Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Reconnection: The Return of the Trill


With Forget Me Not returning us to the Trill homeworld, there's been much rumbling about how Discovery has treated the joined species we last visited 26 years ago.

Which means that there are only really three avenues that we could go down to explore the "truth" behind that so why join me to discuss The Host from The Next Generation and Equilibrium and Facets, both from Deep Space Nine's third season.

Equilibrium is a biggie and being all of 14/15 when I saw this one the first time round I completely missed all the nuances, the depth of the story and all the machinations therein. It was too talky and at no point did anyone even hint at drawing a phaser. Ok, I know Star Trek ins't all about that but it was coming off the back of The House of Quark which, while it's slightly Klingon is one of those episodes that attempts humour and doesn't quite succeed with this British viewer.

Yet Equilibrium now is a real head-turner and underappreciated with its exploration of the Trill joining process and just how it is "sold" to the indigenous population.

As you will know (yes, potential spoilers here), it turns out that Joran received the Dax symbiont after Torias and not, as Jadzia believed, Curzon (although it would eventually end up there). The revelation that approximately half the population were suitable for joining is a huge bit of news since it would relegate something very special and prestigious to incredibly average in a blink of an eye and has the power to destabilise the Trill.

Joran wasn't the perfect choice for the symbiont given his rather violent tendencies but let's not get too bogged down with the narrative because there significant points here that Discovery has absolutely nailed.  

The Caves of Mak'ala for one are back here with the breeding pools for the symbionts revisited (stretching for miles beneath the surface). In Equilibrium these aren't specifically named and we would have to wait until season seven's Afterimage for that. The insular Guardians seen in Equilibrium don't make an appearance in Forget Me Not while we do see that the pools can be used to communicate with the symbionts more directly and in a sort of visionary state. The new piece is that non-joined non-Trills seem to be able to do this as well and while you might offer up a frown and a few grumbles, Burnham is our guide to the series and it makes sense in that respect to allow her to be our eyes into this cerebral realm.

What does bug me a little is the non-Trill joining with the symbiont. Is this biologically possible given the difference in species? Maybe over 900 years there has been some evolution within the symbiont as I can't see how a human would decide that trying to join would be a great choice to make in life. In fact there has to have been some jump forward because if you recall in The Host, Odan cannot survive in Riker's body and has to be transplanted into a full Trill host. Would making Adira a Trill have worked? Yes, but it would have cut out that element of surprise when we discovered that she was the one who could link Discovery to Admiral Sena Tal because she was the host of that symbiont.

But Discovery's Forget Me Not is actually a far superior demonstration of gender biase and the like since in The Host Beverly cannot comprehend that the new host for Odan is female. It's perhaps in character for the role and the time but both this and the season five The Outcast are almost cringeworthy when it comes to their attitudes towards transgender and gender neutrality. Ok, I'm no expert on either and nor would I ever dare to be but Discovery has made both of these concepts understandable and relatable and if you've got a problem with it, go somewhere else. The Host was groundbreaking for its establishment of the Trill, the way in which the symbiont could be passed and to anyone yet it rudimentally seems to avoid accepting that people come in all shapes and sizes and that, y'know what, sometimes you have to look further than skin to see the real individual. With Forget Me Not this is certainly the case in no small part to the excellent casting of both Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander as Adira and Gray respectively.

Facets, which crops up at the other end of the third season also supports some of the actions from Forget Me Not. While the appearance of the previous Tal hosts isn't the zhin'tara ritual we experience on Deep Space Nine, it does bring together and connect the past lives to the present host who is accepted even though they are not a Trill themselves. Indeed, the choice to use them/they as opposed to he/she etc may initially be from the actors themselves but it suits the part perfectly and describes that two-part relationship in a more specific manner than it was ever done through Jadzia or the later Ezri on Deep Space Nine.

The echo of a previous host - Gray - seems to have fluttered a few people but Jadzia was haunted by Joran if we recall. In that instance his memories had been repressed and still pushed through while Gray's were allowed to rise to the surface after the completion of the joining of minds. Yes, if we follow the lessons of Rejoined from the fourth season of Deep Space Nine then there's an issue since Trill are not permitted to continue relationships from previous lifetimes. Tal isn't pursuing that because it's not physical, this is a mental connection and five episodes n it doesn't appear dangerous (give it time...). Jadzia was often quoting the experiences of her previous hosts as Deep Space Nine progressed, sometimes helping overcome a problem and in fact her friendship with Sisko is borne from his friendship with Curzon.

If we look closely into all that I think there's more to contend with on that station than we're looking at with the echo of Gray in Adira's head on Discovery. This is a closeness to a previous host that we've not seen before. Curzon wanted to be close to Jadzia because he was in love with her and that is superficial if compared directly to this intimate bond that exists with the former and present hosts of Tal. Adira has absorbed the qualities from the symbiont's past as we see from them playing the cello. But this partnership comes across as more even and trusting than the wayward - no, reckless - Curzon was in Facets. Adira seems to be in tune more with the past running alongside her in the same body while Jadzia absorbed it into herself and made it one more her own but this could be a side effect of this less than approved pairing.

Perhaps like the connection to a human host after 900 years, Discovery has demonstrated its own changes within the structure of the Star Trek franchise with the very open manner in which it has tackled key, current matters at the heart of its stories. The inclusion of the Trill is a clever way to spin it into a science-fiction environment but crucially the show hasn't shied away from its responsibilities and this latest episode and visit to the Trill homeworld has not just revisited some old stomping grounds from the beloved Deep Space Nine but it has added facets and changed the equilibrium of Star Trek at its very core. My god, this is potentially the biggest franchise shake-up since The Animated Series had Uhura in command of the Enterprise

The universe has moved on and the "inconsistencies" that are being thrown around by so called fans seem almost idiotic. Nine centuries have passed, things change and like Star Trek itself, the Trill have evolved. Perhaps its time to actually watch and listen to this show rather than passing judgement on everything that's different - after all, isn't that one of the core pieces of the franchise - to celebrate the unique?

What do you think about the return of the Trill? Handled well or a misfire from Discovery?

Track back on our season three Discovery reviews HERE

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Sunday, 22 November 2020

Scavengers: Discovery S03 E06


Halfway through and nothing is any clearer - but at least Book is back this week!

Having located a blackbox which we must assume is from a Federation ship, Book has disappeared and without much thought, Burnham conscripts Georgiou and the pair use the trader's own transforming ship to break him out of an Emerald Chain work camp along with his stolen information.

But let's first of all send all our calls to voicemail and take a break here because the opening few minutes of Scavengers is all about change. New funky Starfleet badges with built in transporter tech, head-up display, communicator and tricorder are the rage plus the ship has had its controls flipped over to that programmable matter to become more intuitive. The nacelles are now detached and someone for some absolutely batsarse crackers reason has slapped an "A" on the registry.

Ok, in a convoluted way Discovery from the 22nd Century is classed as destroyed so adding the "A" sort of recommissions it if we stretch the truth a little. Aside from that grumble it's amazing to see the "old" ship adapted to its new environment with the recurring Linus transporter joke running through the episode.

Michael's thinking behind disobeying Saru's orders and gong after Book is fairly sound but there's a severe lack of communication between the chain of command which just highlights how risky it is having Burnham as an officer and let alone, Number One. She's very high maintenance and although her plan and end goal do result in a positive outcome, it's all done the wrong way. You'd have thought by now Michael might've learnt lessons from her past but apparently not - even Georgiou reminds her and Saru comments on it so there's no hiding from the facts.

The return of Book was inevitable given the importance placed on him in episodes one and three but some might be happier to see his cat, Grudge than they are of David Ajala. 

Captured and under virtual slave labour conditions he's scavenging through ship parts from a vast wrecked fleet in orbit of the planet which is a remnant of The Burn that Burnham has encountered all over the shop. The big news this week is that her findings have discovered that the moment it happened was not precisely the same for everyone indicating that there was an epicentre and it wasn't a galactic event. Something caused The Burn but where exactly is still undetermined.

Some of this week does seem a bit cliched - the work camp, the fleeing prisoner (a Bajoran no less) who is there as the example and even Burnham and Book's bit of passion all seem very signposted. There's even a (SPOILER AHEAD) moment of action movie self-sacrifice that made me wince when it's telegraphed. Indeed, after the opening five minutes of "Q Time" where the Discovery's new tech is all displayed it descends into a very average hour.

Ok, not true because the B story surrounding Adira's acclimatization to the ship and crew are well handled and you can see that the writers have already hooked onto the relationship they are building with Stamets. Good too in this arc that Adira's conversations with Gray aren't being handled as some form of mental breakdown but instead being understood and welcomed. It's something different which Stamets acknowledges and he himself is more fascinated with the closeness with their boyfriend following the joining and unfogging of memories in Forget Me Not.

Blu del Barrio's performance is once more incredibly understated and downplayed which plays well against the drier Stamets and I hope that this pairing is continued across the season.

As a sub-plot to the main line as well there is more going on with Georgiou but this feels a little bit like a re-tread of the Ash Tyler plot with some suitably bloody flashbacks to what I assume is the Terran Universe. There isn't any direct correlation to anything but it all seems to have stemmed from the interrogation conducted by David Cronenberg in his unnamed role last week. Bets have to be off that this is to do with Section 31 given what we know of the imminent Georgiou spin-off from Discovery that is planned post-season three. Clearly it's causing her some anguish even leading the former emperor to collapse at a crucial moment.

Scavengers however probably falls at the bottom of my preference order for Discovery this year and I think it makes some horrible, horrible mistakes that changed my feelings towards the show and one person in particular. Burnham's insubordination may be for what she sees as the greater good but there's no communication, she borrows a ship (that no-one notices for some time apparently) and takes a known Terran with her on a foolish(?) rescue mission and for the second time in her career (with a 930 year reoffending gap) once again gets a well-deserved slapdown. 

Is this what Star Trek is coming to? Is this really who we want to see as a lead character? I get that we should be there understanding the complexities of humanity, our fallibility but Michael has learn precisely zip and even after recommitting to Starfleet can't hold her end of the bargain. Thing is we get our weekly show of tears but in this case I don't believe that Michael is sorry. She would have done it whatever and the chain of command can go do one. In previous series we've had an exception where a main character has bent or broken the rules for a greater good but in Discovery I'm starting to expect it on a weekly basis. Maybe it's a way of analgising current events and showing that the Federation (the US?) is no longer that big, solid force with that slightly smug sense of arrogance and self-belief. Instead it's crumbling and can't even control what's going on inside its own ranks.

Vance is coming across as one of the best admirals we've seen in any iteration of the franchise and to get this from Burnham is unacceptable. Perhaps as he himself notes she had actually communicated what's going on then the reaction might have been different but crucially Burnham didn't. He makes a sound explanation of what he expected and didn't receive from Burnham but ultimately places the decision on her punishment to her captain - I've warmed to this guy after last week and on reflection he was doing the right things then too.

In comparison to this, the "A" suffix and those wifi nacelles are a drop in the ocean. Season three was about offering up some optimism and while there are cracks showing through with the Stamets/Adira arc that's building nicely, the Georgiou and Burnham threads seem to be pulling us further into darkness. 

This is in no way me berating Discovery because I like the show and the direction the story has headed and the choice to jump into the distant future. What I am questioning (not hating on) is how these threads are being played out. Is Discovery adhering to Star Trek's principles and motivations because in its formative years and for many after it offered both an optimistic view on humanity plus social commentary within the sci-fi framework. In this show right now it's feeling very much that the social commentary is overwhelming that positive future...but then isn't that the point.......???

What are your thoughts? Has Discovery struck the balance right with Scavengers or is it seriously derailing? Is this the right direction for the 32nd Century?

Track back on our season three Discovery reviews HERE

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Saturday, 21 November 2020

Other Side of the Mirror: Retro Review of Attack Wing's ISS Defiant and Regent's Flagship


While we still await the news that Alliances is finally getting a confirmed release date, there's probably a final chance to grab the smatterings of expansions packs still left on dusty game shop shelves to complete your Attack Wing collection.

Now a few/several/many years old, I managed to secure three expansions for just over a tenner including the ISS Defiant and the Regent's Flagship, both featured in Deep Space Nine's Shattered Mirror.

In sealed condition they were a steal and while a couple of the pack models are repeats of previous editions, it's more about the cards than anything else. Indeed, the Defiant model is a straight reuse of the USS Defiant from Wave Zero and the Regent's Flagship is nothing more than a rebox of the Negh'Var (check out those reviews for details on the models themselves).

The ISS Defiant statistically isn't a straight copy of the Prime version either, running four attack, two defence, three hull and three shield versus the original's three attack, two defence, three hull and four shield noting a more aggressive stance on the flipside.

Still costing 24 points, the warship carries two Weapon and two Crew slots plus the obligatory Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations but there's no sign of a cloak in the box - that's reserved for the other Defiant. If it does suffer damage however you can place an auxiliary power token beside the ship to reduce the damage by one - could end up with a stream of these by the end of the game! As for movement, it's a carbon copy of that original pack so take note of the 180 red turn at speed three. 

The generic Defiant Class Mirror Universe Starship loses one Shield point, one Crew slot and the Unique Action but still inexplicably costs 24 points...surely it should be 22?

Aboard her as your Captain options we have Miles O'Brien with a skill of five and cost of three or Benjamin Sisko costing two points with a skill of four. This might seem the wrong way round but O'Brien outlasted Sisko by a country mile in the show so he's the more skillful of the two. Both Captain options have the slot to add an Elite Action of which there are two included in the set.

O’Brien adds an upgrade slot to his assigned ship and as an Action he can repair one Hull or one Shield thus extending the lifetime of your vessel. Sisko is a little more complex and bizarrely the cheaper option, allowing you to discard up to two upgrades from your ship during Roll Attack Dice to gain an extra attack die for each card removed from play. The option to go offensive or defensive in your choice of captain is a sound choice but I would probably take Sisko just to up the aggression!

The ISS Defiant also comes with an absurdly large number of Crew options ranging in cost from two points up to four. Most expensive is Ezri Tigan (four) who allows you to target a ship within range three and steal a Tech upgrade as long as it costs less than five points. It’s immediately attached to your ship even if it goes over your restrictions however it will need to be re-enabled as an Action before you can utilise it in the game. Three point Jennifer Sisko adds a Tech upgrade slot (if you have the points) and works right off the bat. If you want to really nark off an opponent this is the card to use - target an enemy ship and immediately disable two of their upgrades (any upgrades). One that might work to your advantage if you keep that hostile busy enough but you'll need to be quick and make it count.

Jadzia Dax (two points) can be discarded to reduce hull damage by a point, potentially only giving you a fragile last gasp attempt to survive. Bit of a meh card and you're better spending those two on Julian Bashir who draws the attack of a ship within range three and forces that craft to roll two less attack dice. I like this move and for the cost (although a discard), I think it's a more effective use of Crew than the Dax card.

The final two point Crew card is Rom. For the cost he's definitely useable especially since his ability to disable two Tech upgrades on a ship within maximum range can be used even if the ship is cloaked. Not too many of those abilities out there so always a good chance to snap one up if you can if you're taking on Klingons or Romulans!

ISS Defiant also comes with two Weapon choices with Quantum Torpedoes and the Aft Phaser Emitter. The former costs six points to add to your ship but isn't limited to the Defiant Class. Operable at ranges two and three, the torpedoes require the spending of a Target Lock and for the card itself to be disabled but do unleash a massive five attack dice AND add a further Damage result to your roll. It's a massive card to utilise making the Mirror Defiant a serious force - perhaps even against its own Prime version! 

Aft Phaser Emitter is a bit of a let down after that but the cost of one point tells you that before you even read the script. While both it and the Torpedoes can be fired from your rear arc, this one only hits with three attack dice but does cover ranges one, two and three making it at least effective if you've swept past an opponent and want to ensure you're inflicted the maximum damage possible. Tragically it does need disabling which, for the cost and firepower is somewhat measly.

But the Defiant pack keeps on giving with its curveball options. The sole Tech upgrade, Multi-Targeting Phaser Banks is deliciously good since you can disable the card and acquire a SECOND target lock on a different ship within your maximum firing range. The cost of five points is steep but given the chance to mark two enemy craft does allow for more chances at maximum damage infliction.

Closing out the card additions we have a duo of Elite Actions which, if you're playing only with this expansion, can be equipped to both O'Brien and Sisko. Rebellion (five points) works against those larger opponents with greater Hull Values. In this case you can discard the card and force that ship to attack with two less dice and once that has been defended you then gain a free attack on that self same craft. It's blinding move that gives in two ways, defending your hull and shields from destruction while giving the neat chance to pop off a shot in retaliation.

Strafing Run (five points) does something along similar lines as long as you've performed a move with at least a speed of three. This time though you can strike at a ship in maximum range but it can't be in your forward firing arc. It comes into play as an Action rather than in the battling section of the round and will hit out with four attack dice. It's a one time only of course given its immense power in the game.

The included mission, Sabotage, sees the Defiant taking on a larger opposition craft but don't fear because Mission Tokens will reduce the effectiveness of that vessel to begin with and disable all of the upgrades assigned, uses two less attack dice and can only move at speed two maximum. As you would expect, these assists do reduce as the game progresses so be quick to take advantage!

Leading the fight for the opposition is the massive Regent's Flagship, more recognisable as the Negh'Var in the Prime Universe. A large 32 point cost awaits you on this one with three Crew, one Weapon and one Tech slot open for you to customise.

The Flagship boasts five dice for attack but runs foul of a single die for defence, has a high Hull score at seven but woeful Shields for three. As stats go it's very uneven but displays the more aggressive nature of the Mirror Universe perfectly. The Unique Action is also another good one, making the Mirror Universe a great faction option. Here you can hit two ships at range one with four attack dice with your Primary Weapon. It's unquestionably encouraging some close quarters combat but would you want to take the risk of incurring six Critical Damage cards?

As for moves, well you can top out at a max of five forward, take full right and left turns at speeds three and two (but they are red!) and bank at that level with green options at forwards one and two and banks at one. Should get you where you need to go nicely especially combined with its near suicidal Unique Action.

The generic Mirror Universe Starship retains the Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Station Actions of its named counterpart but loses the Unique Action, a Crew slot and a Shield for 30 points.

The captain choices shouldn't be a shock but I would have expected Worf's skill to be the four and Kira Nerys to be the three rather than vice versa. Both cost the same (two points) and can equip an Elite Action if required.

Kira stops an Action performed by an opponent’s ship at ranges ones or two being activated and also blocks that ship from crossing to do something else instead. It only disables however so if the card would have been discarded, your enemy still has the opportunity to reactivate it and use it in another round. Probably slightly infuriating as you’d hope that it would be gone and buried but you can’t have everything I suppose. 

Worf is just as aggressive as you would hope, offering his Action to another friendly ship within range two and provides that craft with a free attack from its primary weapon as well as its standard attack that round. It’s one of those annoying conditional cards though so your chosen ship will need to have a hull value less than 3 and the ship from which this Action is played will incur an Auxiliary Power Token - but if you’re in the right place at the right time this could offer the double hit to win the game.

Filling out your Deep Space Nine set of Mirror Universe reprobates, we have another four Crew lining up to man your starships.

Three point Odo might have only lasted Crossover before Bashir shot him but here he lets you use a disabled Crew upgrade’s Action but then that card has to be discarded. There’s no condition for Odo to have to follow either which means you can keep playing this one as  any times as you require in the game.

Elim Garak is also a three point card, and his significance in the Mirror Universe is recognised since when he is assigned to a ship he increases the Captain’s Skill by a further two points. Doubly busy, Elim Garak lets you disable the Captain card on the  vessel to which he is assigned to add an attack die to your roll. Mixed feelings on this one because it could mean you’re moving earlier in the round and firing later which isn’t necessarily a useful thing as later movements mean you get a better handle on where ships are likely to land.

Given more points cost than he deserves is another one-episodes, Bareil Antos. Now even in the Prime Universe I found him unbearable so  more evil and twisted version was always going to grind my gears. The card is the same with two points for the cost being double what I would have expected. 

Lastly there’s one point Brunt. Simply he slows a ship down by putting an Auxiliary Power Token into play.at the start of the End Phase. Another feature to help mess up your opponent's best laid plans plus for a discard to cost only a single point it's not too much of a hit to the wallet.

For weapons on such a big ship it's a surprise to find only Photon Torpedoes. It;'s the older style too with the card disabled (rather than the later Time Tokens) as well as the spending of a Target Lock. Offering a five attack from the forward or rear firing arcs of the ship, this upgrade operates at ranges two and three but there is an additional benefit to the Negh'Var Class in that if used on that type of vessel then you can up those dice to six.

Two Tech options offer up a Tractor Beam (three points) and Cloaking Device (four points). The second of those had to be expected and is disabled to activate and is used instead of an Action. It does then enable the Sensor Echo feature and is designed to be used on the Negh'Var Class with any others needing to spend an additional five points. Tractor Beam only hits ships within range one and does so with two attack dice as an Action. Now, knowing how I tend to play, this kind of close combat option would probably suit since I like to get in amongst the opposition fleet and for every Damage or Critical Damage rolled it means they will end up with an Auxiliary Power Token per result. In turn this then either forces a long term slow-down or the choice to abandon the use of Actions.

Offsetting the lack of Weapons we do have three Elite Actions. The lengthily titled I Will Deal With Them Myself (card just fits that...)  for five points is an expensive discard (aren't they all) to disable up to two Crew upgrades to roll an additional die for each one. As usual I'm not a fan of expensive discards unless they pump out a ton of damage so this one will be sunk to the back of the queue.

Three points might be more wisely used on Make It So! or two on Intendent's Orders but neither has me totally convinced here. The first is a discard to disable a Crew upgrade to in turn perform a Free Action which seems overly longwinded and surely you could just make sure you pick decent cards for your fleet before the game so you don't need this kind of ability.

Intendent's Orders does however save you a bit of time, letting you disable it in order to unlock two other disabled Crew cards. Certainly one to open up your options again but less than spectacular for an Elite Action. 

Maintaining its links to the darker parallel Universe, the mission here is Shattered Mirror which sees the rebel ships (including a Defiant Class) take on the Negh'Var with two escort vessels. Cleverly there's a targeting error on the Alliance ships which means that after a Rebel ship moves with a speed of two or more it performs a Sensor Echo move as a freebie even if not cloaked. Otherwise this is a straight-up fight to the finish - will the Alliance make it to Terek Nor or will the Rebels repel the attack???

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Friday, 20 November 2020

Star Trek Cocktails: A Stellar Compendium


Many a Starfleet officer has been spotted at Ten Forward, Quarks or at an alien watering hole getting to grips with a variety of drinks, especially if they're green.

Star Trek Cocktails brings the flavour of the galaxy right to your door and possibly to your drinks cabinet with a range of concoctions from the Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma Quadrants with something suitable for every connoisseur of a tipple or two. 

Handily split into nine sections, there's not just a drink suitable for the right person but for the right occasion as well be it for entertaining, a lonely night in, something a little bit more romantic or just for that party night, you'll no doubt find it in here and if it's a Star Trek themed night, well, it's bonus points all round!!!

All of the beverages included go by a Trek related name of course and beneath a few you might spot some more than recognisable combinations but everything has that intergalactic twist. Each drink is provided with a double page - a classy illustration that weaves in the drink and an association in the Star Trek universe plus also explaining how to make it on the other side and the characteristics that give it its name. 

What I was surprised to find is that, not only does Star Trek Cocktails include a wealth of recipes to tickle those terrestrial tastebuds, there's a trickle of episode and film scenes involving drinks included throughout. These honour everything from Pike and Boyce's conversation in the opening 15 minutes of The Cage right through to Discovery including The Next Generation's Ensign Ro, the movie Generations, Deep Space Nine's The Way of the Warrior and a few more. These add a bit more life to a book that could become monotonous even if you're just having a flick through. 

Fans will enjoy this addition for a couple of reasons - it is quirky (not to the level of Mr Spock's Little Book of Mindfulness), clever and impressively for a Star Trek book actually goddamn useful outside of fandom. It'll spice up a few social events after we all get out of lockdown but before then it could even give you something to play around with over the upcoming festive period with anyone inside your social bubble.

Star Trek Cocktails is out now as an online exclusive from HeroCollector and you can purchase it HERE

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Thursday, 19 November 2020

On the Edge of the Nebula: The Official Starships Collection: Regula One


Incredible to think that turning a model upside down can create one of the most memorable places in Star Trek.

The Regula One space lab was at the very heart of The Wrath of Khan and throw in your Eaglemoss refit Enterprise and Reliant and you're got yourself a recreation of the film's last 30 minutes.

When you do a ship collection review there's always the temptation to use the words "long awaited" and the phrase "should have been done years ago" but hey, I'll avoid both of those and say this is a great replica and done on the right scale....that's been long awaited and should have been done ages ago(!).

Items such as concept designs, weapons platforms and satellites are perfect for the bonus line but Spacedock, K-7 and this deserved to be done in Big Scale - they are iconic and indelibly etched on the mind of Trek fans of all ages. Think about The Wrath of Khan and Regula One is always going to be up there as an essential piece of the tale.

The Eaglemoss Special Edition utilises the same stand design we saw with the Spacedock model some time back, allowing for a more "suspenseful" display and shows off all the parts of the station unhindered.

Probably the most crushing disappointment is that piece on the top of the station. A plastic segment which should be painted up in bronze and be more of a tetrapod structure with the aerial above. However, and I'm guessing it's down to the usual cost and trickiness of manufacturing, we have what looks like something you'd use to sit in the middle of a pizza box to stop it collapsing. 

The colours on the magazine cover totally throw a curve ball too and while they correctly display that aerial structure, the colour of the main hub section on which it sits is a lot darker than both the model and what you can see in The Wrath of Khan. The metal hangar section is well decorated with venting as well as some form of nodes around the upper edge. Again the window positioning is slightly off the raised markings but generally it looks pretty good. Some of the panel painting is sketchy around the edges (dark grey doesn't get into some corners) but the mid, recessed piece has some nice darker greebling BUT AGAIN suffers from some inconsistent painting.

The hangar doors and the sunken entrance to them are a prominent feature of Regula One and here they carry that distinct "X" and the lines to indicate the separation points. Yes, AGAIN there are paint blemishes and even as we get further down it seems to be limited solely to anything in this dark grey.

Connecting into the plastic base is a spoked wheel-type piece which sort of goes against my argument as to why they didn't get the aerial piece correct at the top of the lab because that cutaway kind of effect is done perfectly here and is even combined with some panelled paintwork. There is a nasty and somewhat obvious mould line around the edge of this bike wheel and, frustratingly, some of the patches aren't even matching.

The structure below this offers expansion arms plus two already in place structures to either side which have been established as habitat modules with one of the larger four circular elements also housing what appears to be a space telescope of sorts. The fact this isn't all blobbed into one piece isn't lost on me and the detail, although subtle, is definitely the right move and with that piece being open it helps create a better look for the station plus it provides a sense of depth. 

This level also benefits from a few dabs of red paint and towards the centre of the station you can also see some decals for the airlocks - one of the only markings visible on the lab. Then further below that we have another hollow ring with an edge that sweeps back towards the central structure and is covered in windows.These are also recessed and are painted perfectly and seeks only to draw increasing attention to what now becomes a very out of place aerial. Look at it too much and you might notice that it's also a shade off the paint colour of the rest of the station!

The tan tubes to the bottom operate as storage tanks for the space lab and what this screams out for is a bit of weathering. Overall the station looks great but as with a few in the main collection it might look a little too great and needs to be dirtied up for that additional layer of realism. The tanks are conspicuous because of their unnatural cleanliness and just a bit of dry brushing might work enough "dirt" into a few crevices.

That lighter paint finish does play with my mind a little since on screen it's a lot darker and more in keeping with some of the feature parts; but then it was in deep space...in the dark so that might explain a few things plus you can finally get a good look around the curves and corners that weren't as easy to see.

The magazine is a bumper wet dream for The Wrath of Khan fans filled to near bursting with details on the background of what is generally considered the best movie produced. Giving a sprinkle of backstory from the big screen we do get to see how the office complex from The Motion Picture took a 180 degree turn and lost a few parts to morph into its more recognisable shape plus there's a very interesting section on how the miniatures were filmed and some of the classic sequences were put together thanks to ILM.

The package as a whole for this one is spot on. The model itself has one glaring, crushing issue right at the top but look beyond that and both the magazine and the model have a ton of redeeming features which lessen the impact of that design choice. It's rare to see this iconic piece of hardware anywhere and to have Eaglemoss recreate it on such a scale and as part of their specials series is more than we really deserved. You might not be a fan of the gold but this is one that you'll be hard-pressed not to add to your shelves in double-quick time.

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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Sunday, 15 November 2020

Let's Celebrate: Hero Collector's New Book Goes to the Delta Quadrant

Released on November 24th, Star Trek: Voyager: A Celebration is the companion fans deserved back in 2001.

The original companion as you might recall was filled with plot synopses and very little background data on the 172 episodes of the seven series show. To say that it left much to be desired was an understatement so the arrival of HeroCollector's 247 page tome is well overdue and sincerely you hope it hits all the right spots.

From Ben "Starships Collection" Robinson and Mark Wright this is penned as a retrospective conceived as a convention in a book - especially fitting because just this week should have been Destination Star Trek at London's ExCel featuring the Voyager cast and celebrating 25 years of the series.

Yes, 25 years and a series that for myself was always overshadowed by the Dominion War of Deep Space Nine. I was never a huge fan of Janeway or that little Intrepid Class ship lost 75,000 light years from home. Over the second and third watches as I grew older though I started to "get" Voyager. It was different, it offered a lot more high-concept sci-fi than any of its predecessors and with this new book we get a real feel for what the production team envisaged from day one.

A Celebration isn't detailing every casting process, every nuance of the build up to the show but more a full 360 experience of the show from its first day of production through to the climax of Endgame. Each of the main cast has been approached for new interviews on their characters yet it's even more layered than that, taking in key and classic episodes from the show with fresh perspectives on what worked and if it didn't, how the challenges were faced. What I enjoyed as well were that the cast also revealed what they loved about their costars and what made the series a career highlight for them.

The continued development of the series particularly past Michael Piller's direct involvement with seasons one and two is fascinating and explores, throughout the book not just the way in which each year panned out but what the drive was and how each character grew in turn with the decisions. Some of these changes and challenges are covered in the interviews with the cast but others come from the behind the scenes crew who were pushing the limits every day with incredibly tight deadlines.

All of the main villains from the series are dissected showing what made them work and how they ticked plus ideas that were ditched, lost or frankly had to be ended because of the nature of the journey. The piece on the Borg actually made me reconsider my view on the show's use of them and what led to the inclusion of Seven of Nine as well as the departure of Kes.

The level of detail and insight from all involved is simply astounding and I found this to be one of the best page-turner reference books of the last decade. Every sheet has something of interest, every paragraph has a fact that will astound or bring back a memory from an episode. My understanding of not just the characters but of the writing, direction, costume and visual effects, to pick out just a sprinkling of the content, is a lot more comprehensive than it was before and while this isn't in its nature a reference book, it is one that you will be tempted back to after watching one of those selected episodes or because having watched a certain season you want to reflect on the path that the person in charge at that time chose to take. Thinking of how that landing was approached? Check. Aeroshuttle? Check. How Neelix got his appearance. Check. The key to a good story or where Braga gets his ideas? All in here as is the thinking why the Maquis aren't raging with conflict for seven years and more answers to questions you've always wanted answered (Paris wasn't an arrogant so and so on purpose...)...

A Celebration does contain the obligatory episode list and mini-synposes but these are kept right to the back and don't get in the way of the journey back on NCC-74656. Nothing is left untouched here with in front and behind the camera covered and the text is paired with an extensive set of photographs from screened episodes plus model work, makeup sketches, ship designs and, exhaustively, a lot, lot more besides with even some that have not been used before.

There is some material that might be familiar in here but it's so well integrated into the book that you don't notice and soon you're totally engrossed in the explanation of a visual choice or the reason there were so many two-parters. Which episodes did the cast actually like? One or two might surprise and that's just one of the highlights of this impressive book.

Hardbacked and beautifully presented this is a stunning volume that every single Star Trek fan needs to have on their shelf. If there is one complaint there are a couple of annoying little errors in photo captions and the right episode referenced but they are only one or two microscopic examples in an otherwise outstanding publication. Maybe there could have been more on some of my favourite episodes such as Hope and Fear or Living Witness or Blink of an Eye but I guess you have to draw the line somewhere!

Saying that, the quality and depth of the content is outstanding and incredibly immersive and Ben Robinson and Mark Wright need to be thoroughly praised for the work that has gone into A Celebration

As I said, this is the book that Voyager fans have been waiting for and deserved since the show ended in 2001 - we just had to wait 19 years for it to be released.

Star Trek: Voyager: A Celebration is published by HeroCollector and priced £23.99. You can purchase it HERE

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All images CBS All Access

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Mr Spock's Little Book of Mindfulness


What with The Wisdom of Picard from Simon and Schuster, HeroCollector have also gone for something quirky in Mr Spock's Little Book of Mindfulness.

But don't go all out thinking this is some sort of in depth self-help manual because it's taken with a light-hearted approach right across from the words to the free-style illustrations which provide a very individual look to this new publication.

Running to just over 100 pages (116) and nine chapters, Glenn Dakin - recently involved with the brilliant Quibbles with Tribbles - has returned with a book to help us all be that little bit more Vulcan in our lives. 

Offering up advice and direction from the universe's most famed pointy-earred hobgoblin (just quoting McCoy peeps!), Spock's experiences in life are right at your finger tips should it come to Self-Acceptance, Truth (Vulcans always tell the truth nor do they bluff...honest), Family, Love, Change and more. But don't be taking this all too seriously because there is without question a very tongue-in-cheek approach to the writing and certainly the Quentin Blake-esque illustrations placing Spock in some less than logical and emotion-free positions. Every one has real life to it and doesn't fail to raise a smile - the enjoyment is turning the page to see what he'll be up to next. 

The research from Dakin is once more excellent with the author diving into not just The Original Series but probing into the furthest corners of The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country and past that into the realms of Discovery to uncover just the right words of wisdom and guidance from Spock. Nothing in here from the Kelvin Timeline which does make you wonder if anything from that path made any sense...!!!

Anyway, I digress slightly because not only does Dakin relate these quotes and sections to our everyday lives (Vulcans don't have social media...) but flips it all around to demonstrate that sometimes the logic isn't always perfect or works out as planned (the needs of the many...or the one) and cleverly weaves in a bit of a deep dive into Vulcan philosophy and their own background as a race including The Animated Series because hell, 

This is one of those books that seems to give in different ways each time I come back to it. I'd err on the side of reading a bit a day rather than piling through and taking in each section at a time as you will end up thinking back to particular episodes, instances and phrases - but don't worry if anything eludes you as Glenn Dakin has also included a handy quote reference section at the end which will align you to the right episode or movie for further details. 

Mr Spock's Little Book of Mindfulness is one of those volumes that sticks in your mind and not
just for the title. It can be a little whimsical in its narrative at times but the whole is such an engaging read with real love for the franchise permeating every page and word because Dakin manages to balance the line of keeping it tonally light while both honouring the legacy and poking that little bit of fun at the franchise with the twists and turns woven into Spock's story - for continuity fans you'll have a whale of a time I have no doubt. 

Being a Brit too means that, for me, the humour in here works that much more successfully than a good chunk of the jokes did in Lower Decks and for that, I can guarantee I'll be diving into this Little Book for many occasions in the future and hope to see more of Glenn Dakin's work be it the written word or cartoon very soon!

Mr Spock's Little Book of Mindfulness is available now from HeroCollector HERE priced £11.99

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