Blood And Fire – Part I

Star Trek: Phase II

This is an episode of a fan-made series whose storyline may be invalidated by later official studio productions.

Stardate not given: After a pitched battle with a Klingon cruiser, the Enterprise is left battered, but a distress call from the U.S.S. Copernicus prevents Kirk from putting in for repairs. The Enterprise limps to the Copernicus’ aid at a low warp speed as a result of the damage, but what the crew finds is almost beyond explanation: the Copernicus is adrift, only a few hours away from sliding into a stream of matter connecting a binary star system. The Copernicus will be destroyed, but it appears that something has already killed the crew. As Kirk selects a boarding party to find out what happened on the Copernicus, he carefully omits his nephew, the recently-arrived Ensign Peter Kirk, from the mission. This draws a note of caution from Spock, and an anguished protest from Peter: if the crew feels that he’s receiving preferential treatment keeping him out of harm’s way, Peter will have to request reassignment. Peter wants to be treated as just another member of the crew – and that includes requesting that Captain Kirk officiate his upcoming wedding to another crewman, medic Alex Freeman. Kirk accedes to both requests, assigning both Peter and Freeman to the Copernicus mission. Soon after arriving, they both wish they’d stayed on the Enterprise: the Copernicus is infested with Regulan bloodworms, a life form so fast-speading and deadly that Starfleet has only one protocol for dealing with them – the immediate destruction of any ship found to be infested. With both his nephew and Spock aboard the Copernicus, Kirk has no plans to follow that order, but it may be too late to save his boarding party anyway, as they’re surrounded by swarming bloodworms.

Watch Itwritten by Carlos Pedraza & David Gerrold
directed by David Gerrold
music by Fred Steiner

Cast: James Cawley (Captain Kirk), Ben Toplin (Mr. Spock), John Kelley (Dr. McCoy), Bobby Quinn Rice (Ensign Peter Kirk), Evan Fowler (Alex Freeman), Charles Root (Scotty), Jay Storey (Kyle), Kim Stinger (Uhura), Ron Boyd (DeSalle), Andy Bray (Chekov), Megan King Johnson (Rand), Nick Cook (Hodel), Paul R. Sieber (Ahrens), Patrick Bell (Xon), Debbie Huth (Fontana), Jeff Mailhotte (Sentell), Joel Belucci (Bren), Phil Koeghen (Admiral Koeghen), Scott Danni, Rich Lundy, George Wilhelm, Gwen Wilkins, Rick Bruns, Danielle Porter, Robert Mauro, Dan Wright, Melissa Wright, Elizabeth Peterson, Mabel Vilagro, Greg Schnitzer, Betsy Durkee, Jeff Collingsworth, Brian Holloway, Pat Heward, Amanda Root, Ralph M. Miller, Joe Nazzarro, John Hermann, Jessica Mailhotte, Glenn Smith, Ed Abbatte, Giovana Contini, Ron Gates, Ryan Storey, Jerry Storey, Paula Bailey, Erik Goodrich, Tom Brown, Howard Huth, Riva Gijanto, Carol Mazur, Howard Miller (Extras), Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Computer Voice)

Notes: Blood And Fire was originally written by David Gerrold (writer of the classic Trek favorite The Trouble With Tribbles) as an episode for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, allegorically dealing with AIDS, the search for a cure, and its effect on the gay community. In many an interview and convention appearance, Gerrold has said that Gene Roddenberry verbally agreed to pursue these issues in the then-new show, but would never approve Blood And Fire for production, which eventually lead to Gerrold’s departure from the writing staff. It has also been adapted into a non-Star Trek novel. Fan writer Carlos Pedraza, previously a writer on the fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier (which prominently featured gay characters in a way that Paramount’s officially produced episodes and series never addressed), adapted Gerrold’s original script for the Kirk era. This is the first episode to carry the “Star Trek: Phase II” banner, though the opening titles still display “New Voyages” before “beaming” in “Phase II.” (Phase II was a semi-official subtitle applied to the aborted late ’70s TV revival of classic Trek, as chronicled in the excellent book of the same name by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens.) Early publicity indicated that Blood And Fire would feature an original score by Neil Norman, the producer behind many Star Trek soundtracks released on CD in the 1990s by his father’s GNP Crescendo label, as well as a composer in his own right, but the finished episode instead features original series music by composer Fred Steiner.

Review: For years we’ve been hearing about Blood And Fire and how great it would’ve been in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and after a while it’s natural to wonder how much of the hype is warranted. But after seeing the episode itself, and finding that about 2/3 of the way in I was on the edge of my seat, I think it’s safe to say that this is New Voyages/Phase II firing on all cylinders with no casting gimmicks to use as a crutch. It’s just a good story, told and acted well, with one hell of a cliffhanger.

Star Trek: Phase II - Blood And Fire, Part IAs was the case with its original 1980s version, Blood And Fire is a story that deals with AIDS on an allegorical level, and with homosexuality in a more on-the-nose fashion. It’s all dealt with tastefully though – the one love scene that really seems like it’s trying to go there is more talk and suggestion than any kind of explicit display. The original script would have dealt with two guest-crewmembers-of-the-week, but the drama is heightened here, and given just a hint of awkwardness, by making Kirk’s nephew Peter one half of the couple in question. James Cawley hits one out of the park with Kirk’s sputtering, uncertain reaction to the news, and guest star Bobby Rice (late of fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier and Star Trek: Odyssey) does a hilarious impression of Shatner-by-way-of-Cawley later in the episode. Rice is at the forefront of this story as Peter Kirk, and he proves more than capable of carrying the show.

Also guest starring is Nick Cook, the star of the Scottish-based fan series Star Trek: Intrepid, and for some reason – maybe the costume – I couldn’t stop thinking of how Miles O’Brien-ish he looked in his somewhat minor redshirt role. Naturally, this also means that Cook’s character bows out a little bit early, and he goes to town with it in the most shocking scene of the entire episode. I’ve been gently-but-hopefully-constructively-critical in dealing with the standards of acting in the fan films and episodes I’ve seen, but nobody in Blood And Fire lets the side down. How much of this is down to a just plain talented cast, and how much is down to Gerrold directing his own story, I’m not sure, but the acting here is of a very high standard. If this was a for-profit production, everyone in this episode would’ve earned their check nicely. Going back to the shocking scene for a moment, kudos also to the FX animators and composite artists for creating a believable CG menace. It all adds up to a moment where I forgot I was watching a fan production and was instantly accepting of this as a new Star Trek adventure, full stop.

I had a slightly hard time adjusting to Ben Toplin as the new Mr. Spock, but vocally he’s a dead ringer for Nimoy. (Apparently Mr. Toplin’s schedule prevented him from reprising the role after Blood And Fire, so we’ll never know if we would’ve gotten used to his portrayal of the Vulcan or not.) I was also rather disappointed that one thing was missing: early PR announcements mentioning a brand new orchestral score by Neil Norman (who produced all of the Star Trek movie and TV soundtracks released by GNP Crescendo Records in the ’80s and ’90s). But something would appear to have fallen through the cracks somewhere, because we’re instead treated to a score culled from numerous original series episodes. I suppose it feels authentic enough, but I was looking forward to Norman’s addition to the Star Trek musical canon.

Overall, Blood And Fire is a major achievement – it’d be good for a major studio, let alone a fan production. I have only two things to say: part two better get here soon, and hopefully this summer’s big screen take on classic Trek is this good.