Star Trek Fans Boldly Launch Their Own Enterprise

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press
You could be forgiven for expecting to hear the words "beam me up Scotty" as you look over the bridge of the original Star Ship Enterprise.

In this Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 photo, James Comisar holds an original TV Guide issue featuring William Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy of "Star Trek." The item is part of his television memorabilia collection in a temperature- and humidity-controlled warehouse in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

You could be forgiven for expecting to hear the words "beam me up Scotty" as you look over the bridge of the original Star Ship Enterprise.

Under construction in a 1,200 square metre (13,000 square foot) building in upstate New York, Star Trek fans, or Trekkies, are piecing together an exact replica of the soundstage used in the original series filmed in the 1960s.

The project, known as Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, is a labour of love that started back in the late 90s.

Funded by crowdsourcing, the not for profit enterprise aims to continue the story of the first Enterprise, after the end of its original five year mission.

Attention to detail is what sets this group light years ahead of rival fan productions, according to its founder and Senior Executive Producer

James Cawley.

"They've been downloaded millions of times, I think the heaviest downloaded one was "Blood and Fire part 1 and 2" and it is just millions upon millions of downloads. So it's kind of, you know, flattering… And, scary, at the same time," he says.

None of this would be possible without the work of hundreds of dedicated volunteers who come from around the world to take part in the production, with many more donating money to help fund the project.

The fan base has become so big now that organisers are not always able to accommodate everyone who wants to help.

The productions have also become increasingly technical, but fans are still the very core of the project and are encouraged to become active members of the crew, no matter what their background.

The Senior Line Producer, Andrew "Sarge" Grieb, explains: "We do on the job training, throughout the shoot. Anyone can come in with absolutely no knowledge at all on filmmaking and, by the end of the shoot, they will have their niche within the organisation.

The attention to detail that goes in to the production is a major factor in drawing such a large following from Star Trek fans.

From the way the sets are built and painted to the use of lighting, the crew adheres as closely as possible to the methods that were used when filming the original series, to give it that authentic look.

And while modern technology has crept in, in some places, Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, would probably find himself in pretty familiar surroundings, if he beamed into the set.

Jeff Barklage, Director of Photography says its like travelling back in time.

"We're crazy sticklers to detail, you know, we want it to be exactly like it. We have matching shadows, matching colours, matching camera angles, matching diffusion filters. I mean we are going about this as if this was like a time travel situation - you're back in the 60s and you're shooting as it was in this time period," he says.

Much of the cast is made up of talented amateurs, but professional actors are hired to play the main roles and are made-up to resemble the original crew as closely as possible.

With occasional cameos from members of the cast of the first Star Trek series to keep them on their toes, and the expectations of millions of fans, the job is not without its pressures.

However, the actors are also fans, and draw parallels between themselves and their characters to help their performances.

Brandon Stacy takes over the role made famous by Leonard Nimoy, the mysterious Mr. Spock.

"I am definitely juggling two or more personalities at once, so, I've got my hand in hot and the other one in cold just to stay balanced and I feel like Spock is kinda doing the same thing," he says.

As well as being fan-oriented, the production is also very much about giving back to the community.

James Cawley is a native of Ticonderoga in New York state, where the episodes are now being filmed, and many of his fellow townspeople are also volunteering as crew on the production.

With more than a hundred people swelling the town's ranks every few months or so (Ticonderoga has a population of just over 5,000), filming helps bring much needed dollars in to the local economy.

And, besides the love of Star Trek itself, Cawley says it is this sense of community that is the key driving force to continue producing these episodes.

"It's like a big family reunion, and then every year, there's new faces that come to the reunion, you know, because kids have kids and uncles and nieces and nephews… So, it's like that. You see these people, familiar faces and new faces, every year, and you see them smile and they enjoy themselves. You see them just about kill themselves working this incredible schedule, to try and make it happen."

This episode is the 12th that the group has filmed so far, each one takes a year to complete from conception to broadcast.

And with the completion of this new facility, and its permanent sets, the organisers hope to ramp up production over the next few years.

It should give even more Trekkies the chance to fulfil the dream of boldly going, where no ordinary fan has gone before.

The latest 50 minute episode will air on youtube later this year.

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