"Star Trek Into Darkness" was a monster in the "Star Trek" franchise. It made over $460 million worldwide, more than double its $190 million budget.
That's great and all, but to be honest I had a better time watching a humble fan-made episode in a Web series called "Star Trek Continues" that was shot for some $40,000.
For fans of the original "Star Trek," this tribute has mind-blowing authenticity. Now it has beamed into Kickstarter with a campaign to raise $100,000 to make three more episodes.
Produced by Farragut Films and DracoGen Strategic Investments, the nonprofit series stars Vic Mignogna as Captain Kirk, Todd Haberkorn as Mr. Spock, and features the late James Doohan's son Chris in his father's role as Scotty as well as Grant Imahara of "Mythbusters" as Lieutenant Sulu.
There have been many fan-produced remakes of "Star Trek," but few can rise to the level of faithfulness to the original that "Star Trek Continues" has shown. The idea is to continue the adventures of the Enterprise crew during its five-year mission.
Its first episode, "Pilgrim of Eternity," featured Michael Forest reprising his role as the Greek god Apollo from "Who Mourns for Adonais?," originally broadcast in 1967 as part of Star Trek's second season. Another blast from the past is Marina Sirtis, known as Deanna Troi on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," who provides the Enterprise computer's voice.
The episode was shot at a 10,000 square-foot warehouse that hosts impressively accurate reproductions of the Enterprise bridge, transporter room, sickbay, and other classic sets.
"It was an enormous undertaking to get off the ground," Mignogna tells CNET. "And now we've got all pieces on the ground, so subsequent episodes won't be as expensive.
"There are a lot of elements that went into the authenticity. One of the big differences between 'Star Trek Continues' and all of the other fan shows is that we have people in charge of the different areas who are actually production professionals. They're not just fans. They have training and professional experience in their respective areas."
Mignogna, who directed and wrote "Pilgrim of Eternity," has been doing film work since college, and is known as a voice actor on titles such as "Fullmetal Alchemist," "Dragonball Z," and "Pokemon."
Much of the look of the recreated Enterprise, however, was achieved through collaboration with colleagues such as Matt Bucy, director of photography.
"It was actually Matt Bucy who sat down and took the original blueprints apart and figured out all of the dimensions and sizes of everything and that's why our sets look as good as they do," says Mignogna.Aside from the physical authenticity of the sets, emulating the original lighting and camera positioning is absolutely key, he says, along with preserving the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio. Grain was also digitally added to the finished episode because "Star Trek" was shot on 35 mm film. But where did this relentless drive for authenticity come from?
"It's because I'm an obsessive-compulsive person," Mignogna laughs. "When I was a kid my parents gave me a movie camera. I learned how to sew and how to build props. I would wrangle the kids in the neighborhood up and make them put on costumes, and I would play Captain Kirk and make my own episodes.
"When I was a little boy, I was inspired beyond words by the original series of 'Star Trek.' It captivated me. It was a catalyst that inspired me to get into acting, and it started me on that journey when I was 10 years old. And I have been doing all of those things for 40 years since then.
"This is a chance for me to take everything I've learned for 40 years in production, music, sound design, costumes, makeup, lighting, props, and acting, and marry it with the thing that started it all in my life."
Well, if that isn't a superfan, I don't know what is.
You can see footage of Mignogna playing Kirk as a kid in the video for the Kickstarter campaign here, and the show's first episode here. For more shots of the recreated Enterprise set from "Star Trek Continues," check out the photo gallery above.