Deep Space Nine struggled when it first aired back in 1993. The show followed the incredibly popular Star Trek: The Next Generation and was not liked at first by many. Since this all happened before the advent of social media, fans shared their dislike of DS9 by writing letters to Paramount. Check out the What We Left Behind documentary to hear the DS9 actors read the hate mail they received.
The cast and crew knew they were doing something unique and different. Armin Shimmerman, who portrayed the Ferengi barman, Quark, through the seven-year run of DS9, said as much during an interview with Trek Report.
“I remember telling Nana [Visitor] about five weeks into our run of Deep Space Nine… wait 20 years, and they’ll discover us,” Shimerman told Trek Report. “It is a great tribute to the writers, to the actors, the designers, the executive producers. We kept up the good work, and we knew one day we’d be discovered, and we are grateful for that.”
Shimerman is right. Now, DS9 is mentioned as a show worthy of watching. Sites like Engadget list DS9 as a “binge-ready” series. TrekNews.net reported the uptick in popularity and said that this was the likely result of the What We Left Behind documentary and the series’ availability on streaming platforms.
Some, including “Medium” writer Alexander Chavers, consider DS9 the best Trek series of them all. Why is this series, which introduced episodic storytelling and the first African-American lead into Star Trek, not available in High Definition (HD)?
Heavy reported on this recently, and it turns out that the reasons are simply dollars and cents. Essentially, the amount spent on upgrading TNG to HD was not recouped in Blu-ray sales.
“It takes way too much time and money to remaster DS9 and Voyager into HD,” Robert Meyer Burnett told TrekNews.net in an interview on the subject in 2017. As he helped create extra content for both the TNG and Star Trek: Enterprise Blu-ray releases, Burnett would know best. He’s also known by Trek fans for his comedy film Free Enterprise, which starred William Shatner.
In the interview, Burnett said that it would likely cost CBS $40 million and eight years of work to upgrade DS9 and Voyager into HD. Burnett noted that unless CBS All Access (now Paramount+) has “Netflix money to burn, there’s not going to be a DS9 or Voyager restoration anytime soon.”
Burnett said all of this in 2017, and so far, has been proved to be right. There has been no announcement from Paramount+ for an HD upgrade for DS9 or Voyager.
A New Conversation
In a recent episode of the Inglorious Treksperts podcast, Burnett appeared with show hosts, prolific Trek writer, and television producer Mark A. Altman, and Daren Dochterman, the visual effects supervisor for Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition. The trio were gathered to chat with film and TV writer Ashley E. Miller and Adam “Mojo” Lebowitz to compare Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5.
While they spoke, the conversation shifted from the comparison between the two sci-fi shows into how and why Paramount+ could (and should) create HD versions of DS9 and Voyager.
Lebowitz worked for the special effects company Foundation Imaging, which did CGI effects for Babylon 5, and DS9, and Voyager. His insight and comments sparked an interesting sidetrack for the show.
“Rob [Burnett] knows a lot about the process [of how to upgrade the shows], but it all just comes down to money and desire,” said Lebowitz. “One of the issues that we knew was that Next Generation’s remaster was kind of on the cusp of the end of physical media.”
“People had already bought [TNG], so we’d already heard the story that [Paramount] didn’t make a lot of money back on the Next Gen remaster,” said Lebowitz. “So now, the economic model is streaming and how many subscribers you get.”
6 Discovery Episodes = 14 HD Seasons of DS9 and Voyager
“So the idea that they won’t remaster Voyager and DS9 because the Blu-rays didn’t sell well — that’s no longer really in the equation,” said Lebowitz.
“The rough calculations that I did said that for the cost of maybe 5 or 6 episodes — episodes — of Discovery or Picard, you could remaster all 14 seasons of DS9 and Voyager,” said Lebowitz.
The cost of each episode of Discovery, as reported by Variety, is between $8 and $8.5 million. Burnett said that it would cost $40 million to remaster DS9 and Voyager. So, according to Lebowitz’s math, if Paramount+ did spend the sum of 6 episodes of Discovery ($42 million), they would be able to upgrade both series and have $2 million to spare.
Lebowitz went on to say that CBS/Paramount has said for years that Star Trek was their “crown jewel” — the New York Times reported this back in 1986 — then the studio should spend the money to upgrade DS9 and Voyager.
“Will they get more old-school fans to subscribe when they say ‘All 14 seasons are now remastered?’” Lebowitz asked. “I think so!”
Altman agreed, saying that Paramount+ could make sure that an upgraded DS9 and Voyager would stay exclusive to their platform.
“Then you have it later on for syndication or whatever you want to do,” said Altman. “You then have the new masters, so it’s future-proof.”