Every now and then, someone will make a fan project that blows everyone out of the water. When I heard about the web series Star Trek Continues, I knew it was something to keep my eye on. Why? I’d met Vic Mignogna, the show’s creator, several years ago while doing work for Anime Expo, and heard about his love for classic Star Trek. And oh boy, the rumors were true. Not only is Vic one of the most die hard Trekkies I’ve ever met, but he also has decades of production experience. Put the two together, and you’ve got the most stunningly accurate fan production you will ever see. I decided to ask Vic about Star Trek Continues to learn a little more about the show.
Geek & Sundry: When and how did you fall in love with Star Trek?
Vic Mignogna: I discovered the original series when I was about 10 years old. I would come home every day and watch it on my 19 inch black & white TV. My parents had just divorced and I fell in love with the stories, friendships, and characters of Star Trek.
How did your love for Star Trek turn into Star Trek Continues?
I worked briefly with some other Trek fan productions, and they left me not only feeling disappointed by many elements, but also feeling that Star Trek could be done so much better on so many levels: acting, lighting, story, editing, music/sound design, sets, etc. So I decided to give it a try myself, since I’ve spent the last 40 years of my life developing experience and training in both acting and film production.
I noticed that the sets, lighting, sound, music, and even the script pacing are very close to the original Star Trek. How did your team recreate the feel so accurately? How much does it all cost?
We manage to create it because myself and the rest of the STC production team know how to make classic Trek. Star Trek isn’t about phasers, Klingons, and beaming down. It’s about much deeper themes, and I was determined from the very beginning that, if I was going to start a series like this, I was going to make sure it captured the same magic that captured me as a boy. I think we’ve done pretty good with that.
The lighting of TOS (The Original Series) was a very specific style that is not done anymore. Certain camera angles, compositions, moving masters, sound design, music cues… everyone on the STC production team is extremely skilled at nailing all the subtle elements that made the original series so unique and recognizable. Each episode costs around $60-$80k, a fraction of what the original series episode budgets were. We’re able to do it because so many in our production donate their time and talents out of love for TOS, and due to the generous support of Star Trek fans worldwide who keep us going!
What about the CG design of the Enterprise?
Doug Drexler is Star Trek royalty, and the mastermind behind our Enterprise. He built it as a 3D model, but we agreed from the very beginning that we wanted it to look as much like a real model as possible. So Doug meticulously creates the shots to match that original look.
What did you take into consideration when casting these classic characters?
ACTING. Most people agree that one of the weakest links in fan productions is the acting, because they are not actors, they’re fans. My first priority was to cast actors who could actually pull off the kind of stories I wanted to tell.
Why did you feel the need to add the character Doctor McKennah?
When Michele (Specht) and I were talking about what role she would play, we considered Nurse Chapel, then Yeoman Rand. But then we started talking about how all the starships in Next Generation had a ship’s counselor. When did that start? Certainly sometime after TOS was cancelled. So we decided that it would be really cool to create a new character that would be the first ever experimental ship’s counselor. And I named her after a character in a movie I always loved, Somewhere In Time.
Much like TOS, Star Trek Continues tries to carry moral weight with each episode. How do you create your stories for the series?
The moment I decided that our episodes would be morality tales and social commentaries, I knew I was setting the bar very high. I refuse to do the ole “Capt Kirk beams down and fights the Klingons” type of story. I’ve written several of the stories based on topics I thought were compelling. Others wrote some as well, but we start with a topic, issue or moral/ethical theme and try to build a creative story around it.
Of all the episodes in TOS, why did you feel that Mirror Mirror needed a continuation? What other classic Trek episodes would you like to follow up on?
There are many episodes of TOS that are wide open for a follow up. But Mirror Mirror is one of the most popular TOS episodes, and I always wondered what happened after mirror Kirk returned to his Enterprise. Did Spock do anything with the challenge prime Kirk gave him before he left? We loved the idea, and also thought it would be great fun to play in the mirror universe!
Tell us about your friendship with William Shatner and other cast members.
I’ve had the privilege to become friends with Bill over the course of appearing at many conventions with him, having dinners, travel, etc. He’s a wonderful man and I count it a privilege to know him. I’ve also had the great honor of becoming friends with Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and George Takei. We often do events together. The 10 year-old boy in me stills gets giddy at the fact that, after 40 years, I can call these people friends.
Image credits: Trek Continues, Inc.