A history of STAR TREK CONTINUES (feature, part 6)

WARNING!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

Last time, an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign in early 2016 gave the STAR TREK CONTINUES team just under $200,000 to produce more episodes of their fan series.  But a new set of fan film guidelines released by CBS and Paramount threatened to stop the production in its tracks by limiting episode length to 15-minutes, blocking ongoing series, and forbidding the use of paid professionals and Star Trek alumni on any fan production.  STC‘s episodes had been regularly violating several of these new guidelines, and while the new rules were not retroactive, they would apply to anything produced by STC going forward.

But the STC team decided to forge ahead anyway, arguing that the guidelines were only that—guidelines—and not some kind of new “law.”  They only said that fan productions that followed these guidelines would not be sued by the studios, NOT that those who didn’t follow the guidelines would be sued.

So STC announced their intention to produce four new full-length episodes with professional actors and crew, release all four in 2017, and then shut down their fan series for good.  The hope was that their amicable relationship with CBS would convince the studios to allow them to finish up, shut down, and go out on the high note.  It wasn’t the most optimum solution, of course.  STC had initially wanted to produce 13 episodes, and now they would only go to 11.  However, considering the harsh constraints of the new guidelines on fan films, being able to produce four full-length episodes—assuming the studios would let them do so without a cease and desist letter or a lawsuit—seemed to be more of a victory than a defeat.

But would CBS and Paramount allow then to actually do it?

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A history of STAR TREK CONTINUES (feature, part 5)

Last time, as 2015 came to a close, STAR TREK CONTINUES was well on its way to a royal fizzbin.  They purchased the entirety of the sets in Kingsland, GA, and released their sixth episode, “Divided We Stand.” STC‘s second “Kirkstarter” at the beginning of 2015 had brought in nearly $215,000 to fund their next two episodes and build two new sets: Engineering and a planet set similar to what existed for TOS back in the 1960s on the Paramount lot.  And then 2016 brought the release of those next two episodes, “Come Not Between the Dragons“and “Embracing the Winds.”

With eight episodes completed and released, STC was now way past the mid-point of what was originally intended to be a 13-episode run.  Show-runner Vic Mignogna never envisioned STC going past that number of episodes, and joked that he, now well into his fifties, couldn’t play a 35-year-old James T. Kirk forever.  Indeed, episodes 7 and 8 already began introducing plot elements that would form into an ongoing story arc that would culminate in the series finale that would end Kirk’s five-year mission and lead into Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

But as 2015 drew to a close, no one suspected that 2016 would turn out to be an uncertain and controversial year, not just for STC, but for all Star Trek fan films.  And it all began just before New Years with the filing of a copyright infringement lawsuit by CBS and Paramount against another fan production…Axanar.

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STAR TREK CONTINUES releases its SERIES FINALE! (includes special video intro by VIC MIGNOGNA)

Now listen to me very carefully:

  • Go into your kitchen.
  • Make some popcorn.
  • Go back to your computer (or TV if you watch YouTube there).
  • Close the door.
  • Turn down the lights.
  • Turn off your phone(s).
  • And watch the series finale of STAR TREK CONTINUES before anyone can spoil it for you.
  • Do it NOW…that’s an order!

There’s no need to say anything more, unless you missed “To Boldly Go, Part I” (in which case, watch that first and then follow my previous orders).

Comments with spoilers are welcome below, but if you haven’t watched the episode yet, for heaven’s sake, DON’T SCROLL DOWN THIS PAGE!!!  Just…don’t.  Watch the finale first.  It’s 58 minutes and 10 seconds of absolute Star Trek bliss.

Also, don’t miss the final two installments of my “History of Star Trek Continues blog series this Friday and next.  Out of respect for those who don’t follow orders, I will be waiting until next Friday to get into any details about the finale.  I will also be including video segments from the STC panel discussion after the live screening).

Speaking of which, here is a SPECIAL INTRODUCTION by show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA that was given in Los Angeles before the screening…

And now, after fifty years, it’s time to finally witness the end of that historic five-year mission and celebrate this groundbreaking fan series…a precious gift to all of Star Trek fandom.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is why I’m here…

 

A history of STAR TREK CONTINUES (feature, part 4)

WARNING!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

Last time: we took a look at the first three episodes of STAR TREK CONTINUES to be filmed with $126,000 in funds donated from their first “Kirkstarter” campaign in late 2013: “Lolani,” “Fairest of Them All,” and The White Iris.

The last of these three episodes was filmed in January of 2015, just as STC was launching its second Kickstarter campaign (Kirkstarter 2.0, as they called it) to fund their next episode….and possibly more.  But before we get to the crowd-funding campaign, something even more significant was about to happen in the Georgia Studio where STC shared space with Farragut Films.

Farragut Films wanted out, and was ready to let STC take over the studio completely (along with the $4,000/month rent!).  The only problem: Farragut Films wanted to take their bridge with them.  After all, they built it!  But how was STC going to make more episodes without the most important TOS set of them all???

Later on at the end of 2015, STC would file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and their submitted paperwork became public record.  As such, we now know all of the details of what happened behind-the-scenes when Farragut Films moved out of the studio…

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A history of STAR TREK CONTINUES (feature, part 3)

WARNING!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

Last time: Having released a very impressive debut episode, Pilgrim of Eternity,” in May of 2013, STAR TREK CONTINUES was ready to bring fans even more episodes from what they imagined would have been the never-produced 4th and 5th seasons of TOS Star Trek.  They just needed one thing: money.

Vic Mignogna had funded their first episode himself as a way of telling fans, “Hey, this is what we can do.  Please donate so we can make more episodes like this.”  Some of the sets had already been built by the team at Starship Farragut, which agreed to share their studio with STC.  Other set pieces, like the briefing room and captain’s quarters, had been partially constructed in Oklahoma City for the never-made fan film Starship Ajax, and Vic purchased them from Ajax show-runner John Hughes to take to Georgia.

In 2012, Farragut Films moved to a larger studio in Kingsland, GA, with 10,000 square feet to expand into.  With their combined resources, the two productions were now able to have a TOS bridge, transporter, crew quarters, briefing room/mess hall, sickbay, and corridors.  New set construction—including improvements for the existing bridge—were overseen by local contractor William Smith, who became the de facto “custodian” of the entire set, as he lived close to the studio.

But a fan film needs more than just sets.  There was also rent for the sound stage, rent for the equipment, utilities, prop creation, costume production and rental, make-up supplies and equipment, and post-production costs for things like hard-drive storage.  Add to this costs for travel and lodging for out-of-town cast and crew plus food for everyone during the week and a half of filming.  And while most of the team were volunteers, some professionals were working at a discounted rate (about 10% of their normal fee).  It all added up!

STC-15Vic determined that if STC could raise $100,000 in a crowd-funder, they could afford to make three additional episodes.  The campaign was held in late 2013, and on November 6, the Kickstarter (or KIRKstarter, as they called it) finished with $126,028 from 2,981 backers.  That was more than enough for three new episodes!

Let’s take a closer look at each of them…

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STAR TREK CONTINUES gives fans a SNEAK PEEK at their FINAL EPISODE!

It was truly one of the most extraordinary moments I’ve ever experienced at a convention.  And for the rest of my life, whenever someone uses the word “bittersweet,” my mind will remember seeing the finale of STAR TREK CONTINUES at L.A. Comic Con with the entire cast, some guest stars, writers, directors, VFX and make-up people, crew, about 200 fans…and my son Jayden.

But in addition to “bittersweet,” I would use words like amazing, inspiring, suspenseful, intimate, dazzling, heartfelt, loving, and incredibly satisfying to describe both this final episode and the nearly 90-minute discussion that followed.

THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS!

In fact, when this episode is finally released onto the Internet on Monday, November 13, I recommend you rush to watch it as soon as you can and allow yourself NO advanced knowledge of anything.  There are truly unexpected surprises in this episode, and you don’t want them ruined.  “To Boldly Go, Part II,” as promised, will end Kirk’s five-year mission with drama, emotion, and an intensity seldom seen in fan films.

It’s a MUST SEE-PLUS-PLUS-PLUS!

As director JAMES KERWIN commented to the audience, he loved hearing everyone applauding at just the right moments, some sniffles at others, all the reactions he was hoping for.  This one hits on all cylinders, folks, and is a beautiful way to wrap up eleven top-notch episodes and five unforgettable years of this beloved fan production.

Anyone wanting to put down show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA or trivialize the accomplishments of these dedicated and talented individuals…well, you’re going to need to do it elsewhere.  As a proud donor and follower of this celebrated fan series, I will stand up for Star Trek Continues every single time!

And speaking of Vic, he respectfully asked for anyone who was recording Sunday evening’s live panel discussion to please not share the video until after the episode had a chance to circulate…as many details were mentioned that could spoil the viewing experience for others.

So I have some wonderful footage from the Q&A session that I will share in a few weeks.  But for now—and I hope Vic will indulge a proud father—I would like to share this one SPOILER-FREE response to a question from my son Jayden, as Vic Mignogna explains his production in a way that any seven-year-old can understand…

Thank you, Vic, for that answer.  And thank to everyone on the STC team for sharing Vic’s dream with appreciative Trekkers who have waited five decades to see Kirk’s historic five-year mission finally reach its conclusion.

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…

STC-8
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.

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A history of STAR TREK CONTINUES (feature, part 1)

NOTE: About a year a half ago, I published a 3-part blog tracing the fascinating history of STAR TREK CONTINUES.  In honor of their penultimate episode being released this past week and their series finale next month, I will be reprinting these blogs and adding an additional blog or two covering what happened between then and now.


Cover 1“If only…”

Those were the last two words uttered by Captain Kirk before Star Trek the original series was canceled in 1969.

“If only…”

Kirk was referring to the tragic descent into hate-filled insanity of his former love, Dr. Janice Lester. But for me, these two words were so much more powerful: If only Star Trek hadn’t been canceled. If only Star Trek could have…

…continued.

TOS fans always felt a pang of frustration that the five-year mission of the USS Enterprise was cut short after only three years in space (and on the air).  Sure, in 1973 an 1974, we got to see 22 animated episodes of the series, voiced by the same original actors, but we never got to see the end of that five-year mission.

Even when Star Trek crossed over into motion pictures, the end of Kirk’s first mission was still a mystery.  And the days of seeing those those bright red, blue, and gold uniforms and those amazingly colorful starship Enterprise sets—those days were gone forever…except in reruns, of course.

I used to have this dream where I was watching an episode of TOS that I’d never seen before.  Of course, I’d seen every episode dozens of times, so when I woke up, I’d sadly remember that there were no “lost” episodes of TOS.

Until there were…

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STAR TREK CONTINUES releases their 10TH EPISODE: “To Boldly Go, Part 1”!

Ten down, just one more to go!

Back in 2013, STAR TREK CONTINUES came in like a lion with a sequel to the TOS episode “Who Mourns for Adonais” that featured Michael Forest reprising his role as Apollo.

Now, as 2017 comes to an end, so does the 5-year mission of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 as Star Trek Continues goes out with a bang!  Their series finale “To Boldly Go” is making its debut to the public today with the first of two parts.  The conclusion will debut in 11 days at a live screening at L.A. Comic Con, and then the final episode of STC will be released onto the Internet for the general public on November 13.

Both parts were written by noted Canadian sci-fi author ROBERT J. SAWYER (his first-ever work for STC).  He is one of eight authors in history to win all three of the science-fiction field’s highest honors for best novel of the year: the Hugo Award (which he won for Hominids), the Nebula Award (which he won for The Terminal Experiment); and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won for Mindscan).  Sawyer is a huge Star Trek fan, which you’ll be able to tell almost immediately when you watch the episode.

NICOLA BRYANT with the 6th Doctor, COLIN BAKER, in 1986…and today in the penultimate episode of STC.

I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers, so with the exception of gushing about a top-level performance by guest star NICOLA BRYANT (companion “Peri Brown” to the 5th and 6th Doctors on Doctor Who), I’ll simply tell you to note how awesome the music sounds.  A full orchestra made up of more than 40 student musicians from New York’s Empire Film Music Ensemble in Rochester, as well as several professional instrumentalists, recorded the brilliant compositions of Andy Farber.

While Star Trek: Discovery darkly reminds us that it is now 2017, this penultimate episode of STC is a like a warm, comfortable blanket wrapping us up once again in the TV magic of the 1960s (or if you weren’t there in the 60’s, then the 70’s or whenever you first discovered TOS).

Perhaps more than any other episode of STC, “To Boldly Go” will remind you of everything that Star Trek was, is, and can be when there is love and dedication…something the STC team has shared with us fans during the course of their own five-year mission.

And now, please enjoy the first half of this most wonderful gift to Star Trek fandom…

STAR TREK CONTINUES will premiere their final two episodes in NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES!

And then there were two…only two more episodes of the cutting-edge and widely-celebrated fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES.  The final duo of episodes will be a two-parter entitled “To Boldly Go” and will bring a long-awaited conclusion to Captain Kirk’s 5-year mission on board the U.S.S. Enterprise…something fans never got to see when the original series was canceled in 1969 after only three seasons.  The story of Star Trek picked up again a few years later (Trek time) with the first motion picture, but fans never got to see how the 5-year mission actually ended.

Now they will…thanks to the folks at Star Trek Continues.

STC has a long-standing tradition of premiering their new episodes at conventions before releasing them onto YouTube.  Their most recent offering, “What Ships Are For,” was shown to cheering fans at Florida Supercon in Ft. Lauderdale the weekend of July 27-30 and then uploaded to the Internet shortly thereafter.

The initial plan was to debut “To Boldly Go (Part One)” at the Salt Lake City Comic Con the weekend of September 21-23…and then to bring their marvelous series to a triumphant conclusion with a screening at the New York City Comicon the weekend of October 5-8.

However, those plans were made before it was announced that Star Trek: Discovery would premiere that same weekend as the Salt Lake City con on September 24.  Not wanting to step on the toes of CBS with an unnecessary Trek distraction, STC decided to move the Part One premiere to New York and then debut Part Two a month later (or so) at a convention to be determined.

Now that finale date and location have been announced, and it’s a biggie:  STAN LEE’s L.A. COMIC CON!  It’s not quite San Diego’s Comic Con (thank Zod!!!), but it’s a major event here in Los Angeles and one I’ve attended for the last few years with my son.  Naturally, we will both be going this year, and on Sunday just before the convention ends, stars VIC “Kirk” MIGNOGNA, TODD “Spock” HABERKORN, CHUCK “McCoy” HUBER, and GRANT “Sulu” Imahara will be on hand to screen the series finale for convention attendees!

Currently, plans are set to release “To Boldly Go (Part One)” onto the Internet on October 18 and “To Boldly Go (Part Two)” on November 13.  If those dates change, I’ll be sure to let you know.