If you’ve been following Four Letter Nerd for any length of time you might have noticed a distinct lack of articles concerning Star Trek (other than the thought-provoking guest piece by our friends at the Disembodied Beard). This isn’t on purpose, we just don’t have a full-blown “Star Trek” nerd on staff. I am probably the closest thing we got, but Star Wars is my first love and second tattoo. Unlike some of my fellow Star Wars fans (Star Warriors?), I am not actually opposed to Star Trek. In fact, I actually enjoy the Original Series quite a bit, I just don’t know the intimate details like I do with Star Wars.
Originally, Phase II was a planned continuation of the Original Series, and would follow Captain James T. Kirk and several other members of the original cast on a second five-year mission across the universe. The show was planned to air May 1978 by the Paramount Television Service. What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Paramount Television Service? That’s because the collapsed in on itself harder than the planet Vulcan in J. J. Abrams Star Trek before Kirk could make his triumphant return to the Enterprise, and Phase II collapsed along with it (although elements of the planned series can be seen throughout the future films and shows).
If you remember correctly, the crew of the Original Series were on a five year mission, but the show was canceled after only three seasons. What happened to Kirk and his crew the remaining two years of their mission to explore the final frontier?
Enter James Cawley’s Star Trek: Phase II (the Web-series Formerly Known as New Voyages).
Star Trek: Phase II is a fan created web-series, which is created by Cawley’s Retro Film Studios, and picks up where the Original Series left off. The show is filmed in a long-defunct car dealership located in Port Henry, New York. Inside the garage there exists a perfect recreation of the Bridge of the USS Enterprise, as well as the Science Lab, and the Sick Bay, which were built using the actual blueprints from the show (meaning it’s LITERALLY as accurate a reproduction possible outside of time travel). According to Cawley, “The new show will be the continuing voyages of Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701 as seen in the 1966-69 television series, Star Trek. The series was cancelled after its third season. We are presenting the series as if it were in its fourth year. We acknowledge that the visual effects are contemporary, but we work hard within out capabilities to keep the effects familiar to fans of the original series.” The Bridge of the USS Enterprise is so precise, it caused Nichelle Nichols (Uhura in the Original Series) to reportedly exclaim, “Oh, my god! It’s the exact same set.”
Again, I am not a Star Trek aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but I have watched a majority of the Original Series and felt like Cawley and his team really nailed the overall tone and style. Is it a little cheesy? Sure, but is it an accurate representation of the show they are trying to painstakingly recreate? Absolutely. As far as fan productions go, this one is top notch. A lot of detail goes into each episode (which is funded out of pocket by the producers and crew, they take donations on their website), and you can definitely tell.
Cawley, who played Capt. James Tiberius Kirk for the first 12 episodes, makes sure to stress that they are playing the characters, not the actors playing the characters. This is an important distinction, because if you are expecting someone channeling their inner-Shatner playing Kirk you will be dissappointed. It’s like all of the incarnations of James Bond. Daniel Craig is not channeling Sean Connery’s Bond, he is making it his own, which is what Cawley and his team are trying to do.
One thing Phase II does to raise the bar higher than most fan-created shows can is that several members of the cast and crew of the Original Series have made appearances and/or helped with the production of the show. Internet icon George Takei reprises his role as Hikaru Sulu (via time travel because, you know, Star Trek) in the episode “A World Enough and Time.” Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on the Original Series, also makes an appearance in the episode “To Serve All My Days.” But it’s not just the cast that make significant contributions – David Gerrold, who wrote the famous Original Series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles,” has signed on to write two episodes, and Marc Scott Zicree, a writer for both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, co-wrote and directed “A World Enough and Time.”
I haven’t been able to make it through all of the episodes yet. There are currently eight episodes (with another four in production), and they run an average of about 50 minutes each. The goal is to have a full 22 (or more) episode season that will complete the final years of the original five year mission and stay true to Gene Roddenberry’s vision and philosophy for the original Trek. So if you are a fan of the Original Series, go check out Star Trek: Phase II and appreciate a new take on an ol Trek.