Sunday, 6 July 2014

These Are The Voyages...

When I was a kid, there was this secondhand bookstore near where I lived, where I used to find the most amazing things. More than books, the place sold American comicbooks, which were hard to get here in those days, but also science fiction novels, and especially Star Trek. I got most of the James Blish adaptations of TOS stories, as well as Alan Dean Foster's adaptations of the animated series episodes.

I also picked up a copy of the Starfleet Technical Manual and, unbelievably, a set of the Franz Joseph-designed plans of the Enterprise.

I used to wonder what it would take to build my own Bridge, a full, 360-degree set with stations and viewscreen; I had little concept of money in those days, but knew it wouldn't be cheap. And my imagination often outstripped my abilities when it came to building things, so I knew it was going to be little more than a pipedream.

But what if...?

And that's what it seems many other fans of Star Trek asked themselves, and then had a go at it, with varying results. From handheld video shot in someone's back yard, to more ambitious efforts using sets and props, culminating in professionally-produced episodes with full cast, sets and special effects in broadcast quality.

Initially, fans produced shows based on their own characters and ships, notably Starship Exeter and Starship Farragut, both sister ships of the TOS-era U.S.S. Enterprise, but focusing on their own crews rather than attempting to continue Kirk's adventures.

Sadly, Exeter only managed two complete episodes, the second of which ('The Tressaurian Intersection') languished in post-production limbo for several years awaiting completion, perhaps reflecting the inherent difficulties in raising capital to build sets, props, make costumes, rent facilities and equipment, etc.

Farragut's voyage was equally as ambitious, if more successful, with (to date) three episodes released and another due this summer. In addition, they've produced two animated episodes in the style of the 1973 Filmation series.

Numerous other projects exist, noble efforts all, but thus far, the two that stand out are James Cawley's Star Trek: Phase Two , with nine episodes completed, one on the way and another in production; and Vic Mignogna's Star Trek Continues, with three episodes available to view.

As with Exeter and Farragut, both shows are set in the Original Series era, working along the lines of "What if Season 4 had happened?" and every effort has been made to duplicate the 'feel' of the original, down to the smallest detail. Kickstarter has been a major factor in funding these projects, since they're not otherwise professionally financed, and the productions are permitted by the copyright owners on a not-for-profit basis. That probably means nobody gets paid (much)...

The results, however, speak volumes for their respective creators' love of the source work. Both Cawley (among other things, a successful Elvis impersonator in his day job) and Mignogna (actor/producer) star as James T. Kirk in their respective versions of the show, and both manage to carry the role without turning into 'Shatner impressionists'. Cawley, who had an uncredited role in JJ Abrams' 'Star Trek', has since handed over the role
of Kirk to Brian Gross, who will take the big chair for Phase II's next episode, "The Holiest Thing". Here's a trailer:

                                           (by startrekphase2DE via Youtube)


Star Trek Continues' latest episode focuses on the events following the conclusion of the TOS episode, "Mirror, Mirror". Entitled "Fairest Of Them All", it shows what happens in the Mirror Universe after Kirk, Scott, McCoy and Uhura manage to get back to their own reality.

This clip is a shot-by-shot comparison of the final scene of "Mirror, Mirror" as recreated by Mignogna and his team:

                                         (by tommiph, via Youtube)

The scene forms the opening for the episode, and so feeds nicely into the proceedings.

And so now we have not one, but two groups dedicated to continuing the 5-year mission. Differences will be evident in the production styles and story types - Phase II has gone for serious drama, with little of the humour that would occasionally be seen in episodes featuring Harry Mudd or Tribbles, while also addressing social issues such as same-sex relationships.  

ST Continues, for its part, started with "Pilgrim Of Eternity", a sequel to "Who Mourns For Adonais?" featuring Michael Forest (reprising his role as Apollo from the original), then followed it with "Lolani", a thinly-disguised commentary on the continued existence of slavery.

I remain impressed by the dedication of the people who create these new adventures; their passion will ensure that the crew of the Enterprise will continue  "...to boldly go where no man has gone before..."

Ahead, Warp Factor Two...