Doctor Who

Review – Of Gods and Men Act 2

Act 2 of the Trek-celebrity-filled independent fan film Of Gods and Men (available this weekend) delivers a dark, yet fun midpoint for this long-awaited production. This second outing is stronger than the first first both technically and dramatically. Now in the heart of the story we get to see the actors (which is OGaM’s strong point) really push the edges on this different sort of Star Trek story. 

The second act takes place entirely in the OGAaM alternate universe created by the actions of a vitriolic Charlie Evans (William Wellman, Jr.). The story begins with the destruction of Vulcan by a weapon of seriously mass destruction used by the evil Galactic Order. Fleeing the planet are many ships, and G.O. Captain John Harriman (Alan Ruck) brings aboard the alternate versions of Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Tuvok. A desperate escape plan by Ketrick (Walter Koenig) and Ragnar (Gary Graham) is the main narrative of this chapter, as the characters begin to realize that their feelings of déjà vu might be real.

The use of professional genre actors really helps keep you engaged in Of Gods and Men and Koenig and Nichols are certainly the highlights for Act 2. Nichols shows a sense of seriousness when required (such as in a pivotal mind-meld scene) and yet still has the compassion and ease of Uhura. Koenig is able to give his tortured alternate Chekov (also named Ketrick) sympathy and believability in a role that could easily have become cartoonish. And the scenes between Koenig and Nichols evoked past moments between the two in "The Trouble with Tribbles" and Star Trek IV, although in OGaM they were playing it for dramatic instead of comedic effect. Other guest stars also stand out. Ruck’s version of Harriman is angry and smart (clearly trying to make up for the inept Harriman of Generations). And JG Hertzler’s erratic yet imposing Koval truly feels like a different character than his more familiar Martok.


Nichols and Koenig…together again

It is probably best that Act 2 doesn’t have a lot of special effects as this allows the actors and the drama to tell the story. Although adequate (and better than typical fan films), most effects shots are still not at the level of the latest from Star Trek New Voyages (now Phase II) or your average Sci Fi Channel movie. The escape from Vulcan scenes were especially troublesome as some ships seemed as if they were made of paper, impairing the emotion of the sequence. Even when the effects are better, such as an interesting shot for the Enterprise going to warp or a nice shot of a Vulcan shuttle, the camera movements are so dramatic that they tend to bring more attention to the effects than necessary. While director Tim Russ should be complimented for making the alternative universe look and feel different, the effects need to express his ideas better.


Vulcan shuttle (from TMP) makes an appearance in one of the better fx shots

While Star Trek of Gods and Men is playing in the Star Trek mythos, it also dares to be different.Unique camera angles and the framing of actor’s faces, along with editing in an almost documentary style, provide a fresh look to the Star Trek formula, continuing the distinction of the regular and alternate universes. Again, Russ and his camera team deserve credit here. However, the New Voyages TOS sets being used by OGaM were not made for some of these modern camera techniques, resulting in the tops of sets being periodically exposed…something that can take you out of the moment pretty quickly. There are also some other technical issues with the production such as uneven sound levels, which are generally forgivable in a fan film, but would not pass for a true professional production. But for the most part the production design, costumes, make-up and hair are quite good and often rival the original television shows.


Russ likes close-ups

However, Shakespeare tells us, the play’s the thing. How is the narrative of OGaM?

Written by Ethan H, Calk, Jack Trevino, and Sky Conway from a story by all three along with Russ, the second chapter continues OGAM’s willingness to be creative within the confines of the Star Trek format. The narrative is compelling, mostly because it is willing to surprise. Act 2 really focuses on the story and tones down avalanche of continuity nuggets that at times proved more of a distraction in Act 1. The story in OGAM Act 2 also flows more naturally and makes more sense, where in the first act there were some moments of confusion that could have used some additional exposition. In fact it is recommended to re-watch the first part before Act 2 as it all fits together much better now. It appears that the OGAM team’s usage of ‘act’ is apt for each of their releases. Although both Acts 1 and 2 have definitive end points, it appears that the three parts for Of Gods and Men are really not stand-alone episodes of a mini-series but more the three acts of a single
film. 

As with the first episode, OGAM is timely, and it cannot be said that this film is afraid of providing commentary on today’s political and social concerns. The story is really asking questions about freedom and how best to maintain freedom under a tyrannical government or against an implacable foe. Dialog such as Koval’s "You must dominate, or be dominated" or Ragnar’s "It’s always the same, we fight for them and they condemn us" provide much to consider. The best moment is an argument between Uhura and Ketrick where she argues that she and Tuvok do not deserve to die, but Ketrick counters with "What have you done to deserve life!? You hide behind your righteous pacifism while others die fighting for their freedom!" The script asks tough questions about what those who complain about social ills are willing to do in a way that is reminiscent of the "Civil
Disobedience" speech of Henry David Thoreau. When talking about those who complain about social concerns, Thoreau said, "They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret." Ketrick intones the same to Uhura. It is this kind of social commentary that provides OGAM its unique status among fan films.


The stars of "Of Gods and Men" take a moment

The second act of the fan independent film "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men" will be available on March 15 at 1701 hours (5:01 EST). With the new streaming from Dragonfly, the technological problems of the first chapter seem to be solved (although the true test will be on Saturday)

For more, visit StarTrekOfGodsAndMen.com, which includes behind the scenes information and interviews.

 

Thanks to my wife and fellow sociologist, Mary Jo Tenuto, who contributed to this review

 

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I am still reviewing applications for the position of ‘FanMade’ columnist to handle future fan film news, previews, reviews. John stepped in to get this review out on time, but as soon as a new columnist is on board he can go back to playing with his toys.]

 

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Darryl
March 13, 2008 10:48 pm

I really hate having dial-up right about now.

Prologic9
March 13, 2008 10:57 pm

Do all these fan productions from an alternate mirror universe where Bit Torrent doesn’t exist?

focuspuller
March 13, 2008 10:57 pm

I don’t even have dial-up. My rotary phone doesn’t work with it.

noirgwio
March 13, 2008 10:58 pm

Yea, one day I’ll hopefully get to see this… Sounds killer!

Captain Robert April
March 13, 2008 10:58 pm

Likewise.

Trekkiefan
March 13, 2008 11:24 pm

They released the film early to those that watched Act 1. I was quite pleased to receive an email today with a link to Act 2. I agree that Act 1 makes more sense now that I have seen Act 2. I think once Act 3 is released and the entire story is laid out, it will all come together. I loved this second installment and by the end, I wanted more. I thought the acting was good and I liked the story. It was great to see Nichelle and Walter again reprising their respective ST characters. For those that have dial up, imaybe you can go to your local library to watch. It is a free viewing and I really enjoyed watching this.

Gary Seven
March 13, 2008 11:29 pm

I don’t even have a rotary phone. My telegraph machine doesn’t work with it.

Ruk
March 13, 2008 11:33 pm

Legends?
Oh please give me a break already!

oztrek
March 13, 2008 11:34 pm

This review is spot on. Still not professional in some areas but It was a step up from from act one. The audio is distractingly dull… not crisp enough… the actors sound too far from the microphone for mine.

However the plot and acting more than make up for these niggles.

It won’t be everybody’s cup of raktajino but I enjoyed it. The ending was cool.. straight from “End of Both Worlds” part I. Good job everyone.

Cranston
March 13, 2008 11:50 pm

7 – My telegraph works fine with it, but it takes forever to write down all those ones and zeroes.

I’m looking forward to seeing this. While I really admire New Voyages, the acting just takes me out of it completely. It’s just impossible for me to get into the story. I don’t particularly care how the effects look. If the acting is good — even just competent by regular TV / movie standards — I can forgive just about everything else.

Lendorien
March 14, 2008 1:04 am

Sheesh. You guys have telegraphs? You have no idea how hard it is with the smoke signals I’m stuck using.

Just finished watching part 2. I have to agree with the review. Part 2 definitely is stronger than part 1 was and the edgier tone than what Star Trek usually carries was interesting to watch. As usual Koenig shows that he can act and do a heck of a lot more than be comic relief.

Kirk's Toupee
March 14, 2008 1:41 am

You think you guys have got it bad with Telegraph?

I’ve telex at home……….sheeesh…….

Enc
March 14, 2008 1:56 am

#11
yeah but smoke signals and drums are all affected by the weather.
i ended up switching to flags.

Lancelot Narayan
March 14, 2008 1:58 am

I have to put up with sign language.

Reliant
March 14, 2008 1:59 am

Are you kidding? I have something better than telegraph, I still have to ask the Mayberry operator ‘Sarah’ to clear the line to get the download. (Reference is to old TV Andy Griffith show, when they picked up the telephone and had to ask Sarah to connect them to their party.) :-)

Jeffrey S. Nelson
March 14, 2008 2:51 am

Just put it out on dvd, fer cryin’ out loud..

Garovorkin
March 14, 2008 3:33 am

I am curious I know Robert Walker Jr originally played Charlie X, Whatever Happened to Him he just seems to have fallen off the face of the earth, is still acting all, is he even still alive? William Wellmen Jr any relation to the director by that name?

Stanky McFibberich
March 14, 2008 4:08 am

I saw the first part. Did not like the style or anything about it, so will not be watching the remainder. If this is, as mentioned above, “Documentary style,” it should be left to documentaries.

A Familiar Voice
March 14, 2008 4:13 am

I welcome fan efforts of this caliber. The only concern I have is of the Federation data clerk and how he is portrayed as a slovenly and resentful employee. I can only hope that this kind of officer is rarer than hen’s teeth in the Federation of the proper timeline.

Jay - "The Real Jim Kirk"
March 14, 2008 4:30 am

good old pen and paper here lads :(

Kosher Coder
March 14, 2008 4:53 am

I’ll wait for the 3rd and final act, then watch the whole thing. I don’t do multi-parters.

doubleofive
March 14, 2008 5:26 am

I thought it was alright. I agree that maybe the old style “Phase II” sets aren’t made for the dramatic lighting and angles Tim Russ was going for. The Enterprise doing a flip to go to warp was both logical (there is no “up” in space) but silly-looking compared to the “logic” established in other Treks.

I’ll have to wait for part 3 to make a complete judgment, but so far, its going in a bold new direction, but I’m not sure I like it.

Lex
March 14, 2008 5:32 am

My carrier pigeon doesn’t support video streaming :(

tadayou
March 14, 2008 5:58 am
I really didn’t enjoy Act I for many reasons. Mostly because it simply didn’t live up to my expectations. Act II however easily caught me off-guard. The performances of Nichols and Koenig are stellar and very believable. It was a good decision to focus on their characters in this second part of the trilogy. I also enjoyed the acting of Tim Russ and Gary Graham. Alan Ruck’s performance wasn’t bad but I don’t exactly buy his bad alternate universe version of Harriman, either. The dialogs, especially between Uhura and Chakov, were quite believable and surprisingly deep. I also liked the cliffhanger at the end that really keeps you wondering how they’ll get out of that situation. The one stylistic choice I didn’t really like were the galacticaesque camera shots. It is a wonderful style when combined with sets and lightening that are made for it. Yet, as the review above already pointed out, it doesn’t really work with the TOS sets. The special effects are still a bit too cartoonish but there wasn’t much of that going on anyway, so it wasn’t as bad as in part I. The score, however, was amazing.. Again it seemed to be influenced by Bear McCreary’s music for Battlestar Galactica, but it really worked and nicely carried the emotional weight of the actor’s performances. Also loved the little Star Trek fanfare at the end of the credits. So all in all I REALLY enjoyed Act II. While I wasn’t particularly interested in watching the… Read more »
RTC
March 14, 2008 6:03 am

Heck, we only have rocks to bang together! No wait, we don’t even have that, the volcanos are still spewing lava, have to wait for it to cool so we can have rocks….

Trekkiefan
March 14, 2008 7:11 am

#17 Yes he is the son of that famous Director.

Red Shirt
March 14, 2008 7:19 am

You think you guys got it bad, I’m watching this frame by frame on View Master!

Crewman Darnell
March 14, 2008 7:21 am

Stone knives & bear skins is worse than dial-up…

Garovorkin
March 14, 2008 7:26 am

#26 thanks when I saw that Wellman I did wonder if they were related. Robert Walker Jr no one I talk to seems to know the answer to that one, I figured since this film had so many former trek Alumni in it that he would be back to Play Charlie X, that would have been cool.

I must say Chekov kinda reminded me of Khan the way he was playing this version of his signature Koenig is such a terrific , not only in the role of Chekov but as the Heroic Vilian Psycop Alfred Bester in Babylon 5. He was alos good in the sadly underrated and under appreciated scif movie Moontrap which I reccommend very highly.

Viking
March 14, 2008 7:34 am

I watched Part II last night. My only beef is with the off-sceen audio in scenes – it’s as though they wouldn’t pony up for more than one boom mic. Otherwise, I didn’t even notice the other production flaws being pointed out – it almost as though, the deeper they got into shooting, the more comfortable they got with the script and their characters. It’s actually starting to get good, and I want to see the last act ASAP. :-)

March 14, 2008 7:39 am

Looking forward to this installment. I really enjoyed the first one.

CmdrR
March 14, 2008 7:53 am

apparently Robert Walker Jr. did NOT fall off the face of the Earth, just onto it. Anthony says he busted a leg and couldn’t be in this production.

I’d love to watch pt. II. I wish my monks would illuminate the manuscripts a little faster….

Ali
March 14, 2008 8:00 am

Walter looks ridiculous in that wig

SPB
March 14, 2008 8:09 am

POOR, POOR WALTER…

…I realize it’s a fan production and all, but couldn’t they have found a better wig/toupee for Walter Koenig for this film??? After seeing those stills, I don’t EVER want to hear people criticizing Shatner’s hair again!

Double Whammy
March 14, 2008 8:17 am

I have it worse then all of you – communication wise.
I have to depend on ill mannered and laughing red headed
woodpeckers to send me the episode via morse code out
on my deck. So…not only are they out there giggling like fools
looking for handouts but now I reconstruct a entire deck.
I tried making use of a hoot-owl but all he could say was Who?

March 14, 2008 8:19 am

OF GODS AND MEN.

Look at those big letters all by themselves. Large, and in charge. Made with the JC™ stamp of approval, OF GODS AND MEN. Part one was as fun as SKP®. Plug that one into the way back machine, all the way back to high school. If you were there, then you know. If you weren’t…. you missed out.

FanMade In America. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You’ve been listening to old h69 and you’ve paid attention. Me be talkin bout JC™, Tuvok, Nick C is for Cookie, and DRuss b-Flav. Also them Pennsylvania Dutch.

BEST!!

=h=

Garovorkin
March 14, 2008 8:21 am

I do hope that when it finally concludes that Russ and company will lay the ground work for another Trek project.

March 14, 2008 8:22 am

HOW!!!

How do they entice these once great actors to such a second rate production?

Kobayashi Maru
March 14, 2008 8:40 am

I can’t wait for this. The First act really got me back into the Star Trek Universe after a few years away. Seeing theses actors back in their same roles and blending right in with cannon really got me excited.

I have posted on the STOGAM message boards and apparently the effects shots look bad because of streaming. The Hi Res version of this will apparently look fantastic and be available after the released of all three parts. (Just FYI)

I’m excited about seeing the Enterprise -B again, here’s hoping they show it in the third part, like they did the first….

Garovorkin
March 14, 2008 8:47 am

#37 Scott consider the fact that they dot them to do it the first time, Yeah it had some rough patches and stretch of dumb dialog and acting but over all for a fan produced project it wasn’t bad. Some of the effects, the ships in particular .Iam no expert, but it seemed to me that not all of the ships exteriors were CGI, some of the ships looked crude models at times. I could be wrong here.

CmdrR
March 14, 2008 8:47 am

Double Whammy — maybe your owl is a David Tennant fan instead.

March 14, 2008 8:47 am

Sadly, when I tried to use my “sneek peek” e-mail, it refused to load. I can watch part 1 as much as I want, but part 2 kept downloading Adobe Flash 9 over and over again. WHen I finally rebooted the computer with evil Windows Vista, and went to the site, all I get in the Dragonfly screen is hours of “Searching for Optimal Data Feed” or some such nonsense.

*sigh*

Rob+

Horatio
March 14, 2008 8:51 am

Is it me or is Walter Koenig starting to look more and more like Ricardo Montalban?

THX-1138
March 14, 2008 8:55 am

#38
Perhaps if you were to examine the use of your phrase “once great” you may find your answer. But here is a short list of possibilities:

They like to act.
They have a higher opinion of the production than you.
They enjoy working with each other.

I like to watch Star Trek. I am of the opinion that more is better. If you don’t like these productions, don’t watch them. But to torture yourself is just a form of martyrdom.

RJO
March 14, 2008 8:57 am

I HAVE JUST SEEN ACT 2 TODAY IT HAD THE FEEL OF ST 2 AUSOME!!! I CAN SEE THERE WAS MORE CHARECTOR REACTON WERE THERE WAS MORE OF A BETTER SCRIPT AND NOT TO MENTOIN SEEING UHARA AND CHECKOFF BACK TO GETHER.LIKE ANYTHING ELSE OR IN ANY SERIES OR MOVIE ANYTHING CAN HAVE WEAKNESS OR STRENGTH. BUT THIS HAD A GOOD STORY AND CANT WAIT TO SEE PART 3!!!! SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT AND STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING!!!!

trekkiefan
March 14, 2008 9:04 am

#29 – According to the STOGAM forum: Robert Walker was having surgery during the time they were filming so they brought in William Wellman.

Izbot
March 14, 2008 9:08 am

17. Robert Walker Jr hasn’t done any film work since 1991.

The Vulcanista
March 14, 2008 9:09 am

“Say-rah, git me Mount Pilot, please.”

OGAM is best viewed in glorious, full-color Telepathy (mind-meld included for an optional, extra charge).

Seriously, I know I’ve got a long wait, but I want to wait until all three are out before seeing them.

Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|

Izbot
March 14, 2008 9:10 am

43. With that awful wig he sure is!

trekkiefan
March 14, 2008 9:11 am

#42 I had the same problem; you need to update your adobe flash and it should work fine.

http://www.adobe.com/shockwave/download/download.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash

wpDiscuz