End users are waking up to the idea that AI-based products can demonstrate practical use cases for ordinary people. About a month ago, I covered my early work upscaling Deep Space 9 for the modern era — and I’m not the only one working on this sort of project. I was inspired by the work of CaptRobau back in 2019, and now a new individual has launched a project of his own, this time to remaster Star Trek: Voyager.
Reddit user theboomsterz remastered the TV show using Topaz Gigapixel AI initially before switching to Topaz Video Enhance AI. He’s published a couple of clips to show the net effect, and it’s interesting to see them now that I’ve been working on DS9 for the past few months. One bit that theboomsterz states in his Reddit thread is that he’s run some of these episodes through the application more than once. I admit, I haven’t tried that, but there is a theoretical method for doing so — Topaz VEAI has recently added the ability to run a video file through without upscaling it, in order to remove noise and other visual artifacts. I haven’t tested the impact of running it 3-4x in a row, though.
Here’s a second clip. This clip implies that Voyager suffers from the same problem Deep Space 9 does — namely, it’s quite dark. I’ve been collaborating with a few interested readers who wanted to contribute to the Deep Space 9 project by looking for solutions to this issue.
It’s great to see more fans taking up this kind of work. ExtremeTech, again, does not condone piracy or working from downloaded torrents — if you want to perform this kind of upscaling work, you should work from the original DVD source — if only because, believe me, you’re going to want every single bit of detail you can scrape out of these DVDs. It doesn’t amount to nearly as much as you might hope.
The big question, of course, is whether these various fan efforts have a chance in hell of persuading Paramount to actually do the job itself. The answer to that is probably no. I really hate to type that, because Paramount is capable of doing some absolutely stunning work. Here’s a clip from the DS9 episode Sacrifice of Angels that Paramount remastered for the What We Left Behind DS9 documentary.
Nothing anyone is going to be able to do with source footage is going to approach this kind of fidelity, and each series of ST brings it own challenges. Voyager was apparently filmed in variable frame rate, which theboomsterz discusses as a challenging issue to deal with. I’ve been grappling with some issues myself, but I’ll drop an update on my own progress into a separate story.
Feature image from the first upscaled video clip posted above. Video by theboomsterz.
Last year, we covered one man’s efforts to upscale Star Trek: Deep Space Nine using Topaz Gigapixel AI. If you’ve ever attempted to watch DS9 on Netflix or Amazon, you know how hard it is to get a decent version of the show. The version of DS9 that you can stream via online services sucks, to put it kindly. The streamed version of the show ranges from slightly worse to much worse than what you’d get from an MKV rip or original DVD. Even if you own the original DVDs, however, DS9’s quality leaves much to be desired. Paramount has announced they have no intent to change this, because the Blu-ray version of TNG didn’t sell enough. Anyone who wants a better version of the show, therefore, is going to have to create it themselves.
There are a number of shows that were shot from the early 1990s – early 2000s that didn’t broadcast in HD and were never upconverted to 720p or 1080p. If you love series like Babylon 5, Voyager, or Deep Space Nine, you’ve had few-to-no options for a decent viewing experience… until now. Topaz Labs’ new Video Enhance AI software ($ 299) uses artificial intelligence to upscale low-resolution video in ways that can dramatically improve on the original image. I’ve spent the last few weeks taking the application for a test drive. Note that GPU-accelerated scaling is apparently only available on Nvidia GPUs. I’ll be investigating how the software reacts in CPU-only scaling.
While Gigapixel AI can upscale content, there are actually multiple reasons not to use it for the task. The app will not allow you to load large numbers of images at once and in the past, it’s had a bad habit of crashing every 500 – 600 frames. Considering there are roughly 66,000 frames in an episode, it looked as if improving DS9’s image quality would require an absolutely insane amount of work.
Way of the Warrior upscaling in progress. Click all images to enlarge.
Then, a few weeks ago, Topaz released a new product, Video Enhance AI. Instead of literally unpacking a TV show into each individual frame and then upscaling them one by one, Video Enhance AI is designed to convert entire video files at once. Performance on a GTX 2080 is roughly 95 frames per minute, or approximately one episode every 10.5 hours. While this represents a non-trivial time commitment to rip several seasons, it’s vastly better than Gigapixel AI’s demonstrated performance. Whether GP produces better results or if these results can be further enhanced via application of Topaz AI’s other software suites is something I intend to explore in greater detail in future articles. For now, we’re focusing on Topaz Video Enhance AI, specifically.
How Topaz Video Enhance AI Works
Topaz VE allows you to choose the quality level of your source from three options: High Quality, Low Quality, and HQ-CGI. HQ-CGI boosts anti-aliasing in CGI scenes, and I also ran some specific tests of this setting on the test episode I converted and will be demonstrating today. On a show like Deep Space Nine, you’ll definitely want to use LQ — a 720×480 initial input is basically the poster-child for a low-quality upscale. If you were trying to scale 1080p video up to 4K or 8K, you’d want to use the HQ setting. The application has very few options beyond choosing your file output name, your desired level of upscaling (200 percent and 400 percent were both tested here), and what file format you want to output in. Choose your starting and ending frames, hit the button, and away you go.
Be advised, however, that Topaz Video Enhance AI isn’t capable of passing audio to the newly encoded file in at least some cases. All of our test encodes came out sans audio. We recombined the audio streams into the primary video file using FFMPEG.
How We Tested
I’ve performed all of my testing with MKV files I created from the DS9 boxed set years ago. After seeing how this project came out, I actually intend to dust off my old DVDs (when I can find them) and try this project directly on the DVD source itself. ExtremeTech does not endorse piracy or recommend stealing Deep Space Nine or any other television show. If you’re interested in this kind of upscaling, you should buy the DVDs. It’s entirely possible you should do that anyway, given that the source will almost certainly be a better target for this kind of scaling.
I’ve performed a number of test runs and gathered comparison data from HQ-CGI versus LQ, as well as a wide range of Netflix – MKV – Upscaled comparisons at both the 2x and 4x scaling factors. I’ve also included a range of screenshots to show the benefit of increasing the default brightness a bit even if the DVD source is all you have. And we’ve got some YouTube uploads for you, to show the benefits of the upscaling using the DS9 credits.
Let’s get started. For starters, here’s the Defiant under attack in three frames from “Way of the Warrior.” These three are not frame-matched identically, so focus on the architecture and clarity of the ship, not the disruptor fire striking it. This is Netflix, MKV, and 4x upscale, in that order. All images can be clicked to enlarge in a new window.
Update: The MKV and upscaled images were mistakenly switched. This has been fixed.
Netflix, in all its smeary glory. The phrase “USS Defiant” around the saucer edge looks more like a row of windows.
These were some of the first tests I did, and I was quite impressed with the results. Let’s look at a larger cross-section of an episode. Click on each image to enlarge (and you’ll want to, in order to see the degree of improvement).
Call to Arms Comparisons
All of the following screenshots and comparisons are taken from “A Call to Arms”, the 26th episode of the fifth season. I’ve included both 200 percent and 400 percent comparison images in this collection to illustrate the trade-off from each size. The best balance between visual quality and image size that I’ve seen is to upscale either 200 percent from the original DVD or to upscale 400 percent and then watch the stream at half-size.
Obviously most of you are going to be reading this on monitors, not TVs, but I checked the output quality on a standard TV set as well. If you’re sitting at standard viewing distances, all of the versions look better, but the 400 percent upscale benefits the most. I’ll call out which comparisons are 2x scaling and which are 4x scaling comparisons. All Netflix comparisons are at a single viewing resolution, because Netflix doesn’t allow for resolution-based resizing.
I’m going to cover image comparisons first, before I hit the video comparisons.
MKV versus 2x/4x Upscaling
Weyoun docked at Deep Space Nine. MKV.
Weyoun docked at Deep Space Nine. 4x Upscale.
The amount of detail recovered from this scene compared with the MKV is impressive. There’s a smeary sort of vaseline look to the MKV file that isn’t present in the upscaled version.
At just 2x zoom, the original MKV doesn’t look so bad…
But the improvement in the upscale is still very impressive.
Video Enhance does strong work with the starship battles in Deep Space Nine. The front of the Jem’Hadar battleship looks downright sharp. Compares 4x upscaling displayed at 1:2 ratio to standard MKV displayed at 2x size.
Netflix versus MKV versus 4x Upscaling
This screenshot of Deep Space Nine under heavy fire is a poster child for why the Netflix version of the TV show deserves to be drug out into the street and shot. The entire frame is noticeably orange-r (and these frames are matched — you can tell by the exact position of the pieces of debris in the lower-right-corner, inside the fireball).
The MKV original dumps the reddish lighting and looks a bit less blurred, even though it has the same base resolution. Color balance is better.
Our 4x upscale. The station and explosions both benefit enormously.
Next up: A comparison of the same Jem’Hadar battlecruiser that serves as a poster child for why the Netflix version of the TV show… wait. I already said that, didn’t I?
Well, it’s still deserved. Here’s Netflix.
Check the aliasing on the left wing of the battlecruiser. It looks like it was rendered in Quake II, which is impressive, considering DS9 is still using models at this point in time.
Here’s the DVD. Much better as far as the left-hand wing, and better overall preservation of detail, but still not great compared with what we’d want in a modern show.
Much, much better. Quite good, in fact. Alright. We’ve done two battle scenes — let’s take a look at how some of the character shots come out.
Weyoun’s unctuous used-car salesman vibe made him a great character foil for Gul Dukat. Netflix is still the blurriest option of the lot, but the gap between it and the MKV file is much smaller than normal.
Here’s the MKV file. Not much difference, though it’s minimally clearer and doesn’t have the weird color issue Netflix does.
Again, the upscale does a good job of drawing out subtle detail in Weyoun’s eyes and face. His jacket texturing is also much less blurry.
Improve Image Quality by Bumping Brightness
The color reproduction in the Netflix version of DS9 is terrible and the MKV just isn’t much better, but a small tap to brightness can improve the situation, in my opinion — and this option doesn’t require any upscaling or processing time. Here’s the Netflix version, followed by an MKV screenshot.
Netflix. Slightly brighter, but less detail.
MKV file. Dim and rather poor-looking, but slightly more detail.
Nudge brightness up a bit in-player, and you get this:
Rom — Actually Visible Edition. (season to taste)
Whether or not you consider this an improvement is in the eye of the beholder, but many DS9 episodes are much darker than I remember them being when I watched them the first time, and this tweak doesn’t require anything but a software player like VLC that supports it. Finally, here’s the same image upscaled 400 percent in Topaz VE.
Check his jacket texture compared with the image above.
I’ve also tossed a number of images into the slideshow below, with both space battles and additional characters. Check them out if you’re curious. The slideshow does a nice job of showing subtle improvements when it shifts from one image to the next. Each image can also be clicked to open in a new window.
If you’d like to see what the opening credits to the show look like when rendered in 200 percent and 400 percent upscaling compared with the standard version, I’ve embedded YouTube links to all three below. Note that while the first link isn’t mine and does look slightly worse than what you’d see on Netflix, it’s honestly pretty close. Make sure to set the second and third links to 720p and 1080p, respectively. Both of these encodes were done using the HQ-CGI mode.
The standard introduction. Full-screen for best comparison — and this is only very slightly worse than what is available on Netflix.
200 percent AI upscaling using the HQ-CGI preset instead of LQ. HQ-CGI yields better results on some special effects, though I’m still working out what the subtleties are. The 200 percent upscale is subtly different than the 400 percent. Set to 720p for best comparison.
The 400 percent upscale using HQ-CGI. Set to 2160p for best comparison.
Discussion and Analysis
If I’m being honest, the existing encode quality I’m seeing is about 80-85 percent of where I’d like it to be. I’ve already found myself wondering if some of Topaz AI’s other tools might be deployed to perform some additional post-processing where it’s needed. The application struggles with graphics displayed on terminals or PADs, and I’m still testing to see if that can be resolved within Topaz Video Enhance AI or not.
The MKV version. Obviously not everything from the mid-1990s has aged well.
This is one place where the upscaling effect *doesn’t* improve image quality.
I’m not going to claim that upscaling like this simply makes Deep Space Nine look like it was shot in modern times. The color reproduction is bad in all cases and no matter how good an upscaling algorithm is, it’s still an upscaler — and therefore not the same as having the original data via 35mm film. These are all fair complaints. There are still some places where I’m hoping to clear up these files further. But the output I’ve gotten is leaps and bounds ahead of the MKV versions I’ve got, and vastly better than the Netflix streams. I’m already planning to encode most of the show — I just want to see how much additional improvement I can squeeze out first.
On a big-screen TV, Deep Space Nine is barely watchable via Netflix or Amazon. The old MKV rips I did years ago aren’t much better, which is one reason I’m going to return to original source for my next round of tests. But while I may not have a perfect solution to present today, Topaz Video Enhance AI has taken the idea from “Maybe someday,” to “Holy crap, this works now.”
Low quality source for DS9 is typically better than HQ source as far as I’ve seen, but I’m still checking if HQ-CGI can be spliced into an MP4 that uses LQ for everything else. I may also check Gigapixel again, just to see how the AI upscaling method compares, or if other Topaz Labs products can improve the final output further.
Performance-wise, both AMD and Intel systems perform identically when you test using a GPU — the RTX 2080 averaged between 95 – 105fpm (frames per minute). CPU encoding is 10x slower than GPU encoding, so I’ve only begun testing that mode. GPU encoding has a reputation for not being quite as good as CPU encode in applications like Handbrake, but I haven’t yet seen evidence it’s true in Topaz Video Enhance AI. Even if CPUs do give better results, 9-10 frames per minute would mean 110 hours per episode. Even if the quality jump was dramatic, I’d only use the CPU for trouble spots — the encode time is just too long otherwise.
These software packages and techniques have significant applicability to shows beyond Star Trek. Series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer were converted for HD, but fans hated the way color balance and the 16:9 conversion were both handled. Babylon 5 can’t be remastered due to massive rights entanglements and the destruction of its original assets, which means an upscale project like this would be its best bet.
I intend to write more on this topic in the future, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the preview. Topaz Video Enhance AI and other Topaz products are available for 30-day free trials, which is how I tested the application. You can also purchase it at the current introductory price of $ 199, down from $ 299 standard. If you’re a serious cinephile who enjoys this kind of editing, it’s worth it.
More than 20 years after the crew of the TNG-era Enterprise finished its run, and 17 years after Patrick Stewart’s final appearance as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis, we now have a teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Trek: Picard. While Discovery is nominally set in the original Star Trek universe rather than the Kelvinverse timeline, this is the first time we’ll be returning to the era explored by The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager.
Plot details are scarce, but there are a few things we know. As old Spock told Kirk in 2009, he traveled back in time accidentally in the 2009 rebooted Star Trek movie, as part of an effort to keep the Romulan and Reman sun from going nova. The plan failed. The star still exploded and presumably the Romulan and Reman worlds were decimated as a result.
The trailer seems to refer to these events and implies they were a catalyst for profound failure in Picard’s life. We know that the outcome of that attempt to rescue the Romulans and Remans will play out on the TV show, which appears to pick up 15 years after Picard commanded “The greatest rescue armada in history.”
In the aftermath of this disaster, Picard left Starfleet and obviously returned to what his family had wanted him to do in the first place — making wine.
One interesting point is the difference between the age of Picard on the show and the age of the actor, Patrick Stewart. TNG debuted in 1987, when Patrick Stewart was 47. It takes place in the fictional year 2364 (Jean-Luc Picard was born in 2305). So in 1987, a 47-year-old actor was playing a 59-year-old starship captain. Today in 2019, a 78-year-old actor will be playing a Starfleet Admiral who is ~94, given that Picard is set in the closing days of the 25th century.
The reason I bring this up is that I’m curious to see how CBS handles it. It seems incredibly unlikely that this show won’t involve some degree of space travel and contact with alien species and individuals — the “Sit on a space station and wait for things to happen” plot arcs didn’t work very well for DS9, and it’s doubtful they’d work better now. This could be a fascinating look at Picard at the end of his life and career, with new opportunities to visit the character as someone who hypothetically guides and shapes policy as opposed to carving it out of Borg hulls with phaser fire. Not many TV shows have the guts to put a nearly eighty-year-old man at the center of the cast — but then, not many actors are Patrick Stewart, and not many characters are Jean Luc Picard.
This is, not incidentally, perhaps CBS’ best chance to demonstrate that someone in Hollywood still understands how to create good Star Trek content. Like Discovery, however, it appears Picard will be chained to CBS All Access, forcing viewers between skipping the show, pirating it, or signing up for another monthly fee to watch 1-2 shows.
Wasn’t this what everybody used to hate about cable?
I’ll be skipping Picard for this reason. But I do hope the show is solid. Those of you hoping for a cast reunion should know, as of now, no other TNG members have admitted being associated with the project.
Since the debut of Star Trek: Discovery in the fall of 2017, it’s become clear that Gene Roddenberry’s universe hasn’t been this alive since the ‘90s.
On screen and behind the scenes, there has been no shortage of updates regarding the franchise’s ever-expanding presence on CBS All Access. Patrick Stewart will return as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a role that launched a thousand memes. An animated comedy is coming, which will examine the Lower Decks of Starfleet ships. Four Short Treks were released. A possible Discovery spin-off toplined by Michelle Yeoh is on the horizon. And those are just the projects that have been officially announced.
The catalyst for our Trek renaissance is now looking into the past for its second season with Michael Burnam and company facing an unknown threat with some very familiar faces. Star Trek has a long history of merging storylines between the past and present TV shows. Engineer Scotty ended up on The Next Generation. The crew of Deep Space Nine ventured back in time to the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode from the original series. Star Trek: Enterprise featured the grandfather of Data’s creator. On Discovery, we’ll soon be seeing a brand new approach to this tradition, where we meet characters who, despite their previously brief screen time, have maintained a high standing in Trek lore.
Before the new season debuts on Thursday, take a look at ET’s companion guide to the upcoming adventures of the USS Discovery.
Where Did We Leave Off?
After dealing with the fallout from the Battle of the Binary Stars last season, Burnham shed the “traitor” label and received a full pardon by the Federation. By the time NCC-1701 was revealed, the Klingon War had ended and Burnham was able to prevent mass genocide of the Klingon people, which Philippa Georgiou (Yeoh) from the mirror universe was more than ready to do. The former emperor is now an agent for Sector 31, a clandestine department of Starfleet that focuses on covert ops and threat assessment, which sounds right up her alley.
Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) lost the love of his life, Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) — but perhaps not for long. Cruz confirmed at Comic-Con that he does appear in season two. There’s no telling if this is merely through flashbacks, dream sequences, a Monkey’s Paw situation or perhaps a Terran version of Culber. With the spore drive having been put out of commission by Starfleet, who knows where Stamets’ next science experiment might lead him.
And now that she’s been accepted into the Starfleet Command Training Program, Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is one step closer toward becoming a captain one day — and catching up to the career of her mirror counterpart.
Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) learned that he’s literally half the man he once was, with his DNA and memories having been fused with Voq in the Klingon’s attempt to become a double agent in Starfleet. Cruelly, this also resulted in him murdering Culber. His decision to leave with L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) as she became head of the Klingon High Council seemed to be the only solution to Ash’s existential dilemma. Not feeling at home anymore in Starfleet, he chose to accompany his former captor, so as to help maintain their new peacetime with the Federation.
What Is Season 2 About?
“Mr. Tyler, we are always in a fight for the future.” This statement from the season two trailer might be cliché, but Captain Christopher Pike’s assessment of working in Starfleet is 100 percent spot-on.
The official synopsis about Discovery’s sophomore season from CBS All Access reads: “After answering a distress signal from the U.S.S. Enterprise, season two of Star Trek: Discovery finds the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery joining forces with Captain Christopher Pike on a new mission to investigate seven mysterious red signals and the appearance of an unknown being called the Red Angel. While the crew must work together to unravel their meaning and origin, Michael Burnham is forced to face her past with the return of her estranged brother, Spock.”
The trailers and promos have also provided glimpses of deadly asteroid collisions, Klingon combat, freefalls through space, outrunning collapsing walls that happen to be on fire, and yes, more Vulcan nerve pinches. In between Spock having visions of the Red Angel and its threat to “end all sentient life” in the universe, he will also be dealing with family drama in the form of Burnham. The revelation of their sibling status had longtime fans scratching their heads.
While speaking to Varietyat CES last week, executive producer Alex Kurtzman said, “We set up a mystery in season one. How come Spock — one of the most beloved characters in all of Star Trek history, let alone the world and the universe — has never mentioned his sister Michael Burnham. It was a big mystery. And I think I knew inherently that the answer to that wasn’t going to be one or two episodes. It was going to be a full season and you were really going to have to dive deep into that story and into that relationship and what happened between them. There is a lot of friction between them.”
The cast and producers also appeared at Comic-Con, where Kurtzman said that “family” will be the main theme of Discovery’s sophomore season. “Now, they really are a family and so much of what will happen over the course of season two is going to test them as a family — constantly. And they may even have to make choices between their real family and their starship family.”
The New Season 2 Characters
Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) will portray Captain Christopher Pike of the USS Enterprise. With a by-the-book attitude, Pike will probably end up resembling Picard more than Captain James T. Kirk, his future replacement.
Number One is played by Rebecca Romijn, who recently talked to ET about becoming the Enterprise’s second-in-command and the show’s ‘60s-style influence. Tig Notaro (One Mississippi) plays a new character named Jet Reno. During an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Notaro revealed she’d been enjoying Trek’s signature technobabble.
And while he’s one of the franchise’s most iconic characters, Spock’s appearance this season comes with the least amount of information leading up to the season debut. Played by Ethan Peck, grandson of Gregory Peck, all we know is that the Spock we know might not resemble the same Vulcan we see on Discovery. (Plus, he’s rocking an amazing beard!)
The origin of Pike and Number One is well-known to most Trek fans. Before their first canonical appearance in the first season of the original series, the characters were featured in Roddenberry’s original — and rejected — pilot episode for Star Trek.
“It was turned down by NBC on the basis of being too intellectual. Too cerebral,” Roddenberry told ET in 1983. “But they liked it well enough to order a second pilot.” According to Roddenberry, an NBC executive told him it was the first time they had felt like TV had captured the feeling of being in a spaceship. Titled “The Cage,” the pilot chronicled the Enterprise and Captain Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter) encountering a race of beings whose powers of illusion are so strong, they can make people believe they’re seeing anything they want them to.
“When Gene first started Star Trek, he knew the characters that he wanted,” Majel Barrett-Roddenberry told ET in 1986, who portrayed Number One in the first pilot. Barrett and Roddenberry were married soon after the series premiered and remained together until his death in 1991. “He wanted a woman to be second-in-command, because he just figured it was about time to do this.” Ultimately, Spock would replace Barrett’s Number One on the Enterprise bridge in the second pilot. Barrett would go on to appear as Nurse Chapel in the original series and years later as Deanna Troi’s mother on The Next Generation.
So if the original pilot was scrapped, how do we know of Pike and Number One? And why is their story an official part of the Trek canon? In the first season, Roddenberry wrote “The Menagerie,” which integrated footage taken from the original pilot.
“‘Menagerie’ was a two-parter in which I wrote a story around that old pilot, so I could make it a two-hour show and make use of the fact that we had already spent so much money on that hour of film,” said Roddenberry. “And we did it by telling this story that happened a long, long time ago and doing it with flashbacks on a screen.” Using clips from “The Cage,” he forged a new story arc to incorporate Spock’s previous tenure on the Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike and Number One, as well as their encounter with powerful beings on the planet Talos IV. Note: In the Star Trek timeline, the flashback events in “The Menagerie” with Pike and Number One take place a couple years before the events of Discovery’s first season.
Warning: The next paragraph contains spoilers for certain details about Pike’s future that you may or may not want to be aware of going into Discovery season two…
In “The Menagerie,” it’s revealed that Captain Pike will eventually suffer injuries from an accident that leave him mutilated and unable to speak or move (Sean Kenney, not Hunter, played the disfigured Pike). Roddenberry did provide the captain with a “happy” ending that might be emotionally beneficial for viewers to keep in mind as they become more familiar with Pike on Discovery. At the end of “Menagerie,” the Talosians offer to use their powers to allow Pike to live in a mental simulation on their planet in the body he had before his debilitating injuries.
The depiction of this unexamined era on the Star Trek timeline continues to be, well, fascinating. With an array of new stories teased, several pieces of unfinished business from last season, and the chance to learn more about a couple of Federation legends, Discovery’s new season is shaping up to be another memorable chapter in the franchise’s history.
Simon Pegg is opening up about Star Trek Beyond’s lackluster box office performance, and has some specific ideas regarding why the movie failed to connect with audiences as well as its predecessors had.
Speaking with Geek Exchange recently, the actor — who played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the rebooted series and co-wrote the third film — said he felt the film was “poorly marketed,” which resulted in it under-performing financially.
“If you look at a film like Suicide Squad, that was around for such a long time before it finally came out and people were so aware of it. Whereas with Star Trek Beyond, it was left too late before they started their marketing push,” Pegg shared. “It still did great business, but it was disappointing compared to [Star Trek Into Darkness].”
Beyond, which hit theaters in July 2016, had a budget of $ 185 million, but only managed to make back $ 158.8 million domestically and $ 343.6 million worldwide.
By comparison, Into Darkness earned a worldwide box office gross of $ 467.3 million off a $ 190 million budget.
Some fans of the franchise have said the film’s first trailer — which was set the Beastie Boy’s “Sabotage” and focused primarily on the movie’s action sequences instead of its characters or levity — turned them off to the idea of watching it.
According to Pegg, the trailer actually spoiled the movie’s major climactic scene.
“I was really angry about that,” he said. “[The trailer] used ‘Sabotage,’ which was our surprise moment in the end. It was supposed to be a very fun and heightened twist, and something that was a big surprise and they blew it in the first trailer, which really annoyed me.”
Pegg also lamented the fact that the promos “made the film look like a boneheaded action film.”
While Pegg was disappointed about the film’s advertising campaign, the 48-year-old actor — who is currently appearing in Steven Speilberg’s new sci-fi epic Ready Player One — he appreciated the love the film ended up getting from many fans.
“From a professional standpoint for me, it was such a great experience in the end, because the critical response that we did get was exactly what [co-writer] Doug Jung and I and [director] Justin Lin had hoped for.”
As for the upcoming fourth film in the franchise, Pegg explained that there is “a script that’s been written.” However, things are somewhat up in the air amid the news that Quentin Tarantino could be involved with the creation of the next installment in the franchise.
“There’s also the story of Quentin Tarantino coming and chatting with J.J. [Abrams] about an idea that he’s had for a long time. That idea is going into the writer’s room to be looked at,” Pegg said. “I think it might take something like him to restart it.”
The actor admitted that Tarantino penning a Star Trek script could actually be “an interesting proposition.”
“I don’t know if that means everybody will be blowing each other’s heads off with phasers and calling Klingons mother f*****s, but, who knows?” Pegg said. “That could be fun.”
ET’s Cameron Mathison caught up with Pegg at the Hollywood premiere of Ready Player One on Monday, and he opened up about working alongside Cruise for the third time in the series, and the wild stunts the movie promises — including one that led to Cruise getting seriously hurt.
“It was almost a year [of shooting]. We took some time out [of production] because Tom broke his foot, but he recovered in a bizarrely quick way as only he probably would,” Pegg joked. “[But] it’s crazy what we do in this one. I mean, it’s falling off things again, but higher and more dangerous.”
“I’m grateful. I’m humbled, a little overwhelmed, excited… all those things. Blessed,” the 32-year-old actress revealed on Wednesday. “We’re doing our best to uphold the legacy that is Stark Trek.”
“It means everything [to be bringing diversity to TV],” she continued. “It really does, because I think people need to see themselves.”
“I think that vision is the first step to see it, so to show people what they really look like, to be an actual mirror to what our society looks like, is a really big deal,” she continued. “To see everyone coming together, people of different ethnicity and genders and backgrounds and even different species on our show… [it’s] not something that needs to be discussed. [It’s] something that’s organic, it’s just the way it is… to know that we have achieved that, and the future, just to see an example of that achievement, I don’t think it can be measured.”
Martin-Green isn’t taking her role lightly, and hopes that her character helps women “see their potential.”
Playing EXCLUSIVE: Sonequa Martin-Green Explains How ‘The Walking Dead’ Prepared Her for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’
Sonequa Martin-Green is venturing into a whole new world of pop culture fandom with her starring role in Star Trek: Discovery, and the actress says her time on The Walking Dead taught her everything she needs to know about handling the attention.
“I’ve been calling my time on Walking Dead my sort of post-graduate degree,” Martin-Green told ET’s Cameron Mathison at the CBS TCA party in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “I learned so much about being on a show that has such a massive reach.”
“This has expanded even beyond what I witnessed on that show,” she admitted. “I’ve been trying to put it into words [how dedicated the fans are] and I’ve been kind of sort of getting it a little bit, I’ve been skimming the surface of how deep and profound it is to me, and how grateful and honored I truly am.”
After being a main character on AMC’s acclaimed horror drama for five years, Martin-Green says she’s no stranger to being approached by Walking Dead fans who enjoy her work.
However, reflecting on the strangest fan encounter she’s ever had, the actress admitted that it was probably the time her gynecologist recognized her from the show.
CBS announced on Tuesday during its summer Television Critics Association press tour that the first season of Star Trek: Discovery will be split into two chapters. The first batch of episodes will run from Sept. 24 to Nov. 5, with the second returning in January 2018. The first episode will premiere on CBS and CBS All Access, before all new episodes launch weekly on the streaming service.