Of Gods and Men (and fans)

I realize I’m behind the times on this one, but I only just this weekend discovered Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a 40th anniversary ST fanfilm.

It’s a miniseries consisting of three acts, each about half hour long, and only available on the web.  It takes place 40 years after the original series and stars Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols in their original roles.

ST:OGAM features a slew of other Trek veterans: Alan Ruck (Captain John Harriman from Star Trek Generations, though perhaps better known as Ferris Bueller’s nervous best friend, Cameron), Tim Russ (Tuvok, Voyager), Garrett Wang (Harry Kim, Voyager), Ethan Phillips (Neelix, Voyager), J. G. Hertzler (Martok, DS9), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko, DS9), Chase Masterson (Leeta, DS9) and Gary Graham (Ambassador Soval, Enterprise).

The miniseries was directed by Tim “Tuvok” Russ, produced by Sky Conway, and written by DS9 writers Jack Trevino and Ethan H. Calk. Douglas Knapp, the director of photography, had previously worked on Voyager. Needless to say, this is not your average “fan film”—more like semi-pro. Kudos to the creators for wrangling all of these people back to the fold for one last hurrah.

The miniseries brings back fan favorite Charlie Evans (“Charlie X“), whose anger at Captain Kirk persists even 40 years later. Upon learning that Kirk, in Generations, saved billions of lives but would not save his own, Charlie becomes even more embittered and hellbent on revenge. He winds up exacting this revenge on Kirk’s legacy—Chekov, Uhura, and Harriman.

I found the first installment hard to watch until I just let go and got into it. It was uneven, but still punctuated by enough good moments that I stuck it out for the second act, which was genuinely great. Vulcan nerve pinch! Mind meld! Self destruct sequences! Sure it’s cheesy but it’s supposed to be. If you’re looking for something taut and slick pick up First Contact. This is much more in the tradition of TOS—never so serious that you can’t laugh along the way, and highlighted by moments of surprising sincerity and emotion.

Want further proof? (Names omitted due to spoiler potential.)

“Why don’t you kill me yourself?”
“Lower the forcefield and I’ll be there in five minutes.”
“I’ve waited long enough… Make it four.”
      (seconds later)
“It’s probably a trap!”
“No… really?”

See? What’s not to love?

The third act was on par with the second: entertaining, fun, and well-paced. It’s fantastic to see Nichols and Koenig so clearly having a good time. Koenig claims he had no desire to reprise the role, but in OGAM he got a chance to (finally) do something besides a funny accent. His alternate reality bits as a freedom fighter are great opportunities to see another side of him. Koenig truly steals the show and I would re-watch the whole thing again just for his moments. If only he had been afforded more chances like this when the series was actually on!

Yes, the dialogue made me giggle (“I have outfoxed the fox!”) (“But I received orders…” “I have just received…counterorders!”) but the heart of the show is there. And like all good Trek episodes, the plot is just an excuse for showcasing interactions among the characters you know and love. It was worth it alone for the chance to see Nichols and Koenig, with quiet intensity, contemplate their impact on the universe over the last 40 years.

All in all, it’s absolutely fantastic at what it is (a low budget fan film) and still pretty good at all the things it’s not (a Star Trek episode, a feature length film you’d see in theaters, etc.). The production value isn’t going to measure up to any of the franchises, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised by the level of detail. The sets are eerily familiar and nothing is outright laughable (with the exception perhaps of Chase Masterson’s Hulk dyejob, which, honestly, is as good as it could’ve been). I was particularly impressed with the old school red uniforms, the bridge, and the effective soundtrack. Everything that was not directly re-created still rang true and felt right.

If nothing I’ve said here has encouraged you to see this at all, then at the very least watch the outtakes at the end of the third installment. They’re hilarious, and a great reminder that whatever the inevitable shortcomings, the film was made by people who care, and they had a great time doing it.

And if you want to know how they did it, the Christian Science Monitor looked into the project and apparently the whole thing was done on a budget of about $200,000 (the bridge itself cost $100,000). You can also see some neat production photos here.

One final note: a huge thank you to the official Star Trek people for allowing this kind of thing to not only exist but flourish in the online community. We are so grateful.

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