A Throwback Styled Space Mission

Bruce Von Stiers

Oregonda: Star Force Galactic Command is a sci-fi drama film that was envisioned as a throwback to the days of the original Star Trek. The film uses a kernel or two from shows like Firefly and Stargate SG-1 as well to flesh out a story of alien bad guys and galactic heroes.

The film is an independent project from Leanne Johnson and Eric Shook. To give the film an authentic throwback feel, it was shot using vintage camera lenses, having a slightly gritter, less polished appearance than today's sci-fi films. With a small budget and trying to keep things tight, Johnson and Shook wore multiple hats for the film. They did the cinematography, editing, sound and visual effects and most of the filming was done in one location. They also starred in the film. The film is being distributed through Shook's company, the Westfield Entertainment Group.

“Earth is at war with a ruthless enemy known as the Draconian.” That line comes across the screen as the film begins. The command ship Nastron is enroute to the Draconian border. General Wallace is giving a set of orders to his subordinates for a secret and dangerous mission. Then the film moves to Major Hughes and Captain Collins are having a conversation in a hallway in the ship. He tells her about the mission they have been directed to begin. She says the ship's not ready; it still needs repairs. But Hughes says that the General insists that they undertake the mission. It seems that the Draconians may have built a biological weapons station. So, this will be a recon mission to see if there is a weapons station. Collins disagrees but she'll follow orders. But she really doesn't trust the mission or even Hughes for that matter.

Thus starts the mission that could get Collins and Hughes killed and their ship, Oregonda, destroyed. The ship's chief engineer must put finishing touches on basic repairs to get everything up and running. Then they're off to find that weapons station. This is a covert mission, so if they get caught, they're on their own. As most of the crew is not available, only Hughes and Collins undertake the mission. Not only doesn't Collins really trust the mission, she's a bit put off by the fact that Hughes is in charge of it, not her.

My first take upon watching the film was that it seemed more ‘50's sci-fi than later decades. That is mostly due to the special effects and film sets. I learned that a lot of the props had been gathered over the years and utilized with mostly hand built sets. And with a pretty much nonexistent budget, it looks like they did the best they could for special effects and film sets with what funds and limited materials were available to them.

The film relies a lot on the interactions between Collins and Hughes as they fly towards the planet where the supposed weapons station is. At times the interaction is slightly adversarial, but mostly it is friendly. And could there be a bit more? Perhaps a tiny bit of past romantic feelings between the two of them?

There is a scene early in the film where another ship is asking for assistance. But because of the current mission, Collins declines to help. Jonathan Martin plays Liam Callaway, the captain of the disabled ship.

Leanne Johnson plays the ship's captain, Leila Collins. Leanne has played Batgirl in a Batman fan film, starred in the drama Chasing Rabbits and has been in several feature and short films. Eric Shook is Major Remus Hughes. Shook was the director of the sci-fi adventure thrillers Empire of Danger and Lost On Mars.

After landing on a planet after a particularly nasty space storm, Collins goes exploring. She finds a place where they can hold up for a while. Then things get a bit tricky. She gets captured and things go downhill from there. Soran is the evil ruler of the planet that interrogates and tortures Collins. But that doesn't get him anywhere. But you know how evil rulers are, they keep pushing. Collins escapes her jail cell and later encounters an alien little girl who pleads for her help while on the run from Soran's men.

But will Collins be able to re-connect with Hughes and get off the planet? What about that weapons station? Will they be able to get it's coordinates back to command? Or will they be able to take matters into their own hands and destroy it like Collins wanted? Those questions and more are answered by the end of the film.

Jeff Angel plays Soran. Angel has played a sheriff, a police detective and various other roles across several film genres. The little alien girl, Davya, is played by Jonni Shandor. She is a young actor who has already co-starred in films with horror icons Lynn Lowery and Dawna Lee Heising. Kevin Wallace is General MacBain. Sonja Wallace is Captain Sarah Nikolovski, who is just in the beginning of the film, as was Dannon Everett, who played the ship's engineer Lieutenant Will Martin. Kristi Rose is the ship computer voice. Known for her musical talents, Kristi hangs out with the EP3s, a band fronted by her husband, Sean Rose.

One aspect of the film that I really liked was the musical score. The score was done by Shook and Brianna Tam. A cellist, Tam has gotten quite a following, especially for using her bare feet on foot controls for her electric cello. She has composed scores for a couple of other films and did a great cello cover of theme song for The Last of Us.

The planet that the ship lands on supposedly has terrain like the Earth. Outdoor scenes reflect this as Collins is chased through woods and hides among rock formations at a stream. Locations in Indiana and Illinois were used for the film.

The film has a run time of an hour and twenty-three minutes.

Oregonda was an interesting film. That it was a low budget film was quite evident in the film sets and the special effects used. But the story was fairly solid. A secret space recon mission where the second in command distrusts not only the orders but the man in charge? What could possibly go wrong there?

Even though there is a hint of romance between Collins and Hughes, nothing develops on-screen. The violence is kept to a minimum and there is no profanity. Nor is there any nudity or too revealed body parts. So, that should make it viewable by the entire family, from children to adults.

As for the acting, some of the dialog from the minor characters seem a little stiff. And the Soran character could have sounded more menacing. The little girl's pleading for Collins to help her was well done. Although Hughes was supposed to be this follow-the-rules guy whose focus is the mission, I would have liked to have seen a little more emotion in his dialog. Where the film really shines is the acting of Leanne Johnson. From the emotions heard in her conversations to her facial expressions to her physical actions, Johnson makes her character believable and very likable. She presents a strong female presence for the film.

Oregonda is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime.

Oregonda has a Facebook page if you'd like to check out additional information about the film. That page is https://www.facebook.com/oregondamovie

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© 2023 Bruce E Von Stiers