Ed Driscoll

Star Trek Boldly Goes Where Lucas Has Gone Before

Life really does imitate South Park:

Voiceover: Coming, this summer! It’s the digitally enhanced re-release of the very first pilot episode of South Park! Yes, the classic, rough, hand-made first episode is getting a make-over for 2002! The simple, funny aliens are now super badass and cool! Flying saucer? No longer cheap construction paper, but a 4.0 megapixel constructed through a masterpiece of technology! Everything’s new! New is better!

Trey Parker: When we first made South Park, we didn’t wanna use construction paper. We just had to because it was cheap.

Matt Stone: And now with new technology we can finally remaster South Park, make it look sharp, clean and focused.

Trey Parker: Expensive.

Voiceover: Yes, all the charm of a simple little cartoon will melt before your eyes as it is replaced by newer and more standardized animation!

Trey Parker: For instance, in the scene at the bus stop, we always meant to have Imperial walkers and giant dewback lizards in the background, but simply couldn’t afford it.

Voiceover: Get this special enhanced version quick, because another enhanced version will likely be coming out for 2003!

Paramount has decided to jump into what is sure to become an endless George Lucas-style retrofitting of their own sci-fi mega-franchise:

CBS has just informed TV Guide’s Insider that all 79 episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s classic Star Trek: The Original Series are being given a special effects upgrade with new CG effects. Longtime Trek veterans Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda and David Rossi are apparently involved in the process to ensure that this is a class effort, as opposed to some kind of ‘Where’s Jar-Jar’ operation. Says Mike in the Insider report: “We’re taking great pains to respect the integrity and style of the original. Our goal is to always ask ourselves: What would Roddenberry have done with today’s technology?” The ships will now have more detail, backgrounds will be more lively with people and activity, landscapes will now feature moving clouds, etc. The show’s opening will be overhauled too, and the theme music has been re-recorded with a larger orchestra. What’s more, technical goofs in the original production will apparently be fixed.

I realize that a prime way that studios make money these days is by churning their archives as much as possible, but how often do you go back to the same well? I’m afraid that we’re witnessing the birth of a Hollywood equivalent of Andy & Bill’s Law. Every time new chips and software are designed that allow more powerful special effects, both Lucas and Paramount will now feel obligated to airbrush their franchises. Sadly, the dilution of mass culture seems to compel Hollywood to mine its best-known commodities as frequently as possible, as no equivalent cash cows are on the immediate horizon.