Star Trek Legend David Gerrold expands again on his previous comments on the CBS lawsuit vs. Axanar.
Let me add this.
Seeing as how Axanar, the feature-length fan film has not yet been made, the lawsuit can only be seen as a preemptive strike.
It would not be too difficult for the producers of Axanar to make necessary changes to their costumes and sets and props and even their effects, nor would it be that hard to change the names of all the characters in their script. That is, everything that directly infringes on the Paramount/CBS copyrights could be eliminated — and Axanar could continue as an independent film, independent of Paramount and CBS.
Therefore the only claim that Paramount/CBS might have would be the short film that was released, PRELUDE TO AXANAR.
Renaming everything is an option to the producers of Axanar. I don’t know if it’s the best option, but it is one that could be done now–before the feature-length Axanar actually starts shooting.
Mostly, however, I think the whole thing is more of a public relations nightmare for everybody, and I hope that both sides (and their lawyers) can sit down at a conference table and just talk it out to see what best serves everyone — but most of all, what best respects Star Trek’s fans. Because if the outcome here is one that fandom in general dislikes, it will create additional damage to Paramount/CBS’ relationship with their audience.
Would there be a boycott and would such a boycott be effective?
Well, back in the days when Star Trek II was in production, one self-inflated fan, who believed he had built up a following among Trek fans, wrote a letter to the studio threatening that if he wasn’t given a part in the picture, his fans would boycott the film and the studio would lose millions of dollars. Harve Bennett almost hurt himself badly when he fell out of his chair laughing.
In more recent years, many fans of the original series have expressed their dislike of the Jar Jar Abrams version of Trek. Many of them have chosen not to see his films and many are saying they do not intend to see the third film either. Based on the evidence of the films’ gross earnings, it doesn’t look like that “boycott” has had much effect on the box office.
And that’s my point — even if Paramount/CBS trigger a fannish firestorm, they likely believe (and justifiably so) that any attempt at a boycott will have insignificant results. They likely believe (and justifiably so) that they can ride out a cycle of bad publicity.
Well, yes and no.
Some fans have wisely pointed out that the best publicity for Star Trek comes from Star Trek fandom. Fans share the trailers, they share the news, they share the excitement, they generate the buzz. If fans become disaffected, then Paramount and CBS lose one of their greatest assets — and that does hurt the box office grosses. Case in point? The ENDER’S GAME film took a hit because of Orson Scott Card’s publicly expressed anti-LGBT sentiments. How big a hit? Hard to say, but the bad buzz was significant enough that the filmmakers had to issue a disclaimer to Card’s remarks.
Back in the day, Star Trek’s greatest asset was Gene Roddenberry. Fans adored him. Ohell, everybody loved him. (At least until they had a chance to work for him, but that’s another story.) Gene attended conventions regularly and he was the great cheerleader. He was the Great Bird.
Since his death, Trek has not had many great cheerleaders. To some extent, Shatner and Nimoy and Patrick Stewart, and a few other cast members — but nobody represented Trek like Gene Roddenberry. And to the fan base, Gene represented the core of the vision. No one else has ever come close.
Without Gene, without someone who still holds the vision that Gene represented, Trek sometimes feels like a rudderless ship being pushed this way and that by the winds of change — a tall ship with a star, but no Captain to steer her by that star.
So the situation that needs to be addressed by Paramount and CBS isn’t simply resolving the question of Axanar and other fan films — it’s the larger question of rebuilding the audience’s trust that Star Trek is in good hands. The producers of various fan films have consistently demonstrated that they have a better grasp of the original vision of the show than some of the people who have been paid to reboot it or reinvent it.
Some people believe that Paramount and CBS don’t care about that original vision — that the reboots are an attempt to capture a newer, younger audience. From a shareholder’s view, that makes sense. From the fans’ view, it doesn’t — because it’s that original vision that created Star Trek fandom in the first place.
I’ve been to my share of Trek conventions. Nobody blows the roof off the building the same way William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy could. Nobody.
That should tell you something too.
There is a way to proceed that could be a win-win for everybody, but if it isn’t a win for the fans, then it isn’t a win at all.
David Gerrold (born January 24, 1944) is an American science fiction screenwriter and novelist known for his script for the popular original Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles“, for creating the Sleestak race on the TV series Land of the Lost, and for his novelette “The Martian Child“, which won both Hugo and Nebula awards, and was adapted into a 2007 film starring John Cusack.
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David, again, a good, rational dissertation on what constitutes the core of Trek.As I said for Pt2, they need to address this whole issue not just because it is effecting Axanar, but because it has become an issue with such impact and potential, it requires a whole new entertainment eco-system. With all the various mediums available, Trek has many outlets to be in, You Tube, Fan sites, CBS itself, as well as large scale productions such as Axanar. To that end, and part of this discussion, the “Roddenberry” replacement would seem to need to be someone CBS will accept at an executive level, as well as someone fans can work with and respect. That person will be able to help render the decisions and support all the media available as well as help direct whatever licensing system they evolve. They will need to have a cooperative licensing system with a good set of guidelines for all this to be win-win. Hope they are up to it, and they find the right person to “helm the ship” Trek has had to great a positive impact to let it die.
I treat the reboot Star Trek as the secondary time line, not saying that I dislike it though, it just feels….different.
Thank you again, David, for standing up between this conflict and show how this can be solved as a all-win case. Making profit is of course the reason why the movie are made; however, as a long term franchise, we should have a well thought foreseeing to overcome a short term benefit. It will ALWAYS turn out you have a much bigger profit when you choose just not to squeeze every cent out of the laying-gold-egg-goose. XD
I deeply hope CBS/Paramount could stop and see through the future of Star Trek; yes, the copyright is belong to you; however, Star Trek exist inside each of Trekkie and we love to see whatever that is related to Star Trek.
I have to again agree, brands need that central figure that everyone loves. Microsoft had Bill Gates. Apple had Steve Jobs. And now you have Elon Musk who is the figure of Space X and other companies.
But with Star Trek, there currently is no single person that can galvanize the fandom into a unified whole. Sir Patrick is well loved, but this generation knows him more as Professor Xavier or Deputy Bullock, not Captain Picard. And the new movie cast, I’m willing to bet (success or fail with Beyond) they will want to move away from Star Trek to pursuit different ventures. So that leaves the torch being handed off to the new Trek cast, whomever that is. But given it’s going to be internet-only access, I don’t have the confidence we will find that much-needed torch-bearer there.
Though while we are focusing on the cast, there might be someone who could rise as torch-bearer if they can not only galvanize the Trek Community, but could work with the Scientific community as well. That’s Trek’s strong point – it inspires.
That person could entice our scientific curiosity like Michio Kaku and Niel DeGrass Tyson, and be well loved (and everywhere), like Stan Lee. And know the heart of Star Trek, like Gene Roddenberry.
I agree any boycott of the film will be a near useless gesture. I think between Into Darkness and the new trailer, they have done enough damage themselves and the numbers will be down from last time. They will still make money on Beyond. However, angering a small but vocal segment of the film’s potential audience will not help generate forward momentum for the film either.
Where I think CBS will have more exposure is the streaming service. The market is becoming crowded with pay for stream services. They, apparently, are anchoring it’s initial success on a new Star Trek series. The casual movie goer is not going to pony up a subscription fee every month for that. The audience they would be counting on is the same that supports fan films. In short, they are counting on long time Trek fans who have been dying for a new show. The exact same type of people who have been supporting and financially backing fan films for years.
Hopefully, someone at CBS will consider that as they looks toward next steps regarding Axanar and other fan productions.
The TNG-DS9-VOY-ENT era (my favourite ST era) had many great “cheerleaders”: Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Brannon Braga, etc. Especially Berman fought long and hard to protect the legacy of Gene’s vision, but I actually believe that ST only got better when Piller et al. started to branch out the drama of Gene´s original vision, and question some of his “truths”. That´s why the franchise survived so well. TNG only got better after Gene´s death.
I’m going to disagree with you vehemently here. V’ger was an abomination and Berman and Braga weren’t protecting Gene’s vision, they were distorting it for their own. Enterprise pretty much took TOS canon and threw it out the window — and even TNG sucked horribly after the fifth season.
I enjoyed Piller’s branching in DS9 but I considered it an alternate universe because of how it changed canon (even the TNG canon). Their Tribbles episode showed they respected the original source material so I didn’t mind it the way I detested the sheer stupidity in V’ger or mindless alterations of ST “history” in Enterprise.
The franchise survives in spite of, not because of, CBS/Paramount’s ventures. STB could be a Waterworld-size flop (I don’t think it will be but it could be) and the franchise will still survive because of what we can hold onto from the past — much as Star Wars fans could always hold onto the original trilogy and ignore the prequels if they wanted to.
I’m hoping they can work this out. I’m also hoping that years from now fans don’t remember the 50th anniversary as ” God remember that mess! ” Yes Paramount will still make money on their movie and CBS will make money on their TV show. However if they totally bring an end to quality fan films as a result it will further tarnish their image in the eyes of the fans. Is that really what you want to do when you’re trying to sell a product? Will it end the franchise? No. Obviously not. Does CBS and Paramount have the right to protect their product? Yes most definitely. However I think both CBS and Paramount are underestimating the damage this could do. Now some I’ve talked with some who seem to think that Axanar is too small a fish to matter in the scheme of things. I think the very thing that CBS and Paramount are upset about ( Axanar becoming too big and it might be confused with the official product ) speaks volumes about that.
Takes 23 years and counting to write the next book in a series, lectures CBS and Paramount on keeping fans happy.
He’s not wrong, mind.
I honestly don’t think that Paramount/CBS is actually looking to squash “Axanar.” Fair usage under copyright law seems too vague to allow a slam dunk on that. They might even shoot themselves in the foot by having the court clarify fair usage.
I believe that Paramount merely wants to control Axanar to the extent that they can. Get it released on a date that will not conflict with their marketing for their own upcoming film release and/or new TV series.
Or, in this day of viral videos Paramount may even want to use Axanar to gin up excitement for the official Trek product. Perhaps CBS News will play up reporting the Axanar fan film to help boost it going viral at the right time (to generate interest in the new CBS online series). Seems like a built-in audience – younger viewers today are viewing more and more streaming media and less and less traditional cable/broadcast TV. If it goes viral at the right moment, it might help attract to the new series the very viewers CBS is aiming for with their new streaming service.
I don’t know why CBS doesn’t try to hire Axanar to do a series or something..I mean they are able to produce something really good at low budget and the fans love it…Sounds like a money maker to me!
here here. Altho the attitude that seems to be coming out of CBS/P is wanting a less Trek, Star Trek. And Axanar is made by a few former ST workers.
I have been a Star Trek fan most of my life. I’ve seen all the movies, watched and own all of the television series. I’ve watched PRELUDE TO AXANAR and really liked what I saw and look forward to seeing the final product of the full length film, but I also feel there is room for varying opinions.
I might be in the minority, but I feel as if someone can enjoy the television shows TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, Enterprise the first Ten movies and the Rebooted movies. Yes the rebooted movies are by no means perfect, but then again some of the movies with the original and TNG cast are also not perfect.
I’ve read on several websites where they just trash the last two movies and that’s their right. Most of the people I see complaining about the Abrams reboots are the adults who are old enough to have grown up watching either the TOS or the TNG series when they aired originally.
I work with several younger adults (very early twenties) who knew of Star Trek, but had no desire to try and watch any of the series or movies, because as they felt it was a little slow and too much to try and watch in order for them to fully enjoy therefore they didn’t bother with any of it. How ever they did go and watch the two Abrams movies for the simple fact they could go enjoy with out feeling like they had to know and understand forty some years of Star Trek history.
Star Trek Beyond has only one trailer out and just from that one trailer everyone has already committed it to the trash dumpster. I’m not saying Beyond will be some masterpiece, but to make an assumption from one trailer seems premature.
I’ve made comment before on my own site that a Traditional “Star Trek” movie like Star Trek IV The Voyage home if made today for the first time would not be as well received as it was when released in 1986. That’s not saying it wouldn’t be good, but I’m of the opinion that today’s movie ticket buying public is not as patient (content/pacing) as it once was.
That said I do feel that Paramount and CBS is picking on Axanar for nothing more then to make a point for some of the other fan based films/series you can find on the web. Some of which have other actors from other Trek series portraying their original character and I’ve not heard of Paramount or CBS trying to shut them down.
No matter what your opinions are of the television series, movies, rebooted movies or Axanar, if you’re a Star Trek fan then I feel there should be no right or wrong in whatever version you enjoy. In whatever incarnation of Star Trek you’re watching or like it still comes down to the idea that everyone in the future can eventually come together and live in harmony.
I do find myself wondering if some new guy at CBS legal hit the button when they announced a new Trek series, and the department is now unwilling to back down?
Because the most important thing to ANY lawyer is “Billable hours”!
Am I the only one who thinks that the most reasonable solution is for CBS/Universal to BUY the distribution rights to the Axinar film? Since their new online service will need content and since they are freed from having to put things on a limited schedule, they could easily put this film on and not suffer one iota of harm, and maybe both parties would make some profit. I would guess that CBS’ executives lunch for a month would be less than the production cost of Axinar and they could hardly lose on the deal. If the Axinar film is of as good quality as the preview, then they could easily pony up for some additional episodes that would not interfere with their other plans in the least. Two Trek series for the price of one and 1/10th.
What if Axanar slipped William Shatner into the film in some capacity (not as Kirk mind you, that would be too much of a poke in the eye to CBS/Paramount), but enough of a role that they wouldn’t win the media war, i.e. the hearts and minds of the faithful? I’d be Bill would love it since he’s been snubbed repeatedly with the new films.
They could bring William Shatner in as the Klingon Chancellor maybe ?
That would be awesome! Shatner is enough of S* disturber that he just might do it!. On the other hand, it might alienate him from a steady money stream due to the connection with CBS/Paramount. They might disown him. At this point though, would he really care? He is such an icon that he will always be in demand regardless. C’mon William Shatner- pitch the Axanar people! C’mon Axanar people, pitch William Shatner!
The big question is “What would Kirk do?”. Let’s not believe in the “no win scenario” and get this film going. It looks amazing.
WS could sell discounted seats on a Luxury Federation Liner. He could be a Federation Cop TJ Hawker patrolling discount scams of a Federation Liner. He could be a talk show host interviewing Garth in an S shaped couch. (but he has to have Federation Guard close by since Garth would be right next to him.)
After Paramount/CBS filed against Axanar, I have decided not to see the new movie. I would call on fans of ST to boycott the new movie, unless the lawsuit is dropped. That is one thing we can do!
One of the many elephants in the room is that you can’t keep something alive purely on a series of films which come out years’ apart, which is what is happening with the current ‘new timeline ST’. Even Marvel’s Avengers is only just holding on and that is despite a couple of closely-related films between each main one, making a slightly more regular ‘feed’ to their fans. Only a new TV series (broadcast, narrowcast, whatever) can hope to really create a substantial new fanbase, which is what CBS / Paramount need if they want to keep ST going as anything other than archived replays.
In my humble opinion.. Boycott can be the last thing to think.. but we can also learn by Fantastic Four’s movie … a complete flop, due to massive dislike by fandom.
The only trouble is that Abrams outright said that not only is he himself not a Star Trek fan, he did not make the reboot for Star Trek fans. This whole “appeal to moviegoers of all shapes and sizes” nonsense. Given the types of films we get, the average moviegoer wants gratuitous skin, explosions, and special effects, with no discernable story. And unfortunately, there will be enough of them going to these movies to make them profitable for the studio – which is, after all, what it’s all about. Which is why the people who had seen (and enjoyed) Star Trek II before seeing Into Darkness went “what the hell is this crap?”, whereas most other people were “what, I don’t see a problem here”.
Speaking with your wallet is like speaking with your vote. Nowadays, neither one of them matters a damn.
It wasn’t the fandom that ‘killed’ the Fantastic-Four reboot it was a BAD film. Badly written & badly directed PERIOD! the fans had nuth’in to do with the films failure. Non-fans & casual film-goers thought the film SUCKED!
Exactly. Fandom is a very big thing. I too will nit support Trek Beyond until its on line for download. I will not pay to see this film or new series because of paramount/ cbs attitude towards Axanar.
I think you are all missing the point here. Before Axanar – fan films were run on shoe string budgets – and looked that way. Axanar has been prolific in fundraising to date, and still needs to raise some serious capital. If successful – this is more of a threat to CBS. This is an endeavor that is looking to create professional looking films. If Axanar was filmed in my backyard, and looked that way – CBS would have left them alone.
This is why they are throwing their weight around.
Jeff, I do understand what you are saying and believe that is certainly part of it. However, my feeling as a fan for some 50+ years now, is that Paramount/CBS (and even most other production companies these days) do not care about the fans any longer. Especially fans who are in my age range. Never mind the fact that the fans are the reason for the monetary success of Star Trek and we have stuck by them even when their product was not that great (e.g., Star Trek V and Nemesis ). All of the fan made productions should be encouraged and welcomed because no matter how good (or otherwise) they are, they ultimately push us back to the source wanting more “official” productions. They once recognized this, but now they don’t care. Creed is the watch word of our age and their actions in this case demonstrate that beyond doubt. I’m not very articulate at expressing myself on this point, so I hope this perspective makes sense.
I get what you are saying, and i am not defending the stance CBS is taking. But if you look at it from a logic perspective, CBS is creating a new StarTrek for their online portal they are creating (or whatever it is). My guess is – the budget for this will be similar to AXANAR – and they don’t want comparisons.
No one looks at the fan films and compares them to the original. They are viewed for what they are – attempts by fans to be part of the magic and to show their passion for Star Trek. A professionally developed film is a threat to them. And they waited to see how the fundraising went before taking action.
Now, the ball is on CBS’s court. They are the 10,000 lb gorilla here, and can make this really expensive for AXANAR. It depends on how they want to handle this. If ultimately, their goal is to shut it down – they have the resources to do so (either by having the courts rule in their favor, or by making it so expensive for AXANAR that they can’t afford to defend). If they want a piece of AXANAR – then there is a way to work it out. Remember, if AXANAR wins round 1 – CBS drags it out and appeals – increasing the costs here.
Now – I have never argued that CBS was concerned about the fans. Its all about power and money. But ultimately, AXANAR’s success could be their downfall here. I’d like to be proven wrong – but this is my view.
you say “fan films were run on shoe string budgets – and looked that way”. This is not true for a number of fan films, Star Trek New Voyages / Phase II or Star Trek Continues to name just two. Shoestring budget maybe but look that way? Definetely not.
IMHO the distinction here is that Paramount and CBS don’t care about the budget or quality of fan films as long as they cater to the (relatively small) fanbase of Gene’s Universe. Their fear, again IMHO, is that judging by the quality of “Prelude”, this Axanar movie could be a block buster that competes for their intended new fanbase.
I am a SciFy junkie. I’ll watch the jjverse movies. They’re not Star Trek to me, just SciFy. Just as I watch the Star Wars movies. At heart, I’m a Star Trek fan (Gene’s Star Trek) and always will be. I sincerely hope Axanar gets made but I don’t think that the other great fan productions out there are threatened by this at all. As long as they cater only to us ‘old timers’, I think they should be fine.
Prelude is not the only thing that axanar can be sued about. Aside from the Vulcan Scene, you have all of the perks which use Star Trek IP.
Onepoint that will be interesting to see resolved is AXanar’s use of Original props. If they were sold without rights restrictions, Axanar may be the owner of the IP.
“And that’s my point — even if Paramount/CBS trigger a fannish firestorm, they likely believe (and justifiably so) that any attempt at a boycott will have insignificant results.”
Perhaps that’s not necessarily so.
While I dont believe this situation cleared up much, rumors came out that CBS/P wanted the next Trek to be more like Guardian of the Galaxy, possibly due to the numbers GotG made. Possibly denoting that while GotG did phenomenally, and both ST reboots did ok, CBS/P might have felt that in comparison, a failure occurred.
Does this mean that the mass audience showed, but less so the ST community? Who can say.
Moderator: Please post this formated version and delete the previous reply.
As a writer I feel very strongly for an entity, company, producer and others in having the right to protect their product. As a fan that supported fan run conventions that brought Star Trek back from the dead, I feel Paramount and CBS owe the fans their due. I have witnessed how the fan run conventions were nearly put out of business due to copyright protection on merchandise they themselves created (based on the ST universe) that was instrumental in bringing Star Trek back from the grave. I saw how Gene supported the people around him and the fans during the 70’s, while today his memory is being maligned by people who have benefited from his creation. I have been at conventions in the 90’s where the ST staff angered the Fans so greatly at a Creations New York Convention they almost had a riot. They have forgotten who brought ST back to life for them to make a profit from it.
I do understand that if they give this production the green light that it might encourage others to infringe upon their copyright. BUT, that ST fan inside me keeps nagging me to support this production. I think it is high time that CBS and Paramount return something to the fans. We gave you life. Make peace with Axanar. Make an Organian Peace Treaty. Make an Axanar Neutral Zone. Give them a special pardon that allows them to use some of these copyrights. Be a silent partner that allows them full rein over the production of the film, and then Paramount distributes it and shares profit between all parties. I say silent partner because CBS and Paramount have lost their way and the meaning of Star. I don’t think they, the actors, or those closely related to the show truly knows what Star Trek was and is to the fans.
Maybe it’s Axanar’s intent, to boldly go where no Fan run group has gone before and negotiate a profitable deal with both parties. Maybe, CBS’s and Paramount’s goal to push them into sharing some of the publicity with them.
ST is a unique and as far as I know the ONLY entity that has been saved by its fans to make so many millions in profit. You owe the fans something in return.
Written as my professional side cringes… Did I really write this?
PS, this is an opportunity that neither sides can envision at the moment. Axanar is at a pivotal point where they can distribute this production via internet and possibly make money (as a joint venture) in a medium that is in its early stages of development. Just look at how popular other fan creations have come. Come to think of it, there is another movie out there that uses copyright protected articles that has not been sued. Out of respect for Axanar I will not mention it.
I call for an Axanar Neutral Zone!!!
I am calling out all Trekkies to support an Axanar Neutral Zone.
I have spent nearly my entire life watching Star Trek. I’ve been quite surprised over the last few years at how many longtime fans I have found to be in my life. I’ve never really been the very overt fan, I’ve always been a (little) bit reserved, but clear in my support for Trek. Even when I’ve seen the studios take something I have greatly enjoyed and watered it down, deviated from the original vision, etc.
I’ve not been a huge fan of the Abrams films, as I (and many around me), feel that the films are missing qualities that make Star Trek what it is. Entertaining? Yes – Star Trek? Maybe? They’ve had amazing action sequences, awesome special effects. I mean, R2D2 floating in wreckage in both films?
All the studio seems concerned with is whether or not it made money. Thought provoking stories are gone.
I love that I can watch TOS all the way through Enterprise (which I tolerated for 2 seasons before giving up) and be made to think while watching. No show has ever been so clever, though, as TOS, sneaking in themes of social justice right under the nose of network censors. The first interracial kiss on TV… only because Kirk and Uhura were forced… Next Gen did a pretty good job on the social conscience front, but wasn’t quite as clever. I think DS9 did a better job of it, Sisko is an excellent actor who’s skill at social commentary was keen and biting, but with lots of heart. Not as much with Voyager. Then Enterprise…
In the Films, 4-6, there were some seriously botched attempts at activating social conscience – Save the Whales! (Seriously, I’m all-in on protecting them). I’d have to watch 5 again to comment on it. I only ever watched it once, in the theatre. 6, I mostly loved, but completely did not love the whole Klingon Empire running out of Ozone. ? That’s the best we could come up with? Not that the Klingon Empire had been maintaining an unsustainable continuously aggressive cold-war-type of struggle against everyone around them for so long that the impending failure of their economy would doubtless lead to all-out war throughout the quadrant? Oh that is part of the storyline… But OZONE? It is a very thin veil they wore…
What I’ve seen with all of these fan productions is a love of the heart of Trek. I haven’t loved them all, but I sure am impressed by what they have all done purely out of love. I think it’s amazing. Have been greatly interested in Axanar and Renegades. I know that I, as a fan, may or may not amount to a hill of beans to Paramount/CBS. But these various Independent Trek productions have had something the studios have lost- love for Trek, and a desire to produce a high-quality production with the heart of Trek in mind. Intelligently written. (Mostly) well acted. Good to exceptional production values, and so much more.
Thanks for reading!
I hate it when I submit and then catch my typos. Whose. Avery Brooks, of course, is Ben Sisko.