Reviews of Star Trek Continues by Bernd
Pilgrim of Eternity - Lolani - Fairest of Them All - The White Iris - Divided We Stand - Come Not Between the Dragons - Embracing the Winds - Still Treads the Shadow - What Ships Are For - To Boldly Go I/II
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 McKennah 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.
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 deserves 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.
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 as 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 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 course 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.
- 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?
- 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 dialogues:
- "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.
Stardate not given: Captain Kirk presents an orbital defense system to Minister Amphidamas of the planet Chalcis, a candidate for Federation membership. Suddenly a guard attacks Kirk and hits him hard on the head. On Spock's suggestion Dr. McCoy administers an experimental drug named alkysine against the severe concussion, after which the captain's condition improves very quickly. However, Kirk is haunted by visions of women he was once close to and whose deaths he could not avert: Edith Keeler, a crew member of the Farragut, Rayna Kapec, Miramanee and an unnamed little girl. KIrk also doesn't remember the activation code for the orbital defense system. Moreover, his heart activity begins to weaken. He feels unable to command the ship any longer and relieves himself of duty. Sulu manages to track and destroy a warhead that approaches from the neighbor planet Eretria, but when Eretria launches a large number of missiles at once there is no chance of taking them all down without the password of the defense system. At Dr. McKennah's advice Kirk begins to make peace with the women in his visions, recreating the situations in which he missed the chance to say goodbye to them on the holodeck. Regarding the approaching missiles, Kirk tells Spock to take the Enterprise into their flight path, to save at least some lives on the planet Chalcis. After talking to the four women he already knew only the girl is left. She turns out to be Miramanee's unborn daughter, and she reveals the password to Kirk: "Irises". Kirk activates the defense system, which successfully blocks the missiles.
Star Trek Continues has taken fan films to a new level, with professional actors, as well as top-notch sets, lighting, camera work and music. It really feels like the good old Star Trek and not at all like a re-enactment by fans. In this regard it is a pity that, for the third time in so far four episodes, the story is built upon events of TOS instead of moving on. Well, if any episode of TOS warranted a sequel, it was "Mirror, Mirror", and it couldn't possibly have been done better than in "Fairest of Them All". And while I never asked for a sequel to "Who Mourns for Adonais?", I enjoyed the appearance of Michael Forest, the various moments of great acting and the touching story of the first Star Trek Continues episode "Pilgrim of Eternity" very much. In contrast, the story of "The White Iris" on the whole just as well as the various tie-ins from TOS feel gratuitous and even farcical at times.
It all begins with Kirk's brain damage that McCoy, on Spock's advice, treats with the usual untested drug, after which Kirk fully recovers within five seconds, and is fit for duty immediately. While similar medical miracles happened reapeatedly in TOS, this somehow sets the tone for the way Kirk resolves his psychic problems at the end of the episode. He hastily works off his ex-lovers in mass processing on the holodeck as if he were paid for solved traumas per hour. He is successful every time as if his brain were a computer memory in which he simply needs to set a few variables differently. This just doesn't feel right. Moreover, I have doubts whether the renewed confrontation with the situation in which he lost someone wouldn't rather deepen his feeling of guilt, if anything. It is also absurd in the context of the story how Kirk takes care of half a dozen personal issues during a life-threatening crisis. Sure, he hopes to obtain that password, still it is rather incredible. And finally, it is quite revealing that Kirk is plagued by exactly the memories of four women he loved and nothing else, not his childhood trauma mentioned in "The Conscience of the King", not the death of his brother seen in "Operation - Annihilate!", not the feeling of guilt about anyone else that he ever lost. I find Kirk's feelings of guilt in this episode very formulaic and his characterization rather one-dimensional.
While the overall story never convinces and never really touches me, I like how the girl reveals that she is the daughter of Miramanee (handing him Native American handicraft while the Miramanee theme is playing) and how she whispers the password into Kirk's ear. This is more than just a nice touch after his hasty holodeck redemption tour, it saved the episode for me.
So "The White Iris" is disappointing in terms of the story, but once again I have high praise for the actors, and especially for Vic Mignogna. He is brilliant as a Kirk who is uncertain about his ability to cope with his guilt and to remain in control of his brain in the first place. I think it is the fault of the writing that we don't see even more emotion from him, considering that, at some point of the story, he could and should break out in tears. I dig Chuck Huber as McCoy, for whom a couple of typical outbursts were included in the episode. I can confirm he was a good choice to replace Larry Nemecek who initially played this role in the series. Todd Haberkorn as Spock is not quite as convincing, although I have to admit that to follow in the footsteps of the recently deceased Leonard Nimoy is particularly hard (meaning I may give him a hard time). Perhaps the roles of Dr. McCoy and Spock could have been overall a bit more significant, considering that they could have tried to help Kirk more consequentially instead of leaving his recovery to Kirk himself and the holodeck. Grant Imahara as Sulu has a nice scene when he develops a method to track and destroy the cloaked missile. I miss a siginficant contribution from Chris Doohan as Scotty. After seeing him prominently in the teaser, it is a letdown that he vanishes in engineering for most of the rest of the episode.
Regarding the visual effects, it is my impression that they are getting better every time. "The White Iris" has no spectacular space battles, but the Enterprise in orbit of the planet is simply stunning. I think it won't be too long until TOS is re-remastered beacuse Star Trek Continues looks so much better in this regard.
- Nitpicking: A common word with six letters as a password? And Chekov can't crack it? Come on!
- A holodeck in the 23rd century? We may surmise that it's far less capable than the one that will a surprising innovation on the Enterprise-D almost 100 years later. Still, it's a stretch.
- Kirk's crewmate/lover of the Farragut is correctly wearing the old (slightly darker blue) science uniform, and the emblem that is used in the fan series Star Trek Farragut.
- Remarkable dialogue: "I'm not crazy." - "Sure you are. That's why we like you." (Kirk and McCoy)
- Remarkable title: The episode title refers to a single white iris on Vincent van Gogh's painting "Irises".
- Dedication: A title card reads, "Dedicated to the fond memory of Leonard Nimoy, who in our hearts will LIVE FOREVER AND PROSPER"
Stardate 6202.1: While investigating the old probe Friendship III, the Enterprise's computer system gets infested with an advanced alien virus that takes control of more and more subsystems. The crew attempt to stop the virus that has entered the historical database of the library computer, when a console on the bridge explodes, and Kirk and McCoy are infected with an unknown pathogen. Spock manages to get rid of the virus in the Enterprise's computer by luring it into the backup module, jettisoning it and destroying it with the phasers. While McCoy and Kirk are unconscious in sickbay, the pathogen in their bodies, actually a kind of nanite, creates the illusion that they are fighting in the American Civil War on opposite sides - Kirk as a sergeant of the Union, McCoy as his Confederate "prisoner". McCoy saves the life of a Union sergeant who is shot by a Southern sniper, and subsequently treats the wounded in the Union field hospital. Kirk, on the other hand, is waiting for the upcoming Battle of Antietam to take place the next morning. He tells young Billy that it is important for him to defend his freedom and that he would be remembered for it. In the battle, however, Kirk himself refuses to shoot at the enemy. After he was hit by a grenade McCoy has to amputate Kirk's leg. In sickbay, Dr. M'Benga notices that Kirk's leg is dying for no obvious reason. He and Spock decide they have to act. In the Civil War, Kirk learns that Billy led an attack against the Confederate forces and was killed. On the Enterprise, Spock asks Chief Drake, who has a prosthetic arm, to act as a decoy for the nanites. The procedure succeeds, and the severed arm with the parasites can be eliminated just as the backup module before.
I love how the story further develops Kirk and McCoy's friendship and puts it to a tough test when the two are forced to take part in the American Civil War on opposite sides. McCoy is Kirk's "prisoner", and Kirk has trouble keeping his "colleagues" from lynching the alleged "enemy". Vice versa, McCoy is up to treat the seriously wounded Kirk and has to amputate his friend's leg to save his life. This part of the story is worked out well and comes across as very touching. I am glad that Chuck Huber is finally allowed to play a real lead role at Vic Mignogna's side and that both deliver brilliant performances. In this regard "Divided We Stand" really lives up to the motto "Star Trek Continues".
Still, I wonder why the story has to show yet another excursion into American history. The fan series continues the odd tradition of the official Star Trek that all time travels to pre-warp eras, real and imaginary, explore the history of just one country. In order to make my peace with this concept, I try to imagine the story as one that explores the friendship of the two Starfleet officers in the first place, and that only happens to take place in an American Civil War scenario. Considering that everything they experience is only an illusion and not an actual time travel, there is no relevance to their presence in the scenario anyway, other than to their own lives. It shouldn't matter so much whether they find themselves in ancient China, on Rigel VII or anywhere else.
That being said, the American Civil War scenario is great in terms of the production values, and the battle scenes are absolutely amazing for a low-budget production. It is quite clear that one reason for the people in charge of Star Trek Continues to go with a Civil War setting was the availability of uniforms, weapons and other props, and of people who love to re-enact the historical battles. But at times it feels a bit like a story about Kirk and McCoy shoehorned into a historical re-enactment.
Although it is absolutely in character with the Kirk of the 1960s, I don't like him as he explains the value of freedom to the war-weary soldiers and that their sacrifice will be remembered, with the usual subtext that the USA is the UFP (raising unpleasant memories of TOS: "The Omega Glory"). This flag-waving is inappropriate, considering that he should not interfere with history. And it is hypocritical, considering that he himself refuses to fight against the Confederates, thereby keeping a clean slate. While I acknowledge that the story does not fail to show the ugly side of the war and while I agree that the depiction of a war can never be totally impartial, I would still have expected less glorification of that era of US history. It would have been more pleasant to watch with less of the patriotic sermons, less of the clichéd drum music and without the gratuitous appearance of President Lincoln.
In contrast to the experiences of Kirk and McCoy in 19th century America, everything that happens on the Enterprise in this episode is utterly uninteresting. The idea that an alien virus infects the computer and/or crew members is one of the most overused in the franchise. The only interesting aspect about it is that Kirk's real leg dies after it has been amputated in his illusion. Overall, it is no wonder that the episode doesn't waste much time on the situation on the ship. The unfortunate consequence is that some characters that would have deserved more screen time, notably Chris Doohan as Scotty and Michele Specht as McKennah, contribute even less to the story than they usually would.
- Dedication: "Dedicated to the lovely and enduring spirit of our dear Grace Lee Whitney"
- Remarkable facts:
- Friendship III was launched from Earth 170 years ago.
- M'Benga's full name is Jabilo Geoffrey M'Benga.
Stardate 6257.4: The Enterprise receives a message that the USS Lexington was scuttled when it was caught in a plasma jet, leaving Starfleet with only eight starships. Briefly later an intruder pierces the hull of the Enterprise and is found hiding in Ensign Eliza Taylor's quarters. The creature consists of some kind of stone and is impervious to scans. Kirk hands the universal translator to Taylor to establish a communication with the creature. The translation is rudimentary. The creature says that his name is Usdi and something about someone hurting someone else. A series of energy waves begins to hit the ship and creates aggression among the crew, in a way that they become determined to kill Usdi. Above all Spock can't control his aggressions toward the creature any longer. Only Ensign Taylor feels with Usdi. She can convince Dr. McKennah to help her save him. McKennah takes alpha wave inducers from McCoy's sickbay to suppress the effect of the waves. Together with Uhura and security officer Dickerson they transfer Usdi to the engine room, where he would be harder to locate. When Kirk and his people find Usdi there, McKennah and Taylor manage to attach alpha wave inducers on Kirk and the other attackers, who quickly recognize that what they are doing is wrong. With everyone acting normally again, the Enterprise finds the source of the waves: another creature of Usdi's species who, as Taylor finds out, it Usdi's father. The Enterprise hurts the attacker, who wouldn't survive another photon torpedo. Usdi leaves the ship and moves into a position between the Enterprise and his father, thereby ending the conflict. Usdi and his father leave the scene. When the Enterprise spots the two in a comet cloud, Kirk once again lets Taylor speak to the alien creatures. Their behavior after all wasn't so alien; humans tend to have similar conflicts, as Taylor can tell from her experience with her own father, but should be able to resolve them.
Star Trek always used to be about exploring strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations. It seems the makers of the latest official Star Trek productions, but also of many fan film episodes have forgotten about this catchphrase although they love to cite it. The first suffer from a complex of minority that without supervillains and superheroes Star Trek couldn't compete with the overblown action flicks of our time. The latter are afraid to leave the prepared ground of established characters and concepts, making the universe look small and like there were nothing left to explore.
I may have exaggerated a bit, but only to illustrate how "Come Not Between the Dragons" stands out from the other Star Trek productions. It epitomizes the title of the series, "Star Trek Continues", better than the previous episodes, because it continues the legacy without reiterating it. Well, it does include the overused cliché of the crew acting irrationally under alien influence but that is about the only thing that can be criticized about the story. On the bright side, I just love the irony of the four minor characters who work together to save Usdi, standing up to Kirk and his trigger-happy crew. The story has a strong emotional impact, although it is a bit constructed that Usdi could feel how Ensign Taylor loved her own father in spite of everything. The Enterprise discovers new life in this episode, life that starts off as truly alien and completely incomprehensible but whose traits and feelings become the more familiar the more the crew try to understand it. In this regard, Ensign Taylor's empathy ultimately proves more valuable than even the universal translator. Overall, this is one of the "Trekkiest" fan films ever made, and all this without the usual continuity porn, by just remembering what made Star Trek great and what used to set it apart from other TV series, let alone movies.
Something I also like about "Come Not Between the Dragons" is that Vic Mignogna doesn't dominate everyone else in the sense of acting the way he did in most preceding episodes. His is great as usual with his performance as Captain Kirk, but so are Michelle Specht as McKennah and Gigi Edgley as Eliza Taylor. It is clear that the story wouldn't have worked with two less professional actresses in their places.
The production values are just as excellent as in the previous Star Trek Continues episodes, although there are not so many space scenes and it feels a bit like a bottle show. The design of the alien creature is convincing. Although it becomes pretty clear that it consists of foam, rather than stone, I applaud to the effort of building a full-scale puppet for Usdi, and I like how the restriction of Usdi being heavy and rigid is turned into an advantage (yet it is said to move very quickly through the ship). The comparably subtle animation contributes to the impression of Usdi's fragile character that is developed in the course of the episode.
Overall, this is a highlight of the series and of fan films in general. It leaves me very satisfied and impressed. It is not one of the most exciting but definitely one of the most touching fan episodes. When Star Trek continues (the official Star Trek on the small screen), it should be like this.
- Remarkable quote: "It's a rock." (McCoy, after trying to examine Usdi)
- Remarkable scene: Ensign Taylor speaks to Usdi through the universal translator and is waiting for anything like a response. There is only Usdi's slight croaking noise, but we can feel the tension. Best scene of the episode and very well acted and directed.
- Remarkable fun scene: McKennah knocks out Dr. McCoy to get access to the alpha wave inducers.
- Remarkable fact: Spock refers to other "nomadic extremophile" lifeforms that the Enterprise encountered in space, trying to rationalize Usdi's nature.
Stardate 6295.3: The Enterprise has been ordered to recover the USS Hood, whose crew has died of an unexplained life support failure. Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock meet with Commodore Gray at Starbase Corinth IV. Gray tells them that Spock is in consideration to be given command of the Hood. But there is one contender: Commander Garrett from Earth Spacedock filed a complaint for being overlooked because she is a woman as she alleges. The situation is delicate for diplomatic reasons too because the Tellarites don't agree with women in high positions. While Kirk does not want to lose his first officer and warms to the idea of recommending Garrett, Spock thinks he would be the more qualified officer. Garrett arrives on the starbase together with Admiral Stomm, a Vulcan. It is up to Stomm, Gray and Kirk to make the decision after a hearing. When Stomm confronts Spock with his Vulcan-human heritage, Kirk begins to doubt whether he should still endorse Garrett. Commodore Gray, on the other hand, confronts Garrett with past failings in her record, which Garrett asserts were due to the fact that she as a woman was evaluated unfairly. Meanwhile on the Hood, a team with Scotty and Uhura try to secure the ship when suddenly the reactor overloads and the shields go up so they can't be beamed out. Scotty orders the Enterprise to leave without them, but Chekov comes up with a way to send a signal to the Hood to take the shields down, using the deflector dish. The engineering crew can be saved but the Hood explodes. On the starbase, Stomm has just voted for Garrett and Gray for Spock when the report of the Hood's destruction comes in, making the hearing unnecessary. The cause for the accident on the Hood remains unknown, however. Chekov receives a promotion to lieutenant.
I was a bit alarmed when I noticed this episode would be about a gender issue of the kind that shouldn't exist any longer in the 23rd century. But the story provides a good rationale, by making it a matter of interstellar politics and increasingly of personal concepts of fairness, rather than showing Starfleet as an organization that has fundamental problems with gender equality. As Captain Kirk says, Starfleet always had women in command, and there is absolutely no reason to make the decision about a captain a gender issue - neither one with a bias against women in command nor one with a preferred treatment of women just to achieve statistical equality. But in light of the diplomatic issue with the Tellarites it is hard to be impartial. Spock's being half-Vulcan further complicates the issue, because one might just as well assert that an alien might be disadvantaged in a human-dominated Starfleet. On top of all that, Kirk just doesn't want to lose his first officer, while Spock considers himself the logical choice for the captain of the Hood. This all is played out very well in the story.
The positions put forth by all three flag officers in the hearing seem to be paradoxical: The Vulcan admiral supports Garrett, rather than Spock. Commodore Gray, the woman in the jury, prefers Spock over Garrett. And at latest as Spock's qualification is challenged while Garrett comes across as unfair in her criticism of her evaluation, Kirk comes to the realization that he should support Spock, even though it would mean to lose his first officer. I like this paradox or irony because it eases the underlying gender and race issues and hints at a latent tendency not to support the own gender or race in order not to appear as biased (although in the particular case the Vulcan admiral seemed to criticize Spock's human rather than his Vulcan qualities). Only Kirk seems to be generally impartial about the race and gender issues, and the only reason why he is biased is a very personal one. A reason that makes him change his opinion when he realizes that his friend is treated unfairly, while on the other side there is a woman that only claims just that as it seems. And speaking of irony, it is a great twist that the decision becomes meaningless in the end (or at least, has to be adjourned indefinitely) because the ship in question doesn't exist any longer.
It is obvious that this episode has more relevance for our time than any previous Star Trek Continues story. Considering that a judgment about someone can never be completely impartial, if anything it should take into account a person's accomplishments, rather than the judge's personal preferences, and least of all any matters of gender or race.
Overall, "Embracing the Winds" is a very well-conceived and well-executed episode. With the notable exception of the scene with the imminent explosion of the Hood (great performance by Chris Doohan as Scotty!) it may not be as exciting as most previous Star Trek Continues episodes. But I think it is almost on par with classics such as "The Measure of a Man" or "The Drumhead".
The only thing I don't like about this episode is the teaser. Well, it may have been done on purpose (as a red herring) that McKennah alludes to a possible conflict with the Orions. But the conversation jumps from one tip-of-the-hat to another in a contrived fashion, including Sulu's interest in ancient firearms (TOS: "Shore Leave") and Sulu's ancestor who was in an internment camp during WWII (like George Takei's family). I think another reason why it feels awkward is because Grant Imahara (as Sulu) and Michelle Specht (as McKennah) don't manage to give their lines the required casual air.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I can't imagine the Hood with a better captain than Garrett." - "Perhaps. But perhaps you simply cannot imagine the Enterprise without me." (Kirk and Spock)
- "Commander Garrett, do you believe a person should receive special consideration because of their gender? Religion? Race?" - "If that person's gender, religion, or race has been historically used to deny them consideration." - "That wasn't the question." - "Perhaps not. But that is my answer." (Kirk and Garrett)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Command - science - engineering. A jack-of-all-trades is a master of none." (Uhura, to Chekov)
- "Eyes might be afraid. But hands do the job." (Chekov's Russian saying)
- Remarkable tips-of-the-hat:
- Sulu is interested in ancient firearms as previously seen in TOS: "Shore Leave".
- Sulu's ancestor was in an internment camp during WWII (like George Takei's family).
- The controversial admission of Coridan is referred to, as seen in TOS: "Journey to Babel".
- A shield prefix code will be implemented on all starships on Chekov's suggestion, as seen in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".
- Kirk and Garrett muse whether one day a woman named Garrett would command an Enterprise, in a rather awkward reference to TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise".
- Remarkable ship list: A wall display in Commander Gray's office lists the following Starship- [Constitution-] Class vessels:
- In service: Enterprise, Exeter, Hood, Kongo, Potemkin, Republic, Yorktown
- Decommissioned: Constitution, Farragut
- Lost/Destroyed: Constellation, Defiant, Excalibur, Intrepid, Lexington, Valiant
- In development: Ahwahnee, Eagle, Emden, Endeavour, Essex, Korolev
- Remarkable facts:
- One member of Scott's engineering crew member has a cybernetic arm.
- The captain of Constitution died during a mission to Nimbus III.
Stardate 6563.4: The scientist Avi Samara, Kirk's early love, is aboard the Enterprise to investigate gravitational anomalies in the Cressida system. The sensors pick up lifesigns on a ship near the anomaly, which turns out to be the missing USS Defiant. Aboard the Defiant Dr. McCoy discovers a man in cryostasis: an old version of Captain Kirk. It appears that Kirk and the Defiant were somehow duplicated when the Enterprise saved him from the spatial anomaly in the incident with the Tholians. The old Kirk spent more than 200 years on the Defiant, which was also significantly upgraded during that long time. When a Klingon ship approaches the system and claims salvage rights, the Defiant fires weapons and disables the cruiser, which disappears in the black hole. It turns out that the computer of the Defiant, "Tiberius", has developed a consciousness and protects his friend, the old Kirk. Tiberius demands that old Kirk is transferred back to the Defiant. When Kirk refuses, a short skirmish ensues after which both ships are trapped near the anomaly. Further investigation shows that Tiberius has a hidden agenda. He wants to merge the black hole with another one, which would destroy the whole sector, apparently in a kind of revenge that his crew abandoned the old Kirk. Scotty and Spock develop a Trojan horse program to disable the Defiant's computer and devise a plan to use the Defiant to tow away the Enterprise from the black hole. But someone has to be aboard the Defiant for that. Kirk wants to beam over, but on old Kirk's orders McCoy disables him with a hypospray. Old Kirk and Avi beam over to the Defiant. After the Enterprise has been freed, old Kirk sets course for the anomaly to seal it, but not before beaming back Avi to the Enterprise. He disappears with the Defiant, and the anomaly is gone for good.
The lawsuit against Axanar and the new fan film guidelines issued by CBS/Paramount in 2016 left the fan film scene in disarray. Some productions were shut down, some others decided to follow the new rules by the letter or even to remove any references to Star Trek from their works. Star Trek Continues carries on regardless, with no concessions that I'm aware of.
With its new episode "Still Treads the Shadow" the series continues to expand storylines from The Original Series. It continues to tell quite emotional stories. And it continues to focus on the emotional state of Captain Kirk, rather than on any of the other characters. I'm not sure about the former, but the latter is absolutely justified, seeing how Vic Mignogna dominates the series with his very strong performance.
There is not much new about the idea of "Still Treads the Shadow", which blends facts and themes from many Star Trek episodes, without adding more than a few new facets. The whole story relies heavily on the events of TOS: "The Tholian Web", in a way it was already done for ENT: "A Mirror, Darkly". So the fan film feels a bit like it is a rival to the "official" sequel of the classic episode. The Star Trek Continues story tries to differentiate itself by complicating the situation compared to the TOS and the ENT episodes. The Defiant doesn't simply disappear and appear, it is duplicated and ends up in yet another parallel reality where time passes much faster, from where it emerges together with an equally duplicated older version of Kirk. Moreover, there is a black hole and yet another black hole that "Tiberius" wants to use to destroy the whole sector. The episode spends a lot of time and a lot of talking on the the discussion of all the various phenomena and how they may be related. Some of the technobabble makes sense scientifically or plot-wise, such as the existence of Hawking radiation near the black hole, most of it doesn't.
We have got yet another one of Kirk's countless old flames that used to appear in TOS about twice in every season. Avi is one of the more interesting characters of her kind. But it is hard to imagine that the young woman could have been his girl-friend in his teenage years. The computer that runs out of control is another well-known theme from TOS and particularly from the "The Ultimate Computer" that is referenced as an example, although regarding the personality and motivation of "Tiberius" there are also several parallels to the Companion in TOS: "Metamorphosis".
It is amazing that despite the overly complex scientific and technical ramifications there is enough time left in the episode to explore the thoughts and emotions of old Kirk. In many ways he is the principal character of this show, rather than the younger version. I only think the scene with him talking to Dr. McKennah is rather inefficient because she has no significance for the story other than her being a counselor and doesn't even appear in any other scene. Instead of McKennah, Avi ought to have involved to a still greater extent, and her emotional attachment to old Kirk could have been illustrated better. This would also have made sense, considering that the idea that a duplicate version of a character reappears after a long time and feels attracted to an old love is the same as in TNG: "Second Chances". In the TNG episode, Deanna was the one person that Tom Riker could relate to best of all (and not because she was the counselor).
Regarding the effects, I like the TOS-style anomaly although I would personally have made it less complex and colorful. The D7 model, on the other hand, is not really convincing, and the sequences involving the starships could have been a bit more dynamic.
I may have found several points where the story of "Still Treads the Shadow" could have worked better. Despite my gripes with the "continuity porn" and the "stock themes" it is an exciting and touching story, with excellent acting and directing, but not quite the best of the series.
- Continuity: Avi mentions the possibility that during the long time the Defiant's computer was active, it may have developed multitronic circuits. This is a reference to "The Ultimate Computer".
- Nitpicking: McCoy calls the Defiant's computer "evil", whereupon Spock says there is nothing evil in the logic of the computer. But since when is taking revenge logical?
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "It's a good thing you're still strong like an ox and as stubborn as a mule. That subliminal conditioning could have given you one whale of a stroke." - "I've been called a lot of animals in my time but never all at once." (McCoy and old Kirk)
- "When does a machine become conscious?" - "I don't know." - "When there's no one around to say it can't." (old Kirk and young Kirk)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "If that ship fades away with me in it, I'm gonna come back and haunt the whole lot of you." (McCoy, before beaming over to the Defiant)
- "You don't realize how rich your life is until all the comfort, structure, family, friends are ripped away." (old Kirk)
- Remarkable poem: Kirk cites from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to illustrate his situation. The episode title is from the poem too.
- Remarkable in-joke: When the Defiant fires on the approaching D7, the situation is much like in "The Undiscovered Country". The Klingon ship loses attitude control, and the crew of the Enterprise is confused about who fired.
- Remarkable fact: The dedication plaque of the Defiant reads: "USS Defiant - Constitution Class - Tranquillity Base" (not "Starship Class").
Stardate 6892.3: The Enterprise is ordered to provide medical aid to the asteroid Hyalinus that is known to have only limited space travel capabilities. When Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down, they are surprised that Hyalinus's surface is all black and white. They can't see any colors, which for the inhabitants of the asteroid is a quite normal condition. Two Hyalians named Galisti and Thaius lead the landing party to the Inner Council of their people. A young woman named Sekara appears and shows symptoms of the deadly disease that led the Hyalians to contact the Federation. Spock and McCoy muse that radiation coming from the central star of the system prevent the cones in humanoid eyes from generating color information, and that the same radiation is also responsible for the disease. Sekara is beamed aboard the Enterprise, but not after a warning that she may see things differently once she is aboard the ship, shielded from the radiation. And in fact, Sekara is able to see colors for the first time when she materializes. While medicine is being prepared for the Hyalians, as well as a method to clean their atmosphere, Scotty builds a probe that may eliminate the harmful radiation from the spectrum of the star once and for all. Spock, however, returns from Hyalinus with troublesome news. His tricorder that records colors correctly has confirmed the existence of an alien species on Hyalinus with a different skin and hair color that the inhabitants are not aware of. Sekara is a member of this alien species called the Abicians. When two ships with Abicians approach Hyalinus, a Hyalian defense satellite targets them, upon which Kirk orders to destroy the satellite. Kirk now knows that the Hyalians are not yet ready to learn the truth, but there is no other way to fight the disease. So he orders to fire the probe and witnesses Galisti's shock when he sees that Thaius is an Abician woman. Kirk delivers twice the required amount of the medicine to Hyalinus, so the Inner Council is forced to negotiate with the Abicians, who possess the atmospheric cleaning technology.
The golden age of Star Trek fan films has ended. Star Trek Continues is the only notable project still to release new episodes, at least the only one still with references to Star Trek. As the premiere of a new official Star Trek series approaches, it seems that the acceptance of fan films further dwindles among the target audience. An increasing number of fans seem to think that the fan films take away profit and media attention from the official production, and that the conduct of the studio during the Axanar crisis and the subsequent release of strict fan film rules was the due reaction to protect the franchise. At least, those fans seem to have become very vocal these days.
In light of these ramifications, any new fan film episode is in danger of becoming something like a swan song. But "What Ships Are For" is quite the contrary. It is the arguably most original episode of Star Trek Continues so far, and the best one besides "Fairest of Them All" in my view. It really continues Star Trek instead of rehashing it.
The beginning of "What Ships Are For" is rather lame though. So Starfleet has almost lost two more Constitution-class ships, which is becoming a sort of a thread running through Star Trek Continues, and which may indeed symbolize a decay of Starfleet and, in a figurative sense, of the fan series. Also, the bickering among Kirk, Spock, McCoy and McKennah is only mildly humorous and seems like a bashful attempt to be as TOS-like as possible (as if Star Trek Continues were not the by far most TOS-like fan series anyway).
I hadn't seen or read any spoilers, and so I did not expect too much from the episode when Kirk, Spock and McCoy beamed down to Hyalinus. Even as the color vanished, I was under the impression that this phenomenon would be just a side note. But from here, the story continued to surprise and to impress me.
The first thing that occurred to me is that the black and white world is a nostalgic reverence to the 1960s, a time in which color on television was not as common as it is today. Actually, in (West) Germany color TV was officially launched on August 25, 1967, just a few days before my birth. My parents got one of the first of the very rare color TV sets, and I was told they watched the launch together with friends and business partners. In the following years my father earned his money selling color TVs. My favorite colors on TV were the ones of the Enterprise uniforms (in the three primary colors red, green and blue - although the green usually appears as yellow). And when I was going to graduate in electrical engineering, I decided to focus on image sensors (that would have detected colors correctly on Hyalinus, as I can assure!). I may digress, but the theme of color is something I can perfectly relate to.
To me, taking away the color vision would mean taking away an essential part of my existence. Vice versa, we can see the impact on Sekara when she is suddenly able to see colors, which is shown in the episode in a quite impressive way.
On a side note about the people in the "color-blind" star system, it is clear that both the Hyalians and the Abicians must have evolved on a world outside that system. Otherwise their eyes wouldn't have cones at all. This is a rather plausible assumption anyway, seeing that asteroids normally wouldn't support life and that Hyalinus as it is looks like the result of terraforming. But it may have been too much for the story to insinuate a possible common ancestry of the two species. Regarding their technology, the distinction of wavelengths of light is comparably simple, and should have been available on Hyalinus before space travel was developed. It is well possible that the Hyalians were perfectly aware of the working principle of prisms, but without being able to see the different colors it never had a special meaning to them, just like we associate no colors with the ultraviolet range, although we understand the physics very well. So it is plausible that the Hyalians have no concept of colors although they know they must exist. Their medical knowledge does not seem to be very advanced, as they are not aware that the cones in their eyes would normally allow to see colors. The same applies to genetic technology, the lack of which allowed the Abicians to remain unnoticed (if they are genetically different at all).
The story comes up with another surprise when it turns out that a part of the inhabitants of Hyalinus are aliens and that the literally color-blind society of the asteroid so far couldn't recognize them as such. I just love this commentary on racism that works so well just because the circumstances on our planet in our time are reversed. We perceive people of other races as being different just because of superficial features like the skin color. Well, in a black and white world we would still recognize differences if we insisted on them being important, but the desire to have a color-blind society couldn't possibly have been better illustrated than in "What Ships Are For".
In a less allegorical fashion, the story also comments of the refugee crisis. It takes into consideration the "limited resources" of Hyalinus. It addresses that the indigenous population feels they are overrun by strangers, but that there is no reason to assume that these strangers mean any harm. Only the explicit mention of "terrorists" was missing, which may have been too blatant an analogy (for which, as a European, I am rather grateful). Ultimately, the story shows a perfect integration of the Abician refugees on Hyalinus, which is enabled by the fact that the two are visually indistinguishable, but which also requires the Abicians to completely abandon and deny their past identities. In this regard, the real-world analogy does not work so well.
Overall, "What Ships Are For" has an intelligent story with good science that is packed with allegories and ethical debates. It is a bit too formulaic at times, and especially Galisti's reference to the Prime Directive feels unnecessary. His complaint that Starfleet decides whether a civilization deserves help on arbitrary standards is in line with what has been established in several canon episodes. It is even almost the exact wording that I used in my review of ENT: "Dear Doctor". But since the theme and the line of reasoning is well-known, it should not have been reiterated here. And I wonder anyway how Galisti could possibly know so much about Starfleet's General Orders.
I would have expected to see a bit more of John de Lancie as Galisti in this episode. He has a few good scenes, but overall the story is not very character-driven anyway. In any case, I applaud that the producers of Star Trek Continues resisted the temptation to hire him to play Q. At some point, we've got enough Q, enough Khan, enough Mudd and enough harking back to old Trek stories.
The production design of "What Ships Are For" is great as always. One thing I would have done differently is that I would have used awful color combinations for the clothes of the Hyalians and for the decoration of the Inner Council. They had no idea of the colors they were using after all! The asteroid doesn't look realistic with its very irregular shape yet Earth-like features. And the satellites in orbit appear very toy-like.
- Remarkably bad joke: "If our human females looked like that, we'd go extinct." (McCoy, after Thaius's suggestion that Spock might be an Earth female - ugh)
- Remarkable dialogue: "This is where Mr. Scott lives." (Chekov, to Sekara, about main engineering) - "I don't spend all my time here. There's also the transporter room." (Scotty)
- Remarkable quote: "A ship in the harbor is safe. But that's not what ships are for." (Kirk, to Galisti)
- Nitpicking: Starfleet is in severe trouble as it seems. After the loss of the Hood (as already mentioned in "Embracing the Winds"), the Yorktown and the Republic are badly damaged while investigating the incident.
- Continuity: The white medical uniform that would be commonplace in TMP can be seen here. McKennah calls the new uniform colors a "drab boring color palette", which both reflects the reaction to the TMP uniforms in real life, as well as the theme of the episode.
- Remarkable scenery: The Inner Council on Hyalinus is a blend of all kinds of Earth architecture, consisting of four or five very different styles.
Stardate 6988.4/6995.1: The Enterprise is scheduled to return to Earth after the completion of the five-year mission, but receives new orders to proceed to the Aldebaran system. It is the system where the Hood was lost, and now the research outpost on Aldebaran III has gone silent. A vessel that was sent to investigate, the Halifax, is missing too. On the surface of the planet, the landing party are welcomed by Lana, a human woman with ESP forces. She says that she and 24 other "Espers" were in the research facility named Pandora to be weaponized to protect the Federation. The Romulans attacked the outpost and kidnapped the other Espers. Suddenly a Romulan officer appears and threatens the landing party with a disruptor, but Lana uses her forces to pull away the weapon from him so it explodes in the shaft leading down to the Pandora research facility. The two are brought aboard the Enterprise. Kirk sets a course to pursue the Romulans. He has explicit orders to enter the Neutral Zone. Spock, however, decides to contact Charvanek, the Romulan commander that he once tricked and that has been repatriated by now, in the hope of having a person whom he can trust to speak to. Charvanek beams over from the IRW Hawk's Talon to the Enterprise and says she doesn't know the Romulan officer in the brig, who gets beamed away just as she speaks. Lana didn't tell the truth. The Romulan is actually a Vulcan Esper named Sentek she is married to, and their motives are not peaceful at all. The Espers have hijacked the Halifax to reach the Galactic Barrier to be "uplifted", which would multiply their power and enable them to destroy the Federation. Thanks to Lana's and Sentek's distraction the slow ship has a head start. They also manipulated the crew of the USS Hood to shut down life support, as a test of their powers. The Enterprise and the Romulan ship join forces and arrive at the Barrier. But the Espers have already crossed it and abandoned the Halifax. They are now in control of the USS Kongo, a sister ship of the Enterprise. Moreover, Lana and Sentek attempt to take control of the Enterprise. Surprisingly, Lieutenant Smith is able to stop them. She acquired her powers when she held Gary Mitchell's hand while the Enterprise crossed the Barrier. It is not possible to penetrate the Kongo's shields, because they are reinforced with ESP powers, but the Espers need time to recharge. The Espers try to distract the crew of the Enterprise with illusions. Yet, Kirk devises a plan to defeat the Kongo, attacking from three vectors with the separated saucer and stardrive sections of the Enterprise and the Hawk's Talon. The plan succeeds, but the Espers manage to block the communication between the attackers. Lana claims that the crew of the Kongo is still alive, and demands McKennah to beam over for negotiations. Spock, who commands the saucer, is opposed to it, but McKennah persuades him to let her go. Lana, however, lied. The Kongo warps away with McKennah as a prisoner, and proceeds to Earth. Starfleet Command sends the Exeter and the Potemkin to intercept, but the Espers get the two ships to destroy each other. The Enterprise and the Hawk's Talon catch up with the Kongo, and thanks to modifications to the communication and the shields, the Espers can't manipulate the crew this time. Smith beams over to take down the shields of the Kongo and rescue McKennah. She runs into heavy resistance and eventually uses her forces to destroy the ship's engines, which kills her. The Romulan subcommander fires the plasma weapon at the crippled ship but then on the Enterprise too. Commander Charvanek gives Uhura a code to lock the weapons of the Romulan ship. Scotty struggles to beam back McKennah from the Kongo but doesn't succeed. Back on Earth, the Enterprise will undergo reconstruction. Kirk decides to accept a promotion to admiral, while McCoy chooses to resign and Spock goes back to Vulcan to "let it go".
It has been the goal of Star Trek Continues to "boldly complete the original five-year mission", and now this goal has been accomplished. We should always keep that in mind, especially whenever we feel tempted to compare Star Trek Continues to other fans series or even to official Trek productions. In a way, Star Trek Continues has finished a painting that Gene Roddenberry started over 50 years ago. The series never tried to extend the canvas to six times the size, the way TNG and its successors did, nor did it paint over the canvas like the Abrams movies or Discovery. Perhaps the insistence to stay true to the look and feel of TOS even in minuscule details was exaggerated. But it was part of the special charm of this series, especially since it was a conscious decision. It did not happen because of a too small budget, and never had the air of cheap production values.
I would have hoped for some more original stories and some less continuity connections over the course of Star Trek Continues. The final double episode "To Boldly Go I/II" heavily references TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before" from where it takes the theme of "Espers" who gain god-like powers after crossing the Galactic Barrier, "The Enterprise Incident" and the Romulan Commander who finally receives a name, as well as "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and the refit of the Enterprise after the five-year-mission. Some fans may label this as "continuity porn", but in the series finale leading to the events of TMP it is totally appropriate. I especially like how the events of the series finale, "To Boldly Go", mirror those of the pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", as it is also expressed in the title.
It is noteworthy how the transition from the world of TOS to the one of TMP is accomplished in the second part. It is not just a matter of the production design and the introduction of the new uniforms and the Starfleet arrowhead symbol. The whole storytelling changes from the fast pace of TOS to the contemplative one of TMP, the harsh TOS score with its fanfares gradually makes way for the symphonic TMP style. This is done skillfully in the episode, and doesn't feel at all like a switch is flipped and we're in a new era.
This story of Star Trek Continues is emotional by its very nature, as it concludes the series and says goodbye to its characters, also and especially through the fourth wall. I appreciate very much that each of the characters has a few good scenes, such as Uhura, who frantically attacks the cruel Lana, who comes up with the idea to block the ESP waves and who takes over the helm from the injured Sulu. Only two of the countless emotional scenes don't sit so well with me. The first is the one in which Smith insists on going over to the Kongo to put her forces to good use. Her appeal to Kirk is overly melodramatic. When an officer bursts into tears the way she does, it is normally a reason not to send her or him on the mission. The second scene that doesn't work for me is McKennah's farewell. While we know from other occasions that people in the transporter beam are conscious, I think that the interaction between her and Kirk and Spock is unrealistic and unintentionally cheesy.
Regarding the Espers, it is a pity that we don't really learn anything about them. They are reminiscent of Khan and his crew in many regards (in the final battle, the score is even based on Horner's theme from "The Wrath of Khan"). Yet, they lack a motivation we may be able to understand. Lana, Sentek and the other Espers are just corrupted by their absolute power and have lost any sense of what it is like to be human. What's worse, they were like that even before they crossed the Galactic Barrier and they seem to have chosen their path unanimously. There is nothing in the story and nothing in the character histories that could excuse or even redeem them, the way it is generally desirable in Star Trek.
Overall, "To Boldly Go I/II" is a double feature that leaves me very content because of its thrilling story, its emotional impact and its great continuity. Not quite flawless as an episode, but perfect as a conclusion of the series. I would like to thank the cast and crew of Star Trek Continues for eleven wonderful episodes and a very good time watching them!
- Fleet Admiral Nogura says that Starfleet will adopt the arrowhead as a unified symbol.
- The ship display in the admiral's office includes the USS Kelvin and even the Discovery.
- This episode adds the Exeter, the Potemkin and the Kongo to the list of the destroyed Constitution-class vessels. Nogura says they will rebuild Starfleet, and introduce other ship classes. His statement seems to imply that the Miranda, for instance, previously didn't exist, much less any of the many ships that we can see on Star Trek Discovery.
- Charvanek says that the Romulans use a form of faster-than-light propulsion that cannot be labeled as "warp drive". The actual principle is that a quantum singularity (known from TNG: "Timescape") bends space around the ship, as Spock notes.
- Sulu suggests to combine both propulsion principles, referring to his position as astrophysicist in TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
- Weaponizing its citizens is something that the Federation allegedly allows in the Federation Charter, Article 14, Section 31. So this is what Section 31 is about.
- Remarkable quote: "Captain's log. This will be my final entry. So end the voyages of the Starship Enterprise under my command. During its five-year mission, we explored strange new worlds. We found new life, and new civilizations. And we boldly went where no man has gone before."
- Remarkable in-jokes:
- When the Romulan attacks Kirk, the very first thing that happens is that Kirk's shirt gets ripped.
- Kirk says about the seemingly omnipotent Gary Mitchell: "He couldn't even remember my middle name." This refers to the famous tombstone created by Mitchell, reading "James R. Kirk".
- Remarkable maneuver: We can see a saucer separation of the original Enterprise.
- Remarkable appearance: Amy Rydell, who plays the Romulan Commander Charvanek, is the daughter of Joanne Linville, who appeared in this role in TOS: "The Enterprise Incident".
- Remarkable facts:
- The Galactic Barrier was purportedly erected by the Preservers.
- Kirk says he lost 73 people in 5 years.
- Dalhutnar is a Vulcan mental discipline that leads to the acceptance of the "wisdom of vestigial emotions". Spock has never performed this ritual, just as he has not yet undergone the kolinahr either.
- Sas-tar-po-han is a human movement that follows the pacifist teachings of Surak and T'Mord of vulcan. Lana claims she belongs to this group.
|Last modified: 03 Oct 2021