One thing that can consistently be said about Star Trek fans is that they are committed and dedicated to the fandom. Case in point: the recent fan-made independent film, Star Trek: Horizon, made with Kickstarter funds on a budget of $22,600. This film not only displays commitment and dedication, but a love for the franchise and the expansive universe and ideals that it has set forth over the past 50 years.
Horizon picks up some of the plot threads left dangling from the early demise of Star Trek: Enterprise – the 5th (6th, if you count The Animated Series) and most recent television series. The film puts the viewer right in the middle of the Earth-Romulan War. Throughout its 102 minutes of running time, the movie takes on the challenge of building upon several elements of established canon (wrapping up the Temporal Cold War from Enterprise, acknowledging the future destruction of Romulus from Star Trek ’09, depicting the mysterious and long-extinct Iconians, and laying a foundation for the formation of the Federation), as well as establishing all new characters and a new crew.
The story revolves around the crew of the Starship Discovery (NX-04). The ship and crew sustain heavy damages and casualties in order to secure the safety of a Romulan defector, T’Mar (Callie Bussell). They are quickly sent back out into action in order to stop the Romulans from constructing a potentially war-ending weapon that is being constructed a mere 2 lightyears from Earth.
The plot is straightforward enough at this point; however time travel shenanigans soon ensue, taking the Discovery into the future and to a mysterious planet that is unimaginably far away from the Milky Way Galaxy. The planet is empty apart from an ancient monument from the long-dead Iconian race. I don’t want to spoil too much (if you haven’t seen the film yet, it is available in its entirety on YouTube), but it is then up to the crew to discover the connection between this planet and the Romulan weapon, unravel the secrets behind the death of the ancient Iconian race, put an end to the Temporal Cold War, and ultimately change the course of the Earth-Romulan War. Suffice it to say, they have a lot on their plate.
Does Horizon succeed in juggling all of these plot threads, all while establishing and developing its characters? Yes and no.
At times it felt evident that the film is a low-budget production. The acting could be hit or miss depending on the scene and some of the dialogue was clunky and exposition heavy. As described above, the plot is incredibly ambitious; it almost needs a prerequisite to be well-versed and up-to-date in your Star Trek mythology. That is by no means a bad thing, but because of this, it seemed that character exploration and development took a back seat at times. I particularly expected more from the character of T’Mar, the Romulan Defector. The story set up an interesting conflict between her and the main crew, stemming from inherent prejudices from the war as well as resentment from what they sacrificed to save her. Despite some interesting scenes exploring this, I don’t think it was as fleshed out as it could have been.
As mentioned above, the film was made on a budget of little more than $22,000. With that in mind, it’s rather amazing that it presents the degree of quality that it does. Horizon was shot almost entirely in front of a green screen and thus was filmed with a type of softened lens effect to better blend the actors into their backgrounds. While I’m sure this could be jarring to some, I didn’t mind it too much. Given the budget, in my opinion, the special effects, art direction, aesthetic, and cinematography were incredibly well done.
The external shots of starships and space battles looked great, but I was especially impressed with the attention to detail and use of effects on the surface of the planet and inside of the ancient Iconian monument.
Horizon relies heavily on action – starship battles and shootouts were featured prominently – however there were a number of dialogue scenes that effectively set the tone for the film and provided development for the characters. While some characters felt underdeveloped, the film did a good job of characterizing and exploring the relationship between Captain Harrison Hawk (Paul Lang) and the temporal agent, Lieutenant Amelia Yarris (Jeannine Thompson). Plot-wise, I particularly enjoyed the scenes of the crew putting together the pieces in the greater puzzle of which they are a part, as well as various dialogues that questioned and explored the ideals and themes of the Federation and Star Trek as a whole.
“Who we are – what we are…we should never lose that.”
Flaws and all, I definitely enjoyed watching Horizon. The effort is commendable and the ambition of the cast, crew, and film’s creator, Tommy Kraft, should be applauded. It has received favorable reviews from sources such as TrekMovie and TrekNews and seems to have left a positive impression among the general Star Trek fanbase. If you’re a fan, be sure to give Horizon a shot, and while you’re at it, check out the creator’s new short film project, Runaway, currently raising money on Kickstarter.