We geeks have JJ Abrams to thank for a lot of things. Many people found TV again through his co-creation Lost. He also gave people Alias, Felicity and America’s own badass giant monster in Cloverfield. But what many best know him for, is the revival of one of the most popular sci-fi franchises of all time—Star Trek. If that’s not enough, he also revitalized Star Wars with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Though fans are divided in his rendition of Gene Roddenberry’s cerebral sci-fi series, he is instrumental in revitalizing the franchise. Though many think that he didn’t do the franchise justice, we Star Trek fans need to thank him again for being instrumental in bringing back the freedom to create Star Trek fan films such as the much-anticipated Star Trek: Axanar.
Star Trek: Axanar serves a prequel to Star Trek the original series. It is one of many crowdfunded Star Trek fan films has the potential to be the best made. The film is teased by a previous documentary-style short called Prelude to Axanar which featured the talents of Tony Todd, Kate Vernon, Richard Hatch and JG Hertzler. Unfortunately, Paramount, the studio which owns the rights to Star Trek began attacking fan-made films beginning with Axanar through lawsuits citing infringement to copyrights of elements within the franchise which dozens of fan-made projects have used years before Axanar.
Recently, another well-made fan project Star Trek: Horizons received its own notice to cease and desist which the production didn’t fight back. Axanar decided to fight the lawsuit citing the fact that Paramount did not bother to sue earlier projects. Fans argue that Paramount was threatened by the negative criticisms of the trailer for Star Trek Beyond, that Axanar might be the Star Trek that fans actually wanted. As Star Trek Beyond nears showing, Star Trek fans, even critics of the Abrams-verse seem to be showing anticipation for the film. CBS, the owner or rights to the TV franchise has also shown its own trailer of the new Star Trek TV series most probably set between the TOS and TNG timelines. So Axanar has seemingly become a non-threat. In the Star Trek Beyond event, JJ Abrams, feeling that suing fan projects would only hurt the franchise has entered the fray:
“A few months back there was a fan film, Axanar, that was getting made and there was this lawsuit that happened between the studio and these fans and Justin, I’ll tell the story because he probably wouldn’t, was sort of outraged by this as a long-time fan. We started talking about it and realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans… The fans should be celebrating this thing. Fans of Star Trek are part of this world. “
–JJ Abrams, interview, Star Trek Beyond Event
After which, Abrams and Star Trek: Beyond director Justin Lin appealed to Paramount to stop the lawsuits, which they apparently would.
“While we’re grateful to receive the public support of JJ Abrams and Justin Lin, as the lawsuit remains pending, we want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount. Our goal from the beginning of this legal matter has been to address the concerns of the plaintiffs in a way that still allows us to tell the story of AXANAR and meets the expectations of the over 10,000 fans who financially supported our project… There is still a lot of work to do, but receiving this kind of public support helps immensely.”
–Alec Peters, Producer
This is great news for fans of the franchise hoping to create their own projects. The lifting of this lawsuit, however, may not be an indication that Paramount or CBS would give fans free reign of their works. Fans may now have to be weary of the scope of their projects and even would have to go so far as to consult both studios on their plans. Many Star Trek fans even urge Paramount and CBS to employ Alec Peters and his team for future projects. As the trailer for the new Star Trek TV series have shown, they either have or have taken a page from Axanar’s playbook. Star Trek fans can now forgive the lens flares as he gave another one for the team he left for that other franchise.