Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Star Trek: Frontiers 1x01/1x02 - 'Faithfulness the Best Relation'

TELEPLAY BY: Matthew Whipple
STORY BY: Joshua Maley & Matthew Whipple
PREMIERE DATE: 07/05/2004
PRODUCED BY: Virtual Star Trek

It is the 25th Century. And it is a time of great hope and uncertainty for the Alpha Quadrant. On the one hand, the historic Frontiers project, a Starfleet mission spearheaded by Captain Kyle Sito of the USS Enterprise, to establish a transwarp gateway to the neighbouring galaxy, is steaming ahead to launch. On the other, however, important worlds are seceding from a Federation they fear has grown soft and corrupt. And amidst this, Sito and his crew begin to uncover the existence of a dangerous group of people who are determined to see the Enterprise fail it's bold new mission before it's even begun......

Yes, I know what you're thinking, yet another Star Trek show being reviewed by yours truly in this blog. It almost seems as though the online-based Trek virtual world is subsuming this column, and I must admit that this show was not high on my list of priorities to review. After all, it's a well-established Trek virtual series (endorsed by the EpiGuide, no less) that has been running for well over a year now. So, what more could I say about it's beginnings that haven't already been said? Well, after consideration, perhaps all I can do is bring a fresh perspective to someone entirely new to this series. And, despite the fact it's far from perfect, I can safely say i'm glad I decided to take a look at this series.

Most of the other Trek series online that I have read since being indoctrinated into the world of virtual TV this year have in many ways been about reinventing Trek or continuing it's legacy, be it Star's End with it's planet setting; Avalon going for a classic Trek adventure-meets-western spin; or Beyond What's Left Behind picking up where DS9, arguably the greatest Trek series ever in terms of consistency and narrative, left off. Frontiers, however, is not of this mould. It pulls no punches about going for the epic, fan-pleasing premise. It's a Trek fan's wet dream in terms of concept. A whole new Enterprise preparing to explore a whole new galaxy. Roddenberry would be dancing in his grave, delighted. And I doubt Berman would turn his nose up at the idea, either. Of all, this is the online Trek series I can most imagine making it to the screen. Not because it's brilliantly executed or written, but because the concept simply is Star Trek, in it's purest form. For that, it's almost a refreshing delight. However, it also could run the risk of repetition and blandness, though based on this pilot, it may have greater depth than that.

As I said, the concept is suitably epic, but what about the pilot's storyline? Well, to be honest, it has very little of one until the last 20-30 pages. Don't get me wrong, there's an abundance of scene-setting and character introduction across the board here which in many instances works very well. By the conclusion, you do have a sense of many of the main characters, particularly Sito & Koth, which gives the narrative an extra layer. However, this is achieved by a great many long-winded conversations and far too little in the way of narrative. Everything here could have been condensed into sixty pages, and would have been far the better for it. In some ways, the scope is simply too epic for a beginning. For the first 15-20 pages, it's hard to work out who our protagonists are due to too many scenes set at the Federation Council or wherever debating Federation policy and through expository speeches giving us history to fill in the gaps from the TNG/DS9 era. For my money, despite a beautiful opening scene with Koth, the beginning is misjudged, as is the episodes propensity for too much moralising/sermonising and not enough narrative. It should have been much faster-paced.

That said, this allows some superb character development throughout. Kyle Sito is a fascinating creation as the new Enterprise captain. Creator Joshua Maley has crafted an entirely new species around him, the Spirans, who are ripe for further development. Sito undergoes an excellent arc here, and by the time we reach the thrilling conclusion, how he got to that point is clearly understood. The supporting cast are equally interesting. Peridonis, the female Jem'Hadar tactical officer, is a typical Trek indication of how former bitter enemies can become future allies. Her inclusion is a nod to Worf's creation for TNG. No one expected a Klingon to be in Starfleet, and it's the same with a Jem'Hadar, perhaps even more so given their genetically-engineered genesis. I also love the way she substitutes Captain/Commander for First/Second. A nice touch. Similarly, Rikkillis has great potential. His moments with Sito serve to underline a key theme to this pilot: racism. This episode is full of alien races hurling mistrust at one another mainly through the perpetration of stereotypes. I can see plenty of potential fireworks in the future between Sito & Rikkillis. The only character I think should be excised is Salea. She's meant as light relief, which this pilot needs, but isn't funny in the slightest. I hope in future installments this is toned down or handled by a writer with greater comic flair.

It's Koth, the Klingon Ambassador, who steals the show for me personally. He is a truly unique creation. I've never before known a Trek series to introduce Christianity in such a subtle yet powerful way. Normally I find the inclusion of human religion into science fiction to be an awkward effect, and Koth's belief in Christianity here could have been cheesy in the extreme, but it's handled here with real class. A Klingon who believes in Jesus is a fascinating concept, and it leads to a wonderful scene with Sito toward the end where they discuss their beliefs that is the highlight of the episode for me. This is before what I have to say is a superb ending filled with excitement, and a genuine surprise concerning one of the characters I never saw coming. Aiden Rahl & the Separatists are a goldmine of possibilities, and I for one want to see if they do have a connection to Section-31, which I surmised due to the Faust having a cloaking device. The closing moments also deal an interesting development that sets the scene for more looming darkness.

So, all in all, a strong beginning in many ways. The formatting is reasonably good, as is the grammar. The concept and characters are wonderful, but the writing needs to get much tighter. Tone down the sermonising from some of the characters and be a little more subtle about exposition (re: enough with the long-winded speeches and conversations). Also, there needs to be more plot. The last 30 pages of this pilot really bumped the mark up for me, as that's when it truly came to life. I want to see that life continue to sparkle.

WRITING: 1.5/5
STYLE: 1.5/5
DEPTH: 1.5



At 11:11 PM, Blogger The Grimm Sleeper said...

I've heard this show rules. ;)

Just to point out, I see you changed your rating scale on this one so that it's out of a possible 10, but the numbers reflected in each section still read "5" instead of "2"...


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