Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Scouting Around: The Official Starships Collection Issues 90 and 91

Monday 16th, apparently, is the most depressing day of the year but how can that be when you have a delivery from Eaglemoss?!

Especially this month as the first box of 2017 contains two amazing models (and I do emphasise the AMAZING part) which - let's be fair - has been a bit of a rarity recently.T o actually get two in the same delivery that are this spot on hasn't happened since the Saber Class and the Romulan Bird-of-Prey in my opinion but this couple have reminded us of just what the collection can deliver every fortnight when it gets it right.

To issue 90 and a true classic from The Next Generation. Only the third Romulan design to be introduced to the Star Trek universe (seventh issue to feature Romulans in the collection mind), the Scout Ship debuted in season three's The Defector and popped up in various guises over the years; not all of them green or Romulan for that matter.

Just taking her out of the box you can't help but be impressed. She looks stunning and I think that's down to the simplicity of the Rick Sternbach design. There are no silly curves, recesses or tricky niches to work into the model; just plain and simple shapes that make an effective and immediately recognisable design. It is a true beauty. That distinctive green tone and style harks to the Warbird which had appeared almost two years previous and paved the way for Romulan design forever more. The curves of that monster are evident here in the wings and nose and while there's no large open gap in the middle the venting and shape betray the family genetics.

The surface finish is exemplary with multiple panel lines, exposed machinery and a fantastic, simple, two shades of green paint scheme that makes this just a joy to look at. The wings (top plus front and back edges are the metal element here) curve out strikingly from the central "neck" section with the panelling giving that bird-like feather appearance and even the plastic bottom insert matches precisely in detail making this a really fine piece of work. Remember also this is one of the few early The Next Generation ships we've had in the series so far.

The forward "head" section is cleverly attached to the plastic underside which might have meant that the detailing has come out that little bit better than if it were in metal. Again, as with the rest of the hull, it's a masterpiece of panelling and precision. The tones of green are exact in their placement; the blackened windows are aligned perfectly with their marked ports and the lines are super-clean. That nose shape is such a distinctive sweep and the fitting of the parts around it are suitably clean meaning the bottom detail finishes nicely to meet the vertical lines from the front section.

This has to be one of the most accurate and best finished ships to date - I simply can't find anything that has been slightly misplaced - remember all those out of place windows on the earlier ships?!

Out at the end of the lovely curved wings are the two warp engines which are probably the most plain sections of the whole craft. There is a slight bit of panel "fanning" to the rear but there are translucent green segments inserted for the warp coils and the bussard collectors. Challenge here is that the longer segments don't really benefit from being see through since they are slapped right across the end of the wing. Bit of a bummer however I think that if they were painted it would cheapen the end result (more on translucence with the Saratoga so bear with me). Minor note too that my warp engines have a slight kink to them if you check her alignment out head on. It's microscopic and virtually unnoticeable until you scour every inch and angle.

The Romulan Scout Ship is a cracking ship presented perfectly on this scale. Ben Robinson and the Eaglemoss team really have produced a corking ship that delivers at every point and every level of expectation. Honestly this has to be in my top ten at this point. It looks great, it feels good and solid and displays marvellously on its rear grip stand - just a note with this though that the fit is very snug so watch out for some possible paint wear around the back of the wings.

Here's a bizarre thing too, the image on the front cover of the magazine doesn't look anywhere near as good as the finished model in any way. I'd go so far to say it actually look stoo clean and clinical. Weird because you open the mag and the pic on page four and five has a slightly weathered finish to it and looks the part. You then get to the plan views and that waxed and polished look is back again!!!

The Ship Profile section here covers not just the appearance of the craft in The Defector but also its suggested presence (in bits) in The Enemy. There are a few titbits of information on the Scout Ship class and Romulans in general here tucked amongst the standard episode recap material. Two pages cover the designing of the craft by Rick Sternbach and the line drawings relate just how accurate the model is to the plan - outstanding that we have something here that is that precise. Also interesting to see that the model was used not just as the basis for the Romulan Science Vessel but also for a ship in Voyager!

This time's feature piece is all about Ronald D Moore. Purely examining his time on The Next Generation from his hiring to write The Bonding in season three through to All Good Things... and many points in between. Certainly a great article to have in your archive since Moore is one of the most influential members of the team on that show and helped forge its identity. Six pages is a good chunk here but I would push for a part two for films, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Issue 91 marks a rare return to familiar territory. It's been rare to see variants within the main sequence of the collection with only the Enterprise refit and Enterprise-A and Voyager and Armoured Voyager springing to mind. Of course there have been the Mirror Universe "M" editions and the subscribers future Enterprise-D but now there's another.

Welcome to the USS Saratoga, a variation on the Miranda Class most familiar to viewers as the USS Reliant in The Wrath of Khan and later as the Brattain and Lantree in The Next Generation and others beyond. What is important to note about the Saratoga is that this isn't just a reuse of the excellent Reliant mould from issue 11 but a totally new product. 

Fans will recall that this ship appeared in the pilot of Deep Space Nine with Ben Sisko as its first officer and a Vulcan captain (who would later be better known as Martok!). While she lasted only a few minutes of screentime in the Wolf 359 pre-credits sequence a lot of the episode would be based around the tragic events that took place there and formed the person Sisko became. While you might grumble about getting a variant of a ship we already have, this one is well worth it given its importance to the show. It will also mean fans will be begging for a USS Bozeman very soon.

The Saratoga is a larger, more complex ship than the original from issue 11 and the loss of that rollbar is nothing when you take a look at what's been done here. For starters the stand is a much better, tighter and more secure fit than with the Reliant; mine has a tendancy to be a little slippy at times.

Eaglemoss have painted the base layers of the Saratoga with the distinctive Federation grey aztec scheme which is magnificently asymmetrical front to back, top to bottom. The fractional upping of the scale has meant that the craft benefits from a lot more finishing touches than were evident on the Reliant

OK it's not a huge size increase but it does mean that the RCS thrusters look a bit more accurately placed and the detail towards the rear of the ship seems to be more defined than on the Reliant. Point for point though the livery is the same with the Starfleet emblems on both of the phaser ports, the red striping around the saucer and even the "1" and "2" numbering still there on the rear-facing shuttlebays. If you will, this slightly larger scale has meant that Eaglemoss have been able to make subtle improvements on what was an early classic in the collection. Anyone else notice that the recessed pieces just behind the phaser ports aren't as deep as they are on the Reliant?

When you look to the rear and the greebling around the warp core you can see how the panelling now stands out that little bit more prominently and is ever so slightly more defined. There are also little blips on the hull upper surface that I can only assume are either lifeboat hatches or access ports - something that isn't present on the original. 

As we've stated the biggest difference between the pair is the removal of the rollbar and the addition of the two distractedly orange sensor pods on little winglets. The definition again on these is wonderful with the surface a patchwork of difference levels and elements to really bring it to life. A second change from the Reliant is that the Saratoga's warp engines don't include any translucent segments. Given this is larger you would have expected those to be here but on NCC-31911 we simply have the warp coils painted out in a shade of blue. Not sure why this would be the case since they are (slightly) larger units and would therefore have been easier to build?

The underside of the Saratoga is however virtually indistinguishable from the Reliant. Something that does become clear though is that the paint scheme on this new version is not as tonally different. On Reliant the two shades of grey are markedly apart while now there is only a slight tonal difference. It's a more subtle play on the paintwork and I personally feel that it's a benefit and also demonstrates how much the team producing these have learnt over the years. 

The rear darker "mechanical" area colour is still just as dark a grey as previously with the detail being a carbon copy but look at the precision of the paintwork and you can see that this is a much higher standard. Things are more pin-point accurate and there's not even a hint of bleed onto the hull colour. Also the underside construction now has the whole of the bottom of the saucer being a plastic clip-in rather than just the middle piece.

Just an amazing job on this one and I wasn't (as usual) expecting it to be this impressive but just with making some subtle changes, Eaglemoss have produced a winner and one that I'm very happy with. 

The magazine for issue 91 has some great new CG images of the Saratoga although the pennant in there has the words "United Federation of Planets" included on the nacelle pylons alongside the ship name so I do have a challenge on which is correct. For size I might surmise it was left off the model. As you might expect this profile section does cover off the differences across the Miranda Class plus the potted history of the ship.

In respect to filming the Saratoga this section briefly discusses the changes made to the model over the years between The Wrath of Khan and Emissary. Not a lot of detail and it actually discusses the requirements of filming the mock-ups from the original moulds which were used to create the destruction of the craft.

Ahead of the key appearances piece we get six pages dedicated to my favourite captain, Ben Sisko and the way in which he changed across the course of the show. Certainly one of the most fleshed out characters in the history of the franchise and one that received the most evolution it's not all just about shaving your head and growing a goatee apparently...

The USS Saratoga package is certainly a nice one that manages to bring the focus back to Deep Space Nine which I do feel sometimes gets a bit of a poor deal in the collection. There aren't a vast amount of ships that can be covered from that show but when we do get them the model and the magazine do the show justice and explore the wider universe. 

A great month for the collection with two amazing, top quality entries I can't get enough of. Also the month to pre-order your second shuttle collection (£75) and your Enterprise-A plaque if you so desire.

On collection news it also seems that due to legalities the Planet of the Titans USS Enterprise is being delayed BUT we will be getting the Phase II version and the Andy Probert USS Enterprise-C versions (as revealed via the Facebook collection fan group) so good news there. Oh and in case you missed it, here's a blatantly exploitative picture of the upcoming USS Kyushu that Ben Robinson posted on Twitter yesterday. Grrr!!!! Need this!!!! It looks so good!!!

Next month we'll have the Medusan Starship from the remastered The Original Series and the Suliban Cell Ship from Enterprise. Not a pairing that I'm particularly fanatical about and I'm not sure how it could even come close to the level of this month's duo...

Were these two worth the wait? Let us know below!!!

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Thursday, 12 January 2017

Eaglemoss Goes Graphic

After a successful trial run last year Eaglemoss have finally released their much anticipated Star Trek graphic novel series. Ian Kimmins steps in to review...

Opening the Eaglemoss account is the well-known Countdown written by Mike Johnson who was an employee of Kutzman/Orci before moving over to write the comics full time, most recently concluding the five year mission of the reboot crew. 

Starting out in the Prime Universe eight years after Nemesis and more of the Enterprise-E crew have moved on. Picard is ambassador to Vulcan, Data (after successfully imprinting his memories to B-4) is Captain of the aforementioned flagship, Geordi has retired from Starfleet to design his own ships and Worf is a General in the Klingon Empire. There is a couple of nice tie-ins here to Star Trek Online. Let us know if you spot them!

Spock, the Ambassador to Romulus (nice lead off from Unification) discovers that the Hobus star is about to go supernova. The Romulan Senate doesn't believe him but he has an ally in Nero who has seen it first hand although as you would expect things don't go precisely to plan.

Close examination of this hard-backed edition does indicate that Eaglemoss have reprinted the Trade Paperback rather than the actual comic itself since that had an error noting Spock lived on Romulus for 40 years previous to the story but was corrected to 20 for the Trade release. 

As we all know, Countdown was written as a prequel to the 2009 reboot movie establishing the backstory that leads Nero on his witchhunt across time and space for the Vulcan ambassador and culminates in the kinking of the timeline for the benefit of JJ Abrams. Likewise Countdown to Darkness did the same for the 2012 sequel but alas Beyond missed out.

Countdown is a fantastic story from start to end and is a less than subtle way of knitting the two parallel Star Trek universes together in what is considered a canon product - one of the rare ones actually included outside of the TV and film (onscreen) sphere.

The second story is a much more (unintentionally) light-hearted story. The Planet of No Return sees the Enterprise surveying the planet K-G. They discover a Space Mist that turns animals into plants. Violent mobile plants! Just another regular mission for the Enterprise!! 

Both Dick Wood and Nevio Zeccara had never seen the show and had been given little information to go on. It stands out very clearly here! 

Cannibal plants, TV Scanners, Giant Trees and Howling Comets are just some if the things we get here. Everybody except Spock seems to be in lime green uniforms for some reason and before you think it can't get any more off-topic, the story ends with Spock decimating everything with laser beams. Of course...

What The Planet of No Return does is provide an incredible contrast across decades of Star Trek not only in the quality of the visuals but also in the way that it is curated in recent years. In the 60's and 70's it was just another series that could be used and transferred into different media and used as wanted but Countdown is a blinding mirror to this misuse in its attention to character and to the in-universe details. If Eaglemoss are going to be offering this kind of strikingly different material in every issue then sign me up now because this will be providing a marvellous and intriguing look into just how Star Trek has been viewed and represented in graphic media across fifty years. Brilliant stuff.

So the question is - is The Graphic Novel Collection worth it? At £1.99 for the first issue it's excellent value and you'd be silly not to take up the chance to get Countdown for next to nothing but is it an essential purchase going forward when it reverts to £9.99?

Issue two, which will cover the original version of The City on the Edge of Forever as Harlon Ellison intended, will be at the slightly higher price of £6.99 but still worth a punt. The third issue - Hive - takes us back to The Next Generation as Seven joins the Enterprise crew against the Borg and issue four is the recent classic Spock: Reflections - we don't really have much of an idea at the moment what to expect each issue beyond that though so a subscription may well be quite a stab in the dark. What we do know from the promotional foldout pamphlet/timeline accompanying this first issue is that virtually every graphic novel nook and cranny will be poked and prodded into place as part of this 80-odd issue series.

Even without the big card backing and the fancy promo work here, the hardback edition of the graphic novel and the Gold Key additional "supplement" are extremely well presented and reproduced. There is a little bit that remains skeptic around the quality that will be issued later down the line (as has happened to some degree with Eaglemoss' Starships Collection but as a Star Trek archive it's one of those avenues which has never really been properly catalogued. In this new format we have a perfect chance to bring all those classic stories together in one place.

If you are a fan of the continuing adventures of your favourite crews outside of TV I would say it is worth it. A few things I would hope to see going forward would be interviews with some of the people involved in the comics and the alternate covers that are usually available for each issue. If you're a subscriber then you'll also be receiving two special metallic comic covers, movie posters, book ends and a lapel pin as gifts over the duration of the series plus for an extra £1 per issue you will receive four photo-novels reprinted from the 1970's at points during the run. Not a bad deal and the publisher did something similar in Germany with shuttles over on their other Star Trek production.

All in all a very good first issue with the best certainly to come.

Are you taking the dive into the collection? Any stories you hope they will include?

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Monday, 9 January 2017

Ian and the Okudas

When you take even the most fleeting of glances into the background of Star Trek there are always a few names which rise to prominence; among those has to be the pairing of Mike and Denise Okuda.

google images

Key contributors to the franchise for nearly 30 years, the Okudas have been involved with everything from The Final Frontier in 1989 through The Next Generation and its four movies as well as Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. While they might not be involved with the '09 reboot, the pair have kept busy in Trekdom working on the remastered The Next Generation blu-rays and most recently the revised Encyclopedia and the Roddenberry Vault.

Mike and Denise were kind enough recently, while out promoting their latest ventures in Star Trek,  to take some time to answer our questions helmed by Ian Kimmins...

Do you think your work on the encyclopedia will ever be finished? With Discovery and Star Trek 4 on the way will we more likely see regular updates? Perhaps in 2020?

MIKE: That’s a good question. Obviously, we’d like for Star Trek and the Encyclopedia to keep going, but in the case of the Encyclopedia, it entirely depends on how well the latest edition sells. The publishing industry has changed a lot since the last edition of the Encyclopedia, so we’re just happy that they stepped up to the plate and we got to do this one.

DENISE: Books like the Encyclopedia are a huge leap of faith for a publisher, and HarperDesign really stepped up to the plate with this one. So the answer is, “We’d love to see it continue, but we really don’t know.”

When compiling the Encyclopedia which bits do you find the most interesting? What do you see as the biggest improvement/changes since the last edition? Was there something that had to be totally overhauled?

MIKE: The biggest single change, other than the added material, was the merging of the text of the 1997 edition with the 1999 supplement. In doing the merge, we discovered that a lot of entries had to be changed because material in the supplement caused the emphasis of the original entry to be changed. Of course, this process continued, to an even greater degree, with the new coverage added in the 2016 edition.

DENISE: I think that’s one of the things I found the most interesting. It’s fun to see all the various data-points for a character, established across many episodes, come together into a coherent whole. I love it when this shows the richness of a character that we’ve come to love, and how this can reveal a character’s overall story arc.

The Vault TNG?
-Wow just brilliant! Could the success of this be a catalyst for you to head off to see what gems are lying hidden from the movies or with next year's anniversary-

DENISE: That’s hard to say. The Roddenberry Vault was in some ways such an incredible stroke of luck, that Gene had held onto all that film, and for Majel, then later Rod, to preserve it all for literally decades. 

MIKE: It was such an unusual set of circumstances that led to the Roddenberry Vault. I don’t think that anyone was really aware that all this cool stuff from the original series was just sitting in storage.. We really haven’t looked into the films or the other series, so we really don’t have an answer.

You've had a busy few years with your work on The Original Series and The Next Generation blu-rays culminating with this year's release of the Star Trek Encyclopedia and The Roddenberry Vault. Having worked within the universe and being fans, how gratifying was it to revisit these especially coming to the 50th anniversary?

MIKE: Both the Roddenberry Vault and the new edition of the Star Trek Encyclopedia are our celebration of Star Trek. In the case of the Roddenberry Vault, it really was a dream come true, to get to see moments in time from the original series, which is really our favorite.

DENISE: The Vault is full of wonderful snippets, film that we had thought was lost forever. You get a sense of the actors’ working process, as when we see Leonard Nimoy working out his performance of Spock. With glimpses of the production crew, we have what we call the “fly on the wall effect,” a sense of what it must have been like to be on the soundstages when Star Trek was in production, all those years ago.

MIKE: We have a number of lines of dialog that didn’t make it into the final episodes, and in some cases, even partial deleted scenes and a couple of alternate endings. In a couple of cases, we found film of scenes in which the dialog was pretty much the same, but in which the actors’ deliveries were surprisingly different. I just love these. They’re an unexpected window giving us new insight into these episodes that we love so much.

Where you aware that there was "lost" footage still in existence or was it as big a surprise to you as it was us?

DENISE: We had always hoped that this footage would someday surface. For years, we asked friends, collectors, and studio people if they knew about any such material. And for years, there was nothing. But still, I kept hoping.

MIKE: I had pretty much given up when one day Rod Roddenberry contacted us. We went to an undisclosed film storage facility and we had to sign nondisclosure agreements. Then they showed us into a room with rows and rows of film cans and boxes on shelves. We looked at some of the labels, and we began to suspect.

DENISE: Then they showed us some of the footage, and our jaws dropped. As far as we
were concerned, this was the Holy Grail. Of course, at that point the challenge, from a filmmaking point of view, was to find a means to present the new footage.

MIKE: That’s where our friend, Roger Lay, Jr. came into the picture. Roger is an accomplished filmmaker whose work includes all of the amazing behind-the-scenes documentaries in the new Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-ray remastered sets. He crafted a series of all-new documentaries to explore twelve featured episodes, as well as the overall series, showcasing the new footage. As longtime Star Trek fans, we’re delighted at some of the new areas he’s exploring in these pieces.

Did your work on The Original Series remasters have an influence on your approach to The Vault? Was it a driving force to get The Vault released?

DENISE: When CBS remastered The Original Series in HD, we all were delighted at how much excitement it generated in the fan community. I think that in some corners of fandom there was a tendency to think of the original series as that “old show,” maybe no longer of interest.

MIKE: Those beautiful new HD transfers revealed so much detail and richness and beauty that had always been part of the film, but had been lost in the old standard-def transfers. So working on The Original Series remastering project with David Rossi and the good folks at CBS gave us a renewed appreciation for the original Star Trek. Actually, the original series was always our favorite, but because we had reason to go back and study it so closely, it just renewed our love for it, which did indeed carry over onto the Roddenberry Vault.

With the release of this new footage is the journey with The Original Series complete? Is there possibly anything new it can give us for the next fifty years?

MIKE: Who knows? Who would have predicted that The Roddenberry Vault would ever become a reality? Certainly not us. So we’re looking forward to being surprised as much as anyone.

As the authors of the Encyclopedia would you consider this new footage canon? Or how do you balance it?

DENISE: We don’t really use the term “canon” in the way that it’s generally used in fandom, that is, to describe story elements with which future writers, producers, and directors must remain consistent. The reason for this, of course, is even though our writers generally have great respect for Trek’s backstory, you never know when the next story or script will require something to be tweaked or “discovered” for dramatic reasons. And as storytellers and filmmakers, that’s their prerogative.

MIKE: When we wrote the Star Trek Encyclopedia, for the most part we tried to stay fairly strictly with material from finished, aired episodes and movies. It was our hope that the book would serve as a reference to fans and writers for the source material, the episodes and movies themselves. The newly-discovered material in The Roddenberry Vault was extremely cool, but in the majority of cases there wasn’t enough film to properly re-create an entire scene with wide shots and closeups and all the elements that you need. This is one of the reasons we didn't attempt to cut together extended versions of the episodes. So while your mileage may vary, we don’t generally consider the new Roddenberry Vault footage to be officially part of the episodes.

Finally what does 2017 hold for yourselves? 

M: We have some things coming up that we can’t talk about yet. There are also a couple of non-Star Trek television and film projects for which we’re doing graphics. There’s some small NASA-related projects, including one that’s almost finished. Those are always fun.

DENISE: The thing is, we’ve been on a crazy busy schedule for the past few years. Between The Next Generation remastered, the Star Trek Encyclopedia, Sully, and the Roddenberry Vault, we’ve been working seven days a week for longer than we’d care to admit, so we hope we get a little time to decompress.

MIKE: But we’re also looking forward to the next thing. Going boldly.

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Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Year Ahead: 2017

Another year has rolled around and thank god we have managed to pull ourselves out of 2016. 

Going back 12 months to our predictions for the year, what did we get right and what didn't quite work out?

Well, Beyond wasn't the runaway success we all hoped it would be. While the script from Doug Jung and Simon Pegg was light years ahead of the the '09 and Into Darkness movies both that and the direction from Justin Lin didn't inspire audiences to head to the cinema in their droves. Rated as one of the "flops" of 2016 it's a big shame since Beyond is a damn fine Star Trek film. How this disappointing result will affect the already announced Star Trek 4 we will probably find out shortly.

In regards to our thoughts on fan series and the like, a certain court case put paid to a lot of those although there were a few final episodes from Continues, New Voyages and the exceptional Horizon movie which premiered back in February. Sadly though there will be no sequel to that project after a quiet word from CBS meant it was canned permanently.

Now the New Year beckons and with it our thoughts on the next 365 days. Let's kick off with the obvious one...

Star Trek: Discovery

First announced in November 2015 we should now be mere days away from the pilot episode however due to what might be a genius move, the show will now launch in May. I reckon this is a sensible step given all the backstage events of the last 12 months. Adding a few more months to production just ensures a stable show and will help iron out the cracks. Along with the assembled writing staff we also know of seven cast members although according to IMDB only a few of those are signed on for the full first season. I'd guess that these won't all be lead characters and there are still more announcements to come. Note too that Sonequa Martin-Green has not yet been officially cast as "Lieutenant Commander Rainwood" which could suggest there are certainly others who are to be added before her confirmation. Without question and be it good or bad, this is the Star Trek event of 2017. Let's hope they sorted that ship out too...

The Next Generation @ 30

Believe it or not, the show which revived Star Trek on TV back in the late 80's is celebrating three decades in 2017. That might mean pulling out that Blu-ray box and watching Encounter at Farpoint one more time but it could indicate some special releases later in the year? Something commemorative perhaps? Would we go so far as to suggest The Next Generation Roddenberry Vault?  I wouldn't be surprised if there's a 30th anniversary novel or trilogy to accompany. Time to dig out the technical manual and that 365 book - think they'll be getting a lot of use this year!

Deep Space Nine Behind the Scenes

Much touted, much wanted and can't come too soon for many fans - a promised documentary on all the goings on from the dark sibling of the Star Trek franchise. When announced this really got Niners excited including myself. For a series that is often sidelined even against Voyager or Enterprise, the news that we would be getting a documentary digging into the very bones of the show was a highlight of 2016. This will be a must see and must own for any fan.

The Future of the Fan Series

Exactly a year ago the fan film sphere was shattered by the news that Paramount and CBS had issued a cease and desist against Axanar. The independent/fan film was set to be the closest thing to Star Trek ever not produced by the licence holders and was backed by one of the most successful crowdfunding projects of all time. Trouble is that there seems to be a lot more to it than that with expenses, studio ownership and "missing" funds being part of something we never wanted to hear about. The case goes to court on January 31 2017 and will without doubt determine what can and can't be done by fans of Star Trek forevermore. One thing is for certain and that's that "fair use" cannot be used as part of the Axanar defence. 

Thing is that already the case has effectively closed down much loved web series such as Continues and New Voyages to name but two. Already it seems that New Voyages has resigned to the fact it's all over and is now offering guided tours of the original plan-accurate sets. The case also forced others to change their name and style just to stay alive - Renegades and Anthology (now The Outer Rim) to point out a couple of instances. If you recall these were a couple of our ones to watch in 2017. Rules are already in place following the 2016 furore but this impending court case might alter the deal even more. 


The Official Starships Collection will hit its 100th issue in 2017 with the Daedalus Class marking the occasions. While this year will bring us bigger versions of every Enterprise from The Original Series to Nemesis plus specials focusing on ships from Beyond, the publisher is also branching out into the graphic novels. Following a successful test run in late 2016 this series will soon allow fans to own material from the last 4 decades of Star Trek with some cool gifts along the way. Perhaps not one in too fussed about but I certainly think a lot of fans will be excited by the prospect of this new collection.

First Contact Day 

Out of the Ashes 2.0

In its third year as FCD and after some monumental challenges in 2016, the event run by fans for fans is back and at the Telford International Centre.  With a line up including cast from Babylon 5 and Stargate Atlantis and Universe, the big draws for Star Trek fans in the U.K. will be FCD veterans John Carrigan and Aron Eisenberg plus Voyager's EMH, Robert Picardo and Number One himself, Jonathan Frakes. Really amazing news to hear the team had managed to get these two gents to add to their already superb line up. FCD might not be the arena filler that Destination Star Trek pertains to be but it has more heart and passion than any other event I attend during the year and that goes for things Trek or non-Trek related. Get your tickets. Don't delay.

So what are your highlights and thoughts for the coming 12 months?

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Saturday, 24 December 2016

FCD Is Number One

It's Christmas Eve and the long awaited star guest announcement for First Contact Day 2017 has been revealed!

We can now announce that none other than Commander William T Riker (or Thomas Riker if you prefer) Jonathan Frakes will be landing in the UK for the three day event running at the Telford International Centre from March 31st to April 2nd 2017.

Seriously, yes, we said it - Jonathan Frakes - Riker; Number One, the guy who defeated the Borg, the man with the most unique style of sitting down in the known universe will be joining fans in Telford during the 30th anniversary year of The Next Generation. But hey, let's get the man to tell you himself...


Commented organisers Wil Ross; "FCD Out of the Ashes 2.0 represents our biggest challenge yet.

"After what happened to FCD 2016, we had so much love and support but we also lost a lot of credibility with fans. I'm sure they felt for us but when your talking about people thinking their had lost hard earned money on a postponed event, they would have been questioning our credibility and our ability to actually put on this show.............it's natural because I know I would be if the shoe was on the other foot."

While not quite what they had planned, FCD 2016 was still a great fan event run by fans with guests Claudia Christian, John Carrigan, Aron Eisenberg and JG Hertzler all appearing and helping make a great day.

"What people need to understand is that David [Limburg] and I have personally underwritten about 80% of the total cost of this event." said Wil, "The rest will come from early ticket sales etc. Our job now is to convince people that we really mean business and to that end we have upped our game in terms of guests."

Truly they have with a selection already announced and the "big one" held back for Christmas Eve. 

Continued Wil; "We have a stunning line up from across the sci-fi universe - Aron Eisenberg (Deep Space Nine), John Carrigan (Star Trek: New Voyages and more), Claudia Christian (Babylon Five), Rainbow Sun Francks (Stargate Atlantis), David Blue (Stargate Universe), Robert Picardo (Voyager) and Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon Five, Tron). I mean come on, we couldn't top that surely - but we have!!

"So come on, get your tickets and let's have some fun!!"

The inclusion of actor/director Jonathan Frakes is simply huge and shows the dedication and belief that exists around FCD in that they can attract such big Star Trek alumni. Of course it's nice to have the guy who starred in and directed First Contact to be there for First Contact Day!

Get on over to the FCD 2.0 Out of the Ashes Facebook page now for more information and get your tickets booked - we'll be seeing you there!!!

Looking forward to FCD 2017? Who will you be getting an autograph from?

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Transports and Flagships: The Official Starships Collection Issues 88 and 89

Rare is it for me to laud the brilliance of a Vulcan ship but this month I just have to do that.

That's because the Vulcan Vahklas, the first of this December's dynamic duo, is a great replica. With a silhouette not too distant from Darth Maul's Sith Infiltrator, the transport is one of the chunkier entries into the halls of the Starships Collection but as with Enterprise craft it is well worthy of a spot.

Appearing initially in the opening season's Fusion before popping up again during the Vulcan arc of the fourth season, the ship is immediately recognisable as belonging to Spock's people due to its colouring and those sweeping rear curves if nothing else. 

Surface panelling is fairly plain with a few lifeboat hatches and raised segments breaking up the hull front to stern. It is a beautiful design with some lovely lines that are echoed in the designs of the D'kyr and the Surok classes we've already seen but I believe that this larger model has provided Eaglemoss with a much better chance to showcase the Vulcan craft even though it is (logically) basic and functional to the core.

One thing that is evident at every point and angle is the bleed that comes off the paint job must be deliberate. as it seeps into almost every orifice of the Vahklas and raises the ships lines to a subtlety noticable level and I think without that addition it wouldn't be half as effective not highlight the levels of the bodywork or the panelling. Looking back, the identical colour on the D'kyr and the Surok classes worked fine potentially because of their scaling while here it brings the Vahklas to life.

The upper hull structure is solid metal here while the curved wings, front hull tips (forward translinear sensors) and underside are all plastic. Here the lighter construction material does seem to have the stronger detail finish and carries less of the colour bleed effect. On the underside too there seems to be more depth to the finish and more definition to the hull panels at every point. Just compare the pair of hatches right at the front of the bridge curve to the two pairs dipped into the hull underneath. 

Perhaps one gripe here is that the rear impulse engines are not finished in red rather block coloured the same as the rest of the ship and do seem to have a lot of the paint bleed rolling around their edges. Does seem a little sloppy since they have managed to slip a thin strand of blue edging into the rear curves of the wings to represent the warp engines - surely the painting of the impulse slots would have been an easier task? Saying that we are missing some of the edging venting along those wing curves which has to be down to scale, fit and ability to mass reproduce effectively.

Talking of easy and difficult, you really have to squint to realise that the particle beam emitter - which is recessed into the lower half of the hull and points to the bow - is capped with a small dome of translucent plastic. Given that it's nearly almost always shadowed I'm not certain if this was a necessary move. It looks pretty cool but a dab of white paint might have sufficed and there could have been more attention paid to the accuracy of the impulse engines. White paint I might add that could have been used to blot in the two recessed lights that are evident on the magazine cover just forward of the emitter but not on the model.

To be fair on reflection the back end is a little messy in its execution which is a shame because from the front, above and below the accuracy and transfer from the original CG is mouth-watering and adds another tick to the success of Enterprise within the confines of this collection. The rear also suffers from some recessed detail that seems unfinished and is sadly off-set by fairly obvious join lines too.

Stand positioning here is a good rear grip sliding between the warp "curves" and the main hull. There's very little movement and the stance offers a good way to see the Vahklas from every angle - except that disappointing rear.

Issue 88 tracks the story of the Enterprise episode Fusion in which the Vahklas appeared and gives brief mention to its later and fleeting appearance in season four of the show. The views here just add weight to the fact that there is some detail missing from the finished model such as a few strokes of paint here and there is a rather disappointing and short section on the design of the ship; one sketch, a CG render and a screenshot - which all also make you realise how clean a finish the model has when the ship in the episode looked like it had been battered about over the years.

Rounding out six pages of the magazine we have Vulcans in the 22nd Century which might run as one of the articles I've been least interested in since the start of the collection. It's OK and there's a decent bit of information but it's very much aimed at "beginners" rather than long term fans and does feel as though the writers were pushed to find something to fill the remaining pages. Considering that the model is actually fairly good the magazine here is a bit scrappy in places.

So to the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-J and what must be one of the most anticipated issues of late. After all, it's an Enterprise so it has to be amazing, right?!

Here's the thing for me. It's another Enterprise series ship but technically it's only ever seen on screen as a LCARS display while Archer and Daniels stand in one of its corridors to watch the Battle of Procyon. It might therefore qualify as the most tedious-link entry to the main collection issues because it never really appeared on screen.

Seen in just one episode of Enterprise for a less than fleeting second (Azati Prime), the J is near to the stuff of legend and fanboy dreams. Indeed, fan demand will surely have pushed this to be included and since it does exist within the canon of the Prime Universe I guess it has (begrudgingly) earned its place so let's take a closer look.

The Enterprise-J is one of the most spindly models ever, right up there with the collector's nightmare that is the Bajoran Solar Sailor (and mine recently had to have a repair job). It's also somewhat sketchy in its final render because it's also one of the larger ships that's been scaled down to be included. While the Enterprise-D comes in at 641 metres in length, this Universe Class starship is over five times as long clocking in at 3,219 metres which goes some way to explaining the paint finish that we have on the elliptical primary hull especially in relation to the lit and unlit windows.

It is a beautiful ship to behold and a rare opportunity to get your hands on this evasive craft - in fact I think it is the first time it has ever been produced in model form. Under all those stripes of lights the hull does carry a nicely produced aztec silver paint scheme. You'll also note that the black "off" lights are the ones which are raised in detail on the hull while the white/yellow "on" lights are flush to the surface. Unfortunately the lighting effect is mirrored port to starboard rather than that uneven "lived in" feel you might have wanted. 

The other thing that bugs me is the need to "illuminate" the ship registry with a white/yellow patch right on the nose. It's an ugly mark and points out clearly that there's no "J" attached to the ship which is accurate to the model on which this was designed. The recessed deflector just in front of that is as plain as the one illustrated on the magazine with a simple swipe of orange to colour the dent that is hugged by a hammerhead section arcing out across the front of the hull and seemingly holding the saucer in place.

Rearwards now and the large metal saucer gives way to the fragile back section. There is a bit of structural support here as the underside of the primary hull extends back underneath but the top piece, nacelles and warp engines are all plastic.

The blue dome that signals the top of the warp core is clearly spotted midway along that spine piece and then splits away into the two very fine and bendy warp nacelles. To be fair they aren't that bad and curve precisely and at the same angle to each other up to the horribly delicate warp engines. While the way in which they sit around the pointy pylons looks inaccurate and a bit slapdash it seems to be right even when you compare it to the images in the magazine and online. There aren't too many which give you a good angle on the engines but the blue sections do sit below the pylon while the longer silver section sits above it. 

With such small scale to work with here the matter that Eaglemoss have managed to use translucent sections for the warp coils and the bussard collectors is nothing short of a Scotty-sized miracle. Just whatever you do don't handle her from the back under any circumstances!!!

Getting her out of the stand though is a bit tricky requiring a bend and slight tug to the front - probably a good thing since it means your ship is secure but it means that getting to examine the underside more closely is a bit fiddly. 

You can clearly see the join of the metal primary hull and neck extension to the plastic back end and that bottom continues the port/starboard mirrored lighting pattern and silver aztecing right across the surface. Also look out for the white dots which appear over the hull - they are there to represent the external ship lighting which you can align using the cover of issue 89.

It's a magazine which details all we know of the ship in just two paragraphs before filling a two page spread with un-annotated pictures of the J which do show off a more uneven lighting pattern than is painted on the model. One of the huge benefits of this craft having such little (or read "non-existent") screentime is that all the pictures of it are conceptual and rarely seen. We get a whopping eight pages of art and opinion on the 26th Century incarnation of the USS Enterprise which was created by Doug Drexler who virtually threw away the rulebook to create an iconic craft for another (possible) time period. Now I'm not a huge fan of the ship but it's an exciting take on the classic two hulls and warp nacelles combo that originated from Matt Jefferies and even if you're not over the moon with adding another Enterprise to your shelf, the background information is priceless for any fan. 

What does suffer from the exposure the J gets in its Designing section is the Doug Drexler article itself which deserves to have more than two sparce pages dedicated to the work of one of Star Trek's most influential designers. Could it mean that there will be more on the man in a future volume perhaps?

Another year is done then with the Starships Collection and we close out with two fair Enterprise starships. Good craft this time but whether the Enterprise-J is as good as it should have been is something that should be debated. It's ok but this was an opportunity to really let it shine and perhaps update and finish off the background Drexler design with a little more finesse. Maybe not as disappointing as the Issue Two refit but not a big winner either. As for the Vahklas; easily the best Vulcan craft to date but I reckon when the T'Plana'Hath makes an appearance it'll be given a run for its money.

One final note as well that we now have confirmation that the third "M" series model will be the ISS Defiant from Shattered Mirror in Deep Space Nine's fourth season. Definitely a good shout for the magazine but with these Mirror Universe ships the minor decal tweaks do mean that parting with cash can be a little frustrating. Also can we have the pennants the right way round first time...?

Is the Enterprise-J a winner or a missed chance from Eaglemoss?