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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Star Trek Continues: What Ships Are For

September 15th, 2017
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The golden age of Star Trek fan films is over, crushed by Paramount/CBS’ ridiculous lawsuit against the planned Axanar fan-film project and the subsequent draconian fan film guidelines that led to the shutdown of many fan-made productions.  (Read more here.)  One of the last fan-film projects standing is Star Trek Continues, though they too will soon be closing their doors as a result of the new fan film guidelines, concluding their series with a two-part finale to be released later this fall.  This group of talented Trek fans, led by Vic Mignogna, have been, for the past five years, creating their own version of the never-made fourth season of classic Star Trek.  They have created full-length Trek episodes with an astonishing degree of professionalism.  At a glance you’d never know this wasn’t “real” Star Trek.  (I’ve reviewed every episode: click here for the full archive.)  A little more than four months after the release of their previous episode, “Still Treads the Shadow,” they have, incredibly, released another complete episode, and it is as good as this fan-made series has ever been.

In “What Ships are For,” the U.S.S. Enterprise responds to a request from help from the inhabitants of a large asteroid, whose population is being ravaged by a plague.  When Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down, they discover that the asteroid’s inhabitants are unable to see color, due to the effects of their sun’s radiation on the cones of their eyes.  Helping to undo the damage from the radiation will both cure the plague and allow these aliens to see the world in color.  But there is a complication: these aliens, the Hyalini, have long been at war with another race, the Ambicians.  The Hyalini fear the Ambicians as dangerous monsters.  But the Enterprise’s sensors discover that, in fact, there are many Ambicians who have lived on the asteroid among the Hyalini for generations, having fled their own radiation-ravaged world.  They are indistinguishable from the Hyalini except for the different color of their skin and hair.  If the Enterprise crew help cure the Hyalini, they fear the Hyalini’s discovery that the aliens they perceive as dangerous “others” are in fact living amongst them will cause their society to tear itself apart with racial strife.

This episode was written by Kipleigh Brown, who has been a supporting character on Star Trek Continues for many episodes playing the ship’s navigator Lieutenant Smith.  She has done strong work here in writing this episode, creating a classic Star Trek moral dilemma for Kirk and co. to wrestle with.  Yes, the episode’s exploration of bigotry and racial divisions is a bit on the nose, but this is the type of morality-play story-telling that classic Star Trek excelled at, and I love that Star Trek Continues has embraced this approach.  In today’s world, this is more important than ever.

As has often been the case for Star Trek Continues, this episode boasts some high profile professional actors as guest stars. The headliner is John de Lancie, who, of course, played Q on many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  What a coup it is to have Mr. de Lancie appear in this fan-made production!!  And I am glad that they resisted the temptation to ask Mr. de Lancie to reprise his role of Q.  Instead, they created an interesting new character for him to play, as Galisti, one of the leaders of the Hyalini.  I do wish that Mr. de Lancie’s character had a larger role to play in the episode, but he does have one big scene with Vic Mignogna’s Kirk towards the end of the episode, and Mr. de Lancie knocks that scene right out of the park.  He is spectacular, doubting Kirk’s moral superiority and questioning Starfleet’s Prime Directive (asking many of the same questions that I have asked, as a fan, of the way we have seen the Prime Directive applied in various Star Trek episodes).

The episode also features the guest appearance of Anne Lockhart, who played Lt. Sheba in the original Battlestar Galactica!  Ms. Lockhart is great and has fine chemistry with John de Lancie, who plays her character’s husband.

The episode’s main guest star is Elizabeth Maxwell, who plays the young woman Sekara, who first discovers the truth about herself and her society.  I don’t believe I have ever seen Ms. Maxwell before, but she does strong work here.

Vic Mignogna and the entire regular cast of Star Trek Continues all do fine work.  Over the course of these nine episodes, I have grown quite accustomed to seeing these actors play these iconic roles.  I am going to miss them when this series wraps up!

As always, the craftsmanship on display in this episode is extraordinary.  The sets, the props, the costumes, all are PERFECT recreations of the look and feel of the original Star Trek series.  The outer space visual effects remain top-notch, far beyond the visual effects of the original sixties show and very professional-looking for today.

(We’ll see what I actually think of the new Trek prequel show, Star Trek: Discovery, when it premieres in a few weeks.  But based on the trailers, it looks like that show has completely rejected the aesthetic of the original nineteen-sixties Star Trek show, despite being set only a decade or so earlier.  Star Trek Continues, on the other hand, despite being a completely fan-made production, demonstrates how well the design choices of the original show still hold up, fifty years later.)

Other thoughts on the episode:

* Early in this episode we hear of the loss of two Starfleet ships.  This has been a theme of the past several episodes, so I assume this is building towards the story of the series finale.

* Star Trek Continues has also embraced the classic Star Trek idea that Kirk romances a babe on every planet he goes to.  This aspect of classic Trek hasn’t aged so well, and watching Kirk in this episode put the moves on Sekara, who seems like a very young woman, made me a little uncomfortable.  I did love that this episode gave Vic Mignogna a classic Kirk speech to deliver at the end!

* I enjoyed the glimpse of a Starfleet medical uniform in the style of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  A nice hint at what is to come, as I assume that the two-part finale will end the five-year mission and bring us in to the events of TMP.

This latest episode of Star Trek Continues is another high-class piece of work, and an expression of true love for Star Trek.  I applaud Mr. Mignogna and his team for continuing to do what they love, sharing their work with their fellow Trek fans, despite the recent actions of CBS/Paramount.  I eagerly await the next series’ two-part finale, though I am very sad to see this wonderful fan-made production draw to a close.

Watch the full episode here:

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