would have to be tracked down, which was stored in thousands of boxes, then matched to every scene and take from the original finished episodes. Then, all of that negative needed to be scanned at 2K and color-timed from scratch, as the entire color palate of the series would change. For the first time, the REAL colors could be seen.
Closing quote

If you've seen any recent versions of TNG, you know the process was successful. But by the time they finished, Blu-ray was already on the decline thanks to streaming, and the remastered releases on Blu-ray were too expensive to meet the dwindling demand. For them to repeat the process for DS9 and Voyager (which both used heavy amounts of CGI that would look pixelated in HD) would be an even longer, pricier headache.

Oh, did we forget Enterprise? Sorry, that happens. That was filmed close enough to the rise of Blu-ray that it was future-proofed, and easy HD processes were already put in place during production. But the adventures of Captain Sisko and Captain Janeway weren't so lucky, and unless the arduous remastering process could be worth CBS' while, high definition will probably never reach the far corners of the Delta Quadrant. They'll boldly go no further than DVD, sadly.


If you consider yourself a television buff, then definitely give Burnett's long interview on Trek News a full read, because besides simply answering the DS9/Voyager question, it's also a fascinating history lesson about how TV was filmed.
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi TV Shows
Star Trek