This week saw the release of Star Trek: Enterprise Season 1 on Blu-ray in the United States and Canada (international releases will follow with Germany scheduled for today and the UK getting the set on April 1st). As we stated in our recent review of the set, the new Blu-rays come crammed full of newly created bonus material with a wide array of documentaries, commentaries and features available on the set; However - it turns out that there is some additional content floating around that is being offered as a retailer exclusive for those fans who buy the set at U.S. store Best Buy.
Shuttlepod One: Declassified - Review
The exclusive material is a 15-minute retrospective documentary on the fan-favorite Season One episode "Shuttlepod One". The piece features new interviews with the episode's co-writer Brannon Braga, director David Livingston as well as Connor Trinneer (Trip) and Dominic Keating (Malcolm) in a unique joint interview. There are some really nice stories presented here as Brannon recalls how the bottle show was meant to save money but ended up giving the studio a big bill for refrigerating the shuttlepod so the actors' breath could be seen on-camera. Yet again, I applaud the choice to feature multiple people in interviews - putting Trinneer and Keating together lets us get a taste of the genuine friendship that has developed between both actors and hear their memories of the episode as they take a trip down memory lane together. I understand Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett are planning many more of these group interview setups for both Next Generation and Enterprise which I'm thrilled about. Roger and Robert actually headed out to Fresno, California for the Shuttlepod One feature, visiting the new home of the original shuttle in some dude's garage. The footage from their visit is presented here - it's cool to see, although I couldn't help but wish this beautiful piece of craftsmanship had been preserved in a more public setting so fans could appreciate it - sentiments that I'm sure are echoed by the creative and design staff who worked on the show.
Fans who buy the set from Best Buy will not find the documentary on the Blu-ray itself, but rather as an online streaming/downloadable video accessible through Best Buy's Cinema Now content service. Sets have a unique access code which is then entered into the website so you can view the video.
A further note - as one of our readers points out, the bonus material presented through Best Buy's Cinema Now service is encoded rather poorly and certainly doesn't reflect the high production values of the VAM team. It seems rather pointless to put out these stunning quality Blu-rays but then have poorly encoded low resolution VAM presented online. This really needs looking at carefully if CBS decides to pursue retailer exclusive VAM for future releases.
Availability in Germany
Luckily, fans in Germany will also be able to access this content (regardless of which store you purchase the Blu-rays from). The German release of Star Trek: Enterprise Season One has a special unique access code included with the set which you can enter at the official German Star Trek site, www.startrek.de/vam. At the time of writing this article, the video is not yet accessible but a message informs fans that it is coming very soon.
The Unwelcome Return to Retailer Exclusives
I'm not going to mince words - I hate retailer exclusives. So do all consumers. On numerous occasions, CBS have stated that this new wave of Star Trek Blu-ray releases will be the ultimate collection for fans and allow us to throw away our DVDs because they will have everything. Now all of a sudden that's not the case, we have a two-tier system which forces the majority of fans to miss out based on their geographical location or store preferences.
Germany is apparently the exception to the rule for international availability. On contacting Paramount in the UK, they advised there were "no plans" for the special edition release. We're yet to hear back from Paramount in Australia, however from what we understand it would appear unlikely that the feature will be included.
More Retailer Exclusives Planned: TNG Season 3
Rather than being an isolated special, we understand that CBS are also planning a Best Buy retailer exclusive for the April release of Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three on Blu-ray. Sadly the feature chosen for this release is one fans have been particularly looking forward to seeing - the original CG tests done for TNG back in the 1980s. This material was first mentioned by Robert Meyer Burnett in our exclusive interview back in January:
I’ll tell you one of the things we’ve found that is pretty exciting – we haven’t used it yet – when The Next Generation was first talked about, they had to figure out how they were going to do the visual effects. There was talk at the time – this was just a couple of years after The Last Starfighter, when they did all those space visual effects – that there was talk about going all-CG. In 1987.
Various effects houses did a sort of bake-off, where they were given some footage from Star Trek III to do transporters and phaser fire… then they were asked to do CG models of the Enterprise. So we have these tests that these various effects companies did of visual effects – what the visual effects would have looked like had they been all CG. Ultimately, they were a little, uh, crude – to say the least – so they opted not to go that route, and they opted to go with models and motion control, THANK GOD, but we have this footage, and we’re going to use it on one of the subsequent releases. We don’t know when, because it’s not season-specific, but it’s crazy to have! It’s just something that was on a tape, Angelo found a box with tapes in it, we looked at the tapes, and there was this footage.
When we first spoke to Robert Meyer Burnett several months ago before the Best Buy exclusives were planned, he mentioned that budget for VAM was already very tight. At the time, the "Best of Both Worlds" disc had not been formally announced so we decided not to include these comments. However, they take on a new pertinence in the wake of the news about retailer exclusives.
On both TNG and ENTERPRISE, Roger and I have stretched our budgets far, FAR beyond what they can accommodate in terms of content. Frankly, because we're fanatics, we're basically taking dollars out of our own pockets to create more and better VAM. As far as TNGS3 was concerned, I just DECIDED to make the documentary 90 minutes instead of 60. I asked Roger and he agreed. Ira Behr's interview was so compelling, and he only worked one season on TNG, we both felt we had to use as much of it as we could, so we needed that extra 30 minutes. But what people must understand is...each MINUTE of VAM has a dollar value associated with. There's only a finite amount of money budgeted for each title. There simply isn't any more. We're given a set budget for each season and are expected to work within that budget. To go over is unprofessional in the extreme. And if you read between the lines, you can see CBS has gone way, WAY above and beyond to accommodate the VAM. Way, WAY beyond...
Now...when the decision was made to create the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS Movie for the Fathom Event, and then CBS wisely decided to make that a stand-alone release available to hopefully attract new customers, suddenly there's a new budget, and money allocated to create a product which didn't previously exist. So Roger and I jump all over that and CBS gave us a budget which allowed us to create a new commentary and half-hour documentary which wouldn't otherwise exist. Which adds to the overall value of the single-disc BEST OF BOTH WORLDS movie. Fans need to understand nothing was taken away from the individual season discs...because the BOBW doc wasn't a part of that. Our Season Three VAM is absolutely the best we could have possibly done with our budget. CBS could have decided to release a vanilla BOBW disc, but we're like... HEY! WAIT A MINUTE! Can we do some more VAM? To CBS's credit, they agreed... but I'm sure someone was thinking..., "Those fuckin' guys... don't they ever stop?" Well... no... we don't."
It seems likely that the new retailer exclusives were commissioned and funded by Best Buy so they would seemingly not have been produced without this sort of arrangement.
Still, the key issue here is availability. CBS have been incredibly visionary and consumer-oriented with the Star Trek Blu-ray releases so far, but by essentially restricting access to this VAM to certain countries they risk alienating the international fanbase. We sincerely hope that CBS will think carefully about international access to this material - it is somewhat unfair to exclude huge numbers of loyal paying customers from accessing material based purely on the fact that they live in a country that doesn't have Best Buy. We will of course keep you updated if availability of these special features changes.
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