Whose Birth These Triumphs Are

Star Trek: Secret VoyageHer five-year mission completed, the U.S.S. Enterprise sits in spacedock awaiting a complete refit, with the crew on extended shore leave or reassigned. But the recent discovery of a rare, powerful variant of dilithium crystals has the Federation racing to open diplomatic channels to acquire it for themselves from a reclusive, xenophobic race called the Gimtao. Captain Mercer is quietly put in command of the Enterprise with a mere six months – the ship’s pre-rebuild overhaul period – to establish diplomatic relations with the Gimtao. But Mercer’s mission is anything but simple: some of his crew is hand-picked, and some have been assigned from above, and some simply aren’t happy to be there. Some members of Mercer’s crew may even have their own agendas. Worse yet, this chaotic crew finds itself in the crossfire: another species is already at war with the Gimtao.

Watch itwritten by Craig Sheeler & John Mess
directed by Craig Sheeler
music by Michael Klubertanz

Star Trek: Secret VoyageCast: Tyrone Loukas (Captain Calvin L. Mercer), Mo Stones (Ms. T’Vas), Annie Thalrose (Dr. Miranda Krenaire), Nicole Chauvet (Commander Unara Ivos), Stormie Daye (Ensign Akamu Albright), Devin Kolovich (Ensign Jack Dubois), Robert Shivley (Lt. Commander Ben Jones), Sean Collet (Dr. Thomas Cage), Chris Rodriguez (Admiral Hernandez), Christopher Sheeler (Lt. Robert Banks), Bryan Sheeler (Ensign McCall), Shane Zellow (Ensign Thopson), Trevor Cartwright (Dr. William Brenniese), Daniel Trujillo (Lt. Combs), Shawn Dinsmore (Red Shirt), Nicole Collet (Red Shirt), Alex Lingle (Gimtao Council), Al Kermode (Gimtao Council), Jason McGuinness (Gimtao Council), Travis Loukas (Gimtao Council), Black Yelavich (Gongdea Warriors), Nathan Ferrier (Gongdea Warriors), Rose Hill (23rd Century Reporter)

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Review: My primary problem with the premiere adventure of this Las Vegas-based fan series’ pilot is pretty much down to its sound mix: I can barely tell what’s going on from the dialogue. Even with headphones on, and nothing else demanding my attention, I found I was having to ride my volume control closely. When any production, audio or video, forces the listener to have to actively take part in the sound mixing process that way, it’s a failure in the sound mixing department. There are numerous minor problems with the audio mix – ambient sound effects being present in one shot but gone the next, despite both camera angles taking place in the same location and as part of the same scene – but it is by far a bigger production sin when your audience can’t hear what’s going on.

Star Trek: Secret VoyageThere seems to be an intriguing story shaping up with Secret Voyage, though there are elements of the story setup that seem terribly convenient, not least of which is the story’s use of the Enterprise itself. It seems like an arbitrary (and possibly arbitrarily fannish) decision, and the explanation of how this new cast of characters came to be aboard the most famous starship in the Federation sucks up an awful lot of time that could’ve been better spent on making the plot clearer. (And in this day and age, the only difference between the Enterprise and a new ship befitting the new crew is a texture map swap or two.) There’s a lot of respectable location shooting, some with outstandingly subtle digital effects putting two moons in the background, but for every subtle effect there’s a mishmash of photographic and editing styles that gets to be distracting: there’s a lot of funky filters and color grading effects, and occasionally there are slo-mo/strobe shots for no readily apparent reason (some of which have added-on CG effects which don’t match the speed of the effect that the footage has been run through). The opening scenes at Starfleet Command have a pronounced bokeh (spot focus) overlay which may have been added to cover rough edges with the composited background graphics, but instead of removing a distraction the bokeh effects simply swap it out for a different distraction (i.e. “why is this shot so fuzzy?”)

The cast falls into one of two categories: ready for prime time, and not so much. The two female co-leads are not only two of the most visually striking characters, but they provide the best performances; the makeup for the Andorian character in particular is very well executed. In the lower ranks, though, some of the casting and performances almost make this seem like a spoof, including 23rd century Starfleet’s first-ever hipster science officer, who delivers his lines in fits and starts. Let’s not even mention the being who shows up in the final scene of the episode to deliver and over-the-top war cry. It probably wasn’t the intention, but I laughed out loud at this cliffhanger ending.

There’s potential here, but most of it boils down to one piece of advice I’d give to any amateur filmmaker: post-production should probably be done by someone who isn’t intimately involved in the scripting process. The writer, director and editor of this episode were all the same person. This creates a problem, highlighted by the nearly-incomprehensible scene where Captain Mercer is beamed into the alien stronghold for an audience with their leaders. I can’t understand a single word of this scene, nor can I figure out from visual context what’s going on, because so many filters and effects have been slathered onto both audio and video that it’s impossible to figure out. If the person handling post production wasn’t the person who wrote the script, chances are that the scene would’ve been left in a state that’s easier to understand. It’s neat that amateur filmmakers can add cool effects to their footage with nothing more than a computer; one has to be careful not to over-egg the pudding. If the kind of attention that went into these effects went into the audio mix, Secret Voyage’s first outing could’ve been a winner. A filmmaker with a singular vision and the ability to pull it off is a great thing, but at least have someone else take a look at it and make sure that the story and the message survive intact from sender to receiver. I try to be encouraging in my fan film reviews, but truthfully, this one wasn’t quite ready for prime time.