(My apologies in advance for the length of this blog. But I think the current situation merits it.)
As you probably know, there are certain areas on the Internet (mostly Facebook) where many of the most hard-core AXANAR detractors congregate and feed off of one anothers’ obsessive antipathy toward this fan project and its show-runner. Just look at the image to the left. Here’s a detractor who has spent countless hours creating literally dozens and dozens of these faux movie posters…each of them denouncing ALEC PETERS and Axanar, hurling insults and accusations, and mocking Axanar supporters (like good ol’ “Slow” Lane here—they love calling me that for some childish reason).
Most of the time, this “fear and loathing” of all things Axanar remains safely locked away in the echo chambers of these Facebook groups. But last week, I was concerned to read the following message posted on the main Axamonitor Facebook page by SHAWN O’HALLORAN……
I suppose I could cite the Star Trek connection: PROFESSOR STEPHEN WILLIAM HAWKING was the only person to ever play himself on an episode of any Star Trek series when he appeared in a Holodeck simulation at the beginning of TNG‘s “Descent, Part 1” in 1993.
But I would have dimmed the lights of Fan Film Factor regardless of Hawking’s appearance on Trek because…well…because we was Stephen Frickin’ Hawking, dammit! He was cool. He was a rock star. He was almost impossible.
What I mean by that is Stephen Hawking should never have happened. His disease—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—is a cruel killer. It takes away your body while it leaves your mind trapped inside. By all predictions of his doctors back in 1963 when he was first diagnosed, Hawking’s expected lifespan was optimistically two years. By all rights, Stephen Hawking should have been long dead before the first episode of Star Trek ever aired in 1966. But as we all know, that never happened.
Instead, this hyper-brilliant man found a way to live on for more than FIVE decades beyond his original death sentence. But he didn’t just live—that would have certainly been miracle enough—but he thrived. He taught, researched, wrote books, toured and lectured, and became quite the media celebrity. Hawking opened up the wonders of the universe and science to so many who—like me—had absolutely no idea whatsoever what the heck he was taking about! (Yeah, I tried to read a Brief History of Time. I even began my time at Cornell University in 1985 as a physics major. That didn’t last. But my love and respect for science lived on.)
Hawking made science and nerdiness seem somehow cool…which was really odd, if you think about it. Even without the wheelchair and the debilitating motor neurone disease, Hawking still looked like a complete Poindexter…the kind of guy who would have his lunch money taken on a regular basis by bullies who would leave his underwear stretched up to his shoulders. Add in the monotone computer-synthesized voice, and this guy was sure to be picked on relentlessly by the knuckle-draggers of the world.
Last summer, shortly after an early version of the 90-minute AXANAR script was leaked, a detractor going by the name of Kate Stark (pretty sure that’s a pseudonym) wrote a 19-part, 30,000-word blog series essentially ripping the poor draft version of that script into tiny literary pieces…trampled under the feet of a very self-important and erudite reviewer.
Yep, 19 parts, 30,000 words. Don’t believe me? Just click here and then scroll down to the bottom and click “Older Posts.” Also, that’s just July. Remember to also scroll to the bottom right for the blogs from June!
So yeah, that happened. And the detractors, of course, were ecstatic. Not only was someone reviewing the Axanar script, but the reviewer seemed to be REALLY smart and really HATED it (like 30,000 words worth of utter disdain written so intelligently!). The high-fives and posted photos of pies were flowing like water over Niagara Falls on the detractor Facebook groups for quite a while.
But then…frustration. There was no new Axanar anything left to review and eviscerate. The 19-part blog series was all but forgotten.
Until last week, that is. I rescued blogger Kate Stark from endless months of boredom and obscurity by releasing the first-ever Axanar illustrated short story: “Why We fight.“ Finally, the reviewer’s poison pen—er, keyboard—could come out of hibernation once again!
This time the blog series was much shorter: only 7 parts and 6,000 words. (Just FYI, my short story itself was a total of 1,900 words. So, yeah…three times as long. FUN!)
Actually, it’s a very intelligent review (read part 1 here). You know it’s intelligent because the reviewer almost immediately compares my short story to one of Ernest Hemingway’s works (and of course, finds my story lacking). By the time you get to part 7, I’m being criticized for everything from bad character development to using too many question marks and exclamation points. Hey, that’s my thing!!! Isn’t it???
I wasn’t going to say anything, but then Kate Stark did something that changed my mind…
Actually, I think the AXANAR detractors have been pretty ridiculous for quite some time now. In fact, one Axanar supporter told me recently, “Y’know, if Alec Peters goes to take a leak in a restaurant, someone from one of the hater groups is gonna follow him in to see if there’s any piss left on the toilet seat. Then Carlos Pedraza will write a blog about how Alec has no respect for janitors!”
What a great image to begin a blog with, huh? Well, it seems that the Axanar detractors are stooping nearly that low (if they haven’t already surpassed it) in their latest efforts to try to embarrass and sabotage their favorite target of ridicule, Alec Peters.
While I usually ignore the day-to-day antics of the Axanar detractors, every so often something pops up that just leaves me scratching my head. And let me tell ya, my scalp was itching like crazy when I saw a recent Facebook IM conversation that recently went on between Axamonitor blogger Carlos Pedraza and the assistant of Tony Cade.
But before I show it to you, there’s a quick bit of background you need to know first…like who the heck is Tony Cade???
Yesterday, I began by noting that there were a number of Trek fans who believed that CBS was somehow in a “panic” about the poor performance of Star Trek: Discovery, and that there was some kind of pressure being put onto the production team to retool the series, possibly bringing in the USS Enterprise to somehow replace the USS Discovery…or some nonsense like that.
It’s true that, at best, Star Trek: Discovery is just about breaking even for CBS…or possibly losing a few million dollars. I didn’t do all the math yesterday as I ran out of space, but I’ll do it quickly here for you.
Since last September when Discovery premiered, CBS All Access has added approximately 500,000 new subscribers (going from 2 million to 2.5 million). I learned that the majority of those subscribers were actually tuning into the NFL on All Access and notDiscovery, but let’s assume that they all joined because CBS added a new Star Trek show.
All Access allows subscribers to watch with commercials for $6/month or without for $10/month. Let’s average that to $8/month. Discovery was on for five months:
[ 5 months x $8/month x 500,000 subscribers = $20 million ]
As I mentioned yesterday, Discovery cost CBS about $30 million to produce (the portion not covered by Netflix licensing).
So how does Discovery break even if it’s losing $10 million? Advertising. Also, not all of those subscribers canceled after 5 months, so the revenue continues. In other words, Discovery is doing just fine as far as CBS is concerned.
On the other hand, the license to stream the NFL on All Access likely cost CBS upwards of $250 million…and there’s no way they didn’t lose money on that deal! So why keep throwing major bucks into All Access if you’re CBS? Hasn’t this experiment essentially failed?
And to make matters worse, this is how All Access looks when measured up against Netflix and Hulu subscribers (and this is only in the U.S. alone)…
YEESH! Sucks to be CBS, right? So why not put All Access out of its misery? Why bother keeping Star Trek: Discovery on the air and losing money on the NFL?
Like a number of Trek fans, I watch and enjoy the Midnight’s Edge video podcast. The production values are high, and the updates are interesting and informative. But they’re also full of rumor, conjecture, and innuendo.
I sometimes feel as though I’m listening to fan “wish-fulfillment” and conspiracy theories, and I occasionally find myself wondering what is true and what is simply something that the creator(s) of Midnight’s Edge WANT to be true.
It’s often really hard to tell the difference! In their most recent video podcast, Midnight’s Edge mentions that, “There were reportedly no Star Trek: Discovery toys revealed at the 2018 Diamond Select ToyFair.” Note the word “reportedly.” It’s a relatively careful word. The “report” they reference was a single tweet from Gabriel Koerner, who was apparently there…
Three days later, however, TrekMovie.com reported that McFarlane Toys was displaying a brand new Star Trek: Discovery phaser at ToyFair. So perhaps sourcing a single tweet from a roving, non-reporter VFX artist might not be the most reliable way to confirm one’s facts.
And so it was that I took the following quote from the most recent Midnight’s Edge video podcast with a pretty huge grain of salt:
“While CBS displayed confidence to the public, there was rumored chaos and panic behind the scenes, and the latter episodes of the series were allegedly retooled to address fan concerns going forward. Because from season 2 onwards, it is going to be increasingly important to win back the fans.”
Sounds all juicy and dramatic, don’t it? Of course, notice the words “rumored” and “allegedly” included in there. Some fans, dissatisfied and angry about the new series not hewing more closely to TOS and established Star Trek designs, would love to think that there are huge regrets at CBS about the way Discovery was rolled out and handled…and that the higher-ups are putting pressure on the producers to fix this and that. It’s certainly a compelling narrative if you’re an angry and resentful Trek fan.
It’s kind of like Special Agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files wanting to believe in the most far out conspiracy theories. And who knows? Maybe they’re right. But I seriously doubt it.
So it’s time for me to put on my Special Agent Dana Scully red wig and provide an alternative, more reasonable analysis of the situation currently going on with CBS and Star Trek: Discovery. Then you can decide whom YOU want to believe…
As STAR TREK: DISCOVERY completes its initial season, I have one final chance to kvetch about the new series before what looks to be a year or more hiatus while production proceeds on season two.
I know it seems like all I ever do (or most of what I do) is criticize this show…and many have asked why I’ve even bothered watching it in the first place. It’s a fair question, and the answers I can come up with are: 1) it’s not that the show sucks, and 2) I’m a 50-year Trekkie…how could I not watch this show? Even if I’m choosing to be critical of it (as I am of the rebooted Star Trek films, as well), I want to know what it is that I’m criticizing.
But as I said, folks, the show doesn’t suck! It’s well acted, well produced, well edited, has great music, mostly great pacing, looks visually stunning, and is obvious the result of a team of very dedicated individuals working very hard to produce a quality television series.
So why the heck don’t I like this show more? Why don’t I LOVE it???
It’s not simply that I don’t like the bling-shiny uniforms or that I wasn’t thrilled with the new-fangled Klingons and their crazy ship designs that look more like bats and the Federation technology that looks like 25th century rather than 23rd. I moved past all the cosmetic issues I had with the series early on. So their USS Enterprise NCC-1701 doesn’t match the original. My head canon can just shift this entire series into an alternative reality, and all is good.
So again, why don’t I like this show more?
I know I’ve sounded like a disgruntled broken record in my editorial reviews. But that’s just me trying to figure out the answer to this question in my head (and sharing those thoughts with all of you).
And as the first season brought with it what I considered to be a very unsatisfying end to the Klingon war, I finally put my finger on what’s been bothering me the most…
Spoilers, there’ll be a few…but then again, too few to mention
I touched on the question last week: What is STAR TREK: DISCOVERY about? The original Star Trek and Next Generation were about exploring strange, new worlds and stuff. Deep Space Nine was about healing the spiritual, cultural, and environmental wounds of a decades-long occupation…both of a race of people and also of a space station that were suddenly thrust into a role of prime importance in the Alpha Quadrant. Voyager was about getting home. And Enterprise was about exploring the final frontier for the first time.
But what is Star Trek: Discovery about?
If you watched the first episode of Discovery, it initially appeared that the show would be about Michael Burnham getting ready for her first command. That went out the window quickly when she attacked her captain. By the end of the second episode, Burnham was in chains and a war had started with the Klingons.
The third episode establishes Burnham as a pariah, brought aboard Discovery because, well, because she’s awesome? Because she deserves a second chance? Who knows? It’s still early. So okay, now we’ve got a show about an “awesome” officer who’s been flung down into the abyss of life and is slowly clawing her way back up the Starfleet Jeffries Tube to a place of respect. Fine…except the show abandons the “pariah” part pretty quickly. Burnham makes a best friend, becomes a useful part of the crew, and even gets a boyfriend. Heck, by episode 5, she’s even giving Saru Captain Georgiou’s old telescope and having a “moment” with him.
So, no, the show isn’t about Burnham’s redemption, as she’s pretty much redeemed by a third of the way through the season. Hmmmm, maybe the show is about Burnham’s voyage of internal, um, discovery and learning to forgive and love herself the way others have.
Nope, way too much else going on in the show for that to be it!
Last week, I wrote a blog that started with a few paragraphs drawing comparisons between CAPTAIN GABRIEL LORCA and DONALD TRUMP. Let me be perfectly clear: I WAS KIDDING!!! But apparently, no, I wasn’t…at least as far as the STAR TREK: DISCOVERY writing team was concerned!
In what was probably the most obvious and direct reference to a political issue since Bele and Lokai were each colored half-black and half-white, LORCA/TRUMP says the following things during the most recent 13th episode, “What’s Past Is Prologue”…
I’ve watched for years; you’ve let alien races spill over the borders, flourish in our backyard, then have the gall to incite rebellion. The Terrans need a leader who will preserve our way of life, our race.
…we together will make the empire glorious again.
Here’s the full scene:
My wife Wendy, who normally doesn’t watch the show with me but just happened to be in the living when this line was delivered, asked me, “Are the writers always this lazy?”
Now that Lorca is the established bad guy, let’s draw a direct line from him to Donald Trump. It’s not that Wendy and I like Donald Trump or anything. But seriously, was this kind of dig really necessary? Should Star Trek be used to take cheap political shots?
And now we know. Well, lots of us already knew. I’ve written about it repeatedly here and elsewhere. I and others have debated with those in the fan base who believed that Captain Lorca was simply a tough-as-nails leader who would always put Starfleet first. In this time of war with the Klingons, we needed someone like Lorca to make the United Federation of Planets great again!
But now we have all, er, discovered that Lorca has been playing us this whole time. He’s really from the Mirror Universe, and he’s a bad dude. For those fans who supported Lorca, stood up to defend his disturbing behavior and his dark methods—guess what!—you’ve placed your loyalty in someone who is just out for personal gain and doesn’t care about the UFP or anyone in our Prime Universe. In fact, he doesn’t seem to care about people from his Mirror Universe either…certainly not women. “Her name was Ava, and I liked her,” Lorca tells the brother of a woman he’d killed years before. “But you know how it is. Somebody better came along.”
Sure, he can be charming and talk crew members like Stamets into doing almost anything. But Lorca’s been keeping a lot of secrets from all of us, including from the people he leads. As far as I’m concerned, Lorca’s lust for power trumps anything that might have made him seem admirable in any way…and he’s fooled at least 37% of us all along.
Okay, enough of the fun double entendres. Let’s start doin’ some reviewin’!