Star Trek: Deep Space 9 is my favorite Star Trek show. When Paramount announced that it would extensively remaster both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was excited. When both of those remastering efforts turned out to be good, I was ecstatic. And then, Paramount declared that poor sales of TNG meant future remastering was off the table for later series.
But what Paramount won’t provide might be achievable through other means. If you haven’t ever looked at the versions of DS9 available for streaming online, it’s not very good. It looks dull, muted, and there’s a tremendous amount of noise in the material. This is supposedly the result of being ported from DVD, when the DVDs themselves weren’t exactly pristine stock. DS9 is ugly enough that it isn’t much fun to watch. And one fan is investigating whether that can be improved via the use of AI.
One of the reasons why DS9 never got remastered is because its CGI effects were all done for video, at low resolution, after the 35mm film transfer. All of the visual effects of the show would have to be redone as a result. Paramount undertook this herculean process for Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it didn’t make back anything like what it spent on the project. DS9 and Voyager represent an even heavier lift. The boxed sets didn’t sell as well as Paramount had hoped they would, and as a result, conversions of shows like DS9 and Voyager are a dead-letter wish.
But the advent of AI and better upsampling technologies could change this. CaptRobau, who recently made headlines for the work he’s doing on a remaster of the classic Final Fantasy VII, has been hard at work on Deep Space 9. You can see some still shot examples in the slideshow below. You’ll need to click on each slide to see the blown-up full-sized image with the proper level of detail; each slide opens in a new window. All images and video in this article are drawn from CaptRobau’s work. His website is here.
Note: You will need to click each image to compare them effectively; the cropping eliminates most of the difference.
A video comparison of the uplift, side-by-side, is available here:
If you go in looking for a day-and-night comparison, you may be disappointed. This is an individual effort and an early one at that. But in terms of improvements, they’re already visible. Text is clearer. There’s less artifacting visible on-screen. Lines are sharper. It may not match the visuals we’d get from a genuine 1080p or 4K upgrade, but given that Paramount isn’t interested in creating them, hopefully, they’ll at least allow efforts like this to continue. Here’s what the introductory movie looks like, rendered in 4K:
Deep Space Nine is a great show. It remains the only Star Trek TV show to date to grapple with the realities of war and combat in a way that challenged Roddenberry’s orthodoxy. It’d be nice to explain it to newcomers in a way that doesn’t require them to watch it on a 24-inch TV to enjoy the experience.
Update 2:11pm: The original version of this story misstated the reason why DS9 is so difficult to remaster for improved special effects and visuals. This has been corrected.
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