Having watched “The Price of Anything” three times now in as many days, walking away from the latest production I’m not quite sure I understand what the point of the adventure was. Don’t get me wrong – the production values on this film are outstanding. The location used for the Class-K planet is stunning to behold, and despite the very shaky story logic throughout, the planet-side bits were the most interesting, visually and in terms of the characters themselves.
The story: On the one hand, you have the story of the nektos
plant, allegedly the only one left in the galaxy and also the only one that will lead to a cure to Freydox Syndrome (more on this later), and on the other there’s the story about the Romulans, who coincidentally happen to have a ship adrift thanks to a tactical experiment gone awry… and in the end the big lesson is “Everything deserves a second chance.” Most of my issues with the film are with the story and script.
My first, main issue is with the nektos
plant. Great effort is made by Doctor Carter to remind us how important this single plant is, that it can’t be cloned, that it won’t grow and propagate unless in a very specific environment. The reason for all this effort being made to get the plant to its destination? The nektos
plant is the key to the cure to Freydox Syndrome. Which is all well and good, but when Captain Carter learns of his father’s own affliction with the dreaded Freydox Syndrome, he asks the obvious question – why not use the plant to cure yourself? Doctor Carter’s answer: The is the only plant that can cure Freydox, which is why it must be transplanted. This begs the question – if it’s the only plant that can cure the disease, and is thus so rare and effective that it must be preserved in order to use it to build crops of it in the ideal location, how the hell does Doctor Carter even know the plant will work? If no tests, no cure has been established already, all the ballyhooing and running around that goes on in this episode is all on a gamble. The film ends with Carter planting the nektos on Sironus Four. How long after he plants that nektos do Federation scientists find out whether or not it was all worth it? Isn't that, um, a bit risky?
"RISK IS OUR BUSINESS!"
Which brings me to my second issue. Carter and his daddy issues with Doctor Carter. Frank Hernandez does a serviceable job as the elder Carter, but he also looks like he’s maybe two or three years older than John Broughton, so I never really bought the “age” relationship between the two. We learn fairly early on that Doctor Carter has contracted/developed Freydox Syndrome, as evidenced by his frequent seizures/convulsions throughout most of the episode. This is about as far as the story goes in terms of telling or showing us how ravaging this disease is. When asked by his son, why Doctor Carter didn’t turn to his wife for help, the elder Carter simply says (and repeats, later, nearly verbatim) that “she would have poured everything in to me and my work” to help him. Which again begs a question: So? Since we are never given any specific details about why Carter has these issues with his father, or why Doctor Carter was allegedly absent during his son’s earlier life (“You should have seen me at my high school track meets!”) Doctor Carter’s explanations make no sense. Is he prideful? Or is he just dumb? If he knows he’s got this fatal, horrific disease, that clearly causes him to go in to crippling spasms of pain, why not let his wife help him get through it? If Doctor Carter is so noble that he’s willing to sacrifice himself to continue the work of developing the cure himself, isn’t it more selfish to risk his own death before being able to establish the cure rather than to lean on his wife who would have (according to his son) willingly stood by him had he only asked?
If anything, this film places Captain Jack Carter in a really bad light. The guy is a complete dick throughout the story. He has issues with his father, so he maintains his distance. I get that. ("Fathers and sons…” Kirk says.) But even after
Doctor Carter reveals his condition to his son, Captain Jack maintains his distance and his standoffishness. Without knowing what their conflict is about, Jack comes across as a petulant child holding a grudge. And it gets worse on the planet, too: Piecing together that the Romulan they encounter is the ship’s cook, Jack reveals this information as if amusing to himself, looking down on the guy. (I guess not everyone gets to dress up and play Captain on Romulus.) So, on top of being a dick to his dying father, Carter's going to be a dick to his dying enemy. Truly, a sterling example of Gene Roddenberry's evolved, 23rd century human being.
"You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good."
Later, when the Predator attacks, Arnold Schwarzenegger is nowhere to be found. But the Romulan cook promises to tell Carter everything, as long as they take him with them. “I don’t want to die here,” he says. And what happens? The monster drags the Romulan away (I guess we’re aping TNG’s “Darmok” now) while Carter just somersaults away, apparently lacking the attention span to do anything about it until a few moments later when he decides that while it isn’t
ok to risk his own life for a Romulan, it is
ok to risk his own life for all those afflicted colonists (and oh yeah, his dad.) This isn’t the behavior of a heroic starship captain in the Star Trek universe. You never saw Picard just abandon someone to a monster of the week without trying to save them. You might argue that Carter is nursing a legitimate emotional issue with regard to his father, but he also doesn’t do anything to resolve it either and letting it affect everything he does in this episode just makes him look foolish.
Get to the choppa!
There are a lot of other, minor things I’d have fixed as well: the new series title logo is rather spiffy, but the thin Eurostile font and the electronic orchestra performing the opening theme really reminded me more of the opening to seaQuest 2032 than anything else, and honestly, that’s not the greatest association to be made.
The opening shots after the title sequence go by too quickly, too. There’s a title card over three separate shots in quick succession, and I’m wondering why this was done. Surely it wasn’t because of time constraints for the episode itself, so it’s a big jarring and puzzling to watch.
What the hell is a 'scree play' ?
Kirk’s cameo is nice (if stunt-y), and the more I see Vic Mignona as Kirk, the more I believe he is Kirk. Vic has that “swagger,” I guess. But his Kirk is also rather nosy about Carter’s business with his father, and moreso than we saw in “The Captaincy,” (Farragut
’s first episode, which included a cameos from New Voyages/Phase II
Kirk, Spock and McCoy), Kirk and Carter seem to be quite friendly here, so I can give it a pass. Though knowing little about the recent bad blood between Phase II
and Vic Mignona, I am genuinely curious as to how the politics between Farragut Films and James Cawley/the Phase II
crew will all play out.
God speed, John Carter. You know, for now.
Another simple thing that could have easily been fixed with just a little foresight and common sense is Amy Sepan’s scene in Sickbay. In it, she has a long conversation with Carter regarding his father’s health. Medical information which, unless I’m mistaken, is supposed to be confidential between a patient and their doctor. Now, we’ve seen it many, many times on various Star Trek
s that doctors will present their medical reports to their captains. That’s not the issue here. The issue is the she gives this very personal report about Doctor Carter’s health to Captain Carter over the viewscreen… where we clearly see Carter is on the bridge, and presumably everyone
on the bridge is also listening in. I guess it’s a good thing Doctor Carter had Fraydar’s Syndrome and not something more embarrassing like hemorrhoids or a pimple on his dick. How difficult would it have been to have Carter actually in sickbay for this conversation?
I’ve mentioned how great the location shooting for this episode was – and I mean it. I know its not Vasquez Rocks, but it does summon a comparison. About my only complaint here would simply be that some shots seem very visibly color-corrected or with a filter applied, while others seemingly aren’t. It’s most jarring when shots in sequence go from filtered, non-filtered, and then filtered again.
Another story point that I think got glossed over: Tacket tells Smithfield he talked to Kirk on subspace, wherein a ton of expository information is explained. I’d have had Tacket and Smithfield both
be on the call to Kirk, and have the information shared this way. Again, there really isn’t much of a time constraint with these episodes the way there would be with a network television show, so its certainly possible it could have been done. As it is, its rather convenient that while Tacket is shooting from the hip trying to get things done, Smithfield is in the dark questioning everything he does until he explains to her what Kirk told him. Which is even more silly, honestly, because you would think that Smithfield would trust Tacket after all their years as friends (and, if “Just Passing Through” is to be believed, more
than friends) instead of just being a cypher for the usual “Hey, you can’t do that!” that we get in most Trek
Speaking of Smithfield, there’s a bit during the battle with the Romulans where Tacket has a lengthy conversation with her over the intercom. Smithfield details all the damage and what needs to be done to repair the ship. Not cutting to her while she delivered these lines at least once
is rather lazy, but I can excuse it if there's no actual set to shoot said cutaway on. Either way in the end it doesn’t really matter because moments after Smithfield finishes listing all the things she’s got to do to fix the ship, she steps off the elevator and just stands on the bridge as if she’s got all the time in the world. Which, kind of flies in the face of their predicament at that point in the story. Shouldn’t she be down in Engineering fixing the ship?
Tacket’s plan to lure the Romulans in to the solar wind is clever but it shortchanges what I’m assuming we’re supposed to believe is a “brilliant” Romulan commander. As it is, she’s just another mustache twirling villain that overenunciates. It would have been more interesting to see the Romulan commander see right through Tacket’s plan and instead retaliate in her own way, only to have Tacket have accounted for this, thereby bluffing her in to basically crippling her ship herself.
Switching to acting: Really, the biggest problem here is that with the exception of Tacket and Smithfield, none of the actors/characters here have seem to be capable of displaying any kind of emotion. Kirk has his swagger, of couse, but the rest are just spitting out lines. The big moment/reveal of the Predator/Romulan Super Soldier which has Carter belt out “My god!” is laughable because there’s just no awe, no shock to it. If I had any suggestion to make, it would be to work on the emotionality of these characters.
Now, on to the good stuff! As I’ve mentioned, the production value on the film is outstanding. The sets, wardrobe and visual effects are top notch. The music, while obviously synthesized is never intrusive or obnoxious. There’s a definite “feel” for TOS here, helped immeasurably by lighting and the use of color.
The acting isn’t terrible; it’s certainly better than in most fan films, but easily the best performances are from Mignona as Kirk and Frank Hernandez. Gina Hernandez has a few nice scenes as the helmsman on Farragut, but there’s not really much for her to play with beyond the odd line here and there. As for the big three, Broughton and the Bednars still really sell the truth of their friendship on screen. It’s easy to see their real life relationship populating the little moments their characters experience throughout the film here, and this element of the series has always been one of my favorite. I like their triumvirate, if only because I believe that they'd actually be good friends, even in the most exotic and crazy of scenarios.
While there are a lot of directorial and editorial choices that puzzled me, there are just as many that had me cheering. Most of the interesting camerawork happens on the planet surface, but I found the scene in the transporter room toward the end, with the dolly down on the transporter pad to be most effective. Tacket helping Carter up as he limped away was simply beautiful. If only Broughton could be moved to display any kind of emotion in that scene, it might have been near-perfect.
The cinematography is phenomenal. There are a lot of shots that were obviously carefully composed and storyboarded, which you certainly don’t see in every fan film. Just as in his bootleg of “Kitumba,” Vic Mignona demonstrates that at least some of the time, he’s got a pretty good eye when it comes to directing.
Like a boss.
Is this the best fan film ever made? No. It’s pretty good though, and certainly not the worst. If anything it simply suffers from the same problem that most fan films do, and if the powers that be can simply let someone edit their script for logic and common sense, most of these issues would be resolved quickly. Though it may not seem like it from this review, I quite enjoyed “The Price of Anything,” and look forward to Farragut’s next adventure.