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Star Trek Continues: “Divided We Stand”

October 5th, 2015
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I must confess that I don’t have high hopes for the third rebooted Star Trek film that is currently in production.  But thankfully the Star Trek spirit is being kept alive on-line by groups of committed Trek fans.  The fan-made series Star Trek Continues is back with their fifth episode, titled “Divided We Stand.”  The intent of Star Trek Continues is to produce full-length episodes of classic Trek, modeled as the fourth season that never was of the original Star Trek.  (Click here for my review of episode one, “Pilgrim of Eternity.”  Click here for my review of episode two, “Lolani.”  Click here for my review of episode three, “Fairest of Them All.”  Click here for my review of episode four, “The White Iris.”)

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In this latest episode, the Enterprise computer is hijacked by nanites of an alien origin.  While Spock and Scotty work to save the ship’s computer from this infestation, an explosion injures Kirk and McCoy and infects them with the nanites.  These networked microscopic organisms somehow trap Kirk and McCoy in a shared hallucination that they are trapped back on Earth during the time of the Civil War.  Can Spock find a way to save his ship and his comrades?

You can watch the full episode right here:

Star Trek Continues E05 “Divided We Stand” from Star Trek Continues on Vimeo.

I am thoroughly impressed that creator and star Vic Mignogna and his team have been able to produce five full-length, finished episodes in just two years.  This is a tremendous pace, and a testament to their commitment that Star Trek Continues won’t be a one-off thing, but a real attempt at a continuing series of new Star Trek adventures featuring Kirk, Spock, and co.

As always, this Star Trek Continues episode looks incredible, absolutely professional.  There aren’t many new outer-space effects shots in this episode, but as has been the case with this show since the beginning, the glimpses we get of the Big-E in space are gorgeous.  The Enterprise costumes, sets, props, all are perfect.  My eye couldn’t detect any flaws.  Everything looks exactly like it should, just like an actual episode of classic Trek.  The way Mr. Mignogna and his team have recreated the Enterprise bridge and sick-bay (the two Enterprise sets that feature most prominently in this episode) are astounding.

All of the stuff with Kirk and McCoy in the Civil War might look a tad less polished, but it works well enough.  Clearly the Star Trek Continues folks took full advantage of the uniforms and equipment of Civil War reenactors to get some fine production value for their effort.  (There are several shots with quite a number of Civil War extras in them, and everyone looks great.)

The story feels just like Classic Trek.  We’re thrown right into the action as the episode opens (a technique the Original Series used often, though the latter Trek series less so), and getting Kirk and co. in costumes from some period of Earth’s history was a device the original show used quite frequently.  That’s a double-edged sword here, as that element of the story feels right for classic Trek, even though it also feels somewhat silly and overly familiar to me as a viewer watching it now.  The Civil War portion of the story is further weakened because the episode reveals right away that it’s all happening in Kirk and McCoy’s heads, so there’s not much mystery or drama there.  (When Kirk suffers a grievous injury, there’s no suspense there because I know none of that is real.  The show makes a half-hearted attempt to up the stakes by showing corresponding damage to Kirk’s leg in sickbay, but then weirdly that damage is never referred to again in the episode!  The show never bothers to make any effort at explaining how an injury suffered by Kirk in his hallucination might manifest itself physically, so I guess they decided it wasn’t worth getting into.  I’d have either played this up as a threat to Kirk’s life/well-being, or eliminated that one reference to an effect on Kirk’s actual body altogether.)

I have two small complaints which I have made before about Star Trek Continues episodes, and I will make them again here.  First, once again Uhura, Sulu and Chekov are given very little to do in the episode.  This also rings true to how things were with the Original Series, but as a modern viewer this is an area where I want to see this show do better than the Original Series.  Let’s give some attention to these much-loved supporting characters, OK?  Second, once again I found this episode’s plot to be fairly straightforward.  As has been the case for most of these Star Trek Continues episodes, the set-up is great, but then the plot feels to me like it gets wrapped up far too quickly and easily.  I’d like to see some more twists and turns in these stories, some more complications for our characters to overcome.  To be more specific in regards to this episode, although the opening teaser sets up a potential complicated crisis, with the Enterprise’s computer infected and crippled by an alien intelligence, Spock and Scotty then seem to be able to get rid of the nanites fairly smoothly, without any problems or ill-effects.  Similarly, once Kirk and McCoy get infected, though it seems to take Spock and M’Benga some time to figure out what’s happening, once they do they use pretty much the exact same solution to clear the nanites from Kirk & McCoy’s system, again without any problems.  This feels a little dull to me!  I’d have loved to have seen some tension-raising twists and turns in the second half of the episode.

Some other comments:

* I loved seeing Dr. M’Benga featured in this episode.

* It was a nice touch to dedicate the episode to Grace Lee Whitney (who played Yeoman Rand on the Original Series, and who sadly just recently passed away).

* Just as Uhura, Sulu, and Scotty had little to do in the episode, the created-for-this-series character of Counselor McKennah also had nothing to do, just one scene on the bridge that was clearly only there to wedge the character into the episode.  McKennah had a large role in Star Trek Continues’ first episode, but she’s felt pretty extraneous since then.  I would not be opposed to this character being dropped from the show.  If they want to continue to utilize her, I hope they can figure out a way to give her character more to do on the show.

* Why no mention of the fact that Kirk had previously met Abraham Lincoln?  (Well, sort-of at least, in the Classic Trek episode “The Savage Curtain”.)

It’s always a delight when a new episode of Star Trek Continues drops.  The degree of love and professionalism that every member of this production’s cast and crew bring to every episode is visible in every moment on-screen.  I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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