Recently I had a chance to talk to Alec Peters, creator and Executive Producer of the amazing Star Trek fan film Prelude to Axanar. He’s also one of the leads of the film, which tells the story of how the Federation and the Klingon Empire built to war. The project is truly impressive and has a lot of inspiration for Star Trek gamers so I asked Alec to share about what he loves about Star Trek.
The History of the Axanar Project
Axanar Productions was created six years ago now to make this fan film a reality, following in a long tradition of Star Trek movies by fans dating back to Paragon’s Paragon in 1974. The production team turned to Kickstarter to fund their movie, first launching a campaign in March 2014 to fund the twenty-minute short film Prelude to Axanar which you can watch on their website. Following the success of that they crowdfunded the main film and have just started filming. Things have been delayed due to some legal issues (which, frankly, you can read about a number of places including their website) but they’re off and running now! If you want to join and contribute now, or you want to get some of their awesome patches, check out their newsletter.
Prelude to Axanar also has a stellar cast. In addition to Alec Peters as Captain Kelvar Garth the film includes Richard Hatch (from Battlestar Galactica) as a Klingon commander, J.G. Hertzler (who played General Martok) and Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica’s Ellen Tigh) as Starfleet captains, Tony Todd (who played Worf’s brother Kurn) as a Starfleet admiral, and Gary Graham reprising his role as Ambassador Soval from Star Trek: Enterprise. Between those talented actors and the amazing CGI of the starship battles, this movie is really a testament to what you can do with a vision and a love of Trek.
They’ve paid this forward by promoting all sorts of fan creations on their site. “We were really blessed a few years ago to raise a lot of money,” Alec said to me. “It’s about sharing the wealth and it’s just good karma.”
On the Eve of War
The inspiration for Axanar is the original series episode “Whom Gods Destroy,” which introduced the character of Garth of Izar, albeit not in a particularly flattering way. Garth is a celebrated Starfleet captain who was an inspiration to Kirk but whose life has unfortunately taken some turns. Peters set out to flesh out this character before the events of that episode, back when he was the “reluctant warrior” leading the fight against the Klingons. I see Garth as a sort of Cincinatus character, a captain known for exploring a record number of systems and then for leading the Federation’s forces to victory against the Klingons at the Battle of Axanar.
Peters told me that this was always a memorable character for him, someone who deserved some “fleshing out” and discussion. This isn’t the story of Garth of Izar, though, and it’s not the story of the U.S.S. Ares that he captains into the battle. In this pivotal time of Star Trek lore, the Battle of Axanar is where the Federation could have collapsed but instead it stood its ground and showed the Klingons that they were a worthy enemy. “In my mind it was always about the planet where this battle was,” Peters told me, and that’s a story principle that is a great starting point for Star Trek fan stories. This isn’t Star Trek: Ares or even Star Trek: Garth, it’s about the symbolism of that important victory and what it means for the Federation before and after.
“People say ‘Star Trek’s not about war,’” Peters told me during our conversation, “and I disagree. Star Trek’s about life and war’s a part of life.” Though Prelude to Axanar is structured as an in-universe documentary, there’s no denying that the story is about the people and the context more than the actual battles. There is some discussion of tactics and plenty of awesome visuals showing Starfleet ships facing off against Klingon vessels of various designs, but the crux of the narrative is on a speech given by Admiral Ramirez about why the Federation was building a warship to send against the Klingons. “War stories are best served when they tell a bigger story” according to Peters, and this movie is certainly about that bigger story.
Bringing Axanar to your Star Trek Adventures Campaign
We likely won’t be seeing scenarios for Axanar (at least until the movie’s out, after that check here on Continuing Mission!) but the story elements of the project are certainly inspiring. Axanar is about people in a time of war, the choices they make and how they affect their relationships. I see this as one of the real strengths of Star Trek, the stories are about people even when they’re about other things. In your campaign, when the Romulans have you in their target lock and the Federation is on the brink of war with the Dominion then Gene Roddenberry would want you focusing on the friendships on the bridge, the budding romance in Engineering, and the antagonistic relationship between your crew and the hard-nosed admiral. Wartime Star Trek isn’t about war, it’s about what the friends you make along the way.
Unfortunately, Alec Peters hadn’t checked out Star Trek Adventures when I talked to him (though I hopefully talked him into checking it out) but he’s had lots of experience playing FASA’s Star Trek RPG and thinks a lot about how you tell stories in a complicated array of settings from comics and books to games, the JJ-verse, and Discovery. It’s hard fitting a new story into an existing one and Alec’s advice is to embrace the “Star Trek multiverse” and accept that there will be deviations. After all, according to Star Trek we should all be recovering from the Eugenics Wars of the 90s and Buckaroo Bokai should be playing for the Crenshaw Monarchs in the Planetary Baseball League. “Part of this is understanding that Star Trek is not our future,” Alec told me, “it’s a future.” Don’t get so hung up on things and make your own Star Trek universe.
Definitely good advice, no matter how you engage with this multiverse!