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Transolar Galactica Review

on Mon, 11/05/2012 - 00:00

James T. Kirk had an adventurous and legendary career as captain of the USS Enterprise on the original sci-fi television series Star Trek. He was also the first Starfleet Academy student to pass the Kobayashi Maru—a “non-winnable” computer simulation—by reprogramming the test to make it winnable, a rebellious trait that he continued to exhibit through the course of seventy-nine episodes and six major motion pictures. Whether embarking on a five-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” battling Klingons or saving planet Earth from certain destruction, James Kirk followed his instincts rather than Starfleet regulations, believing that the ends ultimately justify the means. In the final moments of the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, his last as commander of the Enterprise, he tells Pavel Chekov to set a course for the “second star on the right and straight on till morning,” reflecting his determination to be his own man until the very end.

Elliot “Remmington” Trig of the S.S. StarSpanner from the comedy web series Transolar Galactica shares many of the same traits as James T. Kirk. Cocksure and brash, Trig likewise refuses to follow proper protocol and relies on his own instincts when battling lizard-like Gulaks, saving the human colony on the planet Lazariz from mind slugs and rescuing kidnapped Senator Suzanne Scottsdale from her abductors. “There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s given the opportunity to play by the roles and let innocent men die,” Captain Trig (Isaac Joslin) tells Petty Officer McCall (Adam Boyd). “Look at me, at your bastion of a captain who’s pleading with you to jettison the flogging rule book and get some results.”

Unfortunately for the crew of the S.S. StarSpanner, the audacious actions of Remmington Trig do not equate to those of counterpart James Kirk. Although Kirk was continually able to defy the odds and save the day—albeit with the loss of numerous red-shirt crewmen in the process—Trig excels at tilting the odds against actual victory. Kirk may have been able to change the rules and turn no-win situations into winnable strategies, but Trig continually transforms success into failure. In the pilot episode of Transolar Galactica, for instance, Captain Trig likewise orders the StarSpanner to set a course for the “second star on the right and straight on till morning,” only to be met with reluctance from Ensign Charles Yasaki (Jade Warpenburg).

“That’s not really a coordinate,” Yasaki explains. “I can’t literally steer the ship to a metaphorical location. I can’t make this thing go without actual coordinates. Without coordinates, who knows what we might crash into on the way.” Despite the warning, Trig orders his crewman to obey his command nonetheless, leading to the exact tragedy that Yasaki feared.

While Remmington Trig is obviously a spoof of James T. Kirk, other characters on Transolar Galactica pay tribute to not only Star Trek but additional sci-fi classics, including Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. In fact, Chief Security Officer Reginald Murdock (Clancy Bundy) appears to exhibit traits from all three of those television series. His rugged, cigar-smoking demeanor, for instance, is reminiscent of Jayne Cobb from Firefly, while it is later revealed that he is one of twelve clones, similar to those from Ronald D. Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. And like many of the characters on Star Trek, Murdock speaks with an accent that changes from Australian to Russian and even Chinese in any given episode. “We all know the accent’s fake,” Ensign Yasaki tells him at one point. “We’re spacemen living in closed metal tubes. There’s no way you can have original dialect.”

“We started Transolar with the expectation that it would be a one-time skit,” co-creator Clancy Bundy explains. “We really didn’t need characters as much as cliché ‘stock’ to make episode one. The brash, cocksure idiot captain, the depressive Asian pilot, the marble mouthed merc—all the characters you’d expect to have were there. But as the show took off and we realized these guys were going to be carrying an episodic series, we got to go back and invest in them as characters. The hard part became taking all those tropes and clichés they represent and add some depth and value to them while making sure they still function as satire. We decided the best way to do that was to imbue each character with an ‘origin’ story that we’ve all seen in our favorite sci-fi movies and video games. Careful analyses of season one will hint at what those are, but it’s something that we really focus on in the show’s second season and origin episodes.”

In addition to being a finely crafted and entertaining web series, Transolar Galactica also demonstrates the growing potential of the medium for unknown independent creators with small resources to find success on the World Wide Web. “Fresh out of college, the lads and I decided to take to the Internet to find our destiny with our hilarious skit show we had planned,” Bundy relates as to the origin of Transolar Galactica itself. “Only problem was, we were broke. And probably half the ideas actually weren’t that hilarious. And, even if the truly funny ones could be made with no budget, there were still so many people on the Internet doing exactly what we were planning to do. So we kinda gave up on it. But we did film one skit before we did, and that was Transolar Galactica. We shot the episode on a collapsible green screen in the living room of our crappy house and released it after a week. Our friends loved it, so we did another. Complete strangers found that one, and left favorable responses. We never really planned on making it into an episodic series, but we were having a blast and by episode three we even had a troll! So we figured, y’know, maybe we had something cool on our hands.”

Clancy Bundy and his Transolar Galactica comrades have since been able to parlay the success of season one into a Kickstarter campaign that raised over thirty-thousand dollars for a second season that promises to be feature length but still capable of being viewed as independent installments. While Transolar Galactica can thus be considered a web series success story, however, it no doubt would have been another online failure if not for the quality and originality of its short narratives as well as the talent of all those involved. The original Star Trek premiered on NBC in 1966 and over the course of the decades that followed, many fan-created spoofs and homages have appeared in a wide variety of mediums. Despite such efforts, only a small handful have found any sort of recognition, demonstrating that the creative talents of Adam Boyd, Clancy Bundy, Adam Harum, Isaac Joslin and Jade Warpenburg paid a larger role in the accomplishments of Transolar Galactica than the strength of any given genre or fanbase.

“I can’t work on a ship where the safety of the crew is at stake because someone likes to sound cool when they give orders,” Ensign Yasaki declares in the first episode of Transolar Galactica. Communications Office Samson (Adam Harum), however, has a different opinion. “I actually kind of like the way the captain talks,” he replies. “It feels like he could be my buddy, we could go get a beer together. Real down to earth. Not one of those hoity-toity captain types.”

In the realm of the web series, meanwhile, Transolar Galactica is the real deal as well.

Anthony Letizia (November 5, 2012)

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