So I saw screenings of the HD-remastered episodes 'WHOHGB' and 'Datalore' last night. Fathom events had booked the screenings in no less than seven theaters in my area.
As with 'The Menagerie' back in 2007, many of the people in attendance were much older... we're talking grandparents. However this time there were a number of people my age as well. No one looked to be younger than mid-30s. There were no kids or young adults there.
Most of the 30-ish people were overweight, sometimes grotesquely so. And most of the ones that weren't still distinguished themselves by being the loudest of the group. None of these younger people had brought dates; all the couples that I saw there were grandparents.
Fathom events ran a really lame TNG quiz as their pre-show entertainment, replacing the still-adds and celebrity quizes that usually run before a feature. The quiz looped through at least twice, and it was accompanied by the TNG title music (complete with ship 'flyby' sound effects). For fifteen minutes the same one-and-a-half-minute theme music looped over again. The most obnoxious younger fans drew attention to themselves by pretending to take the quiz seriously.
Of the screening itself, the episodes were the most tedious. Maybe TV episodes just aren't meant to be seen in theater, no matter how film-like the resolution. Although I do remember 'The Menagerie' playing much better as a feature, not to mention drawing more participation from the audience. Most of the reactions this time (again from the younger fans) were obnoxious hand-claps and mock cheers directed at the "Shut up, Wesley" moments. After 25 years, you would think that would have gotten old. You would think.
The clarity itself was quite impressive. There was still a LOT of grain in many interior shots, however I wonder if that isn't just how film looked in the '80s especially under darkened lighting conditions. Some of the exterior shots were so clean it was distracting... and yet they were
the original photographic elements. The ship itself, the cloud formations at the edge of the universe... quite impressive. Other shots such as the high-warp effects still looked soft, but not in a bad way. I think really a screen this large probably isn't the best place to view this sort of thing, and it's probably going to be 50/50 which shots are 'noticeably' improved in HD anyway (unless you have a side-by-side comparison for every single shot). I remember with 'Farpoint' the octopus spaceships were about the only thing that really jumped out at me, even though one can't deny that the episode as a whole was definitely sharper.
The only 'new' effect this time out was the 'crystal entity thing', which I think they explained had been done in 3D (which I took to mean CG) using 1987 technology and therefore had no film components that could be re-used here. They said the thing looked 'flat' (I had to agree), and that the objective this time was to make it more reflective and less transparent... while still keeping it within the 1987 look (they succeeded). Unlike a lot of TOS-R, there was nothing that seemed intended to draw attention as being an 'obvious' improvement; in fact it looked like they might have scanned the original SD video footage to match the crystal thing's movement frame-by-frame (or if they didn't, I certainly couldn't tell the difference).
Another one of those notorious 'male dress' uniforms reared its ugly head in 'WNOHGB', and was about the only thing that brought uniform laughter all around. I am still puzzled as to what motivated the producers to do this. Were they trying to be tongue-in-cheek? Or were they seriously hoping to explain away that 'anyone' could have worn a dress on TOS (and that it 'just happened' to be the women wearing them whenever anything story-worthy was happening in the universe)? I'm sort of inclined to believe the latter, just in the interests of assuming the worst, or giving them the detriment of doubt.
I've also decided, after 25 years of watching, that the red jumpsuits are simply meant to appear pink or purple in most of these interior shots. I mean if they couldn't even fix it for a theatrical screening, then I am finally through with constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly, constantly adjusting the hue settings on my own TV in order to make them red. After 25 years, I am officially through. Pink uniforms are preferable to green faces anyway.
The best parts of the feature were the extras, most of which will hopefully feature on the BluRays themselves (I've already forgotten which ones had "you are about to watch" content on them which may have been specific to last night's screening; at one point Mike and Denise Okuda explained why they picked 'WNOHGB' for the theatrical screening, and I kept waiting for a similar introduction to 'Datalore' which we didn't get). There were some nice screen tests and audition footage (much of which was in HD), and a lot of it was quite comical. The actors would flub their lines, and it was clear they were not yet fully up on being in a sci-fi TV show (let alone necessarily expecting to get called back). These scenes got the most 'genuine' laughter from the audience.
Also, 'new' interview footage showed that many of the actors have NOT aged gracefully at all, and that new TNG movies (with the actors this old) is frankly not as option the way that it still was for the TOS actors back in '91. So for every fan who has ever advocated another TNG film with those actors -perhaps strait-to-video or whatever- the rest of us can breathe easy that it's never going to happen.
Overall, a worthy presentation. Eagerly awaiting Amazon to ship my S1 set tomorrow. Btw, the Amazon pre-order price has dropped to $59.99 in the US. That's like less than half of the DVD cost for these sets back in the day.