The latest fan-made Star Trek production, Prelude to Axanar, is of the highest Hollywood-style production quality and a must-see for any devotee of the franchise, especially those allied with the original television series. Unlike the two latest “re-boot” Hollywood blockbuster films, Prelude to Axanar is true to the universe created by the Gene “Great Bird of the Galaxy” Roddenberry.
While the possibility of actually making money from Star Trek films and merchandise is reserved solely for Paramount Pictures, CBS Television and their licensees, fan films have traditionally been produced for the joy of it as “look what we can do” projects. Prelude to Axanar is a truly top-notch production, with the intent of showing that a feature-length Axanar can indeed be made, and made well. It is said that Axanar will also be used to demonstrate to network executives that yet another television series could be quite attractive.
Star Trek fan films are independent projects that use the intellectual property owned by others (such as CBS) so long as they remain completely non-commercial. The producers say their motivation is “to make something so spectacular, that it serves as a resume and calling card for our work in the industry.” Acting, lighting, special effects, and an ingenious “in universe” documentary production style conspire to provide any Trekkie (or general viewer) with a rich, entertaining 20 minutes that many will want to relive.
Prelude to Axanar (and the eventual Axanar) shows the events of the defining battle between the United Federation of Planets (UFP) and the Klingon Empire. The action takes place 20 years before Kirk and his crew shove off on their five-year mission of peaceful exploration for the UFP and is a defining moment in the war between the Klingon Empire and the UFP. “Axanar” is a reference to an androgynous Trek species of humanoids whose green blood is sought after by some for its aphrodisiacal qualities.
The protagonist is Garth (respectfully renamed later as “Garth of Izar” by the Klingons), the central character of an original series episode who, thanks partially to his new Ares-class battleship, cunningly defeats the Klingons and turns the tide of the war. Twenty years later, Garth of Izar is a role model for young Jim Kirk, who meets his mentor in the original series episode Whom Gods Destroy. Unfortunately, by that time Garth proves himself to be quite a disappointment, having transformed from a swashbuckling, battle-winning starship captain to an insane shapeshifter and self-declared “Master of the Universe.”
The production of Prelude to Axanar cuts between closely-cropped, low-lit (no lens flare here) interviews with Starfleet officers (including Garth) and footage of the battle itself. The characters speak engagingly about the intricacies of their historic battle and the Starfleet developments and strategies that ultimately brought them to victory.
The acting is superb, including appealing performances from Gary Graham as a Vulcan ambassador, Richard Hatch as the sweet-eyed Klingon General Kharn and the magnetic Kate Vernon as Starfleet Captain Sonya Alexander.
Now streaming in 1040 HD format (see video below), Prelude to Axanar is the product of a crowdsourced Kickstarter campaign that ran only this year. The goal advertised by executive producer Alec Peters was $10,000 but “well over” $100,000 was actually collected. Now that Prelude has been released (with 90,000 viewings in its first five days), a larger Kickstarter campaign will follow to fund the full-length Axanar.
The 20-minute run time of Prelude to Axanar deals exclusively with the battle itself. For the full-length Axanar to be considered a competent member of true Star Trek canon, the film will need to move beyond action-packed, violent space battles with brooding villains and place significant emphasis on Gene Roddenberry’s larger vision of an optimistic, wide-eyed future for humankind.
In Whom Gods Destroy, Kirk speaks of the statesmen and humanitarians whose dream became reality ” … and spread throughout the stars. A dream that made Mister Spock and me brothers.” Axanar will hopefully aspire to such inspiration.
Opinion by Gregory Baskin