By Mike Medeiros
Welcome to the Spirit of Trek, a weekly column where we identify and celebrate Gene Roddenberry’s vision by discovering how its messages has started to permeate throughout humanity’s collective consciousness by looking for it on the Internet and within popular culture. Star Trek fans have done the most work in recent years by leveraging the reach of the Internet to keep the Spirit of Trek alive and well during a time, when there is no new Star Trek to watch on television. This week, we’ll be taking a look at Star Trek fan productions and more specifically, Star Trek: Renegades.
The passion of Star Trek fans for the vision of humanity’s future created by Gene Roddenberry and fueled by the Internet has sparked a wide range of creative endeavors from fan fiction to audio dramas and even fan-produced series and films. Fan fiction has been around long before Star Trek’s debut, but it became popularized as fans put pen to paper to tell their own Star Trek stories and shared them with others through fanzines and later the web.
In 1967, Spockanalia was published. It featured some fan fiction stories, and was the first in a long line of fanzines, newsletters, collections, comics, cartoons, anthologies, novellas and novels about fan created stories for Star Trek and its various spin offs. However, this article is not intended to discuss fan fiction of the written kind, but instead we will be examining how it evolved to become so much more than the written word. Fan fiction will be a topic for another article, so stay tuned.
Instead, I will delve into fan-productions, since they are endeavors put together by groups of people that share a common passion for Star Trek. Fan produced audio dramas and videos have been around since before the first Star Trek convention, when Ray Glassner produced a Star Trek fan film for a school project at the University of Ohio, where Kirk, Spock, and a lovely female yeoman transport to a planet but end up on Earth in 1971.
The following year, fans attended the first convention and began sharing some of their fan produced films and audio dramas on cassette tapes, CD-ROMs and later DVDs. However, with the advent of the Internet, the distribution of these fan-produced projects became much easier and their numbers exploded. Viacom threatened lawsuits to Star Trek fan sites that contained copyrighted materials and were selling ads, collecting fees, or selling merchandise. Many of these sites shut down to avoid legal action. Fan productions continued, but they operated under a lower profile, with the hopes of not drawing too much attention to themselves. CBS allowed these fan-created projects to be distributed as long as they did not profit from it without official authorization.
With this new stance, many fan productions emerged, including: Star Trek Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages); Starship Farragut; Star Trek: Hidden Frontier; Star Trek: Intrepid; Star Trek: Of Gods and Men; Star Trek: The Continuing Mission; as well as a few Star Trek parodies such as Steam Trek, and Stone Trek to name a few.
We’ll begin with some of parodies. Stone Trek is a Flintstones-styled animated Star Trek TOS parody series featuring Spock, Kirk, McCoy and the rest of the crew flying aboard a prehistoric Enterprise. Steam Trek is another Star Trek parody that imagines a steampunk version of the Enterprise. Their film, Steam Punk: The Moving Picture is filmed as a classic silent film. Then, there’s Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning. This parody film series was a huge hit and has become Finland’s most popular film. The film parodies Star Trek as well as Babylon 5. Star Wreck’s creators have since released Iron Sky, which features Nazis from the Moon.
Moving on to more serious fan productions, we’ll begin with Star Trek: The Continuing Mission. It was an audio drama that follows the adventures of the USS Montana and its crew. In this short lived series, the show took a 23rd century crew from around the time of the Wrath of Khan and dropped them into the 24th century just before the Enterprise D began its journey under Captain Picard. It featured original characters and often referenced canonical names, places, and events.
Star Trek: Intrepid is a series of Scottish live action fan films that take place a few years after Nemesis and features a new cast of characters aboard the USS Intrepid as they explore and assist colonists with establishing a presence in a region of space known as the Charybdis sector.
Starship Farragut is another fan production. This one takes place during the original series and features the Enterprise’s sister ship, the USS Farragut. With a new cast of characters, this series features both live action and animated adventures with its most recent episode, “Just Passing Through” released earlier this year.
The most prolific of the fan produced series is Star Trek: Hidden Frontier. This show used digital video and virtual sets to produce episodes much quicker than any other fan produced series at the time. It is set during the TNG era and revolves around the USS Excelsior and Deep Space 12, located in the Briar Patch. During its 50 episode run, this show featured gay and lesbian characters and later spun off into two shows. Star Trek: Odyssey and Star Trek: The Helena Chronicles. In Odyssey, the starship finds itself 2.5 million light years from home in the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy and loosely retells the story of Homer’s The Odyssey.
However, some fan produced projects feature well-known actors, writers, and other Star Trek alumni as part of their cast. For instance, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men is a three-part mini-series that was directed by Tim Russ, and featured Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Grace Lee Whitney, Alan Ruck, Garret Wang, Ethan Phillips, J. G. Hertzler, Cirroc Lofton, and Chase Masterson as an Orion. DS9 writers Jack Trevino and Ethan H. Calk wrote the script, while Douglas Knapp from Voyager was the Director of Photography. Some scenes were filmed using the sets of another fan production, Star Trek: New Voyages, also known as Star Trek: Phase II.
Star Trek: Phase II was created by James Cawley and Jack Marshall. They wanted to complete the original five-year mission of the original starship Enterprise with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. They had built an exact replica of the original bridge set. Phase II drew attention from several notable names in Star Trek, including D. C. Fontana, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, and others. Their work has earned them several awards and even a nomination for a Hugo. Recently, James Cawley announced that Brian Gross will be replacing him in the role of Captain James T. Kirk beginning with an upcoming episode called Bread and Savagery. They’ve already released a teaser trailer with Gross as Kirk that seeks to bridge the gap between TOS and TAS with the addition of a new CGI helmsman, the three-armed tri-pedal Edosian, Arex. Don’t take my word for it, check it out below.
Fan productions don’t end there, since there’s a new one that is trying to get out of space dock. Star Trek: Renegades. This is a new series that is seeking to continue what Gene Roddenberry had started with an episodic series from the team that created Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. Their goal is bring a television quality Star Trek series to the Internet. Tim Russ is directing the series, and features several well-known Star Trek alumni, including Walter Koenig, Tim Russ, Gary Graham, Garret Wang, Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, Manu Intiraymi, and Richard Herd. According to their website, the series will depart from previous Treks and will delve into the darker side of the human psyche, by forcing the crew to do things that no other Starfleet officer would. They have launched a kickstarter project to help them with production costs. Please support this project by donating to it here.
There are many other fan productions out there on the Internet – too many to cover in this article. However, if you are interested in exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and civilizations in a universe created by Gene Roddenberry and kept alive through the efforts of dedicated fans; feel free to support your Star Trek fan production of choice. Their efforts are keeping the Spirit of Trek active by expanding the universe and bringing Star Trek to a whole new generation of fans on the Internet.
The time has come to wrap up this week’s column. Thank you for joining me on this journey to discover how the Spirit of Trek has started to permeate throughout our culture with the hope that one day, Gene Roddenberry’s vision for humanity’s future will become a reality. If you come across something that you believe embodies the Spirit of Trek on the Internet or within popular culture, please do not hesitate to share it with me. I may discuss it in a future article. Live long and Prosper.
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