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!)
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