Going boldly into "Star Trek: Phase II"

Jun 6, 2013

Credit Retro Film Studios, LLC

The first mission of the starship USS Enterprise ended abruptly in 1969. But a dedicated group of fans and professionals refuses to let the original version of Star Trek die. And scripts for two of the new Star Trek: Phase Two missions have been written in Kalamazoo.

Shot inside a former car dealership in Upstate New York, Star Trek: Phase II makes episodes like “Enemy: Starfleet” available for free online. That’s because CBS, which owns the rights to the original, insists that no money be made by its new incarnation. Three guys with a camcorder in their garage it definitely is not.

Phase II executive producer James Cawley also played Captain James T. Kirk in the initial episodes of the online series. He and others began working on the rebirth of the 1960's original ten years ago. They got help from some members of the cast and crew of its predecessor, including Walter Koening, “Ensign Pavel Chekov”, and George Takei, who played helmsman “Hikaru Sulu”. The first Phase II episode went online in 2004 but the ultimate goal is 22 new episodes to complete the famous five-year mission.

Scripts for two of the new missions have come from Kalamazoo writer Rick Chambers, who's also the author of the science fiction novel Radiance. Chambers says quite a few of those involved in Star Trek: Phase II on both sides of the camera are entertainment industry pros. Chambers says, "It’s just amazing, the work. It’s a labor of love for everyone. They give up vacation time and spend their own money to come and shoot this show.”

"Bread and Savagery" poster
Credit Retro Film Studios, LLC

The bridge of the Enterprise and other sets faithful to those of 1960 original have been recreated. Chambers says a harder task is finding actors who can bring iconic characters back to life: “They do want to take their own approach to it. They don’t want to do a parody. They don’t want to pretend they’re DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner because that then becomes a joke. But yet they want to honor what’s come before. And I would think that’s an especially difficult challenge for an actor.” It’s a challenge that Chambers says the Phase II cast rises to meet.

Star Trek: Phase II shot Chambers's first script last summer. It’s a sequel to the 1968 episode “Bread and Circuses” set on a planet with a society resembling a 20th century Roman Empire: "“Without giving any spoilers, there are some revelations that came out of the original episode that I wanted to say, ‘What would happen if we sort of carried that out a few years’. And so ‘Bread and Savagery’ happens two years after ‘Bread and Circuses”. And some very big events emerge, including a surprise villain and some things I think will resonate with audiences today.” The episode is scheduled to debut online this fall.