To Serve All My Days

Star Trek: Phase II

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

Stardate 6031.2: Bringing Ambassador Rayna Morgan to the Enterprise from Babel via shuttlepod, Chekov has to do some fancy flying to avoid a Klingon warship. The Enterprise arrives just in time, but Captain Kirk and Captain Kargh only exchange a volley of words in this battle. A later visit to engineering puts Chekov in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he receives what should be a nearly lethal dose of radiation, though Dr. McCoy is startled to see no ill effects – at least at first. A day later, Chekov has aged 25 years, and McCoy can find no way to stop his rapid aging. A ship which appears to be a Klingon battlecruiser attacks the Enterprise, doing serious damage, and Kirk finds himself on the brink of plunging the Federation into war – and his best weapons officer is marching inexorably toward death’s door.

Watch Itwritten by D.C. Fontana
director not credited (most likely Erik J. Goodrich)
music by Patrick Phillips

Cast: James Cawley (Captain Kirk), Jeffery Scott (Mr. Spock), John Kelley (Dr. McCoy), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Mary-Linda Rapelye (Ambassador Rayna Morgan), John Carrigan (Captain Kargh), Andy Bray (Lt. Chekov), Julienne Irons (Lt. Uhura), John Lim (Lt. Cmdr. Sulu), Charles Root (Cmdr. Scott), Ron Boyd (Lt. DeSalle), Shannon Giles (Nurse Chapel), Jeff Mailhotte (Sentell), Jay Storey (Lt. Kyle), Giovanna Contini (Ensign Carr), Mari Okumara (Yeoman Okuda), David Dufrane (Cadet), Tim Brazeal (Klingon 1), Kent Schmidt (Klingon 2), Larry Nemecek (Esterion), James Lowe, Debbie Mailhotte, John Whiting, Patrick Cleveland, Linda Cleveland, Amanda Root, Steve LeClerc, Chris Lunderman, Jessie Mailhotte, Anne Carrigan (Federation Ambassadors), Ed Abbate, Ron M. Gates, Michael Struck, Ian Peters, Nathan Gastineau, Riva Gijanto, Steve LeClerc, Danielle Porter, Ralph Miller, Max Kiserman, Michael Tavares, Jerry Storey, Paul Seiber (Starfleet Personnel)

Notes: The shuttle piloted by Chekov is the Archer, and it’s pursued by a Klingon vessel seen in Star Trek: Enterprise and identified there as a Klingon Warbird; though it resembles the Bird of Prey, there are significant differences, and it could conceivably still be in service by the fourth year of Kirk’s original mission (after all, the D7 cruiser is still around in the 24th century). Chekov came into contact with the rapid aging virus in The Deadly Years; when reminiscing about his younger days, he refers to events in The Apple and Spectre Of The Gun. Guest player Tim Brazeal headed the controversial movement, which tried to raise enough money to convince Paramount to produce a fifth season of Star Trek: Enterprise, while Larry Nemecek is the author of such books as the “Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion.”

Review: In the New Voyages gang’s third outing (or second, depending on how sacred you hold their insistence that Come What May has been jettisoned from their canon), there’s some all-star help on hand – Walter Koenig reprises the role of Chekov, and D.C. Fontana does the honors as the writer of his return engagement. It’s a marked departure from previous New Voyages installments in that character development and internal drama are very much to the fore, rather than the admittedly neat spectacle of “wow, we’re restarting and updating original Trek!” Sure, there are some extravagant special effects sequences (the opening chase with the Klingon ship, even with its slightly anachronistic proto-Bird of Prey from the Star Trek: Enterprise era, is a dazzling piece for a fan production), but at the story’s heart are a mystery and a character story which would’ve done a production of any budget level proud.

Star Trek: New Voyages - To Serve All My DaysAs wonderful as Walter Koenig‘s return to the role of Chekov is, getting a chance to develop the character more than ever seemed to happen during the entire second and third seasons of classic Trek, I feel even more obligated to draw attention to Andy Bray’s debut as the young, “present-day” Chekov too – if Bray wasn’t able to capture at least some of Koenig’s characterization and affected accent so skillfully, To Serve would’ve been sunk at worst, and just not as effective at best. As it is, that pivotal characterization works out wonderfully, and there isn’t that much of a speed bump in the transition between actors. Mary-Linda Rapelye (who appeared with Koenig in the classic Trek episode The Way To Eden) helps both of them along in her portrayal of a sympathetic Federation ambassador with ties to Chekov’s family.

The other thing everyone was looking forward to was a new D.C. Fontana episode of Star Trek. Generally, the script doesn’t disappoint; the character moments are spot-on, the humor is genuine, and there’s no real evidence that Fontana made any major shifts in writing any of the regular characters. There are, however, some odd TNG-isms present (and it’s worth remembering that D.C. Fontana also wrote for that series). Though not quite on the same scale as the previous two full episodes’ continuity-fests, we’re treated to a very TNG phenomenon, that of the Minor Plot Point From A Previous Episode Coming Back To Haunt Us. On the other hand, I liked the retrofitting of TNG’s compact-car-sized “shuttlepod” design to the original series era – it looked great on screen, didn’t require an elaborate set, and served a purpose in the story (the traditional full-sized Galileo-style shuttle would’ve seemed significantly less helpless compared to the Klingon ship).

Where the rubber seems to be meeting the road with this latest episode is in interpretation of the show’s closing scenes. To put it simply, Chekov dies, and we get no miraculous rejuvenation or resuscitation on screen here. There’s a certain dreamlike quality to the final scene that lends itself to different interpretations of how literal Chekov’s rapid aging and death have been, but ultimately, the whole thing packs more of a visceral gut-punch if you just accept that we’ve lost Chekov altogether. I admire the sheer amount of chutzpah involved in making it seem as though this is the character’s final end, regardless of what the movies say.

Except that he then pops up in the preview of the next installment, World Enough And Time. New Voyages head honcho James Cawley has remarked on the show’s forums that he isn’t trying to alter Trek canon, and that World Enough will explain why Chekov’s still among the living, though it won’t devote significant story time to resolving that. I respect that Cawley, Fontana, et al. wanted to leave the ending of To Serve All My Days ambiguous enough to avoid robbing it of its teeth as effective drama (hey, I’m glad that someone is finally taking that approach with the Trek franchise), but I worry that the explanation might wind up being that Bobby Ewing dreamed it all while he was in the shower. And the makers of New Voyages should look in the mirror and know their audience: we’re talking Star Trek fans, i.e. the folks who point out that the rotating elements within the Enterprise’s warp nacelles are rotating in the wrong direction. The death of a relatively major character is not a minor technical detail, and writing that death off as a fever dream would seem to indicate that fandom has learned all the wrong storytelling lessons from the franchise’s all-too-frequent “hit the reset button to restore the status quo” practice. I can compartmentalize this episode as a one-off, sort of like Star Trek Unbound if you like, but Trek fandom on a whole may not be that charitable. There’s kind of a “having your cake and eating it too” element that makes on question the New Voyages mandate of continuing the original series; the other classic-era fan films such as Starship Exeter and Starship Farragut could’ve gotten away with it because they’re not dealing with characters whose futures we know; the flipside is that it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without a character as relatively well-known as Pavel Chekov.