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Reviews of Star Trek Continues by Bernd

Pilgrim of Eternity

Stardate 6147.3: Captain Kirk is testing the prototype of a holodeck when the Enterprise arrives at the first of three power stations that have been drained of power. Suddenly an unknown object with lifeforms aboard appears and begins to drain energy from the ship. The Enterprise disables the object with photon torpedoes, thereby apparently killing the lifeforms. However, two people materialize on the bridge: one is the alien known as the Greek god Apollo, the other is his sister Athena, both of apparently very old age. Athena dies and vanishes. Kirk has Apollo taken to sickbay. Apollo says that the Realm his kind was supposed to live in for all eternity was failing, and that it now drains energy from all kinds of artificial as well as natural sources, which is also the cause of his rapid aging. Apollo requests to spend his last days among humans. The engineer Simone is killed when he, together with Sulu, tries to clean up the ship's hull from debris of the alien object and his spacesuit suddenly loses all power. Against Scotty's reservations Kirk allows Apollo to walk about the Enterprise. The ship's new counselor, Dr. McKennah, corroborates Kirk's impression that Apollo's intentions are sincere. In the meantime, however, Apollo enjoys being celebrated in the crew's mess. When Kirk appears to put an end to it, Apollo uses his new-gained power against Kirk. McKennah has to stop him with a phaser. Apollo asks that McCoy remove an organ in his body that converts being worshipped to power, so he could live a normal life among human beings. In the meantime Scotty is fixing the damage to the ship. He warns the bridge about an unexpected power build-up but too late for Uhura who is struck by an electromagnetic discharge. McCoy can't save her life. Apollo rises from his bed and provides her body with new life energy. McCoy and Spock wonder where these forces come from, considering that he was believed to be powerless after the removal of the organ. It turns out that Apollo's species is capable of becoming powerful in an act of self-sacrifice but that they never realized this in the ages in which they enjoyed to be worshipped. Kirk decides to comply with Apollo's request and transfers him to a primitive planet in the Basilean Epsilon system. One year later, Apollo is still helping the people on that planet - and he is young again.

Star Trek Continues presents itself as very professional on all accounts and it raises the bar for future fan films. Most notably it has the most convincing cast of all TOS-themed fan film productions. Among the new regular cast Vic Mignogna stands out in his role as Captain Kirk. There is no doubt that Mignogna is the best Kirk besides William Shatner, both in terms of likeness and of acting. I also dig Todd Haberkorn as Spock and Chris Doohan as Scotty. Haberkorn's intonation is so on spot that I believe to listen to the young Nimoy when I close my eyes. Well, Chris Doohan was an obvious choice in the role that made his father famous, but he definitely puts talent into his role, and not just the family likeness and the accent. I especially like his passion in his opposition to Apollo (which is only understandable after the events in "Who Mourns for Adonais?"). I admit I needed a while to see Dr. McCoy in Larry Nemecek. While he doesn't look or speak quite like the good old doctor, he is successful in bringing across the grumpy charm of the character. Finally, it was fun to see Grant Imahara of "Mythbusters" as Sulu, although he didn't get too much to do.

The episode profits very much from actor Michael Forest, who reappears as Apollo after he already played him in "Who Mourns for Adonais?", as long as 45 years ago. Forest has a very strong presence, in the decent as well as in the overbearing parts of his role. You hang on his lips. Of the various performances of veteran actors in fan films, this is definitely one of the strongest. 

Regarding the story, I like how it harks back to "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and extends it in a quite intelligent fashion. I only have a problem with the idea that an organ may provide Apollo with "worshipping power" and another one with "self-sacrifice power". I think this is too metaphysical, even though we have already seen other entities that dwelled on feelings and that Kirk even alludes to. 

Overall, I think Star Trek Continues is closer to TOS than any other fan series in terms of its technical qualities. The sets, the music, the camera angles, the lighting, everything is exactly or almost exactly the same as it used to be. Only the visual effects are up to date, and as such compliant with the remastered episodes of TOS. In addition, the first episode of Star Trek Continues not only picks up an old TOS story but also tells the story in the same fashion it would have been done in TOS. It also includes all the old clichés, such as about gender roles. Only the women (Uhura and McKennah) openly show compassion, and the greatest thing that happens to McKenna is seeing Kirk without his shirt. And speaking of clichés, we've also got one redshirt death. 

Compared to Star Trek New Voyages / Star Trek Phase II it is a bit more of a revival and not so much of an extrapolation, of the continuing mission that the title promises. While Star Trek Continues has an even better TOS feel to it, we might just as well criticize that it plays safe. It has to show in future episodes whether Star Trek Continues manages to extend the Star Trek universe. In my view it should be an original story. Either way, I am sure I will watch and enjoy any further installments of this great new fan series.

Nitpicking: What happens to Simone's and Sulu's phasers is the opposite of energy being drained.
Remarkable scene: Apollo says he is glad he wasn't completely forgotten - and then turns round the monitor, which shows the launch of the Apollo 8 Moon mission.
Remarkable quote: "Godspeed, Apollo." (Kirk)
Remarkable set: The scenario on the new holodeck is very reminiscent of "Spectre of the Gun", with its red sky.
Remarkable ship: The Enterprise CGI is by Doug Drexler. I like how this model was rendered better than the one in TOS Remastered. It is still closer to the original.
Remarkable facts: Kirk was 32 when he became captain, the youngest in Starfleet. -- Dr. McKennah is the first ship's counselor.
Rating: 8


Stardate 6154.1: The Enterprise receives a distress call from a Tellarite ship. There is only one survivor: an Orion woman named Lolani. She is armed with a knife and tries to escape when the Enterprise security attempts to apprehend her. Only when Counselor Dr. McKennah speaks to her, Lolani, who was sold as a slave to the Tellarites, begins to trust the crew. Spock begins an investigation of what caused the deaths of the three Tellarite crew members. Lolani tries to run away again, this time with the help of Crewman Kenway, upon which Kirk orders the crew to be inoculated against the effects of the Orion pheromones. When it turns out that a fourth person must be responsible for the deaths of the Tellarites, Spock mind melds with Lolani. He learns that it was her who killed them, apparently in in self-defense. Her slave trader, Zaminhon, appears and demands Lolani to be returned to him. Kirk attempts to make the Orion understand his position, he even tries to buy out Lolani, but Zaminhon refuses. Under his orders not to interfere with the Orion culture, Kirk has no other choice to hand over Lolani to him. But Kirk changes his mind and orders to pursue Zaminhon's vessel. Just as the Enterprise is coming into transporter range, the Orion ship explodes. Kirk finds a disk with a recording by Lolani, in which she demands the end of slavery on Orion. He plays the message over the ship's comm system and gives the disk to Kenway, who is taking it to Orion.

I already wrote in my review of the first episode, "Pilgrim of Eternity", that Star Trek Continues is closer to The Original Series than any other fan production. This shows once again in "Lolani", both in terms of the production values (camera, lighting, editing, music) and of the story. "Lolani" is told in a quite straightforward fashion and is not sidetracked by anything like a B-plot. It appears like a bottle show by today's standards, even if we compare it to other fan movies, rather than "big" TV shows. While it may be beneficial to focus on just one plot thread with maybe one or two characters, I think it is a foregone opportunity and perhaps a weakness of the story that Spock's investigation of the deaths of the Tellarite crew remains only a side note and that we see the inside of their vessel and their bodies only in flashbacks.

Other than that, I don't miss anything in the story. Well, the first 20 minutes are still predictable, especially the way Lolani and her pheromones stir up trouble among the crew and Kirk is immune to it as we wouldn't expect otherwise. Like probably everyone with at least basic knowledge about the seductive power of Orion women and about Kirk's reputation, I was only waiting for the customary scene in which Kirk would get in contact with Lolani's tears and/or lips. Bearing in mind how many clichés about Orion slave women are involved and how much comical potential lies in a story revolving around them, it is a positive surprise that the serious issue of slavery prevails. Moreover, it is good to see that in one regard Star Trek Continues is very different than TOS: Kirk doesn't simply decide at his whim what is good for an alien species the way he usually did in TOS, but is bound to his orders not to cause an interstellar incident with the Orions. This gives rise to an unexpected sad ending, in which Kirk fails and Lolani is killed, and which becomes bittersweet when the captain finds and plays her message.

This episode profits a lot from Vic Mignogna's acting. He outperforms everyone else, arguably more than already in "Pilgrim of Eternity", especially since this time it includes portraying a Kirk who doesn't prevail in the end. Todd Haberkorn as Spock doesn't have any remarkable scenes except for the mind meld with Lolani. This time I don't have the impression that he is a perfect Spock. It almost seems that after his really good performance in the first episode he is afraid of becoming a Nimoy impersonator and hence attempts to do his own thing. I like Dr. McKennah very much in this episode (actually I was not aware she would become a permanent character). Michele Specht comes across as quite natural in her role, in any case better than in the first episode. McKennah draws quite some attention away from Dr. McCoy. Larry Nemecek doesn't have too much to do but I like what he makes of his role.

Among the guest characters, Fiona Vroom as Lolani is much more than just a sexy green version of Katy Perry. It deservers praise how her character's mood switches back and forth from seductive to desperate without appearing as silly. And Lou Ferrigno (green again) as the lisping slave trader is just priceless!

There are a few plot holes. For instance, I don't quite get what Kirk wants to accomplish with his charm offensive during the dinner. He first flatters Zaminhon, only to switch to an accusation all of sudden. Even though Zaminhon takes it with humor, the captain unnecessarily affronts the Orion instead of trying it with diplomacy.

Continuity: The beginning of the episode foreshadows Kirk's difficulties in reading books. He will have to wear glasses in "Star Trek II".
Remarkable quote: [McKennah and Lolani enter the bridge, and everyone turns around] "And this is the command bridge. Usually everyone's working." (McKennah)
Remarkable appearances: We see Lou Ferrigno ("The Incredible Hulk") as Zaminhon and Erin Gray (Wilma Deering from "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century") as Commodore Gray.
Remarkable set: It appears only briefly, but I like how the shuttlebay is visualized.
Remarkable facts: 70 years ago women gained the upper hand on Orion, but after a civil war the men regained power and continued the slavery. -- Zaminhon says he owns 280 slaves, more than anyone else on Orion.
Rating: 7

Fairest of Them All

Stardate not given: Mr. Spock, first officer of the ISS Enterprise of the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe, prepares to send the four officers of the USS Enterprise back to their universe, but not before the Captain Kirk of that universe tells him that the Terran Empire with its cruel ways needs to change. After his return, Mirror Captain Kirk does not listen to Spock's objection that the Halkans may still be useful for the Empire. He orders to destroy all their cities with photon torpedoes when the Halkans refuse to deliver their dilithium. His action proves short-sighted when the dilithium deposits on the planet are destroyed, because the Halkans rigged them with explosives. Spock seeks supporters for his cause among the crew, and he finds Mr. Scott and a few more together with whom he occupies the auxiliary control room. They disable the Enterprise's weapons and thereby avert a space battle with three ships of Andorian rebels. Chekov and Marlena Moreau, Kirk's wife in this universe, also join the mutineers. Marlena shows Spock the Tantalus field control in the captain's quarters that Spock may use to eliminate Kirk. But Spock chooses to follow a peaceful path. Kirk and Spock agree to a meeting on neutral ground in the officers' mess. The type-3 phaser that Kirk took along turns out useless because Scotty erected a dampening field on the deck. As the ship begins to shake because the explosions on the planet have destabilized the orbit, a fight between the two ensues but ends in a stalemate because Spock hesitates to strangle the captain. In his rage, Kirk speaks of the crew as pawns that are supposed to serve for his personal ambition and die for him. Spock replays these words over the ship's comm system, which ends Kirk's authority on the ship. On the bridge, Uhura and weapons officer Smith overwhelm Sulu, who is still loyal to the captain. Kirk and his remaining followers leave the ISS Enterprise on a shuttlecraft.

TOS: "Mirror, Mirror" has arguably inspired more follow-ups than any other Star Trek episode. The storyline in the Mirror Universe continues in the 24th century in several DS9 episodes, albeit with increasing silliness of the stories. The ancient history is the subject of the Enterprise double feature "In a Mirror, Darkly". The Mirror Universe legacy lives on in novels and countless fan stories. Still, we never learned in canon Trek what exactly happened after the return of Mirror Kirk and his three officers to their own universe. At the end of "Mirror, Mirror", "our" Kirk tries to convince Mirror Spock that change is necessary in the Terran Empire. In DS9: "Crossover", we learn that Spock implemented reforms indeed, with the sad result that the Terran Empire was weakened and was conquered by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. However, I always wanted to know and I sometimes imagined how he got rid of the cruel Captain Kirk of his universe.

The Star Trek Continues episode "Fairest of Them All" continues where "Mirror, Mirror" left, as the title readily gives away, and provides the answer to our old question. It begins with Kirk's speech at the end of "Mirror, Mirror" and then carries on in the Mirror Universe when the TOS episode switches back to our universe. The about two minutes before "our" Kirk and his officers depart are reconstructed precisely as in the TOS episode as far as I can tell without comparing the two directly. Had I been asked in advance whether this would work, I would have been skeptical because in this scene the fan film enters a direct competition with the classic episode, and a fan favorite no less, unlike it would be the case with a completely new story. But thanks to the great production values and to an excellent Vic Mignogna as Kirk it never feels like we are watching a cheap re-enactment.

The rest of the episode is just a brilliant. "Fairest of Them All" is thrilling from the first to the last minute. It profits from a rich established history and treats this gift with great care. I just love the twist of fate when Kirk's bombardment of the planet with photon torpedoes destroys the dilithium that he wanted to get his hands on. I like that Spock chooses to take over the ship without simply killing his enemies with the Tantalus field. The only slight letdown in the story is that resistance against the Terran Empire (and particularly against Kirk's overly cruel cause of action) quickly forms even without Spock's interference when the Andorian rebels show up. Although I understand this was done to create a tie with ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly", this unnecessarily diminishes the role of Spock, considering that the Andorians could have easily been dropped from the script.

Mirror Universe stories generally tend to be formulaic. They focus on showing the exact opposite of what the more familiar characters would do in "our" universe. They are likely to go over the top in doing so, such as with killing off main characters or, even worse, giving them a different, "kinky" sexual orientation. "Fairest of Them All" is largely free of such mistakes. The story is developed carefully and works with the characters instead of turning them into caricatures. Only Mirror Kirk appears like a maniacal villain, and this is done as an important  part of the story and not just for some laughs.

Vic Mignogna gives a really frightening evil Mirror Kirk, without a sign of silliness and better than Shatner if I may say so. Praise also goes to Todd Haberkorn for getting across Mirror Spock's qualms. I may have underestimated him so far, but that may have been because his role wasn't big enough in the two previous episodes. Chuck Huber replaces Larry Nemecek in his role as Dr. McCoy but he has only a few lines, and the scene with his cruel experiment on one crew member is a bit contrived in the context of the story. Grant Imahara doesn't have much to do either, but I like him as Mirror Sulu with his characteristic scar. Only his affair with Dr. McKennah doesn't really work, especially since we only see her in his bed. The staff was apparently trying hard to get Michelle Specht into the episode.

The camera work, the lighting, the sound, the background music, everything is spot-on and on par with big budget productions. There are no location shootings and no big space battles. However, we can see at least one new set, the auxiliary control room. 

Well, what else can I say? "Fairest of Them All" is the best fan film I have seen so far and deserves as many as nine points.

Nitpicking: In the original episode "Mirror, Mirror"  and once again in the remastered episode the ISS Enterprise is represented by the pilot version (with the bigger deflector dish and the spikes on the nacelle caps). In "The Fairest of Them All" we can see the standard Enterprise design. -- Kirk tortures a crew member to find out where Spock is hiding. Wouldn't the auxiliary control room be among the first places to look for the mutineers?
Continuity: We can see three Andorian Kumari-class cruisers, which look a bit like "light ships" from a distance but are the same design as Shran's ship in Star Trek Enterprise (including ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly") as far as I can tell. -- Mirror Kirk drinks Saurian brandy from the bottle just like "evil Kirk" in TOS: "The Enemy Within". -- In TOS: "Mirror, Mirror", "our" Uhura used a knife to defend herself against Sulu. Mirror Uhura does the same in "The Fairest of Them All".
Remarkable quotes: "Space - the final conquest. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission to discover and subjugate strange new worlds, to advance our dominion and vanquish all who stand against us, to conquer the galaxy for the glory of the Empire." (special Mirror Universe introductory note), "You're not paid to lecture me in logic, Mr. Spock. You're paid to do your job." (Mirror Kirk), "If there's any hope for the Empire to change, I must give Captain Kirk the opportunity to do so as well." (Mirror Spock)
Remarkable dialogue: "Captain Kirk. The future is coming. You are the past. I offer this crew an alternative." - "This crew. This crew?! They don't need alternatives. They're pawns. Pawns need a king. They serve for my conquest, my victories! [he wipes the chessboard from the table] You think they're smart enough to follow you? They're mine. I can use them, break them, send them to their own slaughter, and they'll thank me for it! [Spock replays Kirk's words over the comm system]" (Spock and Kirk), "In every revolution, there is one man with a vision." - "Who told you that?" - "You did." - "Spoooooock!!!!" (Spock and Kirk), "Warp 2, ensign." - "Heading, sir?" - "Forward." (Spock and Chekov)
Remarkable planet: A beautiful CG planet was built to represent Halkan, and the animation of the burning planet is frighteningly realistic.
Rating: 9


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Last modified: 23.06.14