Is the ‘Voyage Trekkers’ YouTube Series the ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ of Space? [INTERVIEW]


Nathan Blackwell, series creator of “Voyage Trekkers” hit NMR up after we did a positive review of the web series “Versus Valerie.” He said his fledgling show, which just entered its second season, is small, but that it is basically a version of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” in space. That’s big talk, and I respect moxie, so I decided to take a look. Also, of course, we like to give props to the lil’ fish in the YouTube pond and showcase up-and-comers.

Well, I’ve watched a few episodes now and the first thing I note is that Blackwell should probably stop making that “It’s Always Sunny…” comparison. It creates a standard that “Voyage Trekkers” can’t possibly live up to — “VT” is profane in the way 8-year-olds are profane — there’s nothing genuinely shocking or foul that I’ve seen so far, unlike “IASiP” which has plenty of both. That being said, episode 1 of season 2 ends on a series high note for me, and I admit I will tune in to episode 2 to see if they can lure me in further. The series has also stepped up its production values from season 1 to season 2 and the proof is in the video.

“We’re so excited to show everyone season 2,” says Blackwell. “From the bridge set, to scoring the season premiere with a fifty-nine-piece orchestra, we’ve tried to raise the bar on what people expect from independent sci-fi web series.”

I want this series to succeed — I like the premise enough, and the lead actor has a handsome, not-unlike Chris Pine of “Star Trek,” look to him that makes him likeable enough. Plus, Blackwell seems so earnest you have to root for him. But give me filthier humor — much filthier — if this series is going to work. For me, it basically needs to be a bunch of clueless, inept, chauvinists blasting through space in a giant hard-on, dropping innuendos. Think less “everything else on ‘Saturday Night Live’” and more “Astronaut Jones” — then you should be true intergalactic YouTube stars.

How did “Voyage Trekkers” come about in the first place?

Nathan: First of all, let me say that season 1 and season 2 were definitely made under different circumstances. When we first started out we never planned for it to become a series; we only wanted to make something fun in a genre we were chomping at the bit to do — sci-fi comedy. Only after that first weekend did we realize we were hooked by the project and that it had the potential to be something more. So it was a gradual process and we developed it as we went along, right in front of our audience. For the second season we decided to go all in and really deliver a show that was as solid and realized as possible, both on a story level and production value as well.

What makes it the most amazingly awesome show (that nobody is watching)?

The humor is extremely irreverent; we push the comedy into outlandish areas, but ultimately it’s all about the characters. You learn to love them, but they really are the worst people you’d ever want commanding a starship. We don’t tread the same ground that a lot of sci-fi parodies have already worn out (we don’t do bad Scottish accents), but we wanted to take familiar settings and situations and spin them into areas that were uniquely comical and ridiculous. It’s a lot like the show “Archer” or if you gave the cast of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” a starship.

What is your background in YouTube and show production?

I’ve been making movies since I was 11 and so I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, but I fell into web series in a very organic fashion. When you make a short film, at first it gets a lot of attention; you tour around with it to film festivals, but in the end it was just a single story and interest fades off. When we started making web series there was an immediate and addictive connection to the audience. And as we put out more episodes, we were able to maintain and grow that fanbase, which was extremely gratifying. Also, you just don’t get to develop characters or a fictional world with a short film, which always left me malnourished as a storyteller.

But making web series was never a business decision … I don’t think sane people make web series. If anything the world of new media is filled with those wonderfully insane people who just have to tell stories or they’re going to shrivel up and die.

How difficult is it for independent shows to find their footing in today’s new media landscape?

Because the tools of filmmaking are so accessible now, and that anyone can make something and put it online, there’s now millions of channels instead of hundreds. Finishing your project is no longer the greatest hurdle you have to face as a filmmaker anymore, but it’s distinguishing yourself (from the) ever-growing sea of videos and shows out there. So in this age of new media, you often find yourself working even harder and wearing even more hats just to get your show seen. nd then some cat video gets a million views in a day and makes you want to kill yourself.

Can you give us a few juicy tidbits for what to expect about the season ahead?

We really wanted to raise the bar on what people expect from a low-budget sci-fi series. We scored the first episode of season two with a 59-piece orchestra, we have a beautiful CGI ship now, and we built a physical bridge set for the crew. All with a ridiculously low budget. Expect to see laser sword duels, a sexual harassment training simulator, and a huge ship-to-ship battle in the season finale.

Who wins in a fight-to-the-death duel between your cast and the cast of “Versus Valerie”?

Ha ha. Well, we really like “Versus Valerie”; they’ve already reached out to us and been very supportive of the show. But on a purely strategic level … we’re American, so we naturally have better weapons … but they’re Canadian so they have superior health care. But our bacon is way better — I think we can all agree on that. Our main disadvantage, though, is that our characters are really their own worst enemies. They’ll do themselves in without any help.

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