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Star Trek Continues: Pilgrim of Eternity Review [Spoilers]

August 26, 2013

*I’ll treat this like any other episode of Trek, which I think is a sign of respect.

Plot: The Enterprise comes across a floating green blob that has been sucking power stations dry and can’t go left or right. Before the thing drains all the ships power, Kirk fires a photon torpedo at it, not realising there are two faint life signs aboard. The blob explodes and some of it sticks to the ship. Meanwhile, Apollo and Athena materialise on the bridge, looking like two of the Golden Girls. Athena quickly dies, leaving Apollo alone with a bunch of guys who don’t like him very much, and a Scottish dude whose girlfriend he once tried to fuck.

Anything else?

Scotty designs an early version of the holodeck before stomping through the rest of the episode as an angry, angry man. Spock looks through his telescope. Bones tones down the casual racism from the Original series and actually refers to himself as a country doctor at one point. Sulu embraces gun culture and shoots pieces of blob off the ship. Simeoni [?] looks forward to further development as a supporting character, perhaps with a backstory, a mission of his own, a love interest, before being blown up by an overloading phaser. Chekhov glares like a KGB spy.

Notes:

Fan-fiction

Far as I can tell, this is a web series made by professional actors and movie people who also happen to be huge Trek fans. They would have to be to be making this in the first place.
But this is not your typical fan wank.

Production values

The set is almost identical to the original Trek. In fact, this is probably the smartest thing the producers did. Can you imagine a ‘TNG Continues’ or ‘DS9: The next day’? The budget would’ve been huge, but by using the Original Series as a template, they’ve made the audience think they’re watching something visually better than the series they remember from Sunday morning TV.

It also surprises you right from the first scene. The original Trek was of its time and didn’t have the most adventurous direction, mainly because the techniques of mainstream TV just weren’t that advanced. They knew what worked and they stuck with it.

This episode starts on a close-up of a gun pinned against Kirk’s forehead and then spins round and back to reveal what’s going on.

Later on, Kirk runs out of a room and into the corridor and the camera spins and follows him like the camera in Abrams’ new films [the exception being, this camera doesn’t change angle too, or shake, or jiggle, or…].

Also, unlike the film, this camera movement actually compliments the content of the scene. There’s an emergency and Kirk has to run, and the camera captures it. With Abrams, the whole film’s moving at hyper-speed so the camera’s never pinned to the floor at all.

I guess the camera movement matches the pace of the film, but that just means the pace of the film is fucking dumb.

What was the Enterprise doing underwater again?

In the original series, and in TNG, the corridor scenes were always done in segments with fixed cameras. You remember…if Kirk and Spock walked out of the transporter room, no matter what the situation, the camera would be ahead of them, fixed to the point they were walking towards. If it was a long scene with a lot of corridor, when they reached the first camera, they’d just switch to a new camera further along the corridor and walk to that one.

It’s not a big thing. The dialogue was usually quite decent so it never bothered me…it doesn’t bother me now either…but it’s probably a little outdated.

If it were a scale, it would be:

100% [camera like an out of control hosepipe] = Star Trek Into Darkness
50% [mix of slow and fast] = Pilgrim of Eternity
0% [don’t touch that fucking camera] = Star Trek: Original Series

What else?

The set-design is brilliant. It looks just like old Trek and, as I wrote earlier, I think this was a really smart decision. And it’s not the only one. The producers really seem to grasp what makes Trek work best, and that’s smart science-fiction and decent characters, not CGI and huge space battles that they probably couldn’t afford anyway.

Acting

To be honest, and the guy who played Sulu might not want to read this part, it was uneven.

Nu-Kirk was a bit off in the first scene, maybe the second too, but by the time he was on the bridge and in the Captain’s chair, he was Kirk. By the end of the episode, I believed in him enough.

A bit off?

I don’t know if it was the line delivery or the situation, but it just seemed like a guy not knowing if he should do a Shatner impersonation or go completely the other way. Perhaps it was the voice not being like Shatner’s. I don’t know.

What changed?

I’m not sure. I guess I just stopped trying to pick holes in the thing and went with it. Isn’t that always the way with fan fiction? You wait for the thing to derail instead of watching it as its own beast.

One thing I really liked about Kirk is the way he modulated his voice to suit different lines. Shatner used to do the same thing, but the actor playing Kirk in this doesn’t interrupt the dialogue so much, which is a good thing. It’s more about the volume – he almost whispers into the com device at times – and this makes the louder times more emphatic, especially the part where he walks into the Rec room and shouts ‘Apollo!’

I also liked the way he moved in the Captain’s chair – just like the old Kirk used to, which is something I don’t think should be dropped as it was great.

Nu-Kirk might be a bit too muscular though – where’s the flab/girdle?

Spock was okay, but didn’t really have much to do. There was a scene in the Tactical room where he slipped into some regional US accent I don’t know the name of…but it was only one line.

The voice wasn’t quite right with a few of the characters

Spock doesn’t have the distinctive tones of Nimoy [nor does Quinto, though he’s a little closer] and I think the actor needs to work on this. Spock shouldn’t sound American, he should sound Slovenian. Or something.

Counsellor McKenna – her voice was also a little too American, like she’d just wandered onto the ship from Long Beach. It wasn’t that distracting, her general performance was okay, but I’d prefer something a little more neutral with the voice.

Scotty, Bones, Sulu and Uhura – they had quite a lot to do and did it fairly well. Scotty and Bones were the standouts, probably because they had more to play with. I liked the dialogue Bones had at the end, even though he doesn’t quite have the ‘I’m sick of this fucking ship’ look Deforest Kelley used to have. Not yet, anyway.

Sulu…I don’t know if this guy was trying to mimic George Takei or not, but his line readings were desperately uneven. The part where he’s blasting the green shit off the ship was okay, but the scene where he’s sitting on the transporter pad is pretty bad. If this character is going to get a lot of screen time, it might be a good idea to work on different ways to read the lines. There, not too harsh…

The Mighty Apollo

This guy was fucking brilliant. I found out it was the same actor who played Apollo in the Original series and he’s way better here than I remember him being in the old episode. Has he been doing a lot of Shakespeare the last 40 years?

Seriously, the scene where he sings to Uhura and then gives a speech that builds up to ‘the sacrilege of sacking Troillus…’ is…it’s…I don’t know what it is, but if I ever meet the guy in real life I will call him Apollo, because that’s exactly who he is in this scene.

The plot

The pace of old Trek always existed in its own little dimension…it had structure, of course, but a lot of the scenes really took their time, allowing the characters/actors to make an impression with dialogue/actions.

The only real downside to this was if the episode was ‘The Alternative Factor’ where fifty minutes seemed like four months.

But most of the time, the casual pacing/character work was a good thing.

Star Trek into Darkness didn’t have this at all. If anyone moved around the ship, they were always running. If they were on the bridge, it was always about to blow up. There were no scenes that had the spirit of the original series, where Kirk would sit in his chair and ask a lot of questions about what exactly that green blob was and what it was doing in front of their ship.

This episode had that painted all over it.

It’s a dilemma, not action

The central story element is quite simple: Apollo doesn’t want worship from humans, he just wants to settle on a nice planet with a warm Sun and retire. There’s no fist-fight with Kirk or pointless battle with Klingons. The only action that occurs in the episode comes midway through where Apollo briefly returns to his old ways, pinning Kirk to…the air. The rest of the time, it’s a character piece, and not just for Apollo.

Kirk and Scotty are the other characters who have something to do other than read lines out loud – Kirk as the captain must weigh the responsibility to his crew against the compassion of granting an old perv…man his dying wish. It’s quite similar to the predicament Picard faced in ‘The Defector’, where the whole episode spins around one simple decision: to believe the Romulan General and start/stop a war, or to do nothing and have a tedious episode.

In this one it’s: to believe Apollo and risk another culture being enslaved by False Gods or…I don’t know…keep him in sickbay for the rest of his life? Shoot him out the airlock?

It’s a dilemma that shows both sides of Kirk – his role as a leader, and his role as a human being that hates to be a dick.

The Scotty stuff is a little less convincing, probably because there are fewer scenes with him. If you’ve seen the episode from the Original series, you’ll remember that Scotty wanted to fuck the girl that Apollo liked, and he wasn’t happy when Apollo tried to bedazzle her with his chunky tits/deep tan combo.

This episode continues this element as it’s Scotty who’s the most implacable member of the crew when it comes to giving Apollo a second chance [and then a third chance after he tries to punish Kirk in the corridor].

The problem is…when Scotty loses it in one of the Tactical room meetings, it doesn’t seem to be consistent with who Scotty is. Or he wouldn’t be that insolent about it at least. Starfleet is a structured like a military organisation, that kind of strop wouldn’t be tolerated, even if the guy is Scottish.

Soppy endings

Yup, this one has one of those. But it’s not fatal, as the main soppiness comes from a nice little reversal – I was fully expecting Apollo to die when doing his glowing hand trick on Uhura, but the writers turned it into a nice Trek-ian resolution that Wesley Crusher would’ve been proud of.

Medieval California

The tag scene was probably a tag too far, if I’m honest. It’s implied in the Uhura sickbay scene that ‘the thing that happens to Apollo on the planet’ will happen, we don’t need to actually see the transformation. Also, putting a wheel back on a cart isn’t the most visually arresting sacrifice I’ve ever seen.

Haven’t we seen all this before?

The basic concept, yes, but I can understand why they did this episode. And frankly, if I knew the actor who played Apollo was willing to do it, I’d have made the same choice.

Were there enough differences?

Yes.

i] Apollo is on the Enterprise, not next to his foam temple.

It seems superficial, but it’s not. It puts Apollo under the control of someone else [Kirk] and this is something that is hard to take for a man who used to be a God. It also gives him more people to interact with, and a new environment to explore. Returning to the planet with the temple would’ve been a huge mistake.

ii] He’s going through the same character issues

To a degree, yes, he is. But it’s not quite the same. In the original series, he ended up depressed and lonely because Kirk and co didn’t love him, but in this episode he’s actually willing to change. It’s a continuation of the character rather than a re-hash. And really, the fact that it’s quite moving means it was a good choice for the producers to make.

iii] There’s not enough tension

Granted, the danger to the ship is not really built up – Scotty doesn’t even struggle to come up with his plan or articulate it on screen, he just mouths some words to Kirk and gets a nod. He could’ve said he was going to throw pencils at the green shit for all we know. But it doesn’t really matter as there is another form of tension – character change.

We know at some point in the episode Apollo is going to revert to his old ways, and this is where the tension comes from. After he attacks Kirk in the corridor, the tension does dissipate a little, but it doesn’t feel like a huge loss. I quite like the idea of a more positive spin on Apollo’s struggle to be a better guy, instead of the defeated God who ends up going nuts and has to be defeated by Kirk [with no shirt]. The Uhura scene is a little cheesy/manipulative, but it’s earned, I think.

Medieval California

Still a bad idea.

Anything else?

Sulu had a good idea.

I expected Spock to reject his plan to get the green stuff off the ship’s hull, but he didn’t, he said it was a solid plan.

Not even the Original Series allowed the supporting characters to come up with useful ideas. I like that this series is willing to take that path.

Obviously, we’ll skip over the fact that Sulu’s plan was a disaster and led to the death of Simeoni.

Should they make en episode 2?

They should. It’s not as good as a real Trek series, obviously, but there’s something about the old Trek setting that makes me hopeful for good science fiction stories to be told. I don’t need multi-season arcs or exploding Romulan Warbirds or transwarp bullshit…pre-teens do, I don’t…no, decent characters and fewer ‘spaceship underwater’ scenes would be more than enough to keep me going until the next ‘proper’ TV series comes along.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jay R. permalink
    February 26, 2014 6:19 am

    After enjoying the second episode of ST: Continues, and looking for some reviews, I came across this blog. After seeing the vulgar and crude language that you apparently feel is necessary to get your point across, I stopped reading. All the other reviews I have read have generated dozens of comments on their pages. Yours is the only one I have seen where no one has bothered. Yours is also the only one with this kind of foul language. Care to put two and two together?

    • March 4, 2014 12:11 pm

      Mate, there are 9 swear words in this. Does this really offend you enough to write the only comment it’s had? How do you survive in daily life?

  2. November 7, 2014 6:45 pm

    I’ll write another comment, just so he’s not the only one. The episode was great, and I agree with (and enjoyed) your witty review/take. The sparingly used swear words were funny.

    • December 3, 2014 2:29 am

      Thanks, man. I know Trek has it’s fair share of puritans, but it’s still depressing to meet a live one.

  3. Spark permalink
    September 22, 2015 12:34 am

    The review was not bad, though I also feel the offensive language could and should be eliminated. Why? Because after the first f- bomb, I immediately got the feeling this was going to be an immature, very unprofessional review. To me a lot of foul language is a sure song of a lack of education… thinking people can get by just fine without that language. Non thinking people either need it or just think it’s cool… and it’s not.

    That aside, the review wasn’t bad, like I said. You made some good points. One question shocked me: when you asked what the f was the enterprise doing underwater? Seriously dude? In case you forgot, they were on a primitive planet for a mission and wanted to hide the ship, and chose to underwater. Why they didn’t transport or take a shuttle, well, that’s the real question.

    One thing you didn’t ask, which was the reason I looked for reviews in the first place (thinking the reviewer might be able to explain it) is why in some scenes Apollo has more hair than Bea Arthur, and in other scenes he’s nearly completely bald. Did they forget the wig in the dressing room? When they first showed him nearly bald I assumed they were trying to show him aging quickly, yet in the next scene he had a full head of hair again… and a few scenes later he was near bald again. What the heck was that about?

    So, keep the reviews coming, but tone down the junior high school vocabulary. Most people interested in this show will be way past the age where that kind of language is still cool. Thanks for the review!

    • Altstartrek permalink
      September 23, 2015 2:09 am

      I repeat: there are 9 swear words. Have you never been on the internet before?

      I’m sorry, I don’t meant to be harsh, I just don’t understand why you would be so offended by it.

    • December 13, 2015 5:21 am

      I took the changing amount of hair to represent his getting invigorated by worship (or later, self-sacrifice). Not sloppiness in makeup or continuity, which seems very unlikely given how meticulous everything else was.

  4. December 13, 2015 5:25 am

    I have no problems with the swear words–in fact, I barely noticed them.

    I thought this was mighty impressive, in general. But I’m surprised the Bones actor seems to get a pass from everyone. Maybe because he’s apparently a well-known Trek historian? I thought he just didn’t come across anything like DeForest Kelley.

    I agree that the actor playing the ship’s counsellor was a little off. I felt like she was the only one who didn’t fit into the 1960s acting style, but instead seemed like she was totally from the 2010s. Almost like an SNL sketch where everyone is doing genre or period except one person who’s like “what the hey?” (for instance, the spoof of musicals where the one guy is like “whoa, why’s everyone singing…did you choreograph that dance number?”)

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