DeFlip Side #139: Star Trek Continues

DS139.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

Back in 2007, I had this to say when reviewing the Internet fan series Star Trek Phase II, which continues the five-year mission of the Original Series:

“And so Star Trek boldly goes yet again, this time into cyberspace, bringing its inherent transformative powers into another new frontier. There’s no telling how it may redefine the web, as it has every other medium. But one thing is sure: it will go forward secure in the hands of its devoted fans.”

Since then, JJ Abrams has stolen some of that transformative thunder with his rebooted Trekverse. But if his blundering foray Into Darkness proves anything, it’s that Trek needs its old school fans more than ever.

And luckily those fans are more active than ever. There are so many Star Trek fan productions these days that it’s getting hard to keep track.

But a new one called Star Trek Continues has warped to the head of the pack.

Space. The Final Frontier...

Space. The Final Frontier…

That’s Vic Mignogna, a voice actor well known in anime circles, who stars as Kirk in Star Trek Continues. Mignogna cut his fan production teeth on Star Trek Phase II, directing and acting in many of those episodes before striking out on his own. I’m happy he did, because Star Trek Continues is easily the best fan production yet.

Like Phase II, Star Trek Continues continues the five-year mission of the Original Series, with new actors reprising the roles of the iconic Enterprise crew. But Star Trek Continues more successfully captures the essence of the Original Series.

Let me explain what I mean by that. I really enjoy Phase II, and have nothing but respect and admiration for all of the groundbreaking work that series has done and continues to do. I look forward to every new episode. But for all that, watching Phase II still often feels like watching a bunch of people who’ve decided to dress up and play Star Trek. I find myself caught up in the recreated sets and technical aspects more than the stories and characters.

But Star Trek Continues actually feels like an old episode of Star Trek. The actors have captured the essence of the characters so thoroughly that I’m not distracted by strange faces and new sets. Watching Mignogna is like watching Kirk—not someone aping Shatner. Actor Todd Haberkorn nails Spock in a way that Zachery Quinto only wishes he could. And Kim Stinger—another Phase II alum—shines as Uhura.

But the real standouts are Larry Nemecek as McCoy and Chris Doohan as Scotty. Nemecek looks nothing like DeForest Kelley, but his performance is sincere and natural. And Doohan practically channels his late father while simultaneously making the role his own.

Pilgrim of Eternity ST Continues

Star Trek Continues is also helped by a strong debut episode, Pilgrim of Eternity, a sequel to the Original Series episode Who Mourns for Adonais, with special guest star Michael Forest reprising his role as Greek god Apollo.

I had some trepidation when I first heard that, because Who Mourns is one of the sillier Original Series episodes, complete with a giant space hand that grabs the Enterprise and a god-like alien who is implausibly tied to Earth history. But watching it again gave me a better appreciation, because it’s also a rare ensemble episode, with all of the central characters playing important roles. In many ways it represents Star Trek’s best potential, a template for the elements that would make later series in the franchise so successful.

And Pilgrim of Eternity builds on those strengths. Forest does a fantastic job as Apollo, who is once again among Kirk and crew after being rescued from his malfunctioning spaceship, which has drained him of life-force and aged him. The last of his kind, Apollo claims that he only wants to live peacefully among humanity. Kirk is naturally wary of the being who once tried to enslave him, and Scotty is especially dubious. Complications necessarily ensue.

But the story is also replete with nice character moments, especially the unexpected bond Uhura forges with the Greek god of music after he hears her singing in the rec area. Apollo even gets to sing his own melancholy tune.

Little touches like this are what make Pilgrim of Eternity so wonderful, arising organically from character and story to give us the true feel of the Original Series.

And Star Trek Continues also expands the universe with a new character—a ship’s counselor played by Michele Specht—as well as introducing a rudimentary new holodeck. And there are plenty of fun fan moments to watch for, including a familiar new computer voice and a cameo by another famous Science Fictional Apollo.

That’s not to say that Star Trek Continues doesn’t have problems. Ironically, the worst performance comes from the most recognizable cast member, Grant Imahara of MythBusters fame. His Sulu is a mostly cringe-worthy parody of George Takei. And there’s another actor playing McCoy in a few vignettes featured on the Star Trek Continues website who’s completely wrong for the role. I hope Nemecek was his replacement and not the other way around.

You can see these shorts and the full premiere episode at the Star Trek Continues website. You can also watch Pilgrim of Eternity embedded below. Put it on your short list.

Star Trek Continues sets a new standard for Star Trek fan productions. If it manages to live up to its freshman effort, the series should live long and prosper indeed.

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Watch Star Trek Continues: Pilgrim of Eternity