Star Trek Discovery is right around the corner! If you don’t know what it is you may have been hiding under a rock with a Gorn. In just about 60 days we will get to experience the next chapter of the Star Trek Universe and by all accounts it’s looking like it’s going to be one for the history books.
A great cast has been lined up, the story appears compelling, the art direction inspired, and the fan base is certainly very excited for it. It has been a long time since we’ve seen a new show and the JJ Verse movies while fun and entertaining has really hit the spot like only a TV show can.
I’m very excited about the main character Michael Burnham portrayed by the wonderfully talented Sonequa Martin-Green and everyone else that has been lined up for the show. Even though I’m not super hot on the new look for Klingons I feel I’ll get past that quite quickly and appreciate them quite a bit.
As a prop guy I am also very thrilled to see the new badges, communicators, and phasers showcased in the promo shorts and I’m really digging the general art direction of the show. The ship is growing on me more and more as it’s being refined and I can even appreciate their decision to add drama to the relationships between the characters on the main ship. In short: I am very excited about the new Star Trek show!
However… I am still having trouble reconciling CBS’ actions and positions in regards towards the Star Trek franchise and the fans in general. I strongly feel that Star Trek has survived over the decades because of the fans. The fans were the ones that revived it to begin with through petitions which launched the movie verse. Fans allowed TNG, DS9, and Voyager to run for 7 seasons each. Enterprise unfortunately withered after a short 4 seasons but we also have 13 movies to choose from. I read somewhere on the internet that there are a solid 546 hours of Star Trek and it would take 23 straight days to watch it all. That is a ton! More than any other franchise and I really do believe it would not have been possible without us fans.
But it’s not just the official stuff, the franchise also owes a nod to fan made content. Over the decades it was fans making short film in their basements, LARPing through forests, attending conventions through the ages all over the world, begging for merchandise and purchasing it and also building their own. Look, I’m not as naive as to suggest that CBS need consult with fans on direction and that certainly we don’t actually have rights to the franchise but I do believe CBS owes us the understanding that we are partners in this endeavor, not just consumers to be charged money.
Over the years there have been a couple of fan films that have broken the general mold and created something actually ‘worth’ the name Star Trek. I haven’t seen all of them myself, like Of Gods and Men, New Voyages (Phase II), or Renegades, but one I was really excited about was Axanar. I do understand why that last one in particular drew attention but I think CBS’ reaction was over the top. If anything, Axanar and all the other fan productions only wetted our appetite for canon Trek. CBS could have embraced them all and used them in the hype towards their show launch.
Ok but they don’t have to. Sure, they don’t, but they also didn’t have to go completely psycho overboard and virtually choke-hold future fan productions. I am talking about their guidelines for Star Trek fanfilms. These 10 commandments are ridiculous and seriously alienated all the fans who have through the ages kept the franchise alive and kicking and other fans waiting for the next canon show. Some of the rules are fine and appropriate, rules like #3, #7, #8, #9, #10, and even most of #6, but #1, #2, #4, and #5 are absurd and an insult and slap in the face to all fans. I’ll break these 4 down real quick.
#4 If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.
So if there is a commercially available uniform the fan production must use that product rather than make their own. Have you guy seen how much Anovos costumes cost? Especially with limitations on how much the production is allowed to raise, turning around and demanding that they spend top dollar on costumes and props is ridiculous and greedy.
#2 The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.
Really? That’s very nitpicky. Especially with rule #8 and #10 this again seems insulting.
#1 The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.
All the fan productions I listed above have created product that violate this rule and are popular with fans because they have taken the time to build a good story and develop it enough to make it interesting. What kind of story can you possibly tell in 15 minutes? Even with the second installment of 15 minutes for a total of 30 minutes fan films like Renegades and Phase 2 couldn’t survive under this rule.
#5 The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.
Why have fans swarmed to conventions for decades? Spent thousands of dollars traveling and attending them throughout the world? Meet like minded fans? Sure. But really to meet the actors and creators of Star Trek. If I may be so bold I will say that the highest honor a fan film can have is to feature a name from Star Trek in it, whether they are reprising the role they are known for or simply making another cameo. Of Gods and Men and Renegades in particular had good luck with this and several actors were able to also show their love and gratitude for their fans by helping in these fan films. This rule kills fan’s dreams, plain and simple.
Ok, rant almost over. I will watch Star Trek Discovery. I will continue to purchase official merchandise, and if I get the chance I will attend future conventions, however not because I am supporting CBS, but rather everyone else involved. Writers, directors, and actors of the shows, companies like Roddenberry, Anovos, Qmx, and McFarlane, and fans out there ‘making’ Trek.
I think we can send CBS a message too. I think we can tell them that we love Star Trek and we will support it but we also have limits and they need to remember that the fans have power too. If they push too hard we will push back. I will watch Star Trek Discovery, and I will subscribe to CBS All Access, and I will purchase its merchandise but I will not watch the premier on day one and this is what I challenge all of you to do too. Let’s give the premier record low numbers. Let’s show CBS that if they abuse the fans we can and will make their IP worthless. This friendship needs to go both ways.
After that, enjoy the show! Live long and prosper! Engage! You know they drill 🙂