Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Star Trek: Star's End 1x01/1x02 - 'Ekuseni'

WRITTEN BY: Will Sjorensen
PREMIERE DATE: 29/07/2005
PRODUCED BY: Virtual Star Trek

2410. The years following the Dominion War have created a far more weary, security-conscious United Federation of Planets. In the remote Perseus Expanse, near a largely uncharted region of space, the residents of a colony on the picturesque Star's End are distancing themselves from Federation policies. The arrival of a new Starfleet officer to the staff ran by the enigmatic administrator Soren Kitano combines with the threat of a terrifying old enemy to the colony, and potentially the entire Federation, coupled with the resurgence of a mystery that has plagued Kitano for many years......

Well, I have to say, this is one of those concepts which is a very long time coming. I find it hard to believe that in the four decades since the inception of Star Trek that no-one has considered the possibilities of devising a series in that world revolving around one of it's many M-class planets. Infact, i'm sure many people have considered that concept, and written stories around it. Star's End, however, is the first one that i've found which has this concept at it's very core. This isn't a series about galactic exploration, set on a Starfleet ship, with an entirely Starfleet crew. It's as much about the planet of Star's End in many ways as it is about it's diverse characters. Right from the outset, it needs to be applauded for trying something different with the established Trek formula. Like the recently launched Avalon, this is a show striving to bring something original to the table, which given Trek's parlous state right now can only be a good thing.

But, is it any good? Well, this feature-length pilot does indeed show a great deal of promise and displays a great deal of avenues the narrative could proceed down. An attempt is made to give this show some distance from the other Trek shows, while still keeping it grounded roughly in the same era. This is achieved by setting it roughly 40 years after the TNG/DS9 era. Creator Will Sjorensen is consequently able to have his cake and eat it. We are still in a reasonably recognisable universe, but one in which a whole new set of characters, locations and races dominate. What helps is that the writers have crafted a whole backstory detailing the events between the last days of DS9 and the start of their show (visible on the excellent website) which help get past having too much clunky exposition having characters explaining to each other, for the readers benefit, events that they would undoubtedly already know well, a trap many other pilots for shows can't help but fall into. Mercilessly, this one avoids that problem.

Speaking of characters, the show enjoys quite a diverse mixture of races in it's central main cast, and tries it's best to avoid repeating past Trek glories in this regard. It successfully sets up numerous dynamics between these characters that can be continued throughout the series. By far the most interesting has to be that of (I hesistate to say protagonist, as the show is quite ensemble) Soren Kitano, the colony administrator (the boss, in other words) and his younger second in command Makenzie Jordan. Right from the beginning, the almost father/daughter quality to their relationship is in evidence and plays out nicely. It feels original, and could become one of the more memorable relationships in the Trek fanfic world if played out right. Another effort is made to give the show it's own identity through making a central character part of a brand-new species. Vallis, a young member of the Voloi, a race indigenous to the region Star's End sits in, instantly comes across as one of those characters in Trek who's unique perspective on the world is a rich vein for storylines and character develop. She is the Data of Star's End, unquestionably, and could prove to be a highlight of an interesting initial ensemble.

As I say, however, in many ways Sjorensen attempts to turn Star's End itself into as much a central character as the people themselves. He gives quite rich descriptions of the planet in many scenes and attempts to evoke such things as the indigenous wildlife in a prominent way (most memorably in the Jart creatures). In this he is successful. I find this a good move. It sets up the planet in many ways like the island serves in Lost. It's not just about the people living on a hunk of rock, it's about the hunk of rock with people living on it. Right from the outset, the impression is given that Star's End holds it's fair share of mysteries like the above Lost-island via the events of the opening scene which introduces Kitano, as he experiences the event that changes his life in several ways. It gives the storyline the potential for a fascinating arc in tying the sinister L'siari, a parasitic race intent on invading the Federation (nicely called back from the classic TNG episode 'Conspiracy') potentially with an ancient enigma involving the Progenitors, who may have seeded all genetic life in the galaxy (again a call back to TNG 'The Chase'). Sjorensen is a fan of TNG and it shows in these references, but it works. These are two elements that have long deserved to be followed up on, and hopefully Star's End will do them justice.

It's not perfect, no pilot ever is. A few times the grammar is a little off, and the biggest problem I can launch at it really is that it's a wee bit too long. A few pages could have been shaved off the length, and the narrative may have proceeded at more of a rollicking pace. It could at times be slow, sometimes almost fatally so, but tighter writing in future installments can clear that up. Lots of potential here, though. Plenty of questions dangled for us to get our teeth into, especially surrounding Kitano. I'm excited by the possibilities here and hopefully the show will only continue to grow.

GRAMMAR: 1.5/2
STYLE: 1/2
DEPTH: 1.5/2



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