FAN FILM FRIDAY (Now on a Monday): "Pilgrim Of Eternity" by Star Trek Continues

Kevin Long
Kevin Long's picture

I know we've discussed stuff like this before, but I don't know how much of it you remember, or care, so I'll recap. Forgive me if I'm being condescending, it's not my intent. I just haven't done one of these in a long time.

Ok, there's these things called "Fanfilms," right? A buncha' geeks get some money together and make little episodes of their favorite SF movies or TV shows or occasionally comics (The problem there is getting amazing looking women to actually talk to you, much less dress up like a superheroine and go out in public like that. Fortunately, thanks to the continuing slutification of our republic, this is less of an issue than it once was).

An inordinate number of these Fan Films are Trek-related, obviously, and the majority of those are set in the era of the original series, since those sets and costumes are relatively easy to make. Most of these are set on OTHER ships during the period Kirk n' the boyz were doing their thing. Quality is about what you'd expect: Junior High Christmas Play-level acting, kickass CGI effects, high on nostalgia value, low on everything else, though a couple are pretty good.

The undisputed king of this is James Cawley, an Elvis Impersonator from upstate New York, who built a full-scale replical of all the sets from Trek as a hobby. Some years later, someone said, Dammit, Jim, it's a sin not to film something in these! So, with Cawley playing Kirk, they started filming "Star Trek: The New Voyages." Their goal was to make "The Fourth Season" of the old show. Despite rather spotty acting (Cawley has Kirk's mannerisms down pat, but looks nothing like him), there was a level of OCD in these films that was truely stunning. Shot composition, music, lighting (Up to and including the light shined in kirk's eyes while the rest of his face is shaded in intense scenes), it was pretty cool. They also got people from the original show to reprise their roles, or play different roles on occasion.

The downside of this is that the production quickly became mired down in guest appearances, stuntcasting, and so on. Yes, Barbara Luna was staggeringly beautiful 50 years ago, but casting her as a seductress in 2012 is nothing short of creepy. Also, Cawley integrates more and more movie-era stuff in each episode, so the series is gradualy evolving away from being The Old Show, and becoming more of an Old Show/Motion Picture hybrid. Which looks good on paper, but is just annoying in person.

Then they got a hold of the 13 unfilmed episodes for the abortive "Star Trek: Phase II" series from 1976, and decided to film those. They also changed the name of their series from "New Voyages" to "Phase 2". Ok, fine, but those were written for a show without spock, and with three additional characters: Decker, Illia, and Xon, a spare Vulcan. So they have to introduce these three, but they kept Spock, which brings the cast to 10, plus Peter Kirk is introduced and, gah, everyone's fighting for lines.

They crank out a new episode about every 10 months, and while the production quality is awesome, the writing quality of the last 4 or 5 has really sucked. There are obvious signs that Cawley is aware of this, and is taking pains to correct it.

This brings me to "Star Trek Continues," a rival group based out of San Francisco, who have decided to portray their own rival vision of "The Fourth Season" in competition with Cawley's version.

They came up with probably the cleverest version of introducing their re-cast characters that I've ever seen, and I wish I'd thought it up: Their first scene is the final scene of the final episode of TOS shot-for-shot, line-for-line, but with the new cast. And where the scene ended in TOS, this version, it keeps going for several minutes. It's clever.
http://vimeo.com/46712562
That's Grant Imahara from Mythbusters as Sulu, and Chris Doohan (James' son) playing Scotty. Chris is eerie: He looks, moves, and sounds just like his dad.

I just watched the first full-length episode of "Star Trek Continues."

I liked it enough that I don't want to spoil it by telling you too much, but obviously there are going to be similarities the "New Voyages/Phase II" model. Most obviously, recasting the crew, rebuilding all the TOS sets excepting Engineering and the Shuttle, using someone from the TOS in some capacity in the new show, using music cues taken from the old show soundtrack, generally way-the-hell-all-over-the-place acting quality, a tendency to shoehorn the story into the established continuity, and that kind of stuff.

That said, I really enjoyed this one more than the last 4 or 5 "Phase 2" episodes. The writing was genuinely on par with TOS. Use of sound effects was solid. Shot composition was rather pedestrian (TOS always had that gorgeous short/mid/long thing going, which subsequent shows have steadfastly refused to do), and lighting was merely adequate (No moody shadows with lights across Kirk's eyes, etc). The direction, however, is spot-on 1968, as is the more-or-less total absence of a subplot. And it included the obligatory cringingly awful Uhura scene....which they actually transform into something moving. Which the then transform into something imposing, and which would have become frightening had it gone on any longer. It's damn clever. There's an energy to this that P2 has lacked for several years now.

They also go to a part of the ship they never did in the old show, and there's also a VERY clever bit of stuntcasting in a redshirt. It took me a minute to get it, but when I did I busted a gut.

Kirk looks like Kirk from most angles, but head-on he looks a bit like Kirk Douglas instead. The biggest strike against him is his voice: Shatner, like all good-hearted people, is a baritone. This guy's a tennor. Bones is terrible. Spock is adequate. Sulu is ok (Despite his obvious enthusiasm, Mr. Imahara isn't an actor), Scotty is great, Checkov is good. Uhura is...about on the same level as the Uhura from the show, really, which is to say there's an "Uhura" on this show who kind of makes you cringe whenever she does anything apart from her normal job. Like, say, busting into song in the rec room. Oy.

Much like "Phase 2," they start off with a sequel to an old show episode, but the writing is quite good, there's a couple great lines (Including the best one in the whole thing from Kirk). Unlike "Phase 2," however, which has become entirely dependent upon leftovers from The Old Show, I get the strong feeling from this group that this is the only sequel they're gonna' do. "Ok, we have to do one of these, so let's get it out of the way, and then do our own thing."

Strongly reccomended. It's 51 minutes out of your life. How can you lose?

http://vimeo.com/66784863

Where I've long since lost interest in the "Phase 2" project, this one really grabbed me.

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Kevin Long - formerly known as "Republibot 3.0" - was the head writer of the Republibot website for 5 years, before leaving the band and going solo. You should visit his new site at http://www.kevin-long.com

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