Review of “The Captains Of The Final Frontier” Bio Documentary

Wednesday night the Bio Channel airs their new Star Trek documentary, The Captains of the Final Frontier. TrekMovie has got an early look, check out the review below. Bio is also planning a full night of Star Trek-related programming, details on that below too.   

 

Review: The Captains of the Final Frontier
documentary airing on Bio Channel Wednesday November 3rd, 9 PM

During the past 44 years, especially after the proliferation of cable channels, there have been many television documentaries (and just as many texts) devoted to the subject of the making of Star Trek. And after seeing them all, after a while, the behind the scenes stories and trivia can often become repetitive. How many times are we going to be told the story of how fans saved Star Trek during its second and third seasons? You may be expecting more of the same with Bio’s new The Captains of the Final Frontier, but it turns out it to be a surprisingly refreshing take on the history of Star Trek, told through examinations of each of the captains, with many new nuggets of trivia and interesting stories.

The Captains of the Final Frontier is a well organized and imaginative look at Star Trek’s greatest characters. The two-hour documentary (including commercial breaks) has an interesting style and organizational structure. It begins with a quick history of the franchise for the uninitiated, but it doesn’t get bogged down and quickly moves on to its look at each of the Star Trek captains, starting with Kirk, then sequentially through Picard, Sisko, Janeway, Archer, and Kirk again (from the 2009 Star Trek movie). While a bit more time is devoted to Kirk and Picard, each captain is given a fair share of the time and discussion.


Bio cards intro each section covering a Star Trek captain

The entire show is narrated and includes clips and stills (including behind-the-scenes), but the bulk of the doc consists of commentary from a pantheon of Star Trek experts. The list is impressive, and includes actors like Kate Mulgrew, Bruce Greenwood, Tim Russ, Anthony Montgomery, Nana Visitor, Dominic Keating, Denise Crosby, and Vaughn Armstrong. Also included is a number or Star Trek writers and producers, including Rene Echevarria, Rick Berman, Nicholas Meyer, Ira Steven Behr, Manny Coto, Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens along with Trek novelists, non-fiction writers and other experts such as Mike & Denise Okuda , David R. George III, Kirsten Beyer, Keith R.A. DeCandido,  David Mack, Marco Palimieri, Geoffrey Thorne, Larry Nemecek and Rod Roddenberry.

While the presence of William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Scott Bakula, or Chris Pine would have been nice, the included commentary is interesting and occasionally funny enough that The Captains of the Final Frontier doesn’t suffer too much for their absence. In fact, it is fascinating to watch actors from one version of Star Trek comment on characters or storylines from other versions of Star Trek and seeing people like Rick Berman or Kate Mulgrew again was a bit like visiting with old friends that you haven’t seen in a while.


Rick Berman, part of the impressive array of commentators in "Captains of the Final Frontier"

Each of the captain sections is broken into similar chapters, such as “Taking the Helm” or "Command and Control" or “For Love or Duty” or “Endgame”. These are a great way to allow the viewer to make connections and comparisons between the various captains. For example, the “Captain 2.0” chapter looks at how different captains were reinterpreted during their tenure: such as Kirk in the movies, or Sisko shaving his head and getting a goatee (and the Defiant). Another fun feature of the documentary are "tote boards", tallying up various scores for each captain (such as how many romances they had, see example below), and also there are some pop-up boxes sprinkled throughout the doc which include good facts and information.


Tote board tallies up Kirk’s and Picard’s loves

What is especially great is that the documentary deals with the "real" and the "reel" of each of Star Trek captains. The real discussions feature how and why each of the actors were cast in their roles, including interesting insights into the creator’s inspirations, ideas for different names, and what other actors were originally considered. For example, Rick Berman talks about how he originally considered Alexander Siddig for the role of Sisko after seeing him appear older (and bearded) in another film – not realizing he was just 24 when he showed up for the audition. The Captains of the Final Frontier documentary discusses how real world events affected the storylines and characters. The reel side of the documentary comes in the form of a discussion of the captains’ biographies and adventures. This duality of The Captains of the Final Frontier as both a “behind the scenes” and “on the television screens” documentary is successfully engaged and is a welcomed change of pace from previous documentaries about Star Trek.

All that being said, the  documentary is not perfect. There are a few trivia errors, like listing Anthony Montgomery’s character as "SGT. Travis Mayweather", or poor editing choices, like showing a picture of a fan dressed as Seven of Nine while discussing Trek’s popularity in the early 90’s (years before the character was introduced). In fact, the documentary really over-uses the tired notion of using pictures of costumed fans to represent Trekkies. More egregious is the rather frequent use of bad language. Because of Star Trek’s nature and its usually tame language, I would imagine a few parents would not be expecting some of the frank language in the documentary, including some bleeped words (especially from Ira Behr). This language doesn’t make The Captains of the Final Frontier any hipper and can become a distraction that can that takes the viewer out of the moment and the emotion of the documentary.


"SGT"? – maybe in the mirror universe

However, the few problems are minor and don’t dampen the overall quality and originality. It is no small feat for any documentary about Star Trek to be refreshing in style and substance, and to offer new information about the show, and The Captains of the Final Frontier offers all this. I think any fan will enjoy this show, especially considering how all the captains are given mostly equal time and constantly referred to throughout when comparisons are made (including Chris Pine’s new Kirk). In sum, The Captains of the Final Frontier is smart and fun, offering new facts and new ways of thinking about some of our favorite characters. My wife Mary Jo, also a fan, suggests and hopes that Bio Channel will continue to produce these style of documentaries based on more of the characters from Star Trek, with the next episode being The First Officers of the Final Frontier. How about it Bio?


Preview of "Captains of the Final Frontier"

Bio’s Night of Star Trek docs

The Bio Channel is dedicated it’s entire evening to Star Trek-themed programming, with past Star Trek documentaries airing before and after their new Captains of the Final Frontier special. Here is the full schedule (all times Eastern):

  • 6 PM (2 hour):  Star Trek: Beyond The Final Frontier – 2007 doc hosted by Leonard Nimoy, covering Trek franchise and set around Christies Star Trek Auction originally aired on History Channel

  • 8 PM: Star Trek: Captain’s Log – 1994 TOS-focused doc hosted by William Shatner, originally aired on CBS shortly before release of Star Trek: Generations

  • 9 PM (2 hour): The Captains of the Final FrontierNEW doc (reviewed above)

  • 11 PM: Biography "William Shatner" – 1998 episode of A&E series Biography focusing on William Shatner

More docs coming: Shatner’s “Captains” and Roddenberry’s “Trek Nation”

One Star Trek documentary we know we have in our future is William Shatner’s The Captains, which will take a look at each of the actors behind Star Trek’s captains. The doc is expected to air on TV in Canada in 2011 (and hopefully elsewhere). Shatner is still working on project, and TrekMovie will do an update when there is more news. 

The other Star Trek related doc is Rod Roddenberry’s Trek Nation, which he has been at work on for years. In April Roddenberry Productions announced it was finished, and they are currently looking for film and/or DVD distribution.

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Never seen in the UK this type of program :-(

Ensign RO- (Short for Roland)

Thank you for this review, Mr. Tenudo. It sounds like a very interesting documentary to me. I have seen many (if not all) of the Trek documentaries and have to agree with you concerning the repetitiveness, etc. I guess I will have to get myself to a friend’s house on Wednesday evening. I don’t have the BIO channel. Thanks again for this article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

No love for Pike?

Does anyone know if this is going to be placed on the Bio channel’s “On Demand” section for next day viewing and limited commercial interruption?

Glad you added that bit at the end, John. For a second, I was thinking this was Shatner’s “The Captains” and was baffled that he wasn’t in it!

Any idea where this can be watched online for international trekkies?

This looks fantastic! How I wish I got the Bio Channel!

The show is today November 3rd not February 3rd. But I think everyone has figured that out! ;-)

Hopefully CBS will include this on a future DVD. Maybe another Fan Collective or Best of compilation. Some added incentive in such a purchase, if this gets included as an extra.

#1. Well, a version of Bio Channel does air in the UK. They don’t have this particular program in their listings for the immediate future, but presumably it will cycle around at some point.

http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/home.html

Odd that Shat wouldn’t pop in on a show on a network where he’s airing a show.

I’d love to steal this… er, see this. I hope it’s on the net.

“bio.true story”

no. fiction. fic. tion.

Wait …

None of the captains themselves are in this?

My interest just plummeted.

12. It’s the age old tale of two Hollywood projects going on, both of which cover the exact same ground.

Shatner’s got to the Captains first, with his documentary – while this was being worked on. So the actors presumably declined, after going through the exact same discussion with the Shat recently.

@ety3 – Kate Mulgrew is in it – she’s apparently the only actor/captain who is. She’s also in the YouTube clip embedded in the article.

Just a heads up for everyone – as I search the listings on my DirecTV today it shows Shatner’s Captain’s Log at 7 p.m. Central and the Captain’s documentary mentioned in this article showing at 8 p.m. Central. Just so people don’t miss it, you may want to check your listings. The 7 p.m. Captain’s Log documentary shows it’s first airing as 11-3-2010. At first I thought they might be showing an old re-run, but I think not. I think they are showing them BOTH tonight! Just FYI.

If it had had ALL the Captains on it, I’d have watched it. However, even though I am a fan of Kate Mulgrew, I think I’ll be giving this a miss.

Rick Berman an old friend? o. k.

Watching it tonight!

Seems sort of redundant to have this doc as well as Shatner’s covering the same material–focusing on the Captains. Like Kayla Iacovino, I thought this was Shatner’s doc.

21 loves for Kirk? I can argue that point. I might be one of the only people who believes Kirk is hardly a playboy, but a very good manipulator of emotions.

But I think I’ll watch this on the weekend if it is on-demand.

I’m not happy it doesn’t have all of the captains, like Pike, or even Spock who has been Acting Captain in both TOS and STXI and eventually in the TOS/TOS movies timeline, gained the rank of Captain.

thanks for the thorough review. but complaints about bad-language (that was bleeped anyway)?

sorry, don’t get this prudishness (since i was born after 1930).

if that’s how Ira chooses to talk, for instance, then it represents his point of view and his personality. maybe you’d like to take the “safe for children” scalpel to ALL of TREK? how about excising all those scantily clothed women (and casual sex)? and let’s immediately cut all of McCoy’s swearing from the TREKfilms?

honestly, i’m a bit stunned, although i’m sure many reasonable TREKfans will agree with the Mr. Tenuto .

21 loves in 79 episodes for Kirk in TOS. I never knew the exact number, but this doesn’t surprise me at all from my personal memory of watching those shows.

And some people complain there is “too much” sex in Star Trek 2009 because Kirk has one brief love scene. lol

Review of the Review: Respectfully Mr. Tenuto, may I suggested proof-reading before posting? There are numerous gramatical errors throughout your review, especially in the next to last paragraph, that make for difficult reading.

According to that trailer, a captain has to have a “nice butt”… so how did Kate Mildew get the job??!

The First Son of Krypton

#3

They interview Bruce Greenwood… so yeah I think they have a love for Pike :p

And at least thats two captains to look forward to

Eh, big deal. We heard all the stories before.

Guys, it’s hardly a tell-all, but I did a TREKLAND post on this yesterday.

This doc was well into planning before I was contacted about being on camera, which turned into a more consulting role… and two months after THAT we heard the PR news about Shat’s project. All five captains were talked to by the network–this was no fly-by-night operation. Besides Kate, Avery agreed, but his schedule kept gumming up the works. The other 2 were very much interested, but yes, in the end swayed by Shatner’s.

As I took it from this, Bill’s is more about the actors’ bios, not the characters/evolution so much.

And oh–“consulting” did not include the chyron titles. :-)

#17

Personally I think Rick Berman did a good job. Deep Space Nine was great, Voyager was not the best but even it had it’s moments, Enterprise was great and two out of four Next Generations movies were great and one was not so bad.

21 and 22 Hello Patrick and Jay Thank you for reading the article and for the comments. Patrick, my unedited review is even more scathing about the bad language although I really enjoyed and recommend the documentary. The bad language is too common and distracting throughout the show, and many of the words are not bleeped. The constant use of some of the swear words, one of which is utilized many times, acts almost like how product placement does in other shows in that it takes the audience out of the emotion and fantasy of the documentary. That was really my concern, not prudishness necessarily. While only my opinion, I felt that Mr. Behr’s comments were occassionally crass to me. Of course, that doesn’t mean Mr. Behr’s comments are crass, just that it was my feeling that the comments were, to me, crass. In no way was I suggested that the documentary be censored or that Star Trek needs to be kid friendly. However, the bad lanuage as my original review discussed even more made the program uneven and takes viewers out of the emotion and vibe of the documentary. Unfortunately for space or pacing, the editors will occassional alter articles which is what happened here. This leads me to Jay’s comment. I appreciate the comment, but what you discuss is the result is the editing process mostly and should be directed to the editors, not the author of the article. Although, certainly, I make plenty of mistakes, those which… Read more »

Oh until I read this review I thought this was Shatner’s ‘The Captains’ documentary. I’m really lookingo forward to that one. But I’m a relatively new ST fan and I’ve never watched any documentary on it before, so this one should be interesting. :D

Thank you for the review. :)

Thanks for the even handed review. some can be overly negative because its not the perfect “Trek” doc THEY would have liked. Or they are overly praising simply because it’s Trek. I like that Bio was willing to put out a Trek Documentary with substance for the very initiated viewer. I may know all the information already discussed in the Doc, but I do like to watch great interviews with the cast and creators of the various shows of the franchise. Good Stuff.

Oh, we’d BETTER be able to see Shatner’s The Captains outside of Canada! I’m in Michigan so I’ll get to see it, but it’s unthinkable that the one documentary that brought together all FIVE Captains would get such a limited airing.

Awesome. Much better than the promo that had the frequent references to posteriors.

#29

John, I’m wondering if you were given an unedited version of the doc? I watched it on Bio tonight and there were very, very few moments when anyone was bleeped. Ira Steven Behr even self-censored when he quoted Patrick Stewart as wanting Picard to have more Fighting and F**king. It just seems odd because you mention it as though there was quite a bit of it, and I noticed very little of it.

Nice doc. I really liked the Sisko segment. One bad mutha—shut your mouth!

#29
Am most gratified, even complimented, that the author took a moment to explain his complaints about some of the cursing by individuals in the documentary. Having not yet viewed the program, it was helpful to have context to understand his concerns. Still, maybe it’s my own use of such wording sometimes, but i rarely find it offensive. Hahaha.

I don’t get the Bio Channel.

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HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
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NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Yeah, I learned that the hard way when I tried to set up the DVR…

For reasons passing understanding, they bleeped one of my lines. Apparently “getting laid” is now bleep-worthy. *boggle* It made my comment actually sound racier than it really was…………..

What the Hell was with the bad video quality of the episodes they used throughout the show? They honestly looked like downloaded YouTube videos.

The Bio show focused on the wrong things. How many hook ups? Who cares. How many fist fights? Who cares. How many *bleep* wedgies? Who cares.

I’d rather look at the special features on the DVD’s or read my Compendium.

That being said, there were some good moments in there.

Not to nitpick, but since the Federation is currently 8,000 light years across, and since Kirk and Picard were on a five-year mission which took the to the far reaches of the Federation, they would have been a member of the quadrillion-mile high club, not the mere million-mile high club. Many quadrillions of miles, actually.

Numerically, that would be the 1,000,000,000,000,000 Mile High Club, or the 10^15 Mile High Club for short.

It was entertaining and yes anything racy was bleeped and there were not that many of them….

I agree the video quality was lousy….Even the scenes they showed from the brand new movie looked crummy…that is the worst I have ever seen any clips from 09 trek look….

Re watching the captains log that was on before it…that was a really well done documentary on tos trek and Shat was a great host for it…

but again the clips looked lousy….especially when ya watch on hi def cuz everything was squished…..

I think the Captains special did talk a bit about each of the captains and captures their interesting and good qualities fairly well done…

bravo Bio MORE please

Oh and John–great job, as always! Whoever got you into Trek “print” first was a genius.

Wasn’t good at all . The making of’s on the DVD sets are far more worth your time and don’t force opinions about the series at you.

#43

Hmmm…who could that be….! Thanks Larry!

I watched pretty much the whole Bio “Star Trek” evening, and, overall, had a good time. I didn’t care so much for the “30 Years and Beyond,” since it was primarily about mostly rich people spending lots of money at the Christie’s auction. If someone has $500,000 to spend on a model of the Enterprise, well, I’m just a little envious.
The “Captains of the Final Frontier” was an enjoyable program, although there wasn’t much new info. However, for someone just beginning to learn about Star Trek, there was enough info here to make them pretty knowledgeable about the Star Trek Captains.
For me, of course, the most satisfying thing to know was, in spite of the fact he only had 79 episodes, Capt. Kirk still stands above the others in all the different categories — most women, most fisticuffs, most first contacts, etc.
Funny how fate worked out for these actors who will all probably be known more for their association with Star Trek than anything else. And that’s a good thing, IMO!

Even though I enjoyed the program, I too was a little put off by most of the unnecessary bleeping and the poor quality of the clips. The one thing that got me was that during one of the interview segments with Nick Meyer, whoever was responsible for the little tag lines described Meyer as the director of The Wrath of Kahn, not Khan. That along with listing Mayweather as a sargeant made me wonder what the hell is going on over at Bio; don’t they use any fact or spell checking?

#47

The thing that bothered me the most was that they said Deep Space 9 was in the Gamma Quadrant. Not quite, Bio channel.

I did really enjoy the show as a whole. It was great to see what some of the inspirations for DS9 stories were. I never knew that Eddington was supposed to be Timothy McVeigh, for example. Also, they did a good job of highlighting the good parts of Enterprise.

I watched the whole show, it was a bit disturbing to see all the spelling errors (especially the on-screen text that said one actor “REPRIEVED” his role instead of reprised) and the same still shots over and over again.

The Bio Channel’s “bleeping” indicates, IMO, that they obviously,\ have not caught up to modern times. Show’s like “Three And A Half Men” use phrases like “get laid,” “kicked in the balls,” etc. all the time, and such lines would never have been heard on tv during the 60’s or 70’s, for example. Most of what was being said during “Captains” really wasn’t so bad…
Wasn’t Kirk’s line “Let’s get the hell out of here,” at the end of “City” one of the first times (if not the first) that the word “hell” was spoken on tv?
In most cases anything goes on numerous cable stations when it comes to Freedom of Speech, and it appears this attitude is gradually creeping into traditional tv stations as well.
I think it’s only a matter of time until Shatner-like shows could actually be called “Shit My Dad Says,” and the F-bomb goes off regularly in CSI-like shows, and so forth.
It’s all about progress, hmm?

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