Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Hi-Def Star Trek: TOS Remasters Boast Improvements To Special Effects, Black Characters


Paramount has announced the re-release of Star Trek: The Original Series as a special edition of elaborate Hi-Definition remasters in celebration of the show's 40th anniversary. Plans are to broadcast the episodes in syndication this fall with DVD announcements to follow. These new improved versions of the 79 classic episodes will bring the beloved 1960s space opera up to contemporary standards of digital visual effects and sound.

Along with these improvements comes some controversy. Details have emerged that the new versions of the episodes will include the computer-generated recasting of some characters, among them black actress Nichelle Nichols (better known as communications officer "Uhura") who will be digitally replaced by a "Gungan," an alien race first seen in George Lucas's 1999 relaunch of the Star Wars franchise The Phantom Menace, when Jar Jar Binks became the science fiction world's most beloved black-like character.

"This is a real coup, the first Star Trek / Star Wars crossover that isn't slash fan fiction," John Nogawski, president of CBS Paramount Domestic Television stated last week. "This is the world's two greatest science fiction franchises coming together while at the peak of their popularity. It's going to be huge."

Making the franchise appeal to a new demographic was also an important factor in the decision to recast a classic Trek character with someone from an entirely different sci-fi universe. "The kids love that whole mash-up thing these days," Nogawski suggested. "They like The Gnarls Barkley and all that. Sticking something random from another franchise into Trek should make these classic episodes appeal to a whole new generation of media-savvy consumers."

When asked why the character of Uhura had been singled out, Nogawski was quick to cite the will of the show's fans as inspiration. "Some people may claim this is controversial, but in reality we're just giving the fans what they want," he said. "We did extensive research of the show's fanbase, polling one hundred of the most die-hard Star Trek fans in Mississippi, and we soon found out that the mainstream appeal of Star Trek really lies in its ability to show human beings -- particularly white human beings -- rise above their prejudices and interact with alien species with pointy ears and bumpy stuff on their noses and shit.

"That's the essence of cooperation within diversity that [Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry valued so deeply."

Nogawski also cited improvements to specific plot points the recasting will bring. "I mean, how much more of an impact will that Kirk/Uhura kiss in Plato's Stepchildren have now that Kirk will be kissing an alien with bug eyes and big floppy ears? That's going to be pretty powerful stuff. No one really remembers that it was the first interracial kiss in television history anymore anyway."

Plans to replace Uhura with a member of Trek's own Ferengi race were quickly shelved once negotiations with Lucasfilm for the rights to use their signature alien race came up positive. "A Ferengi would have been too predictable, too much like Voyager," Nogawski said. "And besides, Gungans are more like real black people anyway."

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