Greetings from the edge!
This week we’ll be looking at the new sci-fi endeavor, Beyond the Trek, a tale of genetic modification and artificial humans set against the backdrop of a deep space recovery mission. Starring Sunny Mabrey as Iris Duncan and Weetus Cren as Travis O’Neill. The movie begins with a timeline text crawl explaining the background and setting up the gene-modded characters we’ll be following.
The film opens on the revival of the Teleios’s crew being awakened from nearly three years of hibernation sleep. Ian Truitner does a good job of using obviously limited resources to set the feel of the Teleios. Dutch angles are used to create a feeling of artificial gravity, and if I had a criticism it would be perhaps they are overused a bit much in the opening scene, making me a little motion sick.
It takes a minute to realize that our actors are being intentionally flat to go with their characters’ gene-stabilized personalty modifications, a point that will become significant later in the film. It’s actually nice for once to have a justification as to why an entire crew is seemingly made up of models. In fact, it’s cleverly used over the course of the film to distinguish gene-modified humans from us poor, regular folk. Not a big deal, but it makes a nice visual cue and automatically creates a dichotomy between the characters.
Let me take a moment to talk about the special effects in Beyond the Trek. Yes, the obvious budgetary restrictions show through, but I was happy to see that practical effects and set design are given precedence to simply sloping everything in bad CGI. If you go in expecting something in line with a good episode of The Outer Limits or a middling Star Trek episode, you won’t be disappointed. The aesthetics have obviously taken cues from Star Trek: TNG and I also see influences of older British sci-fi like Blake’s 7. If you need to have the flashiest CGI effects, this might not be the movie for you. But if, like me, you grew up with television sci-fi, it might just make you nostalgic, which I get the feeling is intentional on the director’s part.
I did get at least one good chuckle out of Beyond the Trek that I think is worth mentioning: when Mykel Shannon Jenkins as Doctor Orson is called on to inspect the atmosphere mining station’s artificial person ( or Art in the films parlance ) Lulu for unauthorized modifications. Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it. Happily, it also gets a plot significant call back at the end of the film.
We soon learn that, besides Lulu, there is only a single survivor on the atmosphere mining station Atromitos ( Greek for fearless ) seemingly locked in a uncommunicative near catatonic state. Soon after boarding the Atromitos, the crew of the Teleios begin to exhibit first human foibles and then down right aberrant behavior.
From there, we begin a descent into discovery and disillusionment as both the crew of the Teleios and O’Neill clash over the mysterious cargo our gene-modified humans have been sent to retrieve. It seems that it may not be the carbon stabilizing compound needed to repair Earth’s deteriorating atmosphere as they have been told. After word reaches them of a crisis breaking out on Earth affecting all gene-modified humans, the situation shifts from bad to worse and lines are drawn and crossed that become the crux of the film.
The reach of Beyond the Trek may well exceed its grasp, but I think it definitely does have something to offer sci-fi fans out there. If you love The Outer Limits, Star Trek, or more recent television sci-fi fare like Killjoys or Dark Matter, I think you may well enjoy Beyond the Trek. The acting is not always the best, the special effects may not be top of the line, and the plot isn’t without flaws and holes, but if this genre is your cup of tea, you could do far worse. I will tell you this: if I was given the option of watching Beyond the Trek or Alien: Covenant again, I’d choose Beyond the Trek hands down every time. I’m hoping that we may see more from Mr. Truitner in the future. So if you’re in the mood to take a chance, give this little independent a try. It just might pleasantly surprise you.
Nerdy Speculation Corner: Warning, may contain both spoilers and dangerous amounts of geekery!
Ian Truitner was obviously heavily influenced by the Star Trek canon when writing and directing Beyond the Trek. I would suppose that Beyond the Trek is actually set during the genetically modified humans rebellion on Earth that leads to Ricardo Montalbán’s excellent Khan Noonien Singh character from the original series and my personal favorite Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. I might just be reading too much into a series of coincidences, but I’d love to hear from Mr. Truitner if that was indeed his intention.
Next week, we’ll see if the 2015 sci-fi romance The Answer is worth asking the question. See you there, my friends!