Thursday, 22 October 2020

Gold: The Original USS Enterprise NCC-1701


Thought that the gold USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D was enough? Clearly you were WRONG.

Weighing in with a hefty £49.99 price tag is the gold USS Enterprise NCC-1701 from The Original Series (or Those Old Scientists dependent on who you believe...). When I say weighing I'm not talking just about the cost because this Constitution Class model has certainly piled on a few pounds in what is its sixth reworking since the collection began. 

For the record we've had the classic TV version from The Original Series, the Mirror Universe variant, the USS Yorktown NCC-1717, the Pike version and the glow in the dark USS Defiant NCC-1764 from The Tholian Web all utilising the same basic structure and they still can't seem to get it right.

Plastic or gold, these damn things seem to have a life of their own and I'll get the niggle out of the way to begin with. This one came with a bent port nacelle. Minor yes, but still noticable especially if you're planning on displaying her although at the cost I'd be locking it away and vacuum-sealing the box.

Don't go thinking that this is an XL scale either because it is exactly the same size as the regular and bonus editions however you are going to notice some tweaks to the design.

For one, that fine surface detail on the saucer is long gone, replaced with a smooth, flat finish with only the bridge module providing any form of difference to the surface. There are a couple of recessed points to break up the topside but it is strange to see this without the deflector grid lines spiking out from the centre.

The same goes for the underside of the primary hull where only those two distinct triangular imprints towards the front are visible and the rest is smoothed out, even devoid of the familiar registry. At the centre the sweep down to the sensor dome still retains its window indents but again it's a shadow of its grey self.

The neck, as with the edge of the saucer, does still have the recesses for the windows but the secondary hull continues the pattern from the top, eliminating the panel lines and going for that smooth flat finish. 

One noticable addition is the pennant shapes to the sides of the Engineering hull at the front edge. This is also the only decal piece that's been moulded into the ship but doesn't extend into the stripes heading towards the back.

The join line just below that pennant marking is quite clear and also a bit strange as it's only the bottom third of the hull front to back. The secondary hull itself and the neck are all plastic so too the engine pylons and nacelles.

On the engine struts the vent panels are recessed and visible as well as some small window-like elements on the outer edges. The warp engines are split moulded horizontally with the bussard collectors stuck on the end and in the case of one of them, not very centrally.which adds to the Wonky Nacelle factor. The spherical exhaust ports to the rear cement this as the Kirk-era ship (please, let's not do a gold Pike, Defiant...) and again they are kept plain of more than surface finish detail.

On the photos here, the Enterprise actually looks really good - tipped with that orangey/fire ring around the gold deflector dish. The colour makes it look a lot better than it does in reality and certainly not worthy of forking out £49.99 to get a hold of one.

The size too is a bit off-putting because something of this ilk really should be in the XL scale to be most effective and this size condenses a good idea into a bad package.

The magazine is another good one, tracing the design lineage of the Enterprise name from Te Original Series, the movies refit, through The Next Generation, to First Contact's big screen friendly Sovereign Class before skipping back in time to the NX-01. Eaglemoss have also managed to bring the design of the ship up to date with notes on the creation of the ship for JJ Abrams 2009 reboot, its subsequent tweaks for Into Darkness and Beyond plus the reimagining of Matt Jefferies classic concept for Discovery.

It's another case of the magazine trouncing the model and making the bundle a little easier to stomach. However, my personal thought would be to stay clear of any more gold spins on the classics and keep up with the detailed, screen-accurate pieces.

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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Sunday, 18 October 2020

The Blagger's Guide to...The Classic Movies


You've done it - blagged your way through your first Star Trek conversation you total legend you, but now your peers have pushed the boundary and mentioned something called The Wrath of Khan

You'd previously thought this was some sort of euphemism for stomach ache but after taking our extensive Lesson One on The Original Series (aka Star Trek), you're aware that this might be a reference to that guy with the ponytail and corny chat up lines.

Oh heck, they're moving into a new field - but what do you do? Never fear my friend because it's time to take a quick spin into the years between 1979 and 1991 - we're taking Kirk to the cinema!  

It's a real rollercoaster of excellence, missed opportunity and Shatner ego contained in just over a decade. At the centre we still have that familiar crew we discussed in The Original Series - but they're older, wiser and in some cases, wider.  Observations that Kirk seems to be wearing a hairpiece or that Spock's ears seem to change shape every movie are expected standard fayre as you go through the six movies. Scotty's newfound love of facial hair is another change that Trekkies can be guaranteed to notice when in packs...that and Shatner’s fondness for hairpieces...

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1978)

Key Villain: None except for a giant space cloud. Klingons get a cameo. Could include Roddenberry if you want a fight.

We know you're not a fan yet, but if you're going to tackle this one, drink some Red Bull. Legend has it entire millennia have passed unnoticed during the journey through V'Ger and you could watch the entirety of The Original Series just in the bit where Kirk tours the Enterprise in a shuttlepod. Don't worry about looking for your LCD TV's warranty either, that beige look you get isn't a fault, it's what it's supposed to look like for the full two hours

Key suggestion - say "oooh" and "aahhh" every time the Enterprise comes on screen and openly initiate a note on whether or not this is a totally new ship given the extensive overhaul. Avoid mentioning how great you think Decker and Ilia are as characters and that you look forward to seeing how they are developed in the next five films.  If you really want to open up the fandom can of worms, start a sentence with, "I mean, why the heck did they need to redesign the Klingons...?" and watch the sparks fly between fans of Discovery and everyone else - bring snacks because it's gonna be a right bunfight. Don't worry about discussing the actual plot of this apart from the last ten minutes because no-one else will really remember either and will already be thinking ahead to the next one.


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Key Villain: Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan (say it now, scream it later)

Put the disc cleaner through the blu-ray player because colour is back in town and this is hallowed territory. The guy with the ponytail from The Original Series is back and this time he has pecs and a set of muscled dancers as his posse!!! Now, it may be difficult to blag this one without watching it and memorising the script but here goes our attempt to have your back.  

Standard comments expected will include note of how in the world Chekov knew Khan when he wasn't on the ship during the original episode (Space Seed) plus just how much of The Motion Picture was reused to save a few quid. That said, you'll have to mention the USS Reliant which was originally designed to be the other way up and how tragic the story of Kirk's son is. I would memorise the following quotes; "I have been and always shall be your friend", "Have you ever heard of the Klingon proverb that says revenge is a dish best served cold...?" and "Kobayashi Maru". 

The last of these you can drop into any conversation with Trek friends where the topic is something extremely difficult to accomplish, nay impossible. Your "...you know what..." comment can be that it was neat to reference Ceti Alpha V in Enterprise when they showed the alternative future in season three. Remember friend, you cannot in any way diss this movie or you will be cast out of the Trekhood for all eternity. Additional: it is mandatory to show emotion when the last fifteen minutes are discussed as this is a zenith for fandom. No need for words, just a bowing of the head and a solemn silence for five minutes will do.


Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Key Villain: Kruge, Chekov's wardrobe

Title says it all and directed by the guy who played Spock. That's a lot of Spock for your money. Cleverly point out that the guy playing the Klingon Kruge (there's that K thing we talked about in lesson one) was in Taxi and Back to the Future but do it as a compare (was he better in "X" or "Y") rather than a straight fact.  Also drop a comment in about how the Excelsior is much better later on when Sulu is captain (plus points for the cross reference to The Undiscovered Country). 

Yes, I know this is a spoiler for the uninitiated but it will at least make it look like you have some idea of what's coming. You should at no point act surprised that Spock is back nor that he conveniently looks like Leonard Nimoy again by the end, you just have to accept it. It's also one of those pieces of Star Trek that fans like to quote; "If my grandmother had wheels then she'd be a wagon..." (Scotty about Excelsior) and "Zero...zero....zero...destruct...zero" being another. 

Important to state how amazing the destruction of the Enterprise is in comparison to every other ship obliteration ever - including the saucer crash in Generations (lesson four). 


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Key Villain: None. Giant Space Probe sapping Earth dry but not in an evil way. It just wants to talk to the whales.

Maxing out the 1980's, this fourth film was a big box office winner. Closing a trilogy of films, you can lighten up while watching this one, laugh at the fairly on form Star Trek humour and marvel at the fish out of water story. When this comes into conversation you should immediately choose to comment one of the following; "Double dumbass on you", "Where are the nuclear wessels?" (emphasize the "w") or "What does it mean 'Exact change'?", all of which will continue to cloak your lack of Star Trek knowledge as successfully as a Klingon Bird of Prey and raise a knowing laugh from your peers.

Triple fan points for dropping in background notes that Eddie Murphy was nearly in this playing a scientist and that part of the reason it did so well at the box office was because frankly, who the f**k was going to watch Superman IV?!


Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Key Villain: Sybok, the writers, the director, the producers

The first rule of The Final Frontier is that you do not voluntarily speak about The Final Frontier It's one of the few occasions Trekkies have every right to launch a verbal tirade at their own beloved property so take this opportunity by the proverbial horns and dig in for a wild ride.  Complain bitterly (but don't over-Shatner it) that The Final Frontier is dross and not worth the screentime, moan about the cut budget, that the special effects weren't done by ILM, that Scotty banging his head is NOT funny and that the true vision that Shatner had is lost. 

Do say how nice the Enterprise-A bridge set looks and that the shuttles are cool but that's IT. Set your expectations low for this one to avoid disappointment and it's more than acceptable to scoff at the inability to correctly sequence deck numbers when rocket-booting up the liftshaft. 

Cool points in this one for cross-referencing the use of sets from The Next Generation (don't worry, that's in our next lesson) and that at no time ever has Sybok been mentioned in Star Trek before or after this point in time. You are most welcome to add in for a gold star on your chart that (do this sarcastically) it's not like Spock has any other family we've never heard of (scoff, scoff, wink).


Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Key Villain: General Chang and assembled conspirators, the one time Klingon blood is purple - and they make a MASSIVE thing of it...

Kirk and McCoy arrested! Sulu captaining the Excelsior! That guy who guest-starred in the last one is back as a Klingon and that one from Sex and the City is a Vulcan (make a crude reference about photo shoots on the bridge with a knowing wink).

Someone rammed this movie full to overflowing so much Christian Slater pops by - it's even got the head of the Von Trapp family spouting Hamlet while he shoots at the Enterprise but manages to avoid going into full song mode.

To be fair, these guys finally realised it was time to call it a day with their sixth outing and it's a good one. If you've hacked The Final Frontier without considering therapy then this will be a breeze and is as varied as The Wrath of Khan. You are permitted to say this is your second favourite but all must come after that sacred second movie. Lots of action, give nods to the story (even if it is showing the Federation negatively regarding the future of the Klingon Empire).

Once you have completed Lesson Three on The Next Generation you'll be able to link this one back in some of the sets plus a cameo from Michael Dorn as Colonel Worf (just go on about how cool it is that Worf's grandad is the defence lawyer in the court scene for now).  To step up a notch there's a chance to discuss why Voltaine is on the bridge when he "apparently" died as part of the flashback Flashback in Voyager (lesson six). Also spontaneously shout, "So where's Tuvok?"

There you have it, you're two lessons into becoming the ultimate Star Trek blagger with a set of knowing facts. The movies are ground that is trodden many a time and fans will have watched all of these six at least ten times a year so be very careful how deep into conversation you get around them.

For lesson three we will be steering towards the final frontier and where no ONE has gone before...get ready for The Next Generation!

Friday, 16 October 2020

Discovery; S03 E01: That Hope is You, Part I


Warp drive is non-operational, long range communications are no longer capable, time travel is outlawed and the future that Burnham and the Discovery were out to save is not quite as optimistic as might have been hoped. 

Season three dropped onto CBS All Access and Netflix this week, spinning the Star Trek universe on its head in the first part of a two-part opener that focused purely on Michael Burnham.

Even the titles have had their subtle season twist with the inclusion of Book's boomerang ship, a Dot 7 droid army(?) and a 22nd Century phaser morphing into a new style sidearm. Finally we have the hint of the new combadge with the Discovery deltas changing into the new oval badges including the strikethrough and rank notations.

Crashing through time and into Cleveland "Book" Booker's (David Ajala) ship, Burnham has made it to 3188 but there's no sign of NCC-1031. For a season that was tipped to be more optimistic, it's a bit of a kick however we do get a big fluffy cat, Orions, Andorians, a Lurian, wrecked starships and at least some form of understanding of when and how the universe took a "hard left".

Courier/trader/protector Book is set to be our guide to this distant era of the universe that has yet to be explored and provides Discovery with its own, untouched sandbox in which to play and does it well, leaving you really guessing what he's up to right to the end of the episode and one might therefore expect this is only the tip of the Book iceberg.

Martin-Green has a full hour of Discovery to herself - no ship, no Saru, no Tilly, just 100% Burnham trekking barren landscapes and not, as she expected, Terralyseum (from season two's New Eden). Her tech is outdated but valuable given that tritanium, dilithium and trilithium are all extremely rare providing her with a few bartering opportunities once she and Book have worked our their adversarial issues.

The Burn, just to recap, happened 120 years before Michael's arrival and virtually all the dilithium in existence went "boom" leaving starships incapable of warp travel (Book does mention quantum slipstream tech) and the Federation crumbled shortly after becoming a relic of the past seemingly discussed by the mad and over optimistic.

The market place is filled with aliens including Andorians and Orions working together and carrying some nifty new weaponry including something that resembles the Autobot Matrix of Leadership that fires out sonic(?) waves.  Slight issue for me - the Orion and Andorian makeup looks horrible inside the marketplace environment with the green skin paint looking almost neon while the lack of movement in the antennae and a very shiny plastic finish do detract from the look of the episode. Outside they both manage to work well but there's something about them indoors that looks dreadful.

The expected double-crossing and fist-fights are all in here with Book coming off the worst on several occasions but while there is a bleak and at some points empty feel to this season opener, there is still some space for a few lighter-hearted moments including Burnham's reaction to the truth gas while in custody.

While episode one manages to wrap up at least a piece of the story and Book's reason for his mission, it all pales into insignificance for the final scene. Linking back to the opening minutes of the show where we saw a sole human repeatedly waking, prepping a box on a desk and checking for any remaining subspace signals, Book takes Burnham to him to discover he's a Federation liaison.

Aditiya Sahil (Adil Hussein) has been waiting 40 years at a battered Federation relay station; the son of a Starfleet officer he has never been officially sworn in and now has the chance to assist Burnham in finding Discovery although he can only reach out as far as 30 sectors given the restrictions of 32nd Century technology.

The new Federation flag is raised, Sahil is commissioned and the search begins for Michael's ship and crew...but where are they or when are they?

For a season opener, That Hope Is You literally rips up the book (no pun) and throws it away. This is Star Trek stripped back to its bare bones and even more basic than Enterprise. The things that gave Starfleet and all spacefaring organisations and planets an edge are gone and the galaxy - the universe - is a smaller place. Now I said earlier on how bleak this episode felt and that's true to a point. The closing couple of scenes are very very Star Trek and offer a lot of hope and positivity for the season. Chancing the first hour on just one character is a big gamble given that everyone else (cat included) is new to the game but Sonequa Martin-Green copes exceptionally well running through despair, emptiness and joy when she realises that her timejump has been successful only to have to rein it all in again once its apparent that Discovery is not right behind her.

Book is your typical enigmatic character, casually played by David Ajala who at times could be mistaken for being asleep he's that at ease and laid back in the character. I'm looking forward to seeing how he's utilised given that we cover a good deal of his abilities within these 49 minutes.

The mix up of races, the difference in look to a less technologically dependant future is stunning with clear haves and have nots surviving as best they can. The sandbox for Discovery might be a new one but it's potentially going to be a very small one off the back of the information we are told here - and let's keep our fingers crossed that it's not a big cock up like the warp five speed limit which they will need to swiftly forget later in the year.

Discovery has started off year three BIG - expansive landscapes and location shooting, phaser fights, giant cities, transworms, a scattered and broken Federation, new characters - now to see if the rest of the season delivers and maintains this new style of Trek...

Follow all our season three reviews HERE

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All images CBS All Access

The Bird and the B - Star Trek Online Starships Collection Issues Five and Six


Kicking off with the USS Buran NCC-96400 we have a third ship in the series directly inspired by ships of yesteryear.

As with issue one’s USS Gargarin, this one’s a hat-tip to the Cardenas Class Buran captained by one Gabriel Lorca prior to his appointment aboard the Discovery. Based on one of the class found at the long-abandoned Yard 39, the Buran sports a distinct quad-engine design firing back from the circular primary hull in a very familiar style.

For one, it’s an updated version of the 23rd Century Discovery-era design and unashamedly flaunts it while there’s also a hint of the Cheyenne Class seen just the once in the wreckage of Wolf 359.

Saying that, quad warp-engined ships aren’t the rarity they were through the years of The Next Generation with the USS Chimera in issue two alongside the USS Prometheus showing that this concept is very much alive and kicking in the early 25th Century and to good effect.

The detail on this one is fantastic once again. In fact each of the new Starfleet ships has been incredible to pour over even if there have been the occasional faux pas. 

A familiar sight with this one and something that was introduced through the Discovery ships is the utilisation of a double registry on the port and starboard sides with a tiny name right on the recessed nose. 

The Buran is alive with colour right from the front edge of the saucer. The off-white of the primary hull is accented with dark, mottled grey sections and red Starfleet decalling. The saucer itself looks very much like an axe with the central section almost appearing as the handle and giving a very distinct look to the craft. Not sure if the bridge being right at the front of the ship is such a good idea from a tactical perspective especially with this being classed as a Dreadnought...!

The fiddly little lifeboat hatch decals are slightly misaligned over the lighter grey squares. This only seems to be with the ones on the saucer though as the decals on the central spine for the same purpose are spot on. What I've also noticed is that some of the paint curves aren't lined up with the hull shapes either however I only saw this under a zoomed photo. 

Bordered with Starfleet pennants, the central hull echoes the underside of the Sovereign Class with its arcs and colourings. The blue/grey/white ensemble is precisely painted although I do find myself comparing the model to the magazine pics and it seems much cleaner on the cover than it does in diecast form. 

The central hull section is strikingly detailed, curving out into the four arms bearing the warp engines. The warp reactor is glaringly visible with the electric blue finish - definitely something that the Online ships have done is to utilise the wide colour palette of the game!

Out to the warp engines and again the detail is at a very high level with translucent bussard collectors on each nacelle and a continuation of the blue/grey/white colour scheme to the tips. It does lose a little on very close inspection where some of the paint hasn't quite made it into the gaps or ridges but as an overall experience, this is another beautiful ship. It's good to see the engines all lined up and firmly in place too (I'll refer you to the upcoming gold USS Enterprise model review) as it helps to set this model off perfectly. 

The biggest differences on the ventral side of the Buran is the less excitable paint work with much less blue (aside from around the deflector) and the grey used more sparingly around key features. What you also see here is how the off-white paintwork actually raises the panelling details making the Buran look worked. That mottled grey is a very effective colour for the curves of the saucer and a hat tip to Eaglemoss here because the lifeboat hatch decals almost exactly line up with the hatches themselves. 

The paintwork is a big factor in the impression of this ship. Its configuration has seen a lot of cosmetic changes since debuting in The Next Generation, being twisted for the USS Prometheus and numerous other ships along the line. 

This one is incredibly sturdy and well built. The topside and top pylons here are metal with an inserted plastic bottom section that also includes the lower two engine pylons. The joins are barely visible and the fit of all the sections is incredibly flush. The stand fits tightly around the pylons and there's little movement or chance that it'll be going anywhere thanks to that.

Issue five's magazine (sorry I keep saying this...) makes for a good read exploring the nature of the Buran's design and its origins in Discovery but brought up to date for 25th Century duty. The mini-mag carries some great plan views of the ship plus the history of the namesake and the reason for this class of ships to exist. As to the elements of Online we have explored, issue five discusses the appearance of Ellen Landry (voiced by Rekha Sharma) in the game and her actions during the (pre) Discovery era missions.

There are a ton of excellent reference photos and sketches to visually express the journey of development for the Buran and Eaglemoss have wisely included the original design from the 23rd Century as a direct comparison. 

The RRW Vastam is the collection's first dabble into Romulan tech and specifically the Republic's latest warbird. While not their flagship, the Vastam has all the callbacks you need to know it's Romulan rather than Klingon; the pointed nose, the bird-like stance all give away to whom this belongs.

The three-shade green hull sweeps back from the "beak" at the front into two curved wing sections that curve out to the rear and to a central engineering section where some of the extremities seem to appear as plumage. 

The darker green highlights panels while the mid-shade covers the remaining sections and the very lightest runs through the grooves on the Vastam across the hull. Along the sides of the neck you can also see Romulan script.

The significant thing about the ship only comes when you view it from the side though. It's super-thin and from certain angles clearly looks like a bird swooping down at speed to tackle its prey. It's a step on from the Warbird of The Next Generation and Nemesis, taking the avian concept to another point and creating a very distinct style with origins that aren't immediately obvious until you examine the ship from different angles.

The underside of the Vastam is a little less packed with structure with a continuation of the panel detail level that's visible on the top as well as the three-tier paint scheme. From every angle this ship looks deadly and compact. The shape appears much more functional than the warbirds of old with their expanses of negative space while channelling a more deadly profile that shouts speed and danger. 

The Vastam is nowhere as intricate as the Buran when it comes to palette but the surface panelling is incredible. It's a web of channels across the whole surface and not just the segmented pieces with every inch covered. Being a sweeping curve as well means that this is a solid metal model. Only the central tail piece and the feather-like topside decoration have been added in plastic. While those extremities are quite clearly not metal, the rear tail piece is a good close fit and without a second look you can't tell it's not part of the main hull - the colour match is excellent across the two materials.

Issue six explains the split in the Romulan Empire which in turn led to the Republic and the design and build of the Vastam for a new fleet. There's lots of background detail including that this class carries its own wing of Scorpion Class fighters and how the Romulan navy operates.

Lots of good pics of the ship in here from the game as well as the standard plan views (which aren't as detailed as the ship itself) plus a meaty section about the design of the craft. Early iterations do bear a strange similarity to the Klingon Bird of Prey created for Into Darkness. This certainly evolved into the striking bird silhouette we have here and I have to say it was a wise move.The STO Lore section dives into the establishment and structure of the Romulan Republic and with our knowledge of the direction Picard chose to go in, it's a great "what if" article covering the rebuilding of a people.

This is another stunning pair of ships from the STO line that have translated amazingly well from the screen to the physical world. The designs, the evolutions here are inspired and while I absolutely adore the curves and detailing on the USS Buran I'd have to pick the Vastam as the gem of the pair - but again (this is getting familiar) only by a whisker. Personal opinion, the Online ships are incredible and getting better each month - almost feels like the original collection was just prepping for the brilliance of this series!!!


Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

What's been your favourite so far? Is this collection what you expected? Drop a comment below!

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Thursday, 15 October 2020

No Small Parts; Lower Decks S01 E10


This is Lower Decks' first season masterpiece.

As we've gone along each episode has upped the stakes with the final three; Veritas, Crisis Point and No Small Parts really pushing out all the stops to provide an incredible end to this new take on the franchise.

Following on from the revelation that Mariner is Freeman's daughter, Boimler accidentally announces it to the ship just as the Cerritos is called to assist the USS Solvang NCC-12101 commanded by the extremely unlucky and OCD Captain Dayton which in turn leads to a run in with some less than placid Pakleds.

Not to give too much away on this one but it’s epic from start to finish, returning us to Beta III and Landru in the pre-titles sequence before spinning us into one heck of a furiously paced 20 minutes of Trek. What No Small Parts manages to do is sum up the journey of the first season, showing the development of both the characters and the storylines to give us something not too mind-bending but thoroughly engaging which bizarrely melds more than a few pieces of Trek history and fan mythos into canon. 

Each of the four ensigns completes a journey here; Tendi welcomes a new recruit to the Cerritos in much the same manner that we met her in Second Contact although the contrast in character is an interesting one that both provides a comedy twist but perhaps a realistic view that not everyone in Starfleet is a ready made hero. The interestingly named Peanut Hamper is one of the Exocomps fans will recognise from The Next Generation’s The Quality of Life, successfully bringing perhaps one of that show's less well known episodes a little more into the limelight.

Rutherford too completes his own story and becomes something of a hero in himself thanks to his implants that are both a help and a hindrance here as we saw in Veritas. These have been played down quite a bit with only a couple of episodes really utilising the feature and in turn No Small Parts turns the dial up one more point. Of the four ensigns he’s probably the one that has had the least development through the season and in the finale his actions are the most significant. Oh - did we mention there's also an appearance from a rather popular Lower Decks creation in here that takes Rutherford back to the holodeck...should he deactivate the safeties???

Boimler, considering the emphasis placed on him in the first half of the run, seems to slip a little into the background before being picked up prominently right at the end. His journey with Mariner was a major part of the heart of the series and its absence in later episodes only gets more obvious with the comradery shown here but there is a bittersweet end to the tale that perhaps flips on the perceived bullying that was discussed by fans around earlier exploits.

Most of the humour in No Small Parts comes from the uncovering of Mariner’s relationship with Captain Freeman as suddenly ever member of the crew is talking about her, everyone is being overly OVERLY nice and looking for a favour. Check out the lieutenant who is super-keen on his conspiracy theories (Wolf 359 was an inside job! The Dominion War never happened!) as part of this as well as the hilariously tangled conversation that Ransom manages to get himself into between him, Mariner and Freeman.

Beckett Mariner though has been at the very centre of this show since the first scene of Second Contact and is the breathing life, heart and soul of Lower Decks. Intentionally lazy, incorrectly attired, stubborn bordering on rude and the life of the party, the finale gives her a chance to shine as a true Starfleet officer, leading the fight to the very end either by unveiling a s**t ton of contraband weapons or from the bridge of the Cerritos itself.

There is a sense of closure here too in Mariner's life with both mother and daughter realising that they work better as pair even if their opinions are the diametric opposite - it works to their advantage. 

Even with the humourous tint to the series and this finale in particular, it’s not all laughs to the titles so expect a few surprises along the way. Indeed (SPOILER ALERT), one that you get a hint at early on is the  potential inclusion of the USS Titan. The way in which the battle with the Pakleds is going only stresses further that you’re waiting for someone to show up and they do in style, making the Luna Class FINALLY canon after 15 years. Instantly recognisable to novel readers and collectors of the Official Starships Collection, the Titan is beautifully realised on the screen in magnificent detail both inside and out - because we’re also reintroduced to her captain and counsellor; Will Riker and Deanna Troi both voiced by their original actors, Jonathan Frakes an Marina Sirtis.

Oddly they haven’t been off our screens that long with both characters turning up in Nepenthe on Picard and Riker himself riding to the rescue in the series finally having been reactivated just to help out his old commanding officer and friend. Could we possibly just expect him to turn up and save the day in the finale of Discovery’s third year and complete the trinity???

This season finale is one of excellent standards and a full demonstration that an animated - and lighter-hearted Star Trek series is possible and does work. Lower Decks kept it fast-paced, adventurous, a little risque on occasion, certainly packed a few bleeps in and has proved to be a brilliant addition. Discovery and Picard should be genuinely concerned because the best series out there for fans right now...is this.

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ALSO check out our full set of season one reviews HERE!

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Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Crisis Point: Lower Decks S01 E09


Episode nine is here taking us deep into the convoluted world of the holodeck and through that very medium into Lower Decks’ take on the Star Trek movies. Cue catchphrase: Warp me!

Seeking a way to help him win over the Captain and secure special training, Boimler boots up one of his holodeck simulations to try and work out what he should say in his interview. In a very Reginald Barclay manner it turns out the resourceful ensign has recreated the entirety of the USS Cerritos down to the smallest detail from the personal logs of the crew.

Still steaming after a run in with her mother and commanding officer, Captain Freeman, for taking the evolutionary course of a planet into her own hands, Mariner decides that hacking Boimler’s programme might help her prove a point and suddenly the four ensigns are watching a full title sequence as Mariner has tipped them into a movie scenario where anything will happen .

Crisis Point is Lower Decks’ love letter to the movies of the Star Trek franchise, beaming in star field titles, one off made up weapons and suitably plot-defined technology alongside the story. The show even drops in a sizeable amount of lens flare and, as indicated by Mariner early on, those movie scale set pieces from a truly cheesy and familiar introduction to the Cerritos in space dock to a spectacular showstopper of a crash land and a final one on one punch up that can only be a suitable climax to any good Star Trek movie?!

At times the episode beers close to bordering on full on parody but skims it just in time to return to a more grounded reality. 

For the most part the entirety of the movie series gets overlooked in franchise history save for the token Khan references (see last week’s review) yet here, even down to The Undiscovered Country’s unique signing off sequence, there’s something in almost every holodeck scene that pulls the franchise towards the 13 move series spanning three crews since the late 1970’s. If you're not a fan of the movies, never fear because there's a rifle-totting Leonardo da Vinci there for your pleasure!

The detail on here is insane with set cues for the enemy ship coming significantly from the Klingons both inside and out, every scene played out to the most extreme level and more explosions than the whole series combined.

This feels like Lower Decks visual, glorious peak and the choice to take a spin on the movies is very, very clever and utilises the overused and over broken holodeck in a new way - what can Boimler learn and at the same time can Mariner, taking on the persona of Vindicta, strike back at Freeman in the only way that she thinks she can straight out win in gory style quoting Shakespeare as would any villain worth their salt.

Vindicta is an amalgam of all those movie villains ever who’ve decided to chew the scenery and overcook it and even in the final two-strike fight we get a mirror mirror twist with Mariner, angrily, openly realising that she’s a lot better than she acts but won’t admit it. Mariner has very easily been the focus for Lower Decks since Second Contact and the bulk of the episode here is quintessentially about her and her demons; feelings of rejection, inferiority and not living up to the expectations of her mother are all confronted providing a cold undertone to balance against the levity of other parts of Crisis Point. My only concern with her character here is how far she takes her actions leading Tendi to quit the simulation and vaporising anyone who happens to get in the way on her path to the Captain. 

There have been rumblings that some fans have viewed the Boimler/Mariner relationship as one where the latter is responsible for bullying her colleague but I would tend to disagree. Beckett Mariner isn’t evil, she’s not bent on making Boimler’s life a continuous living hell but instead is looking for ways to keep herself entertained(?) rather than do what she knows she should be doing and following instruction.

In fact her relationship with Boimler tends to try and lighten him up although it more often than not has taken a turn for the worse and required some lateral thinking to sort it all out. Crisis Point isn’t quite at the level of last week’s Veritas but it’s agenda is different and allows a Trek series to explore the facets of its big screen offshoot. Even the phasers are bigger this week with Shax’ phaser bazooka stepping up the firepower just as the rifles did for First Contact.

Also for the first time we have some form of cliffhanger and notion that this story is going to be continued in the series finale thanks to Boimler’s choice to (illegally) use the crew’s personal logs to create his holodeck programme. For one person the secret is out...

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Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Quibbles with Tribbles: HeroCollector Gets Nitpicky


Available from September 22nd, Star Treksperts can try their hand at Eaglemoss/Hero Collector's latest hardbacked offering - Quibbles with Tribbles.

You're probably now scratching your head wondering what the heck I'm going on about and perhaps if I might need to take a break but alas no, this is a new book that puts your observational skills, memory and minutae knowledge to the test across eight lovingly crafted - and mistake laden - scenes from The Original Series.

Although not requiring a magnifying glass and a steady flow of paracetamol, Quibbles for Tribbles is certainly an exciting product that offers a unique challenge to Trek fans in several ways over the double-page pics.

In fact there are four specific threads to follow through the error filled pages; there’s one reference hidden throughout to each of the 79 original episodes (Artifact Incidents) , there are (in each pic) five things which shouldn’t be in that precise scene (Nerd Alerts) and third there is an Exploding Tribble to be found. Finally and not in every scene is a Super Quibble - an error that only a super SUPER Star Trek fan would know. 

To help you keep score the book comes complete with a scoring sheet although my personal recommendation is a lined A4 sheet and numbered points to avoid trashing the product. There's even a full run down of the episodes from the show plus a short section detailing a sprinkling of series background before heading into the filling of this new book.

At the rear each of the scenes is then dissected into grid squares to help you easily pick out all the discrepancies once you’re sure you’ve spotted the lot and even goes into a little bit of additional detail as to why said item/person/event is in the wrong place or timeframe...

It’s a brilliant idea and one that had me joked immediately. Of course you want to see just how good your Star Trek fact knowledge is and especially if you can spot those rock hard and rare Super Quibbles. However there’s a bugger of a drawback - once you’ve found them all you’ve expended the book’s use. Either store it away for a decade for a second go or pass it on for someone else to enjoy. It’s brilliantly illustrated by John Ross, recreating eight classic moments but what I also found was that it was easy to confuse some of the episode references for scenic cock-ups and at that point I did question what was going on what list!

I do believe that this would appeal to any generation of fan though - newbies might not spot everything for a while as they watch The Original Series through while more experienced Trekkies will be kicking themselves silly at missing the Romulan cooking toast on the warp core (outlandish example and it’s not in the book!) but might spot Number One piggybacking a Horta (again, not in the book!!!) 

Hero Collector have delivered something totally different and engaging that only the Nitpickers' Guides from the 1990's attempted to even get close to - and that was all about finding the errors in the real episodes rather than these mind-bending scenes. The levels of engagement through the three different challenges do offer a chance to ‘progress’ if you will from novice Trekkie to full blown Starship Captain levels of ability - probably best to start spotting the episode references before checking out those scenic errors!

Purposely with the review I've only used sections from one of the double-page spreads since you need to have this book to really experience the level of fandom it's reaching. A new twist on the franchise but one that will be short-lived in its usefulness; good one to lend out to friends.

Quibbles with Tribbles is available now from Eaglemoss HeroCollector priced £11.99

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