I’ve been anticipating the release of the fan film Star Trek: Renegades for about two years now. I remember that when the crowdfunding campaign started, Ria at thevalkyriedirective did a mini-campaign to encourage them to craft strong female characters with functional costumes, and she got a fairly positive response from the creators.
But in 2014 we started to see more photos from set and became a bit more wary on the costume front. And while the main Captain is obviously a tough woman, I thought it was a missed opportunity not to cast an actress of colour as a “direct descendant of Khan Noonien Singh” – akin to the whitewashing of Khan in STID.
So all of that said, I’ve been pretty much reserving judgment overall until I see it, which is going to happen tonight, and I am going to live blog it for you all. If you want to watch along, head on over to YouTube.
First scene: pretty freaking rad.
To a background of highly dramatic orchestral music with eerie choral voices, Adrienne Wilkinson as Lexxa Singh recites William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus” while scrawling it in chalk on her (presumably) cell wall.
I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.
Now we cut to Reuel Seven and the Klaxon Dilithium Mining Facility 3.
And the first thing we see/hear is a screaming woman, being dragged away by her feet.
Then a human dude gets beaned in the back by some armoured dude. And another guy gets hauled in front of obvious baddie and his henchman.
Baddie kills him with his hand fangs. He’s just like Wolverine, only sadder.
Also I know I’m only four minutes in and Tuvok is still to come, but my first impression is I’m bothered by how these villains are racialized. Played by black actors and all sporting black dreadlocks, they seem to reinforce blackness as alien and dangerous. And as of yet, we have no idea of their motivations or reason to understand their point of view.
Cool looking ships, though! And a monolith of some kind that appears to be bad news.
Yup! It just opened some kind of hole and ate the planet. I’m intrigued.
San Francisco, 2388. And hey, it’s Grant Imihara! Wearing a futuristic straitjacket-inspired lab coat! And looking dramatically at the Death Star plans captured by the Rebellion.
Oh actually it’s Reuel Seven. He’s telling Admiral Chekov (Walter Koenig) that it and another planet just kinda sucked into themselves, wrecking space-time or something. He leaves, which gives the impression Chekov is talking to himself when he talks about a strange appearing planet and the baddie, Borrada. Not to be confused with burrata, which is a type of fresh, Italian cheese.
“I am conwinced that he and the Syphon are responsible for what happened to Reuel and Gamma Tauri.”
Oh hey, turns out he’s talking to Tuvok – which is reassuring. Except they still haven’t shown his face, which I don’t get. Literally everyone watching this movie knows Tuvok is in it. Oh well.
So instead Chekov goes back to explaining, over-slowly, what’s happening on the floating screen in the middle of the room, now showing Admiral Satterby. Satterby apparently suspects the Federation Council of at least covering up Borrada’s heinous deeds. So like anyone who is worried he can’t trust people, he tells Chekov this by…yelling into a viewscreen in the cargo bay, with other people around, “We can’t trust anyone!” before he takes a few steps away and is exploded.
There’s a conspiracy at the highest levels of Starfleet! Time to broadcast that on an unsecured channel!
Star Trek Darwin Awards nominee!
“I fear the Federation is on the werge of collapse,” says Chekov dramatically.
Tuvok suggests they find “other means” since they can’t trust the council, so Chekov goes: “Yes, we will assemble a new crew. Quietly…Our salwation may rest with rogues and outcasts.”
Could you be more obvious about your mission statement for this show?
Finally Tuvok steps into the light and hey! He already has a perfect roguey-outcasty crew ready!
Cut to the USS Archer and a very white-looking Captain Alvarez, having issues with a Klingon. (Paused here and according to his IMDB bio, the actor Corin Nemec, is of Czech, Scottish and Irish ancestry. So another missed opportunity to cast an actor of colour, especially when you chose a surname of Spanish/Latinx origin.
Nice CGI of the Klingon ship decloaking! So far I am most impressed with the ship design and animation.
Pausing here to note the female Lieutenant Commander’s uniform, which looks functional although I’m not sure I’d say very aesthetically pleasing. But that’s personal taste. I’d prefer them to just look more similar to the guys’ uniforms. It looks weird with the crossover bumping on her admittedly snazzy comm badge.
Then a third ship shows up, captained by a Nausicaan and containing Icheb, as well as a Breen, some humans and a Bajoran we haven’t met yet. Oh and an older woman scientist who seems like she could be cool!
I’m feeling a Doctor Who vibe with her and I kind of dig it.
They beam some containers off the Archer and leave but then one of the human dudes gets mad at the Nausicaan, saying Lexxa would never have fired on the Federation, because now everyone will be hunting them. He just laughs maniacally, as Nausicaans are wont to do in Trek.
Back to the prison, where Lexxa is beating the crap out of a Cardassian, and other prisoners are taking bets. He tries to manipulate her by bringing up her past as a “bastard daughter of a megalomaniac” (Khan) and briefly grabs her before Tuvok nerve pinches him to the ground.
She’s pissed to see Tuvok because apparently he sicced Section 31 on her. He notes their methods weren’t that great.
“Did that help me escape any beatings? Or avoid the rape gangs?”
Seriously, Renegades? You gotta hearken back to Season 1 TOS with that? Because imagining her being beaten wasn’t enough, we had to be able to picture her being gang raped? Not necessary.
He tries to tempt her by saying he thinks her mother’s still alive and he can help her find her. Cut to fastest mother/daughter flashback ever.
Chekov’s great-great-granddaughter is starting at the Academy and her roommate, Cadet Madison, is, I’m pretty sure, going to end up being part of the Starfleet conspiracy or otherwise sketchy.
Lexxa is looking at photos of her mom. I think this has potential – I like the idea of her desire for her to reconnect with her mother being a key motivator for her.
Oh and then hi, cleavage!
Lexxa takes down the Icarus’ shields, boards the ship, and draws her phaser faster than the Nausicaan, vaporizing him and taking command.
Icheb doesn’t want smart and badass cleavage-y lady sitting near him because she is Betazoid and he thinks she’s telepathic, but she actually isn’t.
Dang, these are both interesting characters but this is more super obvious exposition.
She explains she isn’t telepathic but seems somewhat telekinetic, then asks why he’s angry and it turns out Section 31 gave him a bionic arm he’s mad about because it made him more Borg-like.
Seriously this stuff seems like stuff you’d already know from serving with someone for more than three days.
Tear, because Icheb is mean.
At a staff meeting Lexxa says they’re to assassinate Borrada, and no one else is really that keen on it, and while we still don’t know her name, I think, Betazoid sexy lady (I looked her up and her name is Ronara) is the one who turns the meeting around and argues some sense into people about the need to get rid of this guy destroying planets.
Oh hey! Doctor Who-ish sciencey lady is hooked up with the Doctor for real! Well actually not The Doctor (Who) or The Doctor (Voyager), but Lewis Zimmerman.
Turns out she used to work with him on Jupiter Station until she stole Starfleet’s only mobile emitter because “my work killed someone and got me banned from Starfleet” – which obviously is something he knows but the audience doesn’t, much like half the dialogue in this film.
New cool female character: T’Leah, a Romulan assassin employed by Chekov.
And a sexy Andorian hacker, Shree, whom we actually fist meet kissing another woman and what looks like using a device to pull thoughts and memories out of her brain. But soon we get to see her hacking in action and it’s pretty cool. She hacks using computers but then also, apparently, an interface in her actual brain.
Fire fight between the USS Archer and Lexxa Singh on the Icarus. She’s super badass but ultimately focused on her goal – not wanting to destroy the Archer but just get to the Syphon system.
Then Chekov’s granddaughter comes into his office and his assassin assistant realizes she’s been implanted with a bomb in her hand, so she PHASERS HER HAND OFF and beams it into space. If it’s not the roommate’s fault somehow I will be shocked.
Meanwhile, the Renegades are in Borrada’s lair, which is actually really nicely designed, sort of looks like they’re walking into the skeleton of a giant abdomen, surrounded by ribs protruding off a spine.
Not really sure why everyone went right through the front entrance though. Kind of makes the massive shootout inevitable. And they lose, brutally.
The Bajoran guy offers to rat out his friends and their mission if baddie will let him kill the Cardassian – this whole time all he’s done is been racist to the Cardassian – but instead Borrata knifes him.
Then he tries intimidating Lexxa, calling her “nothing but a weak, helpless feeemaaale.” So she grabs his mace-weapon-thing and breaks his neck with it.
Enter Borrada, the dead baddie’s daddy, who tries to kill her until her Cardassian friend intervenes and he slits his throat instead, leaving Lexxa alive.
“Take them away,” Borrada orders his men, and Lexxa, bleeding from the shoulder, gives an epic staredown.
So that’s the half-way mark of Star Trek: Renegades. This is already really long so I’m going to break it up into two posts. But first impressions from the first half:
- Lexxa being totally badass;
- Andorian hacker lady;
- The mere fact that there are a ton of diverse women characters;
- CGI, particularly of the ships;
- Dramatic and effective use of music.
- Some problematic racial representations (whitewashing and the portrayal of Borrada and his son);
- Still having no idea what Borrada’s motivation is, even vaguely;
- Off-handed mention of “rape gangs” as a way to give Lexxa a traumatic backstory, without really exploring the seriousness of trauma and recovery;
- And mainly, a lot of painfully expository dialogue intended to give character background, but in contexts where it feels contrived.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. I lost count of all the scenes where women talked to each other. That was pretty cool.