For this week’s Fan Film Fridays, with the recent release of Star Trek: Discovery, we’re going to boldy go into one of the most successful, and recently controversial, sectors of fan films. Many Star Trek fan films are notable for their professional level production quality and attracting actors and writers who worked on the actual TV shows and movies. As with all fan films, they were made by people passionate about their fandom. For many Star Trek fans, they have filled a void they felt has been created by Hollywood.
PARAGON’S PARAGON (1974)
Ever since the first show aired in the 1960’s, fans have made their own home movies about the crew of the Enterprise. The first known professionally made Star Trek fan film is entitled Paragon’s Paragon, which was produced by one John Cosentino. He is best known for publishing the magazine Cinemagic, which gave tips for low budget filmmakers. Paragon’s Paragon is noted for having a budget of what amounts today as $10,000. It ran for an hour, as it was also an unofficial adaptation of a Star Trek novel entitled Spock Must Die. As one can see, the set design and visual effects arguably match those of the original show. Unfortunately for our modern times, the actress portraying Lieutenant Uhura is in blackface.
STARSHIP EXETER (2002)
Going beyond just a fan film, brothers Jimm and Joshua Johnson decided to make a fan series set within the continuity of the original Star Trek series, focused on the missions of the crew of the U.S.S. Exeter. In fact, the Exeter actually makes an appearance on the original series episode entitled The Omega Glory. Jimm and Joshua also star in the series as Captain John Quincy Garrovick and the Andorian B’fuselek respectively.
STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES (2004)
This fan series is set during the fifth and final year of the Enterprise’s “five year mission to explore new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations.” Co-creators James Cawley and Jack Marshall had an exact replica of the original Enterprise bridge built for this series. Their production quality attracted talent from the original series in Walter Koenig and George Takei as their roles of Pavel Chekov and Hikaru Sulu respectively. As well, original series story editor D.C. Fontana wrote an episode of this fan series.
STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER (2006)
Fifty episodes make this fan series stand out, created by Rob Caves. This series is set after the end of the Dominion War storyline on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and follows the crew of the starship Excelsior and the station Deep Space 12. Also notable for fans, is that series openly explored LGBT relationships, a demographic that some have felt has not been adequately explored enough in the Hollywood shows and movies that celebrate human diversity.
STAR TREK: INTREPID (2007)
Filmed entirely in Scotland, this fan series is set several years after the Hollywood film Star Trek: Nemesis. The starship Intrepid explores a new sector, that the Federation has their eye on colonizing. The production crew of Intrepid has actually teamed up with the production crew of Hidden Frontier for several crossover episodes.
STAR TREK: ODYSSEY (2007)
This fan series is actually a spin-off of previously mentioned fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier. In this one, the crew of the U.S.S. Odyssey are trapped in the distant Andromeda Galaxy, and must find their way back to the Federation in the Milky Way Galaxy.
STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN (2007)
Star Trek: Voyager actor Tim Russ, who played the Vulcan Tuvok, directed this fan film. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, actors from the shows and the movies reprise their roles or play other characters, including Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Garrett Wang (Voyager), and Ethan Phillips (Voyager).
STAR TREK CONTINUES (2013)
Similar to Star Trek: New Voyages, this fan series attempts to fill in the gaps of the original series, after the show was cancelled and thus the complete five year mission was not put to screen. Aside from the attention to detail and production quality of the original series, Continues features the talents of anime voice actors Vic Mignoga as Captain Kirk and Todd Haberkorn as Spock; Chris Doohan, the son of original Scotty actor James Doohan, playing his father’s role and MythBusters‘ Grant Imhara as Sulu.
PRELUDE TO AXANAR (2014)
Star Trek fan films can’t be talked about, without bringing up the Axanar production. This short film had a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, and was supposed to set up a full, feature length fan film that this one set up. They then cast the talents of Trek and Battlestar Galactica alums Richard Hatch, J.G. Hertzler, Kate Vernon, Michael Hogan and Tony Todd. As well, they had another massive Kickstarter campaign. Yet, in 2015 the feature fan film was struck by a joint copyright infringement lawsuit by Paramount and CBS. More on the ramifications to Star Trek fan films later in this article.
STAR TREK: RENEGADES (2015)
This fan film was also made to be a pilot for a potential CBS TV show, set after the events of Star Trek: Voyager, but it was rejected. This fan film also brought back Star Trek alums Walter Koenig, Robert Picardo, Manu Intiraymi, Tim Russ, and Richard Herd as their own characters. Alums from another Trek fan films also round out the cast. Following its success, the producers announced a follow up series. But, after the Axanar lawsuit and later new Trek fan film guidelines under Paramount, the producers have re-titled the new series just Renegades, and will remove all references to Star Trek, making it an original sci-fi production.
STAR TREK: HORIZON (2016)
Unlike most fan films set in the original series or Next Generation era of Star Trek, this show is set during the era of prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise. As that Hollywood series shut down before the planned Romulan War storyline, this fan film tells that story. Following the Axanar lawsuit and Paramount fan film guidelines, the producers have stated they will not continue on with their planned sequel.
As stated before, following the Axanar lawsuit in late 2015, in June 2016, Paramount laid down new guidelines that all new Star Trek fan films must follow. Now, fan films cannot be longer than 15 minutes, cannot be longer than two installments and all participants cannot have previously worked on any official Star Trek production. Since then, multiple Star Trek fan films have either shut down or been pulled off online. It is unknown how this will affect the future of Star Trek, and her fandom (it should be noted here that at least some fan productions have found a way to cope with the new rules, maintained a good relationship with CBS, and continued on anyway, in particular the wildly popular Star Trek Continues).
The quality of fan made productions and stories can range from the embarrassing to the sublime, but they play a profound role in the health and the future of the genre. Considering the importance of science fiction in providing a pattern for future technology as well as the growth of humankind as a species, Star Trek fan films have a surprisingly important place in our future history.
Science fiction fans are unlike fans of any other genre of fiction. Each successive generation of its creators springs from the fandom of the previous one. Science fiction as a genre enjoys a kind of self-regenerating engagement not seen elsewhere. Each generation carries the seeds of the next, and so modern Star Trek fandom gives rise to its own future. Keepers of the Star Trek franchise, current and future, would do well to keep this in mind.