Saturday, 25 November 2017

To Trek With Love: The Finale of Continues

While Discovery temporarily halts its first season you might have been forgiven for missing out on the finale of Star Trek Continues. But not for too long.

Let me be so bold as to say you would be a fool if you had because, simple fact, this is a masterpiece, a well-made and brilliant conclusion to an 11 episode run that has been as innovative and exciting as The Original Series was in when first aired.

Now you'll note I am running the two parter as a single review here so be aware that there will be SPOILERS ahead especially if you've not seen the second part (and why the hell wouldn't you have by now?!).

Let's set the scene straight away. The Federation has been up to its old tricks of doing silly experiments away from the public eye and this time it involves attempting to replicate the "god powers" that we saw back in Where No Man Has Gone Before. To some extent these have been successful however Lana (played by one-time Doctor Who companion Nicola Bryant) wants to take it to the next level and get all of her ESPer colleagues powered up by visiting the Galactic Barrier. Bryant is excellent in this story playing an initially welcoming scientist before turning to something darker and more driven as the story twists and turns on the way to the edge of the Milky Way.

Of course Kirk and co take exception to this based on their rather destructive experiences with Gary Mitchell which nearly saw the captain dead (nice nod to Gary getting the "T" wrong on the gravestone by the way).

Behind Kirk's back however, Spock contacts Romulan commander Charvanek (an inspired piece of casting with her played by the original actress Joanne Linville's daughter Amy Rydell) whom we last saw in The Enterprise Incident from season three of the original show. He plans to have her aid them in recapturing the ESPer group and so the two unlikely allies join forces.

The ESPer group escape on an Antares Class freighter (another superb nod to continuity both in The Original Series remastered and The Animated Series) and rendezvous with the USS Kongo which they take control of (cliffhanger as the Kongo faces off against the Enterprise and the Romulans) while they are chased by the Enterprise accompanied by 

While Part I created a ton of set up and could, at times get a little over talky, Part II balances it out sublimely with 45 minutes of the best fan series episode I may have ever seen.

I won;t go into too much detail here but let's say that the ESPer story is neatly concluded. The thing is that there's a much bigger picture to appreciate with this finale that covers not just the second part but the first too. It's about a solid closure and a way to successfully link the original 79 episodes to The Motion Picture and for it to make absolute perfect sense.

Indeed, spot how many references there are throughout to the dwindling number of Constitution Class starships (Kongo, Potemkin, Exeter and Enterprise) and what the future holds for the fleet. It's much more encompassing an episode than that however. The feeling of bringing the show full circle back to the second pilot is firmly in keeping with the tradition of both All Good Things... and What You Leave Behind in that they refer back to their starting blocks to round out the story. It makes the show feel more complete and Vic Mignona and the whole of the Continues team should be applauded for what is just a mezmerising piece of work in this closing two part story.

While there is that sense of closure in the story, we also have some moments of tragedy with the loss of not just one but two of the crew we have come to know through the Continues saga. Both Lieutenant Smith (Kipleigh Brown) and McKenna die and are given exceptional ways to end their tenure on the webseries. With both characters the two parter definitely rounds out their arcs and the endings for both actresses are most fitting and suit the story perfectly. Particularly with McKenna from the very first scene (you appreciate it more on a rewatch) you can see where her story is going straight away. Their passings are poignant in every way and there are a lot of characters in the franchise who have departed in less appreciative ways.

Kirk is easily the most prominent of the regular crew through this story being the man of action as the Enterprise chases the Kongo back to Earth but Vic Mignogna gets to play much more with a Kirk deeply moved by the loss of two crew members, affected by the actions of his first officer to contact the Romulans and ultimately a Kirk who comes to realise its time to pass the torch once he brings the battle scarred Enterprise back to spacedock. The final transition to the blue/white admiral’s uniform from The Motion Picture truly completes the Continues story and the way in which the show has tied up loose ends dovetails effortlessly into the first of Star Trek’s big screen adventures.

The double-team alongside the Romulan Bird of Prey is a great touch to the episode and hints towards a more unified Galaxy post-Voyager although normal of the crew share Charvanek’s ideology.

Another brilliant move in this episode is the tactic deployed by Kirk to attack the Kongo. For the first - and likely the last - time we see the Constitution Class undergo a saucer separation. It’s not as smooth and seamless a process as the Galaxy Class but to see the saucer and drive sections working independently is an absolute cannot-miss moment from the two-parter. Having it be a little more hap-hazard a process emphasises how last-gasp this would be as a manoeuvre plus it’s a cool nod to past mentions in The Original Series about jettisoning nacelles and tech manual notes indicating that the Enterprise was capable of such a feat.

Both Spock and McCoy’s actions place then ready for their reappearances in The Motion Picture and in I way feel forced or fake. One admission is that while their stories get paid some sort of lip service Sulu, Uhura, Chekov and oddly Scotty seem to be left out of any kind of Continues send off. Now for me that’s a bit bizarre since both Smith and McKenna are given significant chunks of the episode to say farewell yet the regulars don’t have that opportunity. Not a complaint as such, more an observation and on that note could we have risked Scotty with a moustache....?!

While recognising the guest cast in the fantastic - and exceptionally English Nicola Bryant, it’s also more than worthy of talking about the appearance of Cas Anvar as Lana’s superbly duplicitous Romulan-cum-Vulcan second in command. Just slimy enough to be a great baddie of sorts, I loved seeing this guy on Continues after watching is awesome work on one of my favourite shows of the moment, The Expanse. In fact his performance here was so different to that role I didn’t recognise him at first which is a clear sign of a versatile actor. 

There is one searing issue with To Boldly Go which gnaws at me every second - that it’s the last one. This webseries has had some incredible high points including the Mirror Universe sequel, Lolani and the excellent Embracing the Wind (for example) and while it does go out on a euphoric high it is still a tragedy that circumstances have led to this series being cut short earlier than planned. 

The final speech from Mignogna’s Kirk hints at lots to come both in its words and the admiral’s body language as he realises that his trek to the stars may well be over and he is handing the keys to the next generation. It’s a heartfelt speech from both character and actor it appears and after such a great episode you kind of don’t want it to end. Fans will also love the nod to Discovery with the line of models in Nakamura's office which includes both the Crossfield Class starship from the latest show and, at the very end of the line, the refit Constitution Class we will see in the six original crew movies.

On that very note, To Boldly Go has everything - and I mean even the kitchen sink levels of everything that will make any Star Trek fan proud. It's a well-crafted ending to a brilliant show that has constantly exceeded expectations and gone that step further still with each new story. For me the second half of this is their finest hour with all the cast truly stepping up and forward to produce a stunning hour of drama that would fit perfectly at the end of the original show's three seasons. Seventy-nine episodes you say? I might have to insist there are now 90...

What was your favourite episode from Star Trek Continues? Read every one of our 11 episode reviews here

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