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