Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Voyage Continues - Star Trek Fan Series PT.2

Welcome back folks! Entering into the next era of Star Trek fan films it is easy to notice the influence of the modern Treks taking hold.

The fan film USS Angeles - The Price Of Duty, presented here in its re-mastered format, was created by the crew of the USS Angeles, aka The Los Angeles Star Trek Club in 1999. I have never seen the original production and I likely will not as I've read that the original release is closely guarded by its director, Rob Caves. However, the remastered edition is already a valiant effort, with a decent story spinning off of the Dominion era. The acting is consistent, that is to say bad, but bad in the way enthusiastic local theater is bad, you're watching for them, not their talents. This project is important because it led directly to The Voyages of the USS Angeles which spawned one finished and one unfinished episode, but which itself led to the most prolific Star Trek fan series and one of the most influential fan series ever, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier. Rob Caves returns from the Angeles to direct and produce most of the series. This series again takes place following the Dominion War and largely inside of the Briar Patch with a new enemy The Grey rearing their covered heads. It is interesting to note that when viewing the early parts of Hidden Frontier now, there are warning messages from the crew to watch one of the more recent episodes first, to see where they ended up, obviously showing that they realize the low quality of their early episodes. However after sampling the first few episodes I think that the beginning is a good place to start off. The stories are strong (stronger than some Voyager episodes, ZING!) and the virtual sets work much better than they have any right to. The CGI effects though they look like Star Trek: Bridge Commander, (One of my favorite Star Trek games, and which I will go into very much detail in a future post) running on a modern system, are actually very well directed.

Star Trek : Hidden Frontier 1.01 "Enemy Unknown" Part 1 from Hidden Frontier on Vimeo.

This series ran for 50 episodes and included fan favorite characters like Hikaru Sulu, Wesley Crusher, Robin Lefler, Elizabeth Shelby, and Alynna Nechayev. Its also interesting to note that the fan favorite character of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, was played by New Voyages/Phase II Executive Producer and resident Kirk, James Cawley. One notable episode, Two Hours from the shows first season is an interesting mash-up of familiar trek-tropes; the time travel story that leads to an important event in Earths near history. Also of note, I sampled a few episodes from the series lauded, "gay storyline" and was surprised not just by the increase in quality of the acting, but in the writing as well. Its quite well known in the Star Trek community that sexuality was hardly a strongpoint for the writers, let alone gay characters. The 90s was a time of pushing the boundaries of polite society, except if you were gay or transgendered of course. David Gerrold did try to get his Blood and Fire story into TNG, but did not see that produced until New Voyages. So for Hidden Frontier to finally tackle the subject, and not in a token way either, is an important legacy for the show and one that future Star Trek producers should take to heart: this community is aching for representations of gay and transgendered people in a future show. For a fan film, the characters complexities and subtleties were surprising and very much welcomed. Into the fourth season the real weak element is now really the virtual sets! If they could have found a way around this, it could very well had a much broader appeal. Grave Matters, embedded below, featuring the first gay kiss on Star Trek, with a good story involving a Bajoran mass grave found in Cardassian territory is a must watch.

Star Trek: Hidden Frontier 4.04 "Grave Matters" from Hidden Frontier on Vimeo.

Starship Exeter, which aired its first episode in 2002 once again employing a combination of real and virtual sets, but also including location shooting, returns us back to the TOS era with mod inspired uniforms and miniskirts. The retro-chic is in full force and is a nod to the resurgence of TOS that would come in the next few years. The Exeter crew would only complete one episode, with a second, having much better production values, sadly remaining unfinished.

Okay folks so, I know I said that this was originally going to be a three part series, but the more I dive into all of this the more I realize that doing the various series justice requires me to expand it a bit. So look forward to three more posts covering Starship Farragut, Dark Armada, Intrepid, the Hidden Frontier spin-off Odyssey, the Tim Russ directed Of Gods and Men, New Voyages/Phase II, and in the final installment a look at Renegades, and Star Trek Continues. Thanks for reading and dont forget to subscribe, also as this blog is new, tell me what you think and if you have any suggestions for future content/features. I plan on doing a major feature like this at least once a week and will start rolling out more content in a few weeks time. Till then, peace and long life! (side note, there are typos galore because my computer wont allow me to type apostrophes or quotation marks! BOO!)

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Voyage Continues - Star Trek Fan Series PT.1

One of my first posts was about the fan series Star Trek: Phase II, formerly New Voyages. Since then a few new fan projects have popped up, with similar levels of pedigree. I know there is a bit of weird drama surrounding Star Trek Continues and the Phase II crew, and I am intentionally ignoring that, but may comment on the concept of Fan Drama, in the future. For now I want to talk about fan series. In the 1980s Paramount was known to be very protective of the Star Trek brand and took legal action against fan films like Star Trix, and Yorktown: A Time to Heal starring George Takei. These films, crude to todays standards, at the time showed quite a bit of good use of resources and are fairly impressive for the technology available to them. However the Fierce Paramount Empire repeatedly swooped in and brought such oddities to an end, preventing the fan films from being publicly distributed save for the copies of copies sold at Conferences and given directly to friends. This was very much the case for most of the fan community in the late seventies and on through to the 90s. In the 2000s things changed a bit. With the rise of digital recording and the barriers for entry to sophisticated and impressive recording technology falling away, fan films began to resemble the very projects they were aping. In 2003 Sandy Collora, an American Filmmaker based out of Los Angeles, screened a fan film at the San Diego Comic-Con called Batman: Dead End. This fan film was a bolt of energy through the community that got other fans thinking, I CAN DO THAT! Predictably, in 2004 when Sandy tried to screen his next ambitious production, Worlds Finest Warner Bros. sent a cease and desist, and so Worlds Finest again went the route of bootleg VHS tapes in crowded convention halls. The next chapter in this story actually begins with a different franchise. In 2002 the short film Troops won the inaugural Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards Pioneer Award. With Lucasfilm directly supporting the creation of fan films, a major victory was won for the Fan Community. Over the next few years fan films of all sorts started popping up all over the internet. Grayson came in 2004, Star Wars: Revelations in 2005. Redshirt Blues, a Trek parody by David O Rogers, came out in 2001 to mild success, even appearing on a Sci-Fi Channel Trek themed episode of Exposure. 1999. The time was right. Star Trek was at the height of its popularity with Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise all on the air within 3 years of each other, (3 shows in three years! 1999-2001!) the community was engaged and had the tools to make their own projects. Thus was born; Star Trek Encarta. Lets be honest here, Encarta is definitely interesting, but is a curiosity at best. The grainy footage is sickly green, probably because all the footage was shot in front of a green screen, (the same year as The Phantom Menace, green screens did seem like magic filmmaking tools back then didnt they?) and the acting is hardly comparable to Sir Patrick Stewart, but something is happening here. The costumes are fairly accurate, and the use of computer graphics for the space shots is very well done. They were close. They had ideas, and they were attempting something. The internet allowed the dissemination of information with very little blowback from the Suits at Paramount because the internet was still very much the Wild West, even if people were downloading these movies, how would they take them down? Raid 17 year olds for their hard drives? We'll explore the breadth of Star Trek fan series in PT. 2 coming tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Returning from The Undiscovered Country.

Well folks after much deliberation between me and myself, I have decided to relaunch Trek Is Not A Dirty word! I feel like now, with the most recent movie, serious rumors of an impending TV series, and the 60th anniversary in 2016 quickly approaching, now is a great time to reevaluate the franchise, its history, its future and the now: the novels, comics, games, blu-ray releases, fan series, and all the other content and culture that fall between the cracks. I will slowly begin rolling out, with a few posts here and there to start and then more as I start planning out my bigger projects. I will also begin to add general cultural commentary and interesting stuff, trying not to post content that doesn't fit too well, but with an occasional aside. I am excited and empowered, I always felt that a good trek blog was seriously lacking and this is my attempt to address that. Ex Astris Scientia!