In part one and two, we witnessed the birth of the STARSHIP VALIANT fan series, the brainchild of Oklahoma City-based Michael L. King. Filming of the first episode of Starship Valiant, Legacy, began in late 2013 and premiered at SoonerCon in June of the following year, thanks to a bridge game recovered from the STARSHIP EXETER that was rebuilt and expanded at the STARBASE STUDIOS in Oklahoma City.

In 2015, Michael, with the help of director Brady Foster, shot a brand new scene in the brand new infirmary built at Starbase Studios for the use of their “sister” fan series STARSHIP GRISSOM. This 3-minute scene was the first time VANCE MAJOR was filmed as Chief Engineer Eric Minard. The death of Captain Jeffrey Clarke, an event that leads directly into the rest of the episode, was also shown. “Legacy – Special Edition” was presented at SoonerCon 2015 and was published on Facebook shortly thereafter.

Michael sums up the episode with the Valiant pilot, “Legacy has always been the consequence of your actions. The story is a cautionary tale that tells us that for every action we take, there will be a reaction, good or bad. It tells us that of course we will make mistakes and complain about them, but that we must stick to our principles and correct them. It tells us that it is normal to mourn those we love and that their actions are the result of the way we choose to live our lives. Ultimately, we are responsible for those who turn to us for guidance and love, and if we let them down, it is never too late to make amends or do our best.”

With a solid start, the Valiant team embarked on a much more ambitious project in 2016. The screenplay, titled “Ties That Bind,” was written by Michael along with the plucky special effects artist CRAIG FREY, JR. The story is stunning, with special emphasis on the character development of Captain Jackson Bishop de Mchael, JFK’s first officer and Minard’s chief engineer. In an interview on Valiant’s website, Michael explained: “The title itself refers to family, and I think it’s fair to say that Bishop’s relationship with his daughter will be explored a bit more, as will his relationship with his old enemy. Again, we return to current issues that reflect our current society, with the dilemma facing the Federation and whether it is getting involved in the right or wrong thing? So, to narrow the field, I would say that Binding Strings is essentially an extension of the events of the first film.”

From left to right: Rianne Ross, Crystal Willis and Rick Viper.

Brady Foster returned to direct (and edit) the massive episode and shot the first act in early summer 2016. Krystal Willis, who played the role of Captain Samantha Majors on the Grissom ship, played American Captain Freedmon in what was to be the first act of the full-length Ties fan film. GLEN WOLFE (props) and DAN REYNOLDS (sound) collaborated on the filming. A few years later they founded the WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas, where the next set of TOS was built for fan films and the fan film series FEDERATION FILES was launched. The plan was to shoot the rest of the scenes later in 2016 and eventually have a fan film finished by the end of the year!

But then, in late June 2016, the fan film guidelines were announced, and they hit an unprotected spaceship like a photon torpedo. “When I wrote the script [‘Ties’] with Craig Frey Jr,” Michael says, “we had a story that was about an hour and a half long. ….And then it all fell apart when the fan-film guidelines reached their goal. The story we wanted to tell just couldn’t be told in two 15-minute segments. There would have been no consistency. The opening itself was about 10 minutes long. So I took a step back, literally distraught because we had put all our resources into the opening, and I realized that we would not be able to finish the script as written. As I worked on updating the script, I quickly realized it wasn’t working. The story didn’t make any sense”.

The short 10-minute sequence was completed and presented at SoonerCon 2016. “The response was great,” Michael recalls. “People were glued to the screen and didn’t seem overzealous, but at the end of the show we even got surprised applause when everyone asked when they were done. Finally, the following summer, in 2017, the 10-minute film “The Ties That Bind – Special Edition” was enhanced with a short epilogue and published on YouTube. ….

 

When production of Binding Strings stopped in the summer of 2016, the future of the Starship Valiant seemed uncertain. But while some in the movie fan community considered quitting, others went the other way like Vance Major. In 2016, his “journey” as a fan film director began when he used the character of engineer Eric Minard as the centerpiece for a series of new fan films. Vance didn’t care about management. His films had to be made on a very tight budget, without crowdfunding, and they definitely had to be less than 15 minutes long and tell the disjointed stories of a character… not technically a fan series. And when Vance started, he wanted Michael King on board. Literally.

In the second half of 2016, Vance directed a series of fan films. The first, a seven-minute vignette titled MINARD, resulted in numerous non-chronological releases and formed a “tapestry” of fantasies and short vignettes dedicated to his character. With Michael’s permission, Vance included part of his first fight in Legacy, featuring one of the key moments in Minard’s life. This fan film, shot in the second half of 2016, was completed and posted online in August 2017. ….

 

The DREADNOUGHT DOMINION series was also the beginning (in fact the reboot) of the fan film. Directed by showrunner and main character FRANK PARKER, JR. Dominion released two introductory fan films in 2014, which were released in 2015 (“Ghosts” and “Anchor Fire”). But then they lost access to the Farragut films set in Kingsland, Georgia, when they were bought out by Vic MIGNOGNA of STAR TREK CONTINUES. Although the Starbase studios were still available to record scenes on the TOS sets, the repeated trips to Oklahoma became too much for Frank. So Frank left the show and entrusted it to GARY DAVIS (who played Frank’s first officer) and RANDY WRENN.

At the time, Vance was the designer of the studios at the starbase (four hours from his home in Kansas). When Dominion was about to start shooting in OKC, Gary and Randy discussed with Vance what to do with Dominion. Vance suggested a “transition” episode – not so much episode 3, but episode 2.5 – in which they would show Gary as the new captain trying to figure out who should become his first officer. And Gary’s character would talk about it with his old friend (you guessed it!) Lieutenant Eric Minard of the U.S.S. Valiant. As would Michael L. King as the plucky Captain Jackson Bishop and David Cox as Dr. Roger Floyd, who appeared in Legacy – Special Edition. Oddly enough, only the Valiant scenes were shot in Oklahoma. Gary shot his scenes on a simple improvised TOS at home in Ohio, while Randy shot them in front of a green screen in North Carolina, with the technology behind him. The crossover fan film “The COMMAND Chain” was released in November 2016. ….

 

While Valiant’s chain of command scene was being shot at the Starbase studios, Vance was also shooting a short film called PEN PALS as a teaser for another fan project he will be working on soon: MELBOURNE: Storm Front. Pen Pals was just a short 70-second subspace message from Chief Engineer Eric Minard on the Valiant (with Captain Bishop in the command chair in the background) to Chief Engineer Jennifer Sierra on the US MelBOURNE. But since the vignette was filmed in early July 2016 and then quickly released on YouTube, Pen Pals is actually the first time fans have seen Michael King’s character, Jackson Bishop, as a captain in a gold tunic!

 

But Vance and Michael weren’t done yet! A few months later, it was time for filming in Melbourne, and Vance again asked Michael to wear a gold tunic and play the role of Captain Bishop in another cameo. Being such a nice guy, Michael agreed. The next time fans will see Valiant and his commander is in early 2017 with the release of the first episode of Stormfront in Melbourne. ….

 

Note that PEN PALS 2 was filmed simultaneously with Melbourne, and shows the subspace reaction of Melbourne’s chief engineer, Minard, to the Valiant. Although PEN Pals 2 does not technically show the Valiant, it still counts for something. This 80-second vignette aired in September 2016.

 

Believe it or not, but there’s also Valiant, filmed in 2016! Well, it kind of is. In fact, it was filmed in 2013. Oh, this is going to get confusing! Let me go back a bit. In the summer of 2013, even before Michael and Brady began production on Legacy, John Hughes began working on his first STARSHIP AJAX fan film, Barratis. This project was not shot much, and it was never finished. But the few images that were shot featured Vance Major and Michael King…., along with several other members of the cast.

In 2016, Vance received permission from John Hughes to use these unpublished images in another of Minard’s films, LA PIERRE DE VALGALLA. Vance shot the sequence, reserving footage from Barratis and introducing scenes from The Cage – The Journey and The Mirror Universe. To follow the guidelines, a 15-minute fan film was released, as well as six others (one per day, for an entire week… see the rest here). And you can check out the Valhalla Stone below ….

 

So even though the Valiant crew shot 10 minutes of the Valiant Starship series, you still saw a good portion of the Valiant crew in other fan projects in 2016. And as the year drew to a close, Michael still decided to try to finish Ties That Bind ….and start it in November.

But the studio on the starbase has received terrible news. For the past six years, it has been stored for free in the same building in Oklahoma City. But the owner of the property announced in November that he had sold it and that Starbase Studios could no longer work in the building. They had until December 31 to dismantle the equipment and transfer it to another location. There was no way to properly complete Ties in that short time.

Michael King was honored that Starship Valiant was the first completed fan film shot on the set of Starbase Studios in OKC. The team now had a new mission: to make it the BEST fan film ever shot on the set of Starbase Studios in OKC. With the clock ticking and time running out, can Michael and his team shoot one last episode of Starship Valiant in OKC before these incredible sets depart for an unknown destination?

He was definitely going to try!

Next time we close, we all have our cross to bear, and for Valiant it was a race against time to finish a quality production while they still had a set! Did they succeed? And when the OKC sets were gone, what was next for Valiant’s esteemed crew? We end with a preview of their latest issue, Animals, and find out if another Valiant will follow.

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