As all Trekkies will know, the original Star Trek ran for only 3 seasons before getting axed. What isn’t commonly known is that in 1977 Paramount Pictures planned to restart the franchise as a television series called Star Trek Phase II. Nearly all the original actors were signed up, scripts were written, sets designed – but it never happened. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was made instead.
The fan made Phase II (formerly known as New Voyages) is an effort to create what could have been and continue the Enterprises 5 year mission. It is filmed in a very retro style to make the production feel just like the original. The set is an exact replica of the original starship right down to the multicoloured lighting, in fact it was borrowed by Paramount to film episodes of ENTERPRISE!
The great thing about this series is the dedication of its creators and supporters. There are so many people who love Star Trek and want Phase II to be the best it can be. These include past actors like Walter Koenig and George Takai who reprise their roles as older versions of the characters in To Serve All My Days and World Enough & Time. The scripts, by respected Trek writers like DC Fontana and David Gerrold, really shine. Some were written specifically for the series, others adapted from unused Trek scripts.
The thing that has let the series down so far is inconsistent acting. This is probably due to the main financial contributors grabbing the big roles. James Cawley, an Elvis impersonator, comes across more as the King than Kirk in the pilot Come What May. However, episode by episode, he is improving; the Shatner School of Acting (otherwise know as re-watching Star Trek again and again) is clearly paying off. Cawley doesn’t quite fit the big chair yet, but he’s growing into it.
There are others I can’t see ever fitting their roles. John Kelley as McCoy and Charles Root as Scotty are painful to watch. Though visually convincing Kelley makes no attempt at the accent or mannerisms associated with his character, whilst conversely Root tries too hard! If you can listen to his ‘scottish’ accent without wincing you are made of stern stuff my friend.
Far and away above the rest is Andy Bray who plays Chekov. He looks just like Walter Koenig and clearly benefited from working with him in To Serve All My Days. His accent and mannerisms are perfect. Likewise Spock, despite repeated recasting, has been played by convincing actors. First there was Jeffery Quinn – who looked nothing like Nimoy – and lately there’s been Ben Tolpin – the full package if ever there was one. Brandon Stacey, who doubles as Spock in JJ Abrams’ movie, is taking up the mantle next.
Each new episode of Phase II has been better than the one before. I’m itching to see part 2 of the latest episode Blood & Fire. I make no pretence about it: I’m a Trekkie. Perhaps that’s why I’m so excited about this and get tingly feelings when I hear the opening score. What am I saying? Of course that’s why! Phase II has captured something of what I love and given me the chance to experience it anew. It’s not all it can be, but I have a feeling that in the future it will be.