Monday, May 11, 2009

Competition from the new kids on the block

Most of the comment leading up to the new Trek movie has shown up our own preferences for Star Trek rather than any objective point, but then, what else would you expect? If you're a Trek fan its because you fell in love with one or other of the shows and your relationship with a new show is going to be as traumatic as taking a new lover!

It doesn't have to be of course.

Just as a widow remarrying doesn't mean that she loves her first husband any less, enjoying this new movie doesn't mean you love the Original Series any less. Its just that ... imagine if she'd remarried and her husband were brought back to life? I don't mean brought back as “the zombie husband from Hell”, I mean just as good, if not better than before? That's the problem facing the Star Trek fan production community right now because, to stretch the analogy to breaking point, some of the current productions are based on keeping that first love alive for fans!

James Cawley, executive producer and star of Star Trek: Phase II, was the first to voice this I think on their forum on March sixth, when he said, “The original continuity and time line are gone forever. With the release of this film projects like this one will soon fade away and become irrelevant.” I've interviewed Mr Cawley and his passion for his production is so obvious that Blind Freddy could see it! For him to say this stunned me!

You have to remember that James is an Original Series purist. His personal collection of costumes and memorabilia is legendary, not surprising considering that he worked under William Ware Theiss as a freelance costumer during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He financed and built a replica of the bridge set of the Enterprise as seen on the Original Series that caused Walter Koenig to say, “Thank you. I have come home again,”

However most telling of all is his personal influence on the world of Star Trek fandom with his vision of a continuation of the “Five Year Mission” - the fan film series started in 2003 as Star Trek: New Voyages and now arguably the highest profile fan production series of any genre: Star Trek: Phase II.

Make no mistake, he's no “one-eyed fan” who cannot appreciate the work of another. During a visit to the Paramount studio lot in January last year, JJ Abrams recognised him, invited him onto the movie set to talk about his production and was so impressed with him that he asked him to take a casting call that led to a part in the film.

Nor is there any suggestion of him selling out - James has said all along that whilst he admires and supports JJ's work he still prefers the look and style of the Original Series and his commitment to his dream is unquestionable. Taking all this into account, is it any wonder that this new direction from the studio should cut so close to his heart?

How could fan productions based on the new movie be a problem? Well, Some see the Star Trek fan production community is a “closed set” of people who make and enjoy them and believe the new movie will be competition for the creative resources and fanbase of the established groups

The real question is, are there limits to the resources available? Is there, for example, only a finite number of fans with the talent and commitment to create Star Trek fan films or only so many fans who want to watch them?

Only time will tell but personally I'm optimistic

The whole idea behind the new movie is that it is a new treatment, a new way of looking at an established fictional universe that is aimed a new audience. Considering the strength of some of the reactions of the established Star Trek fans, I doubt if there'll be a vast exodus from their first love. I think what you'll see will be the creation of a new fanbase in Star Trek fandom who will want to expand on their fan experience in just the same way as previous generations have.

Rather than seeing established groups go under, I reckon we are going to see new groups starting up. Will this mean competition for the same audience? I doubt if they'll compete: the style of each will be too different, besides fan productions are non commercial so download hit-counts are really irrelevant.

I can tell you that if, as I expect, the new movie lives up to expectations, I for one will encourage and watch, read or listen to any fan productions based on it. Like the Vulcan said, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”

Hey! You didn't think you'd get away without at least one Trekkie quote didya?

No comments: