Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Geeking out on Star Trek

It's fairly common knowledge that Star Trek has sucked for some time. Just when it began sucking is a matter of debate. Some argue that it was when Voyager started. Some say it was when DS9 started. Some say it was when Next Generation started. Some say that it was after the second season of the original series. Some say it always sucked.

Well, if you're among that last group then you probably won't like this, but otherwise you just might want to check out It's the site for one of several fan based productions of new Star Trek material. This one is a bit different for several reasons. First, rather than create new characters in the Star Trek universe it goes back and recasts the original roles with new actors. Their reasoning is that Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the others are enduring characters on their own regardless of who is playing them. Much like famous characters in plays, or certain long running series in film. I didn't like this choice at first, but after a while I got used to the idea. Second, as a setting they elected to start in the fourth year of the Enterprise's first five year mission under Captain Kirk. This sets it immediately after the end of the original third season and ties it in more closely with the canon as established by the original series and the movies. Third, they use a mix of talented fans and professionals volunteering their time, not just a bunch of fans with a video camera. Fourth, those volunteers will soon include both Walter Koenig and George Takei in special one episode guest appearances. Not just as cameos either, but apparently as the central actor for the episode they will appear in.

The costumes and sets are faithful recreations of those used on the original series, with some updates of computer screens and the like, but still keeping the feel of the original series. The acting is passable, and has improved dramatically between their "pilot" episode and their first "regular" episode. I first encountered the New Voyages a year or so ago when the "pilot" was all they had done, and I was not overly impressed. I just finished watching their first "regular" episode, In Harms Way, and found it to be far better.

One of the highlights is to see what even a small budget production like this can do with modern special effects that were impossible for the older series. Starbases are elaborate affairs busy with ship traffic. Space combats feature wide panning shots filled with movement and action. Using modern computer graphics, the special effects in this regard are arguably better than those found in Next Generation, let alone the original series.

If you want to check it out for yourself, but don't want to download all the parts of In Harms Way, then I suggest using one of the mirrors on the site to download the Center Seat vignette. It features a good sampling of the special effects along with the level of acting that you can expect. If you're still interested, then download In Harms Way. Just be aware that Center Seat includes a minor spoiler of In Harms Way.

Whatever you do, don't watch the pilot episode first. It's worth watching if you really like In Harms Way and can't wait for them to finish the next episode, but there's a reason why they decided to reclassify it as a pilot instead of leaving it as the first episode (several of the mirrors don't even have it anymore). Also, I suggest this mirror site for everything except the pilot. I had some issues with some of the parts for In Harms Way when I downloaded them off a couple of the other mirrors.

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