FROM JASON’S SMIRK — Tim Russ must have been watching a lot of 24 while making Star Trek: Of Gods and Men Act II, because it’s all close-up face shots and zippy little melodramatic zooms. It also trades a steadycam for hand-held action and — surprise — a “pacifism is better than righteous violence” message.
Andrew and I laughed at the goofiness of the first installment of the fan film, which stars Trek alums like Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Garrett Wang, Russ, Gary Graham, Alan Ruck, and… Chase Masterson?
Act II is far superior to the first, but in a “this couldn’t ever even get on The Sci-Fi Channel” kind of way. The second part weighs in at 33 minutes and picks up with the destruction of Vulcan by — if you’ll remember —
the Death Star an evil Mirror Universe version of Captain Harriman (Ruck). Uhura, Chekov, Tuvok, and Ragnar have to break out of the Enterprise brig before they are executed and manage to take over auxiliary control of the ship. They stumble back to the mysterious planet M-622, where the Guardian of Forever waits.
The big questions are answered, and guess what: It turns out my predictions about the plot were pure money. The psychic, Charlie (from episode 2 of the 1960s series), is in command of the Galactic Order and admits he used the Guardian of Forever to go back in time and terminate
John Connor James Kirk. With Kirk gone, the entire galaxy collapses in a fit of collective despotism.
Through it all, we get nods to all the classic Trek tropes: The Vulcan mind-meld, Vulcan neck pinch, a self-destruct sequence that is halted with just one second left on the timer, a shapeshifter, and I’m sure Koenig thought he was very clever spinning McCoy’s trademark line with the Russian Reversal by muttering, “I’m a freedom fighter, not a doctor.”
The costumes are weak and the wigs are worse. The exterior shots are heavily CG (and look quite nice considering the budget) but they don’t match the 1960s interiors stolen from the original set. The dialog is forced, the delivery is mangled, and the ethical message is ham-fistedly obvious.
But I understand that despite the famous faces, this is fan fiction. Low production value should be expected.
In that light, there are several things about Of Gods and Men that I really enjoyed. Nichols is by far the best actor in the piece and her facial expressions are worth far more than her lines. The writers had the guts to kill off a main character (Tuvok — and no, I have no idea if he’s supposed to be the Tuvok since this is long before the Voyager timeline). The hand-cam close-ups I already mentioned, but there are also a few other inventive shots, including one in the brig filmed through a ceiling grate.
And the detail that sticks most prominently in my memory came at 1:57 into the film. Whenever two ships meet in Star Trek they are always flying level with each other on the same plane. But here we have a shuttlecraft sitting next to the Enterprise, which is floating on its vertical axis. The two are parked perpendicular to each other rather than parallel.
It’s a great (computer generated) shot and much more true to how things would work in space since “up” and “down” and “level” and “right-side up” mean absolutely nothing there.
NOTE: Since I was so accurate the first time around, I figure I’ll make a prediction for Act III. This one ends on a cliffhanger with Garrett Wang getting ready to execute Harriman, Uhura, and Chekov. Guess who isn’t in the shot? The shape-shifter.
Wang is the shapeshifter, if you need me to spell it out, Wendy.