Any fan of the original Star Trek TV series should enjoy this impressive follow-up, which continues the Five Year Mission of the USS Enterprise. It picks up after the last episode of the original show “Turnabout Intruder” (The final scene of which is recreated in a short video vignette that precedes the series) and chronicles the 4th year of Captain Kirk and his crew going where no man has gone before.
The creative minds behind Star Trek Continues have been putting out original episodes online since May of 2013. The latest release (debuting today) is “Come Not Between Dragons”. This web series is a respectful, affectionate homage to Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi masterpiece, which ran on network TV from September 1966-June 1969, and spawned several features films as well as numerous spin-offs. Star Trek Continues successfully recreates the look, tone and storytelling style of classic 1960s Star Trek. The fact that it succeeds so well is even more impressive when you consider that the episodes are either self-funded or Kickstarter funded. (The show is non-profit because Star Trek and its characters are copyrighted and trademarked by Viacom.)
The show was developed by voice-over actor/musician/producer/director and life-long Star Trek fan Vic Mignogna (who also plays Captain Kirk in the series). Mignogna’s animation voice work includes playing Broly on Dragonball Z, and also Edward Elric on Fullmetal Alchemist. He began this project by directing an episode of another fan-produced series set in the Star Trek universe; the Starship Farragut series produced by Farragut films. Uniting over their love of classic Trek, they developed Star Trek Continues. Mignogna co-writes all the episodes and has also directed some of them. The series has won several awards, including Best Fan Film at the 71st World Science Fiction Convention; Best New Media Drama at the Burbank International Film Festival; and the “People’s Voice” Award for Drama: Long Form or Series at the 20th annual Webby Awards.
The cast has the difficult job of recreating the iconic roles of the Enterprise crew, walking the fine line between reverence and recreation. Unlike the JJ Abrams reboot movies where some of the actors seem to be doing parodies of the original cast, this series is more in touch with the source material.
Mignogna does such as astonishing reenactment of William Shatner’s performance as Captain James Kirk, it’s as if he’s actually channeling Shatner. He has the body language, inflections and gestures down perfectly. He even looks quite a bit like a young Bill Shatner. It would be hard to imagine a better substitute. While he doesn’t have Shatner’s more dynamic voice, it’s otherwise ideal casting. (Chris Pine could take lessons from this guy.)
Another excellent casting choice is Chris Doohan as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. He’s the son of James Doohan, who portrayed the Scots-born Star Fleet ‘miracle worker’ in the classic series. The younger Doohan does a fine job embodying the character which the elder Doohan originated. He voices a Scots brogue the same way his dad did.
Todd Haberkorn, who plays Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock, has the unenviable task of taking over the most popular Trek character. Leonard Nimoy was extraordinary in the original series as the logical science officer, receiving an Emmy nomination. Mr. Spock was once voted by TV Guide as one of the 10 greatest TV characters of all time. Due to this, Haberkorn has an uphill battle following in Nimoy’s beloved footsteps. To his credit, he doesn’t try to copy Nimoy and attempts a different approach. He isn’t quite as successful as Doohan and Mignongna in his efforts but he does well enough. (Zachary Quinto nails Spock better in the reboot films.)
Other cast members include Mythbusters alumni Grant Imahara as Lt. Sulu; Kim Stinger as Lt. Uhura; and Wyatt Lenhart as Ensign Chekov. Larry Nemecek does a passable but unexceptional job as Doctor Leonard McCoy in the first two episodes, and is replaced by Chuck Huber, who manages a more entertaining reinterpretation of the character. Michele Specht plays the brand new character of ship’s counsellor McKenna. And speaking of ship’s counsellors, another notable bit of casting is Marina Sirtis (Who played Counsellor Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation) as the voice of the computer.
The first episode of the series is titled “Pilgrim of Eternity” and is a sequel to the classic Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonis”. The episode even features the return of Michael Forest, reprising his role as Apollo. (The plot explains his age discrepancy.) Forest is excellent in this episode, which gets the show off to a nice start, although it’s sad to learn what happened to gorgeous Caroline Palamas.
Episode two is called “Lolani”, and features a guest appearance by the Incredible Hulk himself; Lou Ferrigno. Also appearing in this episode are Erin Gray (who portrayed Col. Wilma Dering in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) and Daniel Logan (who was the young Boba Fett in Star Wars-Episode 2: Attack of the Clones). The story follows Kirk’s moral quandary, as he is divided between law and morality when the fate of an Orion slave girl is at stake. (This story is a tad reminiscent of the ST:TNG episode “The Perfect Mate”.)
Episode Three, “The Fairest of Them All”, is a lot of fun because it is a direct sequel to “Mirror Mirror” one of the most popular of the classic series episodes. Almost every Star Trek spin-off series has delved into the Mirror Universe story at some point. This one picks up directly at the end of “Mirror Mirror” and details how the alternate Spock begins a revolution that takes down the Empire.
Episode four, “White Iris” is the best episode of the series. It also has a guest appearance by former Doctor Who star Colin Baker, who played the Sixth Doctor. The main conflict here is a personal one. The terrific premise gives us a look into Kirk’s mind and examines the guilt he carries regarding the women in his past he couldn’t save. Kirk has had many romantic partners in his life and not all of them survived. On the surface, it seems that he has just forgotten them but in this episode, we learn otherwise. He is tormented with guilt. Kirk must deal with these feelings while the fate of a planet hangs in the balance. This is an amazing episode!
The fifth episode, “Divided We Stand” is probably the weakest of the bunch. It’s not a bad episode by any means but it is a drop is quality from the previous entries. (They can’t all be home runs) The Civil War setting had potential but was used for a standard anti-war message (which was done better in classic Trek episodes like “A Private Little War”) and Kirk gets to meet a certain historical figure for a second time.
The latest episode is “Come Not Between Dragons”. While you’ll see the ending coming very early in the episode, the script does focus on the topic of communication, which is all-too-often overlooked in the Star Trek Universe. When it is dealt with, it makes for interesting viewing (Take the ST:TNG episode “Darmok”, for instance). The episode also takes a gentle jab at Kirk’s almost magic ability to save the day with a long, passionate speech. (My favorite moment!)
Overall, this is a terrific series. The love of the source material shows through and if you’re a person like myself who enjoys Star Trek, you owe it to yourself to check this out. It captures the essence of the 1960s TV episodes masterfully. Don’t let the fact that its fan-made deter you. This isn’t the Amateur Hour. The writing, the acting and the production values are all very professional. There isn’t a single moment where you feel you’re watching something cheap or silly. The fact that only six episodes have been made in three years shows that they take time and great care putting these shows together. The next episode, “Embracing the Winds” is due out in September.
Seeing as this is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I recommend you enjoy the best Trek inspired web series ever made as part of the celebration. I hope Star Trek Continues continues for a long time.