Let’s start with a big one: Star Trek Phase II. This series has been called the standard bearer for true Star Trek pretty much since it was created in 2003 as Star Trek New Voyages. While this brain child of James Cawley and Jack Marshall (Jack has moved on to other things now) was born in 2003, you could say it actually started 20 years earlier in Cawley’s garage. He spent that long meticulously rebuilding the Enterprise’s bridge, and the show features it along with other complete sets. Green screen is used for effects here — not sets.
Phase II is set in the 4th season of the original TV show, telling further stories of the Enterprise and its crew. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest continue their five year mission, encountering new life and civilizations as well as some old life, like cranky Klingons. The kicker is Cawley has been able to bring on board so many people involved with the Star Trek show and movies. Walter Koenig stars as Chekov in an amazing story by original Trek writer D.C. Fontana. George Takei reprises his role as Sulu in a great tale that weaves him in brilliantly with the younger Phase II actor. Grace Lee Whitney, Denise Crosby, and many other actors from Star Trek series have appeared, and writers from the original shows regularly write scripts for it, including David Gerrold of “The Trouble With Tribbles” fame. Seven episodes have been released, but the original pilot is difficult to find now. There are also two “vignettes,” or shorts.
What will you get if you watch? Some pretty amazing Star Trek! The episodes get better each time, with incredible visual fx provided by professional digital artists. Originally visuals were done by Max Rem, who worked on original series like Enterprise. Later episodes have been handled by Oregon-based Neo/FX and Germany’s The Light Works. Acting can be hit or miss. Because of the nature of fan films, actors change quite often, and the ones who stay have a wide range of ability, but generally they get better as they get more episodes under their belts. Honestly, I’ve seen as wide a range of acting ability on the original series, too. Stick with it and enjoy the stories. Last: the sets, the lighting, the costumes are all perfect. The sets are often built with original blueprints in hand, Cawley has gotten hold of original material and made great finds of material for his costumes, and the lighting has that great gel spot color everywhere. You’ll probably think you really are watching an episode from the 60s — just with better looking ships and planets. They even start the shows with the original TV station bits from NBC and CBS.
You can find out a lot more by checking out the Behind the Scenes video they’ve posted from their forthcoming episode “The Child.” Then go watch the episodes they have finished! Now, personally, I like to watch these fan series from the beginning. I get an idea of how they are improving that way. However, if you forced me to pick one for you to start with, I’d choose episode 4×03, “The World Enough and Time.” You’ll get to see Captain Sulu on the Excelsior, Lieutenant Sulu on the Enterprise, and barbarian Sulu telling Kirk to keep hands off his daughter. Yes, daughter. Just watch it.