A history of STAR TREK CONTINUES (feature, part 2)

WARNING!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

Cover 2Last time, we looked at an overview of what made STAR TREK CONTINUES unique among fan films.  This week, we’ll take a closer look at how this fan series got its start and some of its earliest fan film releases.

Months before producing and releasing its first full episode in 2013, STC filmed three short vignettes in May of 2012 to “introduce themselves” and get their space legs.

THE VINGETTES

The first vignette, about four minutes long, recreated the ending of “Turnabout Intruder,” the final first-run episode of TOS to air on television. But instead of ending on the depressingly somber line from Kirk, “If only…” the vignette CONTINUED the scene (get it?), following Kirk, Spock, and Scott into the turbolift and onto the bridge. Joined a few seconds later by McCoy, the somber mood is lightened by a good-natured poke at Spock by the doctor, and then Kirk orders the Enterprise to rendezvous with the Potemkin. The music shifts to an uplifting, optimistic melody, portending new and exciting adventures into the future. The camera pans out to reveal the entire bridge crew as the credits roll.

You can watch the vignette here…

And if you’re curious, here’s a couple of still-frame comparisons to the original version of that same scene from TOS…

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A comparison of the original “Turnabout Intruder” (left) and the recreation of the scenes by STAR TREK CONTINUES.

This first vignette was released onto the Internet on July 31, 2012 and served to do more than simply say, “Hey, we’re here! Look what we can do!” It also introduced four of the main actors who would be starring in the new series.

Show runner and executive producer Vic Mignogna (playing Kirk) is a professional actor who has done extensive voice-over work on amine and video games…along with having been a lifelong Trekkie who used to drag his mother to conventions and film his own Trek episodes on Super 8 as a child in the 1970s. Vic had worked on other Trek fan films, directing and acting in episodes of both Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II and Starship Farragut (and later appearing in Star Trek: Renegades).

Vic decided that, as much as fans loved appearing in fan films, most of them weren’t comfortable or convincing enough in front of the camera. For his fan series, Vic wanted trained actors to be the ones appearing on screen. Non-professional fans could help out behind the scenes, but even there, Vic preferred to have people with film-making knowledge and experience leading those efforts, as well. Fans with less experience were welcome to assist, but under the supervision of the “veterans.” And it paid off by having a very professional and polished look and feel to their production.

Todd Haberkorn as “Spock”and Chuck Huber as “McCoy” join Vic Mignogna as “Kirk” in STAR TREK CONTINUES.

Vic brought in two fellow voice-over actors to play Spock and McCoy: Todd Haberkorn and Chuck Huber, respectively. Chuck would later miss the first two full-length episodes due to health issues, but he returned for the third episode and each one thereafter. Both actors brought their own interpretations to the iconic characters they were playing. And considering that there was no way that Leonard Nimoy or DeForest Kelley would be able to reprise those roles, Todd and Chuck did a pretty impressive job.

Perhaps most striking, however (eerily so!) was the person playing Scotty…and with good reason. The actor portraying the chief engineer literally had Montgomery Scott in his blood! Chris Doohan is the son of late actor James Doohan (the original Scotty) and does an amazing job recreating that unique Scottish brogue that his father made so iconic. Chris initially came on to voice Scotty in an animated episode of Starship Farragut a few years prior, and Vic convinced him (with some effort) to come on board STC…and he’s been one of the standouts of the cast ever since.

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Like father, like son…Chris Doohan (right) plays Scotty.

Star Trek Continues‘ second vignette “You’ve Got the Conn” was released two months after the first. This short film introduced the three remaining actors who had very minor roles in the first vignette: Kim Stinger as Uhura, Wyatt Lenhart as Chekov, and Grant Imahara as Sulu. You might recognize Grant’s name as one of the regulars on the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters TV show. All three of these actors were given extensive lines in this 3-minute story showing what goes on when Kirk isn’t on the bridge, and each actor did a masterful job of recreating his or her character. Grant speaks in a low Sulu voice, and Wyatt’s Russian accent is vonderful!

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Left to right: Wyatt Lenhart, Kim Stinger, Vic Mignogna, and Grant Imahara.

The final vignette, “Happy Birthday, Scotty,” (released on November 30) was the shortest of the bunch at just two minutes. Rather than introducing a new character or actor, this brief film introduced the new hand phaser props that the series would be using…similar to the originals but with a slightly sleeker appearance and cool flashy lights. Nevertheless, the vignette, like the other two before it, felt like TOS Trek.

STC-11Vic wore a lot of production hats in those three vignettes, including writing or co-writing all three (with the exception of the parts of “Turnabout Intruder” originally written by Gene Roddenberry and Arthur H. Singer, of course), directing two of the vignettes (Jack Marshall directed the first one), and editing all three.

THE FIRST FULL EPISODE – PILGRIM OF ETERNITY

Down the line, Vic’s eventual goal was to not have to do so many jobs simultaneously and instead concentrate mostly on acting. But for what would be the first full-length episode, Vic was still the “guy in charge” and would again (co)write the story (other professional screenplay writers would assemble the final script), direct, and edit…as well as appear as Kirk.  No pressure.

In an interview from CNET from April of 2014, Vic shared how he decided on telling a story of redemption in the first full STC episode. And not just redemption for any old character—redemption for a Trek “bad guy” in a sequel to the second season TOS episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” Vic said…

Years ago, I became friends with BarBara Luna — who played Marlena in the original “Mirror, Mirror” episode — and one day out of the blue we were talking and she said to me long before I started Star Trek Continues, “You know, Mike Forest would love to do some more Star Trek.” And I said, “Who is Michael Forest?” And she said, “Mike Forest played Apollo in the original series.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love Apollo and I love that episode!” And so I kind of logged that away in the back of my mind, and when I started Star Trek Continues and was looking for an idea, I thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to do a follow-up episode to that episode? And so I contacted Michael Forest and told him I had an idea for an Apollo redemption story. He really liked it, and so we moved forward with writing the script and shooting the episode.

Michael Forest wasn’t the only Trek veteran actor to participate in that first full episode of STC. In a bit of a coup, Vic convinced Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation) to provide the voice of the Enterprise computer. (That made Marina the second TNG regular series actor to appear in a Trek fan film…the first being Denise “Tasha Yar” Crosby in Star Trek: New Voyages’ 2-part “Blood and Fire” four years earlier.) It seemed oddly appropriate that the person who played the daughter of Lawaxana Troi (portrayed by the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry) would lend her voice to the Enterprise computer, which had also been voiced by Majel.

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Michael Forest as Apollo (left)and Jaimie Barber, who USED to play Apollo…but on Battlestar Galactica.

Another actor of sci-fi note to appear in the episode was Jamie Bamber, who played Lee Adama (Captain Apollo…how fitting!) in the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Also worth mentioning was a cameo by Star Trek and Galactica art department veteran Doug Drexler. Doug, who had previously worked on other fan films’ 3D computer FX, had recently decided to move away from fan films. But he changed that decision in order to do CGI visual effects for STC. The 3D animations for the three vignettes had previously been done by Gabe Koerner. Doug also appeared on camera in the opening sequence of “Pilgrim of Eternity” in a scene which immediately grabbed the viewer’s attention as being plucked straight out of the Tombstone, Arizona setting of the TOS episode “Spectre of the Gun.” It turns out the sequence is part of a virtual reality program running in a very early version of the Holodeck!

The Holodeck???

Yes. Vic and his co-writers decided to “evolve” Star Trek a little to move it forward toward things that were seen later on. It wasn’t unheard of for the original Star Trek to add new things between seasons. Chekov was added to the crew in season two…along with a larger Engineering set and an expansion of Sickbay. So what might have been added in season four? Why not an early, experimental Holodeck (something already considered possible canon from the animated episode “Practical Joker”)?

Another addition for STC was the completely new character of Lt. Elise McKennah, PhD, played by professional actress Michele Specht. Dr. McKennah was among the first of Starfleet’s new ship’s counselors, a bit of an experimental program…and not a program Kirk was particularly fond of at first.

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Michele Specht (left) as ship’s counselor Dr. McKennah and on the right, Larry Nemecek as Dr. McCoy and Todd Haberkorn as Mr. Spock.

With Chuck Huber unavailable to play the role of Dr. McCoy for the first two episodes, a stand-in was found in the person of Larry Nemecek. If you’ve never heard of this legend of Star Trek folklore, look him up on Google (there’s about 75,000 results!). He’s also served as a creative consultant to STC, but for its first two episodes, he played a very convincing Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.

With all the pieces in place, including the amazing sets and props, costumes from Anovos, make-up artists, lighting specialists, sound engineers, production crew of all shapes and sizes and specialties, and of course, the actors, filming on “Pilgrim of Eternity” began in October of 2012 and lasted a little over a week…just like an episode of the original Trek did back in the 60s.

Vic himself paid the expenses of the actors and some of the crew to come down to Georgia for the shooting. Michael Forest brought along his wife Diana, who ended up playing a small role as Athena, who gives up the last of her energy so that Apollo can live. The two of them had a blast and, according to Vic, still come to STC social events that happen in the Los Angeles area (where they live) because they feel like they’re “a part of the family.”

STC-14With all the footage “in the can,” work began on post production: adjusting sound levels and light and color, cutting and editing scenes together, adding music and sound effects, and completing visual effects shots until the episode was finished and ready to premiere to the world on May 24, 2013. Take a look at the finished production: “Pilgrim of Eternity”.

Fan reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Sure, there were complaints that Vic Mignogna’s acting was too derivative of Shatner or that this or that actor could never replace the original.  Well, of course not!  No one was trying to replace anyone, only to honor them by carrying forward their iconic characters. But despite a few grumblers out there, the vast majority of fans were blown away by what they saw (including me!), and were eagerly anticipating what would come next.

And what came next would require…a Kickstarter! (Or rather, a KIRKstarter, as STC cleverly called it.)

STC-15Vic reportedly spent about $40-60,000 of his own money financing the first full-length episode. Vic later commented in an interview, “My feeling was that it would be unethical for me to ask people to give me money to do something I had not proven I could do.” And even though the three vignettes had grabbed people’s attention, they were short.  A full-length episode would have a much stronger impacy.

And now that Vic had his full-length episode to show people, it was time to see if folks would donate their money in order to see more.  But this was only 2013…before most Trek fans even knew what a Kickstarter was.  In fact, by the time STC launched their campaign in early October, only one Star Trek fan film had ever successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign (Star Trek: Renegades).  Everyone else had failed to fund.

STC set an ambitious goal of $100,000.  Would they be able to convince fans to give them that much money?  Remember, with Kickstarter, if you don’t make it to your goal, you get nothing.


Next time: we find out whether Star Trek Continues reached that $100,000 or not.  Then our spotlight rolls on with a closer look at STC‘s next three episodes, as the make-up and costuming departments get pushed to their limits!

And of course, all of the amazing offerings of STC can be found on their website:

http://startrekcontinues.com/episodes.html

26 thoughts on “A history of STAR TREK CONTINUES (feature, part 2)”

  1. Ha! I didn’t notice the rather Obvious Apropos.. Apollo.. guest starring on the original Apollo’s sequel, portrayed by the original Actor.

    Rather similar to the character Thomas Mereck played by the other Apollo.

    1. Actually, the late Richard Hatch’s character on the new BSG series was named Tom Zarek.

      But yeah, the Apollo connection was a fun little Easter egg once I noticed it.

    1. Like certain other notable fan film makers with big personalities, Vic can be very polarizing. Also like certain other fan film makers, Vic doesn’t necessarily set out to be so polarizing. It just kinda happens. But that’s one of the risks that comes with putting yourself out there. Go big or stay home. Vic decided not to stay home. I admire him for that. I haven’t always agreed with everything he’s done or said, but I respect that he had a dream, figured out a way to make that dream happen, and then worked his ass off making it happen. I’m sorry that Shatner isn’t as impressed as I am, but truth to tell, I haven’t always agreed with everything Bill’s done or said either! 🙂

      1. I don’t think very highly of Bill Shatner, either. Having met the man, I can honestly say that his ego is as big as an Orpheus asteroid.

        All that aside, I would not say that Vic has worked his ass off in making STC happen. It has been more like Vic lying, cheating, stealing, and violating the law to make his dream – or in this case – his nightmare happen. He is NO DIFFERENT than those involved with Axanar and the Farragut Films folk.

        I’m amazed that CBS/Paramount has allowed him to finish up STC. Personally, they should not have.

        1. There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to tell you how WRONG I think you are about Vic, BT. Having just shared an amazing two and a half hours with the cast and crew of STC and about 200 fans watching their final episode and discussing their experiences and memories and stories of production, I can honestly say that my admiration for all of them–including Vic–increased ten-fold today.

          I feel bad for you, Blue, because your negativity means you’re missing out on so many wonderful, inspiring things in this world. Some people can look at a Picasso and complain about the eyes, mouth, and nose all being in the wrong place and how overrated abstract art is. That’s their right, of course. I feel bad for them, too.

  2. I appreciate your passion and that you are brave enough to put yourself out there, but your prose is seriously wordy. You need an editor desperately. Almost every sentence is overwritten. It makes getting through the entire thing very difficult.

    1. Sorry, RC, but editors who work for free aren’t easy to find, and I tend to write on a very compressed schedule. So they’d have to work fast AND for free. 🙂

      How would you recommend I shorten this article? Just curious. If you’d like to supply a rewrite, I’d be happy to look it over. And I don’t say that to be snarky. I’m truly curious where you think it could be shortened. Maybe that’ll help me in the future.

      In the meantime, you’ll either need to endure my writing style or else, regrettably, I’ll have to accept losing a reader.

      1. I won’t edit the entire piece but here is an example:

        “I’ve already discussed what makes “Star Trek Continues” a unique fan film series, but want to discuss how it began and its first releases.

        To introduce the series, STC released three vignettes months before releasing a full episode in 2013.

        The first four minute short recreated the ending of “Turnabout Intruder” (the last produced episode of The Original Series) rather than ending on a somber “If only…” from Kirk, the scene “continued” *get it?), by following Kirk, Spock, and Scott to the bridge. Joined there by McCoy, the somber mood lightens with his good-natured poke at Spock. As Kirk orders the Enterprise to rendezvous with the Potemkin, the music shifts to an uplifting, optimistic melody, portending new and exciting adventures in the future. The camera pans out to reveal the entire bridge crew as the credits roll.”

        I just rewrote your opening and cut almost 1/3 of the words. If someone can remove 30% and get the same information across, you’ve overwritten.

        You don’t have to pay someone, but you might try to learn how to write rather than type whatever comes to mind. Edit it. Look at each line and ask yourself if everything you said was needed. One third does not seem to be.

        1. I appreciate you taking a crack at it, RC. The fact is, writing this blog takes a lot of time. And as the famous saying goes, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

          It’s a funny thing to say, but it’s also very true. I already read over everything I write at least once, checking for typos. A few still creep in here and there, but I’m proud of how “clean” my blogs are. Sometimes during those editorial passes, I trim this or that. And just as often, I add this or that to make certain that what I’m saying is clear.

          I won’t apologize for writing the way that I do. I like to be precise and cover as much about the fan films as I can. It’s a journalistic choice on my part. If folks don’t enjoy my blogs, they’re welcome not to read them…or only read the short ones that are just 300-400 words (I have a lot of those, too). Trust me, RC, I’m not doing this for the money. I’m doing this so there’s a place online that records all of the interesting details behind these wonderful and prolific Star Trek fan productions. And if doing that means I write long blogs, so be it.

          Now, I’ve just read this response over for typos, but I won’t be trying to shorten it (even though I probably could by chopping out the first two paragraphs). Instead, I now have to drive my son to school and get on with my day. 🙂

          1. No offense to you intended, but if you can say “I read it over at least once” you aren’t a writer. A writer reads over their work far more than once. A journalist especially. You might take a class at the local community college on writing to learn more. You don’t have to apologize for writing the way you do, but it’s a mistake to call yourself a writer or a journalist. You are neither at this skill level.

  3. I really liked the attention to details in this and other Blog articles on this site. They may not read like a coherent Novel.. but I think I’ve enough background as a fan that it “appears” to flow together, my less perceptive inner grammarian.. is probably off duty, and my fandom is filling in the missing pieces.

    (its simply hard remembering what it was like to not know so much.. about a subject)

    I especially like that the STC team was led by an Architect who acknowledge the importance of the lighting and camera angles, or the music. As a kid.. I didn’t know what all that meant, but got a taste of it from “The Making of Star Trek”

    I also recall the Krell lab scenes or construction from the Wrath of Kahn, that informed me enough to go back and compare to Forbidden Planet and how Star Fleet echoed a lot of movies that had really recently gone not that far before it. Compare the scenes with Gary Mitchell on the planet they planned to strand him on… with scenes from Forbidden Planet.. very similar in many ways.

    The use of Matte paintings for Castles with Moons in the Sky, or synthetic rock and colored Skys on Sound stages dressed as planet side. Funny how their Faces and Uniforms never picked up a tint or hue cast from the skys.. lol.. I’m poking fun.. but a lot of it was pure dramatic theater production.. nothing like Silent Running or Alien a few years later.

    The 1970’s seemed to be obsessed with making things look “real” by NASA and Apollo program standards.. to the detrement of the audience just trying to enjoy the story. It was like Science Fiction was being hi-jacked in the service of justifying something other than the story.

    Star Trek : Phase II would have probably reflected that Cold War, sad unhopeful malaise that set in .. Star Wars kind of had that vibe.. of doom and gloom against impossible odds. But Star Wars also had that Atari.. Gunstar.. Last Starfighter.. happy ending. It could have stood alone.. but see The Empire Strikes Back as the darker alternative.

    Science Fiction as a Theatrical category just isn’t given the respect its due in my opinion.

    Science Fiction as psedo-historical record.. Proving Warp drive is a real science.. just looses something.

    1. “I really liked the attention to details in this and other Blog articles on this site.”

      Thank you, John. It’s challenging to write so many blog features about so many different fan films and try to keep them all interesting. There’s actually a lot more about STC that I’ve had to cut in order to keep the articles around 2,000-2,500 words each. Yeah, I know that’s still long for some people, but they could have been even longer!

      As for 1970s sci-fi, I always saw those films as focusing more on post nuclear holocaust worlds, where WWWIII has long since happened…movies like Logan’s Run and Damnation Alley. In the 1980s, the films were more concerned with preventing WWWIII…movies like Terminator and War Games.

      So would Phase II have been obsessed with post nuclear war stories or preventing those nuclear wars? Based on those scripts we did see–The Child and Devil’s Due from TNG, it’s hard to say.

      1. In Dallas, Texas where I grew up Star Trek was on right after Hogan’s Hero’s around dinner time, on a religious network called Channel 39 UHF (I believe).

        One summer I recall they were ceasing broadcast of Star Trek because they said new episodes were going into production and would soon air in the Fall.. this was way back in the 1970’s

        It eventually resumed and all hint of a resumption disappeared.. but I do recall it was deep in the 1970’s .. placing it in that time period I recall a neighborhood teenagers brother was crippled in Vietnam and all sorts of tragedies and talk of nuclear war. (In fact I recall Assignment Earth had dealt with the issues only a few years before).

        In light of all that.. I can’t imagine Star Trek not skewing further and further into the dark politics that took us all in mad directions. Idealistic ideas like preserving life or the human race were anti-nationalist.. we were all suppose to go down as one and never give an inch.. no cooperation with anyone.

        To remain on the air Star Trek would have had to change to adopt more uncooperative ideas.. Spock siding with hippies.. hmm.. I think he would ahve eventually had to leave the Enterprise to follow his own ideas. McCoy wouyld have probably lost the Captains ear.. Kirk (if he had remained in Star Fleet) would have to go rogue more often.. become even more subversive.

        In the 70’s I think the network would have jerked it off the air eventually… unless it survived the Nixon event.. after that the country and politics seemed to return to cooperative governing.. things settled down. Jimmy Carter’s era would have been the 1980’s which was swing of epic proportions.. and like you said.. preventing the unthinkable .. even protecting the environment came up. 1979 was Star Trek the Motion Picture.. and it was very much a movie for the 80’s with the last vestigates of V’ger and the Nasa Apollo “realism” in special effects. Sideburns and Moustaches however were still left over from the 70’s

        By Star Trek IV The Voyage Home we were so into saving the World, we were thinking globally and all about the environment.. definitely not like today.

        Today I really don’t think Star Trek could survive as it was.. 1987 perfect, 1997 or 2007 definitely perfect timing.. by 2016 though.. another dark age.. in about 8 more years if history rhymes we should be ready for Star Trek again.. maybe.

      1. Oh its no worries! I don’t think I ever told you specifically what I’d done. I did ship shots for their vignettes they made before the first episode, the opening titles of the first 3 eps, and various bits and pieces here and there in other eps when I had time.

        That was a lovely screening Sunday and Jayden’s moment in the spotlight was adorable and got a very nice response from the cast.

  4. Thanks Jonathan, I for one, DO appreciate how & what you write. And that was a great episode, I wish I had watched much, much sooner than today. Now, I really look forward to viewing all the rest of their works. The more I see of these fan films with these particular people, the easier it gets to view these replacements as the originals. Because they model the characters so well.

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog, David. It’s definitely a labor of love…much like the fan films themselves that I write about!

      As for STC, it’s truly one of the giants of the genre. It will be sorely missed but NEVER forgotten!

  5. Editing options would help comments section?

    I just wanted to add, that I really appreciate the attention to details the whole cast and those behind the scenes worked on to bring us all such great recreations. The sets are spectacular to say the least. But, nothing was overlooked I feel. It’s too bad comments are disabled on YouTube. But I can understand why.

    1. “It’s too bad comments are disabled on YouTube. But I can understand why.”

      Yeah, I wish some fans could behave more civilly to each other and not be so belligerent to certain fan films and their producers. Alas…

Comments are closed.