In the same summer that we got a new big-budget Star Trek feature film, it strikes me as ironic that the more enjoyable new story featuring Capt. Kirk and his Enterprise shipmates came from the internet. If you've found yourself agreeing with the criticism about Star Trek Into Darkness and its story faults, silly plot logistics and its nearly line-by-line remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, then let me direct your attention to a new Star Trek story that may satisfy your craving for good 23rd century adventure. It's called Star Trek Continues, and you can watch it right on YouTube.
Star Trek Continues is the latest fan-made effort to try and continue on the missions of Kirk, Spock, Bones and the rest of the Enterprise crew in the timeframe of the original TV series. There's been other fanshows, most notably James Cawley's Star Trek: Phase II, but after clicking on them and watching their shows for a couple of minutes, I've never been interested enough to stick around all the way to their end. I'm not a true Trekkie, but I do count myself a fan of the show. I grew up watching reruns of Star Trek, and I think that there should be enough room in the universe for slightly more series sci-fi action like Trek and the more fantasy-centric adventure found in Star Wars.
The problem that fanfilms have is they typically don't have the resources or experience to pull it off. They can start out shaky like Cawley's Phase II did, and then get better with each new episode, but they don't seem to pull off the feeling that the first episode of Star Trek Continues did for me: feeling like a true continuation of the original Star Trek series.
Continues is the lovechild of Vic Mignogna, who wears the multiple hats of director/producer/co-editor/co-composer and actor. Mignogna plays Kirk, and he plays him exceptionally well. You can't walk a step in Kirk's black boots without feeling the gravity of William Shatner. Mignogna seems to have had a lifetime in mentally preparing how he would play Kirk because his performance gives us the qualities of Shatnerisms that Trek fans loved about the series but also investing his own originality into the performance. After watching the first 5 minutes Mignogna stopped being a guy pretending to be William Shatner as Kirk and became totally believable as Kirk. The quality of the performances of the rest of the cast are also rock solid, even with Mythbusters' Grant Imahara channelling his own inner George Takei as the Enterprise's helmsman, Mr. Sulu. Part of the charm of what these actors are doing is their ability to know where the fine line is between doing an homage to a beloved character like Scotty or Sulu or McCoy, and pulling it back just enough that their own take on the character can bubble through.
Star Trek Continues' first episode is a sequel of sorts to one of the original series' episodes where the Enterprise meets the Greek god Apollo. Reprising his role as Apollo for the new episode "Pilgrim of Eternity" is the actor from that original series' episode, Michael Forest. When I saw Forest turn up, I figured that STC was going for the easy gimmick; bringing back a face from The Original Series just to cash in on fan nolstagia. But "Pilgrim of Eternity" goes for more than just fan appeasement and delivers a 5-act story that feels just like a third season TOS episode. That means some of the story beats are a little wonky, but no more than what you would have found in most TOS episodes. It's also a bottle episode, meaning that by keeping the story self-contained onboard the Enterprise, Mignogna and his team could use the time to build up on character moments (and probably save some money on more expensive location shooting.) And those in those scenes the characters and their dialogue come across exceptionally faithful to the best of TOS.
Another thing that I liked was introducing a new character, a ship's counselor named Dr. Elise McKennah (played by Michele Specht). Having a counselor on Kirk's Enterprise seems a little too close to trying to be The Next Generation, but thankfully McKennah isn't a carbon copy of Picard's Counselor Troi. I'd like to see where Mignogna takes this new crewmember, as well as his future plans of adding a Chief of Security for Kirk's Enterprise.
What Star Trek Continues is able to do in its first episode is majorly impressive. Reproducing the same bridge and rooms of the original Enterprise can be done when you throw enough talented people at the carpentry and set dec, but pulling off a complete 43-minute episode that feels like it could have run on NBC back in 1968 is nothing short of incredible. I get that loving Star Trek intensely is important to working on any Star Trek fanfilm, but with Star Trek Continues the bar has been raised very high for all other followers.
I really enjoyed the first episode of Star Trek Continues and I want to see more. Hopefully Mignogna and his team will be able to give us more of the same high quality Trek, and to show that the spirit of the original series lives on.
Watch the first episode of Star Trek Continues below. Go visit the Star Trek Continues website to learn more about the series.