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The Tuvok-verse. The Star Trek Fan-films Directed by Tim Russ

I love a good rabbit hole, to me they are fascinating. I feel like an archaeologist discovering a hidden culture and who has to explore every facet and origin. 

So, I was exploring IMDB searching for Star Trek media, when I came across a series called Star Trek Renegades from 2015. Not knowing what it was I clicked on it in confusion and quickly surmised that it was a fan-made production, but what made it stand out was the names attached. Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nicols. “Huh!” I thought to myself, it wasn’t usual and it was probable that a fan film may have got some OG actors as cameos, but then I saw the director… Tim Russ?? As in Tuvok?? A few clicks later and sure enough it was him. 

And so the rabbit hole started. 

Digging more I found that Tim Russ was a massive Trekkie himself and had landed several supporting roles in earlier Trek series and films before landing the role he would be most known for. After the Trek bubble had (temporarily) burst with Enterprise I found that Tim had directed no less than four Trek fan features (technically five but I’ll get to that) between 2007 and 2021. 

Captains Chekhov, Harriman and Uhura on a desert planet

Being the adventurous sort and fully bracing myself for the worst I managed to source and watch each of them and while I wouldn’t normally critique fan productions as they are more a labour of love than a commercial product, I felt that the pedigree of talent and the presence of Star Trek alumni made it fair game. 

First up was 2007 Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. Set 10 years after Kirk’s death from ST: Generations, Captains Uhura, Chekov and Harriman (reprised by Nicols, Koenig and Alan Ruck) come together to celebrate the life of their fallen friends and dedicate the new Enterprise museum. When suddenly, a distress call from a familiar planet changes history and the former friends find themselves in opposition as the quadrant is being taken over by an oppressive regime. 

alternate versions of Chekhov, Harriman and Uhura standing in same place

Of Gods and Men borrows a lot of plot points from the original 1966 series (TOS) and while extensive knowledge wasn’t needed (flashbacks detailed some of the more obscure points) it did help I knew what they were on about sometimes. It wasn’t just the three leads who returned for this either. You would recognise a lot of actors from various Trek shows, Garrett Wang, J. G. Hertzler, Chase Masterson, Ethan Phillips, Cirroc Lofton, Russ himself returns as Tuvok, and they even got Grace Lee Whitney as Janice Rand from TOS. 

Commander Garan (Garrett Wang) and Koval (J.G. Hertzler)

Behind the camera, writers Jack Treviño and Ethan H. Calk from DS9 and the director of photography was Douglas Knapp who had worked on Voyager. The sets were on loan from another fan production, Star Trek: New Voyages and to be fair are very accurate to 1966’s style so again a high level of production here. 

The story itself is a bit ropey, The Galactic Order is in control with a “join us or die” mentality. Harriman is in command of the G.S.S. Conqueror, this universe’s Enterprise and flagship of the Order. Chekov is known as Kittrick and leads the rebellion and Uhura is settled down and married on the neutral planet Vulcan. When Vulcan is destroyed for not taking sides, this places all three onboard the Conqueror and through a mind-meld with Tuvok, Uhura’s memories of the previous timeline are unlocked. 

2 Constitution class Starships firing phasers at each other

There are plot holes the size of planets throughout the script (why would three visiting Captains beam down rather than a security squad for example) but for the most part, the actors do well with what they’ve got. The cinematography is also a bit ropey with a bit too much wobbly handheld and zoom-ins and the special effects are typical quality of a fan production, worse than what came before but passable. 

Tuvok and Uhura mind meld

Overall this one was fun, it plays more TOS than anything else and really feels like a love letter to that era. They worked with the limitations they had and there were some solid performances here. The outtakes during the credits showed they had fun making it as well. A solid effort. 

For Star Trek: Renegades (2015), Russ returns as director (and Tuvok) with most of the crew of Of Gods and Men (OGAM) with a proposed Pilot episode for CBS or Webisodes. 

the bridge crew of the Icarus

Ten years after Voyager’s return to Earth, Admiral Chekov who is head of Starfleet Security works with Tuvok, now the head of newly reformed Section 31, as Chekov believes Starfleet’s chain of command has been compromised by enemy agents. A new race called the Syphon is blinking planets out of existence and the Federation are unable or unwilling to help. To combat this they assemble or more appropriately hire/force a group of non-starfleet personnel to work outside of regulations, to do the dirty work so to speak. 

Ronara (Chasty Ballesteros), Icheb (Manu Intiraymi), Lexxa Singh (Adrienne Wilkinson) and T'Leah (Larissa Gomes)
Lexxa and Icheb

This includes Adrienne Wilkinson as Captain Lexxa Singh, a direct descendant of Khan Noonien Singh. Among her crew are some sci-fi veterans like T2’s Edward Furlong and Blade Runner’s Sean Young. The late Gary Graham returns as Ragnar, the original character from OGAM, but you might also recognise him from various side characters he played through the Star Trek series as well as his starring role in Alien Nation or Robot Jox. More returning Star Trek actors are Robert Picardo as Dr Zimmerman, Manu Intiraymi as Icheb (one of the Borg Children from the back end of Voyager) and a cameo by Richard Herd as Admiral Paris. 

Fixer (Edward Furlong) and a Breen

The first thing you notice is the production values are vastly higher than the previous film. The CG looks nicer and crisper, plenty of prosthetics for alien races, and originally designed Starfleet uniforms. The sets are a mixed bag with some obvious green screen backgrounds and some ships look more Red Dwarf than Star Trek but it’s passable. However, the writing is amateurish. Chekhov’s age is waved away with advances in medical science, Lexxa’s motivations are the worst trope of being about her missing mother and the reason the Syphon are attacking Federation planets? It’s so bad that even the characters call it BS. Dialogue is also pretty dire with some conversations being really cringy.  

Captain Alvarez (Corin Nemec) on the deck of the Archer

Some thought was given to the Syphon though as there were teases of a unique culture surrounding conflict and while the veteran actors do the best with what they got this doesn’t save this production and it becomes a “watch if you’re curious” rather than a recommendation. 

Borrada (Bruce Young) leader of the Syphon

This being a pilot, it’s all wrapped up neatly by the end with teases of future adventures yet to come which (fortunately or unfortunately, take your pick) didn’t happen. Instead, we get a sequel/conclusion/reboot a year later with Renegades: The Requiem. 

But first a history lesson. A fan film entitled Prelude to Axanar and its planned sequel Star Trek: Axanar came under legal fire from Paramount Studios/CBS on the basis of infringement of copyright, their exact wording being “innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes”. A back and forth ensued with the result being Paramount/CBS releasing “new fan film guidelines” [https://www.startrek.com/en-un/fan-films] which were very restrictive (one was a 15-minute max run time). To counter this, as funding had already been crowdsourced, the final product was split into two parts and explicit Star Trek details had to be removed from The Requiem

The Federation was the Confederation now, Vulcans got their ears removed, Andorians no longer had Antenna, characters names were subtly changed, ship designs etc.. you get the point.  

reporter Jacob (Cirroc Lofton), Cmdr. Kovok (Tim Russ) and The Admiral (Walter Koenig) meet in private

We pick up some time later with “The Admiral” speaking with “not-Tuvok” and his source, reporter Jacob Sisko (nice rename there) confirming their suspicions about a secret cabal that has formed in the Confederation’s higher echelon and are looking to seize control. We catch up with Lexxa’s crew onboard the Icarus amid a space battle. A hull breach immediately kills half her crew in what I call “the actors they couldn’t get back” manoeuvre which leaves only Lexxa herself, Shree the “not Andorian”, Ragnar, Prak the Breen and (spoiler but let’s be honest you’re not gonna watch it) “Not Icheb”. They lick their wounds in a hidden space bar where “The Admiral” (definitely not Chekhov) meets up with them. We spend the majority of time in this bar, so get used to it. I later learned that the set was from another Sci-fi show by the same production team, Cozmo’s, which is probably why it is used so much. 

Jada (Terry Farrell) with Lexxa

As for returning alumni, we get Koenig and Russ. Nichelle Nicol’s is back as “not-Uhura”, as for the rest… The selection we get doesn’t say “Integral to the plot”, more it says “Who did we get?”. 

Robert Beltran as “not-Chakotay”, owner of the bar and married to an off-screen Katheryn (heavy sigh), Terry Farrel as “not-Jadzia”, a clone of the original and finally Aron Eisenberg as “not-Nog”, bridge officer of the Archer, the confederation ship that has been pursuing the gang. “not-Nog” is also under an entirely new alien make-up which makes him look more feline than Ferengi which is painfully noticeable when they didn’t rewrite a line for when “not-Nog” and “not-Jadzia” meet (“I’m all ears”). 

Fnaxnor (Aron Eisenberg) Jada, Lexxa and The Admiral plan around a table

In between we cut away to the evil villain in their evil lair. An Admiral in a mobile fortress whose plan is to do away with the peace-loving and pacifist races of the Confederation to put humanity on top of the command chain. The tactic? To train clones of these races to infiltrate their respective society and destroy from within. Now reading that it seems like a viable plan, but the way this evil Admiral chews the scenery with every scene he is in, it comes across as a laughable (not in a good way), incompetent, Saturday morning villain with an over-the-top way of trying to get the stakes high. 

Cordero (Robert Beltran) pack a bag

Needless to say everyone teams up at the end to take on this super fortress and deaths are aplenty. The writers try to invoke some meaning to these deaths and try and pull on the heartstrings with “The Admiral” experiencing flashbacks to a childhood trauma throughout the film but it all ultimately falls flat. “The Admiral” then sacrifices himself to destroy the fortress saving the day and the survivors pick themselves up honouring his final sacrifice. Lexxa now with a new crew and with her record expunged flies off to adventures unknown. 

the bridge crew of the Archer

This one was a complete mess, aside from the obvious distractions of having to avoid the Star Trek references, the writing is somehow worse than before, characters are introduced with little to no fanfare while some are dropped unceremoniously.   

Where Renegades was a curiosity, this is just bad. Is it one to watch with friends? Hmmm depends if you want to be friends afterwards… 

Finally, we have 2021’s Renegades: Ominara. Now I initially wasn’t going to include this as this doesn’t include anything Star Trek related and instead plays more into the Renegades side of things, but researching I found a quote from one of the producers saying their idea stemmed from “What would Uhura’s character be like in the Mirror, Mirror universe?” (Frank Zanca) and with Russ in the director’s seat again I can’t not include this. 

Ominara and Prof. Steiner (Johnny Jay Lee)

In the near future, Professor Steiner has invented a link-chip that can synchronize people’s thoughts and experiences and has blackmailed and coerced his corporate higher-ups into releasing it to the market. On the eve of the release he is visited by Ominara played by Nichele Nicols, a legally distinct Uhura, and they engage in conversation. She is not actually there, they both were linked many years ago during the early prototype phase and she knows he’ll use this technology not for the benefit of mankind but for his own nefarious unexplained schemes. 

After the conversation we flashback to a younger Steiner when he first meets Ominara. She was living on the streets with her two friends and they survived by committing petty larceny. Steiner approaches Ominara with an offer, come in for some medical trials and he’ll give them enough to get her and her friends off the street. 

Nichelle Nichols as an elder Ominara

What follows is pretty predictable, she submits to the Link-chip trial but shock-horror, Prof. Steiner is evil!! So Ominara and friends escape in a shuttle, eventually finding the Icarus from Renegades. We cut to some time later Ominara and co now command the ship taking jobs from a third party who helped repair it. She is visited By Prof. Steiner who link-chipped himself to try and track her, saying he’ll chase her down. 

Again this was a proposed pilot and the best thing I can say about this was it was short. I honestly blanked in the middle of this and started doom-scrolling on my phone. Loren Lott who played the young Ominara did a decent job but couldn’t hold my focus with all the dull writing. There is one alien so I can say the make-up was good on that one character.  

Alex (Jackie R. Jacobson), Ominara (Loren Lott) and Shane (Chalet Lizette Brannan)

I found early promotional images with Nicols and Koenig front and centre, however, Koenig was replaced with Robert Miano later as the elder Steiner.  

Now I haven’t found any evidence to this but I suspect this was late into production as the Steiner character has a ludicrous Russian accent in his youth which is just so bad and they couldn’t afford reshoots so they just ran with it.  

early promotional poster for Ominara featuring Koenig

Sets are done on the cheap so we get backlots as alleys and office buildings. It’s only in the final scenes do we get anything remotely sci-fi with a return to the bridge of the Icarus. 

Now this is a bit of a personal issue, but the ages of the girls are never explicitly stated but their behaviour and attitude definitely suggest mid-teens, which brings up some kind of creepy maybe problematic issues with the skimpy “classic trek” uniforms they wear at the end. I maybe read too much into it but it just crossed my mind while watching. 

Lastly, I would like to talk about Nichelle’s performance. This would be her final role as she announced she would retire due to her suffering from Alzheimer’s and she sadly passed away in 2022. I’m not going to critique as that would be unfair but you can see she was struggling with her performance as it was a shadow of her former self but at the same time, it was endearing to watch her one last time. 

Ominara has the cardinal sin of just being dull, unfortunately, and again you can see why this was never picked up and should be avoided by Trekkies. 

main cast photo from top left J.G. Hertzler, Tim Russ, Garrett Wang, Gary Graham, Chase Masterson, Walter Koenig, Alan Ruck, Crystal Allen and Nichelle Nichols

Overall this was a series of exponentially diminishing returns, with a promising start with Of Gods and Men, a fun (if a bit cheesy at times) adventure, with the “take a look if you’re curiousRenegades, but quickly diminished to messy tropes and dull writing. 

Tim Russ set out with a vision to keep Star Trek alive and while there were missteps the fact that these were crowd funded meant that there was definitely an audience want more Trek. Tim Russ isn’t done with the iconic role yet either as he still appears in modern (official) Trek with Captain Tuvok turning up in Picard.  





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