How fandom took Star Trek beyond the final frontier

When Star Trek finally slipped from our screens in 2005, there were some among the 25 million Trekkers worldwide who refused to let the matter lie.

As told to

Paul Fairclough

@JacquesGites

It was the fourth season of Enterprise, the prequel show that detailed the earliest voyages of the legendary starship. But as ratings slipped, CBS pulled the plug. While many Trekkers were outraged, the hardcore among them had a plan. Like other fan communities from Star Wars to Ace Ventura (no, really), they hit the web with their own homemade movies.

Nick Cook took the demise of his Dundee-based fan club as the cue to power down the VCR and get himself and his fellow enthusiasts off the sofa and on to their very own film set. He’d been impressed with the fan films already out there, particularly the high-end Hidden Frontier. It took two years, but with no knowledge of filmmaking and little in the way of writing experience, Captain Cook and his crew eventually created the first Star Trek: Intrepid episode, ‘Heavy Lies the Crown’. Here, he discusses the experience, and reveals his thoughts on the recent Star Trek movie reboots.

“I’ve never been a huge reader of fan fiction; I think what weeds people out from doing fan films is the practical aspect. It’s very difficult for one person to say, ‘Right, I’m going to do this thing myself.’ To film, you need to get people who will act for you, you need props, camera equipment, people who will edit and do lighting and effects – it’s hard to source all these things. Fortunately, most people involved are happy to donate their time because it’s a project they have fun doing. If it wasn’t for that, we couldn’t do it.

“Fandom seems broken into factions that love, hate or don’t care about Paramount, just as long as they get a new Star Trek. I’m very grateful to Paramount and CBS – they haven’t cease-and-desisted me, so I don’t have any bones to pick with them even though I might disagree with some of their artistic choices. Star Trek: Phase II, the big brother of all fan films, is very well known by the makers of Star Trek. They’ve had Walter Koenig and George Takei guesting as Chekov and Sulu, and long-time Star Trek script writer and producer Dorothy Fontana has written for them. They’re very ambitious, and what they’re doing is professional quality.

“To me, Star Trek is an old friend. If you want to make a film and you have a load of Star Trek fans around you, it becomes a lot easier than for one guy with a new idea. That common interest is probably the only reason we managed to finish it in the first place. I have mixed feelings about the newer Paramount films though. I know where they’re coming from, and I can’t blame them – Star Trek’s earned itself an image as kind of geeky. I don’t think that’s entirely true but it’s certainly become a niche show that’s looked down on by a large proportion of the public.

“Trying to make Star Trek popular again and accessible is really what was needed. Would I have gone back to Kirk and crew? No. But I think JJ Abrams did a good job with the original reboot – there’ll be a generation who will remember Chris Pine as Kirk and not Shatner, which will be kind of weird. There was no way they could have made this look like the original series and had it sell.”

Published 8 Sep 2016

Tags: JJ Abrams Star Trek

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