One of the questions I always get is “How did Axanar get started?”
Well, Garth of Izar has always been a character that fascinated me. When you watch “Whom Gods Destroy”, the third season TOS episode where actor Steve Inhat portrays the former Starfleet fleet captain, you see two scenes where we see Garth as he once was before becoming insane. One scene is when he and Kirk face off in the colony transporter room. The other is the final scene when Garth has been given the medicine and starts to come out of his illness. In both those scenes you see incredible nobility in this character.
I always wanted to know what Garth was like. Why was he Kirk’s hero? What was the time like where Garth was a captain and what was the Battle of Axanar?
So I wrote my first Garth story 20 years ago. It was horrid, but I still have my hand written story. I started on it again about 10 years ago. But it wasn’t until I started collecting screen used props & costumes from Star Trek and started Propworx that things changed. In 2010 I bought the original costume Steve Inhat wore as Garth. It was one of my holy grails, and I was incredibly excited to get it. I happened to be talking about costumes one day with James Cawley, of Star Trek, Phase II and I mentioned the costume. We discussed how great a character Garth was and how it was a shame that they had never explored the character more.
Then James said “Well, you know we are shooting an episode called ‘Origins’ which is about Kirk at the Academy and that was the time of Garth. We should add him into the script.” And I said “You should!” to which James said “Well, you should come play him!”. So I did, and you can see that clip below. While at lunch with James one day during the shoot, I told him of my story and he said I should produce it. And that started me on a journey, that is now, 3 1/2 years later in 2014, finally seeing a culmination.
The first step in that journey, was writing a treatment. I got through the first 3 acts of that treatment, which take you up to the actual battle, and I sent it to Marco Palmieri, who had just left Pocket Books where he had served as editor of all the Star Trek books. Marco was a Facebook friend and I introduced myself and told him about Axanar and he agreed to read the treatment. His feedback was amazing. Most importantly he felt Garth actually needed more of a story arc. Marco felt that the best Star Trek pilots where ‘The Cage’ and DS9’s ‘Emissary’ because they have great arcs for their captains. In each, the captain is struggling with their career and their choices and the story propels them to explore that struggle. I immediately realized I had to explore Garth further.
I then signed up for a screenwriting class with the godfather of Hollywood screenwriting coaches, Robert McKee. I am a pretty good writer, but I knew nothing about writing a screenplay. Well 4 days with Robert McKee and you learn a lot. I had already read his classic book “Story!” and so the seminar, which was the suggestion of Star Trek: Phase II’s Doctor McCoy, John Kelley, really expanded my understanding of writing for the screen.
And I was off. I got the first three acts done in about 6 months, and then it took me a good year to get Act 4 done. During this time I got to be friends with Dave Galanter who has written a number of Star Trek books for Pocket Books. He worked as my story editor and helped me immensely. Act 4 took a long time as it was a real struggle what to do with the battle. I simply didn’t want it to be like anything we had seen before. The biggest battles we had seen in Star Trek are in Deep Space Nine in the war with the Dominion, and frankly they are pretty weak. Just lots and lots of ships beating each other up and punching through shields as if they weren’t there. UGH. So I started researching space combat online and by reading the first three of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels. Those were really good and helped me envision a different type of Space Combat.
During this time I approached my friend Christian Gossett about directing.
I then tackled Act 4 and I have to say, I was pretty satisfied when I finished. The story is epic in scope, deals with new characters who were fresh and interesting, and Christian loved it. We were off to the races…
NEXT TIME: Casting, Production and Money