Star Trek fan films have been around almost as long as Star Trek itself. We’ve had audio dramas, cgi and some series with more hours on screen than Enterprise or the original series. So why is everyone getting their underwear in a knot over……………………….
Taking inspiration from world building chatter in ‘the original series’ and a number of the expanded universe books of the time ‘Axanar’ tells the story of ‘the four years war’ between the Federation and Klingon Empire, most notably in regards to the planet of Axanar and one Garth of Izar who is most famous for helping start the proud tradition of anyone who outranks the main cast being a psychotic evil mad man.
It has some amazing looking special effects and a number of cast from past Star Trek productions including Soval, Martok and Apollo and has already out shone many with its twenty minute prelude. So why then have paramount had to rewrite the rule book and in the process possibly ruined fan films forever?
See the thing is that Paramount has always had a fairly good relation with fan films. Unlike Lucasfilm which for a long time had a rule of Star Wars fan films having to exclusively by parody or satire; no new stories here, the men and women behind Star Trek have let a lot of people simply do what they want. Since the eighties they have been pinching screen actors to reprise the roles and Paramount hasn’t said a word.
In fact the only time I can recall the lawyers stepping in was early in the run of ‘Star Trek: New Voyages‘. The premise, for those who don’t know, of ‘New Voyages’ was that while Kirk was planned to lead a five year mission he only got three; thus this series would pick up and carry on for the remaining two years telling all new episodes of Kirk, Spock and McCoy aboard the U.S.S Enterprise. Nobody had any problem with this, the only snag was that their opening titles contained the moniker “Star Trek created by Gene Rodenberry”. This was of course to add to the effect of this being a continuation of the original show. It was pointed out that while a nice touch they weren’t allowed to do that and soon it was changed to the more legal friendly inscription of “based upon Star Trek created by Gene Rodenberry”. That was it, in fact the relation between the studio and New Voyages was so good after this that when they wanted to rebuild a constitution class starship for the two-parter ‘In a mirror darkly’ they went to them for parts and James Cawley, the man behind ‘New Voyages’ was in turn given a walk on part in Star Trek ’09. Since then the fan film market has grown with a competing fan film Jim Kirk and Tuvok using the cover of fan film to pitch a new trek show to the studio. So why have they kicked off with Axanar?
Fans at this point will rally around the belief that Axanar is so much better than anything true Trek is putting out they’re ashamed and went it swept away. Now while Axanar is indeed better than much of what the big wigs can manage I’m not so convinced.
One of the selling points of Axanar was that it was going to do things right from day one. Thus when they first crowd funded the thing they put forth what they wanted. A full proper studio to shoot the thing on so that they too could have swaying bridges and multiple sets. Everyone said okay. Then Axanar pointed out that they couldn’t rent out a studio for the exact length of their Axanar shoot so they would go over to be on the safe side. Once more everyone said “that’s fine”. Rather than let it go to waste they would use said studio to start filming their own independent sci-fi movies they could sell to the public. This got a funny look or two but everyone agreed.To achieve a professional production they wanted a huge cast but also behind the scenes support from lighting down to catering and to get that many people to turn up day after day they would have to be drawing some kind of cheque even if it was only for petrol and expenses. They let it slide.
Then Axanar said they needed some more money, however this would be their umpteenth round of crowd funding and people were starting to grumble so instead they opened a shop where you could buy t-shirts and model kits. Model kits of clearly Federation ships, shirts with clearly Star Trek Logos and Paramount said that the line must be drawn here, this far and no further!
Add to the fact that they’ve already spent most of the money they’ve got due to renting the property and covering their arse without having actually filmed the movie yet. Kurn has jumped ship months ago with nary a word from the crew and the story floating round of them trying to actively pinch ‘Simon and Schuster’ writers with the idea that they could just use a fake name to get around stuff like the law.
See fan films are all well and good but just like your cheap fan fic you put up years ago you are always playing with some one else’s toys. You are playing with someone else’s business and once money starts to change hands people have to defend what is theirs. This is why, as much I want to see Axanar and highly recommend the thirty minute prelude……………….