There are certain people in fan films who are, for want of a better word, prolific. They seem to pop up nearly everywhere in multiple fan productions. Sometimes they play a minor role or background character. And occasionally, they play major characters in one or more fan films or series.
VICTORIA AVALON is definitely one of these prolific people!
About a year and a half ago, I featured a Zoom interview with Victoria along with GARY DAVIS and RAANDY WRENN of the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, where Victoria has played their Chief Medical Officer Maurine Farrell for many years. Later this year, she will take over as the commanding officer of that starship, replacing Gary’s character of Captain Jason Brusseau, as Gary transitions to more behind-the-scenes tasks on Dominion.
But for the longest time, I had been wanting to interview Victoria about her OTHER gig as a commanding officer: portraying Captain Siân Gabriel of the STARSHIP DEIMOS, one of the multiple ongoing fan projects produced by one of POTEMKIN PICTURES‘ many creative groups. (You can view all of their hundred-plus releases here.).
Unfortunately, as they say: “every time God opens a window, He closes a door…” (or something like that). And so it came to pass that Victoria is departing Deimos with the release of their latest release “Siren’s Song”…
I asked both Victoria and Potemkin showrunner RANDY LANDERS what led to Victoria and her character leaving Starship Deimos, but neither wished to discuss the matter, and I didn’t want to pry.
According to Randy, Victoria’s Captain Gabriel will be replaced in the center seat by TUCK STEVENS, who previously played the chief engineer, Commander Timothy Harper. I’ll have more information from Randy about the cast changes when Deimos releases its next episode later this year.
But right now, since this is my final opportunity to interview Victoria about her time with Potemkin Pictures and Starship Deimos, let’s do just that…
JONATHAN – By way of introduction, what would the one-screen LCARS display say about Victoria Avalon?
VICTORIA – I’m originally from southern West Virginia. I currently live in central Florida. I’m an attorney; I went to Stetson Law School. I’ve been married for 27 years, and my husband has two children, both grown. They live in Kentucky.
JONATHAN – And what first drew you to Star Trek as a fan?
VICTORIA – I have been a Trek fan since the original series. I can remember getting in trouble in 1969 for sneaking out of bed and hiding behind the couch when the third season was on Friday nights at 10pm. I grew up with it in syndication and used to get up early on Saturdays to see the animated series when it was on.
JONATHAN – That sounds like me, too! So I looked you up on IMDB…did you know that you’ve appeared in THIRTY-TWO different fan films including this latest one???
VICTORIA – Good Lord, I had no idea I’d been involved in that many productions! I don’t keep track. I have so much fun doing them; I do them for the experiences, to travel and meet other fans and creative minds.
JONATHAN – And how did you first get involved with Star Trek fan films?
VICTORIA – I became involved in fan productions in 2012 with Farragut Films. I had watched them since the original, unfinished (at the time) STARSHIP EXETER and the first NEW VOYAGES/PHASE II episode. I later watched the STARSHIP FARRAGUT production “For Want of a Nail,” found their FF website, and sent an email volunteering to help build sets.
I didn’t think I’d hear back, but fifteen minutes later, JOHN BROUGHTON himself called me! I helped build the Kingsland sets that are now called NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS. I was both cast and crew on the last three Starship Farragut productions and have been asked to reprise my character, Yvette Dupree, an enlisted chief, in their upcoming FARRAGUT FORWARD… and my part of that episode films this summer.
JONATHAN – What other fan series have you been a part of?
VICTORIA -I was camera crew in two episodes of STAR TREK CONTINUES, served as a screenwriter and cast member in Starship Deimos, helped launch the spinoff series QAB’ELTH, wrote an episode of BATTLECRUISER KUPOK, and appeared as Maurine Farrell in both EXCALIBUR LOGS and Dreadnought Dominion. I also had a guest appearance in Eric Moran’s series TREK: ISOLATION in its pilot where I ran the transporter console when Commander Gerico beamed off the starship Farragut to start his adventure. Additionally, I was assistant director for JOHN SIMS’ unpublished EXETER TREK, and I have heard that he recovered that footage, so there is hope we may see it one day!
JONATHAN – That’d be most awesome! So what led to you first getting involved with Potemkin Pictures? Obviously, it was a bit of a schlep to get there from Florida (and it got even farther away when Randy Landers moved from Birmingham, AL to Lexington, KY!).
VICTORIA – I became involved with Potemkin Pictures in 2015, when Randy moved from Georgia to Alabama. He was casting two new ships and looking for cast members. I’d been a fan of his since the first series, PROJECT: POTEMKIN, went up; I love JEFF GREEN’s Captain Alec Grigory. Randy and I met up at a Farragut Fest in 2014, one thing led to another, and he cast me as Siân Gabriel. I was the ship’s engineer.
I loved the travel. I love high performance cars and enjoy long drives. The trips to Alabama and later, Kentucky, were very enjoyable.
JONATHAN – You’ve written 15 out of 21 episodes of Starship Deimos. How did you first begin writing episodes, and what was the writing process like for a typical episode?
VICTORIA – I began writing early on and actually had a hand in editing every one of the Deimos episodes through “Siren’s Song,” even the ones I didn’t write myself. Randy liked my writing and encouraged me to submit my own scripts. The first one I wrote myself was the second episode, “Aftermath.”
Many of the ideas I used were trial balloons I’d outlined for other series that ultimately were not produced for one reason or another—some that my husband and I came up with together, some that occurred while listening to music or reading old science fiction stories.
Once I became comfortable with Randy’s short format shows and had an idea, I could churn out a rough draft in a week or two. In one case, however, “Butterfly Effect,” that one went from spitballing between Randy and me to shooting in just four days! I worked very closely with Randy in that process. He is a gifted writer, editor, and creative mind. He could take a rough draft I wrote and massage it into an even better story. Rarely did I disagree with his edits.
In production, we often made changes on the fly depending on which cast members were able to be there. We rewrote “Refugee” on set that morning when one of our guest stars couldn’t make it due to illness. And in post-production, I was one of several producers that collaborated on suggestions for final edits.
Randy has gathered people from all over the world for his productions, and I enjoyed working with all of them.
JONATHAN – Overall, were you satisfied with the way your scripts transformed into finished fan films? Or were there things that you wish had been done differently?
VICTORIA – I thought all of the scripts I wrote for Potemkin Pictures came out very well. We did some really ambitious things for a production with few resources, but we gave it a lot of heart, I thought.
JONATHAN – What did you do as a writer and actress to make Engineer, and later Captain, Siân Gabriel unique and interesting as a character?
VICTORIA – Siân Gabriel has a deep backstory, most of which we never really got into. I wanted her to be a complete character, because I feel that what makes good Trek is good characters and the interactions between them. I used a Received Pronunciation English accent for her because I wanted her to be different, and I’d done a French one for Yvette Dupree.
She started out as an old friend of Jeremy Quinn’s, the original captain marvelously played by TERRY SELF, and Terry and I had that brother/sister kind of chemistry early on, I thought. I never really got to know TONY ANDERSON, who played Captain Mark Stone in one episode, and “Where They Have Gone, We Follow” originally was intended as the episode where Gabriel and Stone come to terms and begin a relationship where he knows he can trust her, like Quinn did. Tony left, though, so we had to rewrite it shortly before shooting, and Randy decided then to make Gabriel the new captain.
Siân Gabriel never wanted the job of starship captain. After Quinn left, she wanted to leave, as well. She never got over her divorce from David Gabriel, and in “Refugee,” an underlying theme we didn’t get filmed was that David felt the same. She wanted to go back to Alpha Centauri and teach. She initially stayed out of duty, and over time came to love ship and crew. Erik Drogo and Phil Duffy were a big part of that. They and Dr. Drake were her inner circle and the ones she trusted.
She’s flawed, her sense of duty overwhelms her, and she has an almost Kirk-like disregard for regulations if they get in the way of what she thinks is right. The destruction of the freighter in “The Solomon Gamble,” which I did not write but is one of my favorite episodes, weighs on her conscience greatly. The Klingons hold her in very high regard indeed over that. I suspect that her departure will be under some sort of cloud, likely stemming from the events of “The Refugee.” By then, she likely was seen by the service as a loose cannon or a magnet for trouble. She’d destroyed a Federation freighter, become a hero of the Klingon Empire, traveled through time, caused at least one major diplomatic incident, and violated the one general order carrying the death penalty. I suspect she’s back at the university on Centaurus, now…perhaps with David. I hope Randy sees fit to retire her that way.
JONATHAN – Speaking of which, and I know you’ve chosen not to share any specifics about your departure from the series, but do you have any final thoughts and/or feelings about your years with Potemkin Pictures?
VICTORIA – I respect greatly all the people with whom I worked, and I enjoyed creating unique and wonderful stories for Potemkin Pictures. I want to emphasize in the strongest possible terms that I hold no ill will for anyone involved in that organization. They’re great folks who make productions with heart. The cast of all the productions are wonderful people, and I still consider the ones I’ve worked directly with to be friends…as are the producers and technical folks involved.
And Randy doesn’t get the recognition or the credit he deserves for the stories he tells Over 200 actors and actresses, plus crew, audio, musicians, and special effects people from all over the world have taken part in his productions. His contributions to the genre are more than significant. He ought to be considered one of the godfathers of the art form, and his work ought to win many more awards than it has done.
JONATHAN – Excellently said, Victoria. So would you consider coming back to reprise the role of Siân Gabriel some time in the future?
VICTORIA – That would be up to Randy. He has re-cast the role of Deimos’ captain, and I wish my successor all the best, and I hope that whoever it is enjoys that role as much as I did. I’d certainly be open to discussing the idea of Siân Gabriel appearing in the Potemkin Pictures universe again in some way or another. She’s a Cochrane Award-winning Ph.D. in transwarp dynamics, after all; I’m sure we could come up with something interesting for her to do. For my part, it would depend on the circumstances and the story they’re trying to tell. It is a very expensive hobby when traveling long distances, and I would not do it for a bit part or a story I didn’t believe in.
JONATHAN – Fair enough. Moving from Deimos to Dominion (alphabetically, I suppose!), how do these two captain characters you’ve portrayed differ?
VICTORIA – Maurine Farrell is a very different woman than Siân Gabriel was, and a much greater acting challenge for me to take on. She’s a medical doctor from the great state of West Virginia on Earth, an old-fashioned country doctor specializing in emergency medicine who is so much a Luddite that she still wears an analog wristwatch to take pulse and respirations, because she insists on a human touch for her patients. She’d be equally at home as a country general practitioner or in an urban emergency room. She served as chief medical officer on two starships and a starbase. Now she’s in command of a starship, and not just any starship…a Federation-class dreadnought. She’s impressed someone at headquarters…to be entrusted with that kind of responsibility for her first independent command.
JONATHAN – It’s a big step moving from being a supporting actor on Dreadnought Dominion to playing the captain of the series. What are you doing to prepare for that demanding role?
VICTORIA – The character of Maurine Farrell has been a part of Gary Davis’ head canon since he was a kid in junior high school. It is a privilege for which I do not have words to describe to bring her to life for him. You only get an honor like that once or twice in an acting career. That is a blessing. Gary Davis and Randy Wrenn are outstanding to work with. They tell excellent stories. “We Are Many” still is one of my favorite appearances in any fan film because I just loved that story—it is classic second-season TOS stuff all the way.
I’m really looking forward to making Maurine Farrell a distinct captain in fan fiction, one of whom the fans will approve and want to learn more about. And I plan to draw on some of my own personal history to do that. I’m a department head in a mid-sized government law office, and I’m trying to remember how I felt when I went from the trial units to my current job as a supervisor eleven years ago. She can’t be the same grouchy country doctor she has been until now. When you’re the boss, if you have a bad day, everyone has a bad day. When you’re the top of the food chain, too, it’s worse. She can’t ever let them see her sweat, no matter how bad things get.
I think you’ll see a quieter, more determined woman, but her doctor’s compassion is going to manifest itself too. She’s not a soldier, but she’s in command of the biggest stick in the sector. How is she going to meld those competing facets of her life? As we saw in “We Are Many,” and “The More Things Change,” life is precious to her. How’s she going to feel when she has to take life? She’s certainly passed the command action test that looks for that ability, but to do it for real goes against her most basic instincts. I’m thinking about those things.
I won’t be writing; Randy Wrenn is our storyteller, and I will need to adapt my view of Maurine’s personality to RW’s vision and his and Gary’s direction. They have a vision of the story they want to tell, and I want to bring it to life.
JONATHAN – And finally, if you could be in any other fan film or series that is currently active, which one(s) would it be?
VICTORIA – GABE KOERNER is planning his own fan film, and I have seen the script. I want to read for one of the characters. He seems like he’d be so much fun to shoot something with. Also, I’d love a guest shot in the AVALON UNIVERSE. I’ve worked with JOSH IRWIN before, and he is a gifted storyteller and cinematographer. I have never worked with NICK COOK, but I’d love the chance. I watched INTREPID and ODYSSEY. I’d work with anyone once!