Fan Film Friday: Star Trek: Phase II: In Harm’s Way

Written by Randy Hall on July 24, 2009 – 11:24 am -

enterprisedoomsdayEvery now and then, a conversation I’m having with friends or fellow fans works its way to a question I’ve been asked many times. “Why do you like fan films so much?” I’m asked. “The sets are cheesy, the acting is terrible, and the stories are lame.”

My first response is to ask that person to name the most recent “independent production” he or she has seen. The response is almost always the same: “I haven’t seen any, but all the people I know say that’s the way it is.”

These days, I can recommend many fan films to curious folk so they can judge for themselves the quality of the cinematic efforts by Star Trek fans.

But the first “independent production” I always used to point to was Star Trek: New Voyages: “In Harm’s Way,” and that episode remains a favorite of mine to this day, even though the group has since changed its name to Star Trek: Phase II.

The episode gets off to a wild start when the teaser features a Doomsday Machine destroying the U.S.S. Enterprise—and its captain, Christopher Pike! (The character was well played by Kurt Carley years before Bruce Greenwood got his chance at the role.)

The rest of the story picks up with Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Farragut fighting a “doomsday war,” during which upgraded “planet killers” are multiplying and annihilating the worlds of the Federation. That includes Earth, which is blown to bits by five Doomsday Machines!

Things look bleak for Kirk and company (including their science officer, a recurring Klingon named Kargh) until they receive a message from Mister Spock, who learned from his studies of the Guardian of Forever that the timeline has been seriously thrown out of whack.

Yep, it’s another production based on an “alternate timeline,” not unlike the one in the recent Star Trek movie.

Once the group realizes that the first Doomsday Machine arrived in the quadrant years before it was supposed to, they come up with a desperate plan in which the Farragut must go back in time and join forces with Pike’s Enterprise to set things right.

To do that, Lieutenant DeSalle must steer the starship through the portal of a large Guardian discovered during excavations on that world. The effects in this scene are very cool as the ship and its crew enter the atmosphere and go back in time.

Let’s see now, where did I leave my Clint Eastwood hat? Ah, here it is.

The good: “In Harm’s Way” is a very ambitious project that was released in October of 2004. The sets and costumes are accurate, and the special effects are still exciting to watch.

The cast members include James Cawley as Jim Kirk, Jeffrey Quinn as Spock, John Kelley as Doctor McCoy, and John Carrigan as Kargh.

Another cool thing is the appearance of three distinguished guest stars. The first is Barbara Luna (Lieutenant Marlena Moreau from “Mirror, Mirror”) as Victoria, who finds and takes care of Commodore Matt Decker (still played by William Windom from “The Doomsday Machine”) when he and his shuttle have been thrown back through time by the explosion he caused while attacking the “planet killer.”

The third guest star is Malachi Throne, who was Commodore Jose Mendez in “The Menagerie,” except that here he plays Korogh, Kargh’s father and another victim of a Doomsday Machine.

I also enjoyed the use of Classic Trek music in the background, which added a nice nostalgic touch, but the Doomsday Machine is no longer just a cone but instead looks and sounds like a huge serpent and has segments that can move, making the “planet killer” even more menacing.

The bad: While most fan films struggle to reach 45 minutes of content, “Way” is almost loaded with too much story and too many effects, including Kirk getting help from himself (as depicted in the era of the Trek movies). Still, I wish all “independent productions” had this “problem.”

There is a particularly sad moment as we see the situation that gave Pike the injuries that reduced him to the state he was in during “The Menagerie.”

The ugly: The premise of “In Harm’s Way” is somewhat shaky. After all, we did see the Doomsday Machine drifting in space after Kirk rammed a starship down its maw. Time travel can be a tricky thing to handle, and this episode is loaded with it.  The story uses “chronotons” (particles of time, don’t ask) caused by explosions in the “planet killer,” use of the Guardian of Forever and the old slingshot-around-the-sun trick.

All I can say is that like Miles O’Brien in Deep Space Nine, I hate temporal mechanics!

Nevertheless, “In Harm’s Way” is one of the reasons I still consider Phase II to be the “gold standard” in fan films. The group has continued to produce good stories and maintains a good release schedule, too.

By the way, the conclusion of “Blood and Fire,” a two-parter written and directed by David Gerrold, will be released soon, and I’m looking forward to seeing a new story produced by the folks at Phase II.

To learn more about this fan film and others produced by the same group, go to www.startrekphase2.com.

Related posts:

  1. Fan Film Friday: Star Trek: Of Gods and Men
  2. Fan Film Friday: Intrepid: Transitions and Lamentations
  3. Star Trek Phase II Fan Series Announces Guest Cast for “Enemy: Starfleet”
  4. Star Trek Phase II Teaser Available Online
  5. Phase II Breaches Treks Gay Frontier

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Fan Film Friday, Reviews/Editorials, Web Productions | 4 Comments »


4 Responses to “Fan Film Friday: Star Trek: Phase II: In Harm’s Way”

  1. By Peter on Jul 28, 2009 | Reply

    Thanks for the great article. Just one point – you gave the wrong URL.

    The correct URL for Star Trek Phase II is:

    http://www.startrekphase2.com

    You can download the episodes directly in DivX format from the German Mirror which I run:

    http://www.startrekphase2.de

    Regards

    Peter

  2. By Erik Korngold on Jul 28, 2009 | Reply

    Wow, Randy. Thanks for all the kind words. As the co-writer of “In Harm’s Way,” I must say, you accurately nailed the plusses (and minuses) of our fannish “kitchen sink” from all those years ago.

    I will admit that at the time, we thought that episode might be the last thing “Star Trek: New Voyages” would release. We were in negotiations with Paramount, there were the usual conflicts that come with having so many creative personalties in one place, and this production was so ambitious that we thought it might never happen again. So Max Rem, my co-writer and the visionary talent behind the computer-generated visual effects, and I decided to push all the boundaries and offer up the biggest, most mind-bending, eye-candy-exciting Star Trek we could manage.

    Thanks to Executive Producers James Cawley and Jack Marshall who let us do it (Marshall also directed), I do believe it raised the bar for fan films. Not only for other productions, but for New Voyages itself as they ignored our fears, used the publicity of “In Harm’s Way” as a springboard, and have gone on to produce better looking and far more thought-provoking episodes. The kinds of stories upon which Star Trek has built its reputation.

    Thanks again for spreading the word. I’m sure Cawley and company will do all they can to live up to the promise you keep making to your friends.

    -E.K.

  3. By Randy Hall on Jul 28, 2009 | Reply

    Peter, I’ve asked the webmaster to update the reference. Sometimes I’ve typed in the old address and gotten to Phase II, but I intended to use the new address. I goofed, and it’s being taken care of.

    Erik, I appreciate your kind words as well. It’s because of New Voyages/Phase 2 and Starship Exeter that I became a fan of “independent productions.” It’s been great fun to watch groups around the world make their own world of Star Trek.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the completed story of “Blood and Fire,” which will get reviewed some Friday in the future.

    Thanks again to both of you.

    Randy

  4. By Ian Cullen on Jul 28, 2009 | Reply

    All done and sorted

    Signed the Webinator. Sorry I meant Webmaster.

Post a Comment