An Astronaut Travels Light Years to Find a Lost Colony in This Moving Sci-Fi Short

The Emissary filmmaker Bryan Tan wrote, directed, and created the entire spaceship set in his parents' basement.

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A solo astronaut speaks into a transmitter as a blue planet looms beyond her ship's front windows.
“Anybody home?”
Screenshot: YouTube

What would it take for you to leave your whole life behind and set off into the stars in search of a mystery from the past? Bryan Tan’s short film The Emissary explores the lonely journey of an astronaut who decides the risk is worth it.

In 2257, a group fled the oppressions of Earth in search of a better life—but they chose as their destination the moons surrounding an uncharted gas giant, and were never heard from again. Forty years later, determined scientist Liv (Viviana Chavez) launches a solo search party, to the consternation of her partner, who feels abandoned. She gets it, but her quest is so important she’s come to terms with it being probably a “suicide mission.” What will she find?

As her (unanswered) radio messages become more frustrated and forceful, Liv tries to keep her focus on the mission—there’s a survival routine to keep up with, after all—but it’s rough being alone out there. We also learn something about her that explains why she volunteered to travel all those light years to find people who’re seemingly content to stay hidden.

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In The Emissary’s comments on the Dust YouTube page, Tan introduced himself as “the writer-director of The Emissary and the guy crazy enough to build the space ship set in my parent’s basement,” which is wild. (Considering how nearly the entire 20-minute film takes place aboard that compact spaceship, the fact that the short feels so expansive and dynamic is an accomplishment.) As for that ambiguous ending, Tan noted that he hopes to expand the story one day, though “it will take a lot more resources to tell the full story than what we had available to do this short.”

What do you think awaited Liv at the end of The Emissary? Would you like to see more of her story? Tell us in the comments!

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