Nichelle Nichols is about to retire from acting forever, but her final project will be a time-and-space-spanning adventure that will find her co-starring alongside a new actor, Loren Lott, playing her younger self. But, Lott is not playing a younger version of Nyota Uhura from Star Trek, but instead, a new sci-fi anti-hero called Ominara.
“What would Uhura’s character be like in the Mirror, Mirror universe?” Frank Zanca, producer of Renegades: Ominara tells Den of Geek. “Because Nichelle has Alzheimer’s and is retiring, we kind of wanted to do a send-off. Instead of Uhura, it’s Ominara, and she’s the captain of her own ship. She’s built herself into a pirate. And Nichelle is playing her older version, and she’s like the head of the underworld at that point in the future.”
Confused? Is Renegades: Ominara a Star Trek thing or what? The short answer is no. But it has its roots in a 2015 fan-film called Star Trek: Renegades, which, like the new film and its sequel, was directed by Voyager star Tim Russ. Prior to 2016, there was a proliferation of various Star Trek fan films and fan series, but, when one fan film, Axanar, got into legal trouble for raising 1.2 million dollars, an ugly lawsuit resulted.
Vocal defenders of Axanar and other now-defunct fan films, believe that CBS/Paramount objected to the fact that some of the fan films look “too professional.” Paramount/CBS basically said because of its size and scope, Axanar was violating copyright. In the end, Trek fan films were changed forever.
But, no matter where you personally fall on the issue (the Axanar situation was messy, even outside of the legal factors) the fact is, after 2016, the early 21st Century renaissance of star-studded Star Trek fan films became a thing of the past. In 2016, when CBS and Paramount changed the fan film guidelines, several productions famously (or infamously, like Axanar) were shut down. What that meant was that the cult-favorite fan film Star Trek: Renegades simply became “Renegades,” and all outright references to the Trek canon, subtly altered.
“While we were shooting the second one [Renegades: The Requiem] that’s when the whole Axanar thing blew up and CBS released the guidelines. We were literally in the middle of shooting and we had to shut down. We had to rework the script, Tim [Russ] had to lose the ears, Walter [Koenig] became ‘The Admiral,’ because we couldn’t say ‘Chekov’ or anything to that effect. So now, with us continuing it, we’re creating a whole new timeline that doesn’t have anything to do with the original Renegades.”
Currently, being funded by Kickstarter, Russ and Zanca see Ominira as a backdoor pilot to a possible new TV series and are hopeful that a network like The CW might be impressed enough with the talent and style to give the show a chance.
“Our show is a very different show. It’s a very different style than Star Trek. It’s more in the realm of Serenity, “ Tim Russ says. “I’d have to pitch it as a standalone. It’s very unique in its own way. It’s got a different setting. It’s got a different concept. I think it will hook people because it’s a standalone show. And right now there’s nothing quite like it on the air. It’s an original project, which, in my book, makes it worth checking it.”
The story of Ominara will focus on a world in which telepathy is fairly common, and Koenig’s character — Steiner — has a secret backdoor method of controlling minds. Zanca says this puts Koenig into a role more “similar to Babylon 5,” than anything he did on Star Trek. For those who may have forgotten, Walter Koenig played the PSI cop Bester in all five seasons of Babylon 5, proving, he was just as good a sci-fi baddie as he was on the Enterprise.
If fans want to see the final product Ominara, right now, its future is very much in question. Russ and Zanca note that at the moment, they don’t quite have enough Kickstarter money raised for post-production. But, Russ thinks that beyond the fact the show appeals to Star Trek fans, that it’s infinitely important for science fiction fans in general to support new stories, even if those stories were spun-out of fan films.
“I think original stories are the most important thing,” Russ says. “I like watching projects I haven’t seen before. That’s what it’s all about.”