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Star Trek: Renegades

Year: 2015
Production Co: ST Renegades
Director: Tim Russ
Writer: Ethan H Calk/Sky Douglas Conway
Cast: Adrienne Wilkinson, Walter Koenig, Sean Young, Edward Furlong, Tim Russ, Robert Picardo

Director Tim Russ and writer Ethan H Calk are both from the world of Star Trek – trekkies know Russ as wise Vulcan Tuvok from the Voyager and TNG series, and Calk was a writer on Deep Space Nine – but this low budget curiosity isn't exactly canon.

Not long before Gene Roddenberry's death in 1991, Calk claimed the Star Trek creator asked him to keep the Star Trek name alive, and as history shows, fan devotion did the rest.

The story of Star Trek: Renegades has quite a cool premise. Now an Admiral in Starfleet Intelligence, Chekov (Walter Koenig) is tasked with tracking down an alien race destroying the worlds that supply critical supplies of dilithium thanks to a wormhole-like portal system.

Beating Suicide Squad to the punch by a year, Koenig authorises the off-the-books release of dangerous criminal Lexxa Singh (Adrienne Wilkinson), giving her ship and crew of misfits back and telling her to track down and neutralise the evil overlord of the Federation's new enemy.

The execution is a little less successful, the script feeling a bit under-written and too full of corny tropes that went out of fashion in the sci-fi of the 80s. Star Trek: Renegades didn't come from Paramount (the studio who owns the rights to the name) – at a cost of only $375,000 it's more like a scrappy independent film.

As you sit down to watch you wonder if that's the best model to make a sci-fi film depicting a broad universe in the far future – of all the cinematic genres it's the one that demands the most tangible sense of scope, and scope costs money.

Surprisingly the scenes of starship battles in space are actually really good. They're not quite JJ Abrams standards when a studio gives him $200m, but they have a real sense of the weight and power of huge interstellar craft and they're easily as good as the depictions of war in space we've seen in most of the Star Trek TV series'.

Long VFX shots on the surface of planets are far less successful, most of them looking like cheap digital matte paintings with foreground plates of fire or weather effect miniatures (one scene in particular of a wave of energy enveloping the Earth looks like a music video for an early David Bowie track).

Then, when Russ has a real set to work in, he has a slightly irritating habit of going in too close on the characters. It's obviously an attempt to increase the dramatic tension, but at times you lose track of where people are standing and what they're doing. It doesn't help that many of the cast (particularly Wilkinson in the lead role) aren't good enough actors to justify such tight framing. To be honest, everybody needed to tone it down and let the script speak for itself a bit more without the heavy-lidded scowls.

It's clear the team behind the movie loves the Star Trek name, and diehard fans are likely to be far more forgiving of the flaws than most (when Robert Picardo showed up as the fan favourite holographic Dr Zimmerman, it prompted cheers in the screening). But it's very hard to be down on what's essentially fan fiction made on a shoestring by people who've given it their hearts and souls.

Russ and Calk know what they're talking about even if they didn't really have the resources to pull it off as much as it needed. The best of all worlds would be if an executive at Paramount called them up and offered them some real money to build an MCU-style Trek franchise.

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