These are dark days for Trekkers. Not only have beleaguered devotees of the iconic sci-fi franchise been forced to endure a Star Trek Beyond trailer that even Simon Pegg admits doesn’t look a thing like Star Trek in recent weeks, now CBS, the network that launched the franchise in 1966, is suing the makers of a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film for ripping off its intellectual property.
The upcoming Axanar, which will tell the story of legendary Starfleet captain—and Captain Kirk’s hero—Garth of Izar, raised more than a million dollars in two successful Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. It’s expected to begin production in January, and looks pretty slick in this short film posted on YouTube to support its fundraising efforts:
Those plans might have to be put on hold, though, as CBS and Paramount Pictures, producers of the aforementioned Star Trek: Beyond, have sued Axanar’s production company and its executive producer/co-writer Alec Peters in federal court. The plaintiffs argue that the Axanar shorts and planned feature “infringe plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species and themes.” (Although CBS and Paramount have allowed Star Trek fan fiction and even amateur fan series to exist for decades, according to The Hollywood Reporter the difference here is Peters’ stated intent to make a professional-quality Star Trek film.)
The defense counters that Axanar Productions is a purely noncommercial venture, and that all the money raised in the crowdfunding campaigns will go straight into the film’s budget. Implied, if not explicitly stated, is that the producers—and, indeed, contributors to the crowdfunding campaigns—love Star Trek, and maybe CBS and Paramount are doing little more than alienating their base by flipping the proverbial bird to people so passionate about Star Trek, they’re willing to spend millions of dollars paying tribute to it. But—if Star Wars: The Force Awakens is any indication, anyway—maybe the grumbling of disgruntled nerds, in the end, doesn’t really matter that much.