Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Retrospective on Star Trek Video Games! Part ONE.

Hello fellow Trekkies! After taking a little break, I'm back in the command chair and ready to move ahead! Starting off the next feature article set, will be Star Trek Video Games! Over the next few weeks I will be revisiting select Star Trek computer and video games, covering as far back as 1971 all the way until today, up to the behemoth, Star Trek Online. This will not be comprehensive. I won't be playing every single game, as many are long out of print, and some of them I don't have the technical know how to be able to emulate. (Though I will try.) But I will try to cover all of the major titles from every era. The story of Star Trek Video Games is almost the story of video games themselves, having had iterations on almost every computer and home console available, and covering almost every single genre (thankfully there was never a Star Trek fighting game, which is more than can be said of Star Wars.)
Star Trek (1971)
The first title, "Star Trek", is from 1971. The series had just started airing in syndication and it was a hit. Picking up new fans left and right, this is really when the era of Star Trek Fandom began, in the 70's. Obviously I was not around to see it, but it was an interesting time in our nation's history: Technology was taking off quickly. Computers, if huge and complex, were finally starting to exist, not just in some Sci-Fi authors thoughts, but on college campuses and in corporations. It was created by Mike Mayfield who has said it was thought up during geeky garage sessions with then-high school friends, and then developed on an SDS Sigma-7 with a friend's computer lab account. The game is text only, as the computer systems it was developed on didn't even have a screen! The game would print out on reams of computer paper! Mayfield than got a chance to port his game to the HP 2000C in exchange for access to the computer. HP then gained access to the game and started distributing it as "STTR1" via the contributed program library. This led to the game being seen by David H. Ahl, who distributed the game in a newsletter that he wrote about DEC BASIC programs, which led to the game being widely distributed through out that community. David later published a book containing many of those programs in 101 Basic Computer Games which saw "Star Trek" widely distributed amongst virtually every major computer platform. Hell, back in the early 90's I found a box with my mom's old Apple II and opened it up. There was a 8 inch floppy that said Star Trek. Being the young inquisitive nerd I was, I set up the computer (thank god I knew how to run DOS games!) loaded up the files, and saw this game, imagine my utter shock when the game was just numbers and letters, I think I got bored and went read comic books... The look of the game is stark, to say the least. With text characters representing a grid, you fly around the galaxy looking to blow up Klingons. There are photon torpedos and phasers. Phasers are weak but plentiful, and torpedos kill with one shot, but are limited. For the time, the complexity is rather impressive, with complex shooting mechanics and different strategies used for play. It almost resembles something like a digital board game, which given the era and the types of games available for reference at the time, seems reasonable. The game was procedurally generated, and had repair stations where you could patch up your wounds. Having different sectors, you would use the warp drive on the Enterprise, represented by -E-, to go to each sector looking for Klingons, +K+, or Starbases <*>, winning when all of the Klingons were defeated. The success of this game led Ahl to create Super Star Trek with Bob Leedom in 1978, at which time he acquired the official rights from Paramount Pictures to use the name and IP of the series, thus making it one of the very first licensed video games.

"Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator" is an arcade cabinet produced by Sega in 1982. From the get go, it is rather impressive. It utilizes digitzed speech and vector graphics, looking and playing sort of like a mashup of Asteroids and Battlezone. The game has a unique 3 panel layout, with the forward viewer providing a first person view on the bottom half,  with the top down sensors display and the supplies readout taking up the top half. The point of the game is to shoot down all of the Klingon K′Tinga class, making a return from Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, and save the Starbases which will in turn provide you with all important shields, after which you will warp to a new sector to protect the next Starbase. Having a fast paced, action approach, the game is rather fun. The fantastic graphics, for the time, make the game really feel like playing a simulation ala The Kobayashi Maru. I actually have played this cabinet before, when I was young lad. Having grown up in the late 80s, Early 90s, there were places like Wunderland that spotted the country that had a paid entry but once you had entered the neon palace, were a mere nickel a piece (some games sat defiantly at 10 cents) and this was a popular addition in the various Wunderland's I attended. Especially as a young Star Trek fan, with a fair amount of Star Trek movies under my belt, (8 years old in 1994, I had seen WoK, SFS, The One With The Whales, UC in the theaters in 91, and Generations, but not Motion Picture or The Shatner Effect.) I was hooked by the look and feel of this retro game that played better than a lot of games from that era (remember graphics and the first person thing were big for an 8 year old.) The digitized voices are really fun, even recreating the accents of the characters.
Captain's Chair Variant of Star Trek: Starship Operations Simulator (1982)

Pictured above is the "Captain's Chair Variant" which had I seen at 8 would have blown my head wide open, it even has the controls in the arm chair (though it seems that would make it more difficult than less.) The gameplay was impressive. The faster Battlezone-esque action had surprising tactical depth, with my personal favorite move being to warp past the enemy and turn around quickly before they set their sights on you. It was hard, but not impossible to save the Starbases to get the shields for the next round. If you are killed once, you are dead, but before you go the shields, photons, and warp will go down, which is actually fairly canonical, if even by accident. All in all it was a pretty fun game, and I remember sinking quite a few nickels into it back in the day. Now I know some people might have played something similar to this game, with less than stellar memories as it was ported to 9 different consoles throughout the 80's with some less than stellar results. Yikes. Along with this and the fantastic Star Wars cabinets of the early 80′s, I have many fond memories of arcades and older arcade cabinets as a young sci-fi nerd. I actually think gameplay wise this was a golden era as newer late 80′s and early 90′s cabinets relied more on cheap gimmicks and beat em ups with better graphics (I′m looking at you Konami and X-Men arcade!) 

Well, thats it for now folks, come on back on Friday for my first post in the Chronological Rewatch Project starting with Enterprise Season 1 Episode 1: Broken Bow, and then next Tuesday for my second entry in the Retrospective on Star Trek Games, covering the famous Simon And Schuster produced text game  "Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy," and then the rest of the best of Star Trek games from the 1980's.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Star Trek Renegades Teaser Trailer Released.

Star Trek Renegades just posted their first teaser trailer, and it's well done! It's a very different cinematic style than most Star Trek, but it's fresh. The Generic TV Direction was getting a bit stale. With some dark action, a glimpse of Tuvok and Chekov, it'll be an interesting corner of the Star Trek Universe. I can't wait to see it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Announcing Two New Feature Article Series

Welcome back folks! My first feature series about Fan Films and series is over and it went very well. I learned a lot about how much work goes into a large project like that and how much time I will need to devote to each post going forward. With that said I think I did a pretty good job for having just rebooted. Moving on.
I know I want to have regular features that bring people back, so they know that I am consistent, and until I have another writer providing an extra voice I'm going to need to be as realistic as possible towards my release schedule, so for the time being I will be sticking two feature articles a week. I'm not entirely sure know but most likely that schedule will be Tuesday, and Friday with some little posts to pepper through the week as well as some activity on the @TrekINADW twitter.
The first project, the smaller month long feature, will be a four part series on Star Trek Video Games through-out time. Now, as I learned with my last feature, this series will not be comprehensive. I will be focusing on major releases and fan favorites, with some examinations of projects that may have been well regarded failures. For this I will be going back to talk about classics of the 1970's but mostly as curiosities. I will devote most of my time playing games that defined the era for games. So for example, 25th Anniversary, Bridge Commander, The Fallen, Star Trek Armada. If the project gets too big I may expand it to a two month long series, but I'll cross that road when I come to it. If any one has so!e suggestions or other ideas feel free to send them my way.
The second, but no less important project is my long running feature set, The Chronological Rewatch and Review. This rewatch method has gained some popularity over the years, though not quite as popular as the Production Order Rewatch which I still respect. I will be watching every episode in chronological order of the in-universe timeline according to this guide: The Star Trek Chronology Project. This method achieves two things for my own purposes: Firstly it allows me to revisit the two series I have spent the least time with first, Enterprise and TOS, in a way that both contextualizes both and informs the other. Second, it allows me to combine this rewatch with the IRL airing of all of Star Trek. The shows in the 90's did not air in a vacuum, and to best recall the true nature of the series, especially the last two seasons of TNG and the first two of DS9, they must be be contextualized with each other. It will also give me a chance to revisit the end of Voyager the same way I did as a teenager, with it as the last bastion of the 24th century. I plan to watch between one and two episodes a week with a corresponding article each week. I will admit there is also a practical element to this: my budget. I want to watch all these shows in the absolute highest quality possible. Currently there are streaming HD seasons of ENT and TOS. With TNG almost done with the blu-ray sets and I hope to god DS9 coming soon with VOY finishing out the run this project will literally give the blurays years to catch up. With 705 different titles not including the animated series, at two titles a week this project won't be done for 7 years... Woah. I know it's quite a bit, and I plan to do quite a bit of research on the tidbits and ideas and between the lines, looking for trivia and other interesting anecdotes to add to the discussion. I'm doing this for my own sanity as I've always wanted to revisit the magic of the 90's when these episodes were waiting constantly. And week by week will give me a nice way to have a regular writing schedule. 
Well, that's it folks, my totally insane and completely nutty plan to start a 7 year project on a whim... Though, if there's one constant in my life, Star Trek is it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Voyage Continues - Part Five of a Five Part Series on Star Trek Fan Films and Series

Sometimes, CBS and Paramount confuse the hell out of me. While doing my research over the last two weeks, and while immersing myself in Star Trek culture for the reboot of the blog, I have come to realize that Star Trek fandom is not just alive, it is SURGING. I have been paying attention to the fandom for quite some time, sometimes more actively than other times. I hate to admit I still have never been to an Official Star Trek Convention (That will change sometime next year,) but what I have witnessed in the last two weeks tells me something that should not be very hard to guess: Star Trek is more popular that it ever has been. Okay, Star Trek may not be the massive, absurdly huge monster it was in the 90's, with two shows on the air at the same time and five movies coming out in ten years, but it is popular in a different way; fans are involved! Fans are making video games, Star Trek: Excalibur, Sacrifice of Angels 2, and comics, LarpTrek, the best Star Trek webcomic ever made, and Boldly Gone, a great parody of TOS. What I've found is that the culture of Star Trek is healthier than I have ever seen it, or at least since the dark days of the early Aughts. Fans have the context, they have the desire, they have the tools and they have the audience. Star Trek is finally bigger than CBS or Paramount. We can make our own TV series, and they have quality and craftsmanship that rivals some of the best from official sources, and you know what? That's EXCITING! My whole purpose and idea behind this blog, even since its inception was to cover the culture of Star Trek, not just what the suits and the powers that be (which are arbitrary, and rotating!) at CBS and Paramount want from us, but what we want from ourselves and from each other. It also speaks to why I want to write this blog, now. I feel like Star Trek culture is so varied and pervasive, it deserves to be documented. The community is so intelligent, with ebbs and flows, and the people who make these things possible, from the actors, writers, and filmmakers that love and continue to work on fan projects, to the mod community that set out to make a retail worthy game from scratch just so they can unite the fan community around an engine designed to be modded, unlike the creaky Bridge Commander engine kept back the possibilities of brilliant mods like Kobayashi Maru, deserve recognition. I want to do that. I may start out a bit shallow, as I try to wrangle my ideas and desires with my time and monetary investment, but I will try my best to deliver interesting, substantive content on a regular basis, without missing too many deadlines. I am also not against having other voices join mine. I want to talk about Star Trek, because Trek is Not a Dirty Word.

Star Trek Renegades and Star Trek Continues exemplify everything about the fan community that I find so intriguing. Two fan productions filled with all sorts of Star Trek alums and professionals, trying to make the finest Star Trek Production they can. Star Trek Renegades first popped up on the radar last year, with a Kickstarter Video.

In the Kickstarter Admiral Pavel Chekov and Captain Tuvok, told the viewer that something was not right in Starfleet. In the description we were told this was to be a darker, more complex, post-ds9 Star Trek. As a fan of DS9, and of Tuvok, I was interested if a bit confused. In the promotional materials there was talk of a pilot for a Star Trek series. Surely the people involved did not believe that a fan made Pilot would ever lead to a CBS funded series? The Kickstarter was successful, but then Radio Silence... until earlier this year an announcement of pre-production, with now regular updates. The Of Gods and Men team is returning, and it is now a little bit clearer that the show will most likely be a fan-supported non-profit Fan Series, with a five year story arc. It is exciting to have a Star Trek show With a Budget again, if a little disappointing to see the people involved will most likely be let down when CBS laughs in their faces. It has become clear in the last few years, witnessing every major player in the Star Trek Industry as a whole, pitch their Star Trek TV series idea, just to see it dashed against the rocks. It makes one cynical towards the very idea, and come to the conclusion I have regarding all chances for future Star Trek shows: Make it a fan show, or wait until CBS is ready. CBS will not make a show until they have milked every last drop from the existing franchises. Until every Blu-Ray of TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT has sold the last box set. Anyways, Renegades is what I believe is the future of Star Trek, along with Star Trek Continues, fan made projects with high profile actors and guest stars, revisiting the franchise they love while being supported by industry fans that can build the sets, shoot the video, and do the VFX for free, or as close to free as you can get. With an exciting list of alums including Walter Koenig, Tim Russ (also directing, like he did with Of Gods and Men), Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, Garret Wang, J.G. Hertzler (Qapla to his run for City Council!), Gary Graham and Richard Head, amongst others, it really shows how willing people are to be involved in this legendary franchise. There have been a lot of updates to the set, including screenshots of the bridge, (with mandatory fan backlash) and production videos.

Star Trek Continues and Star Trek Renegades also illuminate a very interesting phenomenon, that is not unique to Star Trek; it has happeened with Doctor Who, Star Wars, and other famous franchises, that the fan community is if not divided, interested in different things. On one hand Star Trek Renegades is a descendant of the 24th Century, a Star Trek show influenced more by the Dominion War than the Federation-Klingon War of 2267. On the contrary, Star Trek Continues is very much of the 23rd Century, seemingly more interested in the Tholians, and of Trickster Gods, than of war AT ALL. We see a lot of, (not all) of Star Trek fandom ending up somewhere near these lines; the retro-chic of TOS has come back very strongly, espcially with JJTRek, but with younger fans growing up, (like myself) loving the 80s drenched PC-drama and Utopian/Dsytopian dichotomy of the Next Gen Era. It really is interesting seeing the Star Trek Fandom come in waves. The O.G. fans like Bjo Trimble, giving way to the James Cawley's, and Vic Mignogna's of the world.

Star Trek Continues V01 "Turnabout Intruder" Vignette from Star Trek Continues on Vimeo.

Star Trek Continues is working in conjunction with Farragut Films, the Starship Farragut production crew, to do their own completion of the original Starship Enterprise's Five Year Mission. Right out of the gate, Star Trek continues is impressive, currently with three vignettes and one episode out, including an epilogue to the last episode of TOS "The Turnabout Intruder" they have shockingly high production values. The look and feel is the closest to TOS I have ever seen. The acting as well, is fantastic, with Vic Mignogna doing a spot on Shatner, but doesnt feel tied down by it. Interesting casting also led to Grant Imahara as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, which, some what do to my absolute love of MythBusters, I think is awessome. Also of note is Chris Doohan, son of James Doohan as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott and Larry Nemecek, famed Star Trek archivist as Dr. Leonard McCoy. One of the most impressive elements also comes from the participation of Doug Drexler. Doug Drexler has contributed his version of the CGI U.S.S. Enterlrprise, and this alone gives the show an epic, professional feel. Doug, for anyone not in the know, is a HUGE proponent of Star Trek, one of the very many fan/professionals that have kept the franchise alive. His DrexFiles blog was invaluable source of BOTS information. Sadly, that blog has discontinued, but I will be hopping up and down the moment it returns.

Fan Drama aside, I am very excited to see what else the Star Trek Continues team does, as well as what Star Trek: Renegades eventually morphs into. There has been a lot of pessimism in the community recently, some saying that Star Trek, once again, is dead, and what I have to say to those people is, LOOK AROUND! I've never seen so much Star Trek around me! Memes, comics, books, fan series left and right, (with so many I couldn't even cover all of them in this blog!)

So this brings to an end my first extended feature article. It is the first of many epic, substantive looks at Star Trek culture. I will be announcing my next projects in a few days, so stay tuned. I think it's a great time for Star Trek, and I have a very good feeling good times are ahead for this franchise. Things are cooking. The suits see it too. I can't wait for what this blog and Star Trek has in store for me over the next few years. Ex Atris Scientia!

Rom, The Fool, The Hero, The Grand Nagus.

Over at Wired, they're celebrating Max Grodenchik's 61st birthday with a tribute to the best character in Star Trek history, ROM! I've always loved the snaggle toothed little git. I remember my true love for him began after watching the now legendary episode of Deep Space 9, "Bar Association," from the 4th season. In this episode Rom, fed up with his brother Quark's continuing methods of dehumanizing the Quark's bar staff finally puts his foot down and does the unspeakable, (at least on Ferenginar) starts a Union! A great little ethical take about the rights of the worker , Rom ends up becoming the almost- tragic folk hero he always seemed, and paved the way for his character to make remarkable growth throughout the show. The episode does end subverting the idea of the union, but not before winning a major deal for Rom, Leeta, the Dabo Girls and the rest of the Quark's staff. The episode also has great little moments with Word, O'Brien, and the always welcome guest appearance by Jeffrey Combs as The Ferengi Commerce Authority Injector Brunt.
[Bar Association @cbs.com]

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Star Trek Online Mac Client Beta Now LIVE! With Minimum System Requirements.

Star Trek Online's Mac Client Beta is now live. The game launched in 2009, and went free to play in 2011. Both the free to play launch and this are good for the overall health of the game. Already one of the better free to play models in the industry, the Mac Client will bring a significant injection of new players, one of the tests of health for MMORPGs. All of the story content and user generated "Foundry" missions are playable for free.

And the Minimum System Requirements from the official site:
Mac Minimum System Requirements: •Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7.5 or later •CPU: Intel Dual Core Xeon 3.0 GHz / Intel Core i Series 2.4 GHz •RAM: 4GB+ •Hard Disk: 10GB Free Disk Space •Graphic Display: Intel HD3000 / Nvidia 9600M / AMD HD2600 with 256MB+ VRAM •Network: Internet Broadband Connection Required
You can download the client here. Have fun!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Voyage Continues - Star Trek Fan Series Part 4.

In 2005 Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled. A very divisive show, it took a while for it to find its footing, much like TNG, DS9, and VOY before it, but by that time the world was growing weary of the same production elements reformulated. There are many different arguments about what went wrong where, but despite improving quality, the show was hemorrhaging viewers, and was eventually put to rest. Many felt the last episode “These Are The Voyages“ was ill-advised and showed all the things the show had done wrong, while at the same time hinted at the storylines that fans had wanted all along. It was a dark period for Star Trek. For the first time in 18 years there was not a live action Star Trek show on television. People started to wonder, “Is this the end of Star Trek?“ Obviously in retrospect, it was not, and I really don't think there ever will be an end to Star Trek, but there was now nothing but the books and comics to keep us going. However, Trekkies had been through this before. Star Trek: The Animated Series was cancelled in 1974. In that time there were rumors of another Star Trek show, Phase II, for years! Star Treks popularity had grown via reruns. Star Trek Conventions were getting bigger and bigger every year. It was 5 long years before Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979. In that time books, comics, and fan fiction took center stage and developed the stories that fans were rabid for. It seems, history repeats itself.

James Cawley had been collecting props and costumes from TOS since the early 90s. His collection led him to William Ware Theiss the Costume Designer for the original Star Trek. Through this relationship Cawley found in his possession blueprints for the Starship Enterprise sets. Using Cawleys own money, and working with Jack Marshalls “Cow Creek Films“ production company, they built down to the foot recreations of the sets in Port Henry, New York. In 2003 work on a Pilot episode, “Come What May“ began and Star Trek: New Voyages was born. The idea was to pick up where TOS and TAS had left off in 1974 and create a 4th season of episodes done in the same style, mimicking everything from the intro, costumes, jewelry, hairstyles, sound effects, stories and color palette with new, modern VFX to add a little bit of flair, but not to stray too far from the original look. “Come What May“ was released in 2004 and sent a shockwave through the fan film community. Here was, to date, the most impressive Star Trek fan film the community had ever seen. Everything worked. The recasting of the TOS crew was mostly spot on, with a few weak points but ultimately, playful and fun performances. The sets were amazing, the music well done. The look of the actual film and some of the lighting was off, but improved with every subsequent episode. Cawley played Kirk, with a flair and swagger that both refrenced William Shatner and let Cawley improvise. Jeff Quinn played Spock with a cold detachment and a more alien, quizzical approach reminiscent of my other favorite Vulcan, Tuvok. John Kelley completed the trio as Leonard McCoy with the grounded, concerned older brother with a furrowed brow, providing a performance that reinterpreted rather than mimicked DeForrest Kelley. As the series progressed the cast and crew would rotate, in fact even Cawley has given up the mantle to the new Kirk, played by Brian Gross, seen here in a vignette released last winter.

I think most impressive is the production talent that Cawley has assembled here. David Gerrold, a writer on TOS, contributed adapted screenplays for his own abandoned TNG story "Blood and Fire", an AIDS allegory featuring the first gay Starfleet crewmen. The original Chekov, Walter Koenig returned to reprise his role in 2006. This opened up other Star Trek alums to contribute; George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, D.C. Fontana, Marc Scott Zicree, Michael Reeves and Denise Crosby, to name a few, have all been involved with many, many more actors and staff returning in some way. They knocked it out of the park and at the same time inspired the next generation of fan films.

2006 was the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek, and there were no official Paramount or Star Trek CBS film or TV releases that year. It was rather depressing as a fan not being able to celebrate the series with any new content. In stepped Tim Russ and James Cawley again. Using the New Voyages/Phase II bridge sets in Port Henry, the creation of a new mini-series was developed with a truly absurd cast of Star Trek Alums; Walter Koenig as Captain Pavel Chekov, Nichelle Nichols as Captain Nyota Uhura, Star Trek Generations Alan Ruck as Captain John Harriman, Garrett Wang as Commander Garan, William Wellman Jr. as Charlie Evans, J. G. Hertzler as Koval, Tim Russ as Tuvok, the list goes on and on. The series was written by DS9 writers Jack Trevino and Ethan H. Calk with certain location scenes being shot at the famous Vasquez Rocks in Los Angeles. The fan service here is unparalleled, except possibly by Deep Space 9s "Trials and Tribblations". Truly a one of kind endeavor, there most likely will never be a project like this again, its as fun as it seems, with great production values to rival those of New Voyages. This same team is now working on a follow up series, Star Trek: Renegades, which Ill go into in my next post.

Starship Farragut is a new ship with a new crew, but with familiar adventures taking place in the 23rd century. A sister ship to the Enterprise, its layout and design is the same, but the crew are different. John Broughton dreamed up Starship Farragut in 2004, delivering to the epic Farpoint Convention in 2006 with a slick presentation and the right level of special effects. Their first episode, “The Captaincy” revolves around the new Captain Jack Carter's first command mission. It is impossible not to compare Farragut to Phase II, especially with the cameo by the New Voyages crew in the episode. They both have incredible workmanship and attention to detail in the sets. Where the Phase II crew are a bit flashier with their recreations of our old heroes, the new crew, Jack Carter, the new, young Captain, is more relatable and grounded then the hard nosed captain of the other ship. The pre-existing relationship between Carter and his SIC, Michael Bednar as Commander Tacket, is comforting and feels like more modern Trek, through the PRISM of 60s American-Exceptionalism. Holly Bednar as Lt. Commander Michelle Smithfield has a presence and attitude towards Command with is sorely lacking in ranking female officers in Star Trek.

It is also absolutely of note that Starship Farragut, who are still releasing episodes that continue to increase with the already high level of quality, have also made two animated episodes in conjuction with NEO f/x, in the style of Star Trek: The Animated Series. The look and feel is spot on! It really is incredible that this amount of work has gone into a project for which there is legally no profit to be made. Also of note, Starship Farragut contains the first appearance of Vic Mignogna as Captain James T. Kirk, who will reprise his role in the upcoming Star Trek Continues, which I will be writing about in my next article, coming either Monday or Tuesday.

Alright folks, despite some missed deadlines due to real life considerations, I am reaching the end of my first set of featured articles for Trek Is Not A Dirty Word. The last in this series will be focusing on Star Trek: Renegades and Star Trek Continues with some look ahead at what we may come to expect in the future from Star Trek Fan Films. Tell me what you think and dont forget to subsscribe! I also have a Twitter account, @TrekINADW so, you know, if you do the whle Twitter thing...

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Voyage Continues - Star Trek Fan Series PT. 3

Welcome back folks! Getting some great responses from people, I'd love to hear some more! Keep it coming! Now, moving on. As we entered the mid 2000's it became very clear that Star Trek fans were very much wanting to and capable of putting together film and video projects to tell their stories. The Hidden Frontier team started off shaky and only got better and better until towards the end of that show's run, they were telling some very interesting stories, while the computer effects and virtual sets continued to improve. As all things however the Hidden Frontier era had to come to a close. Yet, much like DS9 before it, the end of the Hidden Frontier series would begin yet another era for Hidden Frontier Productions formerly Areakt Pictures.

Star Trek Odyssey 1.01 "Iliad" from Hidden Frontier on Vimeo.

On September 22, 2007, "Iliad" the first episode of the new series Star Trek: Odyssey, premiered. Starring the character Lt. Commander Ro Nevin (Brandon Mcconnell debuted in the second episode, "The Wine Dark Sea".) the series begins with an invasion of an Unknown Alien species into the Beta Quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy. It is later revealed that this is an invasion force from the nearby Andromeda Galaxy. It is immediately evident in the full 54 minute episode that things are different, and better. Everything from the previous series is improved; the music is fuller and sets the tone immediately, the costumes on the Romulan and Archein are interesting and well made, if maybe a bit loose, haha. The opening CGI effects are incredible! We are finally entering into an era in which these fan made effects, obviously inspired by late era DS9, Babylon 5, Star Wars and the recent Battlestar Galactica, now are starting to rival the actual effects from Star Trek. In fact, even the virtual sets which I previously had loathed, start to look crisp and well defined, better than some VFX on syndicated shows from the 90's like The Lost World, Mutant X, or even the FOX/Sci-Fi Channel Sliders! One thing that is still noticeable are the halos from the green screen though, WHEN WILL MODERN SCIENCE DEFEAT THESE! The story is also very well written. Scenes no longer feel forced or overwritten, while still delivering the details of the scientific that Trekkies really appreciate. Acting is probably the most notably improved. Starfleet officers feel like officers, and the Romulans feel like Romulans. On some of the more modern fan films, which often try to recast our heroes, it doesn't always work. Odyssey have side stepped these issues, (with some exceptions to be sure.) but for the most part the story moves along with very few distractions. I have not seen more than a handful of episodes from Hidden Frontier, and sampled about 2 hours worth from the whole of Odyssey, but after my research here, I must say, I will be going back to the beginning and watching Hidden Frontier and Odyssey. Of note: There are two spin-offs of Hidden Frontier and Odyssey, The Helena Chronicles, which is a continuation of the HF storyline, and Federation One, a continuation of the Odyssey story, though with a pretty interesting twist: it's about the Federation President, (No, not Nan Bacco.) which in and of itself I think is incredibly interesting. The whole of Hidden Frontier Productions work really is an interesting one. They took basic Star Trek themes, and expanded them to their logical conclusions, took ideas that had been undercooked and underutilized, (Voyager) and made them even more interesting than the actual series it was based on. With a lot of people believing that with Enterprise and Voyager, Star Trek had run out of stories, and relevancy, here come an intrepid group of filmmakers that prove quite the opposite. Now, speaking of Intrepid...

It is sometimes easy to forget that Star Trek is an international phenomenon. The United States is very well represented, with the naval pageantry that so much of the series is rooted in, the ship classifications, the uniform designs, and all of the humans seem to be from North America. However, the stories that were told really did have an impact overseas. Now, it isn't as popular all over the globe as say Star Wars, or even Batman, but the abundance of fans on the internet from Germany, to Scotland, to Japan prove that it was a series that spoke to a larger audience. Star Trek: Intrepid is a Scottish fan production created by Nick Cook in 2007. The first episode "Heavy Lies the Crown" takes place aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid as she is escorting a convoy of Federation Merchant Service ships to a new home on the edge of Federation space. Intrepid is interesting in that is has a considerable part of the cast from human non-Starfleet personnel, a first for a Star Trek show. This also allows the Federation and the Merchant Service to have very different ideological goals, which give little glimpses of Carol Marcus in Wrath of Khan. The newly colonized planet also gives me a few memories of a long lost sci-fi show that aired only one season on NBC in 1994, but I still refer to as one of my favorites: Earth2. Intrepid feels different from all of the other Fan Series I've seen because there are a lot of location and physical sets merged with the virtual sets. It seems information on what works and what doesn't has been passed along through the fan film community, as they seem to be employing very similar uses of the virtual sets. In fact Intrepid and Hidden Frontier start out of the gate as distant friends, as Captain Elizabeth Shelby guest stars in the very beginning of the first episode played by the Hidden Frontier's Risha Denney
This relationship continues as other Hidden Frontier actors and characters guest star through out the series leading to two cross over episodes, the first "One of Our Own", the other "Orphans of War" both vignettes and "Operation Beta Shield" serving as a feature length sequel to Star Trek: Odyssey. Intrepid released their first episode in four years this May, "The Stone Unturned" featuring the now famous Patrick Stewart lookalike, Giles Gaston as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. (Famous for his "other" portrayal of Jean-Luc Picard.) The effects, acting, music, costumes all very much improved. It seems a new era in Star Trek Fan Films is coming around. Join me on Wednesday when I will be trasitioning to the more modern Star Trek Fan Films starting with Dark Armada, Starship Farragut, Of Gods and Men and then NEW VOYAGES/Phase II. On Friday I will be wrapping it all up with some information on Star Trek: Renegades and Star Trek Continues, along with a quick look back and some speculation on what the future may hold for Star Trek Fan Films and Series as the Voyage Continues!

Update: I added a youtube playlist of all the videos in the series. It is embedded below.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Interesting Changes for Star Trek Online... MAC Version and Michael Dorn to Voice Worf!

There have been exciting announcements for Star Trek Online this week. On Friday the official site announced that veteran Star Trek: The Next Generation actor, Michael Dorn, would be reprising his role as the voice of Worf for the game. To go with that they have an interesting Dev Blog examining some of the details about recreating his character for the game. As you can see there are a few screenshots of Worf in different outfits and time periods. The game is set in 2409 so most of the game interaction will most likely be with his elder self, but the screenshots hint that maybe some holodeck or time travel might let us see other versions of the character.

Along with that a single Perfect World Forum post entitled  #1 STO Official Beta Mac Version! Coming 11/12/13! Letting everyone know that an OFFICIAL Mac Client Beta is launching the same day as the new Season 8 content including the Worf storyline and the new Voth Story Content. There have been multiple unofficial mac clients and workarounds for STO since 2010, with varying amounts of success and playability, but often required a much faster system to run than comparable Windows PCs. I have not been an active player in a while but Ive been excited for the Voth content, now the Worf Storyline, and Ill be able to rope in my girlfriend to play with me now that there is a Mac client, not to mention the new platform will increase the player base a significant amount. Qapla'!

Also an update on Part 3 of The Voyage Continues - Star Trek Fan Films and Series: Im currently doing research for the next article, it should go up on Monday around 6PM PST... THANKS FOR READING!