By our special guest, Steven Francis Murphy
I am too young to have watched Star Trek: The Original Series during the first run in the late 1960s. The last episode aired in 1969, two years before I was born. It would not be until the late 1970s, at about the same time Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and a host of other science fiction shows filled the marketplace. How many of us remember our first taste of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy standing on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, without the bloody A, B, C, or D, while sitting in front of a thick, large black and white or rudimentary color television set?
Granted, not every episode was worth spending time on, Spock's Brain being the prime example. Yet when Star Trek hit the mark it made the audience ponder the notion of humanity's role in history throughout the decades. Gene Roddenberry, in the depths of the Cold War, facing nuclear annihilation, a country torn by protests over war, civil rights and the like, saw a future where we did not blow ourselves into atoms are descend into anarchy. Which did not mean that the future was all sunshine and bunny rabbits in an Age of Aquarius, there was plenty of room for fists, torn shirts, and phasers spiced with great discussions about morality.
Three seasons hardly seemed enough and much ink and pixel dust has spent spilled lamenting the loss of a fourth, fully funded season which might have made up for the missteps of the third. There seemed to be so much material available upon which to ask the simple question.
What happened to Khan? How about that Apollo guy? Did he just disappear in a flash of pixie dust? The Gangster Planet, how did they turn out?
We got a movie to deal with Khan, one of the best in the franchise, which every movie since has tried to emulate. Yes, I know that J.J. Abrams did a Khan movie as well. But, well, it just isn't the same.
For decades, if you wanted to know the rest of the story, you could read the novels, go to conventions or play the roleplaying games. Once the new series came online in the late 1980s with Star Trek: The Next Generation, you could from time to time, get a glimpse, a mention, perhaps a taste of what happened during the unseen parts of the original series.
Still not the same? The uniforms were nicer in most cases, save for the spandex of Picard's bunch. The technology was cleaner, neater, supported by the latest in CGI. But the charm of those pullover red shirts poking at Christmas lights on a black board was missing.
Fans, friends, fellow Trekkers, if you have been thirsty for the original vintage you do not have to wait any longer. Advances in technology coupled with decreasing costs of production have placed the means to make new episodes in the hands of every human today. There are a number of Star Trek based fan productions currently crafting new episodes and in many cases, feature length films. For them, they do not do it for profit, it is an act of service, and a labor of love.
Case in point?
Star Trek Continues, based down Georgia Way, using the sets of another fan based production, Starship Farragut, has produced three episodes thus far. They are the newest kids on the block when compared to James Cawley's Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II but they seem to have tapped into something that Cawley's efforts have been missing.
First, for better or worse, they found someone who actually bears a resemblance, in speech, mannerisms, and appearance, to William Shatner. Vic Mignogna can, if you are not quite paying attention to the screen, convince the viewer that you have an original episode on the screen. Is he an exact copy of Shatner? No, that would be impossible. None of the other cast members are able to pull off perfect impressions of the original actors but they are able to capture the essence of their respective characters.
Spock, portrayed by, Todd Haberkorn, does not fall into trying to imitate the The Motion Picture variant of Spock. His delivery and mannerisms reflect the subtle changes in tone and mood that Spock, supposedly an emotionless Vulcan, was capable of displaying throughout the franchise. He doesn't make the mistake of trying to sound like a computer.
Mister Scott, everyone's favorite red shirt who is too tough to be killed, is portrayed by James Doohan's son, Chris. Like Vic, he can almost fool the discerning viewer.
Two different individuals have portrayed Leonard McCoy thus far and it would be unfair to just based on so few performances. Larry Nemecek certainly brings out McCoy's passion, his anger, his plain spoken vernacular. He doesn't look like him, which some purists will be upset about but to this reviewer, whether or not the actor actually looks like their original counterpart should be a non issue.
There is a whole host of original supporting characters, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, who all seem to be growing into their roles, becoming more relaxed and natural with each passing episode. They are augmented by new characters such as the ship's first counselor.
Star Trek Continues has produced three episodes thus far, all of which are available at their website for free. Naturally, they accept donations and they are able to produce these episodes by virtue of a very successful kickstarter campaign. The first episode, Pilgrim, gives an old Enterprise nemesis, Apollo, an opportunity to redeem himself. The second, Lolani, gives the Original Series an encounter with the Slave Culture of the Orions, raising questions about the Prime Directive, cultural relativism, and in general, when to do the right thing.
The latest takes the Original Series back to the Mirror Universe. With the exception of the tribble episode on Deep Space Nine, no other original series episode has inspired so many follow on episodes. A quick glance at the Star Trek website Memory Alpha shows there are no less than seven follow on episodes, five in Deep Space Nine depicting the aftermath of the fall of the Terran Empire plus a two part prequel in Star Trek Enterprise.
So, what happened after Captain Kirk and the Command Team returned to their original universe in Mirror, Mirror?
Episode Three, Fairest of Them All, answers that for us.
There are spoiler ahead, so be forewarned.
In the Mirror Universe, Captain Kirk returns to find that the Halkan Civilization stands untouched by the phasers of the I.S.S. Enterprise. When he attempts to correct this, Mr. Spock, who has considered the words of the Federation Captain, tries to convince his own Captain of the merits of lesser measures.
The Mirror Kirk nods his head, says Spock has given him much to consider, and orders a planetary barrage. Toss in a photon torpedo spread while you are at it. Excessive, but examples have to be made. Unintended consequences follow on the planet's surface which put the dilithium crystals in jeopardy. The stakes are raised when the rebel Andorians arrive to attack the Enterprise. It turns out that the eventual extermination of the Halkan people from the radiation and fallout of the orbital barrage may serve as a catalyst for the fall of the Terran Empire.
Mirror Spock acts. In short order, he convinces Mr. Scott, who saw the Prime Universe, to aid him in a mutiny. The action is fast paced as Kirk and Spock jockey for control of the ship. Mirror Kirk's own megalomania, speaking a bit too free and honest with regard to his crew, proves to be his undoing. Rather than kill Kirk after another hand to hand combat scene, that would be two for the Mirror Spock in the same day, the Vulcan spares his former Captain.
Killing and violence is the Empire's way. Spock realizes that if he emulates their methods in an effort to free themselves, they will only repeat their errors. Kirk and his followers are given a shuttle while the I.S.S. Enterprise, now under the command of a more benevolent leader, gives the order to Chekov.
Chekov, for his part, looks relieved to be free of the Agony Booth.
As storytelling goes, it is fast paced, entertaining and captures that essence of the original series. In that regard, I'd give this episode a strong thumbs up. Vic clearly relishes his opportunities to get physical in the fight scenes, drawing upon that dark side to torture crewmembers with the Agonizer, or if that doesn't work, Sick Bay can truly become a Sick Bay. Haberkorn's Spock, however, gets the best speech award, repeating a recorded speech in calm, clear, logical tones about the eventual fall of the Empire and the value of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.
Turns out most of the crew would prefer not to be the cannon fodder of some pirate inspired, dictator.
I do wonder, however, if Spock would attempt to move in such a rapid fashion. To attempt to save the Halkan People would precipitate a conflict with the Mirror Captain Kirk. Once the lines were drawn, Spock did not waste time going on the offensive. Yet I can't help but think that a Vulcan might move in a much more subtle manner, building over time a revolution as opposed to having a mutiny.
That said, Spock holding teach-ins in the shuttle bay during the third watch does not inspire much in the way of action and adventure. Nor could such a storyline be resolved in forty minutes if we take our starting point from the moment Mirror Kirk returns to his ship. A more plausible approach might have been to set the story a year or two later, but these are quibbles in what is otherwise a perfectly enjoyable story.
I do have one additional thought. When Mirror, Mirror first aired in the 1960s it was notably drawing upon Nazi Germany for inspiration. In a tangential sense, one might wonder if this is the universe Edith Keeler might have created had she not been hit by that truck in The City on the Edge of Forever. American viewers of that time and decades to follow, would never have drawn a comparison between the Mirror Universe's methods of discipline and torture with the conduct of American Foreign Policy.
On the other hand, if you watch that episode, and Fairest of Them All, today, in the year 2014, you might come away with a different impression. We live thirteen years into the War on Terror, in an era which condoned the use of black sites, torture and the like in order to secure ourselves from our enemies. It is a little too easy to swap out Mirror Kirk's sparkles and gold pirate wrap for someone in 5-11 Tactical Gear holding a bucket of water over someone's face, trying to get the information he needs.
Do you see what the episode might have done there? If you watched it with a questioning mind, you might have thought more about how it ties into today's issues. Rather than hammer one over the head with the story's one message, it instead chooses to let the viewer find that message on their own.
The best storytelling always does this and in this sense, I think this episode rises above any minor quibbles I might have about plot.
Go watch it and kick a few bucks their way so they can make more.
It has my recommendation.