Star Trek is probably one of the most beloved and successful science fiction franchises of all time. Although the first Star Trek TV series aired way back in 1966, it remains popular with old and young sci-fans alike.
Some of those fans decided to create something within the Star Trek universe that we haven't seen yet: choosing to tell a story that takes place 21 years before Captain Kirk became captain of the Enterprise. The result is Star Trek: Axanar, a crowdfunded fan film that promises to take the concept of fan film and make it as good as anything a big budget Hollywood studio can deliver, but still with the reverence and love that the Star Trek franchise deserves.
Star Trek: Axanar tells the story of a man, Garth of Izar, who became the hero of the Battle of Axanar, and the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that nearly tore the Federation apart.
Richard Hatch, known to sci-fi fans as Captain Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica and Tom Zarek on the re-imagined Syfy version of that series, plays one of those Klingons in Axanar, Klingon Supreme Commander Kharn. Tech Times spoke to Hatch about his involvement with the film, as well as about space-based sci-fi and what it's like walking in a Klingon's shoes.
Fire and foremost, Hatch is a self-described sci-fi fan boy.
"I truly have always loved visionary, intelligent sci-fi since I was a child," said Hatch. "I loved fantasy or any storytelling that explored all the theoretical probabilities of life and the universe, so getting to be part of any sci-fi universe was compelling to me, and especially ones that were based on stories that touched me deeply or mirrored our civilization in illuminating, insightful ways."
So, of course, that makes Hatch a fan of Star Trek, too.
"Star Trek was another story I loved as it explored possible futures for us humans and seemed to always demonstrate how the very best in all of us can find solutions and resolution to all the so-called impossible circumstances that confront all of life in this universe," he said.
Obviously, when Hatch received the opportunity to become a part of Star Trek: Axanar, he jumped at the chance.
"My good friend, producer Alec Peters, asked me about playing a role in his Axanar project, and his vision and business ideas for creating a revolutionary Trek indie project enthralled me," said Hatch. "I was blown away by what he wanted to achieve and his invitation to play a Klingon was also of interest to me as the Code of the Warrior spirit has always been part of me, and bringing to life a new version of a Klingon commander excited the actor and artist in me."
Calling the production of Axanar "groundbreaking," Hatch explained that Axanar is different from many fan-funded films. The idea is to create a new Star Trek experience that has high production values, but using a crowdfunding business model to finance it.
Star Trek: Axanar also features other heavy hitters in the sci-fi acting world, including Gary Graham, who recreates his role as Vulcan Ambassador Soval from the Star Trek: Enterprise series. Add to that cast list sci-fi actors Tony Todd, Kate Vernon, J.G. Hertzler, and Peters, and you've got a star-studded science fiction cast.
"Axanar, from the very beginning, was groundbreaking in its goal of achieving a studio-quality production using an innovative and progressive business model by first, creating a truly original and highly entertaining script exploring new Trek territory," said Hatch. "Second, enticing some of the top and most experienced professionals in the business on both sides of the camera to come on board to create very professional and entertaining trailers and short presentations that built the case for why fans should have faith in the creative teams behind Axanar and invest their money to make this amazing Trek Indie film a reality using the mechanism of fundraising via new and innovative formats."
Hatch commented that he considers Star Trek: Axanar an "indie" Trek film more so than a fan film because of this approach and hopes that Axanar inspires other such projects in a marketplace where fans are hungry for this kind of storytelling.
In Axanar, Hatch plays a Klingon, a challenge that excited the actor. However, he looked at the character as he would any other character he takes on.
"I always start by finding the heart and soul of a character – what motivates and moves them emotionally and physiologically," he said. "I find common ground and build a bridge from myself on an intuitive level to where this character I'm playing lives and then let that connection evolve and flow into how I walk and move and dress as the character."
However, with a Klingon, there's also the costume and makeup that adds to the character, and Hatch admits that this helps him create how he feels and moves as Kharn.
"Whether you start with the exterior or interior of a character, it has to lead to the same core truth of a character: to the same kind of place, the same emotional, physical and physiological connection that leads to a powerful, organic and truthful performance," said Hatch.
However, Hatch made sure that he delved into the psyche of his character, as well.
"My approach to playing General Kharn was to explore the deeper, more intelligent and sophisticated side of the Klingons without losing the code of the warrior spirit that we've seen in other renditions of Klingons we've seen and loved," he said. "My thought was that Klingons may have had that warrior – willing to risk all – for honor spirit, but that any civilization that had achieved the level of technological and sociological sophistication the Klingons had must be far more than a hedonistic, wild and crazy bunch of pirates out to conquer the universe."
Now that space-based science fiction has made a comeback, both on TV and in film, Hatch commented on how important this particular genre of science fiction is to fans.
"I've never given up on space exploration or shows that deal with space," he said. "I've been developing my own sci-fi/fantasy production called GWOM, which will be coming out next year. For me this area of storytelling has been neglected for way too long and I'm hungry and passionate about being part of any productions or teams that are willing to explore this genre and find new business models to sustain it. I also think the studios are finally waking up to realizing that their is a huge audience for these kinds of shows. Look at what Guardians of the Galaxy did at the box office."
Star Trek: Axanar begins filming in January, 2016. In the meantime, check out the full version of Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar, a "documentary" showcasing the historical events surrounding the Four Years War in the Star Trek universe.
Photo credit: Star Trek: Axanar