Thursday, 31 December 2015

Axanar Battles Off-Screen

Usually on New Years Eve I drop a post looking forward to the best of Star Trek in 2016 but the last 24 hours have left something of a bitter taste.

If you've been strolling around the corridors of Twitter and Facebook in particular then the news that CBS/Paramount are suing Axanar will come as no surprise. What is a surprise is that it's happening in the first place.

To fill in some gaps quickly, Axanar is a fan funded production that tells the story of Garth of Izar and the battle which changed the course of war with the Klingons.  The stunning and award-winning Prelude to Axanar arrived early in 2015 but with the exception of a teaser scene in the summer we've been presented with very little else.  Now it seems that CBS aren't too happy with the production,  noting that it appears to infringe on (and I quote from the Hollywood Reporter article that broke the news) "The Axanar Works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes...", which doesn't make them too happy. Not only that but suspiciously Renegades has vanished from YouTube in the last day or so which could mean bigger things are in motion.

Question one has to be why it's taken up to now for them to realise this after the Prelude was released many months ago is worrying but let's not forget that back then there was no suggestion that a new Star Trek would be launching on CBS' subscription TV service in January 2017. Do they see Axanar as a threat?  Do they think it will ruin the landscape for their new flagship sci-fi series when they haven't been an issue in the cinematic shadow of both the '09 reboot and its muddled sequel, Into Darkness.

Fans are, understandably enraged that the much-touted movie could now never see the light of day and that almost certainly production will come to a grinding halt while legal proceedings take place. A lot of fans including myself have donated to Axanar and this shutting down of the production will most likely mean that those funds will account for nothing except a warehouse and some half-built sets. The #istandwithaxanar tag (used here as the article header but not an endorsement) has been lashed across social media as fans turn to back the project and attempt to dissuade CBS from continuing on its mission to seemingly kill off the "original vibe"  of Star Trek if you will. While there was no Star Trek on TV fan films flourished and kept the dream and the vision of Gene Roddenberry alive -  but at the smell of a new series the claws are apparently being sharpened.

But is everything OK in the Axanar camp either?  Not really. The loss of Tony Todd four months ago marked unease especially when there were suggestions of dissatisfaction between the actor and Axanar. Just reading back over tweets from Todd and also from those high in the Axanar echelons is certainly eye-opening in relation to acting abilities, time taken to produce the movie and I suspect a lot more material that hasn't entered the public domain. In fact this exchange was getting quite heated last night.

Now I totally get why fans are rising to support Axanar but do we truly know the whole story?  Was permission asked and/or granted in relation to using the Star Trek moniker (apparently yes)?  Where has all the money gone exactly? Have donors been kept truly and honestly informed?

These are just some of the very pressing questions that have been aimed at @StarTrekAxanar on Twitter in the last day with Alec Peters, Robert Meyer Burnett and others joining the conversation as it has increased in intensity to defend the production, reassure fans and express hope that there will be some form of middle ground reached so that Axanar will be completed. You can read Alec Peters' (who runs the Propworx auctions and does sell replica items from Star Trek) statement in full over on the production's Facebook page which does now suggest Axanar to be a fan film rather than an independent after all the hype indicated the former. 

But what does this all really mean?  Are series such as Continues and Phase II now in serious danger?  What of Anthology or Farragut as in all four cases I would say they are even closer to the original ethos and even the look of The Original Series.  Are these going to be told to cease and desist?  What of fan blogs, resource sites, YouTube pages and the like?  And why are they not heading after the fake merchandisers and those making revenue from the franchise with no link to CBS or permission? Why now is Axanar being made the scapegoat that is to be brought to its knees?

It definitely has an incredible vision and the Prelude took fan films to another level so that might be making CBS hot under the collar but this action as we are just days from the start of the 50th anniversary year  may well threaten the release and profits of a certain Star Trek Beyond with fans boycotting the film and turning 2016 into a terrible year for Star Trek. BUT as the article notes, Paramount and CBS have encouraged fan productions over the years but Axanar did something very different, it proclaimed itself as the first independent Star Trek movie. Certainly a bold statement and CBS/Paramount commented further stating: "Star Trek is a treasured franchise in which CBS and Paramount continue to produce new original content for its large universe of fans. The producers of Axanar are making a Star Trek picture they describe themselves as a fully professional independent Star Trek film. Their activity clearly violates our Star Trek copyrights, which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect."

It is excruciatingly painful to watch a franchise you love being torn apart from the inside and once more hurting fans while. Star Wars slaughters just about every box office record in existence and creates a few new ones at the same time.  But CBS must have a good case, they must have good reason to launch such a case against Axanar. It does make me increasingly dismayed with the direction that JJ Abrams, Robert Orci, Bad Robot, CBS, Paramount and everyone else on the bandwagon have decided to take Star Trek. It isn't Star Wars and it's not Guardians of the Galaxy. If I want to see either I will but what I want from Star Trek is,  fuck me,  Star Trek. No lens flares, no Fast and Furious action, no cussing Beastie Boys -  you get the picture -  and with Axanar and Renegades we at least got something that at its core wanted to exude the power of that Roddenberry vision and ensure it was nurtured,  respected and encouraged to grow into the next half century. I fear that should this case be won then the golden age of the fan series,  the fan site and everything else non-profit-making that has kept the magic of Star Trek alive will be in danger of disappearing virtually overnight.

However, saying all that and defending Axanar is all well and good but what about looking at this from the perspective of CBS/Paramount? For years, yes, fan films have flown the flag and kept the franchise alive on a shoestring budget but have Alec Peters and co gone that step too far from critiquing, honouring and commenting on Star Trek to effectively making Star Trek itself. Y'see this has always been hyped as an independent movie rather than a fan film with the team promoting the fact that this is as close to Star Trek as they could get without it actually being the real thing. Maybe there's a sense of Icarus here and Axanar and potentially Renegades have flown a little too close to that sun and have now been burnt.

I tend to think that other fan series, blogs and the like will be OK since they are not set up as the commercial business model that Axanar appears to be (heck it even had an annual report) but this may well be a warning to other productions in the future not to get too cocky and remain firmly in the fan-film circle rather than starting to play games with the "big boys". As friend of SKoST, Rob Clements noted there have been a lot of "fair use" films such as Of Gods and Men and two early episodes of Phase II which critiqued Star Trek but Axanar actually wanted to BE Star Trek. Indeed their very production was a group of fans and some camera equipment whereas Axanar went all out and even has its own Ares Studios. 

Of course if fans now turn against Paramount and CBS over this matter (and I can definitely see both angles) then at least the studios will have an argument if the third movie, Beyond, now tanks at the box office - fans boycotted the movie because of this lawsuit. To be fair though that first trailer hasn't done them any massive favours with the fanbase anyway. I doubt that it will, as I've seen on a few message boards and through the Axanar page on Facebook, "kill Star Trek" although it certainly won't be doing it any favours in the eyes of fans across the world.

The scary thing is that CBS and Paramount may actually be in the right here because of the way in which Axanar has been marketed and produced. Alec Peters has also stated in the last 24 hours that he and the team were prepared for this possibility even though he met with CBS to cover what they were doing and they seemed to be happy at that time.

It seems therefore unlikely that we'll be seeing much of Axanar in 2016 as this battle rages. Are there two sides? Is one of these parties obviously in the wrong? I think there are points that either combatant can make to justify their position but it'll be lawyers rather than starships which will be battling it out. Personally I would love to see Axanar completed and I genuinely hope that the mud-slinging and sniping can be pushed aside so that it can be made. Is there a middle ground so that, as Alec hopes, the matter can be resolved in a "fair and amicable manner". After writing this my initial thought that the studios see this as a threat has dissipated and now I believe it is more to do with the use of intellectual property and the like. I would like to think so although there may have to be concessions and I would think those will have to come from the Axanar camp rather than the studio behemoth of Paramount and CBS.

Thanks also to @robclements for his help and input with this article.

What are your thoughts on this delicate new twist to the franchise? Who is right? Is there a correct perspective or are Paramount and CBS totally within their rights to go after Axanar

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Sunday, 27 December 2015

The New Arrivals: Thoughts on Collection Issues 71-76

Following December 23rd's news on the Doctor Who collection, Christmas Eve 2015 saw the latest update on the Starships Collection.

Giving us the next six issues from 71 to 76 what do we think to the announced craft?

71. Goroth's Klingon shuttle

One for the Enterprise fans here. I expect top drawer recreation again from that series but it'd not something I was hoping for. Nice addition but is it one of those fans eagerly want in the range? I doubt this will be exciting a lot of people however it is a very unique design and the first of three small support craft announced in this expansion.
Anticipation Level: 2/5

72. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A

The movie Enterprise appears in its second guise and, if my chat with Ben is anything to go by it will make up for the poor refit we had in issue two so many moons ago. By far this was my favourite of the Enterprise namesakes. 

It will be interesting to see just what changes have been made on this one. Most of the anticipation is purely down to seeing how the model has been improved. For me it's an essential and one I've wanted for a long, long time. The anticipation level has to be maxed just because we're waiting to see if this is pulled off properly.
Anticipation Level 5/5

73. Borg Vessel Type 3

Our third Borg ship following the Sphere and the Tactical Cube and certainly this won't have a repetitive design since it's potentially the oddest shaped ship ever. Featured in The Next Generation's Descent we never got to see anything except the exterior. 

We've known about this for some time so not a big surprise I think a lot of fans will be excited to get their hands on another Borg ship.
Anticipation Level: 4/5

74. Bajoran Sub-Impulse Raider

Think this is the first time this will have been rendered in model form.  Taken from the third part of the Circle trilogy which opened Deep Space Nine's second season it's another one-appearance vessel that we barely saw on the exterior hence why I'm using the shot Ben chose to announce its inclusion.

For me as a Deep Space Nine fan I'm really excited to see something that isn't Federation or Dominion from the show. Hope it's a decent size too. 
Anticipation Level: 3/5

75. Captain's Yacht; USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E

Third from this batch that we already knew about before the Hero Collector announcement is the yacht from Insurrection. Maybe at some point we'll get the yacht from the Enterprise-D (although it wasn't see so that might not happen). It'll be the first model from the ninth movie and the one from this batch that I'm most looking forward to. 

We didn't get to see it in that much detail during its launch sequence so this addition will provide a much better appreciation of this fleetingly seen support ship. I'd go as far as to say that it's the one most people will be looking forward to.
Anticipation Level: 4/5

76. Neelix's Shuttle

Fourth from the six that had already been confirmed within the series but now we have an issue number to go with it.

Used only a couple of times once it was secured in Voyager's shuttle bay, this is still one of the key ships from the fourth Star Trek series since it belonged to a main character. 

Am I excited by it though? Not hugely however with the continuation of the collection we have to understand that there are going to be a lot more one-off's and unusual entries to the series.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Overall a real mixed bag from lost CG recreations to support craft to legendary starships. Maybe the most eclectic mix of announcements yet? We've got one from The Next Generation, one from Deep Space Nine, one from Voyager and one from Enterprise and one from the classic movies so effectively every generation has been covered. One further note is that the Enterprise-J from Enterprise can't be that far away as Ben noted on Twitter that he's been discussing the final model. That'll be one to get pulses racing!

Just a reminder that this month we have the Voth Research Vessel and the Antares added to the collection and next month will see the arrival of the Phoenix from First Contact and the Xindi Aquatic Ship - the latter of which is really piquing my interest!

So what did you think to the latest announcements? Odd? Varied? Precisely what you would want?

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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Forward to 110: What Could We Expect from the Starships Collection?

This week's announcement that the Official Starships Collection will be pushing to at least 110 issues has certainly been greeted with waves of enthusiasm from fans.

Ben has already indicated that the 110 will provide ships from every series including some from the Battle of Wolf 359, every Klingon, Romulan, Borg and Federation vessel type with many more on top. In fact we now know that the series will include the New Orleans Class and the Daedalus Class starships. Plus there will be more specials and more shuttles which leads us, inevitably, into the realms of speculation.

Noted SKoST contributor Rob Gibson; "When the magazine was announced there were 2 ships I really wanted, the Akira and Daedalus classes! 

"Based on some of Matt Jefferies early designs for the Enterprise the ship only really showed up as a model in Sisko's office (USS Horizon) but I found it in the first edition of the Star Trek Encyclopedia when I was 9 in 1994. Such a simple design that looks fantastic from every angle, I can't wait to finally own my own model!"

My first suggestion would be that we need to have the Miradorn Raider confirmed within the 110. Not only a classic design but one that was used on several occasions including as it's original namesake in Vortex from Deep Space Nine's premiere season and as the infamous pirate ship from The Next Generation's Gambit two-part episode. 

As a miniature this one will really work, Lots of points, angles and panelling to exploit and the background on the orignal model will certainly fill the magazine. I'm a big fan of the design and how it was used in the franchise. 

Collector, reviewer and friend of SKoST, Tiffany Groves offered one up that she would love to see; the Romulan shuttle from In the Pale Moonlight.

"This runabout sized vessel made a dramatic entrance by de-cloaking mysteriously in the shuttlebay of the station. The arrival of a Romulan ship that neither we (nor apparently the federation) had ever seen before was exhilarating, and also it was part of a spectacular episode of the series.

"These shuttles were apparently so clandestine, they must have been travelling around the Alpha Quadrant for years, getting up to who knows what?

The design is beautifully reminiscent of the D’deridex Class warbird we are so familiar with and it is also a wonderful representative of the Romulan Empire as a whole, technologically advanced and driven by a need for secrecy and espionage."

Certainly it's one of the lesser seen Romulan designs but what if it was actually part of an alien shuttle set? I can see the potential for a second Federation shuttle set to include the movie travel pod, the pods from Enterprise and the Galileo/Copernicus from The Final Frontier (maybe along with The Next Generation shuttle pod or a Type 7). An alien shuttle set could include the one from Deep Space Nine plus a Ferengi shuttle, the Nenebek from Final Mission and another (Klingon shuttle from Gambit?).

Sitting well alongside the pic reveal of the Captain's Yacht, Chris Groves turned to another from Insurrection; "We are used to seeing the Federation operating from large starships.

"Aside from shuttles and runabouts, everything has centered around crew using transporters to beam down to positions of interest. But this ship was something a bit ‘different’ (which within the confines of Federation ship classes is quite hard to achieve).

The design was sleek yet robust, having the prominent deflector reminiscent of an open nosed jet of the 1950s. But it also had a sense of being tough and durable like the USS Defiant."

One feels it was designed to be a covert vessel, small and fast and well armed fro those more delicate missions that would be compromised the arrival of a massive starship. Also it looks like it could be a multi-mission ship with powerful sensors for specialist missions."

So what else should we definitely see? Keeping in line with the news of the yacht and their recent inclusion in Attack Wing I'd welcome a miniature of the Scorpion fighters from Nemesis and the deadly Scimitar. Film is meh but the ship is superb!

Well, there's the suggestion that ships from the remastered versions of The Original Series will get a foothold in and that could mean seeing the Gorn ship from Arena as well as updated versions of things such as the Tholian webspinner from The Tholian Web.

Deep Space Nine might yield the larger Dominion battleship but in the case of Voyager I think the collection will need to be a little more selective since at one point there was almost a "ship of the week". We do know Neelix's shuttle is due (probably in the 70's) but that's our lot. A Borg Queen Octahedron is most likely I would surmise and there's been no sign of any Kazon ships and there are three we can't miss with the larhe Predator class,  the mid-sized raider and the small fighter nor is there word on the distinctive Vidiian starship - surely these must be included - we even mentioned the Kazon Predator class back in our thoughts for issues 40 and above. Looking at some of the original promo art the Aeon from Future's End is yet to feature.

In the 70's we also know that the Enterprise-A will make an appearance with a ton of corrections to banish the memory of the movie refit as will the Borg ship from Descent. From Enterprise there are still a couple of Xindi ships to add to the line up including that spherical Weapon Zero and who could forget the glimpsed Enterprise-J? After that I think there will be some real curve balls and oddments never before seen in model/collectable form.

What else should be included? What essentials are still missing from the collection and included in the next 30 issues?

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An Animated Perspective: The Official Starships Collection Issues 62 and 63

It's been a good week for the Collection with the announcement that it will definitely reach a minimum of 110 issues.

Virtually in the same breath we also discovered that the series would include the iconic  Daedalus and New Orleans classes from The Original Series and Wolf 359 respectively. Yesterday (21st December) Ben Robinson dropped a lovely teaser shot of the Enterprise-E Captain's Yacht from Insurrection onto his Twitter feed. It's the first ship from the ninth movie which does give more hope that we will be seeing the Scout Ship and more soon. 

Likely too there will be a second shuttles pack, more specials (probably covering the Jellyfish from the 2009 movie and anything from Beyond) plus more one-offs such as the ISS Enterprise special. 

For now though we'll have to "make do" with the latest two issues and shoddy they aren't. First up there is the Voth Research Vessel from Voyager's third season installment, Distant Origin. Now I loved this episode and the angle on the evolution story that it spun as well as a couple of callbacks to events in the show and, for once, giving Chakotay something more to do than talk to his spirit guide.

The ship model is one of my favourites. It's pretty chunky for one with nothing really protruding from the main hull and being very compact on its design but it looks stunning. Unusually rear-clipped into the stand, the Voth ship has some lovely clean lines to drool over and is absurdly well detailed across all angles of the hull. I say angles when actually its a curved design with any of the features seeming to emerge seamlessly from the single rake of the hull. 

It is one of the smaller ships to be selected for the range and so benefits from that closer perspective which has allowed Eaglemoss to etch out panels and mark virtually everything from the model onto the metal upper and plastic lower sections.

What I can't seem to get over is just how smooth the curves are on the Voth Research Vessel and how well they have been presented. The colour scheme is very simple with light and dark grey highlighted at occasional points with a teal blue that draws your eye to one point after another. It seems to look good from any angle with the light working across the silver surface and catching the precise hull details as it goes.

One criticism and a small one at that is that the colouring of the primary drive reactors and emitters don't seem quite as green as they should be. On the ship model it's definitely teal (as noted) and there is a little something taken away with not being able to see the organic hue that the reactors give off on the screen but that's the limitations of the real world for you!

Nice too is that everything is in correct alignment. Not that it was an issue in the beginning since the vessel is only made up of two pieces - a top and a bottom - without any fiddly extremities to worry about (sad story but my Botany Bay now has a wonky tail fin). Nor are there any translucent sections sunk into the hull; it really is just one solid lump of ship. While that might sound a bit bland it's far from it because of the precision of the hull markings and the fit of the plastic and metal sections. It is exceptionally flush and overall is a great, if simple model. I might even say it's an unexpected favourite of the series to date.

Flipping open issue 62 we have a good report on the Distant Origins episode also covering the essential features of this small research vessel. One of the big things here is that the Voth ship is fitted with a transwarp drive out-of-the-spacedock hence the ease at which they could catch Voyager in the series. The coverage on the ship design is turn-and-miss and I actually thought I'd had a page taken out of the magazine since it was so brief. 

The only section which does get some decent space is given, deservingly, to Michael Westmore and his creation of the Voth makeup. I love the one-off race and the detail on what inspired their look helped give this issue an all-encompassing feel. Trouble is that with the Voth City Ship due in just eight issues (four months) I'm not sure what else there will be to cover on a race we only saw in the one episode.

Second out of the gate and the first ship to appear in retailers in 2016 will be the Antares. If we go all official here this shouldn't really be in the series as it only properly appeared onscreen in the more recent remastered versions of The Original Series and a slightly different iteration featured in The Animated Series. I'd actually say they should include a couple more ships from The Animated Series because they've never been done before and this one has turned out OK.

Actually I tell a little bit of a fib there because this is one damn small replica of the Antares. It's almost the size of one of the recent shuttles (yes, review of that pack coming soon) but somehow it manages to still look pretty good. I suspect it's almost on scale with the USS Enterprise we saw at issue 50 but it does seem a little odd how small it has turned out. The other reason for its size might be to do with the vertical size of the cargo bay and how to make that feasible with the collection.

Again the ship is a rear standing, sliding - just - over the "H"-shaped nacelle support at the back. The collection has definitely captured the feel of that 2000's retro 1960's spacecraft vibe in the model and I think for the scale this is a nice and unexpected winner.

Coated out in familiar Starfleet white, the Antares is very angular when you compare her to something like the original USS Enterprise from Kirk's day. The bow lines and cargo bay lines are unforgiving in their ramrod straight nature and they contrast well against the sleek, curved lines of the Voth Research Vessel. There are a lot of angles when you look at the Antares for a bit longer. No curves but everything seems functional and ramrod straight. The hull does betray that remastered nature with a two-tone white/grey paint scheme rather than one slab of white which would have been more expected from the original filming of the show.

The detail of the tiny deflector dish is very well done - is this one of the smallest details Eaglemoss have managed to replicate on a model that is itself not that big. The warp nacelles too are well made and sturdy with blazing red bussard collectors (standard plastic not translucent) and curved exhaust ports to the rear - although they don't have the bevelling effect of the original. Plus point to counter that though is that the nacelles and their pylons are all in metal for the first time in the series. 

However, when you compare her to the image on the front of the magazine you get a bit of a shock because there are some details clearly omitted from the model or added on to the CG reconstructions. Some of the red edging detail on the top of the habitat (front) module is missing as is the forward facing ship name and registry number. Both of these details are fairly obvious on the magazine - so why aren't they on the ship?! Whoops indeed and as you take a further look around the Antares there are one or two more of those finishing decals which don't align with the pictures in issue 63. 

Build quality is once more spot on. The upper deck and nacelles are metal while the lower hull and bottom of the cargo pod are made from plastic. The difference in materials did make a difference in the finish back in the first 20 or so issues but now in the 60's there's little to call and here I had to really check what was made from what. The Antares must be one of the more robust models too thanks in no small part to those metal engines. 
The magazine is a bit of a mash-up covering remastered episodes and, for the first and perhaps only time, The Animated Series. Whether we needed a crash-course key episode guide to the show has to come with the answer "No" but the rest of the issue is a good read as it lets us into the world of the remastered series. 

We'd already had a taster with the improvements on the USS Enterprise in issue 50 and even more on the SS Botany Bay last month but here we get an understanding of how The Animated Series actually influenced one of the bigger redesigns that took place in The Original Series to change the Woden of The Ultimate Computer from a DY-500 freighter into the Antares Class ship and how that same design was first brought into the series in the revamped Charlie X from early in the first season.

The magazine isn't packed to the brim with info but what there is does spotlight that early era of The Original Series and how it has been restored and slightly "improved" in recent years. Again I have to say that these classics are some of the most interesting yet.

Ben has suggested that with only a smattering of issues now announced and collectors now rapidly catching up to that point we are going to be hearing about future releases sooner rather than later. Talking of releases,  the first double of 2016 will see Zephram Cochrane's Phoenix paired with the Xindi Aquatic Ship. Another two rarities although the second of those will also be arriving on Attack Wing early next year but I doubt it will be anywhere near as detailed. 

Is the Antares smaller than you expected? Does the Voth ship surpass your initial thoughts? THIS AFTERNOON I'll be dropping a few thoughts on ships we'd like to see ahead of Ben's announcement of the next batch of ships (issue 70+) before Christmas Day.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

Final Frontier: Remember the Mag?

My childhood was peppered with literary Star Trek. Mainly because the internet was horribly slow and whirred and clanked like a washing machine when you attempted to look at anything with a single image or bigger than a postage stamp.

Invariably it was a novel from Pocket Books or one of the many reference works that hit the shelves fairly regularly in the 1990's but there was one production house that produced two works which came and went almost as fast as the Enterprise at warp.

I'm talking about the work of Trident Comics. They might have gone out of business almost 24 years ago but I still vividly remember the material they produced and it came at a very formative stage in my Trek-ucation.

The first was their Star Trek comic. Now I wasn't a huge follower of this when it came out in 91/92 and only managed to grab a couple of issues. However, checking out the microscopic amount of detail that exists about the series it seems that it was just a reprint of the US DC Comics Star Trek stories and nothing original. At least when we did Transformers in the UK we filled in gaps with original tales.

What I do remember about the comics was the Mirror Universe story set within the movie era. It was...ok...I suppose but my memory is a little hazy and the two (yes, just two) issues I had went AWOL a few years back. I suspect they ended up at a recycling centre along with my Star Trek VI magazine. Yes, I am annoyed, yes I did cry a little.

What I do have a stronger memory of is the Final Frontier magazine. The first issue was amazing. There was nothing else like it around and I was hooked. It catered for my need for Star Trek in every way - a nicely presented episode guide to season one of The Original Series with decent enough pics plus an interview with William Shatner about everything from Star Trek to TekWar and then some plus a great article on the movie USS Enterprise refit which had been lifted straight from Mr Scott's Guide to the Enterprise. While 100% unofficial and with a ton of wrong dates at the tip of that iceberg it's a good read with some well done plans of the ship interior.

The subsequent three or four issues were of the same calibre; episode guide for The Original Series, few interviews and articles on the upcoming Deep Space Nine, some background on how The Next Generation evolved as well as its lost episodes. What more could you ask for? Everything seemed to be going well for the publication and I was having one reserved at the newsagent each month to be sure of getting it.

Trouble was as we hit issue six and beyond there was a drop in quality that was less than conspicuous. Gone was the episode guide and The Next Generation one was a two side pull out devoting just a line of synopsis to each story plus the writing and directing credits from Encounter at Farpoint through to Redemption. The interviews dried up slowly and the articles relied on a large font size and blurry, badly selected pictures to accompany the sprinkling of text. The front covers seemed to become less professional and very scrappy with bigger photos and splashy text after such an impressive first issue debut. 

Add in as well that for your £1.99 the magazine had become painfully thinner as each month passed but that had been disguised by putting in two A2 folded posters which bulked out the publication (or even a "collectors postcard" stapled to the cover). Some of those were great especially the season two cast shots from The Next Generation but others were just as out of focus and blurry as the smaller versions in the magazine. The one I do remember as the worst offender was of two Klingons being phasered on Gorkon's ship from The Undiscovered Country. Terrible. 

With very little regret, I stopped getting Final Frontier and I think I started to get TV Zone which was just previewing the seventh season of The Next Generation.

Looking across the internet you can still see a few copies of the magazine fluttering around eBay for a smattering of pennies but the higher quality magazines that were available or starting to arrive on shelves at that time blitzed it in every way - SFX, Dreamwatch, Starburst, the lamented Starlog and then there were the official Star Trek magazines for each series that were produced in the US and detailed every aspect of the show and then some.

While Final Frontier was 100% unofficial in a time when getting to create a Star Trek magazine was a tricky and delicate process, it was certainly forward thinking - at least at the beginning. I'd love to talk to anyone who was involved with the production so if anyone out there does know someone, please let me know!

Now we have Titan's Star Trek magazine which covers the franchise from every angle, you have to wonder where this might have gone if it had become popular and managed to avoid becoming wafer thin on both page number and quality of content. Final Frontier has now been, sadly, consigned to the bargain memory bin...

Still have a few issues of Final Frontier lying around? Did you even know it existed in the UK? Do you have contact with anyone who helped produce it?

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Monday, 14 December 2015

This is Sabotage: The Beyond Trailer is Here

If you were thinking that the Enterprise deserved an easy ride after the battering it received in Into Darkness you'd better look away now.

Today Paramount launched the brand spanking new Star Trek Beyond trailer which is due to be unleashed in cinemas this week accompanying some small budget flick called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fairly logical really since both movies have the influence of JJ Abrams upon them.

Whether this trailer was going to be released today is uncertain since some unscrupulous so-and-so dropped a German-dubbed version onto the net early this morning. While it was promptly removed by order of Paramount Pictures, the official version wasn't long behind it to go live.

But what does this 90 second snapshot tell us about the third reboot movie? A fair bit and it does mean that some of those sneaky set pictures make more sense. Backed by the Jim Kirk favourite from the Beastie Boys, the first trailer focuses very heavily on four crew characters; Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty with "cameos" from Sulu, Uhura and Chekov. Plus we get our first good look at Idris Elba in full alien makeup and Sophie Boutella kicking some arse.

We got no ship, no crew...
how we gonna get out of this one?
- Kirk

I'd suggest that the initial clips of Kirk and Scotty on a shuttle are from later on in the movie after some pretty catastrophic events. Kirk's narrative indicates that an unspecified number of the officers/main cast are separated from the rest of the crew after the Enterprise is attacked. At first I thought that the shots of the starship were in an asteroid field however on closer look it seems that the Enterprise is being attacked by a swarm of small fighter-like ships which in turn are responsible for tearing the warp nacelles from their pylons and the ship to be evacuated.

Importantly we see both Kirk and Scotty exiting their escape pods in a forested area and in a rocky desert expanse respectively. I think we can take it that this is the same planet since set shots have shown the pair to be together at some point I would put later in the film (plus the shuttle bit the trailer opened with). In the case of Kirk we get his perspective inside the escape pod as the Enterprise saucer spirals away from him. Kinda reminds me of those scenes of the Constitution Class ship plummeting to Earth in Beyond's predecessor. It also confirms that the pieces of saucer section we saw constructed in Dubai were indeed from the Enterprise.

We will find hope in the impossible
- Spock

What does make this movie seem more in tune with the original series is the pairing of Spock and McCoy as they are shown struggling across the rocky wasteland. The pair, with Spock injured are cornered by alien craft (potentially the same as those which attacked the Enterprise) at which point the Vulcan is beamed out by a Starfleet transporter after Bones has just had his fear eased that he won't die alone; Well that's just typical.

I suspect that what will incense fans however are the fast-paced shots of one away-team-kitted Captain Kirk launching a dirt bike across some sort of alien encampment which is as yet unspecified. It does match the set we saw being built in Vancouver but its purpose is not clear.

Let's hope this doesn't get messy!
- Scotty

Cue Sophie Boutella's arrival slicing and dicing her way through a couple of alien creatures in the forest area where, I'd suggest, Kirk landed his pod. In the shots that follow you can just make Boutlella's unnamed character out fighting at that same alien encampment - could she be helping Kirk to either escape from the surface or lead a rescue mission? Is she coming to Kirk's aid or vice versa? Plus there's a fleeting shot of a third character standing alone who might be the one played by Joe Taslim (shot below) More on that rescue mission theory in a sec. You don't get that kind of pan-in shot if you're an extra.

Now finally we get to see Elba in full makeup looking something of a cross between a Reman and Ivan Ooze from the 90's Power Rangers movie. Key here is that he appears to be on the Enterprise. SO here's the thought - the attack on the ship is led by this guy who then captures the ship and takes the crew off to some form of prison camp. That would fit since we later see a long train of Starfleet yellows, blues and reds trudging through a sandy quarry-like setting under armed guard. A place where at least Sulu and Uhura are threatened by their captors.

We do see Kirk taking a kicking from the Elba character again seemingly onboard the Enterprise as Boutella reveals that she knows why they (Kirk etc) are here - why they are all here. 

This is where it begins, Captain...This is where the frontier pushes back!
- ? (Elba)

Now what I also spotted is that we are likely to end up with the end of the film or at least some climatic sequence taking place on Earth under attack by Elba's alien race (below). Exactly why is suggested from Elba's quote here - the Federation has stretched out on the five year mission and it seems that there are those who are not too keen on their exploration of that frontier. 

Lin's direction is a lot faster-paced, it seems tighter, brighter and a ton more action-orientated than I even felt from the Into Darkness trailer with explosions, bike stunts, one-on-one combat and actually, very little space-based events if the scenes here are to go by. Even his credit on the trailer makes not of his work on Fast and Furious and the addition of the backing track just emphasise that we're going to be in for a "furious" movie and we can only hope after the controversy that was Into Darkness.

For someone who wanted to scale Scotty's role back because of his involvement with the script, Simon Pegg shows up a lot in this 84 second teaser. In fact I'd say he's going to have quite a significant role in the story since he is going to be one of the few who appear to have escaped capture during that initial crippling attack on the Enterprise. Now he has promised a return to the show's origins but will that put bums on cinema seats or are we going to see the influence of more recent blockbusters that have raked in millions? The punchy soundtrack, sharp editing and constant action suggest more in line with The Expendables than a thought-provoking Star Trek akin to The Original Series. Not that I'm going to enter a slagging match or say it's rubbish because hey, it's a trailer. Lots can change, there's a ton more to a movie than 90 seconds and this is literally just a taster and confirmation that the damn thing actually got made and finished. Fan opinion that it's s**t already is a bit harsh. It's like saying you hate the taste of jam but never tasted jam (OK, I could have thought have something a bit more provocative than that but...). Let's keep the negativity away for now and pass a more solid judgement in July 2016.

While we don't get any clear shots of the Enterprise interiors we do have some better glimpses of both the toughened away team jackets sported by Kirk, Spock and Chekov plus the redesigned standard uniforms which have an odd raised-back/lowered front collar style which we see on McCoy, Spock and Kirk during the split-second editing. They look a bit strange if not uncomfortable. 

Let's not do that again...
- Kirk

The trailer closes out with Kirk and Boutella's alien character falling to the surface of the alien encampment only to be snatched by a Federation transporter beam. Could this be the same one that saves Spock earlier and leaves McCoy alone? Who's operating it?! How does this fit with the other alien worldy bits?

I'm impressed because there's a very different feel to this trailer - more humour, more character if you please and a minute and a half of new Star Trek that actually made a bit of sense in comparison to the one we received in November 2012. Do I think this is curtains for the Enterprise? Nope. Severe damage and we might not see her for a good chunk of the movie with the main cast fending for themselves and avoiding capture but I'm sceptical that Pegg would junk the starship in his first Star Trek movie script. Watch me be horribly wrong now and the A turn up at the end. Bit of a blow-out that she's getting a trouncing again...and again.

Will it have a sense of The Original Series though? Hard to tell from this and there's a teeny feel that this might have trended towards that wannabe-a-new-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy rumour we heard on the wind a while back.

It won't have given everything away; we don't know character names beyond the main cast, we don't really know the main events and the links between the worlds we're going to visit but what we can say is that this is going to be a very different experience to the last two movies. It's already splitting fans with a sizeable number of likes and dislikes but Star Trek fans are hard to please especially when it comes to anything linked to the reboots. I remain open-minded. This is one trailer, one snapshot of a two hour movie and not enough to launch a tirade at or laud praise. Maybe there's one other thing that's worth noting - I didn't spot one damned frame of lens flare in the whole trailer.

Star Trek Beyond hits screens from July 22nd 2016. Are you ready?

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