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Trek apocrypha, plus fan video


I recently came across something that I had never heard of before, something that made me feel like I was living in some kind of a secret history.

It turns out that in 1977, the Star Trek people--after nearly ten years of trying unsuccessfully to put together a feature Trek film--decided to instead create a new live-action series. It was to be called Star Trek: Phase II. It would reunite all the characters except possibly Spock (Nimoy was performing on stage in Equus; makes me wonder how many other Trek actors have done that show, given Takei's recent involvement).

They designed and built sets. They got writers to write scripts. In fact, they got Alan Dean Foster, Norman Spinrad, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Bach, and Robert Silverberg (among others) to work on scripts, or at least treatments. (It's unclear to me whether that's the Richard Bach who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull or not.)

And then the Paramount people looked at Alan Dean Foster's outline for the planned series pilot, "In Thy Image," and they realized that they finally had a story that would work for a movie.

So they scrapped Phase II and went to work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture instead, and the rest is history.

But there's a bunch of material about Phase II at the OTTENS Forgotten Trek site, including design drawings for the series, and several summaries of scripts.

Memory Alpha also provides (very brief) blurbs about the first thirteen episodes-that-could-have-been.

Unrelated to the Phase II stuff, I've recently encountered a bunch of newer Trek apocrypha, in the form of fan films and episodes.

At WorldCon, I kept hearing the title Hidden Frontier in reference to Star Trek. Wasn't sure what it meant until I came across a reference to it online a few days ago, and followed a link.

Turns out that Hidden Frontier is a long-running series of fan-created video episodes of Star Trek. Since 2000, they've created seven seasons (six to nine hour(?)-long episodes each) of the adventures of the crew of the starship Excelsior, which you can download for free from their website. The series occasionally features any of half a dozen canon characters played by other actors, but mostly focuses on original characters.

I'm short enough on time that I only looked at one episode. I'm afraid I wasn't all that impressed with it--but it was an early one, and I gather that their later work is significantly better. They have a best episodes page with recommended starting points.

They do use greenscreening to good effect--apparently most of their sets are computer-generated. This results in a small green outline around some of the characters; that didn't especially bother me, but it does bother some people. I mostly like the CGI, especially the starships.

One interesting aspect to this show is the legal side; apparently, Paramount has thus far (for six years now) opted to not pursue legal action against them. I think that's pretty cool.

Another interesting side note: I gather that there are explicitly queer characters in the series. I'm disappointed to see (according to Wikipedia) that some fans are upset by this.

If you decide to try out the series, note that the actual wait time on the download page (the amount of time you'll spend "waiting in line" before downloading begins) often turns out to be significantly less than the "Approximate wait time" indicated--like, about a tenth of the indicated time.

See the Hidden Frontier Wikipedia entry for more info.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other fan-produced Trek-related videos also available for free online. A while back, I posted about Star Trek: New Voyages, which has the goal of continuing the original series using new actors. When I posted about it before, David M indicated that he wanted to see Captain Pike; apparently so did the series creators, because episode 1, "In Harm's Way," is an alternate-history episode featuring Pike (among others). (For those of you who looked at the episode they had posted when I last linked there, they're now calling that one the pilot episode; "In Harm's Way" is now episode 1.) The plot gets a little convoluted in places, and a little goofy in other places, but overall it's not bad. Stop by the New Voyages site for more info or to download the first episode.

And although they aren't nearly as fast as Hidden Frontier at turning out episodes, they've got a new episode coming up, "To Serve All My Days," which was written by DC Fontana and guest-stars Walter Koenig as a mysteriously fast-aged (or something) Chekov.

The full episode isn't available online yet--it apparently premiered a week ago at some kind of Trek event--but you can download the trailer (about 3 minutes long) if you're interested. (Requires Windows Media Viewer, but works in WMV on a Mac.)

Apparently all this stuff has been getting a lot higher-profile lately. The New York Times ran an article about Trek fan films a few months back: 'Star Trek' Fans, Deprived of a Show, Recreate the Franchise on Digital Video. That article also points to Star Trek: Intrepid, a Scottish group, and to Starship Exeter, a group from Texas.

But they don't point to the more underground (and less serious) short efforts that edit together clips from the original TV series. For example, there's a brief video of TOS characters singing Knights of the Round Table, from Monty Python's Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And then there's the slash.

(None of the following is entirely work-safe.)

The highlight of the slash video I've seen is definitely "Closer": nicely edited video, starting with a title card that says "What if they hadn't made it to Vulcan in time?" Quite a bit more SM-y and quite a bit more polished than the others below. Music is a quite explicit song called "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails.

These others, below, use a fair number of the same clips, but are a little sillier and less coherent. But still kind of fun.

Finally, although this has nothing to do with fan-produced video or other apocrypha, I recently encountered and was amused by a text recounting of watching Wrath of Khan with someone who'd never seen it before.


I've got the book about Trek: Phase II that came out a while back. Let me know if you'd like me to bring it in so you can borrow it.

I don't know about Hidden Frontier. Anybody that thinks "The Widening Gyre" is a good episode title has been reading too much bad fantasy.

There's a book called Star Trek Phase II with the whole story of the show.