Star Trek: New Voyages is an amateur Star Trek series not dissimilar from Starship Exeter. New Voyages‘ primary refinement is that the shows are set on board the Enterprise of the original series as opposed to a contemporary ship of the same class, as is the case with Exeter. New Voyages also employs the same characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and so forth have simply been recast, and as the script makes clear, the events seen in New Voyages are intended to take place ‘in canon,’ if you will.
New Voyages looks like it has a larger operating budget than Exeter, and I thought the first episode, “What May Come,” (described as a pilot on the website) seems to employ some more experienced actors than those in the Johnsons’ labor of love.
It was a bit tough to download the episode, also. I ended up getting it from here. The site doesn’t explain the format, but the zip files are crisp-looking 240×320 (I think) .wmvs, playable on the Mac with the excellent MPlayer OS X. Alas, there’s no easy way to got from .wmv to DVD on the Mac, so you may be stuck watching the show on your monitor rather than on the tube.
I have written before about how this emerging genre fascinates me. New Voyages is particularly intriguing because of the close ties to the original show – two actors that appeared on the original series do guest shots, and a Trek fan muckety-muck who sold a story to Voyager also appears.
Overall good points include persuasive costuming, a variety of room sets including what appear to be complete bridge and transporter room sets, and some really good looking effects shots, all scrupulously employing designs drawn from the mid-seventies Starfleet Technical Manual.
New Voyages FAQ notes that producer James Cawley is a Trekanalia collector, and that the production shot in New York, facts that lead me to conclude that Cawley is the collector who purchased the DS9-built recreation of the TOS bridge set built for use on the DS9 time travel episode that placed Sisko and crew aboard the Enterprise during the events seen in TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
Jimm and Josh Johnson of Exeter have told me they met with this collector in upstate New York to explore continuing their series on his sets but did not pursue the opportunity because it was geographically inconvenient for their cast and crew.
New Voyages FAQ also notes that Sulu doen not appear in the recast crew, ‘for good reason,’ which leads me to speculate that George Takei may appear in an upcoming episde, given his awareness of and involvement with the fan push to get Paramount to make Excelsior the next Trek to follow Voyager.
Naturally, there are some quibbles. The effects shots mix the textural look of the series’ movie effects with the cleaner surfaces of the original television series, which looks odd. The audio of all the interior shots is roomy; that is, there’s a clear acoustic reverb which comes from iimproper miking. The editing and pacing are – with the exception of the effects sequences – overly loose, leaving the whole production with a disctinct amateur feel; this is also a problem in the careless, busy use of soundtrack music as well. This overall slightly undisciplined sense is most obvious when the director violates TOS editing conventions in several places. This disrupts the desired effect of creating the illusion that one is watching a forgotten production from the time and place of the original series.
I am driven to comment on the visual failure of “Kirk’s” hair. It’s not even close to Shatner’s Kirk ‘do. Instead it looks like Elvis’ hair, long, square sideburns and all. Since the odd ‘Vanilla Ice’ image of the actor on the main page for the production clearly shows pointy sideburns, I assume that the square burns must be a reference to the square burns worn by Bill in the original series pilot “Whom Gods Destroy.”
In conclusion, I didn’t get the same giddy charge from seeing this as I did from seeing Exeter, but by the same token I saw nothing to indicate that the production couldn’t be tightened up. Given that both series are continuing production, I can imagine a very interesting set of scenarios between the two groups, from competition to cross-over. I also have a hard time imagining that Paramount is going to ignore or encourage this, as much as I believe it’s what they should do. On the other hand, the Paramount logo appears on the website, so maybe I’m mistaken.
Imagine if they took the budget for one episode of the current series, and distributed it to ten amateur efforts in the form of grants as a kind of farm system. In one fell swoop they’d get distribution rights to the fan material, reconnect with the fan base, and establish a modern, post-digital era production and distribution cycle to learn from and draw on. I’m not holding my breath.
Of course, this sort of thing always leads me to wonder where the fan series production of Space: 1999 might be.