I’m a man of many fandoms, some of which are popularly considered diametrically opposed to one another. I’ve been a Trekkie for the larger part of my life, when I started watching Star Trek: the Next Generation in high school, though my association with the franchise goes back even further due to my mother being an old school Trekkie. I can remember her emotional reaction to Wrath of Khan back when I couldn’t have been much older than a toddler.
I’ve enjoyed Star Trek on and off over the years. TNG was great, Deep Space Nine would go on to become my favorite Star Trek of all time, and even Voyager and Enterprise would have (very) occasional episodes that made me happy. The movies were of varying qualities, particularly the ones featuring the TNG cast, though I thought the 2009 reboot was a refreshing take on the franchise. Into Darkness… let’s not go into that one right now.
Lately though, there have been developments that have really given me pause about whether I want to continue calling myself a Trekkie. The first of these is the upcoming 2017 series that was recently announced. The big drawback for me at this point is that it will only be accessible if you pony up the $5.99 per month for CBS’s video-on-demand streaming service, which at this point they’re calling CBS All-Access. Call it whatever you want, it’s basically a Netflix streaming clone that they’re trying to force Trekkies to subscribe to by making the show exclusive to this service.
Annoying as such an obvious and cynical money-grab is, I at least understand it. I can understand wanting to try to make money on a potentially very lucrative delivery service like streaming. But it’s the next issue that really sharpens my bat’leth.
The new fan film guidelines that CBS and Paramount have issued have been met with criticism and open hostility in some cases, and it’s really hard for me to think the rancor isn’t well deserved. It seems that, in order to avoid legal action from CBS and Paramount when you make a Star Trek fan film, you have to follow their list of (mostly) insane rules, such as restrictions on film length and number of episodes, purchase of officially licensed props or clothing in films, and the inability to use any professionals or former Star Trek cast or crew on fan productions.
Fan backlash has been immediate and loud, and while there’s been some effort to explain or defend these guidelines, it’s hard to argue that they don’t leave a pretty bitter taste in the mouths of fans who have for years labored on these projects out of love for the franchise. I myself am not involved in fan films, but I can sympathize with the resentment that comes with being creatively shackled by corporate “guidelines” from on high.
How they’ll play out remains to be seen, though I wouldn’t expect to see much effort from fans to hide their contempt. If I’ve learned anything about Trekkies over the years, it’s that we’re a passionate, outspoken, and resourceful bunch, and when we feel screwed over we’ll fight back.
At present I have no plans to subscribe to CBS All-Access for this new series, though I’ll admit that could change as more information becomes available. The only reason I’m going to see Star Trek Beyond in theaters at this point is my sympathy and respect for Anton Yelchin and his recent tragic end. But at this point it seems the corporate entity in charge of Star Trek doesn’t have the decency to even pretend to respect its fans, and that comes through prominently in these most recent developments.
I haven’t turned in my Trekkie badge yet, but if things like this continue, it’s only a matter of time.