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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews “The Holiest Thing”

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For over a decade, Star Trek: New Voyages has been a fan-produced effort to create new full-length episodes of the Original Series, a never-made fourth season of the classic show. (The series began under the name Star Trek: New Voyages, then switched to be called Star Trek: Phase II for several years, and now they seem to be back to using the New Voyages title.)  I have been a fan and supporter of this fan-made group since I saw their second official episode, released in 2006, in which Walter Koenig reprised his role of Pavel Chekov, an enormous coup did this fan-made series.

Last month New Voyages released their tenth episode, “The Holiest Thing.”  I have been reading about this episode for years now.  (I actually reviewed a rough cut of this episode that was released to the project’s Kickstarter backers, about a year and a half ago.)  “The Holiest Thing” was supposed to have been released back in February, 2014, but was cancelled at the last minute so the production team could continue polishing the episode.  It’s been a long two-years wait.  I am pleased that the final, completed version has at last seen the light of day.  To my relief it is an improvement on the rough cut in almost every way.

This episode tells the never-before-seen story of how Captain Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus first met and fell in love.  (Dr. Marcus’ one-and-only canonical main-timeline on-screen appearance was, of course, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.)  The Enterprise arrives at the planet Lapus III, to check in with the terraforming project overseen by Dr. Marcus.  As she and Scotty tour the facility in a shuttlecraft, an enormous explosion destroys the research facility, killing everyone present except for Scotty and Dr. Marcus.  Is young Dr. Marcus responsible for the deaths of her entire team?

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“The Holiest Thing” is a leisurely paced tale.  There is a mystery component as Kirk, Spock and Dr. Marcus work to uncover the truth about what went wrong with her terraforming project.  But the focus of the episode is on the love story between Kirk and Dr. Marcus.  Both Brian Gross (as Captain Kirk) and Jacy King (as Carol Marcus) do strong work.  Ms. King is especially good, a pleasant surprise since so much of the episode rests on her shoulders.  I like this version of a young Carol Marcus.  She is smart, persistent, and take-charge, but she’s also clearly young and perhaps in a little over her head.  (This is a far stronger depiction of Carol than the one we got in the terrible Star Trek Into Darkness.)

The rough cut of this episode suffered from terrible sound problems … [continued]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Mind-Sifter

December 5th, 2014
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The fan-film series Star Trek: Phase II came roaring back with the release this week of their tenth full-length Star Trek episode: “Mind-Sifter.”  This episode has a fascinating history.  “Mind-Sifter “was originally written by Shirley Maiewski all the way back in 1974 for a fanzine called The Star Trek Showcase.  In 1976, Bantam included Ms. Maiewski’s story in their The New Voyages anthology of Star Trek fan-fiction, although their editors changed the story in ways that Ms. Maiewski did not approve.  Many decades later, the folks at Star Trek: Phase II decided to adapt Ms. Maiewski’s story.  In honor of that old New Voyages book, they released this episode under their series’ original title of Star Trek: New Voyages. 

With me so far? In this episode, Spock is placed in command of the Enterprise when Captain Kirk goes missing for several months.  Somehow, Kirk has become lost in Earth’s past, trapped and abused in a mental hospital in 1958.  It’s all part of a Klingon plot to uncover the location of Gateway, the planet on which stands the Guardian of Forever, the powerful time-portal discovered by Kirk & co. in the seminal Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.”  With Kirk missing and presumed dead, the crew of the Enterprise attempt to move on with their lives, while Spock and McCoy’s relationship frays to the breaking point.

I remember reading that New Voyages book years and years ago.  “Mind-Sifter” was a memorable enough story that I still remember it, well over two decades since I read it.  I love the idea of this story being adapted by Phase II, and over-all they have turned in a very solid episode.

As always, the show looks phenomenal.  The sets and costumes are amazing, perfectly mimicking the look and feel of the Original Series.  In many ways, it looks even BETTER than the original!  The visual effects are extraordinary.  This episode, for the first time for Phase II, was released in two different versions. One has modern-style visual effects overseen by Tobias Richter and The Light Works.  The second has sixties-style visual effects created by Daren Dochterman, who oversaw the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Both versions are fun, but the modern-VFX version is far superior and definitely the one to watch.  These effects, though “modern” and far more advanced than what we saw in the sixties, still feel exactly right for an Original Series adventure.  The Enterprise and the other Starfleet ships and the Klingon vessel all look and move and feel exactly right.  Except they are looking better than they ever did before, far better than the original sixties goofy effects and also far better … [continued]

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Josh Sees a Rough Cut of Star Trek Phase II: The Holiest Thing

August 27th, 2014
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Despite the lack of good “official” Star Trek these days, I think it’s a great time to be a Star Trek fan.  I have written often about several incredibly high-quality Star Trek fan productions, including Star Trek Continues and Star Trek Axanar.  But the first, and still in my mind the best, is Star Trek Phase II.  They have produced, over the last decade, nine full-length episodes of what could have been the never-made fourth season of the Original Series.  These episodes have all been terrifically entertaining and of an astounding high quality.  By their third episode, “To Serve All My Days,” the Phase II team was creating episodes that looked and felt totally professional, incredibly close to “real” Star Trek.  (They were also attracting the involvement of real Trek professionals, including Walter Koenig in “To Serve All My Days” and George Takei in the next episode, “World Enough and Time.”)

I feel like the Phase II group has been a little bit overshadowed recently by other Trek fan projects.  The group Star Trek Continues have set out to do exactly the same thing that Phase II undertook a decade ago, that is to create the never-made fourth season of the Original Series, and they have surged past Phase II in productivity, releasing three complete (and high quality) episodes in the last year.  (Click here for my review of their first episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity”, here for my review of their second episode, “Lolani”, and here for my review of their third episode, “The Fairest of Them All”.) Then there is Star Trek Axanar, a group setting out to make a feature film that will tell the story of Garth of Izar (from the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy”) and his victory over the Klingons in the Four Years War (years before the events of The Original Series).  I raved about this project recently, praising their twenty-minute “Prelude to Axanar” short film for its incredibly high-quality, professional look, and for the astounding array of professional actors they attracted to fill out the roles.

Meanwhile, Phase II seems to have hit some speed-bumps.  They announced a big relaunch last summer, but they are still sitting on several episodes that have been filmed over the past several years.  They announced that their next episode, “The Holiest Thing,” would be released last February, then delayed it on the planned day of release.  What at first seemed like a delay of just a few days or weeks has stretched into months, with no sign of the episode in sight.  Now the Phase II team have said they won’t be releasing it next at all, instead bumping up … [continued]

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Star Trek Phase II: Kitumba

January 6th, 2014
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Star Trek lives!  I have written before on this site about the wonderful Star Trek fan-made series, Star Trek: Phase II.  Taking their series title from the name of the proposed second Star Trek TV series of the seventies (which was eventually abandoned in favor of a big-screen resurrection called Star Trek: The Motion Picture), this dedicated group of fans have taken it upon themselves to produce episodes of the never-made fourth season of the original Star Trek TV series.  Releasing about one full-length episode a year, this series has been getting better and better with each installment.  This doesn’t look like any other fan-made effort I have ever encountered.  If you were to flash by a Phase II episode on your TV, you’d have no reason to suspect this wasn’t an official, professionally-made Star Trek episode.

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After years of anticipation by Phase II fans (this episode was originally filmed several years ago, though various production problems have apparently kept it from being completed until now), the series has released its eighth episode: “Kitumba.”  In this episode, the rising tensions with the Klingon Empire are threatening to lead to war.  Though the Organians brokered an uneasy truce between the Federation and the Klingons (in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy”), those powerful aliens appear to have vanished (indeed, they would never again appear in any future Trek series or episode), and so the war between the Federation and the Klingons that they stopped now threatens to erupt again.  To avert catastrophe, the U.S.S. Enterprise is sent on a possible suicide mission to Qo’noS, the Klingons’ home planet, in a desperate attempt to broker a peace.  Their only hope for success lies in an unlikely ally — Ksia, a Klingon defector who was a former teacher of the “Kitumba,” the young Klingon emperor.  Until the boy comes of age, power is held by a Regent, Malkthon, and Ksia believes it is Malkthon who is beating the drums of war, and he hopes that Kirk can convince the Kitumba to put a halt to the war before it begins.

The idea of James T. Kirk visiting the Klingon homeworld is a juicy notion.  (In the Original Series, we never saw the Klingon homeworld.  It wouldn’t be until the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation that the Trek shows would show us Qo’noS and begin fleshing out the Klingon people and culture.  Kirk did visit Qo’noS, in less than ideal circumstances, as a prisoner in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was made after those early Next Gen episodes.  But the idea of seeing young Kirk in his prime on a mission to the Klingon homeworld is a great … [continued]

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Dueling Star Trek Fan Films!

I’ve written lots about my enjoyment of the Star Trek fan film series Phase II. At a rate of about one new episode a year, the Phase II gang have been releasing extraordinarily well-made new episodes of the original Star Trek. The idea is that they’re creating the fourth season of the show that we never got because of it’s cancellation in 1979.  Phase II apparently has about four episodes still in their production pipeline (filmed but not yet edited and released), but they’ve been making a lot of noise about a new direction the series will be taking after the release of the next three episodes.  Fans of the fan-series got a jumping-ahead tease of that new direction with their just-released vignette, “Boldly Going”:

The early going of this new vignette is quite slow, and feels more like something made for Phase II’s production team, rather than its fans (since several of the Enterprise crew-members being mourned are actual Phase II participants who recently passed away).  Still, I love the look of the newly-refitted Enterprise, a cross between the Original Series design and that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (Creating a hybrid version of the Enterprise was an idea that the Phase II team had floated several years ago, and then abandoned.  I guess they changed their minds!  I think the idea of this hybrid half-refit Enterprise is a bit of a kooky notion, since it seems clear to me that TMP suggested that the Big E had just been through a complete refit and redesign, but I can go with it.)  I ADORED the transition from Original Series music to James Horner’s wonderful Star Trek II heroic theme.  I was THRILLED to see the CGI realization of Arex, a character from Star Trek: The Animated Series. And I loved the transition between James Cawley’s narration to seeing Phase II’s new actor playing James T. Kirk, Brian Gross.  I am far from sold on Mr. Gross’ performance (his voice is so high, it seemed very un-Kirk to me), but we’ll see how he grows into the role in future episodes.  It’s nice to get a little dose of Phase II, though I eagerly anticipate their next full episode, the Klingon-focused “Kitumba.”

Meanwhile, a new fan series has emerged that is also setting out to create a fourth season for The Original Series.  It’s called Star Trek Continues, and features several actors and behind-the-scenes folks formerly associated with Phase II. They’ve just released their first short film:

Star Trek Continues from Star Trek Continues on Vimeo.

I think it’s super-cool that they begin by recreating the final shots of the final Original Trek episode: “Turnabout Intruder.”  … [continued]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Star Trek: Phase II’s Latest Episode: “The Child”

April 11th, 2012
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Here in the long winter of our many-years-without-new-Star Trek TV shows or movies, James Cawley and his magnificent band of fellow Star Trek fans are keeping the Trek flame alive.  As I’ve written about beforeStar Trek: Phase II is a completely fan-made series (no one gets paid for any of their work) attempting to create, one episode at a time, the fourth season of the original Star Trek show.  The production releases about one full-length episode a year, and they’ve just been getting better and better, to the point where if you stumbled across an episode of Phase II on TV late at night, you could absolutely believe it was a real Star Trek episode.  The production quality is that amazing.

Phase II has just released their seventh full-length episode: “The Child.”  (Watch it here or here!)  This episode was written and directed by Jon Povill, and it has a fascinating history.  The story was initially developed by Mr. Povill back in the 70’s for the aborted Star Trek: Phase II television series.  (That series-that-never-was, from which this fan series draws its name, was intended to be a second Star Trek series starring Kirk and co.  The proposed TV show was eventually abandoned in favor of the idea of making Star Trek: The Motion Picture.)  Mr. Povill’s story for “The Child” was eventually used by Star Trek: The Next Generation. That version, which was credited to writers Jason Summers, Jon Povill, and Maurice Hurley, was Next Gen’s second season premiere.  It’s a pretty lousy episode, and apparently Mr. Povill was (rightly) unhappy with how his original story was realized.  Two decades later, he hooked up with the Phase II crew to bring something much closer to his original vision to light.

Although I’m always tremendously excited by the prospect of the release of a new Phase II episode, I can’t say that I was all that much anticipating “The Child.”  The Next Gen version was so lame.  It wasn’t a story I was excited to revisit.  Well, I am happy to report that “The Child” is another phenomenally entertaining episode from the Phase II gang.  It’s not my favorite of the Phase II episodes, but it’s marvelously well-done and FAR more watchable than the professionally-made Next Gen version.

It’s neat to see the Phase II crew tackling so many different kinds of episodes.  Their previous episode, “Enemy: Starfleet!” was a fast-paced action adventure.  “The Child” is something else entirely, a much slower character study and sci-fi mystery.  But I wasn’t at all bored — no, I was quite taken by the episode.  The main story (in which the Enterprise’s Deltan officer, Lt.

[continued]

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Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Enemy: Starfleet!

April 25th, 2011
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After a long, long, looooong wait, a new full-length episode of Star Trek: Phase II has been released on-line.  It’s called Enemy: Starfleet! and it is dynamite.  Watch it here! If you’re any sort of fan of Star Trek, this is well-worth your time.

I’ve written before (here and here) about the amazing fan-produced series Star Trek: Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages).  Masterminded by James Cawley, this series (created and produced top-to-bottom by people who love Star Trek, working for no money whatsoever) is an attempt to create a fourth season of the classic Star Trek series (which was famously cancelled after three seasons), continuing the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the gang.  This isn’t a reboot like J.J. Abrams’ movie, or any sort of modernization of the classic Trek concept.  No, this is a loving attempt to replicate the look and feel of the 1960’s sets, costumes, music, etc., and to create full-length episodes that look and feel and sound like they really could have been episodes from a fourth season of the original Star Trek!

In that attempt, James Cawley and his incredible group of collaborators have been astoundingly successful.  The production values of these episodes (Enemy: Starfleet! is the sixth episode created, not counting the series’ original pilot) have improved by leaps and bounds with each new installment, to the point now that they are simply jaw-droppingly amazing.  Every aspect of what one sees on-screen is flawless.  The look of the bridge.  The sound effect when someone opens their communicator or fires a phaser.  The music.  The costumes (both the Starfleet uniforms worn by the Enterprise crew as well as the attire of the guest-stars).  The attention to detail is astounding.  Take a look at Peter Kirk’s quarters, for instance, and be dazzled by the United Federation of Planets emblem on his bed-spread, or the familiar-looking bottle seen on the shelf behind his bed.

In many respects, Enemy: Starfleet! looks even BETTER than the original Trek ever did.  The visual effects, for instance, are amazing — a universe more advanced than what was possible in the 1960’s.  But what’s really neat is that, while the effects are much more elaborate and far cooler than anything seen in an original Trek episode, all of the effects still feel RIGHT.  They integrate organically with the rest of the episode.  A large reason for that is because, even if we’re now able to see things we never could before, all of the details are correct.  The Enterprise moves just the way it should (even as we’re getting to see the old girl engage in far-more spectacular outer-space combat than we’ve ever seen … [continued]

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Star Trek: Phase 2

February 6th, 2009
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Back on September 9th I wrote about Star Trek: Phase 2, by far the most interesting of the many fan-made Star Trek projects that have sprung up over the past few years, in the absence of any new official Star Trek material on TV or at the movies.  The goal of Phase 2 is to create the fourth season of the Original Series (which was cancelled at the end of its third season).  Each installment of Phase 2 (there have been five episodes so far, counting their “pilot”) is an hour in length, and what is astounding about the endeavor (betcha thought I’d say enterprise) is the degree of professionalism involved in the production.  While the episodes don’t QUITE look like actual broadcast-able Star Trek episodes, they come pretty damn close.

The fifth episode was just released on-line:  “Blood and Fire Part I.”  This is the first installment of the series’ first two-part episode.  The episode opens with a fierce battle between the Enterprise and a Klingon warship.  Although the Klingons are ultimately defeated, the Big E sustains Star Trek II level damage.  However, before the Enterprise can return to a starbase to be repaired, they receive a distress call from another Starfleet vessel, the USS Copernicus, which appears to be locked on course directly into a dying star.  When Spock leads an away team over to the Copernicus to try to figure out what happened to the ship and its crew, they soon find themselves in quite a lot of jeopardy.  “Blood and and Fire” also re-introduces us to Captain Kirk’s young nephew Peter (introduced in one episode of the Original Series, “Operation — Annihilate!”), who has transfered over to the Enterprise to be closer to his husband-to-be, who is already an Enterprise officer.

“Blood and Fire” was written and directed by David Gerrold, who is only the lastest industry professional (and someone involved with the production of the original Star Trek) to have gotten involved with this fan-made series.  Mr. Gerrold was a key writer for the Original Series, and he wrote what many consider to be one of the finest Original Series episodes ever produced: “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  This story, “Blood and Fire,” was actually written by Mr. Gerrold for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it was never produced.  (According to the Phase 2 web-site, the episode was shelved because of its mention of a gay crewman on the Enterprise.)  Mr. Gerrold re-worked the story for Phase 2.

Over-all, “Blood and Fire Part I” is another winner from the Phase 2 team.  The production values are incredible.  The sets, the costumes, the make-up, the lighting — everything looks just … [continued]

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The New Frontier

September 9th, 2008
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OK, this is my last posting having to do with Star Trek for a while — I promise!

But yesterday — believe it or not — marked the 42nd anniversary of the airing of the first episode of the original Star Trek series.  On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired “The Man Trap.”

Its a shame there’s no new Star Trek on TV these days to mark the anniversary.  But last week I spent a while talking about all the great Star Trek fiction that’s out there to be enjoyed.  Today I must add a post-script that novels haven’t been the only source of great new Star Trek recently.  The past few years have seen an explosion of Star Trek fan films across the web.  Now, a great many of these are very, very amateurish.  But there’s one that rises above the rest, and its called Star Trek: Phase II.  (The series began life as Star Trek: New Voyages).

This series is an attempt at creating a fourth season of the original Star Trek.  (The original series famously only lasted for three seasons — 79 episodes — before being cancelled.)  This is a very serious effort to produce complete, one hour (really approx. 45 minute) episodes that try to capture as close as possible the feel of 1960’s Star Trek.  (So far they have produced four episodes.)  And I must say, they get very close!  There is an extraordinary attention to detail in these productions — in the sets, the costumes, the make-up, and the visual effects.  You can tell that this is a true labor of love for everyone involved in its creation. 

What also sets this fan-film series apart from other efforts is that it has attracted the participation of a lot of industry professionals, as well as people who have been involved with official Star Trek work in the past.  Most notably, Walter Koenig (Checkov) and George Takei (Sulu) have each appeared in the series!  And not just in little wink-wink cameo roles — both have had major starring roles.  Mr. Koenig appeared in the series’ second episode, “To Serve All My Days,” an episode scripted with D.C. Fontana (who was one of the key writers for the original series).  That appearance was followed by Mr. Takei’s role in the third episode, “World Enough and Time.”  

Is the series something that looks like it could air on television?  Well, not quite.  But there is so much love on display here that its impossible to fault the series for an occasional shot or moment that seems off.  The writing is terrific and the visual effects are a LOT of fun.  (I particularly enjoyed the … [continued]