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Star Trek The New Voyages - No Advertisers Allowed on Board

by Glen Emerson Morris
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First the good news. There are two new series of Star Trek episodes under production. The bad news is that advertisers are not welcome to sponsor either one of them. The reason is that both series are produced by groups of Star Trek fans who convinced Paramount and CBS to let them produce new episodes of Star Trek, but were given the restriction that they make no money (let alone profit) from the ventures. The finished productions are being made available for free download on the Internet (see for details).

On paper the primary project Star Trek New Voyages sounds, well, amateurish. The producer and the actor playing Captain Kirk, James Cawley, is one of the country's leading Elvis Presley imitators, the studio is a former car dealership, and all of the shows other actors and production crew are volunteers.

The pilot was, as expected, amateurish. The second episode wasn't. From the opening scenes of "In Harm's Way" it was clear that it was magnitudes better than the pilot, and what followed was one of the best Star Trek adventures I ever saw. The acting was better than the pilot, the script was better than most in the original Star Trek series, and the special effects were aggressively much better than in the original. In fact, the special effects essential to the episode simply couldn't have been done in the 1960s on anything short of a major motion picture budget. Most importantly, the episode worked.

The script for "In Harm's Way" was based on a previous episode of Star Trek that featured William Windom battling a planet destroying doomsday machine. William Windom reprised his role as Dekker, and the script also involved plot lines and characters from several other Star Trek episodes woven together seamlessly, and very true to Roddenberry's vision.

In the past, such results would simply not have been possible, but the same digital revolution that has made garage bands able to produce major league sounding music is now making it possible for groups of talented amateurs to make professional quality video productions, or at least of adequate enough quality to attract fans. In the case of Star Trek The New Voyages, the quality is good enough that it's even attracting members of the original cast, production crew and writers.

Walter Koenig, who played Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek series will be starring in the third episode of STNV, named "To Serve All My Days," which will premiere September 8, 2006. Koenig may have been just a bit player in the TV series, but he turned in credible performances in the Star Trek movies, and his brilliant, scorching and utterly bone-chilling performance as Psi Cop Alfred Bester in Babylon 5 was one of the highlights of the entire B5 series. Not surprisingly it won him the title of favorite B5 guest actor in one poll and in another he was voted the greatest SciFi villain of all time. No one who saw WalterKoenig in the role of Alfred Bester will ever see him as "just Chekov" again. Koenig can really act, and with a script provided by legendary Star Trek writer D. C. Fontana, "To Serve All My Days" could well be one of the best episodes of the entire Star Trek franchise.

The other fan produced Star Trek effort under production features even more of the original cast. According to the Star Trek New Voyages Website, "A fan produced feature-length digital miniseries that starts shooting on July 12 called "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men" will be produced in part by the team behind "New Voyages." This new webisode — which will be distributed on the Internet in three parts — stars Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig reprising their roles as "Uhura" and "Chekov," but in the post-Kirk time of Enterprise-B captain "John Harriman," reprised by Alan Ruck. Tim Russ will direct, and will also appear as a younger "Tuvok." The film will include other performances by Garrett Wang ("Harry Kim"), Chase Masterson ("Leeta"), Grace Lee Whitney ("Janice Rand"), Gary Graham ("Soval") and Crystal Allen (from "Bound"), along with some special "surprise" guests."

The development of fan produced video series like these is marking a new phase in the history of advertising. It's only a matter of time before more quality content is produced by fans than the average person has time to watch. Locking advertisers out of sponsoring these shows could result in a major disaster for advertisers, and unfairly limit the ability of the fans to produce shows of the quality, and frequency, the public would like.

The stated goal of the Star Trek New Voyages project is to correct what many justly feel was the biggest blunder in the history of television, the cancellation of Star Trek at the end of its third season. We may be seeing the second biggest blunder in the history of television, the licensing of Star Trek NV on the condition that it not be allowed to have sponsors.

If there was ever a show that deserved a sponsor, it's Star Trek New Voyages.

As I've said in previous columns, advertisers are going to have to learn to forge their own alliances with the new talent emerging. Star Trek New Voyages may prove to be the exception in that it is based on a previous series and subject to licensing and restrictions on advertising. In the very near future, many new series will appear that are totally the creation of amateurs. No current system is in place to connect advertisers with the new productions, and there needs to be, and soon.

Until recently, the primary problem advertisers have faced was a fragmented audience, watching 250 channels instead or 4 or 5. Now advertisers are facing a disappearing audience, with an increasing number of consumers listening to thousands of commercial free music stations on the internet (like, or watching commercial free video on iTunes or YouTube. A fragmented audience can be dealt with, but no audience at all is something else, and if Star Trek New Voyages is any indication, that may be exactly the future advertisers are facing.

Glen Emerson Morris has worked as a technology consultant for Network Associates, Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius, and is the developer of the Advertising & Marketing Review Data CD.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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