By Gery L. Deer
DEER IN HEADLINES – Special Edition
It’s been almost a half-century since actor William Shatner first took command of the Starship Enterprise on Gene Roddenberry’s “wagon train to the stars,” space opera called, Star Trek. The show set a new standard for science fiction television and became an unparalleled phenomenon; a mirror which reflected the social and political issues of the torrential 1960s disguised as a simple action adventure series.
Today, 6 television series ( TOS, the animated series, TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise) and 12 big-budget feature films later, the human adventure continues on the internet with free, fan-produced episodes mirroring the original program. These low-budget, passion-driven productions vary in quality and professional look, but they are certainly keeping the Star Trek franchise alive and in its original form.
Fan made web series are not uncommon, generally produced with little or no money and volunteer crew. But what makes Star Trek different is the level to which fans and entertainment professionals have come together to recreate the Enterprise and its universe so … respectfully and in remarkable detail.
I just watched the most recent webisode of Star Trek Continues (STC), developed by a joint venture between Farragut Films, Dracogen Strategic Investments and producer Vic Mignogna. Continuing Captain Kirk’s original five-year mission aboard the USS Enterprise – cut short by network cancellation – STC’s production crew has recreated the look and feel of the original series, right down to the last Light-Bright-inspired, gumdrop control button.
There are other fan-based Star Trek reboots out there and I have been a fan of all of them. But, so far, Star Trek Continues has my greatest admiration; not because I dislike the other ones, but because of the overall production quality and desire to please the fans as much as themselves.
Many of these productions seem to pay homage to the original Star Trek, but take their own approach to it. I prefer STC because they’re not trying to ‘improve’ on the original. Technically, they’re using state-of-the-art production quality. But the application of that technology, at least from a layman’s point of view, seems to be tempered with a careful effort to make sure they don’t overshoot the personality of the original.
Additionally, each character is brought alive by the actor in his or her own manner, never trying to “spoof” or “parody” the original 1960s style. That’s a particular challenge for anyone sitting in William Shatner’s old captain’s chair given that his dramatic delivery of broken dialogue has always been fodder for ridicule. Fortunately, the actors taking up the gold, red and blue are doing it their way while fully representing the spirit of the characters.
Taking up the center seat as the unflappable Captain James Tiberius Kirk is actor Vic Mignogna, who, among other titles, is also the project’s executive producer. Todd Haberkorn dons the pointed ears as Mr. Spock and, for the first two voyages, Larry Nemecek joins the trio as curmudgeonly ship’s surgeon, Dr. Leonard McCoy.
As if in some parallel universe story, STC’s “Mr. Scott,” is portrayed by Chris Doohan, son of the late James Doohan (1920-2005), the actor who played the original Enterprise Chief Engineer. Doohan has had a little help with his dad’s accent but fans are grateful he took on the iconic roll his father made so beloved by millions – and the likeness is truly uncanny.
Plus, fans of Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” program will recognize the young man piloting the Starship Enterprise as none other than Grant Imahara, who has taken on the part of Mr. Sulu. Of course, it wouldn’t be Star Trek without a compliment of disposable red shirts. Fear not, Trekkors, STC has more than you can shake a phaser at, including Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Bamber (Lee Adama), who is the first red shirt to take one for the team in their premier episode.
Along with the nostalgic look, fan shows also try hard to meet the intellectual standards of Star Trek’s original run. Gene Rodenberry once said, “There are smart people out there on the other side of the television tube,” and he was right.
But back then, he wanted to deal with difficult topics at a time when television was still portraying Leave It to Beaver as “normal” life in America. Star Trek Continues is keeping to the creator’s original intent. In their second episode, titled, “Lolani,” for example, Kirk and company deal with the issues of slavery, human (or in this case, alien) trafficking and gender equality.
It’s tough to get those types of stories past the network overseers even today. Fortunately, however, a few “enterprising” fans have found a way to once again go boldly where no one has gone before and engage the minds of the viewer without insulting their intelligence.
Like its reconstituted web series counterparts, Star Trek Continues might simply be the dream of a bunch of Trekkie nerds who just want to dress up in pointed ears and sit in the big chair (being one of them, I can empathize). But with thought-provoking, original stories, top of the line acting and professional production, the program is, in my amateur opinion, far better than most of what Hollywood is producing for television today. If you have a chance, I highly recommend it.
Here are some links to Star Trek Continues as well as other Star Trek fan productions.
Star Trek Continues – http://startrekcontinues.com/
Star Trek Phase II (New Voyages) – http://startreknewvoyages.com/
Starship Farragut – http://www.starshipfarragut.com/
Author’s Note: I want to thank Alex P. Michaels, from the Official Star Trek Continues FB page for correcting me on the number of Star Trek TV series there were in all. I originally had 4 listed, yet forgot about DS9 and the animated series; odd since I loved that show as a child and still watch it occasionally on Netflix. Thanks again.