The Neutral Zone in Kingsland offers a Fan Appreciation Weekend for an insider’s view into their recreation of the 'Star Trek' ship.
For those who grew up with "Star Trek" in the 1960s, and again in endless reruns, it's surprising to learn that the original series only lasted three seasons with 79 episodes. Since that ground-making series ended in 1969, the characters who have boldly gone where no one has gone before keep flying into outer space to quell our hunger. In addition to the many series that followed, such as "Star Trek: Picard" and "Star Trek: Discovery" with a female captain (hooray!), plus the numerous franchise films, there are fan-made series set in the Star Trek universe.
Such is "Star Trek Continues," which boldly continues where the original "Star Trek" left off. "Star Trek Continues'" first episode immediately picks up from the last scene of the last original episode and the story moves on.
“We pick up right at the last episode and 'Star Trek' continues,” said Vic Mignogna, an executive producer who plays Captain James T. Kirk in the fan-made sequel.
The nonprofit Trek Continues, Inc. and Dracogen, and initially co-produced by Far from Home LLC and Farragut Films, shot the 11 episodes of "Star Trek Continues" in a massive warehouse in Kingsland, Ga. Over a year, the cast, crew and volunteers took an empty warehouse on the outskirts of the coastal Georgia town near the Florida border and built the Starship Enterprise using original blueprints.
“This was literally a slab of concrete," Mignogna said of the space called The Neutral Zone Studios. "There was nothing here.”
The set of a full-scale suite of Constitution-class starship, which consists of the bridge, sick bay, transporter room, engineering, captain's quarters and more, took a year to build. The episodes were shot and released between 2013 and 2017.
Today, fans of the series visit Kingsland for a glimpse inside the U.S.S. Enterprise during The Neutral Zone's Fan Appreciation Weekends. For many, it's a chance to step inside Spock's shoes, work the desk like Nyota Uhura or run the bridge like Captain Kirk. For others, it's a chance to learn how both the set of the original series was created and how the folks at The Neutral Zone did it again.
“This isn’t going to look like what they had," said Ray Tesi, Neutral Ground president. "This is going to look exactly like what they had in color, shape and size.”
I visited last summer during a fan appreciation weekend and what I learned about the original "Star Trek" series was eye-opening. Somehow when you're a kid (and I'm only admitting to seeing the original episodes in rerun), you assume that "Star Trek" producers went all out to create the alternate reality. In truth, they were pushed to shoot 27 episodes in 27 weeks, according to Tesi, and budget constraints forced them to be creative.
“It was the most expensive show on television," Mignogna said. "Everything had to be created.”
For instance, those flashing lights of the computers—Tesi explained that film crew members would weave back and forth behind the wall to make them twinkle. Those doors that slid open when crew members arrived, much like the ones we approach at Walmart, were on pullies with folks behind the scenes pulling them open and closed.
The same went for The Neutral Zone, operating on a non-profit budget.
The Enterprise's transporter room held several round placements on the floor, where Enterprise crew were beamed onto planets and back onboard the ship. The Neutral Zone folks borrowed an oversized film lens from a Los Angeles filmmaker, made a resin-cast mold and used plexiglass over wood to create those beaming circles. For the bridge, they used molded plastic chairs and a converted executive office chair for the captain. Much of the "Star Trek Continues" set, which looks solid and real on film, is made from styrofoam.
Fan Appreciation Weekends
Fan Appreciation Weekends include a 90-minute guided tour of the studio and sets. Guests may ask questions, take photos (including in Captain Kirk's chair) and collect autographs from cast members. During the Open House, fans are allowed to leisurely walk through the studio at their own pace, mingle, ask questions of the staff and take pictures.
The next weekend is Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 20-21, 2024. There will be an all-day outdoor concert with food trucks at the studio starting at 11 a.m. Saturday with opportunities to sing on stage during the Karaoke segments. There will be a Karaoke party on the bridge set from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Ray Tesi, owner of The Neutral Zone Studios, and Vic Mignogna, executive producer and star of “Star Trek Continues,” will be on hand for tours and to meet and greet visitors. Chris Doohan, "Star Trek Continues’s" Chief Engineer Scott and son of James Doohan, who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the original series, returns to The Neutral Zone this month as well.
Fan Appreciation Weekends are free, but because The Neutral Zone is a not-for-profit organization operating on a shoestring budget donations are always welcomed.
Weird, Wacky & Wild South is written by Cheré Dastugue Coen, who thoroughly loved sitting in Captain James T. Kirk's chair (and trying to be serious like Kirk), and imagining boldly going into outer space. She maintains that she was too young to watch the original episodes.