By Carl Slaughter: Starship Swiftwind is a Star Trek animated fan produced series with an ambitious story arc. It has many of the aliens and empires familiar to Star Trek fans, but a new crew and a new ship. It takes themes and elements from all the television series. At the center of the story is the mysterious, rogue Section 31. CBS put a crimp in creator Caithlin Dar’s plans, but she still has plenty to offer fans.
CARL SLAUGHTER: Why Star Trek?
CAITHLIN DAR: It’s the best most realistic and optimistic sci fi series that set the bar for the rest of the genre
CS: Why Section 31?
CD: Well it’s a dichotomy that fascinates me. In the real world we would have such an organisation dedicated to protecting the Federation. So from a storytelling perspective I totally buy the concept. It’s also very cool as well as frightening to think people could have that much power and go undetected and unchallenged for centuries.
However I know that Gene Roddenberry would have fought tooth and nail to throw the idea out. There shouldn’t be a section 31 in Star Trek because it goes against what the Federation stands for. And if it really needs a clandestine black ops group of unlawful morally bankrupt sell outs, to prop up the ideals of a republic; one that should stand on its laurels, as a cooperative society of liberal freedoms, rights and embracement of diversity – then the Federation has no right to exist. It’s a facade. So as much as I think Gene would never have allowed it I also have to think how much more interesting it made the Star Trek universe. This is why I wanted to explore section 31 as a series.
CS: Why the Next Generation time period?
CD: I grew up with TNG which became my favourite show for the escapism and optimistic future it showed. I saw TOS as a child but I didn’t really understand it. I was 11 when TNG premiered and it helped me through a bad period of teenage bullying. I love the design of everything in that era and as DS9 progressed into a gritty side, it grabbed my imagination. The sci fi stories were amazing and I liked the characters. When DS9 started telling serial arc stories I fell in love with the series.
There’s so many fan films focusing on TOS and TMP era that I wanted to move the story forward past Nemesis.
CS: Why a new crew and a new ship, rather than a crew and ship from one of the TV series?
CD: To not be tied down with canon. The story I have developed is a 5-season arc and it would not have worked with established series. Also, I had designed the Swiftwind years ago and built a story around why it had 2 deflectors. Once that was established it needed its own crew.
CS: The series opens with Picard and Riker squaring off. Roddenberry was always opposed to conflict between Starfleet officers. So why have 2 fan favorite characters challenging each other with their fingers on the button?
CD: Well not all is at it seems. There was a HUGE clue in the opening text of the first episode that has gone over everyone’s head.
To have Picard and Captain Riker fight each other just for the sake of drama is absurd and an insult to the characters and viewers. The show slowly reveals what is the reason that could force these good friends and consummate professionals to go head to head in battle. One or possibly both may have been influenced and manipulated to extreme measures. Or maybe they’re totally rational and just believe different politics regarding the legality of the presidency. That is what’s exciting about this show, discovering what could bring them to the brink of starting a civil war.
CS: Besides Section 31 and the Founders, what other fan service is included in the plot? What is the theme of the series?
CD: I watched many fan films and there’s a lot of great stories. I feel that most of the series are carbon copies of TOS and try to recreate and capture the golden years. That’s cool- I wanted to make something that felt original, and thought outside the box to make it different but still Star Trek.
The theme of the show is a divided crew of loyal Starfleet and section 31 forced to serve together. Voyager promised us a show about a maquis crew at loggerheads with Starfleet, but before the first season had ended the crew were best buddies. That pissed me off. Why did they do that? It was like Gene had told them off from the grave and they wasted all those dramatic conflicted storylines. So Swiftwind will be showing the drama that was promised on Voyager.
Trapped in a different galaxy with no way to return how will these crews cope? Will one side domineer the other? Even mutiny? Keep watching.
Viewers will notice some TOS references and even bump into a couple of alien species seen in the series. I have a cool episode written which plays homage to TNG Yesterday’s Enterprise and see TOS characters. I do love TOS as much as TNG and that’s why I have included as much references as possible without making all about fan service.
CS: How does this theme play out with the characters?
CD: The characters are all intertwined in a balanced narrative that will continue the theme of loneliness stranded in another galaxy. Some will make friendships, some will think only of pursuing their own interests. As well as Starfleet and Section 31 we have a genius Ferengi thief, a mercenary Miradorn security chief and a Tholian infant who was used as a weapon of mass destruction. So it is all going to kick off royally at some point.
CS: How many episodes have you produced? How many episodes do you have planned?
CD: CBS has placed guidelines on fanfilms. So we can’t make the series as planned.
I had a 50-episode story arc over 5 seasons planned and I’ve written nearly half the scripts already. I am currently producing episodes 4-6. CBS said in an interview that episodes already in production would be ok.
Luckily by episode 6 the main theme of the series will be evident and I’d be happy if that was the last one we made as an animation fan film. Following on from that I am still considering releasing the rest as either a comic or an audio drama. The story arc comes full circle and I’ve invested years developing the story. It was a big blow when CBS released the guidelines.
CS: What kind of feedback have you gotten from the Star Trek community?
CD: I’ve got a lot of feedback on the story and it’s mostly positive. A lot of people like that it’s set in TNG era and continuing the story and tying in TNG, DS9 and Voyager.
Some negative which I appreciate also. A lot of people can’t believe the confrontation with Picard and Riker, but that was made intentionally to make you wonder and keep watching to reveal why they are doing it.
There is the occasional troll who doesn’t get that Star Trek is about a future of hope not just phaser fights and fleet battles.
CS: Anything else we need to know about the series?
It’s going to push boundaries. Discovery gave us the 1st gay characters in canon series. Kicking and screaming 50 years past its due date when you look at every other popular culture tv show has LGBT characters. Swiftwind will have the first transgender character as a main character. And it’s not just a tokenism to go with the zeitgeist. There’s a cool backstory to how section 31 have used this to their advantage. I’m trans myself so it felt right adding this and being able to put a realistic perspective to it. Especially when it’s set in a society that embraces diversity.
CS: Anything else we need to know about your Star Trek activity?
CD: I’ve made some other series cutting my teeth in animation using premade licensed star trek themes on Goanimate.com. There’s a TNG spoof, Revenge of the Turds and a TOS series called ST:Armada. On my YouTube channel startrekfananimated.