Star Trek: Phase II – “Mind Sifter”

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A few weeks ago the Balboa theater in San Francisco hosted a screening of New Voyages’s episode Mind Sifter. With a number of their cast and crew in attendance for both a pre-screening meet and greet and a Q&A session with director Mark Edward Lewis, SFX Supervisor Pony Horton, and actors Jeff Bond (Dr. Leonard McCoy) and Becky Wood (Dr. Hamlin). As the audience filtered into the theater in the half hour or so leading up to the screening it became evident that people weren’t just locals to the Bay Area. Many people had come in from from 100 miles and more to see the episode on a big screen.

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The episode itself was another great example of where the Star Trek independant film scene is at. It’s created by people who love the original series, and the way that they approach both the production quality as well as the writing. One of the challenges always faced whenever doing an episode with the original characters, choices have to be made if an actor is going to be doing an impersonation of the original actor in the role, or if they’re doing their own take on the character. For viewers it’s a very personal preference as to which they are more accepting and tolerant of. In the case of Mind Sifter, Brian Gross has the center chair role as Captain Kirk, and he doesn’t go the Shatner impersonation route, and rather does him in his own way and it really elevates the episode up to par of most of the rest of the ToS independant episodes. Jesamine Pierce (Lt. Uhura), and Charles Root (Lt. Scott) both go more of the impersonation route, which for many in the audience were more than happy with their performances. I continue to find it distracting when it’s an impersonation as then I have to pause my enjoyment of the narrative and have to think back and ponder “how close were they in that last mannerism”.

Clay Sayre as the Klingon Kor just rocks his role as Kirk’s captor and torturer. I very much hope that they bring him back in future Klingon-involved episodes as he bring back the feel of the era when the ToS Klingons were their own style of badasses that weren’t something to just be dismissed out of hand.

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I would be remiss in not making a shout out to Brandon Stacy; he’s currently taken the lead for me as an actor in the role of Mr. Spock. His portrayal of Spock battling with crew and himself is as well done here as anywhere else thus far in any of the independent films. This particular story and episode being heavily character driven, had any of the key actors in the roles of Kirk, Spock, or Bones not held up their weight, the whole effort would have fallen flat (or worse yet, falling into the comical). Fortunately they step up to the plate admirably individually as well as an ensemble, even cast newcomer Jeff Bond as Bones pulls his weight alongside the rest of the experienced cast in a laudable performance.

The attention to detail and honoring the original show is taken a step further by making not just one version of the episode, but two (three if you count both a stereo as well as 5.1 surround versions). One version has the ship models and effects as they would have been done during the original episodes, the other has modern effects and ship details.

Screen capture of the Enterprise hitting a Klingon D-7 with a torpedo, with ship models and effects circa the 1960s

Screen capture of the Enterprise hitting a Klingon D-7 with a torpedo, with ship models and effects circa the 1960s

Now the same scene but from the version of the episode with modern ship models and effects.

Now the same scene but from the version of the episode with modern ship models and effects.

It takes a decent amount of balls to tackle continuations of original storylines, and this is a great follow-on to City on the Edge of Forever. It was refreshing that they did it in a way that didn’t need to be bogged down by excessive extemporizing (even someone without a familiarity of the original would be able to follow along without having it explained to them).

The female lead in the episode is Dr. Hamlin, played by Becky Wood, and she does a stand up job as a counter to Kirk’s typical charms. She’s a strong, especially for a late 50’s woman. The episode revolves a good deal around her standing up for herself as a professional and highly capable woman, and while I’m sure some may say that it goes a bit far in the dialogue towards being preachy for gender parity, I think it’s both well handled and also very timely. I have to wonder what kind of cultural effect the episode might have had if this had indeed been aired back during the original series’ run. As it set groundbreaking scenes with an interracial kiss onscreen, I would love to think that this would have had a long lasting impact.

The Q&A was a great 45 minutes of conversation ranging from the SFX and the technical challenges faced, to how the actors dealt with stepping into roles that have been beloved for generations. Here’s the video in full, and it’s well worth the watch. Apologies for the darkness of the video, the theater wasn’t the most brightly lit.

Should you have the chance to catch one of their screenings, or one for any of the principal Trek productions, do yourself a favor and give it a go. It’s really an experience to get to see episodes among a gathering of like-minded fans who have travelled hundreds of miles to share in the experience of Trek.

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Awesome

Watched the whole thing.

For a fan production, VERY well done!

Kudos!

Huh, Kudos sounds like the name of a Klingon commander!

Emperor Mike of the Terran Empire

One of the best fan Eps yet of any of the Fan Series. Well done.

This one was OK, but the acting of the new Kirk and the guest characters is just not very good. And for whatever reason, the sound quality of the overall episode is poor – seems like a lot of echos are heard? It never got me transported into a “this is like real Star Trek” state of mind.

STC’s recent “The Fairest of them All” is the only fan episode to date where I was transported out of my “this is kind of a lame fan-looking production” bias into what seemed like a near actual TOS episode. For that reason, STC now has my full attention and respect.

Thanks for the article! IDIC Lives should be thrilled about this! I, too, found Brian Gross in the role of Kirk to be a marked step up for Phase II/NV. I think that his original approach to the character works well. Though, I was taken out of the story by the portrayal of Spock as constantly emotionally distraught, with his ever-furrowed brow. That didn’t work for me. The production on the whole was very good, the best so far for Phase II/NV. As I already mentioned in the Indie Fan Film Awards thread, Clay Sayre was great as Kor. The scenes with the Klingons were the best parts of this episode, for me. My usual complaint about Phase II/NV again applies here: this episode would have been better if 5-10 minutes had been cut. I guess it’s just a matter of taste, being that these folks have been consistent in their pacing and episode length, but it’s always a problem for me. The episodes drag and I always find that 5-10 min are superfluous and the episode would be better paced without them. In this episode, some of the scenes where Spock is preoccupied with the loss of Kirk could have been trimmed. The performances in this episode were good all around. I’d say this was the best Phase II/NV episode yet in terms of the performances and also in terms of it being a tight production. I would add one final note. The name change is confusing. First it… Read more »
Cygnus, you are right, I am THRILLED with trekmovie for this article and the great review. But while this review is a great one, it is also fair and honest. In other words, this is one great fan production! I drew someone’s wrath months ago when I said Brian Gross makes Kirk his own, with a few Shatner nuances now and then–while the other current Kirk actor does more of a Shatner impression. Hats off to Vic who won the best actor award yesterday; I like STC a lot. When I said Vic does more of a Shatner impression-style of Kirk acting, it was not an insult. I was referring to styles of acting, I suppose. So just sayin’ for me, I prefer Brian’s approach and he is a good actor. To do what he pulled off in MS is a difficult thing to do in a difficult role (the iconic Kirk). I am not sure even Shatner could be this vulnerable and confused, yet not broken. Shatner tends to keep his pride and gravitas, regardless (good for him), but he never had a chance at this story. Brian Gross retains his dignity and core-Kirk but his character is beyond simple amnesia due to the mind sifter. I loved Brandon Stacy’s Spock, very controlled but seething underneath because of the situation. He was fine again after he recovered Kirk. And he was receiving panicked psychic in-put from Kirk all that time so of course his brow was furrowed. Jeff Bond… Read more »

If memory serves, the Phase II title was used because they were going to update the Enterprise ship, sets, etc. and make it a step closer to the movie look. Then they decided not to.

Anyone else remember this?

Cygnus, I am thrilled! My reply went to moderation. (???)

The New Voyages name will be used if the story is within the original TOS timeline. The Phase 2 name will be used if the story is after TOS .

5. Cignus X-1

“I was taken out of the story by the portrayal of Spock as constantly emotionally distraught”. You mean like Quinto in Star Trek 09 and STID?

9. Anthony Thompson – April 27, 2015

“You mean like Quinto in Star Trek 09 and STID?”

Luckily not so much.

My longer post on Mind Sifter still in moderation?? WHY??

What criteria for a moderation????????

I always enjoyed this story when I read it in the 1970’s fan-fic book “New Voyages” and I was amused when it ended up being adapted by a fan-film production of the same name. I agree that Brandon Stacy is the best Spock of anyone in a fan film.

Excellent review! Thank you, Bill Watters! =)

…really bummed that i missed that screening! =P

I’m on the production team at New Voyages.
There are many layers to this episode, mainly due to the talents of our actors, our director and screenwriter.
I’ve watched it many times and I notice something different everytime.
Mark Edward Lewis, directed, edited and did the sound for this episode.
Watch it in 5.1 if you can, it adds a whole other dimension to the psychic link between Kirk and Spock.
Brandon Stacy, who plays Spock, did a tremendous job this time around. (He always does!)
Mind-Sifter is the 3rd episode for Brian as Kirk, and while you may notice the odd nod to Shatner, he’s making the role his own.
Rivkah Raven Wood was the surprise for me as Hamlin. She was incredible.
Rick Chambers, our screenwriter, did an amazing job of bringing the short story to a filmable script.
We all our very proud of this episode.
Watch it a couple of times, it’s a very layered story.
We all worked hard on it. We hope you enjoy it.

“Mind Sifter” is a thoroughly decent, well-intentioned effort. If it falls short of greatness, it’s because the original short story (published in the mid-’70s, when fans were delighted to get any new Trek at all, in any format) just isn’t as good as we thought at the time. The commentary on the status of women and mental care facilities in the ’50s is welcome, but sparse, and the exaggerated McCoy/Spock conflict in Kirk’s absence, seemingly imported wholesale from “The Tholian Web,” feels pretty forced and formulaic.

I agree with Cygnus that the show could use a little tightening, but excepting some problems with the sound the production values are top-notch as usual. As has been noted elsewhere, Clay Sayre does an awesome job of channeling the late John Colicos as Kor, TOS’ original Klingon. Rivkah Raven also acquits herself well, coming across as less girlish and infatuated with Kirk–a welcome touch–than my memory of the character in the original story. I have to say that I’ll miss James Cawley and his easy rapport with John Kelly’s Dr. McCoy, but his cameo as an Elvis-demented inmate was a real hoot and fitting farewell.

As to Brian Gross, as Mao reportedly opined on the French Revolution, it’s too early to tell. But I found myself touched witnessing the reunion of this new Kirk with his long-lost crew at the conclusion of “Mind Sifter,” and that’s definitely a good sign.

I think Brian Gross is wrong for the role of Kirk. He just doesn’t have the Kirk swagger and delivery of Shatner or Vic Mignogna. And I’m not saying it has to be an impersonation. I don’t think he has the stature and presence of the other two in the role.

@ Jeffrey

Agreed. I just couldn’t get past the distraction of him not seeming much like Kirk.

@ 15 & 16–

Well, maybe. By the nature of the story “Mind Sifter” portrays a very different side of Kirk than we’ve previously seen, so it’s really not fair to compare Gross’s performance thus far against those of Shatner or Mignogna. (How many mental patients suffering from amnesia tend to swagger, anyhow?) But I’d agree that “Mind Sifter” turned out to be a curious choice to introduce a new actor in the role.

Apparently my long comment on “Mind Sifter” is not allowed/still in moderation (?) when it was entirely kind to everyone including Vic and other fan productions. It is ridiculous that it is somehow censored or held up all this time.

I said Vic’s acting is more of an imitation of Shatner than Brian’s is. Brian Gross makes the role his own. Other people just said the same thing. Is this not allowed?

I do not think I used an a$$ word or an @nal word.
Maybe I did but if this is the case, this site really needs to change its moderation criteria.

trekmovie, I need an explanation. Thanks.

18. IDIC Lives

The explanation probably is: “nobody’s home”. So don’t get your panties in a bunch.

Anthony, I won’t get my panties in a bunch if you won’t.

Seriously, several commenters have mentioned being confused and frustrated with the moderation process and/or criteria in general.

It’s automatic — and it’s happened to all of us. I just tested it with the word insur-nce, like what you get on your car. And, yep, it got held.

8. Pyroboy – April 27, 2015

The New Voyages name will be used if the story is within the original TOS timeline. The Phase 2 name will be used if the story is after TOS .

AHHH!!!

Thank you for that!

It’d be great if they could indicate that somehow in the episodes, either with narration or a graphic. That bit of info could add a whole new dimension to the setting and story for viewers!

9. Anthony Thompson – April 27, 2015

“I was taken out of the story by the portrayal of Spock as constantly emotionally distraught”. You mean like Quinto in Star Trek 09 and STID?

Oh, God. Much more so with Quinto. He’s not even playing Spock, but another character who shares his name and likeness. Which is not necessarily the fault of Quinto—he’s a fine actor—but of Orci’s characterization.

IDIC Lives I agree entirely! ” Mind Sifter ” demonstrated the best across the board delivery of all of the fan films. The only one that has better production values is Axanar ( only because they have more money ). While I’m in favor of all of these efforts STC is ok but I find that their Kirk is trying too hard to be like Shatner and I think that’s the wrong approach. For acting, original storyline, and FXs my money’s on STP2.

Quinto seems angry and kind of mean to me in every role he plays, including Spock.

I think some of it’s the writing — he’s young, we get it — but I wonder whether a lot of it is Quinto (everything goes on right there on the surface for him). It’s fine — I don’t think many actors can do what Nimoy did in TOS (convey that there are multitudes below the surface, without just showing everything all the time). Most other actors who play Vulcans end up just seeming wooden, smug and/or constipated. Quinto at least shows some personality.

@ Jack

“Quinto seems angry and kind of mean to me in every role he plays…”

Sounds like he’d be a perfect choice for the lead role in the “I am Not Herbert” biopic that HBO is currently developing.

#23. “He’s not even playing Spock, but another character who shares his name and likeness. ”

Beg to differ…Quinto’s Spock is every bit a logical progression of the young Spock of Yesteryear and the young Spock, spoke of in Journey to Babel. Also, very evident was inner conflict Spock often confronted within himself, throughout the series. Naturally, the character can’t evolve in 4 hours like it did over 79 hours, but it was unmistakably Spock…albeit from a parallel reality, but Spock nonetheless.

@ Jonboc

Agreed. And not only that, but in The Cage, which I remind everyone is canon, we see the younger more emotional Spock that is consistent with the Spock we see in Trek 2009 and STID.

It’s Spock in nuTrek, and the progress from Yesteryear to the young officer in The Cage to TOS main episodes is fully intact and consistent with the Spock of Trek canon.

This is my second favorite ST fanfilm to date. The direction/camerawork in particular reminds me of the late Paul Wendkos, the superb artist behind several 60s and 70s TV shows and telefilms. The teaser alone looks like it came from one of his episodes of Quinn Martin’s THE INVADERS!

#2 haha yea, Kudos the Congratulator!

@30

Yes, Buzz, where he kills you with kindness!

25. Jack – April 27, 2015

Tim Russ did a great job of playing a Vulcan.

He played Tuvok as cold and dispassionate, consistent with the ideological principles of the character’s cultural background, but also with personality coming across. The VOY scripts didn’t make as good use of Russ/Tuvok as they could have, but with what he was given to work with, Russ did an outstanding job, for my money. His exchanges with the overly emotional Neelix, while never realized to their full potential (as was the show in general) gave us brief glimpses of how both of those characters could have been wonderfully utilized, in the hands of good writers. And, still, there were a few brilliant moments of thoughtful humanity that shone through in the dynamic between those two. The episode Tuvix comes to mind.

haha. @Harry. Now that would make an original villain for the next movie!
“Can I tempt you with more chocolate cake, Captain Kirk? *evil chuckle* No, no, it won’t clog your arteries and lead to an early death, sir. That’s just an old wives tale”.

I’m not gong to create the comment again which obviously fell in a black hole, life is too short, but regarding the emotional Spock argument:

Cygnus,
Brandon Stacy’s “Mind Sifter” Spock had furrowed brow because his friend and captain had been kidnaped and it became clear – by Klingons, for gods’ sakes. On top of this, he was receiving psychic input (for lack of a better word), from a very troubled, tortured, nearly insane Kirk. On top of this, Spock could not or did not tell anyone.

In the final scenes, Spock was not furrowed of brow. Brandon Stacy does the best Spock since Nimoy, IMO. (I too have a tad of trouble with Quinto as Spock in general). That last scene of Mind Sifter is so familiar and good.

Prodigal,
to say Spock’s emotionalism in “The Cage” is canon is a stretch. In “Mind Meld” (the production Shatner made with Nimoy and himself discussing Trek and their lives), Nimoy explains he was reacting off Jeff Hunter who was in internal actor, like himself. When Shatner came aboard, Nimoy found his cozy spot because Shatner is an external actor.

Spock took a small while to “find,” according to Nimoy himself. So if one or two “bellows” as Spock responds to Pike on the bridge in the first scene, and a smile here and there, means canon, then–that’s your reality. Not mine.

#31 Harry B.

I wrote a Trek episode wherein the crew is mind-controlled and all demand to go home to Earth, suddenly terrified of deep space travel. It’s not chocolate cake which is an even easier method.

#23: “The Cage.” “Yesteryear.” “Journey to Babel.” He’s in character.

#24 Tiberius

Obviously I agree. :-)

I saw all 4 ST Continues episodes before I saw one New Voyages episode (and/or Phase 2). I was not into fan productions, obviously, until fairly recently.

I like all 4 STC productions a lot. I like Vic and all the others.

But then I watched New Voyages’ “Mind Sifter,” mostly because I served on the Welcommittee with Shirley Maeiwski, we were written friends and met in person twice, had a great time.

I was blown away by “Mind Sifter!” It was like stepping into the lost TOS episode. I was LESS aware that Kirk (my favorite character) was not Shatner than I was with STC.

In other words, just speaking for myself, Brian Gross making Kirk his own, made Kirk real again. (Chris Pine has the same approach as Gross but in my view the world, Brian Gross is better cast as Kirk than Pine is).

Whereas Vic imitating Shatner/Kirk (which is probably just as good acting in its own way), makes me painfully aware he is not Shatner.

In “Mind Sifter,” I found myself living this nightmare with Kirk — not with Brian Gross, not with Shatner, not with Vic, but with KIRK.

One more thing….

I find Jeff Bond of Mind Sifter more than “adequate” as McCoy. I feel he is the best since De Kelley. This is part of the comment which went down the black hole.

27. Jonboc and 28. Prodigal Son, etc.

I was fine with Quinto in STID until he not only needlessly beat Khan (after he had been phasered by Uhura) but took another wack at him after it had been explained by Uhura that he was needed to save Kirk’s life. Spock in TOS often bemoaned the brutality of humans. In STID, he gladly participated!

For that matter Kirk was also needlessly violent in both films (and made to look impotent because he lost every fight!). Hopefully, Pegg will correct the characterizations in the next film.

9. Anthony Thompson – April 27, 2015

“You mean like Quinto in Star Trek 09 and STID?”

Luckily not so much.

Hi.

Well, I don’t think “Mind Sifter” is the best episode from New Voyages, but I believe that it’s because a new cast has been formed, and has not yet gotten its stride. It will be no different from any other professional show that changes its cast, Star Trek franchise included. So, I’m not going to critique this particular episode.

I enjoyed Mind Sifter. It was an interesting story by Shirley Maeiwski, and I enjoyed seeing it translated into a filmed version. All things considered, the New Voyages team did a credible job. I wonder what they could do with “Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited” by Ruth Berman from that same book, but that would probably just be too bizarre a tale to pull off!

So IDIC Lives, you were on the Welcommittee? That was an interesting time in fandom.

#39 Chris Yes, I was, Chris, and yes it was a very dynamic time in fandom. I was in it from 1976 or ’77 to 1981 when I moved to Calif. and got too busy but by that time, the Welcommittee was fading also (or so it seemed to me? I actually need to read up on how long they lasted). I traveled from Florida to San Diego to go to the premiere of ST:TMP with some of them and of course we wore our uniforms (happy nerds/joyous Trekkers). “Of course” mine was Command Gold :-) Shirley was my captain. She received the fan mail from Roddenberry (or his assistant, I assume) and then she shared it out to her underlings like me. I have no idea how many fan letters I answered but– a lot! Fandom and the committee had campaigned vigorously for Trek to return to tv and instead we got the motion picture. Whatever one says about ST:TMP, I have very fond memories of it and its premiere, and in some ways, it is the film most in keeping with TOS’ philosophy. We campaigned for the first space shuttle to be called Enterprise but got the prototype only. And as I always joke, we got a Trek postage stamp. I also wrote a bit of fan fiction – not much because I was busy teaching school and raising my daughter – but my best friend was a leading fanfic writer when fan fic was at its peak;… Read more »

#39 Chris

I answered you but it went to moderation for no discernible reason. if it never shows up, as my other comment did not, I will write it again.

Anthony: Would appreciate you not making a smart “funny” remark this time, my panties are fine.

@ IDIC Lives

Appreciate your opinion on the Spock canon thing. For me, what is on-screen in the TOS is canon, period.

I am not in the slightest saying you do this, but as a general observation of postings on Trekmovie by fans, I have seen many people over the years use “the canon card” to prop up their arguments when it suits them, and then come up with “excuses for canon” when it doesn’t suit their arguments.

This is a decent effort on their part, but it was still hard to get through (as most fan films). The acting, production, sound and editing still have a way to go before they are up to the quality of Star Trek Continues. I do applaud their effort.

I really enjoyed this episode. It was almost like watching an episode of the originals series I’d never seen. THANK YOU to all the people responsible for this.

#42 fansincesixtynine
That’s exactly how I felt regarding “Mind Sifter” – the lost TOS episode! :-)

#39 Chris

Yes I was a member of the Welcommittee from 1976 onward for about 4 years. I don’t know how many fan letters I answered but– a lot.

And, yes, those were dynamic days in fandom.

I wrote more regarding the history of it all, a few details, but that comment is in the same black hole, apparently, as my lost comment yesterday on this same thread. WTF? What a waste of time.

wpDiscuz