Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Delivery from Doomsday: The Official Starships Collection Special Edition - The Planet Killer

One of the franchise’s most iconic alien spacecraft has unexpectedly joined the Official Starships Collection.

Rocking in at 22cm in length, the Planet Killer from Star Trek’s brilliant The Doomsday Machine is initially an odd choice to supersize as part of the specials but there is a twist to the tale here.

The very shape of this one is odd to start with and Eaglemoss haven’t taken the easy route by simply making it symmetrical along the centre vertical axis which could have been enticing. Instead the shape and surface is uneven, angular and twisted just as we saw in the classic 1967 episode. The rear third of the craft is metal while the front two-thirds are plastic and separated into an upper and lower half - with good reason!

Aligning this to the original was potentially easier since I would expect the CG renderings for the remastered The Original Series would be the prime source to get this one screen accurate. The larger scale definitely benefits the contorted shape of the Planet Killer as does the point that this is 100% decal clean, finished only by the mottled blue/white/grey paintwork. The painting is totally different with the combination of colours creating a sort of organic/metallic feel that resembles the finished craft onscreen and gives the sensation of depth to the otherwise smooth, stepped hull. It's also a very crisp and clean paint job with no screaming errors and fantastic consistency.

This covers the whole thing so you might feel the price tag is a bit steep for something that is a very simple (but well executed) design. Yet this one does pack a unique feature which illustrates that Eaglemoss are thinking outside the box just as they did with the glow in the dark USS Defiant as part of the bonus editions series. 

Hidden under a well camouflaged and magnetically closed panel is a small battery compartment which takes two SL41 watch-style batteries. Fitting is a little fiddly with you needing to unscrew the top of the internal compartment and then push the batteries in and then cram back into the gap for the unit.

Fitted back into the Planet Killer, there’s a little push button which activated an LED bulb set at the back of the craft’s open maw. This illuminates the interior space and does, quite literally, bring the ship to life. The bulb is a dead simple solution very well inserted into this distinctive ship design and does escalate it beyond the usual standard of models. The interior of the maw is also an inset rippled plastic piece which gives a rather cool visual effect that makes this feel as close to the original design as can be. The inset does stand a little proud of the rest of the hull but that doesn't detract from the visual power of the light effect.

The lighting effect is decent but not overpoweringly bright, giving off enough light to illuminate the cavernous mouth of the Planet Killer and it looks ace. Certainly it’s one of the simplest models from all strands of the collection although not as basic as the Fesarius since there’s a worn, uneven and angular hull that gives that awesome look.

For display the craft sits atop a double cupped cradle which doesn’t offer anything in the way of support l, more providing an aesthetic display than ensuring it won’t be maw-planting the carpet/wood floor/quarry tiles in the coming weeks. Make sure it’s on a deep shelf would be my suggestion!

The special edition magazine has a lot of CG images newly created and also from the remastered episode. The model shots from the original episode are conspicuous by their absence and it’s not sitting well that the original vision of Star Trek seems to have been cast aside in favour of the updated versions from only a few years back. 

Covering the episode, the magazine relates the events surrounding the encounter with the Planet Killer as well as views of the craft to compare to the "real" thing. The rest of the pages are turned over to discussing the development of The Doomsday Machine episode from the mind of Norman Spinrad plus some side notes on how he nearly contributed to Star Trek beyond The Original Series. It's fairly standard background information and is kept very relevant to the model it's packaged with.

The Planet Killer is perhaps not the most inspiring model to arrive and for some it may seem overpriced especially as it's a special rather than a regular issue. That said, the larger scale has allowed the welcome inclusion of the lighting element which makes a big impact when used and gives a more impressive feel to the end result. 

A rare chance to get hold of a decent scale model of this creation and definitely one you should go for.

The Planet Killer is available now at selected retailers and online via the Eaglemoss shop RRP £29.99

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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Life-Changers: Awaiting Picard...

The clock is ticking and we are months away from the next chapter in the seemingly ever-expanding Star Trek Universe; Picard.

Truly a first in name and also in revisiting a character from a previous Star Trek series, Picard may well break from a lot of the norms we come to expect from the franchise but what else...?

Now we could bash on about how much Nemesis and the events following (destruction of Romulus) will be the pivot and launch point from which Jean-Luc's life will have changed but what about the other years of Picard's life? What other events significantly changed the course of his life? Might these also have an influence on the coming seasons of Picard? Let's head right in with my selection from the annals of Star Trek.

1. Heart to Heart

Samaritan Snare introduced us to the fact that Jean-Luc's ticker wasn't the one he was born with. Tapestry expanded on this event even showing us what would have happened if he'd played it safe. Will the former captain have received a further replacement? Is his artificial heart working at its best? What risks will Picard be willing to take?

2. Command of the Stargazer

Picard wasn't even first officer of the ship when he was forced to take command following the death of the ship’s captain. One minute he's a senior officer and the next he's on the next step to becoming a legend and one of Starfleet's most revered commanders. Picard was in the chair of the Stargazer for 22 years and the new show could explore the repercussions of some of the events from that period or maybe from the intervening eight years until he stepped aboard the Enterprise-D. Stargazer was a huge part of his career and will have influenced the style of captain Jean-Luc became. Also the new show could give us some canon facts about what he was up to between abandoning the Stargazer and taking command of the D. 

3. I am Locutus of Borg

If there's a defining moment of Jean-Luc Picard's life that would be revisited again and again it would be this - the arrival of the Borg in the Alpha Quadrant. Without dragging its influence on the franchise into the matter, Picard's life was changed irrevocably by his rape by the Borg to the point where his single-mindedness nearly cost the lives of his crew in First Contact. While Janeway, Tuvok and Torres would be assimilated on purpose in Voyager, this was a brutal assault on his person that could not be simply pushed aside. For the first time in Star Trek there were long term consequences. Expect this to be mentioned at least a couple of times in the upcoming show.

4. Lights

An episode renowned for its incredible acting, Chain of Command, Part II left a scar on Picard that was only briefly touched on in the closing moments of the story as he revealed that he was almost at the point of saying there were five lights just to end the torture. He was almost broken and only saved mere seconds before finally giving in to David Warner's Gul Madred. In Picard will we see Jean-Luc pushed to this limit? Will we see him beyond this point and was the rescue of the Romulan people that limit? Just how has it affected him so profoundly that it causes Picard to walk away from Starfleet?

5. Deaths of Robert and Rene

Generations is a bit of a mess at worst with all the timeline here and there but it also has some chilling sequences too. None more so than the revelation that his brother and nephew were killed in a fire at the Picard vineyard. It made Jean-Luc realise more about his own mortality and also that the family line could end with himself. Might this be a jump-off point to see where Picard's relationships have ended up - did he indeed have any children? Did he marry Beverley as we saw in the possible All Good Things... future?

6. Death of Data

Follow on novels and comics have taken the death - and subsequent resurrection of Data in many different ways but will Picard provide an in-canon answer to whether or not he comes back? Data's death changed the Enterprise dynamic even more for the captain with both Troi and Riker also departing the ship at the end of Nemesis. Data was Picard's protegee who discovered and realised his mortality and that of others (theme here...) in the most final way possible. Could Spiner be bringing him back in B4? Might we see Data's consciousness extracted and placed in a new body allowing a torch passing? Is he the captain of the Enterprise-F?! It would allow Picard to retain something else from The Next Generation since Data was such a large part of the senior staff on the Enterprise....but then could it be another Star Trek alumni that might return...

7. Farpoint Station

Maybe not necessarily Farpoint itself but more the individual we meet on the way there. Q is an event in himself, turning up repeatedly during The Next Generation's run to offer something new to the crew or chastise Picard that little bit more. He started the trial that never ends - which could very well continue - and we never did find out what he was going to whisper in Jean-Luc's ear at the end of All Good Things... did we? Q’s arrival in Star Trek heralded a new kind of foe initially but their relationship wasn’t as cut and dry as that.

Thanks to Q we also encountered the Borg for the first time but more on that topic in a future post!

What other key moments would you include? 

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Monday, 8 July 2019

Mod Squad: Attack Wing's Federation Fighters and Expansion Plus

As part of my continuing addiction to Attack Wing I've been hunting down a reasonably priced Federation Fighter Squadron for some time.

On a random visit to a gaming website I stumbled on a lone expansion pack that wasn't over £40 and was in the UK - essential purchase without question.

One of the earlier waves (11), the Federation Attack Fighters are some of the smallest playable pieces in the game. As usual they come with the standard Attack Wing plastic base and stats base card. The trio of fighters are perched on a little plastic split base and my word are they fragile - I've already had to reset one that came off the stand while I was taking some pics.

The detail on the Peregrine Class ships is admirable for the size of the craft but if you want to really appreciate them, get the Eaglemoss version. These do their job for the game and aren't too badly finiished, You can make out the form of the ships and some panelling and they're certainly better painted than the Enterprise-E was.

With the fighter wings - of which you can also purchase the Scorpion set for the Romulans and the Cardassian Hideki set for the Dominion - they are captainless and see their stats decrease as the battle wages giving them up to five "lives" if you will.

So let's look past the miniature miniatures and get into the numbers that matter. Fighter Squadron Six starts out with an attack role of six dice, zero in defence with one hull and one shield meaning that while they pack a punch out of the box they are extremely fragile. Cleverly each time you "destroy" the fighter wing the stats alter and the skill level decreases meaning the wing becomes less offensive, more defensive and also ends up moving earlier and firing later in the rounds. 

They can be loaded out with three of the unique Fighter upgrades which we'll take a look at shortly as well as boasting the ability to field the Evade and Target Lock Actions with a cost of 24 points.

Now I got these to run more Deep Space Nine scenarios alongside the station, USS Defiant and the IKS Rotarran among others and what makes them an even bigger draw is their effectiveness at range one. These are perfect for getting in close and dangerous with any attack on an enemy ship at that range that results in at least one hull damage incurs a second Damage point straight away. These would almost be worth hanging back until the larger ships have taken down any shields so they can make a final move for the kill.

They're also impressively manoeuvrable, having a top speed of only three but with a full range of turns and crucial 180 spins with no chance of a red in sight. These are tight movers with absolutely no restriction. Amazing.

In the box alongside the usual array of Shield Tokens and the rest we have eight Fighter upgrade cards; four costing three points and four each costing four points and offering a range of different offensive and defensive tactics to outwit your opponent.

Kicking off the three pointers, Defensive Maneuvers can be disabled if you are targeted and gives you the free ability to drop an Evade token next to the squadron whether you have one there or not. It offers the chance for heightened defence which these little gems don't have one point of and will at least increase your life for another round. 

Attack Formation allows you to set one die to your chosen result as long as you're within range one of a friendly ship and is disabled if activated. Again it's a card offering a straight advantage although I'm not sure if this is a benefit to be used early on to ensure crippling damage while you're still pumping out six attack dice or later when your power has been diminished.

Co-ordinated Attack works very similarly to Defensive Maneuvers although it works when you are picking a target and provides a free Battle Stations token even if there's one already in play for the Fighter Squadron. Once more this will be disabled (not Time Tokened although I don't see why you couldn't retro-fit that feature onto these cards) to function in the game and adds a greater chance to cause the required damage. Depending on your stats will definitely determine how this can be used. It guarantees something at least but its going to be down to severity!

Finally on the three pointers we have Tactical Pattern Theta which is, unusually, activated by a dice result rather than it affecting a dice result. Here a Critical Damage hit to an opponent's hull means that the Federation player can assign their opponent either the Weapons Malfunction or Munitions Failure card instead of it being a random result from the Damage Deck. Great for inflicting a serious blow to the enemy and this pushes me more to want to use these as a last wave rather than the first into the fight.

Slightly more costly is Cover Fire - one I would absolutely pack in at the beginning of the game given that it can be discarded to roll the number of defense dice equal to the current Primary Weapon value - certainly going to be a help early on to extend your lifetime on the board.

Attack Wave gets disabled adds an extra attack die to your attack for one round but the disable feature means it's quickly reusable. Squad Leader adds two points to your Captain Skill at the beginning of the Combat Phase and disables any Actions until you can work off the Auxiliary power Token it locks on. If that's not your way, this four point card has a second option in which you can perform the Action from a friendly ship's Captain at up to range two. Likely that you would be looking at someone costly to be utilised for this one. But check the wording - there's no disable, discard or Power Token penalty if you use this second one which means it's well worth four points. This is one you can use in a supporting role again and again and again very speedily.

Squad Leader adds two to your Captain Skill at the start of the Combat Phase meaning that, early on, you may well be firing first. Doing this will incur an Auxiliary Power Token but you can easily wear that off with a bank or straight on move at speeds one or two. Squad Leader can also (alternatively) be used to target a friendly ship at ranges one or two and perform its Captain's Action as a freebie - that's a big advantage and could mean something can be used twice in one round and potentially giving you an extra bit of an advantage.

Last up in this pack is Support Ship which gives you a free life. When the last token and stats are about to be removed this card is removed instead giving you one final last stand. Coupled with some of the ore defensive postures in here this will give you a bit more time to annoy the opposition.

Now we could just end the review of the pack there but we also have the recently released Fighter Squadron Expansion expansion pack. This offers a new set of eight Upgrades plus the chance to change your trio of ships to either Squadron One or Three, each with its own Unique Action.

Now it might be wise to convert the earlier Wave 11 pack over to Time Tokens since some of the new upgrades use this feature and it was brought in to replace the older way of disabling cards. 

As with Squadron Six, One and Three also cost a standard 24 points with the same three Fighter upgrade slots plus the Evade and Target Lock Actions available.  Squadron One has it's action Time Tokened when a discarded Fighter Upgrade is reequipped - so think about this being coupled with Support Ship for instance - could it mean you'll never get eliminated?

Squadron Three has two Time Tokens set in play to perform a Sensor Echo move of Speed One as a Free Action adding another dimension of manoeuvrability to the group of fighters.

For note the generic versions of the squadrons minus their Unique Actions  also lose one Fighter Upgrade slot, have four lives and cost only 20 points.

Now to the upgrades themselves. Rocking in at a rather low cost of one point is Defensive Maneuver Alpha. There are eight words on the card denoting that this squadron blocks attacks on friendly ships - but how? What damage does it take? Where does it need to be? This has to be the most vague card produced for the game in its history - also how many times can it be used? Do you need to disable it? Discard it.........?

Defensive Maneuver Beta is somewhat sacrificial and also will mean that there is a bit of rule interpretation in play. Costing two points and active at just range one you can remove two Attack Squadron Tokens (two lives) to eliminate two Damage results from an attack on a Capital Ship. Now for reference that's any ship with a hull value greater than four. Luckily it's a single use so you can't keep chucking your fighters under the bus for the sake of that Sovereign Class starship.

Also at two points is Flanking Maneuver Delta. A little more complicated it's a two stage activation. Once you've performed a right ot left banking turn you drop on an Auxiliary Power Token and then immediately turn your ships 180 degrees. This actually a rather wonderful move to misstep the opposition and put yourself into a potentially better tactical position. It's a single use discard but I think this could really alter the tide of the fight.

Moving to the three point card quartet, Defensive Maneuvers gives the chance to drop on an Evade token just as you're lined up to be shot at even if you already have one in play. With the fighters you can't have enough defence and this is one that will only be disabled (interesting that this isn't Time Tokened) and so can be reused regularly to keep you in the game.

Leading the three point cards we have Anti-Squadron Barrage. This one is only useful if your opponent is also fielding an Attack Squadron and lets you perform one attack for every two squadron tokens (rounded down) that are still on the ship card. It's a niche move and very useful for one situation only. Defensive Maneuver Theta operates at range one and costs three points too. Discarding this one lets you activate an Evade token besides all ships at close range - good free action for other ships and demonstrates that these are potentially support ships which I would utilise when their lives start to wain.

Third up for the three pointers is Flanking Maneuver Epsilon. Using the Time Token feature of the game, this card lets you perform a Sensor Echo move (speed one) and step out of the way of trouble or into the path of attack. Now it does specify this is after the squadron has moved so it's not one you can hold back to the end of the movement section of the round.

Flanking Attack Omega works at range one and has the higher four point price tag. The benefit here falls to a Capital Ship at range one (four hull points or greater) which can then roll an additional three attack dice. It's a hefty cost considering that the Attack Squadron cannot attack. For five points though you can equip Lead Squadron. 

This one is worth the cost as it activates not one, not two but three features - an additional Squadron upgrade slot, it also adds the Battle Station Action to the expansion and ups the Captain Skill by a further two points. I'd say that this is a crucial card to play with the squadron because of the advantages especially for a more than reasonable five points.

I think the Fighter Squadrons - whichever you choose - are a cool twist on the basics of the game, removing a lot of card variables and limiting their usage. Looking through there are a lot of big positives to utilise the squad since you can extend their life and influence their combat specs significantly. Shame I had to wait a couple of years for this but one that I'm glad has received other options recently and is definitely a first assault weapon, drawing the fire off your larger capital ships. Dropping these in first will weaken an enemy leaving them open to the final strike - but I'd use them early since there's a series of big drops on stats over the course of their lives.

Have you added the Fighter Squadron to your fleet? What are the best combos to use? Let us know in the comments below!

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Sunday, 7 July 2019

Picard's Got a Runner

Michael Chabon will be helming Picard.


Since September he's been a part of the writing team for the upcoming All Access/Amazon Prime show and is also responsible for the Short Trek that now makes a ton more sense, Calypso

Prior to that Chabon is most well-known for his novel work and the fact that he won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001.

But I'm not going to drone on about the past. We now have three live action series with distinct showrunners for each - Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise for Discovery, Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt for the Section 31 show and Chabon for Picard.

This is parallel to the '90's with Rick Berman overseeing Brannon Braga for Enterprise, Jeri Taylor for Voyager and Ira Steven Behr for Deep Space Nine. I would fathom that Kurtzman will work in a similar fashion as the overall controller of the franchise. 

Looking over Chabon's Wikipedia entry (I'm not taking this as gospel), it mentions that his work contains gay, bisexual and Jewish characters a lot of the time which I believe means that we will be seeing more diversity in Star Trek than we have ever experienced before and that's a damn good thing. Chabon's writing looks to suggest that he will strive to be different, edgy and unique - can't wait to see what he's helping to create with Sir Patrick Stewart.

Over on Discovery there's been the suggestion that season three will introduce a character who is not (and I'm hoping I get this right) binary - as in they will not identify as male or female and will represent those persons who wish not to specify gender or wish to be termed as gender neutral.

Certainly Star Trek seems to be responding to this movement a lot more quickly than it did in regards to the LGB community in the 90's which was actually highlighted during the What We Left Behind documentary by Ira Steven Behr. There have been many "attempts" over the years - The Next Generation's The Outcast and Deep Space Nine's Rejoined being the nearest to the mark before the characters of Stamets and Culber on Discovery really smashed the mould.

San Diego Comic-Con promises to reveal a lot more with looks at Discovery, Picard plus Lower Decks and Section 31 all expected at what could be this year's most important panel...

What are your expectations for SDCC? Any predictions?

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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

In the Hands of the Creator: The Official Starships Collection Special Edition: V'Ger

Truly immense; one of the largest craft ever to grace Star Trek - V'Ger.

Created as a vehicle to return the aging Voyager VI probe back to Earth, V'Ger is a huge, daunting and deadly machine with no seeming limit to its abilities or power.

Now in the original The Motion Picture we never actually got to see the whole of the V'Ger structure and were only treated to various parts of it which in turn demonstrated just how flippin' massive the craft was. I for one imagined it as the cloud it is described as and never really considered that there would be a more solid structure residing at the heart of that cloud providing a vessel for the Voyager VI probe.

It would be the 30th anniversary remastered release that would eventually reveal the full extent of Syd Mead's design and it's oddly biological look that would certainly misguide you to think that V'Ger was a creature rather than a machine.

Eaglemoss have wisely decided to release the craft as it appeared in the anniversary edition and not try and box a cloud of space gas and dust - and the resulting Special Edition is magnificent.

Star Trek Online players will immediately recognise the craft from the Borg missions and both this and stories from William Shatner have linked V'Ger to the cybernetic drones since the late 1990's so this model will appeal not just to fans of the movies, but also those who are more recently taking to the franchise in gaming terms too.

Cleverly weighted to the rear which makes displaying it a breeze, V'Ger is amazingly well detailed and possibly the closest to giving a truly organic feel as part of the collection. Stretching in at over 300 million kilometres long, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the surface is going to be cluttered with nuances but the finish on the lengthy model is kept simple and sufficient.

In essence there are three sections to the ship; head, thorax and abdomen. At the front end we have a recessed opening through which the Enterprise began its exploration and the hull sweeps back from this point raised into six ridges that trail back to the six central "wings". The shape is somewhat unique but the inset detail Eaglemoss have included is amazing, Each of the six sides is absolutely identical in this first section wiith the pocked metalwork at the tip of each perfectly painted in. But look closer at the paint itself and you can see the arcs of electrical energy literally running down the hull. It's amazing to see this on the hull and while the first third carries these trails, the second continues them accompanied by a slightly more swirled background pattern of purples and blacks.

This central piece bears a lot more raised detail than the head end. It continues the grandeur and almost cathedralic aspect of V'Ger into the six fins/wings that arc out from the main body. Again the accuracy of the painting here is fantastic alongside the raised "horn" markings and the blue pocked organic/skin styling. It's as though V'Ger itself were displaying its organic origins like a badge. Indeed, I found myself considering it in terms of whales and other large aquatic creatures just because of the shape and scale of this vast spaceship.

While the physical elements embossed into the hull or marked out on the surface are all identical on each of the six sides of the head and thorax sections of V'Ger there are subtle painting differences. Not each side has identical patterning in the same place and there is some variation in the actual top coat which adds to that slightly organic feel. Definitely cudos to Eaglemoss for not just reprocessing the same paint job on every surface here - adds a lot more depth to this fascinating piece.

With the front two thirds being plastic, the back end is rendered in metal which, as noted earlier makes it a lot steadier when it comes to resting V'Ger on its curved base stem. The back end carries a fair bit of weight alongside the continuation of that swirled paint pattern with more of the lighter aqua blue colouring sunk into the lower features of the hull. I think had there been an option to have these glow as with the USS Defiant bonus edition it would have brought V'Ger even more to life. Possibly a trick missed here.

This spherical and subsequently cylindrical section to V'Ger has more of the distinctive electrical energy trails striking along the sides as well as six evenly spaced, prong-edged panels which shroud over the rear propulsion unit.

The detail here isn't neglected either with the rear completed with a six pointed star and a central yellow dome presumably indicating the engine exhaust point. The ship sits nicely on its stand, clipping around the spherical section of the rear third and the balance is spot on thanks to the cleverly weighed construction. Nice one there Eaglemoss. Good thinking.

The magazine certainly makes more of the lighter blue sections and the indication in there would be that these are more organic sections of the craft with a webbed finish to them. The contents of this edition are well worth the read, covering the full design process of V'Ger with innumerable sketches and photos from The Motion Picture as well as Syd Mead's own words on how he came up with the eventual craft. For note, it would only be the later Director's Edition of the first Star Trek movie that would show the true scale of V'Ger from nose to tail.

Mead may have been the man to go to for the exterior of V'Ger but Robert McCall and Doug Turnbull were the ones tasked with imagining what the insides looked like. Again, this is a great section detailing the parts seen by Spock during the flight suit sequence and the parts of V'Ger seen by the Enterprise as it travels to the centre. This whole issue is maxed out with artwork and you can't help but be in awe of the scale that was envisaged for the monstrous spacecraft.

The V'Ger special is just that - special. For once Eaglemoss have managed to create something almost organic while still keeping its alien, ship like qualities in check and truly honouring a classic design from the second damn of Star Trek in the late 1970's. Absolutely love having this one on display because it's so different and it doesn't look too out of place next to the USS Discovery.

Thoroughly recommend this one to long term Star Trek fans as well as those familiar with the ship's appearance in Online. Nicely recreated and some fine work has gone into making this a well-presented piece. Top marks for a special, well deserved.

Loving V'Ger? What ships still deserve the Special treatment?

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Saturday, 29 June 2019

Star Spotting: Larry Nemecek's Stellar Cartography

Now updated to include Discovery, Larry Nemecek's Star Trek Stellar Cartography is back and better than ever.

Comprising of ten A2 maps illustrated by Ian Fullwood, Ali Ries and Geoffrey Mandel and an accompanying book, the collection comes in a swanky fold out tome to keep it all in perfect condition.

There are a couple of oddball ones in here such as the Vulcan interpretation of their home system as well as the Klingon and Romulan empires in their own languages and styles. These three are the more "artistic" of the fold out maps and while they look authentic to their respective civilisations, they do leave you a little miffed as to what is where and why.

Good thing then that this collection also includes a series of maps detailing the Alpha and Beta Quadrants with irascible scrutiny. In fact in the case of a couple of them there's a stupid amount of information to take in that covers all bases from The Original Series right up to the first season of CBS' Discovery. There's also Known Space, the Cardassian Union, the Dominion War and more to pour over.

Each map, be it the rather artsy Vulcan one or the more detailed Federation editions is neatly stored ready for review within the book and is accompanied by an explanation to their creation and interpretation thanks to a slim companion volume which sits dead centre in the impressive presentation box. While each of the maps provides something very different to pour over for hours (especially a certain couple of them), the book backs up just why certain areas look the way they do or the reasons behind the way the civilisations have chosen to display their understanding of the cosmos in various ways.

The clever bit is having the scope to envision just how the Romulans would extrapolate their star systems or how the Vulcans would represent their homeworld and Larry Nemecek has done a sterling job making each one distinctive and memorable. The themes are all very individualistic with the Klingon maps functional and stark contrasting to those smooth curves of the Vulcan images which has an almost musical, sensual feel to it.

That said there are a couple of the maps which are heads above the rest of the content and these are the foldouts which show Federation space and detail events from the past 50 odd years of the franchise, recounting the path of V'Ger, the location of the Mutara Nebula, precisely where USS Constellation was lost to the Planet Killer and even pinpoints The Battle of the Binary Star from the very latest show, Discovery which I think makes this the first piece of behind the scenes literature from the franchise to do so.

The detail on these Federation maps is mind-blowing and I've gone over them more than a couple of times and on each occasion there's been something new I've caught, another route I've uncovered or episode that I've flipped back to and realised how close location-wise it was to another event from a few decades later.

At the centre of this tri-fold behemoth of a work there's a handy, smaller guide which contains page size versions of the maps plus background and explanations around their appearance in galactic history and details on key civilisations featured within.

The work in this book/collection/tome is amazing and there's always something else and another angle to look at it from. Truly a wonderfully presented and researched work that any fan should have in their library and a resource that will cause many a referential argument - or be the source of the correct answer - for many, many years to come. I for one know this is going to get a lot of use and suspect that there will have to be a fair few more updates with all the new Star Trek series coming out in the next few years....that's a lot more dots and lines to fit on to the maps!

The accompanying book is much easier to use for quick reference yet there's something much more engrossing about looking at the fullblown, unfolded maps when you get the chance. Certainly a lot clearer to scrutinise the detail!

When I briefly caught Larry at Destination Star Trek last year (his second time at the event), he was working on his Portal 47 project plus continuing efforts on Trekland as well as the location tours in Los Angeles plus promoting the updated (and rather spiffing) Star Trek Stellar Cartography.  Definitely a man with a lot to do and here's hoping that the next thing we get to see is the completed Con of Wrath!

Star Trek: Stellar Cartography is available now from all decent sci-fi selling bookshops, online retailers and the like priced RRP £35 ISBN 978-0-7603-6381-2.

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Friday, 28 June 2019

Nearly There, But Not Quite: The Official Starships Collection Issues 152 and 153

You might've been mistaken for thinking that issue 152 of the Official Starships Collection is some sort of error.

But you'd be wrong because this concept ship did turn up in a televised episode. Unlike the Voyager concept (Sternbach's and the upcoming USS Altair) or the Phase II USS Enterprise, the USS Excelsior as designed by Nilo Rodis can be seen as part of the scrap floating around in the Qualor II shipyard during The Next Generation's Unification.

Conceived for the third movie instalment, this forward thinking starship was a little too forward thinking for 1984 and was canned in favour of a suped up and sleek version that we are greeted with upon the Enterprise's return to Spacedock in The Search for Spock.

The Excelsior concept (hereafter just known as Excelsior) projects a design that wouldn't see much light until the mid-90's when elements would eventually materialise in the design of such ships as the USS Prometheus NX-7xxxx. 

Eaglemoss' model is a slender affair and almost Micro Machine in scale with the overall length of the craft dictating its overall size as part of the collection. To the front there's a small primary hull immediately recognisable due to its circular shape and even in this limited space we have enough to determine that not all the parts of this design were lost. The structure at the centre of the saucer surrounding the bridge would survive however the actual detail on this module is squandered in miniature. Crazy to admit but the early release Excelsior back in issue eight did it better.

The ship registry is legible on the top of the saucer but it is blotchy and affected by the panelling which seems too deep and close together when crammed into a fairly small area. The paintjob's more speckled than aztec with the hull seemingly pock-marked across the saucer and along the centre line towards the engine block at the rear. Eaglemoss have also included the distinctive red striping on the saucer as well as marking in the RCS thrusters to complete the effect. 

All in all that's a lot to get on there and while the paintjob does break up the light grey monotony, I'm not convinced it really works. The blues of the central bridge structure are well defined and razor sharp and are almost out of place against the speckled hull.

The saucer plus the top section of the spine are metal on this one and connect to the quad nacelle cluster where plastic takes over for the underside connector piece as well as the engines themselves and the pylons. These are all devoid of the speckled paintjob and look much the better for it. The pylons are cleanly cut with negative space and some darker grey detailing forking out to the four identical nacelles.

Each of these has a flat top section dotted with some sort of paint or surface detail. Each engine has two translucent blue panels inset to replicate the warp field grilles however it's only set onto the plastic and not a feature that you can shine any light through from the other side. Finally the engines are oddly tipped with a dark grey spike which isn't something we've seen anywhere else on a Starfleet vessel.

Construction-wise the engines are very sturdy and appear clipped into the frame of the Excelsior by way of the metal and plastic central hull sections. On the underside of the hull you can just make out, to the front of the built up section just in front of the nacelles, the tiny main deflector. From the curve of the hull this is another feature that did in some way make it on to the final design. Here though it's a simple painted and recessed blue circle to indicate the location of the device. 

The underside of the saucer is perhaps more interesting than the top with the speckled paint work returning once again but here it mixes with greys and a striking blue which is sunk into one of the outer rims of the saucer. There is quite a bit going on in regards to the finish here and a slightly larger model might have helped to clean some of the detail up.

Stand position is fairly sturdy as it slots in to the rear hanging the ship right over the black base and not strangely to the front or rear as we have had occasionally.

The magazine is a tad disappointing with the initial starship overview just being a new CG render of the ship followed by two pages of plan views with no notes or sidebar information - there is literally jack all to say on this one since it never actually did anything apart from play dead at Qualor II.

Fortunately the magazine slightly redeems itself with a section covering the design of the USS Excelsior including concept drawings from Nilo Rodis and then The Great Experiment in which the late Leonard Nimoy recounts the making of The Search for Spock and his first movie directing gig. The final two pieces are great but overall it's one of the weakest magazines in the collection alongside a so-so model that could have been a bit bigger and made a lot more impact.

Next in the lineup is the Devore Warship from Voyager's classic Counterpoint.

Aside from being one of the finest episodes of the show's seven seasons, the craft for the episode is goddamn gorgeous. Covered from bow to stern with a metallic paint finish, the top layer then appears weathered and worn with scratches and patches to break up the surface and add real depth to the replica.

There's no real intricate angles to talk about here or cool decals because it doesn't need it. The simplicity of the paintwork does a lot but the real star here is the chain-mail-like embossing that covers about three-quarters of the warship. Each "link" sinks into the hull surface and is bordered by sleek metal panels sporadically broken by the worn paint, by the dots of windows or six blue circular sensor modules.

|It's a dazzling finish on a ship that features dominantly in only one episode (with some "guesting" in a few others) and is among the more unusual looking and detailed craft within the collection. The shape of the Devore ship includes no sharp angles; everything is a sweeping, majestic curve and even the intakes for the integral warp engines are detailed in their individual recesses. 

The detail to the back of the ship is still as impressive with the chain-mail effect continuing to the tip of the tail, interrupted only for the triple sweep of what I surmise is the ship's impulse engine. Not big enough or deep enough to warrant the translucent treatment mind.

The underside is dead simple with the whole inset piece looking like a carbon fibre Formula One car with sweeps and curves to give it that "aerodynamic" feel (really useful in space) broken by three protrusions at the front and rear as well as the recessed "moon pool" shuttlebay entrance. 

There's a lot of weight to the Devore Warship given that the top lump is all metal and only the underside insert being plastic. It's a simple two piece construction although the real win here is that distinct surface finish and paint job.

Stand placement is the now familiar rear grip - since that's about the only place you could do with such a streamlined surface. It's a good grip but the base stub is again not exactly the right size.

The magazine offers up the standard plan views along side a trip back to Counterpoint as well as the details of the Devore Warship. A couple of pages on this is followed with how the craft was designed for the episode - and unsurprisingly reused in future Voyager. The craft is certainly one of the most unique finishes ever seen and we get to understand more about how that came about. Sadly it's all CG and episode images without a single concept sketch to aid the background narrative.

Ultimately the biggest attraction to this issue is the background on Counterpoint itself, dissecting the nature of the story and explaining the reasons it turned out just so. The reflection here comes from the story writers and Mark Harelik who played Kashyk.

Both of this month's ships are top notch. The concept Excelsior is a hidden treasure of the collection and not one anybody expected to see in the main line of the series while the Devore Warship brings in a classic Voyager ep with a very memorable design. For a collection that's now heading towards 200 issues, there seems to be a lot of life and prospects still to come.

Do you want to see more of the Qualor II wrecks? Is this a step too far for the collection?

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