ST: Constellation in 2005
Location: Arkansas, USA
Jimmy Champlin, The driving force behind "The Constellation Project" is the producer of not one but two Trek fan film projects - "Star Trek: Constellation" and "Star Trek: The Continuing Voyage". The concept behind ST: Constellation is a novel idea, as described on their forum (and on Slice of Scifi #021, released Aug 25) "Imagine if Star Trek had been a TV series based on a mid 1950s sci-fi film ...
'Constellation' aims to be the 1950s Star Trek film that never was. From our cinematography, to our characters, to the music, and the style of FX, we hope to capture a 1950s feel, with modern production quality. Our inspiration is drawn heavily from the fan-produced community… other inspiration lies in old films like "The Forbidden Planet" and "The Day The Earth Stood Still". We hope to make a film much like "Sky Captain"... a modern film that brings to mind memories of the heyday of sci-fi."
ST: Constellation is definitely not Star Trek "Canon" in that it doesn't attempt to mesh with any of the produced series. The chronology and technical references that are used explore "fanon" or fan invented canon, for example the USS Constellation, NCC-1017, is a design created by Masao Okazaki, the Lancaster-class cruiser, for his "Starfleet Museum".
The Klingon characters are based heavily on John Ford's novels "How Much For Just The Planet" and "The Final Reflection" which depicts them more like Samurai than barbarians. Bearing in mind that this is meant to be a '50's era production, you will find the Klingon's names and designations have a definite "Soviet" feel and the plot revolves around a "Cold War" type scenario.
In 2221 the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire have signed a treaty banning the construction of any vessel capable of striking at either of their home planets, an echo of the missile ban treaties of the 1960's following the Cuban missile crisis. The launch of the USS Constitution in 2244 causes an arms race that escalates tension and causes an opportunistic Klingon commander to consider a daring plan to invade the Federation!
Star Trek: The Continuing Voyage
Kirok - Information about "The Continuing Voyage" (TCV) has been pretty hard to find, you've not had the same depth of info about the Republic as you do about the Constellation. Could you give us a run-down?
Jim - Well, TCV is set during the period of time after Season 3 TOS, and is intended to run fully concurrently with The Animated Series (TAS). The ship's capabilities, internal arrangement, personal equipment, everything will be made to mesh with that seen in TAS. As far as the story goes, we're looking at doing very true to feel TOS style stories... a lot of "message" here, but not preachy and cerebral like NextGen Trek got. There's a couple of slightly dark episodes that I, personally have been penning, as well as one "cheezy 60s sci-fi" episode.
Kirok - How come you have two projects? That's pretty ambitious, is there a history behind it?
Jim - TCV grew out of "Constellation" co-creator Sammi's desire to do her own TOS show. The project is understandably hers, rather than mine, while "Constellation" is my baby. Sammi had a desire to do something with Romulans, from what I remember. We could never do that in the 2240s, as they hadn't resurfaced yet. Over the past months, TCV has also come to be something else for Sammi. It's morphed from a live-action show into a full CGI venture. Two reasons there: ease/cost and learning. Sammi wants to learn 3D animation, so she figures there's no better way to learn it than to actually do it.
Kirok - I say two but that doesn't include ST: Vixen. There were references to it as late as April then in September you talked as if it was dead. It's obviously been a learning experience!
Jim - "Vixen" was our first shot at an animated adventure. It was set totally in the "Constellationverse", and was going to follow Captain David Billingsley (named for John Billingsley, actually!) and crew in various adventures in the time between "Constellation" and the beginning of TOS.
Kirok - Where does Enterprise figure in all this? It makes sense that a "retro" 50's production like Constellation wouldn't use Enterprise but those beautiful shots of the Enterprise and Republic running side by side suggest that you might have a story in mind there.
Jim - For "Constellation", it's set in what's pretty much an alternate universe based on the "old school" Trek history. I've still got a place for Archer and crew, and their adventures, but on a very different ship in a very different 2150s. Essentially, when you think of the "old days" of Constellation, just imagine Greg Jein's USS Daedalus, and the SS Valiant, and that's the look and feel of things. For TCV, Sammi is going rather hands-off with history. Several reasons. To be true to the style of TOS, there's just not that many historical references, only when it serves the story do you need a "tie-in" to something previous. Another reason, is a personal one for her. In TCV, though, there'll be things that are made for the few of us "old schoolers" that are left, but also will make the big-time Enterprise fans smile. TCV will be able to fit with the full Trek storyline.
Kirok - At times you sound frustrated about the lack of voice actors, have you thought of striking a deal with Eric Busby of Darker Projects or Kevin Cho of ST: Pioneers. You know you have an option of an Australian male or female if you want it.
Jim - It's something I've considered before, and may likely do in the future. I'd love to have great talent like theirs. Everybody is free to participate with us in any way they feel they can. Trek by the fans, for the fans. If Eric or Kevin read this, and are interested, I hope they'll contact us! If not, I may extend the first invitation myself!
Kirok - I know you've talked about live action and animation as possible production formats, what's the current status? Will both projects be the same format or one live action and the other animated?
Jim - At the moment it looks as though "Constellation" will be live-action and TCV will be a full CGI production.
Kirok - You described your animation process as "a 3D rendered cartoon. The ships and characters will be 2-dimensional objects moved around using a 3D animation app, to look like drawn cartoon characters." Someone pointed me to something I watched last night on "Startrek.com" called "The Legend of Gorath" that was done in a similar fashion (I've never watched South Park). It sounds a big departure from the VR you did in Vixen but will give higher resolution graphics. How come the change? Quicker?
Jim - My own project, "Star Trek: The Adventure Continues" will be done in the cartoon style. My animator, Steve Johnson (who also did Vixen) has been working with machinima and low-poly 3D animation for some time, and has lately been developing his cartoon style over the last few months. I saw it and wanted to do a show using it. In the time since, he's worked on several other projects, testing and refining his stylings. He's right now doing a 3D animated take on the DOOM motion picture. Sammi's "The Continuing Voyage" won't be the 2D style, but more along the lines of the Starship Troopers CGI series. It's not the same level as the "Final Fantasy" film from a few years back, but she hopes that it comes as close as possible! I'd suggest contacting her for further info on TCV.
Kirok - What do you think of Flash as an animation option? Look at the success of Xombie - they're making it into a movie! Stone Trek was beautiful and Enterprise Flashed has shown that a one-man operation can keep up a monthly schedule.
Jim - I dig Flash. It's something I've really wanted to learn for some time now, but I always find myself starting off on something else that catches my interest. First it was radio, then writing, then 3D, now I've got a budding interest in programming! I've actually considered using Flash as a distribution medium for "The Adventure Continues". Setting up a site for it, and building interactive menus and such with Flash, much like the Brothers Chaps' "Homestar Runner".
Jim - Thanks again for letting us be part of TrekUnited, and PlanetFandom. Star Trek lives! Live long, and prosper.
Kirok - Thank you for your ground-breaking work!
An animated series has many advantages over live action: cost wise, organisational and conceptual. For example, depicting alien species can be done with makeup and prosthetics, as with the Klingons and Cardassians , but it is increasingly being done by computer graphics.
Could The Continuing Voyage be a pointer towards a richer exploration of the Star Trek universe than could be done live?