The coolest 'Star Trek' reboot you're probably not watching
Fan production "Star Trek Continues" re-creates the original series with incredible attention to detail. Crave’s Michael Franco talks with the series creator to see how he’s helping "Trek" live long and prosper.
Like getting beamed down to the surface of a planet you've never seen before, watching "Star Trek Continues" can be a bit disorienting. There's the familiar old schmaltzy theme song. The Bridge with all its colorful bleeping lights and its monitor screen. The brightly colored tight-fitting shirts with their triangle insignias and gold piping. And, most notably, the sounds of the Starship Enterprise: that familiar whoosh of the elevator doors opening and closing, the whooping siren of an alert, and the satisfying pulsing electric sound of phasers being fired. Yet something's not quite right.
Of course! All the actors we know and love from the earliest days of "Star Trek" in the late '60s (known as Star Trek TOS, or "the original series") have been replaced! Is it some mad Klingon plot? Some twisted scheme of the Borg? An invasion of tribbles perhaps? No, it's something far less sinister: a reboot of TOS from a team of Trekkies, called " Star Trek Continues," that proclaims its intention to boldly go where no TV show has gone before -- helping the original "Star Trek" crew complete the rest of its five-year mission (the original show was canceled by NBC after just three years).
The first installment of this incredibly true-to-form "Trek" fan series aired just about a year ago and revisited the character of Apollo from the "Who Mourns for Adonis" episode in the second season of TOS.
The second episode of "Star Trek Continues" came about a year later and featured Lou Ferrigno guest-starring in a completely original story rife with an old-fashioned "Trek" morality dilemma. (Both these episodes, along with some short vignettes, can be viewed online.)
The most recent episode is currently in postproduction and will premiere in June at Australia's Supanova pop-culture festival.
We reported on the fan series when it was just getting going, but I wasn't so sure that all the Trekkies out there knew all they needed to about "Star Trek Continues" -- or knew the show exists at all. So I decided to revisit the series and talk with show creator Vic Mignogna to find out more, and spread the news of "Trek Continues" on an open channel throughout the universe (also known as Crave).
Mignogna, who's voiced hundreds of characters in animated series and video games, in addition to having acted on stage and screen, plays an eerily accurate Captain Kirk in "Star Trek Continues." Here's what happened when he and I whipped out our communicators and had a chat.
Q: So when did your love affair with "Trek" start?
Mignogna: I've been a hard-core original "Star Trek" fan since I was a very young boy. Starting around 10 years old it was all "Star Trek," all the time. I drove my mother crazy making costumes, shooting my own episodes, building sets in the woods, making her take me to "Star Trek" conventions, recording episodes on audio cassettes then listening to them in my sleep as I went to bed.
How was "Star Trek Continues" born?
Mignogna: Fast-forward several decades. I have a college degree in film and I do a lot of production-related and acting-related things professionally, and I was contacted by a fan production called "Starship Farragut." They contacted me and said, "We understand you're a "Star Trek" fan and we understand that you're a really good director, we would like to ask you to direct an episode for us."
So I went down and directed an episode for "Starship Farragut" and we hit it off and became great friends and an idea started forming. And the idea was: I always wanted to play Captain Kirk. I've always wanted to make more original "Star Trek" in the flavor and in the same style of the original series. So what if I were to partner up with these guys and basically make a "Star Trek" fan production, but do it at a much higher level than anyone had ever done it?
So that's what I did.
What made you pick the first episode, the Apollo story revisited?
Mignogna: Years ago, I became friends with Barbara Luna -- who played Marlena in the original "Mirror, Mirror" episode -- and one day out of the blue we were talking and she said to me long before I started "Star Trek Continues," "You know, Mike Forrest would love to do some more 'Star Trek.'" And I said, "Who is Michael Forest?" And she said, "Mike Forrest played Apollo in the original series. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, I love Apollo and I love that episode!" And so I kind of logged that away in the back of my mind, and when I started "Star Trek Continues" and was looking for an idea, I thought, wouldn't it be awesome to do a follow-up episode to that episode. And so I contacted Michael Forrest and told him I had an idea for an Apollo redemption story. He really liked it, and so we moved forward with writing the script and shooting the episode.
Are all your actors volunteers?
Mignogna: Yes. We have, in some cases, given our actors some kind of modest stipend but it's really more of a gift because it's a complete nonprofit production. We've made it very clear that we don't charge money for anything and nobody is making any money from this.
Do you think you're going to keep it that way?
Mignogna: I have no expectation of making any kind of profit with it at all.
I did not start this production to make any money. It was never my desire or my goal to make any money with "Star Trek Continues." This is purely a childhood dream come true. It is a labor of love, and everybody involved with it understands that.
I don't want to cross any line where we are making any money off of somebody else's product and someone else's license. We are doing this out of pure innocent love of the original series of "Star Trek," not because we think we're going to be picked up as a series, not because we think we can make any money with it.
You got some funding through Kickstarter, right?
Mignogna: I funded the first episode, and to be honest, I did that because I thought it was kind of unethical for me to ask people to give me money to do something that I hadn't yet proven I could do. There are certainly no shortage of Kickstarter campaigns out there that asked for money for something they haven't even done. So I felt like the moral, ethical, honorable thing for me to do was to put my own money where my mouth is, and create a first episode. Once I did that, then we asked the fans to to give us enough money to make three more episodes and that's what they did. That covers the second episode, the third, which we just shot, and a fourth one.
The sets and the sounds in your production seem identical to the original series. Were you able to borrow anything from them?
Mignogna: The sets were built off of the original soundstage diagrams. They're pretty easy to find; they're online.
I didn't know that!
Mignogna: Sure. If you were to snoop around a little, you'd find that there are some overhead diagrams of the original soundstage. You can actually see exactly how the original soundstage was laid out, and how all of the sets are interconnected. So we actually built our soundstage based on those drawings, so I can say with pretty much certainty that our sets are within inches of the original soundstage dimension.
Then beyond that, we made sure to choose the right colors to paint and get the right carpet, and then either buy or build the pieces necessary to re-create all of the details. Like the pieces that hang on the walls, the intercoms, the nameplates, the emitters in the ceiling of the transporter room, the holographic-looking material that covers the alcove in the corridor, etcetera. Even down to the details of Captain Kirk's quarters. We actually sculpted the little statutes on the counter out of clay.
And then we paid enormous attention to making sure that we lit the scenes the way the original series would have lit them. And that the blocking is similar. And the acting style is similar. And the sound design is similar. You can find all of those sound effects online.
So we worked very hard to re-create the original series in every conceivable detail because we want people to experience the same kind of feeling they had when they watched the original series. Even to the extent of the stories. We didn't want to make them very surfacey. We wanted to tell stories that had an ethical point or a moral statement, or social commentary. When you see the second episode you'll see that especially driven home even more so than in the first episode.
Your goal is to do the next two years of the mission?
Mignogna: That would be a long-term goal, if I could choose to do that. Obviously we can't do 12 episodes a year. And obviously even if we do two or three episodes a year, we're not going to be able to do that for more than five or six years because -- I can't speak for anybody else, but at least for me -- I'm not going to be able to play a 35-year-old Captain Kirk forever.
I'd like to ideally do the fourth and the fifth years of the five-year mission, and ideally even do some kind of a thing where we actually do a couple of episodes maybe toward the very end where Kirk gets promoted to admiral, and something devastating happens to McCoy and he leaves the service, and Spock decides to go off and pursue the kolinahr and purge out remaining emotions. We'd basically leave our series where the motion picture picks up.