Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Trek Tuesday: Fan Films

There are a ton of Star Trek fan films out there on the internet.  In the past decade, it has become easier for the non-professional to obtain filmmaking equipment.  As such, there has been an increase in them in recent years.  While the occasional one can be entertaining (usually when they are lampooning it), most are just awful.

Yeah, I said that.  Hear me out before you descend upon me.

The most “well-regarded” Star Trek fan film series out there current is New Voyages/Phase II (they went through a rebranding).  Started in 2003, the idea behind this series is to show the last two years of Captain Kirk’s original five-year-mission from the original series.  An ambitious project, they release an episode roughly every year.  There are many other fan series including Hidden Frontier, Starship Exeter, and Intrepid which cover other storytelling aspects from the Star Trek universe.  I have not seen every one of these, nor do I really plan to.


You have several people who come together to put one of these “episodes” together.  Unlike a real TV show, funds are limited with these fan productions and the people involved have other, real jobs.  In other words, they do these fan films in their spare time, and an episode is released when it is released.

That said, for a near-zero budget, these people do throw their all into it.  It is mostly a hobby and I would imagine that none of these people are paid for what they do.  Every once in a while, you hear, surprisingly, of some drama that happens with these things (apparently a semi-professional, Vic Mignogna, has caused problems for the world of Star Trek fan films), which seems somewhat sad (why take something meant to be fun and ruin it?).  In the end, these fan films are pretty harmless and there is an audience for them.

I am not one part of that audience.  I have no problems with people doing these sort of things and I am impressed with the level of dedication that goes into the sets, costumes, and special effects are noteworthy.  What kills it for me is the acting.  Nine times out of ten, it is atrocious.  I know they are not professionals.  I know this.  I also realize that, occasionally, these productions get professional actors and former Trek stars to be on the show.  But the overabundance of awkward acting doesn’t make an otherwise decently-enough written story easier to sit through.  I just can’t.  As such, I can’t sit through a fan production without becoming extremely uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassed with what I am watching.  I’ll let others enjoy it for me.

The interesting thing is that there is a crowd on the internet that eats this stuff up.  Yet, that same crowd seems to lash out at anyone who dares criticize any element of the production.   Why are fan films seemingly critic proof?  Is it because they are made by fans instead of professionals?  While I agree that should be taken into account when looking at basic filmmaking fundamentals, if you put out a piece of art, be prepared to deal with (hopefully constructive) criticism.

TrekMovie, a fan site (which, at one time, had strong connections with JJ Abrams and his crew), is very supportive of these fan productions (particularly Phase II), but I’ve noticed that when they do an article on a new episode being released, a representative from the production is almost always there putting down critics of the show.  Why would someone do this, especially if you want people to watch your product?  Would it be better to be accepting the criticism instead of dismissing it?  I don’t know.  I don’t travel in those circles.

Star Trek fan films.  They are not for me, but I applaud others for doing something fun in their spare time.  And if others like it, then good for them.  Let that audience be there for that.  Unfortunately, I won’t be joining them.  And, hopefully, those working on these productions can use it to prep for a true career in the world of filmmaking.

Oh yeah, I didn’t even mention how some former Star Trek actors have banned together to make their own Star Trek fan films.  Tim Russ, I am looking at you.  All I’ll say on the subject is that it is hilarious, somewhat sad, and perplexing in the fact that if professional actors are doing this, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of it being a fan film?


7 responses to “Trek Tuesday: Fan Films

  1. Pingback: Trek Tuesday: The Axanar Lawsuit | Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

    • Nick! January 31, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      That is very unlikely.

      • Neville Ross February 4, 2016 at 12:04 am

        Hey, at least I tried (notice I said might and not will.) It is one of the better (IMHO) fan productions, in no small part because it’s about a civilian space freighter captain and her first mate rather than yet another Starfleet crew and starship going boldly where no one has gone before. It’s also (again, IMHO) the best CGI animated shows out there (amateur independent or professional) because it doesn’t look ‘cute’ like most animated CGI movies/cartoons do owing to the use of DAZ Studio due to the animator not having access to the programs used by the big professional CGI houses.

        I must say that while I do like two of these fan productions, I don’t like the fans of them saying that they are better that the official productions-these shows/movies can at best be compared to amateur theater and enjoyed on that level. I also don’t like people saying that these are better because they represent the ‘vision’ of Gene Roddenberry when in reality he never had one. The new movies are Star Trek completely, in that Star Trek is not the serious sci-fi written in most books and is the space opera/action adventure franchise (with social commentary) that it was since 1966. The fans that can’t accept this fact and are so deluded to think that these fan shows are ‘better’ than the current official productions are deluded, need to give their heads a shake, need to see a good shrink, and also need to stop using it as a religion. It isn’t one, nor was Gene Roddenberry a religious leader whose tenets must be listened to no matter what. It is simply an entertainment franchise that was in need of a revival, and it got one-one that they can’t accept for some reason.

  2. Neville Ross February 25, 2016 at 1:54 am

    TrekMovie, a fan site (which, at one time, had strong connections with JJ Abrams and his crew), is very supportive of these fan productions (particularly Phase II), but I’ve noticed that when they do an article on a new episode being released, a representative from the production is almost always there putting down critics of the show.

    The thing that gets me is, TrekMovie was supposed to be a site for supporting the Abrams movies, and now it’s become a site for bashing them (most of the commentary at TrekMovie is negative about the two films so far from what I’ve seen, with most of the support going to fan films/series.) And the guy who set this up set it up just as I said above!

    I wish that he’s come back and get rid of all of the people bashing the new movies (many of them can start up their own Facebook groups or blogs to bask in the glory o f the older Trek shows and the fans shows), but he won’t do that (apparently, he took a sabbatical from running the site due to the strain of doing so.) He needs to come back, put his foot down, and make it clear that this site is to mainly support the Abrams movies and the upcoming TV series, not to be a repository for (mostly) older fans (and some younger fans of the previous movies and TV shows) bitching about how the new movies aren’t showing Roddenberry’s ‘vision’.

    • Nick! February 25, 2016 at 8:26 am

      TrekMovie has become a generic Star Trek site after the release of the 2009 film. They had a lot of good updates/scoops for that first film, and very little else for the subsequent films (unless they were reblogging what other sites have said). No doubt this is because the original guy running it had some sort of connection to the Bad Robot production team, and now he’s pretty much gone.

      I can’t comment on the articles there on if they are pro-or-against the reboot films (I haven’t cared enough to notice a trend), but the comment sections on any website are going to feature the extremist of fans. There is no way to really stop that even if that original guy was there.

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