(Edit: 06-30-2016: Word has come to me from my producers and writers that since the heads at CBS/P do not consider audio-productions to be within the purview of the anti-fanfilm guidelines, Star Trek: Outpost will be continuing after a short hiatus. So at least I’ve got that going for me. Still boycotting in solidarity for productions like Phase II, Renegades and Horizon. That and I wasn’t all that jazzed for the Nu-Trek movie anyway.)
(First of all, allow me to apologize to those who felt hurt by the use of the term ‘trexit’ in the original title of the article. It was crass and insensitive. I was angry and upset and didn’t think that through. I have since amended the title. I’m still angry and upset, but hopefully in a more considerate fashion. -E)
Let’s be clear. I love Star Trek. I always will. The sky is blue. Water is wet. And I love Star Trek. This is a fact. And this is why I’m so sorry it has come to this. This is a long-winded rant. But you have to understand. I love Star Trek. And I always will. As I usually do, I will explain.
My first memory of Star Trek (or any fandom, really.) is likely the animated series. I was a toddler when it was running on TV. I can remember pulling out my mother’s set of official blueprints of the old Enterprise and chasing around with a finger through its hallways and turbolift shafts. When you hit those quizzes that chase around every now and again, or those threads that promise things you don’t know about Star Trek? Yeah. I found the bowling alley and the swimming pool at the same time I was learning to read at the age of 3.
My mother was the first generation Trekkie. (I do not subscribe to the attempted de-geekification of the term with the word ‘Trekker’) She had all the old James Blish novelizations of the old episodes. She had all the old bantam and pocketbooks from back in the 70's. She had the magazines where the first fanfics showed up. The non-fictions about the first Trek conventions with the Foglio cartoons in the middle. She had the technical manuals with all the names of all the other Constitution class starships, and even all the other starfleet ships. The ones that inspired Reliant, or the never-produced triple-nacelled dreadnought that Diane Carey expanded on later in her novels.
I was there for every movie back in the day with my mother and my brother. The first still remains my favorite. Having seen and thrilled to it at the age of 8. Got the happy meal with the transporter box. Laughed at the expanded version when they showed it on ABC, pointing at the soundstage roof behind Shatner when he went out to get Spock in his own rocket suit.
When the second came around, my father was rooming with a producer for the local CBS affiliate in Charlotte NC. They wanted to make a hosted show, where an emcee introduced the classic episodes, which were getting something of a resurgence around the time Wrath of Khan came out. They used my mother’s very same technical manuals and the schematics within to make the sets for the host segments on WBTV back then. My father even got to be one of Khan’s butch-looking augments on set for one of those host segments.
When the third came around, I remember going to see Gene Roddenberry speak at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I was unaware of the friction going on between him and Paramount at the time. I remember when I got to ask him, “What are they gonna do now that they’ve blown up the Enterprise?” I remember his reply exactly. “They got themselves into this mess over at Paramount. They can get themselves out.”
We had a satellite dish by the time I was in high school. We were out in Concord, and couldn’t get half the channels that came out of Charlotte. I remember being so very excited for the Next Generation. I used to watch it on Saturdays at 6 EST when they were beaming it out to the affiliates on... I think it was Telstar 1. I was watching it a week before everyone else was. And it was awesome. I watched rapt. Even in that first season when I was horrified by Code of Honor, or the Wesley Gets Sentenced To Death For Falling Into A Garden episode. I stayed with the show as it found its legs. And we got into Worf’s discommodation. The Moriarty and Lore episodes. The Borg. ‘The Inner Light’. The Picard Die Hard Episode. And all the goodness that came later on. Hell, I even liked the really weird ‘Masks’ episode. I was that loyal.
I’d signed on for life at this point. I’d built the movie enterprise kit twice. My second build, I used all the old mold channels for christmas lights and gave it a skeleton of wire hanger. It survived a tornado. And I have coveted the new die-casts for a few years now. The ones where they’re doing every ship ever.
I didn’t really see a LOT of Deep Space 9. This is where me and Trek diverged a bit. I wasn’t much enamoured of the metaphor for the petro resources in the middle east that the wormhole in the bajor system represented to me. But gimme a Garak episode any old day. ‘Our Man Bashir’ is still one of my faves.
And while I didn’t like Neelix, or B’Lanna or Kess, I enjoyed the hell out of Voyager. It’s the red-headed stepchild for a lot of folks, series-wise. But once it found ITS legs (which oddly enough appeared to be attached to Jeri Ryan) it was easy to ignore the occasional gimmick episode or two. (Yeah. WWF + Trek = FAIL.) The very end was a bit of an anticlimax, but I was still on board. Of particular relevance to me is perhaps the most haunting line of dialogue in the whole series. At least for me.
In the Episode ‘Drone’, the superdrone One chooses to destroy himself rather than let the collective advance themselves to a 30th century version of themselves. Seven of Nine pleads with him not to do so. And with the first hint of true desperation you ever hear from her, she says, “Please... You are hurting me...”
One gives her a final smile. “You will adapt.”
I still can’t watch it without crying my damn eyes out.
I was even there for ST: Enterprise. Atrocious theme song and all. I happen to be a Whovian too. So the concept of a temporal cold war was something I could be jazzed about. And when they went off on the FIND WHO CARVED UP FLORIDA FROM ORBIT trek, it really started finding its legs too. I’d still have liked to see it get the chance that the other shows got. So I was really pleased to see Star Trek Horizon pick up the reins the companies cast aside and make a good run with it. And was proportionally angered and disappointed when they ceased production in light of the current atmosphere.
I played the MMO too, among who knows how many other videogames. I remember playing some ST games with my mom on her PC back in 1992 or 1993 on a monochrome monitor. Text and grids all the way up to Star Trek Online. I thrilled to the plotlines that inserted me into the show, where I got to be an integral part of the augment plot responsible for the ‘shoe-polish Klingons’ back in the day. I even remember slamming with groups against the crystalline entity in that damn game. (UGH)
And back in 2006 or so, I had something of a personal resurgence. I’d become rather a fan of fan productions. This happened back when the special editions of Star Wars were coming out, as well as The Phantom Menace when the Star Wars fanfilm community exploded. We were all pretty nervous back then. But it was the textbook example of how an IP owner can embrace that community without alienating them at the same time. And maintain a modicum of control of the property. They even recruited from that community when it came to films like ‘Brains and Steel’.
So when James Cawley’s company, Cow Creek Productions released the series that would eventually become Star Trek Phase II, I could not tell you how pleased I was. You could see how much the filmmakers loved what they were doing. The attention and care with which they approached the property showed respect, and a talent that attracted the talents of original writers from the old series back in the 60's. This was far from some of the fanfilms I’d seen so far. This was hell and gone from swinging sabers at one another in a public park. This was full on sets, CGI Space shots. Updated effects with what could be done with 21st century production values. And I think honestly, this is where the trouble started.
Phase II made the old series look... well... bad. Or at least aged. I still have it in mind that Phase II was singlehandedly responsible for the revamp of the old Trek series with updated effects by CBS. And honestly, despite their having given Cawley a flying little cameo in the 2009 Nu Trek film, I think it must have stuck in someone’s craw to this day. This very bad day.
In 2006, I was also hanging out a lot on amateur voice acting boards. Looking for good series to audition for and get some resume credits to lead to bigger and better things. I happened to audition for the first officer and the engineer for a show called ‘Star Trek: Outpost’.
This was all the way over on the OTHER side of the federation from Deep Space 9. A proper starbase like you saw orbiting earth in Star Trek 3... but nothing much happened out there by Ferengi and First Federation space. It was a station mostly forgotten. Where you got sent if you needed to be shipped quietly out of the way. Where careers go to die. On the edge of the alpha quadrant’s equivalent of the bermuda triangle, the Pinchot Expanse.
I didn’t get the parts. They offered me instead the role of the captain of the station.
Don’t get excited. It was never meant to be a big part. Captain Montaine ‘Monty’ Buchanan was really just meant to come on and be unpleasant to people for a bit, then leave. He was a prick. To some degree he still is. His big thing was getting promoted into the admiralty by being an efficiency nazi and getting the hell OUT of Deep Space 3. So imagine all our surprised reactions when he turned into a breakout character for the show. It was surreal.
There were fan letters coming in. There was FAN ART of this audio-show character I was playing. I honestly felt in some small way, I’d arrived.
It got better still for me when they gave me a tragic history, and my wife got to play opposite me as my character’s great lost love. Meanwhile my writers are getting nominated for the Parsec award every year we continued. We even won. They attended the Trek conventions out in Denver where the other cast got to be on panels. They even did fan-episodes where they recorded members of the audience in roles to put between our eps. And as of this year, we were somewhere between 70 and 75 episodes. I even won a best actor award from another competition for my portrayal of Monty back in 2014.
So to review, I was born into, grew up with, matured, and became an adult with Trek in my life. I’ve seen it at its best and worst, and remained a loyal and invested fan. I’ve bought the merch. Dressed the part. (My Monty Buchanan uniform’s upstairs with all the other cosplay.) Watched and listened to the fan productions. And I’ve even acted a role. In my life, it has been about as constant as constant things get.
So... I say all this so you will understand how sad this makes me that I am now done with it.
The Axanar debacle, which divides fans unlike any other issue that’s come before, has pretty much brought it all about. And both sides of the argument are at fault. Both CBS/Paramount and Axanar productions have overstepped. The IP Holders became more and more invested in the argument. Doubling down every time Axanar refused to lay down; then came back at them with pretty well-reasoned arguments and lawyers of their own. And again, it felt to me like the IP holders being shown up by fans who seemed to know how to do it better than they could. Only this time both sides threw in so hard, there was no backing down.
And make no mistake, this is happening over a fandom that the fans themselves rescued from near-extinction in the 1970's. It is THE poster child for what can happen when the fans are included, considered and listened to. 30 years before Whedon’s people ‘done the impossible’, the Trekkies united and got their show back; along with everything else we’ve seen since. How their love and zeal have been repaid by CBS and Paramount is pretty damn shameful.
And let’s be clear. The ‘guidelines’ issued by CBS and Paramount by which a fan production may be made without legal objection are meant to be a death sentence to the fan-production community. In their statement to the community, they crowed about how. “we want to show our appreciation by bringing fan films back to their roots...” Which if they mean to levels possible of producing back in 1973, I’m guessing they’ve done it. To mix my metaphors horribly enough to give a teacher a headache and nausea, it’s like they’re saying:
“We recognize that you have a passion and a deep love for swimming. However, since Axanar has pissed in the pool, we will not just be seeking action against him. We will also be filling in the pool with gravel and paving it over as a parking lot. This new Star Trek Memorial Parking Lot will be the go-to spot for all your swimming needs, as long as you only park your car there between the hours of 7 and 8 am in the morning, and as long as it has no wheels, steering column or transmission. Now don’t you feel grateful? The answer you are expected to say is ‘Yes sirs. Thank you sirs.”
And thus the cooling effect has begun.
‘Renegades’ with rather a lot of Trek Alumni Actors is retooling into something that isn’t Trek at all in an effort to adhere to the new ridiculous rules. The Horizon sequel has all but shut down. And I was just told by my writers / producers a few days ago that since audio productions are something of a grey area, we will also be going on hiatus until further notice so we don’t get in trouble. A six year award-winning run. Gone. And my part with it.
You’re damn straight I’m upset.
We didn’t Kickstarter our show. We made no money. We were just doing something we loved. And this pissing contest without a splash guard has soaked us all. Fan and Fan Production alike. So if you can imagine 40 years of loyalty pissed away, I present myself as an example. This is kind of a paraphrase of the old Groucho Marx saw. “I won’t be a part of a fandom that wouldn’t have me as a contributor.” But honestly, what I’m getting here is that Paramount / CBS will not brook anything other than the vision for the property they’ve been trying to force on us for the last 7 years. The fandom is not for us. It’s their property to make money with. Not something for us to enjoy. And they’ll outdo the legendary litigious nature of both Lucasfilm AND Disney to git’r done.
And they want me to roll over and accept this?
Over my smoking corpse.
They fail to realize that they are not above blowback here. And the nu-Trek movies are pretty hell and gone from the foregone conclusion that no matter what they do, we’re gonna line up at the box office anyway to see whatever they’ve coughed up this time. (Perhaps they’re under the delusion they still swing clout comparable to Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) I’m more upset still because I enjoy the hell out of Bryan Fuller. And honestly, I’m curious to see what he does with a reboot of his own. (Hopefully he’ll take a page or 5 out of Straczynski’s pitch from 2004 for a kirk-era reboot.) But I guess I’m just going to have to wonder. Cos’ I’m not watching it.
I’m not buying a single episode. I won’t go see any movie. I won’t buy any merch. They will not see a dime from me until this fan persecution stops. Argue and apologize for the IP owners all ya like. It’s my money. And I’ll express my displeasure with it as much as I like.
Legally, they’re in their rights to do as they like with the property. And what they have to do or not to protect it legally is certainly their business. And it is business. Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s not personal on their part. Or at least I’d like to believe it’s not. This is business. But they’ve handled the relations with their consumers with all the grace and diplomacy of Donald Trump and Pharma-Bro on a hot lickery date. And it didn’t have to be this way. Not when there’s a demonstrated model for goodwill and control over the property at the same time from a comparable franchise. They could have chosen not to be dicks over this.
They did not.
So I will be boycotting Star Trek until this foolishness from CBS / Paramount ends. If they decide to saddle up and embrace the fans instead of sending C&D letters, I will CONSIDER following their property again. And while I know it will be a cold day in hell before they do so, there had better be a pretty tall apology to those fans as well. I will be encouraging others to boycott Star Trek too. My wife and I have agreed that we will have to disagree on the matter. And it’s not like we don’t have other fandoms we can enjoy together.
It will be almighty strange not going to see the new movie in the theater with her. I have never not gone to see a Star Trek movie. It has always been a family experience for me. One I can look back on and remember fondly, or at least, remember what was going on in my life at that point. But for me, the betrayal and feels I’ve got over this... It’s like when you’ve just gone through a bad breakup and you can’t look at the pictures of that person anymore. You can’t even see them without feeling the hurt all over again.
I encourage you to boycott Star Trek as well. Not for defending their copyright. They were obliged to do that. If you’re pissed at Axanar, don’t watch that either. Lambaste them if you feel like it. But the IP owners have gone far too far. They are now scotching creative works and undercutting fair use. They’ve turned on the very fans responsible for the show’s continued existence. And yeah. They’ve hit me where I live. So yeah. It’s pretty personal for me. Honestly, I don’t know a fan who isn’t personally invested in their fandoms. So, at least from my own vantage point, this really isn’t a ridiculous concept. I don’t feel I’m overreacting here. Or at least... not overreacting on the level that the IP Owners have.
Well... this is the awkward part of any breakup. Where you have to walk out the door and shut it behind you. You want to say so much. And at the same time, you don’t want to dignify the breakup with any words at all. And we were on the cusp of our 50th anniversary too. It’s a damn shame.
Don’t call me for a while, Paramount/CBS. At least not until your head’s on straight again.
Like the man said, I like to think there are always possiblities.
Until then, we’re done. No more and no less.