Fan films (or independent productions, if you prefer) run the gamut from space battles over the fate of the universe to intimate, personal stories that focus on characters and the relationships between them.
An excellent example of that second type of story is the newly released “Revelations & Anomalies” from the Mariner animated series.
The episode begins with Flight Controller Veranis Nik (a Bajoran voiced by Avai D’Amico) enjoying “some time to myself” in Engineering when Captain Jenan Gage (a joined Trill whose voice is provided by Ed Khoo) tells him he’s needed on the bridge.
“Long-range sensors are picking up some sort of nebula that isn’t in our database,” the captain explains.
When the Mariner approaches the phenomenon, Science Officer Lauren Reese (a Human played by “Jack” Doyle) says the nebula is “unlike anything we’ve encountered before” and “has a surprisingly high concentration of polerium. I’d like to collect some samples.”
In response, Gage tells Veranis to “prep a shuttle for an up-close visit.”
When the shuttlecraft Fontana arrives at the phenomenon, Reese observes that the nebula is “so beautiful.”
Before leaving the shuttle, Reese asks Veranis to take a holophoto of her when she’s outside so she can send it to her younger sister on Earth “to show her all the beautiful things out here.”
“She’s the only one in the quadrant who gets me,” the science officer continues. “She wanted to join Starfleet after I had, but … she contracted Tuvin Syndrome. Now, no one in my family leaves the planet anymore.”
“Everything will be fine,” Veranis replies. “You and Charlotte will be feeding ducks on the Thames before you know it, and you can show her this holophoto in person.”
After putting on her space suit and leaving the shuttle, the science officer poses for a photo that Veranis says “looks great,” and then she collects a sample of the mist before returning to the Fontana.
But just as the Mariner officers get ready to leave, the other segments of the yellow mist surround the shuttle, then disappear from view.
When Veranis and Reese return to the Mariner, Chief Engineer Ravek (a Vulcan played by Ryan Webber) tells them that all systems “are functioning within their defined parameters.”
“I”ll know more after I’ve had time to analyze the samples we collected,” the science officer states.
With the action apparently over for the moment, the Bajoran returns to the Engineering station on Deck 31 for some more “time to myself” and unexpectedly finds a Bajoran engineer in the chamber.
“You must be wondering what I’m doing down here,” Veranis states. “I couldn’t sleep. I come down here to get away from everything and clear my head.”
”“I’ve been alone a long time,” the engineer replies.
Veranis then asks the other Bajoran some questions. “How about you? What do you do here?”
“I am very tired,” the mysterious figure responds.
“I won’t take that too personally,” Veranis states. “I should probably get back to my quarters as well.”
But when Veranis turns to say goodbye, the figure has disappeared.
Later, the Bajoran joins Operations Officer Dirzah (a Saurian portrayed by David Erlenbusch) and Reese and tells them of his odd experience.
Just then, the captain summons all senior officers to the Bridge because the mists have returned, but the nebula no longer exists.
“Captain, I’m sensing something from the mist,” Executive Officer Tara Leilani (a Napean played by Eleiece Krawiac) says. “Curiosity, pain.”
“You’re telling me this mist is … sentient?” Gage asks.
“I believe it is,” Leilani replies.
Veranis then reports that the mist is “following us. With very course change I enter, the mist matches our speed and heading.”
“I think it’s feeding off our plasma exhaust,” Dirzah states.
While Reese leaves the Bridge to take a closer look at the sample she collected, Veranis again finds himself face-to-face with the “imaginary Bajoran” in a corridor.
“I am not a hallucination,” the figure states before reverting to a yellow mist and enveloping Veranis. The Bajoran then says: “I understand.”
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Amelia Chou (a Human voiced by Dana Shuey D’Amico) tells the captain and Reese that the mist has some healing properties and may cure several neurological conditions, including Tuvin Syndrome.
After hearing of the Bajoran’s encounter with the mist, Gage summons his senior staff to hear what Veranis learned from the creature, which he states is “a non-corporeal life form composed of coherent gas” that sent messages into the Mariner crewman’s mind.
“It absorbs and utilizes energy directly from its environment,” he continues. “The mist exists in multiple galaxies. It can travel any distance through nearly any conditions for any length of time, provided it absorbs enough energy from its environment.”
However, this mist has already encountered the Romulans, who responded to its presence by poisoning their plasma torpedoes with trace amounts of deadly theron radiation. That caused the being to start losing cohesion. “The entity is dying,” Veranis notes.
Spoiler Alert: If you’d rather watch the fan film’s ending yourself, skip down to the link at the end of this article. If not, just continue reading.
Still, because the memories of the Bajoran’s mind and the mist’s intelligence were combined, Veranis has learned useful tactical data regarding Romulan weapon stockpiles in the Guintara Sector.
The discussion then turns into a debate about whether the Marinercrew should try to keep the mist alive since its energy only has healing properties after it has died.
Reese claims that helping the creature would mean breaking the Prime Directive of non-interference, but Ravek says it’s “logical” to try to save what may be the last of its kind. When the captain decides to help the mist, the science officer feels Veranis betrayed her, but he replies that she’ll “never be alone.”
When the Mariner crew scans the entity, the creature follows the sensor beam into the main deflector array while Leilani senses loneliness and a feeling of sacrifice from the mist.
On its own, the creature converts itself into its base elements, which can be used to develop cures for many diseases, including Tuvin Syndrome.
“It looks like you’ll have good news for Charlotte after all,” Veranis tells Reese, who admits she’s baffled why the entity would sacrifice itself for others. “It had been alone for a long time,” the Bajoran responds. “Maybe it wanted to be part of something again.”
“The final sense I picked up felt like joy,” Leilani says. “The mist will live on through the lives it will help to save.”
“Lieutenant Veranis, set a course for Starbase 39-Sierra,” the captain states. “We have a medical breakthrough to deliver.”
Now that I’ve found my animated Clint Eastwood hat, it’s time to start reviewing.
The Good: “Revelations” was enjoyable on many levels. For one thing, the episode focused on “Lower Decks” characters in the crew who don’t usually get much time in the spotlight.
Also, the “first contact” aspect was handled in an interesting manner. The episode’s focus on the relationship between Veranis and Reese was enjoyable and got the story’s message across without any unnecessary space shootouts.
The Bad: Every now and then, the dialogue felt a bit stiff, as if the lines were being “read instead of said.” Still, that didn’t happen often, and I expect the voice acting to improve as the series goes along, which has happened with other fan productions.
The Ugly: I usually prefer reviewing fan films in consecutive story order, but I made an exception in this case since this fifth episode of Mariner has been released so soon after the series’ debut, with the first segment of a three-parter awaiting the conclusion of “A New Threat.”
If you’d like to learn more about the group creating these independent productions, go here. And if you’d like to see this week’s fan film, click on the link below.