A Fan’s Guide to the Best Star Trek Fan Films
When it comes to Do-It-Yourself projects, the ultimate expression has to be fan films. The amount of work required to pull off a fan film, from the construction of sets and costumes, to the writing, to the lighting, the camerawork, the acting, the direction, the sound design, the scoring… it’s a fabulously massive undertaking that requires an insane range of skills to even comprehend, let alone pull off with flare.
Star Trek has long encouraged a range of intrepid explorers in the field, however. Fans from all backgrounds and walks of life have come together over the decades to share their love of the magic underlying this incredible setting, trying to share what they themselves love most about Roddenberry’s incredible vision for a socialist future where all people work for the betterment of society as a whole, and their own self-growth, rather than the accumulation of profit.
So, sit back and engage your senses as you travel through time and space on some kind of star “trek” in a bold exploration of the imagination and the power of art.
1 – Digital Ghost (2000)
Digital Ghost is a German-made Star Trek fan-film set within the Star Trek: Generations timeline. The story involves two Enterprise-E crewmembers who are sent on a mission to test Starfleet’s new fully-autonomous starship design, and who soon discover that all may not be as it seems.
There aren’t magnificent sets in this one, but the CGI is surprisingly good, especially when you remember that this was made back in 2000. But, what stands out for me most with this film, is how well-acted it is. The CGI makes it all come alive, and there are some very clever moments in there, but what makes it engaging to watch is the interactions between the two visiting crewmembers and the experimental ship’s computer.
2 – Star Trek: Of Gods and Men (2007-2008)
There can absolutely be no better example of an incredible Star Trek fan-film experience than one which uses actual members of the original series cast!. Walter Keong and Nichelle Nichols star in this superb 3-part drama (finally combined into one feature film), and directed by Tim Russ (Tuvok in Voyager).
The story, the acting, the sets, and the CGI all positively glow in this one. The care, dedication, fun, and love of Star Trek is so plainly visible in every aspect of this film that it easily outshines most of the modern Trek material created by big studios.
3 – Star Trek: Axanar (2014)
Here we come to the biggest name on this list, because it was a landmark film in the evil of corporate Hollywood and the further eroding of artistic power in the world. Axanar was an incredible production, providing a powerhouse script, production value far beyond anything seen before, and a huge cast of veteran Star Trek actors (Richard Hatch, J. G. Hertzler, Kate Vernon, Gary Graham, Michael Hogan, and Tony Todd).
The film is a 22-minute documentary-style experience recounting the events of the Battle of Axanar, which was briefly mentioned in the original Star Trek series episode Whom Gods Destroy, and depicted in Axanar as a decisive military engagement between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire.
The incredible feature film that had been planned for release was killed by the subsequent CBS/Paramount lawsuit, but this gem remains behind.
The film was so good, so popular, and raised such a huge budget on Kickstarter, that CBS and Paramount sued its creators in an attempt to destroy fans’ ability to produce similar work ever again. Sadly, they succeeded.
The resultant lawsuit ended with CBS/Paramount drawing up a restrictive list of rules that all future fan films would need to follow: “be no more than 15 minutes long and have no stories longer than two installments (for a total of 30 minutes); play on YouTube without commercials; and all participants are required to be amateurs who have never worked on Star Trek or another licensee of CBS or Paramount Pictures.”
This effectively killed off all Star Trek fan projects, forcing other planned productions like Star Trek: Renegades to quite literally go renegade and remove all references to Star Trek from their production.
It’s a truly sad example of how dismally copyright laws function in the world today, offering little protection to real creators while allowing mega-corps to demand ever-greater control over all the artistic projects that make it into the public eye.
4 – Star Trek: Renegades (2015)
Something is folding time and space around entire planets, cutting them off from the galaxy. Admiral Pavel Checkov (played by Walter Koenig) enlists the aid of Section 31 chief Tuvok (played by Tim Russ) in an effort to enlist an extra-Starfleet operation to discover the cause, a crew of misfits, even criminals, who can do what Starfleet can not.
Directed by Tim Russ, this was intended as a pilot episode for a new Star Trek series. When the pilot was rejected, a series was planned, but was later scrapped due to the disastrous move by CBS/Paramount to restrict the creative ability of fan productions. Renegades would then go on to live as its own science fiction production, removing all references to Star Trek to escape studio censorship.
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5 – Star Trek: Horizon (2016)
In a time prior to the United Federation of Planets, a young coalition of worlds led by Earth battle the Romulan Star Empire for their very survival.
This was another masterful little fan production, falling someplace between grand productions like Axanar and Of Gods and Men, and more amateur productions, and offering a first-class homage to the Star Trek universe.
While the planned sequel was annulled by CBS/Paramount due to their ridiculous feud with the Axanar production, we at least have the full feature film original to enjoy.
6 – Chance Encounter – A Star Trek Fan Film
A gentle and heart-warming science fiction love story, with all original characters, set within the Star Trek universe.
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Quite possibly the sweetest little fan film in existence, the team behind this film would later go on to create The Holy Core, another Star Trek fan film that went even farther in the creation of something superb.
I absolutely love the writing of this one, as well as the acting. The special effects aren’t as sharp and polished as other productions, but I found that this doesn’t really matter much given how superb the rest of it is, and how much range of special effects through the many decades of Trek there is anyway!
I spent the entire film immersed, enjoying it as much as I’ve ever enjoyed another Star Trek experience, and I think you will as well.
7 – What We Left Behind (2019)
Ira Steven Behr announced a new Deep Space Nine project in 2017, eighteen years after the series finale, What You Leave Behind, aired. Bearing the same title, this would be an immersive documentary journey into the creation of, and life of, the last great Star Trek series to air on TV.
The documentary is wonderfully potent, drawing back the cats and crew for an in-depth and sometimes harrowing discussion of the show’s making, with stars Alexander Siddig, Avery Brooks, Colm Meaney, Michael Dorn, Nana Visitor, Rene Auberjonois, and Terry Farrell all appearing to speak about their experience making the show.
DS9 was really transformational, managing to bridge all that had come before, with a deeper level of internal exploration than had been seen in Star Trek. Of course, there were downsides as well.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a premise completely ripped off of J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 series, which he had pitched unsuccessfully to Paramount some time before DS9 was put into production. Everything from the premise, to even at least one character’s name, was pulled from B5 without even a hint of shame.
And yet, however terrible that sin is, the seed of Straczynski’s initial vision, and the hard work of the amazing cast and crew of DS9, ended up providing Star Trek with its own brilliant jewel, something that offered a new type of show that kicks harder than previous iterations while maintaining the optimism, pacing, and theatric reverence that all embodies true Trek.
8 – The Holy Core – A Star Trek Fan Production (2019)
A thoughtful and exciting adventure set in the TNG era of the “Star Trek” universe, featuring all original characters. The crew of a Federation starship assist the deeply religious Vitans to restore their polluted atmosphere after centuries of war. Events soon take an unexpected turn, however, and the crew must rely on their courage and principles to prevent disaster…
I love this one for the use of real sets, the style, the lighting… it’s a love-letter to everything great about TNG, and manages to be both exciting and reflective in its story and construction. Proof that, while Paramount/CBS gutted fans’ ability to create work of Axanar level production value, fans will continue to showcase their passion for the source material.
Seriously though, this production uses full sets, and in an age where fan productions frequently rely on less-expensive green screen replacements, the use of real physical sets shows. It makes The Holy Core something unique and very special.
9 – Interlude: A Star Trek Fan Production (Axanar Continuity)
While not officially endorsed by the Axanar team, this little film dives into some of the Axanar continuity and envisions a short scene from one of the crucial battles of that timeline, as the new Klingon D7 cruisers are fielded for the first time.
It has a high-production feeling to it, though perhaps not quite as immerse as the original Axanar was. Still, a work of art, soul, and beauty, and I’m honestly just so impressed with all the great work that went into making this.
10 – Doomsday: A Star Trek Fan Production (2022)
Tales from The Neutral Zone in association with Avalon Universe presents “DOOMSDAY,” the third Star Trek Fan Film from Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA Based on the original story by Norman Sprinrad, music by Sol Kaplan, and visual effects by Samuel Cockings, “DOOMSDAY” is an exciting Star Trek adventure!
This feels like TOS and is just frankly incredible, offering up a brief vision of the original series’ brilliance with modern styling.