Sunday, 8 September 2019

Can't Keep Her Down: Attack Wing's USS Equinox

Once the toast of many a Federation fleet, the USS Equinox expansion for Attack Wing isn’t getting as much love these days.

Launched as part of Wave Three (there are now 31 plus a ton of card expansions, unpainted miniatures, faction packs...), you can see how subsequent ships and sets will have built on the learnings from these early phases to advance Attack Wing over the years.

As someone who came to the game midway through the launch of the expansion waves (15) I missed out on some of the earlier ones and I am now finally tracking down a few that were on my hit list.

It's definitely been a gruelling challenge to do so with the early ships now scarce and prices for them proving to be near what it would cost to build the real thing. Lucky there was an Equinox going for original retail price at the end of a long search!

As it goes, the model for this starship - originally seen in Voyager's fifth and sixth season cliffhanger - is one of the best especially when you consider the quality that the game was launched with. The light blue hull colouring sets off the contrast against the well-detailed sensor emplacements, phaser strips and lifeboat hatches to a point where you wonder how the hell the game fell off such a cliff face when it came to the quality of its products at some times in the game's lifespan.

Even the warp engines have some sensational colouring when it comes to the bussard collections and warp grilles, even down to the Starfleet pennants streaking across the top of the nacelles. It's a lovely little piece of work from all angles and Wizkids have done a stunning job of translating the original into such a small piece of plastic. My god, they even included the RCS thrusters and painted in the impulse engine...take note Eaglemoss...take note.

That said, her stats are a tad on the underwhelming side, meaning you can add this ship into your fleet for a measly 20 point cost. This named Nova Class vessel attacks with two dice, defends with two and has three shield and hull points. The Action bar carries the standard Federation setup of Evade, Target Lock, Battle Stations and Scan plus slots to include up to two Crew, one Tech and one Weapon upgrade. 

What is great about the Equinox is its Unique Action and you can see here why she was so popular "back in the day". By disabling an Active Shield in the End Phase you can repair all of your damaged shields thus keeping her in the game for a fair while. 

The generic version drops one of the Shield points as well as a Crew upgrade to cost 18 points and loses that key Unique Action which turns it straight into cannon fodder for a decently powered mid-20 pointer or above. Nor is the Equinox the speediest of starships. As a science vessel her pace wouldn't have been required so she'll push a forward four tops with full sets of bank and hard turns at speeds two and three. The three speed hard turns as well as the one speed reverse will incur the pains of an auxiliary power token but that can be eliminated by subsequently playing a forward two or a one forward or bank as all four are green. Certainly the range of movements is good to help stay out of trouble but if she's in the thick of it then there's probably no quick way out. 

Rudolph Ransom heads up the Captain selection for the Equinox with a skill set of four and a cost of two. We know that Ransom wasn't a military commander and Janeway explains he was a scientist and it's fairly reflected in his ability. It also comes across in his own Action. Ransom will add two defence dice to your roll if there's an Evade in play which would mean this ship could defend with four dice. Effectively with Ransom and the Unique Action in play you could be going longer than the Duracell Bunny.

Maxwell Burke, Ransom's exec is the second named Captain and costs one point. His skill is equally low at just two and Burke is a polar opposite to his captain allowing you to discard him to add in two attack dice for the round. Question is, if you discard him...who's in command?

USS Equinox comes with three Crew choices as per the named officers in the TV story - Noah Lessing, Marla Gilmore and the Emergency Medical Hologram. 

All three cost two points so this is a very inexpensive set of upgrades right out of the box. Lessing can be disabled alongside a Tech upgrade to target a ship in range one or two and then deactivate a Shield. Reactivating will take up an Action in a subsequent turn while guaranteeing a "hit". Does seem a lot of resources to use to complete so not one for me I'm afraid. 

Gilmore is a little more complex. Her Action allows you to disable all your shields and target a ship within ranges one or two with no active shields. Again it requires both this card and a Tech upgrade to be disabled but this time the latter is on the opponent's craft. The brilliant twist is not only do you stop that card being used by the enemy ship but it can then be used as a Free Action by your ship that round. For two points this is a solid winner of a card that can keep on giving since it's only disabled. It's quite conditional and I would expect this to used fairly late in the game to close out a big hitting ship.

The EMH card however might well come in handy with your Navigational Deflector as that has an option to be disabled and not just discarded. 

Navigational Deflector (five point cost) is another of the big wins for the Equinox and adds to its legacy as one hell of a hard ship to eliminate since you can discard this card to cancel out a Damage result. If the damage is caused by a minefield or an obstacle then it can be disabled (this is where the EMH could be used) so you can roll in defence against this attack. Combining with the EMH or with Lessing will open up your options with the Equinox and extend it's lifetime even more . I wouldn't be shocked if it might be the last survivor in many cases!

Last upgrade is the ever present Photon Torpedoes (five point cost) and being from the earlier waves you still need to spend a Target Lock and also disable the card to perform the attack.  You get to convert a Battlestation over to a Critical Damage and point it, as usual, either fore or aft. It will up an Equinox offensive up to five dice from the standard two plus it works at ranges two and three. 

The included mission, Under Attack takes its lead from the Equinox two-parter with the inclusion of the neucleogenic lifeforms Ransom and his crew were experimenting on. It does evolve into a 40 point versus 40 point battle however each round both ships will lose either a Crew upgrade or suffer a damage point. This will certainly even the odds and determine the ultimate length of this fight. It's a basic ship to ship combat mission although there's the risk that it might not be your opponent that takes you out first but the lifeforms you have been testing...

USS Equinox is an "oldie" but a goodie. One of the more defensive packs on the market, the starship is nimble, small and regenerative. No big weapon options aside from the Photon Torpedoes card but that's not necessarily the way to win the game. The Nova Class here shows the chance to spin your tactics to play a long game and wear your opponent down, possibly from behind the lines and your larger ships. I've been using her in conjunction with the Enterprise-E and the Defiant mainly supporting the larger Sovereign Class and her apparent lack of threat seems to work a dream against the Klingons - at least so far!

USS Equinox might be available somewhere but I'd take a good look around first - prices certainly vary!!!

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Thursday, 5 September 2019

Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin

I'm over a year out of date with book reviews but I've now settled into getting some time to catch up on the events of the literary universe.

Original Sin was released back at the beginning of 2018 and due to circumstances I just never got round to it which in turn has led to me delaying reading Section 31: Control and The Next Generation's Hearts and Minds.

However, let's focus on the topic at hand. Original Sin marks the first foray (and maybe the last given where the franchise is heading....) into the deep space mission of the Galaxy Class USS Robinson under the command of Captain Benjamin Sisko. Seeking out new life and new civilisations on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole, the former station commander has his wife and young daughter in tow as well as an assembly of new characters to man the stations of the starship.

Writer David R George III (one of my favourites) has a huge blank canvas here since no writer has stepped out of the Alpha Quadrant into the wild unknowns of the deeper Gamma Quadrant. We pick up with the Robinson three months into her voyage of discovery on the other side of the wormhole and as you would expect it's all about to go far less than swimmingly.

Encountering null space and a race of creatures who steal the Robinson's children including young Rebecca Sisko (the "Avatar" to Ben's Emissary), therein lies a complex rescue operation which is interwoven with a flashback to a time on Bajor when Rebecca was abducted once before by an individual obsessed with her relationship to the Prophets.

The great thing with Original Sin is that with very little knowledge of the previous novels from Simon and Schuster you can dive right in and there's no concern that you need to catch up on the rather intensive 20 year back catalogue. It's very much a standalone at this point but with the clear indication that this could be the stepping point into a new series of adventures for Ben Sisko and his crew in the Gamma Quadrant. 

It's capably written and certainly accessible but yet I still found that I was wanting more from this one and that's unusual for a David R George III novel after reading quite a fair chunk of them in recent years. I've always felt inspired and wanting more when reading them but with Original Sin I was left a little unfulfilled. In a sense this feels like the start of something new and almost the foundations for some major universe building however there's not been any news of a follow up since it was released or where the direction for Deep Space Nine: Gamma could well be headed. 

For me David R George III is a master of the bigger picture and the galactic events that have been shaping the Federation - The Fall, Sacraments of Fire and Ascendance have all marked key points within the overall arc of the literary Star Trek universe and this just doesn't seem to meld into any of that. Even Allegiance in Exile for The Original Series tied in with the greater legacy of the franchise but here that sense of inclusion is distinctly absent.

Original Sin is out on its own. For the Robinson that's very true as they begin this monumental voyage but for the author there's not a lot to ground himself with and it kind of shows in the resulting material. Ben and Kasidy of course receive a good amount of text here and that has to, in some degree, be accredited to their presence on screen during Deep Space Nine and as such they are the most realistic characters in the story. Other members of the Robinson entourage do come and go perhaps almost as much as the runabouts they use on the rescue missions but they do tend to be less than memorable by the close of play.

The story itself is very ably paced, flipping from the present to the past and paralleling the two kidnappings as they occur(ed) yet there is very little else to the plot, no deeper story, no "B" to the "A" and without more to the character I just found Original Sin a little pedestrian and a novel that's taken me an age to read. It's OK but that's it and I'd easily place it as my least enjoyed David R George III Star Trek novel. There's no background to get stuck into, no mythology for the author to revel in and draw his audience into which is something I love about his books in the past. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that George III gets a quick return trip to the Alpha Quadrant...

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £7.99

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Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Pack Mentality: DS9 Fluxx

An avid fan of the first two versions of the game, it was a no-brainer to get hold of Deep Space Nine Fluxx when it landed in the UK.

First of all let's refresh. Fluxx is a game whereby you are aiming to complete a Goal first. Simple? Nope; because as you play the rules change. You might have to draw four cards and play three, have the rules reset, be able to steal another player's Keeper (cards you collect to complete the Goal), play one card and draw five, be able to dispose of a set number of cards, have a free Action to play each round... the options go on and on and even better is that every time you play the game will turn out differently.

Looney Labs have already released The Original Series and The Next Generation packs plus the stroke of genius which was the Bridge Pack Expansion and you can read about those elsewhere. For now we're focusing purely on the latest version to arrive.

At the core it's very, very similar in style to the other two packs. The artwork on the cards is fantastic, offering unique perspectives on the full crew (minus Ezri Dax most notably) as well as the array of guest characters, nemeses, starships and of course the station itself. The goals play out the same as before however there are two big differences.

First of all we have Equipment and Starfleet Personnel with an additional category - Visitors - which encompasses a lot of the guest cast including Rom, Nog, Morn, Dukat and Garak plus some others. There are a few of the pink-edged Goal cards which need a larger combination of said Visitors or Equipment which can lead to a more lengthy game as you struggle to find that last one in the pack. 

The other big change is the removal of the Ungoal card. While the two earlier sets had a way to "Unwin" the game by comboing the Enterprise with either the Doomsday Machine or the Borg Cube dependent on what was in play, had been played and was on the table, Deep Space Nine Fluxx has totally removed this element leaving only a win as the method to bring about the end of the game.

You do notice with this that a lot of the characters bear identical features to their Original Series or The Next Generation counterparts leading to a sense of disappointment that there wasn't more variety introduced. In each edition all the captains allow you to steal another Player's Keeper however there are some new twists - speaking during your turn will lose you the Morn card to another player for example. Also new specifically for this box and previously only included in the Bridge Expansion Pack is the Meta-Mission card allowing you to discard four Goal cards during your turn to take a new four from the deck. Trust me when I say that this comes in very handy when you’re drawing five cards and playing only one.

Deep Space Nine Fluxx is the one I would turn to now if I wanted a quicker game since I generally leave the other two packs mixed with the Bridge Expansion. As a big fan of the series it's cool to see a lot of the aspects honoured here - not just characters but the Orbs, the wormhole, even latinum gets a look in so you can be sure that the topic is something the game creators are very familiar with.

If you've played Fluxx before and are happy with the previous two Star Trek versions this might not be a necessity purchase as it plays the same as the others. If there's a Voyager set in the future or perhaps a second Bridge Expansion to being it more into the bigger Star Trek Fluxx circle then I'd count it as an essential.

Well presented, great fun and easy to dip in and out of - definitely one for the bag at Destination Star Trek - see you there for a game!

You can check out our (updated) review of The Original Series and The Next Generation Fluxx (and Bridge ExpansionHERE!

Which pack or way to play are you preferring? Would you want a new expansion to draw all three packs together? What about a Voyager or Discovery set?

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Friday, 30 August 2019

Flick to Victory! Wizkids Battle in the Neutral Zone

Who thought that flicking segments of wood across a gameboard could get so competitive?

Not me for one but that was until I was sent a copy of Wizkids Conflick in the Neutral Zone. Combining Star Trek, gaming and a sprinkling of galactic combat, their latest offering is a little different to the usual HeroClix and Attack Wing materials produced in recent years.

Here”s the breakdown.  Pitting the Federation against the Klingons you are in charge of a fleet of ships with the aim to collect dilithium crystals by landing ships (by flicking) onto one of the yellow planets or command points (which will ultimately win you the game) by landing on the larger purple planet.   

Each player starts off with four ships; two hexagonal attack ships and two circular collector ships.  These are the starting ships and are the basic fleet to begin the game. Collectors can only collect and attackers can only destroy enemy ships so just remember that OK? This can get fairly tactical but there’s more to it than that. 

Initial set up is pretty straight forward with only the need to sticker up your playing pieces when unbagging and then getting the board set up as you would normally which takes just a few minutes. 

Each player’s turn consists of six parts. At first you can recall ships from the board back to your fleet before collecting your resources. This depends on how the opposing player(s) turn went. At a minimum you receive a dilithium crystal for starting your move but you can also collect from the planets and also during the round if one of your ships has a special feature which gives you more crystals.     

Following this accumulation of interplanetary wealth you can then purchase a new ship for your fleet and launch it immediately - but you can only launch one attacker and one collector per round.    

Now, even if you are starting out as a Federation player you can purchase whatever ship you want and that includes an array of Klingon and Neutral vessels. Costs range from one to five dilithium crystals and are determined by its abilities and paralleled through an increased size of playing piece. 

There are some inconsistencies with three point ships on both big and small pieces and the choice of ships for particular pieces or actions. Ships are purchased from a selection that is drawn from the ship deck. Four ships are offered up at one time with any purchased ship being replaced by another from the shuffled starship deck.  

Features include the chance to place a finger on top of a ship to stop it being moved when under attack, gaining extra dilithium or Command points when collecting or even getting a second shot at survival. In all honesty the ships could be named anything but there's a certain satisfaction about purchasing the Enterprise-E or the Negh'Var

Watch out for Bioship Alpha too because it might bring about a quicker win! Once you've moved you can reposition or place one of the cuboid asteroids anywhere on the board (but not within a range ruler width of a ship). The main advantage here is to block attacks and secure your position for the following round’s points tot up. With your asteroid placed you can then return any destroyed ships to your fleet ready for the next cycle. 

Dependant on whether two, three or four players are involved will determine how often this sequence returns to you but you will need to be prepared to get very tactical. Conflick is easy to grasp after the first couple of rounds. A two player game can be fairly brisk with lots of ship purchasing, a lot of ships KO’d and all over and done in half an hour. Accuracy comes into play a lot with the likelihood that you'll overshoot a planet, miss a target or manage to knock yourself off a collecting planet. 

To be fair that's half the fun and for once more cooks make it that touch crazier than Neelix cooking Plomeek soup. One challenge is that with three or four players - or even when you start buying ships to up your fleet you will need to keep a focus on which ships you've used, which are in play and which ones are yours since you're more than likely to have a mix of blue Federation, red Klingon and cream Neutral ships.

More players means there’s more targets and tactical play needed to overcome the larger amount of opponents. Certainly there will be more of a dash to secure the larger playing piece represented ships early on but that can be down to the luck of the draw. 

For me Conflick in the Neutral Zone is the quick alternative to setting up an extensive game of Attack Wing. Its challenging, simple to set up and something a bit outside of the box. The age range says 14+ but my seven year old has helped test and won two games 10-4 (yes, I got slaughtered) and 10-7 so it's not that complex to pick up. 

Being able to reuse pieces after elimination keeps everyone involved to the very end and it can get very, very close. The build quality of the pieces, the replacement set of extra stickers and even the thought given to the layout of the plastic tray in the game box are unexpectedly brilliant. It’s a ton of fun to play and doesn’t really rely on an exhaustive knowledge of the Star Trek franchise to play which makes it easily more accessible from the moment it’s unboxed.

It would be great to see expansion packs to offer up more opponent forces rather than just the Neutral selection and perhaps involve some form of missions in the future however its straightforward and easy to dive into nature make it extremely accessible.

Wizkids Conflick in the Neutral Zone is available now c.£35.00 from gaming stockists. You can find your nearest by checking HERE

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Monday, 19 August 2019

Return to the Nebula: The Official Starships Collection Issues 156 and 157

If you had your fill of Class variants then you might want to look away.

Eaglemoss' 157th issue of the Official Starships Collection drops a third Nebula Class offering following on from the USS Honshu (issue 23) and the USS Phoenix (issue 112). But what more can you give from this Galaxy Class kitbash? 

The biggest difference with the USS Melbourne is the removal of the rear sensor pod to be replaced with the smallest warp nacelles you've ever seen although a closer inspection reveals that Eaglemoss have stepped up the quality on this variant in a significant way. Apparently it's a prototype y'see - and one that surpasses it's earlier siblings.

The Melbourne has the highest level of detail on any Galaxy Class type saucer. It's a marvel and, as I've repeatedly, repeatedly said it shows how the machining and finishing of the models has simply become better and better over the course of the last few years with many lessons learnt.

Here the surface aztecing is flawless; the paint tones subtle and the lifeboat hatches cleverly shaded darker on one side to add a sense of depth to the surface. This saucer is all metal with some very distinct and ingrained panel lines emanating from the central island. The paint application means that the lines are very strong and Eaglemoss have avoided washing out the result. 

The saucer also carries four very distinctive yellow transporter pattern emitters but as with the window alignment it feels that these are just ever so slightly out by a fraction of a  millimetre. What makes up for this is the excellent marking on of the windows around the very edge of the elliptical primary hull and the near-perfect registry that adorns the dorsal side. It's neat - both as in cool and good.

As for further colour, there are the four RCS thrusters (tiny yellow dots!) at the edges of the hull and two postbox red impulse engines at the back. These do look a tad out of place being bright and red an' all but it does make the whole ship "pop" thanks to this and some other detail touches.

Leading out and down from the saucer section is the cobra neck here partially hidden away due to the sweeping arms of the warp pylons. Eaglemoss have covered the patchwork body here with the familiar aztecing and phaser banks.This plastic section then feeds directly into the twin warp nacelles hanging down under the hulls. These sections also seem to show off the aztec paintwork more visibly as does the unit connecting the ship to its mini nacelles.

These are a carbon copy of the larger pair with Eaglemoss even managing to fit all four with translucent bussard collectors and warp grilles plus Federation pennants. What I have noticed is that the colouring of those pennants, particularly the smaller ones on the upper mini nacelles is misaligned in the oval behind the delta. On the trio adorning the underside of the Melbourne this isn't as obvious but is still present.

I was also disappointed to find that one of these upper nacelles had paint marks on it from the black detail blobbed at the back of the engine units. That noted, the fit of the small nacelles as well as the unit attaching them to the hull is well built and without any huge gaps. Overall, I can't offer anything but praise for the construction quality here - easily the best of the three Nebula's.

Flipped onto her back there's immediately the awareness that the aztec pattern is missing. It's a single grey shade right the way across the underside of the Melbourne and that includes the secondary hull and the nacelles as well as the saucer. Panel detail lines remain as does the moulding of the captain's yacht at the centre and the multiple lifeboat hatches.

Thing is that the windows are awful. Moving away from the misaligned colouring to the hull indents, the Melbourne has the lit and unlit window slits out of alignment with each other. Somehow the larger square recessed windows are spot on in their gaps but the lined paint ins are horridly out of sync. 

Eaglemoss has managed to decal in the cargo bay hatches on either side of the yacht and also towards the underside front of the secondary hull perfectly but everywhere you look the windows just don't line up even on the engineering section. It's bloody annoying.

The pennants are slightly better here with the red of the ovals only a teeny bit out of place. The deflector dish painting also needs to be noted here. Again a big improvement over the years with both Galaxy and Nebula classes featuring on multiple occasions. The orange/blue combo is well executed and the hull in the recess bearing some very clear lining.

There are more evident signs of the construction methods on the bottom most prominently towards the rear but it's one line on a very well built replica. Y'see that's the gripe. The build is great, even dropping in a tiny tractor beam, strong colours and  very stable "back end" service pod but it's typically let down by that failure to attend to the detail that's plagued the collection since issue one.

As with all the Nebula variants the stand slides around the warp engine pylons from the back making a solid display pose for the ship. 

The magazine's a decent read too, explaining the reasoning behind the mini-nacelles, the fact there were two different USS Melbourne's at Wolf 359 and some of the variables through the Nebula Class. 

Following up, there's a double page on Ed Miarecki including the work he did restoring some of the original models used on the show including Deep Space Nine itself. Ed's work on the show is then covered in more detail with a selection of his models detailed over subsequent pages. 

It's a bit of a "best of" issue with the Rules of Engagement article then listing out key battles throughout Starfleet history from Azati Prime and the near destruction of the NX-01 The Ultimate Computer to Wolf 359 to the retaking of Deep Space Nine in Sacrifice of Angels plus a lot more. Issue 157 certainly covers a lot of ground in its pages offering a sprinkling of information. Most of it is generally in universe and already known but the Ed Miarecki 

The month's second starship - and a fresh design for the collection - is the Cardassian freighter Groumall

Best recognised as the ship commanded by the fallen-from-favour Gul Dukat n Deep Space Nine's fourth season, the freighter is one you might have expected to see a lot earlier in the series.

Carrying a dusty yellow paintjob from nose to engines, the Groumall finds itself with panel highlights striped across its forward pincers as well as on the stumpy cargo pods which cover its surface like the plates of an armadillo. I'm not a huge fan of the paint on this one as towards the front and the aggressive forked nose the detail of the hull surface seems to be lost in the colour.

The further you go back, the more the paint seems blotchy with the brown and grey highlights appearing fuzzy-edged and again, as with the Melbourne, ever so fractionally out of sync with the raised panel points it's supposed to be aligned to. The white window details are bang on to the edges and must be part of a separate painting process so no quibbles there however it still feels like a rush job.

That's not the biggest offender with the Groumall though as the join lines are barely concealed. At the nose there's a visible gap with a seam then running all the way across the top of the freighter hull right to the engine block at the rear. The "over" side to the left if you look from the top is metal front to back including the engine block while the left "insert" also runs the length of the craft with identical detailing. The paint is also flaked around this central join line and while it's great that the freighter has a worn look, it's obvious that construction has caused the superficial damage.

The rear engine block is one solid piece of starship with two thirds of it being metal. Once more emblazoned with the brown and grey highlights, it also carries, on both sides, the emblem of the Cardassian Union. Unlike the CG ships of the Enterprise era it has a much more angled and simplistic finish avoiding any intricate piping works or fiddly recesses such as with the Klingon Freighter last month. 

Also to the rear are the two large, vertically parallel engine units. Slat painted red with a grey surround, the look is very effective and the lower piece is utilised as part of the grip for the display stand. The detailing is well presented with the red restricted to just the exhaust points and there's no bleed into the surrounding hull works.The side impulse engines are uncoloured and almost nondescript. A bit if translucent plastic work here would have done wonders but the tight space and multiple colourings of the hull potentially make that too fiddy. The surface markings do exist but blend in unnoticed to the browns and greys.

Turning her over the Groumall is almost identical to the top with the one distinction that the wings to the rear (attached to the engine block) are now pointing up (think about it...). Note as well that the blue paint for the square details on these rear fins is vertical on one side and horizontal on the other, failing in any way to line up with the raised hull detail. It's a bit of a facepalm move to not even attempt to get them the right way. Ok, these squares will be hidden underneath but many a discerning fan will be checking every inch when they pull it out of the box on delivery day.

The issue 157 magazine details the uses of the Cardassian freighter with the clear focus on the Groumall's voyages under the command of the disgraced Gul Dukat including its final mission and secretive upgrades. There's some excellent CG to just highlight the flaws in the model because, well, the pics are that good. Of curse we also have some shots from Return to Grace. The detail of the images in the mag do appear a lot cleaner and crisper than the finished product as though it were new off the production line. 

Designing the Groumall calls in John Eaves and his cracking art which oversees the evolution from something very Cardassian to something not so Cardassian and the reasoning behind it.The Groumall does carry a lot of the traits that fans will see in other freighters from the franchise and even the story behind it belays that it was the direction Higher Powers wanted it to show.

Finally it's all wrapped up with a Cardassian flavour discussing The Rise of Damar under the expert guidance of actor Casey Biggs. The relevance of the character here was that Return to Grace marked his first - fleeting - appearance in the series. Biggs relates the key moments from that episode right through to his role as a figurehead leader to inspiring the Cardassian resistance. 

I really, really want to love the freighter but the detail and build of the USS Melbourne is a light year ahead of it. The Groumall is a key part of the Deep Space Nine story and certainly more visible than the Nebula Class prototype yet the very visible joins and some less than aligned paint features grind the gears.

Cardassian fan or one for the Nebula? What's your choice and thoughts on this month's starship pairing?

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Thursday, 15 August 2019

Barbara Scarfe (March)

Long-time associate of Star Trek, Barbara Scarfe aka Barbara March has lost her battle with cancer at the age of 65.

First appearing in 1991's Redemption two-parter, March took on the role of older sister and acting head of the House, Lursa. The sisters were attempting to place their illegitimate nephew as the new Chancellor throwing the Empire into a brief but bloody civil war which would have benefited another Alpha Quadrant power if successful.

With their distinctive outfits (which both March and B'Etor actress Gwyneth Walsh have worn at conventions over the years), the Sisters of Duras became an instant hit with fans and easily the most reknowned female Klingons ever to walk on Q'onoS. 

Indeed, Lursa and B'Etor would prove to be so memorable and in demand from the Star Trek fanbase that they would reappear not just in Bloodlines as The Next Generation's seventh season drew to a close but also across in Deep Space Nine's first season Past Prologue (the first regular length episode aired after Emissary) and ultimately would prove to be the downfall of the Enterprise-D over Veridian III in the seventh feature film, Generations.

I found March's Lursa to be the more dominant of the pair, more calculating and the one behind the master plan while B'Etor would be close by to get her hands dirty. Of the five appearances (Redemption being two parts), it would be that cliffhanger from the fourth and fifth seasons that will remain as my favourite moments. It's a rare event to see a Klingon female taking command at this point in the history of the franchise and would perhaps set a precedent that would be evoked through Grilka in Deep Space Nine's Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places and later with L'Rell in Discovery as she takes command of the Empire.

However their was a more devious streak to the duo with their family connections to the Romulans dating back to the Khitomer incident which was explored in Sins of the Father and Reunion before being glaringly exposed in Redemption II. A Klingon family perhaps but one that did not concern itself with honour in the pursuit of control of the entire Empire.

While Generations would also provide the undoing/overconfidence of the sisters, their mark on the Star Trek universe was secure, leading to more Duras' in Enterprise some years later. For appearing in approximately six hours of the franchise, Lursa and her sister were well recognised and certainly the sci-fi world is a little emptier.


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Wednesday, 14 August 2019

All Under One Roof

The significance of the above image may not immediately mean anything but for the first time since 2006 both the movie and TV licences will be owned by the SAME business as Viacom and CBS are set to reunite after a series of recent murmurings. 

But what does this all mean for the franchise powerhouse?

Simply put it means that the TV and movie opportunities can once again be properly intertwined. No longer will Viacom need to tread their own path, spin out into alternate universes, reboot and boldly go differently. It offers the possibility that one day Discovery or one of the subsequent franchise behemoths could venture onto the big screen beyond the confines of TV and it’s smaller scope. 

Estimated to bring about a company worth $28 billion, ViacomCBS will Control every aspect of Star Trek - but will they pass it all under Alex Kurtzman’s guidance or will he remain solely in command of its televised adventures? For the eagle-eyed of course there's a certain iron that Kurtzman - one of the guys behind the movie reboot over on Viacom/Paramount etc should be the one who is now at the helm of the franchise's future on the CBS lot. Could this have been the Big Plan all along so he will be in overall control of Star Trek's direction for the foreseeable future?

What also of the Quentin Tarantino movie which remains the focus of much speculation and excitement? What names might this draw in and will he now have the option to dig into the rich TV past of Star Trek to utilise it’s toybox of characters and events to add a more mature aspect to the universe? How long will it be now before there's an announcement about the future of Star Trek on a cinematic scale?

These are, I’m sure you would agree, very exciting times for the franchise - to know that everything has been reunited and managed in one hub. If the future for Star Trek was already looking bright with the range of series coming then this must be almost blinding in comparison. 

There's also been speculation that Star Trek could become the next Marvel Cinematic Universe. I honestly don't think so. As a concept yes in terms of having both movie and TV entries in its collection but in relation to box office numbers and hype I'd err on the side of caution. Star Trek will not draw in that kind of attention. Yes, it has lasted over half a century but it's not as big a draw and nor will Star Trek be pumping out three or four movies a year plus TV content. Already we're discussing saturation with at least five series in some stage of work (two animated, Discovery, Picard and Section 31) without even considering what the movie arm of the universe might be doing.

That's the thing though - this truly is now the Star Trek Universe - all aspects controlled in one place, one home. It all seems to be coming together rather well at the moment wouldn't you agree...?

Happy to see the franchise reunited after so long? What would you want to see as the result of this reunification?

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