Shiny Shelf

Star Trek: Of Gods and Men – Parts I & II

By Jim Smith on 12 June 2008

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Semi-professional, unofficial spin-off productions crafted by fans seem to be an inevitable result of a long-running TV series going off the air – and if members of the cast of the actual television series can be co-opted then so much the better.

In the early to mid 90s it was the lot of ‘Doctor Who’ to receive the back handed compliments of straight-to-video, and direct-to-CD, entries into the ‘by the fans, for the fans’ market. Now, in our post-‘Enterprise’, pre-JJ Abrams world, it seems that it’s the turn of ‘Star Trek’ to enjoy this peculiar fate.

Of course, time has moved on and these productions are now distributed over the internet rather than on discs or tapes and they feature production values that would astonish those who worked on these kind of things fifteen years ago. Or 1960s TV producers, come to that.

‘Star Trek: Of Gods and Men’ is the latest of three fan-made productions to feature members of the cast of the first, best “proper” ‘Star Trek’ of the 1960s reprising their roles for the sake of their most loyal audiences (and that’s both behind the camera and in front of the screen).

Directed by (and co-starring) Tim Russ of ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ this three part mini-series stars Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols, reprising their TOS roles of Chekov and Uhura, respectively. Also appearing is Alan Ruck of ‘Spin City’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’ fame, reprising his ‘Star Trek: Generations’ role of Captain John Harriman of the USS Enterprise-B. There’s also half a dozen sundry other ‘Trek’ regulars and semi-regulars (Garrett Wang, Chase Masterson, Gary Graham, J G Hertzler, Crystal Allen, Ethan Philips, Cirroc Lofton – look ‘em up) in supporting parts other than those they played on TV.

It’s an odd beast, to be honest. The ponderous title recalls the excesses of ‘Deep Space Nine’ (which had episodes called ‘Wrongs Darker than Death or Night’ and ‘Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges’ amongst other ludicrous pomposities) while the plot displays the worst excesses of fan fiction. Altered time-lines, new Starships Enterprise, apocryphal names for characters ‘confirmed’, abundant continuity references, dialogue alluding to fan-favourite moments… all feature and all knock the idea, encouraged by the scale of the production, that this is a fully professional gig. (It certainly looks and plays as well much TV SF.)

‘Star Trek: Of Gods and Men’ is, based on the first two thirds at least, an enjoyable affair nonetheless. This is, though, rather in spite of not because of its storyline. It’s the pleasure of seeing Chekov and Uhura again that gets us through the unwieldy plotting and derivative narrative – and that’s despite them spending a considerable portion of their screen time playing parallel universe versions of their usual characters. (You can’t help feeling that if you’re going to the trouble of getting Koenig and Nicholls to turn up you should allow them to play the characters people enjoy them as, rather than ‘dark’ unhappy versions therof.)

That said, the three headliners all work well in their dual roles. Walter Koenig excels in part that gives him some dialogue that really should be unsayable. Nichelle Nichols probably has more to do than in any other ‘Star Trek’ production in which she has appeared, displaying a flair and depth that she never really got to showcase prior and Alan Ruck does a neat job in a part clearly written for George Takei and seemingly not re-written a great deal when the part was re-cast.

While I’ve nothing but praise for how this project has been organised around the available resources (and it is also impressively directed) the script and story demonstrate a lack of imagination that is to be sincerely regretted by those of us who are, regardless, genuinely delighted to see regulars from the original ‘Star Trek’ show on screen one more time.

More professional and impressive than the Koeing-starring episode of ‘New Voyages’ but far less effective than it, never mind the outstanding Takei-starring ‘World Enough and Time’, ‘Of Gods and Men’ feels like something of a missed opportunity, to be honest. I’m sorry, really I am, but there it is.

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