This has been my all time favorite episode for as long as I can remember and I was anxiously awaiting the day it aired.
The sort version of my conclusions: it’s like night and day. An already great episode, which was exciting back then, is even more exciting now.
For those who want more detail, here’s the long version.
While they obviously put a lot of the budget into the episode, the effects work was lacking, either due to “more ambition than money” or just because that was the best they could get done under the time and circumstances. But it’s hard for even the most forgiving Trekkie to just look past the wobbly AMT kit and the total lack of imagination in the new shots of the big Enterprise model. On the other hand, there were a couple of really nice and memorable shots, primarily the view of the Enterprise being slowly drawn into the maw of the machine and the “tween pylon” overhead shots.
99.9% of the episodes don’t need great effects to work. The problem with TDM was that it needed great shots to be more effective. And, for the most part, the new effects are great. Like the changes completely reinvigorated Tomorrow is Yesterday, a good deal of TDM makes sense now. Especially the strafing run of the Enterprise along the top of the planet killer. Amazing! The long pan from the Constellation to the PK is also incredible. A lot of love went into this episode and it is great.
But it’s not perfect. Some decisions were made that seem wrong and against stated dialog in some scenes.
1. The Enterprise towing the Constellation. A no point did Kirk give the order to begin towing the Constellation. The last time we see both ships in the same shot is when McCoy and Decker beam up. Kirk said he “would” take her in tow and that he’ll stay on board “to get her ready.” Yet, by the time McCoy and Decker reach the bridge, they’re already towing it. So when the Enterprise gets hit by the beam, the Constellation goes flying off into another direction… Yet nobody on that ship notices! The engines are down, so they can’t steer or stop.
Now, I can understand why they decided to do this. As originally aired, Spock says they are keeping their distance from the PK. It kind of looks like Spock ran off and left the Constellation to its own devices. But since this was never stated, it’s just as easy to assume that Spock is trying to draw the PK's attention from the Constellation while staying in transporter range. All they had to do was render THAT and it would have been fine.
2. Kirk reacting to the Enterprise attacking the PK. Remember the old version? The viewscreen in Aux control is sputtering on. We see the interference, then Kirk who says “what the devil’s going on?!” Then a shot of the screen – full on. Makes sense, that’s how Kirk saw the events.
Now, however, we get to see Kirk react, say “what the devil’s going on?” and then cut to the screen…which hasn’t tuned in yet. Even when we first see it, the image is JUST coming on. This could have been caught, but wasn’t.
3. “Hard about, gimme some distance!” Granted, this is just a pacing issue, but anyway: the original had a stock shot of the Enterprise dodging to the side right after Decker gives that order. It’s an old shot, but it’s run faster, making it urgent. It was fine.
The new show has the Enterprise sloooowly turning to get away. I don’t mind the new camera angle or anything, I just think the energy of the escape is sucked out into space. It just lies there.
4. I also agree about the phasers. They look much more convincing than the orange cartoons of the 67 version, but the impact looks like a flashlight running along a paper towel roll. Even Sulu says “they just…bounced off” but that’s not indicated in the visuals. Some energy discharge or ricochet would have really worked here.
These are mostly nitpicky sort of things, but the first two really jump out at me as misjudgments. I still love the redone version and it does a tremendous job in making an already exciting episode that much more so.
It's great to have the choice of versions to watch.