SETH MacFARLANE’S many STAR TREK fan films!

It’s no secret that the creator of The Orville, SETH MacFARLANE, is a major Trekkie.  He’s said as much in interviews.  But few fans realized that Seth’s preoccupation with our favorite sci-fi franchise went BEYOND simply watching it or collecting stuff or even doing Captain Kirk impressions.  Yep, Seth MacFarlane actually made his own Star Trek fan film!

And no, I’m not talking about The Orville (although many have argued that he’s made a kind of Star Trek “fan film” in creating that show).  I’m talking about an honest-to-goodness amateur Star Trek fan film…where a teenaged Seth sits in the center seat on a home-made bridge set, wearing a do-it-yourself command tunic, barking orders at a friend wearing pointed ears while an AMT model of the refit USS Enterprise—complete with a drooping left nacelle—speeds across a blue screen chroma-keyed with a cheesy black hole space effect.

Here, take a look…

But believe it or not, Seth MacFarlane would go on to have many MORE opportunities to publicly geek out as a Trekkie…from playing James T. Kirk on real TV to hiring Patrick Stewart and even appearing on two actual Star Trek episodes!

Born in Kent, Connecticut in 1973, Seth was drawing cartoons at age 2, and by age 9, he was getting paid by the local Kent newspaper to illustrate a regular comic strip.  Seth did drawing and animation throughout his high school years in the late 1980s.  He went on to study video and animation at the  prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, ultimately producing a thesis film called Life of Larry…which would later evolve into Seth’s first major mega-hit, Family Guy.

Although Seth was hoping to work for Disney, it was Hanna-Barbera Productions that saw Life of Larry and offered Seth a job right out of college in 1995.  Coming out to Los Angeles, Seth was put to work as both a writer and animator on Cow and Chicken and, two years later, Johnny Bravo.  All the while, Seth continued to fine-tune Life of Larry, revamping it into a comedy short called Larry & Steve.

After working in Los Angeles barely three years, Seth struck gold when Fox inked a $2.5 million deal with him to develop a pilot in the style of Larry & Steve.  That became Family Guy, which debuted on Fox in 1998.  At the age of only 25, Seth MacFarlane was now an executive producer on a weekly network show…one of the youngest people to ever do that!

Seth voiced many of the characters on Family Guy, including lots who appeared in brief gag interludes.  And some of those interludes were, not surprisingly, Star Trek-related.  Here’s one from 2014 where Seth voices (yet again!) Captain Kirk, as well as Scotty…

Family Guy was actually canceled in 2002, but it found new life and popularity along with many other shows that were yanked off the air before their time (can you say “Futurama“?) on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim nighttime programming block.   It was on Adult Swim that Family Guy‘s popularity surged, and Fox brought the show back in 2005.  It was also on Adult Swim that Seth had his first chance to play a live-action Captain Kirk on national TV.  The following video was posted back in 2012 and contains outtakes from a comedy segment (the full segment doesn’t appear to be online anywhere)…

By 2004, Seth was well-known enough in Hollywood to be able to realize a childhood Trekker’s dream that I’m certain we’ve all shared at one time or another: to appear on real Star Trek as an officer on board the USS Enterprise.  In this case, it was theNX-01 in the third season Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Forgotten.”  In that episode, Seth’s character wasn’t given a name—he was simply a random engineer who got bawled out by an exhausted and grumpy Trip Tucker—and he spoke only six words…

However, in Enterprise‘s fourth and final season, Seth returned to the series for yet another guest appearance in the episode “Affliction.”  And this time his character was given a name, “Ensign Rivers,” and reassigned to the USS Columbia.  Also, this time his scene lasted nearly three times as long, and he got eleven words of dialog…which is infinitely more than most of the rest of us Trek fans ever get!

Also in 2005, Seth had the opportunity to play Jim Kirk once again, but this time only as the voice of an Admiral Kirk action figure on the rather twisted stop-motion series, Robot Chicken.  Co-created and executive produced by SETH GREEN (who provides the voice of Family Guy‘s “Chris” alongside Seth MacFarlane—the two are very close professionally), Robot Chicken has featured Seth MacFarlane doing voices in countless episodes.  (Actually, I did count, and according to this web page, it’s 84!)

Robot Chicken is no stranger to Star Trek spoofs.  And during its first season, Seth MacFarlane provided his impersonation of Admiral Kirk yelling “KHAAAAAANNNNN!!!” in this parody of A Guy, A Girl, and A Pizza Place.  The following video also includes a few clips from other Trek parodies that you might enjoy)…

2005 was also the year that Seth MacFarlane launched his second regular animated sitcom for Fox, American Dad, which would run for 11 seasons before finishing its final season on TBS.  The Cleveland Show would debut on Fox in 2007.  In fact, Seth inked a $100 million deal with Fox in 2008 to keep his shows on their network until at least 2012.  So if you thought that offering a 25-year-old $2.5 million was lot, try offering a 35-year-old $100 million!  Yep, Seth’s pretty rich, folks.

Anyway, the reason I just brought up American Dad is because it also has a Star Trek connection for mega-fan Seth.  The series featured the voice of SIR PATRICK STEWART as a regular character (“CIA Deputy Director Avery Bullock”) for its entire run.  And lest you think that, by now, Seth was super-rich and uber-famous, take a listen to this funny story Sir Patrick told to Conan O’Brien…

So yeah, Seth’s still a gushing Star Trek fan at heart.  And let’s face it, it takes a hard-core Trekkie to both be both AND willing to do this on Real Time with Bill Maher back in 2010…

So the next time you watch Seth MacFarlane playing Captain Ed Mercer of the USS Orville and think, “Man, this guy just wants to role-play being the captain of the USS Enterprise,” the fact is: yes, he absolutely does…ever since he was a kid making his first Star Trek fan film.  Live long and prosper, Seth!

10 thoughts on “SETH MacFARLANE’S many STAR TREK fan films!”

    1. Do you think that modern Trek should only be made with humor and optimism to be true Trek? I’ve often thought that a movie about a major Borg invasion of the Alpha Quadrant would make fantastic drama (and a CGI extravaganza), but (needless to say) for the plot to work most of Starfleet would have to have been lost in combat and many of the Federation’s worlds destroyed before a remnant of good guys counterattacks in some way and wins the larger war (and saves civilization of course). Such a tale would make DSC seem like light-hearted comedy!

      1. In order to survive a war like that, C.W., you need optimism.

        Look at the wrong turn that Star Trek Enterprise took at the beginning of season 3 when they entered the Delphic Expanse to search for the Xindi. Within a few episodes, Archer was shoving a prisoner out an airlock. Viewers knew that this show had now overshot the “dark” feeling and gone into the downright morbid and depressing. And it wasn’t until Manny Coto started taking over about a third of the way through the season that things began to straighten themselves out a bit. What did Manny add to the series’ direction? Hope. The Enterprise was still getting pummeled. The danger to earth and the Federation was still looming. But the characters kept it together. They persevered because they had hope and optimism…even if Archer was still often grumpy and Trip was sleep-deprived.

        To me, that’s part of what Star Trek is all about. Take away the hope, and you’re just left with another generic sci-fi battle-filled video game. In a scenario like you describe, C.W., where the Borg all but destroy the Federation, wouldn’t it eventually get boring just watching this planet and that planet get assimilated one after the other? Where’s the variety in the content? Where do the storylines begin to get unique?

        The answer to that question can be seen in DS9’s final four seasons. The war with the Dominion is exactly what you described…only with hope. Even when Sisko and Starfleet are forced to abandon the station to Dukat and the Cardassian/Dominion alliance, Sisko leaves his baseball on his desk. That’s a powerful scene, and it’s all because of hope. And not just innocent, naive hope (like the resistance has at the end of The Last Jedi when the entire rebellion now fits inside one battered Corellian freighter plus there’s one impoverished slave kid on some planet somewhere armed with a broom. This was confident, determined hope. Sisko WILL be back, and the audience believes it because Sisko believes it.

        DS9 showed us a real war over 3 to 4 seasons. Worlds fell. Ships were destroyed. We saw Jake watch with horror as he witnessed the ground-pounders in thick of grueling and gruesome battle. And we watched Nog deal with post-traumatic stress from war. We saw the strategies developed at the highest levels of both sides, watched the leaders deal with (or not deal with) dissension and disagreement. We watched the tides of war slowly ebbing and flowing on both sides. We watched our “hero” struggle with guilt over doing something nefarious and underhanded–staining his soul with murder–in order to bring the Romulans into the war on the side of the Federation/Klingon alliance. We saw this war from so many sides…and through it all, through some of the darkest moments for every character, there was still hope.

        Hope–even during the darkest war–is still what Star Trek is all about. And we’ve already seen it. No need to do the same show again with the Borg (where we eliminate watching the enemy strategize and work through confrontation…as Dukat and Damar and Weyoun and the Founder and the Breen guy had to do). Without that, all we’re doing is just watching a bunch of special effects over and over and over again as the Federation falls apart. To me, that isn’t Star Trek.

        1. Thank you. That’s a superb answer to my musing. I think both of the BSG series (to jump franchises) also used the (semi-) religious hope of finding Earth to keep the characters sane and the story engaging as the enemy had the upper hand and had created havoc and destruction. The 2d BSG of course had a wicked twist in the eschatological hope by inserting a nuked cylon “earth” into the plot before at last the one we recognize was found by our surviving characters ( a new earth if not a new heaven, so to speak). My anti-Borg legionnaires no doubt would have to be high-tech Crusaders with a manic sense of destiny (religious calling?) plus wonder-weapons to win at last their war against the Collective after losing so much before victory.

          1. Thanks for not jumping down my throat for my response, C.W. (With the Internet these days, you often expect a “Oh, yeah? Well, a double-dumb-ass on you!” in reply.) 🙂

            When introduced initially in “Q Who,” the Borg represented an unusual and uniquely terrifying threat: a “hive mind” that thought as one and therefore could not be reasoned with or asked for mercy. The old sci-fi trope of finding someone in the enemy’s camp whom you could turn and make sympathize with you was now gone. And their massive power and unstoppability just added to the awesomeness of the Borg as a threatening enemy. And of course, there’s always the old Vampire/Zombie/Werewolf/Pod-People trope of them using YOU to swell their own ranks.

            There was only one problem, though…

            In terms of dramatic storytelling, it’s alway more effective emotionally to show the bad guy(s) talking, plotting, arguing, reacting, etc. Imagine if Superman were fighting a silent Lex Luthor. Where’s the confident reveal of the master plan that the hero must stop? Where’s the gloating, the metaphorical twirling of the mustache? Where’s the “NOOOOOO!!!” of frustration when Superman finally wins and Lex is thrown back into jail?

            The Borg don’t have that.

            Other sci-fi series are loaded with talkative villains: Star Wars, BSG, Babylon 5 (through Morden, Bester, etc.), Faracape, etc. Even the aforementioned Deep Space 9 let us watch Dukat and Damar plotting and arguing with the Founder, let us marvel at the duplicity of Weyoun…the only one who wasn’t talking was the Breen (well, not talking English). But we got to watch the enemy closely, see their fortunates and frustrations ebb and flow and the series went on.

            The Borg, as initially conceived, didn’t allow for any of that. In fact, by the time of “Best of Both Worlds,” the writers found that they needed to create a Borg to speak as an individual (of sorts) in order to better focus the viewers’ emotions. That Borg, of course, was Locutus…and through him (after his capture by the Enterprise), we got to learn more about our adversary. The next major Borg tale, “I, Borg,” also had to personalize the Borg. This time, that same old trope I mentioned of “turning” one of the enemy was the core plot of the episode. And the Borg’s final appearance on TNG had to separate an entire “resistance” from the Collective in order to, again, let the villains talk, plan, and react for dramatic effect.

            And of course, the Borg Queen introduced in Star Trek: First Contact was the ultimate capitulation by the writers that the Borg simply weren’t workable as an adversary without an actual villain to draw our focus, anger, and to root against. The Borg Queen became the voice of the Borg, the mustache-twirling bad guy who would share the master-plan, gloat, and ultimately show frustration when finally defeated. Without Queenie, we’d never see any of that from the Collective.

            But even with a Borg Queen, there’s only so much drama you can ring out of her. Eventually, it becomes the same-old, same-old…which is why Voyager used her sparingly and brought in Seven and Janeway to play off against the Borg Queen when she did appear. But if all the Borg Queen is doing is destroying the Federation and assimilating world after world, well, there’s not much interesting we can do with her while she watches her master plan come to fruition.

        2. To veer slightly off topic, I did not like enterprise at all, until Manny Coto took over, by then it was all too late, but my point is, Manny Coto is fricking amazing, and I heartily recommend another show he made (which sadly got cancelled when it got really good) called Odyssey 5, there are 18 episodes of it, watch it if you have the chance, it’s good.

          1. Odyssey 5 was awesome. I’ve loved Peter Weller since Buckaroo Banzai, and he led the O5 cast wonderfully. Unfortunately, the series ends on a very frustrating cliffhanger!!!!

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