Star Trek: Phase II vs. Star Trek Continues

Star Trek: Phase II Promo Poster

ST:PII Episode 6, "ENEMY: STARFLEET"
ST:PII Episode 6, "ENEMY: STARFLEET" | Source

Brief Update, 2014/10/30

Quick update: I have continued to watch episodes of both productions as they've been released. Each series gets better with every new episode. I have yet to see Brian Gross as Captain Kirk, as the release of the most recent episode of Star Trek: Phase II has been delayed. To date, my favorite episode (from either series) is the latest from Star Trek Continues - "The Fairest Of Them All." It takes up the storyline started with "Mirror Mirror" from the original series.

Childhood Memories of Star Trek

I feel like I'm visiting heaven. Or at least, I'm reliving some of the greatest joys of my childhood. One night a week, my Mom would let me stay up past my normal 8:00 PM "school night" bedtime to watch Star Trek. As I grew up, I enjoyed the spin-off series and movies, but none of them quite had the charm and excitement that the original show held for my six year old self. Now I find that there is not one, but two completely independent fan-produced productions resurrecting the original series, both with the stated goal of continuing the story from the point where Star Trek ended after it's third season. I'm having a blast.

Star Trek: Phase II (ST:PII)

Originally called 'Star Trek: New Voyages,' Star Trek: Phase II was the first serious undertaking, beginning production in 2003. It is Produced by James Cawley, who also plays Captain Kirk in the currently-released episodes. Some of the episodes were new screenplays written by original Star Trek screenwriters like David Gerrold ("The Trouble With Tribbles"). Others were adapted from scripts that had been written for an un-produced series, also called "Star Trek: Phase II" which was planned to air in 1978 but was abandoned when Paramount's television unit folded. To date, Phase II has released 7 full-length episodes, with a few others in various stages of post-production.

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig, the original Chekov. Attribution:Diane Krauss (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by
Walter Koenig, the original Chekov. Attribution:Diane Krauss (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by | Source

George Takei

George Takei, "Sulu" Attribution: Diane Krauss(Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia C
George Takei, "Sulu" Attribution: Diane Krauss(Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia C | Source

Support from Star Trek Stars

Numerous Star Trek alums have lent support to ST:PII, including Walter Koenig and George Takei (Chekov and Sulu in the original series and the first several Star Trek movies), Denise Crosby (Lt. Tasha Yar, The Next Generation), and several actors who had guest-starring roles in the various Star Trek series.


Star Trek Continues (STC)

Another fan-produced web series, STC stars Vic Mignogna as Captain Kirk. This show doesn't (yet) boast as much Star Trek alumni credibility as Phase II, but it does have Chris Doohan taking on the role of the iconic Montgomery Scott, originally played by Chris's father James Doohan. Chris has also appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as the new (2009) Star Trek movie.

As the relative new kid on the block, STC has only one full-length episode available, plus a few short vignettes. In the pilot episode, Michael Forest reprises his role as Apollo from the episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" (TOS). Although in the Star Trek setting, only 2 years have passed since the crew's first contact with Apollo, the would-be deity has aged 40 years. In classic Star Trek style, the writers create a plausible story to account for his advanced age.

Star Trek:Phase II Episode 3

The Sets

Both companies have meticulously recreated the sets in strict adherence to the original blueprints. Every display, control, and blinking light exists in exacting detail in the episodes from both STC and ST:PII. That makes it impossible to pick a winner on set authenticity alone. That said, the lighting on the sets does factor in. In some of the secondary sets in ST:PII (like aboard shuttle crafts), the actors cast distinct shadows from off-screen light sources that shouldn't really be there. No such fantom light sources exist in the STC scenes.

Actors

Most of the actors in ST:PII are relatively unknown, volunteering their time for little more than the recognition and their love of Star Trek. STC actors may also be doing it for love, but most of the regular cast seems to have more professional acting experience, even if much of it is in anime series. It showed, especially in the early episodes of ST:PII. Remember, there's only been one episode of STC with which to compare, but it definitely out-shines the early episodes of ST:PII in terms of acting skills. The folks at ST:PII obviously love their Star Trek roles - which may be why they over-emoted, with most of the scenes seeming forced and un-natural. However, these same actors really seemed to grow into their roles. By the third and fourth episodes, they were much more relaxed in their positions. The fact that Walter Koenig and George Takei were lending their support by that time probably infused the entire crew with a sense of professionalism and competence that transcended their lack of experience. That said, I still have to hand STC a slight edge with respect to the acting.

Star Trek Continues, Episode 1

The Writing

With only one episode for STC, comparing their writing to ST:PII is more challenging. ST:PII seems to be using story ideas that were originally intended for an ill-fated series that was intended to air in the late 70's, while STC's first episode feels more like something that would have been released in the 60's for the original series. Does that make it "better?" Not in terms of it being a good, compelling story. The ST:PII story lines are also compelling, and perhaps a shade more "modern" in themes and atmosphere. This is a tough call, and one I'm not willing to make until I've seen more episodes of STC. Suffice it to say that both continuing storylines are doing a great job keeping my interest.

Star Trek Continues vs. Star Trek: Phase II - Authenticity

There were several other factors I wanted to consider, including directing, production quality, and special effects. These considerations are either hard to measure in any tangible way or information is scarce, so I decided to lump them under 'Authenticity.' This goes hands-down to STC. From the aforementioned lighting to the camera work, from the music to the dramatic pauses, the one episode of STC seemed like it was lifted right out of 1967 completely intact, albeit with different faces and voices. The crew at STC has done an amazing job recreating the look, mood, and atmosphere of the original series. The irony is that it probably costs them more to deliver a faithful reproduction of the original special effects than ST:PII pays to deliver more modern effects.

To be fair to ST:PII, they appear to be striving for more balance between recreating the original series and utilizing modern effects and story themes. .Whereas STC shoots their show using the same 4:3 aspect ratio as the original series, ST:PII is shot in high definition. Regarding the characters, ST:PII says "We are not casting people who look or act like the original actors.... We want actors who will be able to remind us of our old friends, but bring to the characters a new life, a fresh interpretation, not a stale imitation."


Star Trek: Continues or Phase II?

If you've watched at least one episode of each, which do you prefer? Use the comments section to support your vote.

See results without voting

And The Winner Is?

The real winners here are the die-hard fans of the original Star Trek series around the world (like me). Both productions have their strengths. The differences in production quality and acting ability have diminished with every new episode of ST:PII, and are pretty negligible at this point. For those looking for the purest authentic recreation of the original series, then Star Trek Continues is the better series for them, but sadly there is only one episode available. Viewers who want to see their favorite characters in high def, with modern special effects and with re-interpreted personalities, check out Star Trek: Phase II. My advice is to watch every episode of both series. If you're as much of a fan as I am, I guarantee you will enjoy them.

Donate to Star Trek: Phase II

Epilogue

Star Trek Continues has just announced that episode 2 is "in the can." Also, through a successful kickstarter program, they've secured funding for at least 3 more episodes.

When I set out to write this Hub, I sent emails to both production companies asking them to comment, or possibly for an interview. I also asked for permission to include any of their images in the article. At this time, Star Trek: Phase II has not responded. After article publication, I received a message from Vic Mignogna, executive producer and director of Star Trek Continues (Captain Kirk himself!). He stated that they wish nothing but the best for Star Trek: Phase II, but had no interest in discussing an article comparing Star Trek Continues to any other production. He mentioned the fact that viewers can watch episodes from both productions and make their own comparisons. I most certainly appreciate his response. I will update this Hub if anything else changes.


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22 comments

Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

I know quite a few people into Star Trek and having watched it myself a few times, I can agree that the actors in general put in their best efforts. Haven't heard of Phase II, but maybe that's because I'm in Australia and haven't seen the fans for awhile....will have to look out for it!


jponiato profile image

jponiato 3 years ago from Mid-Michigan Author

Thanks for stopping by, Suzanne. You can see episodes from both these excellent productions on You Tube.


jponiato profile image

jponiato 3 years ago from Mid-Michigan Author

Sources report that Lou Ferrigno will guest-star in the new episode of Star Trek Continues. No word yet on the role he'll play. Maybe an Orion male?


jponiato profile image

jponiato 2 years ago from Mid-Michigan Author

Further information: Episode 2 of Star Trek Continues premiers February 8th and 9th at Dallas Comic-Con. It shouldn't be long after that before we can all watch it.


Christian 2 years ago

I like both and they are are well made. But i think the ST Continues Crew is more than the original actors.


Arjan Van de Laak profile image

Arjan Van de Laak 2 years ago from Hong Kong

I watched both productions, and so far I prefer Star Trek Continues. The feel is more spot on... and I like their Captain Kirk much better. More likeable, natural and Shatner like. Less 'forced' than Cawley, kudos though to Cawley, great work making these series!

I like Phase II as well... but its more 'action' orientated with a more 'open' feel, (more exterior shots in space and such) which is a nice difference. Some excellent effects in the later episodes.


jponiato profile image

jponiato 2 years ago from Mid-Michigan Author

I appreciate your comments, Arjan. I should probably point out that James Cawley no longer portrays Captain Kirk, that role has passed to actor Brian Gross. I haven't watched the latest episode of STC yet, so I can't comment on his portrayal.


Chip Wolfe 2 years ago

@jponiato I'd suggest when you get the chance, to watch "Lolani" It's an even further improvement over "Pilgrim of Eternity." It's so good it gained praise from Gene's son Rod Roddenberry.

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n83n6f

And Rod's a consultant for Phase II, that says a lot.


DillyBear 2 years ago

Watching them both, it seems PHII comes across as a more modern take on Star Trek with the classic characters, while Continues is more in the vein of how they were originally scripted and made. The acting in the early PHII (when it was still New Voyages) was jarringly amateur, which is why the stories seemed so dependent on having Cawley interact with the guest original actors so much.


Keyser 2 years ago

Having watched all 3 episodes of Star Trek Continues and parts of several episodes of Star Trek New Voyages, Star Trek Continues is hands down the better series. The actors are better, the stories are better, the production is better. I got bored watching Star Trek New Voyages and the acting is just bad.


Robert Mauro 2 years ago

Just one note... only one of the productions' sets are built using the original blueprints. STP2 has that honor.


jponiato profile image

jponiato 2 years ago from Mid-Michigan Author

@Robert Mauro - according to certain blog posts from the STC crew, their sets are also constructed according to the original blueprints - however, I have been unable to verify that.


Kirk 22 months ago

Honestly, how you can say ST continues is better, maybe! Apart from one real big thing that really ruined it for me... Grant Imahara, his acting skills were like watching an oak tree grow, yes it was that bad. Really blew the whole cast for me. Hopefully we do not see Grant in any more episodes. The latest Phase II episode with the new Kirk, was spot on, the CGI was amazing... Phase II in its new setup wins it for me. STC is good do not get me wrong, they just need to drop Grant!!!


Robert Sacchi profile image

Robert Sacchi 20 months ago

I think this was a great idea. I watched an episode of Star Trek Continues and it was like another episode of Star Trek (TOS) and I mean that in a good way. Often attempts to bring back an old series fails miserably. This is great.


jponiato profile image

jponiato 20 months ago from Mid-Michigan Author

Spoiler Alert!!!

@Kirk - Brian Gross as the new Captain Kirk is a good actor and handles the role well, but I still preferred James Cawley. I don't know why, maybe it's just because he brought the series together to begin with. Maybe it's just the Mind Sifter script, wherein Kirk is portrayed as utterly broken and defeated, something I have a hard time envisioning.


Drew 18 months ago

Both productions are excellent.

My personal favorite - Star Trek Continues


Tony 18 months ago

After watching both series of the web based shows, it's got to be Star Trek Continues as the easy winner here.. Brain in New Voyages does a much much better Kirk than James but it still falls way off compared to Vic, it's not even that close.. As for New Voyages they offer up all these promises about more coming and then seem to fade into nowhere, like James Crawley's Buck Rogers series which tanked after the trailer ! Star Trek Continues is young at this but they are turning out episodes at a fair rate and New Voyages is full of promises ... New Voyages invested everything they had in "Mindshifter" and after review it, the show just didn't live up to the hype and I actually found the script (twisted on "City on the Edge of Forever") somewhat boring and a very poor choice to debut their new Captain Kirk .. It also seems that doing "Mindshifter" that the entire budget of New Voyages is exhausted and future episodes are now in question based on fans support, very poor management by James Crawley .. As for the feel of real Star Trek it appears that Star Trek Continues is going after reliving the original five year mission while New Voyages is already bored and trying to advance into the next mission into the "Star Trek The Motion Picture.. I have been watching Star Trek on television since 1975 and then DVD, Laserdisc, and now Blu Ray - thousands of hours of Trek inside and out and consider myself an expert on the correct Star Trek presentation. After reviewing all the episodes by both web based creators it's easy to say that "Continues" has the best cast (some hit and miss) by far, scripts seem more on Trek, and the production sets seem much better staged and lighted to the original 1967 series .. So I will continue watching both web series and hopefully the New Voyages will improve and not drift off course ..


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 17 months ago from Australia

The idea of continuing the original series is of course brilliant but the brilliance of the concept tarnishes the further we stray from this. That is, it is essential to digitally recreate the exact same actors and voices. Budget wise this means putting LESS into outer space special effects and more into the characters. This means returning closer to the stage settings of the past in keeping with creating the SAME series visuals. Forget about new main actors as that never works. Secondary actors of course can be new. The main rule should be to stick to the original series and this means first and foremost using the exact same (digitised) actors.


jponiato profile image

jponiato 17 months ago from Mid-Michigan Author

@Oztinato - I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your viewpoint. I disagree about digitizing the main characters, because that would defeat the purpose of these fan productions, which of course is realizing the dream of portraying those characters while furthering the storyline. Give these shows a chance - at first it is a little weird seeing other actors portraying our lifelong favorite characters - but after a few minutes, if you're like many of us, that goes away and we're returned to that old sense of wonder and excitement.


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 17 months ago from Australia

jponiato

I would like to believe it, but I can't as it just doesn't work. It can still be done that way for pre production pilots.

I am a professional artist and can duplicate the work of other artists. Many artists can duplicate art. The degree of accuracy is dependent on how well you can mimic ALL the techniques of the great master (or as many as possible) including themes. Hence I am proposing digital reconstruction as it is both scientific and accurate. It will also hopefully be a "fan" production but of a different sort: a geekier more tech savvy thoughtful sort.

Take Spock for example: there is no way a man with sterling good looks or effeminate cheekbones can portray Spock even in a fan production/ or to make him a sentimentalist/ or a sexy ladies man. All these have been tried in both big and small productions and they not only fail they create a noticeable "cringe factor" that spoils the whole effect.

Of course I watched the samples and I could see the failings: very bad casting and a noticeable expenditure on sci fi effects in space. I have proposed using the old "stage effect" on the ground in "other planets" visited in new episodes as it is in keeping with the original. I would rather see funkier underplayed exterior sci fi effects as it is in keeping with the exact duplication of the original. Only the minimal tweaking of the remastered series should be allowed..full stop..

The good thing about these fan based productions is that they are heading in the right direction and we should note that heading in the right direction means "keep going until you get there" not stopping half way.

The production techniques should add to the theme not distract (the theme being the recreation of Star Trek first and foremost followed by great plots etc).


SteC0203 14 months ago

(sorry a bit late to this party....)

I really like both productions, both have their niches and own issues to resolve.

I really like the concept of STC 'continuing' a storyline such as their first short film continuing Turnabout Intruder' then Fairest of them all (Mirror, Mirror continuation) even Pilgrim of Eternity is continuing/revisiting an established episode character. I'd like them to do more of these.... Personally I’d love a continuation of the 'Menagerie story (maybe even just a short) because what would Spock and Kirk's next conversation (after Spock has taken Pike to the transporter room) be like? I believe it is Kirk witnessing what Spock would do for Pike (and more than likely Kirk himself) that help to influence/drive Kirk in ST3: TSFS risking it all for Spock.

Star Trek Phase 2/New Voyages had it the hardest, they had to kick things off without anyone else (really of the same ilk) to compare against (STC had this advantage) and I think that wins them major kudos. It is slightly annoying the amount of changes that have taken place in actors portraying the main cast (2 Kirks, 3 Spocks, 2 or 3 Uhuras) but that maybe totally out of their control. You can't avoid the fact that major names from the Original and wider Star Trek universe have all given their time to appear.

In balance I think both are great and I look forward to both and have contributed to both of their productions (pity they cannot just (time)share 1 set of everything then more of the money could be spent on new episodes instead of 2x bridge, sickbay, transporter room etc. but again that might be totally impossible)

To both camps I simply say, thank you! We appreciate you and what you are doing for us. LLAP!


jponiato profile image

jponiato 14 months ago from Mid-Michigan Author

@SteCo203 - thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I too appreciate both camps. Personally I think James Cawley should have stayed with the role of Kirk, but he had his reasons for stepping down.

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