In parts one, two, and three, we saw the STARSHIP VALIANT fan series emerge from the aborted STARSHIP AJAX fan project, featuring the 360-degree TOS bridge from the STARBASE STUDIOS in Oklahoma City. Valiant, created by local resident MICHAEL L. KING, who will play the lead character Jackson Bishop, was the first fan production to be seen at Starbase Studios in late 2013. They released their first fan film, “LEGACY,” the following summer at SoonerCon 2014. Then, in 2015, they released a “Legacy” special, featuring a new scene with new characters that were not in the original version, including VANCE MAJOR as Chief Engineer Eric Minard and DAVID COX as Dr. Roger Floyd’s Chief Medical Officer.

The Starship Valiant team entered 2016 with plans for a second, much more ambitious project, a 90-minute fan film called THE TIES THAT BIND, and they managed to shoot the first ten minutes over the summer. But just as they were shooting those scenes, CBS announced new guidelines for fan films that quashed any possibility of an episode longer than 30 minutes. Plans for further work on the Badgers were put on hold for several months.

But at the same time, Vance Major decided to expand his character Eric Minard in a new series of fan films, and some of these projects also featured Michael King as Captain Bishop. These films include MINARD, THE VALHALLA STONE, a new fan film series titled MELBOURNE: “Storm Front” and a crossover with the DREADNOUGHT DOMINION fan film series titled CHAIN OF COMMAND. Each features footage shot at Starbase Studios in 2016 and aired in 2016 or 2017.

In the meantime, Michael made the decision to continue with Starship Valiant and continue filming Binding Strings. But because director Brady Foster had accepted a professional producer position abroad, filming had to be scheduled for November after his return. But that wasn’t a big problem – the sets in the starbase studios weren’t going anywhere.

Where are they…?

The main reason why Starbase Studios could continue to exist for free for any fan who was willing to pay a small fee for the use of electricity during filming is the fact that they did not have to pay rent. The owner of the building in Oklahoma City used it mainly for temporary storage of stuff for real estate sales and had plenty of room, besides he was a fan of Star Trek. But in November he announced to the people of Starbase Studios that he had sold the property and everything had to be out of the building by December 31!

Starbase Studios is preparing to leave Oklahoma.

“When news broke that Starbase Studios had lost the lease on their building and would close at the end of December,” says Michael, “we knew there was no way we could film there on the scale we had planned. Plans were quickly made to dismantle the TOS networks there – bridge, infirmary, transporter and briefing room – and move them to a place in Arkansas called Dogpatch, where they were offered free housing, at least temporarily.

But Michael was not ready to leave the studio where he and his team had accomplished so much. “Valiant has a special place in the heart of the studio,” Michael explains. “I decided I wanted to make a graduation film that represented what the studio meant to me. So I literally wrote a 14-page script for CROSSES TO BEAR in about a week, programmed, distributed and begged everyone I could find to help behind the scenes, and we shot the film in one day.

Michael King with the rising stars of “Crosses to Bear” (from right to left): the Reagan Mahaffey sisters, Presley Reese (who played the two sick sisters) and Hudson Mahaffey (who was seen in the flashback)

“I have to thank Richard Wells from the bottom of my heart, who along with Scott Johansson (who did a wonderful lighting job similar to the original series), John Hughes and a few others, built the infirmary and did the extras for the shoot. And then there’s Dan Reynolds, who came all the way from Arkansas to not only record the film, but also edit and mix the sound. Thanks also to GLEN WOLFE, who was my first assistant in making the film and took care of all the props. We all knew we were shooting the last film in the studio and it was a moving but bittersweet experience. ‘Legacy’ is the first film shot and released in Oklahoma, and ‘Crosses’ is the last film shot and released in Starbase: Oklahoma.”

Michael continued, thinking back to his first production, “Although I was under some pressure to shoot quickly so as not to disrupt studio activity, I managed to finish two rehearsals with the actors. I had very good actors, and everyone knew their lines, so much so that we were able to shoot the film and finish it a day early.” I have to thank wholeheartedly everyone involved, and a special thanks to my good friend Scott Johnson, who always supported the production of Valiant and gave everything in his power to make it a success.”

In this fun little video, you can catch a glimpse of Michael during a rehearsal scene. ….

 

Michael describes the theme of the film, “It’s about dignity ….Dignity in death and for those who pass on to the other side, respect for those we love and healing of the wounds that have deeply scarred us. It’s about forgiveness and how, in whatever circumstances, we sometimes need others to forgive ourselves. It’s about people caring for each other and helping each other heal”.

Some fans felt that The Crosses was too dark, not only in terms of subject matter, but also in terms of lighting in the opening scenes of the infirmary. However, this was done on purpose. “There are a lot of things in the film that I wanted to see a certain way, and it wasn’t just for fun,” says Michael. “A lot of people may look at the picture and wonder why something was done a certain way. It’s not just that, and that’s my take on the film”. There’s an incredible amount of angst in the vignette, and my personal feelings are like a fingerprint on a wall throughout the story. It’s an autonomous, discrete story that hasn’t been addressed as much in the fan film. I decided to limit the amount of light; the shots in the room are dark and quiet, but at the same time, to counter the fear, we see people who really care and are affected by the situation – so there is always a shadow of hope. One thing to remember: there is always room for hope”.

Unlike the other Valiants, Michael did not appear on the crosses. In fact, it was the period before “Legacies” and the brief appearance of Captain Jeffrey Clarke. The main character portrayed is Dr. Floyd. “I like dense characters,” Michael says. “I like to make people real, and this was a great opportunity to do that, so I chose the doctor. Plus, we only had a certain amount of time to shoot the story, and Cox was already here in Oklahoma. I knew he had the acting skills and presence to carry the story, so he was the perfect choice. Watching the film now, I’m amazed at how natural and authoritative he is. He goes through a wide range of emotions in the film and I think his performance helps fans understand his dilemma.”

The real McCoy? No, it’s Frank Jenks!

“Crosses to Bear” also marks the film debut of cosplayer FRANK JENKS, who looks strikingly like the young Dr. Leonard McCoy and makes his appearance as an iconic character. Frank plays the role of McCoy in FEDERATION FILMS’ The Walking Bear, The Running Wolf and the Equinox Effect in THE LAST DAY, as well as in Vance Major’s THE WORLD, THE LAST DAY and WITHOUT REWARD.

The film “Crosses” was filmed and completed surprisingly quickly, premiering on YouTube on December 9, 2016 – before the TOS sets were finally shipped out of Oklahoma. ….

 

The sets at Starbase Studios were moved about 5 hours east to nearby Arkansas, to a place called Dogpatch, and editing began in early 2017. On February 6, Michael began writing a new screenplay for Valiant, ANIMALS. Michael describes the story as “…based on a continuation of the ideals and spirit of the original series. It is a story that explores the human condition and the moral lesson that we can all be better if we choose to.”

The script includes scenes on a bridge, in a hospital ward and in nature. Michael went exploring with director Brady Foster and assistant lighting designer Scott Johnson, stopping at the majestic Wichita Mountains Nature Preserve, about 2 hours southwest of Oklahoma City, near Lawton, OK. You can see the scouts’ “mission” in this great video ….

 

The cast includes two professional actors, Presley Reese (“Ellie”) and Josiah Overstreet (“Hilton”). Presley previously played the role of Sarah, the younger sister who died first in “Crossroads to Bear.” (Presley’s real sister, Reagan, played the older sister in “Crossroads,” and even his younger sister appeared in a portrait in Dr. Floyd’s office and in flashbacks.)

Michael explains how Presley and his family came to Valiant. I met Presley and his mother when I was working as a producer on a local film called Repercussion, written and directed by Ben RICHARDSON, the man who replaced us as acting coach in Legacy and did some of the sound in Animals. I kept Presley in mind and always thought she was a talented girl and I would love to use her in a fan film if the opportunity arose. It was in Crosses and I sent a message to her mom, Stacey, who by the way is a super nice and supportive mom. I often tell her that she is one of the best moms out there, and I admire her for that. Stacey read the script and loved it. She agreed to let the girls do it so they could be exposed as actresses. It was the same with “Animals.” We hope the free publicity and publicity will help Presley’s career and introduce her to more people, which is why she and Josiah got involved. Many people watch Trek fan films and consider it free…. publicity and have fun!

Presley Reese behaves like a skydiver in over 100 degree heat!

Of course, fun can sometimes be relative. The first shoot took place on June 23, 2017 in the Wichita…. Mountains region under 100 degree heat! The situation became so serious that Michael began to worry about the actors and crew members, especially young Presley, with whom things didn’t seem to be going so well. So they quickly packed up everything and went back to their (air-conditioned) cars. The filming will have to be postponed. Unfortunately, Presley had a busy schedule and was not available until the following spring (May 17, 2018)… which was another 100 degree day. Fortunately, they were able to get the footage they needed.

A total of six days of filming were required. In addition to the two aforementioned shoots in Arkansas, they shot all the scenes at the starbase studio on June 25, 2017, which gave them one day of travel time compared to their previous shoots in Oklahoma. On October 15, 2017 (a much cooler day), they returned to Wichita to shoot the alien scenes, as well as all the scenes where Sally Van Der Veer plays another security guard.

The last two at the scene were Josiah and Aliens. The first of these two shoots took place on May 22, 2018. But the project had to wait more than two years before Josiah and the production team could be brought together for the final shoot on June 28, 2020. Such is the nature of the industry, but it answers the question Michael is most often asked (myself included), “Why did it take you so long to finish?

But now it’s done, and if you haven’t seen “Animals” yet, you can watch it below. ….

 

And what’s next for the Valiant ship? Will the diversions ever be completed? Will there be other missions? Michael had this to say, “Brady and I would definitely like to go back and finish the story for Ties someday, but I don’t know if “finish” is the right word because it would have to be completely rewritten according to CBS guidelines. But yes, we plan to revisit the story and focus on the events we wrote and adapt it to the 30-minute format. I don’t know yet where the film will be shot or what sets we will need, but I have already sketched and rewritten.”

As for Valiant’s other adventures, Michael has already scored points. “I finished two scripts and started rehearsing a plot called ‘The Least of Us’ online. And I played all the main characters, but then the pandemic started and I stopped the project because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. We’ll probably come back to this story when it’s safe to do so, but in the meantime I think we can do a few vignettes to get us in the mood until we can really immerse ourselves in the scenarios I’ve prepared. These stories would be local and limited, but hopefully relevant. Our first vignette could come out in May, so we definitely want to continue in the world of Valiant. Thank you for letting me be a part of it”.

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