During a time of paranoia and fear, when friends can easily turn against each other and an entire culture can become xenophobic, it takes courage to continue engaging with the world and boldly going where no one has gone before. That battle between hope and fear, the struggle to keep exploring even when suspicion and distrust suffuse the air we breathe, is the prominent theme of the latest high-profile Star Trek fan film, the two-part Pacific 201.
Written and directed by Eric “EC” Henry, Pacific 201 opens with a memorial service in a Starfleet chapel and an investigation by Starfleet Intelligence. Commander Alisa Vandre (played by Margaret Herbener, who also served as the film’s line producer) is haunted by the events she has recently experienced but must answer difficult questions about how her captain, her ship, and many of her crew members were lost.
Flashbacks follow the crew of the U.S.S. Pacific (NCC-201), a Starfleet science vessel investigating a mysterious planet in the year 2200, after the end of the Earth/Romulan War. While Commander Vandre and Science Consultant Lt. Lucy Rader (Lindsey Williams) are making potentially exciting breakthroughs on this planet, they must suddenly evacuate when the planet’s anomalous energies begin to threaten the ship. The evacuation is an exciting action sequence that comes almost seven minutes into the film, livening up the sedate pace—especially when their distress call is answered by a Romulan vessel.
The 38-minute crowdfunded film makes excellent use of the nearly $32,000 that was raised. The story is ambitious, the production design is top-notch, and the visual effects, props, music, and costumes are excellent. The look of the film is probably its most successful feature. The uniforms, featuring nautical sweaters with mission patches and Starfleet insignia patches and division colors lining the shoulders, look like present-day Royal Navy’s “woolie pullies” with a Star Trek: Enterprise flair.
Scenes are filled with new ships, original Romulan and Starfleet capital ship designs, and new shuttles as well. The Pacific herself is a handsome vessel, bringing a modern-day naval feel to the essential Starfleet components. The visual effects are well done and feature a few surprising elements for a fan film, including the compositing of actors and sets into ship windows, even in closely shot sequences. We get extended views of early 23rd-century Earth, both in Starfleet and civilian locations. Some bits show the seams of a low-budget production, but many scenes would stand up proudly in a mainstream television production. The handheld props have attractive new designs, some with professionally inset computer graphics.
The sets are small but serviceable, with an emphasis on physical buttons and switches; the engine room of the Pacific is particularly good. But close inspection again reveals the budgetary restrictions the production labored under. My favorite set-related bit was for a scene where a crewmember uses a pair of binoculars to locate the Romulan vessel from a sort of conning tower with large windows because the sensors were down. Because… why not?
The music is excellent, and includes a choral rendition of the Federation Anthem (only heard in canon during one episode of Deep Space Nine) to which Henry has attached poetic lyrics, forming a moving “Starfleet Hymn.” The sound mix has a few dodgy sections and there are occasional microphone issues, but the areas where Pacific 201 has the roughest go of things are with the acting and the pacing of the film.
The film’s lead, Margaret Herbener, is able to bring genuine emotion to scenes where she gets to move around some and is at her best in Part Two, but she loses energy during the glacially slow interrogation scenes at Starfleet Intelligence, of which there are too many. Conversations follow the standard two-shot over-the-shoulder back and forth style of editing and directing with little variation. Lindsey Williams does a fine job as Lt. Rader, and Luke Leone (who also serves as one of the film’s music composers) is good as Geoffrey Lawrence. But the rest of the cast performs about on a par for most fan films, with more enthusiasm than subtlety.
Fan films are all about love for the source material, and Pacific 201 has that in spades. Clearly, cast and crew gave their hearts and souls to make an ambitious and thoughtful Star Trek story. As with all fan films, certain parts work better than others, but the overall package is a fun and interesting tale of adventure, science, and hope.
Watch Pacific 201
Behind the scenes on Pacific 201 with EC Henry
Pacific 201 seems to have as a theme the need to go beyond fear as a motivator. How do you feel that theme resonates in our world today? Are there other themes you hope fans will pick up on in the film?
I think in general, Star Trek is strongest when it appeals to basic, universal human issues. And I think the themes of Pacific 201 are timeless and applicable to a variety of scenarios. When I wrote the script five years ago, it seemed to be speaking to certain issues that were pertinent in 2015. And it’s amazing to see how the themes only became MORE relevant in 2020. It’s my hope that even in 2025, or 2030, the message is still meaningful, regardless of current events.
What was the most exciting aspect of making this film for you?
I think building and shooting on a physical, 360-degree bridge set was definitely the most exciting aspect of production. It’s amazing how transportive something like that can be. One moment, you’re in a bare garage with a concrete floor and the next moment you’re standing on the bridge of a starship. It’s really exciting and super satisfying to know that you had a hand in building it from nothing.
The Pacific is a ship design with strong ties to Trek design lineage but certainly has its own feel, as well. The solid bussards, the cool blue lighting color scheme, the abundance of greebles that look functional. What was important to you about the ship designs in Pacific 201?
The two main influences behind the design of the Pacific were NASA and the Navy. So you’ll see a healthy blend of both International Space Station and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in there. And that goes beyond mere aesthetics because it actually illustrates an underlying issue that the story addresses: the tension between the scientific and the military roles of Starfleet. The Pacific is both a warship and a science ship. What are the difficulties in harmonizing that approach? What were the obstacles that Starfleet needed to overcome to arrive at the happy medium that they seem to have found later in their history? Pacific 201 explores that issue a bit, and I think it was important to carry that theme into the design of the movie as well.
Part One starts off at a funeral for crew members lost in the Pacific’s most recent mission. It features a lovely song of mourning. Was that an original song, or had you found it during the course of production? How important was music to the making of P201?
The melody is actually from Deep Space Nine, where it’s presented as (presumably) the Federation Anthem. I thought it would be interesting to add some historical context to the piece, by retroactively making it the “Starfleet Hymn” inspired somewhat by the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”—and using lyrics from the poem that President Ronald Regan quoted after the Challenger disaster in 1986. That poem, called “High Flight,” was written by John Gillespie Magee, and had some beautiful lyrics that fit quite well with the melody from Deep Space Nine:
“And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
Some might have a bit of an issue with us using such a religiously oriented piece, but I think there are a number of reasons why it fits. After all, Kirk’s Enterprise had a chapel in TOS, and Scotty played “Amazing Grace” at Spock’s funeral. These religion-tinged ceremonies are clearly not forgotten in the future of Star Trek, and I thought it would be interesting to explore that often forgotten aspect of canon.
The uniforms in Pacific 201 have a sort of Royal Navy-meets-NX-01 feel to them. Who designed the uniforms? What was important to you about the uniform design?
I designed the uniforms, but “design” is a bit of a strong word. They’re essentially “wooly pullies” with NX-style division stripes on them. Which was kind of a eureka moment for me, because I was drawing dozens of different designs, and not liking any of them. Turns out the ultimate design was the simplest one. It almost perfectly bridged the gap between ENT and early TOS, and the moment I made a digital mockup of the concept, I knew I had found the right design.
How does Pacific 201 work within the CBS fan film guidelines?
From the very beginning of production, Pacific 201 was pretty much already following the principles that would later show up in the official CBS fan film guidelines. That is, even when we weren’t obligated to, we were already setting Pacific 201 apart from official Star Trek. We had completely new ships, uniforms, characters, an unexplored time period, and we never called it “Star Trek”— it was always Pacific 201 from the very beginning. So when the guidelines hit… the main problems that they caused for us were with runtime. Our script was about an hour long, and we had to cut it in half to abide by the guidelines. And… that was probably a blessing in disguise. It forced us to reconsider what the core of our story was, and strip away all the unnecessary fluff. I think the final story was actually stronger for it.
You do fantastic videos on YouTube working through some of the more arcane details about Star Trek and Star Wars, among other things. What appeals to you about the Star Trek universe? What was your first exposure to Trek? What made you a fan? What is your personal favorite Trek?
Thanks! I love making videos like that, and I’m glad you like them too! It’s really hard for me to nail down exactly what it is about Star Trek that grabs me. There are so many compelling angles — the characters, the world, the themes, the rich decades-long history… all of these things contribute to my love of Star Trek. And of course, I grew up with Star Trek. I can’t even remember the first time I watched it; it’s essentially always been a part of my life, so I’m sure that contributes to my lifelong love of the franchise. I think after all these years, TOS holds the dearest place in my heart. All the ideas were so new and fresh, and it remains an awesome source of inspiration — and perhaps our chief source of inspiration for Pacific 201.
For more visit pacific201.com and EC Henry on YouTube.
Find more news and analysis on Star Trek fan productions at TrekMovie.com.
Looks great!!! Wow, looks better than TNG and TOS effects.
Love the bridge!! Love the Horatio Hornblower in space feel and some thought out starship combat/classes, etc. You really feel like Starfleet is just starting to explore the galaxy too.
Makes me wonder what ENT could have been if they followed through on the concept – SpaceX Star Trek out of Montana, with a rebuilding divided Earth, primative tech, no subspace comms, no phasers on stun, nuclear missiles/lasers, the Romulans trying to conquer us, Klingons trying to kill us, Vulcans think we are illogical, Andorians think we are pushovers, first contacts gone wrong, etc. I always thought the first episode should have been Archer trying to find Cochrane (who had moved to the Matriarchal Alpha Centauri and set up a trade deal to help rebuild Earth) only to stumble upon a Vulcan science ship captured by one of the last of the Vegan Tyranny robot ships.. Vulcan command thinks a rescue would be irrational with lives lost, Archer rescues it but loses his ship in the process. The Vulcans raise and eye brow at the rescue of their crew by these misfits and give them the science ship.
Also makes me want a Starfleet Battles fan film with that well thought out time line.
One has to ponder if the future for Wagon Train to the Stars / Horatio Hornblower in space is a new “fan” Youtube series thought out.. start with a SpaceX like team in Texas and go from there.
Outstanding! The film looks great. I really like the story/sequence and the special effects. This is a lot of hard work, congratulations to these fans! (^_^)v
I LOVE the ship designs. They fit in really well with how I’d imagine Starfleet vessels transitioning from the designs of the Enterprise era to Discovery/pre-TOS era. Also, kudos to the set, costume and prop designers as well as the sound editors for their efforts.
The acting…well, yeah…not so great, but it is a fan production, and they’re putting in an honest effort, which earns them a lot of credit. All in all, one of the better fan films I’ve seen in quite a while.
Wonderful VFX, sets and costumes, as is the usual lately for these productions. Variable greenscreen and acting, also par the course. But good on them for this, looks like they had so much fun!
This is neat! Great job. I LOVE the ship designs and SFX. Truly a believable link between ENT and any incarnation of 23rd century stuff (TOS / KT / DSC). It also has a bit of a traditional 50s vibe.
The main actress is Irish, isn’t she? I loved most of the acting. It doesn’t have to be 100% professional. None of us act professionally staged in real life.
Keep them coming. Good fan films such as New Voyages, Continues, First Frontier and this are always welcome…
Looks FANTASTIC, but they just do not seem to understand audio processing for motion pictures, especially for voice-to-microphone situations. Either that, or they are using the wrong mics.
Adored everything about this sans some of the acting. I won’t dock points on that — it’s not fair to a fan film, a labor of love often helmed by folks who simply are not actors. I will admit, however, that the spottier cast members did detract somewhat from my personal enjoyment.
Again, everything else rocked!
If it helps, you could put that down to a transporter malfunction – maybe someone just beamed them up spotty. (Sorry.)
Great effects! Flat, subpar acting and bad audio, but I guess that’s normal for fan films.
It truly is amazing to see what a handful of committed fans can accomplish with thirty thousand dollars. Very impressive indeed and well done!
The design in this is dope. I couldn’t get into the story (I like my Trek stories on the weirder side) but the look of the ships in this makes me salivate. It’s kind of what I wanted Star Trek Discovery to look like.
This is a VERY white future. The ships are more realistic than the almost total whiteness of the cast.
Yes, shame on the filmmakers for not finding enough volunteer actors with the right skin color to make people like you happy.
Yes. White supremacy (even the casual racism of only really showing white faces) doesn’t make me happy – and it ruins, complicates and denigrates the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. If Roddenberry, 55 YEARS AGO, could make a show with a diverse cast and repersentation, why can’t these fans do the same over half a century later? Showing a world that is almost ALL WHITE FACES on a planet with mostly non-white people is an absurd choice. And it’s a choice that stands in conflict with the core principles of equality the show has embodied since the start. Just curious, have you ever even watched Star Trek? You ignorantly think it is about “skin color”. It is about systematic oppression. This is something that is obvious to even average IQ individuals. Sad you can’t see that.
Luke, I can see that you’re the self-appointed PC Police Chief. Do you actually believe that these fans ‘oppressed’ anyone? And that they are ‘white supremacists’? Did they close their production to volunteers of color? Folks like you are tiresome.
This is a fan film. Fan films are made by people who are friends with each other. It is possible they may even be using relatives. If it were a professional production where actors are hired, it is possible you could have an issue.
Turning every aspect in life into some example of “systemic” racism makes it far more difficult to address actual racism. A group of friends got together and made a Star Trek movie. If it offends you that these friends all have the same skin color, that is your problem to deal with.
It’s been in development for years. The final product for part 1 was a little disappointing, with some bad acting even for a fan production. Great CG though.
Hopefully part 2 is better.
Except for the captain of the other starship. Did you actually watch the video
I enjoyed watching this film. The acting is good, and quite a bit better than I’ve seen in some other productions. The sets and the ship designs look very believable for the era the story is set in.
I like some of EC Henry’s youtube videos, but seeing his ego on display in earlier videos teasing this project really turned me off from it.
Why, oh why doesn’t Viacom/CBS give these guys money to do a Star Trek series is beyond me.
Wow!! I really enjoyed this.
LOVE the design of the Pacific. It definitely felt very appropriate for the post-ENT era. The detailed model itself looked great.
The uniforms, the bridge design, the effects, the scene transitions…all really impressive.
Considering that the cast were not professionals, and might have had little/no acting experience before this, I also have to commend them on a job well done. A really solid effort in bringing the characters to life.
I particularly enjoyed the story. I felt it really highlighted the potential dangers of space travel, and I liked the fact that it was the situation itself (as much as an adversary) that caused this danger. I felt it really captured the ‘feel’ of being a part of those early years of deep space exploration.
The theme/message held true to what Star Trek has always represented, and the note of optimism (even amidst tragedy) on which it finished was perfect.
The fact that they managed all this for less than $32,000 is quite remarkable. I’m already imagining what they might have achieved with two/three/four times this budget.
All in all, a fantastic effort that went far beyond what I was expecting when I hit ‘play’.
Can quite easily see myself enjoying repeat viewings.
I hope everyone involved is really proud of their efforts. Great work!
(and thanks to Trek Movie for highlighting this too)
Anyone else getting a Star Blazer vibe from the tower between the nacelles? It look great!
Yes, yes I did :)
This is a damn fine fan film for sure!
I’ll be honest, this is probably the most inspired take on Star Trek I’ve seen in quite some time. Well done.
If you’re being sarcastic: Good post, quite witty!
If you’re serious: Good post, how very true!
Sorry but that was terrible.
It very different = very interesting. Definitely rough around the edges but minus that where would be the appeal? Star Trek Discovery is polished and predictable which
is exactly why I bypass it completely. I hope the Captain Pike series adopts this style
The execution may not be perfect – but the premise and universe is far and away more intriguing than anything on TV right now
The SpaceX starship tests are pretty good on YouTube (complete with nail biting drama) feels just as Star Trek as this fan film… which I think is a testament to how good this fan film is.
This was really good. Special effects were very very good. Acting was better than other fan films. The only nit that I have is that the storyline was great in part 1 but seemed to lack an interesting conclusion for part 2. Overall the look and feel was excellent and I hope they do more episodes
I have the feeling that the new fanfics guidelines them off.
Wonder what this team will do next? Why not do an original sci-fi series on YouTube now??!?
Yikes, my phone is bad. I have the feeling that new fan film guidelines sent them off track for Part 2.
Wonder what this team will do next? Why not do an original sci-fi series on YouTube now??!?