The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 2) –

In the first part, we were introduced to Michael L. King from Oklahoma, who is considered by many to be one of the friendliest, nicest and most helpful people in the film fan community. In 2013, Michael contacted a group of local fans who wanted to shoot a new fan film series, STARSHIP AJAX, at STARBASE STUDIOS. The operators of the facility, originally located in Oklahoma City, brought in the worn remnants of the TOS bridge used for the second episode of STARSHIP EXETER, and then worked to restore and expand it into the first and only 360-degree TOS bridge set for the Trek fandom.

Unfortunately, the Ajax team never got off the ground, but Michael, who had originally volunteered for the project, was able to launch his own fan series, STARSHIP VALIANT. His goal was to focus the stories of Valiant more on the characters than the action. And while the original screenplay, written by Michael, LEGACY began with a space battle, that battle ended quickly. So the rest of the episode focuses on the consequences and how some of the main characters try to get out of it.

With director and editor Brady Foster, Michael and his crew were able to film Legacy in late 2013 and complete the project in the summer of 2014, where it made its debut at the Oklahoma Soon Central convention before being posted to YouTube. Here’s what was published…


The new fan lineup was enthusiastically received by the Star Trek fan community, and the following year, 2015, Michael contacted AISLINN BURROWS, the organizer of SoonerCon, and asked if he would like to show Legacy again during the late June taping. Michael was more than happy to accept the invitation, but an idea occurred to him. In the short year since Legacy’s debut, the film was widely distributed on YouTube, and his fans knew him well. But imagine their surprise when the version they saw at the convention contained brand new footage!

When Michael first wrote Legacy, there would have been a scene in the infirmary in which viewers would see a wounded and dying Captain Jeffrey Clarke hand over command to Commander Bishop (played by Michael), who promises to bring the ship and its paralyzed crew home safely. Other characters could have appeared in the scene and become part of the series, such as the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Engineer. But unfortunately, in 2013, Starbase Studios only had one deck and no infirmary, so Michael removed the scene from the script.

But in 2015, things were different. After starting their own production, STARSHIP GRISSOM, RICHARD WELLS of Starbase Studios began building a partial infirmary with a biobed and monitor and a back wall (there wasn’t much room to work with and not much money for equipment). But even the partial sickbay was still a sickbay, and Richard was happy to let Michael use the set right after Grissom finished filming.

Of course, Michael couldn’t do it alone, so he asked Brady Foster if he would be willing to direct the new scene. Brady wanted to see the script, but the original scene had never been finished or completed. So Michael took 30 minutes to quickly write a new 3-minute scene. Brady read it, liked it, and they made an appointment to shoot the scene about a month later. They assembled the crew – the actors and the production team – and even helped expand the infirmary with a second biobank and monitor, and a second backboard. The enlarged set was ready to shoot!

But then there was the flood.

One pound of standing water nearly destroyed the studios of the ….TWICK star base!

It was actually the second time that Starbase Studios was flooded (the first time was in 2013, and you can read about both incidents on this blog). The storm dumped seven inches of rain per hour and the water hit the base of the set and caused extensive damage. With a week to go before filming, Michael was worried that he would have to postpone filming which wouldn’t leave much time to finish the new scene for SoonerCon. But Richard Wells, with his partner Scott Johnson, decided to tackle the repairs at the speed of light. With the help of volunteers, including Michael himself, Maxemius Lahar, John Hughes, Randy Betterton, Vance Major, Calan Trickeld and others, the infirmary was repaired and ready in time for filming.

If you recognize Vance Major’s name on this list of volunteers, it’s because Vance has become one of the most prolific fan filmmakers in the history of Star Trek fandom. He has written, produced, starred in, and done just about everything you can think of for nearly a hundred (at the time of this writing) fan films featuring the time-honored character Erik Minard. But Vaillant is where Minard began.

Vance played the soundtrack until the end of the release of “Legacy” and was named Chief Engineer Minard, but now Vance has the chance to play his character on camera. In addition to Captain Clark (played by CHARLES WALKER) dying in the infirmary, the character of Chief Medical Officer Roger Floyd (played by DAVID COX) was also shown, who Michael wanted to include in the current “Valiant” series.

Vance Major appears in a new scene with a cut on his forehead. That’s not makeup! Vance was at Scott Johnson’s house and was accidentally scratched by Scott’s cat the night before the shooting.

Shooting began in early May, when temperatures were significantly higher than during the initial winter shoot (but not yet too high), and it took about six hours to complete the three-minute scene. Brady Foster then had to merge the new footage with the original, while VFX artist Craig Frye worked on the new CGI shots as quickly as possible, as well as a brand new opening credits sequence that was not in the previous version.

The new “special edition” included a special plan that Michael insisted on and is proud of to this day. As Captain Clarke lies dying in the infirmary, he grabs Bishops hand, and we see in close-up how the black and white leather fingers are pressed together. “It’s always been very important to me to represent as many different nationalities as possible in the films of Valiant,” Michael notes. “After all, Star Trek is far in the future, and until then we’re all working together to improve humanity as a whole. I think when Legacy was created, I wanted to “gently” remind people that even though we are different on the outside, that doesn’t mean those differences should separate us. Love, friendship, compassion and care should not and cannot depend on our skin color. And when I made the Star Trek fan film, I honestly felt compelled to celebrate what made the original series so far ahead of its time. The “Holding Hands” sequence was meant to show that although this captain and co-pilot are different, they clearly have a lot of respect and love for each other …., which is the essence of Star Trek, and that is an important reminder today.

Michael prided himself on having a mix of races. In addition to himself, Doneco Wellington Huy played his on-screen daughter, and another African-American woman, APRIL CHAMBERLINE, played a bridge guard at the beginning of the final scene. Michael recalls reading one of the reviews, “And it was a white guy, a Caucasian, and he said, ‘It’s nice to see a fan film where all the actors aren’t white!” And it’s true that not so long ago, in 2014, most of the fan actors were actually white (in fact, most of them are still white, although the situation has leveled out a bit in recent years).

Michael himself wanted even more racial diversity in the original version and launched a casting call for Asian and Latino actors in 2013. But none of them showed up. But two years later, during casting for the new hospital scene, two women, an Asian and a Latino, showed interest in the roles. Although they play only unrequited nurses, their presence alone is important in reflecting the future of color and diversity.

From left to right: Nurse Martinez (Jesse Lane), Michael L. King (Bishop) and Head Nurse Emiko Yamane (Ashley J. Mandanas).

Of course, the most salient aspect of the diversity was the fact that the main character himself was black, which was rare in fan films at the time. When asked if he felt particularly responsible for making such a distinction as a black series and lead actor in a Star Trek fan film, Michael replied, “I think part of the reason was that we didn’t really see a black man in a crew role (and it’s no disrespect, if there was a fan film, I missed it). And then there was the fact that I just wanted to play Star Trek. Diversity is important because it shows others that they can be part of the future and that they will all be. Deep Space Nine presented a strong and moral commander who happened to be black, and it was really nice to have him in that role. Captain Kirk will always be my favorite, but Cisco is just as close to it.”

The new Starship Valiant: Legacy – Special Edition premiered at SoonerCon in June 2015, featuring a brand new first act in the Infirmary, new visual battle effects and a fitting title sequence. Check it out…


“We filmed the scene and it turned out to be very good and to match what I had originally imagined,” Michael recalls. “I’m happy with the scene and I hope it’s not seen as another indulgent bit, but as a small part of a larger story that adds depth to the plot and characters. I know 3 minutes isn’t a lot, but it’s about the characters ….as it should be. We see just a hint of their personalities, we see the man’s dedication to his captain and how in a tough situation he is just as unstable as everyone around him. He knows the team expects strength from him, but he wonders if he has it in him.

After the successful conclusion of the special edition, the Valiant team entered 2016 with big plans and a lot of enthusiasm. In fact, they were ready to begin production on an ambitious second episode that would likely last an hour and a half! But then, in late June, CBS issued new guidelines for Star Trek fan films, limiting production time to two segments of no more than 15 minutes. What were Michael and Valiant’s crew to do?

Next time, in the third part, the leadership will surprise everyone, but it is far from the end! In 2016, Captain Bishop and his valiant crew…. will make several appearances, but not necessarily all in fan films about Valiant starships! What the hell am I talking about? Go back and find out!

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