*I assume King and Brady wrote the script together, given their continued involvement throughout the piece, hence my use of the ampersand.
**I'm assuming King is the producer on this project as he is clearly the driving force behind it, however no title was included in the short film's actual end credits.
Story by Michael L. King
Screenplay by Michael L. King & Brady Foster*
Produced by Michael L. King**
Directed by Brady Foster
Starring Michael L. King, Kelley Wyskiel, Doneco Wellington Guy, Shirley Amauric, April Chamberlain with Captain Gary Foster and Jane Foster
I'm going to take a different approach with this review than I have in the past with others. My experience has been that my comments often get misinterpreted or that my intent is not clearly conveyed the way I mean it to be, so I'll start with the things I liked.
First, the good stuff:
For a show that embraces and promotes diversity as one of its universal tenets, I am pleased that we have a fan film that isn't about yet another caucasian male captain. I do hope Torres' will return as well and that we'll get a more diverse crew in Starship Valiant
instead of endless troves of white people. The future is a beautiful, rich and diverse place and I love that King and his crew understand this key component of the Star Trek
The show starts with impressive visual effects work. It's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to CGI in fan films these days... and Valiant
is no different. Seeing the bridge on fire and under heavy attack was cool, and apart from some wooden acting here and there in that battle sequence, it's mostly thrilling stuff.
The music selections were fun too. At various points I could hear samples from Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
score and other bits from The Original Series
. I often go back and forth on the value of original scoring in these fan films, mainly because I feel like using established music definitely helps to further identify and set the tone and mood of these films, but here one of the neat things that I really appreciated was the use of more modern scoring (Goldsmith) juxtaposed with the obviously TOS
visuals, which all came to a head at the end of the film with the SMASH TO BLACK and Goldsmith's The Motion Picture
fanfare. Brilliantly executed.
There's also a quiet thoughtfulness to a lof this piece, which I definitely appreciate. It's an element we don't get from most other fan films, and while it sometimes feels a little out of place or haphazard here, it's still refreshing to see.
Also, as with nearly all fan films set in the TOS
era, the use of color on film is vibrant and delicious. Deep reds, golden yellows, and rich blues give way to that nostalgic feeling of watching TOS
again, and seeing even more vivid color in the visual effects only helped to accentuate the exotic, space travel elements when compared to the more muted, dour dark greys and browns on Earth when Jack is home or at the cemetary.
This brings me to another element I thought worked exceedingly
well in this episode. For the first time, we see a fan film taking its captain home to deal with his family. He sits in his recliner in his home. It looks lived in. Real. Clever use of props (the Saurian brandy bottle, the Constitution-class model in the background) help to keep the illusion alive but combined with the superb lighting and cinematic approach, these scenes were probably my favorite in the film because they so starkly contrast what we normally get in fan films that just want to be on the bridge or out on exotic planets or futuristic sets. Brady Foster clearly knows what he's doing when it comes to framing his shots and the cinematography is beautiful in these scenes.
The fight with Abigail is also different from anything we've ever seen. In Starship Farragut
's "The Price of Anything," we got the end result of a long estrangement between Captain Carter and his father; here we see the beginnings of that same kind of conflict for Jack and his daughter. Here, though, the fight is vicious and I would also have to say somewhat overlong. It's nice to see a fan film show a familial relationship outside the confines of the usual Star Trek
-y-ness, and with issues real people deal with, but it could have been tightened up a bit. The performances are solid though and Abigail gets away with a lot here. It's troubling to see no resolution to that conflict here, especially since it's clear by the end that Jack will be shipping out again. But I do appreciate the return to showing not just loners but actual people with families in Starfleet again. I hope we get more of this.
Now, for the things I felt could be improved:
To begin, the format of the piece is a short film/vignette. That said, I felt the opening montage of production company logos was just excessively long given the total broadcast time. I certainly appreciate that there was more than one group responsible for producing this short, and the visual effects of each logo were outstanding (particularly the first, with the TOS Starfleet pennant), but my suggestion would be to try to find shorter versions of these if they must be inlcuded at the head of future vignettes.
Too, it's curious to me that no producer is nominally credited in the piece. A producer's job is incredibly important -- essential, really, and while I've no doubt the job of the proucer was indeed done, it's the kind of thing I'm used to seeing in fan films, whether the personnel making them truly understand what that job entails or not. This isn't meant as an attack on Starship Valiant
, just a suggestion: next time, make sure to credit your producer!
As with other fan films, the audio needs work. What's done here is respectable and sound editor Ben Richardson should be commended for how good the sound actually is on the first show, but there's definite room for improvement.There were lots of dropouts and obvious points where sound could be improved. I won't needle it to death but it was worth mentioning for the next episode.
In terms of acting, there's a solid cast here. While none are the next Laurence Olivier or Katharine Hepburn, each brought something to their role which I thought was unique and handled nicely. The actress playing Lisa, I felt, gave the best performance of the bunch, but everyone involved was pretty great for their first outing.
Regarding the story, my biggest complaints are its meandering nature, Jack's increasing reluctance to take command, and the failure of just about everyone in the picture to recognize this as a very good reason to not thrust that command on him. It'd be one thing if Jack had been traumatized or wounded in battle - which I think, is the main purpose of the dream/flashback we see at the very beginning of the film - but it's never addressed as such. What we get instead is an extreme example of survivor's guilt, and countless scenes of one person after another trying to convince Jack to take command and Jack giving them plenty of (valid) reasons why he shouldn't take it. The most egregious of this lapse in story logic comes in Jack's scene with the admiral. Any flag officer worth their salt would have realized what was going on and retracted the offer.
This relates to another issue I see popping up in fan films - Starfleet officers or, rather, characters we are supposed to believe are Starfleet officers, who just don't behave like Starfleet officers. At a certain point, officers trained by Starfleet have training kick in. They don't wear their hearts on their sleeves. And certainly, command officers do not. Jack doesn't show any ability to do this througout the film so it's entirely puzzling why Starfleet would give him this command. And while I appreciated the shout out to Finnegan from, I presume, "Shore Leave," the admiral's dismissive attitude about Finnegan also struck me as somewhat out of character. In other words, don't tell me Jack is a great captain-to-be by relating to me what a terrible captain-to-be Finnegan would be. I don't intend this critique to be directed solely at Starship Valiant
. I've seen examples of this in Starship Farragut, Star Trek: Phase II, Star Trek Continues, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier
... even the audio dramas fall prey to it, particularly Star Trek: The Section 31 Files
and the early episodes of its sequel series, Star Trek: Lost Frontier
. Each production has examples of this same kind of fallacy of behavior for their characters.
We hear a lot about characters we never meet. "Jeff," Valiant's former captain, Torres' dead lover, Jack's dead father. It's hard to sympathize with these characters if we don't actually see why the people they lost are so meaningful to them. There's a lot of "telling" about these characters without actually "showing." Someone above suggested Jack visiting his father's grave and not speaking, just being there, saving the reveal over who passed away for the following altercation with his daughter. I would have much preferred THAT sequence than the one we got, if only for the rising tension it would create and the curiosity in my mind about what was going on as I watched. Here, everything is put out, answered and then put away again. Likewise, Valiant having a "strong legacy" doesn't matter to me if I don't know why. What has the Valiant or her crew done?
Ultimately though, the story centers on Jack and his journey. If he doesn't want to be commanding Valiant, why do we care if he does? Why do we care if he has a good or bad or nonexistent relationship with his daughter?
In all, this was a great first outing. There's room for improvement, but I was quite happy with the end result. I love the interaction and general dynamic between Jack and Lisa, and eagerly look forward to seeing more of the two of them in the future. And while "Legacy" doesn't really tell us what Starship Valiant
is going to be about, it does do an effective job of introducing its characters and propelling them toward their next adventure. With a little more attention to story logic next time around, there could be a really great, dynamic and entertaining story to be told. I look forward to Episode #2!