INTERLUDE is finally out, and the reviews are coming in fast and furious! On YouTube, the video has racked up 15K views in three days, with 97% thumbs up. If you haven’t seen it yet, to quote Chekov, “Now vould be a good time…”
The praise and kudos have been great and are very rewarding to everyone on the team. And of course, the criticisms are out there, too. It’s inevitable that you’re not going to please all the Trekkies all the time. The trick to surviving the bad reviews is to focus on the good ones. If you give too much weight to the critics, the negativity will drag you down like an anchor. It’s the positive, supportive comments that bring up back up for air. If you want to keep breathing, use them as a helpful floatation device.
Or you can just do what I do and respond to the negative YouTube comments with: “Look, I’m really, really sorry that so many people disagree with you.”
Some people thought that Interlude was too short (is that criticism or praise?) or that the Ares and Artemis should have been firing back. Just for the record, the Klingons knocked out both ships’ weapons systems—listen closely to some of the background bridge chatter—and as you’ll discover in the AXANAR sequels, the new D7’s were nearly invulnerable to phasers and photon torpedoes.
Some folks thought ALEC PETERS’ acting was better in the first half, and some thought he was better in the second half. Some thought he couldn’t act at all, but hey, most fans couldn’t do much better and would probably have been a lot worse. It takes a lot of confidence to place yourself in front of the camera for the main role in any fan film…let alone one that’ll likely have hundreds of thousands of views. Alec put in ten long hours of tightly-focused work the day we filmed and another few hours getting the epilogue interview done. I was never expecting Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, and I was very happy with Alec’s performance.
Oh, and for anyone complaining about Alec’s “bulging Gowron eyes,” you might want to take another look at the TOS episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” I see the Garth glare as more of a feature than a bug…
On the other hand, praise was nearly universal for fan film newcomer and fellow sci-fi geek WARREN HAWK. Everyone love-love-loved Warren as Captain Jakande—as well they should have! Warren gave an awesome and passionate performance…and I love that deep, velvet voice of his.
(And consider this: in the Avalon Universe, Captain Jakande might not have died. So start saving your crowd-funding dollars, folks, ’cause you might just be able to help bring him back to fan films in a few months!)
A bunch of people, including former DC Comics Batman editor JORDAN GORFINKEL, asked me why the Artemis didn’t jettison escape pods to save some of her crew. My answer, for what it’s worth, is that with Artemis destroyed and Ares warping away, any escape pods would be left at the mercy of the Klingons…and “Klingon mercy” is pretty much a straight-up oxymoron. Those crew members would either be target practice or else rapidly captured, tortured for Starfleet secrets, and put to death. Better to die quickly and cleanly.
Lots of folks had opinions and suggestions of what we could have done differently. Woulda, shoulda, coulda…too late for any changes now. I don’t say that with any kind of snark. It really IS too late to change anything now. Interlude is finished and released. As we say on Earth: “C’est la vie.”
Folks over on Axamonitor are calling Interlude everything from a “hot mess” to words I refuse to publish on a G-rated blog. But I (along with most fans) stopped paying attention to them a long time ago. Half a decade is a little long to keep a grudge going and not just move on (unless your name is Khan Noonian Singh, right?).
But there was one person who hangs out over there, CHRIS CONDON, who didn’t resort to the predictable knee-jerk bashing of anything Axanar or Alec Peters related. Instead, he wrote a very thoughtful (and polite!) review and critique on Facebook. It was so refreshing compared to most of what I’d seen from the rest of the nut gallery that I decided to reply to Chris’ three main criticisms with explanations from the writer/producer. This wasn’t an attempt to be defensive or dismissive. I just felt like explaining where my and my team’s heads were at and why I/we made those choices—for whatever it’s worth.
The review from “the other side” and my reply turned out so interestingly that I’ve decided to copy-paste both comments here as a blog. So first, let’s read what Chris had to say:
Congratulations on getting it done.
Obviously, there’s a lot of baggage around Alec and Axanar, but I’ve tried to view it dispassionately and give an honest assessment. I’m no filmmaker and at best an amateur actor, which of course qualifies me to be a critic.
I think it is good. I don’t think it is as good as it could have been, and I say that only because I know what they achieved on Horizon and STC.
So, my criticisms may be quibbles or nitpicks, but I hope you’ll take them in the spirit intended.
First, some kudos. The special effects are excellent. The editing is spot on. The supporting bridge crew actors are very good. The captain of the Artemis is excellent. You even managed to pull a not-awful performance out of Alec (at least in the first half). He’s not awesome, but his expressions and tone match the lines he is saying, which has been a struggle for him in the past.
As for criticisms:
1. The story itself. Maybe it’s because we already read the comic, but this story of sacrifice has been done so many times in so many genres that I question why it was repeated here. It would have been nice to see a different approach to explaining the loss of Ramirez, or at least see some creative captaining out of Garth that allows both crews (if not both ships) to survive.
2. The bridge scenes are very static in comparison to the external shots. There is no sense of motion, urgency, the shaking of battle. It is kind of jarring.
3. The documentary. Besides the many cuts of Alec trying to evoke emotion (just a little much ten years after the battle) it basically just explained what we just saw. A few more bits of dialogue or narration in the first half would have rendered the documentary unnecessary, and I think made for a more enjoyable film.
Again, I’m not trying to bash. These are my honest impressions and I hope you’ll accept my congratulations.
Now that, my friends, is how to write a good review! And my sincere thanks to Chris for putting so much thought and fairness into his comments. Obviously, I deeply appreciate the positive words, and I thank him for those. So let’s dive into his three main criticisms…
1. Keep in mind that the entirety of Interlude was created to expand on a single throw-away line from Alec’s initial draft of a 15-minute sequel script:
“A Federation squadron attached to the First Fleet transporting Admiral Ramirez is ambushed deep in Federation territory by three Klingon D7 battle cruisers. In the first major engagement since its introduction, the three D7’s decimate an entire Starfleet squadron. Admiral Ramirez is critically injured and the Ares class starship Artemis is lost with all hands.”
That was, of course, meant to explain actor TONY TODD’s absence from the two sequels, but it was really all I had to work from, and my initial version of Interlude was just a brief three-page opening sequence for my “alt-Axanar” revision of Alec’s script (which he won’t be using, but I’ll publish eventually after the sequels are released).
You are correct in that there is nothing particularly new or innovative about the “heroic sacrifice during battle” story. It’s trope, and I know it. Like Kabuki theater, the enjoyment lay not in being surprised by the outcome (which is already known by all audience members going in) but in seeing the presentation itself and how the performers move the story to the inevitable conclusion in their version.
However, there is one other piece of my “plan” that most people don’t know about. This film wasn’t just about Jakande’s sacrifice but also about Garth’s reaction to not being allowed to make the heroic sacrifice himself. Like Kirk, Garth is the consummate “No, take me instead!” martyr who wants to go out as a noble hero. In this case, he is denied that option and must actually do what he feels is the cowardly thing and abandon his friend (his “brother”) to die while Garth and his crew flee for their lives. Obviously, Garth’s duty is to save Admiral Ramirez, but in his mind and heart, Garth will forever be thinking: “It should have been me who died that day, my crew, not Jakande’s.” Survivor’s guilt.
I’ll be exploring Garth’s PTSD in an upcoming Axanar short story (well, more of a novella) entitled “Why We Explore,” which I will publish for Axafans after the two sequels come out. I already looked at another brick in Garth’s traumatic wall in my previous Axanar short story, “Why We Fight” (do you see a pattern in the titles?).
In my mind, Garth comes out of the war broken…but on the inside, not the outside. He ultimately decides to keep on keeping on, go back to exploring the galaxy (his first, best destiny, if you will), but he will always carry those emotional wounds of war with him.
In my personal “head canon,” Garth’s descent into madness two decades later wasn’t simply because he’d been taught cellular regeneration but because that new ability to become someone else released a long-buried trauma of being powerless during the war to stop the pain and loss and carnage (Kharnage?). Garth now had “power” and wanted more. He wanted to rule the galaxy to make sure that no war ever happened again. He would kill in the name of peace. Madness, yes, but based on a trauma he’d carried with him for decades. Interlude is a part of that trauma.
2. The choices of shots and framing were Josh’s and Victoria’s, but I totally stand behind what they did. Interlude was meant to convey a TOS feel, and TOS never had shaky cam shots. Space battles, even the most epic ones in the early films, had long moments of calm between the jolts. Indeed, even TNG and some of the other modern pre-CBS and pre-JJ Treks were filmed in a similar way during their battle scenes.
Josh felt that shaking the camera too much would be distracting from important pieces of dialog. (Also, then we’d probably get complaints about how there was too much crazy shaking all the time. Remember what I said about pleasing all the Trekkies all the time?) Now, in all fairness, we actually did have one major jolt that totally interrupted Garth and Jakande, plus a few other, smaller jolts. But in the end, we decided to let the inertial dampeners do their job while the bridge officers did their jobs with focus and concentration.
By the way, it was also a practical choice. While TOS did have some of those iconic “flying out of their seats” moments, those can be dangerous moves for actors (and often, there were a number of professional stunt people in those TOS tunics doing the major falls back in the 1960’s). We didn’t have stunt people. Nor would Alec’s insurance have likely covered injuries from folks purposefully jumping across the bridge set. And of course, the bridge set itself—despite being solidly crafted—isn’t exactly built to be used by people flinging themselves into consoles and railings and walls. And don’t get me started in the cost of replacing any of those panels or digital monitors if one gets cracked!
3. Here we’ll just need to agree to disagree. I felt that Garth and Slater needed to “unpack” this for us at the end. We actually lost a bit of exposition during the battle—footage you’ll see in an upcoming blog titled “The Cutting Room Floor.” So some of that exposition did need to come back in at the end in order for Interlude to both make sense and fit into the bigger picture. Y’see, part of the untold backstory of Axanar is how the Klingons “discover” that the new heavy cruisers are being built in orbit of the planet Axanar. Alec’s script has another throw-away line:
“They had spies, we had spies. It is the nature of war. That was a bold move but it didn’t take a warp scientist to realize we’d been compromised.”
But for me, the HOW was potentially a fascinating story in and of itself! How did the Klingons get a spy into Starfleet? How did Starfleet learn who this spy was without tipping him off? And most important of all: How did Starfleet feed this spy the intel about Axanar to leak to the Klingons without this spy realizing that he was relaying fake information designed to lure Kharn’s forces into a trap? These questions were a big part of my alt-Axanar variant script.
Another reason for the documentary part was to better tie Interlude into the format of PRELUDE TO AXANAR and the upcoming two sequels. To me, the story of Axanar benefits from the “looking back” format…like documentaries about the Civil War or WWII. The talking head interviews provide insights and opportunities to go beyond what’s simply shown in the dramatic parts. Using both formats together, I believe, allows for a “best of both worlds” benefit that provides for a fuller fan film experience…at least in this case. I don’t recommend that all fan films be presented this way.
Also, without the documentary epilogue, this sucker would have only 6 minutes of actual fan film…people already thought it was too short!
And finally, I did it for Slater. Part of the reason the epilogue documentary exists is that I wanted to give Steve Jepson a chance to be heard and not just seen, and I wanted to establish (with Alec’s buy-in) that Slater went from being Starfleet C-in-C to running the Academy. There’s a whole backstory there that I’ll also be touching on in “Why We Explore.”
Anyway, I knew going into this that Interlude would never be all things to all fans. Could some stuff have been better? Of course. It could also have been worse. But it’s a fan film—with a writer/producer who had NEVER done anything like this before. I made Interlude primarily to have the experience of producing a Star Trek fan film with a top-notch team, to learn all that was learnable along the way, and to share that journey (that “trek”) with all of you.
So in that way, I’d say we successfully accomplished what we set out to do…in a big way. As for whether or not Interlude was decent or awful or somewhere in between—with a dream, isn’t it the dreamer who ultimately needs to feel good about it all? Well, I certainly do!