Friday, 6 June 2014

Renegades: Will it Beat Of Gods and Men?

I'll get a massive amount of heckling for this I suspect but it's taken me until 2014 to watch the 2006 production Of Gods and Men.

Sorry, sorry, sorry I am not worthy to be called a True Fan and I'll be flogging myself ritually for months as penance. Why it's taken so long is a story in itself. However before I divert away to cause myself extreme pain, there's more to explain.

Like many fan projects, Of Gods and Men took an age to get made and released. At the time it came out my internet connection was one step away from dial-up and over the years I just forgot it existed until the Renegades movie machine powered up and thundered into life.

While Axanar might have the imaginative twist and flair to do something totally different, Renegades is the one that seems to get the airtime due to its heritage and cast. The release date is just getting closer and closer and gradually more information is starting to head our way. What's my point here? Well, both Of Gods and Men and Renegades are directed by one Tim Russ and are, perhaps, the closest thing to "real" Star Trek that you can get given that the characters on screen are being played by the same people who portrayed them in Voyager and the other televised series.

Right - quick memory jog for you on the show - set in a time after Voyager, Tuvok brings together a band of rogues, outcasts and criminals that can work outside of the rules and regulations of Starfleet to investigate the strange folding of space and time which has occurred around several planets, cutting them off from the rest of the universe. The trouble is these planets are the main suppliers of the vital dilithium. Tuvok will lead his assembled team to find out what is causing the folds while also having to deal with the conflicts within the group.

So far we've had two trailers which are, admittedly, unfinished tasters of the end product and very little else. There's more fundraising going on via Indegogo as we speak to raise cash for the visual effects and you have to wonder how much more is needed to get the movie finished. Does it seem to you that this keeps on going? I'm staying positive that this is to ensure the best Star Trek independent spin-off ever.

Ok, so it's going to cost a lot but the perks of donating are good and they're only about $3000 off the of $25,000 target. The continued support of fans through donations does show you how much faith the fan community has in Russ' work.

Almost as a bit of a thank you and a reminder that it is nearly finished, something new popped up on the Renegades YouTube channel last week; the first character trailer entitled Introducing Lexxa and starring not only Adrienne Wilkinson but also Tim Russ as Tuvok and Star Trek Continues' Captain Kirk himself, Vic Mignogna as her Cardassian opponent.

The fact is that it's the most complete footage we've had thus far and justifies the work and funds that are going into this project. The trailers were great but we can finally see some dialogue and action in sequence. So does it look any better than it's near-decade old predecessor? I think so and now is the time to talk about it.

Some fans are probably already ruing that we're getting cut-price spin offs from people who should know better and were involved with the "real" thing but this looks anything but cheap and I wouldn't expect the talent in front and behind the camera to be taking part if they didn't believe they could produce something of excellent quality.

As you'll have no doubt spotted, this little Renegades piece has been sprinkled with some screenshots from the snippet and we are geniunely impressed. I found Of Gods of Men a tad shoddy and at times overly cheesy with some truly wobbly sets that Blakes 7 would have distanced themselves from and horribly ill-fitting uniforms. This on the other hand is Star Trek with dirt under its nails and maybe a tooth missing for good measure.

Wilkinson and Mignogna are brilliant here in what is a particularly well choreographed fight scene. While Lexxa is more animalistic and raw, Mignogna's Cardassian prisoner Garis seems to be channelling some strains of Garak in his goading of the female Augment. He knows which buttons to press especially in relationship to her lineage. Also, does anyone else think that he bears a scarily close resemblance to one Dumar?

From a character perspective this gives us some basics on who Captain Lexxa Singh is (which makes sense when you consider this is an Introducing... video) while showing off just how good and serious this production is about making quality Star Trek for the fans.

The more I see of Vic Mignogna the more I'm impressed. His Kirk was a little too Kirk for me originally but after a couple more viewings I've appreciated his work a lot more and here as a Cardassian he's superb and the makeup is faultless. The set lighting and dressing are as equally impressive and for a moment you'd be forgiven for thinking you're watching an episode of Deep Space Nine or Voyager (whatever your fancy) - it's only when an older Tuvok shows up that you realise this is something new.

Russ hasn't lost any of the Tuvok charm (!) since leaving Voyager and his discourse with Lexxa confirms that he's working on something that's going to need a very specialised person to get the job done. While this scene isn't about Tuvok it is about Tim Russ in some respects because this is the first glimpses of his work - and it's a good job.

Certainly more adult in its use of language than your average Star Trek episode, whatever the something big that's going down is, I hope we get to see a bit of it in the next trailers that come forth from the Renegades stable. My other query is as to when we'll get to see our first look at some of the CGI for the pilot? We've seen stills of the Archer and the Icarus but let's see them out in the great blackness where they belong, in motion.

So will it beat Of Gods and Men? Unquestionably in everything from sets to script to costumes to score - nay, it has to beat it given the time elapsed since that movie premiered. The production here feels tighter and the acting certainly come across a darn sight more believable than in its predecessor. we have only seen a minimal amount of footage so I might be getting my hopes up too soon. Good news on that front is that we will be seeing a trailer entitled The Mission sometime in June which might answer a few more questions - and pose a few more at the same time. Fingers crossed this will introduce us to a few more of the motley crew that are aboard our Renegades starship, the Icarus (above).

Aside from the new trailer little else has been seen from the Renegades team recently as they work on this (potential) web-series pilot. There have been some cast shots but, like the Introducing spot they have focused on Lexxa, Garis and Tim Russ' Tuvok. Not a bad thing but it means there's still more to be drip-fed for our unquenchable thirst for Star Trek knowledge.

The more I do see the more I hope it goes beyond just the one adventure if only to flesh out the story and not leave too much unfinished business. If the reboot movies are going to be the ignition for a new TV series then there has to be something keeping the 24th Century Prime Universe alive and this is the best candidate to date - make that the only candidate. Fans out there might bitch and moan about it looking cheaper than the TV series we're used to but times have changed and keeping the vision alive has to be done with tighter purse strings.

Of Gods and Men marked a big turning point in the production of fan films and certainly raised awareness of their existence. It marked the 40th anniversary and demonstrated that Star Trek could be kept alive for a fraction of its original onscreen costs. Without it maybe a lot of fan-made movies wouldn't have even been conceived. For that we should be thankful and hope that the existing cast members of every generation keep wanting to produce new material featuring their characters, however it is made.

Images from and the Renegades Facebook page.

You can head over to the official site HERE to learn more about Star Trek: Renegades

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