“George Vere has been working on The Starship Osiris on and off for five years,” according to the programme, a sheet of folded A5 paper, roughly torn on one side, upon which the name of the writer / director / producer / lyricist / principal actor appears ten times; he is also the only one of the six performers to have his photograph featured in the programme, just above his biography and a message wishing him “all the best” in his new venture, presumably written by himself.
The director having a tantrum at his actors even before the show starts, it is initially unclear whether the altercation witnessed by the uncomfortable audience squeezed into the confines of the Underbelly Med Quad’s Clover room is part of the show or not, but as The Starship Oriris continues its voyage it becomes apparent that this ongoing argument is the entirety of the show.
Formerly part of Chatham’s Amateur Dramatic Society, the emphasis firmly on the amateur, The Starship Osiris has been produced under the banner Willis & Vere (website under construction) although that name does not appear on the programme, the sole credit for Aiden Willis being ship’s engineer Evans, principal target of the ongoing wrath of both director Vere and his alter ego Captain Richard Harrison.
In order to be successful, a satire or spoof has to be as smart as the original or find something new to say about the subject; fifty years after first broadcast, Star Trek is one of the most analysed and emulated television phenomena of all time and has been lampooned at the highest level, from Saturday Night Live to The Wonder Years to South Park, even to a previous musical performed at the Fringe almost twenty years ago, Pardon Me Is This Planet Taken?
Crucially, with every scene built around denigrating Evans and no plot to speak of, nothing during the hour long show is actually remotely funny, the only unintentional laugh being when Vere removes his goggles and throws them offstage, accidentally hitting another member of the cast. Even if it could be that the show is aimed at children – which the unnecessary profanity makes unlikely – it would not be remotely satisfying.
With a chorus of sycophantic miniskirted crew (the “starettes,” Roxie, Trixie and Lexie, Molly Bird, Lauren Aquarius Nordholm and Jo McGarry, ironically the best thing in the show) fawning over the captain and singing his praises at every turn, the parallel between Vere and William Shatner is that both possess an astonishing inability to step back and see their own egos, which in the case of Vere fully eclipses any awareness of his absolute lack of talent as writer, director, lyricist or actor.
Like the dreadful Game of Thrones spoof musical of the 2014 Fringe season Winter is Coming, bickering actors dropping out of character is simply not entertaining in and of itself, the reliance on it an indication of how little the show has to offer despite the vast spectrum of source material. If this truly has been a work in progress for five years it can only be presumed that four and a half of them were Vere’s friends begging him not to go ahead, but prancing around stage in upsettingly tight ski pants it must be concluded that he has an uncontrollable fetish for public humiliation.