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: TNG Remastered Interview, Part 3
Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com
TrekCore: Similar to how you darkened the starfield behind the viewscreen in ‘[Encounter at] Farpoint’ which was really good work – it’s so obvious in the DVD version, but when you look at the Blu-Ray it’s almost perfectly concealed, you can’t see the folds in the fabric. Have you been able to make any progress with those dreaded black cardboard pieces at the back of the bridge?
Denise: Oh right, yeah! I know what you’re talking about!! No...
Mike: No, those were there in the beginning, and they remain there...
Denise: Those are [still] there! There’s nothing we can do about it!
TrekCore: Well they’re almost part of the mythology now... even if they were removed, some fans would probably still complain!
Denise: Yes!! (laughs)
Mike: Well, let me tell you – in one of the very early shots in an episode in the first season – ‘The Naked Now’, there is a scene where Data is watching a computer screen, and information is flashing up. That information is flashing very, very fast. The flashing animation is actually a piece of film that I created using Film Animation, and I gave the film to visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel – but my art was actually black and white. I said to Gary ‘here are the colors I would like you to use, because these are the colors of the console.’ You have to remember that at the time, we were all working 60 hours a week, and we were all working for weeks and weeks and weeks on end and we were all just scrambling to meet the airdates. For whatever reason, Gary forgot! And he made the animation green – and I was very disappointed, because that wasn’t the color that I wanted. Now, fast forward 25 years later. The opportunity exists to correct that mistake. And I really thought about fixing it, because I had in mind still the color I wanted, [but] Denise pointed out to me ‘people have been watching that for 25 years. That’s the way people expect it to be. That’s the way it should be.’ And she’s right – it’s going to stay green, because that’s what people expect it to be.
|Bridge graphics in 'The Naked Now'... Green or White?|
TrekCore: You know what – I can see your point, Denise. It sticks in my mind – that shot. I remember the green graphic.
Denise: Yes! [...] Well our marching orders on this project are to make it look better, but...
Mike: Recreate the original viewing
Denise: Exactly. Recreate the original viewing experience. So we want people to fall in love with the Blu-Rays just as they fell in love with it 25 years ago... that it came into your home, and this is what you’re used to... and this is what we want to give people.
Mike: On the other hand, in that sequence – there was an actual mistake. They’re looking at a history tape, and the dialogue talks about the Original Series Enterprise, but the actual screen image shows the movie Enterprise. That was the mistake! An understandable mistake, but once it’s done – it’s done. That, we fixed. We did a piece of art, of the Original Series Enterprise...
TrekCore: So we get to see a blueprint of the original?
TrekCore: I know CBS have previously stated that they’re hoping to get all seven seasons released for 2015. Do you think this is realistic given that you are now two and a half seasons into the project?
Mike: We’re working our tales off. [In Scotty’s accent:] We’re working as fast as we can!!!
Denise: We take deadlines seriously. We don’t know the schedule moving forward that many years. But I gotta tell you, everyone is working very, very hard. And we’re very excited that the world is going to get to see this. It feels like we’ve been working in a vacuum for so long. We’re really excited that we’re going to be able to talk about it, and show people stuff at Comic Con that’s coming up later this month – and then of course the actual screening and the release of the Blu-Ray.
TrekCore: I know the excitement is unprecedented. I’ve been covering the project for some time now, and every little piece of information that trickles out is met by such rapturous applause by the fans – I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s like the show is new again!
Mike & Denise (in unison): That’s EXACTLY right!
Mike: Even to those of us who work on it every day. When we sit in the screen room, a lot of the time we just go ‘Look at that!!’
Denise: We’ll stop, and we’ll be screening – or reviewing shots, and we’ll bring the meeting to a complete halt. We’ll both just say ‘Look at THAT!’, and we’ll go ‘WOW!!’. We’re very excited for fans of Star Trek to see that stuff as well. We feel like we’ve had it to ourselves, and we want to share it!
|Will Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ever transition to HD?|
TrekCore: I have to throw in a quick cheeky question. In the sixth season, in the episode ‘Birthright’, we’re finally going to be able to see Deep Space Nine in high-definition. But, is there any chance we could see the whole show in high-definition at some point??
Denise: God, would we love that??
Mike: Now THAT would be great!
Denise: That would be fantastic. You know, you never say never and you never know…
Mike: It’s so far in the future…
Denise: In the future, but wouldn’t that be fun?
TrekCore: Do you think from a technical standpoint it’s more demanding to do a show like [Star Trek] Deep Space Nine which was created with a lot more CGI because it’s not made [natively] in HD?
Mike: Well, the heavy use of CG really didn’t come in until later in the series. But yes, it would be a greater technical challenge because the visual effects were more complex. There are more of them. But, on the other hand a lot of the early elements were shot on film. They should hold up well.
TrekCore: Mike and Denise, you’ve both dedicated almost 30 years of your life now in working for the Star Trek franchise. What do you think it is that makes the world of Star Trek so enduring for you both?
Denise: Oh… Star Trek for us is so many things. It’s hope for the future, it’s an optimistic view of the future which of course is very, very important for us. It’s entertaining, it’s fun to watch, and we are continually astounded – even after all these years of working on Star Trek and the many projects – about how many people this television series has brought together in a positive light for the most part. We see so many good people, and we’re always so happy when we get to work on Star Trek again. We consider ourselves to be very, very fortunate.
Mike: Gene Roddenberry’s view of the future is one – it’s in part wish fulfilment – but it speaks to the core of what it is that makes us human. It asks the question ‘What’s over the next hill? What wonders are there to be discovered? What good can we do? How can we improve our lives? How can we improve the lives of our fellow beings?’ And in the process, reap the benefits of knowledge and wisdom and all these things. If you go to any NASA centre, you’ll be surprised – at least we’re surprised – at the number of people who have been inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s universe. We talk to people who have become astronauts because they want to be like Mr. Spock.
Denise: And it also speaks of – we are one people. I mean, you’re calling from Germany, and we’re talking about Star Trek! We’ve had that experience when we’ve travelled - it’s a bond that brings people together, and it’s a positive bond. And in this crazy world, that’s pretty special.
TrekCore: You’re absolutely right. TrekCore started off so small, and we grew to a solid staff of 5 or 6 people placed all around the world…
TrekCore: … and I’ve travelled around the world and met these folks, and they’ve become some of my best friends, I can say with all sincerity. Something that binds people – that otherwise wouldn’t come into contact – together like that, it has to be something special. And so rare in these times.
Denise: We completely agree with you. And that’s another reason why we are so happy to be working on this project. We feel like it’s – you know – a birthday, or Christmas, or special holiday when people are going to unwrap the Blu-Ray and take a look and see how it just looks like a new show, and vibrant – we can’t wait!
TrekCore: It’s been my absolute pleasure to speak to both of you. I know you’ve always been ever so kind in replying to all my emails in the past, Mike – but to speak to you, it’s been something else.
Mike: It’s a delight to finally hear your voice, we’ve certainly enjoyed using your website. And whatever we can do to support your efforts – let us know. All of us connected to the project very much appreciate the efforts of people like yourself – without whom, Star Trek would not be there!
TrekCore: Thanks guys! Best of luck with Comic Con – I’m sure it will be a riot! And I can’t wait to watch the Season 1 Blu-Rays
Mike: Well let us know what you think.
Denise: OK. Take care!
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My thanks again to Mike & Denise Okuda for the interview, and I hope everyone enjoyed it. Support the project by pre-ordering TNG Season 1 Remastered Blu-Ray today through Amazon or your preferred e-tailer!