Irreverent… Risque… Hilarious…

Trek Off Banner Final

A really polite request from a Justin Timpane popped up in the comments over the weekend, asking me if I’d promote a new film/documentary that’s just been released called Trek Off.

I went away and did my research, and after discovering a podcast lamenting the fact there are not enough tattoos, piercings and pink hair on Star Trek, I was sold.  Being heavily tattooed myself, I admit to a bias!

If you are a staunch upholder of everything politically correct, this 79 minute film might not be for you.  If, on the other hand, you completely embrace infinite diversity in infinite combinations (particularly where sense of humour comes into play), you’re going to love how random, hilarious and completely inappropriate this film is.

I loved it.

It’s unexpectedly raunchy in a couple of places… yes, raunchy… and full of laugh out loud moments.

The film surprised me, in so many ways – and all of them good.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as I did.  The fact that the time sped by, and I found myself wanting more was a clear sign Justin and his team have done a great job.

The film features interviews with John Billingsley (Doctor Phlox from Star Trek: Enterprise) and Marc Okrand (the creator of the Klingon language).  One phrase I will never forget, uttered by John, was “Trek Off, bitches!”  Perfect.

My only criticism is the interviews with John and Marc weren’t long enough!

TrekOff is available now to watch on Amazon Prime right here, or you can purchase your own copy from Amazon right here.

TrekOff is irreverently brought to us by Endlight Entertainment and the TrekOff Podcast team.

I’m officially now a fan.

I encourage you to check this film out, and make sure you don’t watch it with your kids nearby… and it might not be suitable to watch at work either, depending on your workplace! It’s light, it’s fun and at times downright silly, it’s incredibly inappropriate and it is in no way your usual Star Trek fare.

After all of the recent angst and seriousness surrounding fan produced content, this is just what the Trek Community needs.

I hope they make a sequel!

If you’d like to read a bit more about the film before watching or buying it, check out the article from

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Star Trek: Axanar Lawsuit Dropped?

Star Trek Axanar Title

At the May 20 special Star Trek event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the science fiction phenomenon, Trek Producer and reboot writer/director J.J. Abrams  announced the end of the lawsuit against Star Trek: Axanar.

As of today, 23 days after the announcement, it still appears this is so, despite some speculation CBS might continue the lawsuit alone.

According to J.J., in his opinion and the opinion of Star Trek fan and Beyond director Justin Lin, a lawsuit was not an appropriate way to deal with any fan.

The fans should be celebrating this thing. We all, fans of Star Trek, are part of this world.

As J.J. filled in the attendees at the special Star Trek event, he mentioned both Paramount and CBS were going to create guidelines for fan films to follow so that a lawsuit would (hopefully) never again divide the powers that be and the community of Trekkers who are all, in their own ways, invested in Star Trek.

Not long after the announcement broke, Alec Peters, the man behind Axanar, attempted to bring together a number of fan film representatives to develop their own fan film guidelines to recommend to Paramount and CBS… but that apparently didn’t go down so well.

Whether well-meaning or not, Alec’s attempts upset some people.

Regardless of what the guidelines might be, it appears Axanar is off the hook and hopefully this means that this much anticipated feature length movie can now finally get made in some form.

As a Star Trek fan and a fan of the films that some Trekkers create, I’m relieved this is finally in the process of being resolved.  The 50th Anniversary of Star Trek should be about all of us celebrating this remarkable collection of films, televisions series’, books, comics, fan films and other fan efforts.  It shouldn’t be about recrimination and accusations, confusion and anger.

Did Peters infringe on the copyright owners of Trek?  Maybe, but at the same time there were no guidelines in place to help him avoid what happened.  Has he infringed in a way that’s different from other fan led productions?  That’s a little harder to work out.  Toward the end of the debate the main focus seemed to come down to merchandise, semantics and the fact he paid himself a wage.

Though many other fan productions have used aspects of the mythology – and some extensively, none have proved to be as contentious as Axanar.  For as many supporters as Peters has, he has managed to gather as many detractors.

All of this beckons the question did CBS and Paramount over react by issuing a lawsuit on Alec and Axanar?  I don’t know.  Part of me thinks they did, part of me, as a professional in the entertainment industry, thinks they acted appropriately to protect their IP, but… I do believe they could have prevented this and the resulting anxiety that ended up permeating the fan film community.  Fan films have been around for a long time, and there has been ample opportunity to put some clear boundaries in place.

I’m afraid no one comes off looking particularly good in any of this, but now, thanks to J.J. and Justin we can move forward.  Hopefully, we can spend the last five and a half months of this year putting these last seven months of uncertainty behind us, and do what we should have been doing all along – celebrating Star Trek together.

If you’d like to read more about J.J.’s announcement and the steps he and Justin Lin went to in their attempts to end this challenging and disruptive period in Trek history, click here for more information from 1701News, or visit Star Trek: Axanar to hear it from the horses proverbial mouth.

If you want to stay up to date on what the new fan film guidelines might be, I recommend you bookmark 1701News and Axanar Productions.  Regardless of how you feel about either of these sites, they have had the best coverage on the lawsuit.  Another site you might want to throw into Google is ‘Axamonitor’ which has been both praised and criticised for its aggregation of news content on the issue.

Now, let’s focus on what’s most important in the Trek community this year…

May Star Trek live long and prosper, and may the upcoming Star Trek Beyond be one of the most successful Trek films in History.

Star Trek Beyond warps into cinemas on the 22nd of July and the film was scheduled for release this year as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration.

Star Trek Beyond was written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, was directed by Justin Lin, and produced by J.J. Abrams.

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An Uncertain Future

Tommy Kraft and the Crew of Discovery with Title Graphic

Executives from CBS have ‘reached out’ to Tommy Kraft, the talented film maker behind the wonderful Star Trek: Horizon, and asked him to not move forward with his plans for a sequel to his fan film.

Encouraged by the response to his first Star Trek effort, which currently has over 964,000 views on YouTube, Tommy had decided to continue the adventures of Captain Harrison Hawke and the crew of the USS Discovery, starting with a Kickstarter that was due to launch today, Saturday the 23rd of April.

The new film was going to be called Star Trek: Federation Rising.

Star Trek Federation Rising

The question on everyone’s lips when the news the sequel to Horizon was not going to happen, was “does the Axanar lawsuit have anything to do with this?”

It appears the answer is yes and that many of our fears for the future of Star Trek fan films are well founded.

It was conveyed that the reason CBS was reaching out to me was due to the legal troubles stemming from the Axanar case. Again, CBS did not have to reach out personally,” Tommy said in a statement on Horizon’s facebook page.  “The message I received felt more like they were giving me a heads up before we got too involved in another project, rather than a group of angry executives swinging a hammer.

Tommy went to great pains to emphasise how relatively gentle CBS were in their attempts to encourage Tommy to cancel his new fan film project – which is great, because it means there is still some respect between CBS and most of the creatives behind the fan films that have kept Star Trek alive these last few years since the premature cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise.

Instead of fundraising for a new Trek fan film, Tommy is instead focusing his considerable creative talent on raising funds for an independent, original science fiction film.

I encourage you guys to visit his Kickstarter and donate to this new production.

Project Discovery

I am deeply disappointed by what has happened, and for the first time I’m feeling genuine anger at the effect Axanar is having on fan films.  I seriously wanted to see another movie with Harrison and Co. in it.  I loved those characters, and I really enjoyed Horizon as a film.  Still, I am very excited at the prospect of this incredibly talented young man creating his own science fiction property.

As we wait on the fate of the Axanar lawsuit, we can only ponder what all of this means for Star Trek: Continues and Star Trek: Renegades.

Let’s hope for the best.

To read more on what’s happened to the Horizon sequel, you can read a great write up over at 1701News.

If you want to learn more about Tommy’s new film, which is called Project Discovery, and if you’d like to donate to the production, visit his Kickstarter here.

I hope Tommy uses the same actors he brought together for Star Trek: Horizon.  He assembled a wonderful cast, and it would be fun to see them all together on screen again.

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Star Trek Axanar Update

Star Trek Axanar 3

I have been trying to avoid posting about Star Trek: Axanar because of the furor that has sprung up around it both legally, and in fandom.  However, in revisiting old posts a few days ago, I saw that I had promised to, so here goes.

Simplest explanation of it all?  It’s a mess.

The lawsuit is still pending, and there has been so much comment on what has unraveled since various documents started coming out, that it’s very hard to know where to start.

Do we just look at it as a legal issue, do we explore it as fans, or do we look at it solely from the perspective of what it might mean for other fan productions?

I don’t know.

So, I’m just going to look at it from a personal perspective.

Axanar is something I’ve been looking forward to for some time, I donated money to it, I followed it’s development with great interest, and I sat in awe through Prelude to Axanar (the short film made to promote the concept for a potential longer form fan film) and was so excited for what it showed and the promise held within the idea.

After Prelude, it felt like news on the production of the feature slowed down, and it also felt like the dialogue around the production changed.  I might be wrong, but I remember it being referred to as a fan film, but somewhere along the line it became something else.

Late last year I started to look into it all, because I was wondering what was going on.  Then the lawsuit from Paramount Pictures and CBS happened and I was stumped.  Obviously something had been happening since Prelude was released… and obviously some people weren’t happy about it!

Historically, Paramount and CBS have allowed (tolerated?) fan productions without issue, but the lawsuit filed by both companies suggests Axanar crossed a line no other fan film had crossed.  Then this year news starting popping up that a producer had drawn a salary from fan raised money and things started to get nasty.

It’s important to note that in some fan productions in the past, professional actors, directors and other creative staff have been paid – which is a legal requirement in some countries.  I’m not up on how that works in America, but in Australia it depends on the nature of the employment and the type of production.  We all do freebies as actors in Australia, but usually only for mates and for student productions.

Axanar was promoting itself as a professional production which appeared to infringe on the Star Trek trademark and would definitely require a lot of people get paid a wage.

The rub, for Paramount and CBS, seems to be the word ‘professional’.  They’ve also listed a variety of other issues with Axanar including the use of characters, ship classes and the use of Star Trek languages.

For the fans, the issue seems to be “what did our money go to?”

I don’t know what to say about any of it, because I naively trusted everyone behind the production and I hope that my faith in them is eventually upheld.

I have always thought that as Trek fans we’re a community, and a very beautiful one.  I’ve been overseas a couple of times, and have bonded with complete strangers in other countries over Star Trek, its philosophies and how it has inspired us.  To me, it’s always been this special thing that brings people together.  As fans we do sometimes get into crazy arguments over which is the best Trek film or series, who the best captain is, and there are some of us who like to debate the more esoteric aspects of our favourite show – but we support each other and the various fan efforts that are out there, and we don’t set out to deceive each other.

Did the people behind Axanar set out to deceive a bunch of trusting fans?  I don’t know.  I hope not.  I’m definitely deciding to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Star Trek Axanar - Alec Peters, Kate Vernon, Richard Hatch

Until the truth comes out in the wash, if you’re interested in following the unfolding drama, I highly recommend you go to the actual official site for Axanar and these two excellent Star Trek sites that have been following the developments behind this historic lawsuit: Michael Hinman’s excellent 1701News (Michael has been following the lawsuit closely and has a number of informative articles on his site), and the brilliant TrekZone, an Australian Star Trek site that has also been following the Axanar production (Matt Miller, the man behind TrekZone, recently scored an insightful interview with Alec Peters, one of the driving forces behind Axanar).

Star Trek: Sentinel won’t be following the Axanar issue.  I’ll report on it once there’s a resolution, but until then I want to stay out of the argument.  As a donor to the project I have a vested interest in seeing the film made, but as long time fan of Trek, I also want to see the copyright of the brand respected.  So, I’m torn and as far as I’m concerned there are more than enough voices in the mix.

As a Star Trek fan who adores the fanfilms that have sprung up over the years, I hope this lawsuit doesn’t affect any other productions in the future.  They’re a very special part of Star Trek and one I hope isn’t tarnished or completely destroyed by this lawsuit.

EDIT/UPDATE (April 12 2016 – Australia/April 11 2016 US):

A big thank you to Kabalyero ( for a question that prompted me to be a little more comprehensive with the information I was sharing on the Axanar issue.

There’s a well researched site called AxaMonitor which has possibly the most comprehensive coverage on the Axanar lawsuit issue to date.  Is it objective?  You decide.  To check it out, click here.  For the other half of the argument, please make sure you visit the official Axanar website and read their side here.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, this is an historic issue that will have far reaching consequences for television and film production, and fanfilm production in particular, and it’s important we are all as informed as we can be while we wait for the courts to make a decision.

There are so many opinions out there right now that it is confusing.  AxaMonitor does a great job of aggregating multiple sources of news, but it’s also worth hearing from the proverbial horses mouth and visiting the Axanar website.

If you’re interested in reading the actual legal argument that’s being made by the owners of the Star Trek brand,  the only copy of the current legal documents I have been able to find are via the AxaMonitor website as a PDF.  If you want to read the document click here.

Once a decision has been made in the courts, I’ll post about it.

Until then, please keep supporting Star Trek fan productions.  Long time series like Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Continues and many more (including the recent amazing Star Trek: Horizon) have done incredible and noteworthy work with full and clear disclosure around their financials.

Let’s not tar the whole with whatever brush people are choosing to tar Axanar with.

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Series VI Update – Rod Roddenberry, and those Promo Images

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Unless you’re a Trek fan who has completely avoided the internet all month, you know that Rod Roddenberry, the son of the Great Bird of the Galaxy and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, was appointed one of the Executive Producers of the new Star Trek television series.

Rod recently spoke with TrekZone, Australia’s first Star Trek fan site (and a bloody awesome one to boot), in an exclusive interview about the new series.

In the interview, he spoke about the messy Axanar lawsuit and the upcoming new Star Trek series.

Rod wisely did not wade too deeply into the very murky waters surrounding the CBS/Paramount vs Axanar Productions lawsuit, but did express his support of – and for – fanfilms based in the universe created by his father.

Rod pretty much said that so long as they treat the material and CBS and Paramount with respect… more power to them.

Rod has shown a great deal of love for fan films in the past, and as much as he enjoys all of them, he did admit he does feel one is a step above all the others.  Rod’s choice?  Star Trek: Continues.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s incredible.  Visit their website here and start watching the six episodes they currently have online.

When asked about the new series, Rod couldn’t say much.

I know very little about the direction. I’ve had two meetings with Bryan Fuller and he is still developing the concept and he’s brought the writers together and they’re still developing the concept.  What I’m excited about is the team that’s been put together by CBS.  They’ve brought, of course, Alex Kurtzman, Bryan Fuller and Heather Kadin together and I’ve had the opportunity to meet them.

During the interview, Rod stated he has “tremendous hopes” for the new series, and appears to have a great deal of faith in the creative team.

There’s a lot more from Rod about the new series.  To read about it you can visit TrekNews here.  To watch it at TrekZone, visit the site here and look for the link to the video.

Congrats to the TrekZone team for nabbing the interview!

And now, to that image that almost broke the internet, that we were all hoping was from the new Star Trek series.

Series IV Preproduction Photo

TrekCore have spoken to CBS and confirmed that the above still and it’s companion are NOT from the new Star Trek television series.

They are from a production of some sort, but one that is unrelated to the new Trek series.

Given Rod’s interview (go watch it at TrekZone now) mentioned above, we know that the series is still in the conceptualisation stage.

That’s cutting things close.  The series is due to launch in ten months.  It’s completely doable, but it means it will be all systems go from the moment the concept is finalised and approved.

Last year I was on the set of a US science fiction production that was filming the final episode of it’s first season – four months before the first episode would even air.  Most of that first season was already in post-production.  It was a new production, it was science fiction and it was effects heavy, so a lot of care was being taken to get it right.  What that means is that the time frames for the new Trek production will be tight because it’s a new production with a relatively new creative team, it’s Star Trek so it’s fair to assume it will be effects heavy, and it’s the jewel in CBS‘s crown – meaning a lot of care will be taken with it, especially because it will be the cornerstone of CBS All Access.

I’ve been involved in two scifi TV series, so I’ve had a very limited amount of real world experience in that genre, but my understanding is that it takes a lot of time and preparation to launch a brand new series, and especially a science fiction show.

TV production is fast paced, but pilot episodes (often an hour and twenty in length) are often treated like feature length films with directors and actors given the time they need to get it right.  

On average it takes six to eight days to shoot an hour long TV episode and about another week to do post.  It takes on average three months to do principal photography for a feature length film.

If the script for the first episode of the new series is locked down by the end of April and then casting is completed by the end of May, followed by – let’s say two months for principal photography, that gives CBS six months for effects work, reshoots and promotion.

That’s intense.

It looks like it will be an exciting last half of the year for all of us as we wait for more insight into the production.

As more information comes to light, I’ll be sure to post about it here.

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Star Trek: Horizon – Review

Star Trek Horizon Title

The first thing I have to say about Star Trek Horizon is… Bryan Fuller, give Tommy Kraft a job.  Now.

Big thanks to Paul for suggesting I review this film, because Star Trek Horizon is really good!  In many many ways, it’s outstanding.

I’d started to watch it a few days ago, and would have probably put off viewing the last hour until the upcoming Easter long weekend, but Paul’s message made me think I should do it a bit earlier – and I’m very glad I did.  What I had seen in the first 30 or so minutes had blown me away, but I had decided it could wait.  Silly decision.  This passion project deserves as much buzz as we can all give it and it deserves to have the fan community drown it in a lot of love.

Horizon is a beautiful, impressive production, and that’s before you take into account the fact it was done on a shoe-string budget with a tiny crew led by one dynamic man: Tommy Kraft.

Star Trek Horizon raised $22,600 to produce the 1 hour 40 minute feature.  I’m sure Tommy probably put some of his own money into it too, but the fact is this amazing film was done at a bare fraction of the cost of most other high quality fan productions!

Tommy Kraft and the Crew of Discovery

Star Trek Horizon is set in the 22nd Century during the same time period as Captain Archer’s USS Enterprise NX-01, but is set after the conclusion of that shows fourth season.

The film takes place during the Romulan War, as a fledgling Coalition of Planets tries to bring multiple disparate races together in an attempt to push back the expansion plans of the mysterious Romulan Star Empire.

Starfleet receives intelligence from a Romulan defector about a weapon of mass destruction that’s about to come on line and sends the USS Discovery NX-04, the Enterprise, and two Vulcan ships to stop it.

In the middle of all of that, the Discovery is sucked through time and onto the doorstep of one of the major players in the Temporal Cold War.

Visually, this film is superb.  It’s professional, stylish and bold.

The story is strong, the special effects are feature quality, the pacing is good (at times brilliant), and the direction is beautiful.  Tommy Kraft has a great eye for visual story-telling.

When I applied a critical eye to the film, I counted only three scenes where I questioned what Tommy was up to – but instead of thinking them poor choices, wondered instead if those choices were made out of necessity because of green screen constraints.

Most of the live action is shot against green screen, and as an actor who has done green screen work on a science fiction television series, I can say it’s a pain in the ass.  As an actor your imagination is already a finely tuned machine, so green screen isn’t horrible because it forces you to imagine an entire 3D environment, it’s horrible because it’s disorienting.  At least, I’ve found it that way.

Horizon Green Screen Work

When the camera isn’t running or a rehearsal isn’t happening, you are totally snapped out of the moment by studio walls or whatever is around you.  When you’re on a physical set or are shooting scenes on location, it’s easier to reorient yourself emotionally (as well as physically), so you can pull all of the pieces of your performance back together after a break.  So, to say I’m impressed with the acting in Horizon is an understatement.  Some of the performances waver at times and are a little flat, but overall they’re strong – and I hate to harp on about green screen, but the fact these actors were all performing in an environment that was nothing like what we see on the screen, is a testament to them.

Of the actors, there were three stand out performances: Paul Lang as Harrison Hawke – the main character in the film, Jeannine Thompson as Amelia Yarris (Harrison’s love interest), and Marc Bowers as First Officer Jackson Gates.

As I said, all of the actors were very good, at times bordering on excellent, but Paul, Jeannine and Marc mesmerized me every time they came on screen.

There is so much that is good about Star Trek Horizon I actually don’t know where to begin.  The film isn’t perfect, but it’s better than quite a few of the episodes from the various professional Star Trek series’, and it’s actually better than a couple of the feature films.

One of the things I loved most about the film were the casting choices.

Tommy Kraft is a young man, and it would have been easy to get a bunch of young friends together to make up the crew of the USS Discovery NX-04 or to choose only young professional actors.  Instead, there are a number of ages represented, which adds massive layers of realism to the show.  I believed these characters.  I believed they were the best of the best and had fought their way up through multiple missions to be the command crew of a starship.

In a fanfilm set in a universe as well known and as loved as Star Trek‘s, if you don’t have familiar characters or actors to ground your production, it can be harder for an audience to invest in what’s happening on the screen.  Tommy brought together a group of actors who have enough chemistry together that it made me want to watch them and want to accept them into my favourite universe.  There was no gimmick casting, and no recasting of familiar roles.  The whole film is a bold step in a brand new direction and I loved that.

Another thing I loved was the fact Tommy is also an incredibly self-aware director.  He knew he was making a film that would rely heavily on green screen, and he made brilliant choices as a result.  The film is seamless, and that takes a lot of talent.

To mask the superimposition, Tommy chose to apply what looks like a slight gauze effect or filter to the principal photography.  It’s a smart choice, because it softens everything and tricks the eye without being overly distracting.  I genuinely had a difficult time picking the green screen shots – even though I knew most of them were done in his parents’ basement and not on a built set.

Some people might find the slight blur the filter creates annoying, but it adds a particular ‘gloss’ to the production that you do see in some American series.  At times I did find myself craving sharper images, but thankfully we do get them with all of the space battles and star ship shots and during some scenes filmed on actual location.

Despite the praise I’m throwing all over this fanfilm, and the simple fact I really enjoyed it, Horizon has a handful of minor issues.

If I want to get specific about things that didn’t quite work for me, I need to go into spoiler territory.

Spoiler Alert

1. We get too much Harrison.  Tommy and his team assembled a strong cast of actors to play well realised characters, but it felt like we didn’t get to spend enough time with any of them.  I wanted to know more about Jackson, Francis, Tom, Marie, Amelia and T’Mar.  We learn a little bit about T’Mar and Amelia, and both those women’s stories drive Horizon forward, but we don’t spend any where near enough time with them.  Unfortunately, character development was one of the very few weaknesses in the film.  Considering the story, there probably wasn’t any other choice.  This was a film, not a two-hour pilot, though I so deeply wish it was a two-hour pilot.  I’d watch that series.

Another quibble about Harrison is he talked a lot.  I mean A LOT.  Some of his dialogue, like how tired he and everyone else was, was unnecessary.  There’s a cardinal rule in writing: Show, don’t tell.  The actor showed his characters weariness effectively.  He didn’t need to mention how fed up and exhausted he and everyone else was as often as he did.  We saw it in him and all of the others, and the story effectively alluded to that fact at multiple points.

2. T’Mar.  I loved the character, and Callie Bussell is great as the Romulan defector… but she’s a Romulan defector.  Though she comes to the Coalition of Planets (precursor to the United Federation of Planets) having already been altered by surgery, and there is no reference to the joint heritage of Vulcans and Romulans that is made on screen, I find it really hard to believe the Chief Medical Officer of the Discovery wouldn’t have examined T’Mar after they liberated her (the first time we see Discovery they’re returning from the mission to get T’Mar), or that Starfleet wouldn’t have grilled the beJesus out of her to learn as much as they could about their implacable foe, before letting a Romulan become a part of the crew of Discovery.

That bugged me.

We’re not meant to learn what Romulans look like until the original series episode “Balance of Terror”, and though Horizon doesn’t directly break that continuity rule, logic (no pun intended) suggests it’s happened.

There’s no indication the Coalition and Starfleet know Vulcans and Romulans are essentially the space species after meeting T’Mar, but it stretches belief just a little if we just assume the crew of the Discovery or Starfleet didn’t find anything suspicious when examining her.  And she would have been examined.  At this point in Trek history the Romulans were the greatest threat to peace in the known galaxy.

3. The ending.  Hawke confronts the big bad guy behind the plot to destroy Earth, and then just shoots him.  Which is funny, and reminded me of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy does something similar, but I don’t think the scene in Horizon was meant to be humorous.  The movie doesn’t end there, so it’s not the ultimate climax… but it felt like it should have been more of one.  The bad dude just went down way too easily and it kind of lessened the impact of some of what he’d been up to and the role he played in the Temporal Cold War.

The film does ends satisfactorily, and more importantly it ends leaving me wanting more, so I can forgive that.

So three not so great things vs way too many amazing things to mention.  That’s not bad.

Now, I’m going to geek out a bit!

I might be one of the very few Trek fans who loved the Temporal Cold War story line in Star Trek: Enterprise.  I was really disappointed when it kind of just died out.  I’m also aware I’m in the minority when it comes to fans who love Enterprise more than most of the other Trek shows.

To see the Temporal Cold War story line taken up again – and to have it conclude in a way that made sense to me, because I always thought future Romulans were behind it all, was thrilling and satisfying.

I loved that Tommy dovetailed the destruction of Romulus in 2009s Star Trek into this film, and made it fit with the arc of the Temporal Cold War.  That is excellent story telling.

Also, seeing the Enterprise and Discovery in battle with two Vulcan cruisers against a bunch of Romulans was way too sweet a thing!

I was also very happy to see the Iconians make an appearance – and in a way that made sense.  I have to give Tommy additional credit for writing an excellent script and crafting a sensible story that was very Star Trek.

There’s so much to like about Horizon… the music, the editing, the characters, the costumes… I could go on.

This movie is an amazing achievement and Tommy, as the director and writer and executive producer, has proven without question how incredibly talented he is.

If I could get a hold of the guys behind Star Trek: Renegades, I’d beg them to take Tommy on board – along with his team of special effects and editing wizards.  Horizon’s seamless superimposition work shames similar work done by Renegades – and they had more money, and his eye for action is so amazing.  I’d love to see Tommy direct an episode of Renegades.

In fact, many of the special effect visuals and the angles and camera pacing that Tommy chooses shames most of the actual Trek films.  There are some shots – like the Discovery spinning out of warp near Saturn at the beginning of the film – that are mind blowing.

If you’re a Star Trek fan, you have to watch this movie.  It really is something special.

Star Trek Horizon stars Paul Lang as Harrison Hawke, Marc Bowers as Jackson Gates, Jeannine Thompson as Amelia Yarris, Tom McClure as Tom Samuels, Ryan Webber as Francis Brookes, Callie Bussell as T’Mar, and Ashley Croft as Marie Sutherland.

To watch Star Trek Horizon and visit their official website, click here.

To learn the names of all the amazing people behind this film and its production, click here.

To learn more about Tommy Kraft and the work he does as a professional storyteller, visit his website here.

Star Trek Horizon gets four and a half Starfleet Delta’s out of five!

4.5 Deltas

I’m serious, if Bryan Fuller doesn’t give this guy a job, he’s nuts.

Tommy, you’ll probably never read this, but if you do – please make more Star Trek.

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Welcome to 2016

2016 New Year Post Banner

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2016.  It’s a big one for Star Trek!

This year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of a television and cinematic phenomena with a new feature film, more episodes of Star Trek: Renegades, and on top of those two wonderful events we get to watch the unfolding production of a brand new sixth live action series due for release in January 2017.

This year we’ll also learn the fate of Star Trek: Axanar.

So there will be a lot happening, and a lot we can look forward to on the news front this year.

What can we expect in the first six months?

Whatever Paramount and CBS have dreamed up to celebrate the 50th year of our favourite series, updates on the production of Renegades, previews of the two new episodes, and the eventual release of those episodes – one of which will be the swan song for Admiral Pavel Chekov and possibly also Admiral Nyota Uhura.  We can expect at least one more major preview for Star Trek: Beyond before its July release, and we should learn a lot more in the coming months about the new television series.  We might even get a teaser as a prelude to an actual preview later in the year.  In fact, we should, considering it is scheduled to air in a little over a year.  The teaser probably won’t be much more than a glimpse at some of the characters, but that will be enough considering how hungry we all are for news on the new series.  One thing I doubt we’ll see is the ship.  If the lead up is anything like it was for TNG, we won’t see the new ship until a month or two before the first episode airs.

We will definitely learn the fate of Axanar, and probably very soon.  The most recent news on the court case is that the Axanar team hope to settle out of court in a way that will still allow for the film to be made.

One thing I do know for certain, is that the Star Trek: Challenger blog will be there for all of it.

Thank you to everyone who has been following my blog, I deeply appreciate it.  Our readership is literally international, with the most hits coming out of the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Here’s to an amazing and Trek-filled 2016.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Live long, and prosper.

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CBS and Paramount Draw a Line

Star Trek Axanar 1 with Logo

For quite some time now, I’ve been looking forward to a little fan made production called Star Trek: Axanar.

I first stumbled across it about two years ago, and was so impressed with what I read that I donated money to one of its Kickstarter campaigns.

Our first reward, as fans, was the simply outstanding The Four Years War: Prelude to Axanar short film.  It served as an introduction to the film (that they were still raising money to make) and it’s characters and was shot in documentary style… and it was amazing!  The production values were unexpectedly professional, the performances were exceptional, and the special effects were brilliant.  If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it right here.  As of the 31st of December 2015, the video has had over 1,700,000 views.

It’s taken Axanar Productions (the film company behind Axanar) quite a while to raise the funds to make the film – but they’ve finally done it and have raised over one million dollars.  The movie was set to start filming next month… until CBS and Paramount decided to sue Axanar Productions and stop the film from being made.

This is quite unprecedented.  CBS and Paramount have a history of tolerating and sometimes out right supporting fan made productions.  The creators of Axanar even met with CBS at one point to make sure they weren’t getting themselves into trouble.

Star Trek Axanar 2

No one really knows what has compelled CBS and Paramount to take this step, but some theories include the fact that the fan reaction to Axanar has been far more positive than the fan reaction to Star Trek Beyond, with another theory being that Axanar has taken everything to a brand new level and become so professional that it has CBS worried – particularly with a new professional Star Trek series coming out in a year.

Whatever the reason, Axanar is currently on hold.

TrekMovie and TrekNews have excellent coverage on this issue, though most news outlets – particularly sci fi news outlets – are reporting on it.

To check out the TrekMovie and TrekNews articles, follow the links below.

To learn more about this extraordinary fan production, go to Axanar Production’s official website right here.


TrekNews and also here.

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Star Trek: Renegades Update

Banner - Nichelle Nichols Joins Renegades

There was a wonderful little surprise awaiting me in my inbox this morning, as I checked my e-mails after staggering out of bed and fortifying myself with some coffee:

Nichelle Joins Renegades

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve probably caught onto the fact that Uhura (alongside Doctor McCoy and Sulu) is one of my favourite Star Trek characters, and that Nichelle, in particular, is a personal hero.

Finding that e-mail this morning was like having someone drop a beautiful early Christmas present in my lap.  Having the first lady of science fiction join the cast of Star Trek: Renegades just feels right – and it’s wonderful to see that every Trekker’s favourite Communications Officer is now an Admiral.

If you would like to read the official announcement, visit the Renegades Kickstarter page here, and as well as that announcement, you’ll also see that the Renegades team have surpassed their funding goal of $350,000 and are sitting pretty on $378,181.

Nichelle’s return to the Star Trek universe is something to be excited about, though I admit I am also a little worried.  The e-mail suggests (it doesn’t clearly say) that the next two episodes won’t just be Chekov’s swan song, but Uhura’s as well.

I can (just barely) deal with losing one beloved TOS character, but two?

All I can say, is that the Renegades guys had better send me tissues along with my reward for helping to fund episode two if they kill off both characters, because there will be tears if we lose both Admiral Chekov and Admiral Uhura!

If you haven’t yet become an investor in Renegades, I encourage you to do so.

Why?  Well… apart from it being Star Trek that actually takes place in the prime universe, and apart from the fact it’s REALLY good, there are 16 words, or eight names, that should convince you:

Terry Farrell
Robert Beltran
Nichelle Nichols
Cirroc Lofton
Aron Eisenberg
Hana Hatae
Tim Russ
Walter Koenig.

Not since Star Trek: Of Gods and Men have we had such a stellar cast of Trek characters all appearing on screen together.

It’s phenomenal.

If that’s not worth a few dollars, then I do not know what is.

My heartfelt thanks to the Renegades team for bringing such an outstanding cast together.  I do not know how they’re going to give all of these amazing characters the screen time they deserve, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Here’s to “Requiem” parts 1 and 2.  THESE episodes will be a 50th Anniversary gift worth celebrating.

As much as I’m looking forward to Star Trek Beyond, I’m looking forward to Star Trek: Renegades “Requiem” more.

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Review – Star Trek: Renegades

Renegades 3

This film was one hell of a ride to review.  I loved it, then I got angry at it, then I hated it, and then I loved it again.

Talk about a roller coaster!

By the end, I was impressed enough to buy a copy because I found myself wanting to contribute to episode two.  I should point out that for an Australian, it costs $95 to purchase the DVD because our exchange rate sucks right now.  For me to spend $95 on the DVD I had to think the film had something going for it.

And it does.  Renegades has the potential to be something special if given the chance.  Almost everything is there, it just needs a little tweaking.

There are some missed opportunities  and a couple of moments that might have worked on the page but did not translate well on film, however after watching it through to the end I found myself wanting more… which I didn’t expect.

I’m not sure if Renegades’s has completely earned the right to call itself Star Trek, because the film is quite a deviation from everything that has gone before it, but it presents some interesting ideas that add another layer to the universe of Star Trek and could fit quite nicely into the overall tapestry of the franchise with a little work.

Because I’ve purchased the DVD I also have access to a digital download, which means I’ve now watched the episode twice.  A lot of it is better the second time around.  There are a total of three scenes I  find it hard to watch because they’re frustrating and derail the flow of the film, but that’s why Renegades was made, I think, to experiment with something new and build a stronger product with every iteration.  That’s often the point of a pilot, to try something new and to engage in a process of learning.

I am hoping the creators of Renegades are open to the learning part, and take some time to read and consider the reviews they receive so that episode two, if it happens, is that much better.  I do hope they are given a chance to present their work to CBS, and that the network gives serious consideration to commissioning a series or even a special mini-series event for the 50th Anniversary next year.

If you haven’t seen Renegades, this review has a few spoilers and a number of screen shots to give readers a taste of the movie and hopefully generate additional interest in it.  If you don’t want spoilers, click or tap away now.

Star Trek: Renegades was officially launched on the 24th of August with a feature length pilot and an eye to becomming the next Star Trek television series.  At least that was, and no doubt still is, the goal.

Renegades takes place ten years after Voyager’s return from the Delta Quadrant and the Federation is in crisis.

The suppliers of dilithium crystals are disappearing, folded into space and time by someone or something.  In the first few minutes of the film, it’s suggested a representative sitting on the Federation Council is involved and as a result Starfleet has to turn to Section 31 for a solution – and the solution they come up with is to dispatch a covert crew of renegades to find out what is going on.

Renegades is not the Star Trek you or I are used to, which is not a bad thing.  In some ways, it has more in common with Firefly or even Killjoys than it does with the Original Series, Next Gen, DS9, Voyager or Enterprise.  It tries to do something new, and it tries to give us an insight into the darker, unexplored corners of the Star Trek universe, but in doing so, may take one or two (or three) liberties.

I have fallen in love with this film, but there are a few problems with it.  The biggest is the dialogue.  In places it is terrible.  Thankfully, it has a number of strengths, including its special effects, sound design, directing, production values and costumes.

One of it’s greatest strengths is its characters, some of whom are completely engaging… and some who aren’t.  There are some pretty annoying missteps with a good number of the characters, but as the episode progresses most of those get ironed out.

One misstep which grates consistently throughout the film is the writers need to bash us over the head with just how different Renegades is to every other Star Trek.  It goes to great pains to point out how ‘badass’ it’s characters are, and how they’re on the wrong side of the law, but all the effort rings hollow and false, and makes them seem a little silly.

Star Trek viewers are intelligent, in fact, most viewers of science fiction in general are intelligent, and subtlety works on us.  We don’t need to be force fed.

Good drama is about plot and character, and while the ideas present in Star Trek are part of what attracts fans to the franchise, it’s the characters that keep us watching.  We need to relate to them and enjoy spending time with them as we discover their nuances.

Renegades makes that hard to do because of the forced way in which they make us learn about this new crew.

The first character we’re introduced to is Lexxa Singh.  Yes.  THAT Singh.

She’s a genetic experiment and Khan Noonian Singh’s daughter.  I’m glad I didn’t know that going into the movie, because it would have turned me off.  It grated.  I can’t actually explain why, except to say it didn’t make sense and it felt unnecessary.

But despite my misgivings, Lexxa is an intriguing character and I was instantly drawn to her.  And then the writers messed with that.

As Renegades opens there’s a beautiful, perfectly paced camera pan revealing the character as she writes on a wall, reciting the words in a voiceover.  Through that voiceover she alludes to losing herself, and to her struggle to keep her mind, soul and identity intact.  The poem is important, and makes a number of appearances throughout the film, bringing strength to Lexxa during times of hardship and danger.

We later learn that the poem was taught to Lexxa by her mother, before she was killed or captured (we’re left wondering about that) by agents of Section 31 – a Section 31 that seems to have devolved into a worse version of anything we’ve seen before.

In those first few seconds of the film, Lexxa is intense and vulnerable.  You want to know who this woman is and you want to know her story.  You want to know why those words seem to mean so much to her.

I was hooked.  Had someone finally created a deep and introspective female lead for a modern science fiction television show?

Sadly, not quite.

When she next appears, she’s a very different woman.  She’s transformed into an all too familiar stereotype, bitter and aggressive.

Too many science fiction heroines in the last few years have been ass-kickers and moody reprobates who are ‘badass’, and it’s gotten a little overused and tired.

Thankfully, we do see moments of that woman we first met in the opening shots of the film, but it takes a while.

Through flashbacks we eventually learn bits and pieces about Lexxa that help us reconcile the woman in the first few frames of the film with the woman who does – for a while – seem like just another carbon copy of other modern female action heroes.

Adrienne Wilkinson is intense and obviously capable of playing an action hero, but she really shines in those moments where she is allowed to drop her impression of Starbuck and express an emotion other than anger or contempt.

Her portrayal of a vulnerable woman looking for her mother, and maybe a purpose, is excellent and more than enough to make you want to overlook the feeling of ‘sameness’.  You want to watch her because she’s magnetic.

The next characters we’re introduced to are the bad guys from Galaxy Quest… at least, they reminded me of the bad guys from Galaxy Quest.

I’m afraid they’re a bit of a  disappointment.

When we first see them, they are beastial and imposing… then they open their mouths.  Their dialogue is cliche and clumsy.  I can’t help but think they would have been more menacing and effective if they’d spoken less.

Thankfully they’re not ‘the big bad’, otherwise Renegades would have been so much less, but at the beginning we don’t know that.

Design wise, they look great.  The makeup is excellent, and the actors under all the prosthetics do a masterful job of bringing them to life.

They’re just not all that convincing as a credible threat to the Federaton.

Next we’re introduced to the crew of the Icarus.

Some of them are pretty hard to like.  Thankfully, two characters, Doctor Lucien and the Betazoid, Ronara, are literal bright sparks in this overly dark mix.  The rest, with the exception of Fixer, are unpleasant.

If it hadn’t have been for Doctor Lucien and Ronara I wouldn’t have kept watching the first time I sat down to view Renegades.

We’re introduced to a Nausicaan, who seems to be the Captain of the Icarus until Lexxa comes back.  Then the lurking Breen, the overly anxious and slightly bumbling Fixer, the mysterious Doctor Lucien, the ethereal Ronara, the gruff Han Soloesque Ragnar, the Bajoran criminal Jaro Ruk, and Icheb.

The Nausicaan is kind of annoying, mostly because of the ridiculous things the actor is forced say.  I know I keep harping on about the dialogue, but at times it really does throw you out of the moment.

The Nausicaan doesn’t last long.  When Lexxa is reunited with her crew she quickly disintegrates him.

Lexxa brings a Cardassian along with her to the Icarus, but the poor guy barely gets anything to do before he’s killed off, which is a shame.  I think he would have been an exciting addition to the crew.


It’s unclear why the Breen is there.  He’s set dressing for most of he film, but I hope they do more with him because it would be wonderful to learn something about this enigmatic race.


Fixer might be bumbling, but he’s likable.  He doesn’t say a lot, and has a special relationship with Doctor Lucien which works.  The character grew into someone I wanted to care about by the end of the film, which is what you want.  It’s a real credit to Edward Furlong, who puts in a great performance in the role.

Doctor Lucien, played by the serenely beautiful Sean Young of Blade Runner, is the heart and soul of this film.  She and Ronara are characters you can relate to and empathise with.  Neither of them are doing the badass thing and are stronger characters for it.  They own their scenes without trying.

Both women exude confidence and it’s so nice to have some people on the ship who want to do what is right just because it’s the right thing to do.

Doctor Lucien, we learn, is carrying on a relationship with Doctor Lewis Zimmerman via holographic projection.  She worked with him at Jupiter Station, but after an accident that killed a person she was forced underground and joined the crew of the Icarus.

Ronara is a Betazoid with a genetic defect, which means she’s not telepathic – but she does appear to have the ability to crawl into a person’s mind and control their body to a certain extent.  Chasty Ballesteros brings Ronara to life and injects her with real humanity.  She’s convincing and natural and a pleasure to watch.

Plus, there might just be a bit of sexual tension between Ronara and Icheb which could be fun to watch.

Next we have Ragnar, played be the very talented Gary Graham.

Ragnar comes across as an angry Han Solo clone with all the requisite badassness that seems to be so important to the writers of Renegades.  Thankfully, Gary elevates Ragnar beyond that and adds layers to the character which make him three-dimensional and relatable.  He shines in his scenes with Doctor Lucien, particularly when the both of them are working together to try and save Earth.  Gary and Sean have great chemistry and play off each other beautifully.

Then there’s Jaro Ruk, a Cardassien hating Bajoran who seems to worship the Pah’Wraiths, because that’s badass and remember, being a badass is part of the job description if you want to join the crew of the Icarus.  Jaro grew on me, but didn’t get a chance to come into his own before doing something pretty screwed up and getting killed for it in a kind of anticlimactic way.

And then we have Icheb.

Super badass Icheb.

They totally ruin Icheb.

He was a great addition to Star Trek: Voyager, and I was excited to see he was included in Renegades… but his character isn’t treated very well.

He’s been turned into a bitter sociopath with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Death Star.

In an attempt to make him badass, they’ve given him a back story where he’s been betrayed and altered by Section 31 and now just wants to hurt people with his CGI arm because he likes the power.

We learn this during the worst character exchange in the episode.  It’s terribly written and does not play well on film.

The first time I watched Renegades I actually turned the episode off after that scene and almost abandoned the whole film.  It’s that bad.  The second time, the scene was still bad.  I’m hoping it was something that looked good on the page and just didn’t work on screen, otherwise the writers and director really need to ask themselves some serious questions.

Fortunately, not long afterwards we are introduced to Captain Alvarez and Commander Petrona and together they and the USS Archer get the film back on track.

They were a breath of fresh air!

I have no idea why.  But, Corey Nemec and Tarah Paige are great to watch.

Every time they appeared on screen, I silently applauded because I really wanted to see more of them.  And we do.  I just wish we could have learned more about their characters.

Of the other individuals that populate the Renegades universe, they’re a mix and some of them end up joining the Icarus.

Admiral Chekov is great, as is Tuvok as the new head of Section 31, but I admit to being biased because I’m a huge fan of both Walter Koenig and Tim Russ.  They are surrounded by characters who don’t get enough to do, which is a real shame, though there are one or two very welcome cameos – including Richard Herd as Admiral Paris and Herbert Jefferson Jnr as Admiral Satterlee.  If Herbert Jefferson Jnr looks familiar, it’s because he played Lieutenant Boomer in the original Battlestar Galactica.

There’s a Vulcan/Romulan (just Romulan?) woman who is Chekov’s personal bodyguard.  She is badass, of course, but I can see some very interesting story lines for the character.  I can’t help but wonder why Starfleet lets Admiral Chekov employ an ex-assassin, but maybe we’re not meant to ask those sorts of questions?

There’s also an Andorian hacker with attitude, which must mean she’s badass too.  Because you know, attitude.  The Andorian has an interesting device that seems to be able to ‘hack’ people’s minds.

There’s Chekov’s granddaughter, played by Crystal Conway, who only seems to be there to show us that someone is trying to kill Chekov when a mystery assassin infects her with nanites and turns her into a bomb.

Lastly, there is her best friend whose sole purpose is to show us how horrible it is that Chekov’s granddaughter is a bomb when the bodyguard phasers off the poor girls hand and beams it away.  The two young women are quite good, and if this concept becomes a series, it would be nice to see a few B stories focusing on them as they train to become Starfleet officers.

While the characters are a pretty even mix of hit and miss, so is the story – but it does introduce a cool mystery that has me hooked.  I want to know who the real bad guys are and where these strange devices come from.

The film doesn’t come into its own until the threat comes to Earth and all of the characters start to work together.

Everything just clicks.

The characters become people we can care about and the narrative smooths out.

The resolution to the film isn’t ‘big’ enough, but the build towards the climax is quite good.

The last ten to fifteen minutes of the pilot, however, are the best part of the film and where Renegades becomes Star Trek.  There are some beautiful character moments: Lexxa cracks a smile, Doctor Lucien shares her secret, someone we thought was dead actually isn’t, Chekov is reunited with his granddaughter, a dire warning is given about “crossing lines”, and the crew are given a purpose.  Those few things bring it all together and suddenly elevate a good, but not spectacular film, to something special.

There is a missed opportunity almost fulfilled with Chekov’s speech to Tuvok.  Both reflect on what they’ve done to save the Federation, but don’t go anywhere near far enough.  Star Trek does a great job of making us think about ourselves and our world and Renegades almost goes there, but not quite.

Renegades excels at little moments, when it gives itself the time to have them.  Sometimes those moments are between the characters, and sometimes it’s something in the background that’s there to reward the fans – like the images of the original Enterprise crew on the walls of Admiral Chekov’s office, or the use of Majel Barrett Roddenberry’s voice for the computer, or a carefully placed sound effect from the original series.

Renegades also excels at visual effects.

Some of them are simply beautiful.

That handful of screenshots don’t do the visuals justice, but please trust me when I say that it looks like a lot of time and thought went into making all of the VFX extra-special.

Not every effect is wonderful, but when you remember they have so much less money to play with than any studio produced feature film, it’s not difficult to forgive a few poor visuals.

A few other comments that the creators of Renegades might want to take into consideration:

  • The makeup for the Romulan (Romulan/Vulcan) character played by the beautiful Larissa Gomes is bad.  The eyebrows look like two pipe-streamers were pasted to her head, which is just strange because the rest of the makeup work is extraordinary.
  • There are too many closeups.  I think that might have happened because of the budget constraints associated with practical sets, but it does jar and seem out of whack with the visual narrative of the film.
  • Avoid green screen.  There are a lot of places where it’s clear the special effects artists had a lot of difficulty marrying the live action with the effects work – which is understandable.  Unless you have the budget of a Star Wars film, getting green screen right can be pretty damn hard.
  • The mustard (?) yellow walls work beautifully on the Archer, but they don’t work for the offices and corridors of Starfleet Command.  It doesn’t make sense.
  • I’d love to see Ronara help Icheb rediscover his humanity.
  • Bring in Nichelle Nichols and George Takei, that would be so so good.
  • The new Starfleet Delta is distracting.  Consider returning to a more established design.
  • Please find a way to keep the crew of the Archer a part of the series.
  • Give us more Tuvok!
  • Comment on modern issues.  You almost got there with Chekov’s warning about crossing lines at the end of the film.
  • A note to the writers: read the Voyager relaunch novels.  They’re superb and they do an incredible job of realistically exploring the Federation and Starfleet post Nemesis, and…
  • Please respect the source material.  Star Trek has a rich and beautiful history, don’t ignore it or disdain it.

Most of those last few criticisms are minor, and it is obvious that there is a lot of heart and soul in this film.

I know that this review probably sounds more negative than positive, but believe me – that’s a good thing.  If I didn’t care about Star Trek: Renegades, I wouldn’t have an opinion of any kind.  I wouldn’t have bothered to write anything.  I would have ignored its existence and posted something about Star Trek Beyond.

Like I said at the beginning of the review, this idea has potential.  Incredible potential.

The film ends on a good note, with the promise of more adventure – and a great final shot where the old Renegades film production logo is immortalised on the hull of the Icarus before the credits roll.  Look for the little alien skull and crossbones.

Star Trek: Renegades is worth your time, if you love Star Trek.

If you want to check out the episode, it’s live now.  I’d really be interested in hearing what you think.  Click the link here to visit the official website.

I give it four Starfleet Delta’s out of five.
Four Out of Five Stars

Support this promising idea by purchasing a DVD or BluRay copy and help the creators refine and continue their pretty decent addition to the Star Trek universe.

Bring on episode two!

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