Sunday, April 24, 2016

CBS To Star Trek Horizon: Let That Be Your Last Fan Film

You know, I really wanted to make my next post about something other than the happenings surrounding the CBS/Paramount lawsuit against Axanar (I have been musing lately on the similarities between Trekkies and Van Halen fans, for instance). However, there has been some unfortunate collateral damage to this lawsuit that I feel I must speak up about.

Just this past Febuary, an intrepid young filmmaker named Tommy Kraft released his Star Trek fan film, Star Trek: Horizon, on YouTube (the trailer is above, and here is a link to the full movie). Set in the Enterprise era of Trek lore, it tells the story about the crew of the NX-04 Discovery and their, well, discovery of an ancient weapon that the Romulans hope to use to destroy Earth. Tommy spent 4 years of his life making this movie, and managed to raise almost $23,000 to complete it. This is certainly what I would call a labor of love, not to mention one of the better fan films I have had the pleasure of viewing, and I applaud him for his efforts (as well as his parents for supporting him in the pursuit of his dreams).

Horizon has been quite a success, if YouTube views are any indication. As it stands right now, the movie has been viewed over 975,000 times in the 2 months it has been out. While initially reluctant to, Tommy was eventually persuaded by one of the actors to follow up Horizon with a sequel. On April 17th, the following post appeared on the Horizon Facebook page:

"BREAKING NEWS: Star Trek - Federation Rising, a sequel to Horizon, will begin crowdfunding on Saturday, April 23rd at 12:00am EST. The countdown begins"

Unfortunately, a mere three days after the announcement, the following was posted to the page:


Earlier today, executives from CBS reached out to me and advised me that their legal team strongly suggested that we do not move forward with plans to create a sequel to Horizon. While this is a sign of the current climate that we find ourselves in with Star Trek fan films, I want to personally thank CBS for reaching out to me, rather than including us in their ongoing lawsuit against Axanar.

It was conveyed that the reason CBS was reaching out to me was due to the legal troubles stemming from the Axanar case. Again, CBS did not have to reach out personally. The message I received felt more like they were giving me a heads up before we got too involved in another project, rather than a group of angry executives swinging a hammer.

On behalf of myself and Ryan Webber, my co-writer and co-producer on Federation Rising, we appreciate your initial support and are saddened that we cannot bring you what we believe was a fantastic feature film. However, rest assured that Ryan and I are committed to continuing our storytelling partnership with an original project. We also welcome other fan productions and fan film lovers to join us on this new venture."

Certainly, this has to be a body blow to Tommy and his writing partner Ryan Webber. However, in a classic case of making chicken salad out of chickens$%t, they have decided to move forward with this: 


From their Kickstarter page:

"Project Discovery is a feature length science fiction space epic that tells the story of a group of scientists and engineers uniting people all over the world in a common effort: taking humanity to space. The year is 2060, much of the world is caught up in unrest. Focused more on solving the problems we have on our home planet, people have given up on the notion of travel to the stars. Then, a multicultural group of scientists and engineers is able to captivate the world once again with a daunting plan: launching humanity's first faster-than-light spacecraft: The IV-202 Explorer."

This sounds like a neat idea! First off, it is a 21st century echo of what created the inspiration for the US space program (scientists and sci-fi writers used to have bull sessions post-WW2 about pushing for a "space race" with the USSR to keep the two superpowers from blowing each other to smithereens). Secondly, while I'm not saying that it has any actual connection to Star Trek, the timeframe it takes place in is around the same time of Zefram Cochrane's first test of his Warp Drive. Therefore, it seems to be like a First Contact-ish kind of story (without cyborgs from the future trying to ruin the party.....), and that is a movie I am seriously interested in watching. Being one who tries to put his money where his mouth is, I have donated to Tommy & Ryan's endeavors, and I hope all who read this do as well. Horizon showed what they are capable of as filmmakers and they deserve to have their efforts justly rewarded.

However, what they do not deserve is to be used as fodder for either side of the ongoing debate about the Axanar lawsuit. Tommy has steadfastly remained neutral on this matter, expressing only a wish that the matter be settled amicably. Tommy recently appeared on the podcast to discuss in detail the call he got from CBS, and the current scene regarding CBS' relationship to fan projects. It is vitally important to actually listen to the podcast, and hear all of Tommy's words and, more importantly, the tone of his speech when he says what he says, as those are the things that get lost in translation when someone excerpts those words and drops out context, as the Axamonitor website has done.

Here's a good example (from Axamonitor's article):

Kraft, however, rejected that notion. “I've tried from the beginning to maintain a neutral standpoint on this,” he said, “There have been a lot of productions that have raised a lot of money … and a lot of feature-length stuff, but it was something about the Axanar project in general, I believe, that caused [CBS] to have a change of opinion. … It's too coincidental that everything was hunky-dory until this one production and then all of a sudden things change.”

Now, reading that, one could get the idea that Tommy had a change of opinion regarding the Axanar lawsuit. At the very least, that's how I read it.

Now, here's the full text of what he said:

"I've tried from the beginning to maintain a neutral standpoint on this, and what the reasons might be. And all I can say, that I know for sure, is there have been a lot of productions that have raised a lot of money, and there have been productions that have raised little to no money, and there's been a lot of feature length stuff, and it was something about the Axanar project in general, I believe, that caused them [CBS] to have a change of opinion. Now, whatever that may be, people can speculate on. And there are some facts to the situation that some people know and others don't, but's too coincidental even if you don't have any facts that everything was hunky-dory until this one production and then all of a sudden things change."(emphasis added to show what was redacted)

That reads a little differently, doesn't it? Now, I can see taking out a few of the words here and there for brevity and conciseness, but Axamonitor's redaction pretty much removed all his moderation from that statement. 

Now, you may not think this is such a big deal. But today, someone posted a link to Axamonitor's article on a Star Trek page at Facebook, and it caused quite a fracas. While I'm certain the writer of Axamonitor's article thought he was just adding one more piece to his collection of "ammunition" to his case against Axanar, it had an unintended side effect. A number of people on the pro-Axanar side of things took the article at face value, and many were ready to drop their support of Tommy's project. I, however, took the extra step and listened to the podcast, and noted the discrepancy between what Axamonitor's article reported, what Tommy actually said, and the tone in which he said it. Finally, Tommy himself was brought in to the conversation and had this to say:

Tommy shouldn't have had to do this. No matter what your opinion on the Axanar lawsuit is, I think we can all agree that nixing Federation Rising is a terrible and unfortunate piece of collateral damage, that Project Discovery deserves nothing less than our full support, and that the Trek Geeks guys were correct in saying that Tommy has handled this whole situation with grace.

Note to commenters: As I have left my opinion on Axanar completely out of this particular post, I would appreciate that any comments made address the article topic and not the lawsuit.


  1. I hate to say I wasn't surprised this happened. Tommy & his crew made a fantastic fan film that was fun to watch & for a fan flick very well made. With the amount of people unhappy with the current state of Trek, fan films must make the suits nervous.

    Their new project sounds really cool, wish them luck.

  2. Tommy also talks about this situation on the latest episode (#33) of the podcast, "Continuing Mission." He remains very neutral on the subject of Axanar but does give some detailed background and information on his new project. Here's a link to that podcast:

    1. Thanks Dennis, I'll make sure to check it out.

  3. Sorry, but to me the meaning doesn't really change that much. Mostly it took out some waffling from Tommy and that people may not have all the facts. The gist of both though is that "everything was fine before Axanar and now it isn't". The important bit is that he says he was told by Bill Burke that "This is directly a result of the legal trouble with the Axanar case.". While it would be hearsay in a court, you can't get much clearer than that.

    1. Well, I've left my opinion on this in relation to the lawsuit out of the article, lest I be a hypocrite. I hope we can agree that Tommy's project deserves as much support as we can give it, at least.

  4. Because of Axanar this 45 year vet of Star Trek will no longer support any new shows. I am tired of the same OLD HASH that comes from the movie industry. Fan films are now providing the spark needed to explore and mix it up and keep it fresh. Yeah, I get all the legal & ownership nonsense... but face it... you got LAZY. So, instead of suing Star Trek: Axanar... HIRE THEM!!! Same for Star Trek: Horizon They've proven what they can do. Let them make their movies (with your supervision) FOR YOU and take your % percentage!!! And fans get something better to watch. WIN-WIN-WIN. But no, you will alienate your fan based simply because you can. Well, this fan will VOTE with his $$ not support the 2017 Star Trek.


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