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FanMade: Review Star Trek Phase II “Blood and Fire, Part 1”

Coming in just under the wire, today the fan series Star Trek Phase II released their first (and only) episode of the year (and their first since changing names from New Voyages). "Blood and Fire, Part 1" has generated a lot of buzz for its controversial subject matter, but is it also good Star Trek? TrekMovie weighs in with a full review below. [SPOILERS]

 

REVIEW "BLOOD AND FIRE, PART 1"

Right from the start, "Blood and Fire, Part 1" shows off why Phase II is the most well-known of the fan films. The teaser throws you right into the action of a battle between the Enterprise and a Klingon warship with unrivaled effects and all the on-set antics you would want to go along with them, including plenty of classic Trek ‘everybody lean right’ moments and lots of console explosions. This is followed up with an introduction to Phase II’s new Spock, Ben Tolpin, who immediately shows the calm competence we expect from our favorite Vulcan. Add to that some witty banter between Kirk (James Cawley) and Chekov (Andy Bray) and a dramatic well-delivered concluding Kirk close-up and warning that ‘there will be consequences’ and we have what may be one of the better opening teasers all of Trek, including the ‘real’ Trek. So does the rest of the episode match up?


"Blood and Fire, Part 1" kicks off with action

Although the first act does drag a bit, director David Gerrold delivers a nicely paced episode, and even comes in a little short of normal length. This helps "Blood and Fire, Part 1" feel more like a traditional episode, unlike the previous two outings from New Voyages which felt bloated. The story of "Blood and Fire" revolves around a distress call from the USS Copernicus which appears abandoned and headed in a death spiral towards a star. In fact, the Klingons from the opening teaser seem to only be a plot device to damage the Enterprise, but perhaps they will play a bigger role in Part 2. A no-win scenario involving Kirk’s orders and his mission team on board the Copernicus is at the heart of the story, but there is also a secondary plot involving Kirk’s nephew Peter Kirk (Bobby Rice) who has joined the Enterprise crew to be closer to his husband-to-be Alex Freeman (Evan Fowler), both of whom end up on that ill-fated boarding party.

Like with past New Voyages episodes, there seems to be too much emphasis on the guest star ‘B story.’ Barely into the first act and we get a long romantic scene between these two new characters and it seemed a bit gratuitous. Although both actors put in good performances throughout the episode, but they seemed uncomfortable in the overly-long intimate scene. Call me a traditionalist, but I think Star Trek is really about Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the core crew and so it seems out of place to devote half the first act (and so much of the episode) on a romance between two new guests actors. Even if a younger version of Peter Kirk appeared in the TOS episode “Operation — Annihilate!” he is essentially a new character here. It might have worked better had the romance been with one of the regular cast, but perhaps it would be a bridge too far making of the core bridge crew Star Trek’s first gay character.


Kirk’s Nephew (Rice) and his boyfriend Freeman (Fowler)

For the rest of the episode the script from Gerrold and Carols Pedraza (based on an unused TNG script by Gerrold) flows like a Trek episode should, with a good mix of action and character moments. The pair know their Trek giving each of the cast dialog that rings true to their characters. The only exception would be the scene when Kirk is presented with the ‘Order 9’ no-win scenario and, although it raises the stakes and serves the plot of the episode, he seems un-Kirk-like in acquiescing so easily. Being that this is coming from the same writer as "Trouble with Tribbles" there is also quite a lot of good humor in the episode, although some of the jokes seemed to be uncharacteristically breaking the fourth wall, including a moment when McCoy talks about red shirts with targets on them. That being said, one of the funnier lines involves Peter Kirk invoking the name of "Mr. Sulu" during pillow talk with his boyfriend, a line made even funnier due to the real life George Takei being the only openly gay Star Trek actor from the main cast. Also, like many classic Trek episodes, "Blood and Fire" has some scary, almost horror-film, elements too it.  The Regulan Blood Worms infecting the USS Copernicus deliver some frights and a (probably too over the top, but pretty cool) gross out moment. The only issue with all of this is that there is a bit of a kitchen sink feeling with the different emotions going from tension, to fright, to romance, to humor, sometimes creating awkward transitions.


Kirk (Cawley) and Spock (Tolpin) share a lighter moment

The classic weak link of all fan films is the acting, often being delivered by fans with little or no acting experience. Although "Blood and Fire" does suffer from some of this to an extent, it is probably the best outing for the troupe so far. Both John Kelley (McCoy) and Charles Root (Scotty) show marked improvement in making the characters their own and move away from imitation of the original actors. But Kelley could dial down the attitude a bit as he sometimes plays Bones classic irascibility as antagonistic. Kim Stinger also does well playing Uhura, sharing a delightful scene with Root, Kelley, Cawley and Bray, whose Chekov is sometimes better than Koenig’s original. As mentioned before, Ben Tolpin, a professional actor, is a welcome addition to the cast, who has quickly made Spock his own. "Blood and Fire" also introduced Patrick Bell who was not very convincing playing the Vulcan Lt. Xon (a character planned for the unproduced Phase II series from the 70s).  As for the Captain himself, Cawley also showed improvement playing the part of Kirk, but he is always best when he is playing Kirk and not when he sometimes falls into playing Shatner playing Kirk. 


(L-R) Chekov (Bray), Uhura (Stinger), Scotty (Root), Kirk (Cawley) and Bones (Kelley)

Like with "World Enough and Time" and the ‘Night in 1969’ edition of "To Serve All My Days," the effects are outstanding and in line with work you see from the ‘Remastered’ Star Trek and other current Sci-Fi TV series. Joel Bellucci and the Phase II visual f/x team have created a look that is both in line with The Original Series, but still brings new modern techniques. This not only goes for the space shots, but also small touches to the live action, like graphics added to the main view screen and our first look inside Mr. Spock’s viewer.


USS Copernicus in space…


…and in Spock’s viewer

The Phase II production  continues to be top notch including everything from the sets to editing to the hair and make-up. Although there don’t appear to be any new sets, the redress of the USS Enterprise standing in for the Copernicus was very well done in giving you the sense of a different ship that is in serious distress. This episode also introduced some newly designed props (like a cool phaser rifle) as well as some genuine Phase II and TMP era uniforms (crew jumpsuits and Scotty’s radiation suit). All in all a flawless recreation of the look of Original Series, with some nice new additions befitting the transition towards the TMP era.


Peter Kirk tries out his new phaser rifle while on board the Copernicus

"Blood and Fire" ends on a big cliffhanger, leaving a lot to be resolved in the concluding part. Although there was much touting of this episode as an AIDS allegory, we only get the barest hint of that in Part 1, so perhaps that social commentary has to wait until Part 2, as will those ‘consequences’ for the Klingons who do a disappearing trick for the rest of the episode. Also coming in part 2 is the guest spot of TNG’s Denise Crosby.

All in all "Blood and Fire is another good entry from the Phase II team. The episode did start off with a bang and provided a few highlights on the way, but the rest of the episode didn’t deliver as well as the opening teaser. Although there are improvements from previous episodes, I would still rank this one as second behind last year’s "World Enough and Time," guest-starring George Takei. Regardless, I am very much looking forward to Part 2 to see how this all plays out.


What will happen to the Enterprise crewmen on board the Copernicus?
…Find out next time on Star Trek Phase II

Download BAF Part 1 now: details at Phase II Site, plus more mirrors listed on Phase II Forums. [Part 2 should be out sometime around March, but there is no official date set yet].

Majel Tribute added
After the news of the death of Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the Phase II team added a short but touching acknowledgment to the beginning of the episode.

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Capt Mike Of The Terran Empire
December 20, 2008 5:02 pm

Wow. That was so touching for Phase 2 to remember The First lady of Trek. Great Show with great action. Star Trek has come a long way and will go where no man has gone before. The battle action was almost to movie Quality and it was a great Episode. Can’t wait for the Next Episode.

RTC
December 20, 2008 5:02 pm

How did Peter Kirk age so quickly from “Operation – Annihilate” to “Blood and Fire”? Wouldn’t the time span be only three or four years?

laz
December 20, 2008 5:03 pm

it was an awesome episode i cant wait for part 2

Capt Mike Of The Terran Empire
December 20, 2008 5:04 pm

hey Anthony. Any idea when the Next Episode will Be released. Also to James Cawley. Great Job on Phase 2. You guys are doing fantastic work on Phase 2 and should be commended. I wish there was a way for you guys to get Phase 2 on to Either Network TV or at least into Syndication or even the Sci Fi Channel.

Quatlo
December 20, 2008 5:07 pm

I with AP on keeping the focus on the lead characters. The “B” story characters often seem like filler going back to TOS / TMP and all that followed.

fred
December 20, 2008 5:10 pm

i am downloading this and look forward to watcing it if its as goo as the rest i am in for a real good treat

Capt Mike Of The Terran Empire
December 20, 2008 5:10 pm

If i remeber correctly Peter was probly about 14 or 15 in the Tos Operation Annihilate. So lets say 4 years went by then he would be 19 or 20. So a little bending of cannon but thats just being a bit nit picky. But was a great Episode none the less and i for one can’t wai for the Next Episode.

Quatlo
December 20, 2008 5:12 pm

PS: The schematic inside the Spock viewer doesn’t match the Copernicus.

RonSalon
December 20, 2008 5:13 pm

I have been waiting for quite sometime for an episode like Blood and Fire, since the very first time I saw Star Trek. And then finally, Phase II showed a person that was like me. I take that back, two people that were like me. Thank you.

I would agree with most of what you wrote, Anthony. And yes, the romatic element did seem a bit long. However, I do think it was way overdue and hence, the time they gave it was justified.

I am also eagerly awating the second part. Let’s hope it lives up to what they started with this part one. Let’s hope they don’t kill off one of the lovers. Isn’t it time gay couples on any screen don’t have to pay the ultimate penance for being gay? Let them get married and live long and prosper…together.

Darkwater
December 20, 2008 5:14 pm

I’d rank it third behind the Takei and Koenig episodes, but still good overall.

I wasn’t bothered by the gay romantic scene, but it deel a little gratuitous nonetheless. It seemed to drag on more than any hetero romance scene I’ve seen in Trek.

But for a fanfilm, terrific job overall.

Imrahil
December 20, 2008 5:37 pm

haven’t seen it yet–I just wanted to chime in here to suggest that your review needs at least one, possibly two revisions. There are a lot of sentences up there which drop subjects and barely make sense. It’s very distracting.

Mark Anton
December 20, 2008 5:38 pm
First of all, this is a very compelling, and certainly impressive episode. Watching it was kind of bitter sweet because who knows when we’re going to see the conclusion. I am certainly looking forward to it. Now, that being said…. I think the episode would have been better without the gay scene. In fact, I think you could have replaced the Freeman character with a woman, and very little of the drama would be removed. Having the gay scene means, as a father, I’m not sure if my eight-year-old son should watch this episode. He’s seen and enjoyed all the others. I’ve never had to worry about screening anything Star Trek before. This episode was supposed to be an allegory about the AIDS epidemic. Obviously, this story remains unfinished, but as it stands— so far I don’t see a lot that has to do with aids. Those blood worms seem to simply be ravenous creatures that apparently can’t be stopped.They are so dangerous and contagious that even a star ship needs to be destroyed to supposedly kill them. The crewmen that are infected (Spock, Rand, etc.) did nothing but board the crippled ship Copernicus. This is the kind of thing that typically happens on Star Trek. Crewmen beam in to a questionable and dangerous situation. The one crewman that was consumed by the worms opened some kind of panel and they swarmed down upon him. Anyone could have done that. I know that anyone can get AIDS, but it’s typically… Read more »
Holger
December 20, 2008 5:38 pm

Wow! Absolutely terrific! Congratulations and many thanks to the entire Phase II crew. You get better and better with each episode, and I’m really impressed by that.
John Kelley’s and Charles Root’s performances are right on target now, as was already mentioned in the review.
The Copernicus is perfect. I also enjoyed the animated computer displays.

And what a cliffhanger!!

So far, I’d rate this my co-number one, together with World Enough And Time, maybe with World Enough slightly ahead because of Takei’s appearance.

I agree with #10 that the romantic scene was simply too extended for Star Trek, gay or straight doesn’t matter. But they did a great job depicting a gay couple and gay marriage as a non-scandal in the 23rd century.

I also found that redshirt being eaten alive a bit drastic for my stomach.

I think it was a good artistic decision to skip David Gerrold’s long dedication from the teaser trailer. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Gerrold’s opinion and I wouldn’t want to see it censored or something. I only think a good story speaks for itself, it doesn’t need such an extensive comment/explanation.

James Cawley
December 20, 2008 5:40 pm

The Klingons do return in Part two, to follow up on the events of theTeaser.
And don’t worry Anthony, it may seem like Kirk gives in on the code 9, but remember He is Kirk! Believe me there is a major reason behind the importance of Peter and Alex to the story, which when all is said and donne allows you to see a side of JIm Kirk rarely if ever shown. Thank’s for the Great review! We have been BOMBARDED with downloads and The comments on the net have been overwhelmingly supportive and positive!
Merry Christmas Everyone!
James Cawley

Q
December 20, 2008 5:47 pm

I agree with Anthony in his review 100%. ‘ thought the
exact thing as I was watching it…
Can’t wait for Part 2 – looks good!

Q

Brodie
December 20, 2008 5:49 pm

Well now we know why there aren’t any Kirks in the 24th century… except for that brief stint with Jim on the rickety metal bridge…

Brodie
December 20, 2008 5:49 pm

…and we all know what happened to him…

December 20, 2008 5:50 pm

Joel Bellucci and his team of FX people have done an outstanding job on this episode, and their hard work and dedication to the project shine more brightly now than ever before…

Just want to make it clear that, though I was slated to do some of the effects work on this episode, my schedule precluded me from being more than moral support… and an occasional sounding board for Mr. Cawley.

I think the Phase II folks are steadily improving on every new episode…

C.S. Lewis
December 20, 2008 5:57 pm

A minor point, if you will permit it, a question about new Trek terminology, as used in this review:

Why was the term “away team” introduced with TNG and why was the ancient naval “landing party” discarded?

Sincerely,

C.S. Lewis

December 20, 2008 6:01 pm

I managed to see a wet print of part 2 and I believe it to be better than the first. The pacing picks up and the acting is kicked up a notch. World Enough and Time was the first New Voyages/Phase II episode I saw and then there was this one. I believe these guys do an amazing job.

Nick Cook
December 20, 2008 6:24 pm

#12. Mark Anton.

“I think you could have replaced the Freeman character with a woman, and very little of the drama would be removed.”

That was exactly the point. :)

Brad
December 20, 2008 6:25 pm

What the hell is with the two guys dry-humping each other?? I’m sorry, but I’ve just lost a TON of respect for the Phase Two guys. Pushing blatant homosexuality in our faces is NOT the kind of Star Trek I want to watch! >:o( Completely uncalled for and not in the spirit of Star Trek. Disgusting!!

ucdom
December 20, 2008 6:31 pm

Yaaaaaaaaaayyyy!

Kirk has a gay nephew! Great! I am *so* jealous he’s getting married!

Plus he’s cute – I want one like that.

Well done TREK II

James Cawley
December 20, 2008 6:33 pm

First off, they are not “Dry Humping” if that is what you see, then you must be doing something wrong in your own bedroom. I do not need or want your respect. I believe in complete EQUALITY for people regardless of who they sleep with , what God they believe in, or what color they are, or anything else. THAT is the future Gene Roddenberry envisioned, and that is the one I want to be a part of. If I upset you with the content of this episode and I even for a moment made you think, I did my job.
James Cawley

Nick Cook
December 20, 2008 6:34 pm

Well said James. :)

Greg Schnitzer
December 20, 2008 6:35 pm

Yes, the term “mission team” is used in the episode, not “away team.” But in the TOS era, even the “mission team” might have been more appropriately called a “landing party.” (Well, actually since it was a ship they were going to, it probably would have been called a “boarding party.”)

I think the fact that “Blood and Fire” was written back in 1986 as a script for TNG could well be contributing to some of the TNG-related anachronistic language in the script, although most of them were caught before the episode was shot.

From an “in-universe” standpoint, we know that the term “landing/boarding party” fell into disfavor and was replaced largely by “Away Team” by the time of Picard’s era. We don’t know when the gradual switchover in terms began, but perhaps it began in the fourth year of Kirk’s five year mission, right here with the events of “Blood and Fire.”

SPB
December 20, 2008 6:37 pm

Somehow, Cawley manages to look like he’s doing a Walter Koenig impression in that photo above with Spock! :)

OM
December 20, 2008 6:39 pm

…So, is it my imagination, or has Cawley abandoned his Elvis-Do for something a bit closer to…Glen Campbell?

OM
December 20, 2008 6:40 pm

“First off, they are not “Dry Humping” if that is what you see, “

…Perhaps, but are they at least using protection? :-P

ucdom
December 20, 2008 6:42 pm

#25

James Cawley, I’ve not seen any of the phase II episodes, but you just earned a new gay fan in me. Thankyou sir!!

You don’t need me to say it, but keep up that spirit of equality.

James Cawley
December 20, 2008 6:43 pm

#29-LOL!
#30- Yes, their uniforms!
James

Spock
December 20, 2008 6:54 pm

I never pegged Peter Kirk to be gay! I always remember him as that young cadet in the “Sarek” novel, who was shagging that Klingon chick.

C.S. Lewis
December 20, 2008 6:56 pm

Anthony and Greg, thank you for your kindly replies. I will research this more and perhaps, should the occasion arise, report back on my findings!

Sincerely,

C.S. Lewis

James Cawley
December 20, 2008 6:59 pm

Anthony,
Oh, don’t worry! There is plenty of Kirk,Spock and McCoy in Part two!

MrAtoz
December 20, 2008 7:02 pm

This is “new” Trek and very welcome.
Would you rather see “Spock’s Brain” ?

George
December 20, 2008 7:04 pm

James,

I enjoyed the episode, and though it was well done. Thanks for the tribute to Majel. I hope the new movie honors her in the same way. I don’t know if you ever got to meet her or how well you knew her but from the time I was at the studio during the production of STTNG she was a wonderful person.

The only thing I did see that was a bit of a blooper was the captain on the Copernicus was moving around a bit in the background.

Anyway, keep up the great work and looking forward to part two.

Rat Boy
December 20, 2008 7:15 pm

While I didn’t mind the relationship between Peter and Alex, it felt a little awkward to watch the bedroom scene (though I was laughing hysterically at the Sulu joke). Maybe because the way it was shot, how they were behaving, and how little music there was in it made it feel sort of voyeuristic like you were actually in there in real life; even if it was a straight couple, I’d feel weird being in the same room while they were in bed together.

I also have to disagree with the notion that if Alex was female that it would lose any of the drama. Captain Kirk’s reaction to what Peter had to say has a bit of a layer of subtext to it after finding out his nephew wants to marry a man. How much did he really know about him? Did he even know he was gay? It speaks a lot about the relationship between Peter and his de facto father figure and I’m interested in seeing where this goes and perhaps if Peter is retained as a character beyond the second part.

All in all, an excellent entry into fan film pantheon and I look forward to the next episode. Heck, it almost makes me want to get off my lazy butt and dust off that fan film script I’ve been tinkering with.

Spock
December 20, 2008 7:16 pm

“Would you rather see “Spock’s Brain” ?”

Maybe… but that’s more to do with the costuming of the aliens in that episode than it actually being any good. Hehe.

I don’t know why people always cite Spock’s Brain as the worst episode of TOS, when it was clearly “The Omega Glory”.

Anyway, that’s enough derailing I’m sure. Downloading Blood and Fire now, should be good fun. I’ve enjoyed watching this series develop.

Tanner Waterbury
December 20, 2008 7:16 pm

I love the new mood lighting on the enterprise, kinda reminds me of the Sci Fi Era of Mystery Science theater 3000.

Steven
December 20, 2008 7:25 pm

Just watched “Blood and Fire: Part 1” a little while ago. I agree that it’s not as good as “World Enough and Time,” but it was a fantastic entry not only to “Trek” fan films, but to “Trek” as well. The surprising element was that the gay couple element was not used as a “shock element,” but as just another regular character element, and I thought that was more appropriate. The chills were good, and we can see that the production values have grown immensely, and the actors have improved. This is definitely the highest quality fan show out there.

I give this episode an A-, and am looking forward to Part 2.

God bless!

MrAtoz
December 20, 2008 7:30 pm

While Omega Glory was the worst written episode the acting in Spock’s Brain plumbed the depths of the abyss……

c0mBaTkArL
December 20, 2008 7:31 pm

James Cawley, thanks to you and your awesome team SO much for the new episode! And keep up with the boundary pushing, you’ll find it fuels that torch you hold rather adequately.

Brad
December 20, 2008 7:38 pm
Mr. Cawley, First I would like to say that I am not trying to be a troll, and I’m not trying to ignite some big argument. I am personally disappointed that you are glad that I’m upset by what I’ve seen in your show. Unfortunately, as Mr. Roddenberry is no longer with us, and I do not know of any of his personal views on homosexual subject matter, I will consider the verdict out on that topic. Regardless of one’s belief of equality, I personally feel very disappointed in having to sit through a portion of the episode that was a bit too much “in my face” and I do not appreciate it. I’m sure others may both agree and disagree with me. My previous post was an immediate reaction to my personal disappointment. I still stand by my personal view, but I do not see this particular subject matter as being in line with the true spirit of Star Trek. Yes, it is obvious to me that over the next few hundres years, there may be changes in regard to this subject, but I would rather not be bombarded by things I personally find offensive in a show that I would have otherwise enjoyed. Regardless of whether or not it is your opinion that you’ve made me think, it is not appropriate. IF you want to change my mind about the subject matter, shoving it in my face is not the answer. Let’s just agree to disagree.
DREW
December 20, 2008 7:43 pm

After watching Part 1 of Blood and Fire, I did like this episode.
One thing I am bothered by is not having the ability to show this episode to my 5 year old son.

I have absolutley nothing against homosexuals or themes pertaining to that.
I have many gay friends both male and female.

I am a heterosexual male and I do believe its important to treat everyone as equals however, how can I show this star trek episode to my child? You cannot tell me that Star Trek is for adults only. Yes the movies might have stronger adult themes but the episodes to me should be meant for everyone. I watched TOS as a little child.

Whatever my child chooses to be when he grows up is for him to decide and I will support him but I cannot let him watch this when all he understands is mommy and daddy and is 5 years old.

Bobby
December 20, 2008 7:53 pm

As much as everyone has the right to be inclined to whoever or whatever they choose, enough with the gay trek. please.
Especially when its “ooh look I’m gay” for “ooh look I’m gay” ‘s sake and not contributing much to the storyline.
We’ve had it rammed down our throats in Hidden Frontier and the umpteen spinoffs and now on Phase II.

That said, Phase II handled it much better than HF.

Aside from the gayness, this episode of PII is first class. Acting, sets, effects all five star.
Looking forward to part 2.

Well done all.

RTC
December 20, 2008 7:54 pm

James, my apologies … my earlier entry posed what could come off as a nitpicky, critical question while failing to note that this was a very high-quality, well written and suspenseful episode. Well done to you and your team!

By coincidence, back in 1990 I did my own Trek fan film that centers on Peter Kirk 20 years after the incident at Deneva. Starfleet finds the Enterprise adrift, Kirk and Spock missing, her crew unconscious and with no memory of what happened. Peter, first officer on a science vessel, is given command of the Enterprise and sent to find Kirk and Spock … but what he finds instead is something that innocently yet systematically destroyed an entire civilization, and just as innocently threatens others. It was fun to write and produce … but believe me, the end product was WAY, WAY, WAAAYYY behind yours! Again, nice work!

Reign1701A
December 20, 2008 8:01 pm

Although I thought it was kind of gratuitous, it’s about time we have openly gay characters in an incarnation of Star Trek. It’s way over due.

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