Sunday, 9 January 2022

SKoST in 2022

The question of where I want this site to be in 2022 has given me a lot to think about in recent months.

First of all, yes, the ship reviews will be continuing and for the next few weeks I'll be punching through some more XLs, bonus editions and the final few issues of the Online collection so stick around for those.

But overall I was looking at how I would tackle the year. My decision at the end of 2021 to stop with singular episode reviews was the right move and with the wavering quality of Discovery's fourth season (personal opinion), I now feel affirmed that a season review for each will be more than sufficient.

Of course there's the hotly anticipated Strange New Worlds, the continuation of Prodigy's first season and the return of Picard to fit in along the way. But, I want to explore more than just new episodes, book reviews and other assorted merch (although I guarantee something on Resurgence when it launches on PlayStation).

One of my goals is to connect with more fans online and at events in 2022. I have some plans lined up but as for the site, I will be intending to offer more opinion pieces, maybe some interviews if I'm lucky and snapshots of Trek elements that I love and enjoy.

I'll be honest, there are elements of fandom that have exhausted me and I've stepped away from some that have caused me more personal issues than I needed. This is allowing me to focus more on the writing and continuation of SKoST and has already seen stats improve - or at least return to levels I was happier with!

While this isn't perhaps the huge initial 2022 post you might have expected, it's a much better reflection of where I want to be in 2022. Not splattered across everywhere and running thin but focused on a core area and core readership who are interested in coming along. 

So if you've been around since Decemer 2012 (yes, that long), thank you. Equally, if this is the first time you've dropped on; thank you and I hope to hear from you and see you back in the future. SKoST has been a big love project for the last ten years. In some cases I've loved what I've written and in others I truly thought they were substandard. I suppose much like anything!

But anyway, here's to 2022, post 1000 and a decade of SKoST. Lots more to come!

Thursday, 6 January 2022

To The Last: USS Reliant NCC-1864 XL

Aaaaaaah Kirk my old friend, do y-

Sorry, getting all reminiscent for the most revered of Star Trek films by just being in the same room as the HeroCollector XL USS Reliant NCC-1864.

Now you're likely to be getting tired of these by now so I'll try not to repeat too many lyrical waxings while we cover off this classic.

The big thing to recall here is that the original issue 11 Reliant was already an upgrade when it arrived on shelves back in 2014. Eaglemoss had made some steps to resolve the painting issues, thinned the paint out, tidied up the decals and even got that key aztec detailing right.

Move forward to today and the larger Miranda Class which is a brilliant celebration of everything great in the collection. It's frikkin' gorgeous from head to not-so-far-away tail and manages to avoid a lot of the criminal issues that the collection hit - bar one. 

The aztecing is just stunning and with a larger hull canvas to display it, the Reliant blows away the competition with this precise and engrossing paint job. The phaser banks are painted in however the beam points are noticeably missing. Ship registry is particularly loud and proud but god, what the hell happened to the name? The lettering almost disappears into the paintwork and the pics here make it look better (slightly) than it actually is. Special mention here as well because the inner black characters sit bang in the middle of the red bordering. Got to be a rarity!

Eaglemoss have marked in the customary RCS thrusters and navigation lights plus they've avoided recessing the windows and instead have opted to paint them on the edges of the rear section. Even on the bridge module have Eaglemoss chosen to take this approach meaning the windows sit within the grey banding. Note too that the grey banding at the top of the bridge module present on the regular edition has now been removed.

The hull panelling on the XL has much tighter lines between each section and the new paintwork has the added benefit of taking the shine off the whiter finish of the issue 11 version. 

The larger hull also allows for the more precise painting of the exposed technical elements behind the bridge and behind each of the sensor units that are decalled with the Starfleet delta (either side of the bridge). Those latter recesses are much deeper here with the darker grey paint not blotting out the details.

The larger technical elements to the rear of the hull again benefit from the scale and thinner grey coating but for me one of the bigger forward steps is in the work on the sensor bar. Phaser points and photon torpedo tubes are far more recognisable as elements seen on the model in the second Trek movie with the panel work and raised elements looking far, far better and closer to their actual appearance. 

Taking the shine off the paint really has made a massive difference and this is not the first time we've mentioned the paint updates - Enterprise-D and Equinox being two recent ships we've examined from the XLs. 

Onto the underside and the curved striping decals have been thinned (as was done on the dorsal side) and the registry has much better, more screen accurate definition. On the smaller version the coloured borders are absent while here it's back in place as it should be. The RCS thruster detailing has been reined back in while there's been a lot of paintwork updating around the rear, darker grey sections. 

These have been more precisely coloured with the warp field generator getting a good deal of attention. This is now clearly segmented and painted in individually rather than the blanket blue. Nor does the dark grey seem to extend as much around the rear of the ship which does provide some more hull detailing to breath.

A huge reworking comes in the form of the warp engines. The thin oblong drive units feature translucent warp grilles as well as the standard aztec paint scheme. The fitting of the warp nacelles is much more exact. No horrid gaps or flaky edges on this version which has the units tipped off with the ship registry. Their fit into the pylons is seamless with the horizontal join line barely visible.

Construction on the XL USS Reliant has been altered with the whole of the underside of the saucer now a single plastic insert rather than there being an untidy seam halfway along the underside of the ship. This leaves the upper hull, front to back, as the only metal section with the engines, rollbar and already mentioned underside being plastic parts. 

That's not a bad thing because as the Reliant learned from earlier issues in the series, this XL has learnt again and shows the development forward for Eaglemoss. Different construction methods, refreshed decals, updated elements and more reflect that this, unlike the Enterprise-D, is not just a scale up of an existing model. The ship name front and centre does bug the cack out of me because of how it fades into the hull but all said and done that's the biggest gripe I have with the XL starship.

Honest. It's a work of art with the joins all perfectly in sync. From every angle it looks finished and with a lot more care to boot. For anyone who is a fan of The Wrath of Khan or the Miranda Class in one of its many iterations, this is a high class replica and one of the finest that Eaglemoss have produced within the XL line. USS Reliant is a must for anyone and I kick myself for having waited this long to get hold of her. 

Reliant's magazine sticks with Star Trek II and examines the return to the big screen of the classic crew following The Motion Picture as well as the creation of the unique and groundbreaking CG Genesis Device sequence. There's also a dive into the making of the plot-driving Ceti eels and how they were brought to life for The Wrath of Khan.

Easily one of the best all-round packages produced in the XL line and maybe in the collection as a whole. Definitely one for your shelf and one that is destined never to find herself back in a box. Keep an eye out for a price reduction or a sale because this is one you'll need to have in the basket.

Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Monday, 3 January 2022

Special Edition: Son'a Battleship

The Son'a Battleship marks the final major vessel from Insurrection in the specials line.

With its horseshow design origins, the craft is, in the most part, solid metal. With the "piano key" structure also present on the previous Son'a Command Ship, the Battleship ably continues the theme of the Insurrection aliens. 

The colour scheme remains simple grey with the occasional highlight on the surface although the plastic additional pieces do have darker grey elements.

Comparing to the movie is fairly difficult given the lighting. What you can make out are the thruster assemblies to the front and rear of the sweeping wing design in orange and yellow but that's as far as it goes for colour.

But the Battleship is much more about its design and the strength of the physical detail on the surface. There's not just that piano/rib motif across the hull but a surprising amount of low level weathering that ages the surface. This only really becomes obvious in close up while a step back blocks out the main coloured sections only.

In fact versus the cover of the magazine, the model has a much more slight finish to it and the big benefit has to be the almost total metal build. Only that top superstructure comes as the plastic add on and even that carries the "natural" wear and tear of its attached metal pieces.

Given its limited number of components (I'm counting two NOT including the stand), the Battleship is a big expense to complete your Son'a set and one I have unusually struggled to really go into any detail and depth with in the review. It ticks a box if nothing else to say it's been "done" but overall this is fairly uninspiring and, dare I say it, highly priced.

Give Eaglemoss their dues, they have done as much as physically possible to create something that represents how the ship looked in the movie. It's a decent reproduction and looks the part but some things just do look better on a cinema screen than in the flesh (or metal in this case).

The magazine reflects the small amount of time that the Battleship received in Insurrection, covering its role in the fleet all too briefly before turning attention to the always insightful designing article. Throw in some standard plan views to add a little something plus a piece on the creation of the Bak'u Village and you have a good little reference booklet on the ninth Star Trek movie. The writing in here is decent and the addition of the sketches and production work are always worth a look over. Even if the model isn't that amazing, the mag does help to round out the bundle in a decent manner.

As you can guess, this one's a tad underwhelming. Both the Collector and the Command Ship were much more interesting pieces and you can see why this one (possibly) ended up being the third wheel. A completist model if ever and certainly one of the toughest constructed given then solid metal frame!

Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Sunday, 2 January 2022

STO Issue 15: USS Enterprise NCC-1701-F

Tracking back a few issues, we've located the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-F.

Already released in its original formation, the Enterprise-F here is the updated Yorktown Class variant modified after the Iconian War as featured in STO.

The basic formula for the flagship remains with primary and secondary hulls, a pair of warp engines and those twin necks. But there have been some updates to the design over time and it's a good one to compare against the bonus issue Eaglemoss released.

Most if not all of you will remember that the original Enterprise-F was released in two variants - the STO livery and also the "real universe" grey livery that fitted (apparently) with the rest of your collection if the much more striking colour palette wasn't to your liking.

But as usual lets take the refit as its own case.  This model is incredibly light and even when holding it I still wasn't sure if I was. The primary hull is metal but with it being so small and, strangely fragile, there's very little solid material there.

Putting her alongside the original version (Online livery), the differences in not just the level of detail but the quality improvement is significant. Lots more coloured panel section, better defined RCS thrusters and much sharper decals. The amount of windows painted in have increased tenfold. There are notable parallels in the black hull striping and the overall shape of the craft however this newer, refit version has a lot more going for it.

The impulse engines are more prominent and the three (black, white, grey) colours offer a more varied finish to the starship. One minor glitch is the alignment of the decals at the ends of the phaser banks which are sitting much higher than they should while on the original version they were spot on. So too are the decals for the heavily increased number of lifeboat hatches just that little bit out - but not as much as the phaser strips. Yet, given the increased level of detail, this is a minor blip on an otherwise great entry to the Online Collection.

The engine pylons feature a new flat-fronted and rear swept design with the warp nacelles themselves being of a far more intricate design and sadly painted in rather than having translucent bussard collectors and warp grilles. The paintwork on them though is superb with a little flick added to the back end that's a little similar to the Excelsior Class.

The has retained its unique double neck design which has received a decent level of window detailing before sweeping into the scooped Engineering hull. Even on her belly, the F has a great, precise level of painting applied with that decal quibble from the top still managing to slip in. The pennants both align on the port and starboard sides and the only real evidence of the combined model construction materials is the line running around the inner edge of the primary hull.

The detail really is striking on the Enterprise-F. The main deflector echoes the colouring of Voyager in its blue with gold framing as well as its shape. This is particularly well executed given the size of the dish and the model overall.

What I was really impressed with was the dagger sharp lines of the black painted sections of the hull. Underneath the edges are ramrod straight and culminate cleanly around the Enterprise's support craft docked right at the rear. This too has seen some detail improvement since the original F design with much more clarity on its hull features.

Taking this away from the model for a second, the refitted Enterprise-F is a great improvement on its first incarnation and shows the steps taken since it first emerged from its digital drydock. It is a little disappointing that the model has some decal issues however it's a good replica which could benefit from the XL treatment. Not one of my favourites but with the "confirmation" (use that loosely) thanks to Picard's prequel comic, we can assume that this is what the next Enterprise would be after the Sovereign Class. That comment should cause a few grumbles but I guess it's one of those things we have to accept in this new Trek era.

Within the pages of the magazine we get to grips with the story of the refit as well as become familiarised with the Enterprise-F captain, Shon and explore some of the features of the Federation's flagship. There are also two pages of customary plan views just in case looking at the model wasn't enough.

The Enterprise-F pack is one of the standouts from the 20 editions in the series. One; it's an Enterprise, Two; it's an improvement on the first version as a model not just as a design. The structure feels better and with the updated packaging it ticks a lot of boxes. To say it's a must is a no-brainer, even more essential if you've got the bonus version in either (or both) colour scheme.

Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Sunday, 19 December 2021

The Official Starships Collection: USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D XL

The XL that started them all, the Enterprise-D provided a template for the series and actually demonstrated what worked and what needed work.

This version it should be noted is delivered in the new magnetic clasp presentation box rather than the blue thin card version. Looks like this is one of several "upgrades" which are also costing a further £10 on top of the original price.

The criticisms that were laid at this XL's door were that, for all intents and purposes, it was just a copy and pate job up to a larger scale. Problem is, in most respects that's absolutely correct. One common theme on the XLs though is to change the base colour of the ship and here we have exactly that. The Issue One version carried a dour grey/beige finish with Eaglemoss upgrading the XL to the duck egg scheme as it should be. The aztec pattern is identical to it smaller predecessor and the slightly out of alignment registry is of a better quality but that's where it starts to fall apart a bit.

Neither the windows nor the lifeboat hatches line up with the raised and recessed sections of the ship with these being most blatant when you flip her over and take a look on the underside of the saucer. The square impressions are miles off...miles. Everywhere you look from bow to stern, the black and white lines just don't match to where they should be. Nor are the windows around the very edge of the primary hull marked in at all. At this stage of the series and with a couple of D versions under their hat, this should never have been an issue at this stage... but it still is.

Also the paintwork on the saucer's wraparound phaser bank is dreadful with a horrid feathered edge right the way round which should have been nailed off by now.

What has been added are the two transporter emitters either side of the bridge/shuttlebay central module so there has been some note of errors however just a few centimetres later we have the two "neck" shuttlebays unlabelled and also bay two is the wrong size and just a mirror of bay three. The windows again are a total mess even overlapping. At least the aztecing is on point huh...?

The warp engines bear the expected translucent bussard collectors and warp grilles. These are much less plasticky with running lights marked in and those red striped Starfleet pennants finishing the job.

On the first issue edition the Enterprise-D suffered from scale when it came to the main deflector. The orange and blue elements really mixed together with the XL allowing them both a bit more room and therefore the chance to see the dish detail as well as the surrounding shroud ridges. It's a lot clearer here and one of the things that does succeed when it comes to the sizing up of the Galaxy Class vessel.

Even on the underside, while the decals are spot on and much better than before, the placement of anything that resembles a window is atrocious and utterly ruins this model. Eaglemoss need to take another look at this one and get their printer in alignment. I mean the phaser banks are well integrated onto the model, the physical build is good and structurally sound. Even the weight reassures you that this isn't a cheap reproduction but the windows are such a downer and my apologies for repeating it a few times in here.

Into the magazine with the Enterprise-D and we have some more quite repetitive material around the origins of The Next Generation and casting of the main crew. It's decent reference work but the trouble once more is that these kind of articles are over repeated and have been since 1987.  Good content here but nothing spectacularly revelatory for experienced fans.

This is a great ship, period. The problem with its arrival in this line is that the bigger errors of the collection have not been addressed, leaving this one missing the mark and its potential straight away. This could have done the XLs a lot of damage and still needs working. 

Check out all our Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Sunday, 12 December 2021

The Official Starships Collection: USS Equinox NCC-72381 XL Edition

First released back in early 2014, the USS Equinox has now made it into a larger scale in the Official Starships Collection.

As with several of its XL predecessors, the Equinox benefits massively from the scale upgrade and that wonderful benefit of eight years model-selling hindsight. 

First up, the hull base colour is completely different and far lighter giving you the immediate notice that this has seen some MAJOR reworking in the last eight years. The lighter shade allows much more of the natural panel work detail to stand out as well as the darker grey printed panel etching to contrast the base coat. In a bit of a twist though, the panels here are not as glaring at their edges as they were and blend more into the model than being overly distinct.

Even down to the pointed primary hull front there are improvements with a more crisp finish to the decals and a brighter blue surrounding the secondary deflector. The open sensor work benefits from the upscale with more of the components "lit" and visible rather than being superficial pieces and over painted.

Window alignment is nigh on perfect thanks to the larger openings on the hull although the partition lines on the square groups of four on either side of the saucer are flat painted out blue. This should be a minor issue to resolve with a dab of grey paint. 

I've been made aware that the font for the ship registry is still incorrect and does seem to be squashed into a small space with only just bearable definition between the black and red. Add in that Eaglemoss have numbered each individual escape pod hatch and the model keeps on giving. On the smaller edition these were, shockingly, GREY!

The sunken bridge also carries a better colour range with the roof panel nicely split and the semi-circular defence grid again precisely split out. Reflect back on the original and there was no colouring on that bridge dome, the registry was simply thin black lettering and the windows were mainly blanked out. Yes, there's that much difference and we're only halfway along.

Moving down the spine, the upgraded details are fantastic with many of the features highlighted through black edging decals. Again, reflect back on the smaller original and there's a dark grey stripe along the spine and none of that finer detail. IN fact there's zero black edging on the collection issue 15 ship.

The impulse engine and the vertical section just behind it are now coloured although the former could have done with being in a different colour. However, this is still a massive improvement. Checking the joint lines by the engines it's clear that some construction has been scaled up but the engine build this time is a light year better.

Instead of the horrible joint lines across the top, the nacelles are joined along the horizontal centre line avoiding trashing the registry and pennant as they were on the original. It has retained the painted on bussard collectors with the wrap grilles in translucent blue. But what's a step up here is the patterning on the engines which was absent previously. There's an added depth to the Equinox XL which trumps both the original and, personal opinion, the "upgraded" USS Rhode Island completely. 

As with the top, the ventral side of the Equinox adds more black edge detail including the landing leg doors and better colour for the docked Waverider. Eaglemoss have changed out to a stronger, more electric blue for the backing of the main deflector. The size of the name and registry has also been corrected so the numbers are now smaller (and correct) versus the equally sized fonts from issue 15.

The selective panelling across that version is most evident when you're looking at the underside while the XL has full and corrected gridding as well as better positioned decals (check the alignment around the warp core ejection hatch). It's better in every single way (maybe with the exception of that main registry font) and a fantastic XL version. Changing up the colours has made a heck of a difference and brought out a lot of elements previously hidden or painted up in the limited selection that was used back in the day. Truthfully it just feels better, more solid and with a few minor adjustments to the build, has resulted in a more accurate depiction of the onscreen Nova Class from Voyager. Small is absolutely best whe it comes to the XLs as we've seen with the Runabout, Defiant and the Delta Flyer so you'll know how excited I am for the USS Pegasus which will be up on here shorty.

The enclosed magazine covers the basics of the Voyager two parter and the background of the ship before plunging into a fairly in depth view on the use of the Defiant pathfinder to become the Equinox. Interviews with John Savage (Ransom) and Titus Welliver (Burke) fill out the edition, making this a very Equinox centric volume as it rightly should be.

A great all round package that adds detail tp the background of the ship on screen and off. I would say purchase of this XL is a no-brainer if you love the ship. It's a massive step up from the standard collection (may have mentioned this a couple of times) with two tons of updated detail and structural strength. Good to see changes made with the model to only take things forward. Magnificent work with only a couple of minor quibbles.

Check out all our Starships posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Where's the Episode Reviews At?

For those of you who are regular followers/trolls/etc of this blog, you'll be familiar with my weekly episode updates.

But I've come to the realisation that everyone and anyone is doing them and, in all honesty, they're not the most widely read of posts. Even I've noted that I've reduced their length into more bitesize territory of late. With both Discovery and Prodigy now running at the same time it just isn't feasibly possible to write reviews and also do other discussions, opinions and those lovely item reviews plus a full time job.

So I'll be more or less covering a series of episodes and events within a piece on a more regular occasion and get away from being a) a pure episode review site and b) a pure ship review site that I fear I may have started to go down.

Let's move straight on though to a couple of things. One is of course the wonderful news that outside of the US and Canada, Discovery season four will be available on Pluto TV FOR FREE during what Paramount is describing as a "transitional period". Episodes one and two; Kobayashi Maru and Anomaly dropped last week if you happened to be off world at the time. Plus, yes, I was totally wrong that fan power would make a difference. It actually jolly well did.

It's going to be another slow burn (yes, intended pun) of a season. Burnham hasn't convinced everyone that she's amazing and the Federation president Laira Rillak even bypasses her for command of the Voyager-J. Burnham certainly has her issues in wanting to save everyone and saving no-one. For once we have a captain who isn't perfect and doesn't make the best decisions. I believe it's called "On the job learning".

But as we would suspect from an arc-based series, it's not all great news because the Discovery is called out to deal with a research station that is being affected by a gravitational wave. 

As an opening to a fourth season I was expecting something with a bit more weight to it and Kobayashi Maru didn't totally live up to its namesake. The Big Problem of the season is another huge threat to the galaxy that might be something we've seen before or it might not be. First thoughts were that it could be V'Ger and I swore I heard a few bars of it's ominous theme but it's got to be something else entirely.

Adira is still a great addition to the ship and has slipped into the "inexperienced" role which Tilly filled for seasons one and two with her storyline and the ever nearing rebirth of Gray providing one of the seasons standout narratives already. There's even a hat tip to the procedure's previous success with some Starfleet admiral named Picard.

David Ajala though is leaving me slightly cold. His relationship with Michael feels disjointed while it should be more endearing yet the time he spends working with Stamets to gather data on the anomaly turns out to be a great piece of writing.

Discovery has to be the most inconsistent of all Trek series. Whether that's down to the overriding arc structure or the very generic background bridge crew, it never seems to live up to its potential. There are a few too many sideways glances, odd humour moments (Tilly's funny voice one with Saru in Anomaly for instance) which feel jarring and totally out of place in this format and also at this far flung point in the future.

Episode three did ramp it up a bit into more action territory with the return of Burnham's mother, no tears from the captain and a rogue Quwat Milat nun. Of the three so far it's a step forward but once again the Gray/Adira story was far more interesting and even managed to reference a certain Starfleet admiral being reborn in the same synthetic manner.

Choose to Live got it right for once. The character moments weren't forced, Tilly's motivations seemed clearer with her wanting a challenge. Even Book and Stamets' partnership is developed and we seem to have a more defined heading for the season. Yes, the gravitational anomaly was still in the background but this time the main plot line came off a lot stronger. 

A society in stasis is nothing new (Dragon's Teeth) yet this was much more in line with Star Trek's basis of helping a people and not misunderstanding them. J'Vini's cause is true to her beliefs and although it's completed with the death of a Starfleet officer from the USS Credence, it remains close to the Needs of the Many. Wonder where we've heard that before?

But Discovery still misses a beat. In Choose to Live it's come very close to the origins and core nature of original Trek but there's a lacking of depth overall. The arc nature ay well be making it feel exhaustive but once more we are on a path towards a penultimate episode reveal which will, undoubtedly, reveal Burnham to be the saviour of the galaxy even if the Federation President doesn't rate her.

Then there's Prodigy. A series that has really taken me by surprise and is currently on a mid-mid-season break after five episodes. My word how this has come out of nowhere. I'm still not super thrilled with the animation but at present it's the best Trek out there. Exploration, new frontiers, a ship that actually looks stunning and a not over-complex arc that allows the show to breathe and dive into its characters. The Murder Planet does something similar to The Naked Time/Now in that it cuts into the core of these five aliens and gives us a hook into each of them.

Bet you can name all five already. Designed for the younger generation, it has a lot of merits from the Michael Giachinno title score through to the lickable planet vistas and all points in between. The reveal of the protowarp drive leaves a dramatic and jaw-dropping cliffhanger and I cannot wait to see where the show heads now.

I;m aware I've skimmed that in two paragraphs. Let me expand. This show actually has an ensemble that works. All of them have distinct personalities and, you might surmise, different agendas. Everything is new to all of them with the fulcrum of Holo-Janeway as their balancing point. I really think this series is working at a great pace and right out of the dockyard.

More thoughts on the way... but how are the two shows comparing for you?

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