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Star Trek lives on in fan webisodes

by Greg Belfrage

"Star Trek Lives" was a common cry among Trekkers in the mid 1970's. At the time, it was more wishful thinking than fact.

Star Trek was on the air in syndication and Star Trek: The Animated Series had just finished a brief Saturday morning run on NBC. However, there were no immediate plans to relaunch Gene Roddenberry's beloved science-fiction series on television or film.

Those of us who grew up on Star Trek re-runs in those days could never have imagined that the series would spawn twelve major motion pictures and four additional television series.

There's no question that one of the reasons for Star Trek 's continued success is the tenacity of the show's fans. Trekkies, as fans are most commonly known, have been mocked and maligned as weirdos, nerds and space rangers. However, it has been their steadfast loyalty and love of Star Trek that has helped keep the show alive for nearly 50 years.

Nowhere is the dedication and determination of fans more evident than in the production of new Star Trek webisodes.

There have been a number of fan-produced webisodes based on Star Trek. Some have been quite good. Others not so much.

However, there are two groups currently creating new Star Trek adventures with an authenticity and level of detail that are beyond impressive.

Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II began producing online webisodes in 2003. The project has been guided by the loving hand of James Cawley. He and other ardent fans contributed the time and funds to re-build sets from the original series.Computer modelers brought the U.S.S. Enterprise to life with stunning realism.

Cawley lived out his dream of playing his childhood hero, Captain Kirk. Other volunteer actors filled out the rest of the crew. They began telling stories from the last two years of the Enterprise's five year mission.

Their initial efforts were wobbly, but infused with an obvious love for Star Trek and superior special effects. As production continued, many of the show's original stars (George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and others) began appearing in the webisodes. Some webisodes were written by published Star Trek authors, such as David Gerrold.

Cawley has recently doubled-down on the project. A major kickstarter campaign has yielded over $60,000 in pledged donations from other fans.

The U.S.S. Enterprise has been re-imagined and re-designed to reflect the ship as it would have appeared in the television sequel, " Star Trek: Phase II ". Plans for that show were scrapped in 1978 when Paramount decided instead to make " Star Trek: The Motion Picture ".

In an effort to bring more realism to the project, Cawley has surrendered the captain's chair to professional actor Brian J. Gross.

The troupe has just recently wrapped production on their latest webisode, " Mind Sifter ". The script is based on a very popular short story by Shirley S. Maiewski that was published in the 1976 paperback, " Star Trek: The New Voyages".

Kirk is captured by Klingons and subjected to their Mind-sifter device. In a deranged state, Kirk leaps through the Guardian of Forever and returns to Earth to find his love, Edith Keeler. However, Kirk overshoots his destination in time and winds up as an inmate in a 1950's mental hospital. He is eventually found and rescued by Captain Spock, who has refused to accept that Kirk is dead. It is a powerful story of the deep friendship between the two characters.

Two other fan groups, Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut, partnered two years ago for another webisodes project based on the original series.

The association between the two groups has proven to be a great one. Star Trek Continues says it has "the most complete re-creation of the original series sound stage".

In addition to the incredible authenticity of the sets, Star Trek Continues boasts a powerful connection to the original series. Chris Doohan, the son of actor James Doohan, is literally filling his father's shoes by playing the role of Scotty. His interpretation of the beloved engineer is eerily and wonderfully faithful to his father's original portrayal.

You might also recognize Grant Imahara of Mythbusters in the role of Sulu.

Their first webisode, " Pilgrim of Eternity ", is a sequel to the original series episode, " Who Mourns for Adonais? " Actor Michael Forest was enlisted to reprise his role as Apollo.

Their most recent episode (below) takes place in the Terran Empire universe immediately following the events of one of Trek's most celebrated episodes, " Mirror, Mirror ".

These fan-based efforts prove that Star Trek does indeed still live.

And if these fan groups have anything to say about it, its likely Star Trek will continue to be alive and kicking for years to come.

Greg Belfrage is a lifelong Star Trek fan, Batman toy collector, sci-fi movie maniac and hopeless geek. He can be reached at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com .

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Photo credits: Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II Facebook
Photo credits:
Official Star Trek Continues Facebook