Jennifer and I surrendered to our inner geeks yesterday and watched a couple episodes of the homemade “original” Star Trek series The New Voyages, produced by a bunch of hard-core Trekkers in a barn somewhere (I think that’s what I heard on NPR).
I got to hand it to these guys (and gals), technically, what they are making is very very interesting. Nice visuals, a reasonably good job of making the sets look authentic to the 1960s teevee series. The actor who plays Spock (Jeff Quinn) does a really good job of actually doing Spock (did he specialize in it as a kid?), and while he doesn’t look much like Leonard Nimoy, he has the voice inflection down perfect. The other actors, however, aren’t much. James Cawley’s Kirk looks and sounds more like some very bad 1950s teen idol (Bud Eagle from Wild Guitar comes to mind, and yes, I picked an Arch Hall, Jr. film on purpose) and John Kelly’s Doc McCoy is so awful that it beggars the imagination. In the episode “Come What May,” McCoy laughingly tells Kirk and Spock that he will “turn on the southern charm” to get some answers out of prisoner despite the fact that it is painfully clear Kelly’s McCoy has absolutely no southern charm whatsoever.
But what is really atrocious is the writing. It is Star Trek concieved of and written by people who have watched waaaaaaay to much Star Trek and possibly played (or may still play) waaaaaaay too much Star Fleet Battles. The dialog, save for Spock’s, is mostly stilted and bad, but the stories for the three episodes I’ve seen so far (“Center Chair,” “Come What May,” “In Harm’s Way”) are all really thin, high on the technical nonsense and short on actual human interaction. “Center Chair” shows the supposed “risks” of command by having Sulu feed the ship’s computer bad navigation data and steer Enterprise far too close to a great big star. There’s supposed to be tension, but there isn’t, and it reads too much like a bad story from an issue of Captain’s Log. I’m still trying to figure out what “Come What May” was all about (it had a cute, sassy girl alien in it who appeared “naked” in Kirk’s quarters), except that we got all kinds of glimpses of the future that only a true geek could revel in (and a Borg pyramid, which no one needed). And “In Harm’s Way” is that absolute worst of stories, a time travel epic that makes the past contingent upon the future, a mess of a story that combines several Captain Kirks, Captain Christopher Pike, and a galaxy full of self-replicating planet killers. While “In Harm’s Way” is better written and put together than “Come What May,” if the fine folks piloting these “new voyages” need to write the kinds of stories that will actually make sense without appealing to the Trekker in-crowd with the self-references. And they need to stop fucking with the space-time continuum.
I don’t expect that, however. Like George Lucas, the show’s producers appear to have a 13-year-old’s understanding of just how human emotions work (and that lack of sophisticated humanness is what makes the first three Star Wars prequels, and much of Star Trek — especially it’s awful third season — so utterly unwatchable). This would have been very cool and exciting to watch back when I was 10 and really into Star Trek, and it shows a great deal of grit and determination now (especially the spiffy computer visuals). This is truly a labor of love, a kind-of devotional art work to the strange and unlikable socio-religious vision of Gene Roddenberry. But I’m not sure it’s much more than that.