In Part 1, I looked at some of the striking similarities between the two franchises LOST IN SPACE and STAR TREK. And then I shared how my seven-year-old son and I absolutely LOVED the first season of the new Netflix reboot of Lost in Space, while I personally have been mostly disappointed with the new Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access (which I don’t let my son watch).
Yesterday, I provided an overview of why Jayden and I enjoyed LiS so much. It made us cheer. We rooted for the characters and wanted to see them get out of trouble and win. On the other hand, during the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, I found myself caring very little about any of the crew or nearly all of the other characters on that show.
But enough with the generalities! It’s time to provide some specifics of what I think LiS is doing right that Discovery is failing to do. So let’s dive right in…
Like Star Trek, LOST IN SPACE recently returned to television after a long absence with a new series…available only through a paid subscription service. Both shows are “darker” than their original versions, very expensive to make (about $8-$8.5 million per episode), and both are produced entirely in Canada (Star Trek: Discovery in Toronto and Lost in Space in British Columbia).
Both series debuted to very strong viewership numbers. When the first two episodes of Discovery premiered on the CBS network, 9.6 million people watched. When LiS debuted on Netflix, Nielsen estimated that 6 million people watched it in the first three days alone and that 1.2 million binge-watched all ten episodes during that time. More viewers—such as myself and my 7-year-old son Jayden, watched LiS several weeks later over the course of many nights.
While it’s not known how many people are watching Discovery (CBS keeps those numbers locked up tighter than the gold in Fort Knox!), estimates are that about 300,000-500,000 subscribers view Discovery on All Access with more watching on Space TV in Canada and on Netflix in other countries around the world. And despite mixed reviews from both critics and fans, both series have now been renewed for a second season.
So those are their main similarities. But what about their differences? And what is it about those differences that leaves me so much MORE enthusiastic about the new Lost in Space than I am about Star Trek: Discovery?
Today, please welcome special Guest Blogger ERIC L. WATTS, Chairman of the annual TREKLANTA convention in Atlanta, GA and the organizer of the BJO Awards that honor the top Star Trek fan films each year. Eric and Treklanta have been an important and integral part of theTrek fan film community for many years now—screening fan productions, featuring fan film panel discussions and guests, an generally giving support and validation to the genre.
Treklanta 2018 took place over the Memorial Day weekend and featured a couple of panels focusing on fan films. Everything was going great until it was announced that ALEC PETERS of AXANAR would be taking part in these panels. Then the shat hit the fans, and Eric was berated by angry e-mails and Facebook posts and even a phone call telling him how wrong he was for letting Alec Peters anywhere near his convention…let alone allowing Alec to be an announced guest on two panels.
The blowback both privately and on social media blasting Eric over Alec’s presence at Treklanta became so intense that I asked Eric if he’d like to comment on it here on Fan Film Factor in a blog I was preparing last week about the Bjo Awards.
Eric agreed, but his comment was so thorough and heartfelt that I decided it would be better to let it stand in its entirety as a separate guest blog. My apologies to you and Eric for the delay in getting it posted (one week), but with two different crowd-funders ending, it’s been a very crowded seven days of blogs (and I was away in Santa Barbara over the weekend).
Anyway, here’s what Eric had to say about Alec Peters and panels at Treklanta…
Guys, I am really sorry for giving this topic so much attention, but it is quickly turning into a possible “detractorgate” story, and I feel it’s important to share what just happened.
As I covered on Saturday in this editorial blog, AXANAR detractor MICHAEL ILASI created a series of “mockery” videos of ALEC PETERS and Axanar using previously unreleased blooper footage from Prelude to Axanar without the consent of Alec or any of the cast members who appeared in the 2014 fan film. This sparked quite a tempest both here and over on the Fan Film Forum Facebook group (and probably elsewhere).
When I woke up this morning, the following e-mail was waiting for me. It had been sent anonymously via the “Contact Us” form here on Fan Film Factor at 3:43am. Here’s a screen cap of the message…
I have no way to verify that this was, in fact, from a detractor and not just someone pretending to be a detractor. However, I did have an interesting IM exchange with Michael Ilasi via Facebook…
It’s not necessarily a smoking gun, but the gun barrel still feels a little warm. The fact that Michael messaged me mere minutes after Alec contacted YouTube to ask that the videos be taken down leads me to believe that yes, this was all planned out as an elaborate (is that the right adjective?) “trap” for Alec. And of course, Michael later says, “There are more people involved in this…” implying, if I may use a word that I loathe, a conspiracy.
Needless to say, I contacted Alec himself (as Michael requested), but I also included a forward of the anonymous message I’d just received and asked for any response on the record. Here’s what Alec wrote back…
MICHAEL ILASI, a dedicated AXANAR detractor, announced last month that he was planning to create a “parody” of Prelude to Axanar using actual footage from the fan film…re-edited to be “funny.”
But what Michael released wasn’t a parody so much as a mockery. It belittled ALEC PETERS and the other cast members of Prelude by showing their bloopers, adding banjo music, crickets, laughter, etc…and making it look like these were bungling idiots rather than actors trying to put in solid performances while flubbing the occasional line.
Michael called it a “fan film,” but I don’t think it qualifies. A fan film should celebrate and honor something a fan loves—Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Harry Potter—not try to tear it down or cheapen it in some way. In fact, that’s sorta the OPPOSITE of a fan film.
Michael was using Axanar blooper footage released without permission last year by former Axanar marketing director turned vitriolic detractor TERRY McINTOSH, violating his non-disclosure agreement with Alec and Axanar Productions and releasing footage that was not legally his to release.
The arguments being employed currently by Michael and other detractors justifying the creation and release of this mockery film can best be summed up as follows:
Alec can’t own the Prelude footage because it’s all Star Trek, and Alec doesn’t own the Star Trek intellectual property.
Parody is protected speech under fair use. Alec can’t do anything to prevent Michael from enjoying his First Amendment rights.
Axanar is”open source.” Alec even said so himself.
Get over yourselves and laugh, fer cryin’ out loud! They’re bloopers, not KFC’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Lighten up.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve got an answer to each of these attempts to justify and excuse what Michael did.
Don’t get me wrong: I actually like some aspects of the new old U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 that briefly appeared in the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery. (For convenience, I’ll be calling it the “Disco-prise” since “Second-prise” is just plain silly!)
Now, the J.J. Abrams version of the U.S.S. Enterprise from the 2009 reboot Star Trek movie, that one I hated. I think it is a visual travesty, and we shall not speak of it further.
But the Disco-prise, it’s mostly okay with me. I don’t even mind those strange “tail fins” that seem to have been added to the back of the nacelles for no apparent reason (you all realize that there’s no air resistance in space, right?) I sorta like the design…but I definitely don’t love it.
On the other hand, the original U.S.S. Enterprise, designed by WALTER MATT JEFFERIES in 1965 (and altered slightly in 1966 when the Star Trek TV series was picked up for broadcast)…now THAT ship I LOVE. There is not an angle of that magnificent space vessel that I can’t look at for hours or draw from memory. In my opinion, that iconic starship is perfect, a profoundly elegant work of art! (I feel the same way about the refit U.S.S. Enterprise first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.)
So why don’t I love the new Disco-prise? It’s not a bad design, but for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, it just didn’t seem like the work of art that the original was. And about three weeks ago, I finally discovered the reason…
Some of you know GABRIEL KOERNER from his work on fan films like Star Trek Continues and BSG: Second Coming. Some know him as “That kid from the Trekkies documentary.” And of course, he currently does CGI for the Fox TV series The Orville along with an impressive list of other Hollywood projects on his IMDb page.
Of course, he’s also a well-known AXANAR detractor, posting frequent comments to social media and even to this blog disparaging ALEC PETERS and the Axanar production. In fact, just this past Monday, Gabe referenced Alec (without naming him directly) in this comment to Fan Film Factor. The blog title read “Is TREK crowd-funding in TROUBLE?” Gabe answered: “Yes. Thanks to the actions of ONE careless, unethical, reckless irresponsible individual’s actions.”
Ironic that Gabe would use the words “unethical,” “reckless,” and “irresponsible” as, just a few hours later, a video would be posted that included recordings of nearly a dozen harassing voicemail messages left by Gabe on the answering machine of BARNEY CORNETT of West Virginia. In the video, Barney says that these are just a small sample of nearly 100 harassing calls that he and his family have received over the course of the past five months.
Here is that video…
There’s no need to ask whether I’ve confirmed the veracity of this video. Gabe has since admitted to making these calls in this public post to the Axamonitor group on Facebook:
An now, my own apology for the length of the rest of this blog, but I want to share a series of increasingly disturbing e-mail exchanges I’ve had with Gabe since Monday night. (Since none of this was off the record, I feel I can share the exchange here.) I’ll explain my reasons for deciding to do this after we get through all of the e-mails, keeping my comments minimal until the end.
(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…