B-Movie Inspirations: Star Quest
B-Movie Inspirations is a series of articles I write where I watch really bad movies and draw RPG inspiration from them.
Welcome back to another edition of B-Movie Inspirations. This time we are covering another sci-fi classic found on Tubi called Star Quest (also known as Terminal Voyage, 1995). I am pretty sure I have seen this movie on a Blockbuster shelf at one time but passed it up because of the cheesy name. The cover was unremarkable, the tag line was generic, I could not just make myself pay to see it. But now with the wonders of streaming some movies for free, I was able to watch it. I was not surprised that the movie over all was predictable and relatively cheesy but it also makes for an interesting idea for an RPG.
The movie opens to a very familiar scene of people waking up in sleep pods on a ship in space. The ship right away looks familiar and after some research, found that it was re-used model shots from Battle Beyond the Stars. Aboard the ship are seven multi-national crewmembers – Commander Hollis (Gregory McKinney) the American XO, Lt. Jammad the Arabian Officer (Alan Rachins), Becker the Brit and Government Mediator (Emma Sams), Reese the American Tough Guy (Steve Bauer), Zinovitz the Russian Engineer (Brenda Bakke), Granier the French Scientist and Botanist (Cliff De Young), and Han the Asian Doctor (Ming-Na Wen).
The group had been asleep a long time in route to some far off planet – 100 years it is later said. Much more of that is revealed later in a cliched background – Earth is headed to environmental disaster and they decide to send a sleeper ship to travel 200 light years to another possible replacement planet – Tryon. The group awakens from this sleep to find their captain dead – a mysterious pod malfunction. This puts Hollins in charge and Jammad second in command. Jammad is not well liked and this does cause some grumblings among the crew.
The movie proceeds like the plot of 10 Little Indians, but for only seven. First suspicion is thrown around about the captain dying, then the commander is found hanging from the ceiling from apparent suicide. This brings in new information as people read through the reports that the commander was browsing before his death – Earth is dead, after a big nuclear war.
This brings up an interesting point that I had to watch twice to catch. This crew was in hyper-sleep for a long period of time – 100 years or so. So to make sure their loved ones see them again, the loved ones are also in hibernation on Earth until they see each other again – perhaps as part of a second sleeper ship. In a sleeper ship situation, I think it would be more prudent to send the first mission full of unconnected people to avoid this kind of thing but that’s just me.
So the crew assumes all the hibernating family members are dead and all is lost. Humanity’s fate is left in their hands. Of course, the implication is that the commander found this all out and broke under the pressure. Following this, Jammad takes over with everyone suspecting him in the death of the commander. More individuals stories are told either through events on board or events in the holodeck-like VR rig they have on the ship. Han is a drug addict upset she left her husband and kids back on Earth. Zinovitz is an paranoid and angry Russian with a tragic past. Reese has a underground background that involved car chases with authorities but it is never elaborated on.
The next victim to mysteriously die is Jammad, connected to the VR. The plot thickens as Becker takes over command out of the blue. This creates further tension as most don’t trust the government agent. The four hatch a plan to take Backer into custody and take over the ship. This leads to the most predicable part of the movie.
Perhaps Emma Samms played her too stiff but I figured out that she was an android from the start. Her motivation to kill the crew was not quite clear but it was generally clichéd – all humans are flawed. There is a short fight between the four remaining crew and the obviously superior android. However, they are able to disable her and take her apart, interrogating her head while her other parts lay strewn about. However they did not plan on her remotely controlling her arm while they interrogated her, which in turn triggered the ship’s self destruct.
Realizing the escape pod can only take two – what kind of planning is that!? – Han already in a drugged-out stupor and Granier volunteer to stay behind. Nothing in the plot gave you the idea that these two would decide to stay (except maybe the drug use in Han) but that seemed out of the blue. If they wanted them to die, they could have died in the fight with the android. Zinovitz and Reese enter the escape pod only to reveal the final twist that was sort of predictable in out own way but still surprising the movie went there.
It turns out they never left the planet and were in a simulation the entire time. The ship was a fabrication with a bunker that appeared to be deep below the surface.
Obviously the simulation went on too long as people died. The couple finds their way out and find out quickly why people did not stop the simulation in time to save lives – the world in fact was destroyed by Nuclear War.
For production value, the movie overall is pretty poor but not as bad as some. They reused special effects from other movies – namely Battle Beyond the Stars – and the sets were mediocre at best. At least it appeared somewhat like a space ship in places. They had a conference room, the sleeper pod room, a control room and some hallways. It wasn’t bad but they did appear to clearly made of wood. Typical low-budget 90s direct to video movie. The story was clichéd and mostly predictable but worth at least a casual watch to get some ideas. Alone, I don’t think I would have written about this movie but since there was a sequel that (unintentionally) added some depth to it, I decided to write about it.
This is a fairly straight forward RPG one-shot. People wake up from a long hibernation – it could be a magically induced hibernation in a fantasy setting, on board a sailing vessel in strange waters or another dimensional plane. You could even take it a step further and do like what they did in Dark Matter, where the crew has no memory of who they are.
The 10 Little Indians are a tough thing to attempt but can be done if you let players play more than one character. When one dies, they can take over another. Give each character a motivation, agenda and secret and let the players role play the entire story. The GM doesn’t really have to do much with a good group except interrupt occasionally to murder one of them.
The murderer could be the wolf in sheep’s clothing type story they presented here or something more. One can establish conflicts between the nations represented here and perhaps one sent an agent on a suicide mission. Or a radical terrorist group infiltrated the group to prevent finding a new world for humanity. The possibilities are endless.