It started as a simple sketch idea.
At the end of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” Capt. James T. Kirk’s final navigation commands to the Enterprise crew are almost amusingly vague: “Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.”
Those are, of course, the directions to reach Peter Pan’s Neverland, and a group of Eastern Washington University graduates decided to parody the scene in a five-minute sketch about the exploits of a dysfunctional space crew.
That short became the genesis of the locally produced Web series “Transolar Galactica,” and five new episodes of the series will be screened at the Garland Theater this weekend as part of the 2014 Spokane International Film Festival.
The main crew of the S.S. Transolar are a maladjusted amalgam of character types you’d see in such series as “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Firefly” and, of course, “Battlestar Galactica.” There’s the overconfident Capt. Remmington Trigger (Isaac Joslin), who’s constantly at odds with analytical pilot Charles Yasaki (Jade Warpenburg); the brawny, violence-prone security chief Murdock (Clancy Bundy), whose accent changes in every episode; and crew members Samson (Adam Harum) and McCall (Adam Boyd), who are almost always meeting unfortunate ends.
Those five actors are also the creative forces behind the show: They all write and conceive the episodes, while Harum directs and edits, Boyd produces and Warpenburg serves as director of photography. They say that the project was sort of a lark at first, until they started developing a fan base after uploading the first few episodes to the Internet.
“That’s what encouraged us to keep going, actually,” Harum said of the fan response. “By episode three, people had found the show and started sharing it. We got a really positive reaction, and that fans of this genre we’re parodying were embracing it was kind of a cool push for us.”
The first 10-episode season of “Transolar” was all about skewering genre tropes and poking holes in famous sci-fi plotlines, and each episode functioned as a standalone story. (In fact, season one follows cartoon logic, meaning characters could be maimed and killed in one episode and show up alive again in the next.)
But the “Transolar” film crew has greater ambitions for the next season, which will follow a clear-cut mythology outlined in the origin episodes. Once completed, each episode will be released individually online, but the entire season will have the continuity of a feature film. They raised $30,000 via Kickstarter in late 2012, and they’ve put together five bonus episodes that detail the origins of the series’ characters as a holdover before season two is shot.
“The origin stories were a way of branching out and actually getting into the mode of what a legitimate film set is like,” Warpenburg said, “where you have crew and all the parts that are necessary for something that’s a lot bigger than season one.”
Although they’ve called in a lot of favors from friends and volunteers – “It turns out a lot of really talented people are willing to work for free,” Joslin said – the creators hope to use their Kickstarter funds to not only boost their budget but to pay the folks behind the scenes (the five origin episodes cost somewhere in the $3,000 range).
They’ve also updated their camera equipment, giving the newer episodes a crisper visual style. And they’re no longer filming everything in front of green screens in their living room: The origin episodes were filmed on a number of different sets with a much larger cast of supporting characters and background extras.
“I think that’s where our show sets apart from other fan-driven series, because we’re very particular about the film aspects – the production values, the writing and everything else,” Boyd said. “We’re film nerds first, and sci-fi nerds second.”