By Eric Henrickson
Originally published on Advocate.com April 14 2009 11:00 PM ET
With a flashy new movie
coming in May, Star Trek is on the mind of just about every
sci-fi fan these days.
Keeping that flame
alive since 2002's
Star Trek: Nemesis
and the end of TV's
in 2005 has been a series of Internet-based shows lovingly
created by fans, and I'm lucky enough to have a Trek
history-making role in one of the latest,
Star Trek: Osiris
I'm a full-time
journalist, sometime actor, and all-around sci-fi geek. After
being an extra in the
movie (I'm "Little green dot running in terror"), I
was online looking for my next opportunity when I ran across
the audition notice for this Star Trek fan show. I was busy in
the chorus of a community theater production of
Beauty and the Beast
, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get my feet wet
with real lines in front of a camera.
Filmed on a
green-screen set in the basement of cowriter, coproducer,
codirector, and star Jay Miller's home, the new series
boldly goes (sorry, had to get one pun in there) where the
various TV series and movies have balked. Miller plays the
's captain, Kieran Bale, and I play his partner, Lt. Commander
Granted, it's a small
role. Since Ambrose is stationed on a different ship, I only
appear in one short scene (so far) as the proud but
long-suffering spouse of a starship captain. But that captain
is gay, and while
isn't the only Trek Web-based series with gay characters,
that's still not something you see on prime time.
The first half of the
pilot episode of
Star Trek: Osiris
is available starting Saturday at
. The second half is coming soon. The series takes place about
nine months after the events of the movie
Star Trek: Nemesis
, which left open the opportunity for a lasting peace between
the Federation and the Romulan Empire.
Captain Bale is taking
out on its maiden voyage, an important diplomatic mission, when
a threat from within Starfleet itself threatens the crew of the
and the very core of the Federation.
Miller, who's gay, and
his friend Todd Adams, who's straight, have been Trek fans for
years. Inspired by the Web series
Star Trek: Hidden Frontier
, which launched the phenomenon in 2000 and has also included
gay story lines, they decided to create their own.
equipment and improved home video editing software have put
these kinds of projects within reach of just about anyone
wanting to express their inner George Lucas.
They pulled in their
friends to help. When those ran out, they turned to auditions,
pulling in some local professional and amateur actors to
volunteer for the completely nonprofit project (the only way
copyright owner Paramount will allow these series to be made).
After filming, Miller spent hours at his PC adding
computer-generated backgrounds, special effects, and space
From the day we did our
first read-through of the script, I knew this was going to be a
blast. My brownie decorated to look like the
(I ingratiate myself with new people through baked goods) was a
big hit, and everyone was so friendly and enthusiastic about
the show. It was like an old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movie,
only instead of a big barn stage, we had a 400-square-foot bit
A very green basement:
The walls and floor were covered in kelly green, and some other
set pieces were painted the same shade so effects could be
added later. There was one camera.
After some costume and
prop delays, I was one of the first to sit in front of that
camera. I'd been rehearsing my lines for weeks. So, of course,
I promptly messed them up. Blooper footage! And then I was
done. Other scenes went on, and I got to be the director's
slate guy -- "Scene 12, take 15 [
]!" Or I'd go back on days I wasn't filming just to hang
out with my new friends.
Any actor, whether a
Hollywood star or a chorus boy in a community theater
Beauty and the Beast
, can talk about the thrill of putting on a costume and
becoming another person. But add to that the 40-year legacy of
a TV icon like
pulling on that teal, black, and gray Starfleet uniform,
complete with communicator badge, was enough to make this big
sci-fi fan positively giddy.
And the fact that my
character is gay makes the project that much more special. You
don't see a lot of positive gay characters in sci-fi. It's
still largely a straight boys club, with strong hetero
characters and plenty of female eye candy. That's not to say
the shows aren't smart, but the lavender ceiling isn't showing
too many cracks.
So to play half of a
loving gay couple, even one literally light-years apart, as
part of one of the best-known sci-fi franchises in the worldâ€¦
Well, it's that proverbial dream come true.
Sure, it's filmed in a
basement, and we had to delay production one day while a
snowplow was noisily clearing the condo complex's parking lot,
but our props looked just as good as the ones I've seen in
touring Star Trek exhibits. And when we put on those costumes,
applied those Vulcan ears, and stepped in front of the camera,
we were Starfleet officers.
Once we stopped
giggling, that is. As much as we take the project seriously, it
doesn't escape our notice that we're among the world's biggest
nerds. A sense of humor is essential.
But when we watch the
opening credits, see our names as the
whizzes by, we know we're part of something special. Our little
Star Trek family is doing its part to continue the vision of
creator Gene Roddenberry. We're here, we're queer, and we've
got phasers set on stun.
If my character dies
(no one is safe, Miller says), I can still say I had a small
part in Star Trek's enduring legacy. And even "Third
Romulan on the right" charges $15 for autographs at
conventions. Who needs a 401(k)?