'World Enough and Time'By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at August 28, 2007 - 9:23 PM GMT
The latest Star Trek: New Voyages episode, "World Enough and Time," has raised the bar not only for fan productions but for future professional productions of Star Trek. I'm a lifelong fan of the original series, which is roughly my contemporary, and this episode holds up respectably next to much of that show's third season. It also gives George Takei more to do as Sulu than any of the original episodes and most of the films, plus it has Grace Lee Whitney in a cameo as Janice Rand. I can't help missing the original cast - executive producer and lead actor James Cawley isn't William Shatner, though thankfully he avoids the excesses of parody and plays Kirk slightly differently. But even so, this new episode held me riveted in a way that few episodes of the later series did.
I'll tell the truth: Before "World Enough and Time," I had never watched a fan-made episode of Star Trek all the way through. This is partly because I have trouble watching anything on my computer screen that's longer than the length of a music video without getting a headache, but it's also partly because no single episode has ever grabbed me and made me want to watch the whole thing in spite of the headache. (Bootleg episodes of Torchwood, for instance, managed to do so.) "World Enough and Time" is well worth risking a headache to see, though I had the good fortune to watch a DVD copy of it. It's possible that I missed some glitches in the online version, but I can report that the visuals on a widescreen TV are breathtaking -- much better than any original series episode and the equal of most Enterprise episodes.
The story, co-written by Next Gen writers Michael Reaves and Marc Scott Zicree, follows Sulu as he reflects on the bridge of the Excelsior (brilliantly recreated here) about an incident from his younger life. When the ship became trapped in one of Star Trek's legendary spatial anomalies, Sulu and crewmember Lisa Chandris left the ship in a shuttlecraft searching for a solution. While only minutes passed aboard the Enterprise before Scotty attempted to retrieve the crewmembers, 30 years passed for Sulu -- during which time he and Chandris, believing themselves marooned on a wild planet they named Caliban, had a daughter named Alana before Chandris's death.
Though Scotty is able to beam the much-aged Sulu back to safety, Alana's pattern is partially trapped on Caliban because of the spatial anomaly. Sulu has two dilemmas: he may only be able to recall how to save the ship from the anomaly by reverting to his younger self, which will make him forget Alana, and there may be no way to free the ship from the increasing danger from the anomaly without losing Alana's degrading transporter pattern. Meanwhile, Kirk -- naturally! -- begins to fall for the beautiful young woman, a situation about which Sulu has decidedly mixed feelings. The resolution is bittersweet but very Classic Trek and features a cameo by yet another character whom I was delighted to see return.
Story-wise, the episode reminded me of "The City on the Edge of Forever," "The Inner Light" and "Flashback," each of which was among the best installments of the original series, Next Gen and Voyager respectively. I was also extremely impressed with Zicree's direction, including an overhead shot of the bridge and a shaky shuttlecraft ride that made me laugh out loud as the characters shook around original series-style. The performances seem a tad uneven, perhaps because some of the recasting of classic roles is so on-the-nose that the actors doing more original takes on the characters look a bit off to me; Andy Bray's Chekov and Julienne Irons' Uhura are so bang-on echoing Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols that Jeffery Quinn's Spock is more visibly distracting for his lack of physical resemblance to Leonard Nimoy. (I wonder if I'll have the same issues with Zachary Quinn.)
John Lim, who plays the younger Sulu, does a good job picking up on Takei's gestures and facial expressions as the older Sulu, but this is Takei's episode, and with the exception of a mind-meld sequence that contains all the original series' typical hyper-emoting, he gives a subtle, rich, moving performance. The writing offers lovely moments for all the actors - humor between Chekov and Sulu, Kirk and Spock bantering about their interdependence, Uhura's warmth, McCoy's frustration with logic, Scotty's miracle working.
"World Enough and Time" will be hosted on the New Voyages web site once the site recovers from the technical problems that plagued the planned Thursday night premiere. Both the episode and the premiere, hosted at The Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills with Takei, will be available for download this week.
Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.