Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Former Excelsior Campaign Leader Takes Over TrekUnited

TrekUnited is now in the hands of a new owner.

Russ Haslage, who several years ago led efforts to create a Star Trek series starring George Takei as captain of the USS Excelsior, has bought the domain name and rights of TrekUnited from troubled founder Tim Brazeal.

The remaining staff of TrekUnited, which has been mostly reduced to nothing more than a small group of people on a message board sharing their interest in Star Trek, had said an announcement would be made as early as today. However, Airlock Alpha has learned through public records associated with domain transfers that Haslage, head of the International Federation of Trekkers, took control of the domain name on Monday.

Haslage later confirmed the purchase to Airlock Alpha, saying an official announcement was still in the works.

"For now I can say this is a good day," Haslage said. "I am proud and honored to have TrekUnited as part of The Federation. And it's Bill Shatner's birthday. What else could a Trek fan ask for?"

The sale of TrekUnited ends what some called a dark chapter in fandom. Originally started as a Save Enterprise campaign, the site morphed into TrekUnited in 2004 in efforts to create a fifth season of "Star Trek: Enterprise," which was on the chopping block that season by UPN. However, instead of pushing for letter-writing and petitions as it had during the third season of the show, TrekUnited instead took the unusual step of asking fans to donate money toward funding a fifth season. Despite pleas from Paramount directly to Brazeal to stop collecting money as they couldn't accept it, the campaign raised more than $100,000.

Following intensive investigations by Airlock Alpha (then known as SyFy Portal), TrekWeb and the Los Angeles Times, TrekUnited started to refund money to those who made donations in 2005, although it's not clear if those donations were ever fully refunded.

Brazeal tried other projects that failed since then, including Sci-Fi Studios -- which allowed fans to donate thousands of dollars in order to earn producer credits on productions -- as well as the ballyhooed FedCon USA in 2008, which collapsed in the middle of the convention to much negative press.

Last week, Brazeal sent e-mails to members of the TrekUnited community asking for someone to try and top bids of up to $10,000 to purchase TrekUnited from him. He announced a short time later that he had found a buyer, but did not reveal who it was.

For Haslage, this is an opportunity to clean up the TrekUnited name and bring it back into the fold of real fandom. The group has had fringe status since the fundraising days, and have seemed to never fully recover from that, even after the collapse of FedCon USA, when many of Brazeal's faithful walked away.

Haslage was not successful in bringing Excelsior to series, but he has been successful in bringing Star Trek fans together, and will be challenged to do it once again with his newest asset