Thursday, 4 June 2015

Haunted by the Memories: Dreadnought Dominion Leaves Dock

While investigating the wonders of Exeter Trek I managed to get word on another fan series that's just kicked off.

Dreadnought Dominion has gone into production with a nice 20 minute bite-size episode entitled Haunted. If you're waiting for the arrival of Star Trek Continues' fourth episode to go live on 30th May, I'd certainly take a shot at this show.

Fans will immediately know the USS Dominion from the Starfleet Technical Manual researched and compiled back in the 1970's by Franz Joseph with that distinctive third nacelle, double deflector dishes and forward-facing shuttlebay. 

But let's find out a bit more about the series - for one thing, where did that spark of inspiration come from?

"Frank Parker Jr. was an extra and set builder for the web series, Starship Farragut." explained series producer Gary Davis, "It got a lot of folks, and him, REAL excited about The Original Series.

"Both Frank and I were also members of a Star Trek fan club, Starfleet International. Chapters were formed into ships and were mainly Star Trek: The Next Generation themed. Frank petitioned the club to change eras and reformed as a The Original Series chapter. He wanted something different for the Dominion fan club, so chose the Franz Joseph design for the Dreadnought Class for the chapter. After that, he then took it a step further, and asked the producers of Starship Farragut if we could use the Farragut Studios sets in Kingsland, GA to bring the adventures of the Dominion to life."

Thus was born Dreadnought Dominion. Looking for a plot for the adventure, Frank took a short story written by Gary and gave it to Randy Wrenn for a script treatment which turned into a near-total rewrite but eventually became Haunted and the episode we get to to see today.

It's been 19 months since the Dominion began her refit following a disastrous mission which saw the deaths of several members of her crew and Commodore Samuel Grissom (Frank Parker Jr) is still feeling the effects. This is very much focused on the commanding officer, tackling his feelings over the loss of so many crew and his own ability to lead the ship. Visited by the vision of his deceased first officer, Commander Don Chamberlain (Dan Scanlan) as well as a disturbing nightmare in which he is taunted and scorned by the bridge crew, Grissom does regain some of his confidence. So begins the new voyages of the USS Dominion.

Haunted is, not surprisingly, confined to the ship although there is a great intro sequence with Commodore Grissom and his Chief Engineer Stephen Denson (David R Wrenn) arriving at spacedock onboard their shuttle. This gives us a great first look at the Dominion but the problem is aside from that external titillation of this large starship, the physical differences pretty much stop on the surface. The interior shots all take place on sets that fan series followers will identify in a split second and unless you knew that it was supposed to be the Dominion you would be forgiven for expecting this to be another web-series based onboard the Constitution Class. 

"When Frank asked Randy to write the first episode, he knew that Randy was a fan, but he isn't a walking Star Trek encyclopedia." said Gary, "He definitely wanted to stay true to the original series in many ways, but wasn't interested in more of the same that we saw on The Original Series or other fan productions for that matter. That pretty much is what we are about. Our goal is to produce exciting, funny, and touching episodes. If we're really lucky, we might even make you think!

"You probably won't see episodes in which we continue, or refer back to a classic episodes either. We will just be making our vision to present a new and different crew while in the same venue of the 23rd Century Star Trek

"Star Trek Continues and Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II chronicle Kirk and company’s years which missing from the Enterprise’s five year mission. However, as mentioned and shown in The Original Series, there are other starships out there, other crews, and certainly other adventures. The popularity of shows like Starship Exeter and Starship Farragut, we see that folks do enjoy seeing other crews as well.."

If they do make more - and I really keep my fingers crossed that they do - there need to be some subtle changes or even some big changes in what we see on the screen - maybe additional bridge consoles, different seat placement, or more references within the script to the superiority of the Federation Class over the twin-nacelled Constitution Class. The availability of sets rather than building expensive new ones for this pilot would, understandably, mean that there is restriction initially yet with the intention to give a Dominion spin in the future. What I do think is a great point made by Gary is that they purposely won;t be making reference to The Original Series and will be, effectively, going it alone in their own way.

"We know that there are differences between the Dreadnought and Heavy Cruiser class ships, such as the location and number of turbolifts that open onto the bridge." said Gary, "We would have loved to have made the changes to make our sets canon, but the sets we used were existing sets and were being used by three other productions at the time. So, due to the complications of sharing the sets and the prohibitive expense of modifying them, we decided to forge ahead with the amazing sets that we had access to and hope that the fans would understand. 

"The studio has been since sold to the producers of Star Trek Continues, and are therefore unavailable for any future shooting. We have been in contact with another group of set builders to see if we could visit them and shoot another segment on their sets which are equally amazing sets. Again, these sets are shared by other productions in the venue of The Original Series, so altering them will not be possible. However, we don’t think that its actually necessary to be distinctly different in sets being that the starships from The Original Series were standardized and the look and feel is what makes this so exciting. 

"It's that feeling of familiarity with the sets and lighting that makes folks enjoy the shows all the more. The differences lie in the characters using those sets and the uniqueness of our stories. We do have our own commissioning plaque and the red diagram of a Dreadnought Class next to the bridge turbolift doors. Both these tiny differences play into the fact that while we’re on identical sets, however, it’s the Dominion…"

As to the cast, it's mainly Frank Parker who gets to shine here as Grissom since it is about his mental recuperation to a major extent. While the rest of the main cast dip in and out during the episode we really only get to know the commodore mainly due to the 20 minute run time. I know that this is something that will surely be corrected as we go forward. As it is, all involved give steady performances and there's nothing here that will make you wince or turn off - all is good on the Dominion.

"Haunted was a centrepiece show highlighting the captain’s struggle overcoming his guilt and gaining his confidence again to get back in the centre seat to continue the mission." continued Gary,  "It was a bit focused on that character in that it was his internal struggle, and literally his nightmares, which were the centrepiece of the story. Our third outing will continue the story that was introduced in Anchors Aweigh and Haunted, therefore more focused outward on the action. If we get the opportunity to do future episodes pas that, we hope that we would focus on other characters and other aspects that would prove interesting and entertaining. We definitely do not want our stories to be predictable. 

"Some episodes will concentrate more on being funny, while and others may lean more toward action or even romance. We do not want to constrain ourselves to a specific episode length. They could be anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. It just depends on the story. Some stories are short stories, and some are novels."

"Our first episode, Haunted, was released on the internet in April. Our second episode, which was actually the first thing we shot, is very near completion and could be released within the next few weeks. We could have released these in chronological order, however, we felt that Haunted was much more polished and would serve better as an introduction to the series.

So far the team have mainly had positive reactions - apart from one which wasn't meant as mean-spirited trolling, but rather for constructive criticism concerning the sound levels. What receiving this kind of feedback does mean is that the team can improve, make changes and understand what things maybe didn't turn out just as they might have hoped.

Continued Gary; "We are fortunate that we have a ready made audience who enjoy fandom productions such as ours. Fans know of and watch Star Trek Continues, Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II and Starship Farragut. They know the sets that these are shot on are just plain DEAD ON to the real thing and when they watch Dreadnought Dominion, it’s a feast for the eyes."

Gary has always joked that the performances won’t win any Academy Awards, and even bad acting is improved by delivering lines on those awesome sets! Sometimes just looking good scores you points!  However, it's great that we had good story writing, great costumes, and folks who did gave a good performance in that they delivered their lines with feeling and were really into their characters. We even had some professional actors and those with performance experience in the past. You can tell who they are and they really added a shine to the production.

"Anchors Aweigh touches on the inquiry into the incident that damaged the Dominion as well as bringing our characters together for the first time. We have a script for our third episode which we are very excited about. It really serves as the completion of a larger story arc that began with the first two episodes. It is by far our most ambitious episode yet, with more action, more special effects, more aliens, and more fun."

What we do know is that the series already has another two instalments in the making - one which will premiere later in 2015 and a second lined up for 2016. Certainly there's no grass growing under the feet of this team and you can take a look at their progress and updates by visiting their website. We can look forward to Anchors Aweigh - a vignette which takes place two weeks before Haunted and Redemption at Red Medusa, both written by David R Wrenn who co-write the pilot with Frank Parker.

"It has taken us a great deal of time to get the initial productions together to where we could release them. We shot Anchors Aweigh in December 2013, and Haunted, January 2014. We released Haunted just this April of 2015, so that was a GREAT deal of time to get through post production." explained Gary,  "Our delays were incurred just trying to find the right group of talented folks who had the time and opportunity to DO the work. We had a GREAT SFX guy, Ken Thompson, who had all our opening credits, as well as ship exteriors, done very early into production. 

"For Haunted, we had to wait for an editor to put the live action shots together, and finally, to have sound and music added. Along the way, Randy and Gary taught themselves how to do the latter, and are now both versed in sound, music, and video editing. We are so excited to take on this work in addition to Executive Producers for our third shoot, and we fully expect to have that production much faster than our initial ones. In fact, we even did a sneak peek of Anchors Aweigh when we released Haunted. The production hadn't had music added yet, Randy and Gary took a night and in tandem to make a great music track using existing The Original Series music. We thought it came out great. We just have to tweak the audio and we’ll have our second production ready for release."

The Dreadnought Dominion team are planning on fundraising when they release Anchors Aweigh our prequel vignette. Gary noted that they have released what they consider to be the better product first, and hope that fans will tune in, watch the prequel and see that Dreadnought Dominion is really committed to provide an entertaining production. 

That fundraiser will help to fund the trip to a studio to complete filming. However, the team are committed to their shoot regardless, and if so, will foot the bill just as they we did with the two previous shoots. 

"Everyone involved just thoroughly enjoyed producing Dreadnought Dominion," recalled Gary, "I mean.. WHO wouldn't?! Putting on those costumes, stepping onto the bridge, walking those corridors.. While the special effects aren't added until later, when the doors open and close, you can really hear the WHOOSH WHOOSH in your head. When I sat in that captain’s chair for SIX hours doing two scenes one weekend, and even though the set was 40 degrees, there was no other place on Earth I wanted to be!"

You can see Haunted now by heading to the Dreadnought Dominion website HERE where you can also keep up to date with news on the show. Thanks to Gary Davis for his time in compiling this article and we wish the team every success!

Have you seen Haunted? What did you think?

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