A Five Year Mission
"What rock have I been living under?" was the exact question I asked myself when I discovered the extraordinary independent web series Star Trek: Phase II.
Created by James Cawley in 2003 (the first episode went online in 2004!), Phase II continues the five year mission of the original Star Trek series as if the show was never canceled after its third season in 1969.
To accomplish that mandate, the production crew has achieved astonishing results in recreating both the look and feel of the original series, including:
- An exact 360° reproduction of the Enterprise bridge
- Replication of audio cues, sound effects, and musical interludes used throughout the original series run
- Visual effects that mimic the originals, yet still look dynamic on modern screens
- Detailed facsimiles of costumes, and popular alien designs
- Stories featuring original crew members Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Chief Engineer Scott ("Scotty"), Lt. Uhura, Lt. Commander Sulu, and Lt. Chekov
However, Phase II's most notable achievement is its recapturing of the tone and focus of the original show.
These Are The New Voyages
The late Gene Roddenberry conceived Star Trek to be morality plays disguised as futuristic adventure.
In fact, its most prominent signature is its thinly veiled social commentary.
While J.J. Abrams' new movies are entertaining, they lack the soul-gazing narrative of the original series.
To their credit, Phase II producers have continued Roddenberry's legacy of presenting compelling appraisals of the human condition.
Yet another distinguishing characteristic of the web series is its episode length.
Each installment is approximately 60 minutes - complete with retro NBC network identification screens, and act breaks where commercials would have been inserted.
Phase II has many distinguished supporters, including Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry as a consulting producer - as well as a parade of illustrious guest stars including: George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, Denise Crosby, and Walter Koenig.
The project also features scripts from many accomplished writers, most who formerly wrote for the various televised incarnations of Star Trek.
For example, the third episode World Enough And Time, was written by Marc Scott Zicree (who also directed) and Michael Reaves. Both men have written episodes for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
The episode features guest star George Takei reprising his role as Sulu, with Majel Barrett Roddenberry as the voice of the Enterprise computer.
The story centers on Sulu, who is teleported into an alternate reality due to a transporter accident (it's always that damn transporter!).
After living a lifetime in the alternate universe, he is returned to normal reality - and must make heart-wrenching decisions in order to save the Enterprise.
World Enough And Time was nominated in 2008 for a Hugo Award in the category of "Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form."
The nomination was well deserved, as this episode packs an emotional punch on par with the classic original episode The City On The Edge Of Forever.
Click the image below to be watch World Enough And Time in its entirety ...
To Boldly Go
Since its inception in 2004, there have been eight episodes of Phase II released online at the rate of about one per year, with more in various stages of production.
It was recently announced that creator James Cawley, who portrayed Jim Kirk, would be abdicating the role to actor Brian Gross beginning with the 10th episode.
Since the web series is fan-made and non-profit, production is financed by the producers, along with the support of viewers.
Many talented crew members make this expensive endeavor possible by volunteering their considerable time, expertise, and talents.
Episodes are free, but are exclusively available on the official series website: StarTrekNewVoyages.com
I give Star Trek: Phase II my earnest recommendation - especially if you're a fan of the original series.
This superb fan-made production is a shining testament to the enduring appeal of this iconic science fiction franchise.
May it live long and prosper.
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