Warp Factor Trek

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When I was eleven years old, a school friend of mine (who could “borrow” his dad’s Super 8 mm film camera) and I would make short films. They were mostly stop-motion or animated films. However, we had one big, grand plan: to make our own episode of Star Trek.

I remember building sets out of cardboard in his garage, doing the designs out of markers and crayons. However, we never completed the project. I believe he got in trouble with his parents (was it because he stole one of his dad’s cigars so we could try it out?), and we stopped playing after school. The project died, and he kept all the films we made; his parents paid for the film and the developing, so I guess they had first rights to them.

What am I getting at? Haven’t we all dreamed of making our own Star Trek film or episode? Just once, right? Come on, don’t deny it. We all would love to have had the chance to create our own film with your own characters and adventures.

Well, I know one particular person who fulfilled that dream. His name is Tommy Kraft and his film is Star Trek: Horizon. Released on YouTube on 26 February 2016, now with over fourteen million views, this movie is considered one of the best fan-made Star Trek films of all time.

(Full disclosure: I was one of those who, after viewing the trailer for the film before it was completed, made a cash contribution to the making of the film. You can find my name on the list of the many, many contributors to the financing of this movie. I did get a Blu-Ray, and a CD of the soundtrack, for my contribution.)

The story involves the captain and crew of the NX-04 Discovery (a “sister ship” of the NX-01 Enterprise) and takes place during the Romulan War. The captain of the NX-04 is Harrison Hawke, a tough-minded captain who is put into situations he is not prepared for, and neither is his crew.

Captain Hawke (TK2 Films)

(Full disclosure number two: whenever there is a Facebook question of “Who’s your favorite Star Trek captain?” I have, at times, listed Captain Harrison Hawke. And the actor who plays him in the movie is Paul Lang, someone I have followed for a number of years on Facebook and consider a good friend. We bald guys need to stick together!)

250,000 years ago, the Iconians developed a weapon so powerful that they had to hide it from their enemy, the Arioui. Fast forward to March 31, 2160, when the story of the NX-04 Discovery begins. We see an exciting fight at the rings of Saturn, with three Romulan warbirds. Discovery is damaged, Enterprise comes to the rescue, and off we go! Tommy includes elements from Enterprise in the story: the Temporal War, Future Guy (who might be a Romulan from the 28th century named “Daekon”), a time-travel rift that sends Discovery to a distant planet, a time-travel agent from the 31st century named “Amelia”, and so on. The movie ends with Discovery and Enterprise preparing to go to the Battle of Cheron, which is something we had always wanted to see. If you want to find out all the elements of the story, please watch it yourself. I highly recommend doing so.

So, what drove Tommy to make an hour-and-forty-plus-minute movie? In an interview, he said:

My depression started in 2012, not long before I began working on Horizon. Enterprise, the character of Captain Archer, and working on the film served as huge inspiration and passions for me that helped guide me through that initial episode and find some ways to cope. There was also this huge religious de-conversion to atheism involved that was one of the best things that happened to me. Captain Archer, always the explorer, inspired me to explore beyond my fundamentalist Christian upbringing, and what I found – basically, science; I found that I have a huge passion for it – changed my life for the better in a lot of ways.

For under US$30,000, Tommy wrote, directed, made the costumes, was director of photography, creating all the sets and images on his computer, and the soundtrack as well. The film used fifteen actors, ten 3D modelers, five boom operators, three Rotoscope techs, and one grip. Props were provided by TK2 Films. Compared to the lists of special effects artists and crews that make big budget films, this is incredible!

The NX-class Discovery (TK2 Films)

It’d been many years since I had watched the film, and seeing it again, I am amazed at the quality of the story, the computer effects, and the quality of actors whom (I believe) did this for free. And this film was shot entirely in front of a green screen, much like the big budget film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

In April 2016, Tommy was approached by CBS and advised not to make his next film, a follow-up to Horizon named “Federation Rising”, which might have covered the Battle Of Cheron.

I’ve been in contact with Tommy on Facebook and have always wished him the best in his endeavors. I wish that the folks at CBS/Viacom had the wisdom to hire this filmmaker and that they’d given him the chance and resources to make his follow-up film. I know there are more young filmmakers making their own Star Trek movies out there, and if Tommy’s work inspires them in their endeavors, congratulations. Who knows what the next eleven-year-old filmmaker is planning?! I wish them luck (and no cigars.…)

Star Trek: Horizon is available to watch on YouTube now.

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