“The Trek Not Taken”: TNG Best Buy Exclusive VAM lands on German S4 Release!

Anyone who has followed our recent dissection of the confusing Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray release will be left in no doubt about the level of hatred retailer exclusive bonus features draw from fans. Thankfully the recent CBS Home Entertainment season releases of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Enterprise have been largely immune from this frustrating sales technique, albeit not completely. Many of you will be aware that CBS flirted with the use of retailer-exclusive VAM (specifically for Best Buy) with a couple of their Blu-ray releases this summer.

CBS Retailer Exclusive VAM: Take 1 - Enterprise

We previously drew your attention to the Best Buy exclusive "Shuttlepod One: Declassified" VAM featurette which was bundled with Star Trek: Enterprise's first season Blu-ray release back in March. For fans in the United States, this 15-minute retrospective documentary was only available to those who bought the Blu-ray set from Best Buy and was presented as a rather poorly encoded low-resolution video file accessible using a redemption code through Best Buy's clunky CinemaNow online service. Fans in Germany were more fortunate as the feature was made available to all customers using a redemption code to access a full 1080p high resolution download from Paramount Germany's website. And that was it - fans in all other international territories were out of luck, and left hoping that that the illusive feature would appear on YouTube some day.


Connor Trinneer (Trip) and Dominic Keating (Reed) in a joint-interview from
"Shuttlepod One: Declassified"

CBS Retailer Exclusive VAM: Take 2 - TNG

CBS's second foray into the world of retailer exclusives was, unfortunately, more frustrating. The material chosen for the Best Buy exclusive piece bundled with Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 on Blu-ray - original CG tests done for TNG back in the 1980s - was something fans had been eagerly awaiting ever since Robert Meyer Burnett first mentioned it in an interview with TrekCore back in January. Again, the 15-minute featurette - titled "The Trek Not Taken" - was made available to Best Buy customers using the same poor quality CinemaNow service. The lack of true high definition was particularly disappointing given some of the breathtaking visuals included, amongst which were a series of stunning excerpts of original ILM filming footage of the 6-foot Enterprise model.

Fast forward to today, and we have some rather exciting news - at least for some fans. While the majority of us have already had time to digest the delights of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four on Blu-ray, it's worth noting that folks in Germany won't get the set until September 19. The delayed release date undoubtedly earned Paramount Germany a fair amount of wrath from fans eagerly awaiting the set, however those of you intending to pick Season 4 up will be thrilled to hear that "The Trek Not Taken" will be included as a special 1080p high definition bonus feature, downloadable from Paramount Germany's website.

The Trek Not Taken: First Steps into the Digital Frontier - Review

Despite it's abbreviated length of 15 minutes, there is a LOT of material crammed into this piece. We're given a whirlwind tour through the history of Star Trek's visual effects starting from the fascinating proposition that TNG could have used CG rather than physical models. It turns out that Paramount considered a wide range of different approaches for TNG's visual effects and commissioned several companies to do a "bake-off" to show how they would go about creating CG for the series. The result is a variable collection of early CG featuring Star Trek movie footage (the design of the Enterprise-D hadn't yet been finalized). Some is pretty good, considering the time - however the majority is laughably bad. It's not hard to see why Paramount passed over the CG for models in the end.


Early CG tests for Star Trek: The Next Generation using the movie-era Enterprise.
From "The Trek Not Taken"

The latter half of the featurette showcases a number of stunning shots of the original Enterprise-D model mounted for filming at ILM while Visual Effects wizard Gary Hutzel hilariously reminisces about how the model was equipped with 14 separate lighting circuits and used to "shock the bejeebus out of him" thanks to arcs from the high voltage source. There's plenty of fascinating insight captured here, covering everything from motion control to filming passes and stock shots.

Certainly the main highlight is the array of visual effects filming footage that has been inserted into this piece. It's chock full of beautiful passes of the various models which I've raved about so often in previous reviews. Seeing so many of these makes it even more frustrating that "The Trek Not Taken" didn't see a wider relese.


A beautiful shot of the original 6-foot Enterprise model, mounted at ILM for filming.
From "The Trek Not Taken"

Retailer Exclusives: A Post Mortem

So, certainly some good news for German fans who will finally get to see this great TNG visual effects piece. You can pre-order Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 4 on Blu-ray from Amazon.de here. For everyone else, it would seem pretty unlikely that "The Trek Not Taken" will be bundled with a future season due to the nature of the exclusivity contract with Best Buy. On the bright side, CBS has apparently abandoned it's brief affair with Star Trek retailer exclusives and we're not aware of any future plans to include them on new releases.

In the meantime, we'll leave you with a series of full-HD images from "The Trek Not Taken" along with a bit of reassurance: we haven't seen the end of this kind of visual effects eye-candy - the VAM team have more of this type of content planned for future releases which will be available for everyone!

Stay tuned to TrekCore for plenty of upcoming TNG Blu-ray news, including the latest from Season 5 and "Unification"!

Order Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5 Blu-ray today!



Order TNG - "Unification" Feature Blu-Ray today!

  • archer9234

    This is the stuff I wanted to see as a branching option on TNG’s blu-ray’s. Of course the thing I really wanted is shafted to garbage exclusives. Hey, at least it wasn’t broken up into 6 versions of TNG season 3. Or was that 8 now? With the dutch release.

    • trekcore

      CBS-D ? It has nothing to do with them – those are the guys who are remastering the series!

      • archer9234

        Corrected.

  • Tony Todd’s Tears

    REALLY??? If I had know about this VAM I would have got it at Best Buy, I didn’t know so I got it at Walmart. Dang it!!!

    • archer9234

      It was reported on Trekcore before S3 came out. They just didn’t do a review article till now.

      • trekcore

        We had a devil of a job getting hold of an HD copy of it.

        • archer9234

          Which shouldn’t of happened. But greed with be greed…

    • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

      It wasn’t really worth getting at Best Buy – the picture quality of the CinemaNow service was pretty much garbage, something that works against everything the restoration team has been doing!

  • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

    Remember, everyone, that Best Buy paid for these features to be created – that means that had they not ponied up the cash, it would NOT EXIST at all. Because of that “purchase”, the contract with CBS Home Entertainment meant that other North American-based retailers (where Best Buy operates) would not be able to include the two BB-exclusive VAM features in their ENT/TNG Blu-ray releases.

    Paramount Germany (which operates separately from both the NA and UK divisions) licensed the features from Best Buy – as in they paid BB for the rights to use it – for their local Blu-ray releases. Had Paramount UK chosen to do the same, they could have included it in the UK releases, but they did not spend the money to get it for themselves.

    I’m not excusing the way it was locked up in such limited accessibility, but I just wanted to make sure people had their facts straight.

    • archer9234

      Oh, I know. I rather they not exist. Then there is no favoritism in a project like this.

      • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

        Your speculation, while interesting, is still speculation.

    • Stephen

      Are we so sure they wouldn’t exist? Perhaps the Best Buy offer came in after they were in the can, and they had to decide what give them as an exclusive.

      • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

        Yes, because the extra dollars were needed to extend the budget for their production. See Robert Meyer Burnett’s comments on our article about the ENT S1 feature: http://trekcore.com/blog/2013/03/enterprise-s1-blu-ray-best-buy-retailer-exclusive-vam/

        • Stephen

          That interview doesn’t seem very compelling to me: “It seems likely that the new retailer exclusives were commissioned and funded by Best Buy…” “Likely”?

          Also, aren’t they taking about the BoBW VAM here? Not the CGI tests mentioned at the start of the piece where they say “I’ll tell you one of the things we’ve found that is pretty exciting – we haven’t used it yet… they were asked to do CG models of the Enterprise” “… 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!”

          Sounds to me like the original plan was to include it – could have been in S4 5 6 or 7 if it wasn’t made ‘exclusive’.

  • James

    Wow! I’ve been waiting to see this – glad they went with the model – just look a the craftmanship, detail, care and love in those HD screencaps. The saucer seper image is now my wallpaper – lovely starship porn ;)

    Is any of the old CG test actual video – or just stills?

    I think this is the single most exciting piece of VAM for the project – and I wont get to see it :(
    I love the work of legends like Probert, Drexler and Sternbach and I’ve always wanted a decent model of the Enterprise D. Does anyone out there have the Aoshima model of the big D?

    While I’m having a little fangasm over the ships – I think it’d be lovely to see a version (maybe modified) of the alternate universe enterprise from the recent movies inserted into the episode Parallels.

    • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

      Yes, the tests are video.

  • Picard

    Why are there actually are several passes (light, beauty etc.) necessary? Why cant they just make the model all lights on and film it for one time? Is it just because of the may less intensity of the light?

    • New Horizon

      That gives you far less control over the final product. Having multiple passes allows the artist to make final adjustments and tweaks to specific passes. CBS-D wouldn’t have been able to make the original footage look as amazing as they have if it had been a single pass.

    • James

      OK, so I work with CG and I composite the layers separately because then I am able to ‘tweak’ each layer to make the final output look more realistic.

      For example, I might want to add a ‘diffuse’ effect to some lights (the warp glow on the engines for example). There are various other ‘tweaks’ that we might like to apply to individual layers, for example, we might apply more motion blur to the cabin lights or add a glare node to them.

    • archer9234

      Another benefit is the ship lights would be blown out from the beauty pass lights. Try lightning a very simple ST model with your lamp. The first thing that goes wrong is the internal lights aren’t viewable anymore.

  • tom_k35

    This teaser for the Best Buy VAM was circulated before the release:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCgDaKOL9FQ

    The full “Shuttle Pod One Declassified” doc used to be on youtube (saw it there awhile ago) but looks like it’s been pulled now. So it is floating out there in the internet ether

  • pittrek

    Alright. I SERIOUSLY want this one. How can I get it? Or should I try to contact somebody from Germany? Or just hope that it will appear online (which I doubt)?

    • archer9234

      Just be patient. The Ent one was put on Youtube a while back. I got it that way.

      • pittrek

        I downloaded that one too

  • Kaine Morrison

    Maybe it’ll be on the USA Season 7 set???

    • trekcore

      Unfortunately not. The exclusivity contract with Best Buy means that the piece cannot be reproduced in that fashion.

      However, we’ve certainly heard rumblings of a similar Visual FX centric piece further down the line – so don’t be too disappointed!

      • Kaine Morrison

        Rumblings?
        Does that include…. Online or Physical rumblings?

        • trekcore

          I don’t there are any further plans for online exclusives…

          • Kaine Morrison

            Ok, thank you for clarifying.

  • Kaine Morrison

    Can TrekCore do an Article on ALL of the DVD/Blu-Ray Retailer Exclusives over the years?
    Break it down to show what store got what for each season?

    • trekcore

      Ha! The Into Darkness debacle was quite enough of a challenge… cataloging ALL the retailer exclusive VAM would require a whole new team of staff hehe

      • Kaine Morrison

        Sign me up!
        I’d be willing to accept this challenge!

        • archer9234

          There’s a TON a material. And there are times the content isn’t fully ported over. Take this: TOS S1 DVD set had a Best Buy bonus disc. On the BD release of S1. They only put one of the two features. Kiss n tell. Trek Connection is not in the BD set. Really confusing lol.

  • M. Wright

    Thanks for tracking this down and sharing!
    I’ve been interested to see more of this, I missed out on getting a copy with the code for the content at Best Buy.

  • Tom Dolina

    This may be relevant for those wanting to see “The Trek Not Taken”: http://partner.cinemanow.com/Buy/Movies/1007,0,5,,1,2,0/1001,1,0,,1,2,520915/The-Trek-Not-Taken-First-Steps-Into-the-Digital-Frontier.htm

    Looks like its free for streaming or download on pc. Needs CinemaNow’s Rovi viewer installed. Will try when I get home!

    • New Horizon

      Sadly, not working for me.

  • Patrick

    In protest and outrage over this whole VAM debacle, I am cancelling my season 5 pre-order. All VAM should be burned to the Blu-Ray disc and in 1080P or better. I won’t be bothered with this streaming crap. I’ll buy the remaining seasons in the discount bin at walmart in two years. I’ve waited this long, I can wait longer. Treat the fans like this? THE BIRD.

    • trekcore

      That’s a crazy over-reaction. There is NO retailer-exclusive VAM on Season 4 OR 5… so why would you cancel your order!?

      • archer9234

        It’s out of spite. They screw us, we screw them. I didn’t buy seasons 1 or 2 after the two foul ups with the audio and effects. It was a 3 week wait till you could buy fixed TNG S1. I just stopped caring. S2, well. Bad looking is bad looking. I only got S1 of ENT ’cause it dropped to $43. And the fact I had to throw out my horrible S1 DVD box it came in.

        I got S3 cause Ron Moore sat down to do commentary on nearly all his episodes. He shows he has dedication. S4 had no major problems. S5 I can never skip since it has all the episodes I want, lol. If 6 or 7 did anything stupid. I’d skip those too. I’m not the type to go I have to buy sets for the sake of completing them. I never bought S2-7 of DS9 and VGR and ENT 2-4. Just because I was over it with the best buy exclusive discs. And me paying $123 for S1 of ENT, at Best Buy, when it came out.

        • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

          If your enthusiasm to get the S1 Blu-rays waned after just three weeks – combined with your “everyone should get everything or nobody should get anything” attitude – then you’re probably not the primary target market for the product.

          • archer9234

            I am the target. I wanted S1 that badly. It was delayed, I got pissed and got something else. Just like how I get mad every time Mythbusters takes breaks every 8 episodes. Their scheduling is horrible. You gonna honestly say when something is delayed, your enthusiasm doesn’t go down or move on. That what kills TV shows all the time.

    • Justin Olson

      LOL! 1080p or better? The Blu-ray spec only allows up to 1920×1080 pixel resolution. I share your frustration however at not being able to have this featurette in full-HD (I was only able to watch it once in SD on my PS3 with the CinemaNow app and my code appears to no longer be redeemable on their site — thanks a lot, Best Buy!). I’m very happy they’ve stopped the retailer-exclusives.

  • pittrek

    There’s one thing I still don’t understand – if I buy the German version, will I be able to download the “Trek not taken” featurette? Or will there be some “country check” done? I don’t want to buy ANOTHER version of season 4 (I have the UK version) only to find out that I can download it only from a german IP address

    • trekcore

      If you buy the German Version – http://amzn.to/15lR7l3 – you should be able to download the feature with no problem.

      • Matt_Cardiff_UK

        Just wanted to say that you can NOT download the feature from the UK. I purchased the set just to get ‘The Trek not Taken’ and was directed to this website http://www.startrek.de/vam2/ – which goes on to say This offer is only valid for users who are living in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.

        What’s the chances of someone uploading “The Trek not Taken” as a torrent while I send my steelbook set back and get a refund?

        • trekcore

          Matt – get in touch with me at adam@trekcore.com and i’ll see if I can resolve this for you.

          • Matt_Cardiff_UK

            Sorry mate – I didn’t see your message – I sent my boxset back ages ago, and bought a 2nd hand copy on eBay – UK edition – instead.

        • pittrek

          What??? I have ordered the German boxset yesterday and NOW I read this? Dammit :-( How is it handled? Will I be able to download it if I use an Austrian IP or did I just buy a worthless box set?

          • trekcore

            No – as I have said, please contact me once you receive your set and we will resolve the problem.

          • pittrek

            Thanks, I have received my copy today and sent you a mail

  • Chris915

    See, these exclusive VAM features drive me nuts, because it seems like this would be a good watch, but I bought the US version… -_-