For a production in the lower-tier budget realm as Project: Potemkin
(compared to, say Star Trek: Phase II
or Star Trek Continues
), it'd be easy to fixate a review on the shortcomings of the film that are out of the producer's control. I'm not planning on doing that here but will rather focus on things that can
be addressed that are more important than set dressing or shirts bunching up over holstered phasers, etc.
In truth, when I finally sat down to watch "The Night The Stars Fell From The Sky," I managed to scrawl out about five pages of notes on my legal pad of things to say but really, a lot of them are easy simple fixes that don't need to be mentioned -- I've seen enough of Project: Potemkin
and know enough about how its run (due in large part to Randy's ever vigilant updates here) that if they didn't catch these snafus before, they likely know about them now. This is an epic production for Potemkin, featuring a sprawling cast (of both adults and what appear to be late-teens/early 20-somethings) and many locations... (it's always nice when Star Trek gets to go outside) and so I'll try to stay away from commenting on the more nitpicky items.
Sounds Like You Could Use Some Help, Captain
The biggest problem with this episode is the sound. Thereís just no way around it. Scenes indoors on the bridge, transporter room set, et al are passable, but for a piece set mostly outdoors on location it was just a bear to get through, trying to listen and hear the actors speaking.
Compounding this are the actorsí slow delivery of their lines and quieter, almost hushed voices. Itíd be one thing if it were the one character most notable -- Grigory -- (in my mind anyway) for it, but itís everybody. Delaneyís log entry sounds like it was made over the phone. Garbled and difficult to understand. Later, at the end of the episode when TíNoshi visits Grigory in his ready room, thereís a music cue that just comes out of nowhere Ė I canít decide if the soundmix is off or if itís just that it sounded overly ďFull HouseĒ-y for a meaningful moment between the two characters. Either way, itís an abrupt start and took me out of the scene when the whole point of the music in a film is to contribute to heightening the emotion of the scene.
Two things will always kill you on a production and those two things are always going to be sound and lighting. Investing in a separate audio recording device to get things like room tone and clear audio of your actors reading their lines will be well worth it, even if it makes post-production a little hairier to get through.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The editing on the film is mostly passable. Iím not an expert on editing so I canít comment on it the way a professional editor like Maurice might, but there were a few glaring jump cuts and such throughout. Not many, but enough that I noticed.
Blocking of the actors in scenes was erratic and seemingly non-sensical. In one scene at least three or four actors all have their backs to the camera. Framing and blocking of scenes may not seem like itís worth the time to plan out, but they save you a lot of grief from people like me because itís such basic stuff. Too much headroom can take you right out of a scene. Watch some of Hitchcockís films Ė North By Northwest, Vertigo, Rear Window
Ö these are superb examples of exquisite and perfectly framed and blocked scenes. Clearly a lot of time was spent setting up these shots and on location it makes even more sense to plan things out but also take advantage of the visuals at your disposal.
Lighting and focus were also problematic. Many shots were just plainly out of focus. Not by much, but enough. Iíll go out on a limb also and assume that there wasnít much in the way of additional lighting done out on that location beyond the natural sunlight. Itís painfully obvious at about 40:31 (or just before) when TíNoshi is walking by and the ambient light shifts as she moves relative to the camera. This kind of of trick can be incredibly effective if used properly and for a purpose in a story, but here itís wasted on the actressí just walking acoss the screen.
Finally, itís 2013. We live in the age of HDTV and visuals to go with it. I hate to sound elitist, but even an iPhone4 would have been able to shoot higher quality resolution footage than this 480p stuff. Whatís more, now with iOS7 you can even zoom with the iPhone cameras now, even though I would humbly suggest that you donít need as many flashy zooms in your work as were included in this episode.
Just Look At The Green Screen and Give Me More: Visual Effects & Titles
The visual effect of the film are fine. Itís lovely to see a movie-era starship again, and the Potemkin is a good looking ship. I hope there might be a little more variety of shots of it in the future though Ė that same shot of it cruising by the planet is repeated at least three times in the opening minutes of the episode.
As for the titles, I love that Project: Potemkin continues to use the ďFinal FrontierĒ font from the moviesÖ but the beveling of the font makes it difficult to read. Perhaps this might be better served by something higher than 480p resolution, but on my TV it just looked amateurish.
Forgive me, but Iím going to nitpick this one bit. Itís a pet peeve of mine that just about ALL fan films get wrong but this particular example is the most egregious Iíve seen. I donít mean this to be hostile or an attack, itís just advice being offered from someone who works in the biz and knows better.
At the end of the opening title sequence, the final title we see reads as follows:
Thatís the wrong credit to use. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek
. And youíve credited him thusly. Randall may have created the characters and situations on Project: Potemkin
but a more appropriate title to use here (if we are assuming Project: Potemkin
is analogous to a weekly television series) would be
--Ė i.e. youíve taken the raw parts from the previously created property to fashion your own spinoff from it.
Yes, Berman, Braga and Taylor all got ďCreated ByĒ credits for their work on Deep Space Nine
, but that was then. I suppose the logic between those shows and shows like Ron Mooreís Battlestar Galactica
or Cynthia Cidreís Dallas
are that the former shows had their own specific identities and titles, whereas the latter were aping the actual titles themselves. In any case, as a fan production my own humble opinion is simply that itís probably smarter to stay away from ďCreated byĒ altogether.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is nonetheless my two cents on the matter.
Iím not going to spend too much time on this one. Jeffrey Greene is easily the best performer of the group here. Iíve always gotten a sort of í70s French New Wave vibe from him when Iíve seen his performances here, so I liked that he was such a big part of the story. I did have a hard time with Delaney though. He looked like he was half-asleep every time he appeared on screen Ė thereís no urgency, no energy! The ship is in crisis Ė the away team canít be reached and they spend most of the episode trying to restore contact with them, and the best the guy can do is utter a bare whisper?
The Writingís On The Wall
What ultimately kills ďThe Night The Stars Fell From The SkyĒ for me though is just poor story logic, on a number of issues. During the opening moments of the episode, the captain at one point tells his officer, ďDonít overthink it, just shut it down!Ē which to me seems entirely foolhardy when you have the lives of 430 people depending on the decisions you make.
The wisecracking security officer doesnít seem to know that Vulcan is hot. Iíve never been to England but I know it rains there. Something tells me that Vulcan, as one of the founding members of the Federation is likely a big enough presence in everyday life in the 23rd century that itís pretty shocking this kid doesnít know itís a desert planet.
There are plenty of examples of bad dialogue too. Saratís flirtation Ė ďIíve long dreamed of communicating with a heavenly bodyĒ is just groanworthy. Perhaps if it had been Nimoy, delivering the line fully made up and with his usual earnestness as Spock, itíd be humorous the way I think the writer intended, but here it just looks like some horny frat brother trying to make a move and get laid.
TíNoshiís line Ė ďI do not dream, sirĒ seems awkward. Iím pretty sure weíve seen both TíPol and Tuvok dreaming before, so it stands to reason all Vulcans are capable of it. I suppose I could buy that here itís TíNoshiís way of trying to prove sheís not a kid and can control herself emotionally the way other Vulcans do, but thereís such little groundwork for that that it seems like it would be just an afterthought.
When TíNoshi goes missing and then bangs her head, the away team doesnít really do much to try to find her Ė they just go have a picnic with the other camp! Hardly an urgent crisis to be concerned about the way Grigory later makes it out to be. I think though more concerning is that just about everything bad that happens in this episode can be traced back to TíNoshi, who, for reasons which I still donít quite understand, apparently decides to have sex with Sarat right then and there despite her head injury and despite the fact that sheís trying to get back to her crew. Taking advantage of her post-coital nap, Sarat takes TíNoshiís phaser and guns down a bunch of kids and a woman. (more on this later)Ö
Being that this is Atlanta, it's really hard not to draw superficial comparisons to the Andrea/Governor storyline during season 3 of The Walking Dead
. While the senseless murdering of the children and woman definitely had me sit up in my seat Ė we donít see this everyday in the fan filmsóthe almost comical reaction of the kids as they were getting vaporized completely undercut the magnitude of what was happening. They scream, then theyíre quiet. Scream, then quiet. One at a time. Not a single one tries to run, not a single one calls for help. Even Colonel Landa let Shoshanna get away!
The explanation about the Preserves was nice. A little too expository, but Greene delivered it well and it was a nice nod to TOS.
Given many of these considerations, and especially how often characters just wander (seemingly aimlessly) from point A to point B (Phase II
suffered from this in ďKitumbaĒ as well), itís hard for me not to suggest that the episode could easily have been whittled down to be about 20 minutes shorter than this particular cut which has been released.
Likewise, the story of TíNoshi struggling with her youth among the much older captain and crew concerned me. How does a Vulcan (who could, theoretically, be older than all of them yet still young) handle such a situation? How do you process such a strong feeling as carnal attraction when your entire life has been dedicated to suppressing emotions? Does Saratís eventual reveal of his true intentions make is villainy all the more heinous because he also managed to bed TíNoshi, or is he just a douchebag who managed to take advantage of her interest in him? Thereís a throughline here of TíNoshi being victimized and then unable to do anything about it which really bothers me. The same way it should have been Kira who killed Dukat in the DS9 finale, TíNoshi should have been the one (if anyone) to take Sarat down.
Essentially though, by the end of the episode we learn three things:
1) Everything bad that has happened can be traced back to TíNoshiís fascination with Sarat and her eventual (though again, Iím still not sure I buy it, given her head injury) attraction to him.
2) A bunch of teenagers pretending to be Vulcans start fighting each other.
3) Grigory comes back for TíNoshiís IDIC pin, which I guess the transporter couldnít beam up on its own and he murders Sarat.
Now, Iím not sure what the point of this story was. Was it to make Grigory a killer? Will we see him grapple with the consequences of his actions? In the ďSeason One Trailer
Ē much is made of Grigoryís line Ė ďIíve never broken my oath. Never.Ē so I have to wonder if that was in anticipation of seeing a Starfleet captain kill someone in cold blood/out of vengeance, or if this will be something we see Grigory suffer/learn/grow from. I guess my question here would be, whatís the deeper meaning of the story?
The Good Stuff
The title is superb. Itís very poetic, obviously, but also very in line with the more romantic and cultured tradition of Star Trek titles.
Ok, Iíve rambled on and on about my quibbles, let me get to the complimenting. The scene where Sarat kills the kids is arguably the best part of the film. Not in terms of how it was executed (no pun intended) but rather that a fan film would choose to ďgo thereĒ as part of their story. This isnít Exeter
or Phase II
trying to recreate the nostalgic feel of Ď60s TOSÖ Potemkin
here has stepped out of the light and into the shadow, and the implications from this (and Grigoryís reprisal at the end) could be incredibly fascinating and entertaining, if handled properly.
Iíve not read this entire thread but in skimming it I see some noise has been made about whether or not Sarat was actually killed. While I donít know if Iíd have cut to black after Grigory shoots, I think, honestly, itís best for all involved if Grigory did kill Sarat. Itís messy, yes. But itís also interesting. And thatís probably the highest compliment I can give a fan film, because there are those that just plain arenít interesting at all. The implications for Grigory alone will be great. Do Saratís people seek revenge? What will TíNoshi think if and when she finds out? What will it mean for Grigoryís command? These are all things Iíd like to find out in any possible follow-up Potemkin
chooses to pursue.
Grigory has so far always and consistently struck me as being more in the mold of a Picard or Sisko rather than a Kirk or Riker. And I like that about him and would hope we would get to see more moments where that finely-honed, cultured persona can shine more. If Delaney can wake up, itíd be great to see a few scenes of the two of them together as well.
As was made so plain in the ďKitumbaĒ thread last week, much is forgivable when you understand the conditions under which a film has been made, and this one is no different. One thing that Potemkin
is getting right time and again is their enthusiasm for their work on these films, and thereís no way anyone can criticize that. Itís a tough thing to make something like this and even tougher to be brave enough to put it out there to the world for all to see. I commend the fine people at Project: Potemkin
for that and I respect them for all the hard work theyíve done but more importantly, their continued interest and dedication toward learning as they go. With a little more attention paid to some of the technical elements (sound, lighting) these guys could really bang out a great show.