Picking your fights carefully: CBS, Paramount and Star Trek Fans

So it?s not news by now that Star Trek: Axanar, a fan film that Kickstarter loves, is getting sued by Paramount and CBS. The sides appear to be solidifying, digging in, becoming entrenched.

It may be too late to offer this, but can?t we find a simple solution to this problem?

Axanar is a much anticipated fan-made movie. To get the ball rolling, the production team created a mock documentary, Prelude to Axanar, that set the stage and introduced the main characters. On the success of this mini-movie, they opened a Kickstarter campaign that was phenomenally successful.

CBS and Paramount are suing Axanar Productions

The Axanar production team claims that they were in repeated contact with CBS and Paramount to ensure that everything was ok. suddenly, everything wasn?t OK, and lawyers got involved. Now CBS and Paramount are suing Axanar Productions to stop the film from being completed.

How did it come to this?

Well, 2016 is the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, and one hopes that there will be many pleasant surprises planned for this year. We know that Gene Roddenberry?s estate is releasing 366 behind the scenes artifacts, one per day for the whole leap year. We know that Paramount will be releasing Star Trek Beyond as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. CBS has commissioned a new TV series, but it won?t air until 2017. There should be plenty of room for Axanar. But there isn’t. Why?

Part of the problem, as I see it, is us, the fans.

Part of the problem is us, the fans.

JJ Abrams? reboot of Star Trek hasn?t sat well with many diehard trekkies (including me). And the third installment looks even worse (in the sense of abandoning Trek’s uiqueness) than the first two. Check out the trailer here to see just how unbelievably Fast & Furious it is.

Simultaneously, these same films have been financially successful, finding new fans, even as they alienated the original fan base. Along comes Axanar, offering to give the fans what they want – real trek. The disgruntled fans immediately latched onto it, making it an ?either or? exchange: Like Star Trek Beyond, and you will be an outcast in the fandom, or you can like Axanar and be cool. You can’t like both. That’s not an option. The sentiment seems best to be expressed as: Screw the man for taking our beloved universe and turning it into Fast and Furious Spaceships.

That?s not the way to placate Paramount or CBS. They now face a potentially embarassing rebellion during a very high profile 50th anniversary. They face a fan backlash that is seeing their tentpole property bad-mouthed months before it gets released.

The lawsuit simply solidified the two sides, making intractable enemies of both sides (the fans and Paramount/CBS – to some extent I feel that Axanar is a pawn of this,

The lawsuit makes intractable enemies of the fans and Paramount/CBS.

although perhaps of its own making).

How can we undo this gordian knot? I?m glad you asked. Fan films have a long history, especially with Star Trek. There are at least three youtube-based fan TV shows currently being produced. Paramount and CBS have been very forgiving of this. So, there is a history of benign acceptance. Can’t we turn that to benign oversight?

If I were asked by Paramount or CBS, I?d suggest the following:

  • CBS invest a set amount into the production of Axanar, in return for TV air rights to the movie. This could mean including Axanar as the capstone to some overall CBS Star Trek 50th Anniversary show.
  • Paramount invest a similar set amount into the production of Axanar in return for the right to include the movie in a DVD.

I know that this is an over-simplification of what would need to be negotiated. There would have to creative guarantees, production deadline guarantees, and some way of ensuring that Axanar production?s vision was not spoiled by corporate marketing interference.

Yet, it should be possible.

The alternative is fans actively boycotting outside of Star Trek Beyond theatres, demanding an end to JJ Trek films. Paramount losing its core Star Trek fan base on the 50th anniversary might not be too impactful if the film draws in the guns and explosions crowd. It could be worse for CBS, who need the original fanbase to support the new show coming in 2017. Some appeasement, some cooperation, some room for all to co-exist peacefully, will help all.

IDIC as a philosophy of how to co-exist. Strength together instead of weakness apart. The pie will get bigger if they share instead of squabbling over it.