In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Admiral Kirk calls the U.S.S. Excelsior “The Great Experiment.” Well, Excelsior ain’t got nothing on POTEMKIN PICTURES as they launched their newest Creative group, KLINGON SCOUTSHIP QAB’ELTH, with an intriguing twist!
The debut episode from Qab’Elth was the 12-minute “HONOR BLADE,” featuring an all-Klingon crew on a newly constructed bird-of-prey bridge set built by Potemkin showrunner RANDY LANDERS and assorted yellow minions. Qab’Elth is the tenth fan series (or Creative Group making a series of fan films set on board a specific space vessel) to come out of this production studio (watch all of their many, many releases here), and the third to be based in Randy’s new home of Lexington, Kentucky. The other two are STARSHIP WEBSTER and STARSHIP CALIBORN, the latter having premiered this past June. But on July 23, it was time for Qab’elth, and here it is…
So what was “the great experiment,” then? What was the “twist”? On that exact same day, the latest release from the STARSHIP DEIMOS Creative Group was posted to YouTube. The 19th installment of Deimos, this 25-minute fan film was titled “PRIME DIRECTIVE” and seemed like a pretty typical episode…assuming you hadn’t already watched “Honor Blade.” But if you had, then about half of “Prime Directive” would have looked VERY familiar—almost déjà vu—because it was the EXACT SAME footage of the Klingons as was in “Honor Blade“! Take a look…
So now you can look at life from both sides now! It’s a fascinating experiment of telling the exact same parallel story in two simultaneously-released fan films…only from different perspectives. While Potemkin Pictures had previously done something similar when they took some of the footage from the Starship Tristan two-parter “RECLAMATION” to release the stand-alone fan film “FIREHAWK,” the latter was released more than two years after the former fan film. In the case of “Honor Blade” and “Prime Directive,” the two films were posted to YouTube on the same day.
Both scripts were written by VICTORIA AVALON, who plays Captain Gabriel of the Deimos. Meanwhile, RANDY LANDERS served as director and executive producer on each fan film, and it’s he who gets to answer my questions this time out…
If you strip away the opening and closing credits, the 18th fan film from the STARSHIP DEIMOSCreative Group has a runtime of barely more than three minutes. But really, if you think about it, how long does it take to say “Merry Christmas”?
Interestingly, Christmas is rarely seen in Star Trek fan films, despite having been established in Star Trek Generations as still a part of 24th century culture, at least on Earth. So why not do a Christmas-themed fan film? Oh, they’re not unheard of, to be sure. In fact, one year ago, the cosplayers over at STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTIONS INTERNATIONAL released their holiday-themed “fandemic” film (recorded by each actor remotely) titled PEACE AND GOODWILL.
This year, it was Starship Deimos‘ turn. Let’s take a look at their Christmas card…
I reached out to showrunner RANDY LANDERS with some questions. He, in turn, reached out to episode writer and lead actress VICTORIA AVALON as well as producer LEE DREW. So let’s dive into a good ol’ fashioned yuletide fan film fireside chat (on the Internet)…
JONATHAN – What inspired you folks to create a Christmas-themed episode for Deimos?
VICTORIA – Deimos’ viewership is fairly small, and most seem to be very traditional Trek fans. I write largely from TOS and TNG inspiration, and that appeals to them. I’ve had feedback very positive for spiritual references in other stories. Similar to my character of Siân Gabriel, I’m Episcopalian in upbringing, and I often draw on Anglican Christian mythology in writing. My husband and I co-wrote and self-published a high fantasy novel in 2009 that explicitly drew on those themes.
I originally intended an old fashioned Christmas message that would have included shots from all the crews in our various productions. During the holiday season, you see those sorts of things all over local television; I suppose it comes with having grown up in the southern U.S. It’s traditional in the Southern culture I grew up in.
RANDY – I saw it as a chance to send a Christmas card out to the POTEMKIN PICTURES fans. But not all the casts and crews wanted to do it. We respected that, so I made the decision that this would be Deimos‘ Christmas card. And I think it works, especially in the light of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations).
JONATHAN – It looks like “Together in the Night” was pretty quick to shoot. In a recent interview for DREADNOUGHT DOMINION (another fan series that Victoria appears in), she mentioned that she drives 15 hours from central Florida to Kentucky for Deimos shoots. I’m assuming Victoria didn’t drive all that way just to record 3 minutes of dialog. Did “Together in the Night” piggyback on any other shoots?
VICTORIA – The vignette was shot at the same time we shot “Leviathan,” and it also was motivated by our desire to do more with RENDA CARR’s character of Maura Drake, who didn’t have a significant part in “Leviathan.” It also brought in more character backstory both for Gabriel and Drake, and our viewership have suggested repeatedly in comments I’ve seen that they enjoy those personal references and building characters.
RANDY – I had just finished directing and running camera for “Leviathan.” It was a six-hour shoot, and my blood sugar was all out of whack. I excused myself, went upstairs, took my 4pm shot of Victoza, and sat down for an hour. I left the directing and camera in Victoria and Lee’s capable hands. I think they did a good job with it.
JONATHAN – That they did! Now, I know you were searching for somebody new to help out with your CGI. The last two episodes have VFX credited to DAN REYNOLDS of THE FEDERATION FILES. Is he your new ongoing VFX guy?
RANDY – We have three VFX folks. Dan stepped up to the plate with “Leviathan,” and we’re delighted with his work. He also did the VFX work for “Together in the Night,” and I intend to ask him to do the VFX work for our upcoming fan film “Prime Directive.”
JONATHAN – Well, that’s a perfect segue to my final question: what’s coming next from Deimos and from Potemkin Pictures?
LEE – As Randy just mentioned, Deimos has another new script from Victoria called “Prime Directive.” We have already shot principal scenes with the Deimos crew, and now we are waiting for additional scenes to be shot with our Klingon crew to finish the shoot. I think that this will be our best production ever thanks to a wonderful story from Victoria.
RANDY – As to what’s in the works for Potemkin Pictures, we’ve got “Opportunity” in late post-production (music from TONY LUNN and sound from RICK FOXX) from STARSHIP WEBSTER coming soon. We also worked a lot with pickup shots and edits for PROJECT: POTEMKIN‘s “Castaway.” I’m also continuing to work on Webster‘s “Snowbound” with special effects from RICHARD SVENNSSON.
Beyond that, we’re filming with a new creative group, STARSHIP CALIBORN, coming up in January. It will be unlike anything we’ve done before, and BILLY SWANSON is its showrunner.
We also will have a number of KLINGON SCOUT SHIP QAB’ELTH (created by Victoria Avalon) films coming in 2022. We have scheduled a Klingon shoot in February with LAWRENCE “Larry” FLEMING reprising his role from “The Solomon Gambit” as Klingon captain Le-Kat, in fact. It won’t take long to edit, and we should have it out sometime in the Spring of 2022.
JONATHAN – As always, lots of exciting things on the horizon from Potemkin Pictures! Thanks, everybody, and have a very Merry Christmas.
The folks at DREADNOUGHT DOMINION are still going strong after more than eight years making fan films. They’ve given us long episodes, short vignettes, whimsical stories, serious plots, action, adventure, emotional drama…all delivered with that most important of ingredients: a deep love of Star Trek.
The last time I covered this fan series was over the summer when they were successfully crowd-funding an Indiegogo campaign that raised $6,250 by offering—among other exciting perks—personalized Star Trek action figures in the likenesses of donors. Seriously, you can read about it here!
That campaign funded a number of things, including the CGI for their next release, which came out on November 6 and was titled “The More Things Change.” I always get excited when a new Dominion episode comes out, not just because I love that starship design and they use the gorgeous TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA, but because they have fun, interesting characters, great stories, and honestly, you never know what you’re going to get with these guys!
That was particularly true with their eleventh episode, which gave us a really engaging story with good acting along with great VFX and a solid selection of TOS background music that made it feel very much like a classic Star Trek episode. Yeah, Dominion is still noticeably a fan production, but at its heart, it’s Star Trek to me. And honestly, I thought this was their best episode yet! Take a look and see if you agree…
One of the things that I find to be most enjoyable about this series is that actors who aren’t the captain or first officer get their chances to shine in episodes that feature their character. This was one such episode, as VICTORIA AVALON, who plays Dr. Farrell, was given many dramatic scenes with generous amounts of dialog allowing her to really perform and stand out.
And speaking of Victoria, I’ve long admired her efforts in a number of different Star Trek fan series, including STARSHIP FARRAGUT (where she started her fan film career) and STARSHIP DEIMOS from POTEMKIN PICTURES (where she writes many of the episodes and stars as Captain Gabriel). Indeed, I’d been wanting to interview her for quite a while…and with this release from Dominion featuring Dr. Farrell is such a prominent role, I had the perfect opportunity.
I also invited sh0w-runners GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN to join in on the Zoom chat, as they are both also essential to the series. So sit back and enjoy as we get to know these three prominent fan filmmakers a bit better…
I try to cover each new fan film from POTEMKIN PICTURES soon after it’s released. But with seven different creative groups all working simultaneously, occasionally I’ll miss one or two.
I had this somewhat embarrassing realization a couple of weeks ago when I went to watch the latest offering from the STARSHIP DEIMOS creative team, “Butterfly Effect.” It was quite good (as are nearly all of the releases from the Deimos team). And I noticed that this particular episode was written by VICTORIA AVALON, who plays Captain Gabriel of the USS Deimos. Victoria had written all but two of the first eight episodes of Deimos, but I hadn’t seen her name as writer for a while (I checked, and it’d been about two years). Victoria—who also helped write the STARSHIP FARRAGUT episode “Conspiracy of Innocence” back in 2014—writes some very strong scripts, and “Butterfly Effect” was no exception.
But when the episode ended, YouTube (as it usually does) automatically loaded up another video, and it was another episode of Starship Deimos: “Blood Crystals.” I let it play, and remembered that I’d started watching it back in February, but I’d never finished it…and I totally forgot to blog about it! Oy vey. It was also a very good episode.
Then YouTube loaded another Deimos episode for me, “The Solomon Gamble” from last October. I’d never watched that one at all! Then I went to check my blogs and discovered, much to my horror, that my last Deimos blog was last June(!!!) about their episode “Children of Eberus.” I’d missed covering THREE new episode releases. Oh, the shame!
So here they all are, in the order they were released over the past seven months…
I noted that, in the past seven months, while Deimos had just released their THIRD completed fan film, the other Potemkin creative teams were trailing:
MARIE CURIE – 2 episodes (November and March)
TRISTAN – 2 episodes (December and April)
BATTLECRUISERKUPOK – 1 episode (November)
ALEXANDER – 1 episode (February, but that was the series premiere)
TRITON – 0 episodes (most recent was May 2019)
ENDEAVOUR – 0 episodes (most recent was December 2018)
I remembered asking Potemkin show-runner RANDY LANDERS at one point about this inconsistency, but many of my current readers might not have read his original answer. So I decided to ask Randy again, this time wondering if his and his wife’s recent move from Alabama to Kentucky might have affected the schedule and perhaps have spelled the end for one or more of the above-listed fan teams (and remember, we DON’T call them fan series!).
This blog might be called Fan Film Factor, but POTEMKIN PICTURES is a fan film FACTORY…having produced about 70 different fan films for six active (and one completed) fan series. You can view all of their releases on their website. Show-runner RANDY LANDERS manages to release an average run of twelve episodes each year, although last December he finished with a bang, posting four fan films in four days to bring Potemkin’s 2018 total to FIFTEEN fan films!
Of course, all of the various Potemkin productions are ultra-low budget. The actors are a mix of local community theater folks from Alabama and neighboring southern states, drama school students, and fans who just want a chance to have some fun acting in a Star Trek fan film. The same is true of the production crew, who are about as far from being “Hollywood professionals” as you’re likely to find. They’re just in it for the fun and the love of Trek.
Of course, not everybody “gets” Potemkin Pictures. Compared to the sleek, semi-professional fan series like Star Trek Continues and Renegades, or the ultra-polished looking productions like Horizon and Axanar, Potemkin’s offerings don’t even come close. And they’re not meant to. If you want to watch those top shelf fan productions, then by all means, do so. But don’t judge Potemkin for all they don’t achieve. Look at what they DO achieve.
To provide a better perspective into what I mean, I’m doing something a little unusual with the most recent release from STARSHIP DEIMOS, one of Potemkin’s six ongoing fan series. “Diplomatic Relations” debuted in February, less than 9 minutes in length and attracting a respectable 1,370 views over the past six weeks or so.
Typically with Potemkin Pictures, I post a short blog announcing the latest release, complimenting the creative team, and getting a brief quote from sh0w-runner Randy Landers. But this time, when I asked Randy to say a few words, he wrote back: “Interview LEE DREW about his personal project. “Diplomatic Relations” is his baby. Starred, wrote, directed, choreographed the fight.”
Great idea! So I reached out to Lee to talk about what went into what looks like such a simple fan film to have made. Take a look at the finished production itself and then read about what went into it. I think you’ll be very surprised…