Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Choice of An Age

The internet struck again this week with the speedy viral spread of the supposed teaser poster for the 2017 series.   

Just as fast as it went up and was shared it was denounced as a fake and that was the end of that. Hilariously we also had a trailer for the show this week which turned out - very very quickly - just to be the closing monologue from Enterprise's finale These are the Voyages... and a set picture that had zero to do with the production whatsoever. At least Beyond could manage a real photo for us even if it was of two people staring into darkness (erm...aren't we due more than a frikkin picture by now???) Anyway, back to the main thread here.

But what has come about this week is that we had the suggestion that the new series would be set "after Star Trek VI". More precisely I think it was originally indicated that Fuller, Meyer and co were looking to The Undiscovered Country for inspiration and an ethos that would successfully drive the franchise beyond 51 years in the making.    

Now that could be saying that the series will be set after Kirk and the crew's final voyage on the NCC-1701-A is actually quite unspecific rather than a straight fact that the series is going to be set in 2293 or 2294 which would curtail the need for a Kirk cameo any place it just after the classic generation events of, well, Generations.   

In fact this only specifies that the new show will occur after that point. It could therefore take place between then and The Next Generation in 2364, during the period we've seen in that series, Deep Space Nine and Voyager (just somewhere else in the big old universe) or after the events of the reboot movie perhaps which revolve around the destruction of Romulus and the disappearance of Ambassador Spock. In essence this only confirms that we won't be getting something set in the Enterprise or The Original Series eras and that the Klingons will be in some form of peace accord following the summit at Khitomer. 

The best source I garnered this info from was TrekCore (and also idigitaltimes) which I do take to be one of the more respectable sites for news and they are directly quoting from the man himself which leads me to believe it. Meyer better than anyone else involved in the show does have a stronger grasp on that period in Star Trek history seeing as he was heavily involved with all three of the even numbered classic movies.    

Fuller wants The Undiscovered Country as his jump point it seems according to Meyer and one thing I hope this does mean we get, to keep in line with franchise continuity, are the monster maroon uniforms from the movies. I think losing those would be a bad movie and certainly rile a few thousand or so fans. So what else could we expect from a new series if, theoretically, it was set during that Lost Era? Fuller and co will need to be damn careful with their continuity since we will already have established lore after that point. It could mean we get to see a young Picard, an older Chekhov or Sulu as guest characters which might appease some of the backlash that has reared its head since November (or be a complete sell out in desperation for an audience if it's rubbish...) 

Of course Meyer could just mean this is a jump off point in terms of look, feel and ethos. I honestly think at this time we could have a series that bridges the generation gap. For fans of the novel series it might seriously play with the established non-canon continuity most recently explored in One Constant Star. Will we get to see the adventures of the Enterprise-B or will we steer voyages new on board a new starship? Will this step off from VI indicate we will see gunmetal bridge styling and a more militaristic appearance and belief within Starfleet. We know that Roddenberry wasn't a fan of the crumbling Cold War undertones that Meyer introduced but, of course, there have been a fair few years since Gene was pulling the creative strings.  

Will this suggestion rile a few people? Probably as there will be fans out there hoping to see the franchise jump into the unknown ethers of the 25th Century and perhaps further than that. For the moment though I still believe that these comments around The Undiscovered Country really show that the creative powers are merely looking to that time period for their inspiration - perhaps they are truly looking to get back to a more "aligned" Star Trek that does tie into the existing continuity while also giving us something fresh and new for 2017.  

The idea of stepping into a mostly unexplored period really appeals to me but hey, I'll be happy just to see Star Trek back on TV.

UPDATED 14/04/16

Remember the rumour mill?!

So yesterday (April 13th) an apparently reliable source (via TrekCore) indicated not only that the series will indeed be set in the very open-to-possibilities Lost Era between The Undiscovered Country and The Next Generation. Plus point is that apparently it will be set in the Prime Universe (how the fans rejoiced) but there was then the tacked on point that it might well be an anthology and that only the first year will be set in that as yet unexplored-on-TV period after the Enterprise-A is decommissioned. 

Sounds intriguing but seriously - it's gonna cost a fortune to recast the show every year, redo all the stock footage, create a whole new universe every 12 months for "x" number of years. I realistically can't see this happening. It would be madness and way too expensive I would have thought even though there's huge anticipation over the new show. So what do I honestly think?

I do believe that the show will be set within the gap from The Undiscovered Country and Encounter at Farpoint and that it won't be set on an Enterprise but that's it. Period. Let's wait until Paramount or Mr Fuller come up with some factual announcements or why not follow Star Trek Writers on Twitter to see what's going on - at least this will be from the lion's mouth so to speak.

Would Star Trek in the 23rd Century appeal to you? Would you want to take a step back in time or keep on moving forward?

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Friday, 25 March 2016

Nimoy in Shatner's Words: Leonard

On the 27th February 2015 the world of Star Trek lost Leonard Nimoy.   In memory of that day I had planned to write something but I never actually got to put my thoughts down. 

On a shopping trip out I stumbled upon William Shatner's Leonard which I had completely forgotten was being published. Instead of splashing a fair wedge of cash for a copy on the high street I did wait a few days for it to arrive from a certain large online shopping site beginning with an A simply because it was six quid cheaper.      

To be honest I was expecting this to be a huge 300 page Shatner Love In with asides to Nimoy as the narrative progressed but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I've previously read both of the Kirk actor's Memories books plus the Get a Life autobiography which led me to that premature expectation but Leonard is so much more than Total Shatz.

As described on the cover it really is an exploration of Shatner's fifty year friendship with the man who played Spock. Do not think this is going to be a Nimoy biography because that's not what this is. The book is very clearly William Shatner's take on his best friend, the relationship they had, the way it evolved and the way in which he saw Leonard Nimoy live his life.     

In a way I found it to be much more personal than a lot of Shatner's earlier works. The stories he recounts in regards to Nimoy right from his birth and childhood through the early years of his acting career and then onto the world stage thanks to Star Trek do carry parallels and Shatner does relate his own experiences in those pre-Trek years to those of Nimoy. Using the memories of people including Leonard's son Adam, George Takei, Steve Guttenberg who worked with him on Three Men and a Baby and many others, Shatner builds a picture of what drove Nimoy to act, what made him choose a particular path and how he became involved in the franchise that would make him a worldwide household name.      

From the point in which Shatner joins the story in 1965 we get a much clearer picture of Leonard from his immediate perspective. We get to see the actor, the father, the director, the photographer as well as the troubled alcoholic and heavy smoker - the latter of which would have a critical effect on his life. The relationship is laid bare from the start. No, they didn't immediately hit it off and nor did it really happen during the show. It took some time and rather than being all Bill Shatner, the book does look at how Nimoy held his own with Roddenberry, occasionally "sell out" as Shatner sees it and fight to protect the nature of Spock in every appearance he made.     

There are a few Shatner-esque moments where we do have the author blowing his own trumpet in regards to story points and direction within the movies of the late 70's and 80's as well as how the pair worked to get themselves a better deal within the franchise. How responsible Shatner was for some of the decisions we can only take his word for on this occasion especially in relation to The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, both of which were directed by Nimoy.

Shatner does admit he didn't get it nor did he understand the Trekkie following the show gathered in syndication and forever more. In fact he's open enough to say that Leonard was much more aware and open to the possibilities that the show's fandom provided across the decades.

The story does focus on Nimoy more than his Captain Kirk co-star however the influence of Nimoy on Shatner is clear right the way through especially in relation to the tragedy of a Nerine Shatner and her battles with alcohol. While their relationship wasn't perfect, it is clear that William Shatner cared a great deal for Nimoy and has been left with an unfortunate question over why they seemingly lost contact in the last few years and never really patched things up over a possible disagreement.

It's easy to lose yourself in the Star Trek Nimoy but Shatner is careful to focus on him as a father, a husband and also in some of the areas he loved which nearly took him away from the franchise permanently. I for one didn't know about his Van Gogh one man show nor understood the extent to which his photography work was such a massive part of his life. Perhaps because we see what is going on from another perspective, from one who was there, we truly get an objective angle on just what made up the Real Nimoy aside from the ear tips and angled eyebrows. Some of the details around these "extra-curricular" activities are a bit sketchy but its through that which you realise how busy a man he was and how Leonard Nimoy lived his life beyond Spock.

As fans and followers of William Shatner on Twitter will know his daughters and not the man himself attended Leonard Nimoy's funeral and the actor's reason for doing so is documented here. Ok, it was a bit strange that he didn't go but I understand his thought process behind the decision and in some ways this book seems to be his way of confronting those lost final years of friendship and facing the demon of not going to that funeral. While he doesn't seem to be sorry he missed it because he was involved with a Red Cross commitment I found myself reading between the lines that there is certainly a lot more to it and I would not be surprised if some of that emotion led to the writing of this book.

Leonard isn't a book filled with juicy revelations, torrid stories or sensationalist journalism. It's a genuinely heartfelt book in which Bill Shatner seems to wear his heart on his sleeve. How much you feel this is genuine is up to you but for one I thought it was for the most part.

You can forgive the occasional slip into an anecdote around his own experiences but on the whole this remains true to the title and honest to Leonard Nimoy's memory. It's a fitting tribute which, while not giving up any secrets is a good solid, entertaining read which provides us with Shatner's thoughts and opinions on his closest friend. It's likely to be a must-get for any fan purely to get Captain Kirk's thoughts on his Vulcan first officer and make their own mind up about their 50 year partnership. I enjoyed every page even if it wasn't a revelation on every line and I suspect you will too.

Was Leonard all Shatner or that fitting tribute I suggest?

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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Events on the Horizon

While the dust is kicked up around the Axanar situation, you may well have missed the arrival of Star Trek: Horizon.

Based on the franchise, Tommy Kraft has brought a fresh new story to the universe and, most importantly, it's not set during the oft-used Kirk-era of The Original Series. Oh - usual warning, SPOILERS ahead.

Horizon instead takes us back to the time of the Romulan War and the years we glimpsed through Enterprise. This time we're not on the NX-01 but the Discovery under the command of one Harrison Hawke.

Horizon is very much a story of time, reintroducing us to the Iconians and introducing us to a terrifying technology that they managed to steal away from the Elway before they could use it. It's a scene we actually saw a few months ago as a teaser but my god did it leave a lot for us to discover.

Flash forward a few thousand years to the Discovery making a run for Earth territory carrying a Romulan defector. The escape results in the loss of Hawke's helm officer who, it also turns out, he was romantically entwined with. Seeing Romulan Birds of Prey laying down a barrage of fire onto the NX Class starship is incredible. The acting alone is spot on from everyone involved even at this early point in proceedings and, to be honest, it just gets better and better from there.

Turns out that the Romulans are preparing for a big push just around the corner from Earth and someone needs to go and sort it out before it gets nasty. The Discovery, Enterprise and a couple of Vulcan ships take on the mission. The Romulan defector, T'Mar, joins the crew at the helm although her presence isn't welcomed by all.  On the flip side, the Romulans are being aided by their own "Future Guy" in the effort to win the war but this time it's not a big help as the coalition fleet manages to save the day and destroy the weapon. Problem is that in the process the Discovery's brand spanking new tricobalt torpedoes set off a reaction which throws the ship out of time and into a distant galaxy where they arrive at Horizon. Without giving too much away, the movie tells the story of that mission and the need to stop the Elway weapon from being used plus some hallmark Enterprise Temporal Cold War elements mixed in for good effect.   

So let's get into the movie a bit more. For one thing the acting on all accounts is damn fine and spot on. Paul Lang as Captain Hawke provides a solid element of control as the commanding officer of the NX-04 and manages to sprinkle his performance with some more "human" touches than you might expect from a character who has been relentlessly experiencing the horrors of the Romulan War. Marc Bowers as First Officer and Science Officer Jackson Gates is a more calming influence within the crew and steps up to the plate when required. Ryan Webber perhaps has the most interesting role to play within Horizon providing the foil to Callie Bussell's altered Romulan T'Mar. 

Their relationship develops from hostility to a mutual "cease fire" but not friendship across the course of the movie and I think that's a good choice should this ever be expanded into other episodes. It is a cast which is fully utilised and everyone gets their moment in the limelight and for that Tommy and the production team must be congratulated. No-one hugs the camera and there is a use and purpose for every character. I actually expected Ensign Sutherland (Ashley Croft) to be a bit of a side character but she's well included during the away mission to Horizon plus she helps open up some more to T'Mar's character during an early interaction.

As for the Romulans, there are two key players. Firstly in the early events of the story, Admiral Verak, ably portrayed by Ryan Husk and latterly Daekon played by Rocco Guirlanda. The two "villains" of the piece do split the narrative with Verak being the main opponent when the coalition fleet attacks the hidden Romulan weapon and Daekon holds his own in the events surrounding Horizon. They are pretty standard Romulan characters although Daekon is perhaps provided more breathing space in terms of development moreso because of his role in the conclusion of the story. 

There is a little bit of moustache-twirling villainy in the air with Guirlanda's character but it does help up the ante. Also significant to the story of Horizon, Daekon and the Temporal Cold War is Amelia Yarris. Seemingly killed off in the opening few minutes of Horizon during the Romulan battle, she flits in and out of the show through Hawke's dreams and actually has a decent part to play when all the different strands are brought together. Her path is a little forecast and won't take a great amount of thinking to work out where it's heading by the halfway point but the payoff, at the least, makes sense and actress Jeannine Thompson carries the part off very well and makes it believable.

The story itself is very clearly set out as I've noted. It is quite simple, easy to follow and well explained from the start. The hectic battle which introduces us to the Discovery and her crew is excellently executed and for a one-off production I was blown away. Kraft and the production team have utterly amazed me with their attention to detail in every way. The phasers, uniforms, tricorders, consoles and overall environments are just as you would expect and have seen during the four years Enterprise was on our screens.  A lot of the production does use green screens/backdrops to create the full environment but the way in which it's filmed draws your eyes away from the backgrounds and onto the main characters. Their performances do make you forget that a lot of what you're seeing is all being created inside a computer and really helps you invest in the story.

I actually think this way of producing, as opposed to the standing sets of Continues or New Voyages means that Kraft and co have been able to be a lot more expressive in their artform and do a lot more than you might chance with "real" props. Certainly the pounding the Discovery gets in its first appearance is testimony to that in the least. It also means that we are granted some stunning vistas and alien environments and technology when we are taken to Horizon. 

There are definitely a few sequences I can immediately think of which would otherwise not have been possible if not for the use of CGI. Saying that about the internal visuals it also has to be said for the space battles and realisations of the Earth, Vulcan and Romulan ships that appear throughout. The texturing, the lighting, the finished article is just beautiful to watch and I think it's actually an improvement on some of the visuals even CG Enterprise gave us 15 years ago. 

The space-bourne sequences are in the minority and act as an accompaniment rather than a major part of the story. They are important but are used effectively with the narrative rather than being a good excuse to have some stuff blowing up. What CG has done for Horizon is allow it to really embrace the universe and do whatever it wants. Bridge of a starship? Check. Alien world complete with killer drones? Check. 

Horizon is unique in the fact it has avoided doing the "inexpensive" classic 60's Star Trek and has broken the boundaries to passionately embrace the prequel era and the technical wizardry that those later produced episodes brought viewers. It's a brave move that could have easily looked cheap and nasty but the commitment of the actors plus the brilliance of the digital recreations on screen had me captivated and enthralled from the first scene. If you've yet to see Horizon you are missing a true diamond from the fan film community. I fear we may never see a sequel but this rally does go to show what a limited budget and total belief from all involved can produce. 

Tommy Kraft should be proud of this achievement and I'm sure that his skills will be in great demand particularly from other fan productions in the future. Horizon is a great action adventure story which sits perfectly in the Star Trek universe. It has heart, it has a soul and it has dared to explore something and somewhere different, drawing on elements from the franchise's past but yet successfully adding to it and remaining faithful to the core material. At an hour and a half this is perfectly paced and totally enjoyable. Get yourself a brew, get comfy and watch it. This could well be the film future productions use as their benchmark and could well be a turning point in how fan movies look for the next fifty years.

Were you impressed with Horizon? Will it have an impact on future fan productions? Let me know your thoughts below!

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Friday, 18 March 2016

Two Sides of the Fight: The Official Starships Collection Issues 68 and 69

I really, really, really wanted to like the Federation fighter with issue 68 but for some reason I'm not getting as excited as I thought I might be.

One of, if not the smallest Federation ship to be included in the series alongside the two man shuttles, the attack fighter is a charming little craft notable for its fleeting - and speedy - appearances in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine either in the hands of the Maquis or fighting against the Dominion.   

Coated in familiar Federation grey, the fighter is about 70% metal with only the underbelly and the lower sections of the impulse engines made from plastic. What makes this even more noticeable is because the plastic areas are not weathered with a sort of irregular rust/damage effect that's splattered across the surface. That's a cool touch and one we don't see too often. 

Here it helps to age the vessel and suggest this is 'likely' to be a version servicing the Maquis cause. That surface detail extends into the panelling at every point on the craft from nose to the tips of the impulse engines. Just a shame that they aren't made from translucent plastic which would have topped it off. Nor are the warp engines that visible here with only minimal blue edging to indicate their location on the upper and lower hull.   

The actual shape of the Federation attack fighter is particularly gorgeous with a sweeping curve most evident when viewed from dead front and centre. That curve is absolutely perfect and with the choice to mould the wings in metal, it's damn strong. The choice of mounting the fighter using the gap between the hull and the engines as the balance point is particularly inspired and works to offer a more "suspended" impression of the tiny two-man craft.

While the fighter is impeccably finished, cleanly painted and with one or two highlighted sections on its top section including the blacked out cockpit window I still can't get super excited about it. Why? 

Because it just doesn't carry that "wow" factor that so many of the absolute best in this collection have presented. The rough paint finish is nice, the build itself is perfect but as a design it doesn't ignite my starships passion that the NX-01 did or the Fortunate managed with its modular structure. It is, quite simply...simple. A bit plain but that's not to say it's a poor model because as always Eaglemoss has recreated the original as much as they can given technology and the budget constraints imposed by an £10.99 cover price.

The magazine intro does focus more on the use of the fighter by the Maquis in Pre-Emptive Strike and The Maquis two-parter with some references towards the end of their use during the Dominion War and most prominently during the battle to retake Deep Space Nine. We do get a "designing" section albeit a two page skant overview of the process before this time looking at the behind the scenes work completed by Digital Muse during the sixth season especially for the monumental battle in Sacrifice of Angels. For anyone with the companion doe Deep Space Nine the info will not be new but it's a relevant addition to the appearance of the fighter.

Issue 69 next and the eye-catching Breen warship that entered the Star Trek world during the final ten-part arc in Deep Space Nine's closing season. You'll be hard pressed to find another craft as weirdly designed and asymmetrical as the warship and I've been expecting this to turn up for a fairly long time. I can understand why it's taken a while to get to this ship with so many other notables to include early on so its arrival was highly anticipated. Honestly, this might be another reason why I wasn't too fussed with the Federation fighter.   

With a solid metal arc holding the elements of the warship together just the design and work that has gone into making this impresses me. I believe this is the first time such a ship has been realised in miniature and Eaglemoss should be congratulated for the result. Even on this scale the model carries off the crazy, seemingly random design of the ship in what appears to be a collection of very, very bright colours. Certainly it contrasts well against the bland grey of the Federation fighter but even from the preview pics I wasn't expecting it to be quite so colourful. The reason for that is, as with so many of the more extravagant colour schemes, they were toned down on the TV. 

Odd it might be initially but this is one of those models that you're going to spend flipping ages looking over because the surface has so much to examine. Every surface has a lump or bump worth examining from the tip of its forward weapon to the rear of the engine blocks. On a detail level this has to be one of the most covered craft yet in the collection which is more incredible if you consider that it's actually a very big ship in universe so cramming a lot of raised and dipped areas is a big achievement.

The quality and definition of the detail on the plastic sections - the two pieces attached above and below the grey arc - is visually much better. That said, the colour palette used is large for a starship with green, yellows of the engines and forward energy dampener, browns, greys and blue of the main reactor with a dash of white and a sprinkle of red all evident in the design. It's detail and colour that is expressed in every inch and every crevice of the ship with clear definition of the weapons emitters, bridge module and engines as well as some extremely small differentiated panelling which really lifts the design out of the norm.

I mean, the shape is striking for one but with the overall effect of the paint scheme included it's an utter beauty even if she does look obscure from just about every angle (even below as right). The stand isn't the best this time with the clear plastic grip wobbling like hell on the base however the grip around the rear of the Breen ship is firm and steady. Good choice on the arm positions to make that happen!

Definitely a hidden gem of the franchise and certainly a shining star when it comes to the Starships Collection. Being from Deep Space Nine might not be to all fans' tastes nor will she be in every display, but I really think you're missing out if you don't add this one.

The magazine continues to Breen it up with coverage of their franchise history from a first, brief mention in The Loss from The Next Generation to their use as the never seen super-villain responsible for probably just about everything the Klingons, Romulans or Borg weren't right to their first on screen appearance in Deep Space Nine's Indiscretion and onto their pivotal role within the Dominion War and the final ten-part arc of the space station saga.

Within the pages we also have info on their origins and the reason why they were used on screen in Deep Space Nine plus - and what would the magazine be without it - John Eaves discussing just how he came up with and developed the Breen warship from a fairly standard craft into the curved beast we have in this issue and finally into a realised CG vessel capable of incapacitating the Defiant. Aside from Eaves' concept drawings, 99% of the pics are lifted from the show either of the ship or clips from the ten-part arc so nothing majorly new here. The ship views are actually a bit poor since there is no dorsal view included and therefore no way to really compare. We only get front, side and rear images which don't tell a lot since this is a very "flat" ship.

For two issues focusing so much on Deep Space Nine (which I must applaud) there is quite a difference in my opinion between the two ships mainly on their appearance. Certainly it's a dramatic contrast from the bright colours of the Breen to the subdued grey tones of the Federation fighter  and in this instance the alien craft is the clear winner for its impression on me this month. Neither is a dud, let that be said, but this month's Federation design doesn't pack its usual punch.

If you've missed it recently Ben Robinson from the collection has recently posted up pics of both the Romulan shuttle and the USS Voyager Aeroshuttle models which we have yet to have issue numbers confirmed for. Could the aeroshuttle be an online special since it was never properly seen in the show? Hmmmm. One for your thoughts there! Both of these ships look spectacular and got a lot of collectors excited so I'm hoping these will be appearing in the late 70's or early 80's at the latest. We also got another image of the soon-to-be-released NX-01 from the Mirror Universe. Looks great and definitely more changes than we saw on the ISS Enterprise M1 recently (pics here from Ben's Twitter feed).

Next month we have the Voth City Ship from Voyager and Goroth's Klingon Shuttle from Enterprise. Right now these two aren't floating my boat but let's wait and see what the models are like. Oh and if you're waiting to see my thoughts on the NX-01 refit hold your breath a little longer - mine has been delayed (not sent out) so it'll be here shortly.

So what are your thoughts on issues 68 and 69? Good to see more Deep Space Nine recognition?

As always...

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Monday, 14 March 2016

A Gem of a Game

Last year Genera brought us Star Trek: The Wrath of Gems and for a while I tootled along and played it a bit. 

Then both Trexels and lately Timelines took my Star Trek gaming attention elsewhere. Trexels fell by the wayside a little and then I pottered back in the last two weeks to Gems while still hammering the shuttle missions on Timelines to build up the crew stats. So why the heck am I bothering with something that is "just another columns game" after effectively giving up with it six months ago?

I'm not a sucker for punishment and totally go into playing Gems knowing that it's classic freemium material. The basic concept of the game is to align gems of different colours (red, orange, purple, blue, yellow and silver) to score points and use them in turn to damage your opponents and/or build up power for special abilities. Combining five or more activates some sort of super-bonus feature which is effectively game over for your opponent.

OK, it's really just another take on Tetris or that annoying candy game that seemingly everyone was playing about 18 months ago and in some respects its not too dissimilar to those pinball machines where they had the generic internals and slapped a franchise overlay on it.

There are two basic parts to the game. First there's a storyline which allows you to battle enemy characters or ships to gain points and level up characters to make conflicts easier. This takes place over a series of instalments gradually increasing in difficulty.

The second is a Versus mode in which you take on other players to win health packs, ship repair packs, character cards, ship cards, coins or dilithium which can be used to improve your chances both here and in the story mode. Within the Versus section you choose to enter a competition which might be under the header of a character (ie La Forge) or a ship (ie Negh'Var) with various rewards enroute to the Big Named Prize. These pretty much change each week or so and require some dedicated visits to climb the rankings, obliterate your peers and collect the rewards.

Now I stepped away last year while playing on my Android phone and recently switched over to iPhone. As part of the switch I chose to reinstall the game and see if anything had changed. Y'see I'd become rather bored with the whole thing. The characters were a bit dull and there didn't seem to be much draw as it became increasingly hard to level up my Worf and Data characters.

Gems focuses mainly on the characters and ships from The Next Generation and The Original Series be it the crews or alien races including the Klingons, Romulans, Anticans and a host of other Randoms introduced for the game. The same went for the ships as Birds-of-Prey, D7s and the Enterprise (original and D) warped in, each with its own quirks and special abilities to exploit. Thing is you tend to lean on particular characters and level them up and then rely on their gem characteristics forever more. For instance, Inagh, my choice Klingon uses the purple gems to kick out a phenomenal attack, my Spock uses (at present) the silver, yellow and orange crystals for a variety of actions.

However things have changed with the game now including character versions from The Next Generation movies and The Motion Picture plus ships from other spots in the franchise such as the Negh'Var from Deep Space Nine and very recently the Enterprise-A and the Romulan Scout. I would have liked the classic movie characters to have been decked out in their monster maroon outfits (any reason why?) but it has opened up more playability with the game. These new characters are stronger, have more powerful attacks and are rarer to win. I just feel sorry for Riker who appears to have put on about 10 stone when you compare his The Next Generation avatar to the one from the movies.

To be fair this could be any generic gem collecting game but giving it the Star Trek spin with ships and characters to collect and level up does work. I'm in no way saying that this is the most unique, amazing Star Trek experience ever - get Online or Timelines if you're searching for that kind of gaming - but it's certainly a great way to pass some time. The graphics and semi-cartoon style really work and I'd choose playing this just for the strategy element in preference to the Facebook Alien Domain any day. I actually think one of the reasons I didn't "get" this game is because some of the features are hidden away and I had to find them to understand why some of my versus battles were ending in utter disaster.

Y'see, it turns out that your crew (the ones who fight those clever little team battles) actually make a difference to the abilities of your ship when you assign them. It's taken me a fair few months to work that piece out and it's made a massive difference to playing the events. I actually stand a bit more of a chance now.

Gems has certainly kept me entertained as my Constitution Class USS Enterprise takes a pummelling from other Enterprise's, Birds of Prey and the occasional D7. The Star Trek thing may just be a nice overlay but seeing the ships in action is oddly satisfying but not perhaps on the level you might be expecting in Timelines. What is nice is that between all the various games that are available just on the mobile platform, there is a very impressive degree of differences - puzzles, action, adventure, story, starship battles - and all with their merits whether as long term time or money "investments" for fans.

Definitely one for enjoyment rather than faithful immersion. The touches are there but it can feel like a cash in at times. For me the choice to return to Gems might be the Star Trek overlay but it's also something that's kept the grey cells ticking over and definitely entertained. Look past that glossy and its a game that will keep you entertained or at the least fill a spare five minutes.

Have you indulged in the Gems? Casual timeout or something more?

You can find out more about the game, competitions and lots of other bits by visiting the official site HERE from which you can also download it!

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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Reshoot Conundrum

Star Trek Beyond is a little over four months away and it's surely getting near to sweaty palms time for the production team.

Add into that factor the essential reshoots and fans can easily be led to believe that everything isn't going to plan however this kind of event on a motion picture is pretty standard. The latest news is that Shohreh Agadashloo has joined the cast at the eleventh hour to star as some sort of senior Federation officer during these additional days of filming. 

I'm not overly familiar with her work. I'd forgotten she'd appeared in X Men: The Last Stand (but then who tries to remember that movie) but I did think Shohreh was a great cast member in 24 as Dina Araz where her character wasn't without her fair share of terrorist-plot linked twists during the day. The role in Beyond will perhaps not be quite as taxing as facing off against angry Keifer Sutherland but it is a bit of scoop to get a recognised name in to do your reshoots.

Now here's the thing, where's this character come from? Is it brand new for additional scenes to shore up the movie and help it make more sense or is it a recasting because the original actor didn't cut it?   With the indication that it's reshoots and not additional scenes I would be inclined to think that we're seeing a dissatisfaction with already filmed sequences and Shohreh's casting has been done to improve what, of course, will be a top notch movie that we are all expecting... 

This character also can't be too essential to the whole of the movie since we're only talking reshoots however I don't seem to remember there being anything of this note happening for either the 2009 or Into Darkness flicks although there probably were but not with such high profile cast inclusions at the time. One further question has to be around when a second trailer will be arriving. Thinking that the final Captain America trailer has landed and that film is aiming for a similar time of the year, shouldn't we be getting a little more Beyond titillation? Into Darkness had punched out a November and a Superbowl trailer by this point. Maybe after the critical slashing the first trailer received they're really taking the time to make this one a lot more fan-appealing rather than a ton of action and explosions.

Second up is the continuing adventures of Axanar versus CBS. This has now been going on since the last few days of 2015 and threatens to roll on for a long time to come. The division among fans whether or not they actually helped fund Axanar is very much one side or the other with very little grey area - or neutral zone - in between. The stories of community barrings on social media, uncomfortable questions and a whole heap of nastiness that I don't really want to get into worries the hell out of me especially now.   

CBS/Paramount did have their hand forced it seems by Axanar, led by Alec Peters into providing precise details of what exactly they were infringing and with a limited time to come up with some form of response.

Respond they did and with some pretty precise examples from not just the series and movies but also from the expanded Star Trek universe found within the multitude of novels published over the years and from Axanar's own terminology found within its website and across its social media channels. I mean, talk about prodding the sleeping giant with a big stick but this is starting to get very testing. From what I can see, CBS/Paramount have certainly done their homework, citing episodes, events, costumes and, not surprisingly, characters such as Garth of Izar and Soval from Enterprise. Whether bravado, a case of seeing who would blink first, self-belief or utter stupidity, asking for details only seems to have motivated the owners of the franchise rights into action.You can read the full action here but from what I read there and also some of the notes made by 1701.com they are potentially digging their own graves.

This could now be tied up for years not only stopping Axanar from proceeding and allowing the full length feature to be made but also all material linked to the project could well be pulled and every infringement could cost Peters and co $150,000 each. That's going to be a lot of dollars to count up and don't expect to see your perks anytime soon.

Just as a further sidenote to this story and TOTALLY unrelated but Propworx, the business which Alec Peters also runs is about to launch its seventh Star Trek auction. You can view the catalogue right here and see the range of incredible items available from the franchise. It's due to kick off on March 26th and if I just had that kind of free cash I'd be all over some of those items like a rash. Of course - and I'm more than likely to be very cynical here - I hope none of this money is going to be helping along a certain lawsuit.

Is Shohreh playing an additional character? Does Axanar really stand a chance against CBS/Paramount?

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