Pacific 201 is a brand new Star Trek universe fan-made production. We’ve had several major hitters over the last couple of years including Star Trek: Renegades and, of course, Star Trek: Axanar. Pacific 201 takes place in the 2200s, forty years after the end of the Romulan War, the war we would have seen in season five of Star Trek: Enterprise. On August 21st, they launched their Kickstarter. To learn more about it, I was lucky enough to be able to interview Eric Henry, the man behind the Pacific 201 project.
Me: Hello, Eric. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today. First, let’s talk about you. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with Star Trek, and film.
Star Trek has always been a big part of my life. My father, who had the privilege of growing up with the original series, did a great job of introducing my siblings and I to Star Trek with episodes and movies on tape. I don’t think we had all that many episodes, to be honest, but we watched them to death. There was a pretty healthy mix of TOS, TNG, and I think we had The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, as well. Voyager was on the air by the time I was old enough to remember watching television, and we watched that every week too.
As far as my involvement with film goes, a lot of that is thanks to my father as well, who worked as a video photographer during most of my formative years. This meant that I was in near-constant contact with filmmaking equipment, and naturally, making movies became a staple of my childhood. It’s probably pretty safe to say that I made a movie a year from the time I was 6 to the time I was 18. By the time I entered college, I wanted to “up my game,” as it were. Finding myself with a film-savvy roommate, we set out to make something a little more professional, and we ended up producing a Kickstarter-funded short film called “Lily” two years later. Pacific 201 will be my biggest project to date, but it’s a natural step for me.
Me: Obviously, the big topic of discussion is your new project, Pacific 201, which is a new fan-film set in the Star Trek universe. Can you tell us a bit, for those that don’t know, about the film, when it takes place, and maybe the overall premise?
Pacific 201 is a story about how humanity copes with the aftermath of its first interstellar war – a war that shattered dreams for a lot of people. Even the founding of the Federation wasn’t quite enough to keep humanity from questioning its role in the quadrant. “Is exploring the stars really worth it if death and destruction are all we get from it?” We have to remember that since the launching of the NX-01, Earth suffered two major interstellar crises with the Xindi and the Romulans. It hasn’t all been peace and hope. The mission of the Pacific is a new generation of humanity proving to itself that the dream of peace and prosperity in the final frontier CAN be realized. It took humanity 40 years to regain it’s footing, but the launch of the Pacific is the true dawn of the kind of Starfleet and the kind of Federation we see in TOS.
Me: So, in short, your film, Pacific 201, takes place about forty years after the end of the Romulan War and the ship, Pacific 201, is the first real deep space exploration ship since the end of the war?
We imagine that Starfleet was doing SOME exploration between the Romulan War and the launch of the Pacific, but it’s definitely one of the last things on their mind. Border security, reestablishing trade routes, and other tasks associated with rebuilding after a costly war consumes much of Starfleet’s time and resources. Not to mention that probing into deep space is a sore subject for humanity after the war. Poking our nose into the unknown hasn’t done humanity much good, after all. Or – that’s the way it seems. But as a new generation comes of age, that attitude is diminishing.
Me: Why did you pick this particular time period for your film?
When the story first dawned on me, it was actually something more concurrent with Kirk’s time. Perhaps slightly before the beginning of TOS – like the year 2260. But as I thought more about the story, I wanted there to be a really big deal about a new deep-space exploration vessel, and that didn’t really make sense coexisting with a ship like the NCC-1701. So I then considered a pre-ENT story, and while exploring that time interested me, I thought the speeds were too slow to get the ship anywhere really meaningful and new. There’s too much hand-holding in that era. I then realized that the period after the Romulan War would be jam-packed with all sorts of really tangible attitudes and situations that an audience could relate to. It’s not just a point on a timeline, but it’s a period of time that would have characters with real opinions and histories. People who had lost parents in the war, people distrustful of the unknown, people yearning for a new era of peace. It offers a whole spectrum of rich storytelling opportunities.
Me: Did other fan-film projects like Star Trek: Continues or Axanar play a part in why you chose this time period or story?
The story I chose has much more to do with movies like Apollo 13 and submarine movies than anything. Star Trek owes a lot to submarine combat, and that series developed in the Apollo-era of space travel, so I always thought it would be awesome to see a Star Trek movie that had the same nuts-and-bolts, practical, and realistic feeling of a real-world historical film.
Me: So, I’ve seen a lot of the art and images posted online of the ship and uniforms. As is the case with previous Star Trek, the ship is basically its own character and something that gets a lot of screen time, especially in the Original Series-era films. Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for the ship design? Why did you place the nacelles above the saucer section and not attached directly to the secondary haul as is typical in Trek ship designs? Can you tell us anything about the ship’s specifications (i.e. crew size, warp speed capability, weapons, science stations, etc.)? Can it land?
The ship is definitely a character in this film. After all, the movie is named after the ship itself. The design for the ship stems directly out of a naval vessel. Star Trek is so deeply-rooted in maritime tradition, and I wanted to respect that. Furthermore, to go with the storytelling style, it was important that the ship looked like something we might actually build in the future. The original Enterprise always struck me as a design that looks like it HAS to look that way. Sure, it’s an awesome design, but when you really think about it, it’s so weird and unconventional that it actually lends to its credibility. Starships won’t be designed to look “cool”. Instead, they’ll look like they’re designed with a function in mind, and the Pacific meets that requirement, I think.
The nacelle placement is actually pretty inspired by the Constellation-class starship that we see in TNG. That design always looked to me to make the most practical sense of any ship in Starfleet, and since a practical design was foremost in my mind, I definitely lifted inspiration from that. The secondary hull on the Pacific is pretty much everything BUT the warp core – torpedoes, navigational deflector, shuttle bay, etc. I call it the “mission pod,” because I imagine it can be swapped out for different pods depending on the ship’s mission. The engineering section is actually located in the primary hull, and has a horizontal warp core like Archer’s NX-01.
The Pacific is actually a pretty small ship in terms of volume, and has a crew of only about 120 people. Considering her size, she’s only moderately armed. The Pacific isn’t a battleship, but between four phaser cannons and four photon torpedo tubes, she does still have teeth. The Pacific also has 20 small bays that feasibly hold weapons, such as atomic missiles (which we assume were used during the Romulan War when there wasn’t enough antimatter to go around for torpedoes).
Me: Alright, well, I’m very excited to see this ship in action. I, personally, think it’s a very beautiful design. Let’s talk about the uniforms. They seem to be a nice evolution from the Star Trek: Enterprise era naval style but include the basic color scheme used in the Original Series. How did you end up with this uniform design?
The uniforms take a very blatant page from British “No. 3” navy uniforms. One particular variant of that uniform includes a pullover sweater as part of the uniform, and we thought “ah, this actually kind of links to TOS,” because in the pilot episodes especially, the uniforms are, for all intents and purposes, pullovers. They even have the ribbed collar that the British No. 3 sweaters have. So we thought that was a fun way to link the real world to the Star Trek world.
Me: As the Kickstarter, which we’ll talk about shortly, notes, you have stainless steel badges on the uniforms. Did you see these as an earlier version of the insignia badges in later Trek or were you trying for something completely different?
The badges on our uniforms are honestly closer to “something completely different” than anything else. There was no specific Starfleet badge in ENT, and in TOS, the badges on the uniform are something more akin to assignment patches. Since the uniforms in Pacific 201 already will include an assignment patch, the badge is actually something kind of new. In the context of the Pacific 201 world, it doubles as a personal data card (something that actually has precedent in TOS). You can read all about that in an article on the Pacific 201 website.
Me: I mentioned the Kickstarter, so we should probably dive into that. Your campaign was launched on August 21st with a goal of $20,000. Why did you decide to go with crowd funding and why did you choose Kickstarter over other options like Indiegogo?
Kickstarter was a really natural choice for this movie. I had already used Kickstarter once before for Lily, and I really like that site’s model. I didn’t want to switch platforms between projects since Kickstarter already worked really well in the past, and we had something of a track record there.
Me: Now, whenever a Kickstarter is talked about, someone always manages to claim that the money asked for is never necessary. Why did you choose to provide such a detailed breakdown right out of the gate? Your campaign specifically breaks things down into three categories and then those get broken down even deeper. Was this something you wanted to do from the get-go?
This is something that Axanar really impressed me with. They released a very, very detailed breakdown of costs that inspired a lot of confidence, and I felt that was something we should emulate with the Pacific 201 Kickstarter. Our breakdown isn’t super-specific, since we haven’t made every last decision as to what models of camera and lenses we’ll need to buy, but we thought that getting as specific as possible was something we really wanted to do.
Me: Let’s talk about the perks. You’ve got a lot of digital perks plus a few physical ones. How did you determine what perks would be available?
Something we wanted to do with the perks was to offer things that were really relevant to the actual project – things we’ll actually see in the movie. So the patches, the badges, and the pins were really obvious choices, since we’ll actually see those on-screen, and it’s always fun to hold something like that in your hands. The technical manual, too, was something that we thought would be really cool, since it will go into a lot of detail about things we’ve thought up for the story and the universe, but won’t have time to show on-screen. It’ll be really cool supplemental material that should enrich the experience overall.
Me: One thing I noticed is that the film is only available in digital form. Have you thought about or do you have plans to release a physical DVD or Blu-Ray down the road? If not, why not?
Producing a DVD or a Blu-Ray is a huge amount of work that is actually somewhat disproportionate to the interest for it. Lots of fans are content with just streaming the movie on Youtube, after all. Given the work involved, it seemed like something that we didn’t want to offer as a perk on the Kickstarter – at least as anything but a standalone perk, which can confuse users, and that’s something we didn’t really want to do. However, we’re really not ignoring those who have asked questions about a DVD or a Blu-Ray. Our viewers who also want a DVD or a Blu-Ray can look forward to future plans, where we might end up offering a physical copy of the film as a standalone perk through Paypal donations after the Kickstarter. It depends on the interest.
Me: One perk, that I’m very excited about personally, is the limited $500 level which actually gets the person a speaking role in a scene of the film. That’s very cool. Are you excited about this perk? Was it something you thought would be fun or more necessary?
That particular perk is something that’s not really necessary, but definitely a fun way to involve our fans. We have a lot of roles in our script that are just one, two, or three lines, and since a Kickstarter is all about co-creation, it seemed natural to get fans in on a piece of the action.
Me: Can you give us any details about that role?
We have a few different roles that we have in mind for the $500 level, and the specific roles that donors at that level will get will probably vary on schedule availability, and who fits the costumes we have. We can’t really reveal the specific roles at the moment… but it’s safe to say that somebody might get to play a Romulan!
Me: Another interesting perk is the Technical Manual. What kinds of things do you expect to end up in this book? Are you basing off of the previous official Technical Manuals say from The Next Generation?
The technical manual is definitely inspired by the Next Generation technical manual, and it’s going to include a wide variety of details that aren’t just limited to details about the ship. We’re going to include sections on the relevant in-universe history surrounding Pacific 201, as well as details on specific technologies and maybe even some character bios.
Me: The Kickstarter ends on September 20th, at 11:59PM EST. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the campaign before we move on?
Just that sharing and spreading the word is as important as actual contributions. Getting the word out will help this project succeed!
Me: Okay, let’s talk special effects. The ship renderings look great, as do the props shown in your Kickstarter video. How are you handling the special effects? Are you trying for practical effects with models or do you have some visual effects people working on it?
Currently, I’m handling a large portion of the special effects myself, but we are looking to expand the team, since not only is there a very high standard for the visuals in this movie, but there are some effects-heavy scenes in our script that will need talented contributing artists.
Me: Are you looking to have the bridge and other interior sets physically built or will some of that be CGI?
Our interior sets will be physically built. We have a really cool and intuitive plan to build our set in an almost entirely modular way, which will let us build dozens of sets at a greatly reduced cost by mixing and matching elements to create new spaces. I think people will really like our sets, which we’ll start building in force after a successful Kickstarter.
Me: Finally, let’s talk about future plans. If the Kickstarter is funded successfully and you’re able to make the Pacific 201 film, do you have hopes or plans for future films or a web series or are you anticipating this as a one-shot film?
Pacific 201 is a self-contained story, and there are no plans to create sequels or a web series. But who knows? I do have a really cool story in mind for a Romulan War miniseries… but if that ever happened, it’d be far off on the horizon.
Me: Is there anything else you’d like to add or mention about the project, yourself, your team or anything at all?
Just that we hope you all love what we’re doing as much as we do, and we can’t wait to show you a really excellent final product.
This has really been great. Thanks again for joining us, Eric. We’re very excited to see the final project and boldly go with you and your crew. To find out more about Pacific 201 check them out at the locations below and don’t forget to stop by and contribute to their Kickstarter before September 20th.
So there you have it, Pacific 201 aims to be a story about exploration, about moving beyond the Romulan War while fitting into the overall timeline of the Star Trek franchise. To learn more about the project, please check out the links below:
What do you think of the latest Star Trek Kickstarter? Are you going to back the campaign? What do you like about what they’ve shown so far? Comment below!