Boldly going where no Trekkie has ever gone before: 'Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II' is a fan-created science fiction series set in the Star Trek universe.
One hundred percent crowdfunded and released exclusively on the Internet, the project is a labour of love that started back in the late Nineties.
Designed as a continuation of the original Star Trek, it begins in the fifth and final year of the starship Enterprise’s five-year mission.
Episodes are produced at a rate of about one a year, with the first released in January 2004.
James Cawley is the executive producer and creator of the fan film series, and also plays the role of Captain Kirk: “They’ve been downloaded millions of times, I think the heaviest downloaded one was ‘Blood and Fire part 1 and 2’ and it is just millions upon millions of downloads. So it’s kind of, you know, flattering and scary at the same time that that many people can do this,” he says.
None of this would be possible without the work and donations of hundreds of volunteers from around the world. The fan base has become so big that organisers are not always able to accommodate everyone.
The fans are at the very core of the project and are encouraged to become active members of the crew, whatever their background.
“We do on the job training, throughout the shoot. Anyone can come in with absolutely no knowledge at all in film making and, by the end of the shoot, they will have found their niche within the organisation,” says Andrew Grieb, Senior Line Producer on ‘Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II’.
The aim is to be as faithful to the original series as possible to give it that authentic look. From the way the sets are built and painted to the use of lighting, the crew adheres as closely as possible to the methods that were used when filming the original series. It’s this attention to detail that has drawn such a large following.
Director of photography Jeff Barklage says it is like travelling back in time: “We’re crazy sticklers to detail, you know, we want it to be exactly like it. We have matching shadows, matching colours, matching camera angles, matching diffusion filters. I mean we are going about this as if this was like a time travel situation – you’re back in the Sixties and you’re shooting as it was at that time period.”
Most of the actors are amateurs; Star Trek fans made up to resemble the original crew as closely as possible.
Some professional actors are hired to play the main parts and there are also occasional cameos from members of the first Star Trek series.
Brandon Stacy takes on the role of the iconic Mr. Spock. The pressure is high and he says one way he deals with it is by drawing parallels with his character: “I definitely am juggling two or more personalities at once, so, I’ve got my hand in hot and the other one in cold just to stay balanced and I feel like Spock is kinda doing the same thing.”
The CBS TV network, which owns the legal rights to the Star Trek franchise, has allowed the distribution of fan-created material as long as no attempt is made to profit from it.
A new, permanent set for ‘Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II’ has been completed in the small town of Ticonderoga in upstate New York and organisers are now hoping to ramp up production.
Trekkies will be able to enjoy the latest 50-minute episode on Youtube before the end of the year.