Steam Trek: The Moving Picture

In space, no one can hear you

This lost silent movie from the 1890s is set in the far-off future year of 1980, with the USS Isambard taking the place of the Enterprise. A popular film on the Sci-fi and Star Trek convention circuit, it was only recently posted to YouTube. Here is how it came about:
The Making of Steam Trek

Steam Trek was made in 1994 by the Ad Hoc Film Society, an offshoot of the 'Endeavour' Star Trek fan club founded by, among others, writer Jim Swallow and future president of the UK Mars Society, Bo Maxwell.
The idea for what became Steam Trek was first pitched at a meeting at the National Film Theatre by Ashley Levy, who read out a story outline entitled 'Star Trek - The Silent Generation'. The group loved the idea - I liked it so much I asked to direct it - and I joined forces with Ashley to complete the script. After much discussion we agreed to shoot the film on Super-8 rather than video. Although this would be more expensive, we hoped there would be few out-takes, since there would be no lines to fluff!
Cinematographer Liz Tuckett suggested Billaricay Common as a location - it was suitably wild-looking but conveniently close to London.
Each of the cast managed their own costumes, while I constructed the props and painted the backdrops. The coal sack came from the London Underground mail room where I was working at the time. We converged on the Quaker Meeting House at Billaricay Common on Friday July 2nd, and dragged ourselves out of our sleeping bags at 6am to begin filming. The weather was hot and sunny all weekend, and the recent dry weather had yellowed the grass on the common, which made it read well on film.

Filming went smoothly despite the sun taking its toll on one or two people, and we were finished by 3pm on Sunday. Only two shots needed a second take, and many of the visual gags were thought up by the cast and crew on the spot.
I spent the next few days shooting the titles and the scenes of the "USS Isambard" on an improvised rostrum at my flat.
A few weeks later, Tom Paterson and I took the video transfer to Karen McCreedy's flat in Crystal Palace, where we spent the weekend on the music. Both our technical equipment and musical skills were very limited (Karen could play the piano but ideally needed rehearsal time we didn't have) - to compensate, we managed to get some acceptable tunes by having Karen play the melody while Tom or I played the bass line at the same time.

We premiered the film at Archon, the biggest Star Trek convention of the year, which took place at a hotel at Heathrow Airport in August 1994. (A memorable line-up of guests included Dave prowse, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Stewart and Arthur C Clarke), and it did the rounds of conventions for a while afterwards.
This version was 17 minutes long - 7 minutes longer than the YouTube version - partly because the video transfer had mistakenly been done at 18 frames per second instead of 24, thus losing the silent-movie-style speeding-up effect.
We recouped the production costs (about 100) by selling VHS copies of the film.
For years since then, I planned to make a tightened up edit of the film, at the correct speed, using computer editing technology that wasn't available in 1994, but life gets in the way of such things and I didn't get around to it until April of this year.

Posted by Dennis Sisterson at

The Cast names and photo

Cast & crew photo and names

From YouTube description:
"Classic sci-fi as it might have been done 100 years ago by George Melies. This version cut to fit YouTube restrictions" full version is on website at (click Next button)
Star Trek first aired in 1967, the first pilot episode having been shelved in 1966 ("The Cage" was later used in a 2-part episode, the only two-parter in the series). It was on the Desilu lot next to Mission Impossible, and Leonard Nimoy would later join the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) when Star Trek was cancelled. Though he co-wrote/produced a marginally successful sci-fi series in recent years, William Shatner would not star in another sci-fi series, though he did play himself (as Capt. Kirk) in a cameo on the tv series Mork & Mindy. Other than Star Trek movies, the only cast members of the original series that have continued sci-fi careers are Chekov (playing a new character in Babylon 5) and Majel Barrett (playing recurring characters on "Deep Space 9" and "Earth: Final Conflict," unless you count James Doohan's cameos as Scotty on the Tonight Show and "Homeboys From Outer Space" (an ill-advised 4th-network sitcom). CBS had commissioned the first Star Trek pilot, then didn't buy it (prefering Lost In Space instead), but Desilu Studios had just lost My Favorite Martian when it wasn't renewed and was willing to take a chance on another scifi-fantasy series, along with NBC.

There have been a lot of Star Trek spoofs and pseudo-documentaries over the years, but the best I've seen doesn't even have Star Trek in the title. It's called Galaxy Quest (1999) and is now out on DVD and videotape: Peaceful aliens being menaced by a powerful conqueror see episodes of a 20-year old science fiction series and beam up the actors onto a real version of their tv starship. It takes them awhile to get used to the idea, but the captain (Tim Allen)'s inventive use of magnetic mines against the much bigger and more powerful foe is right out of Captain Kirk's play-it-by-ear-and-hope-it-works rulebook. And you won't even recognize Sigourney Weaver at first (she says she prefers comedy to the intense movies like the four Alien movies). By the way, if you're looking for a way to introduce science fiction to your kids, check out Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. It's even better than the two computer-generated Toy Story movies that the character is lifted from.
Click here if you think Tim Allen is the best actor there's ever been since the beginning of time

Hey! Didja think that "Generations" (the 7th Star Trek movie) was the best one in the series? Me neither. Here's the official Generations review, including comments from that guy stuck in space with two robots on Mystery Science Theater 3000

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Can you name two Star Trek movies directed by Nimoy? Or the one about Spock's brother? Or what went wrong with the first man to come back from Venus? These and other questions are answered on MonsterVision host segments for Cold Hands, Warm Heart / I, Robot, the Outer Limits episodes that starred William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy

After Star Trek went off the air, Gene Roddenberry tried some other ideas as movie/pilots including The Questor Tapes (1974, an android sent to save Earth from itself) and two pilot/movies about a post-apocalyptic Earth called "Genesis II" (1973, starring Alex Cord of Airwolf) and "Planet Earth" (1974, starring John Saxon of Enter The Dragon), then the horror/suspense SPECTRE (1977, starring Robert Culp and an evil druid spirit)

Too weird? Well, did you know that in the late 1950s, Gene was head writer for the western series "Have Gun Will Travel"? At least 2 episodes were later redone as S.T. episodes: Monster of Moon Ridge became Devil In The Dark, and his version of Shakespeare's Helen Of Troy/Taming Of The Shrew became a Calamity Jane episode, then ST episode Elaan Of Troyius

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Note: after some delays, the ashes of James Doohan (Scotty) are scheduled for lift-off on April 28, 2007, in New Mexico. The remains of 200 people will be aboard the rocket including Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, at a cost of $495 each.

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