Here’s something you don’t see every day: a Star Trek Galaxy Class vessel with a commander who was raised by the Time Lords of Doctor Who.
Usually called Captain Lewis, the character (otherwise known as the Doctor) is played by Luke Sutton, who has written, produced and directed more than 30 episodes since the “Teen Trek” series began chronicling the adventures of “Starfleet’s Youngest Crew” at the Unity One Starbase in 2005.
The first episode of the series’ newest “season” picks up where the previous installment left off, with the starship hurtling out of control through space after the vessel’s warp core overloaded, forcing the captain to abandon his ship in an escape pod.
About two months later, the pod lands on a planet containing colonies from the Federation. While there, Lewis encounters Rakelli Prime Minister Jimb’a (Adam Best), a friend who’s there to negotiate a trade agreement but nevertheless agrees to help Lewis recover his starship.
The captain uses his tricorder to track his vessel to the planet Kressgon, where the still-intact ship has crashed into the ocean and been converted into an undersea city named Rapture.
Lewis and Jimb’a find a travel pod that takes them to the city, but using the bathysphere triggers a pre-recorded message by a political activist named Ryan Andrews (Farran Lee), who claims that the Federation “is not as altruistic as it appears to be” and welcomes them to Rapture, where “opportunity awaits.”
Inside the city, the pair learns that most of the people there are “splicing themselves up” with a drug that rewrites their DNA and gives them special abilities. However, long-term exposure to the “plasmid” could prove fatal, even for a Time Lord.
The duo finds a young woman Lewis recognizes as a cadet named Jane Barker (Iesha Godden). When the captain attempts to help the girl, her scream attracts the attention of “Big Daddy,” an enraged life form inside a huge metal diving suit and one of several images drawn from the video game Bioshock.
Realizing that he and his friend are no match for their opponent, Lewis “splices” himself and gains the ability to fire powerful bio-electric bolts, which take down the creature.
The captain and Jimb’a then find Eleanor (Emma Long), but she and Lewis get separated from Jimb’a. At that point, the captain explains that his race, the Iconians (or Time Lords if you prefer), used the plasmid drug during the Time War against the Daleks and still lost. Despite the painful physical effects, Lewis continues to take the drug in a bid to defeat their enemies.
When Eleanor falls asleep in his quarters, the captain searches for other crew members and finds himself in combat with several “enhanced” creatures.
Meanwhile, Jimb’a reaches engineering and restores full power to the ship. He then beams to the bridge, where he finds Lewis and tells him that Ryan Andrews is “nothing more than a holographic avatar, a figurehead” used to manipulate the people in the city.
As the captain’s behavior becomes more and more erratic, Jimb’a warns him that he’s becoming “a mindless splicer” despite Lewis’s claims that he “feels great.”
Spoiler Alert: If you’d rather watch the fan film’s ending yourself, skip down to the links at the end of my review. If not, just continue reading.
Nevertheless, Jimb’a convinces the captain to expel all the plasmids from his body, and he returns to normal as the Odyssey‘s systems begin coming online. He then states that the vessel was intended to take the plasmids to other worlds, which could have started a war within the Federation.
While the ship rises from the bottom of the ocean back into outer space, Lewis confronts the ship’s computer, which states that everything in the past few months was the result of programming from Captain Puto (who previously shared the ship’s command with Lewis), a claim the Doctor refuses to believe.
Just then, Jimb’a and Eleanor manage to open the door in the cargo bay, which causes the computer and the vats of plasmids to become decompressed and burn up as the starship enters the atmosphere. The captain manages to hang on to a sturdy metal frame until the door closes.
With the danger past, the remaining members of the crew are beamed back to the vessel, and another starship uses its tractor beam to tow the Odyssey to a starbase above Earth for repairs. Even though he can’t explain all of the events during the previous few months, the captain gets some good news when he learns that Jimb’a and Eleanor have decided to join the crew as the starship prepares to return to the final frontier.
Even though I don’t think Clint Eastwood ever wore the ornate headgear the Time Lords are famous for, let’s review “Rapture.”
The Good: I have to hand it to the folks at Star Trek: Unity for sticking with the live-action series over six years (for now). That’s dedication! And as with just about every other independent production, the quality (from effects to props and writing) improves with each release.
The Bad: I really expected to be “turned off” by the fact that the Unity characters wear contemporary leisure clothing, but the story and effects pulled me into the action pretty quickly, and I realize that many fan films are either low-budget or no-budget efforts, so I can understand that Trek uniforms are probably out of reach for the Unity series (at least, until now).
The Ugly: A friend of mine strongly believes that elements from one science-fiction universe shouldn’t cross over into any other series. I understand that point of view, but I feel you can mix in items from Star Trek, Doctor Who, Stargate and other galaxies if you do it well, and I think Unity handles that properly while pointing out the similarities in sci-fi TV series and feature films.
We’ll be back every few weeks to take in newer episodes of Unity, so hang in there as we catch up with the series’ releases.