What would GENE RODDENBERRY have thought about SHORT TREKS “Children of Mars”? (editorial review)

There can be spoilers…just for one blog!

Wow.

I just finished watching the sixth and final SHORT TREKS of the second round of mini-episodes (do we call them “seasons”?). The shortest of all of the Short Treks thus far, the episode runs only 6 minutes and 47 seconds before the closing credits roll. But it’s time well-utilized!

It’s hard to know what to say first. In these editorial review blogs, I try not to just parrot what all of the other reviewers are saying because…what’s the point? Most reviewers are offering a summary of the episode. If you want that (and don’t mind the spoilers), then check out this review for a short summary or this review for a much more detailed recounting.

Many reviewers are concentrating on the kick-in-the-gut feel of the attack on Mars, and that was very obvious. This incident is going to be a paradigm shift for the Federation …just as the December 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were for the United States and the world. Nothing would ever be the same again. After “Children of Mars,” the date that will live in infamy will be April 5—First Contact Day—and the culprits won’t be a foreign Pacific power or Middle Eastern extremists but these mysterious “Synths” (whatever they are).

A few folks are complaining that the starships at Utopia Planitia look more like movie-era or even Discovery-era designs rather than 24th century vessels. And yeah, the VFX guys probably kept things cheap and used the models they had on hand. Others complained that it was never really explained why these two girls initially hated each other (was it all just over a shoulder bump?), although I don’t think that was important for us to know. The impact of the story wasn’t why they were fighting so much as what made them stop.

So no, I’m not going to rehash any of that. Instead I am going to say something totally provocative and controversial:

I think GENE RODDENBERRY would have hated “Children of Mars” being presented as Star Trek.

And even more controversial:

I also think he would have been dead wrong!

Okay, let’s begin…

Continue reading “What would GENE RODDENBERRY have thought about SHORT TREKS “Children of Mars”? (editorial review)”

“LET ME HELP”…do you have any extra STAR TREK stuff that you no longer need?

I joined STARFLEET, the International Star Trek Fan Association, Inc., way back in 1983 and have been a member ever since. (Heck, it wasn’t even an “Inc.” back then! STARFLEET incorporated in 1992 and became a 501(c)(7) non-profit shortly thereafter.) STARFLEET itself has been around since 1974 and has grown into the largest, continuously active Star Trek fan organization in the world with more than 5,300 members in 225+ chapters in more than 20 countries worldwide.

But this blog isn’t about STARFLEET itself. It’s about its new president, STEVEN PARMLEY.

Every three years, the STARFLEET membership holds an election to select its next Commander and Vice-Commander. The most recent election happened last fall, and Steven Parmley was the victor with 1,014 votes (51.7%) over Denise Rush with 946 votes (48.3%). Normally a cause for celebration, Steven didn’t feel much like celebrating. Around the same time, Steven and his family lost their home and all of their possessions in a fire…

We had a fire in 2019 when we had moved in to a new rental, but due to an electrical issue, the house had caught fire, and before we had insurance. I lost 20 years of STAR TREK Memorabilia and we lost furniture, clothes, etc.  While we were able to replace the furniture and clothes, I have been unable to replace my collection. But as long as I have my daughters, then anything is possible.

Steven is a single dad of two beautiful girls: Natalie, 15 and Fiona, 8. He works as a deputy jailer in Western Kentucky. He also serves as an assistant chief of the local fire department and as a Lt. Cmdr. in the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, responsible for 115 cadets and 37 instructors in his posting as the regional commander for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

I wasn’t aware of any of this until a few days ago. I simply reached out to the new Commander, STARFLEET shortly after he took office on January 1 to congratulate him and say “hi.” My own rank is Vice Admiral (the CS is a Fleet Admiral), and I’d served as Chief of Communications for the club back in 2008-2010. As Steven and I chatted, I discovered that he was a big fan of AXANAR and enjoyed reading my blog. I also learned about the fire. Steve had lost his entire collection of Star Trek memorabilia and didn’t have the money to replace anything.

I immediately went onto eBay and ordered these for Steven…

It seemed the least I could do for a fellow fan and STARFLEET member—let alone the new Fleet Admiral! But then I had an idea…

Continue reading ““LET ME HELP”…do you have any extra STAR TREK stuff that you no longer need?”

2019 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!

In memory of ARON “Nog” EISENBERG (far right)…taken from us all way too soon

Okay, anyone who is still claiming that the CBS fan film guidelines “killed” or “destroyed” or “ruined” Star Trek fan films “forever” needs to be strapped into the Neutral Neutralizer chair and forced to read this blog!

Sure, the 6-figure crowd-funded productions were now a thing of the past, but they were always the exception and not the rule anyway. Most fan projects have traditionally had very humble budgets, and those have continued to live long and prosper. If they weren’t doing so, I doubt I’d be spending so much time writing this darned blog!

Speaking of which, did you know that I’ve published 205(!!!) individual blog entries in 2019? Yep, I just counted! Granted, some have been reviews of Star Trek: Discovery or Short Treks episodes; a good number of blogs were in support of the GoFundMe campaign for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE and other fan film crowd-funders; the long-awaited production of AXANAR itself got a lot coverage, as did the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss “mash-up” infringement case; and there were news stories and updates and, sadly, eulogies for ARON EISENBERG, D.C. FONTANA, and RENÉ AUBERJONOIS. And of course, I also continued my series of “The History Of…” features, most recently focusing on the Scottish fan series INTREPID.

But there were also more than TWO DOZEN brand new Star Trek fan film releases that got special coverage here on Fan Film Factor in 2019…plus another FIFTY new CONSTAR CHRONICLES fan films from VANCE MAJOR—and remember that many fan films were two-parts.

And this is by no means even a complete list!!!

There were also a number of releases I didn’t get to yet (hey, I’m just one guy!), including ones from Germany (STAR TREK: EUDERION) and the Czech Republic (STAR TREK: DIPLOMACY), humor vignette series like STAR TREK: IT GUY and the surreal STAR TREK: STUNT DOUBLES…and a whole bunch of smaller efforts from right here in the U.S.A. and around the world. So I’d say we’re well over a HUNDRED new Trek fan films in 2019…

Dead, Jim? Hardly!

So just in case you missed any of my features and/or interviews (both written and audio) covering these many fan releases—of if you’d just like to enjoy something to watch during your down time before heading back to work later this week—here’s what’s been published here on Fan Film Factor for new Trek releases over the past twelve months (click in the title(s) to view the blogs or else just watch the videos below them)…

Continue reading “2019 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!”

Two new ANIMATED SHORT TREKS and what my 9-YEAR-OLD SON thought of them… (editorial review)

SP-SP-SP-SPOILERS…TURN AWAY OR FACE THE STRAIN!

This past Thursday, CBS All Access released (at least for viewers in the United States) the final two SHORT TREKS for 2019. You can read my reviews of the previous three episodes—“Q&A”, “The Trouble with Edward”, and “Ask Not”—to see that they’ve been a little uneven in quality (at least in my opinion) but generally worth the 8 to 15 minutes of time invested to watch them. Also, there’s one more Short Treks episode scheduled for release on January 9: a STAR TREK: PICARD prequel titled “Children of Mars.”

The final two Short Treks of this year marked Star Trek‘s first return to animation since the animated series aired its final episode 45 years ago on October 12, 1974. (Of course, I’m not counting animated Star Trek fan films, although if you’d like to see some really good ones, might I suggest Star Trek: Aurora, Stalled Trek, and Stone Trek.)

The two new Short Treks—“Ephraim and Dot” and “The Girl Who Made the Stars” were REALLY short—-just under nine minutes and just under eighth minutes respectively. This isn’t surprising, though, as animation is costly to produce both in terms of budget and time. Unlike live action, an extra four minutes for either episode could literally have increased the production budget by nearly 50%.

So what did I think?

Before I answer this question, let me tell you what my nine-year-old son Jayden—a lover of TOS and a current watcher of TNG—thought. This is actually a rather profound question. I have and continue to refuse to show STAR TREK: DISCOVERY to Jayden (with the F-bombs, the Klingon rape scenes, and generally not-for-a-9-year-old content) until he’s much older. In comparison, we LOVED watching the new Lost In Space together on Netflix (season two is just 10 days away!) and are currently enjoying The Mandalorian. As a Trekkie, it was frustrating not to be able to share the new series with my son.

But these two new Short Treks were 100% child-friendly. So having the opportunity to say to Jayden, “Hey, come over here and watch this and tell me what you think…” about the new Star Trek is a new and exciting experience for me.

So what did Jayden think…?

Continue reading “Two new ANIMATED SHORT TREKS and what my 9-YEAR-OLD SON thought of them… (editorial review)”

Follow-up: A GREEN SCREEN Christmas miracle!

Wow…with a capital WOW!

This, my friends, is what Star Trek fandom is all about.  Yesterday, I published a blog asking for fans’ assistance in replacing PAUL JENKINS’ custom green screen (at a cost of $4,700), which had accidentally been damaged beyond repair during the INTERLUDE shoot at Ares Studios in November.

I ended the blog with a reference to the TOS episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” when Kirk tells Edith Keeler how a famous author in the future will write a classic recommending the three words “Let me help…” even over “I love you…”

“Let me help…” brings people together.  “Let me help…” can accomplish the most amazing things.  And yesterday, “Let me help…” resulted in 85 donations and a total raised so far of $3,900 (including the $2,000 from three of our biggest donors and myself plus many, many donations of just $10 or $15 or $20).  This leaves us, after only a single day, within $800 of being able to replace Paul’s ruined green screen.

I can’t thank everyone enough for coming through this quickly.  I was deeply touched by this amazing fan response, especially after the emotional punch in the gut last Friday when Paul first told me how much this accident would cost to fix. $4,700 is a lot of money!

But what was most uplifting to me were the literally dozens and dozens of message full of support, understanding, and inspiration that I received on Facebook and from donors themselves.  Here’s just a small sample…

I donated because all Star Trek fans should support each other.
- Judy Reed
In today's world, it is becoming increasingly rare to see someone take responsibility for their own actions let alone for the actions of their crew. That type of integrity and honor deserves acknowledgement. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
- Lawrence Wagner
Jonathan, I'm happy to help with your Christmas miracle.  Hey, accidents happen, and it is the mark of a true gentleman when you suck it up and say, 'The buck stops with me.'  You're right, no one intended to ruin the fabric.  They didn't even realize that what they were doing would mess it up.  However, I admire how you handled it.  THAT is the kind of character that people respect, and you sir, have my respect.  So Merry Christmas...and keep on Trekkin'.
- Troy Light
I wasn't able to donate during the original fundraising effort, so I'm happy to be able to help a little now.
- David Goldsberry
Everyone messes up sometimes (and I've certainly replaced school equipment that the kids have ruined in the past!).
-  Catherine McClarey
Sorry to hear this and I'm happy to help. The only people who never make mistakes are those who never actually do anything. So never mind,  that's life, we'll sort it.
- Alastair Miles

As far as I’m concerned, this is what makes the Star Trek fan film community so AWESOME.  I thank everyone who donated…from the bottom of my heart.

We’re nearly there, folks. If you’d like to help us get to the finish line, please click on the link below to donate a little something…

https://www.gofundme.com/interlude

INTERLUDE Confidential #2: This is really, really BAD…and I’m going to need some MAJOR HELP!

I need a Christmas miracle.

My heart sank last Friday morning when I got the call from Axanar director PAUL JENKINS. I immediately wished I could shift the blame to someone else and cover my ass in some way.

But no, that’s not what Star Trek taught me. Kirk always took responsibility for the actions of his crew, whether or not the captain himself had personally been the one at fault And as executive producer on INTERLUDE, the buck stops with me…or rather, the 4,700 bucks stop with me.

That’s what it’s going to cost to replace Paul’s 100 ft. x 20 ft. professional-quality, custom-made green screen that was accidentally ruined during the November INTERLUDE film shoot at Ares Studios.

Paul owns a production company, META Studios, and the giant portable green screen belongs to him (not to Alec Peters or Ares Studios). Paul brought the green screen to Ares Studios to use for the October AXAANR shoot and left it there to use again in December for last weekend’s shoot.

In November when we filmed the scenes for Interlude on the Ares bridge, we wanted to be able to shoot toward the view screen and composite in shots later using a green screen. It would (and probably still will) look really cool. But we needed a green screen to do it.

Fortunately, there was one on site, and we assumed it was okay to use it (Paul wasn’t there at the time; he visited the following day). And by “we,” I mean my Interlude team. And as a team, I am not singling anyone out for having screwed up. It was my team, and as such, I’m responsible for what happened next…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #2: This is really, really BAD…and I’m going to need some MAJOR HELP!”

R.I.P. RENÉ AUBERJONOIS (1940 to 2019)

They say celebrity deaths come in threes. I don’t know if that’s true, but last Monday we lost Star Trek writer D.C. FONTANA, and last Thursday saw the passing of “Charlie X” guest star ROBERT WALKER, JR. And now, we have lost Deep Space Nine‘s Constable Odo himself, renown actor RENÉ AUBERJONOIS.

As far as I am concerned, this is actually the fourth untimely Star Trek death, as it hasn’t even been three full months yet since DS9‘s “Nog,” ARON EISENBERG, passed away much too young. René wasn’t exactly “young,” but at the age of 79, we fans certainly weren’t expecting this. But René had advanced lung cancer, and he died earlier today at his home in Los Angeles.

I never knew René Auberjonois as anything other than a fan of his work…and not just his Star Trek role as Odo (and a couple of other characters). While I was not old enough to have seen his first-ever credited role in a major motion picture in the theater (the original Father John Mulcahy in the movie version of MASH), I did see it years later on television.

But for me, René Auberjonois would always be the snooty, arrogant, acerbic Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, a staffer in the governor’s mansion on the 70s television sitcom Benson. Even a few minutes ago when my wife asked me whom I was writing a eulogy for this time—and I said, “René Auberjonois…”—she replied, “Awwwww no…Clayton Endicott.” Nope, she’s not much of a Trekkie, but even 40 years later, she remembers the name of René’s character in this TV series that neither Wendy nor I have seen in decades.

But that’s what René was more than anything else: memorable. I recall seeing René on stage at a convention back in the 1990s, and I remember him explaining to the to entire audience how to pronounce his last name…almost word for word, this is what he said…

It’s a French/Swiss name, and it’s actually not as hard to pronounce as it looks. The first syllable is “Oh”…like you’re surprised. Then it’s “bear”…just like the animal. Then “john”…just like the common male name. And finally, “wah,” which is the sound a crying baby makes…just with an “ah” sound like you’re going to the doctor and he’s sticking a tongue depressor in your mouth.

Let’s all say it together: OH. BEAR. JOHN. WAH. Oh-bear-john-wah. Auberjonois.

Continue reading “R.I.P. RENÉ AUBERJONOIS (1940 to 2019)”

R.I.P. D.C. FONTANA – 1939 to 2019

It’s never easy to lose a veteran of the Star Trek family…and we’ve lost so many already: the Great Bird himself, De, Jimmy, Leonard, Majel, Grace Lee, Aron, and so many other talented people who labored diligently in the late 1960s and beyond to create for all us this amazing thing that we so love.

Yesterday, we lost another—and this one cuts deep, especially to us in the Star Trek fan film community.

DOROTHY CATHERINE FONTANA went by the name “D.C. Fontana” because, back in the 1960s, women weren’t taken very seriously in Hollywood…and certainly not as script writers. In fact, young Dorothy first started working in the typing pool and eventually “graduated” to secretary. She began as an assistant to writer Samuel A. Peeples (who would go on to write the second Star Trek pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) on a couple of TV western series.

Eventually, Dorothy found her way to Gene Roddenberry as his secretary, while he was still producing The Lieutenant. But when Gene discovered that Dorothy wanted to become a writer, he and Star Trek producer Robert Justman encouraged her do some writing for a new series they were developing called Star Trek.

Although not initially a fan of science fiction, Dorothy was learning quickly as the new project gained momentum. So Gene gave her an idea he had pitched titled “The Day Charlie Became God” and asked her to write a full teleplay for it. This would eventually become the episode “Charlie X.”

What followed was an amazing career that helped shape Star Trek for decades to come. “D.C” Fontana became a story editor on the original Star Trek, writing another ten episodes of the series as well as working on rewrites of others (including being one of four writers to rework Harlan Ellison’s controversial “The City on the Edge of Forever”).

In the 1970s, D.C. went on to become an associate producer for the animated Star Trek TV series, writing their most beloved episode “Yesteryear,” where we get a unforgettable glimpse of Spock’s childhood on Vulcan. Later, in 1989, D.C. would write the Star Trek novel “Vulcan’s Glory” following the adventures of a young Ensign Spock, recently posted to the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. (The novel did not feature any show tunes in the turbolift.)

Continue reading “R.I.P. D.C. FONTANA – 1939 to 2019”

Why do PATREON donations always “DIP” at the beginning of each month?

Every…single…month…

It’s like clockwork! I call it “PMS”—the Patreon Monthly Slide—although others simply call it “the Dip.” And yeah, it’s a thing. At the beginning of every month, most Patreon campaigns with a decent number of backers suddenly and inexplicably drop by 2%, 3%, or even 5%…only to recover some or most of the loss over the next few days.

It’s happened to both the Ares Studios Patreon as well as the Neutral Zone Studios Patreon (two of the largest current Trek fan film-related campaigns)…over and over again. And when “the dip” hits Ares Studios, you’ll usually see something like this posted over on Axamonitor…

Of course, looking at only a short snapshot of a single month misses the big picture entirely. And if you were to zoom out, you’d see the long-term trend is actually pretty solid (with a noticeable uptick in the weeks since AXANAR successfully completed its first film shoot at the beginning of October)…

So yeah, if you cherry pick a specific short downtick from the nearly year-long graph, you can try to sell the argument that four months of progress have essentially been “erased.” But overall, long-term, Ares Studio is a very strong and steady campaign, consistently taking in more than $2,000/month from over 200 donors, not dropping significantly from that level, and even showing a slight (and later, more pronounced) up-slope. And it’s been providing ALEC PETERS upwards of $25,000 per year to help with the rent and utilities for the studio.

But what’s also obvious from that long-term graph is that, yes, at the start of every month, there’s a mysterious “dip.” It’s there every time. The total number of donors and amount of monthly contributions drops like a brick…only to recover within a few days as though nothing ever happened!

And it got me to wondering…why?

Now, the tempting answer from some out there is to claim that people forgot they were still being charged regularly and, when reminded with a monthly receipt from Patreon showing the charge to their credit card, suddenly “came to their senses” and canceled the automatic renewal.

But that doesn’t explain the rapid recovery that nearly always follows the “dip.” Are all of these disillusioned donors just as quickly and inexplicably replaced in the days immediately following? Do they all suddenly change their minds back? And why do only a tiny few donors go through this “epiphany” each month—and then always seem to quickly get over it?

But something happened to me last month that solved the mystery…

Continue reading “Why do PATREON donations always “DIP” at the beginning of each month?”

Why the new SHORT TREKS “Ask Not” shows why there needs to be a CAPTAIN PIKE series! (editorial review)

WARNING! The reading of this blog WITHOUT first watching “Ask Not” WILL ruin an amazing experience for you!

It only took seven minutes and forty-five seconds.

Actually, it took even less time than that. Without the traditional SHORT TREKS opening title sequence, this latest offering of CBS’s series of mini-episodes dropped me immediately into the action. What followed was a whirlwind of masterfully delivered, impactful lines between two very strong characters. One was Captain Christopher Pike, and ANSON MOUNT could be taking a nap in a hammock and I’d still be mesmerized. So imagine what this amazing actor can do when the dialog is flying fast and furious…and lives are at stake.

The other is a brand new character, Cadet Thira Sidhu (played perfectly by Amrit Kaur), a young engineering cadet facing an impossible decision: does she follow Starfleet protocol or trust Pike? The answer is surprising, to say the least! It’s also the culmination of a tense, non-stop five-minute sequence that doesn’t leave the viewer any time or opportunity to ask “Hey, what’s really going on here?” And that was a very, very good thing!

This is where I start spoiling the episode, folks. Seriously, if you haven’t watched it yet, stop reading now, subscribe to All Access for 10 minutes, and watch “Ask Not.” Or if you’re in a country that hasn’t gotten the second series of Short Treks yet, bookmark this blog and come back to it in January. It’s not time-sensitive.

Okay, I warned ya. If you read further, the irreparable damage is all on you…

Continue reading “Why the new SHORT TREKS “Ask Not” shows why there needs to be a CAPTAIN PIKE series! (editorial review)”