The big news in fandoms lately has been that CBS and Paramount, joint owners of the Star Trek franchise, announced that, counter to their recent lawsuit against the makers of Axanar fan film, they were going to officially and formally allow such fan works to be produced after intentionally or ignorantly turning a blind eye to the issue for decades. Of course, that official authorization comes with some conditions. Some of those conditions are of the type you’d expect: the works must be “family friendly” with no nudity, profanity, etc.; there must be a legal disclaimer that it’s not an official Star Trek film; it must be a non-profit-making venture; and so on. These are obviously in place to try to maintain the integrity of the Star Trek property.
One curious rule, though, that has seemed to garner the most attention is that no finished production can last longer than fifteen minutes, and a single story cannot exceed two segments/episodes “with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.” This clearly poses a problem for the feature-length Axanar, not to mention anyone else attempting something similar.
At first blush, the rule sounds incredibly limiting if someone wanted to attempt a substantial work. But my mind immediately began trying to think of ways to circumvent those rules. I have no personal interest to working on anything along those lines, but I do like a creative challenge. In theory, someone could craft a story around some existing Star Trek storyline and present it as a series of vignettes, using different characters each of whom sees events unfold from a different perspective. By using an existing story to springboard from, individual “episodes” could be written in such a way so that they’re not sequels to one another or part of a single serialized story, but could be seen as a series of sequels to the original. That would take a writer more talented than myself, certainly, but I can see how it could be accomplished.
As I was thinking along these lines, I caught a comment from one of the writers of the original television series…
I’m not going to discuss the content of the conversations, but I have now participated in three or four discussions with people about the CBS guidelines for fan films.
Things are going to get very interesting, very fast. Fans are way too imaginative. Much more imaginative than lawyers.
That suggests to me that I wasn’t the only trying to think of ways to get around the rules. And, more to the point, I’m not the only one who has already thought of at least one way to dodge them while still developing a larger story. Fans, as was said, are much more imaginative than lawyers and won’t let a few pesky legal claims interfere with expressing their love of an idea.