GUEST BLOG: Producer Roger Lay, Jr. Previews ENT Blu-ray
By Roger Lay, Jr. - March 21, 2013
AN INTRODUCTION TO STAR TREK ENTERPRISE SEASON ONE BLU-RAY
By producer/director ROGER LAY, JR
When CBS Home Entertainment approached me late last year to work on the production of Star Trek: Enterprise for Blu-ray, I was genuinely thrilled. We were in the midst of our continuing mission to release Star Trek: The Next Generation on High Definition, but even though we had a tremendous amount of work on those Blu-ray sets, I could not turn down the opportunity to also work on ENT. I've been a fan of the show since the pilot and was especially fond of the season 3 and 4 story arcs dealing with the Xindi attack on Earth and eventually the first steps toward the founding of the Federation.
Unlike TNG, which had never existed in High Definition and required an unprecedented restoration process to rebuild the show from the ground up, ENT was ready to go for Blu-ray production since the post production of the series was completed in High Definition and the show was framed at 16 x 9. You'll actually hear from the show's creators, including the director of the pilot, Jim Conway, on the Blu-ray special features as they discuss the difficulties in convincing the studio to let them move forward with that decision before cameras rolled in the summer of 2001. You have to remember that back then most people were still watching network programming on standard-def tube televisions, which had a picture ratio of 1.33:1. When the show first aired, most viewers watching the show saw it letterboxed in order to fit the 16:9 image on their sets, which was then radical way to broadcast a show. Most networks were beginning to complete the post-production for their shows in HD at the time, but were still airing them at 1.33:1.
So late last year I was given my marching orders to give the show the same treatment we've been giving TNG in terms of in-depth, compelling additional content which could help make this the definitive way to experience the series for home media enthusiasts.
Here was a perfect opportunity to revisit what was considered a very controversial show for TREK fans, a show that has divided the fans for many years. Now was the time to really tell the story of the evolution of this program and discover the reasons behind all the key creative choices made by studio/network personnel and producers, which led to the then-controversial decision of creating a prequel series. No one had really created a definitive account of the development and the making of ENT. It was actually the only TREK show that never even got a "making-of" book, so, since I already had developed a solid approach to producing serial documentaries on the making of TNG, I felt that was the perfect model to follow for ENTERPRISE too.
What we created as the centerpiece of the Season One Blu-ray set -- which will be available on March 26 -- is an all-new 90-minute documentary titled TO BOLDLY GO: LAUNCHING ENTERPRISE. I truly believe it's a compelling, candid and revealing look at the complexities of making a television program, especially one that comes with as many specific requirements and challenges as a Star Trek spinoff. I wanted to not only tell the tale of making the show, but also help paint a clear picture of the landscape this was all taking place on -- the specifics of the franchise, the network, and the television industry at the moment of inception and how these factors all led to the key creative decisions made during the show's gestation process. In order to do this right, I needed a great deal from the key players behind the making of the show, since for us to tell the story properly I would need access to a lot of research materials from them as well as need significant time for conversations and filming on-camera interviews which would help us present a clear chronological account of the show's genesis.
After pitching my idea and approach to series co-creator Brannon Braga, he was immediately on board and was great at providing me with very important research materials, such as his first bible for the show. He was also very generous with his time. I've filmed or recorded over 8 hours of interviews and conversations with Brannon, and that only covers seasons one and two. Other key players to jump aboard right away for this included executive producer/co-creator Rick Berman, production designer Herman Zimmerman, production illustrator and designer of the NX-01 Doug Drexler, scenic artists Mike and Denise Okuda, FX maestros Dan Curry and Ronald B. Moore, writers Mike Sussman, Phyllis Strong, Andre Bormanis, and many others, including cast members. Not only have they participated in all-new interviews for the set, but they've also provided us with some amazing visuals that fans will get to see for the first time.
Some of my personal favorite highlights include Doug Drexler's first computer-rendered shot of the NX-01 flying past the camera in space. He first rendered that shot in his computer at home to show as proof of concept to Herman and the producers since ENTERPRISE would be the first TREK that did not utilize any physical models of the ships, opting instead for fully computer-generated models for every vessel. We have included that first "fly-by" of the ship in the documentary, along with footage of the ENT sets under construction, with detailed descriptions of the process by Herman Zimmerman, even a revealing look at the real command center of the NX-01: the video playback control room which would feed all the images to every single monitor and control station on the bridge of the ship. These are just a few of the highlights when it comes to the amount of detail fans will get to experience relating to the making and the launch of the series in this Season One set.
After filming our interviews with Rick and Brannon for the documentary, my producing partner, Robert Meyer Burnett, and I came up with an idea to put them both together and ask them all the questions fans have been dying to hear them tackle, such as their reaction to fan criticism, challenges in creating a prequel series, their thoughts on their legacy and even other important non-ENT Trek topics such as killing off Captain Kirk. The result is the one-hour IN CONVERSATION, which I have now seen over a dozen times in editing and post-production sessions, and I still find it to be mind-blowing -- it's 60 minutes of pure awesome! Even if you're not a fan of ENTERPRISE you need to see this piece since it's basically the final word from the man who shepherded Star Trek for nearly 18 years, 25 television seasons and 4 motion pictures. The insights Rick provides along with Brannon will leave many fans surprised.
Even though the show's DVD release did not offer an in-depth exploration on the making of the series, it did include some really well-produced featurettes on various aspects of the show. So we've included every single one of those, along with the outtakes reel, commentaries, and some interesting vintage pieces we found in the vaults, such as a presentation of the cast by Rick Berman on the first day of filming, and network and syndication promos that had never been offered before on home video. Along the lines of vintage or archival materials, we've included a half-hour program titled ON THE SET.
The great thing about ON THE SET is that it dissects the making of one particular sequence from a season-one episode by exploring its creation from every angle -- beginning with the writing and moving on to the filming of the sequence and then its completion in post-production with editing, visual effects and music scoring. It's the most insightful behind the scenes footage I have ever seen for a Star Trek series and it never aired, so fans will now get to see it for the first time.
To round out the set, we've also recorded group commentaries on four episodes featuring cast and crew members, and I must say that the track on "Broken Bow" was one of the most fun and insightful ones we've done so far.
Working on the TNG Blu-ray sets has been a true labor of love for us all, and now that we've turned our attention to ENTERPRISE we are just as committed to providing fans with a satisfying home viewing experience on Blu-ray, while at the same time offering the most-comprehensive collection of special features, which not only entertain, but hopefully help offer an understanding of the complexities and the level of artistry involved in producing Star Trek programming -- and perhaps give fans a renewed appreciation for the series. I'm very proud of the set we've put together for season one and I hope the fans enjoy watching the ENT Blu-ray set as much as we've enjoyed producing it.
Star Trek: Enterprise -- The Complete First Season will be available on March 26 and will feature a total of 19-plus hours of material and will cost $130. Keep an eye on StarTrek.com for additional details.
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