How DOUG DREXLER was almost fired from STAR TREK for working on a FAN FILM for NEW VOYAGES!

It’s hard to introduce DOUG DREXLER…not because there’s nothing to say about him but because there’s way too much to say about him! He and I both grew up as Trekkies in New York City, but the main difference between us was that I shopped at The Federation Trading Post in midtown Manhattan and read the unauthorized U.S.S. Enterprise Officer’s Manual while Doug managed the store and wrote that book (among several others).

And then, of course, Doug went on to move out to Hollywood, win an Oscar for make-up for Dick Tracy, and then work pretty much continuously on Star Trek from the third season of TNG through the end of Enterprise (and later, on STAR TREK PICARD). I moved to L.A. and worked for the Star Trek licensing department from 1996-2003, but seriously, no comparison there…Doug wins hands down!

Doug began as a make-up artist on TNG (being nominated for two Emmy Awards along the way). He then became scenic artist and production illustrator on DS9, working under MIKE OKUDA on graphics but also designing props. Then, when Voyager and, later, Enterprise debuted, Doug went on to work on the digital VFX at Foundation Imaging. (Years later, Doug would become CGI VFX Supervisor on the Battlestar Galactica reboot, for which he won two “Outstanding Special Visual Effects” Emmy Awards plus three additional nominations.

Doug also contributed to the four TNG feature films and the remaster of the director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well as working on the Borg Invasion 4D ride at Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (which I worked on, too, although again, Doug had a much more awesome Trek career than I ever did!)

And there’s one more thing that Doug and I have in common (aside from some of the people we know): we’ve both worked on Star Trek fan films!

It’s generally accepted that the “golden age” of Star Trek fan films was ushered in just after the turn of the millennium with series like STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER from ROB CAVES and STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES from JAMES CAWLEY. What is not so widely known is that Doug Drexler worked extensively on the first two episodes of the latter series…while still working professionally on Star Trek at Paramount! Operating under the pseudonym “MAX REM,” Doug did VFX, make-up, casting, editing, and served as executive producer on “Come What May.” Doug also was the cowriter (along with Star Trek scenic artist—and my friend—JIM VAN OVER, writing under the pen name “ERIC KORNGOLD”) on the second episode “In Harm’s Way.” Both fan films debuted in 2004 (before there even was such a thing as YouTube!). You can watch those two episodes below…

Most fans are aware that the current fan film guidelines do not allow people who worked on Star Trek to participate in the production of any Trek fan film. But those guidelines came out in 2016. What would happen a dozen years earlier if the studio found out that two of their own were making unlicensed Star Trek???

A few weeks ago, on his Facebook page, Doug decided to share the story of exactly what happened when his and Jim’s “extracurricular” activities were discovered by the higher-ups at Paramount. I’d been wanting to cover this anecdote ever since I first heard about it a few years ago, and there it was, written in Doug’s own words! I reached out to my Facebook friend and asked if I could publish his write-up as a guest blog on Fan Film Factor, and Doug said, “Sure thing! Help yourself!

And with that, I now turn the blog over to Mr. Max Rem himself, Doug Drexler…

Doug Drexler

The phone rings. It’s Berndt Heidemann.

“Doug? This is the PA.. Brace yourself. I’m on stage, and they’re looking at that fan film you were a part of.”

My stomach drops.

There is no telling how this will go over with the studio. This is totally new territory. There is no precedent. How did they get it? There isn’t even a YouTube yet!

I head down to stage 9. Except for light pouring from the ship’s mess hall set, it’s dark. It’s particularly cold on stage, or maybe that’s just fear manifesting itself. The crew is cranking. Second team is being lit. It’s electric, it feels like Times Square. It’s serious business. Dead ahead is visual effects Ron sitting outside the stage in a tall director’s chair, laptop deployed, a crowd gathers around him.

Please God. Don’t let it be what I think it is.

It is.

On the laptop screen plays a CG sequence I made of the Franz Joseph space station. One of the spherical docks opens like a flower, the original series Enterprise rumbles out, and is followed by what is still the best jump to warp ever.

Ron looks up at me. He grins… “They’d never let us do anything that cool!”

I respond with a make-believe chuckle. This is so potentially bad that I can’t even joke about it. There is no telling. Back in the art department, I clue Mike and Denise [Okuda] in. They both grimace. They know full well that this situation could go straight to hell depending on the variables, which are endless…temperature, barometric pressure, and or hemorrhoids.

Two days later and I haven’t heard another word about it. I’m home free! Then Herman [Zimmerman] sticks his head in… “Do you know anything about a fan film called More Voyages, or is it Continuing Voyages?”


I freak out. “Why… um… no, Herman, I don’t.”

OMG, I just lied to Herman Zimmerman.

I jump up and am on his heels following him into his office.

“Um… Herman…”

I gently close the door behind me.

“I’m sorry. I freaked out… I told you a fib. I was involved doing CG shots for it.”

“Oh…” he says. “Merri Howard showed me some of it in her office this morning. There was a scene where a guy comes in, and she says, ‘That’s Doug!’ I said it wasn’t.”

“Yeaaaah, I’m afraid it was.”

Mike and Denise look worried when, an hour later, Herman says Merri Howard wants us in her office this afternoon.

I look over at them, gritting my teeth.


The amazing Bob Blackman is on the line. A fan named James Cawley apparently knew TOS costume designer Bill Theiss and had sources for the 1960’s materials that Bob was needing.

“He wants to chat original series with me. But I told him that if he wants to chat TOS, he needs to talk to you.”

Of course, James and I hit it right off. It’s that shared childhood thing again. He’s building the original bridge turbolift alcove along with Scotty’s station in a rental space in Ticonderoga [New York State]. I was impressed. I sent him a copy of our construction blueprints from “Tribble-ations.” Jokingly I say… “When you make your episode, I’ll do your effects shots!”

We laugh.

I underestimated him. I never really thought it would get that far, but it wasn’t long before he was closing in on half a starship bridge. Mike says, “Send him that extra set of bridge graphics we made for ‘Tribble-ations.'” So, I did.

The first New Voyages fan film was a groundbreaker. Sure, it was creaky and goofy as hell, but the no-budget, all-volunteer effort was kind of mind-boggling. I don’t think anyone was using CG in fan films yet. There were only a couple being done out there, and they usually used AMT kits, and physically photographed them. I saw opportunity. Here was a chance for me to develop my CG skills in a non-critical environment. How many people are going to see this? Fifty tops? C’mon. That many? They’d be lucky. Wow, did I underestimate, that too! James and Jack Marshall posted it on an Internet torrent site, and the downloads exploded.

So far so good. It had been a few days since Herman mentioned Mary wanted us in her office. It wasn’t a stretch to think it may have fallen off her radar, she’s got bigger fish to fry. I hope.

Herman pokes his head in. We need to go see Merri at 1.


Walking across the backlot with Herman was goddam terrifying. My blood was running cold. No matter how I sliced it, I couldn’t see how this could be construed as good.

Crossing the lot, my life on Star Trek passed before my eyes. We retraced steps Geoff Mandel and I clandestinely took in 1978 after BS’ing our way onto the backlot as a couple of fans. We retraced steps I took with Bob Justman in 1986 while he was prepping TNG. Past the Blue-Sky parking lot, which doubled as planet Vulcan. Past the remnants of Bonanza’s Virginia City. Past the water tower dividing RKO/Desilu from Paramount. It was out-of-body experience. There is a 50% probability that I will be asked to pack my things.

Herman gently opens the door to Merri’s office. She is at her desk and doesn’t look upset at all. In fact, she breaks into a broad smile. Even more, she actually gets up and shakes my hand with both of her hands. What magic is this? On the couch are two young women. They are Paramount lawyers, and they are smiling, as well, and broadly. The atmosphere was relaxed, even jovial, and just like that, we hit it off.

Saved by shared childhood again.

It turns out they are both original series fans and loved this goofy little fan film, creaky as it was. They just needed to make sure that we were not using any Paramount content in its production. Well, as far as the CG, no pro version of Star Trek had ever built any CG assets based on the original series. Yes, we had given New Voyages the blueprints and backlits from “Tribble-ations,” but those backlits had already been printed in the Star Trek Encyclopedia. And frankly, James would have done a great job with or without our blueprints.

One of the lawyer gals says, “If you were to do it again…”

And I say… “Do it again? Are you saying that we can do it again?”

And she says… “Well, we can’t give you permission, but we can look the other way.”

And that was the beginning of the Star Trek fan film explosion, and yours truly accidentally brokered it.

For the second outing, Jimmy Van Over and I would collaborate on a kitchen sink episode, cramming everything into it that we could. Fan service, fan service, fan service. I didn’t want to write it. I wanted Jimmy to write it, but lo, I couldn’t get him interested. Everyday I’d come in and bounce ideas off of him anyway. Ok, he thought, bringing in a second, brand new Doomsday Machine from the past was kind of fun, but it still didn’t hook ‘em.

Then one morning I’m in the shower, and BING!

“Jimmy! Listen to this: Commodore Decker is not dead! Yes! We saw him go into the Doomsday Machine, but did we see a body? No! Let’s say this machine is propelled by a Temporal Drive. Decker and shuttlecraft go in. There is big flash of light. They are flung 200 years into the past, and crash land on Earth. Can you see it? We get William Windom to reprise his role, he’s found and nursed back to health by none other than Michael J. Pollard. Huh? Huh? Huh?”

That did it. Jim couldn’t stop writing after that. We’d been sitting next to one another in the art department for the past ten years, and we had an easy-silly relationship. It was great fun bouncing ideas off one another every day. Jim did a great job putting it together. James, Jack, and their crew would shoot the thing. I would do my novice CG shots over hiatus 76 of them, no less! It was a fantastic learning experience. We were ahead of everyone in that we were doing CG, and that so much of this thing was put together over the Internet. Not even the studios had figured that out yet.

Jim Van Over (in the red shirt) circa 2007

This time I’d actually go to Ticonderoga for the shoot and watch them run riot. A bunch of us went. Phil Kim, Jim Van Over, myself, and Rod Roddenberry. We rented an entire Motor Lodge in the woods for a week. A place right out of a horror movie. We had an absolute blast.

When we got back to Los Angeles there was some shooting that would take place at my house in North Hollywood. This would be Pollard’s home, and with Decker’s shuttlecraft stashed in the garage (an homage to My Favorite Martian). Pollard explains that Decker died a few years earlier, but had left a tape for Jim Kirk.

I’m pretty certain that we ignited the idea in Fandom that you could hire actual actors from the various TV series. Amazing Dorth [Doug’s wife] took over getting Pollard and Windom. She is mega-powerful, and goes after anything she sets her mind to. Windom was living in the backwoods of Oregon. Super-charming Dorth hooked him up right away. Of course, we would pay him. We’d arrange a flight. No? You want to drive down? Ok! Great. We’ll pay for the gas!

William Windom as Matt Decker in ST: New Voyages’ “In Harm’s Way”

He pulled up in front of the house in a red Willys Jeep, covered in mud from the Oregon Sasquatch backwoods, looking like a mountain man. I greeted him enthusiastically. I’m fully tickled. Not just because he was on Star Trek but because he had been in so many shows I remember fondly while I was growing up.

Shaking his hand, grinning, I let him know that my wife Dorth has had a crush on him ever since The Farmer’s Daughter

“We’ll fix that!” he said.

The Michael J. Pollard idea was fortunately fruitless. At first, he was interested, but then got cold feet. I say “fortunately” because this led us to Luna. Not to mention a better ending for Decker! He lives a happy life with gorgeous Marlena Moreau!

Just a month earlier, Dorth and I attended a Star Trek convention in Pasadena. I came around a corner in the autograph room and ran right into La Luna, face to face, for the very first time. I went all fan-boy… “Oh my God! You are SO beautiful!” Can you imagine? What a dummy! Hmmm… I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way. : )

It was Dorth who said, “What about BarBara Luna?” Inspired!

BarBara Luna as Veronica in ST: New Voyages’ “In Harm’s Way”

Luna and I have been best buddies for 21 years now. I once described how I felt about her to someone with Luna sitting right there. I explained that when I was growing up, it was Raquel Welch, Bridgette Bardot, and BarBara Luna. To which Luna replied, “I don’t like my billing!”

It just so happened that we needed a Klingon commander. Luna suggested Malachi. How exciting! The Great Malachi Throne! We did a spot-on original series Klingon makeup and costume for him. Malachi has always been connected to Trek. He was the voice of The Keeper in the original version of “The Cage.” He was Commodore Mendez in “The Menagerie.” He was offered the part of Doctor McCoy, but didn’t take it because he had just read a book by actor Paul Fix called The Third Man Through the Door. Fix was often the third man, and didn’t like it much. Malachi also did a turn as Romulan Senator Pardek on Next Generation, which is where I first met him.

Dorothy’s E-mail handle was Kitchen Goddess, Malachi shortened that to Kitchy-koo. He loved Dorth, and relished her tuna fish, recommended by Luna. “Luna Tuna”, as it were.

Malachi did voices for the all-chimpanzee cast of Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp. It just so happened that I was in possession of a bootleg VHS of the show. Malachi hadn’t seen it in years, and we sat and watched it, laughing like little kids.

Malachi was another grand addition to the circle of friends that was forming.

Malachi Throne as the Klingon commander in ST: New Voyages’ “In Harm’s Way”

Sure, “In Harm’s Way” was pretty rough around the edges, even ragged. But I read an interview with Josh Whedon who said it had him on the edge of his seat.

One thought on “How DOUG DREXLER was almost fired from STAR TREK for working on a FAN FILM for NEW VOYAGES!”

  1. Given current reality, I was shocked that the piece was not about a big legal-hammer smashing down. It’s too bad that the attitude prevalent in the past did not continue but that’s life.

    In any event, the piece does provide valuable history into the fan universe.

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