Tag: Star Trek

 

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Last week, Lost in Translation looked at a fan-made audio drama, including the nature of audio plays.  The post goes into greater detail about the needs of an audio adaptation.  This week, Lost in Translation looks at another fan audio work, Star Trek: Outpost, from Giant Gnome Productions.

Like Starship Excelsior last week, Outpost is a Star Trek fan audio series set after the end of the Dominion War.  However, Outpost is set on Deep Space Three, a neglected space station near the borders of both the First Federation, first seen in “The Corbomite Maneuver”, and the Ferengi Alliance.  The relative calm of the sector compared to those abutting Klingon space, Romulan space, and the ones consumed by the Dominion War meant that Starfleet did what it could to keep the station running without spending too many finite resources.  Commanding the station is Captain Montaigne Buchanan, an efficiency expert who has managed to keep the station going with fewer and fewer resources.  Captain Buchanan is looking forward to his efforts at the station being rewarded with a promotion to Admiral.  However, the transfer of Lt. Commander Greg “Tork” Torkelson from the USS Remington to become as the station’s Executive Officer, throws a few hitches into Buchanan’s approach.  Torkelson, as the Exec, also gains command of the USS Chimera, an Oberth-class starship similar to the USS Grissom from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Deep Space Three has a reputation for being a place where Starfleet personnel whose careers have nosedived go to, a collection of misfits and outcasts.  The Chimera‘s Chief Engineer, Chief Petty Officer Bert Knox, is one such character.  His goal is to keep the Chimera functioning, going so far as to salvage other decommissioned Oberths and to install alien technologies when the proper part isn’t available.  Torkelson’s arrival, though, brings in new ideas on how to make Deep Space Three relevant again.  Tork’s plans include re-opening parts of the station shut down to conserve power and resources, including the station’s mall.  While Torkelson’s choice to run the station – Ferengi brothers Vurk and Tirgil – may not work out as well as he hopes, Deep Space Three is beginning to turn around from its reputation.  Whether it can while Orion pirates, a rogue Klingon warrior, the return of the First Federation, and the general weirdness of the Pinchot Expanse are around is another question.

As mentioned last week, audio works need to create the setting solely through sound.  Redundant, but success and failure hinge on making sure the audience knows what’s around through sound cues.  Outpost succeeds here; the Chimera and Deep Space Three have different sounds, and starship and station both individualize their sets even further.  The bridge of the Chimera has the proper sounds as expected and is different from the engineering section and sick bay.  Likewise, Deep Space Three’s command centre is different from the station’s sick bay and from the mall.  And when power is lost in one episodes, the background sounds disappear.

Like Excelsior, the cast of Outpost is more than compentent, and the two productions share a couple of voice actors, Larry Phelan and Eleiece Krawiec.  Of note, the father-and-son team of Ben Cromey and Doug Cromey are fun to listen to as the Vurk and Tirgil, especially their rallying cry, “We’re gonna die!”  Combined with the writing, the episodes of Outpost are compelling, with characters who have depth and can be empathized with, even when they’re not immediately sympathetic.

One thing the creators of Outpost do is create “minisodes”, or mini-episodes, when at conventions.  They bring in netbooks with USB microphones and get volunteers from the audience to read parts in a script to show how a show is put together.  Overnight, they edit the parts together, add in the sound effects and music, then present the minisode in a panel the next day.  A good example of how the creators get this done is the minisode, “Ferengi Apprentice“, recorded at the Denver Comic Con.  They had some problems with the recoding due to an unshielded cable interfering with a microphone, so the episode was redone, but both versions, the original recorded at the panel and the redone one, are included to show the differences.

Star Trek: Outpost is another fan-made production that takes pains to fit in with the original work.  The effects are correct for the era, and the Chimera‘s mish-mash of parts include sounds from Star Treks of old.  The result is a well-done adaptation that demonstrates how to adapt well.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Last week’s Lost in Translation featured a discussion about fan adaptations, including a rationale on what works would get analyzed.  This week, a look at a Star Trek fan audio productions.

Radio serials were the forerunner of today’s TV series.  Families would gather around the radio and tune in favourite series.  In the Thirties, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen had his own, live, show that had a large audience.  Orson Welles had Mercury Theatre on the Air, the production that scared the US with War of the Worlds.  The key is to engage the audience’s imagination.  Unlike theatre before, movies concurrent with radio, and television afterwards, radio relies on just one sense, hearing.  The cast and crew have to create an immersive setting while just using audio.  Sound effects become key.  The more real the situation sounds, the more the audience buys in.  Creative use of sound can also create the mood desired.  Welles’ War of the Worlds has a memorable scene where one plaintive voice calls out over radio, “Is there anyone out there?” over and over while the background sounds fade out one by one as the Martian advance, leaving the audience in horror of what’s happening even if they don’t realize why*.

Even with television ubiquitous these days, radio plays still abound.  National Public Radio (NPR) adapted the original Star Wars trilogy into radio serials shortly after each movie was released.  BBC Radio 4 still airs radio dramas on Saturdays.  With the proliferation of portable devices capable of playing .mp3 files, from dedicated .mp3 players to cell phones to tablets, audio plays join music and audio books as something to listen to when the eyes are busy elsewhere.

Fan works, however, exist at the forbearance of the person or company owning the original material.  Fan fiction tends to get overlooked; unless the fanfic is notorious, a blind eye is usually turned.  There is also no barrier to entry when it comes to fan fiction; all that is needed is a means to write, available with all computers or even pen and paper.  Some rights holders encourage fan fiction, with limitations, because of the creativity the endeavor encourages.  With original visual works, like TV series and movies, the closer a fan work is to matching, the closer the work gets to being an infringement.  Full video also has expenses; while the cost of professional-quality recording and editing equipment has dropped, creating sets and costumes still have material costs.  If the fan production charged a fee for viewing, the work becomes a copyright and trademark infringement and corporate attack lawyers will have cease-and-desist orders issued before the first payment can be processed.  There are ways around, including donation in kind, where a fan can help by providing equipment, costumes, or props that are needed.

Audio works don’t have the range of expenses a video would.  Where a video would need props, sets**, and costumes, audio just needs the sound effects of those elements.  The actors don’t even need to be in the same city or even continent, thanks to the Internet and cloud storage.  Each actor just needs a good microphone and a way to record, which even the Windows operating system had since version 3.1.  The audio production, though, needs to use sound to build the sets, so details that get taken for granted by audiences, such as subtle creaks in an old castle or the rumble of a starship’s main drive through the hull, have to be added to help the listener create the image in his or her mind.  One wrong detail, even if it’s just getting a sequence of beeps on a starship’s viewscreen out of order, can break the suspension of disbelief and lose listeners.

Strength of writing is also important.  Getting the audio details correct does go towards satisfying an audience, but if characters aren’t acting as expected or the plot is dull, listeners won’t tune in.  Some original works, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, and Harry Potter, have settings broad enough that new stories can be created in them without ever interacting with the original characters.  In the case of Star Trek, a fan work could focus on the crew of a different starship, exploring different sectors at any point in the history of the setting.  The precedent already exists with Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.  With Harry Potter, the novels already show a glimpse of a larger wizarding world; setting an audio series at a different wizard school isn’t farfetched.  There’s room to play, and that sort of room allows for creative interpretations.  Let’s take a look at a fan-made Star Trek audio series.

Starship Excelsior began its first season in 2007.  Set on board the Sovereign-class starship, the USS Excelsior, hull code NCC-2000C, the series is in its fourth season.  The main plot of the first three seasons picks up to dangling plot threads from Star Trek: The Next Generation and ties them together as the crew of the Excelsior investigates an anomaly that leads into dark revelations that threaten the survival of not just the Federation, but the entire galaxy.  The fourth season starts a new arc as the Excelsior begins an exploration mission, with a mixture of lighter and darker episodes, though some still harken back to the earlier episodes.

The cast of characters consists of the Starfleet officers assigned to the Excelsior.  The ship’s captain, Alcar Dovan, received the command after the previous commander, Rachel Cortez, died in action.  Dovin joined Starfleet to explore, not to engage in military action, but he has excelled at surviving in battles, something he has grown to hate.  His first officer, Alecz Lorhrok, is an unjoined Trill, chosen to be the exec by Dovan.  The by-the-book operations manager, Neeva, is an Orion, dealing with the difficulties of being one of the few of her people in Starfleet.  The chief of security, Asuka Yubari, was severely wounded in the special forces, moved to intelligence, then was assigned to the Excelsior.  The helmsman, Bev Rol, also served in intelligence, where he lost his idealism.  The ship’s surgeon, Doctor Melissa Sharp, wanted to be a researcher, away from patients, but found her career stalled as a result of her beliefs before signing up on the Excelsior.  The characters all have their own motivations, from Dr. Sharp’s opposition to military engagements to Rol’s atonement for past misdeeds.  They clash, they argue, they laugh, they are fully formed, brought to life by actors who could easily get into professional voice work if they so choose.

The writing of the series is tight and takes into account Trek canon.  As mentioned about, the major plot of the first three seasons centred around two dangling plot threads from Star Trek: The Next Generation, one involving the Borg.  The first three seasons are also one continuous story, as opposed to being episodic.  Missing an episode means missing plot and character developments.  The fourth season has more single-story episodes, but still has an arc to it.  Listeners can easily get attached to the characters and worry about their survival and success.  There are times when the writers’ fannish tendencies*** show up; Dovan’s exclamations owe a lot to Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars, with a nod to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld with a colour that Bolian vision can see that humans can’t.

The audio sets are also built well.  The sounds that are expected from a Starfleet vessel are all there, from the rumbling of the engines to the beeps of consoles and PADDs to the alarm klaxons.  Even if someone was just tuning into the middle of an episode, the effects would be enough to tell them where the story was set.  The result is a series that is very much Star Trek, though in the darker realms of the franchise.

Of special note, Starship Excelsior ran a Kickstarter campaign to create an episode for the fiftieth anniversary of /Star Trek/’s first airing.  The campaign was more than successful, letting them rent a proper recording studio and fly their audio engineer in from Toronto.  More than that, the success allowed the series get Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Robin Curtis (Saavik, The Search for Spock), Joanne Linville (the Romulan Commander in “The Enterprise Incident”), and Jack Donner (Subcommander Tal, “The Enterprise Incident”) to reprise their original characters in a new story that still ties into the Starship Excelsior storyline.  “Tomorrow’s Excelsior” is a one hour, forty minute story where Uhura and Chekov must save Starfleet, the Federation, the galaxy, and the future while avoiding war with the Romulans, with a solution that fits well with their characters.  The series took care in emphasizing in the Kickstarter campaign that all money raised would be put into the production of the episode, with the main costs being getting the actors they wanted.  The episode is available for free from Starship Excelsior‘s website.

* Creative use of sound continues even today.  Alien, a science fiction horror movie, removed background music, leaving the audience no cues on what was about to happen.
** Even with green screening and CGI available, some physical elements are still needed, if only to give the actors something to play off.
*** To be fair, even professional works will have this sort of thing.  The Serenity from Firefly had a cameo in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, appearing overhead on Caprica.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

The original Star Trek recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of the air date of its first episode, “The Man Trap”.  Since then, the series has had a number of adaptations, including feature films, continuation TV series, games, comics, books, and even a cartoon.  However, when the last first-run episode, “Turnabout Intruder” aired, fans had to resign themselves to watching the series in syndication, despite the efforts put into letter writing campaigns.

The dearth of new Star Trek episodes came to an end in 1973, when Gene Roddenberry worked with Filmation to create an animated series.  Now known as Star Trek: The Animated Series, to distinguish it from other Trek entries, the cartoon brought back the crew of the USS Enterprise for two more seasons, this time on Saturday mornings.  Filmation is best known for series such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, its spin-off series She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Ghostbusters*, and animation techniques that were budget friendly, including long establishing shots and animation reuse.  During the series’ two seasons, twenty-two episodes aired.

Budget-friendly animation helped ST:TAS, allowing the series to bring back most of the cast to reprise their roles for the cartoon.  With the reuse of animation, artists could ensure that the characters looked like their actors.  Also because of animation, aliens were no longer limited to looking like humans in rubber masks.  Two new crewmembers were introduced, Lieutenant M’ress, a cat-like communications officer, and Lieutenant Arex, a tripedal navigation officer.  Both additions allowed Star Fleet and the Federation to feel larger and inclusive.  Thanks to being animated, alien worlds could look alien with no more effort it took to paint a corridor of the Enterprise.

ST:TAS brought in science-fiction writers as much as the original series did.  Larry Niven wrote “The Slaver Weapon”, bringing in his Kzinti from his short story, “The Soft Weapon”.  David Gerrold, who wrote the original series episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles”, revisited the furry ecological menaces with “More Troubles, More Tribbles”.  DC Fontana, who both wrote and was a story editor for the original series, contributed “Yesteryear”, a look at Spock as a young boy.  The limitations of the format, a 22-minute long cartoon, was worked around and, in many cases, used to great effect.

For a while, the animated series was considered non-canonical, except for the cases where it was.  Kirk’s middle name, Tiberius, was given to him by Gerrold in “More Trouble, More Tribbles”, and stuck.  Fontana’s “Yesteryear” provided such a rich look at both Spock’s early life and Vulcan culture that it was more-or-less accepted as is.  “Yesteryear” is part of Spock’s story arc, as he evolves from having his Human and Vulcan sides at odds to him accepting that he is part of both worlds, as seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyager Home.  Canonicity has returned in bits and pieces, with ST:TAS being mined for background for different characters.

The series continued to delve into social issues and showcased characters that didn’t get spotlight time in the original series.  Of note, “The Lorelei Signal”, by Margaret Armen, placed Uhura in command of the Enterprise after the male crewmembers fell under the effect of space sirens.  Beings that appeared to be dangerous turned out to be misunderstood.  The dangers of introducing an invasive species were explored.  The show worked to keep to the spirit of the original series.  While there were episodes that fell flat, the same happened with the original series.  However, the animated series took what it had and expanded the Trek universe, entertaining fans who were starved for new episodes without disappointing them.

Star Trek: The Animated Series transcended the Saturday morning cartoon format, bringing back the crew of the Enterprise to boldly go, once again, where no man has gone before.

* Not to be confused with The Real Ghostbusters, the animated adaptation of the Ghostbusters movie.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Any work with a large geek following is fodder for being adapted as a tabletop role-playing game.  If that work has a setting that allows for other groups to live in without being affected by the events of the work, it becomes prime, whether fan-created or licensed.  Star Trek is such a work; popular with a setting that spans the galaxy.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that there have been three Trek RPGs published over the decades.

Star Trek introduced Star Fleet with its main mission being exploration.  Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise boldly went where no man had gone before, finding new life and new civilizations.  The series showed a number of first contacts, some more dangerous than others, and introduced Klingons and Romulans to the audience.  The original Trek lasted three seasons, but remained in syndicated reruns since leaving the air in 1969.  The popularity of the show in syndication led to two season of an animated adaptation in 1973, featuring most of the original cast*.  The animated series led to an aborted second TV series that turned into the 1979 movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the film franchise that followed.

Trek returned to television in 1987 with Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The new series introduced a new crew and a new Enterprise, helmed by Captain Jean-Luc Picard.  The Next Generation ran seven seasons, then went into its own movie series.  Meanwhile, a third Trek TV series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, began in 1993, showing a different aspect of the Federation.  Instead of exploration, Deep Space Nine focused on life on a space station as the Federation helped the Bajorans recover from being occupied by the Cardassians.  When The Next Generation wrapped up, a fourth TV series, Star Trek: Voyager, began.  Voyager chronicled the story of a lost Star Fleet vessel, the USS Voyager under the command of Captain Kathryn Janeway as the ship tried to return to the Federation.  When Voyager came to a close with the ship returning home, another series was ready to go.  Star Trek: Enterprise looked at the history of the setting, from Earth’s first steps into space to the birth of the Federation.  Fatigue and story quality, though, meant that Enterprise was the first Trek series since the original to not last seven seasons.  No new Trek production would be made until the 2009 film, Star Trek.

Even working from the original Trek, the germ of a roleplaying game already existed.  Players could be Star Fleet officers, commanding a starship and exploring the galaxy.  This was the basis of the first Trek RPG, FASA’s Star Trek: The Role Playing Game, released in 1983.  FASATrek had only the original series, the animated adaptation, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture to work from, with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan coming out during the game’s production.  Character creation in FASATrek assumes that players will be Star Fleet officers, though later supplements allowed players to play merchants, Star Fleet intelligence agents, Klingons, and Romulans.  The core rules, though, took characters through Star Fleet Academy, their cadet cruise, and their previous experience before embarking on their new mission.  The core mechanic was a percentile, or d100, roll, with players trying to roll underneath their skill rating used.  The skills reflected what was seen on the TV series.  Available races included Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellerites, all from the TV series, plus Caitians and Edoans, both from the animated series**.

While the original Trek emphasized a peaceful approach, there were starship battles, most notably in the episode, “The Balance of Terror”.  The developers of FASATrek wanted to keep to what was shown in the series, avoiding turning starship battles into a board- or wargame.  FASATrek broke down responsibilities by position.  The captain gave the orders, the helmsman piloted the ship and fired the weapons, the navigator managed the shields, the engineer tried to balance the power available to the needs of each station, the science officer ran sensors, and communications maintained damage control.  Security officers were the only ones without a duty during a starship battle, provided shields didn’t fail allowing boarding parties.  A second edition came out before Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, with an update after the movie was released to take into account the events shown.  The new edition cleared up problems found in the first and took into account the film franchise.  The core mechanic was kept, with some clarifications, and starship battles still used a console for each position on the bridge.  The end result was a game system that kept the flavour of both the TV series and existing movies.

FASATrek was published through to the first season of The Next Generation, with two supplements released for the new series.  Paramount, however, wasn’t pleased with what FASA was doing with the license and pulled it after the first season of The Next Generation was complete in 1989.  FASA, though, had other game lines to fall back on – BattleTech, the miniatures wargame involving giant mecha, and Shadowrun, a role-playing game crossing cyberpunk with Tolkein-esque fantasy.

FASATrek worked to maintain the Trek flavour as seen in the original series, then expanded the setting based on what was known.  As will be seen below, the game established a feel that would be repeated by later publishers.  FASATrek managed to replicate the feel of both the TV series and, with the second edition, the movies.

The Trek RPG license lay fallow for a decade, In 1999, Last Unicorn Games obtained the license and released Star Trek: The Next Generation Role-playing GameThe Next Generation had wrapped up in 1994, with Deep Space Nine wrapping up its seventh season and Voyager still boldly going.  The new RPG used LUG’s Icon system, using six-sided dice and target numbers instead of FASA’s percentile system.  Character creation, though, still followed the same lifepath, going from youth to Star Fleet Academy to prior experience before the new mission.  Starship battles also ensured that all the characters on the bridge had something to do.  By focusing on The Next Generation at first, the game was able to feel current, especially with Trek available on TV and in theatres.  LUG released several supplements, covering the Andorians, the Vulcans, the Klingons, and the Romulans, as well as core books for the original Star Trek and Deep Space Nine.  A Voyager core book was planned but never released.  The license was transferred to Decipher before the book could be created.

LUGTrek had a different feel from FASATrek, thanks to the change in mechanics.  However, the change in mechanics helped reflect the change in tone from the original series to The Next Generation.  The tone of the each series was reflected in the writing; but each core book was still Star Trek.

Decipher wasn’t a new game company, but had focused on collectible card games, including one based on Star Trek.  However, when it received the license, the design team from LUG moved over to Decipher.  A new mechanic was devised, called CODA, which would also be used in Decipher’s Lord of the Rings  Roleplaying Game.  The Star Trek Roleplaying Game used the CODA mechanics, two six-sided dice instead of LUGTrek‘s dice based on the attribute.  Decipher also split the rules between the Player’s Guide and the Narrator’s Guide.  This did allow DECTrek to incorporate all the existing series, including Enterprise, into the core rules, instead of splitting them over several books as LUGTrek had.  DECTrek also used a lifepath for character creation, but characters weren’t restricted to being Star Fleet officers unlike both FASATrek and LUG’s Next Generation core rules,  The end result is a character with a backstory as detailed as the player wants.

Aside from some layout issues, DECTrek still aimed to achieve the feel of Star Trek, with the added difficulty of trying to be all eras of Trek.  For the most part, the game succeeded.  Decipher ended publication of RPGs by 2007, leaving material for both the Trek and the LotR games unpublished.

There is no licensed Trek RPG currently in production.  However, there is Prime Directive, a role-playing game derived from the universe created in Amarillo Design Bureau’s wargame Star Fleet Battles.  The wargame, originally published by Task Force Games, was licensed, not from Paramount but from Franz Joseph, who had created blueprints of various Trek ships and had written The Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual.  As such, the wargame, and thus Prime Directive, does diverge from canon.  There have been four verstions of the Prime Directive RPG. one from Amarillo using its own mechanics, one published by Amarillo that uses Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS rules, and two D20*** editions.  A Mongoose Traveller version was announced in 2011, but it appears that the development of the base game’s second edition has delayed production on Amarillo’s end.  Prime Directive is centered on “Prime Teams”, Star Fleet officers who are specifically trained for landing party duty so that senior officers would not be endangered by beaming down to new worlds.  The system allowed players to create connections to events as needed, reflecting how in the various Trek series that a character would know someone in an episode, from Kirk’s rivalry with Finnigan to Dax’s many lives.  Prime Directive, though, wasn’t as reflective of Star Trek as the other games, in part because of limitations in the licensing.

It is possible to adapt an existing role-playing game for Star Trek.  Licensed games remove the work of adapting from the GM, having already made the effort to get the details down.  Each of the games mentioned above has done the hard work, setting down in mechanics a work where writers will create new solutions without having to worry about the ramifications in a game.  With this work done, the GM just has to create situations to send players through, without worrying about what damage a phaser can do.

* Budget considerations meant that Walter Koenig didn’t return as Chekov, but he did write the episode, “The Infinite Vulcan”.
** The Paramount-mandated requirement that licensees not work together hadn’t come in yet.  This can be seen with the 1983 supplement, The Klingons, which was in part written by John M. Ford, who also wrote the tie-in novel, The Final Reflection, about the Klingons around the same time.  The two works build on each other.
*** The D20 system was Wizards of the Coast’s core mechanic for the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons.  Wizards released an Open Gaming License version of the rules to allow other companies to focus more on setting than on mechanics.

Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Since the series first aired in 1966, Star Trek has made inroad into not just geek culture but global culture.  It is rare to find anyone unfamiliar with the concepts of the series and unable to name at least one Captain.  The show’s prominence and tropes also make it ripe for parodies.  Each series and movie in the Trek franchise has been fodder for humourists.  The franchise even was featured as the first review here at Lost in Translation.

Fan films are getting less expensive to make.  With CGI, many effects that would be too expensive to do practically, like crashing a car or blowing up a model starship, now just needs a skilled artist.  The camera equipment needed has also fallen in price while becoming digital and smaller.  The Canadian low-budget horror movie Manborg was made for around Cdn$1000 and featured extensive green-screening and stop-motion animation.  The Four Players used limited sets and CGI in four separate shorts featuring the characters from Super Mario Bros.  Today, it is very possible to equal the effects of the big screen with inexpensive software coupled with skill and talent.

Star Wreck started as a series of shorts on YouTube.  Five friends in a two-room apartment used blue-screening technology to digitally add the sets needed.  Outdoor sets were found in the Finnish outdoors.  The sixth, Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, received a budget sliightly under 14 000 Euros and a feature-length DVD release.  The version watched for this review was the Imperial Edition.  Star Wreck followed the exploits of the CPP Potkustartti, or as the subtitles call it, the CPP Kickstart*, her captain, James B. Pirk, and her crew, including Commander Info, an android, and Commander Dwarf, a Plingon.  The end of Star Wreck V saw Pirk, Info, and Dwarf stranded on Earth in the early 21st Century, trying not to change the course of history.

In the Pirkinning begins with Pirk drunk and tired of being stuck in a primitive era.  He reunites with Info and Dwarf and, armed with the knowledge of where the Vulgar (Vulcan) ship that made first contact is, starts working to build a new Kickstart.  Unfortunately, the man who contacted the Vulgars, Johnny Cochbrane (Zefram Cochrane), sold the ship to the Russians.  Pirk takes his crew, all two of them, to a Russian nuclear facility and convinces them to overthrow capitalism to bring back the Soviet Union.  Among those working at the facility is Sergey Fukov** (Chekov), an ancestor of one of Pirk’s former crewmen.  Sergey also worked at Chernobyl, where he had accidentally turned off the wrong cooling unit instead of the unit in his quarters.

With his newly Soviet Russian army, Pirk convinces President Ulyanov to assist in the building of the new CPP Kickstart.  With control of the Russian army and the new Kickstart and her sleds (shuttlecraft), Pirk overthrows Ulyanov, declares himself Emperor, invades Europe and then the United States.  No country can withstand the invasions, which is sold via propaganda as liberating the invaded nations.  The P-Fleet is built, with all vessels having twist drives (warp drives), shove engines (impulse drives), twinklers (phasers), and light balls (photon torpedoes).  Too bad the P-Fleet was built by the Russians; the maximum speed the ships can maintain is Twist Factor 2.

Another problem Emperor Pirk faces is the overpopulation of Earth.  He sends the P-Fleet out to scout for new worlds to colonize.  Most of the close ones aren’t suitable for human life, as the expendable redshirts would attest to if they hadn’t died demonstrating the lack of suitability.  However, the CPP Kalinka, commanded by Sergey Fukov, discovers a maggot hole (worm hole) from which an alien ship emerges.  Following Pirk’s General Order 3, the instant destruction of any alien vessel, Fukov orders the alien vessel destroyed.  After investigating the wreckage, though, it turns out the occupant was human.

The P-Fleet arrives at the maggot hole to investigate and, if needed, to conquer any worlds beyond for colonization.  The Kalinka is ordered into the maggot hole, Pirk figuring that the rust bucket and her captain would be no major loss to the P-Fleet.  Instead, Fukov reports back that the inside of the maggot hole changes colour.  The rest of the fleet enters the hole and spots two larger alien vessels that use a signal to exit.  Pirk’s crew figures out what the signal was and uses it to exit as well.

At this point, the breadth of science fiction knowledge of the creators is shown.  There’s a space station, the Babel 13 (Babylon 5), sitting near the hopgate (jump gate).  When negotiations break down with Commander Jonny Sherrypie (Commander John Sheridan), Pirk orders the P-Fleet to strike.  The resulting battle is something that many pre-CGI filmmakers could only dream about.  The P-Fleet has the early advantage, with their twinklers and light balls, but once ships like the Backgammon (Agamemnon) get in range, they open fire.  The ships from the Trek part of the parody have special effects similar to what was seen in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.  The Babylon 5 portion, though, use special effects that wouldn’t be out of place on the original series.  The resulting scene is one that should be studied as an example of how to get details right.

During the battle, the Excavator, commanded by Psy-Co (Psy Corp) officer Festerbester (Alfred Bester) appears and targets the P-Fleet’s flagship, mainly because Pirk’s ship is the only one with enough light balls to continue the battle.  Festerbester is portrayed by the same actor playing Fukov, just as Walter Koenig played both Chekov and Bester.  The battle is decided by a twist core split resulting in an explosion that destroys both the Kickstart and the Excavator.

The difficulty in reviewing In the Pirkinning is not just working out how well the parody captures the essence of both Star Trek and Babylon 5, but dealing with watching a foreign language film relying on subtitles.  There is a culture gap between Finland and Canada that Star Wreck demonstrates.  The treatment of Russians was the first indication of the difference between Finnish and Canadian humour.  The subtitles assisted; whenever a Russian spoke, ze subtitles bekame a form of accent as the Russians happily overthrew kapitalism to bring back kommunism.  The subtitles for the unintelligible Scottish engineer were just as unintelligible.

It was obvious while watching In the Pirkinning that the cast and crew knew their science fiction, that they had watched both Trek and B5.  Sherrypie’s penchant for long-winded speeches, the entire mirror universe vibe of Emperor Pirk’s P-Fleet, the dual role of Fukov and Festerbester, the exploding plasma consoles on the Kickstart all show the level of detail and knowledge.  The parody still respects the original works even while poking fun.  Only a fan could get both series well enough to parody without being mean-spirited.  Some of the details may have been lost in translation***, but, overall, the parody managed to pull together two distinct TV series and keep their tone while adding to the work.

Next week, Daredevil.

* For ease, I will stick to the English translation, mainly to keep the pun of the name.
** Pronounced exactly as you’re thinking.
*** So to speak. *cough*

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