Rear Admiral David G. Farragut issued that order in 1864 at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War. A century and a half later, a group of dedicated Star Trek fans has followed that order with enthusiasm to make a film series that bears his name.
If you think about it, there are a lot of things that can torpedo a fan film production. From inception to completion, the fan(s) behind it have to have the five Ds: the Dream, Desire, Design, and Determination to get it all Delivered.
Starship Farragut had its fair share of torpedoes to get past, but speed on it did. And through a full decade of filming and production, Farragut has continued to grow, improve, and evolve into one of Star Trek fandom’s MUST-SEE fan-based series. Along the way, Farragut boldly went where no fan film had gone before, blazing a successful trail for other fan series to follow.
To date, Starship Farragut has released four full-length episodes, three short vignettes, two animated episodes (yes, you read that right), and one comic book (you read that right, too). And it’s still going strong!
But where and when did Starship Farragut come from, and just how did the team navigate all those pesky torpedoes to go full speed – even warp speed – ahead?
Other cost savings happened through the use of outdoor locations to simulate an alien planet, specifically Accokeek, MD and nearby Mason Neck State park, which cut down the expense of building more sets. And to save money making expensive Klingon costumes, John Broughton brought in a dozen local area Klingon fans from Maryland and Pennsylvania who already had their own uniforms.
John was also able to get original music composed by John Seguin (and mastered by Dave Cebrowski) to give their series a rich, full, and original feeling. The combination of the professional music with the authentic-looking New Voyages sets and the eye-catching VFX from NEO f/x immediately rocketed Starship Farragut to the top tier of Star Trek fan series at the time its pilot episode debuted at the Farpoint Convention in Maryland in February of 2007 (and on the Internet a week later).
Filled with momentum, this team didn’t waste any time getting a second full-length episode completed. In fact, “For Want of a Nail” actually began filming in November of 2006, three months before the release of Farragut’s pilot episode, and wrapped on filming in July of 2007. And nearly all that effort for those eight months of production happened during long weekends when people didn’t have to be working at their day jobs! Another few months of postproduction later, and Farragut’s 64-minute long second episode premiered in mid-October…barely eight months after the pilot episode.
With such a long run time, one might expect the episode to feel a little slow and boring. But surprisingly, the episode is actually quite engaging, thanks in large part to Mark Hildebrand, who plays a very compelling General George Washington in a time travel story, half of which takes place during the American War for Independence.
Mark had also worked on the pilot episode as an associate producer and appeared as one of the Klingons, but his involvement with the second episode was much more significant. Working off of a plot synopsis from John Broughton, Mark wrote the screenplay (his first ever), produced and directed the episode, edited both the video and sound, and helped design sets. And Mark continued to work on Farragut even after the second episode was completed.
The episode worked on many levels. Once again, Farragut Films used James Cawley’s TOS sets at Retro Studios in upstate New York to film scenes on the USS Farragut itself. But for the scenes which took place in earth’s past, the production took advantage of a very unique resource local to the southern Maryland area: Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological Park, which included many pristine, preserved colonial homes dating back to the eighteenth century. Mark himself had been a Revolutionary War re-enactor back in high school and college, and he had friends who were still involved in the hobby. This translated into tailor-made casting of performers with tailor-made costumes they already owned who portrayed soldiers and townsfolk of that time-period. As such, the scenes in the past with General Washington and his men seemed as authentic and believable as the scenes in the future on board the USS Farragut.
The script, along with allowing development of Captain Carter, First Officer Tacket, and Engineer Smithfield, gave attention to the character of Security Chief Prescott, played by Paul R. Sieber (who had played the same character in the pilot, along with also writing and directing it). Prescott’s character provided a unique look at a red shirt who wasn’t just put on camera to be killed off. Prescott’s no-nonsense military toughness played off of Captain Carter in fascinating ways. But by far, the show was stolen by the penetrating performance of Mark Hildebrand himself, portraying a wise and thoughtful General George Washington moving though a very real (and historically accurate) crisis of confidence.
Once again, NEO f/x provided CGI and editing/compositing services, and many other folks who had been involved with the pilot episode continued their participation. Ads on Craigslist only served to increase the number of people involved with the production by at least a couple of dozen. One notable talent change, however, came with the arrival of musical composer Hetoreyn, who gave the episode a very haunting and engaging period flavor. And speaking of haunting, the episode had a very controversial ending involving the Mirror Universe that left many fans debating whether or not this episode should be considered “canon” (or as canonical as fan films can be). Personally, I liked the ending, and Farragut’s take is what will be in my own “head canon” until I see otherwise.
“For Want of a Nail” went on to win the Best Fan Film Award at the Wrath of Con film festival in 2008. But Starship Farragut was just getting started. 2008 would bring with it huge changes and leaps forward for Starship Farragut as John Broughton and his team would rewrite their own playbook and take Farragut where no fan series had gone before.
Next time: part 2 of our 3-part look at the fascinating history of this amazing fan series. Can Starship Farragut possibly continue to release TWO films per year?? Things get quite animated as the production team looks for space (and not the final frontier kind!). And which irreplaceable member of the Farragut crew wants to be…replaced???