CCI: 40 Years of Star Trek Panel

Daren Dochterman, Jeff Bond, Bill Hunt, Anthony Pascale

With an overflowing capacity crowd, Comic-Con International in San Diego hosted a panel of Treksperts reviewing everything from the earliest spin-off concepts of Star Trek to the future of the television, film, novel, and internet franchise, with particular focus on the Remastered Trek on HD DVD. The acclaimed fan-created "Free Enterprise" co-writer/producer Mark A. Altman moderated his fellow co-writer/director Robert Meyer Burnett, along with a trio of representatives from some of the largest DVD, Genre, and Trek web sites, and producers of both official and unofficial Star Trek films.

Providing a bevy of film and animated clips, Jeff Bond (Editor-in-Chief of GeekMonthly.com genre site), Anthony Pascale (Editor, TrekMovie.Com) and Bill Hunt (TheDigitalBits.com DVD news site) walked the enthusiastic crowd through hidden gems of the Trek universe, along with commentary from Daren Dochterman (VFX Producer, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture-Special Edition Director's Cut DVD").

But before the action could commence, the panel addressed recent announcements by "Lost" Director JJ Abrams and crew concerning the developing Star Trek prequel movie. Dispelling the false rumor that Matt Damon would star as James T. Kirk, Abrams earlier confirmed as true the rumor that 30 year old Zachary Quinto, who plays the popular villain Silar on NBC's Heroes television show, would portray the role of Spock in the new film. Additionally, Leonard Nimoy would be appearing in the film.

Bond said he is "excited about it." Having expressed concerns in the past that Star Trek had lost its "adult" direction, he said "If anybody's going to do a more adult, kinda cutting-edge Star Trek, JJ Abrams is the perfect guy to do it...if he can get anything close to the sophistication and drama of that television show [Lost] in this movie, I think it's going to be a perfect movie."

Burnett, slightly less enthusiastic than Bond, jokingly alluding to the "Lost" plot, said "After reading the script, I just realized that the Hanso foundation founded the Federation of Planets...you know, you colonize a planet and people just parachute in whatever you need with the Hanso corporation logo on the side." On a more serious note, Burnett said he thinks it's "really exciting," and compared Abrams to Director Nicholas Meyer and his work in revitalizing the franchise with "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan." He just wishes it wasn't about the characters Kirk and Spock.

Pascale focused more on the fact that Nimoy was coming out of retirement to participate in the film as being a positive sign, something Nimoy had apparently declined to do for "Star Trek: Generations," and attributed this to Nimoy's apparent favorable view of the new script. "To do this, means something...it's a big endorsement for both JJ Abrams and the writers."

Dochterman reigned in some expectations for Nimoy in the film, saying "I don't expect him [Nimoy] to have a very large, meaty role in the film...I think it's going to be an extremely limited role" and then Quinto will take over.

Hunt highlighted Abrams's other feature film, Mission Impossible 3, was "the best" of the three "Impossible" movies, which may be a good sign for this new Trek film.

On the subject of the Star Trek Remastered Project, coming out on DVD and HDDVD on November 20, 2007, the panel seemed unified in their outrage concerning the proposed suggested retail price of $217.00. "I think $217 may be the most expensive season ever." Hunt said to wide agreement from the members of the panel.

On the brighter side, the DVD is set to include some previously unseen 8mm black and white shootings from the original Star Trek set. The set will also feature both CGI enhancements to some outdated special effects and scenes, as well as cleaning up the film itself.

Pascale said the jury was out on whether the remastering was just "putting lipstick on a pig" or whether it would truly enhance the footage. However Dochterman defended the remastering, saying "They've gotten much better at what they are doing."

Bond and Pascale gave specific examples of where the new version is improved, and where the changes fail to enhance the originals. Bond said the episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday" had always suffered from a non-sequence at the end that was fixed with the new version, while Pascale said that some episodes might actually be harmed from the remix, similar to "Enterprise" tinkering with the episode "The Tholian Web." Pascale did agree that other episodes had been improved, with ships moved better, dialogue sometimes makes more sense with an altered background, and some missing scenes had been put back in.

On an interesting side note, Pascale demonstrated how the new remastered DVDs were now sometimes tying in the original Star Trek animated series as cannon to the live action television show. Displaying a scene from the new project for the room, Spock's home town from the animated show can now be seen in the background of a new CGI insertion.

Burnett concluded the segment on the remastered project "I think the remastered Star Trek brings more interest back to the original series, which is a good thing...I would welcome anything that does that...It's not changing the performance of the actors."

Returning to the lost gems of the Star Trek universe, the audience was treated to a series of obscure Trek animated and live-action clips, including an animated Trek anti "Hard Drug Abuse" public service announcement which got plenty of laughter from the crowd, along with two "Mego Star Trek" action figure commercials from 1976. These included numerous drastic mispronunciations of the names of characters from the television show by the 1950's-sounding commercial announcer, and some action figures that, as Dochterman said, "I think...the Gorn [figure], they just took a T-Rex figure and took the head off!"

Turning to praise instead of mockery, Dochterman played a homemade clip from the unmade "Assignment Earth" TV series, from amateur Andy Paterson, who surprisingly turned up to be present in the audience. Pulling from known concepts that were pitched at the time of the original series, featuring footage of actors Robert Lansing and Terri Garr, Paterson persuaded a group of Dallas, Texas musicians to play the 1960's spy-themed music for the show. The clip included a convincingly professional looking commercial for the non-existent show about a team with a "Purpose of mission - to prevent Earth from destroying itself to assure Earth can survive."

And on the topic of internet and fan creations, the panel turned to Star Trek: New Voyages, which is set to release a new episode "World Enough and Time" on August 23, 2007, where fans will be able to see George Takei himself in the film. James Cawley, Marc Zicree, and Michael Reaves, were on hand to comment on the project and offer a scene from the film, and said that the script was based on a "Star Trek Phase 2" story that was first pitched back in 1977 but failed to gain traction with the release of "Star Wars."

As seen in the clip, Takei's character has aged 30 years due to a transporter accident, and is interacting with his holographically projected daughter in the film. The episode is set to premiere at a live event with George Takei in Beverly Hills, California, with live streaming web broadcasting as well.

Before turning to the short question and answer session, Burnett showed a montage of Trek scenes cut from the Star Trek Experience museum in Las Vegas which he worked on. Eliciting a long applause from the audience at its conclusion, the montage included scenes from all of the Star Trek live-action movies and television series except for "Star Trek: Enterprise," which had a release date after the montage was cut together.

The Treksperts then accepted a few questions from the audience, including the revelation that there is talk of possible plans for theatrical screenings of episodes of Star Trek in HD, and that there is a working draft for "Free Enterprise 2." Complaining about the price of the "Creation Star Trek Convention," Dochterman encouraged fans to continue to read the affordable pocket book novels set in the Star Trek universe, and cited several that he thought were good, including "The Buried Age."

With a word of hope concerning the future of the Star Trek franchise, the panel concluded by again plugging the many new upcoming Trek-related films and publications.

Discuss this story here on CBR's TV/Film Forum.

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