Star Trek Horizon is a fan film set in the era of Star Trek: Enterprise. Work on the project took about 3 years and has been described as a love letter to the Enterprise show that went before her time. Back in November we got a chance to chat with Tommy Kraft from Star Trek Horizon and you can find the interview here. Now that the film has been released and after having a chance to watch it I was really impressed with it. And you can watch it to on youtube here. I mean it’s not that it’s flawless, but as far as fan films go, Star Trek Horizon is a shining example of what a fan film ought to be. I was particularly impressed with the story and the acting. Special effects were also very excellent.
Star Trek Horizon: Trailer #1
I really enjoyed the plot and it was a far better send off to the show than the Enterprise final “These Are the Voyages…” It starts with a battle scene between the out matched NX-04 Discovery and several Romulan Bird of Preys in the Earth solar system. Discovery has information about a Romulan secret weapon of devastating power being built just outside of the solar system. With this information a task force is put together to remove this threat on Starfleet’s doorstep consisting of Enterprise, Discovery, and some Vulcan vessels. In the desperate battle that ensues, Discovery lands the final death blow on the Romulan station but there is more to it. The station was just the tip of the iceberg.
It is eventually discovered that the station was relaying power from another location. Disturbingly it is discovered that an agent from the future has been manipulating events, giving the Romulans access to awesome powers that are centuries beyond them to help them in the war with Starfleet. Despite temporal tampering, the crew of Discovery finds a way to set things right, destroying the weapon and taking care of the temporal interloper for good.
The plot with Horizon is what sets it apart from most fan films out there as it’s really good and flows from one part to another. Horizon actually makes you forget you’re watching a fan film, and that’s how you know its good. There have been a lot of Star Trek fan films out there, even some with veteran Star Trek actors but they never really pulled this off (cough cough, Star Trek Renegades) . It was Horizon’s superior storytelling and how all the pieces fit together that pulled this immersion off and it’s what makes it so enjoyable to watch.
The only complaints I’d lodge against the plot are ones that can be found with the Enterprise show in general: the frequent use of transporters, too much being known about the Romulans, to name a few. But since this was the mood of the show I can’t say I really blame Horizon for it. Hey it works for the era they’re in, I guess. Despite these cannon problems Horizon actually did an excellent job of having face-to-face time between the Discovery crew and a Romulan antagonist. Due to his “Balance of Terror” style helmet, his Vulcan like features were hidden. The crew had conversations with him and never knew his people shared common ancestry with another founding member of the federation, the Vulcans. This was a really clever way of having the characters share a scene together and I have to give the makers of Horizon props for it. As an Original Series fan this means a lot.
Some more solid critiques of the film are only slightly more severe. I don’t think the story was helped by the idea of having a Romulan defector deliver the intelligence about the weapon. I also didn’t care for the plot point of having her surgically altered to appear human just to avoid anyone in Starfleet seeing a Romulan and breaking canon. She could’ve have just have easily been a third party alien as proir collaborator or something like that. It’s just a little too hard to swallow considering the no contact precedent already established between Starfleet and Romulas. I also found it a little odd that Discovery was calling the shots in the battle to destroy the Romulan weapon when Enterprise was with her, especially when it is established that Archer is still in command and he has seniority. It just doesn’t make sense and falls in to the trope of having a fan film stars out shinning the show that they making a film for. Having another NX class ship instead of Enterprise or having Archer otherwise disposed would’ve been cool; promotion would’ve been a nice idea. Besides, I think after building four of those NX class ships they ain’t prototypes anymore, but I digress. Maybe a little more progression from the Enterprise show was missing. These are only small nitpicks of an otherwise excellent story but as being a plot-Nazi, I had to get those little nuggets out there.
As far as acting is concerned it’s actually pretty good. At times the film struggles to grasp the characters’ personalities and they don’t really come off as distinct as they should but acting isn’t the blame. It’s more due to the writing of the lines than the actors themselves. But this shouldn’t be surprising as this is one of the hardest things to pull off for any show, not just fan films (cough cough Star Wars prequels). Often times you’ll have characters saying exactly what happen instead of their lines injecting a characters personality of their own on it.
One scene in particular exemplifies this is where the Romulan villain disappears via a transporter and the Captain just say “where did he go?” Instead of him literally saying what happened it may have been better for him to say something a little more specific to what a character might say. Imagine for example putting Archer, Tucker, or T’Pol in the same situation and they would’ve reacted differently with what they said. It’s in the lines and the dialogue that characters are defined and this is throwing the ball to the actors. If it’s a good pitch, they can hit it out of park. What worries me is that viewers often confuse acting with writing. I’m afraid they may reject the performances expecting it to be something like what they see on television. The scenes and character interactions aren’t quite ready for the big leagues yet but are still far better than a lot of other fan films. There is no shame in this though, as just about every other show in their first season struggles with this problem. But in the case of Star Trek Horizon, the acting is pretty good when you take this into consideration.
Now that I think of it, I actually liked the acting, especially when compared with fan films or even indie films in general. Ignoring some of the dialogue, the actors did a great job. Paul Lang as Captain Harrison Hawk has some real charisma that hints at some grit just underneath the surface, perfect for an action film. I would’ve loved to have seen Captain Hawk as a little more martial though. And his chemistry with costar Jeannine Thompson is nice to see; I love their interactions. Marc Bowers as the XO has some real stage presence in his own right. I also had some fondness for Tom McClure as the Security Chief. He seemed to have some personality on his own, it just came naturally. Lastly, all of the Romulans were done excellently. Coming off with just the right amount of smugness and over confidence. The final villain in particular was especially well done. You could just sense the bile and hatred for Starfleet oozing out of him, loved it.
Lets just say Star Trek Horizon looks awesome. The outer space battles look fantastic and getting to see the NX-01 in action one last time is wonderful. Even getting a few close in shots of the name Discovery being painted on the hull is a nice treat. The other Vulcan and Romulan ships are done nicely and their maneuvers are what you’d expect to find in action scenes. When you’re watching the space battles you have to remind yourself that this isn’t a professional show because its hard to tell as it looks that good.
The interior shots may not be for everyone, but the look actually grew on me. It looks like a hybrid approach was used for the set, partially building objects in the foreground while doing the rest of the back ground with special effects (i.e. green screen). This has two effects; it kinda makes for static shots of scenes, and makes it all look a little off or weird. Wel, at least if you expect television level of set pieces that is but it isn’t all that bad in my opinion. To lessen this, everything as a soft glow or fuzz to it that actually grew on me, gave it a nostalgic look. It kinda stylizes the look of the film and unifies it all together.
Despite the limitations of static shots from background replacement, Horizon counters this by striving very hard at having movement in its scenes. Though much of the film is zoomed very close or shot statically to minimize the special effects work needed. There are still quite a few scenes of movement and panning shots, people walking down corridors and across scenes to help this along. This really makes Horizon stand out among other fan films who had back grounds that were done by a programmer instead of a carpenter to save money. Horizon looks much better doing it because of the resourcefulness of their team. I have to give a nod of respect to the technique and ambition to the special effects.
Sound and music are often the unsung heroes of television and Horizon has these in spades as well. Everything sounds great from doors opening to mysterious alien tech sounding the way it should. Music feels appropriate for the scenes and sounds a lot like season 4 of Enterprise. The subtle component of audio is in attendance for Horizon and feels perfect.
Star Trek Horizon is an excellent fan film and should stand as an example of how a fan film should be made. It hits way above its weight class because of its story, acting, special effects, and sound. If their where awards for fan film, they’d be walking away with arm loads of them. Though at times the dialogue leaves the characters a little too bland and poorly defined, this is understandable. It’s one of the hardest things of making a show. Despite this, enough of the core elements of the characters remain to make you forget this is just a fan film at times. The story more than makes up for it and moves you along from start to finish with little down time between. At the end of the day this stands as worthy tribute to abruptly ended Star Trek Enterprise, one that fans of the show would enjoy and should give a look. Star Trek Horizon easily ranks as one of the better fan films out there, keeping deserved company with Star Trek Continues and the Prelude to Axanar short. If you like Star Trek Enterprise or Star Trek fan films in general, give this one a try.
Have you watched Horizon yet? What did you think? Sound off below.