When last we left Kirk, Spock and company, a new Star Trek TV series called Star Trek: Phase 2 had been scrapped in favor of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which led to a successful movie franchise. Before being retired, the original crew had appeared in seven movies, along with several of them making guest appearances on Star Trek The Next Generation, and an excellent episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that combined footage from the original series episode The Trouble With Tribbles with new footage of the DS9 crew.
As the original Star Trek passed 40 years old, and the original actors started to pass on, it appeared that the original Trek was gone for good. But then an amazing thing happened. Home computers took a quantum leap forward, becoming as powerful as the computers that they used to do special effects for movies. The “liquid metal” effects that blew us all away in Terminator 2 were now suddenly within the reach of any amateur filmmaker who could afford a powerful enough computer to run them. Groups of Star Trek fans began doing their own short films, using CGI to create better effects than the makers of the original series could even dream of. Some of these fans got together, collected together some donations, and, using a combination of original scripts and scripts created from the aborted Star Trek: Phase 2 TV series to create hour-long episodes featuring the original characters called STAR TREK THE NEW VOYAGES: PHASE II and broadcasting them over the web.
They were able to gain permission from Paramount, who owned Star Trek, by agreeing that no one would ever reap a profit from the episodes. They were making them entirely for the love of Trek.
With new actors bringing the iconic characters to life, they were also able to attract some big name talent from the original series, those who saw Star Trek as a calling rather than just a job, or those who had, realistically, been out of work for a while. This included William Windom reprising his role as Commodore Decker from The Doomsday Machine, Walter Koenig (Chekov), George Takei (Sulu), and Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Rand), as well as Next Generation star Denise Crosby as Jenna Yar, the grandmother of her series character, Tasha Yar. They were also able to attract the original series writer David Gerrold (The Trouble With Tribbles) to write and direct the two-part Blood and Fire episode.
As sometimes happens with these things, the funding eventually dried up, but another website, Star Trek Continues, popped up to take over the reigns where The New Voyages had left off.
The regular series cast included two real “gets” for nerds… Chris Doohan, the son of James Doohan as Mr. Scott and Mythbuster Grant Imahara as Sulu. The big-name guest stars also continued, including Michael Forest, reprising his role as the Greek God Apollo from the original series and sci-fi favorites Lou Ferrigno (as an Orion slave trader), and Erin Gray and Gil Gerard from Buck Rogers in the 25th century.
Although the New Voyages website is now down, all of these episodes can be viewed on Youtube. The episodes, like the original series itself, are a combination of good and bad, but all fun to watch. They have also given birth to a group of new fan-made Star Trek projects, including the upcoming feature film Star Trek: Axanar, which tells the pre-original series story of Captain Garth, whom Captain Kirk once called “The greatest of them all”.
The most important thing that we can take from this is that STAR TREK LIVES! And as long as home computers continue getting more powerful, the episodes will continue, and continue to get better.
~ Randal Schaffer