Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Coming Over the Horizon

When I first heard of Star Trek: Horizon I approached it with some trepidation. Fan projects are great, they keep the dream alive but the only decent ones are set in The Original Series because of cost, right?

Not strictly true. Since I started Some Kind of Star Trek in 2012 I've had to hit a fast learning curve to catch up on the multitude of fan films and series that are scattered across the plains of the internet. Some are great, some are OK and there are others which I can never unsee. It could  be said that the stronger offerings are those from the original show's era; Phase II, Continues, Starship Exeter and Farragut immediately spring to mind. The trouble is that there are a lot of others which tread outside of that "inexpensive" territory. A good deal of those shows which attempt to sit in the later eras of Picard, Sisko and Janeway rely on a vast amount of green-screen and CGI wizardry to fill in the backgrounds (sometimes the plot) and save a lot of money on producing hi-tech sets. This leads to varying levels of quality which can adversely affect the result whether or not the script and the acting are any good.

When I got asked to take a look over Horizon I already knew of its existence (see April's Blagger's Guide) but very little else.

At present the team have a Kickstarter fund which has now been fulfilled to help them complete the movie. Targeted for $10,000, Horizon has doubled that amount thanks to 366 backers.  But there's more to this project than just looking for money to get the job done. I sat down to watch the trailer and opening teaser scene and was shocked. Utterly shocked. 

I had visions of 1980's Atari graphics, poor acting and a certain "cheap" feel to the show as well as lasting about 20 seconds into the trailer before turning it off. What I can say is that I made it all the way through that trailer and the opening scene with ease. I wanted to see more. 

If this is a teaser of what's to come then this could be a great movie. Oh - and did I mention that it's set in the Archer era?!

Yep, I'll just direct you to read that line again; the time just after Enterprise. That has to be one of Horizon's unique selling points since very few projects will ever choose to use the least popular time period from Star Trek as their setting. I was never a super-fan of Enterprise but for once I wanted to see more. 

Taking us into the heart of the Romulan War and aboard the NX Class Discovery, this movie will allow us to see the fledgling Coalition of Planets seeking out any way they can to gain the upper hand in the conflict.

The accompanying website gives a decent level of background to the cast and crew who will be working on Horizon. Covering background crew and cast as well as links to a rather impressive range of video blogs documenting the project's progress as well as the teaser trailer. They haven't been idle either in coming forward as there are a large number of articles where project commander Tommy Kraft has been actively promoting this new episode in the Star Trek universe. All well and good but is this just all show? Is there any substance behind this great display of energy and enthusiasm? We know the money is there at least so what are fans getting?

Said Tommy Kraft shortly before the completion of the Kickstarter funding:
"We're in the final hours of our Kickstarter campaign and I couldn't be more excited about everything that's been happening with the project. We're approximately 60% of the way through principal photography and our Kickstarter campaign has garnered nearly 200% of our original $10,000 goal. Big things are in store for Horizon and I can't wait to share some of the latest work we've been doing."

Let's first turn our attention to the trailer. Running at just over one minute it won't remove a lot of time from your day and it'll certainly give you a taste of the bigger vision. Taking dialogue from the opening scene, the sequence has us in the melancholy of remembrance for comrades lost in the Romulan War while also treating us to damage and destruction on board the Discovery. It's short and aside from glimpsing the key characters, some fleeting shots of environments and a gorgeous flypast of the ship there's still much to be answered. The music framing the trailer is very reflective of Battlestar Galactica and I suspect that that show may have had a fair share of influence on the feel of the end result.

But the story doesn't stop there. The Horizon team have also provided us with the titillating opening scene.

These six minutes don't feature anything to do with Starfleet and instead sets up the plot, talks about exactly what Horizon is and also puts a face to the never-before-seen Iconians mentioned previously in Contagion and To the Death. It's a wonderful scene which evokes a sense of Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome through the graphics (yep, seriously seeing an influence here). The two actors involved here give no suggestion that this is all a computer simulation in their interactions and it has to be one of the smoothest combinations yet. I just hope that this is maintained for the upcoming feature production. Nothing really gets given away in these six minutes - but you'll probably work out the main plot point at least!

I did get a bit of a sense of Stargate through the physical form of the Horizon but then it all goes planet-killing which wasn't quite what I expected. My earlier note on the feel of Battlestar Galactica definitely stands here - this is a much more gritty entry into the franchise universe than Enterprise ever was (although it could have been for year five). These guys are producing some top level animation with pretty good quality acting which is rare within the fan production community. OK, so we've only been privvy to a fairly explosive trailer and a few minutes of footage that doesn't show any of the cast who are featured on the website so I'm more than ready to play this cautiously. The test of the tape will come when we start to see complete scenes from later in the story and how the ensemble handle the material.

With funding complete, work can continue in earnest to finish this project. I'm staying on the fence for a while here because so far we've not seen a lot of meat. There's lots of tempting morsels but nothing substantial to dig in to and critique. What we do have seems solid and at least on a par with some of the bigger budget and more well-known films and series that exist. I hope that Horizon in the very least does ignite some more passion for the Archer era of Star Trek. Enterprise was definitively cut short but here we have a group of fans who are trying to expand on that clipped story, to tell an aspect of the narrative that we could have seen if there had ever been a fifth season.

We will be keeping in touch with our new friends over at Horizon to get the latest info on their work and will be reviewing the finished product as soon as it's released.

You can find out more on Star Trek: Horizon by going to their website HERE

All images courtesy of Star Trek: Horizon

What do you think to this new chapter in the Star Trek fan universe? Let us know below!

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