Star Trek Legend David Gerrold expands again on his previous comments on the CBS lawsuit vs. Axanar.
Let me add this.
Seeing as how Axanar, the feature-length fan film has not yet been made, the lawsuit can only be seen as a preemptive strike.
It would not be too difficult for the producers of Axanar to make necessary changes to their costumes and sets and props and even their effects, nor would it be that hard to change the names of all the characters in their script. That is, everything that directly infringes on the Paramount/CBS copyrights could be eliminated — and Axanar could continue as an independent film, independent of Paramount and CBS.
Therefore the only claim that Paramount/CBS might have would be the short film that was released, PRELUDE TO AXANAR.
Renaming everything is an option to the producers of Axanar. I don’t know if it’s the best option, but it is one that could be done now–before the feature-length Axanar actually starts shooting.
Mostly, however, I think the whole thing is more of a public relations nightmare for everybody, and I hope that both sides (and their lawyers) can sit down at a conference table and just talk it out to see what best serves everyone — but most of all, what best respects Star Trek’s fans. Because if the outcome here is one that fandom in general dislikes, it will create additional damage to Paramount/CBS’ relationship with their audience.
Would there be a boycott and would such a boycott be effective?
Well, back in the days when Star Trek II was in production, one self-inflated fan, who believed he had built up a following among Trek fans, wrote a letter to the studio threatening that if he wasn’t given a part in the picture, his fans would boycott the film and the studio would lose millions of dollars. Harve Bennett almost hurt himself badly when he fell out of his chair laughing.
In more recent years, many fans of the original series have expressed their dislike of the Jar Jar Abrams version of Trek. Many of them have chosen not to see his films and many are saying they do not intend to see the third film either. Based on the evidence of the films’ gross earnings, it doesn’t look like that “boycott” has had much effect on the box office.
And that’s my point — even if Paramount/CBS trigger a fannish firestorm, they likely believe (and justifiably so) that any attempt at a boycott will have insignificant results. They likely believe (and justifiably so) that they can ride out a cycle of bad publicity.
Well, yes and no.
Some fans have wisely pointed out that the best publicity for Star Trek comes from Star Trek fandom. Fans share the trailers, they share the news, they share the excitement, they generate the buzz. If fans become disaffected, then Paramount and CBS lose one of their greatest assets — and that does hurt the box office grosses. Case in point? The ENDER’S GAME film took a hit because of Orson Scott Card’s publicly expressed anti-LGBT sentiments. How big a hit? Hard to say, but the bad buzz was significant enough that the filmmakers had to issue a disclaimer to Card’s remarks.
Back in the day, Star Trek’s greatest asset was Gene Roddenberry. Fans adored him. Ohell, everybody loved him. (At least until they had a chance to work for him, but that’s another story.) Gene attended conventions regularly and he was the great cheerleader. He was the Great Bird.
Since his death, Trek has not had many great cheerleaders. To some extent, Shatner and Nimoy and Patrick Stewart, and a few other cast members — but nobody represented Trek like Gene Roddenberry. And to the fan base, Gene represented the core of the vision. No one else has ever come close.
Without Gene, without someone who still holds the vision that Gene represented, Trek sometimes feels like a rudderless ship being pushed this way and that by the winds of change — a tall ship with a star, but no Captain to steer her by that star.
So the situation that needs to be addressed by Paramount and CBS isn’t simply resolving the question of Axanar and other fan films — it’s the larger question of rebuilding the audience’s trust that Star Trek is in good hands. The producers of various fan films have consistently demonstrated that they have a better grasp of the original vision of the show than some of the people who have been paid to reboot it or reinvent it.
Some people believe that Paramount and CBS don’t care about that original vision — that the reboots are an attempt to capture a newer, younger audience. From a shareholder’s view, that makes sense. From the fans’ view, it doesn’t — because it’s that original vision that created Star Trek fandom in the first place.
I’ve been to my share of Trek conventions. Nobody blows the roof off the building the same way William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy could. Nobody.
That should tell you something too.
There is a way to proceed that could be a win-win for everybody, but if it isn’t a win for the fans, then it isn’t a win at all.
David Gerrold (born January 24, 1944) is an American science fiction screenwriter and novelist known for his script for the popular original Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles“, for creating the Sleestak race on the TV series Land of the Lost, and for his novelette “The Martian Child“, which won both Hugo and Nebula awards, and was adapted into a 2007 film starring John Cusack.