Last year’s San Diego Comic-Con was heavily themed on a science fiction series that only lasted three season—Star Trek. In recognition of its 50th anniversary, the Wednesday night special movie screening under the stars was the premiere of the most recent chapter of the reboot: “Star Trek Beyond.”. Panels paid tribute to topics are varied as James T. Kirk, the Enterprise and the science of Star Trek as an inspiration for real science and scientists. This year, Star Trek was back as a new type of TV series, but I can’t help remember another detour into Star Trek history.
In 2014 another Star Trek film premiered: “Prelude to Axanar” as an off-site event of San Diego Comic-Con. I was lucky enough to sit in front of Richard Hatch at the screening. A fan boy tried to get me to move after Hatch sat down. I refused and before we all settled in to see “Prelude to Axanar” I briefly chatted with Hatch who was polite, affable and enthusiastic about the short film and its future.
“Prelude to Axanar” was a high-quality fan film that was supposed to be a teaser and promotion for a longer feature film. Yet while work on the Axanar short began in 2010 and Paramount Pictures, owner of the Star Trek copyright, had not objected during the March Kickstarter campaign. David Gerrold, one of the original writers for “Star Trek: The Original Series” signed on as a creative consultant. No effort seems to have been made to stop the “Prelude to Axanar” screening at Horton Plaza in July of 2014. Yet by Dec. 29, 2015, CBS and Paramount filed a lawsuit about copyright infringement. Instead of going into production, the Axanar film stalled.
If you’ve been out of Star Trek fandom, you might think this was a fairly straight forward case, but CBS and Paramount had allowed fan films to exist for years. On 20 January 2017, Paramount, CBS and the Axanar people had come to an agreement: Two 15-minute movies would be allowed. CBS and Paramount formulated a guideline for fan films.
Richard Hatch was originally slated to play the main character in the Four Years War, Klingon Supreme Warlord Karn the Undying, but at 71, the man who had once played Captain Apollo and then Tom Zarek in “Battlestar Galactica” did die in February of this year. The legal delay didn’t take four years, but it was long enough.
Hatch was reportedly fondly remembered at the Battlestar Galactic reunion panel at SDCC. There had already been a reunion at the June ATX convention. At ATX, the reunion was the ATX Television Festivals main Saturday night event according to Entertainment Weekly. At SDCC, the reunion was a Thursday afternoon event in Ballroom 20, a prelude to the hotter Saturday events. One of those would be the CBS All Access panel for “Star Trek: Discovery.”