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All Good Things - A Farewell to Shield of Tomorrow

So one of my favourite shows is coming to an end, not taken in the recent wave of cancellations but just as unexpected. Geek & Sundry's Star Trek RPG, Shield of Tomorrow (SoT) will come to a close 13th July 2018. I'm excited for what might rise in its place but the end of a show has never hit me this hard, in a way I was lucky Firefly came and went before I even knew it existed but I imagine it would have felt like this. SoT is/was another show that captures that sense of "found family" and I'm just glad that the cast are staying together so that we can hold onto that through their future adventures.

I touched on the quality of this show during my original review (Niche: Treat Your Geek Issue 20) but since that early impression, Shield of Tomorrow has gone from strength to strength and has a much more organic rhythm than the early days that were broken up occasional rule checks. SoT is now much more polished than it started but still with the same core values.

SoT represented something different and rare. For a while running alongside Star Trek Discover it was easy to see how the RPG show took a different approach to updating Trek. Discovery threw their crew into the middle of a war while the Sally Ride set out to science. Whereas DISCO looked at how scientists are drawn into war and even changed by it, SoT took the more optimistic track, the senior crew and the even Star Fleet admiralty did not want to turn a ship of exploration into a warship, an expression of hope and of preserving something worth fighting for. Some RPG fans may have been put off by the vanishingly rare combat but feats of engineering and innovation in the face of the unknown made excellent stand ins as action beats. Everything has been held together by some strong roleplay and compelling relatable characters. These characters, the improv, this story and this show quickly connected with me, even more than the DnD superstars of Critical Role (often held up as a gold standard of RP and story).

It was the sense of hope and wonder that really hooked me in to this series and those are the exact qualities I feel embody the spirit of Trek in a way that recent productions have been unable to capture. I haven't had this kind of a connection to Star Trek at any point in the current millennium and I didn't realise how much I missed it.

Being able to escape to this universe for a few hours each week took me back to a safe and optimistic niche of my childhood. Shield of Tomorrow offers a view of the future wrapped in a naive nostalgia, or is that a nostalgic naivete? To be fair that naivety is much more of a hope of how we can be better, which may be an even greater comfort.

Way back when, being a fan of Star Trek was not so easy, believe it or not there was a time when Geek was not at all chic. Standing by a passion that most others ridicule seemed to make it even more precious. Luckily I grew up not to take a gatekeeper sensibility but to celebrate any time someone else showed the same passion. Finding a show that shared that outlook and didn't try to hide the nerdiness behind shiny lights or big explosions felt like coming home... and that was before I even discovered the community.

I wasn't able to find the time to make the most of the Aux Crew Discord but knowing there was a group of people having the time of their life roleplaying all the “redshirts” and extras was fascinating. I've not seen many communities come together like that and in a way that ties directly into the show! However once the show moved to a more UK friendly time spot I discovered the Alpha chat, a room full of marvellous humans, random internet folk that were happy to see me or at the very least never failed to offer pleasant greetings. I've discovered other people that get my random references (A quirk you may know from my past reviews -There's no way anyone has found them all, yes that's a challenge!), people that also remember shows like Sliders, SeaQuest DSV or Space Precinct. Rare people. Even stranger was the day that the show was cut short due to health issues, and even before we had an explanation there was not one complaint! This was on the internet! Some people had stayed up 'til 2am in their timezone to watch and they weren't mad. There weren't event mumbles of disappointment just repeated statements of understanding and patience followed by a torrent of “take cares” and “get well soons”. Bonus points for being the only stream chat I've ever seen with its own pillow fort/body pillow and cream soda dispensary.

That online community becomes pretty important when you're sat recovering from powerfully intimate acting and emotional twists at 3am when you kinda need sleep but you're brain is still catching trying to process everything before it winds down. Most of what I have said so far is just SoT being SoT, a lot of positive qualities that any viewers can benefit from but occasionally the cast take things a step further and I find specific scenes that mean everything to me, as if someone snuck in personal messages just for me and I'm sure other viewers have the same reaction. For instance I have discovered that I seem to handle emotion like a Vulcan and social encounters like an adopted Bajoran Ensign. It's rare that I see traditional TV shows handle these kind of themes in such a respectful and in-depth manner. .... I'll never understand how an unscripted show can manage to balance excitement, drama and humour so well without the intricate planning and millions of dollars that go into movies and TV shows that still fail to achieve that balance.

The show became popular enough early on that it even spawned its own after-show talk show, presented by Sam de Leve in all their out-of-character glory. It's been a great way to relive episodes midweek and get some insight into events of the latest show. I'm going to particularly miss the "Local news from our galaxy" segment as I/the world could really do with a science news show with such passionate hosts.

Ok, so I'm aware the RPG format isn't for everybody but as the series is now going up on YouTube, it's free and easy to check out, although I recommend getting to the end of the episode "I remember" before making a final decision. There have been episodes since that have blown my mind, perfectly orchestrated 2.5 hour slices of TV, (I've lost count of the times I thought "that was the best episode yet!") but "I Remember" was the first one to earn a place on my list of top episodes of Star Trek ever.

I can't sign off without mentioning the fantastic guests and spectacular one shots, including a Dr Who crossover and a Galaxy Quest-like rules-lite RPG called Lasers and Feelings.

It has been an emotional journey with twists and turns that not even the cast saw coming and I feel massively privileged for being a part of it. I'll be sad to see the Star Trek theme dropped when the cast return but spending more time with Aliza Pearl, Amy Dallen, Bonnie Gordon, Gina DeVivo, Hector Navarro, Sam de Leve and their roleplaying abilities led by Eric Campbell's insanely good multi-stranded story telling as he leads them into a brand new custom world that I cant wait to discover.

All that's left is to say thank you to everyone involved, Live Long and Drink Cream Soda

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