I try not to give too much away and speak mainly in general terms regarding events and plot developments in the movie so as not to present outright Spoilers, but be warned, as you may learn more about what happens in it than you care to if you haven’t seen it yet.
In the interest of full disclosure I should point out upfront that I ended up being a donor to this project late in its development, after the picture lock was already complete and the sound score done as well.
Star Trek – Horizon Review: An Engaging Fan Film, and a Remarkable Achievement
By – Carl Lawrence
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars
I still recall a couple of years back, shortly after the first scene of this movie was released on YouTube in order to continue raising funds to complete the project, my saying that it was fairly impressive, but that it didn’t come across as a Trek movie or episode due to its exclusive focus on aliens in its opening. As a prologue to the movie it works however, by putting the viewer in touch with the race that utilizes a doomsday weapon built by their enemy. We get a brief feel for these people and the dire costs of their struggle.
Beyond this point we’re introduced to the crew of the NX-04 Discovery, a ship virtually identical to the one captained by Jonathan Archer in the TV series Enterprise, which this film is an intended follow-up to, with nods and Easter eggs paying homage to it peppered throughout its one hour and forty-three minute running time. It’s not a slave to that series however, and stands as a pretty solid entry in its own right. Its characters are likeable, their dedication to their mission and each other admirable. Where it falls a bit short however is in the relative trust placed in a new addition to the crew who there is little to no reason to have faith in despite her sounding believable. Bigotry toward her by one member of the senior staff is a minor subplot, and there is a resolution to it, but a lot more could and perhaps should have been made of this aspect of the story. It should also be noted that if you’re an ardent fan of the original Star Trek TV series from fifty years ago, as I am, this particular plot point and the alien character it revolves around especially may stand to seriously irk you because it presents numerous problems in relation to “Balance of Terror” and what was established there about the Romulans and their interacting with humans, and the bigotry angle is also prominently and very similarly on display in that classic episode of the television show. I, however, already look at the events depicted in Enterprise as occurrences in a closely related though parallel universe, separate and apart from the Prime timeline seen in the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. There’s simply no choice when taking into account all the inconsistencies posed by the events seen in Enterprise. With that as an accepted given on my part, Horizon is a more easily acceptable entry into Trek lore as well. It may not be officially recognized as canon, but stands well enough on its own as a standalone story nevertheless.
More could have also been made of the ultimate doomsday weapon introduced at the beginning of the story, but this is a fan film, so expectations should be tempered by this realization. That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable ride despite that limitation, and the principal villain probably should have been given a little more screen time, with his …departure from the scene also seeming a bit clipped and short on footage (I do think that filmmaker Tommy Kraft wished he had more filmed footage to work with there, but was forced to make do with what was shot), but again, when taking into account that this is a fan film, it works to the extent it needs to, and rounds out the plot well enough overall. (Yes, you could call this grading on a curve I suppose.)
I also found myself liking Captain Hawke and the actor who played him more than I expected to, and the supporting players that are his crew generally weren’t bad either. There are places the acting seems a little stiff and probably would have benefited from another take or two, but for the most part the performances are at least competent.
The writing could have benefited from a revision or two, however. Kraft has a tendency of using dialogue to state the obvious. There’s a point in the film where a landing party beams down to a planet to investigate, and one of the characters comments following what it is they encounter that it’s “ominous.” There are a few instances like that in the film which stand out.
Many people will find the cinematic style distasteful and annoying; the camera gradually rocks back and forth ever so slightly throughout the movie, which didn’t seem necessary to me, although I suspected filmmaker Kraft wanted viewers to actually feel as though they were watching something set in space aboard a ship, but what kills this impression is that it’s also done in scenes that don’t take place aboard the Discovery, back on Earth, as well as on an alien world. It’s also shot very darkly, with a hazy, muted look encompassing everything surrounding the characters. It takes a while and some effort to look beyond these deliberate style choices which were utilized to help conceal the fact that virtually all of this film was shot using CGI sets and overlays. If you can look past it however, the ride is worth the time. God knows the Syfy Channel routinely aired first-run productions on Saturday nights that were far, far worse than what is seen here. I’d also much rather sit down and watch a television movie like this than wasting my time on the likes of a Sharknado or Tremors broadcast because not only is it not half bad, at least it’s Trek. I have my issues with Star Trek: Enterprise as a TV series, but I still liked and could stomach that show more than Star Trek Voyager, despite its screw-up’s and inconsistencies with preexisting Trek canon, which its writers and showrunners should have paid closer attention to, but this movie actually makes me like this particular universe more than not, and as a fan film that’s a rather remarkable accomplishment in its own right. What Tommy Kraft has done here, along with some help from Eric Henry and a mostly more competent group of actors than one might expect is nothing short of extraordinary, and if you’re nothing but a naysayer in relation to it, let’s see you do better.
There are a lot of Star Trek fan films out there, and some are decent and enjoyable, whereas others seem hardly worth the bother. Star Trek Continues does an admirable job of trying to stay true and pay tribute to the spirit of the original series, but in a sense that’s also one of its trappings because it hasn’t and perhaps can’t present action battle sequences on par with those produced for Horizon. The original series had its own technical and budgetary limitations inherent to its era, and as such “Balance of Terror” is the closest example that could be cited as comparable, and as yet Star Trek Continues hasn’t produced such an episode or sequence, and perhaps its brain trust, Vic Mignona, feels that they can’t for practical reasons, or that it wouldn’t be appropriate, but Tommy Kraft had no such worries or concerns, and the result is a blast.
You can watch Star Trek Horizon online at this link.