Exclusive – Mike & Denise Okuda: TNG Remastered Interview, Part 1

With just under two weeks left before the eagerly anticipated release of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 on Blu-Ray, I spoke with Star Trek legends and Consultants on the TNG: Remastered Project, Mike & Denise Okuda. Mike and Denise have always been wonderful in helping out TrekCore with information on the remastering project, so it was a pleasure to finally talk to them both and ask them some of the hotly contested questions which fans have been eagerly awaiting answers for.

Mike & Denise Okuda

Mike & Denise Okuda: TNG Remastered Interview, Part 1

Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com

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TrekCore: I understand that you are both attending the Comic Con Panel on Thursday (July 12). Could you tell me a bit about that?

Denise: Yes! It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Mike: Basically, we have a panel with the principle people behind the actual restoration – plus filmmakers Roger Lay and Robert Meyer Burnett. We’ll be talking about the restoration process, the visual effects, the bonus features, the documentaries and just the fact that this is such a huge project and it’s the largest – as far as we know – the largest project of it’s kind that has ever been attempted.

TrekCore: I was about to say Mike – compared to other blu-ray TV show releases, this project is unprecedented in it’s scope. The budget that’s gone into it, the talent that’s involved behind the scenes and the publicity drive behind it... and now the comic con panel...

Mike: Well, CBS Paramount looked at Star Trek and they knew that there was a tremendous demand to see this in high definition. The problem of course that even though the show was shot on film, it was originally edited and all the video effects were done in standard definition. So, if we simply upscaled it to blu-ray, it just wouldn’t have looked very good. It looked great back in 1987 – it was cutting edge state of the art – but in order to bring it to today’s screens in HD, there was a huge amount of work required. Fortunately, CBS has faith in Star Trek and Star Trek’s standards and they said ‘OK, we’re going to take a gamble. We’re going to make this huge investment. We’re going to put a huge amount of effort and bring Star Trek back in a big way.’

TrekCore: I understand that this is the first time we’re going to be seeing Star Trek The Next Generation on the big screen with cinema screenings of two episodes – 'Where No One Has Gone Before' and 'Datalore'. What led to the choices of these episodes, and will you guys be getting your tickets?

Mike: Well of course we’re going to see them! Are you kidding!? Back in the day, we always used to lament that the set, the costumes and the models looked so good - it was a pity we couldn’t see it on the big screen – and now we’re going to get our wish! As far as the episodes go, we wanted an episode that embodied Gene Roddenberry’s vision of people boldly exploring and discovering the wonders of the unknown and for the second episode, Data is such a popular character and [Datalore] is such a pivotal episode to his character. It deals with a lot of his background, it introduces us to his evil twin and frankly Brent Spiner is kind of an undiscovered comic genius. He brings such delight to Data, to the evil Lore – such a delightful edge.

Fathom Events - TNG 25th Anniversary

TrekCore: I must ask on behalf of the fans, would there be any chance of seeing 'The Best of Both Worlds' on the big screen?

Denise: Oh would we love to see that!!! I don’t know though...

Mike: The first season has been such a huge project... getting that out on blu-ray, and now we’re working on the second season. It’s so far down the road!

Denise: But, do you want to know something? You’re not the first person – nor will you be the last – to ask that question!

Mike: We would love to see it too.

TrekCore: If I could talk a bit about the bonus features on the Blu-Ray, because the DVD release in itself had a slew of bonus features which were fantastic in their own right. The Blu-Ray takes these to a whole new level with trailers, outtakes and these fantastic documentaries about the production of the series at the start. Can you tell me a bit about the development of these features and what goes into the construction of them and how they are formulated?

Mike: Well, CBS Home Entertainment very much wanted to create the definitive behind-the-scenes look at these things, so they brought on Roger Lay and Robert Meyer Burnett. Those guys have done so many interviews! From the very beginning of the process, everyone at CBS - David Grant [Vice President, Multimedia at CBS Television Distribution] and Ryan Adams [Director, Multimedia at CBS Television Distribution] – they’ve been very specifically looking for [material, and saying] ‘OK, if this stuff is suitable for behind-the-scenes, just make sure we know about it’.

Denise: At the beginning of the project, we screened a whole bunch of tests – lighting tests, costume tests, makeup tests – and it was kind of fun. So those are also being incorporated into the added material which I think is a lot of fun, and gives a glimpse into how the series... you know... the different revisions that needed to be made from the color of Data’s makeup, to the costumes, to the lighting on the bridge, the carpet... I mean, it kind of takes you behind the scenes to where it all began.

TrekCore: Your famous text commentaries which have been on previous DVDs have been a huge hit with the fans. You both have unprecedented access to all the minutiae behind the production of the movies and the shows. Are there any future plans to include your text commentaries and maybe even some audio commentaries on the Blu-Ray release.

Mike: We love doing those things, but I gotta tell you – at least for the time being – just our regular duties on the project are so overwhelming that we just couldn’t take on another project.

Denise: It was fun to do them – and maybe sometime in the future – but right now we’re just trying to do the remastering!

The remastered Minos from 'The Arsenal of Freedom' (read our article here)

TrekCore: I know CBS recently very kindly provided us with a couple of shots of the remastered planet from 'The Arsenal of Freedom' – Minos...

Denise: Yes!

TrekCore: ...It looks amazing compared to the old bitmap-planet version that there was in the [SD] copy. I know TNG often reused planets like this in different episodes. Do you plan on taking the same approach with the remastering – in reusing your remastered shot? Or, will you be introducing subtle variations?

Mike: This varies on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, there will be variations. In some cases, there will be straight reuses. In some cases, there will just be something new! It simply depends on what’s happening at that moment. There is a subsequent use of that exact green planet where if you first look at it, you go ‘It’s the exact same planet!’ [But] if you look at it a little more closely, you’ll notice there are some subtle differences. I didn’t see it when I first saw the show – I was thinking ‘It’s the same planet’. And then they pointed out the differences to me and I was ‘Oh my God!’ But that’s further down the road – it’s not a first season episode.

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