Several Oklahomans board 'Starship Ajax'

Planned ‘Star Trek' fan film pays homage to Gene Roddenberry.
BY SANDI DAVIS Published: February 11, 2013

The United Federation of Planets' Saladin class starship, the USS Ajax, is on the same mission as its fellow, but better known starship, the Enterprise.

In a web series soon to start production, “Starship Ajax” will explore galaxies and conduct missions with its own crew on an Enterprise mirror-image bridge sitting snugly in an Oklahoma City warehouse.

They'd like you to come along.

The brainchild of Oklahoma City resident and executive producer John Hughes, the series is a love letter to “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry.

Hughes, director/producer Jim Bray, scriptwriters J.C. England and Tim Welchel, plus numerous others were at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City for a read-through of the pilot script, “Redemption,” plus a vignette that will set up the series, which right now is at least six vignettes and the episodes. The shows will be 40 to 45 minutes long.

The room was buzzing. Against one wall were photos of the Ajax, phaser pistols and the head and hands of a Gorn, an alien popular in an episode of the original “Star Trek” series and seen in Sheldon Cooper's nightmares in “The Big Bang Theory.”

Several people were working out technical glitches on a Skype connection with Jodi Ballenger-Bray from her home in Highgate Falls, Vt. She stars as Commander J.M. Colt.

Oklahoma City native England also stars as Capt. Charles Boone. While his real job is with the Oklahoma City Housing Commission, he wrote a procedural crime drama in 2009 that never made it to film.

When he met Hughes, Welchel and Boyd and heard about what they wanted to do, he asked if he could get involved. Since he had writing experience, he was handed script ideas.

When the finished script was polished and tweaked by all involved, they sent out a casting call and 40 people came to audition for parts in “Starship Ajax.”

Welchel, who has lived in Yukon since he was five, finished high school in South Korea before returning to Oklahoma City. He is studying and working at Oklahoma City Community College, where he met fellow college employee Hughes. They discovered a mutual love of “Star Trek” and Welchel heard about Hughes' dream of making a “Star Trek” fan film.

“I got hooked. I came up with a title, I added a line here and there,” Welchel said. “I'm working on an animation degree now.”

You can see him playing a crew member in the pilot and he is the video and sound supervisor.

Bray found out about the project in a message room on the Internet. He has worked in recreation departments and ran a haunted house for 10 years before moving to Florida, where he worked as a set designer for Disney, Universal Studios and the Smithsonian.

He headed up a theater group, Stage Door Productions, when the economy and his parents' failing health convinced him to move back to Vermont in 2007.

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