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The Fate of Star Trek: Axanar – Part 1

Alec Peters on the set of Axanar / photo credit Eric Mark / Recursor.TV

Alec Peters on the set of Axanar / photo credit Eric Mark

We recently spoke with Alec Peters, producer and star of the currently postponed Star Trek: Axanar project — a Kickstarter-funded fan film that CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures have stepped in to sue. The project is currently under litigation with a civil trial set to begin Jan. 31, and fans and copyright lawyers alike are watching with baited breath to see what happens next.

In Part 1 of our interview, Peters tells us about his journey from law school to volleyball coach to acting to fan filmmaking, including his friendship with Richard Hatch and why he’s in possession of the Khan Noonien Singh costume. In Part 2, we’ll hear about the process of making an indie fan film, including the huge Kickstarter campaign that funded Axanar, and what Peters has planned after the trial is concluded.

RECURSOR: Tell us about background and how you came to Los Angeles.

PETERS: I graduated from law school in 1987 from UNC Chapel Hill and knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I had been coaching volleyball for a few years by that point, and it was what I really wanted to do. So I moved to LA after I got an offer to be the assistant men’s coach at USC. I coached there for four years. We won a national championship in 1990. It was great.

Proof of volleyball concept / photo credit Eric Mark / Recursor.TV

Proof of volleyball concept / photo credit Eric Mark

After that, I started a sports management company and did that for a number of years. Then I moved back to Atlanta and started a technology company. In 2008, I started an auction house called Propworx. We got the job to sell the assets of Battlestar Galactica. So I moved back to LA, opened Propworx here, and have been doing that ever since.

How did you end up becoming involved in Star Trek fan films and fiction?

In 2010, I was in a conversation with James Cawley of Star Trek: New Voyages, which was the granddaddy of Star Trek fan films. And I just gotten the original costume to Garth of Izar, played by Steve Ihnat in the 1968 episode of Star Trek called “Whom Gods Destroy.” So James wrote the character into the episode they were going to be filming the following month. And I got to play Garth for the first time. That started me on this journey of writing a story for Garth of Izar.

You ended up studying at Howard Fine Acting Studio. Tell us about that.

Garth of Izar costume / photo credit Eric Mark/ Recursor.TV

Garth of Izar costume / photo credit Eric Mark

I knew if I was going to play Garth of Izar in anything that we were going to produce, I wanted to be good, and so that meant going to acting school.

I’d done an acting class with Richard Hatch years ago, but I knew I needed a more in-depth education. So after a little research, I enrolled at Harold Fine. I’ve taken multiple courses there and worked with some of the teachers outside of there before studying with Richard Hatch again. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.

Tell us about your long-term friendship with Richard Hatch and how that connects to the Axanar project.

I was a fan of Battlestar Galactica back in 1978 when it came out. In 1994, I got to meet Richard Hatch at the 15-year reunion convention, and he was teaching an acting class. I thought that would be fascinating, so I took the class with him. And then we just started running into each other at conventions. He would come to Dragon Con in Atlanta every year where I was living, and we would go out to dinner. We’re good friends, and I love him and respect him.

When I started writing Axanar, I had this Klingon character. And I pitched Richard on this character. I hadn’t even finished the script. But we saw eye to eye. He was a fan of Star Trek. He loved the idea of being a Klingon, and he was all for it. He said, “Yes. I’m in.” And that enabled us to get other cast members.

How did you move from Battlestar Galactica  fandom into Star Trek? Had you always been fascinated in it? 

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since 1966 when it was first on TV, and I was 6 years old. When they moved Star Trek to Friday night at 10 p.m. in the third season, it was past my bedtime. My mom would put to bed at 8 o’clock, wake me up at 10, let me watch Star Trek and then put me back to bed. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Prelude to Axanar poster / Axanar Productions / Recursor.TV

Prelude to Axanar poster / Axanar Productions

Until the first movie came out in 1978, all we fans had were 78 episodes of Star Trek. And we saw them over and over and over. I’m sure I saw each episode a dozen times.

I went to my first convention in 1979-80 and I still have the program from that convention. And then I started collecting Star Trek props and costumes at the big Christie’s Star Trek auction in 2006. I’ve handled a lot of great props and costumes, and we’ve auctioned off a lot through Propworx, and it’s real love of mine.

You have Ricardo Montalbán’s costume from the original episode.

That was a big get. A friend of mine works at one of the big Hollywood costume shops, and he had that costume and he offered it to me. It’s been very cool to put that next to the Garth costume and the Trelane costume. To have the three of them together is very cool. It’s a holy grail for many people.

Next week, we talk more with Alec Peters about how a fun fan film went from a modest Kickstarter campaign to a large budget production, why CBS/Paramount made the decision to sue to project, and where things might end up after the court decision is handed down.