After a successful Kickstarter in 2014 (they more than doubled their $10,000 target by taking in $22,600), writer/director Tommy Kraft and his team have finally delivered a fan film that’s pretty darned good. Their backer community had been a bit worried with the delays (the original release date had been set for December of 2014), but it would seem the wait was well worth it.
It’s no mean feat to manage to create a 102-minute long feature film that’s basically entirely green screen on a less than shoestring budget (think a fan-level version of what was done with Battlestar: Galactica – Blood & Chrome, right down to the camera motion). So on a technical level alone they deserve some mad props, and is likely one of the key reasons for it’s extended delay.
The film is set in the era of Star Trek: Enterprise, with the NX-01 even putting in a brief cameo, but it’s the NX-04, the Discovery, and her crew is the primary focus of the story. If you’re not a fan of the long-running Temporal Cold-War story arc of Enterprise, then this might not be the particular film for you, but don’t tune out quite yet.
The film opens with a prologue 250,000 years earlier, during the last moments of a war between the Arioui and the Iconians. Some of the last remaining Iconians manage to Stargate away a planet with a massively powerful weapon and hide it from the Arioui, who, it is implied would have used it to rule or destroy the rest of the galaxy. The planet’s name is Horizon, and those last Arioui keep it hidden, lest it fall into the wrong hands.
Jumping forward to the present, we meet up with the Discovery in a running battle with a trio of Romulan Warbirds. The Discovery has a newly discovered Romulan defector, T’mar (Callie Bussell) on board and the chasing Warbirds want her back – dead or alive.
After an all-too narrow escape it is found that T’mar is a wealth of tactical knowledge and revels that the Romulans are building a weapon of mass destruction. Thus the stage is set, and the Discovery is set out to find out the truth of what the Romulans are up to and to prevent them from gaining an upper hand in the war.
There’s a lot of story packed into this film, and from a narrative point of view, it’s well constructed and flows well. Various elements from Star Trek: Enterprise imbues it with an honest feeling of being part of that universe without being forced. The outsider’s-battle-to-be-accepted trope in the case of T’mar was decently handled, and gave that almost underlying morality story that so many good Trek tales often possess. Picking up story elements from other parts of the Trek canon (the Iconians and their mythos having started back in Next Generation‘s episode “Contagion” also shows that they didn’t just pull the storyline out of a hat.
As with many independent productions, the acting is uneven, and at times a touch cringey. There are also some moments of dialogue that could have been better crafted (the amount of stop and talk in the midst of a gun battle in Discovery’s engineering was a bit askew). However, there’s other times when the acting is perfectly solid – such as some quiet moments between Lieutenant Amelia Yaris (Jeannine Thompson) and Captain Harrison Hawke (Paul Lang) that were really good. The Romulan characters were well cast, between Bussel and Ryan Husk as Admiral Verak.
It’s easy to poke at the foibles of a low budget film, however it must be reminded that, it’s a low budget film. Yup, the fit on the costumes was rough, some of the makeup work, also rough. Some of the effects, especially around the person-to-person phaser battles were also by no means perfect. If you want to compare it’s effects and production quality to Blood & Chrome, that’s fine, but you’re comparing a three million dollar budget to twenty thousand. Give creating a single SFX track-around shot like Horizon has by yourself, and then naysayers can cast stones.
But perfection isn’t really what one should look for in these films or episodes. Does it hold to the tradition of the style of Star Trek in which they set their story? Does it flow well and make sense, both in and of itself, as well as part of the wider canon? Do you have a good time watching it? For those later questions, Horizons does so admirably. I’ve watched a number of productions over the past year where I had to fast forward through one scene or another because it felt just plain bad; this isn’t one of those projects. In fact I really hope that Kraft and his team continue to explore other stories and projects as there’s some real production skill to be found among them.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
I really liked this production. The SFX is definitely above and beyond the call of duty. They have achieved some fantastic cinematography which is highly unusual in any of the fan films I have seen so far. I found it hard to believe that a lot of sets were CGI. ….that’s a lot of bang for you buck!
Am I the first? Back to something constructive: I just hope CBS doesn’t sue them like Axanar
They won’t. Axanar got sued for pulling some shenanigans that most fan productions know better then to try. As long as they abide by the rules, there won’t be problems for the average fan production.
1) Axanar raised $100,000 using the Trek IP without permission.
2) The Axanar team then paid themselves a salary with some of that money.
3) The Axanar team then used some of that money to build a sound stage that they stated they planned to rent for profit.
Number 1 isn’t usually an issue as long as as all of the money is being invested in the project, and no PROFIT is being made. Numbers 2 and 3 are where the problem starts.
Regarding #2: no, it is NOT wrong for a non profit organization to have paid employees. Organizations like the Red Cross are examples of non profits with paid employees.
However(and this is the key point), if you don’t actually work for the Red Cross, you can’t print off their logos, then go down to the mall and raise money, then keep some of that money to pay yourself. You cannot profit yourself using the Red Cross brand without their express permission. Likewise, you cannot profit yourself using the Trek brand without the IP owner’s express permission, which Axanar did not have.
The same logic described above also applies to issue #3 above. They cannot use funds raised by using the Trek IP without permission, then use those funds to build something that will then make them a profit.
Thompson is a slow on the uptake sometimes. Bear with him.
The current organization which operates as Paramount is only 9 years old so it’s a little difficult to make such blanket statements of cause based on a basically nil track record of past fan litigation there.
Old Paramount, most of whose employees that were not fired in the 2006 split and its aftermath are on the CBS payroll, has a fan litigation record history the preponderance of which does not reflect your assertion of only instigating on the basis of fans’ “shenanigans.”
However, shenanigans or not, I suspect the Paramount/CBS response to Peters last motion to greatly clear up more specifically what their concerns are.
Well, they presumably haven’t pocked donated funds for their own salaries, or built themselves a film studio using money obtained from infringing on CBS’s and Paramount’s IP, nor are they selling products like coffee. So I’m sure they’re fine.
I don’t really dislike that, tho, even if CBS does. If they are devoting years of their lives to making the film, I see no reason not to budget their living expenses. When you donate to a guy making video games you know part of that is so he can eat and pay the rent while he works. None of this can be done in your spare time. Making a feature length film is time consuming.
I keep hearing “studio”, yet the only things official that I can find, is a “sound stage”. Which makes sense to build one, rather than rent one. Got any proof that it’s actually a studio?
“Well, they presumably haven’t pocked donated funds for their own salaries, or built themselves a film studio using money obtained from infringing on CBS’s and Paramount’s IP, nor are they selling products like coffee.” — Dandru
An erroneous presumption on your part as other fan productions and activities over the years have and do sell unlicensed products infringing on CBS’ Trademarks and copyrights. And then there’s the questionable tactic of trying to mask sales as: if you donate this, then we will give you that quid pro quo when none of the operations have the tax status to claim this activity as non-profit “fundraising”. As for how they spend their donated funds, other fan productions don’t make their ledgers and books public so it is a presumption born from lack of data rather than known fact.
For the record, I have never been moved to send Peters any funds. And while I believe him to have several character flaws [I mean he ADMITS to having a law degree!], I don’t find them any worse than those I find in Brad Grey and Les Moonves. Which is why I believe in a courtroom all three are evenly matched and it’s anybody’s guess what the legal fallout will be for each and all of them once the smoke clears which is what makes i this courtroom drama fascinating to me. CBS/Paramount have all that it takes to ultimately win the battle, but the toll it takes in exposing things that they’d rather not have public on the way to getting there may be greater than either anticipated and likewise for Peters.
“A therapist I once went to said I have a very strong sense of justice and that, combined with my willing to speak my mind, would make some people very uncomfortable. ;-)” — Alec Peters aka Loken; March 27, 2012
Do you just cut and paste from the I Stand With CBS FB page, or can you actually think for yourself?
It was well done, a great effort and nice to see a fan film in the Romulan War, a time period of Trek I’ve always wanted to know more about since seeing a photo of a Daedalus class starship.
I thought it was the last of the Iconians who hid Horizon.
Great movie! I hope the next big budget film can give fans as much to think about!
I agree this film was well done for the budget and while yeah there are some moments that make you realize that [thinking od the fire fight in the engine room…] a huge portion of the movie felt like a great episode of Star Trek. Well done over all and I really hope they make another!
I thought they weren’t supposed to know what Romulans look like.
They get around that by her having been surgically altered to appear human, part of her reason to defect.
But that doesn’t explain why she wouldn’t discuss it with anyone. I would think that would be one of the first questions asked of her upon her defection. For the most part I enjoyed the fan film, but this was one massive elephant in the room.
The story itself was ok but not all plot points flowed clearly. Visually much of it was very well done, but the constant “glow” lighting was distracting. My suspicion is that it was used to soften the look of the CGI so it would blend in better with the live action.
Enterprise is already an alternate universe created by the events of First Contact. They make this explicit with the Temporal Cold War arc and especially the Xindi arc because Crewman Daniels keeps talking about how none of these events happened in the history he knows. The NX-01 is already way more advanced than the ships Spock described Earth having during the Romulan War. So Enterprise really has no obligation to exactly line up with the rest of Star Trek. In fact, the only thing Enterprise related material really needs to be consistent with is the Bad Robot movies.
My point is that even if this film showed humans interacting with normal unaltered pointed-eared Romulans, it wouldn’t be out of canon while still not invalidating “Balance of Terror”.
Awesome — I don’t consider it and Voyager part of my personal canon since both shows were so bad — now you give me a valid reason to say that for Enterprise! Thanks
No problem. I’m glad to help anyone reevaluate Enterprise. I never thought it was bad, in fact I thought season 4 had some of the strongest episodes Star Trek as a whole had ever done. I’ve been developing this “Enterprise was an alternate timeline” theory for a while now, and in much greater detail, not because I wanted to make a bad show palatable for me, but because that’s just what it is. Other people have made similar observations. That’s how it fits into the canon for me and it doesn’t matter what my opinion on the quality of the show is, it just plain is an alternate timeline, just like the Bad Robot movies.
If we want to get extra sweaty nerdy then we can say that there has not been a Prime Timeline since the BEGINING of First Contact. In the Timeline A. Cochrane invented warp drive and made first contact with the Vulcans. Timeline B begins when the Borg go back and destroy the Phoenix changing the timeline. Timeline C begins when Picard and company go back and destroy the Borg and “restore” the timeline by “helping” Cochrane with the Phoenix launch and first contact with the Vulcans. So Enterprise-through Voyager are in an Alternate Prime Time Line. LOL That is until Abrams Trek Time Line starts with destruction of Kelvin. So the new Trek series COULD technically take place in the original time line.
More like ever since the fourth episode, THE NAKED TIME, when they went back in time 71 hours and presumably most definitely didn’t relive them exactly as what originally transpired.
“If you want to compare it’s effects” – How do you “compare it is effects”? What does that even mean? Or did you mean “If you want to compare its effects”, meaning the effects belonging to it?
That was well done! I liked it!
This is a truly impressive labor of love.
Well I guess I clicked the wrong thing because I ended up watching some atrocious German Knight Rider/Star Trek hybrid. Unique anyway. But twenty minutes Ill never get back…
A very good movie. The shaking camera was annoying but you forget about it as it all develops. A VERY well done to all involved!!! Better than ‘Nemesis’? I think so but what do you all think?
This was definitely one of the better fan films out there. I didn’t know the Iconians could build Stargates that could transport whole planets! Makes the Ori supergate look puny by comparison!
I think they had help from Hadden Industries
Not liking the 2.35 to 1 resolution at all. Sheesh, some of these fan productions do the silly 1:33:1, and now we have cinemascope ulta-widescreen on this Horizons production for a movie 99% of people will watch on their 16×9 HD monitors and TV’s.
I wish these fan productions would just stop trying to be so clever with the aspect ratio. Give us the 16×9 HD standard resolution on all productions please. We are not being fooled into thinking you are David Lean and are producing 70mm films here. SHEESH!!!!
Dude chill. Aspect ratio is the Directors choice. Its not cinemascope or trying to be 70mm. Look at Star Wars, and many Star Trek movies. They are all shot in the same aspect ratio. This is a movie not a show. Maybe learn more about these aspect ratio’s and why directors choose them before you get all negative comment about them.
Lol – those are productions that originate in movie theaters, which have native 2.35:1 wide screens. This is production direct to Internet – 99% of the market has 16×9 aspect-based. Apples and oranges, dude.
Also, what is with the muddied air look on all of the scenes? If they have another Kickstarter, let’s all pitch in buy them some dehumidifies and air cleaners for the set. They are possibly risking a OCEA fine working with air quality that bad. Looks like Bejing air on a starship?
And they stole their stargaze engine from the wormhole device used on the movie Contact.
Way too much criticism for a minor aspect (no pun intended) of the production. It looked fine on my monitor, that’s all that matters to me.
Overall, one of the better fan productions to date. I wish I had known about the Kickstarter so I could have chipped in.
Visuals were stunning and the acting had the most consistent level so far.
Wormhole machine from Contact:
I was never a fan of Enterprise, but I watched this and enjoyed it. I wouldn’t criticize it in anyway. The uniforms fit terribly, but even in the feature films the fit of the maroon monsters around the turtleneck undershirt was always wildly uneven. Star Trek hasn’t even been known for great Starfleet Uniforms.
But, I thought in the TOS era that the physical appearance of the Romulans was unknown until that famous view-screen shot.
why, you’re right, sargon!
Great! Another Trek movie about war and destruction, how original and Trek-like!
This looks great! I hope CBS allows it to fly.
I’m sorry, and bless those that made it, but I couldn’t get past the first 20 minutes and it wasn’t the acting, which was fine. That “Blood and Chrome” soft focus look doesn’t do much for me. It actually made me not want to continue looking at it. And I do love me some talky Trek but there was a bit too much exposition without enough explanation for me. I didn’t really get the whole Romulan in disguise bit. Sort of came out of nowhere and the explanation wasn’t very clear.
I realize it’s totally not fair to offer any sort of critique on something I did not finish but I thought perhaps that was a valid point.
Or I just suck.
I enjoyed this one very much. It was quite nice seeing a fan production made outside of the TOS realm. Considering none of ST: Enterprise’s sets survived, it is rather maddening wondering how this crew was able to utilize the sets so seamlessly (yes, I know green screen technology… still, it makes one wonder).
Horizon was well made and has an intriguing story and I recommend it highly.