At 17:01 PM part 1 of the long-awaited independent film Star Trek of Gods and Men was released. See below for a quick review [includes spoilers]
Of Gods and Men is possibly the most ambitious of the independent Star Trek productions to date. It has been in the making for 2 years and has a number of Trek veterans both in front of and behind the camera. Designed as a 3 part mini-series, OGaM aspires to tell an epic tale in the Trek universe that both ties up some future history arcs while trying to play social commentary on our times.
The story of OGaM, crisply written by Sky Conway with DS9 vets Jack Trevino and Ethan H. Calk starts us off 12 years after the events of Star Trek Generations. Kirk is dead and a replica of the original Enterprise is being dedicated as a museum (commanded by his nephew Peter Kirk – played by STNV star James Cawley). Then, like in Generations, there is an emergency and the only ship that can come to the rescue is the Enterprise (even as a museum, it appears to always be the only ship within light years of every emergency). It just so happens that Captains Chekov, Uhura and Harriman are all on board and off they go to planet M622 to discover a very angry man with a grudge against the James T. Kirk and a fully functional Guardian of Forever…what could go wrong?
This is not going to end well
Soon enough the Guardian says "all that you knew has been altered" and we are in a darker place. Harriman is now commanding a version of the original Enterprise for something called ‘The Galactic Order,’ Chekov is now a freedom fighter called “Ketrick,” and Uhura is living on Vulcan and married. Director Tim Russ (aka Voyager’s Tuvok) uses the opportunity of moving into a different universe to also change up the directing style. While the feel of the opening minutes of the mini-series feels like TOS movie era Trek, once we move into the alternative time line things get much more frenetic and move into a new Battlestar Galactica type of style. This gives OGaM a more modern feel as well as heightens the feeling that you are now in a different universe. The pacing, especially while on the Enterprise is effective, but it is contrasted with scenes on Planet Vulcan which fell somewhat flat. Time spent on scenes that dragged could have been put to better use for a bit more exposition as some aspects of the alternative universe were a bit confusing. What isn’t confusing is that the darker universe is also giving the film makers an opportunity to make some statements about modern days and specifically questions about security vs. freedom.
One aspect of Of Gods and Men that distinguishes from other projects is that it almost exclusively uses professional actors. The most notable of these are the stars of the mini-series Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and Alan Ruck. Each reprises their original Star Trek role as well as an alternative version in the altered timeline. In addition the series includes a host of well known actors from the Star Trek universe, most of whom are playing new roles in the altered timeline. This use of professional actors truly makes a difference and some of the acting is actually quite good. Koenig probably delivers the best performance showing a bit of range with his two very different characters. However some of the acting is uneven, especially the sences on Vulcan. With the exception of Tim Russ, none of the actors seemed to realize they were playing Vulcans. This may be explained away due to the altered timeline, but they were espousing logic with big grins on their faces…what’s up with that?
(L-R) Ethan Phillips, Chase Masterson, J.G. Hertzler, Garrett Wang,
Gary Graham, Cirroc Loften, Tim Russ and Lawrence Montaigne
The production design for OGaM is good for the most part. They get good use out of the Enterprise sets which the Star Trek New Voyages team was good enough to loan them; turning it into two different ships (the museum ship and the Galactic Order ship). And they also get off the ship to a couple of locations to mix it up, however the Vulcan location could have used more Vulcan touches. Like with the direction and editing, the original music by Justin Durban also is effective is setting the tone for both the regular and alternative timelines while still maintaining a good smattering of Trek stings. There were some issues with sound, with some scenes sounding like the boom mike was not placed right creating an echo effect. This was not helped by the streaming which seemed to be using a very low quality sampling rate. The costumes were also overall very good, but it was never fully explained why there was such a variety of styles on either the museum ship Enterprise or the Galactic Order Enterprsise.
There are quite a few CGI effects shots and some are quite good, but it is hard to truly judge them due to the resolution of the streaming media. The effects seem to be a hybrid of the TOS movie era style with a bit of a TNG feel to them. The space shots and battle scenes really amped up the excitement level. It would be fair to say that they are better than most fan films, but not as good as those seen in the latest STNV episode "World Enough and Time." The Enterprise itself will probably fall under the greatest scrutiny…especially those pesky and hard to get just right nacelle caps. In addition most of the shots on Vulcan were not very realistic and took you out of the movie, especially with the opening establishing matte shot.
The Museum Ship Enterprise
Possibly the most problematic aspect of Of Gods and Men is the delivery technology. The Dragonfly streaming is quite choppy at times makes it difficult to watch. In addition the video resolution is not high enough to make you forget you are watching something on the Internet. As mentioned before, the audio is even worse than the video. The Renegade team tell TrekMovie.com that they are working on these issues and hope to make improvements later in the week.
All in all this first part is an impressive effort and a welcome addition to the Trek universe. It is great to see some favorite characters back in action surrounded by all these Trek stars. The production is a bit uneven, but still provides half an hour of fun Star Trek entertainment. And the good news is that there are still two more parts to come. And of course it is free!
Watch Part 1 of Of Gods and Men at the Official Site.
Part 2 should be released around the end of January
After watching it, give OGaM a letter grade in our latest poll (right sidebar).