First mentioned in the classic Star Trek episode “Balance of Terror,” the 22nd-century Earth-Romulan War has been established as one of the seminal events of Trek’s future history. However, the details of this important conflict remain largely a mystery. Some elements were established in Star Trek: Enterprise, but the series was canceled in 2005 before it could fulfill fan hopes of fully connecting to this important bit of Trek history. Paramount did commission a script for a film focused on the Romulan War written by Band of Brothers scribe Erik Jendresen in 2006, but the project never got out of the development phase.
So the Earth-Romulan War remains an enigmatic and largely unexplored period in Star Trek’s official canon, making it ripe territory for non-canonical exploration. Into that territory comes the 2020 fan film, The Romulan War (Part I). Conceived by Writer/Producer/Director Mark Naccarato as a homage to the World War II documentaries he watched with his family as a child, The Romulan War (Part I) details the first stirrings of conflict between the Earth Starfleet and an enemy whom they have never seen face-to-face, and whose name they don’t even know.
Presented in the format of a 24th-century historical documentary, Naccarato’s film looks back on how “The Age of Archer” collapsed into a war that threatened to split apart the alliances the captain had worked so hard to establish. Befitting the style, it comes complete with interviews from experts, mixed in with recreations and historical footage from the conflict itself. The Romulan War mixes footage from several science fiction shows and films (including Enterprise, Deep Space Nine, the J.J. Abrams Trek films, Babylon 5, and Battlestar Galactica) with real-life news footage digitally altered to contain Trekkian elements, as well as new actor footage and a metric ton of spaceship scenes created by veteran fan CGI artist Samuel Cockings.
The documentary format brings with it both benefits and difficulties. The story of the war is well-established with excellent voice-over narration and interviews with characters reflecting on that time. Where many fan films struggle to portray a coherent plot, the documentary approach makes that fairly straight-forward. But the historical distance and the lack of character interactions make the whole thing feel emotionally distant and impersonal.
The script sprinkles in Trek canon references liberally, from Captain Styles to the Starship Archon, and many more in between. Fans of history will also recognize how elements of the war mirror real-world events, adding an element of realism to the film.
By and large, the acting is solid, with standouts including Mark Harriman as the narrator, Katherine Morgan as Hannah Cochrane, and Ethan Jones as Brandon Chambers. Two scenery-chewing performances by Rob Wilds as the Romulan Admiral Kovallus and Marc Mazzone as Praetor D’Deridex are amusing and engaging, while other actors perform about on par for an average fan film.
Samuel Cockings is well-known in the fan community as a talented CGI artist and the co-host of the popular TrekYards video series on YouTube. Just in space scenes alone, The Romulan War (Part I) has close to 200 CGI shots in it, and the vast majority of them are impressive. Spacecraft, space stations, planets, and nebulae fill the screen with color and action, with many new ship designs. Some shots contain dozens of elements, all combined with skill. A few maneuvers look awkward, and a couple of close-ups reveal segmentation on the models, but these do little to detract from the impressiveness of the visual effects.
Likewise, greenscreen sets are well-used, though there are a number of scenes where the motion tracking is a little off, betraying their low-budget origins. The music is freshly composed for this series by Adam Mullen, and it does the job well.
The Romulan War (Part I) is a well-conceived and competently-executed fan production that accomplishes its goal of bringing a WWII documentary style of filmmaking to a neglected area of Trek History. Some of the performances rise above typical fan film quality, and the effects are often quite cool. The film tells a strategic story, not a personal story, and as such can feel emotionally distant at times, but for fans hungry for a history set in the days after Enterprise’s fourth season, it may well do the trick.
Watch The Romulan War (Part I)
Campaign for Part II
The 24-minute film was initially privately funded by Naccarato, who shot several scenes on his own dime before launching an Indiegogo campaign that eventually netted a little over $13,000 for the production. A second Indiegogo campaign was recently launched to help fund Part 2 of the story. The campaign seeks to raise $10,000 and will wrap up at the end of January.
More Romulan War
We will have an interview with Mark Naccarato coming up soon with more details on the making of the film as well as what he has in store for Part II.
In the meantime, you can check out the official site theromulanwar.com. which includes more content, including comic book stories and the “War Stories” audio drama. You can also follow along with progress at The Romulan War YouTube channel and the official Facebook Page.
Keep up with the news and analysis of Star Trek fan productions at TrekMovie.com.