Star Trek fans have been curious for years about the Battle of Axanar, the decisive turning point in the war against the Klingon Empire. And now, a new unofficial movie will show what really happened at Axanar, and how Captain Garth triumphed. Here’s your first image from Star Trek: Axanar, exclusively at io9!

This image was sent to us by Robert Meyer Burnett, who was involved in Axanar in a producing capacity and has just taken over as director. Burnett, who directed the classic comedy Free Enterprise, explains the image to us: “This is Gary Graham, once again playing Ambassador Soval (from Star Trek: Enterprise), and Kim Fitzgerald playing a new character, Vulcan Minister T’Lera (who may or may not be the same character from Margaret Wander Bonanno’s terrific 1987 TREK novel Strangers from the Sky.) They are discussing a very dire vote the Vulcan High Council has just made, which would have potentially dire consequences for the entire Alpha and Beta quadrants.”

And here’s a behind-the-scenes image, showing how the above still was created:

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Axanar will be having a third crowdfunding campaign soon, to raise badly needed funds to complete the production. We talked to Burnett about why he took over as director of Axanar, and what to expect from this movie:

What led to you taking over as director, and how is your approach going to be different from the Christian Gossett version?

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Because of other, ongoing projects, Christian felt he simply didn’t have the time needed to devote to the feature version of AXANAR. He did such a wonderful job directing and co-writing PRELUDE, and I very much enjoyed working with him as the film editor on the project, so I was really sorry to see him go.

This left AXANAR Creator and Executive Producer Alec Peters in a precarious position. The plan was always to shoot the bulk of the feature starting in November, to have the finished film ready for STAR TREK’s actual 50th Anniversary, sometime on or before Sept. 8th, 2016. So he really needed someone who could jump right in. To be honest, I’ve wanted to direct a STAR TREK film for most of my life, so for me, it would, quite literally, be a dream come true to direct AXANAR. I think I was probably the natural choice, but I would absolutely have to prove myself to Alec.

Unlike Christian, I have not only 26 years of film production experience behind me, but a life-long obsession with all things STAR TREK, so I’m hoping the synthesis of those two things will serve me well moving forward. I even have a bit of professional TREK experience, first as a TREK consultant for Viacom Licensing back in the mid-90s, then I worked for two years creating video material for the STAR TREK EXPERIENCE, which used to be at the Las Vegas Hilton. I wrote and directed FREE ENTERPRISE, starring William Shatner and WILL AND GRACE’s Eric McCormack and finally spent three years creating the award-winning special features for the Blu-Ray releases of all seven season of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and four seasons of ENTERPRISE.

Moving forward, I absolutely intend to honor the characters, storyline and tone created by Alec and Christian in PRELUDE TO AXANAR. First and foremost, I’ve always believed in the TREK universe as presented to audiences for almost 50 years. We’ve seen hundreds of years of TREK history since the original series debuted, and I intend to honor all of that. Since I was a kid, a part of me always believed in the TREK universe as a living, breathing place. In my mind, it does actually exist, so all of my creative decisions are colored by the notion of creating believability within that framework. I have to buy everything contained in AXANAR is reality as far as the TREK universe is concerned. For instance, as originally conceived, the actual design of the Starship Enterprise is such that it couldn’t possibility be constructed inside the gravity well of a planet. The component parts were constructed on Earth and then assembled in Earth Orbit, as suggested by the actual scientific advice experts advising Roddenberry and company back in the mid01960s. We’ve seen orbital dry-docks since 1979’s THE MOTION PICTURE, so, one should absolutely honor that. Seeing imagery which runs contrary to established TREK lore shatters the verisimilitude of the universe for the longtime fan base. I’m also a huge fan of the expanded TREK universe, and there are many excellent novels which also expand and extrapolate the TREK universe in very compelling and believable ways, so I’m always looking to add material from the best of the novels. Alec and I talk about John Ford’s THE FINAL REFLECTION a great deal...a must read if you’re at all interested in the Klingons.

Garth of Izar gets a lot of buildup in his one appearance in TOS asa legendary tactician and brilliant officer... is that a lot to liveup to? How do you square that with the total loon we actually met in”Whom Gods Destroy?”

As we know from Jerry Sohl and Lee Erwin’s wildly entertaining story, Garth of Izar was the one of the best Starship Captains who ever lived. He was Kirk’s hero and his exploits required reading at Starfleet Academy. But, unfortunately, after learning the secret of cellular metamorphosis from the peaceful and benevolent Antosians, he was driven mad by the ability. I always figured he lost his own identity because of such power, and that drove him insane. Alec Peters was always intrigued by the character and began writing stories about him decades ago. Alec will tell you he’s been fascinated by that moment at the end of the episode when Garth’s mind finally clears, and he says, “Do I know you sir?” to Kirk, the nobility finally returning to his personality. But AXANAR happens long before Garth’s fall from grace, so we’ll meet the Captain who’s visited more planets, explored more of the galaxy than anyone else, a great explorer who finds himself thrust into a war with the Klingons where the very survival of the Federation hangs in the balance. Most interestingly, the war was unwittingly triggered by The Federation’s rapid expansion and belief that everyone would be more than happy to join their alliance.

How much are you guys worried about staying consistent with what’s been depicted of Axanar in tie-in books, comics, games, etc.?

While PRELUDE TO AXANAR and the notion of THE FOUR YEARS WAR were absolutely inspired by the FASA sourcebook for the STAR TREK role playing game, we’re sticking as close as we can to the events depicted in the original series and not referencing the RPG or any of the books and comics that have been written. Aside from Garth and Ambassador Soval, all of our characters are completely original, as are the situations presented in the film. Does this jibe with established TREK canon? We’re doing everything we can to make AXANAR feel like canon. Taking place 21 years before TOS, who’s to say this isn’t exactly how it happened. We find that a huge number of fans have told us they consider “Axanar” canon because of the way we approach it, and the reverence we have for Star Trek. There’s also the four incredible FOUR YEARS WAR fan fiction novels published by Stephen Fender which are an incredibly compelling account of the conflict, but our story differs totally from the novels, which are based on the FASA game. We’re concentrating on our own version of the story.

Let’s be honest—most of us just want to see awesome starship combat. What can you promise us in terms of starship/Bird of Prey battles and crazy space fights?

AXANAR will indeed have some awesome starship combat...which uses actual space science in ways never before depicted on television or on film, but make no mistake, the film is, first and foremost, about our characters. The very last thing I’m interested in is making a pew, pew, pew STAR TREK movie. I’m taking my inspiration from the very best TOS episodes dealing with warfare, “Balance of Terror,” “A Taste of Armageddon,” “Errand of Mercy” and “A Private Little War.” I’d also look to films such as PATTON, MIDWAY and APOCALYPSE NOW for inspiration.

What’s the goal of the third crowdfunding campaign for Axanar? Not just financially, but what are you hoping to achieve with it?

The entire AXANAR project, from PRELUDE to AXANAR itself and beyond, is entirely driven by our donors. Without their generous and ongoing contributions, the project wouldn’t exist. Clearly, the AXANAR project is providing something to the fan base they simply aren’t getting anywhere else. The first Kickstarter campaign, to make PRELUDE, asked for 10K and wound up making over 100K. Then, the first AXANAR proper Kickstarter was about building the infrastructure of our studio, renting a facility, retrofitting it, building sets and pre-production needed to begin production on the film. We raised 630K, which was just astonishing and allowed us to build Ares Studios. This third, and hopefully final IndieGoGo campaign will allow us to actually make the entire film, which is currently budgeted at 960K. We’ve designed it to be made in four parts if need be, but obviously, if we can’t make the film all at once, each individual part becomes more expensive because you can’t amortize your costs across the entire production. If we do achieve our crowd-funding goal, I’m personally looking to do one thing...and that’s making a feature film which is considered by fans to be some of the best STAR TREK ever made.

And via Burnett, here’s the incredibly rough animatic he made for the above scene, using a couple of action figures in his garden:

And here’s the more finished animatic of that same shot, that VFX artist Tobias Richter turned in: