Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Star Trek: Renegades Review

Written by Stu Cooper

Ever since Star Trek: Enterprise left the air, trekkies have been dying to see another series hit the airwaves. From petitions to kickstarters, fans have been rallying behind various projects trying to get them made. Unfortunately Star Trek: Renegades hasn't made it to the airwaves yet, but it was released on YouTube, DVD, and Blu-ray. Fans of the original canon universe finally got another edition to the mythos, and it comes in the form of an epic 90 minute fan film. The film is written by Ethan H. Calk, Sky Douglas Conway, and Jack Trevino. The film was directed by Star Trek Voyager alumni Tim Russ who served as the promotional mascot for most of the film's appearances at various conventions. I actually first heard about the film when Russ and Walter Koenig appeared at Space City Con here in Houston to promote the film. The film was created by the makers of another famous fan-film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and serves as a sequel in some ways. Jack Trevino apparently came up with the idea for the series on the last day of Of Gods and Men. Thanks to campaigns on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter that have been going around since 2012, the project finally saw the light of day.

Star Trek: Renegades takes place ten years after the finale of Star Trek: Voyager which featured the crew of Voyager returning from their epic journey across the Delta Quadrant. The film picks up in the middle of a crisis revolving around a dilithium crystal shortage as the result of a mysterious alien race who is apparently folding space and time. The folding is causing entire planets to disappear, which is obviously bad for business. The Federation is unsure how to react to the situation, so Admiral Chekov (Star Trek: TOS) and Tuvok (Star Trek: Voyager) decide to get together with the ole Section 31 and put together a crew of misfit toys. The crew is ordered to investigate the madness and stop it before it reaches Earth. The crew consists of several sci-fi and Star Trek alum including Blade Runner's Sean Young, Alien Nation's Gary Graham, Terminator 2's Edward Furlong, Star Trek Voyager's Manu Intiraymi returning as The Lone Borg Icheb, Voyager's Robert Picardo as Dr. Zimmerman, and many more recognizable faces. Leading the crew is Captain Lexxa Singh (daughter of Khan) played by the stunning Adrienne Wilkinson, whom you may recognize from her run on Xena: Warrior Princess. The crew is essentially a sci-fi version of the expendables, which is consistent with the “Renegades” name. There are TONS of actors in this film, and if you blink you may miss some of them. The film also features several stunning females such as the crewman Ronara (Chasty Ballesteros), Andorian bombshell Shree (Courtney Peldon), and the Vulcan T'Leah (Larissa Gomes). It's certainly a crowded film and I'm not even mentioning the OTHER crew on the other ship that follows the Renegades around.

Despite the massive cast, the film manages to tell an incredibly riveting and tense story. The new aliens in the film seem to be a hybrid of Klingons and Hirogen, which makes for a rather intimidating race. The race is seeking revenge against the federation for inadvertently sabotaging their planet 300 years ago. The aliens use some kind of stone artifact to screw with time and space. The Renegades go on a mission to figure out exactly what is going on, and they are pursued by federation loyalists led by Captain Alvarez (Corin Nemec). Alvarez's crew strongly resembles the new look displayed in the JJ Abrams films, which leads me to believe that the film acknowledges both universes. There is also a lot of character ties to the other Paramount series, so there is a bit for everybody to enjoy. The film is about 90 minutes and you can tell the writers were trying to cram as much story as possible into that time-frame. Pretty much every scene is important to the plot, and if you take a break to get a snack or go to the bathroom, you may get a little lost.

The main focus is on Khan's daughter Lexxa, who is quite the bad-ass. She displays strong leadership qualities and some killer martial art skills. Not only is she beautiful and strong, but she is also poetic. The character often recites a beautiful little poem that streams throughout the film and serves as kind of a beacon for the story. Adrienne Wilkinson is perfectly cast in this role and I'm glad she is given a chance to shine. The writers could have easily focused on Chekov and Tuvok the entire time, but they take a chance and give a lot of screen time to the new characters. You can tell this film was intended as a pilot of sorts, as it has a real big series pilot feel to it.

The star of the film has to be the amazing special effects on display in the film. The film looked beautiful displayed on my HD television and I found myself absolutely speechless at how great the ship and space sequences looked. I dare say the ships looked better than they did in Voyager and Deep Space Nine (though there is a 15 year gap). There are a few awkward green screen shots throughout the film, but considering it's a fan film the quality is way beyond anything I could have expected. Whoever did the ship effects deserves a serious pat on the back. Another impressive effect that I noticed was the arm of the Borg Icheb. Since Voyager Icheb received a series of upgrades which include a shape shifting weapon arm. The arm effects are totally seamless and caused me to say “WHOA” out loud every time he used it. The make-up on most of the aliens is also top notch, especially the Andorian and the Cardassian characters. The only ones that were questionable were T'Leah the Vulcan whose eyebrows looked off in most scenes, and some of the villain aliens who suffered from bad wig fit.

Another aspect of the film that really shines is the soundtrack. The sound design is on par with most modern action films and greatly improves the tension of the film. There are pretty intense drum sequences during the action scenes that greatly elevate things to another level. It adds to the professionalism of the project and really makes you feel like you are watching a real full fledged Star Trek series.

Overall Star Trek: Renegades is a pleasant surprise that features TONS of tributes and fan service for all those loyal trekkies out there. Not only do you get to see a lot of familiar faces that you probably grew up loving, but you get to see a lot of young talent like Adrienne Wilkinson, Corin Nemac, and Chasty Bellastros who all knock it out of the park. The only downsides to the film would have to be the intense pacing, which can sometimes cause a lot of confusion, and the poor acting performance of Sean Young. I found myself cringing during all of Sean Young's scenes, but thankfully her character is not a focal point of the film.

If you can keep up with the story, the film serves as a terrific launching off point for more beautiful fan films. I was a little disappointed with how little Robert Picardo and Tim Russ showed up in the film, but Walter Koenig has quite a bit of screen-time and hasn't lost a step. If it got turned into a series, I imagine they would have returned to do a bit more. When the film ended, I found myself hoping that this isn't the last time we see this crew together. I certainly think this production has what it takes to support itself on something like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. If you'd like to check the project out, visit the official page or simply click the YouTube links below which will take you to the actual production.

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