Fans of the Star Trek novels would certainly recognize the name Dave Galanter. Yet, the author considers himself more of an occasional novelist rather than a career one.
His library includes a few books he co-wrote with Greg Brodeur, like the 1994 “Star Trek: The Next Generation” novel “Foreign Foes,” and the 2001 two-parter “Dead Zone” and “Forever Dark” in the Maximum Warp series. He even penned a “Star Trek: New Voyages” episode, “Enemy: Starfleet,” that was released in 2011. In fact, Galanter considers “New Voyages” co-creator James Cawley a friend.
Despite spending his days in the world of technology outside of writing, Galanter loves Star Trek, and loves pitching in wherever someone asks. So when Cawley put Galanter and Alec Peters together soon after “Enemy: Starfleet” was produced, Galanter was more than happy to at least say hello.
“James introduced me to Alec Peters, who had this idea for a fan-film that was going to be filmed on the ‘New Voyages’ set, and that he was in the process of writing it,” Galanter told 1701News. “I think he had maybe an act or two sketched out, and he asked me if I would read it and if I would give him some feedback.”
This was nothing new for Galanter. He had quietly worked with new writers in the past, helping them to hone their craft, and maybe even strengthen their stories or characters. So when he saw the first draft of what would become “Star Trek: Axanar,” it piqued his interest.
Peters sent Galanter act after act as he completed it, with Galanter sending back notes in how he might improve it, or how the story could be adjusted. And unlike many up-and-coming writers, Peters was actually quite receptive to the feedback.
“He did not get upset with me,” Galanter said. “In fact, he was fairly humble about it and nice. I actually started to consider Alec a friend, and we would talk now and again about stuff, and I was certainly willing to help.”
The whole time, however, Galanter believed this would be a production at the level of other fan productions, with an average budget and a lot of passionate love for Star Trek.
Before long, original “Star Trek” scribe David Gerrold would come on board, and Peters told Galanter that he would be seeking later draft feedback from him. Galanter actually expressed happiness on that development, since Gerrold is well-known, especially among original series fans.
“It was all supposed to be fun,” Galanter said. “I didn’t understand really fully until the lawsuit hit just out of control ‘Axanar’ had become.”
The Shoe Drops
That lawsuit went public Dec. 30 when CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures filed a copyright infringement complaint against Axanar Productions and Peters, saying the entire operation was unlawfully taking from the studios’ Star Trek intellectual property. Peters had raised upward of $1.3 million, rented premium studio space in Los Angeles, and was even paying himself a $38,000 annual salary from the donations, plus expenses.
Even then, Peters was ready to defend Axanar, telling The Hollywood Reporter that “there are a lot of issues surrounding a fan-film. These fan-films have been around for 30 years, and others have raised a lot of money.”
But none as much as Axanar, which was by far the most successful fundraising ever achieved for a Star Trek fan-film. And with the issues CBS and Paramount had, the studios were seeking not only an injunction against the continuing production of “Star Trek: Axanar,” but statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, or actual damages — enough to clearly wipe out the production, despite its crowdfunding haul.
Galanter, however, wasn’t surprised. He had exited the production three years before just doing what he had hoped would simply be some uncredited consultant work. But last year, Peters had reached out again. This time he was hoping Galanter would help author a novella in a series of print stories that would provide backstory to the “Axanar” film, focusing on characters like Ambassador Soval (from “Star Trek: Enterprise”) and Garth of Izar, who Peters himself was originally going to play from the original “Star Trek” episode “Whom Gods Destroy.”
“He asked me questions on how they could approach it, like the size of the novellas, how people would be paid, stuff like that,” Galanter said. “I told him if you want to pay people, you have to go to licensing and get a sign-off from Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books and CBS. He said, ‘We’re working on that. Do you want to be a part of that?'”
Galanter liked the idea, and told Peters if he was able to secure licensing from the book company that had the publishing rights to Star Trek, he would definitely consider it.
And then last August, Peters called Galanter back, and offered the author a chance to pen a novella on Soval, who actor Gary Graham was returning to reprise. Galanter was excited, but he had one concern: Did Peters get the licensing required from Simon & Schuster?
The answer? No.
“I told him I couldn’t do that,” Galanter said. As a Pocket Books author “I signed a contract with CBS that says, ‘You write Star Trek for us, and any thoughts you have on Star Trek belong to this contract and not you.’ Because it’s their universe and I abide by that.”
Yet Peters had a solution to get around that, Galanter said. He encouraged the author to use a pseudonym.
“He said, ‘You can write it under a pen name,’ which sort of shocked me,” Galanter said. “My jaw dropped, and I said, ‘No, I can’t. This is not acceptable to me.’ And I was really quite put off by that.”
In fact, Galanter wouldn’t talk to Peters again until the complaint was filed just after Christmas last year.
“When the lawsuit first dropped, before I read anything, I messaged Alec on Facebook telling him I’m sorry about this, and I hope it works out, and hopefully they will let him do ‘Axanar,'” Galanter said.
That changed a month later when Peters was interviewed by 1701News reporter John Kirk. In that interview, which Peters later claimed omitted “nice” things about other fan-films, the Axanar producer derided “New Voyages” producer Cawley and Vic Mignogna, a producer on a different fan-film series called “Star Trek Continues.”
“There’s a reason why ‘Prelude to Axanar’ and ‘Axanar’ look like professional movies, because we have professionals working on them,” Peters told Kirk. “These are professionals. They do this for a living. They’re not fans who are voice actors or Elvis impersonators who have a hobby and have always wanted to play Capt. Kirk.”
Mignogna is a successful voice actor, while Cawley had his own fame as a popular Elvis impersonator.
“That’s not to knock fan-films,” Peters said. “I’m just saying, if you want volunteers, you get a certain quality. You want professionals? You’ve got to pay for them. It’s real simple.”
And pay for them, Peters did, including himself, where in 2015 he claimed to receive a salary of more than $18 per hour, something he spun as “minimum wage.”
1701News reached out to Peters for comment through an Axanar spokesman, but Peters declined. However, within minutes of 1701News making the request Wednesday afternoon, Peters messaged Galanter. The author told 1701News that he didn’t know what Peters “expected to accomplish, but I feel no need to engage him in debate.”
When Galanter read Peters’ interview with 1701News — which would later be cited in the amended complaint from CBS and Paramount — he felt his stomach turn.
“He was throwing the other fan-films under the bus, and I felt that he was going to get rid of all fan-films if he keeps this up,” Galanter said. “He insulted James Cawley, who is a friend of mine, and I had enough.”
So Galanter messaged Peters on Facebook, expressing his anger. Peters simply thanked him, Galanter said, adding that “New Voyages” and “Continues” had “started it,” and Galanter was done.
“I thought that was a childish response, and I haven’t talked to him since,” Galanter said. “I blocked him.”
Finally Stepping Out
During the weeks and months since the lawsuit hit, Galanter has maintained a rather low-profile, mainly sharing his thoughts and views to various people behind-the-scenes.
He really didn’t want to get caught up in the mess, and was afraid of possibly alienating readers of his future books. But he also had a bigger concern.
When CBS and Paramount filed the lawsuit, they left room for what they called “John Does.” These were defendants the studio would possibly name later, focused on those who had played principal roles in the “Axanar” production. Because Galanter had done some early consulting work — and mistakenly being credited as a story editor early on — he feared he could be one of those Does.
“I didn’t know how deep CBS and Paramount wanted to dig,” Galanter said. “Could I be named a Doe? I never received compensation for his [Peters] notes and comments and suggestions, but I still didn’t know.”
Finally, several weeks ago, Galanter decided to take a proactive route, and reached out to Loeb & Loeb, the law firm representing the studios in the lawsuit. He shared everything he knew about Axanar with the lawyers, and hung up the phone feeling much better.
“I don’t know if I was ever a Doe, but I don’t care, to be honest with you,” he said. “If they want to call me to testify, I will be an excellent plaintiffs’ witness. And I have a lot to say.”
The biggest piece is what Galanter says he can’t understand Peters denying — that “Star Trek: Axanar” was indeed Star Trek.
“I don’t know how Alec Peters can claim he wasn’t trying to make a Star Trek fan-film when one of the main things we talked about on the phone those few years ago was how he wanted to make a good Star Trek film.”
The idea that Axanar believes an alternative to the lawsuit is having CBS and Paramount buy out the production and distribute “Star Trek: Axanar” on its own is equally preposterous to Galanter.
“It’s the same thing as letting your neighbors use your property and your yard for parties, and so Axanar decides they want to do it too,” Galanter said. “But they’re going to chop down a tree in your yard, and make a nice bench out of it. And if you really don’t like them doing that, don’t worry. They’ll just sell you the bench.”
Luckily, at least as far as Galanter can tell, his limited Axanar involvement has not blacklisted him from Pocket Books.
“It hasn’t affected me that I am aware of,” he said. “My guess is that they just wouldn’t do business with me again. Quite frankly, I’d love to write more Star Trek, but it’s not my day job. I write a book every few years, and I’m even putting together something that is my own creation. The last thing I would want if someone published it would be for someone to make a film out of it, and make money from it, without my permission.”
And finally, Galanter has at least read the script for “Star Trek: Axanar” in its early stages. So what does he think?
“I haven’t seen the script since the first draft, and people have asked me if the script was good, and I say, ‘No,'” Galanter said. “But that’s because it was the first draft, and first drafts rarely are good. But it certainly had potential to be a good story.”
This story was modified to correct the year Alec Peters contacted Dave Galanter to participate in the novella authoring project.