I have previously written about my interest and excitement in the independently created, crowd-funded, Star Trek: Renegades. Unfortunately, due to my hiatus from writing here, I did not initially get the opportunity to write up a review when the film was finally released last year. However, now that I have made my return back to The Continuing Voyage, I want to take this opportunity to write about my thoughts after getting the chance to watch the film. If you haven’t gotten a chance to watch it, the full movie is available on YouTube if you want to check it out.
The official plot synopsis is as follows:
When a seemingly unstoppable new enemy threatens the very existence of the Earth, Admiral Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) is forced to work outside the boundaries of Starfleet’s rules to combat this deadly new foe.
Planet after planet winks out of existence, yet Starfleet refuses to act. Chekov turns to Commander Tuvok (Tim Russ) the new head of Starfleet’s covert operations division, Section 31. Together, they assemble a new elite strike-force, consisting of rogues, outcasts and criminals, led by the fearless yet haunted Lexxa Singh (Adrienne Wilkinson).
The Renegades’ mission is simple: take on an army and stop their leader, Borrada (Bruce Young), from destroying the Earth. Outnumbered and outgunned, the ragtag crew is in an adrenaline-pumping race against time and space. But they soon find their foes are the least of their concerns: the real trouble may be coming from within!
Renegades boasts an impressive cast of not only notable Star Trek actors from the various series, but recognizable faces from the science fiction genre as a whole as well. Headlining the movie, we have Walter Koenig, Tim Russ (who also directs), Richard Herd, Manu Intiraymi, and Robert Picardo reprising their previous Star Trek roles. On top of that, other discernible names joining the film include Adrienne Wilkinson (Xena: Warrior Princess), Sean Young (Blade Runner), Corin Nemec (Stargate: SG-1), Gary Graham (Alien Nation), Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, American History X), Bruce Young (Jurassic Park III), Grant Imahara (MythBusters), and many more.
I’ve read other reviews and fan reactions that seem to criticize Renegades for, in a way, simply collecting familiar faces at the expense of plot and character development. To this point, I don’t entirely agree. As a fan, I don’t need to constantly see familiar characters returning for me to enjoy a good story, however, I did really like seeing these recognizable faces clearly demonstrating their love for the franchise by coming together to create this film that I have heard referred to as a “labor of love.”
The Star Trek alum present throughout the film are definitely given the chance to shine as actors, particularly Walter Koenig. The character of Pavel Checkov has been present through much of Star Trek: The Original Series and the six TOS films to follow, but arguably has never been given the chance to develop and stand alone outside of the ensemble cast. Fortunately, Renegades gives Koenig a chance to take more of a center stage acting-wise, as well as an opportunity to as add some much needed depth to Checkov as a character.
As Admiral Checkov enlists Tuvok to gather a team of “rogues and outcasts” to complete the film’s primary conflict, we are introduced to a new cast of characters (our titular “Renegades”) aboard the starship, Icarus. I would agree with other reviewers who felt that the acting from some of our newer characters was hit or miss, however I felt that this issue in itself was not enough to take me out of the film. As we meet the crew of the Icarus, I appreciated the definitive break from the more human-centric starships we are usually exposed to in the Star Trek universe. While we still do have a majority of humans (I believe 3 or 4 are definitively human), we also have major Breen, Cardassian, Bajoran, and Batazoid characters present on the ship, as well as Romulan and Andorian who ultimately join the crew as well. Doing this not only recognizes the important themes of diversity and inclusion that Star Trek has promoted since the 1960s, but also paints a more interesting picture of variety of races and species that make up of the vastness of the Federation and space surrounding it.
Of the new characters, I liked Adrienne Wilkinson’s Captain Lexxa Singh the most. Her familial connection to Khan Noonien Singh felt somewhat contrived and unnecessary, but that is mainly because I believe that her character could have easily stood on her own without it. While the character and portrayal of Lexxa Singh could use some growth and development, I believe she brings an interesting and unique dynamic to the slate of Captains from the varying Star Trek series, and is easily the character I was most interested in learning more about.
On a more technical note, the special effects were quite good for a movie of this caliber. Towards the beginning of the film, there was a space battle between the Icarus and another starship, the U.S.S. Archer, that I felt was very well done. The sweeping shots of San Francisco looked great (interestingly, I felt the daylight shots look significantly better than those at night), and most of the space scenes and planets were very well done as well. I’m not incredibly keen on Starfleet’s color scheme – a little too much yellow for me, and the street level shots of San Francisco didn’t have enough extras to truly feel believable. The alien make-up looked great, and I generally liked the look of the film’s main antagonists, the Syphon race, although at some points it felt hard to distinguish between the various Syphon characters. Much of these minor nitpicks can be forgiven, though, given the budget with which the team had to work with.
What I found to be my biggest critique is some of the writing and the overall plot. There was entirely too much exposition throughout, and some of the dialogue was simply not done well. The plot felt almost too convoluted and yet too simple at the same time. The direction that the story tried to take attempted to incorporate several twists and turns, which at times (mainly during the climax) felt hard to follow. On the flip side, I felt that a lot of the elements of depth and questions of morality that have historically been imbued throughout the Star Trek universe were somewhat lacking. The Syphon race seemed a little one-dimensional, and there wasn’t nearly enough there for us to learn about their race and culture. I would have loved to have seen more fleshed out moral complexities and debate around the justification of the use of Starfleet’s Section 31 – especially during given our current climate and culture surrounding the public’s perception of organizations such as the NSA – instead of quickly accepting them as the good guys. On top of that, I would have also liked to have seen more of an internal back and forth within Admiral Checkov before quickly realizing that there was a conspiracy afoot.
At one point Lexxa mentions that Section 31 essentially used her then hung her out to dry when it came to the legal repercussions of whatever her mission might have been, while also implying that Tuvok himself (as its head) uses some shady tactics. We were given this through just a few lines of dialogue, whereas I would have hoped to have seen this as something much more prevalent as a plot point to be explored further. While, like this example, their were pieces of good conflict layered within the overall film, they seemed to be not explored enough to feel like anything other than something superficial.
All of this being said and flaws aside, I still found a lot to enjoy in Star Trek: Renegades. It’s obvious that many of my gripes regarding the depth of the story have the potential to be addressed in the upcoming follow-up that this crew has begun working on, The Requiem. This initial installment left plenty of ideas and threads open to revisit, and heavily hinted at more to come. As a Star Trek fan, I am still genuinely looking forward to more from the crew of the Icarus, and I hope that their next outing can improve upon the points in which their first lacked.