Let me see if I can explain this well in a short amount of space. Paramount used to be the sole owner of the Star Trek Franchise. For a time they and CBS were part of the same company, but when they split back up CBS got the TV rights and Paramount the movie rights. Licensing and rights are a strange animal. Look how many different companies own parts but not all of Rankin/Bass or Filmation’s libraries. That’s why Paramount started their own continuity, referred to as the Kelvin timeline because it split from the TV and previous movies timeline using time travel and an alternate universe forming after the destruction of the USS Kelvin, which Kirk’s father was a crew member of. I hope that makes sense because that’s all the space I have and it’s a long story anyway.
Right now Paramount is not in the best of shapes. If they’re going to continue making the Kelvin universe Star Trek movies they’re going to need investors. However, recent events may make that a problem, and it’s the CBS All-Access exclusive show Star Trek: Discovery that may make things worse. The brand is taking a few hits, from scandal to actors leaving and the show itself. Discovery‘s official place in continuity is debatable, with the creative team not wanting to make a Star Trek series in the first place (according to rumors, mind you) possibly being the culprit. However, one of the key plot points of the first season may have been stolen from an indie video game and now there’s a lawsuit involved. This happened just before the intended period of my recent hiatus, in late August, so I don’t know the latest but here’s what Midnight’s Edge reported late last month. NOTE: Some swearing in audio and pictures are in this video.
I’m not going to get into the whole sexual assault/harassment thing. It’s Hollywood, and we all know about the “casting couch”, so it’s not anything new. It’s just finally being opposed. As far as Pine and Helmsworth leaving, that bad news for Paramount but they’re using a third actor as Spock on the streaming show so if they can find the right actors to replace them they might still have a fighting chance. Neither of these situations are in BW’s discussion area. It’s the Discovery situation I want to focus on.
This is admittedly the first I’ve heard of the video game Tardigrades, but it sounds like an interesting game. However, when Discovery used his ideas like that most people are going to think he ripped them off rather than the other way around. What really ticked me off was hearing that they promised not to sue him if he took the deal. They’re clearly in the wrong here morally and legally, so I don’t blame the creator suing CBS after that. As far as agreeing to take the Tardigrade creature off the show and just let one of the crew be used for the drive (which involves injecting yourself with alien mushroom spores and pretty much become a power source…which has horrible side effects by the way), it looks like they were planning to do that anyway so it’s not like they were doing him any favors. The game is still in production as of this writing and I wish him luck.
Of course this is on the heels of the whole Axanar incident and the restrictive fan film rules. While it may not be a popular opinion I do agree that CBS had the right to axe Axanar considering some questionable circumstances surrounding the crowdfunding. And while I agree with some of the fan film rules others were very restrictive and kind of stupid. All this together already put CBS on their bad side, and the problems the fans had with Discovery doesn’t help much. I’ve heard suggestions that CBS should have worked with Axanar‘s creators to make it happen and given fandom support it might not have been a bad idea (although I’ve seen croudfunders who have gotten upset when official channels get involved in other projects even if it would improve distribution and gain a wider audience) but legally they were in their rights.
And then the whole Tardigrades/Discovery situation happens and they come off as hypocrites. That’s because this is what they’re being. Even if the guilty party is the creative team of Discovery and not CBS higher-ups, not admitting that what the team did was wrong and trying to make proper restitution to the game’s creator is a jerk move. The sad thing is this isn’t new on Hollywood’s part. There are plenty of cases of official Hollywood marketing using fan art without paying the artist and yet throwing fits over fan art, fanfics, fan films, or fan games, even when the artist doesn’t profit beyond a commission to draw it. It actually discourages fans from showing their love of a production and may even turn them away. That talent, which could have gone to keeping a property going (compare to Hasbro and their licensing partners at various times actually hiring fan creators to make official product) instead goes into creating competing intellectual property and doing themselves public relations harm. And given what’s happening in Hollywood right now with all the sex scandals and political pandering you’d think they would want to build up their PR, not make it worse. Apparently that’s not the case.
So I wish the guy all the luck possible in his lawsuit. I don’t think CBS will get the message, because the folks in charge rarely get the message. And even when they do, they prefer to ignore it, whether in entertainment or politics. Hmm…maybe that’s why Hollywood and Washington, DC get along so well?