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Review of "Star Trek Horizon" by Bernd


Star Trek Horizon

250,000 years ago: The Iconians are at war with the Arioui, who want to destroy the far-flung interstellar alliance. After a devastating attack on their homeworld two Iconians transfer a planet-sized Arioui weapon of mass destruction named "Horizon" out of our galaxy in order to save their people from total destruction. In the year 2160: The Starship Discovery NX-04, commanded by Captain Harrison Hawke, is chased by Romulan ships. Aboard the Discovery is a surgically altered Romulan defector, T'mar, whom the Romulans strive to retrieve or kill at all cost. Captain Hawke can hold off the Romulans inside Saturn's rings until Enterprise arrives with firing phase cannons. Several crew members of the Discovery, however, lose their lives, including Lt. Amelia Yaris who Captain Hawke is in love with. The Discovery is quickly repaired to respond to a new Romulan threat, a weapon of mass destruction located merely two light years from Earth. Together with Enterprise and a Vulcan fleet the ship sets off to destroy this weapon. It is not yet known at this time that the Romulans, who don't have the technology in the 22nd century, receive their plans and orders from a time traveler from the future. As the fleet approaches the weapon, they get caught in massive gravimetric distortions and they are attacked by Romulan ships. The Disocovery destroys the weapon using tricobalt torpedoes, with the unexpected side effect that the ship is pulled into a subspace tear and ends up thousands of light years outside the Milky Way Galaxy, in orbit of a planet that appears to be the origin of the gravimetric distortions. Hawke beams down with two officers and finds out that this is the planet with the Arioui weapon Horizon that the two Iconians transferred off the galaxy. The Iconians, however, were killed by automated defense drones. Inside the massive structure that emits the gravimetric distortions the three run into the person who currently controls the weapon - a Romulan from the 28th century who wants to take revenge for the destruction of his home planet in the 24th century. The three officers escape and are beamed back up to the Discovery. Time is pressing as the weapon is recharging for its attack on Earth. Hawke activates a device that he previously found hidden in a wall after dreaming of it, and to his big surprise Amelia Yaris appears. She is actually a temporal agent from the 31st century who was assigned to the Discovery. Yaris recognizes that the Romulan named Daekon is the last combatant of the Temporal Cold War that was raging until five years ago. Together with Hawke and Security Chief Samuels she beams down to the structure to stop Daekon. But Daekon, who can scan time, has already been waiting for them. He escapes and is about to activate Horizon, protected by the drones. First Officer Jackson Gates takes the Discovery down to the tower and disables the drones. In the hope of being able to use an Iconian portal before blowing up the tower, Yaris volunteers to stay behind, while the Discovery recreates the subspace tear in order to return home. Back at the battle site in the 22nd century, the Discovery aids the surviving ships of the fleet. It also turns out that Yaris could escape but she has to tell Hawke that she can't stay with him.

The golden age of Star Trek fan films began in the year 2004 when it was clear that the fifth official live-action series, Star Trek Enterprise, wouldn't be renewed for a fifth season. Several new fan film series were launched with the silent approval of Paramount/CBS in the following years, with an ever increasing level of professionalism in writing, acting and production values. While most of those series are set in the timeline of TOS (with two of them even using the iconic characters of TOS), there has never been a notable effort to recreate the world of Star Trek Enterprise. In light of this omission it is laudable that finally someone takes on the fifth Star Trek series that met harsh and sometimes unfair criticism (including from me) during its four-year run. It is a special pleasure to watch "Star Trek Horizon" just because it leaves the beaten track of fan films. Kudos to the creator of "Star Trek Horizon", Tommy Kraft, for taking on this project in the first place!

"Star Trek Horizon" presents itself as a homage to Star Trek Enterprise, a fan film in the best sense, and perhaps more so than other productions of its kind. For some other fan films such a self-conception didn't bode well, and they turned out to be re-enactments that tell always the same stories of TOS all over again. Fortunately "Star Trek Horizon" is more than that. Story-wise it continues the history of the 22nd century, leading us into the Earth-Romulan War. It nicely wraps up the Temporal Cold War, and the identity of "Future Guy" from Star Trek Enterprise is revealed. It also shows a new stage of the relations between Vulcans and humans in the Coalition of Planets. "Star Trek Horizon" does a wonderful job to establish its setting without a long exposition. It also largely remains true to Star Trek's canon and takes only a few small liberties (overall not more than the official series that it is based on).

On a further note on the political connotations, I like the inclusion of the Iconians (although or just because they are a bit too human for an ancient civilization). Their allegedly ruthless regime may have been a peaceful interstellar alliance much like the Federation, but then its history was retroactively "corrected" by the Arioui.

On the downside, Horizon is yet another instance in Star Trek of a supervillain the fulfillment of whose life is to destroy Earth. Daekon is nothing more than Nero II (or Shinzon III if you will), and as such a character that can't possibly become credible or in any way interesting. I wish Daekon had been omitted from the film altogether, or had been given a wholly different motivation. Perhaps he could have been a descendant of the Arioui, the race that built the weapon and that is absent from the episode. Overall, however, the revelation why Daekon wants to destroy Earth is the only bummer in an overall exciting story.

"Star Trek Horizon" comes with great ideas not only in the overall story but also in the details. It is a nice touch to see the crew of the Discovery in a private home and in civilian clothes, something that we could see too rarely in the official Star Trek (except perhaps DS9). I also like how Captain Hawke tends to the damaged transporter in the middle of the night, to give his people a head start.

I like the directing. It always finds the right pace and the right camera angles. All actors are doing a good job. No one really stands out, but no one strikes me as a fan in uniform either. "Star Trek Horizon" can do without big names among the cast, and I am happy with that. There are some instances of fan films that boast about their guest stars as if their mere inclusion were the most important quality mark of a fan film. On the other hand, I have to admit I would have liked to see someone of the Enterprise crew at least in a brief cameo.

The look and feel of "Star Trek Horizon" is a mixed bag. I like the variety of sets created for Horizon. The numerous visual effects are very good, although the Discovery doesn't look quite as good as Enterprise NX-01 did in the official show. I am not quite content with some instances of overexposure, both in live action and in CG scenes (the Discovery occasionally shines like a light bulb) . Even though it could be realistic depending on the lighting situation, I think overexposure should be used with more caution. And this takes me to another, probably more obvious complaint: the lens flares. I don't think it is a good idea to rely so much on Abramsverse aesthetics in a film that strives to celebrate Star Trek Enterprise. Besides the lens flares we have also got the typical fluttering sound of the engines as only Abramsverse ships have it. Overall, "Star Trek Horizon" could have used some more visual and aural coherence.

One more thing to annotate is the image quality. I watched the film in 1080p, but most of the time it didn't feel like HD. The majority of the live action scenes are rather blurry. But large portions of the image are defocussed even in scenes with little motion, beyond a reasonable usage of depth of field. I can only guess that there was either a problem to capture scenes with often rather dim studio light (as in some other fan films too), or the limited depth of field was intentionally used to conceal incomplete sets. It may seem like a minor point, but I found myself squinting quite often while watching Horizon. The only scenes that I remember as really crisp (besides the not-so-busy ones among the computer generated images) are the ones on location, in the house on the lake.

Overall, "Star Trek Horizon" may not be quite perfect but it brings much more excitement than the fan episodes that I am used to, and all this in a setting that has long been undeservedly unpopular among the makers of fan films. Eight points for one and a half very enjoyable hours!

Rating: 8


Last modified: 28 Sep 2021