And lo, it has come to pass. As a matter of fact, I somehow missed news of a Kickstarter (or Kirkstarter) in October AND the release of a second episode, “Lolani,” in February. According to the Star Trek Continues web site, a third episode has been filmed and is already being edited. The Kickstarter raised enough money for three additional episodes (of which the “in edit” episode is the first) and — if I’m not mistaken — gained the funds to construct a replica of the Enterprise engine room to add to their existing sets.
If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek series, you MUST watch “Lolani.” Even moreso than “Pilgrim of Eternity,” it feels like a lost episode. It’s not just the sets and the effects, which are truly astonishing in their faithfulness, it’s the pacing, and the music cues, and the fadeouts, and the story beats, and the writing — and the actors. These people understand who the original characters were and inhabit them — and I swear that this script could stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest entries in the original run.
Vic Mignogna is fantastic as Captain Kirk, playing the iconic role without parody. Here’s the Kirk I wanted to be, the one from the best episodes — an intellectual and compassionate commander, a student of history who’s reading a volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire during his off-duty hours.
Spock got a little more on-screen time this episode, which enabled me to appreciate the fine way Todd Haberkorn evokes everyone’s favorite Vulcan with restrained intensity. The Vulcan mind meld he uses and the lingering effect it had upon his outlook really showcase Haberkorn’s talent.
Michele Specht returns as Dr. Elise MacKennah, blending seamlessly into the original crew as the ship’s counselor, a part she plays with great facility and charm. Her role contributes to the power of the episode (and, once or twice, the humor) and it’s wonderful to see another important female crew member.
We saw a little less of Scotty, McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu this time, but each of the actors seemed more comfortable in their roles, and Chris Doohan was given a few moments to shine.
As with many an original series episode, much of the weight had to be carried by the guest stars. And what guest stars they are! Lou Ferigno beams aboard as an Orion slave trader. Having never seen Ferigno do anything more than Hulk out, I had no idea what great acting chops the man has. He completely sells his character of a disarmingly courteous villain.
Likewise, Mathew Ewald as Ensign Kenway brings a great deal of pathos to a small but vital role. Without a professional in his part, there’s NO way many crucial plot points would have come close to working. (I should also single out some of the other crewman, like Steve Dengler’s properly military security chief and Stephanie Hall as an unnamed female security lieutenant, or Daniel Logan, perhaps best known as young Boba Fett, who has a small part as one of the Enterprise’s navigators.)
But the episode could not have worked at all without a commanding performance from the lead guest star, the titular “Lolani,” played with extraordinary capability by the talented Fiona Vroom.
Her part? Well, if you’re an old school Trek fan, you’ll know that the mostly highly sexualized character ever to appear in an episode was an Orion “slave girl.”
Even if you’re not a regular series watcher, you may have seen depictions of them. They’re green-skinned and scantily clad, said to be savage and possess the charms (pheromones) to drive any man wild. Until now, Orion slave girls were nothing but idealized male eye candy. With this episode, Trek directly confronts slave trafficking and sexuality — even its own ’60s sexualization. Vroom completely owns her role. She’s alternately dangerous, manipulative, sympathetic, and seductive. More than anything, she yearns for freedom and she may be willing to do anything to gain it.
The Enterprise finds her as the sole survivor aboard a failing space ship. But is she a murderer or a victim? And if she did kill the men aboard, were all of their deaths justified?
While Kirk’s trying to puzzle his way through to the answers, he has to contend with Star Fleet bureucracy (via a Commodore played by Buck Rogers‘ Erin Gray), which doesn’t want an interstellar incident with the prominent Orion slaver who owns Lolani.
Like the Kirk I grew up watching and not the stereotype, the captain tries reason and diplomacy to achieve a solution and then, by the end, is willing to risk his all to see the right thing done. I dare say no more because, if you’re an original series fan like me, it will have been forever since you’ve seen a Star Trek episode without knowing how it would end (in my case, probably since I was 5).
And that last sentence above is an enduring testimonial — this feels SO much like a good original series episode that you can imagine you really are seeing another adventure of the Enterprise. I said it when I reviewed “Pilgrim of Eternity” and I’ll say it again: this is an amazing gift to all original Star Trek fans.
My wife hadn’t seen the first one, but watched them both this weekend with my son and about mid-way through “Lolani,” she had teared up. It wasn’t any particular scene that set her crying, it was that she was sincerely moved by such a loving recreation of one of her favorite childhood shows. She, too, was struck by how “they got Kirk right.” How much they got nearly everything right. (I happen to believe that it’s harder to get all these characters right than it seems and have written about it in perhaps over-exhaustive length over on my own web site. See Trek Week Part 4 and Part 5.)
What I found fascinating is evidence that Star Trek Continues might find an audience beyond those of us who grew up on Trek reruns. My son saw the first part of “Lolani” at a convention this weekend, with fellow teenagers who’d never watched a single episode of Star Trek, and they were so caught up in the tale that they’re now interested in seeing the original show. That surely says something about the power of what the cast and crew have created with Star Trek Continues.
I can’t help wondering what the cast and crew of Star Trek Continues could do if they were being paid to do this full time by, say, the SyFy Channel or Netflix. Seeing as how no one bothered to pick up Firefly, it seems incredible to hope that someone could untangle the rights from CBS (which owns the Star Trek TV show rights) to film new Star Trek shows… but then again, if it could be proven that money might be made, who knows?
Imagine a world where there were new “old” Star Treks being made regularly! Do you know how many professional science fiction and fantasy writers working today grew up on the old show?
Just off the top of my head, I can name myself and E.E. Knight and Dave Gross and James Enge and Scott Lynch and John Scalzi. If I gave it a few more minutes, I’m sure I’d come up with scores more and I could almost guarantee we’d jump at the chance to write for a new Star Trek. It’d be a dream come true for a whole lot of us.
As unlikely as a fully-funded reboot seems, impossible things do happen. For instance, these two fine episodes of Star Trek Continues. Apparently, we can look forward to at least three more. If they can maintain this level of quality, I will wait with baited breath.
Howard Andrew Jones is the author of the historical fantasy novels The Desert of Souls, and the The Bones of the Old Ones, as well as the related short story collection The Waters of Eternity, and the Paizo Pathfinder novels Plague of Shadows and Stalking the Beast. You can keep up with him at his website, www.howardandrewjones.com, and follow him on Twitter or follow his occasional meanderings on Facebook.