fan film

Renegades Without the Trek

As many might know by now, CBS and Paramount finally released official fan film guidelines earlier this week. While this was something many Star Trek fans wanted for a long time, the guidelines we received appeared to take aim at the bigger productions currently in-progress. You can find out more about this in my analysis article here. Just this morning, the crew of Star Trek: Renegades announced that they will not stop production on their current project Star Trek: The Requiem, instead they will be dropping all references to the Star Trek universe all together, making a brand new and original universe.

We, at Renegades, have nothing but the utmost respect for Star Trek and its IP holders, CBS and Paramount. Everything we have done has been because of Gene Roddenberry’s vision and creativity. Star Trek is their property and we will absolutely abide by their rules and guidelines.

That being said, we do have an obligation to our donors and fans, and we have every intention of fulfilling it to the best of our ability. So, we will continue to make “The Requiem” as promised, but without any Star Trek elements.

As you know, we’ve already begun filming “The Requiem” so we cannot halt, suspend, or postpone production. Renegades, from the get go, was designed to be transformative… not derivative. Thus, with very minor changes to our script, we have eliminated all of the Star Trek references. The good news is that Renegades is now a completely original and ongoing series.

We would like to take this time to thank CBS and Paramount for letting us play in their proverbial sandbox for as long as they did. And we’d also like to thank our loyal, creative, and passionate fans for their unending support. We truly appreciate it.

For those who don’t know, Renegades was a Kickstarter that produced a feature length film staring many previous Star Trek actors including Tim Russ and Walter Koenig with many more veterans slated for the sequel including Robert Beltran and Nichelle Nicoles. Now, going to the production’s website brings you Renegades: The Series and a new URL. The crew has worked very quickly to step away from Star Trek and seems to have done so in the hopes of providing their donors with the experience they were hoping for as best as possible without provoking the legal brass at CBS or Paramount.

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So far, we have no official word on what other productions like Axanar or Star Trek Continues intend to do but the people behind Pacific 201 spoke out the other day with this to say:

The new fan film guidelines certainly limit exactly how we wanted to tell the Pacific 201 story, but we are committed to making this a virtue for our film. We’re confident that Pacific 201 will survive and thrive within these guidelines (even if it’s a little shorter and more to-the-point than we intended)!

What are your thoughts on how these productions are moving forward? Would you rather The Requiem cease production or are you glad to see something come from all of their effort? Comment below.

Renegades Without the Trek

Official Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines Aim at Current Projects

For those who know me, I’m a Trekkie. I’m The Star Trek Dude on Twitter and Facebook and I do tend to bring in Trek examples more often than I probably should. That’s why this issue is near and dear to my heart. On Thursday, June 23rd, Paramount and CBS announced via StarTrek.com the first official Star Trek fan film guidelines. Of course, I jumped on quickly to review these and see what the situation was. Now, I was feeling very optimistic after everything Justin Lin (Director of Star Trek Beyond) and J.J. Abrams had said specifically about fan films and the Axanar lawsuit. Unfortunately, my mood has since changed.

For a full explanation of these guidelines, please check them out here but I’m to highlight a few and talk about my thoughts.

Analyzing the Guidelines

I don’t hate all of these guidelines. Some make perfect sense like:

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.

I totally get it. They want everyone to know exactly what is and is not a fan production. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, about this one. It’s straight forward and reasonable. The very next point is just as reasonable:

3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.

Again, yes, we don’t want fan films literally ripping off content from licensed official episodes, movies, etc.

If the rest were like this, I wouldn’t even need to write an article but things just blow up. Let’s start with the very first point:

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.

Out of the gate this means that Star Trek Continues is basically dead in the water. They produce nearly hour long episodes following ongoing missions of The Original Series Enterprise and crew under Kirk’s command. Each episode would break this rule not to mention every other fan film that is well over 30 minutes in length like Of Gods and Men and Renegades. In fact, Prelude to Axanar is over the 15 minute mark and would need to be broken into two just to fit this very rule. The short segments could be dealt with in a serialized web format much like Red vs Blue or something to that affect BUT “no more than 2 segments” and “with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.” That means you get 30 minutes to tell your story with your characters and then they are gone forever. I don’t know about you but one of the things I loved about Trek in the 90s was how characters’ lives continued. They grew older, got promoted, and showed up on different shows. It was a connected and evolving universe. Fan films can kiss this goodbye.

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.

That point focuses on props and costumes. Now, if I’m understanding this one wrong, let me know. It sounds to me like fan films that use existing styles (i.e. uniform designs from TV series or movies, props from the same) they must use officially licensed products. Does this mean fan films can make their own? What about costumes made from officially licensed costume patterns? And how is this going to be enforced? This one is tough and a little nebulous to me, so I’ll move on.

The big one I want to talk about is #5 which focuses on the actors and crew allowed involvement in fan films.

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.

So this means that ANYONE who has ever worked on Trek in any official capacity or any other CBS or Paramount product cannot legally be involved in a fan film. No one. No actors, lighting guys, DVD art designers, maker of t-shirts. Even a person who does graphic design work for Star Trek Online said he has to drop off a fan films he was planning to work on. This immediately means that Star Trek: Renegades and their upcoming project Requiem is a no-go from the start since it includes legacy actors like Walter Koenig, Tim Russ, and Robert Picardo just to name a few. It also means that anyone who might have helped with ship design back in the 90s is a no-go too.

What does this mean?

From my perspective it’s simple. This is a direct reaction to the events around Axanar, its lawsuit, and the other popular fan productions, specifically Star Trek Continues and Star Trek: Renegades. Paramount and CBS have a new movie and TV on the horizon. While we don’t know the details on the show, we know that Beyond continues the JJ-verse with Kirk and company. Meanwhile, the fan productions focus on the Prime universe in the old TV show era, before that, and in the future after Nemesis. These things don’t clash yet Paramount and CBS seem to take issue with them. Now, maybe this is more personal and just about Axanar or maybe it’s less personal and it’s about all fan films. I don’t know but I can say that these new guidelines appear to take aim at the big three.

As a lifelong fan, I’m disappointed. I love Star Trek and I enjoy the fan productions. They get me through the empty time Paramount and CBS have left in addition to telling stories those companies have no interest in telling. The fact that everything is coming to a head on the 50th anniversary of the franchise is both disappointing and disheartening. For us fans, it was supposed to be a year of celebration and excitement. Instead, there is a lot of tense, hurt feelings, and distrust.

Since the news is still young, I’m curious to see what these fan films have to say in addition to others I have not mentioned. In fact, we’ve published at least five other articles about Star Trek fan films. Check them out below to see some of what we might be missing with these new guidelines.

Star Trek Horizon

Star Trek Progeny

Star Trek Renegades

Pacific 201

Axanar

What do you think of the new fan film guidelines? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter @griddaily!

Official Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines Aim at Current Projects

Star Trek Horizon: The Review

Star Trek Horizon is a fan film set in the era of Star Trek: Enterprise. Work on the project took about 3 years and has been described as a love letter to the Enterprise show that went before her time. Back in November we got a chance to chat with Tommy Kraft from Star Trek Horizon and you can find the interview here. Now that the film has been released and after having a chance to watch it I was really impressed with it. And you can watch it to on youtube here. I mean it’s not that it’s flawless, but as far as fan films go, Star Trek Horizon is a shining example of what a fan film ought to be. I was particularly impressed with the story and the acting. Special effects were also very excellent.

Star Trek Horizon: Trailer #1

-Story Outline-

I really enjoyed the plot and it was a far better send off to the show than the Enterprise final “These Are the Voyages…” It starts with a battle scene between the out matched NX-04 Discovery and several Romulan Bird of Preys in the Earth solar system. Discovery has information about a Romulan secret weapon of devastating power being built just outside of the solar system. With this information a task force is put together to remove this threat on Starfleet’s doorstep consisting of Enterprise, Discovery, and some Vulcan vessels. In the desperate battle that ensues, Discovery lands the final death blow on the Romulan station but there is more to it. The station was just the tip of the iceberg.

Star Trek Horizon - Romulan Base

It is eventually discovered that the station was relaying power from another location. Disturbingly it is discovered that an agent from the future has been manipulating events, giving the Romulans access to awesome powers that are centuries beyond them to help them in the war with Starfleet. Despite temporal tampering, the crew of Discovery finds a way to set things right, destroying the weapon and taking care of the temporal interloper for good.

-Plot Reaction-

The plot with Horizon is what sets it apart from most fan films out there as it’s really good and flows from one part to another. Horizon actually makes you forget you’re watching a fan film, and that’s how you know its good. There have been a lot of Star Trek fan films out there, even some with veteran Star Trek actors but they never really pulled this off (cough cough, Star Trek Renegades) . It was Horizon’s superior storytelling and how all the pieces fit together that pulled this immersion off and it’s what makes it so enjoyable to watch.

Star Trek Horizon - Discovery

The only complaints I’d lodge against the plot are ones that can be found with the Enterprise show in general: the frequent use of transporters, too much being known about the Romulans, to name a few. But since this was the mood of the show I can’t say I really blame Horizon for it. Hey it works for the era they’re in, I guess. Despite these cannon problems Horizon actually did an excellent job of having face-to-face time between the Discovery crew and a Romulan antagonist. Due to his “Balance of Terror” style helmet, his Vulcan like features were hidden. The crew had conversations with him and never knew his people shared common ancestry with another founding member of the federation, the Vulcans. This was a really clever way of having the characters share a scene together and I have to give the makers of Horizon props for it. As an Original Series fan this means a lot.

Star Trek Horizon - Captain Hawk

Some more solid critiques of the film are only slightly more severe. I don’t think the story was helped by the idea of having a Romulan defector deliver the intelligence about the weapon. I also didn’t care for the plot point of having her surgically altered to appear human just to avoid anyone in Starfleet seeing a Romulan and breaking canon. She could’ve have just have easily been a third party alien as proir collaborator or something like that. It’s just a little too hard to swallow considering the no contact precedent already established between Starfleet and Romulas. I also found it a little odd that Discovery was calling the shots in the battle to destroy the Romulan weapon when Enterprise was with her, especially when it is established that Archer is still in command and he has seniority. It just doesn’t make sense and falls in to the trope of having a fan film stars out shinning the show that they making a film for. Having another NX class ship instead of Enterprise or having Archer otherwise disposed would’ve been cool; promotion would’ve been a nice idea. Besides, I think after building four of those NX class ships they ain’t prototypes anymore, but I digress. Maybe a little more progression from the Enterprise show was missing. These are only small nitpicks of an otherwise excellent story but as being a plot-Nazi, I had to get those little nuggets out there.

Star Trek Horizon - Discovery

-Acting-

As far as acting is concerned it’s actually pretty good. At times the film struggles to grasp the characters’ personalities and they don’t really come off as distinct as they should but acting isn’t the blame. It’s more due to the writing of the lines than the actors themselves. But this shouldn’t be surprising as this is one of the hardest things to pull off for any show, not just fan films (cough cough Star Wars prequels). Often times you’ll have characters saying exactly what happen instead of their lines injecting a characters personality of their own on it.

 

One scene in particular exemplifies this is where the Romulan villain disappears via a transporter and the Captain just say “where did he go?” Instead of him literally saying what happened it may have been better for him to say something a little more specific to what a character might say. Imagine for example putting Archer, Tucker, or T’Pol in the same situation and they would’ve reacted differently with what they said. It’s in the lines and the dialogue that characters are defined and this is throwing the ball to the actors. If it’s a good pitch, they can hit it out of park. What worries me is that viewers often confuse acting with writing. I’m afraid they may reject the performances expecting it to be something like what they see on television. The scenes and character interactions aren’t quite ready for the big leagues yet but are still far better than a lot of other fan films. There is no shame in this though, as just about every other show in their first season struggles with this problem. But in the case of Star Trek Horizon, the acting is pretty good when you take this into consideration.

Actor 1 St Horizon

Now that I think of it, I actually liked the acting, especially when compared with fan films or even indie films in general. Ignoring some of the dialogue, the actors did a great job. Paul Lang as Captain Harrison Hawk has some real charisma that hints at some grit just underneath the surface, perfect for an action film. I would’ve loved to have seen Captain Hawk as a little more martial though. And his chemistry with costar Jeannine Thompson is nice to see; I love their interactions. Marc Bowers as the XO has some real stage presence in his own right. I also had some fondness for Tom McClure as the Security Chief. He seemed to have some personality on his own, it just came naturally. Lastly, all of the Romulans were done excellently. Coming off with just the right amount of smugness and over confidence. The final villain in particular was especially well done. You could just sense the bile and hatred for Starfleet oozing out of him, loved it.

Star Trek Horizon - Romulan

-Special Effects-

Lets just say Star Trek Horizon looks awesome. The outer space battles look fantastic and getting to see the NX-01 in action one last time is wonderful. Even getting a few close in shots of the name Discovery being painted on the hull is a nice treat. The other Vulcan and Romulan ships are done nicely and their maneuvers are what you’d expect to find in action scenes. When you’re watching the space battles you have to remind yourself that this isn’t a professional show because its hard to tell as it looks that good.

Star Trek Horizon - Space Dock

The interior shots may not be for everyone, but the look actually grew on me. It looks like a hybrid approach was used for the set, partially building objects in the foreground while doing the rest of the back ground with special effects (i.e. green screen). This has two effects; it kinda makes for static shots of scenes, and makes it all look a little off or weird. Wel, at least if you expect television level of set pieces that is but it isn’t all that bad in my opinion. To lessen this, everything as a soft glow or fuzz to it that actually grew on me, gave it a nostalgic look. It kinda stylizes the look of the film and unifies it all together.

Despite the limitations of static shots from background replacement, Horizon counters this by striving very hard at having movement in its scenes. Though much of the film is zoomed very close or shot statically to minimize the special effects work needed. There are still quite a few scenes of movement and panning shots, people walking down corridors and across scenes to help this along. This really makes Horizon stand out among other fan films who had back grounds that were done by a programmer instead of a carpenter to save money. Horizon looks much better doing it because of the resourcefulness of their team. I have to give a nod of respect to the technique and ambition to the special effects.

Star Trek Horizon - Behind the Scenes

Sound and music are often the unsung heroes of television and Horizon has these in spades as well. Everything sounds great from doors opening to mysterious alien tech sounding the way it should. Music feels appropriate for the scenes and sounds a lot like season 4 of Enterprise. The subtle component of audio is in attendance for Horizon and feels perfect.

-Conclusion-

Star Trek Horizon is an excellent fan film and should stand as an example of how a fan film should be made. It hits way above its weight class because of its story, acting, special effects, and sound. If their where awards for fan film, they’d be walking away with arm loads of them. Though at times the dialogue leaves the characters a little too bland and poorly defined, this is understandable. It’s one of the hardest things of making a show. Despite this, enough of the core elements of the characters remain to make you forget this is just a fan film at times. The story more than makes up for it and moves you along from start to finish with little down time between. At the end of the day this stands as worthy tribute to abruptly ended Star Trek Enterprise, one that fans of the show would enjoy and should give a look. Star Trek Horizon easily ranks as one of the better fan films out there, keeping deserved company with Star Trek Continues and the Prelude to Axanar short. If you like Star Trek Enterprise or Star Trek fan films in general, give this one a try.

Have you watched Horizon yet? What did you think? Sound off below.

Star Trek Horizon: The Review

Star Trek: Progeny Interview

We were able to talk with the creative mind behind upcoming Star Trek fan film, Star Trek: Progeny: This film looks a currently untold time during the Federation, following up on a story from The Original Series. Check out the synopsis from the official website and then our interview below.

James T. Kirk never realized how true those words would become when a casual romantic eveningchanged the history of Magna Roma the Roman Planet forever.

50 years later, his granddaughter, Livia Avitus, embarks on her own destiny among the stars, A Federation Special Agent protecting the galaxy.

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The Grid:

All of us over here at the Grid love indie sci-fi and we look forward to Star Trek fan films in particular. Star Trek: Progeny is completely unique in its approach, a spin-off of The Original Series episode “Bread and Circuses” and having a strong female protagonist.

What are the effects of the character origin on the personality of Livia Avitus, the lead character?

Star Trek Progeny:

First, thank you allowing me to share some details of what Star Trek: Progeny is about on your great website. It really is a passion project for me, and the fanbase has been steadily growing since I announced the Fan Series.

Star Trek: Progeny came about one evening while I was watching the episode in question. It was one of those episodes that, for me, left me wondering, “Well what happened next?”

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy left a few devices behind. Phasers, a Tri-corder, and Communicators. Kirk also left behind something of a more personal nature with his tryst with Drusilla. To Kirk’s credit (and also the great writing of Gene L. Coon and Roddenberry) he never took advantage of Drusilla. Could his will had been stronger? Sure. But maybe Kirk was thinking to himself, “Well I’m in Rome. And when in Rome…”.

I’ve been developing the pilot script and series bible for over a year now to answer those questions that I had. Also tying them into the 50 year anniversary of Star Trek. 50 years later, what does this world of Magna Roma look like and what involvement does the Federation have?

From this comes our female protagonist, Livia Avitus, the granddaughter of Kirk and Drusilla. First, she’s a Roman, trained extensively in hand-to-hand combat and weaponry. She also has a keen mind. She’s able to see the bigger picture. A trait inherited by Captain Kirk. I think this makes her a great detective and then later, a special agent.

One choice I did make with her character is that she’s not an anti-hero, which is popular in Film and TV today. Protagonists who are battling inner demons like drugs or alcohol…etc. Carrie, from Homeland or Tony Stark from Ironman as examples.

Emotional pain from failure or losing a loved one, most definitely. As Kirk would say, that pain makes us who we are.

         trekbreadandcircuses5          

The Grid:
The casting Progeny is impressive. Cassandra Scerbo looks incredible in the trailer and I loved Rick Worthy in Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.  What’s it like getting veteran actors onboard for your project?

Star Trek Progeny:
I feel very lucky to have these actors attached. My casting director, Neely Gurman, did a fantastic job in seeking these actors out. It’s also very validating to know they were interested after reading the pilot script we sent them. Having a cast of this caliber is a great piece to have in the larger production puzzle.

Cassie Scerbo in the lead role is a major plus. An incredibly talented actor, blessed with athletic prowess and fashion model looks. What more could you ask for?

The Grid:
Three of your actors have previous Star Trek experience; Stephen Manley, Carlos Carrasco and Rick Worthy.Will these characters be reprising their roles or will they be doing something different, what can you tell us?

Cast Star Trek Progeny

Star Trek Progeny:
All of the roles are new characters except the role of Drusilla, the slave girl from The Original Series. Sadly, Lois Jewell who played her in “Bread and Circuses”, passed away in 2014, so we very are fortunate to have Francine York play the role. Stephen Manley will play a Vulcan again, but a very different character. Rick Worthy will play a Roman Police Detective. And Carlos Carrasco will play a Starship Captain. Anne Marie Howard, a newcomer to Star Trek will play Commodore Yvonne Ellison. That’s all we have attached at this point, but there are many other roles to fill also. Hopefully we can get some more Star Trek alums to fill them.    

The Grid:
I’m an avid fan of classical history.

Can you tell us about the Roman look and feel of the story? It was an interesting idea of a planet where Rome never died.
Star Trek Progeny:
In the original episode, the look was similar to Earth in 1968. It’s now 48 years later, and Magna Roma resembles Earth in 2016. There’s been some sweeping changes that have come about to be included in the Federation of Planets. No more slavery; the “Children of the Son” movement has been accepted into society. But, the planet is still Roman by nature. The government has the same structure as Ancient Rome. The Military, although now more advanced, has the same tactics, and the society is very liberal about things like drug use and prostitution. Also, televised gladiator games to the death are still a big ratings draw . Granted, not the utopian society that Gene Roddenberry created for earth, but let’s give the Magna Romans time.

bread_and_circuses_046

The Grid:
Interesting, what else can you tell us about what things you are considering about the plot in general? Will we be seeing the Federation on the planet or will this be a lone agent?

Star Trek Progeny:
Starfleet and the Federation are very much a part of the story. But at the heart of the series is Liv’s journey in finding her true calling as she becomes a member of Starfleet. The series is also procedural in nature with a new mission each episode.

The Grid:
You have events taking place after Star Trek Original Series, yet just before The Next Generation in the year 2316. From my understanding this was a time of long lasting peace for the Federation. When some other fan films opt for times of war for the action, Progeny as gone a different direction.

How will the time period effect the story in Star Trek: Progeny?

Star Trek Progeny:
In researching other Trek series I discovered that this time frame has never really been depicted, mainly only in novels.  Also, if you look up 2316 at the Memory Alpha site, there’s nothing there.  I was drawn to that.

I actually see these times similar to a Cold War scenario. Very political. Tensions between the Klingons and the Federation are better, but still raw. It will be many years before the first Klingon is allowed into Starfleet.

In the middle of all this is a planet poised to become a great galactic power and the Federation is first in to influence them, to the dismay of the Klingons.

Personally, in screenwriting, I find the threat of war creates more tension than being in an actual war. Star Trek has a few instances of this. As an example: Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and in The Original Series episode  “A Taste of Armageddon.”

Star Trek Progeny Scene

The Grid:
When you describe it like that, this time period sounds like some real fertile ground for story telling.

It looks like Progeny has some experience behind the camera as well; having a writer, composer, and casting director already.

How are things going in getting others to work behind the camera on Progeny? Any ideas on who will be directing it?

Star Trek Progeny:
I am sort of a one man band when it comes to producing it. I will write, direct and edit the first episode. I work for NBCUniversal and for the last 19 years have  been in different post-production capacities, as Editor, Graphics Designer, Sound Design and Mixing. In the last few years, I’ve also been working in After Effects. Before I came to NBCUniversal, I also directed quite a bit.

But, I can’t do it alone and I’m very fortunate to be in the Los Angeles area. There’s so many Film and TV pros here. What’s amazing is the fact that simply saying “Star Trek” to anyone in production returns an immediate “Yes”. I’ve also received numerous emails from film/tv students at USC, UCLA, and many others, willing to volunteer their time.   

The Grid:
I love that Star Trek still has such a strong pull from people in the L.A. and people are so willing to work on the project. As far the technical side of things, what do you have planned for special effects? Will we be seeing ground side action or any space scenes?

Star Trek Progeny:
A mixture of both. I’m trying to keep the VFX to a minimum so I can keep the costs down. There won’t be epic space battles, but there will be a number of scenes with a Starship.

Having the first episode take place on Magna Roma also helps keep the costs low. Los Angeles in its present day look will serve as the backdrop.

The Grid:
How about costume and props? Will you be making your own or reproducing what has already been seen on Star Trek?

Star Trek Progeny:
Again a mixture of both. The Starfleet uniform designs will be from the first scene in the movie Generations. I believe those uniforms were still used in 2316. The Romans will look present day. Government officials will be an updated look of Merik’s and Marcus’ costume in “Bread and Circuses”.

There’s so many Starfleet props already on the market that I see no need to manufacture new ones. But, (and I’ve received flak for this already) the gun used in the first teaser is a new prop designed to be a Roman gun. A hybrid of a modern day glock 9mm and a phaser.

And then there’s SFX makeup to think about too.     

tos-225-bread-and-circuses-300x225

The Grid:
CBS has recently given Axanar a cease and desist while allowing many other fan productions to go on.

The Star Trek fan community loves the idea of fan films and as a fellow fan film maker, what are your thoughts on this?

Star Trek Progeny:
First of all, when the lawsuit came out, my first thought was that Progeny was dead in the water.

After a few days, I decided to stick it out and I contacted our cast about it. I told them to check with their agents/managers to see if they should withdraw from the project. So far, my cast is intact with the exception of Gates McFadden, who would have played the new role of Commodore Ellison.  She decided not to continue with the production and I clearly understand her decision.

Secondly, I’m not surprised that something like this has happened. I’m not picking a side. What I mean is that the behind-the-scenes history of Star Trek has always been plagued with controversy and legal actions. It’s such a contradiction in itself. Such a beautiful universe created by Gene Roddenberry yet so much ugliness that has taken place just to make that universe. 

The Grid:
We’re glad you guys decided to stick to your guns and continue with Progeny. Do you plan on making use of various crowd funding to help the fans support Star Trek: Progeny and when do you think we’ll see the first episode?

Star Trek Progeny:
We’re hoping to do an Indiegogo campaign in February. If we get all necessary funds, a 9-10 day shooting schedule is tentatively set for April, with a premier of the first episode by May.

Along with crowdfunding I’m really trying to get a number of things donated to the project.

Camera gear, locations, drivers with trucks, all of this helps keep the costs down while not hurting the production values.

I’ve also seen people willing to donate Sky Miles.

The Grid:
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring film makers out there just trying to get things started and off the ground? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned?

Star Trek Progeny
Fan films bring a large fan base but also a ton of scrutiny. Be ready for that. Tell the story you want to tell and keep focused on your vision.

The Grid:
Excellent advice, thank you very much for the interview. We’ll be looking forward to seeing it.

Star Trek: Progeny:
Thank you and thanks for your work in keeping Star Trek alive through your website.

There you have it, our interview with the upcoming fan film, Star Trek: Progeny. What do you think about the project? Is this a topic\theme you are looking forward to? Comment with your thoughts.

For more information on Star Trek: Progeny, check out their official website here.

Star Trek: Progeny Interview

AXANAR: CBS Suit and Star Trek Fan Films

Axanar is attempting to boldly go where no Star Trek fan film has gone before. Over the course of three crowdfunding campaigns between Kickstarter and Indiegogo, they have raised about $1 million in funding for their Prelude to Axanar short film and Axanar full feature film. While their process has been ongoing for well over a year and production is set to begin on the feature film in February, CBS and Paramount, the owners of the official Star Trek TV and movie rights, have decided to file a lawsuit against Axanar Productions.

For many in the Trek community, this has been taken as a serious blow to the fan base. For decades, CBS and Paramount have allowed fan films to continue with little to no intrusion. Some of these productions have been incredibly popular like Star Trek: Continues which continues The Original Series story and format, leveraging new actors to portray Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest of the Enterprise crew. They currently have six episodes available on their website. Additionally, Star Trek: Renegades leveraged previous Trek actors in their original roles continuing on a more dark theme. The actors included in “Episode 1” are Walter Koenig (Chekov), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Robert Picardo (Dr. Lewis Zimmerman), and Manu Intiraymi (Icheb), among others. In fact, they’ve even boasted bigger Trek names for future episodes including Nichelle Nicoles (Uhura), Robert Beltran (Chakotay), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), and Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax). So, people want to know why Axanar is any different.

In their defense, they are using a new story with primarily new characters and have even taken Star Trek out of their title. They are using new ships and covering a time period not used in previous Trek. The characters they are leveraging were minor and not star or leading roles in the various TV series or movies. With that said, yes, they are using Klingons, Vulcans, and other Trek-specific species. But, what is the difference? This is something I suppose that Axanar Productions and CBS have to figure out together but many people think it’s the money involved. While arguing quality is something subjective, money is not. The amount of money raised by Axanar Productions is significantly higher than any previous Star Trek fan films and might even take the crow for fan films in general.

What do I think? Well, I think that CBS and Paramount have a vision for Star Trek with the upcoming Star Trek Beyond film and untitled TV web series set to hit in the next 13 months. CBS has a vision for these official productions and it’s possible that Axanar does not gel with these concepts or ideals and due to Axanar’s popularity, CBS wants to down-play their story. With that said, this is poorly timed by CBS. Star Trek is a complicated franchise, one that has a complex fan base that is willing to be very vocal about their passion of Trek. While the announcement of a new TV series was very exciting, many (not myself, by the way) were disappointed and down right angry that the series would only be available on the CBS All-Access paid subscription network (the pilot episode will air on CBS directly though).  Things continued on the downward trend with the release of the first Star Trek Beyond trailer which many (again, not me) felt did not feel Trek. In fact, it prompted Simon Pegg to make statements about how the trailer didn’t truly depict the message and tone of the film and that he was unhappy with said trailer. Thirdly, Creation Entertainment tried to pull a fast one on passionate fans by price gouging the General Admission tickets for the 50th Anniversary Star Trek Las Vegas convention, causing a retraction and reversal of the price increase within 12 hours.

Star Trek Axanar Ares

For CBS and Paramount to file suit now, after Axanar Productions already met with them as recently as August, seems confusing and in poor taste. With that said, since I am not a lawyer, CBS and Paramount may be completely in the right here if Axanar Productions is making a profit from their crowd funding or breaking other aspects of copyright law. For now, we’ll have to wait. Below is the official response from Alec Peters of Axanar Productions:

STATEMENT FROM ALEC PETERS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF AXANAR

December 30, 2015

This morning, I was greeted with news that our production company, Axanar Productions and I, personally, am being sued by CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation for copyright infringement of Star Trek.

First of all, I was disappointed to learn about this through an article in an industry trade. For several years, I’ve worked with a number of people at CBS on Star Trek-related projects, and I would have hoped those personal relationships would have warranted a phone call in advance of the filing of a legal complaint. Nevertheless, I know I speak for everyone at Axanar Productions when I say it is our hope that this can be worked out in a fair and amicable manner.

Axanar is a fan film. Fan films – whether related to Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, Batman or any other franchise – are labors of love that keep fans engaged, entertained, and keep favorite characters alive in the hearts of fans. Like other current fan films, AXANAR entered production based on a very long history and relationship between fandom and studios. We’re not doing anything new here.

Like all fan films, AXANAR is a love letter to a beloved franchise. For nearly 50 years, Star Trek’s devotees have been creating new Star Trek stories to share with fellow fans. That’s all we’re trying to do here.

Since the original Star Trek TV series, when the letter writing campaign by fans got NBC to greenlight a third season of Star Trek, fan support has been critical to the success of the franchise. It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here, for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages, CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago.

The fact that many of the fans involved with Axanar Productions are also industry professionals speaks volumes to the influence of Star Trek in the entertainment industry. Not surprisingly, these fans want to give something back. We’re very proud that the work we’ve done to date looks so good. That is also a reflection of the devotion of Star Trek’s fans.

Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial.

Alec Peters

The official statement can be found on the official Axanar Facebook page here.

The full complaint (via Hollywood Reporter) is available here.

Many people have taken to the Internet with a hashtag supported by Axanar Productions #IStandWithAxanar which is paired with various images, profile photos, cover photos, etc. Additionally, Change.org is being leveraged for petitions supporting Axanar, like this one.

Others are concerned about their connection to the crowdfunding efforts. As contributors, our money is already gone. If production is shut down, what happens to our money? Additionally, are we liable for any damages as contributors? Again, while I’m not a lawyer, I do not think that CBS and Paramount are out to get any of the fans involved and are directly interested in Alec Peters and the rest of Axanar Productions. So, I don’t think we have to worry there. In the end, our money is likely lost but the show might go on. A couple years ago, a Kickstarter funded card game, Redshirts, was put on hold for about a year due to a copyright lawsuit with CBS. Eventually, an agreement was made and the game was altered and is now sitting in my basement. Perhaps an agreement can be made. For now, we’ll have to wait.

 

 

AXANAR: CBS Suit and Star Trek Fan Films

Grid Talk: 04 – Star Trek Horizon

This week, on Grid Talk, I was able to sit down, well sit online, with the main man behind Star Trek Horizon, Tommy Kraft. The many of many hats and talents was nice enough to come on and answer my questions about his Horizon project, making a Star Trek fan film, and the overall process he’s been going through over the past few years. What is Star Trek Horizon? It is a fan film set after season 4 of Star Trek Enterprise during the Romulan War. For those who watched the series, many were disappointed that Enterprise never got to the Romulan War, well, Horizon is here to show us a bit about that time period on-board the NX-04 Discovery, another NX Class starship like Enterprise. So sit back, relax, and polarize the haul platting, it’s time for Grid Talk.

After listening, please stop by StarTrekHorizon.com. He’s got two different trailers available to watch as well as a gallery of photos. Also, if you’d like to help support Tommy’s ambitious Star Trek Horizon project, he’s got a PayPal donation page setup on his website in the project’s post-Kickstarter era.

Keep an eye out for Star Trek Horizon in February 2016.

Star Trek Horizon Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer

Special Guests
Tommy Kraft

Executive Producer and Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Michael Wallace (Flying Killer Robots)

iTunes Link
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/grid-talk-sci-fi-frontiers/id1057992963?mt=2

RSS Feed
http://thegridscififrontier.com/feed/podcast/gridtalk

Social Media
@GridTalkTweets

Email
contact@thegridscififrontier.com

Grid Talk: 04 – Star Trek Horizon

Star Trek: Renegades – A Review

Firstly, let me start off by saying that I am not against fan films existing. I think that Star Trek having such a giant fan film base is a great thing and an excellent platform for aspiring filmmakers to get their start in a universe grounded in the deep lore that Star Trek has built over the last 49 years. I personally attempt to keep up with any news of new fan films in the works and I am ecstatic for the upcoming Axanar and Pacific 201 films which appear to bring a new brilliance to otherwise unseen eras in the Star Trek timeline.

That being said, Star Trek: Renegades was just…bad, in every sense of the word. While I am not against fan films existing, I am against bad producing, bad writing, and just generally bad storytelling in whatever forms it may appear in. Be that a Star Trek fan film, James Cameron’s Avatar, or any Uwe Boll film ever, I will always be against sloppy, confusing, and just plain uninteresting storytelling such as that which appears in Renegades. In order to be specific and logical with my grievances, I will attempt to go through each category of filmmaking and be as specific as possible about where I feel there are errors.

 

***********PLEASE NOTE THAT SPOILERS WILL APPEAR BELOW.*****************

 

ACTING

Firstly, the acting of Renegades was, in simple terms, atrocious. People may point to the performances of Tim Russ, Walter Koenig, and Robert Picardo as being good acting and yes, for the most part, these three seasoned Star Trek actors do give good and convincing performances. I was actually quite surprised at Koenig’s ability, in this film, considering his age and the fact that he hasn’t really played any other character ever, besides Chekov, except for his conniving role as Bester in Babylon 5. I thought perhaps he may have lost his ability to act over the years of playing the same character over and over again but this was not the case. Koenig delivered a nuanced and pleasant performance as a new kind of Chekov that I will admit was fun to watch.

Star Trek: Renegades Walter Koenig

However, Koenig’s, as well as Russ’s and Picardo’s considerable acting ability only serves to make literally every other actor pale in comparison. Extremely pale. Even other actors who have acted in professional films such as Manu Intiraymi, reprising his role as freed Borg/Brunali Icheb from Star Trek: Voyager, and Corin Nemec, known for his role as Jonas Quinn from Stargate SG-1, simply do not seem to have the ability to act anymore, if they ever did. Honestly, I think their respective performances in Voyager and SG-1 were raised by the professionalism of those around them and once that professionalism was lost, their acting ability suffered. Unfortunate but true.

For Nemec’s performance, I was half convinced that, when looking at his ship’s viewscreen, he was really looking at cue cards for his dialogue and was reading them off one at a time. Unfortunately, this is the standard that Renegades sets with its acting and the bad performances are made even worse when performed in front of Koenig, Russ, or Picardo. It was torturous to see Chekov actually perform when the character of his great grand-daughter stands there and delivers lines as wooden as can be, especially that of former Mythbuster/McDonalds spokesman Grant Imahara. Even the scenes where Koenig, Russ and Picardo are not present, the acting feels like a band of amateurs decided to recite lines off the Renegades script. Not act, recite. All of the rest of the performances feels more akin to a dramatic reading than film acting. Everything comes off as forced, wooden and entirely unconvincing, which is the job of actor. Make me believe that you are your character. In this, Renegades entirely failed with the notable exception of Koenig who, I am pleased to say, still has it.

PRODUCTION DESIGN AND SPECIAL EFFECTS

Perhaps the only half redeeming part of Renegades is that, because its budget was larger than most, it does have a decent amount of good designs, mostly in the area of the ship design. Many of the CGI ships were well designed, well rendered and pleasant to look at. My only issue with this area was how the Syphon ships looked too similar to the Son’a ships from Star Trek: Insurrection but maybe that’s just me. However, the CGI model for the USS Archer, same class as the titular ship from Voyager’s two parter “Equinox”, was gorgeous. Very nice to look at and praise to the artist who made it. All that being said, the bulk of any CGI where it was motion-tracked or chroma-keyed was just bad. When physical sets were being used, the settings were decently convincing but once any actor walked in front of a green screen, I instantly could tell the difference and it severely brought down the experience.

Star Trek: Renegades Icarus in Battle

While all that could be explained due to a lack of proper budget, nothing can explain why Icheb’s pseudo-Borg tech arm thing was made from CGI and not a physical prop. Icheb’s robot arm was seriously the most distracting part of this film simply because it was horribly motion-tracked. As Icheb would walk, his arm would not move smoothly and would inexplicably jerk one way or another regardless of how Icheb was actually moving. It was so noticeable that I had to rewind just to make sure I wasn’t crazy. It would have made so much more sense to just build a glossy plastic arm for his to wear and, in all likelihood, would have been cheaper to do. It seems like the filmmakers wanted so much to have the CGI effect of Icheb’s arm appearing from nothing that they dismissed all concepts of practicality in favor of one effect that was unimpressive to say the least.

 

And Icheb’s arm is not the only CGI artifact that doesn’t appear good. The strange artifact that creates portals simply did not appear real. It had such an annoying glow and faded look that one can only assume that it was made using the most simplistic of 3D modeling software. If they took so much time and spent so much money on making the ships look as good as they do, why couldn’t they make a simple 3D stone block look any sort of real? Apparently consistency was not on the minds of these filmmakers since the complex CGI elements like spaceships will look good but simple elements like stone blocks or robot arms look entirely fake.

EDITING

While I understand that making an amateur film can be an overwhelming undertaking, I do not believe there is an excuse for the sloppy editing present in Renegades. I remember a year or so ago when Renegades was posting about their new cameras and how professional they were gonna look because of it and stuff. However, even with their tech advances, Renegades still feels like an amateur backyard film. I remember making backyard films with my brother and I make no claims to greatness. Our films sucked and I fully admit that but Renegades promised something so professional looking that they made it out like CBS was actually considering them. After viewing Renegades, I can say that the editing alone would be enough to turn any professional TV executive off of the idea. The flaws in the editing are almost too numerous to count. Perhaps the most grievous error is the absurd amount of bad closeups. I don’t mind an occasional closeup but when you literally spend half of your dramatic scenes with a slow motion closeup that isn’t even centered on the actor’s face, you have a problem. It comes off as forced drama and looks cheap.

CHARACTERIZATION (AKA AN EXERCISE IN FAN SERVICE)

Being an aspiring screenwriter, I pay close attention to how characters are developed and characterized in TV and films. Characterization is perhaps the most important part of screenwriting because it’s how you get the audience invested in your story. Without characters that feel real, you leave the audience wondering why they are wasting their time on characters they don’t care about, and that is the case for literally every single character in Renegades. No one, and I literally mean no one, is an interesting character. After viewing Renegades, I couldn’t believe just how bad each character was made and how much apathy I had for them all. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of characters in Renegades are not actual characters but merely caricatures of their “place in Star Trek” for the purposes of fan service.

Let’s start off with the minor characters and since their names are unimportant, I will refer to them by their species since that’s all they represent in this movie.

The Bajoran has no purpose in this film other than to be the foil for The Cardassian. Both have no reason to be there other than they already are, both have no character agency to keep doing the things they do. They are contrivances for the purpose of making the audience feel like it’s more ‘Star Treky’ because there is a Bajoran who hates a Cardassian and makes a Pah-Wraith reference and a Cardassian there for the Bajoran to hate. They all forget that Renegades is supposed to take place long after the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and that the Dominion War was won. The Cardassians were defeated and were presumedly forced to pay restitution and work towards peace, although not seen on screen. Being an avid Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan and a lover of how the Bajoran/Cardassian political situation was worked into the story, I cannot express how much I hated how Renegades decided that their best use of a Bajoran and Cardassian was as a simple exposition of racism with no explanation and no reasoning. I found this insulting both to myself and to the depth that DS9 had explicated the Bajoran/Cardassian story over its seven year run.

Now for another minor character pairing that made no sense. Icheb and the Betazoid are simply the most awkward coupling I’ve ever seen. Their pairing is not romantic in nature but it’s also not without possibility and if this explanation makes no sense, that mirrors the sense that both of these characters don’t have. Icheb, bitter at being experimented on by Section 31, but also possibly thankful, constantly gives the Betazoid a hard time just for being around. Icheb exudes angst over being abused by both the Borg and Section 31 but he also somehow likes it and when the Betazoid questions him about anything, Icheb gets angry. You’ll also notice reading this that I haven’t mentioned anything about the Betazoid on her own because for all intents and purposes, she has no character on her own. She is there to be the plot device that Icheb talks to and also the plot device that helps free Icheb from the Syphon guard with her Betazoid telepathy. If one were to simply replace her with say Deanna Troi, or any Betazoid ever, or even if she was just replaced in the script with “telepathic plot device”, one would never know the difference because of how flat and unnecessary she is.

Star Trek: Renegades Icheb

Coming over to Dr. Lucian and Fixer, this is perhaps the only pairing that had any sort of compelling emotional appeal that worked. While I think that the explanation for why we should feel for these characters didn’t work, Sean Young, better known as Replicant Rachael from Blade Runner, gave a decently nuanced performance alongside Robert Picardo’s reprisal of Dr. Lewis Zimmerman that made me feel for her situation even though I didn’t really know nor understand her situation. Basically, I understood that Fixer was once a person important to her and when he died, she preserved his brain patterns in the hologram of Fixer that has been serving as the Icarus’s engineer since then unbeknownst to the rest of the crew. However, this is where this plot line fell apart. Given the numerous problems with maintaining hologram’s visual integrity as seen in Voyager with The Doctor, I didn’t find it believable that the Fixer hologram had passed itself off as human for years with no one on the crew knowing, including himself. Wouldn’t someone have noticed at some point the slightest glitch in his holographic matrix? Wouldn’t someone have noticed that he doesn’t eat or use the bathroom or anything a human does? This coupled with the fact that it is never explained where Fixer’s holographic emitters are or how they work or how he can go anywhere and do everything everyone else can made for Fixer’s character to be just an excuse for Dr. Lucian and Dr. Zimmerman to have a secret from everyone else. While they could have at least explained that Fixer uses a mobile emitter like Voyager’s EMH, it’s as if Renegades assumed that its audience was too dumb to question how his hologram works so they sidestepped the issue entirely.

Coming over to perhaps the worst performance of the entire cast, Lt. Masaru, played by Grant Imahara, I have to say that this character made no sense in the slightest. He starts out as an aid to Admiral Chekov and only serves as a plot device for narrative explanation to bring the audience up to speed. Then, near the end of the film, he is revealed to have been a spy and assassin. He kills Admiral Paris, and just as he attempts to reveal his evil plan and kill Admiral Chekov, Masaru is conveniently killed by Chekov’s unnecessary Romulan bodyguard. This was perhaps the ultimate slap in the face to the audience. The Romulan, who is never explained, kills their only known lead to the conspiracy and her only excuse for killing the person who could explain everything is “old habits.” Like really? You unnecessarily kill your big reveal plot device character of Masaru using another unnecessary plot device Romulan because of “old habits”? Way to prolong the conspiracy way longer than needed because you were too dumb to realize that information could save everyone but what can you expect from a character whose only existence was to kill Masaru because the plot demanded it.

And for the final minor character that I will explicate, The Andorian. This was the most blatant use of fan service that has ever existed. Not only is she a hot Andorian chick, but one with cleavage that would make Seven of Nine blush. Her entire existence is reduced to serving as an over-sexualized device for the demands of the plot to use and spit out. First, I am not going to be one of those people who say that ALL sex appeal in Star Trek is heresy like those who disdain Seven of Nine or Deanna Troi simply because their bodies were accentuated. However, the Andorian’s body is not just accentuated, its crafted for the specific purpose of over-sexualized titillation clearly seen in her first seen when she engages in a lesbian tryst with a woman right before using a “mind rape” device on her. Then, for the rest of the film, is seen with an annoying amount of cleavage rivaling that of Christina Hendricks. I can only assume that this distracting amount of cleavage was used to draw the audience away from the fact that the Andorian only exists to be the stereotypical “hacker” chick who discovers the evil conspiracy because she can and the plot demanded that of her. When your characters are serving the whims of the plot just because that’s how it HAS to happen or it all falls apart, you have a problem with your plot and it makes your characters flat, uninteresting, and unpleasant to watch.

While I could go on with other minor characters and how contrived they are, I shall digress by moving on to the antagonists. The Syphon are a new race introduced in Renegades and I have to say, I couldn’t find them less interesting. Given that the Syphon are supposed to be something new, you would expect perhaps new and unexplored traits to appear that may bring interest to the audience but about five minutes into their introduction, they are revealed to be nothing more than Klingons in fake looking masks. The Syphon culture, as it appears, praises honor and rituals and rites essentially all things that we’ve seen before in the Klingon episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, coupled with the fact that the Syphon appearance looks curiously like it was ripped off of the Wraith from Stargate: Atlantis, I feel like no imagination was actually put into these villains. They are given some plot contrived reason for why their actions are not actually wrong because they were wronged first but this is never explored beyond their word so we have no way of knowing what they’re actually doing. The Syphon are the bad guys because the plot demands that there be alien bad guys for no real reason. Again, having contrived characters, or in this case entire cultures, makes for zero interest on the part of the audience. Especially when this alien race is nothing more than Klingon rejects.

Star Trek: Renegades Lexxa

Finally we come to the major characters but curiously, the only one of any real consequence is Lexxa Singh. I cannot express just how uninteresting this character is. She first appears in her Orion prison cell writing the words to William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus, on the walls which in itself made no real sense other than Lexxa accentuates the word, “captain”, in a clichéd way to reference Star Trek’s tradition of captains. Perhaps this was meant to be a reference to Nelson Mandela’s incarceration in Robbin Island prison but given Lexxa’s apathy about pretty much everything other than her mother, I just couldn’t see it. But let’s just discuss Lexxa’s origins for a minute. Her last name is Singh and it is revealed that she is the famed Khan Noonian Singh’s daughter…three hundred or so years after he would have been at the peak of power during the Eugenics Wars…and about a hundred years after his brief resurgence as seen in Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan. So you may ask why Khan’s daughter appears in a time when it’s pretty much impossible for to appear in at her age and you would be right to ask. There is no answer to be found however. Replace Lexxa with any character who has any modicum of fighting skill and nothing would have changed. There is nothing special about Lexxa that would make her being Khan’s daughter make any sort of sense. It is as if the writers were like: “We need a main character but with something that the Trekkies will like because it’s a reference to something…Khan’s Daughter, let’s do it regardless of how much sense it won’t make.” Then Lexxa’s origins are conveniently sidestepped by her flashbacks regarding her mother whose identity is never revealed. Is this supposed to be Marla McGivers? Or someone Khan knew during The Eugenics Wars? We never find out. All that matters is the half-hearted attempt at giving Lexxa some character depth even if it only serves to make her character more confusing than she already is.

STORYLINE

I will put this quite simply. The plotline is a mess. There are these interwoven plot threads involving a Starfleet conspiracy, the Syphon threat, Section 31, the USS Archer, and the crew of the Icarus but nothing comes full circle. It feels as if the filmmakers wanted to do something impressive so they took the base ideas from three fan films and smashed them together into one, resulting in a convoluted mess that makes the Temporal Cold War of Star Trek: Enterprise’s infamy look like the plot a children’s chapter book. The conspiracy is never resolved, story feels no more advanced at the end than it did at the beginning, and the Syphon threat is only somewhat resolved due to some deus ex machina performed by Fixer using technobabble that would put Voyager’s plot resolutions to shame. In short, don’t expect anything to make sense at all because it won’t and thinking about it will only result in a headache.

Star Trek: Renegades Syphon

THE BUDGET ARGUMENT

Now many will argue that Renegades deserves some slack due to its lack of budget and yes, I can forgive things like effects, set design and the like since money is required for these things. But one thing that always pops out to me is why do some of the effects suck while others are pretty great? Why is there this disconnect? If you’re going to do one thing well, do everything well. Don’t be so half-hearted that you think that if you do a few things well and skimp on the rest that no one will notice. Another thing that does not require money is imagination. There was no imagination brought into this movie. Everything was so contrived and forced that it felt like these filmmakers were being forced into making a movie when they really didn’t want to. Good writing costs no money but this film is lacking any sort of good writing and skill in making an interesting movie. Look at a movie like Primer. While I am not a die-hard fan of Primer, it is easily recognizable that the makers of that film had imagination and while they had a tiny budget, certainly less than Renegades, they still made something decently good and at the very least, interesting enough to enthrall an audience in its world. This is something Renegades quite simply didn’t do.

THE TV PILOT ARGUMENT

Some will also argue that Renegades was meant as a television pilot and that the characters, plot, and budget could all be fixed if given more time to develop. While yes, TV pilots are meant to introduce characters and plots but Renegades did too much. Like I said in the Storyline section, it felt as if they wanted to smash three plots into one and hope it worked out when it didn’t and, while I don’t think having a lot of characters was a flaw, I do think having every character nothing more than a caricature, plot device, or fan service was a flaw. Look at a show like Firefly. They had a cast of eight and, just in the pilot, they made each character interesting enough that we wanted to come back to see more of them then in the subsequent episodes. We got to see each character develop more and more. Same with shows like Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, JJ Abrams’ Lost, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and the list goes on. While they didn’t complete plots or character threads in the pilots, and they didn’t need to. They did at least make the characters have the potential to become more than what they started out as. Renegades did not do this. Each character was so flat that they can only continue being just as uninteresting if any more episodes have the unfortunate fortitude to get made.

STAR TREK: RENEGADES OVERALL

Just to wrap up, do not think that I am a hater of all fan films or anything of the like or that I am a Trek hater. I too would love for Star Trek to return to TV but I am extremely thankful that CBS did not pick up Renegades because I am simply against shoddy writing and poor filmmaking and, in the case of Renegades, it simply did not do justice to Star Trek. Given that Star Trek is one of the richest modern mythologies ever created, it deserves better than Renegades’ half-hearted attempt at continuing where Voyager/Nemesis left off. With its nonsensical plot, terrible characterization, and mismatched production value, Renegades should serve as an exercise in how not to make a fan film when you have a larger than most budget and also as an example of not being so steeped in hubris in a vain attempt to sell to CBS.

Have you seen Renegades? What did you think? Let us know in the comments

Star Trek: Renegades – A Review

Pacific 201 – A New Star Trek Kickstarter

Pacific 201 is a brand new Star Trek universe fan-made production. We’ve had several major hitters over the last couple of years including Star Trek: Renegades and, of course, Star Trek: AxanarPacific 201 takes place in the 2200s, forty years after the end of the Romulan War, the war we would have seen in season five of Star Trek: Enterprise. On August 21st, they launched their Kickstarter. To learn more about it, I was lucky enough to be able to interview Eric Henry, the man behind the Pacific 201 project.

Pacific 201 Recruitment Poster

Me: Hello, Eric. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today. First, let’s talk about you. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with Star Trek, and film.

Star Trek has always been a big part of my life. My father, who had the privilege of growing up with the original series, did a great job of introducing my siblings and I to Star Trek with episodes and movies on tape. I don’t think we had all that many episodes, to be honest, but we watched them to death. There was a pretty healthy mix of TOS, TNG, and I think we had The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, as well. Voyager was on the air by the time I was old enough to remember watching television, and we watched that every week too.

As far as my involvement with film goes, a lot of that is thanks to my father as well, who worked as a video photographer during most of my formative years. This meant that I was in near-constant contact with filmmaking equipment, and naturally, making movies became a staple of my childhood. It’s probably pretty safe to say that I made a movie a year from the time I was 6 to the time I was 18. By the time I entered college, I wanted to “up my game,” as it were. Finding myself with a film-savvy roommate, we set out to make something a little more professional, and we ended up producing a Kickstarter-funded short film called “Lily” two years later. Pacific 201 will be my biggest project to date, but it’s a natural step for me.

Pacific 201 Torpedo Fire

Me: Obviously, the big topic of discussion is your new project, Pacific 201, which is a new fan-film set in the Star Trek universe. Can you tell us a bit, for those that don’t know, about the film, when it takes place, and maybe the overall premise?

Pacific 201 is a story about how humanity copes with the aftermath of its first interstellar war – a war that shattered dreams for a lot of people. Even the founding of the Federation wasn’t quite enough to keep humanity from questioning its role in the quadrant. “Is exploring the stars really worth it if death and destruction are all we get from it?” We have to remember that since the launching of the NX-01, Earth suffered two major interstellar crises with the Xindi and the Romulans. It hasn’t all been peace and hope. The mission of the Pacific is a new generation of humanity proving to itself that the dream of peace and prosperity in the final frontier CAN be realized. It took humanity 40 years to regain it’s footing, but the launch of the Pacific is the true dawn of the kind of Starfleet and the kind of Federation we see in TOS.

Me: So, in short, your film, Pacific 201, takes place about forty years after the end of the Romulan War and the ship, Pacific 201, is the first real deep space exploration ship since the end of the war?

We imagine that Starfleet was doing SOME exploration between the Romulan War and the launch of the Pacific, but it’s definitely one of the last things on their mind. Border security, reestablishing trade routes, and other tasks associated with rebuilding after a costly war consumes much of Starfleet’s time and resources. Not to mention that probing into deep space is a sore subject for humanity after the war. Poking our nose into the unknown hasn’t done humanity much good, after all. Or – that’s the way it seems. But as a new generation comes of age, that attitude is diminishing.

Pacific 201 Shuttle

Me: Why did you pick this particular time period for your film?

When the story first dawned on me, it was actually something more concurrent with Kirk’s time. Perhaps slightly before the beginning of TOS – like the year 2260. But as I thought more about the story, I wanted there to be a really big deal about a new deep-space exploration vessel, and that didn’t really make sense coexisting with a ship like the NCC-1701. So I then considered a pre-ENT story, and while exploring that time interested me, I thought the speeds were too slow to get the ship anywhere really meaningful and new. There’s too much hand-holding in that era. I then realized that the period after the Romulan War would be jam-packed with all sorts of really tangible attitudes and situations that an audience could relate to. It’s not just a point on a timeline, but it’s a period of time that would have characters with real opinions and histories. People who had lost parents in the war, people distrustful of the unknown, people yearning for a new era of peace. It offers a whole spectrum of rich storytelling opportunities.

Pacific 201 Romulan Stealth Ship

Me: Did other fan-film projects like Star Trek: Continues or Axanar play a part in why you chose this time period or story?

The story I chose has much more to do with movies like Apollo 13 and submarine movies than anything. Star Trek owes a lot to submarine combat, and that series developed in the Apollo-era of space travel, so I always thought it would be awesome to see a Star Trek movie that had the same nuts-and-bolts, practical, and realistic feeling of a real-world historical film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6EbTY9KBhM&feature=youtu.be

Me: So, I’ve seen a lot of the art and images posted online of the ship and uniforms. As is the case with previous Star Trek, the ship is basically its own character and something that gets a lot of screen time, especially in the Original Series-era films. Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for the ship design? Why did you place the nacelles above the saucer section and not attached directly to the secondary haul as is typical in Trek ship designs? Can you tell us anything about the ship’s specifications (i.e. crew size, warp speed capability, weapons, science stations, etc.)? Can it land?

The ship is definitely a character in this film. After all, the movie is named after the ship itself. The design for the ship stems directly out of a naval vessel. Star Trek is so deeply-rooted in maritime tradition, and I wanted to respect that. Furthermore, to go with the storytelling style, it was important that the ship looked like something we might actually build in the future. The original Enterprise always struck me as a design that looks like it HAS to look that way. Sure, it’s an awesome design, but when you really think about it, it’s so weird and unconventional that it actually lends to its credibility. Starships won’t be designed to look “cool”. Instead, they’ll look like they’re designed with a function in mind, and the Pacific meets that requirement, I think.

The nacelle placement is actually pretty inspired by the Constellation-class starship that we see in TNG. That design always looked to me to make the most practical sense of any ship in Starfleet, and since a practical design was foremost in my mind, I definitely lifted inspiration from that. The secondary hull on the Pacific is pretty much everything BUT the warp core – torpedoes, navigational deflector, shuttle bay, etc. I call it the “mission pod,” because I imagine it can be swapped out for different pods depending on the ship’s mission. The engineering section is actually located in the primary hull, and has a horizontal warp core like Archer’s NX-01.

The Pacific is actually a pretty small ship in terms of volume, and has a crew of only about 120 people. Considering her size, she’s only moderately armed. The Pacific isn’t a battleship, but between four phaser cannons and four photon torpedo tubes, she does still have teeth. The Pacific also has 20 small bays that feasibly hold weapons, such as atomic missiles (which we assume were used during the Romulan War when there wasn’t enough antimatter to go around for torpedoes).

Pacific 201 Close-up with Escape Pod

Me: Alright, well, I’m very excited to see this ship in action. I, personally, think it’s a very beautiful design. Let’s talk about the uniforms. They seem to be a nice evolution from the Star Trek: Enterprise era naval style but include the basic color scheme used in the Original Series. How did you end up with this uniform design?

The uniforms take a very blatant page from British “No. 3” navy uniforms. One particular variant of that uniform includes a pullover sweater as part of the uniform, and we thought “ah, this actually kind of links to TOS,” because in the pilot episodes especially, the uniforms are, for all intents and purposes, pullovers. They even have the ribbed collar that the British No. 3 sweaters have. So we thought that was a fun way to link the real world to the Star Trek world.

Pacific 201 Crew Uniform

Me: As the Kickstarter, which we’ll talk about shortly, notes, you have stainless steel badges on the uniforms. Did you see these as an earlier version of the insignia badges in later Trek or were you trying for something completely different?

The badges on our uniforms are honestly closer to “something completely different” than anything else. There was no specific Starfleet badge in ENT, and in TOS, the badges on the uniform are something more akin to assignment patches. Since the uniforms in Pacific 201 already will include an assignment patch, the badge is actually something kind of new. In the context of the Pacific 201 world, it doubles as a personal data card (something that actually has precedent in TOS). You can read all about that in an article on the Pacific 201 website.

Pacific 201 - Crew Badge

 

Me: I mentioned the Kickstarter, so we should probably dive into that. Your campaign was launched on August 21st with a goal of $20,000. Why did you decide to go with crowd funding and why did you choose Kickstarter over other options like Indiegogo?

Kickstarter was a really natural choice for this movie. I had already used Kickstarter once before for Lily, and I really like that site’s model. I didn’t want to switch platforms between projects since Kickstarter already worked really well in the past, and we had something of a track record there.

Pacific 201 Interceptor

Me: Now, whenever a Kickstarter is talked about, someone always manages to claim that the money asked for is never necessary. Why did you choose to provide such a detailed breakdown right out of the gate? Your campaign specifically breaks things down into three categories and then those get broken down even deeper. Was this something you wanted to do from the get-go?

This is something that Axanar really impressed me with. They released a very, very detailed breakdown of costs that inspired a lot of confidence, and I felt that was something we should emulate with the Pacific 201 Kickstarter. Our breakdown isn’t super-specific, since we haven’t made every last decision as to what models of camera and lenses we’ll need to buy, but we thought that getting as specific as possible was something we really wanted to do.

Pacific 201 Top-down

Me: Let’s talk about the perks. You’ve got a lot of digital perks plus a few physical ones. How did you determine what perks would be available?

Something we wanted to do with the perks was to offer things that were really relevant to the actual project – things we’ll actually see in the movie. So the patches, the badges, and the pins were really obvious choices, since we’ll actually see those on-screen, and it’s always fun to hold something like that in your hands. The technical manual, too, was something that we thought would be really cool, since it will go into a lot of detail about things we’ve thought up for the story and the universe, but won’t have time to show on-screen. It’ll be really cool supplemental material that should enrich the experience overall.

Pacific 201 Ship

Me: One thing I noticed is that the film is only available in digital form. Have you thought about or do you have plans to release a physical DVD or Blu-Ray down the road? If not, why not?

Producing a DVD or a Blu-Ray is a huge amount of work that is actually somewhat disproportionate to the interest for it. Lots of fans are content with just streaming the movie on Youtube, after all. Given the work involved, it seemed like something that we didn’t want to offer as a perk on the Kickstarter – at least as anything but a standalone perk, which can confuse users, and that’s something we didn’t really want to do. However, we’re really not ignoring those who have asked questions about a DVD or a Blu-Ray. Our viewers who also want a DVD or a Blu-Ray can look forward to future plans, where we might end up offering a physical copy of the film as a standalone perk through Paypal donations after the Kickstarter. It depends on the interest.

Me: One perk, that I’m very excited about personally, is the limited $500 level which actually gets the person a speaking role in a scene of the film. That’s very cool. Are you excited about this perk? Was it something you thought would be fun or more necessary?

That particular perk is something that’s not really necessary, but definitely a fun way to involve our fans. We have a lot of roles in our script that are just one, two, or three lines, and since a Kickstarter is all about co-creation, it seemed natural to get fans in on a piece of the action.

Me: Can you give us any details about that role?

We have a few different roles that we have in mind for the $500 level, and the specific roles that donors at that level will get will probably vary on schedule availability, and who fits the costumes we have. We can’t really reveal the specific roles at the moment… but it’s safe to say that somebody might get to play a Romulan!

Pacific 201 Headon

Me: Another interesting perk is the Technical Manual. What kinds of things do you expect to end up in this book? Are you basing off of the previous official Technical Manuals say from The Next Generation?

The technical manual is definitely inspired by the Next Generation technical manual, and it’s going to include a wide variety of details that aren’t just limited to details about the ship. We’re going to include sections on the relevant in-universe history surrounding Pacific 201, as well as details on specific technologies and maybe even some character bios.

Me: The Kickstarter ends on September 20th, at 11:59PM EST. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the campaign before we move on?

Just that sharing and spreading the word is as important as actual contributions. Getting the word out will help this project succeed!

Me: Okay, let’s talk special effects. The ship renderings look great, as do the props shown in your Kickstarter video. How are you handling the special effects? Are you trying for practical effects with models or do you have some visual effects people working on it?

Currently, I’m handling a large portion of the special effects myself, but we are looking to expand the team, since not only is there a very high standard for the visuals in this movie, but there are some effects-heavy scenes in our script that will need talented contributing artists.

Pacific 201 Overhead

Me: Are you looking to have the bridge and other interior sets physically built or will some of that be CGI?

Our interior sets will be physically built. We have a really cool and intuitive plan to build our set in an almost entirely modular way, which will let us build dozens of sets at a greatly reduced cost by mixing and matching elements to create new spaces. I think people will really like our sets, which we’ll start building in force after a successful Kickstarter.

Me: Finally, let’s talk about future plans. If the Kickstarter is funded successfully and you’re able to make the Pacific 201 film, do you have hopes or plans for future films or a web series or are you anticipating this as a one-shot film?

Pacific 201 is a self-contained story, and there are no plans to create sequels or a web series. But who knows? I do have a really cool story in mind for a Romulan War miniseries… but if that ever happened, it’d be far off on the horizon.

Pacific 201 - Crew Member

 

Me: Is there anything else you’d like to add or mention about the project, yourself, your team or anything at all?

Just that we hope you all love what we’re doing as much as we do, and we can’t wait to show you a really excellent final product.

This has really been great. Thanks again for joining us, Eric. We’re very excited to see the final project and boldly go with you and your crew. To find out more about Pacific 201 check them out at the locations below and don’t forget to stop by and contribute to their Kickstarter before September 20th.

So there you have it, Pacific 201 aims to be a story about exploration, about moving beyond the Romulan War while fitting into the overall timeline of the Star Trek franchise. To learn more about the project, please check out the links below:

Pacific 201 Website

Facebook

Kickstarter

What do you think of the latest Star Trek Kickstarter? Are you going to back the campaign? What do you like about what they’ve shown so far? Comment below!

Pacific 201 – A New Star Trek Kickstarter