The process of making it a possibility is so demanding, we may never get a full, official HD release of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But while we wait for documentary What We Left Behind to piece together clips of its own, one fan is turning to the power of machine learning to try and make the seemingly impossible possible.
Also known by the handle CaptRobau, Stefan Rumen is actually currently in the spotlight for another bit of A.I.-enhanced HD remastering, the Final Fantasy VII Remako Mod, which uses neural networking in AI Gigapixel to clean up and enlarge the pre-rendered backgrounds of the beloved PlayStation JRPG in a way that enhances the classic game without actually fundamentally changing its art and design. While you wait for Square-Enix to spend the next decade or more comprehensively overhauling Final Fantasy VII itself, it’s a pretty neat trick.
In their spare time around making the mod, however, Rumen decided to try and use neural networking to add a spit-shine to another beloved ‘90s passion: Deep Space Nine. Enhancing a prerendered background still in Final Fantasy VII is very different from enhancing live action TV once you get beyond individual frames—so while using a similar technique yielded some results, this isn’t exactly the super-crisp, super-clean HD version of Deep Space Nine you might have been dreaming about ever since those TNG blu-rays came out.
But it’s still great! It’s a little hard to tell in spots, especially in darker-lit scenes, but overall it’s a respectable cleanup, if not a truly magical overhaul like the direct-from-the-source HD-ification fans will see in Ira Steven Behr’s 25th anniversary documentary, which uses the original film to upgrade the clips it’s selected to include in a wide-screen format for the first time.
And that’s kind of the point of what Rumen is doing in comparison to What We Left Behind anyway—an incremental cleanup rather than anything being done with the aid of the original source materials or the crew behind the show. Even then, it’s Deep Space Nine as you knew it, just cleaner with a little bit less of that ‘90s haze. Plus, Rumen is only one person (with an AI helping, of course), and only working on it in bits as they focus on Final Fantasy VII. Even this great improvement on the source is going to take a long time to get through a full episode, let alone entire seasons of TV.
If you want to read more about the process Rumen went through on creating their own DS9 HD collection—including an attempt to render the show’s opening titles in 4K—you can check out their website here.