'Star Trek' Fan Film Hits Warp Drive on Kickstarter

A Klingon Starship in 'Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar'
A Klingon starship in concept art for the fan film "Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar." (Image credit: Axanar Productions)

Set phasers to stunned: A Kickstarter campaign for a new "Star Trek" project has already quintupled its original $10,000 goal to fund a fan film by veteran science fiction actors.

The short fan film, called "Star Trek: Prelude To Axanar," takes place decades before the famous exploits of Captain James T. Kirk and his Enterprise crew of "Star Trek" lore and is scheduled to warp into release this May. As of Friday (March 28), the Kickstarter project had raised $58,362, with three days left in the campaign.

What's more, its makers promise "Axanar" will foreshadow the most epic Trekkie fan film ever: a full-length movie with a $250,000 budget that will focus on the Battle of Axanar, which was won by Starfleet captain Garth of Izar about 21 years before the original "Star Trek" series took place. [Watch: "Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar" Kickstarter Video]

"We knew that we needed some sort of trail, or some sort of sizzle, so that people could see what we were capable of doing and being impressed by it," said project lead Alec Peters, who portrayed Garth in the unaffiliated TV web series "Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II", of the decision to make a shorter film first.

The two projects, he says, will mark a new era in the surge of fan-made films and shows made about the "Star Trek" franchise. With heavy participation from science-fiction actors and members from past "Star Trek" production crews, Peters said his project has enough experience, story and graphics to compete with conventional Hollywood films made for millions of dollars.

The logo for "Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar." (Image credit: Axanar Productions)

Peters first became fascinated with Axanar about 25 years ago, after he watched the "Star Trek: The Original Series" third-season episode "Whom Gods Destroy." The episode has Kirk facing off against an irrational and dangerous Garth, who by then was facing mental illness due to a rescue mission.

That story is where Peters and his collaborators are drawing some of their material today, such as a few facts about the battle and that Garth's book was required reading at Starfleet Academy (the training ground for Starfleet officers in the series.)

Peters' interest piqued again after portraying Garth in 2010. He began writing a script and learning what copyright on the "Star Trek" franchise permits. CBS, he said, allows fan productions of "Star Trek" stories to go ahead as long as the fan projects do not make a profit.

"We can't sell DVDs, but we can give them away if you make a donation. That's the full basis of Kickstarter," he said.

Actor Richard Hatch, who plays a Klingon in the fan film "Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar," during a makeup test. (Image credit: Axanar Productions)

Peters then worked on assembling a team. An early break came when Peters approached Richard Hatch, a star in both versions of "Battlestar Galactica" who was Peters' first acting coach 20 years ago. Hatch agreed to be Kharn, the Klingon supreme commander, and other actors quickly followed his lead.

Also attached to the project are Michael Hogan (another BSG veteran), J.G. Hertzler (Klingon general Martok in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") and Gary Graham (Vulcan ambassador Soval on "Star Trek: Enterprise", a role he will reprise in the new film.)

Each actor is working at a discount because they care deeply about the project, Peters added. Peters will reprise the role of Garth in this project.

World War II-style documentary

"Prelude to Axanar" will be a "documentary" focusing on the events of the forthcoming feature film. At about 20 minutes long, the film will be interview-heavy — like a History Channel World War II special about the Battle of Stalingrad or Battle of the Bulge. In this case, the stories will focus on the Battle of Axanar.

"This is meant to be a proof of concept and a dry run," for the bigger film, Peters added, saying that the team hasn't quite decided on when to shoot and release the feature film yet. They're focused right now on preproduction of the "documentary."

In the long run, Peters sees the mock-documentary and film as resume-boosters for his team. Another highlight, he added, will be the visual effects created by fellow "Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II" veteran Tobias Richter.

"I hope people will take notice of this and say, 'They did this for a quarter million dollars?'," Peters said.

"We all work in the industry and we all want to improve our resume. We're trying to create something that’s groundbreaking, that people will be fascinated by, when it's all done."

To can learn more about the "Star Trek: Prelude To Axanar" Kickstarter, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/194429923/star-trek-prelude-to-axanar

The film's website is: http://www.startrekaxanar.com/

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace