Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Boldly Going Online: The Official Starships Collection Special USS Enterprise NCC-1701-F

Dear reader, I have failed. 

Way back in the history of Some Kind of Star Trek I attempted to play Star Trek Online. I dabbled, I teased, I tickled it under the chin and then walked away. It wasn't for me, I didn't get it. 

Then it dropped on to PS4 and I installed it, left it to fester on the console library but still couldn't quite drag myself to have a go and sink back in. But the recent release of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-F from Eaglemoss has had the unexpected result of turning me back on to Star Trek Online

More on that in a future post I have no doubt, but just reading some of the background to the digital flagship and having a replica of the outstanding design seems to have had a positive effect. Eaglemoss have released two versions of the Odyssey Class starship, one in Federation grey and a second in its more recognisable online livery. 

It's that second one which I've dropped a few quid on as both come with the same magazine and I didn't see the point in forking out for two. Is the Enterprise-F worth adding to the increasingly bowing shelves? Is it worth punting for a ship that's only ever been featured in a game?   

Similarly sized to the Enterprise-E, the F seems to fair better when it comes to detail. For starters the hull is far less cramped with lifeboat hatches, windows and that aztec hull pattern which meant that the E was overloaded with colour. The white and black paint scheme here is incredibly striking and means that the ship isn’t rammed full of detail and you can actually take in the finished result more easily. The panel lines are well marked out with the windows painted on rather than attempting to align them with hull indentations; wise move on this scale.

The thin strip phaser banks arc around the top of the primary hull with the registry decals crisp and the Starfleet pennant precisely marked behind the tiny bridge and in front of the main shuttlebay which itself is bracketed with another pairing of ship name and number.

Am I that impressed with the Online paint scheme? Not so much but it's visually striking with the black elements highlighting sections of the hull and emphasising the streamlining. Importantly Eaglemoss have lined the pennant on the top of the secondary hull up with the one on the saucer section and this trails right back to the docked auxiliary craft that nestles at the rear of the engineering section.

Unusually for Eaglemoss this craft is constructed in three sections with the metal primary hull giving way to two pieces of plastic which form the secondary hull and pylons.

On the underside of the saucer the paintwork is beautifully recreated in all its digital simplicity with the blacked sections again drawing attention to points of the hull and once more having defined panel lines sunk into the metal and plastic sections. 

The main feature on the underside is that game changing double-neck which sees the primary hull suspended over the secondary hull by two curving arms - only ruined by what appears to be a stabilising pin in the middle which annoyingly breaks that clear central space in two. Man that's annoying seeing as the two arcing necks seem to be quite thick and supportive especially to the back where they sweep down into the body of the Enterprise.

Decals are once more kept pretty simple with pennants on the outer sides of the necks including rhe ship registry but you do find yourself looking down to the solid black undercarriage that leads your eye towards the nacelles one way and to the very well finished navigational deflector. Now there have been a lot of ships - Enterprise's, Nebula Class craft - where the deflector has been a bit of a slap, dash and blob it on job yet with the Enterprise-F the end result is clean and distinct with all the key parts of this eye-shaped piece of ship tech clearly marked. Probably the best one on any ship from the line.

Moving out across the sweeping pylons to the nacelles, disappointingly Eaglemoss have had to go with the bussard collectors and the warp grilles being painted on rather than being translucent sections. Scale, cost and flimsiness of the build will all be factors and at first glance I did think they had managed it only to be deflated on a closer look. Given it's not your "perfect" vision of how the engines should look, they are accurate to the online starship with all the parts well defined and painted in. The black stripe across the top does make it seem a bit "pimped" however it's in keeping with the rest of the starship's eye-catching livery.

Build quality on the Enterprise-F is excellent with only the needle-point warp engines giving any concerns around structural integrity. They are a little flimsy but only if you start attempting to work out if they're flimsy if you catch my drift.

For the stand, this one's dead easy to display with a firm but steady grip around the back of the primary hull giving a stable, amidships hold on the Odyssey Class vessel. I did need to file down the peg from the plastic clip to the base just to get it in the hole but that's minor compared to some of the other disasters - and if you did get an Enterprise-F stand with your USS Bonaventure you will be able to get a replacement from Eaglemoss!

Now to the magazine and a first here because we're dealing with Star Trek Online and not the televisual or movie shoots of the franchise. The overview of the ship, it's construction and service within the timeframe of the online game are extensive bringing it almost bringing up to date and including shots of the ship right back to when the game first launched.

Moving through it would be wrong not to include the background to Adam Ilhe's unique twist on the familiar form of the Enterprise which was the competition winning entry to design the new Federation flagship. That twin neck was certainly a key factor as to why this was the chosen one!

Closing out the issue we take a closer look at the universe of Star Trek Online and how the galaxy has evolved since the end of Nemesis. A lot has changed and Online takes into account events not just from the Prime Universe but also the key destruction of Prime Universe Romulus which was introduced as part of the Kelvin Timeline movies. Many a voice from the franchise have graced the stories to date including Aron Eisenberg, Tim Russ and the great Leonard Nimoy as well as more recently venturing into Discovery territory. If you've not tried it, this might give you a bit more insight into just what it's all about - and yes, it might be one of the reasons I've stepped back into the digital Star Trek universe. 

The Odyssey Class model will not be every fan's choice but it does play a huge part in the mythos of Star Trek as it exists today. The franchise has grown beyond TV, movies and books to a much more interactive level and it's incredible that Eaglemoss have chosen to include this vessel in their range. It shows how much a part of Star Trek its online offshoot has become in the past decade. Great ship, totally unique finish and a real beauty of a large ship on a smaller scale - this is what the regular issue E could have been with a bit less clustered detail.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a Borg Sphere to destroy...

Which Enterprise-F did you go for? Or did you not bother?

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Sunday, 14 April 2019

Joining the Dots: Through the Valley of Shadows S02 E12

When Kenneth Marshall shows up as another Klingon you know you’re in for a good story.

And back he is for only our second Klingon episode of the year taking us to the fourth signal of seven which points Discovery in the direction of the monastery on Boreth.

Quick reminder - that’s the place where Kahless (or Kahlesh depending on your pronunciation) indicates he would return to in the future and for Klingons to wait for him there. Flash forward to The Next Generation and that kind of comes to fruition but for now it’s the location of two fairly significant things; the time crystals and the son of L’Rell and Voq.

Through the Valley of Shadows starts off incredibly understated and a lot easier paced than the last few weeks. Leland has absconded with Control still running through his veins and Burnham decides to pursue him/it alone rather than risk the programme getting its claws into the sphere data which is locked into Discovery’s memory banks. Spock offers up some assistance and the pair head off to find a Section 31 ship which failed to report in on schedule. 

The emotional juggernaut and canon machine step into fourth gear with all the Boreth links plus one of the biggest Captain Pike nods you will ever see in the franchise. Seriously, it’s huge and puts a brilliant new perspective on events in the captain’s life. Mind blown, totally, Gone. 

Anson Mount is unquestionably the key to this episode, sealing his own fate to save the galaxy and all life there in. It’s the ultimate sacrifice and he plays the emotion and realisation of what he has to do in acquiring a time crystal to tee. Mount has turned the ‘one ep’ Captain into a rounded character who may well be one of the franchise’s greatest creations and starship commanders - and all in the space of just 12 episodes. Pike does all he can and carries the weight of the universe on his shoulders more than we have ever seen before - and keeps it all locked away to himself. Incredible. 

Away from Discovery, Burnham and Spock find the Section 31 ship with the whole crew spaced. There’s one survivor; xxx xxx former officer aboard the USS Shenzhou. Saving him from space, the trio board the empty ship to find out what happened only for there to be an unsettling reveal.

Control is a right devious opponent taking over the body of another Section 31 operative and trying to eliminate Burnham once more. Seems that she’s been lured there and my hypothesis is that she is the one responsible for defeating Control hence the obsession to kill her. Another rough and tumble fistfight this week and one that lacks the grace and finesse of Michelle Yeoh and Alan Van Sprang’s martial arts foray last week. It’s much more guttural and survivalist with Burnham even double phasering at one point. Now that’s a skill. 

While both the A and B plot are linked to beating Control, the Pike piece is outstanding while it feels Spock and Burnham are left to clean up the dirty work. Their encounter with Control is a reminder that it could be anyone or anything but this narrative lacks the emotional kidney punch that we get from seeing Pike as we know him from The Menagerie. Honestly, that point when we see the out of focus wheelchair roll into view just sent chills down my spine and the makeup from Mount is spectacular. Bravo to all involved.

Thirdly - yep, there’s a tertiary plot here has Jett Reno back for her third appearance to remind Doctor Culber that he has another chance to sort his relationship out with Stamets. It’s tightly packed in around the other two huge chunks of story yet it works because it feels like a natural continuation of this piece of the series’ arc. Second chances? It’s a will-they-won’t-they situation and we have to acknowledge that this Culber 2.0 May just not want to go back. It would be very Star Trek for him not to and strike out on his own but the fan feeling may well drive them back together. 

Through the Valley of Shadows is a dense episode with lots to take in from the opening seconds. The Control story is excellent and powered in no small part by the ever awesome Sonequa Martin-Green and my second favourite Spock of all time but Anson Mount is out of this world here and there’s nothing that can top it. Each week he amazes and has truly got fandom right behind him - and we didn’t think he could do it.

You have to admit that the combination of sterling script and an actor of his calibre make the time crystal story incredibly poignant. This episode quietly closes down the Son of L’Rell/Voq story for now which seemed to be going nowhere at the beginning of the season. Thinking back a lot of these later stories have shored up the weaker parts of the year and this is definitely one. Top marks all round but whether or not you regard the other segments, you’ll only ever remember The Valley of the Shadows for ONE thing...

Shaping up for a killer season finale? What's your predictions?

Trace the journey of season two with SKoST's episode reviews

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Thursday, 11 April 2019

Mum's the Word: Perpetual Infinity S02 E11

It's impossible to review episode 11 without ruining it for anyone who hasn’t yet seen The Red Angel. 

If you haven't then look away right now - and shame on you for wanting to ruin the twists and turns of Discovery!   

We’ve now uncovered the real identity of the Red Angel and its not Michael but her mother who is inside the suit. We’re treated to a series of flashbacks to family life for the Burnhams culminating in the Klingon attack which - as we have been led to believe - cost her parents their lives. 

Now it seems that her mother escaped using the Red Angel suit and has been travelling through time unable to return to the ‘present’ as was and being tethered to a time 900 years in the future where Control has obliterated the Earth and humanity.   

Michael’s mother is heavily restricted due to the forcefield in place and all of the time we spend with her is on the Project Daedalus facility in pretty much one single spot. Sonjia Sohn who plays Gabrielle Burnham’s is...ok. There’s nothing spectacular here and after the big reveal of the previous episode there’s not a great deal that could top answering one of the series’ biggest conundrums. In fact it might be a bit of a letdown even though the occupant of the suit wasn't someone that anyone saw coming. That was a proper curveball into the show and all credit to the writers and producers for managing to keep it quiet until airing. Sohn manages to get through her scenes but I don't think her level of concern over Michael's near-death just to make her turn up is played to its full effect; I'd be a lot more p****d about the whole situation. 

The best bit about this story however, is how the series' B story manages to wrap itself around the A plot and, by the end of the episode replace it as the main objective of the show and the Discovery

The Control programme seemed to come from left field mid-season and while we were all distracted by the Red Angel it began to take hold, drawing Discovery and Section 31 into a much more devious plot in which we discover it is the dangerous element of season two and not the Angel as we might have expected from the teaser trailers. 

Lots has been posted that this might be the ‘birth of the Borg’ but it just can’t because we know they already exist in the 23rd Century and the 22nd since the escaping drones of Regeneration are heading that way. The effect of Leland being taken over by the programme is fairly graphic for a Star Trek episode with the network of greying veins across his face not unlike a well known assimilation process administered by half-cybernetic life forms. Taking over Leland is, ironically, logical since Control can't replicate humans "in the flesh" and can only get away with representing them in holo-communications - might this be a reason why The Original Series "dumbed down" in technology after this era because it became such a risk and dangerous to use? Were Starfleet forced to go backwards in development to stop the Section 31 strategy program?

Perpetual Infinity isn’t there to blow you away although it is a fine episode...again... but it’s a fulcrum of the season in which the Red Angel story is explained and probably closed with the snapping of the micro-wormhole elastic band effect and both Burnham’s mother and the suit vanishing back into time. As noted it feels like a large, missed opportunity here with the pair unable to truly come together but this 11 episode long cliffhanger reveal seems to be over far too quickly and we’re now off after the Leland/Control villain of the piece. 

Culber 2.0 returns to duty this week and immediately ends up on the away team to the test site with Stamets and Tilly. Now ladies and gents, while I love all three characters I'm in the belief that this is an away team immediately doomed to failure even without the inclusion of Nahn or an obligatory Red Shirt. Where's the sense in sending down a very inexperienced ensign plus two former lovers one of whom has some memory issues to work out since he was abandoned in the mycelial network. Burnham needs to up her insurance premiums on this one before beaming down.

There's a fantastic, climactic hand-to-hand sequence between Leland and Georgiou which has Michelle Yeoh's handiwork at choreography all over it. It's fast-paced, filled with martial arts moves and keeps the tension in play to the dying seconds - but it while the Red Angel has escaped Control's clutches (for now) I would put money on it coming back. 

But what can the final handful of episodes have in store for us? Somehow the crew will stop the destruction of the galaxy that Spock has foreseen. The readings that showed Burnham was in the suit still play on my mind and I am still mulling over the belief that she will end up using it as I wouldn't see it likely that the instruments would be that out to mistake her mother for Michael.

Could we have played out the arrival of Michael's mum just a bit more?

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Friday, 5 April 2019

What If First Contact was with...

It's over 20 years since the arrival of The Next Generation's finest cinematic voyage. With April 5th 2063 some 44 years away I wondered what would have happened if things had gone another way.

We've seen two sides to humanity's first contact situation; one in which a hand shake and some Roy Orbison are the Vulcans' initial impression of Earth and the Mirror Universe where the visiting aliens are murdered and their ship pillaged.

But here's a thought, what would have happened if it had been another alien race that had been humanity's first meeting from the great beyond in 45 years time? Who would be the most likely culprits? Here are SKoST's suggestions for outcomes of that fateful day if things had been a little different...

1. Klingons

If these guys had been the first race humanity encountered then we might have gone straight back home, bolted the door and turned off the lights. Their warrior ways would have probably ended with the Earth subjugated into the Klingon Empire and enslaved for generations. Certainly the helplessness and poverty-ridden Earth would have been no match for a well-armed Klingon army. Likely that the Regency we saw in the Mirror Universe would have taken hold 300 to 400 years earlier...

2. Andorians

Suspicious of just about everyone and everything, first contact initiated by the Andorians might have seen a tentative partnership established but, as with the Vulcans its likely that we would be seen as a lesser race and one maybe to be exploited and used. Notably they could look to inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic as bases of operation but the rest of the planet might have been a bit too warm. For one thing, the connection between Vulcan and Earth would have evolved differently thanks to the Andorians suspicions as seen in Enterprise.

3. Tellarites

Could this have been the most frustrating of first contacts? A meeting that could have ended with neither side happy and humanity confused as to what is out in the galaxy? The ever argumentative (and pig-masked) Tellarites aren't the first race that would spring to mind as potential first visitors to Earth but don't forget they were one of the original founders of the Federation.  First contact might have been a part fraught with the Tellarites given their demeanour and might have set humanity back another 20 to 30 years on its space programme.

4. Orions

The doors of their ship open and half the population is under the spell of the women. The Orions quickly overrun the planet and have humanity under their thumb within weeks. While not violent as perhaps would be a Klingon invasion, the Orions' control over the human race means there is no resistance at all. On a good point there would have been a lot of dancing but not much more.

5. Ferengi

Declaring themselves as owners of half the galaxy, the Ferengi see Hew-mons as another business opportunity. Not worth conquering but certainly there are ways to exploit the civilisation and make a ton of profit. The relationship sours when the Human race starts meeting other cultures who give them a more realistic take on the nature of the Ferengi and the penny drops. The Ferengi wouldn't have presented an aggressive front but that might have meant leaving humanity open to another attack or colonisation by another major power.

What other civilisations could realistically have presented themselves at first contact if it hadn't been for the timely arrival of the Vulcans?

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Sunday, 31 March 2019

Buried Treasure: The Official Starships Collection Issues 146 and 147

We've waited 145 issues since it was first indicated that the Fesarius would be included in the Starships Collection.

Well now it's here and I'm shockingly underwhelmed with what could be the shortest issue review ever.

It's a ball.

Done, dusted move on to issue 147? Probably should, but we have to give it at least some column inches and a fair trial so let's go.

The Fesarius originally appeared in 1966's The Corbomite Maneuver as a ball covered in cut in half ping pong balls and fairly out of focus. The version replicated here is, as with all of The Original Series entries, modelled on the version created for the remastered episodes.

Essentially it is that ball and is covered totally with a lot of smaller yellow dots to represent the domes across its surface. These are clustered into groups as they were onscreen  and are all perfectly painted on. 

The whole thing is purely made of plastic and in just two pieces which interlock along an equatorial line. It's also one of the largest ships replicated in the series and due to the scale one thing that is lauded in the magazine but tragically omitted on the model is the base patterning that lies beneath the yellow domes.

As for stand fitting, it sits straight on to the curved four strut plastic cup and...erm...yeah...that's it. It just sits there.

The Fesarius is one of those ships which is a necessity to the collection; it HAD to be included since it's the first alien starship encountered in the whole of the franchise full stop but is particularly uninspiring when it translates from screen to physical item. On a good note though, the magazine really earns its keep since the model is such a non-starter. 

The Fesarius magazine opens by recounting the tale of The Corbomite Maneuver since there was never any major detail of the giant space ball revealed in the episode. The new renderings plus shots from the remastered edition fill out the narrative but it's when we get to the Designing... section things get a bit better delving into the original build plus what was done to update the Fesarius for the re-release. The side-by-side comparison is polar although the model doesn't quite carry the update off as well as the page.

Six pages of Matt Jefferies' work on Star Trek takes up the remainder of issue 146. Filled with models and sketches and text which covers why consoles were a certain way, how sets were constructed and much more is a fantastic article for anyone interested in the background of The Original Series. Tons to take in and essential to understand how the look of the USS Enterprise was achieved and why.

Issue 147 does step up the quality a little with the arrival of another one of those ships that is essential in the form of the Miradorn Rai- sorry - reading the base of the stand - in the form of Baran's Raider from The Next Generation's two-parter Gambit

The raider is one of the franchise's more unique designs, resembling an insect complete with pincers and aggressive posturing, turning up in a few guises over the years and remaining instantly recognisable.  

The original filming model is something I've seen a fair amount of photos of but what is evident comparing the two side by side is that the top surface detail on the "real thing" has a lot more depth to it than Eaglemoss have added here. It's not that the panelling is in the wrong place more that the depth of the detail seems shallow with the grey overcoat almost washing everything out.

That's maybe an extreme but the grey finish does take away from the large amount of panel detail etched on the raider from the tips of its forward "pincer" disruptors all the way to the back. The lining isn't especially heavy but it breaks up the unusual hull shapes even more and adds texture to the small craft. 

It's not one of the lookers of the collection either with some fairly abrupt angles making their debut on the four extremities of Baran's ship. There are a few points where a yellowed hull segment contrasts to the base grey but this is a lot less exciting than I had hoped for. There's no "wow" factor; it's plain, very subtlety detailed on the ventral side with the odd bit of weathering in a corner or along a panel line to add some aging to the craft.

The pincers themselves are very stable and a lot less flexible than I expected given their shape. I was thinking they would all be metal but the only piece of metal on the ship is the middle of the underside and the front "snout", everything else is in plastic.

That underside is nicely detailed with some yellow and red highlights plus there's a very subtle hint of mottling on the base grey just as there is on the top giving that hint of an aging vessel. The panel lines for the most part on the bottom are much more clearly defined but in comparison to the version we saw in Gambit this model is horribly uninspiring and might have worked better if it had been painted up as the Miradorn Raider. Admittedly it has more to it than the preview pics suggested but that's not saying much when you plonk it alongside the spherical wonders of the Fesarius

Perhaps it's most interesting feature is the recessed triple engine exhausts to the rear. Not translucent but at least cleanly painted.The CG in the magazine and some of the screenshots go to show how slight the definition on this model is. Potentially that's down to the thin nature of the craft but it trades off against the end result which could have been so much better. 

Issue 147 tackles the standard details of the vessel gleaned from The Next Generation two-parter plus covers the plot of one of the shows most adventurous tales. Remember the Stone of Gol? Talera? Beaming weapons? Well it's all here to refresh you ahead of Ricardo Delgado's coverage of the ship design that was, as we all well know, originally made up for Deep Space Nine before appearing in The Next Generation and ultimately ending up guesting in Voyager. The design is one of the most distinctive from the franchise and I'm surprised they managed to get away with using it three times!

The final section takes us behind the camera to look at the work of producer Peter Lauritson who worked on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. His work can be seen in achieving fleet battles between the Dominion and the Federation as well as helping craft Species 8472, Star Trek's first CG aliens and directing Gambit, Part I - which is why he turns up in this issue. 

It's a good magazine that probably outshines the model it accompanies because of the quality of the material it contains - shame it also manages to show up the raider model for being lacking in that surface definition.

These two haven't set the starship collection world alight so I'm not even going to bother picking a favourite out of the two here. Quality is certainly variable with both editions saved purely on the strength of their magazines. Next month that should be resolved with the arrival of the Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser and the Krenim Warship which both look fantastic in the preview images.

Disappointing month or worth the five year wait for the Fesarius?

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Thursday, 28 March 2019

Press Reveal: The Red Angel S02 E10

Episode ten of Discovery’s second season is its most linear storytelling of the year.  

Focusing purely on the Red Angel narrative (as you might have guessed from the title), the episode kicks off with Airiam’s funeral and the revelation that it seems the enigmatic being appears to have exactly the same signature readings as Michael Burnham. 

Could it be that she and the Red Angel are, shock, horror, gasp, one and the same?!   From the fact that this is pulled from nowhere fairly early into the story you can immediately guess that this is ultimately the least likely explanation and luckily by the end credits we finally have an answer to this season’s greatest conundrum.   

But that;s not all. Section 31 are back but this time Leland and Georgiou return to Discovery to deliver a lot of damn important plot information in one especially big chunk. Seems that the Klingons were dabbling in time travel which prompted the Federation to have a go which in turn led to the recruitment of Burnham’s parents (specifically her mother) to work on their version of the project.   

It's a rather emotional hour for Sonequa Martin-Green this week since she has the loss of Airiam to cope with followed by the reopening of old wounds. Section 31's Leland is also more key to their murder than we had been told and cleverly this all brings Burnham’s story full circle back to her recovery by the Vulcans following the murder of her parents by the Klingons who were bent on recovering their time crystal. She plays it well, keeping it all in check but there are visible chinks in Burnham’s shell this time and a close encounter with Tyler then allows a lot of buried emotions we’ve not seen since last year return to the surface.  There's so much mistrust and discomfort in this episode it's a screaming example of a story that would never have happened in the days of Roddenberry; the conflict of Burnham and Tyler is just one element with the Stamets/Culber relationship also taking a beating and providing Georgiou with at least a minute of entertainment.

The Red Angel isn’t one of this season’s biggest highlights for me aside from the galactic reveal in the dying seconds. Why? Because it unloads a ton of exposition around time travel and future interference all in one truckload. While absolutely necessary for the show and to move the story forward it’s dropped in one slab about 15 minutes in and if you have any sense you’ll work out the twist in a split second. It is very, very talky since we as the audience have to be led from A to B to C and perhaps we are signposted and hand-held a little too much here. Could we not have spread some of the info dump over a couple of stories? 

Oh - and Project Daedalus? Yep, it's the Red Angel; a time travelling suit created by Section 31. Didn't see that coming however when it all unravels it's not actually that unexpected; it kinda makes sense.

What the crew do come to realise is that Burnham is the link to the appearances and when there’s not been an incident to deal with, the Red Angel has arrived in time to save Michael so she volunteers as bait in a trap to ensnare the traveller.   

The Red Angel does utilise the larger cast with great effect, allowing the underused Stamets and the regenerated Culber in much stronger positions. While Cruz’s doctor has been very out of the picture until his rescue from the mycelial network, Stamets seems to have been on the backfoot for a lot of the season potentially because the spore drive and in turn the network itself have barely been utilised in favour of the Spock storyline.

Episode ten is an exposition heavy piece for the first half, but when we arrive at the Project Daedalus test site with the plan to restrict and capture the individual within the Red Angel suit it does kick into a second gear.There's a technobabble heavy explanation of how this all happens involving micro-wormholes, tethers, forcefields and the like but nothing can prepare you for the final revelation of the episode. We were all wrong (or were we?) and when the deactivated Project Daedalus suit deposits its occupant on the deck its more than we could have expected.

Discovery's strengths are played on here with the main plot well developed and every main character getting some meaty scenes. Culber and Stamets are definitely well served but I'm concerned that Tilly is now just becoming comic relief and a caricature rather than a serious crewmember - I mean, would you have her serving on this ship because she's starting to seem like a liability and she has no idea of Starfleet etiquette at all. Did she go to the academy?!

The Red Angel does go as far as to answer one of the season's biggest questions yet with four episodes still to go we have the imminent apocalypse of the universe to contend with as well as finding out just why the occupant of the suit read as Burnham. I don't want to post the answer but it's got to be something to do with time travel hasn't it....?

What are your predictions for the end of season two? Drop them below and share our article to help add to the conversation.

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Thursday, 21 March 2019

Relic of the Past: The Official Starships Collection Issues 142 and 143

Delayed due to a dispatching error, I was virtually chewing the door off to get hold of issues 142, and 143 of The Official Starships Collection.

This may well be one of the most anticipated double acts in the collection for a damn long while and I can hand on heart say that it actually delivers.

Issue 142 is a little gem of a ship in the form of the Promellian Battlecruiser from The Next Generation's third season episode Booby Trap. An episode so ingrained into my memory because I'd done something wrong and wasn't allowed the TV on that night. 

But hey, less of the anecdotal passings and let's talk about the ship.

In the episode the dimensions of the Battlecruiser aren't that apparent thanks to the way in which the camera tends to swoop around from the front to the back or that a lot of the perspective shots are taken from the rear including that final torpedo spread impact. Unusually, as the magazine explains, the ship is a reuse of a craft built for another film that one of The Next Generation's backstage crew had to hand when they needed a ship. Flipping it over it suddenly becomes something completely different and hey presto the Promellian Battlecruiser is born.

Stretching out above the oval stand, the Battlecruiser is an imposing model with a phenomenal level of detailing from bow to stern. The hull itself is two very light shades of blue/grey with every millimeter packed with greebles and panelling. The sloping sides of the hull lead down to a recessed edge which again has more of the raised surface detail although this is hidden in slight shadow by the overhanging upper panels. That slender neck leads back to a pair of wing-like structures which, as with the forward hull, slope out from the centre line and are overloaded with grilles, machine parts  and even some slightly recessed elements that add a lot of style to the look of the battlecruiser. 

Interestingly the Promellian ship is one of those rare occasions where Eaglemoss have managed to add a hint of weathering/aging to the craft. There's a dirt wash which clings to some of the elements that cover the hull most evidently towards the back end of the model. At the front there is evidence of that wash although it does seem heavier with there being less parts for it to seep around.

Annoyingly with all this brilliance and clever surface detailing on the top of the ship neither the sensor dome nor the bridge module on mine are straight. One kinks to the left and the other to the right although both retain that magnificent level of detail moreso on the sensor dome than the slimline bridge. 

On the underside of the Promellian Battlecruiser the visual overload of greebles, piping and grilles continues but on a higher level. The dirt wash as well is noticably heavier with one side seeming to be a little grittier than the other. The wash on top and bottom emphasises the brilliance of the hull detailing with it standing out strongly against the hull. All the raised and recessed elements are slightly different in colour to the base coat however the contrast of the aging is what makes this much more successful.

Cleverly the only parts in plastic are the two topside appendages plus the wingtip units and the insert to the underside which stretches from bow to stern. This piece is incredibly camouflaged into the hull due to the aging effect although again the wash seems to highlight raised sections much more strongly and clump at points when compared to how it lies on the metallic hull sections.

The stand glides nicely over the rear of the Battlecruiser between the plastic wingtips and the rearward facing ‘flicks’ just behind the bulbous sensor dome, leaving the ship to hover gloriously over the black base. Good grip here and she rests back into the plastic forks, avoiding that forward tipping. 

Opening up issue 142 gives us a history lesson of the Promellians and their "ancient" technology totting up 1000 years by the time of The Next Generation. The new CG images are a lot better than the finished model if we're honest since the scale of the Battlecruiser does cram a lot into a small space, most noticable on that long neck section that runs from the bridge backward. The magazine paints this in a lot more detail and from all angles plus covering a lot of the detail, as you would expect, from the episode Booby Trap

Building the Promellian Battlecruiser only gets two pages because, well, they didn't really build it. Filmed for Night of the Creeps, David Stipes dug up an old model when one was needed for the series, turned it over and the rest is history. The magazine shows a lot more surface detail especially to the rear that the model can't carry due to size and most likely manufacturing cost but it's a rare story where something outside of the franchise has come to the rescue.

Third in this issue we have Production Design for season three of The Next Generation covering a range of filming locations and sets that were constructed for episodes such as Booby Trap plus The Ensigns of Command, Who Watches the Watchers?, Sins of the Father and the Borg cliffhanger finale The Best of Both Worlds. It does divert into some of the concepts for a couple of the props but on the whole sticks to discussing the overall "big picture" look for the landmark third year of the series.

The Merchantman is one of those ships that shouldn't have made an impression and was designed to be almost instantly forgotten however 35 years after The Search for Spock fans had this on their list of ships that Eaglemoss needed to do. Luckily they did and even more fortunately it's one of the best replicas in terms of build quality and finish from 143 issues of the collection.

The most striking feature of the Merchantman is its metallic paint finish with the hull glistening with different colour shades from panel to panel and then again appearing different dependant on what light you are viewing the model in. 

Aside from the incredible panel shading, the Merchantman also has a mottled effect running beneath the top coat which adds an element of aging to the transport. The panel detail on the forward section really is mind-blowing and very precise with the two parallel grilled sections a striking addition with the edges of each piece distinct and abrupt. The accuracy in the look here is one of the best, more impressive given the craft’s brief onscreen lifespan even counting its subsequent TV series appearances.

The forward-sitting bridge module is coated in the mottled metallic finish with a lot of surface details molded around the central dome and raised unit. What becomes apparent as well is that the plastic and metal sections here do blur into one because the detail is so fluid over every surface. On first impression I would be hard pressed just from the look to be able to see which pieces are made from what.

The Merchantman is, you'll come to spot, non-symmetrical aside from its general shape. Panels differ left to right, even the wingtip aerial extensions don’t mirror and this all gels together to give an incredible overall effect just as that paint finish can make you think that plastic is metal. One for observation - the wingtip extensions are very flexible so just be careful when handling. 

Travelling to the centre of the Merchantman we have a much more industrial feel to the starship. The metallic grey engine section is aged with a blotched paint finish and contains a lot of raised mechanical pieces giving a more rugged and patchwork effect. Running from the midpoint of the ship out to the rear, the engine "block" contains most of the weight of the freighter and Eaglemoss have excelled at giving it a dirty, used look which suits the craft perfectly. There is another piece of the bronzed hull plating to the back which carries on the paint effect from the main hull before terminating in a five exhaust port cluster which is probably the cleanest part of the ship; ironic. 

The detail and piping that is laid out across the whole of this working section of the ship is brilliant. Because it's non-symmetrical it feels more realistic and man-made. There's even a piece of piping that extends from the bronzed cowl back which is independent of the five  exhausts and is a little touch that demonstrates the effort that has gone into completing the Merchantman for this collection. 

Flipping the ship over we have the insert to the main hull as well as everything stretching to the bronze cowling being metal. The joining of the sections on the Merchantman is just as good as the paintwork with the lines pretty much invisible. That "stingray"-style head piece is littered with tubing and greebles as well as a very impressive tarnished finish which has the "real" colour of the ship peeking out from under a substantial layer of dirt. Take some time to soak up the different levels of the hull here and how much information is packed into the underneath of the ship which you would think would be much less signficant.

The middle hull piece is fully bronzed up with hints of dirt and grime brushed over the paint before leading into the worn gunmetal of the bulbous engine. Here once again there's been an effort to buff the paintwork to emphasise the age and wear that the Merchantman has suffered over time that makes this a complete model experience rather than just another block of moulded plastic and metal.

I'd forgotten there was a whomping great fin on the bottom too and this is a plastic add-on slotted onto the main metal body as a single unit with the fifth, smaller exhaust port. It's sturdy and of a decent width which means this won't break off in a breeze. 

The Merchantman is a total work of Eaglemoss art in every way; well constructed, and beautifully realised with the cover price a bargain for something of this quality. I'm glad it wasn't rushed earlier in the series if it's taken this long to get it right because it does look fantastic and will easily sit in the top echelons of the series' releases. It looks solid, feels durable and offers up a very full experience of the onscreen item because of the unrelenting surface detail. Every look at it reveals something new or a different perspective. Eaglemoss should be very proud of this one.

I actually think the CG for the magazine here doesn't do the model any justice. The cover for one makes the Merchantman look flat and bizarrely a lot cleaner than the model in a rare it's-better-than-the-pictures moment. Flicking through this isn't a one off with the images created for this edition actually not giving an accurate feel to the ship. Very surprising as in some ways they make it look like the aging ship is straight off the production line. This even goes for the large plan views slapped in the middle of the publication.

Details on the freighter are skant given that it was intended to be forgettable with Eaglemoss having to refer to the number of crew and the fact it looked a bit cramped in the one shot we saw a fraction of the interior of the bridge.  Much more is made of its swift destruction at the hands of Kruge's Bird of Prey before turning attention to how Nils Rodis developed the "forgettable" design that wasn't.

Indeed it was kitbashed, it was a quick build because it was destroyed but yet it has endeared for over 30 years and made a couple of appearances as other craft in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine before being sold at auction in 2006. While there's no clear picture of the original, we are treated to concept sketches which show the original plan for the Merchantman.

Behind the scenes this time takes us into the Visual Effects of Star Trek III linking nicely into the recent Starbase special issue including design pics of the docking facility and the challenge that the movie created with several new ships required - Excelsior, Grissom, Merchantman and Kruge's iconic Klingon Bird of Prey.  This is a fascinating look a how the look of the film came together not just in relation to ships but even those microbes on the Genesis planet, how Kruge's pet dog was brought to life and the eye-opening explanation of how they made the Enterprise's final moments look so impressive on screen. 

Given that the writers must be struggling to find content each issue, this is a great read with some rare behind the scenes snaps that tell you a lot about how The Search for Spock achieved its look.

What a month huh? Two brilliant ships that have been long-awaited finally turn up and don't disappoint. These are a duo that Eaglemoss have pulled out all the stops for and have succeeded in creating two very memorable issues that will get all fans excited. I would recommend getting your hands on either - or both - of these editions because they represent all that is good about the collection in both the model and in the written word that accompanies them. Superb in many ways and a reminder that this series, no matter how long it's been running, can deliver on quality at a reasonable price.

Merchantman or Promellian Battlecruiser? Which was your winner? 

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