Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)


Run time: 15:07
Director: Roger Lay, Jr.
Release date: May 2013 (CinemaNow)
January 2014 (Star
Language: English

The Trek Not Taken or rather The Trek Not Taken; First Steps into the Digital Frontier is a 2013, approximately 15 minute, documentary detailing the filming usages of the studio models for the first three seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as the possible use of the earliest CGI applications for some of its visual effects (VFX) elements for its first season, which however, never came to fruition.

As a "retailer exclusive" only, the feature was originally only available on the occasion of the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray release as a digital download through Best Buy's "CinemaNow" streaming media service, by redeeming a code customers acquired with their purchase. [1]


Background information

  • Actually, the featured early CGI footage was originally dismissed by the franchise in 1987 as inappropriate and stored away as archival property, never meant to be seen again. Yet twenty-five years later, when Value Added Material (VAM, a for the occasion franchise-invented moniker to indicate "special features") Producer Robert Meyer Burnett was doing his research for the 2012 remastered The Next Generation project, he did stumble upon this footage,
USS Enterprise TNG evalution CGI model.jpg USS Enterprise TNG evalution CGI model, dorsal view.jpg
USS Enterprise TNG evalution finalized CGI model, dorsal view.jpg USS Enterprise TNG evalution finalized CGI model, aft view.jpg
USS Enterprise TNG evalution finalized CGI model, aft total view.jpg USS Enterprise TNG evalution finalized CGI model, front total view.jpg
Early 1987 Enterprise TNG evaluation model

"I'll tell you one of the things we've found that is pretty exciting – we haven't used it yet – when The Next Generation was first talked about, they had to figure out how they were going to do the visual effects. There was talk at the time – this was just a couple of years after The Last Starfighter, when they did all those space visual effects – that there was talk about going all-CG. In 1987. Various effects houses did a sort of bake-off, where they were given some footage from Star Trek III to do transporters and phaser fire... then they were asked to do CG models of the Enterprise. So we have these tests that these various effects companies did of visual effects – what the visual effects would have looked like had they been all CG. Ultimately, they were a little, uh, crude – to say the least – so they opted not to go that route, and they opted to go with models and motion control, THANK GOD, but we have this footage, and we're going to use it on one of the subsequent releases. We don't know when, because it's not season-specific, but it's crazy to have! It's just something that was on a tape, Angelo found a box with tapes in it, we looked at the tapes, and there was this footage. Roger and I... one of the great, fun things about this project is that we get these tapes, and we just look at each other like "Oh my god, no one’s ever looked at this stuff! Ever!" It might just be snippets, but even if we've got one shot of a Nagilum test... we try and use shots of everything we've got, but the Nagilum test, to me – having [actor] Earl Boen and all that – just being able to see, is great! Because it’s never shown up in books anywhere, and just to have it all..." [2]

  • Burnett eventually made good on his promise, though the footage was ultimately released to the general public in a way he did not quite envision – or even approved of as he later expressed in a February 2017 Word Balloon podcast interview (currently posted on YouTube). In the end the footage was presented by CBS Consumer Products to a small privileged audience on an extremely limited basis as the retailer exclusive only special feature, "The Trek Not Taken; First Steps into the Digital Frontier", of the 2013 TNG Season 3 Blu-ray release, therefore invoking the ire of the vast majority of fans and costumers, not able to access or even purchase the special feature
  • In Germany the special was the following year made available for a limited time to all (German, Austrian, and Swiss only) customers of their TNG Season 4 Blu-ray release, partly as compensation for its delayed release, though it too had to be separately downloaded at CBS's German home page, Star, likewise by redeeming a code customers acquired with their purchase. [3]
  • Remarkably, to Germanic costumers the special feature was made available in (1080p) HD, whereas the US (Best-Buy) clientele was offered the (480p) SD version only. [4]
  • To customers anywhere else in the world, the special feature was never made available, even if these customers had legally bought (either of) the two versions online – including the redeeming codes – as they were denied access to the download sites due to their location in other geographical areas, a practice in marketing circles somewhat euphemistically called "market discrimination".
  • Neither were non-Best Buy customers in the North American home market exempt from the market discrimination, as they too could not acquire the special feature, nor was the "retailer exclusive" practice limited to this special feature alone. Flying in the face of CBS's original promise to buyers that all available extra material would be included on the regular The Next Generation Blu-ray Disc sets and having already started the practice with the Blu-ray release of the 2009 movie Star Trek, it ultimately led to the "VAM controversy" when CBS endeavored yet another encore with the Blu-ray release of Star Trek Into Darkness, shortly after the release of The Trek Not Taken.
  • The special feature became on-and-off posted on YouTube, and a current posting is listed below.

External links

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