With all the “big” fan films out there—veteran Trek actors, 5 and 6-figure budgets, top-notch FX, meticulous sets and costumes, dozens of cast and production crew—sometimes it’s amazing what four young people (well, young to me, I’m almost 50!) can do with just a Sony Digital 8 video camera, a store-bought Star Trek: The Next Generation movie uniform, two action figures, a toy phaser and tricorder, a bit of green paint, and some magnificent scenic rock formations.
I refer to a one-shot 10-minute fan film from 2010 titled Star Trek: Survivor, written, produced, directed, and starred in by Matthew Blackburn. Joining Matthew was his friend and co-star Daniel McIntyre. Also on the production team were wife Katie Blackburn, who served as a camera operator along with doing make-up and effects, and Paul Blackburn (not sure of his relation), who was the grip.
This short film was created with almost no budget using the spectacular southern California outdoor shooting locations of Vasquez Rocks (a frequent filming site for Star Trek television episodes and feature films) and the Mojave Desert National Preserve. As such, no sets needed to be constructed, saving a lot of time and money. Also, Matthew composed and recorded his own music, a blend of both eerie and suspenseful background cues.
Okay, this is where you, the reader, get to choose your path: NO SPOILERS or SPOILERS. First, the no-spoiler version…
The “survivor” is a Starfleet commander, marooned on a desert planet without food, water, or shelter. But it turns out he is not alone, and the needs of the many might just outweigh the needs of this injured officer.
And now, the SPOILER VERSION (WARNING!!! WARNING!!! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!!!)
The idea for this short film is simple but really quite cool, and it overcomes the cheap ’n cheesy elements of the production (you’ll see them when you watch…just deal with them).
This lone Starfleet officer is the only survivor of a battle with the Romulans. Hiking, climbing, and even crawling to a higher elevation, he manages to send a signal into space and must wait to be rescued. But can he last? Nearly passing out from heatstroke and starvation, suffering hallucinations from some tainted water, the officer is attacked by an alien creature but rescued at the last moment before losing consciousness.
He awakens in a cave. His savior? A Vulcan survivor of another Romulan assault who has critical information about Romulan battle plans to attack the Federation, starting with Vulcan. He is also marooned, but he has some food. The Starfleet officer is injured and hungry and expects that the Vulcan will share. He refuses. A Vulcan survey ship will return to the planet in three months and rescue him, but he does not have enough food to sustain both of them for that long.
Because the Vulcan is the one with the critical information and greater chance of survival, it is only logical that he not share his food or supplies. Moreover, there is a risk that, in the desperation of hunger, the human officer will attack and kill the Vulcan. The only reason the Vulcan rescued the commander at all was to see if he had a spacecraft and a means of escape. But he doesn’t. It is therefore logical that the Vulcan kill the Starfleet officer as quickly as possible.
Yikes!!! The darker side of Vulcan logic…and not your typical Star Trek! This is the true strength of fan films, despite budgetary limitations of the camerawork, sound, lighting, make-up, and unavoidable use of action figures in several scenes. None of that is necessary with a decent and intriguing plot.
Star Trek: Survivor is set shortly after the tenth Star Trek film Nemesis (or so I assume based on something that happens at the end). There is no website for this short fan film, but you can view it here:
Matthew Blackburn initially posted that if he got 20,000 views, he’d make a sequel. Currently, he’s up to just over 10,000. So if you like Star Trek: Survivor, tell your friends. And think about posting a comment on his YouTube page. Even the seemingly shortest and simplest fan films still take a LOT of work to make.