Monday, August 11, 2008

The show that just won't die

Life must be getting tedious for poor old Stephen Moffat. Another Worldcon, another Hugo for Doctor Who. Sigh. Year after year, regular as a clockwork assassin.
 
Congrats to Moffat and all that, but what really caught my attention in this year’s awards, was one of the other entrants in the "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form" category: Star Trek New Voyages World Enough and Time. Unless I've missed something momentous, and a new Trek series is airing that no-one told me about, then surely this is a fan production? Is there such a dearth of quality SF programing that the Hugo selectors have stooped to nominating amateur, unlicensed dramatic fanfic?

Obviously I'm being a leetle obnoxious here. Downright bigoted, in fact. And clearly I have missed something momentous, but more on that later. The notion of fan made continuations of classic series is not alien to me. I was introduced to the notion when I stumbled on a virtual sixth season of Babylon 5, back in ‘99, and there have plenty more since.They occupy a ghostly no-man’s land: by no means canon, but not exactly fanfic, either. More often than not, enthusiasm turns out to be a poor substitute for talent, and none of these projects could ever be accused of professionalism or, to be blunt, ambition. My evaluation of these projects’ ultimate worth changed when I discovered Big Finish, who I grudgingly acknowledged did a fine job producing new, fan made Doctor Who after the series ended. Some of the audio adventures - particularly Spare Parts, The Holy Terror and Chimes of Midnight - surpass their parent show in terms of quality. But World Enough and Time is a full, hour length, visual presentation. Offered for free on the internet. Surely it has the words train-wreck, clusterfuck and the well worn phrase, apparently now trademarked by Lucasfilms, "raped my childhood" all over it. It had to be watched.

Well, if I did it, so should you. Tomorrow I’m going to run in front of a bus. World Enough and Time is the third episode in the New Voyages series, and can be downloaded from a number of mirror sites, listed here, along with the previous stories.

Now, enough of the flippancy. The truth is, I wouldn’t be linking to it if I didn’t think it was worth an hour of your time. I watched it, and to say I was surprised would be an understatement. Not only did I feel ashamed for expecting so little, I finished it wanting more. Yes, my feeble, uncharitable preconceptions were well and truly smashed.

Star Trek New Voyages’ mission statement is to chronicle:

the continuing voyages of Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701 as seen in the 1966-69 television series, Star Trek. The series was cancelled after its third season. We are presenting the series as if it were in its fourth year. We acknowledge that the visual effects are contemporary, but we work hard within out capabilities to keep the effects familiar to fans of the original series.

Despite some hair(line)-raising eyebrow acting and one appalling Scottish accent, they succeed. This is a well made piece of drama, deserving of its nomination.

The Enterprise, responding to a distress signal from a ship that has strayed into the Romulan neutral zone, arrives just in time to watch it atomised by three Romulan birds-of-prey, packing a powerful new weapon. The Enterprise retaliates against the Romulans, but after destroying them and their weapon, is trapped within an inter-dimensional shield. Sulu, accompanied by a computer scientist, pilots a shuttle into the wreckage to salvage a means of freeing the Enterprise. However, when the docking bay is destroyed, and the shuttle lost, the Enterprise has to try and beam them back. Only Sulu returns, but thirty years older. Having been shunted into a parallel universe, he’s lived through all that time while only seconds have passed on the Enterprise. Now with a daughter in tow, he must try and recall the knowledge of the Romulan device and save the Enterprise. The price he must pay to do this is almost beyond bearing.

The CGI used in the project is decent, and the script rock solid, with excellent characterisaton, a compelling complication, plenty of alarming reversals and a strong moral dilemma at its core. And the denoument is spot on.

That the script was of a high calibre oughtn’t be surprising, given that the writing credits of Michael Reaves and Marc Scott Zicree could probably shame many of us. Episode two, To Serve all My Days, was penned by the legend that is D.C Fontana, and the upcoming Blood and Fire is by David Gerrold (The Trouble with Tribbles).

I’ve never subscribed to, or properly understood, the fanatical devotion inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s creation, famously described as “Wagon Train in space,” but anything that can drive any group of people to create such a high quality, clearly demanding labour of love, and then offer it up for free, has to have been a worthwhile endeavour. Roddenberry, and everyone attached to this series, and its various “sister” projects, can be proud of their achievements, and their greatly appreciated altruism.

5 comments:

  1. I'm a bit late with this, but I just wanted to point out that there are no 'Hugo selectors' as such - the Hugo is awarded by fans (people attending WorldCon - this year in Denver - or who have supporting memberships to it). The people who attended/supported the previous year's Worldcon vote for what gets on to the shortlist.

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  2. I LOVE the site. I'm on it all the time now. It's one of the most helpful things I've ever found on the internet.

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  3. I know you're never around anymore, but just wishing all the best for 2009!

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  4. just wanted to give a huge thanks for your TV scripts site.

    great resource!

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