Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the I solved a minor issue I was having with YouTube and my AppleTV this weekend and was finally able to watch "The Night The Stars Fell From The Sky." Spoiler: My review. 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. There’s 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 actors’ slow delivery of their lines and quieter, almost hushed voices. It’d be one thing if it were the one character most notable -- Grigory -- (in my mind anyway) for it, but it’s everybody. Delaney’s log entry sounds like it was made over the phone. Garbled and difficult to understand. Later, at the end of the episode when T’Noshi visits Grigory in his ready room, there’s a music cue that just comes out of nowhere – I can’t decide if the soundmix is off or if it’s just that it sounded overly “Full House”-y for a meaningful moment between the two characters. Either way, it’s 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. I’m not an expert on editing so I can’t 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 it’s worth the time to plan out, but they save you a lot of grief from people like me because it’s such basic stuff. Too much headroom can take you right out of a scene. Watch some of Hitchcock’s films – North By Northwest, Vertigo, Rear Window … 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. I’ll go out on a limb also and assume that there wasn’t much in the way of additional lighting done out on that location beyond the natural sunlight. It’s painfully obvious at about 40:31 (or just before) when T’Noshi 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 it’s wasted on the actress’ just walking acoss the screen. Finally, it’s 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. What’s more, now with iOS7 you can even zoom with the iPhone cameras now, even though I would humbly suggest that you don’t 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. It’s 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 – 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 “Final Frontier” font from the movies… 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. Pro tip: Forgive me, but I’m going to nitpick this one bit. It’s a pet peeve of mine that just about ALL fan films get wrong but this particular example is the most egregious I’ve seen. I don’t mean this to be hostile or an attack, it’s 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: Created by RANDALL LANDERS. That’s the wrong credit to use. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek. And you’ve 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 Developed by RANDALL LANDERS --– i.e. you’ve taken the raw parts from the previously created property to fashion your own spinoff from it. Yes, Berman, Braga and Taylor all got “Created By” credits for their work on Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, but that was then. I suppose the logic between those shows and shows like Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica or Cynthia Cidre’s 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 it’s probably smarter to stay away from “Created by” altogether. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is nonetheless my two cents on the matter. Acting I’m not going to spend too much time on this one. Jeffrey Greene is easily the best performer of the group here. I’ve always gotten a sort of ’70s French New Wave vibe from him when I’ve 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 – there’s no urgency, no energy! The ship is in crisis – the away team can’t 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 Writing’s On The Wall What ultimately kills “The Night The Stars Fell From The Sky” 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, “Don’t overthink it, just shut it down!” which to me seems entirely foolhardy when you have the lives of 430 people depending on the decisions you make. The wisecracking security officer doesn’t seem to know that Vulcan is hot. I’ve 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 it’s pretty shocking this kid doesn’t know it’s a desert planet. There are plenty of examples of bad dialogue too. Sarat’s flirtation – “I’ve long dreamed of communicating with a heavenly body” is just groanworthy. Perhaps if it had been Nimoy, delivering the line fully made up and with his usual earnestness as Spock, it’d 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. T’Noshi’s line – “I do not dream, sir” seems awkward. I’m pretty sure we’ve seen both T’Pol and Tuvok dreaming before, so it stands to reason all Vulcans are capable of it. I suppose I could buy that here it’s T’Noshi’s way of trying to prove she’s not a kid and can control herself emotionally the way other Vulcans do, but there’s such little groundwork for that that it seems like it would be just an afterthought. When T’Noshi goes missing and then bangs her head, the away team doesn’t really do much to try to find her – 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 T’Noshi, who, for reasons which I still don’t quite understand, apparently decides to have sex with Sarat right then and there despite her head injury and despite the fact that she’s trying to get back to her crew. Taking advantage of her post-coital nap, Sarat takes T’Noshi’s phaser and guns down a bunch of kids and a woman. (more on this later)… 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 – we don’t see this everyday in the fan films—the almost comical reaction of the kids as they were getting vaporized completely undercut the magnitude of what was happening. They scream, then they’re 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 “Kitumba” as well), it’s 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 T’Noshi 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 Sarat’s eventual reveal of his true intentions make is villainy all the more heinous because he also managed to bed T’Noshi, or is he just a douchebag who managed to take advantage of her interest in him? There’s a throughline here of T’Noshi 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, T’Noshi 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 T’Noshi’s fascination with Sarat and her eventual (though again, I’m 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 T’Noshi’s IDIC pin, which I guess the transporter couldn’t beam up on its own and he murders Sarat. Now, I’m 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 “Season One Trailer” much is made of Grigory’s line – “I’ve never broken my oath. Never.” 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, what’s the deeper meaning of the story? The Good Stuff The title is superb. It’s very poetic, obviously, but also very in line with the more romantic and cultured tradition of Star Trek titles. Ok, I’ve 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 “go there” as part of their story. This isn’t Exeter or Phase II trying to recreate the nostalgic feel of ‘60s TOS… Potemkin here has stepped out of the light and into the shadow, and the implications from this (and Grigory’s reprisal at the end) could be incredibly fascinating and entertaining, if handled properly. I’ve 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 don’t know if I’d have cut to black after Grigory shoots, I think, honestly, it’s best for all involved if Grigory did kill Sarat. It’s messy, yes. But it’s also interesting. And that’s probably the highest compliment I can give a fan film, because there are those that just plain aren’t interesting at all. The implications for Grigory alone will be great. Do Sarat’s people seek revenge? What will T’Noshi think if and when she finds out? What will it mean for Grigory’s command? These are all things I’d 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, it’d be great to see a few scenes of the two of them together as well. As was made so plain in the “Kitumba” 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 there’s no way anyone can criticize that. It’s 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 they’ve 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.