Friday, 20 November 2015

Returning Renegades

I was less than glowing in my review of Renegades a couple of months back and it's fair to say I did take a bit of flak from it.

However I seemed to receive more comments agreeing to some degree with what I'd said. The concept is sound,  the cast is superb and the starship effects stunning but there were core problems. The script didn't respect any of the characters' back stories and barely gave any time to the incoming cast to flesh them out. It wasn't well written but there was solid potential.

The good news is that they've just launched the Kickstarter campaign for the second and third episodes of the series plus managed to fill my inbox with a lot of news on improvements and additions for the return of Renegades. Promise? Absolutely and not a trickle of them either.

So let's take a glance at the production team. I was immediately impressed that visual luminary Andy Probert is coming on board to strengthen the backroom team. Probert's work on the movie Enterprise plus the NCC-1701-D is well-known; his original design for the Enterprise-C is legendary.

Second to that, Renegades have also brought in Melinda Snodgrass, story editor for season two and executive script consultant for The Next Generation. Notably Snodgrass was responsible for the script of The Measure of a Man so I can only surmise that bringing her on board is to ensure that the story has a more Star Trek feel to it and is handled by someone who truly understands the franchise and can write for the characters.

But it's in front of the camera that some of the biggest moves have come about as the production looks to raise funds for the second and third episodes. We have some news when it comes to new faces with a whole load of Star Trek alumni vying for screen time. First announced was Terry Farrell (Jadzia), then Robert Beltran (Chakotay), Hanna Hatae (Molly O'Brien) before Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) and finally Aron Eisenberg (Nog). While this gives fans another reason to celebrate just as a new network Star Trek series I have my concerns.

So hark, we have a cast which will be bolstered by the arrival of five solid former cast members returning to their recognised roles from Deep Space Nine and Voyager what's happening to the cast from their recently released pilot? We know that Walter Koenig will be back for his final appearance as Chekov in episode two and will have Tuvok, played by Tim Russ, alongside him once again. Importantly Adrienne Wilkinson's key character as Lexxa Singh will be heading the crew. Gary Graham's Ragnar will be back as will Courtney Peldon's Andorian gal Shree and Corin Nemec's Captain Alvarez. 

But that's it and as it stands Sean Penn, Robert Picardo, Manu Intiraymi, Edward Furlong, Chasty Ballasteros and Larissa Gomes will all be conspicuously absent. Now that's a big cast cull, removing some very under-developed roles and, perhaps, excess stories or more simply letting people out who can't commit to another two adventures. A real disappointment as a couple of those characters deserved more screen-time to explain facets of their personalities and back-stories and it looks like we will be robbed of that opportunity. It also means that Wilkinson and Nemec are the only two actors who have not appeared in canon Star Trek.

Maybe some of them will be back as more news comes our way but if not it does appear that a smaller cast will allow more time to each character and allow a bit more development in place of a messy, packed set up. Certainly bringing Melinda Snodgrass into the production suggests a desire to make the second and third episodes more franchise-loyal than the pilot. Interestingly though both the back-room additions only had an influence on the franchise pre-1990 with Probert departing after the first year of The Next Generation and Snodgrass after the third. That might mean that the storytelling and the feel of the new episodes will be more akin to the early adventures of the NCC-1701-D and potentially more aligned with the standalone nature of The Original Series' episodes than we came to know with Deep Space Nine and more notably later years of Enterprise.

What about those casting announcements? How the new additions are going to be added into a story about, well, renegades, is going to be a puzzle. All I worry is that Nog and Chakotay will end up looking more like "baddies" than characters we will want to support here if they are placed against/chasing the Icarus. How can they be integrated into what is effectively an anti-Federation crew out there doing the things Starfleet can't do? Admiral Chekov's office could be very crowded indeed.

Casting more recognised Star Trek names is a big and very noticeable step which will make it more appealing to fans who may have chosen to avoid the pilot or even disliked it. For those who aren't returning it's a great shame but let's hope their replacements don't receive the same lax treatment especially now there's some original Star Trek writing involvement to steer the future of this web-series. There's a ton of potential here but it needs to be nurtured and directed in a way that might be deemed more "appropriate" for the show.

Over 2000 fans have donated $235,000 to the new episodes with just under two weeks to go to reach the desired $350,000. I think they will reach that goal however after the reaction to the first episode I believe it's going to be a bigger challenge to get these two stories completed and if not, could it be the end of Renegades? Probably not considering what has now been donated after the less than stellar pilot. At least the ball is now rolling but a lot of fans will be filled with trepidation before they even consider dropping a few dollars the way of the new Renegades production after episode one.

I don't have a clue where these new stories will be heading but I firmly believe that with the changes made, the production team have listened to critics and fans alike to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and the next instalments of Renegades will only receive explosively positive reviews. Please.

You can keep up to date with Renegades announcements by checking up on their official website.

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