June 19, 2006
Star Trek...nothing but Star Trek...

I love this story about Star Trek fans filling the TV void with their own productions.

From these Virginia woods to the Scottish Highlands, Star Trek fans are filling the void left in a galaxy that has lost Star Trek. For the first time in nearly two decades, television spin-offs from the original 1960s Star Trek series have ended, so fans are banding together to make their own episodes.

Fan films have been around for years, particularly those related to the Star Wars movies. But now they can be downloaded from the Web, and modern computer-graphics technology has lent them surprising special effects. And as long as no one is profiting from the work, Paramount, which owns the rights to Star Trek, has been tolerant. (Its executives declined to comment.)

As you might imagine, I approve of this hands-off approach by Paramount. It seems to me they have little to lose, and as long as new Trek content is being created, the fan base is being maintained. And who knows? One of these hobbyists could hit one out of the park, and thus create enough demand for another official show to be produced.

"The fans are saying, 'Look, if we can't get what we want on television, the technology is out there for us to do it ourselves,'" said Sieber, a 40-year-old engineer for a government contractor who likens his Star Trek project, at www.starshipfarragut.com, to "online community theater."

And viewers are responding. One series, at www.newvoyages.com, and based in Ticonderoga, N.Y., boasts of 30 million downloads. It has become so popular that Walter Koenig, the actor who played Chekov in the original Star Trek, is guest-starring in an episode, and George Takei, who played Sulu, is slated to shoot another one later this year. D.C. Fontana, a writer from the original Star Trek series, has written a script.

Make fun of these folks if you want, but that's pretty impressive. I may have to check one of them out. It can't be any cheesier than a Trek novel or comic book, right? (Yes, I've bought and read each. Go ahead, make fun of me, too.)

Just one quibble:

For many Trekkies, contemporary science fiction on television - such as Battlestar Galactica and the more recent Star Trek spin-offs - are too dark.

"Modern science fiction takes itself too seriously," said Jimm Johnson, 37, who presides over Starship Exeter.

John Broughton Jr., who founded the Farragut project, agreed.

"One thing about the classic Star Trek is at the end of the episode, it was pretty much a happy ending," he said. "It was sort of like The Brady Bunch. It was all tidied up."

Dude. Brady Bunch comparisons are never flattering. I thought the darkness and longer story arcs of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made it the best of the lot. Your mileage may certainly vary, but please. Ixnay on the Brady Bunch references, okay?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 19, 2006 to TV and movies | TrackBack

Kudos to these guys for the efforts, but I've seen better acting in my neice's fifth-grade school plays.

I'll be the first to say that the payrolls earned by actors these days is ludicrous, but after watching something like New Voyages, the presence and impact of ability is undeniable.

Posted by: Buhallin on June 19, 2006 1:55 PM

Suffice it to say, however, that the Trek franchise was not built on superb acting ability.


Posted by: Jim D on June 19, 2006 4:40 PM

The reference to Paramount's control of the license is interesting. A friend that is working on the Trek MMO reports that they report to CBS for license clearances and that it is a world better than the horror stories about getting clearances from Paramount. CBS apparently wound up with the Trek rights via the Viacom merger. Hopefully CBS will continue the hands-off approach to Trek fan projects.

It is also interesting that all of the fan projects seem to be based on TOS rather than the more recent serieses.

Posted by: Jeb on June 20, 2006 2:06 PM

@Jim D: Yeah, and I consider most of the fan stuff to be far worse than that... What does that tell you? :)

And while many of the fan efforts are TOS, not all of them are. New Voyages is, I believe, post-DS9.

Posted by: Buhallin on June 20, 2006 2:54 PM