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!
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