Years ago, when the only Star Trek on television was Voyager (“fresh spoo”) and Babylon 5 was the show to watch, Paul Taggert (my “brother in IT”) and I would go sailing and muse about reviving the original Star Trek series with new actors and new stories (we talked about having Leonard Nimoy star as Sarek, how cool would that have been). It would have a more realistic, edgier feel to it and support multiple episode story arcs (ala Babylon 5) instead of the single-serve, rewind Voyager episodes we were being deluged with. We’d finally be able to see the USS Enterprise bowling alley that we only glimpsed on Franz Joseph’s blueprints.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 1785.01. The Enterprise is enroute to Capella to ‘show the flag.’ On a personal note, that god damn Vulcan is driving me crazy with his tight ass logic. I suspect he intentionally baits McCoy to get a rise out of the doctor for his own amusement. If those two can’t stop bickering I’m going to have to confine them both to quarters. Meanwhile, I’ve received another letter from Carol Marcus which, like the last one, I’m probably not going to answer.”
You see what I mean. Unfortunately neither of us was going to give up our lucrative IT consulting careers to launch a new TV series with a property we didn’t own (also, my BFA in Film & Television was quite rusty, having not been exercised in almost 20 years). It seemed that such a great idea would always languish in the land of “what-if.”
When I heard about the fan film series Star Trek: New Voyages (wikipedia) I was excited. Here was our original concept brought to life. I downloaded and watched the first couple of episodes – Come What May, In Harms Way, and To Serve All My Days – and what they’ve done is amazing. So why was I disappointed with each episode?
True, their production values and special effects are top notch (slightly better than Starship Exeter). They’ve got decent, i.e. amateur, actors who vaguely resemble the original cast (now that James Cawley has cut his hair so he doesn’t look like Captain James T. Elvis). They’ve got the blessing of Eugene Roddenberry Jr. and they’ve even managed to attract some big and small actors and writers from the original series into participating. So why is there a strange aftertaste reminiscent of Romulan ale in my mouth after each viewing each episode?
I think it’s simply because I’ve got the original series too deeply ingrained in my brain – Shatner is Kirk, Nimoy is Spock, and DeForrest is McCoy. I know the ST:NV cast says they’re presenting their own interpretations of “classic” characters but it doesn’t work for me. No matter how good the effects are and how close these actors come to the originals, any little flaw or “interpretation” destroys my suspension of disbelief. Starship Exeter, for all its flaws, isn’t trying to re-imagine and re-invent something I started watching all those years ago at 6:00 p.m. on channel 11 and have watched on and off ever since.
I also don’t find the writing very good, certainly not even up to the standards of the original series, with stories only a die hard fan could love, which means I should love it but I don’t. Guess I’m not a die hard fan anymore (two mortgages, a wife, and a kid will do that to you). True, the writing will get better as time goes by so in 20 years, by the time I’m 64, they should be at the consistently watchable mark (raise your hand if you remember the abysmal first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation).
Still it’s “spaceships and monsters,” as Paul would say, so I’ll probably watch their next episode, World Enough and Time, when it’s released on August 23rd. But I don’t expect much. You should probably watch it too and make up your mind for yourself.
I’m glad though, that we never took our “Star Trek: 1701” idea beyond the “what-if” stage. There’s something disturbing about actually dating a girl that you used to know in high school twenty five years later. Now, back to waiting for the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica. Now there’s a re-imagining that works.