STAR TREK: TNG – THE ANIMATED SERIES vignette quickly goes VIRAL! (interview with JUSTIN LEE)

Most Star Trek fan films get anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand views on YouTube. The more “polished” ones can make it into the tens of thousands of views and, maybe, after a few months or even years, crack the 100K threshold.

But STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – THE ANIMATED SERIES, a two minute and 14 second fan film with no “coming soon” trailers nor any fanfare prior to its April 12, 2022 premiere, was able to blast its way into the six-digit range in less than a week, and after five weeks on YouTube is now nearing a half million views!

Sometimes a video just goes viral—although the simplicity of the concept along with the flawless technical execution and inspired concept was certainly enough to justify the rapid word-of-mouth, including a shout-out from WIL WHEATON on his blog. Take a look…

Part of the brilliance, in addition to choosing one of the most iconic scenes from one of fandom’s favorite episodes—the kidnapping of Picard by the Borg in “The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1”—was coloring the Borg and their cube in bright purples and violets rather than dull grays. This harkened back to how the original Star Trek animated series would color the Klingon uniforms in those same ridiculous purple and violet colors…

The short vignette animation was released on the YouTube channel of GAZELLE AUTOMATIONS, a small Toronto, Canada-based agency specializing in puppetry, model miniatures, and animation. Five days after its debut, in response to many, many questions posted by hundreds of viewers, animator JUSTIN LEE released a second video, twice as long as the original fan film, explaining how the project was animated. It’s also worth checking out..

Of course, you know me—I had even more questions that I was sure my readers would love to hear the answers to. So I reached out to Justin via e-mail to ask if he’d be up for an interview. Since Justin is from Canada, he couldn’t have been nicer (I think it’s in their DNA, eh?), and he was happy to oblige…

Continue reading “STAR TREK: TNG – THE ANIMATED SERIES vignette quickly goes VIRAL! (interview with JUSTIN LEE)”

ComicMix will sell an UNLICENSED book of “lost” DR. SEUSS short stories now in the PUBLIC DOMAIN!

Well, this story suddenly got interesting again!

Last October, I reported on the sudden and unexpected settlement of the half-decade copyright infringement lawsuit filed by DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES (DSE) against tribbles creator DAVID GERROLD, award-winning comic book illustrator TY TEMPLETON, and COMICMIX, LLC editor and vice-president GLENN HAUMAN. The latter three individuals had attempted to crowd-fund through Kickstarter a mash-up of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! But DSE quickly put the brakes on that, forcing Kickstarter to take down the fully-funded $30,000 campaign and return the donations, and then suing Team Mash-Up for what could have been six or even seven figures if the legal verdict went in DSE’s favor.

What followed was years of a litigation roller coaster, sparking approximately thirty blogs from me as I tried to explain (in layman’s terms) everything that was being argued by both sides and the various rulings from the judge(s). At first, it looked like Team Mash-Up had actually won when, after two and a half years, Ninth Circuit Federal Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO dismissed DSE’s complaint, finding that Boldly! qualified for free speech protection under the legal doctrine of fair use. But a year and a half later, a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, ruling that Boldly! was NOT fair use and sending the complaint back to the district court.

In October of 2021, weeks before the case was to go to trial, the two sides announced a settlement because Ty Templeton had developed late-stage colorectal cancer, and neither side wanted to put the man through the stress of a multi-week jury trial (at the height of COVID, no less!) while prepping for major surgery and months of intense cancer treatments. The two legal adversaries agreed that there would be no trial, no judgment, no payout in either direction, and each side would cover their own legal fees. But sadly, ComicMix would give up all efforts to create or publish a Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up book.

End of story, right? Not quite…!

Continue reading “ComicMix will sell an UNLICENSED book of “lost” DR. SEUSS short stories now in the PUBLIC DOMAIN!”

DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 2)

Last week in Part 1, we learned how, in March of 2021, RAY TESI from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS had asked JOSHUA IRWIN from THE AVALON UNIVERSE to make the half-day drive from northeastern Arkansas to southeastern Georgia to be the director of photography for the newest TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE fanthology film “DOOMSDAY.” Josh was happy to help out, and the completed production has quickly become the most watched of all three of the Neutral Zone releases, nearly doubling the views of the previous two offerings, THE LOOKING GLASS (released in June of 2019) and ENDOSYMBIOSIS (February 2021) in only a couple of weeks.

Take a look…

We had just learned that, after arriving at the studio on the day of shooting, Ray had gotten buried under other studio-related tasks he needed to do. And so he asked Josh if he would mind taking over as director in addition to being director of photography (two VERY different jobs). Josh is used to dealing with the unexpected on film sets, working in the film industry himself professionally, and so he agreed to the challenge.

Of course, this gave Josh essentially no time to prepare as director, and so I asked him the following question…

Continue reading “DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 2)”

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’S “MOM” debuts on Mother’s Day…of course! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

Ya just gotta love the folks at DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. Well, you don’t have to love them, but it’s hard not to! They spread such fun and joy through their fan films.

You would think that a fan series set on board a three-nacelled dreadnought-class starship would involve lots of battles and intense, serious action. And you would be wrong. Out of all of the most active ongoing Star Trek fan series, Dominion is one of the ones that takes themselves the LEAST seriously. Although they have had a handful of dramatic releases, they’ve also had a whole bunch of good, wholesome, fun-for-the-whole-family style episodes that just make you want to laugh and smile.

And what could be more wholesome than the captain’s mother visiting her son on the bridge of his starship? And what could be more family-friendly than releasing an episode titled “MOM” on Mother’s Day? Are you ready for something adorable…?

Seriously, how cute was that??!

Yeah, I know. Nothing like that would REALLY happen on a Federation dreadnought starship …or any starship, most likely. And the repercussions of a cloaked Klingon scout ship deep within Federation space could lead to interstellar war. And to that I say: “Stop complaining and go call your mother and tell her that you love her!” (My apologies to any out there who have lost their mothers, but if you know any mothers in your life, send them a link to this wonderful vignette and put a smile on their face.)

Speaking of smiles, I just couldn’t wait to ask GARY DAVIS, longtime Dominion showrunner and Captain Jason Brousseau himself, some things about this precious piece of production positivity…

Continue reading “DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’S “MOM” debuts on Mother’s Day…of course! (interview with GARY DAVIS)”

STAR TREK: PICARD wraps up season with a nice, tidy bow…but was it worth untying? (editorial review)

AND FOR MY FINAL TRICK: SPOILERS!

As I mentioned in last week’s blog review, the final two episodes of STAR TREK: PICARD‘s first season left me feeling quite disappointed and ended things on a distinctly bad note for me (and many others).

As season two drew to a close, a strong series of early episodes stumbled as the show approached the finish line, with episodes 7 and 9 (as opposed to 7 of 9) significantly missing the mark for me. So going into the final, 10th episode, “Farewell,” I was ready for either a second-in-a-row disappointment or else a triumphant salvation. What I got was…

…a little bit of each.

On the good side, there were several powerfully emotional moments, elegantly acted with touching music, that left me tearing up. There were also some fun easter eggs thrown in for the hard-core Trekkers to cheer (or complain) about. And of course, everyone got their happy ending…except Adam Soong, who got a more ominous ending (but perhaps happy for him).

The scene with Taillinn finally talking face-to-face with Renée was beautiful. The exciting sequence trying to stop Soong’s drones and get Renée safely onto the rocket was textbook action and suspense (even if it was super-obvious that the Renée who came out of the ready room was really Taillinn in disguise). And the scene with Picard and Q was masterful, even though it left way more questions frustratingly unanswered (more on that later). But seeing these two accomplished thespians (SIR PATRICK STEWART and JOHN DE LANCIE) playing off each other as Q prepares for his final farewell was simply a treasure and pleasure to watch…campy though it was, I didn’t care.

On the bad side, the episode was a bit of a hurried mess. Having let every storyline slowly percolate for most of the season, the final episode needed to…

  1. Wrap up the Renée Picard storyline in some exciting way;
  2. Include the sacrifice of at least one character (more on that shortly);
  3. Get Raffi and Seven back together;
  4. Resolve the Rios/Teresa romance plotline;
  5. Give Kore a final confrontation with her “dad”;
  6. Leave Soong defeated;
  7. Wrap up the storyline with Q and answer any lingering questions;
  8. Get the team back to the future to finally pay off the scene at the end of episode one that got them there;
  9. Reveal the masked Borg Queen as Agnes Jurati;
  10. Establish that Elnor is alive;
  11. Include a scene with Whoopi Goldberg to explain why she didn’t clue-in Picard way back in episode one about what was to come ;
  12. Get Picard and Laris together;
  13. Leave an opening for a plot element that could continue into next season.
Continue reading “STAR TREK: PICARD wraps up season with a nice, tidy bow…but was it worth untying? (editorial review)”

Why I am officially WITHDRAWING my name from consideration in The 2022 TREKZONE Fan Film Awards…

You know me. I love Star Trek fan films and I LOVE the fact that there are now SO many Star Trek fan film award competitions, including the annual BJO AWARDS, the recently-concluded DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS, and the brand new SHOWRUNNER AWARDS, which is currently accepting submissions of fan films released between January 2017 and December 2021. If you haven’t entered yet, the deadline is May 31, and the application form can be accessed here:

https://www.cognitoforms.com/JonathanLane1/_2022StarTrekFanFilmSHOWRUNNERAWARDS

Shortly after I published my blog announcing the launch of the Showrunner Awards on April 11, a small number of detractors rushed to criticize those awards for charging a $10 entrance fee. Fair enough—to each his own. GLEN WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS charged $10, as well (although we’re charging an extra $1 per additional category like Best Music or Best Cinematographer). It’s actually pretty common with independent film award shows, although ERIC L. WATTS doesn’t charge anything to enter the Bjo Awards. Different strokes for different folks, right? No one’s forcing anyone to enter anything.

Within less than a week, MATTHEW MILLER of the TREKZONE Podcast in Australia quickly announced the launch of his own fan film awards show that would be FREE to all fan filmmakers. Hooray…FOUR award shows! I was getting ready to cover it once Matthew announced how fan filmmakers could enter, but apparently Matthew wasn’t planning to do it that way.

Setting a window of eligibility for fan films released between April 15 of last year and April 15 of this year, Matthew and his co-judge MTM (that’s a pseudonym) decided all by themselves who would be entered and who wouldn;t be…and then announced the finalists this past Tuesday on YouTube.

My fan film INTERLUDE had 10 nominations, which is great, of course….huge honor. And yes, I had a great team (although two of our nominations were for “Best Space Villain”—the Klingons—and “Best Hero Ship”—the U.S.S. Ares…neither of them able to give an acceptance speech).

Surprisingly, though, some fan films that I thought would be shoo-ins were almost completely excluded. While Interlude had an impressive 10 nominations in ten categories, the AVALON UNIVERSE’s COSMIC STREAM received only one nomination (TYLER DUNNIVAN for “Best Actor”) and shockingly AGENT OF NEW WORLDS got zero nominations, not even for best directing or editing .

Two other highly regarded and long-running Star Trek fan series also had their latest episodes passed over with no nominations in any category: DREADNOUGHT DOMINION‘s “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE” and STARSHIP FARRAGUT‘s series final “HOMECOMING.” It didn’t see fair that Interlude would be hogging so many of the nomination slots, but hey, not my contest.

However, there’s been something else that’s really been bothering me forr the past two weeks…

Continue reading “Why I am officially WITHDRAWING my name from consideration in The 2022 TREKZONE Fan Film Awards…”

DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 1)

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA is the only place on the planet where fans can shoot TOS-era Star Trek fan films on a full range of TOS-era sets including the bridge, engineering, sickbay, briefing room, transporter room, auxiliary control, captain’s quarters, turbolift, and a full range of corridors. WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas has some, but not all, of these sets for fans to film on. And while JAMES CAWLEY’s TOS sets in upstate New York feature all of the rooms listed above, his sets are now an official licensed tour and are no longer available for shooting fan films.

Originally, STARSHIP FARRAGUT and STAR TREK CONTINUES were shot on these sets in Kingsland. After STC wrapped in 2018, VIC MIGNOGNA sold the sets to RAY TESI, who then opened them up to any fan film or series that wished to use them—including DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, the AVALON UNIVERSE, CONSTAR, LET OLD WRINKLES COME, TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE, and a bunch of others.

But Ray Tesi and Neutral Zone Studios also have their own fanthology series called TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE. Their first episode, THE LOOKING GLASS, was released in June of 2019 and has had about 28K views on YouTube so far. Their second episode, ENDOSYMBIOSIS, was hit YouTube in February 2021 and is currently over 15K views.

Their third release, DOOMSDAY, premiered just last month on April 5 (“First Contact Day”) and is already up to a staggering 81K views!!! Why the immediate popularity? Well, it could have something to do with the telling of the long-speculated tale of how Commodore Matt Decker and the crew of the U.S.S. Constellation first encountered the Planet Killer device and wound up the way Kirk and the Enterprise crew found them at the beginning of the TOS episode “The Doomsday Machine.” Take a look…

No too shabby, huh?

One of the most intriguing aspects of this fan film isn’t simply what went on in front of the camera but also who was standing behind it. Fan filmmaker JOSHUA MCHAEL IRWIN (who is also a professional filmmaker) is based in Arkansas and typically shoots his Avalon Universe productions at WARP 66 Studios. He did film Avalon‘s first release, GHOST SHIP, at Neutral Zone, and he later shot their 2021 release COSMIC STREAM there, as well. And although Josh was the director of photography for INTERLUDE (filmed at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA), nobody in the fan film world ever associated Josh with Tales From the Neutral Zone.

Until now, that is.

Josh served as director, DP, and film editor for Doomsday while Ray served as executive producer. Apparently, that was a winning combination, as the film has proved extremely popular on YouTube.

So how did this pairing happen? And what went into the production of this new fan film? I decided to interview both Ray and Josh together…

Continue reading “DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 1)”

The penultimate episode of STAR TREK: PICARD season two was…well…um…NOT very good… (editorial review)

ATTACK OF THE SPOILERS!

Man, I really wanted to like this latest episode of STAR TREK: PICARD. I remember how, in season one, I was generally enjoying things until the final two episodes when things got…well, “messy” is a good word. Those last two episodes left a bad taste in my mouth.

Up until now, season two has intrigued and entertained me. With the exception of episode 7, “Monsters,” which left me thoroughly unimpressed, I’ve actually had some really positive things to say about this season. So I was really hoping the trend would continue and that episode nine, “Hide and Seek,” would break the curse of season one.

Sadly, the curse remains firmly in place.

This was essentially an action episode with sprinkles of character “development” added in an almost checking-the-boxes kind of way. The action kinda worked, but mostly in a sloppy mess sort of way. I’ll go into that aspect shortly, but let’s start with something I usually reserve for my reviews of DISCOVERY: criticizing the writing.

MAYBE NOT THE BEST TIME TO HAND THE KEYBOARD OVER TO THE ROOKIES?

If you look at IMDb, MATTHEW OKUMURA doesn’t have many writing credits. In fact, he has one (in addition to this episode of Picard), and that was a story for the TV series Smallville back in 2003. What he’s done in the meantime is serve as story editor for a TV series in 2021 and then story editor and executive story editor for Picard during season two. In other words, he typically pitches stories, edits scripts, and hangs out on the writers room with the team. But he doesn’t write scripts; he edits them.

The other credited writer CHRISTOPHER B. DERRICK, is a staff writer on season two of Picard. What does a staff writer do? According to this website, “Staff writers are the idea generators of the writers room. They constantly collaborate with other staff writers to come up with story ideas, workshop scripts, or supply various plot lines for a single episode. They are often under-credited until they work their way up to becoming a story editor. While staff writers might come up with the foundation of a script, they rarely write the final draft of the episode.” And as it happens, this was Christopher’s first-ever script for television! Hooray for Chris…not hooray for viewers.

But wait, it gets worse.

Not only were both of the writers rookies at scriptwriting, but director MICHAEL WEAVER was tackling his first-ever Star Trek episode. In fairness to Michael, he is only a Star Trek rookie. He’s actually been a director for ten years and was a cinematographer for the decade before that. But was it really wise to put the penultimate episode of Picard into the hands of three relative newcomers?

Continue reading “The penultimate episode of STAR TREK: PICARD season two was…well…um…NOT very good… (editorial review)”

INTREPID’s “Pursuit of a Dream” brings DE-AGING tech to Star Trek fan films! (video interview with NICK COOK and SAMUEL COCKINGS)

PURSUIT OF A DREAM is a really great fan film! I almost said “surprisingly” great, but it really wasn’t a surprise because of the two blokes behind it. I call them blokes because NICK COOK and SAMUEL COCKINGS both live on the quaint little isle of Britannia.

Just in case you’re new to Star Trek fan films, here’s a quick primer. Nick Cook of Dundee, Scotland has been the showrunner on the Scottish Star Trek fan series INTREPID since they began work shooting their first fan film waaaaay back in 2003 (and released four years later). You can read the complete history of Intrepid starting with this blog.

Meanwhile, 422 miles south of Dundee, in the city of Bedford, England, SAMUEL COCKINGS has made a name for himself as the prestidigitator of all things animational when it comes to CGI for Star Trek fan films. I often joke that it takes less time to list the Star Trek fan projects that Sam HASN’T done the VFX for than the ones he has…but I’m not entirely convinced it’s actually a joke.

Among the fan series that Sam has worked on is—you guessed it!—Intrepid. Nick has also appeared in a number of Sam’s TREK SHORTS videos, including the first one (released last year), A LONG WAY FROM HOME. Nick will also be one of the primary stars of Sam’s upcoming mega-crossover fan film event CONVERGENCE.

So these two fan filmmakers are frequent collaborators. However, Sam usually runs his fan films and Nick just appears in them. Meanwhile, Nick runs Intrepid fan films and typically uses Sam on the back end for post production CGI effects. But Pursuit of a Dream is the first time Sam has come aboard Intrepid as a director!

In a story co-written by the two of them, Sam brings his eye for camera composition along with his amazing skills in both CGI animation as well as his ever-improving expertise with compositing green screen footage against jaw-dropping virtual 3D backgrounds to create a visually stunning fan film. Nick, meanwhile, brilliantly portrays his popular Intrepid character of Daniel Hunter at different times in his career. And because this film spans so many years, Sam sneaked in a little de-aging sorcery to make Nick look subtly younger in certain scenes. You really need to see it to believe it…

There’s also a bevy of guest star appearances by actors who have appeared in previous fan films from both Sam and Nick—including NIMRAN SAUND as Anna Keeley, MARCUS CHURCHILL as Sam Harriman, and a surprising cameo by RISHA DENNEY playing the character of Elizabeth Shelby for the first time since STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER!


There is SOOOO much to talk about! So I’m glad I was able to schedule two of my favorite Brits together at the same time during what was lunch for me in Los Angeles and just after dinner for them in the U.K. Are you ready for the British invasion of Fan Film Factor…???