It seems a good time to be a Star Trek fan. Yesterday we got a new trailer for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, doing a lot to erase the poor taste left in our mouths by the tonally incorrect first trailer, and actually giving us hope that this threequel won’t be boldly going straight to the crap heap. And today comes news that should brighten up the day of any fan who’s ever pretended to sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of the Enterprise. But first some background…
Way back in 2014 we posted about Prelude to Axanar, a 21-minute long proof of concept short film for a full length fan-created Star Trek feature film that would act as a prequel to the original TV series, telling of the Federation’s early conflicts with the Klingon Empire. Star Trek Axanar drew tons of attention online when it was funded by fans on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo in excess of $1 million dollars. Led by producer Alec Peters, and starring some notable genre veterans like Richard Hatch, Tony Todd, Kate Vernon, Gary Graham and JG Hertzler, Axanar aimed to be a studio quality film, boasting visuals and make up effects from both classic Star Trek alumni and Oscar-winning craftsmen. This was clearly not going to be an ordinary fan film.
And originally, Star Trek rights holders Paramount and CBS were completely okay with this, as they had been with just about all other fan projects for years, as long as the creators were not making any commercial profit from it. But that all changed at the end of last year, when in the worst Christmas day gift ever, Paramount and CBS suddenly changed their minds and slapped the creators with a lawsuit forcing them to cease and desist work on their project. According to the lawsuit, “the Axanar works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes,” and that Paramount and CBS would be “demanding an injunction as well as damages for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement”.
There was lots of speculation as to why the studios suddenly had the change of heart, with the likeliest scenario being that Axanar was starting to look good enough to perhaps take attention away from the upcoming Star Trek TV series on CBS and Paramount’s Star Trek Beyond. Whatever the reason, the Star Trek fan community were not freaking happy at all.
Two such fans were JJ Abrams – the man who rebooted the current Star Trek movie universe and produces all the new movies – and Justin Lin – the very man who was directing Star Trek Beyond. According to a report from i09, Lin was “outraged” at the studio’s strong-arming of fans like this and reached out to Abrams to use their clout at Paramount to right this wrong. And at an unprecedented fan event over the weekend, where 10 minutes of footage for Star Trek Beyond was unveiled to those in attendance, Abrams used the high profile platform to candidly announce that they had pulled it off.
“A few months back there was a fan film, Axanar, that was getting made and there was this lawsuit that happened between the studio and these fans and Justin, I’ll tell the story because he probably wouldn’t, was sort of outraged by this as a long time fan. We started talking about it and realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans.
The fans should be celebrating this thing. Fans of Star Trek are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now, within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away, and that fans would be able to continue working on their project.”
Clearly the creators of Axanar can breathe a huge sigh of relief at now not having to see all their hard work going up in smoke due to litigation, but they issued a statement in response saying that they were still taking things cautiously.
While we’re grateful to receive the public support of JJ Abrams and Justin Lin, as the lawsuit remains pending, we want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount. Our goal from the beginning of this legal matter has been to address the concerns of the plaintiffs in a way that still allows us to tell the story of AXANAR and meets the expectations of the over 10,000 fans who financially supported our project.
There is still a lot of work to do, but receiving this kind of public support helps immensely.
Since the ruling has undoubtedly set a pleasing precedent for other Star Trek fan projects like Star Trek Anthology as well, they were a bit more positive about the outcome
“What it means for us is we can breathe again. We’ve been holding our breaths waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to all the other films.”
I’ve been following the progress of Star Trek Axanar since I first heard of it nearly two years ago, and with the lawsuit now pretty much out of the way, it looks like I will finally be able to see it all come together as well.
Last Updated: May 24, 2016