2016 Edmonton Fringe Review: Call Me Kirk: The Ultimate Trek

Adapting Star Trek to a Fringe play can't be easy. It just can't. Especially when you're covering an almost 50-year-old TV series than spawned a movie franchise that spawned another television series which spawned three more television series which spawned nothing...but then the 50-year-old TV series spawned a second movie franchise.

There are a few ways you can go with this: you can try telling a new story, which won't necessarily impress fans or non-fans but will at least let you be creative and do something different. The fan-made movies like Star Trek Horizon and the fan made series like Star Trek Hidden Frontier go this route. I can't say that I particularly like any of the series...whatever you can say about the questionable acting of Marina Sirtis, Denise Crosby, Wil Wheaton, and Robert Beltran they all can act rings around Larry LaVerne and Nick Cook. The ones that also feature Trek actors suffer this problem less (not that Chase Masterson is exactly a top-notch talent) and then have the questionable writing as well. The best you can say is now fans can make effects that easily match the stuff Desilu spent a fortune on in 1968.

The other route you can take is to pastiche and/or ripoff the existing property. Fans will recognize everything and non-fans will vaguely recognize everything and presumably send them all home happy. That's the route taken by Call Me Kirk: The Ultimate Trek, a one-man show by Michael Schaldemose. Schaldemose worked on One Man Star Wars, which took the "ripoff" ideas and twisted it: turning it into a line by line (with snide asides) reproduction. For that to work, however, a huge portion of the fanbase needs to know the existing property by heart. How long into Star Trek III do you think the average Joe could start rattling off the plot? I think they'd pretty much fizzle after "they search...for that Spock guy...". Instead, Call Me Kirk does the pastiche route, stealing huge chunks of plots/scenes from "Elaan of Troyius", "The Trouble With Tribbles", and "Journey to Babel" and a few extra plots/scenes from "A Taste of Armageddon", "Arena", "Space Seed", and "The Wrath of Khan". At various points he breaks from just reciting lines from episodes of the TV show and breaks into Shatner-inspired musical parodies.

The musical breaks are the best part, for two reasons: one, they let Schaldemose do his William Shatner impersonation with full gusto and not trying to play him off other characters. Secondly, and this cannot be stressed enough, they are new creations that don't involve actual Trek fans being sixteen steps ahead of the script. That's why the prose sections are so much weaker: they are the fringe theatre equivalent of Data at the beginning of "Elementary, My Dear Data" where he's just recreating all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries verbatim from the books. Kirk is going to fall in love with Elaan after touching her tear, he's going to use the command codes to beat Khan, he's going to fake being well enough to command the Enterprise so Spock can go into surgury to save his father, and Scott is going to fight Klingons after they call the legendary starship a garbage scow. You'd think the plot is going to bore hardcore fans but keep the masses happy, but they ultimately do neither. Call Me Kirk is stuck between a rock and a hard place due to their format, and they stumble across a "musical revue" escape route that they only tentatively step forward through. Having a few token plots ripped from the show that lead into musical theatre Star Trek parodies could have worked great. Unfortunately, the music parodies only occur twice and just remind you that you came to the show wanting to have fun.

The Shatner impersonating can only take you so far, and while it's entirely likely that you can crib his musical career for this more than his acting career, we're instead watching Schaldemose-as-Kirk talk about the horrors of nuclear war. In 2016. Rehashing slightly modified lines from the 60's TV show is a nice bit of nostalgia, and the script does a decent enough job of tying them into a single overarching plot (albeit one where plot threads appear and then vanish again without much fanfare), but essentially we're watching a partial one-man recreation of catchphrases. It literally ends with a re-telling of Shatner's "I Am Canadian" rant, driving home that we're watching the Star Trek equivalent of an Elvis impersonator. Also, as a brief aside we already "saw" Sulu take the Kobayashi Maru simulation, and he never even entered the neutral zone...

If you're looking for a rough "rating", let's call this equivalent to the episode "The Mark of Gideon". Not as bad as it could have been with a few good Shatner-ish moments, but hardly worth your time to watch.

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