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The one question I get probably more than any other these days – outside of “When will the unaltered Star Wars be released on Blu-ray?” – is this: “Will CBS keep releasing remastered Star Trek series on Blu-ray, including Deep Space Nine and Voyager?” I get this question in one form or another at least several times a week. And the answer is simple: Maybe. I’ll explain in a minute. But the second part of the question is often this: “What can I do to convince CBS to remaster Deep Space Nine for Blu-ray?” That I can answer very definitively.
Here’s the thing. CBS wants to do Deep Space Nine. They really do. And they would love to move on to Voyager and maybe even The Animated Series eventually as well. Do I have inside information on this? Yes, I do. I’ve been to CBS myself, I’ve spoken to a lot of the people doing the work, and I’ve spoken candidly with the decision-makers who would and could green-light these projects. And while I can’t reveal the details of what was seen and discussed in those meetings, I can give you a truthful sense of what’s going on.
Now, there are a lot of people who thought that remastering The Original Series wasn’t going to be possible – that it would be too expensive, too difficult, too impractical. It was thought that no studio in their right mind would be willing to invest the time, effort, and capitol needed to make it happen. And believe me, that investment was substantial. But CBS did. They did their research, ran the numbers, assembled a first-rate team of people dedicated to only that project… and took a risk. It worked. The Original Series was remastered successfully, it was popular with fans and it sold very well on Blu-ray. On the strength of those results, CBS looked at the possibility of continuing on to The Next Generation. Knowing they already had a now-experienced team in place to do the work, they crunched the numbers, and it made sense. They went forward with the project, committing not only to the remastering but also to exhaustively documenting the ins and outs of the series with all new bonus features produced by Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett, to whom Trek fans owe a huge debt of gratitude for their fine work. And oh by the way, CBS did the same thing with Enterprise, which was somewhat easier a project given that it had already been finished in HD for its original broadcast run.
Quick side note: Many fans have asked us why CBS releases the full season sets of TNG, but also releases stand-alone discs of the cliffhanger finale episodes presented as a movie with unique extras. The basic answer is that the original Taste of The Next Generation sampler disc was very successful. And CBS recognized that there might be some more casual fans that would be unlikely to purchase full seasons of the show on Blu-ray… but they might take a chance on the best cliffhanger episodes. So releasing those as stand-alone discs gives the more casual fans a Blu-ray product to try. And if they end up really liking what they see… who knows? Maybe they’ll start buying the whole show.
In any case, CBS has now basically completed their work on TNG, with the final season set to be released on Blu-ray on December 2nd. So naturally, Deep Space Nine fans want to know, is their favorite Trek series next? Again, the answer is maybe. The problem is, it’s a little bit more of a risk than The Original Series and The Next Generation remastered projects have been. For one thing, those earlier shows are more popular than Deep Space Nine and Voyager among Trek fans. CBS is certainly aware that Deep Space Nine has a very loyal following, but is that following large enough that the studio can sell enough Blu-ray sets to make a remastering effort practical? Then there’s the difficulty. As many of you know, during Deep Space Nine’s production run, the visual effects industry began to transition to digital and CG. That means that for the later seasons of the show, which featured dramatic and complex space battles, there isn’t actual film to scan for those shots. CBS will have to completely rebuild those VFX shots almost from scratch with all-new high-def CG. As you can imagine, that’s going to require more time and effort, not to mention a greater financial investment. This is a business, of course, so in order for CBS to recoup that greater investment they naturally have to sell more Blu-rays. But they don’t know if that’s going to happen, so it’s more of a gamble up front – a bit of a catch-22 situation. What they can do, however, is look at previous sales of Deep Space Nine on DVD… and, more importantly, look at the current sales of The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Enterprise on Blu-ray. And that’s how they’re going to make the decision.
A lot of readers who e-mail me wonder if signing some kind of petition will help convince CBS to do Deep Space Nine on Blu-ray. And the honest answer is: No, not really. The reason is that while fans might be willing to sign a petition, that often doesn’t translate into action. Let me give you an example.
Several years ago, I was at an industry Blu-ray event and I happened to have a nice conversation with Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau about Blu-ray. Naturally, being who I am, one of the things I asked him about was the possibility of Universal releasing the Classic Monsters films on Blu-ray. Craig’s response surprised me. He basically told me that while fans always say they want more Classic Monsters titles on disc, they don’t actually show up to buy them in strong numbers when Universal releases them. So to debut the films on Blu-ray would be a big financial risk on the studio’s part, with little certainty that it might pay off. My suggestion then was that Universal should put all of the big Classic Monsters films in one Blu-ray box set, released in time for Halloween, so that fans could get the classics all in one shot. Craig suddenly got excited about that idea, and a year later that’s exactly what happened. I certainly hope they’ve done very well on Blu-ray, because I’d personally love to see a follow-up Blu-ray box set featuring all of the Classic Monster sequel films. In any case, the point to the story is: Fans often say they want to buy a product, but then when the actual product is released… they don’t. The fans might have all kinds of reasons for not buying, each very valid and justified in their minds. But, like it or not, the lesson the studio learns from this experience is that it’s just not worth taking risks on similar products in the future. Ultimately, the fans lose out.
Petitions aside, social media does have a big impact on the powers that be these days. Are you a Trek fan? Here’s a suggestion: Go on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and post a picture of yourself holding some of the TNG, TOS and Enterprise Blu-rays sets you already own. Get all your friends to do the same. Spread the word. Tag your posts with: #ds9onblurayplease
Which brings me back to CBS. CBS is willing to take risks – they’ve proven it. I know that CBS wants to do Deep Space Nine. I know that they’re crunching the numbers like crazy, trying to find a way to make the risk worth taking. I know that they’re also looking ahead to 2016, which is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. They want to make it happen. From a technical standpoint, it can happen. I believe there’s a very good chance it could happen. So what can fans do to encourage them?
Straight up, the single best and most effective thing that Star Trek fans can do to convince CBS to go forward with Deep Space Nine, The Animated Series, and maybe even Voyager remastered on Blu-ray… is to buy the seasons of The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Enterprise that CBS has already released on Blu-ray.
Seriously, that’s it. It’s that simple. If CBS can point to strong sales numbers of its existing Trek TV releases on Blu-ray, the decision to keep releasing Trek TV series on Blu-ray becomes really easy for them to make. So if you’re a Star Trek fan, show the studio that you’ll buy future Blu-rays by buying the existing ones. Wait for a sale if you must, get a good deal of course, but you really have to put your money where your mouth is. That might seem simple, it might seem obvious, but that’s the straight-up honest truth… and that’s what we try always to give you here at The Bits.
I‘d also add that if you’re a Star Trek fan who’s never really seen Deep Space Nine, or maybe you tried it back in the day but gave up on it, you should give the show a second look on DVD or Netflix. Our own resident expert on DS9 here at The Bits, Jeff Kleist, has this to say about it:
“Deep Space Nine is the precursor of the modern network serialized show (along with Babylon 5). Creators like Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Jane Espenson (Buffy, Firefly), and Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Hannibal) all cut their teeth, and learned the craft of telling serialized stories, on Deep Space Nine. DS9 was also one of the first shows to do serialized storytelling in primetime, with the last three seasons encompassing a massive interstellar war, and the last ten episodes building to the most epic conclusions of any sci-fi show I’ve ever seen. A lot of people gave up on DS9 early on (when there was a run of episodes that weren’t so good), but those of us who stuck with the show know that it became an amazing program whose dynamic lighting, detailed standing sets, and epic space battles are tailor-made for Blu-ray.
The following is my patented list of “required viewing” episodes from the first two seasons:
Season One – The Emissary, A Man Alone, Dax, Nagus, Vortex, Battle Lines, Duet, In the Hands of the Prophets
Season Two – Rules of Acquisition, Blood Oath, The Maquis: Parts 1 & 2, The Wire, Crossover, The Collaborator, Tribunal, The Jem’hadar
Watch those (and skip the others if you need to) and I’ll be surprised if you don’t become a fan of Deep Space Nine and continue on from these on your own.”
So there you go. Now it’s time to take action. Here’s Amazon purchase links to all of the full season Trek TV Blu-rays CBS has released thus far. We’ve reviewed nearly all of them here at The Bits. Certainly, there’s something here for nearly every Trek fan. So off you go. As Captain Picard would say: “Engage!”
Back tomorrow. Stay tuned…
- Bill Hunt