Compared to Star Trek: Phase II's replica sets, actors from the actual show and high production values, Hidden Frontier looks extremely low-budget. The majority of the show is shot in one room, with different backgrounds like the bridge or corridors of a ship, or alien ruins, green-screened in. This alone results in several problems through the entire run of the series. Many of the actors clearly aren't, and the writing in early episodes varies from downright atrocious to merely tolerable.
Hidden Frontier, however, is a testament to the results one can achieve through experience, determination, and above all, passion. Early on, the quality of the series begins making a radical shift. The actors get better at acting, the production team gets better at getting things on-screen, and the writing goes from episodic and silly to arc-driven with loads of genuine Character Development.
The main Story Arc is set in the Briar Patch introduced in Star Trek: Insurrection. Starfleet has established a presence in the area with Deep Space 12, a large space station built in orbit of Ba'ku. From here, exploration of the patch begins as much as it can with the inability of starships to travel at warp speed due to the environmental conditions. A new, enigmatic species that may be Precursors of some kind, the Gray, are revealed, with anything but peaceful intentions.
The show is also well-known for being the first live-action Star Trek production, unofficial though it may be, to feature gay characters.
Exploring the Hidden Frontier is a long journey with many twists and turns, culminating in an extended and appropriately epic series finale. The sequels, Odyssey and The Helena Chronicles, pick up shortly thereafter and take place concurrently with each other. They end in the shared finale Tossed Upon the Shore.
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This show provides examples of:
- Abusive Precursors: The Gray seem like this; one of the revelations in the finale is that the Gray are actually artificial lifeforms built by Siroc's people, who were the actual precursors and closer to Neglectful Precursors.
- Affably Evil: Most of the villains.
- Ancient Artifact: Tetrahedrons, Tetrahedron keys, the Dyson Sphere at the center of the Briar Patch, the Gray themselves.
- Action Girl: Captain Shelby, Counselor Elbry, Treya Knapp, Silan.
- Acting for Two: Sometimes for three, often well-hidden with make-up. Sometimes not so well hidden despite make-up.
- Batman Gambit: Siroc is always able to find the likely outcome to exploit. except at the very end when he doesn't count on the fact that Naros is willing to die to stop him.
- Beard of Sorrow: Matt McCabe starts sporting one after one of his best friends is listed MIA only for him to come back out of nowhere, but Brainwashed and Crazy as part of a successful plot to kidnap McCabe's other best friend. He really doesn't take it well.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Andrew Barret.
- Call-Back: Everywhere; one of the show's strengths is the use of canon elements that received little screen-time as solid parts of the series. Examples include:
- The Excelsior, which is a Galaxy-class refit like the future Enterprise-D glimpsed in the TNG finale.
- The Tholians as a main antagonist.
- A Horta Starfleet Lieutenant.
- Canon one-off characters Elizabeth Shelby and Robin Lefler are protagonists. Ro Nevin is Ro Laren's brother.
- In Odyssey, it turns out that the Archien gods are also the Bajoran Prophets.
- The Helena Chronicles focuses heavily on the Omega Molecule and has Ben Maxwell as an antagonist.
- Cerebus Syndrome: As the show's quality improves and it becomes arc-based, it seems much less outright silly as compared to earlier episodes, and there's a lot more dramatic tension.
- Cryptic Conversation: Tolian Naros is a master of this, being an El-Aurian. So is Siroc. When they're both in the same room together, other characters often just throw up their hands if not outright demand they talk normally.
- Dawson Casting: Inverted; many characters are younger than they should be for the positions they hold. The production ran with this instead of trying to pretend the young actors were older than they looked and justified it by way of the series starting as the Dominion War ends. Many young officers were fast-tracked to promotion due to the capable veterans dying.
- Doing It for the Art: Both the reason the show exists, and the reason it went on for over fifty episodes, not counting the sequels and spin-offs.
- Eye Scream: Caecus; his own mother rips his eyes out.
- Fighter, Mage, Thief: Invoked; when going against the Phoenix, the Helena's crew notes that they have no chance in a direct firefight because their opponent has been spec'ed out as a souped-up warship, while the Helena, tweaked by Naros, is more of a thief. Subverted when they try to use this to their advantage, only for Captain Maxwell to see it coming and maneuver well enough to nullify Helena's strengths as a 'thief.'
- First Girl Wins: Played with; the first girl Dao knew chronologically does not win. Note that Dao is a Trill symbiote with Jorian as its host, so Jorian himself didn't know her, but together, they're one person who effectively did. It seems like Jorian leaves Corey for her, but in the end, he actually doesn't want to have a relationship with her again; his relationship with Corey just didn't work out. Nevin is Corey's first guy, and they eventually get married.
- Foreshadowing: No one ever mentions it out loud, but the fact that Siroc doesn't match up to any species from Star Trek canon is not an accident.
- Heroic Sacrifice: A few, most notably Naros and later Heta'an.
- HeelFace Turn: General Morrigu. Caecus may also count, but he wasn't much of a villain before leaving Seram.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: Mostly done well. One noteworthy example is a datapad that is clearly an old Star Trek handheld LCD game; given that they have accurate-looking datapads elsewhere which must have been specially made because there was never a datapad toy on the shelf to begin with, this may have been a deliberate gag.
- Oh, Crap!: When Captain Maxwell orders his task force to destroy the space station Corey Aster has been kidnapped to so he can research Omega while under mind control, the gravimetric torpedoes necessary to safely destroy Omega bounce right off. Captain Maxwell executes a perfect Oh, Crap! as he slumps into his chair and remembers that the station, which he secretly knew about, has anti-gravimetric defenses that he'd completely forgotten.
- The Other Darrin: The show features several canon characters recast, as they obviously weren't going to get the original actors. More traditionally, Ro Nevin goes through three different actors and Tossed Upon the Shore suffers rather heavily from this.
- Parental Incest: Oh boy, Majang Seram and Caecus. He doesn't know and when he finds out, he loses it and delivers an epic Shut Up, Hannibal! when she tries to justify it. Unfortunately, she doesn't react well to rejection and decides to interpret his "I never want to see you again!" literally.
- Put on a Bus: Andrew Barret, and The Bus Came Back with some problems.
- Straight Gay: Ro Nevin, Jorian Zen, and Corey Aster. Jorian comes off as a little feminine, but he's nowhere near Camp Gay.
- Transparent Closet: Nevin.
- Wham Line:
Captain Naros: He has all the pieces...Captain Shelby: All the pieces to...what?Captain Naros: To end the universe as we know it!
- In The Center Cannot Hold when Naros learns that Siroc has Nevin in captivity as well as the location of the Gray's Dyson Sphere:
Captain Maxwell: This [order] says you're here because I recommended my ship's counselor for promotion. I didn't recommend him for anything. I didn't know I had a ship's counselor! How long have you been a member of Section 31?Heta'an: Almost as long as you, Sir.
- In The Helena Chronicles, Captain Maxwell looks like he's about to expose Heta'an as a member of Section 31: