By Shawn StJean
Who says it takes a hundred million dollars to do Star Trek right?
Under the wing of Farragut Films and Dracogen Investments, Vic Mignogna and crew have launched the second episode of their wonderful fan webseries, Star Trek Continues. It takes place during the final three years of the original five-year mission that ended prematurely when the network cancelled Star Trek in the late 1960s.
All due respect to the rebooted mega-budget studio feature films–sorry, but this is where it’s at: no one is going to get resurrected by “Necrotic-Tribble-Cross-Superhuman DNA,” either. That kind of technobabble/solution nonsense is for fans of Next Generation and its ilk.
I screened the just-released second episode in the webseries, “Lolani,” with a smile on my face the entire time. This reaction was part nostalgia, part admiration, and part gratitude for Vic and the gang who’ve devoted themselves to continuing a great tradition of truly humanistic storytelling, even amidst the most technological setting. I thought it bettered the excellent first episode (featuring the return of old nemesis, Apollo, reprised by Michael Forest).
As with the original series, the episode “Lolani” takes a local incident and extends it not only to allegorical proportions, but retains the Trek romanticism while it resists succumbing to the sentimentalism of dozens of silly imitation shows over the years. An Orion slave girl, taking advantage of a dispute among her recent purchasers, kills the new owner who would have raped her. The Enterprise rescues her from the drifting Tellarite vessel, and she proceeds to enchant the crew (Kirk included, naturally) with her pheromone-enhanced wiles. The rhetoric of gender relations undergirds the script, and the threat of female power remains inescapable, but the story somehow escapes radical feminism and balances its themes in a way that would have made Gene Rodenberry proud.
The episode also does an excellent job creating moral ambiguity: given the laws of the Federation and perhaps even the Prime Directive, the crew is forbidden to interfere with her return to the slavemasters who sold her. And yet, she gives a face to the thousands still under the thrall of the homeworld’s patriarchs. Lolani herself, like so many women characters in literary fiction, remains a mystery until the end: part liar and manipulator, part sincere and helpless girl, worthy of the genuine love one crewman gives her. Of course, the Captain wouldn’t be Kirk if he failed to make a pass at her along the journey. In fact, many of the old tropes are present for the fans: the Vulcan mind-meld and neck- pinch, for example. I have to admit to being disappointed that Kirk’s shirt wasn’t ripped during the fight scene–but then again, with a budget smaller than that of the original 45-year-old episodes, and adjusting for inflation–well, those things aren’t cheap.
The scripts of the old Trek were the reason for its longevity among fandom, and this tribute series follows suit. While some may find the style hokey, I personally applaud the refusal to give in the cynicism and parody that invests so many of today’s remakes. The production values: sets, costumes, special effects, music, lighting, and even a few stunts–really cannot be faulted by any reasonable viewer. Some may wish for more professionalized acting, or folks who more closely resemble the original cast members–but naturally this would defeat the purpose of a fan-series, being both cost-prohibitive and elitist. No one in the troupe’s ensemble cast fails to deliver competence, anyway, and guest stars like Sci-Fi vets Erin Gray and Lou Ferrigno are always welcome. Naturally, such pros also deserve the thanks of fans everywhere for their contribution to keeping the Enterprise flying.
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