Paramount and CBS, after recently creating a fandom tempest by okaying, then nixing, the Star Trek fan production “Axanar,” have decided to lay down the law of what’s legal for fans to do in terms of Star Trek productions. And Nick Armstrong of Fort Collins Comic Con has provided a breakdown of the new guidelines that would… okay, I’m not going to do a bad Trek pun here, because this just isn’t that funny.
The commentary, Star Trek: A Case Study In How to Dismantle a Fandom, spells it out for you nicely.
On one hand, it’s hard to blame CBS and Paramount for protecting their property rights. And many of the guidelines spelled out in their document seem pretty reasonable… or, at least, in keeping with existing guidelines for other licensed properties. On the other hand, P/CBS is well aware that Star Trek fandom is not only about the most significant fandom there has ever been for any television show, but it is directly responsible for the success of the shows and movies, and has been a significant cash cow for P/CBS through merchandising, going all the way back to 196-frikkin’-8.
So the guidelines that severely restrict fan productions to 30-minute maximum lengths, no use of established characters from the TV shows or movies, no costumes other than officially-licensed-and-purchased costumes, no professional actors, no paying cast or crew (and none of them can ever have been part of a P/CBS Star Trek production), and productions must be PC and rated G… well, pretty much skewers any effort to make a decent Star Trek fan production. In fact, about all you’re left with is the equivalent of those mini-productions you see between the movies on The Disney Channel. It’s pretty much a slap in the face to anyone who’d like to emulate their favorite characters and the vast fictional universe that is Star Trek.
But like I said: P/CBS is fully entitled to do this (well, actually the part about restricting cast and crew to non-pros who’ve never worked a Star Trek production may be anti-labor and subject to further legal action). Trek’s fans have been so notified. And I think their reaction ought to be:
Okay, so many people love Star Trek. Many people can enjoy the content P/CBS produces. But hey, fans: If you want to make fan films and such, give serious thought to doing something other than Star Trek. Make your own vehicle. Make it a lot like Star Trek… slightly like Star Trek… nothing like Star Trek… whatever. Be original.
And why not? Star Trek is fifty years old, guys. It’s built on ideas, concepts and science that were all the rage back in 1966. But today, it’s about as relevant as Buck Rogers was when Star Trek came out… think about that. Star Trek was great… for its day. But today, 50 years later, we can do better.
I, myself, did this. When I considered writing a series based on the Trek universe, I realized quickly that there was no reason I couldn’t create my own universe, one that followed rules more in keeping with what we’d learned about science and space in the ensuing decades. And the best part was, my series would be all mine… so no one, including Paramount and CBS, could tell me what to do with it. I wrote three books… sold a few… and never had to worry about anyone showing up at my door demanding a piece of the action. (Yeah, okay, but I felt like that one was justified.)
So let P/CBS have its toy and do whatever they want with it. But remember: You can create your own toys… and they can be better than Star Trek, just because they’re new and up-to-date. Exercise your originality, stretch your creativity. Make your own final frontier. Go for it.