OH MYYYYY!! (in classic George Takei voice). Has it really been over six months since I’ve published anything here? I do tend to let time get away from me every so often so, I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Nevertheless, any readership I’d developed has probably long since abandoned me. I wouldn’t blame them. My last few entries of 2011 made more than a passing reference to my opinion that there was little new or exciting to blog about in the world of Star Trek.
Additionally, my finances have taken a severe beating since last year so there will be no visit to the Las Vegas Creation Star Trek Convention this summer. That sad fact alone has contributed greatly to my utter depression and lack of motivation where Star Trek is concerned. I’m also not a huge fan of the J.J. Abrams reboot so any news and tidbits on the forthcoming theatrical release of the sequel do absolutely nothing for me.
Yet, there is always something to stimulate the interest of an aging Trek fan. One simply must know where to look. In this case, it’s Star Trek: The New Voyages. While the 1960s era Captain Kirk and company may no longer appear on our television screens, their adventures continue and have done so for some time now. Step into the Wayback Machine with me as we explore in greater depth:
The year was 1976 and the now classic original Star Trek TV series had been off the air for seven years. Its animated Saturday morning spawn was also gone by this point and the major motion picture version was still three years away. Of course, the public was clamoring for new Star Trek stories so, while Roddenberry and his people futilely attempted to develop a new Trek TV show, fans took to writing their own tales, many of which are quite good. Some of them are so good, in fact, that Bantam Books released a collection of them in paperback entitled Star Trek: The New Voyages. There were two copies in my house within days after it hit the shelves (yes, my brother and I each had to have our own). Not only were the short stories in this book finely crafted, many of them included introductions penned by actors from the Star Trek TV series. Awesome!!!
My hands-down favorite story from the aforementioned paperback is a little gem called “Mind Sifter”, written by the late Shirley S. Maiewski. The piece details the events that take place after James Kirk is captured by the Klingons and they’ve used their dreaded interrogation device, the mind sifter, on him. Still alive, his mind hopelessly ravaged, the Klingons determine that he should be disposed of in the past where no one from Starfleet can come looking for him. So, they take Kirk to the planet of the Guardian of Forever and send him hurtling back to 1950s era Earth, where he ends up in a mental institution. The action in the story takes place as he tentatively befriends a female orderly there and then it shifts periodically to the equally tense environment aboard the Enterprise as Spock is forced to give up his search for his friend and assume command of the ship permanently. I won’t give away any other plot details here. The story is excellent – I highly recommend it.
Fast Forward 28 years. All of the Star Trek films had been released and there was little hope of Paramount making any more. All of the follow-up TV series had run their course save “Star Trek: Enterprise” which was shortly to be cancelled. I was feeling many of the same feelings of disappointment and depression that I am right now (at least in terms of my beloved Star Trek and the dismal prospects for its future). The brother I mentioned earlier was over for a visit and he made an offhanded comment about Star Trek fan films. Although I still owned my copy of The New Voyages and numerous other fan-fiction books, it had never occurred to me that there might also be fan-produced Star Trek films. How could I find them? Where would they be distributed? Then it hit me… THE INTERNET!!!
There are actually several very worthy projects run by fans and they have produced some very enjoyable films. The best, however (IMHO), is Star Trek: The New Voyages (a.k.a Star Trek – Phase II). Interestingly, the two names by which this project has been known since its inception are the same as the title of the fan-fiction book and the aborted new TV series I mentioned above, respectively. Paramount Pictures, which owns the rights to the Star Trek franchise, has even allowed this group of fans – headed by Mr. James Cawley (who also portrays Kirk) to use the Trek name, logos, etc. Since 2004, they have produced about ten episodes, most of which are available for viewing at their official website.
Most interestingly, however, is the fact that they are currently producing an episode entitled “Mind Sifter”. A little research on my part has uncovered the fact that, just prior to her passing away, the author of the original tale gave the New Voyages production crew her blessing to shoot a film version her splendid story. Needless to say the curiosity is killing me! I hope they manage to get the episode finished in a timely fashion and maintain the quality and love they’ve exhibited in their previous efforts. Even if they don’t (they are always short on cash and soliciting donations from other fans to help cover their costs), the simple fact that they’ve elected to take on the “Mind Sifter” story has renewed my interest in reading some of the original fan fiction. So therein lies the enjoyment of Star Trek that I’d thought was waning. It always comes back – it’s just a question of how and from where. 😉