Watched this yesterday and as far as fan films go, a really solid effort. As some have said, one of the better fan episodes in recent time and I enjoyed watching it. That's not to say it isn't without its problems.
The quick review: the story was a muddled mess, typical of fan productions, but it was better filmed and acted than most.
The story was dull and lacked any dramatic tension, save for Scotty's understandable objections. This made the story plod at impulse and only really picked up briefly when Apollo hurled Kirk across the corridor. The script could've used another pass to tighten up the bits of plot that didn't connect well with one another, such as the goop on the ship's hall.
The goop served no real dramatic purpose other than to provide us with a redshirt death and place Uhura in jeopardy. I'd even forgot about it after the Simone incident until it was mentioned again in the last (television) act. And, at first, I thought it'd be tied to Apollo's powers in some fashion. It didn't even put the ship in dire straits. Overall it felt more like a Maurice Hurley-type plot device — one that's there, but isn't there and really doesn't mean much of anything.
The greatest sin of the story is the lack of decisive action on Kirk's part in the endgame. The episode starts out strong with Kirk not hesitating to destroy the arc to save the Enterprise
. But then he becomes Captain Picard holding not one but three senior staff meetings in the episode to get consensus. Except for the situation in "Return to Tomorrow", Kirk hardly sought his staff's approval before making a decision. While I like Scotty being the contrarian in the group, I wanted more debate between Spock and McCoy. Those two characters, like on PHASE: II, are underutilized as the outward expression of Kirk's internal debate on a situation. The arguments Spock and McCoy have usually express the extremes of a situation, which Kirk must then find the middle ground and take action. Not here. It seems that it's Kirk, Spock and McCoy against Scotty.
I said it in another thread. STAR TREK is, ultimately, about the captain whoever that may be and the decisions that person must make. Fan films often absolve the captain of any difficult decision by having scripts that jump through hoops to have plots resolve themselves (looking at you "Enemy: Starfleet" and "Blood and Fire"). This script suffers from the same hoops.
The episode also failed to get me to care about Apollo and his plight. He was neither sinister nor sympathetic. He was just there. He should've been dangerous or tragic, but he was neither. His relationship to Uhura wasn't really developed so his final act didn't feel earned. He spent far too much time with the new ship's counselor when it should've been more with Uhura so you could better understand why Apollo makes that dramatic turn.
What I think happened here, as with many fan films, is that they carry the baggage of televised STAR TREK. And they end up writing scripts that are more TNG than TOS. I know that many of those toiling on these productions are fans, but would urge them to really dissect the original, understand the beats and how their stories were constructed. It's not unlike a musician tearing down a song to understand how it works. Or a novelist studying other novelist to understand the mechanics of plot, diction and syntax.
Also, and I've said this before, study other shows of the 60s — expand the vocabulary instead of constraining themselves to only STAR TREK.
Yes there are those who don't like Vic, even I'm not a big fan, but his performance as Kirk was far more enjoyable than in other productions. He did his best Shatner, but I'd urge him to make the role more and more his own. Give us his take on Kirk rather than imitate.
Todd Haberkorn's Spock was by far the best fan film Spock since Jeff Quinn. He wasn't robotic or Data-by-any-other-name. Although, he was a bit softer spoken than the rest of the cast.
The rest of the performances varied but weren't half bad. Yet imitation was, unfortunately, persistent across the board. Michael Forrest was the best by far, as Maurice
Oh and cameos by Jamie Bamber (Apollo!) and Marina Sirtis were well done. I liked that both didn't really call attention to themselves unlike in other productions.
The Dot Connecting
Completely unnecessary. Don't care about the first holodeck or the first ship's counselor. Why couldn't Dr. McKennia just be the psychiatrist on the medical staff like Dr. Helen Noel? More than that she served no real role in the episode other than to have a few lines with Apollo and "flirt" with the captain. There was also a lack of tension in her interactions with Kirk. The flirting wasn't as dynamic or interesting as Kirk with Dr. Noel.
This episode was well shot. The cinematography was top notch. It looked and felt like a third season episode. As Maurice
pointed out, Kirk hanging in the air was nicely done. There were a lot of varied camera angles, some very dynamic. Whereas my big gripe on PHASE:II is the lack of other camera angles beyond the close-up, mid-shot (or two-shot) and wide shot. The use of different camera angles here made this show interesting to watch even though the story was flat.
That being said, the episode had a bit of a split personality. Stylistically throughout it was shot as if it were a third season episode. However, the opening credits were stylistically out of place with that and looked more like the TNG or VOY version of the TOS opening with the tracking through steller dust and the high-gloss typeface for the titles. Also the new phasers — similar to the old ones but looked too modern and out of place with the Transistor Punk (someone used that term on the boards and I like it) of TOS.
This series offered us the fourth season of TOS had it been made, same with PHASE:II but neither of those shows have committed to that conceit. Hence we get holodecks, ship's counselors, Yeoman Rand as a Tasha Yar substitute in these productions.
The Final Frontier
Despite my critique and direct feedback, really enjoyed this production. Look forward to more. Was even tempted to submit to their story contest, but my work as a Lead Editor consumes most of my time and the last thing after a hard week that I want to do is more writing and editing.
That being said, a good effort to start right out of the gate. Look forward to more down the road and hope they continue to tweak their scripts and performances. They've got great potential and hope that they make the most of it.