Thursday, 8 December 2016

Visualising Star Trek - Podcast Ten

Our tenth podcast arrives this week and with it we're talking lots of modern era Star Trek.

Hop onboard as Clive and Tiff are joined by Visual Effects Supervisor (and I want to call him VFX LEGEND now - Clive) Adam Howard to discuss his career, firing phasers, thoughts on recent Discovery news and castings as well as some artistic meanderings along the way!!!

PS - there are a couple of little teasers about Discovery in here...

As always you can check out the podcast by either heading over to Soundcloud or searching for Some Kind of Star Trek on iTunes.

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Monday, 5 December 2016

Boldly Go Beyond "Beyond" with IDW

Ian Kimmins gives us a look into the latest IDW offering...

Boldly Go kicks off where Star Trek Beyond ended. Sort of!!

Let me explain. Those last few minutes we see of the new Enterprise being built takes place over a few months and it's in these months that Boldly Go starts its run. 

We start off with a long shot of a very familiar looking ship & each new panel brings us closer until we realise- this isn't the Enterprise! We are on board the USS Endeavour - this is Kirk's temporary command and this is one of the most interesting part of this run-Kirk has a whole new crew to deal with as the Enterprise crew have been assigned new roles while the ship is being built. 

Chekov & McCoy do follow Kirk to the Endeavour. Spock and Uhura head to Vulcan. Sulu is assigned to a ship with a familiar face and Scotty has a teaching role at the academy where we get to see some of the characters from the Starfleet Academy series.

One thing that has been a hallmark of the old ongoing series is the character relationships and it seems Mike Johnson is continuing this in Boldly Go

As this issue wraps up one can only wonder what threat is big enough to bring the crew back together? 

As issue two kicks off Kirk is trying to find out what happened to the USS Concord. They only have one clue an audio recording that says "Resistance is futile" Yes; the guys at IDW have brought the Borg to the Kelvin timeline.

The Concord happens to be the ship Sulu is assigned to and its captain is none other than (The Wrath of Khan's) Terrell and it seems the good captain's lot is a bad one regardless of the timeline. 

Sulu naturally survives the Borg attack and the story is told from his point of view. The tension in the story is well played as we switch between Kirk and the rest of his old crew. As we await issue three we are left hanging wondering how this particular threat will be dealt with. 

Mike Johnson and Tony Shasteen are on point with the Boldly Go series. George Caltsoudas' covers are excellent so if you haven't picked up any of the Kelvin Timeline comics, Boldly Go is a good jumping on point. 

You might say Resistance is Futile! 

Reading Boldly Go? Do you think it's a good series? Is the arrival of the Borg a mistake?

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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Forming the Team: Discovery Edges Closer

Three names are now confirmed for the return of Star Trek in 2017.

Already we had Michelle Yeoh "accidentally" linked to the project in an apparent slip by Nicholas Meyer and today her character is confirmed as Captain Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou not Han Bo as had been flung around. 

Adding to the list of crew we now have Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru, a science officer and member of a brand new alien race to be introduced in Discovery. Secondly there's Anthony Rapp as astromycologist and science officer Lieutenant Stamets who is reported to be the series' gay character. 

From what we are hearing there are going to be a lot of cast announcements in the next few days including that lead role which is still such a huge secret. I would surmise this news has come off the back of Meyer's slip which might of course have been on purpose so that news would be outed.

As for the new announcements what do we know about our latest cast members? Well Doug Jones is no stranger to the weird and wonderful having starred in Hellboy and the series Falling Skies plus the Silver Surfer in the second Fantastic Four movie and all the imps in Doom. Overall he has over 150 acting credits with a fair chunk still in post or pre-production. This should be a piece of cake in comparison and it seems perfect casting for Jones if this is going to be a particularly odd alien addition. 

I'm not too familiar with Rapp and checking out his back catalogue only Road Trip, A Beautiful Mind and Twister are films I recognise or have seen. That said it is a huge CV of media involvement so I don't think it's a bad move. Certainly with all three castings CBS have aimed for individuals with a lot of experience and from a wide range of genres. Fingers crossed that the inclusion of a gay character doesn't bring about all the issues that the news that Sulu was gay in Beyond opened up. I feel sure that the producers and writers here will deal with that matter respectfully and as part of the show rather than a "selling point" if you will. It should be naturally included and welcomed not turned into some form of media spectacle.

With these three coming all together and with some background of their characters being provided too it does appear that we are very close to filming beginning. I'm frankly quite amazed that in such a media centric world that the powers behind Discovery have only been let down by the mouth of one of their writers and that more hasn't been leaked out online.

Presently we have no real idea of just how big the cast of the show will be since there are intimations that Yeoh's Captain Georgiou might only be there for the first season and who knows how much of that she will manage to stay alive for. Note too that both Rapp and Jones are playing science officers which might indicate one is on Discovery and the other under Yeoh's command on the Shenzhou.

The idea of a new alien race is a big draw since the only hint of alien life in Discovery so far was a makeup test for what seemed to be Andorian antennae so that secret too is yet to be revealed.

Of course it's way too early to tell if all those fancy credentials and experience actually make them good as part of one of the biggest TV franchises of all time but lets give them a chance before we go all out against them huh? I like the prospect of Discovery not being so fresh-faced and having that edge of maturity. Indeed, all three are born in the 60's and 70's. Sure there will be younger characters and actors involved but with these three announced it feels that the show will have some strong onscreen foundations with which to build its initial 13 episode season.

Good luck to the new additions to the Star Trek family and here's to your work in 2017!

Who would you like to see in that key role that's yet to be announced? What are your thoughts on these latest announcements?

Images from CBS publicity on Twitter

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Monday, 28 November 2016

Time Gorn By: The Official Starships Collection Issues 87 and 88

Following the horrendous Federation Holoship I was ready for some forgiveness where Eaglemoss is concerned with what purported to be a cracking double act of the Gorn Starship from The Original Series (remastered) and the UTS Aeon from Voyager's third season double header Future's End. However...

The Gorn Starship is tiddly. Tiddly and spindly to be precise and I'm a little disgruntled. Some of this dissatisfaction comes from the consideration of whether this is "really" Star Trek since it's from the remastered episodes rather than the fully grown 1960's originals. Admittedly that would mean the Gorn Starship would be a glowing dot in a box but I'm still not totally convinced which side of the canon/non-canon fence I'm sitting on with these. Honestly these remastered ships have perhaps been some of the most disappointing. Could I have done without the Stella? Yes. Am I not especially interested in the Medusan Starship except for completist reasons? Spot on. 

The same is, tragically, true of the Gorn Starship. I love the Gorn I really do and they are probably one of my all-time favourite Star Trek aliens but this ship and model do leave me wanting. 

For starters it's small (I know I've already said this) and initially I thought that the whole thing was a plastic lump as had been the case with last month's "block" in the form of the Federation Holoship. However on a better and slower inspection it's actually not that bad. The upper hull and pylons are metal while the nacelles and a section on the underbelly and the "tail" are rendered from plastic.

I'm not a fan of the design anyway as it doesn't strike me as a particularly "reptilian" design nor that 60's retro but at least it's different. There's clearly a dragonfly inspiration behind the shape especially with that prominent tail appendage but as with all of The Original Series entries it remains quite plain. Hull surface detail on this small craft is limited to a few upper hull panel formations and recesses with some fin detail on the leading edge of the curved wing/pylons leading to the four nacelles.

The plastic tail to the rear adds a little something to the formula, ending in a silver tip and the red (painted on) glow of the impulse engine. The four warp engines also finish off with purple translucent bussard collectors of two sizes but what I do like here is how the end of plastic nacelle nestles around the purple collector on the upper two tubes. This purple hue also crops up on the underside of the Gorn Starship breaking up the patchwork colour scheme.

What is rather exemplary here is the paint scheme. Look across the whole surface and you'll find its a silver undercoat with a patchy green/brown top layer which gives a worn and rusting effect to the hull. Certainly there's a "swampy" feel to the paint job; dirty even and the great point is that it's not evenly coated so one half isn't just a mirror of the other. Nicely done and adds some character to what is otherwise a bit of a quiet arrival into the realm of the collection.

Reading into the magazine does note that the ship never received a final paint job because it was only seen from a great distance so the colours it has here were never screen used (little naughty but I suppose it's better than receiving a grey blob).

So to issue 88 and something really rather unique; the UTS Aeon. Featured in Voyager we have been teased that the Aeon would be part of the collection since day one (*cough* Fesarius *cough*) and finally it's here. Being only six metres in length the Aeon pays dividends and is the smallest craft ever to appear in the collection. 

A simple dart shape, the opaque cockpit immediately draws your eye because of its sheer size. Even in the show it was blacked out so Eaglemoss have managed to legitimately swerve showing any of the interior! Also at the tip of the nose is a well constructed particle weapon that saw action against Voyager in Future's End.

Comparing this to the other Timeship we've received, the USS Relativity, there is a significant difference in the paint scheme. On the TV the geometric design didn't come off that well making it seem to be solid black however in the flesh it's abundantly clear that the surface is blocked out in a rather crazy - and totally unique - pattern. It will stand out on your shelves! It also wraps around the ship 360 degrees and the more observant will spot that the underside pattern does have some slight variations meaning left/right is not an exact mirror.

Moving aft and on both of the triangular wing sweeps are the two temporal field generators. Big marks up to Eaglemoss here for setting two red transparent segments into the wing and that these two run top to bottom as a single piece. It's a massive statement when you might have expected segments to be planted on the top and bottom of a solid plastic/metal hull. What this does mean is that if you catch the light right you get a wonderful red glow off the two ovals. 

Around both of these features you'll also see a change in the paint scheme and one thing I have seen here is just how precise the finish is here. I know I say it a lot more recently but I firmly believe that their quality control, even on the more sketchy entries, remains strong. Around each there's a blue oval design that blends into the overall effect seamlessly and accentuates the engines - which are both recessed and elevated - exceptionally well. 

At the rear of the upper hull we have two outlets for the temporal/warp engines recessed into the wing. No colour bleed or misalignment is evident. Both are grilled even though they are such a tiny feature of the craft. At the tips of both wings we do have simple blocked out RCS thrusters and in the accompanying magazine you'll see how many of the pieces on the Aeon are instantly recognisable but yet added in such a way that they are still that little bit different. 

Flipping the Aeon over we have a continuation of the paint scheme and also you'll spot that the underside bears two Starfleet pennants which are replicated on the upper hull as well.

As with the thrusters and other features these are slightly different to your expectations being a split oval design which still shouts the delta shield but changes the colours to blue and white rather than the more familiar 23rd and 24th Century red and gold.

The temporal field generators on the underside of the wing are indeed aligned perfectly with the ones set into the top of the wing. You might think this is a bit odd to be commenting on but the lower hull is a single recessed piece of plastic and not a single piece of metal as you might have expected from the slim nature of the Aeon which means that the fact the two halves met so precisely is a good sign of the attention Eaglemoss is paying in regards to their finished product (most of the time).

While I like this cute little ship there are two details distinctly missing from the model which are shouting at you from the front cover of the magazine at the very least and also from the plan views. One of these is the black line which runs around the whole edge of the craft and secondly the white cockpit hatch line. Why these two - especially the second - are not on the Aeon I can only guess but it was a little surprising given they are everywhere else.

Both the Gorn Starship and the Aeon have good solid stand positions with the former gripped around the pylons and the Timeship gripped at the rear. No worries here with divebomb damage and the stands don't hinder any visual appreciation of the new models.

The magazine does have a good selection of pics from Future's End as well as swanky new CG images of the UTS Aeon. There's a standard episode refresh with details on the craft and four pages of designing data from its creator Rick Sternbach. The time travel section looks at what Star Trek episodes showed us of the further future, taking their material purely from later series The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise

It's a rather broad subject and sketchily covered in the magazine but at least it's something different and picks out A Matter of Time from The Next Generation plus Storm Front and Future Tense from Enterprise among the highlights.

A better month with two moderate entries that won't have too many clammering at newsagent doors. Coming off the back of the Holoship certainly makes them look good but there are more entries from recent issues which are far better. Next time we have the Vulcan Vakhlas and a must-have in the form of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-J. Both are ships featured in Enterprise which means there can be no question as to the strength of the end products. I bet the second of these will be an essential for all collectors.

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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Discovery: Yeoh Kicks Us Off

I said yesterday morning that I wouldn't get on-board with the whole Michelle Yeoh thing.

However reading only a little more into it I think we can solidly say that Yeoh is going to be in Discovery

Writer and former Star Trek movie director Nicholas Meyer all but confirmed her involvement saying that she was in it but managed to stop short of actually stating what role she would be playing in the much anticipated CBS show. 

Yeoh is most famous for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and in Tomorrow Never Dies. For Formula One fans she's also known as FIA President Jean Tote's wife. 

Certainly a massive name with a big cinematic history, Yeoh herself has "neither confirmed or denied" her involvement in Discovery which in itself seems to be a massive admission that she will be starring in the series. I'm actually amazed that CBS have secured such a massive name to top their show and she will definitely be a big draw for franchise fans and also to her followers.

I think we were convinced that such a big name would surely be cast as the lead lieutenant commander "with caveats" that Fuller toted a few months back but now multiple sites are indicating that she will actually be Captain Han Bo of the USS Shenzhou. Couple of things to note in that case.

Yeoh is clearly a sign of the multicultural nature of Discovery and also suggests that there could be several high profile names linked to the project since she's not even on the lead ship (let alone the lead character). It also means that the show is going to have multiple locations and not just be set on the Discovery - you wouldn't get Yeoh just for an occasional guest role now would you?! Also having this USS Shenzhou means we are getting at least two new Federation Starship designs which will keep lots of people even happier.

This is all still unconfirmed and could just be a little rumour that's got completely out of control. Heck, we don't really know if this will be her character name and I'd certainly have some salt to hand...

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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Special Seven Spins In: Spock's Jellyfish

The 2009 movie got a lot of things right and bridging the gap with Leonard Nimoy reappearing as Spock is certainly one of those. 

Propelling him into that new timeline - the Kelvin branch - was the Jellyfish. A ship not given a specific name in the movie but essential and central to the plot of the film. It is this craft which offers Romulus a chance of survival (but too late) and (spoiler) is key in the defeat of the renegade Nero.

Now Eaglemoss have planted their replica as part of the ever expanding and house-filling Official Starships Collection. Man, I need to build an extension soon...

Moulded from the finest of Chinese plastics, the Jellyfish is a beast of a ship and given the scale that the specials receive it's been done every justice it deserves. For note this is the smallest ship in the seven specials to date, five of which have been from the reboot movies. 

I jest a little here because I really, really like what's been done here. The Jellyfish is a good, solid model in the series and coming at the same time as the rather poor Gorn Starship (issue 86) it's diverted attention from that regular entry at least for the time being.

Let's crack on then. This new special comes as all of its forebears have, in the full polystyrene-packed card box complete with the usual accoutrements of the clear plastic ship grip and black stand plus the extra long magazine. You can check out out unboxing right here...

With all the specials it's a size thing and this ship is no exception. She's not particularly heavy given that she's 100% plastic but that hasn't worked as a detractor from the finished result. It's one Eaglemoss should be proud of and collectors should be more than happy to add to their laden IKEA shelves. 

The colour scheme is limited to a two-tone grey and one shade green with these three intermingled right across the hull. At the front the curved prow of the Jellyfish is the largest piece of the craft and a good look here reveals that the green finish is embossed with an almost leather-like grain while the silver/grey metallic sections remain plain. Right front and centre is the pilot's window coloured blue rather than having a recessed transparent piece fitted. This forward piece is also the heaviest section of the craft as behind that cockpit curve is the spherical red matter chamber. 

The plastic joins are fairly evident to the rear of the front section but do seem to fade away into the background when you attempt to follow them into the tentacles of the rear but they don't take from the craft in any way. The hull embossing does give off that hint at the aquatic but the plating sections manage to drag it back into something space-worthy instead.  

There are a couple of minor blots on the front section where the green has strayed into the grey but it was only on a close up look that I really noticed. Other than those little blips the paintwork is pretty good and the correct in every place. The bigger scale is a big help which means that around the red matter chamber and back towards the propulsion section there is a lot of finer detail, louvred panels and slatted coverings which bring the model to life.

Perhaps the paintwork isn't as worn or as patchy as portrayed in the film or on the magazine cover but this is as near as physically possible. Do note too that the rear section is tilted slightly lower than it is on the cover of the special issue which means there is some of that detail on both of the spinning arms which is hidden away "within" the ship.

My big concern with the Jellyfish came with the rear section. Having a big lump at the front is all good but the rear tendrils (I thought) would be very flexible and prone to breaking. Fortunately they aren't and Eaglemoss have split their mould along each one which in turn gives it that bit more internal support. They are also bang on parallel to each other which isn't something you can say about every pair of warp nacelles...

The two stabilising fins arcing around the sides of the Jellyfish are probably the most fragile piece here, suspended by two small arms to either side. Film accurate they are but it does make these two protrusions a little bit bendier than I'm happy with. Then to the rear there is this huge pointed rear fin that encloses what I believe is the emitter for the red matter buried at the heart of Spock's ship. Significantly this is highlighted further with the use of our favourite blue transparent plastic to make this feature stand out from the rest of the paintwork. 

The two prongs stab out past the curve of the spinning tentacles with a slatted finish and even some greebling on their inside edges. I can't help but think that these two prongs would have benefitted from being made out of metal for two reasons. One; it would have meant that the rear section had a truly metallic feel different to the forward cockpit piece and two; it would have helped with display stability.

What do I mean there? Well, this is one front-heavy and even with the very sturdy stand placement which grips around the lower of the two rear prongs, there's still a decent bit of lean towards the front and down. In fact the rear of the black base on mine is slightly lifted off the table and I do have the concern that a slight tap to my shelves and this one might be doing a "Romulan Warbird" manoeuvre from a great height. 

While she is devoid of some finer weathering that we have seen on craft such as the large scale USS Kelvin this is still a superb ship. I am a bit narked its the first special that's 100% plastic at the same time that a couple of the regular issues have also been near devoid of metal. Hopefully not a sign of radical cost-cutting and just a more suitable way to present these fine machines. 

As for the magazine there's one thing I noticed straight away. It's got not a single image of the ship from the 2009 movie. Not one. We have a brief introduction covering the craft's appearance in the movie but the rest of the pages (from six to 19) focus solely on the extensive design process for the ship and you get the feeling that it was not the easiest of journeys. There are a lot of concept drawings, possible alternatives and masses of refinements that took place before it could be properly realised. There's even a brief piece which deals with the design of the interior including the cockpit and the wildly important red matter chamber. 

A great read to see how far the design had to go - and then come back - before making it into the film and certainly becoming one of the most iconic pieces of the rebooted Star Trek movie era. I would say this is a must for fans of the franchise and with it coming from the hugely successful reboot movie and its links to Spock I wouldn't be shocked if this sells out damn fast before Christmas.

Thinking of getting the Jellyfish? Essential for your collection?

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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Events, Events Events! Podcast Nine

Getting to join the ranks of the press for the largest Star Trek event in Europe was a mixed blessing.

While I got the chance to catch up with a few old friends it did seem that management of it was a bit mish mashy. The planned schedule went straight out of the window from arrival onwards as the five minute "round robin" interviews with guests was abandoned and entry into the event wasn't controlled as tightly as had been suggested.

While I should have been in from 12 noon I was wandering the tables from around 1115 which did give me the chance to meet Ben Robinson from The Official Starships Collection and get some unblocked photos of the bridge sets, costumes and art dotted around the rather sparcely occupied Hall Four of the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

It was great to get round and see a whole host of traders selling every Playmates action figure you would ever need through to t-shirts, phasers, mugs and then some but if you're visiting there were certain things you needed to go and take a look at in the main hall.

For one thing there was the Borg Alcove hidden away in a corner just by the Klingon Bridge to the rear of the hall. By that there was a full gallery of artwork from the 50 Artists 50 Years book plus some more interesting works such as the Hot Wheels Borg Cube and the "Spock with Cadillac" exhibits.

There were also a mass of costumes and props from the franchise dating back to the space suit from The Motion Picture as well as Ferengi and Cardassian costumes from Deep Space Nine, jumpsuits from Voyager, a future uniform from All Good Things..., Mirror Universe and Suliban outfits from Enterprise and a lot more besides.

The two bridge sets were amazing. The NCC-1701 set was a quarter of the bridge complete with captain's chair and helm and navigation stations. Importantly it was also the focal point for the guest photo shoot on the Friday afternoon. Notable absences were Robert Duncan McNeil, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton and Christopher Lloyd. Lloyd was signing in the afternoon but the other three Star Trek actors arrived for the Saturday and Sunday.

The original bridge was a glory to behold however The Next Generation bridge which sat behind it was the first thing you saw on arrival and was a real gem with curved Tactical station and rear displays all in place.

The press conference itself wheeled out a lot of the guests appearing and I even had a shot at asking William Shatner a question - I'll leave you to listen to the results on the podcast! Besides getting to attend and record the press conference I also had the rare chance to ask a few questions to Star Trek luminaries from the franchise and from every decade of the show's rich past. All those interviews are included on this time's podcast.

The other event well worth a mention here is the Star Trek: The Exhibition on the Golden Mile in Blackpool, UK. Originally planned to end at the beginning of November 2016 it's garnered enough interest to have its stay extended right up until Easter 2017. 

Finally getting down there on a fairly mild Saturday in November big thanks to Paul, Rui, Mark and the team at the exhibition for welcoming us as guests and taking the time to talk to Some Kind of Star Trek for the podcast. Big, big thanks and much appreciated!

While the exhibition isn't massive, it does contain some exceptional items. It was nearly impossible to get past the door since the foyer has Netflix beaming out episodes all day (I got there as season four of Voyager was coming to a close). With a customary glance back over the Star Trek history you're quickly launched into an array of props and costumes from the series, some of which date right back to the 1960's. Probably the highlights of this collection have to be the mock-up, event-used, signed El-Baz shuttlepod, the replica of the USS Enterprise bridge command chair and Helm/Navigation station but you'll be blown away with the chance to be beamed down from the Transporter Room.

In fact that effect is part of the Star Trek 50 app which visitors get to download on entrance and link in with the exhibition as they go round to enhance their experience. A little gimmicky yes, but it definitely adds to the occasion and makes this just that little bit unique and different to all those other exhibitions you go round.

My personal highlight actually wasn't actually any of the bigger stuff - although having the customary bridge shot was ace - it was seeing one of the unused Phase II costumes from the 1970's up close. Totally unexpected and just one of an array of stunning items rarely - and never - seen in the UK. 

So take a trip aboard the Some Kind of Star Trek podcast with myself and Tiff and find out more about Destination Star Trek and at Star Trek: The Exhibition.

You can download the podcast from Soundcloud HERE or drop over and search Some Kind of Star Trek on iTunes.

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