Tuesday can’t come fast enough. That’s what millions of Star Trek fans around the globe are thinking right now, as they breathlessly await the arrival of Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One on Blu-ray. Of course, there’s the one-night-only in-theaters Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Event that’s set for Monday, but if you must feed your TNG fix this very minute, you’ve come to the right place. StarTrek.com is thrilled to present the TNG Blu-ray footage and images seen during last week's TNG/Blu-ray panel at Comic-Con. In fact, if you weren’t at Comic-Con, StarTrek.com is the only place in the galaxy to see this footage. We’ve also got a super-detailed interview with Roger Lay, Jr., producer /director of special features for CBS Home Entertainment's upcoming releases of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray. Lay spoke to us following the Comic-Con panel, and, where possible, we’ve illustrated this conversation about the TNG Blu-ray with specific images he mentions.
Take us through the process of finding the footage that the extras are comprised of?
Lay: The process of going back to the original film elements in order to rebuild the episodes from the ground up allowed us to get our hands on material that had never been seen by the public before. David Grant, Ryan Adams, Angelo Dante, Craig Weiss and the team at CBS Digital have found amazing footage that we have been able to incorporate into the body of the documentaries you'll find on the season one Blu-ray set. We also have cast and crew members commenting on these discoveries and sharing some incredible stories to go along with these really fascinating visuals.
For example, when the cast shares their memories of the casting process and the days leading up to the start of principal photography, we have makeup and wardrobe tests which help paint a really clear picture of that particular period during the inception of the show. You’ll see the various options for Data's makeup, Troi's contact lenses, Geordi's VISOR, props, uniforms -- even the different types of carpeting that were camera tested for the bridge of the Enterprise. You get a sense of how much thought is put into all the key creative decisions during the inception of a show as complex as TNG.
What was it like to stumble across, say, that animated bit from the opening credits sequence, or the makeup test photo of De Kelley with Roddenberry?
Lay: It’s amazing to get to see these pieces of Trek history and to also figure out the best way to present them in the body of the documentaries. The pencil animation you mentioned is a great example. We showed a lot of these visuals to the TNG production staff members, and seeing their reaction on camera was priceless. Mike Okuda and Doug Drexler share a great story about Bob Justman giving them their first glimpse at the pencil animation of the Starfleet officers around the conference table which was composited into the observation lounge window when the opening titles sequence was first put together. You’ll see that in the season-one documentary, along with the makeup test for De Kelley’s cameo as Admiral McCoy in “Encounter at Farpoint.” That one is really special since it gives fans a peek at a very tender moment between Gene and De. It's actual 35 mm footage, not just photos.
What were some of the other most significant and/or exciting finds in the vaults that are in the season one Blu-ray?
Lay: I’m a huge fan of the miniature work on the show, so for me the multiple motion control photography passes on the models of the Enterprise and some of the other ships such as the Romulan Warbird are a big highlight – they’re just stunning. You really appreciate the craftsmanship and the level of detail Greg Jein, Tony Meininger and all the other model makers put into those iconic ships. You'll get to see a lot of those in the special effects section of the documentary and the clips look glorious in High Definition, so I'm really glad we got those since miniature photography is a dying art form and the work done on TNG is a great example of model work and miniature photography at its finest.
I do feel like not all of the most exciting discoveries came from the film vault. At times it was information we got from the cast and crew during our interviews that led to some amazing discoveries. For example, Rick Berman, Dorothy Fontana, David Gerrold and Patrick Stewart all told us about an actor Dorothy had introduced to Gene Roddenberry early on during the casting process who became his first choice for the role of Captain Picard. After hearing this, we went ahead and reached out to him and were utterly surprised and thrilled when he confirmed the story and agreed to come in for an interview. So for the first time ever, fans will get to hear from the man who was almost cast as the Captain of the Enterprise-D and the story on how he ended up passing on such an amazing opportunity is really compelling. There’s also a really fun Easter egg featuring Brent Spiner which we’ve included on disc six which I’m hoping the fans will find! None of the early reviewers have mentioned it, so I guess they haven’t come across it yet.
Take us through your job on this project. For what are you responsible?
Lay: When the decision was first made to go ahead with the Blu-ray releases for the show, my first task was to get together with the entire team at CBS Home Entertainment and come up with a plan for how to best utilize all the material that was being unearthed in the film cans. My pitch to them was to take advantage of the opportunity this Blu-ray release would afford us to present the definitive take on the making of the show and to also document this groundbreaking restoration effort. I felt the approach should be to get everyone associated with the show (or as many people as possible) for all-new interviews since enough time has passed to allow them to see their times on the show and their journeys from a different perspective. You’ll be surprised at some of the stories the cast and crew have shared throughout this process. The main bonus content is all included in a multi-part documentary series which kicks off in the season one Blu-rays with Stardate Revisited: The Origins of Star Trek The Next Generation. This first documentary is a feature-length exploration of the show’s genesis.
The second key component to the season one extras is Energized: Taking the Next Generation to the Next Level. I like to think of this piece as a living, breathing Cinefex article since it’s an in-depth chronological presentation of the entire process to rebuild the episodes from the ground up in high-definition. You’ll see the team going through the original film elements in the vault, scanning these elements, compositing and editing the final mix. We also answer a lot of the issues fans have been bringing up over the last few months regarding the restoration, such as why is the show not being presented in 16x9 and what the process is when a piece of original film element cannot be found.
What new elements were you excited to realize? The TNG cast interview, for example...
Lay: The interviews with the cast in these Blu-rays sets are very refreshing since they were not conducted for promotional electronic press kit material during the making of the show like most of the archival stuff we had, so the cast is not selling the product in these interviews. They are in fact very introspective in these pieces, sharing a very different perspective in regards to their association to this show, way more candid than what they’ve shared in the past. My producing partner on the special features production, Robert Meyer Burnett, conducted these interviews and we’re both big fans of the show. So we’ve seen and read everything that’s out there on the making of the series in order to bring a fresh approach to these new interviews. We didn’t want to repeat the same stories that have been told in all the “making-of books” and previous DVD releases.
Twenty-five years later there are still a lot of stories to tell. Everyone has been really candid and honest. I think the interview with Rick Berman is just incredible. We never thought he’d be as open as he was to talk about the difficulties between Gene and the writing staff during the early days of the show. Making the show was a very difficult process and you’ll hear a lot of these stories for the first time in these new interviews.
Once you and the team have found and/or shot everything, what's the process of creating an actual extra? How do you go about creating what is, in essence, a filmic story of its own, with a script, plot, etc.
Lay: When we first started, Rob Burnett and I laid out a very specific approach to this multi-year story we wanted to tell through the extras. We made a list of all the key creative choices, milestones and behind-the-scenes developments for each season of the show that has served as our guide. For example, for season one, we created an outline of all the major events relating to the origins of the series, which helped as our guide as we conducted all the interviews and during the editing stage. I also sat down with Mike and Denise Okuda once I had these outlines ready in order to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. They offered some great suggestions and brought certain elements to my attention that they felt hadn’t been explored in the past. A lot of great stories I got during the interviews were triggered by questions Mike and Denise suggested for our interviewees. They are an incredible resource and they always have some great suggestions, so I’m thrilled to be able to have them as consultants on this project. Plus, I love spending time with them. I can talk to them for hours!
We also knew there were elements of the show that we wanted to explore which would not fit into the body of the feature-length documentaries. So we created a list of standalone featurettes we wanted to produce focusing on such aspects. You’ll start seeing those in later releases probably starting in season three.
To your thinking, what do all the extras add to the experience of revisiting season one of TNG?
Lay: The extras really help put everything into perspective. You have a show that is iconic and beloved by millions of fans, but in my opinion there had never been any attempts at telling the story of how the show came about and how difficult it was for Gene and his team to do what they did when they set out to reinvent a classic. To my knowledge, this is the only in-depth exploration of that process in documentary form, where you actually get to hear from all the participants and get every side to the story. It was always my goal to create an ongoing storyline that runs through all seven seasons worth of documentaries, rather than short standalone EPK -style pieces, so I was thrilled when the team at CBS Home Entertainment gave me the go-ahead to go with this approach. They've been incredibly supportive and have pulled out all the stops to make sure we get all the cast and crew members back to help tell these stories.
How far along are you on seasons two and three? Anything you can tease without ruining surprises?
Lay: We have some really great pieces that we're already working on for season two and beyond. Along with the individual interviews for the documentaries, we've also been able to get the entire cast of the show together for a really intimate reunion piece. I think fans are going to be very surprised with that one. It’s just wonderful to see them all together again as a family. It could be a one-hour network television special, but the only way to see it is on the season-two Blu-ray set. There's also a standalone piece I'm really excited about that we are calling Inside the Writer's Room. It will feature key staff writers from the show, including Ron Moore, Brannon Braga, Rene Echevarria and Naren Shankar. These guys have gone on to incredible careers since TNG wrapped and you'll see them together again, taking fans through the process of coming up with and breaking a story for TNG. We also have Seth McFarlane, who created Family Guy and is a huge TNG fan, discussing the impact TNG had on his career and modern science fiction programming.
Down the line we also have a piece on the directors of the show, a piece on the music of TNG, and a tribute to Michael Piller for season three. We've shot over 100 hours of all new interviews with cast and crew with a very specific plan in mind in terms of how we would use these interviews to build all the documentaries and supplemental pieces. It’s an ongoing process over the next two years, so we are still filming interviews, looking for footage and images as well as any other elements that can help us tell the story of TNG in the most exciting and rewarding form for the fans who’ve been with this show for a quarter of a century. I think by the time season seven is released fans will have gotten the definitive look at the making of the series and its legacy.
As a reminder, the Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Event will be presented by NCMFathom Events, CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution, and it will feature the popular TNG’s episodes “Where No One Has Gone Before” and “Datalore,” chosen by longtime Trek experts Mike and Denise Okuda, as well as snippets of some Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One Blu-ray special features. Those features will include never-before-seen footage, new interviews and details about the comprehensive restoration project. Fans will also be treated to an extended preview of Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Two, to be released later this year on Blu-ray.
For the U.S: Buy tickets now for Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Event at FathomEvents.com.
For Australia: Buy tickets now for Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Event at SharmillFilms.com.
For Canada: Buy tickets now for Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Event at Cineplex.com.
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