Studio: Screen Media
Director: Ian Truitner
Writer: Ian Truitner
Producer: Hayley Helmreich, Matthew S. Gore
Stars: Sunny Mabrey, Lance Broadway, T.J. Hoban, Christian Pitre, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Ursula Mills, Weetus Cren, Michael Nouri
Genetically modified humans on a deep space retrieval mission uncover a conspiracy regarding the dead crew of a derelict ship.
NOTE: “Beyond the Trek” was previously titled “Teleios” and goes by “Deep Space” in the UK.
Low-budget movies fighting for attention in the crowded DTV world often massage their artwork or their titles to echo a more popular property. Sometimes they outright ape the original in a shameless attempt to mislead consumers. Mockbusters from The Asylum are a repeat offender. You also get piggybackers who will time the release of something called “Paranormal Mummy” (not an actual movie that I know of… yet) with Universal’s Tom Cruise vehicle or some similar cash grab situation.
So I can’t feign naivety as to why “Teleios” was renamed “Beyond the Trek” for its home video release in the United States. Of course the Powers That Be want the seed planted, no matter how slim it may be, that the film bears some direct or indirect relation/resemblance to Gene Roddenberry’s juggernaut. But it is such a shortsightedly desperate strategy for instant recognition, speculation suggests it may do more to alienate audiences than attract them. Fonts don’t fool true trekkers or trekkies. Filmgoers with no interest in exploring the Final Frontier have even less reason to care.
“Teleios” would have been best left to survive on its own merits. Releasing it as “Beyond the Trek” puts a bad taste in a potential viewer’s mouth by being insultingly obvious about what it hopes to rip off. And this film deserves better than to be dismissed for misapplied marketing tactics. (Insert standard disclaimer that filmmakers rarely have anything to do with such decisions. This generally comes from the distribution end.)
Anyway, “Teleios,” I mean “Beyond the Trek” (ugh), concerns the crew of the formerly titular starship. Five humans genetically modified before birth to be ‘perfect’ people have been assigned to retrieve the cargo of a derelict spacecraft. They’ve been told that the ship is carrying a carbon compound capable of repairing Earth’s decaying atmosphere. What they find instead are a reprogrammed robot and one single human, the sole survivors of a vicious mutiny that killed everyone aboard.
Unfortunately for the quintet crew of Teleios, the man they just rescued isn’t talking. Even more unfortunately, something strange is happening where each of these supposedly perfect humans is suddenly experiencing increased emotional instability, forgetfulness, or inexplicable physical shakes. Whatever is really going on, everyone is now Geordi La Forge visor-deep (sorry) in a mystery where their very survival is at stake.
For good or for bad, “Beyond the Trek” is reminiscent of the syndicated sci-fi TV boom in the 1990s. That’s bad if you expect theatrical film scope full of action and spectacle. That’s good if you still have nostalgia for the smaller scale style of shows such as “Andromeda” or “Earth: Final Conflict.”
Forget about what it looks like now. I watched “Babylon 5” when it originally aired and back then it was just as jarring to see a tiny Sun Valley soundstage standing in for a five mile-long space station. Ignore aesthetics however, just as one has to do with the original “Star Trek” nowadays, and audiences will still discover some truly great science-fiction.
Other than the “truly great” part, “Beyond the Trek” is in a similar circumstance. Granted, more than 20 years has passed since the heyday of syndicated sci-fi, so it’s harder to argue overlooking lower production values based on an outdated scale. But “Beyond the Trek” is no worse, and in many cases better, than the aforementioned programs in terms of its costumes, sets, CGI, and overall look. Slip it into the schedule between “Time Trax” and “Sliders,” you might consider it the superior show.
That said, “Beyond the Trek” isn’t a 1997 TV series. It’s a 2017 feature film. As buttoned-up as the effort is for small budget sci-fi, its story isn’t particularly exciting.
“Beyond the Trek” focuses on an intimate mystery that is explored primarily through conversations taking place entirely inside the ship. In that respect, the movie really is like a lesser, more talkative episode of “Battlestar Galactica” or “The Next Generation” without any space battles and only limited corridor conflicts involving phaser fire.
Also in keeping with syndicated sci-fi standards, the cast is more photogenic than they are exceptional performers. Sunny Mabrey holds her own well enough as Teleios’ first officer, who is essentially the main character. Though Lance Broadway is out of place as her unconvincing commander with little to show for his authority aside from handsome headshot hair. Ursula Mills plays an android in the most clichéd manner possible: staring blankly, moving rigidly, and speaking robotically. A little more creativity here would go a long way.
That sentiment holds true for the movie as a whole. Writer/director Ian Truitner wrings a lot of outer space atmosphere from a really restricted production. What Truitner could have used is another action setpiece or two to elevate everything to a level that isn’t simply cerebral. Tricks like alternating axis tilts on each shot to simulate gravity fluctuations, while probably nauseating for some, are inventive on the technical side of things. With its focus on interpersonal interactions, the script doesn’t always mirror the same cinematic energy.
Should you not care about details like Nerf guns painted to look like futuristic pulse rifles, “Beyond the Trek” has contemplative appeal as a reflective exploration of humanity as a theme. That might understandably be too tame of an enticement to give the film a try. In which case, you’d be better off going straight beyond this trek to the real thing.
Review Score: 55