Friday, 15 February 2019

Rounding Up: The Graphic Novel Collection Issues 40 - 43

It's time for another four issue catch up with the Eaglemoss Graphic Novel Collection and this time we're crossing realities, combating Cardassians and entertaining a bit of crew possession with Ian Kimmins as our guide...

The fortieth edition of the series takes place after Into Darkness and we get a few call backs to previous Trek canon such as Section 31 and Khitomer. We also get to see Sulu's younger sister who plays a big part in this story.

Section 31 and the Romulans are trying to destroy the Klingons and you can imagine Kirk doesn’t take to kindly to this and figures out a way stop them. Overall this is a solid story with a few nice nods to canon but it’s the next story in this volume that stands out and we encounter that familiar Star Trek trope The Mirror Universe-although this one is a bit different as we get to meet Captain Jane Tiberia Kirk and her gender swapped crew. It is a fun read especially meeting characters such as Jason Rand & this universes Scotty-Majorie Scott. You also what know the characters are going to do & say but it doesn’t matter as Mike Johnson has again crafted a great story that leaves us looking for more. We also have our usual off the wall Gold Key story which always manages a raise a smile!

This issue's Gold Key release is A Bomb in Time which transports Kirk to 1955 and Scotty (looking oddly like a Vulcan) to 1855 in search of a scientist's deadly weapon. A rare Gold Key time travel instalment sees Kirk tracking the doctor on a movie set with his chief engineer gunfighting even further in the past. Total entertaining hogwash!

The DC Star Trek: The Mirror Universe saga is one of the greats of all time and a tale that this collection would have been idiotic to miss.

It provides us with another alternative timeline, this time in a "What If..." The Voyage Home  hadn't been made as this story has the Mirror Universe ISS Enterprise and her crew from Mirror, Mirror leading a potential invasion of our universe.

Bringing back the whole of the crew from the Mirror Universe, we also reconnect with Captain Styles and the USS Excelsior and travel to Earth and Vulcan in an adventure of galactic proportions. 

Spread over four issues the story has just about everything as Kirk faces off against his Mirror self and the legendary goatee'd Spock. There's duplicity in abundance and everyone seems to be running to their own agendas in some of the tightest writing that Star Trek comics ever saw. Visually there are a few times the ships look a bit odd but the character resemblances are very close to their real versions.

This tale is written by Mike W. Barr who wrote extensively for DC's Star Trek line. Barr had a direct line with Harve Bennett and had a general knowledge of where the movies were heading and so could plan his stories in advance. Once Star Trek III was out of the way, DC decided to do an eight issue tale focusing on the Mirror Universe. 

Not only did we get to see the main cast in this alternate story but we also got to see characters such as Saavik with Barr’s own creations Ensign Bearclaw the Klingon Konom. As for the story it’s a classic and I won’t spoil it here but suffice to say 35 years later it’s still considered one of the best for a reason. 

Issue 38 of the Gold Key reprints is included too; Kirk is relieved of command, turns up on Mobil in disguise while the crew of the Enterprise threaten a mutiny in One of Our Captains is Missing. All in all just your usual Gold Key story which ignores pretty much anything to do with canon and there's even a new captain who rubs the crew up the wrong way for added value. Entertaining; certainly. This volume is not to be missed. It’s one of the best.

Volume 42 is The Next Generation: The Pilot. Nope, not a graphic novelization of Encounter at Farpoint but an alien takes over Data story. This issue has a story running through all the various tales -the Enterprise is turning up and wreaking havoc in various places but, shock horror it's not. It’s a fairly early attempt at a somewhat serialized story - very popular today in the likes of Discovery. Also something very similar to this thread would be utilised within the fourth season of Enterprise with the Romulan Drone Ship. While it is an interesting idea with the story set during season three it all feels very pedestrian. Even the Gold Key story isn’t all that great. All in all probably one for the completist only.

Issue 39 of the classic Gold Key line is included here in the form of Prophet of Peace. Awakening and curing a scientist who was cryo-frozen, the Enterprise makes a rare nip back to Earth with references to the Third World War plus we get to see some of the world's most well-known landmarks "updated" for the 23rd Century. Of course it's not all that simple and as always with a Gold Key story there's an ending that is exceptionally unStarTrek...

Volume 43 is Deep Space Nine’s Hearts and Minds which was originally published by Malibu Comics and written by Mark A.Altman who you may know from the 50 Year Mission books and the rather excellent Inglorious Treksperts podcast.

In this tale the Klingons and the Cardassians are out to cause problems for the station. The Klingons arrive looking for a missing ship and their prime suspects are the Cardassians. Naturally this is left up to Captain Sisko to sort out so he dispatches Dax and Bashir along with a Klingon officer to find out what they can about the missing ship. 

Meanwhile back on Deep Space Nine Quark gets an offer to sell his bar-sell up or be killed! Quark runs straight to Odo and they find out why Maura wants the bar so badly. Character-wise, Altman has these two on the dot and carrying on just as they would in an episode of the show with a situation that's slightly reminiscent of Rivals from season two.

Out on a runabout Dax and Bashir are still investigating the missing Klingon ship only to be captured by the Romulans!! It turns out they were behind it all and the Klingons are out for revenge (you'd have thought everyone would have learned what they're like after Unification). Once they’ve dealt with the Romulans we end on a nice bit of interplay between Quark and Odo with the constable keeping the contract that Quark had signed to sell the bar. Very in keeping with the nature of the show and also the two classic Deep Space Nine characters.

This issues Gold Key is Furlough to Fury which introduces McCoy's daughter Barbara. She appears in another issue of Gold Key but never again. All other references are to Joanna -The Way to Eden was originally to feature her as have any other references throughout any canon or non-canonical material. This is one of the less wacky stories from the Gold Key era and while not canon it’s nice to get a bit of a backstory for McCoy.

That's your lot for now from Ian and Clive on The Graphic Novel Collection. Next time we'll be catching up with issues 44 - 47.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2019

The Starship Garage: Spacedock - The Official Starships Collection Special Edition 15

It's potentially one of Eaglemoss' most ambitious models and one that fans have notched up on their "Must Have" list almost from day one.

Spacedock; the largest structure recreated as part of The Official Starships Collection has arrived as the fifteenth special edition.

At over 20cm tall, Spacedock is an impressive model and only the third stationary object to be included in the series after Deep Space Nine and K-7. Both of those proved to be highlights of the specials and this is no exception.

At the top, Spacedock is perhaps at its weakest with a series of aerials and towers protruding from the centre. They look a little thicker than might have been intended but at least there's some structural integrity there to ward away the occasional knock from the cat.

The overall finishing coat of light grey is then speckled with taupe panels right across the whole of the surface both looking from the top and from underneath. With this there isn't a surface you can't see since every part is just, well, big and open to analysis. There are literally hundreds of little white spots denoting windows right across the surface neatly aligned with a slight niggle that a couple of the rows do seem to have overlapped with the intermittent red decal striping that arcs around the mushroom-shaped docking area. Each of the four main access doors is numbered (apparently no sense back in 1983) 7, 15, 21 and 28. 

With these there could have done with being a little more detail given that these four entrances are simply blank panels with number decals and miss the panel detail that is present all around them even just to note where they meet in the middle. Could these perhaps have been done as four door-sized decals to avoid any challenges?

On the underside of the docking area we have a large circular translucent blue element which you will recall from the movies is brightly illuminated. While not lit up here it does stand out very well against the matt grey hull and is held in place with the only metal section of Spacedock which angles inwards towards the bulbous stem.

On this piece the speckled taupe versus light grey paint scheme continues as well as the reams of white windows but there are some small, deeper circles which appear to be airlocks to the interior sporadically placed around this element. What you don't appreciate unless you're actually in physical contact with the model is that it's not a flat surface. There are subtle panel undulations all over it which your eyes will only just pick up depending on light and angles.

Descending further, we have a series of five different shaped objects from tubes to spheres to make up the majority of Spacedock. On the third piece down - which curves outwards - there are once again the red stripe decals but you can also make out light blue rectangles near to the bottom edge of the section. As with the upper mushroom top and by cross-referencing to the magazine and its onscreen appearances these look like external viewing ports. In fact on the fourth section too there are more indications of docking ports and observation windows. 

On the underside of this section we have four ports which would appear to be small craft landing pads and while K-7 had the ability to open its shuttlebay up, these are too small a scale to offer this up as an option leaving them just to be a surface detail but there does feel to be a bit of depth to them. In fact the lack of illumination does take some of the awe away but it's not something that can be recreated on something that's scaled down from over three miles in size. In parallel to the large translucent blue ring inserted underneath the mushroom top we have a ring of blue segments which were very well illuminated onscreen and one might suspect are linked to some form of internal power system - possibly positioning thrusters of some form?

The bottom three sections are all plastic with a single seam running vertically to join the two halves together. Then to the bottom there's another array of antennas which are not the sturdiest although not as bendable as those on the top.

Due to the scale of this one there is a loss of smaller detail and depth to the openings and windows right across the surface but this doesn't mean it isn't a good result. Spacedock is mightily impressive and comes with one of the collection's most ingenious stand designs; a ring into which the station slides and then sits on over the black base.

The special mag provides a skimpy overview of the role of the station before diving into a 14 page Designing a Vintage Port which traces the origins of Spacedock back to the space station model from The Motion Picture and the choices around what led to creating something different for The Search for Spock that would be reused for the subsequent three movies and also make a guest appearance in The Next Generation as Starbase 74 in 11001001. The magazine also covers how the interior of the station was created for the classic scene in which Kirk and the crew steal the Enterprise and later how it needed to be recreated for The Voyage Home's unveiling of the Enterprise-A.

This is a fantastic model and a very unique item. Some of the more intricate elements such as the antenna are chunky and basic but scale does play against the possibilities here. It looks amazing and feels very sturdy for the main part. If you can find it, get one; you won't be disappointed. 

Enjoyed the review? Check out the others on our Collection resource or you could like and share!

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Sunday, 10 February 2019

Dangerous Contact: An Obol to Charon S02 E04

The long awaited arrival of Rebecca Romjin’s Number One might have been substantially overmilked in what was otherwise a damn fine episode of Discovery.

On the hunt for the shuttle-stealing Spock, Discovery gets cornered by a huge alien creature that plays havoc with the ship’s systems and counting down to destruction. While all this is going on, Saru is fighting off a virus which, he later reveals, is terminal. Elsewhere we have Stamets, Tilly and a returning Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) dealing with the creature from the mycelial network.

Let’s start at the beginning. Number One’s appearance is pretty cool if brief, serving as a plot mover more than anything else. We get very little character in the few moments she has with Pike and I think it will be a lost opportunity if she doesn’t turn up again to fill us in on the repair work aboard the Enterprise. Lovely little twist around the removal of the holographic comms systems that are causing havoc with Pike wanting to go back to using monitors. Nice ret-con there.

The episode has some cracking twists beginning with a malfunctioning universal translator causing all sorts of havoc as the crew try to work out what an apparently malevolent alien creature wants with the Discovery. The effects of this alien are overwhelming and what seems to be three unconnected storylines actually all intertwine. Let's take Stamets/Tilly/Reno first.

The sparks do fly quite quickly between Stamets and Reno in the engineering bay with some quality bickering that Spock and McCoy would have been proud of. Due to a change in circumstances though as the mycelial creature escapes and reattaches itself to Tilly they set aside their rather engaging differences at a frighteningly rapid pace to save the day. 

Notaro is on excellent form as the rather casual engineer contrasting brilliantly against Stamets' much more prim and proper approach to his job but their partnership could well be one of the season's best character highlights and is an amusing aside to the plot. Mary Wise gets to play an even more nervous and distracted Tilly here with one chilling point backed with a rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity that might rank as one of Star Trek's most unsettling. Cleverly there's a double ending to this piece of the episode which means that this creature which joy-rode back from the Mirror Universe is set for another guest appearance next week. 

It is a real emotional rollercoaster with Saru providing the real kick to the episode.  Starting out with just a cold at a staff meeting (welcome back to the Saurian Linus by the way) the Kelpien's health rapidly deteriorates over the course of the story and while we as the viewer might realise that the intervention of the alien creature and Saru's ailment are linked pretty soon into the action, Doug Jones is a true tour de force here as the weakened Saru. 

It truly does seem that all is lost with Saru ultimately giving in to the belief that he will die and invokes the desire to be killed by Burnham. We learn a lot about the Kelpien here and while we were led to believe that the Short Treks were to be totally standalone, The Brightest Star  now seems deeply linked into the events of the season with Saru's homeworld and his reasons for not being able to return now featured in two episodes from the four released.

The predatory Ba'ul have worked a treat over the Kelpiens making them believe that once the illness takes hold it's game over but ultimately it turns out that the result of the Vahar'ai (had to Google it) actually means that his threat ganglia drop out and shrivel up and also relieve him of his inbred fear.

Ok, so this does effectively remove one of the key factors that made Saru right from the first episode but it opens up a whole new perspective on the Kelpiens and just what this revelation - that the Ba'ul had been lying - could mean for his future actions. Jones is mesmerising as Saru right from the start here and working in not just the facial but upper body prosthetics for such an emotional scene is mind-blowing. Both he and Sonequa Martin-Green smashed it out of the park here and for a second I didn't know which way this was going. 

Online it seems there's a lot of thought that both this and New Eden are trying to tread the "proper" Star Trek path but for me the second episode of the season still just doesn't quite work. An Obol for Charon on the other hand is superb. Full of character, packed with emotion and all with a recognisable tale around first (or is it?) contact shows that Discovery really does have a heart and has learnt from the action heavy first season. It can have its moments of being new and different to the series before but this proves that it is Star Trek at its core and slips Saru into being one of the franchise's best creations. 

Episode four opens even more doors for the season to explore and doesn't appear to have shut any at all. The chase to catch up with the errant Spock is still on and actually assisted by the alien that stopped Discovery in its tracks. Saru's life has changed forever (still not sure if this is a good move so early into the show's lifetime) and Tilly is literally in it up

This year is offering up a much wider diversity of stories and character points than season one while not really focusing on the Red Angel story so far. It appears that the show has taken a good look at its predecessors and seen what made them great - it's not all about battles and explosions and with An Obol to Charon we have what could well be one of the best episodes of Discovery that will ever be made. A new classic for a new generation if ever there was one.

How do you rate the fourth episode of Discovery's new season?

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Friday, 8 February 2019

Bit of a Pull: The Official Starships Collection Issues 140 and 141

As the collection heads towards 150 issues we were bound to start seeing some more true oddballs from the franchise and this may take the starring role...   

The Federation Tug is seen ever so briefly at the start of Deep Space Nine’s sixth season opener A Time to Stand with its tractor beams pulling along the stricken Excelsior Class USS Frederickson.

And that’s it. Five seconds. Max. Yet here we are with it as issue 141 ahead of some notably absent friends. I have to say though that Eaglemoss should be applauded for adding in these more unusual craft to give the collection an all-inclusive feel.   

As a model they've done a hugely impressive job of translating the haphazard build of the screen used prop into something more refined for the starship collector. Constructed out of various Star Trek kits and other spare parts, the tug is a compact little beast but one that actually has a ton of stuff to look at and analyse.   

Bizarrely it sits on its stand backwards with the plastic grip sliding over the front of the ship. Every surface has a story to tell here and even at the forward point you can see elements that have just been placed together to create a visual effect. The base paint coat is a light grey with sections of the hull then mottled with a darker grey overcoat. It looks like we’ve gone for a more heavily worn look than aztecing since its quite uneven.

The top plastic section has some good detail even if it is fairly makeshift both on the upper surface and also along the support beam structure running either side of that central unit. Those beams then connect into the two upturned warp pylons "borrowed" from the USS Voyager. These too have the mottled hull effect coupled with some small gold surface detail which links in with the panelling on the upper hull.

The very recognisable pylons drop into recoloured Romulan Warbird nacelles that are distinctly "Starfleet"ed with blue warp grilles and red tips to the bussard collectors. The inset grilles are fitted with translucent plastic but only to the outer side. The inner edge of the nacelles are plain and light grey and devoid of any real detail but given the source material it would probably guess that its enough to have the cleaned up outer surfaces.

The underside of the Tug right around to that rear section is one metal block. The bottom piece continues the mottled two shades of grey while the back piece contains more of the refined surface detail smoothed in translation from the rough and ready studio model. The effect is rounded out with raised gold fan detail of the holding clamp in the centre and tractor beam points to pick out the key features of this rarely seen craft.

Protruding to the rear - and in my case not quite parallel - are the two mechanical arms of the Tug. While their surfaces are just moulded with circuit and panel detail the joint points are again highlighted through the choice to add a bit of gold to the otherwise flat paint surface. Both inside and out are finished with the smaller, angled prongs at the end having more raised surface features but still remaining in just the one light grey colour.

The magazine is a little more enlightening than the model, reflecting on references to tugs throughout Star Trek history most notably in The Next Generation before we got one on screen in Deep Space Nine. There's some nice trivia around the ship we see towed in A Time to Stand plus more about the history of these craft and their uses. 

The views of the tug illuminate the heavy reworking of the screen model especially when you line the two up but only manage - as always - to highlight the main points of the craft and not necessarily any of the more interesting finer details. A double page spread covers off the construction (or what can be recalled) of the tug plus how the series was moving from physical models over to CG at that time. Two pages also get handed to discuss the building of the Ketracel-White facility. 

The model was a reworking of the prison asteroid from season five's By Inferno's Light and the piece here is fairly interesting to see how a few changes made it look completely different.

Finally and perhaps well overdue is the six page article discussing the work of Star Trek's reknowned scenic artist, Doug Drexler. A former makeup artist on the series he made a big leap into creating computer screen cutaways, console panels and adding detail to ships and scenes. It's a decent dive into Drexler's career in Star Trek and certainly one that is about 100 issues late. 

Perhaps the issue this month that will attract more attention than the tug is the Vulcan T'Pau. Featured in Unification, the T'Pau was one of three ships stolen by the Romulans as part of their plan to conquer Vulcan. Seen briefly at the end of the second part before being obliterated by a Warbird, the model would live on under a couple of other guises on Deep Space Nine.

It's a damn simple design as we've been used to with nearly all the Vulcan ships in the franchise - pen-like centre section with some kind of ring structure surrounding it. Ironically this shape would be retroactively worked into Enterprise most significantly off the back of the Apollo Class we have here.

The top and sides of that central section are made out of metal giving this a comforting weight. The sides are finished with some very slight raised detail which is also present on the nose. Now this is supposedly a loading ramp however the panelling is incredibly subtle to the point where I can barely see it at all. 

Centre top on the hull we have a dotted/grille area which shows up a lot more strongly than the features on the sides and is painted out precisely in a fetching pea green. Now take a closer look at the hull when you do examine this and you'll spot the three shades of paintwork - there's two greys plus a hint of blue in there. Contrasting to the Federation aztecing this is much more blended and haphazard with no clear pattern yet because it is lightly done it's not too in your face.

Of course and as you would expect, none of the windows on the sides line up with their respective hull impressions with the white marks sitting just below where they should be.

The underside of the hull has a much stronger panel finish with more visible lines and definition under the three-tone paint work. Now inside the warp ring it's difficult to see if there is any continuation of the paint scheme on the main hull yet Eaglemoss have managed to insert grilled pea green panels on the inner edge to add depth to the craft.

As they are visible from the front it's a good shout although if they needed to be grille-finished is anyone's guess due to their tight placement.

At the edges of the "ring" (more oblong/oval really) there are the warp grilles painted up and slightly raised for detail purposes. Quite a slender and accurate paint job to mark these in and there's no spill out into the rest of the paintwork.

To the rear and seemingly suffering from a little less detail than everything to the front of the warp drive, there are two translucent panels. The lower is the impulse engine which means the upper blue one has to be for the warp engines. They are very basic with some of the exhaust structure on the impulse drive not totally visible although both are well recessed into the hull. 

Looking at the underside of the warp ring we have a big open and curved surface to show off this more unusual paint finish with what must be a red running light sitting up at the very edge. 

Finally the T'Pau is finished off with a series of Vulcan scripts either side of the central hull and a third on the starboard sweep of the warp ring. This is screen accurate and even better since Eaglemoss have included the IDIC medal on that final decal.

It is simple in every sense of the word when it comes to design and construction and Eaglemoss have worked well to build a very stable warp ring around the hull here. Some of the join lines aren't the best we've experienced but the finished item is a streamlined visual experience that carries off the essence of the ship. The magazine does show that the central hull markings should be a lot more defined but seeing as we never really got to see this one that up close it's a difficult call.

Issue 141's new CG imagery highlights that amazing hull three-tone scheme as well as the previously mentioned increased definition on those hull elements especially at the nose. The standard brief history of the craft covers six pages which also feature shots from Unification to flesh out the backstory for this starship. Take a good look at the shot top right on page seven which features a few recognisable craft as well as some oddments!

Plan view notes are even more scarce than on the equally screen shy Federation Tug but that's what you will probably expect from something we've barely seen in motion.

The design process for the T'Pau raises its starting point back with the only other Vulcan ship we'd seen at the time which was the long range shuttle from The Motion Picture and explains the evolution from there.

Evolve it certainly did and ended up looking nothing like the original marker but would influence more Vulcan ships in the future. This section also covers a couple of other appearances the model made as Tosk's ship in Deep Space Nine's Captive Pursuit and also as a freighter in For the Cause also from the same series.

Remaining firmly with The Next Generation in this instance we are treated to Production Design from the fifth season covering how the art department created refugee villages for the Bajorans in Ensign Ro as well as suburbs for Romulus in Unification, mud baths for Cost of Living and utilised existing buildings for the 19th Century in Time's Arrow. This is a captivating read giving away a few trade secrets on how the illusion of alien worlds or time gone was executed. 

This month's two craft might only have been seen for a total of 20 seconds on the screen at maximum but Eaglemoss have really worked to make them presentable for collectors most definitely in the case of the rather rough and ready Federation Tug. Neither of these are big ticks off my list of essentials however that might be changing when the next issue finally arrives because it's the Promellian Battlecruiser from The Next Generation's Booby Trap accompanied by the Merchantman from The Search for Spock. Now those are two I can't wait to get my hands on!

Liking this month's two alien additions? Which one was the stronger executed replica?

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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Sectioned: Point of Light S02 E03

After the rather sedentary second episode of season two, it felt like Discovery stepped back on form with its third hour.

Choosing to focus more heavily on the activities of the Klingons, it felt like the Discovery took something of a back seat this week but it was well worth the unusual imbalance. 

For a 50 minute episode, the writers managed to cram three storylines into the runtime; Burnham’s investigation into the Red Angel, Tilly’s strange apparition and the return to the story of L’Rell and Tyler/Voq.

Burnham’s story sees Sarek’s wife Amanda journeying to the Discovery after stealing Spock’s medical file from Starbase Five. Mira Sorvino returns as Spock’s human mother concerned for her son’s well being and helps to move along the plot of the Red Angel story since it appears he’s been involved with this entity since childhood. The visit also uncovers why Spock and Burnham haven’t spoken for years which does seem a tad convoluted but let’s run with it anyway. 

A good piece of Point of Light is focused purely on these two characters looking for answers with a surprise twist at the end however their tale - which in essence is what the season is being built around - took a very obvious backseat this week. Their interactions are good but honestly, Sorvino is a little bland in the role and doesn't counter the more fiery Martin-Green leaving the tail end of their story feeling a little odd.

Second up is Tilly and hell yes, we were all right that the spore that dropped on her from the Mirror Universe at the end of last season was actually goddamn relevant. Turns out in fact it's been reacting with the asteroid fragment and creating the vision of her now-deceased former junior school classmate.

Tilly is all over the place this week and the revelation of what's going on does mean that last week's OTT performance isn't as out of place as I might have commented. The fact that this isn't dragged out for a third week is a fine choice by the writers and we get some more dramatic moments for the newly minted ensign with her outbursts on the bridge being a particular highlight of the show. Also good that they're woven Till's command training into the fabric of the show with her running a half marathon around the ship as part of the programme.

As with the Burnham/Amanda storyline this one is also dangled open-ended with the spore removed from Tilly but how this is all going to come together is a bit of a headscratcher. At least it feels like we're headed in some direction rather than the stall that was New Eden (still holding out a hope that it will all be super-relevant and therefore make last week one of the best episodes of the season).

Ok, so let's get into the real heart of this week and after a two episode absence both L'Rell and Ash Tyler/Voq are back. The Empire is at a tender point in its evolution. The war is over and the 24 houses have come together uneasily under one banner and the leadership of Chancellor L'Rell. Tyler is uncertain of his place within society acting as Torchbearer still but looking human to all and sundry.

Couple of great bits of trivia in there too with the Klingons regrowing their hair following the end of hostilities and also that the D7 cruiser is in development bearing one emblem and a combined design path which, I would think, is there to appease all houses. Later note that there's the mention of Borath and the monastery there which Worf visited in Rightful Heir as the point of light in the sky (just thought of that...) which Kahless indicated would be where he would return one day. As we know in The Next Generation he sort of did.

There is of course one old grump who can't let go of the house system and creates all sorts of problems in the form of Kol's father played, cleverly, by Kol actor Kenneth Mitchell. But there's more. Seems that L'Rell and Voq have a child and thanks to some equally clever face paint that means Dad of Kol can listen in, he uncovers this rather intriguing piece of information that could destabilise the Empire and place the House of Kol at the top of the pecking order.

Shazad Latif and Mary Chieffo make this episode and the whole thing is clearly built around them. Their relationship carries all sorts of emotions with Latif's Tyler clearly struggling to find a place in Klingon society to the point where he simply can't be there any more for his own safety and to secure L'Rell's future as "Mother" of the Empire. There's a piece of brilliant direction in here with Tyler communicating to Burnham which sees the two worlds of Q'onoS and the Discovery physically colliding on the screen so the two are facing each other rather than being on holo-displays. It's a beautiful moment and one of the magical directorial shots this season seems to be throwing in every now and then.

The pacing of the Klingon story is fantastic, forever moving and brings about a twist in the tale which not only returns a certain Section 31 to Discovery (including their rather nifty ship) but also Michelle Yeoh's Mirror Georgiou in ass-kicking style. Nothing screams more than "backdoor pilot" than ending the episode aboard the Section 31 ship and you have to assume that the heading is going to take them right into the path of the title starship. 

The original Prime Georgiou was all process but this one chews every bit of scenery in sight and offers Tyler a way out. For those who didn't catch the bonus scene at the end of season one with Phillipa being recruited then her actions will be a little of a surprise but if you did catch it then this should all make a lot more sense.

I loved Point of Light as a return to the meaty core of Discovery and even with being Pike and Stamets light (two of my faves at the minute) it felt as though I'd been served a few answers to questions and also shown some information which has started to weave this series into the history books of the franchise. The continuation of the Klingon arc from season one had to be carried on and this episode makes a lot of sense when it comes to Tyler's journey. Could it have worked? Likely not since he was already an outcast when he became T'Kuvma's Torchbearer in The Vulcan Hello.

Point of Light continues to build on the mythology and is perhaps the first episode to show that Discovery is not exclusively about the starship but a much larger picture which reinforces the "universe building" belief that was part of the reason the show was delayed for so long in 2017. 

Much better result than last week and it did feel that we were getting some form of payoff - what that might look like is not something to second guess however - is Tyler now in Section 31 and will we see L'Rell again this year?

What are your Klingon predictions for Discovery?

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Monday, 28 January 2019

No Clear Winner: USS Kobayashi Maru - The Official Starships Collection Special Edition

A special issue of a ship that appears for even less time than the reboot Klingon Battlecruiser.

Yes, honestly the 2nd Class Neutronic Fuel Carrier formerly of The Wrath of Khan plus quoted about more times than I've had hot dinners was never physically seen in 1982 but when JJ got his hands on the franchise we were privy to few fleeting seconds of footage inside the simulator that finally put a "face" to the name.

The craft we have from Eaglemoss this time is actually not screen accurate but rather what the finished ship would have looked like if it had been fully realised beyond those snatched glimpses on a viewscreen at the back of the scene and I've got to say, it's not a bad shout.

Bearing one of the thinnest profiles of any ship in the collection...ever, the USS Kobayashi Maru is a hard one to review when you don't really have substantial screen material to work from. However, the work put into creating this as a fully realised edition of the series has to be admired. For one the choice of paint finish is sublime. The two shades of grey used work amazingly well with the lighter shade piercing through the darker top coat and giving almost the whole ship - cargo pods and all - an excessively used look as though the top layer of paint has worn away from the hull. It's beautifully uneven, scuffed and marked adding a sense of age to this infamous craft.

The hull panelling is itself very impressive on the upper saucer/primary hull section. There's even a good level of detail around the central bridge module with differing heights of metalwork and continued use of the aged paint finish even on the smallest of areas. Hull markings themselves are kept to a subtle minimum with onyl the ship name and registry to the front while a Starfleet pennant streaks away to the back from behind the bridge. 

At the front is perhaps the weakest element of the Kobayashi Maru in the very plasticy deflector dish which, although translucent, just looks a little cheap against the rest of the decent work on the cargo carrier. To the back of the main hull we have two cleanly painted in impulse engines. Considering the size of these exhaust ports they're been precisely marked in given that there is only a very small grilled area for each.

Oddly for such a craft we have the warp engines attached to the edge of the main hull. Slim, tipped with translucent blue bussard collectors, these nacelles are very well made and quite strong even though they extend back from the hull for a distance that you would think would make them susceptible to bending. Fortunately not but notably these two engines are devoid of the mottled paintjob that covers every other surface. The panel detail on the warp nacelles is lovely but the point that they are finished totally different to the rest of the Kobayashi Maru does draw your eye. 

The metal primary hull is inset with a plastic ventral section when you flip the ship over. The mottled paint work is very subtle on the hull which contrasts rather fiercely against the strong tones of the two cargo pods that run underneath the ship and almost make the main hull look as though it's just the one colour. Get it in the right light though and you will be able to see the difference. The panelling is once more very precise with the plastic inset fitting perfectly. There's no lip, protrusions or bad fitting anywhere on the Kobayashi Maru which is always nice to see especially in these bigger replicas.

The underside has some decal work with panel lining to the front just behind the deflector dish and further Starfleet striping to the very back.

Finally to the cargo pods and well worth a look from the back on this one to see that the engines, hull and pods all manage to line up exactly. There's not a line out of position here and I think you can see this not only in the way that the parts all magically line up but also in the rigidity of the craft itself. On the lengthy cargo pods there's no give at all and spot that they are actually a top and a bottom inset piece all in plastic which might be assisting with the build quality here. 

These two absolutely identical units (bet they were easy to mass produce) carry the strongest two tone paint finish on the vessel on their undersides which could be to indicate that they are at some point hitting the ground and wearing even more heavily. The segmenting of the pods, best seen from the underneath, is wonderful and they are realised from every angle and are even tipped with running lights and completed with another pair of Starfleet pennants.

The Kobayashi Maru isn't one of the lightest ships we've seen which might be your assumption from first glance in the box but there's a bit of weight behind that lump of metal used for the upper primary hull. It looks a lot more flimsy than it actually is.

Stand positioning is simply central with the clip sliding easily over the back of the primary hull and placing the ship in a good, stable display position - although I'd pick a high or low shelf so that you're not just staring at that thin profile!

The 20 page magazine unusually kicks off out-of-universe talking about the appearances of the ship and references to the Kobayashi Maru within the franchise back to The Wrath of Khan and most recently in the 2009 reboot. Including sketches from John Eaves as well as screen shots from the two aforementioned movies, this gives a comprehensive history of the craft plus offers up some possibilities on what it might have looked like and even did look like according to a 1989 novel.

A full eight pages of the magazine are dedicated to the work of ILM on the 2009 reboot movie from JJ Abrams. It also includes reference to their first foray into Star Trek with the Genesis sequence from The Wrath of Khan and the battle in the Mutara Nebula. Eight pages is a tight space to discuss an extensive amount of work and just how it's created for the cinematic audience. Eaglemoss have included some snapshots of ILM's work to give the maximum coverage but this is a topic begging for a nice big fat hardback book.

Rounding out the book is the brief story behind the inclusion of the classic simulator sequence that opens up The Wrath of Khan and how it came to be in the movie and the influence it had on the rest of the story. Amazing to think that such a late addition to the script would prove to be such a memorable piece of Star Trek history.

The Kobayashi Maru special might not be everyone's cup of tea due to its minimal screen impact in the form it's presented here (which wasn't exactly what was filmed) but Eaglemoss has created a great model here that does help to complete the series of ships featured in the recent Kelvin movies. I'm not glowing with wonder over her and there are a lot of the other specials which I'd choose first but this is still a sturdy starship.

Would you recommend the Kobayashi Maru to add to your collection? How does it rate against the other special editions?

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