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Original Trek Gets Digital Facelift

Risking the potential wrath of Star Trek purists, Paramount is giving the U.S.S. Enterprise, some planets, and even the iconic matte paintings, a makeover in their latest syndication outing.

To mark the series' 40th anniversary--it launched September 1966 on NBC--Paramount Domestic Television is re-releasing it in broadcast syndication for weekend runs on over 200 stations, but it is giving the remastered classic series a digital facelift, including conversion to an HD format, in hopes of snagging the next generation of viewers.

The theme has been rerecorded with a 29-piece orchestra, says spokesman David Sperber, and the plate backdrops have been enhanced for more realism, as have been the planets the ship sails by on its five-year mission.  ""Go to a different planet, and all the backdrops have been redone he says, taken from the original art to look "look more realistic."

The series will launched with new and improved versions of  Balance of Terror and Miri (the weekend of Sept. 16). Others scheduled for early play include The Devil in the Dark, The Naked Time, and Menagerie I and II.

Among the digital retouches--no the ship is not losing 20 pounds a la Katie Couric--that Paramount is advertising include:

• Space ship exteriors will be replaced by CGI-created ships based on the  original model, now rests in the Smithsonian.

• The Enterprise and planets seen in the main title sequence will be given "depth and dimension," and WIlliam Shatner's iconic split-infinitive opening will be digitally remastered as well. 

• Space, the final frontier, as seen whooshing by or in panoramic stillness from windows and the bridge will be redone.

• Battle scenes, planets and ships, including the beak-nosed, bird-like Romulan ship and Klingon battle cruisers, will be updated.

• Some of the matte paintings of backddrops for new life and new civilizations get new CGI-created "atmosphere" and lighting.

In a release announcing the updates, Paramount Domestic TV President John Nogawski said: ""By giving the series a digital upgrade using the best technology available today, it will continue to be a leader in cutting-edge television programming as we introduce the series to a new generation of viewers."

A Paramount spokesman had not returned a call at press time about whether they anticipated any push-back from Trek fans protective of the series' sometimes campy special effects.