Axanar is just one of many Star Trek fan films on the boil at the moment. You can see some great past and present efforts in our regular Fan Film Friday slot, but there’s some great projects that are just getting off the ground, too. One of them is Pacific 201, a feature film project that is in the closing days of its Kickstarter campaign.
We were lucky enough to catch up with the man behind the project, Eric Henry. He’s actually part of the Axanar crew, as well, having worked on concept art for the film, so he’s practically family!
David: First up, I think the most obvious thing that sets Pacific 201 apart is its look. It feels Trekky, but it also looks a lot more hard SF. Can you tell me a little about that unique look and feel?
Eric: I think a lot of that comes from movies like 2001 and Interstellar. In many ways, the settings of those stories are so compelling because they feel so plausible. Star Trek is an awesome universe to work with, but how much more awesome and relevant would Star Trek be if it really seemed to depict a plausible future? For that reason, it’s important to us that Pacific 201 feels like plausible science fiction.
David: So far we’ve seen some great shots of the ship, but what can you tell us about some of the crew of the Pacific?
Eric: The crew of the Pacific is something we haven’t really seen before. We’re imagining that in 2200, Starfleet is very much like Earth’s navy, due to the pressures of the Romulan War. As such, the United Earth Space Probe Agency (UESPA) hasn’t really been operating with Starfleet in the way that we saw in Star Trek: Enterprise. The Pacific is one of the first ships in decades to actually carry a large science department, which is actually a group from UESPA. They don’t exactly have Starfleet training, and the more “military” Starfleet crew members will naturally run into some disagreements with the scientists on board. But learning to work together to form (or reform) that “combined service” that Kirk speaks of is a major focus of the character interactions. Pacific 201 explores the nature of Starfleet – how a seemingly military organization can function on missions of peace and exploration.
This is kind of epitomized in our science officer Lt. Lucy Rader, who has a background in both UESPA and in Starfleet. She has to balance the two conflicting viewpoints that often come to the top, and as she represents the science department, she’ll struggle herself with some big questions concerning when the use of military force is acceptable for a ship on a scientific mission.
The backstory of Lt. Rader includes a bit of what we mentioned about plausible sci-fi. For instance, Rader is a graduate of both MIT and Starfleet academy, and blending the real with the fictional really helps lend a credibility and a historicity to the events.
David: Speaking of characters, let’s talk the people who play them. A lot of Trek fan projects go out of their way to find Trek actors – is that something you’ll be doing?
Eric: It’s something we considered, but it’s ultimately kind of distracting in many ways, we feel. Pacific 201 is all about new characters exploring uncharted “Trek” territory, and bringing in recognizable Trek actors kind of distracts from that vision.
That being said, it would be very awesome to get Scott Bakula to cameo as an Archer in his 80’s. There’d be a perfect scene for him… but I’m not sure that’s a very feasible dream. We’ll see!
David: At the moment, Pacific is a feature project, but is there any plan to extend it into an ongoing Series?
Eric: Pacific 201 is really designed and tightly-written as a standalone piece. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense as the beginning of a series, but if there’s a ton of support for the Pacific’s continuing mission, I’m not against the idea. That’s pretty far in the future, though.
David: The Pacific herself is a stunning design, and really epitomizes your SF/Trek ideas. What are some of the design inspirations there?
Eric: A big source of inspiration comes from the United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer – you’ll immediately recognize that naval “mast” on the Pacific. Its shape is very directly derived from that.
Another inspiration comes from the Constellation-class starship. The nacelle configuration is very similar. The Constellation-class isn’t the prettiest Starfleet vessel, but in many ways, its shape makes the most sense. That really utilitarian configuration was a perfect fit for the nuts-and-bolts look of the Pacific.
David: Finally, you’ve worked personally on Axanar, what are some of your other film credits?
Eric: Yeah, I’ve been working with Axanar for about two years now, which has been a really exciting experience – designing the USS Ares bridge and developing many of the other sets as well.
I’ve also worked with Star Trek: Horizon, providing some Romulan designs, such as the circular space station seen in the trailer for that film.
I was also a key creative force behind a somewhat experimental short film called “Lily,” which is a 1950’s period drama. Most of my other film credits are for professional, rather than dramatic works. Company videos, promos, and interviews.
David: Well, we’re hoping Pacific 201 will be great. Thanks for taking time to chat with us, and good luck over the last days of the Kickstarter. Go help Eric out, Axa-fans!