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Star Trek Continues with “Lolani” and Soars to Warp Eight

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

lolani 3Last year I gushed about a lovingly crafted fan-made original Star Trek episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity,” and concluded by writing that I hoped the same team would make more.

And lo, it has come to pass. As a matter of fact, I somehow missed news of a Kickstarter (or Kirkstarter) in October AND the release of a second episode, “Lolani,” in February. According to the Star Trek Continues web site, a third episode has been filmed and is already being edited. The Kickstarter raised enough money for three additional episodes (of which the “in edit” episode is the first) and — if I’m not mistaken — gained the funds to construct a replica of the Enterprise engine room to add to their existing sets.

If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek series, you MUST watch “Lolani.” Even moreso than “Pilgrim of Eternity,” it feels like a lost episode. It’s not just the sets and the effects, which are truly astonishing in their faithfulness, it’s the pacing, and the music cues, and the fadeouts, and the story beats, and the writing — and the actors. These people understand who the original characters were and inhabit them — and I swear that this script could stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest entries in the original run.

ep2-sceneVic Mignogna is fantastic as Captain Kirk, playing the iconic role without parody. Here’s the Kirk I wanted to be, the one from the best episodes — an intellectual and compassionate commander, a student of history who’s reading a volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire during his off-duty hours.

Spock got a little more on-screen time this episode, which enabled me to appreciate the fine way Todd Haberkorn evokes everyone’s favorite Vulcan with restrained intensity. The Vulcan mind meld he uses and the lingering effect it had upon his outlook really showcase Haberkorn’s talent.

Michele Specht returns as Dr. Elise MacKennah, blending seamlessly into the original crew as the ship’s counselor, a part she plays with great facility and charm. Her role  contributes to the power of the episode (and, once or twice, the humor) and it’s wonderful to see another important female crew member.

trek specht

Michele Specht as Dr. Elise MacKennah.

We saw a little less of Scotty, McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu this time, but each of the actors seemed more comfortable in their roles, and Chris Doohan was given a few moments to shine.

As with many an original series episode, much of the weight had to be carried by the guest stars. And what guest stars they are! Lou Ferigno beams aboard as an Orion slave trader. Having never seen Ferigno do anything more than Hulk out, I had no idea what great acting chops the man has. He completely sells his character of a disarmingly courteous villain.

Likewise, Mathew Ewald as Ensign Kenway brings a great deal of pathos to a small but vital role. Without a professional in his part, there’s NO way many crucial plot points would have come close to working. (I should also single out some of the other crewman, like Steve Dengler’s properly military security chief and Stephanie Hall as an unnamed female security lieutenant, or Daniel Logan, perhaps best known as young Boba Fett, who has a small part as one of the Enterprise’s navigators.)

trek Zaminhon

Lou Ferigno as Zaminhon.

But the episode could not have worked at all without a commanding performance from the lead guest star, the titular “Lolani,” played with extraordinary capability by the talented Fiona Vroom.

Her part? Well, if you’re an old school Trek fan, you’ll know that the mostly highly sexualized character ever to appear in an episode was an Orion “slave girl.”

Even if you’re not a regular series watcher, you may have seen depictions of them. They’re green-skinned and scantily clad, said to be savage and possess the charms (pheromones) to drive any man wild. Until now, Orion slave girls were nothing but idealized male eye candy. With this episode, Trek directly confronts slave trafficking and sexuality — even its own ’60s sexualization. Vroom completely owns her role. She’s alternately dangerous, manipulative, sympathetic, and seductive. More than anything, she yearns for freedom and she may be willing to do anything to gain it.

The Enterprise finds her as the sole survivor aboard a failing space ship. But is she a murderer or a victim? And if she did kill the men aboard, were all of their deaths justified?

While Kirk’s trying to puzzle his way through to the answers, he has to contend with Star Fleet bureucracy (via a Commodore played by Buck Rogers‘ Erin Gray), which doesn’t want an interstellar incident with the prominent Orion slaver who owns Lolani.

Fiona Vroom as Lolani.

Fiona Vroom as Lolani.

Like the Kirk I grew up watching and not the stereotype, the captain tries reason and diplomacy to achieve a solution and then, by the end, is willing to risk his all to see the right thing done. I dare say no more because, if you’re an original series fan like me, it will have been forever since you’ve seen a Star Trek episode without knowing how it would end (in my case, probably since I was 5).

And that last sentence above is an enduring testimonial — this feels SO much like a good original series episode that you can imagine you really are seeing another adventure of the Enterprise. I said it when I reviewed “Pilgrim of Eternity” and I’ll say it again: this is an amazing gift to all original Star Trek fans.

My wife hadn’t seen the first one, but watched them both this weekend with my son and about mid-way through “Lolani,” she had teared up. It wasn’t any particular scene that set her crying, it was that she was sincerely moved by such a loving recreation of one of her favorite childhood shows. She, too, was struck by how “they got Kirk right.” How much they got nearly everything right. (I happen to believe that it’s harder to get all these characters right than it seems and have written about it in perhaps over-exhaustive length over on my own web site. See Trek Week Part 4 and Part 5.)

What I found fascinating is evidence that Star Trek Continues might find an audience beyond those of us who grew up on Trek reruns. My son saw the first part of “Lolani” at a convention this weekend, with fellow teenagers who’d never watched a single episode of Star Trek, and they were so caught up in the tale that they’re now interested in seeing the original show. That surely says something about the power of what the cast and crew have created with Star Trek Continues.

Doug Drexler's beautiful Enterprise.

Doug Drexler’s beautiful Enterprise.

I can’t help wondering what the cast and crew of Star Trek Continues could do if they were being paid to do this full time by, say, the SyFy Channel or Netflix. Seeing as how no one bothered to pick up Firefly, it seems incredible to hope that someone could untangle the rights from CBS (which owns the Star Trek TV show rights) to film new Star Trek shows… but then again, if it could be proven that money might be made, who knows?

Imagine a world where there were new “old” Star Treks being made regularly! Do you know how many professional science fiction and fantasy writers working today grew up on the old show?

Just off the top of my head, I can name myself and E.E. Knight and Dave Gross and James Enge and Scott Lynch and John Scalzi. If I gave it a few more minutes, I’m sure I’d come up with scores more and I could almost guarantee we’d jump at the chance to write for a new Star Trek. It’d be a dream come true for a whole lot of us.

As unlikely as a fully-funded reboot seems, impossible things do happen. For instance, these two fine episodes of Star Trek Continues. Apparently, we can look forward to at least three more. If they can maintain this level of quality, I will wait with baited breath.

Go check it out. And don’t miss the donate button, which is actually fairly well-hidden at the bottom of their Contact Us page. They’re hoping to get the funds to build a planet set as well!


Howard Andrew Jones is the author of the historical fantasy novels The Desert of Souls, and the The Bones of the Old Ones, as well as the related short story collection The Waters of Eternity, and the Paizo Pathfinder novels Plague of Shadows and  Stalking the Beast. You can keep up with him at his website, www.howardandrewjones.com, and follow him on Twitter or follow his occasional meanderings on Facebook.

11 Comments »

  1. Howard, I agree with everything you’ve written. I watched the new episode a couple of weeks ago and was blown away by it. Everything was perfect, as far as I’m concerned.

    The thing that ticks me off is I keep hearing and reading these little quibbles from supposed fans about “oh, this wasn’t exactly right” or “that didn’t seem like such-and-such a character to me,” and all I can think is, “Are you kidding me?” Star Trek Continues is as close to TOS as we’re likely to ever get, and in some ways the “Lolani” episode stretches boundaries even TOS might not have touched, at least not so directly.

    Comment by Ty Johnston - April 2, 2014 9:02 am

  2. Oh, the chance to write Trek fanfic in a universe where I can pretend the Q Continuum doesn’t exist!

    Comment by eeknight - April 2, 2014 9:59 am

  3. Ty, I agree completely. I guess there are always going to be nitpickers like that. This is SO close, and, as you said, this one stretched the boundaries of what the original ST could have done while staying completely true to its vision.

    Eric — Q continuum. Blech.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - April 2, 2014 11:26 am

  4. But the Continuum does exist in TOS, more or less, as the whole concept is really just a slight elaboration on Trelane and his parents from The Squire of Gothos

    Comment by Hospitaller - April 2, 2014 8:42 pm

  5. Just watched both of these, wonderful stuff. Forget the silly shallow reboot, these are made with real love and rare competence.

    Comment by Bill Ward - April 3, 2014 12:58 am

  6. I’m looking forward to watching these.

    And while I understand the attraction of a network picking STC up, the thought gives me the hives. I’m afraid once the corporate suits get involved, the creators will soon find their vision being compromised. Remember what happened to Babylon 5.

    Comment by westkeith - April 3, 2014 10:13 am

  7. Holy cow, Howard – were you right! I just watched the first episode and I spent the better part of an hour chortling with glee, I enjoyed it so much; I’m saving Lolani for tomorrow when I can watch it with another old-time TOS fan. These folks just GET Star Trek. Thanks for telling us about this!

    Comment by emcgargle - April 3, 2014 10:50 pm

  8. Hospitaler, I suppose you’re right and that the whole Q thing is retconned in if you want. But if a writer does NOT want, he or she doesn’t yet have to deal with it. And I’m definitely in the NOT want camp.

    Bill — how have you been? Yeah, aren’t these great?

    Keith — I’m thinking ideally here. And, as long as I’m dreaming that CBS would greenlight these, I can dream that they’d leave it in the same hands.

    emcgargle — sounds like you took as much pleasure in the viewing as I have. It truly is an astonishing love letter to Trek. I swear by the second one most of the time you don’t even notice it’s not the same actors. I think that has to do with how much they get a whole bunch of subtle things right, as well as a whole lot of big important ones.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - April 4, 2014 8:18 am

  9. Hospitaler, I suppose you’re right and that the whole Q thing is retconned in if you want. But if a writer does NOT want, he or she doesn’t yet have to deal with it.

    No more so than any writer working in the TNG era necessarily has to write stories revolving around the Q Continuum.

    Comment by Hospitaller - April 16, 2014 1:26 am

  10. […] Star Trek Continues with “Lolani” and Soars to Warp Eight […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in April - June 2, 2014 12:05 pm

  11. […] The thing I’m MOST looking forward to this evening is a viewing of the new Star Trek: Continues episode titled “Fairest of Them All,” set as a direct sequel to the original Star Trek fan favorite episode, “Mirror, Mirror.” The only reason I’m holding off watching it is because I want to see it with the wife and family. If you don’t have to wait, go check it out now! The last two have been wonderful, as I’ve gushed out about elsewhere. […]

    Pingback by Kane and Trek | Howard Andrew Jones Howard Andrew Jones - June 16, 2014 10:53 am


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