I believe it was on Facebook that I recently caught wind of the existence of Star Trek Continues: a fan-made production that continues the timeline of the original series (1966–1969), made to resemble the show to an uncanny degree. Produced by Vic Mignogna, who also stars as Captain Kirk, the series of eleven episodes purports to complete the USS Enterprise's five-year mission, leading up to where Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) begins. A week or so ago, with most of Star Trek's original series episodes fresh in mind, I took it to heart to watch Star Trek Continues in full over a period of several days.
And I really, really enjoyed it (mostly).
Indeed, the most striking aspect of the show is its resemblance to the familar Star Trek of old, down to the sets, the costumes, the camera angles, the four-act structure of the episodes—including fade-outs at the ends of scenes, where one might expect to see commercials. The majority of the music comes directly from the original series, with some additional compositions contributed by the ubiquitous Vic Mignogna. The special effects, courtesy of Emmy-award-winning SPFX artist Doug Drexler, are very much in keeping with the digital effects in the remastered episodes, so if you have watched those, the visuals prove gratifyingly consistent across the properties, and if not, the new effects work is many steps up from the old.
|The USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) as rendered for Star Trek Continues by SPFX artist Doug Drexler|
But it really isn't. The new series was made as an unlicensed, non-profit fan production that CBS and Paramount Pictures, as well as Gene Roddenberry's estate, could have squashed before it began. But they didn't. In fact, Gene Roddenberry's son, Rod, has been quoted as saying, "I'm sure my dad would consider this canon, and as far as I am concerned, it is canon." I personally would go so far as to say I absolutely accept Star Trek Continues as canon. Given its serious, thoughtful scripts and performances, not to mention its near-flawless continuity, it would seem rather silly not to.
For the most part, it's the members of the main cast that represent the greatest departure from the feel of the original series. Few of them come as close to resembling the original characters, in either appearance or personality, as those in the J.J. Abrams reboot film series from the past few years. Regardless, once one becomes accustomed to the strange faces in the familiar roles, it's not difficult to accept these actors as the characters they portray. Although his tenor voice doesn't sound like William Shatner's, as Captain Kirk, Vic Mignogna captures many of Shatner's mannerisms and vocal rhythms such that, in no time, he becomes, for all intents and purposes, the real Captain Kirk. The same might be said for Todd Haberkorn, who neither looks nor sounds much like Leonard Nimoy, but whose earnest portrayal of Mr. Spock becomes easy enough to accept.
|Todd Haberkorn (L) as Mr. Spock and Vic Mignogna (R) as Captain Kirk|
|The ladies of Star Trek Continues: Kim Stinger at Lt. Uhura, Kipleigh Brown as Lt. Smith,|
Michele Specht as Dr. McKennah, and Cat Roberts as Lt. Palmer
While still "acceptable" in their parts, none of the other main cast members quite hit the right notes for their characters. Chuck Huber looks and sounds not so unlike Dr. McCoy as played by the late, great DeForest Kelley, but his rather wooden, by-the-numbers performance lacks assurance and, most crucially, a strong chemistry with Mr. Spock. And unfortunately, neither Grant Imahara as Mr. Sulu or Kim Stinger as Lt. Uhura offer performances matching the caliber of Mignogna, Haberkorn, or Doohan, although both actors do manage to shine at various moments.
As a favorable balance, Kipleigh Brown plays a strong Lt. Smith, whose character first appeared in the original series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and who offers a few dramatic surprises, particularly during the last few episodes of the new series. Michele Specht comes aboard the Enterprise as Ship's Counselor Dr. Elise McKennah, whose character paves the way for future ships' counselors on board Starfleet spacecraft, the primary example being Counselor Deana Troy in Star Trek: The Next Generation, played by Marina Sirtis—who also provides the ship's computer voice in Star Trek Continues.
|Mother and daughter play the same role. Joanne Linville (L) from the|
original series, and daughter Amy Rydell (R) from Star Trek Continues
Several veteran Star Trek players, as well as other noteworthy actors, make appearances in the show, such as Michael Forest (who reprises his role as Apollo from the original series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?"); John DeLancie (Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation, though here he plays an unrelated character); Colin Baker; Jamie Bamber; Lou Ferrigno; Anne Lockhart; and many others. Perhaps most notably, actress Amy Rydell appears as a Romulan Commander, the same role played by her mother, Joanne Linville, in the original series episode "The Enterprise Incident." In character, Rydell is a spitting image of her mother, as you may notice in the photo above.
Happily, for the most part, the new series' scripts are patterned after the best of the old and, with a few exceptions, deal admirably with non-fluffy topics, such as discrimination, personal ethics, and self-sacrifice. Many of the episodes relate directly to events from the original series, such as the aforementioned "Who Mourns for Adonais?", "Mirror, Mirror," "The Tholian Web," "The Enterprise Incident," and "Where No Man Has Gone Before." It is, in fact, the latter episode—the "second" pilot for the original series, and the first to star William Shatner as Captain Kirk—that provides the basis for the final two-part episode of Star Trek Continues ("To Boldly Go"), thus bringing the two series full circle. "To Boldly Go" also addresses and settles major plot points that have developed over the course of the series, as well as opening the door for the events to come in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, making it the most satisfying and all-around best episode of the new series.
Is Star Trek Continues a worthy successor to the original series? Apart from the generally less-accomplished cast, I'd call it far superior to the J.J. Abrams reboot films, and possibly go as far as saying it is equal to or better than most of the myriad Star Trek spinoff series. As a labor of love, it stands out far beyond any fan-made production that I have ever encountered. To say that it is sincere is an understatement; it is an expression of rarely matched creative integrity, succeeding on multiple levels—thematically, artistically, and dramatically.
If you are even a casual Star Trek fan, do yourself the service of checking out Star Trek Continues. It's not perfect—sometimes far from it—but in general it embodies the best of what Star Trek stood for from the beginning, sometimes in ways that exceed the original.
You can watch all the episodes for free, as well as find additional information about the production, at Star Trek Continues. Also visit Star Trek Continues on Facebook.
|Vic Mignona as Captain Kirk|
|Michele Specht as Counselor Dr. Elise McKennah|
|Chris Doohan as Mr. Scott|
|Kim Stinger at Lt. Uhura|
|There's trouble in Engineering in "Come Not Between the Dragons"|
|Mess not with these gentlemen!|