You know, the decision to fund a crowdsourcing campaign depends on three things. First, a potential donor has to consider the viability of the campaign; does it seem like a worthwhile and feasible project? Second, the nature of the participants (example: their qualifications, their experience and background) has to be considered. Finally, what value will the project add to the world of the donor?
Given that the campaign has to be a cause that donor cares about, the donor has to be able to envision something of value that will come out of his or her contribution? If you look at all of these elements, it’s clear that "Star Trek: Axanar" overwhelmingly delivers on all of these and shows itself to be a project worthy of a Star Trek fan’s support.
World Building in Roddenberry's Vast Playground
We haven’t had a historical or roots-oriented Star Trek film or television show for the franchise since "Star Trek: Enterprise" went off the air in 2005. Whatever criticism could be leveled against the show, the one thing that it tried to do was reinforce the historical foundations of the franchise by providing its fans with a look at the early days of Starfleet. That approach actually lends credibility to an incredibly rich television phenomenon like Star Trek by adding another layer of world building by creating a history for it.
"Star Trek: Axanar’s" success will rest on the award-winning and incredibly high-quality short film, "Prelude to Axanar." It can be found here. It has the same approach, but is more deliberate and overt. By describing the events of the Battle of Axanar (as teased in the original "Star Trek" episode “Whom Gods Destroy”) in an academic, faux-documentary style, it creates a layer of authenticity and increases the believability of the account. It’s an important key to set up "Star Trek: Axanar" successfully by establishing the historical events in a very solid and understandable way.
It also draws back upon the continuum of the franchise by seeking out rich material that has faded into the background, especially the material from the original series. There are many undeveloped plot lines that can be used for new films from "The Original Series" given the size of Gene Roddenberry’s rich Star Trek universe, and it’s good to see a fan-based organization delve into this background and develop it in a new form that is relevant for today’s audience.
It’s also a measure of passion. Any enterprise (pardon the pun) that involves such a high level of scrutiny is obviously one that has been carefully thought out and planned for relevance. This is a very feasible project because it taps into that background, but it also shows it in a way that is relatable and novel. The creators are clearly thinking about their audience. The idea of the documentary is simple, but displays a careful and methodical way that the ideas of Trek can be presented.
Connecting With Funders, Fans
There is also a high level of accountability in this project. "Axanar" updates come out at least once a week. There is a strong sense of involving the community that funded this project that one can read in these updates. Alec Peters -- creator, executive producer and co-writer -- sends out frequent “Captain’s Log” updates in addition to the podcasts and an abundance of other blog postings that really communicate a sense of his vision for the project that also allows funders to share in his experiences throughout the endeavor.
Seeing updates on Facebook and Twitter as the "Axanar" cast and crew make their way to San Diego Comic-Con or other conventions also provides a strong sense of unity that connects them with their funders and fans, making them a part of the experience. Not only does this show the feasibility of the project but it galvanizes the sense of why it's worth doing.
Enlisting an Impressive Cast
The cast for this project has an extremely high “cool” factor. Peters has assembled a collection of Star Trek and "Battlestar Galactica" veterans who are clearly willing to donate their time for this project. This resonates with the fans who have seen and appreciated these actors in their previous roles. It hits all the right sci-fi nerd buttons, and after seeing their performances in "Prelude to Axanar," fans can sense that this is a project that is destined for success.
Richard Hatch performs the role of the Supreme Klingon High Commander, Gen. Kharn. His character is the architect of the Klingon offensive efforts. Hatch is well known for roles in both original and re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica," as well as his novels and promotional efforts to maintain that franchise in popular culture.
Tony Todd has played a number of characters in Star Trek. In "Star Trek: The Next Generation," fans will remember him as Worf’s younger brother, Kurn, and as the future version of Jake Sisko on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Horror fans will remember him from the Candyman film franchise. In "Prelude to Axanar" and "Axanar," Todd plays Starfleet’s supreme commander, Adm. Ramirez.
Kate Vernon is highly recognizable from the variety of roles she has played in the past. From the 1980s cult-film "Pretty in Pink" to Ellen Tigh in "Battlestar Galactica," Vernon plays Capt. Sonya Alexander. A fearsome adversary, the Klingons give her a high degree of respect through the most insulting epithets they can dredge from the muck for her.
J.G. Hertzler’s voice is highly distinctive and immediately identifiable for his role as the heroic Gen. Martok in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Hertzler has played many roles in Star Trek, including Klingons, Hirogens, Vulcans and even a shape-shifter. Hertzler plays Starfleet Capt. Samuel Travis.
Gary Graham plays the Vulcan Ambassador Soval, who acts somewhat as an impartial historical narrator in "Prelude to Axanar." Graham is reprising his role as Soval, who he played in "Star Trek: Enterprise." He is also recognized from his sci-fi credit in "Alien Nation." Graham’s career has included notable TV shows like "Moonlighting" and "Nip/Tuck."
In addition to his roles as executive producer, creator and co-writer, Peters also plays Fleet Capt. Kelvar Garth, the central character at the Battle of Axanar. This is the event that makes Garth James T. Kirk’s personal hero and where he makes Starfleet’s last stand against the Klingons, defending the Federation.
Talent Behind the Scenes
While these actors certainly have the pedigree and the experience to play these roles, it’s also the crew behind the production who need to be acknowledged. These are professionals in whatever their background who are willing to donate their time and expertise to the culmination of this project. The fact that they believe in it to this degree reflects the project’s high degree of quality even more.
Robert Meyer Burnett is the co-producer and supervising editor for "Axanar." Burnett directed the fan-favorite film "Free Enterprise" and has worked as a consultant for "Star Trek: The Experience." With his experience in editing numerous feature films, Burnett has also edited, written and produced the special features for all seven seasons of the Blue-ray releases of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
Another professional who provides his expertise is Michael DeMerritt. DeMerritt has served as assistant director on many "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Star Trek: Enterprise" episodes. His experience obviously serves him well in seeing the completion of "Axanar."
With this wealth of talent and expertise behind "Axanar," it’s clear that both cast and crew believe highly in the success of this project. Success attracts successful people, and all of these individuals have demonstrated success in their previous ventures. If people of their caliber believe in this film, then that should go far in convincing its backers.
Examining the Assembled Product
So then, a fan has to ask him or herself, what will "Axanar" deliver?
First, there’s the fact that this is a really cool backstory — this is a fundamental part of the formation of the Federation. Set 21 years before the time of Kirk, the Battle of Axanar demonstrated why the Klingon Empire respected the Federation as a powerful adversary. It created a role model for Capt. Kirk to emulate and it also explored a time in between "Star Trek: Enterprise" and the "The Original Series" that really hadn’t been examined.
The documentary format creates a somewhat personal connection between the events and the fan. It’s a unique perspective of Star Trek that really hasn’t been looked at before in any of the franchises and is definitely one of the reasons why this project needs to succeed. If the quality of "Prelude to Axanar" is any indication of the story to come, then fans and backers will definitely get real value from the film.
This is a completely new Trek film that is built on the regular continuum; it isn’t a reboot and it certainly doesn’t seek to reinvent the franchise. "Axanar" looks to add to the value of the existing continuum and it's true to the original vision of Star Trek. The historical perspective is a novel way to look at the series, but it doesn’t add anything new that wasn’t already there; instead, it supports rather than supplants ideas that add to the enjoyment of the show.
The other aspect of value "Axanar" looks to add is to provide an example to other fan organizations to develop new ways to extend the Star Trek universe.
Granted, there are already other fan organizations out there who do this, but we need more of them. Star Trek survives because of its fans, and this is a way for fans to continue to add to the vibrancy of the series and is the ultimate realization of Roddenberry’s legacy.
This is an industry-quality production created by professionals, but who are doing this out of a need to create something spectacular. Right now, the project’s current stage is about 91 percent funded within six days of its beginning. Already the fans have enough faith to see this initiative succeed.
It’s a spectacular vision. Success attracts successful people, and a backer is a true fan who can appreciate the value that the project brings to the Star Trek universe.
"Axanar" adds a real sense of value in demonstrating the freedom that fan-based initiatives have in adding to Star Trek. This project has all the right elements to make it worthy of why a true Star Trek fan needs to back this project and see it through to its completion.
For information, visit StarTrekAxanar.com.