Most of the characters in Star Trek belong to the paramilitary organization called Starfleet, but what’s life like for civilians in a time of warp speed and battles in outer space?
That’s the premise for Star Trek: Aurora, an independent production written, directed and animated by Tim Vining using computer graphics to bring his 55-minute feature to life
Set just after Classic Trek, the cast includes Captain Kara Carpenter (Jeannette Vining) who, along with Vulcan first mate T’Ling (also Jeannette Vining), struggles to make a living in a dangerous sector of the galaxy in her tiny and nearly obsolete cargo ship called the S.S. Aurora.
While sleeping in her quarters as the vessel heads toward Outreach Station, the captain has a dream about her youth, when she and her family were the crew of the S.S. Mercury Rising cargo vessel.
After a powerful ion storm tossed the ship to an unknown location, Kara’s father, John (Bob Saur), told his “pumpkin” to go outside the ship and reconnect some container locks while brother Jimmy (Russell Saur) worked on getting the sensors functioning again.
While Kara was working outside the vessel, a Romulan Warbird approached. Fearing danger, her mother, Marinda (Maggie Saur), told her to get back inside the ship.
Just as Kara entered an airlock and closed the door behind her, the Romulan vessel fired on the Mercury Rising.
When the girl was finally able to open the door into the vessel, she saw that most of the ship had been destroyed, and the rest of her family had been killed. The tragic memory of that incident jolts her awake in the present.
After reaching the outpost, the captain and her Vulcan crewmate unload their cargo and then partake in what Carpenter calls the “tradition” of celebrating their success by having a drink in a dockside bar.
However, the women are soon approached by two men named Randy Jacobs (Tim Vining) and Chug (also Tim Vining) from the S.S. Lone Star cargo vessel. Jacobs calls the captain “Cannibal Kara” and continues to annoy her until T’Ling resolves the situation by rendering him unconscious with a nerve pinch.
After returning to the Aurora, Carpenter tells her Vulcan crewmate that what the man in the bar said is true. “Crazy Kara” was forced to survive for months after the Romulan attack, and all the food was used up in just a week.
Finally, a passing ship picked up the automatic distress signal and rescued the malnourished and dehydrated girl, she states.
Later, the captain tells T’Ling she got a cargo job “right out from under that jerk we ran into last night. Beat his offer by more than a week. That’ll teach him to mess with us!”
After the Aurora leaves the station, Carpenter and T’Ling fly the vessel through a nebula, thus cutting off a week that would be lost flying around the cloud.
But it isn’t long before they detect a ship following them. It’s the Lone Star, and Jacobs gloats about figuring out how the Aurora covers so much distance so quickly.
However, while the Aurora is armor-plated and can survive in the nebula, the Lone Star isn’t, and it’s struck by a bolt of energy that forces the crew to eject the warp core.
Both vessels put as much distance as they can between themselves and the core breach, but the Lone Star is fast enough to leave the nebula while the Aurora is caught in the energy wave while attempting to escape at warp speed.
The impact knocks the Aurora and its crew around, but when the captain opens her eyes, she’s sitting on a transporter pad with … herself wearing a Starfleet uniform!
The crew of the U.S.S. Yorktown determines that the warp signature from the Aurora combined with the protomatter explosion in the nebula cloud opened a hole in space-time that sent Carpenter into a transporter overload near her duplicate in another universe.
Captain Carpenter learns that her family in that dimension wasn’t killed and is on a nearby station. She also discovers that her duplicate rarely visits the family due to strained relations. As a result, “our” Carpenter subdues her duplicate, puts on her uniform and obtains a shuttle she uses to visit her “family.”
But the captain’s hope for a joyous reunion is dashed as brothers Jimmy and Michael (Matthew Saur) demand to know what kind of game she’s playing and why she’s acting so happy after having no contact with her family for almost a year.
Kara responds that she wanted her visit to be a surprise, and every time she tries to talk with her father, he holds her at bay.
“Is there anyone in this universe I don’t owe an apology to?” she asks her mother after hearing the actions of her counterpart, such as criticizing her sister, Tracy (again Jeannette Vining), during her wedding.
When her father finally talks with her, he refers to her by her childhood nickname, “Pumpkin.”
But the “reunion” ends abruptly when the “real” Kara arrives on the ship with a security officer.
“I don’t know about your universe, but assaulting people and stealing shuttles in this universe lands you in a holding cell,” that dimension’s Kara says.
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.
“I think you should leave,” the alternate father states. But when “our” Kara heads for the door, he stops her.
“Not you, Honey,” he says before pointing at the Kara of that dimension. “Her.”
“All this girl wants in our universe is to see her family again,” he continues. “If you can’t understand that, Kara, can’t show some compassion for her loss and the terrible choices she faced as a child, then you don’t belong here.”
Both Karas stand on the ship’s transporter before activating a device to return each to her own dimension for good. The father says: “Good luck .. to both my pumpkins.”
And the Karas respond in unison: “Thanks, Dad.”
As the transporter gets a boost of power, “our” Kara asks her duplicate to “stop being such an idiot.”
“I will,” she replies.
After a blinding flash of white light, Kara returns to the Aurora just as a plasma fire erupts in the starboard nacelle, and T’Ling tells the captain to shut down the warp drive.
Kara is stunned for a moment, but she complies as the vessel emerges from the nebula.
The captain states that she had spent a considerable time in another dimension, but T’Ling responds that they were hit by the energy surge only 57 seconds ago.
The Vulcan tells Carpenter that their sensors detect the Lone Star heading out of the area, and the captain asks them why they couldn’t even wait for two minutes before heading out.
“Two minutes?” Jacobs asks. “We’ve been out here two days!”
Carpenter breaks out in laughter since this proves she really was with her family in another universe after all.
The episode ends with the other universe’s Kara enjoying dinner with her family and “our” Kara celebrating friendship with the crew of the Lone Star.
That said, it’s time for me to put on my Clint Eastwood hat and get reviewing.
The Good: The graphics for Aurora are terrific, but they’d mean little without a good story. Kara’s second chance with her “family” in another universe is at times hilarious and other times heart-breaking. Still, the experience changes both Karas for the better, an ending appropriate for a Star Trek production.
The Bad: I thought the explanation of how “our” Kara ended up in the other universe was a bit heavy on technobabble. I realize it was essential to the story, but sometimes less is more. However, it wasn’t so confusing that it interfered with the story.
The Ugly: I was a little surprised when Kara returned to “our” universe, and her hair was in a braid, even though it was perfectly straightened as though coming out of a photoshoot for the Startifacts catalog, when she left the other dimension. Still, if the crew of the Enterprise can wear different clothing when beamed aboard during “Mirror, Mirror,” it’s not such a stretch for Kara to revert to her usual hairstyle when she beams home.