Monday, 1 June 2015

The Miracle of Flower Power: Star Trek Continues with The White Iris


I have to admit that with life "getting in the way"(!) I've not paid any attention to the production of The White Iris.

Only a matter of months since Fairest of Them All premiered, we've got the fourth episode from one of the best fan production teams operating today. Penned by James Kerwin, Chris White and Kirk actor/exec producer Vic Mignogna, The White Iris is a big change in gear compared to its predecessor but that doesn't mean it's not as good a story.

Completing the final stages for admission to the Federation for the Etirians, Captain Kirk (Vic Mignogna) is attacked and receives a head injury which, initially, doesn't appear that serious. As time progresses, he begins to see visions of women he has loved and lost such as Edith Keeler (played by Star Trek Renegades actress Adrienne Wilkinson), Miramanee, Reyna and Nakia, an officer from the Farragut and Kirk's unseen past. To this end and before his heart gives out, Kirk has to find out what they want, what is drawing them back to him and what has allowed him to remember some blocked memories.

Now coming to terms with being visited by your deceased loves might be all in a day's work for the captain of the Enterprise but it doesn't help when you've forgotten the unique password which activates the newly-admitted planet's defence grid. Plus they're about to be on the receiving end of 23 tricobalt missiles fired from a neighbouring, opposing world.

The White Iris is certainly a much more introspective episode and definitely a more Kirk-centred piece than the first three episodes of Star Trek Continues. Perhaps for the first time we are getting a true character piece in contrast to the more story and action that has encapsulated the series so far. Here we are truly exploring the psyche of the captain to the point where the secondary part of the story surrounding the danger to the Etirians doesn't seem as important.

That focus on Kirk does mean that the rest of the cast don't get a ton of screen time but they are all still served effectively. Both Spock and McCoy are key Kirk's recovery, helping to understand what he is experiencing and adding a touch of conflict to the story as they try to help their friend deal with what they initially perceive as just a head injury which has caused him to forget the crucial password.

Spock too has a role to play in the defense of Etiria and does have a lot of time to talk to their minister, Amphidamas, played by Doctor Who actor and seminal Brit, Colin Baker. Baker brings a charming level of Britishness to the production, edging towards a little hammy but remaining on the right side of enjoyable to watch. I loved ever second he was on screen. Todd Haberkorn's Spock has been excellent since Pilgrim of Eternity and the rapport he has with both Mignogna and McCoy actor Chuck Huber works perfectly. In fact their relationship with Kirk as he deals with his surfaced memories belays their concern for his health from start right through to the very final scene. 

Grant Imahara and Chris Doohan have returned as Sulu and Scotty but have very little to give the story as characters here and that might be the challenge with Star Trek Continues. The cast is indeed getting larger by the episode it seems. Scotty might have a couple of scenes with Chekov where they are attempting to activate the planetary defence console but you do feel this was only put in because there was very little else for them to do. Uhura actress Kim Stinger also suffers more than the others to where I was almost thinking her situation mirrored that of Nichelle Nichols during Star Trek's first season in 66/67.

The same can be said for bridge crew Lieutenant Palmer (played by Cat Roberts) and Lieutenant Smith (played by Kipleigh Brown). Both are welcome returns to the show but with the number of people now onscreen during the 47 minutes of the episode, they do get to be seen a lot but aren't served with much to physically do in the script aside from standard plot exposition. I for one was very happy to see them back and had hoped after their turns in Fairest of Them All that they would get more to do this time. However, with the focus being strongly on the captain this can't happen here, sadly. 

While the size of the cast and ample screen-time for all could be argued as a negative it's also a strong sign of just how much this team want Star Trek Continues to succeed. All of these onscreen actors have given their time to produce the show and ensure that it is the best possible Star Trek experience we could receive.

Vic Mignogna is actually damn good as Kirk and even has Shatner's stance down to a tee in The White Iris. He does carry a great deal of this episode as we get to see a deeper level of his personality than we ever got to see in The Original Series and understand what he has to carry and deal with on a daily basis alongside the loneliness of command.

One of the most telling pieces does mean that Michele Specht gets to show her worth to the series after a blink-and-miss-her appearance in the Mirror Universe last time. Her discussion with Kirk over his pain and experiences do open up another layer to the character as well as examine the captain's distrust of counsellors as he tries to keep his rapidly becoming less-private private life to himself which does, as you'll see, have consequences on Kirk's ability to command. I did question the requirement for Specht's character when she arrived in Pilgrim of Eternity but her value here is obvious as she can discover a side to Kirk through her choice of career that he doesn't display to Spock or McCoy. However it's not a friendship as with the first officer and doctor and definitely a closed professional one at that. Oh - and talking of ship's counsellors, you are right in thinking that it's Marina Sirtis voicing the Enterprise computer and carrying on the work of her screen mum Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.

That Kirk will remember the password and ultimately save the day is a given as soon as the danger is announced and that scenario never takes the shine off the turmoil that Mignogna gets to play. It's a fine choice of the writers here to really get under Kirk's skin and try and find out what makes him tick and what really goes on in the emotional side of his mind that rarely breaks out. In fact I can only think of a splattering of examples from Star Trek such as Edith Keeler's death in The City on the Edge of Forever and Spock's funeral scene in The Wrath of Khan (a scene that Vic himself loves). Even when confronted with all the ghosts of his past and attempting to find some form of reconciliation that will mend his gradually failing heart,  Kirk keeps his emotions in check and manages to draw a finality to past events. However, I would question whether the inclusion of Nakira from the Farragut is necessary as I didn't get the emotional connection. I absolutely clicked with the links to Miramanee, Edith Keeler and Reyna so could this same sense have been achieved with another from the back catalogue of the show rather than someone we've never met before?

Fans will have realised that only one of the four Continues episodes has been reliant 100% on new characters and situations and that was Lolani. Pilgrim of Eternity brought back Apollo,  Fairest of them All transported us back to the savage Mirror universe and now The White Iris has brought us face to face with some of Kirk's greatest loves. Personally it was a great touch by the Continues team to draw a line under events from The Original Series and finish off those loose threads but I would press that their fifth entry is as new to the franchise as Lolani was. Show us new material and step away from relying on the three seasons we had from the 60's. You've proved you know the show now take it forward. 

The White Iris is not the action/adventure we have had so far. It is slower, more precise and thoughtful but illustrates that Continues can do character pieces exactingly and with attention to keeping the people captured within it grounded. The final scenes are some of the strongest moments that the series has set on film adding new dimensions to the Enterprise captain as well as closing down several "whatever happened..." aspects. I'm sure as fans there have been times when you've wondered just what the impact was on the crew or a planet once the starship went to warp.


We also got to see Engineering briefly although it's just a post-production addition with the set currently under construction. There were also glimpses a few new environments external to the ship too as Kirk said his farewells on the rudimentary holodeck and you can't complain at having a few quality guest stars dotted through the show. The conclusion wasn't one I had totally fathomed until it slapped me in the face -  twice -  and for that Continues can have an extra gold star for merit. You can certainly see the value that the first Kickstarter campaign has brought, allowing the new sets to be built, more variations of costumes and perhaps a quicker turn around on a finely crafted production.The results clearly speak for themselves and the team has done their base and source material proud. The recent Kickstarter for episodes six and seven will,  no question,  make a huge impact on what can be done. 

Different, touching and finely produced,  Star Trek Continues has once again set the bar with a true work of love and one I'm greatly impressed with.. For reproducing the feel and very essence of the show, this series has now perfected it's style and finesse, providing a fitting continuation of the five year mission. I'm already awaiting their next voyage with excitement.

What are your thoughts on The White Iris? Did it deliver the goods? What do you want from episode five? Let us know below! You can also watch the episode right now by heading over to Continues' YouTube channel.


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