Full disclosure: I own some stock in ViacomCBS, although given what it's worth right now, I'm beginning to wish that I didn't.
So with the Star Trek: Picard season one finale a little over a week in the rear–view mirror, I've come to the conclusion that it's finally time for ViacomCBS to take the idea of remastering Star Trek: Voyager seriously. Yes, I'm well aware of the expenses involved, and yes, I realize that it's not an easy task, but now really is the best time in a long time to remaster VGR. For starters, here are the usual bullet points:
- The "missing CGI models" excuse doesn't hold water, or at the very least, doesn't hold half as much water as it did prior to a few years ago when one of the CGI artists basically came forward and acknowledged that he had half of the missing models in his possession and was more than willing to share them with then–CBS Inc. specifically so they could use them for projects such as remastering DS9/VGR. This same artist also noted that the models were built with the idea that they would eventually be used in HD versions of DS9 and VGR, and that they should only require minimal enhancements to look accurate at HD resolutions. (Apparently the models need to have their polygon count increased in some cases where there are rounded edges, such as on saucer sections and warp engines, but this is indeed a "minimal enhancement" as described, and far less expensive and time–consuming than rebuilding all of the models from scratch.) This same artist noted that if the other VFX house that Paramount had used back in the day had followed the same protocols that were common for early '90s CGI, the artists who worked on the models for that post house should potentially have those models available as well, in which case none or almost none of the models from DS9/VGR would have to be rebuilt at all. At the very least, half of the cost that was believed to be an issue is no longer an issue though
- Screens are only increasing in resolution, regardless of what sort of device they're being used in, and as this resolution increase continues, so will the need for standard definition content to be remastered
- VGR isn't TNG, and 2020 isn't 2012! A major part of the reason that the TNG–R Blu–Ray Discs sold poorly was that virtually no one had Blu–Ray players in 2012! At that point in time they were basically relegated to the five people who owned a PS3, and that was it. (And yes, I'm exaggerating slightly, but the PS3 was the most popular Blu–Ray player of that era, and it's largely considered a commercial failure as a device, primarily because of its outrageous launch price of $600 dollars coupled with a string of bone–headed decisions that really put it behind the eight ball.) Today Blu–Ray players are much easier to come by, in part because the far more successful PS4 also has one built into it, and the prices on Blu–Ray players as a whole have dropped drastically since 2012. I didn't have anything that could play Blu–Ray discs when TNG–R was new; today I have two PS3s that I bought right before Sony discontinued them for the same price as most Blu–Ray players that don't double as game consoles and a PS4 Pro, which simply wasn't the case in 2012, and I'm far from the only person in this scenario
- Back when Netflix released it's list of the most streamed Star Trek episodes, the majority of them were from VGR, followed by TNG (Specifically, the majority were VGR's two–part "movie" episodes, which would be a good place to start with remastering the show as a whole)
Now beyond those three really obvious bullet points that are regularly raised when a DS9/VGR remaster is discussed, there are a handful of additional reasons why now is the ideal time to remaster VGR in particular.
2020 is the 25th anniversary of VGR's premiere: Just as TNG–R coincided with TNG's 25th anniversary, releasing VGR–R this year, even in the form of a small collection of episodes this year with full seasons to follow in the future would be a great way to celebrate VGR's 25th anniversary. More importantly though, VGR–R would be able to tap into the hype surrounding VGR's 25th anniversary, which thanks to Trek being back in production, is getting a bit more attention than TNG's 25th anniversary got.
Star Trek: Picard is causing fans to go back and rewatch episodes of the older shows, and in some cases, to watch them for the first time. So one (largely expected) side–effect of Star Trek: Picard's success is that it's actually getting fans to go back and rewatch classic TNG episodes, and thanks to TNG–R, they're able to see those episodes in HD. However, in addition to getting fans to go back and rewatch classic TNG episodes, Jeri Ryan's reprisal of her role as Seven of Nine on Picard has caused fans to go back and rewatch classic VGR episodes. Unlike the TNG episodes, those aren't in HD though, and the difference definitely shows. On top of that, some of Picard's fans are indeed new to Trek as a whole, and they're actually watching TNG and VGR for the first time. For viewers who are new to Trek, especially younger viewers who've grown up in a world of HD, VGR's standard–definition image quality may be a bit tougher to sit through than TNG–R's significantly higher HD quality.
A renewed interest in VGR is only going to increase, not decrease, thanks to Star Trek: Picard: As mentioned above, Picard has already given fans a reason to go back and rewatch VGR, but based on the way the show is going, that's only going to continue. For starters, Rios's holograms have given people a reason to go back and rewatch VGR given that it's where the EMH first originated. Additionally, we've seen references to other VGR characters in Picard, which has also driven people to go back and rewatch VGR, as has the fact that VGR was very much a Borg–heavy series, much like the first season of Picard. Oh, and then there's this piece of character development which I'll spoiler tag for anyone late to the party.
There's enough of an interest in remastering VGR that fans have once again turned to AI–upscaling and the standard definition material that they have available to create their own "best that we've got" versions of VGR in HD and 4K. https://www.extremet...remaster-via-ai This is by no means an official project, although I do wish that people would stop saying that it isn't "real" or "true" HD/4K, because it actually is. It's not nearly as good as what you'd get from rescanning film negatives because it's working off of a lower quality image and trying to fill in the missing detail, but it's still infinitely better than being stuck with 480p footage indefinitely. I know this from experience because I've personally been using Topaz Labs' Gigapixel AI myself for material where the source footage was literally shot on standard definition tapes, and the end result is phenomenal, and exponentially better than what I started out with. (I plan to switch to Video Enhance AI soon, namely once I have enough money to add it to my suite of Topaz Labs AI tools. I'm not in too much of a rush yet since VEAI is only optimized for Windows right now, whereas Gigapixel AI is optimized for both Windows and macOS, allowing me to take advantage of it on multiple computers. As soon as VEAI is optimized for macOS I'll have much more incentive to purchase it quickly if I haven't already done so.) The main reason that I bring this up though is that when TNG–R was released, there were a few scenes that simply had to be sourced from the old master tapes, (it's less than five minutes across the entire series, and thankfully it's footage that doesn't suffer too much from traditional upconversion techniques,) and back when TNG–R did that, the only real option was fairly expensive hardware–based upscaling using something like a Teranex machine. AI software like what Topaz Labs offers costs a fraction of something like a Teranex machine, and may offer better results, which means that for scenes where "gaps" may exist as they did in TNG, even the upconverted footage might look better than it did originally.
On top of all that though, VGR is currently available on Netflix, Amazon, DVD, Apple's "TV" app (both as a purchase or as a rental,) and obviously CBS All Access; people can stream it regularly, just not in HD. Yes, remastering a show is expensive, but it's something that's done as a long–term investment rather than a short–term one. Remastering VGR, especially now that there's more interest in the show again then there has been in years, would effectively future–proof it for use on the aforementioned streaming services, as well as Blu–Ray and future broadcasts/cablecasts. Oh, and on top of that, you could always release the remastered version of the show on DVD as well; you'd lose the clarity of having it in HD, but any new VFX work or color corrections would remain intact. This was actually a huge mistake that was made with TNG–R; there was no DVD version for people who didn't have a Blu–Ray player or an HDTV, but who might have still wanted to see the new FX work or improved color corrections, whereas with TOS–R, DVDs were made available fairly quickly and the show could be appreciated with its graphical updates, albeit without the picture quality of HD. (I'm personally grateful for this when I want to watch TOS–R in a room where I don't have an HDTV and/or Blu–Ray player!) More importantly though, ViacomCBS could really use this to drive subscribers to All Access by making it exclusively available there first, then releasing Blu–Ray Discs and making the HD versions of the show available to other streaming services if they needed a better way to justify the cost of the remastering.
I can't remember if it was Michael Chabon or Alex Kurtzman, but one of them said he really would love to do a show similar to Picard after that series ends that would focus on Seven of Nine and maybe Janeway and The Doctor in the same general timeframe that Picard takes place in. While that's still far from being an actual series, one good way to help generate demand for it would be to remaster VGR.
To sum things up, ViacomCBS basically has been handed nearly ideal conditions to remaster VGR, and I really wish they'd take advantage of them. Maybe if they did, we could give the idea of DS9–R another go too; right now though there isn't a new Trek series that's driving people to DS9 though, hence why I'm arguing to "go out of order" and remaster VGR first.