Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A New Venture with Attack Wing Wave 25


August brought three additions to the Attack Wing stable in Wave 25.

However, two of them - the Negh'Var and the Scimitar were just model repaints as was the case with Wave 24's USS Enterprise NCC-1701. The third is also a reuse of a miniature in the form of the Galaxy Class USS Venture seen in Deep Space Nine's The Way of the Warrior.

I won't go over the reviews of the Negh'Var or Scimitar again so please follow the links through to the original article for those two. 

In the case of the Venture it is a straight repaint in itself of the Starter Set USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. This time the duck egg blue paint scheme has been changed to a shiny silver but it somehow feels more complete and less hurried than the original piece. The paint around the warp engines and the deflector dish in particular was appalling and hurriedly applied. Here though the final coat is spot on with the escape pod hatches, phaser strips and even hull plating marked out nicely.  The bussard collectors and warp engine grilles are also much more precisely painted; even the deflector looks decent enough for a model of this size. Minor note that the model doesn't have the additional phaser strips the ship has in The Way of the Warrior on top of the warp engines and there is a bit of a lean to the side on the engine pylons but it's still a big step forward in quality control.

With all of these recent repaints the workmanship has stepped up a level - but of a shame it's taken over 20 waves to get this down pat.

Right, onto the pack and the USS Venture drops a four attack, one agility, five hull and four shield points with the standard Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations actions for a Federation ship. The Galaxy Class ship has additional slots for one Tech, two Weapon and two Crew upgrades for a total of 28 points. As for unique actions, the Venture  will allow players to gain an additional attack die if they are using the ship to fire on a craft in the forward firing arc of another friendly ship. Certainly a useful action when it comes to helping out your fleet who might be looking at the wrong end of a phaser.

The generic version knocks a shield point off and provides three Crew slots and one Weapon slot for 26 points. Being an older wave ship, it also comes with a decent set of moves with a full speed five forward and up to a two in reverse. Both those reverse moves and the hard left and right turns at speed three will incur the Auxiliary Power Token handicap. It's one of the things this class is famous for in the game - great speed but lousy manoeuvrability.


Along with the generic captain option we have Donald Varley. Now he actually captained the USS Yamato in Contagion and there's no Admiral Hastur who is mentioned several times in the pack but then as we never saw that character this "had to do". Varley is a bit limp with a skill of four and a cost of three. He does offer an Elite Action slot and lets you have a Scan as a free action but with Federation ships you already have that as a basic feature which might make him somewhat redundant (although still cheap) but there are stronger, low skill Federation captains.


 Over with the Weapons cards and we have the standard Photon Torpedoes with their Time Token regeneration feature. The biggie here though is the Additional Phaser Arrays which do align with the Venture itself which had this very feature (rear of the warp engines). Disabling this card drops your primary weapon up by two dice (here that would be four to two) for a second attack. For five points and the ability to use it repeatedly this might have a lot of use over a longer game.

The two Tech options both cost five points. Maximum Warp lets you perform a manoeuvre of two of less (forward) as long as you've already performed a forward move. It's a disable and it will cost you any free Actions you were thinking of using for the round but does offer superb evasive opportunities. High-Capacity Deflector Shield Grid is a dispose upgrade which will avoid two points of damage as long as you have one Shield still active. Again a useful defensive option in fleet operations to keep your capital ships flying for as long as possible. A big help especially since this has the turning ability of a truck. 

Computer Core fits into either the Crew or Weapons category and adds a Tech slot to your ship. Neither a discard or disable, it also allows an Action to re-roll any one die in the round (token included as a reminder). Decent option here as that means for either attack or defence purposes.

Finally Galaxy Wing Squadron is this pack's Elite Action and it does rely on the player having a few other Galaxy Class starships on the fleet since its Action is to give them (within range two) an additional attack die for the round. Nice benefit but I would question how often you would see a fleet with a number of the sluggish-turning Galaxy Class ships played.

As for your mission, Galaxy Wing takes you into the Dominion War with two 200 point fleets; the Federation must field two Galaxy Class and both can carry Galaxy Class Squadron card even if there's no Elite Action upgrade on the Captain card.

For the Federation the goal is to capture the Cardassian capital (represented with the planet piece from the Starter Set) while the Dominion are there to put a stop to the plan. Invading the planet involves "beaming down" your Crew cards and then turning them into mission tokens. If you manage eight then the war is over. For the number of mission tokens on the planet you then roll the equivalent number of attack dice and if the Critical Damage symbol is on three dice rolled it's also game over for the Dominion.

It's a nice addition and a long time waiting for a second retail Galaxy Class ship. The repaint is a massive improvement and I hope this continues with the upcoming Voyager, Koronak, Borg Sphere and Defiant repaints due soon. As for the pack, for once there's an even split of offence and defence for Federation players. Nothing here that's particularly overpowering or a game changer but certainly bits that will help enhance your ships but not decimate the enemy in a hit.

Will the USS Venture or the repaints of the Negh'Var or the Scimitar be heading into your collection?

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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ships of Discovery

Chris Groves with some tech help from Rob Gibson looks at the possibilities that could be flying into Discovery in 2017.


For the first time in 16 years we will be returning to the Star Trek Prime Universe, back home where we belong.

Bryan Fuller has confirmed Discovery’s setting as being (approximately) 2255 (10 years prior to Kirk’s five year mission) and this starts to raise questions about what we can expect from the show. One that will have fans really piqued will be the prospect of new starships. The teaser showed off the The Planet of the Titans inspired USS Discovery (design not final) but what else might we see coming out of the Federation stable?

By this point the Constitution class has become the perfected standard for Federation starships at this time but there must surely be a varied collection of ‘pre-Constitution’ vessels that could be included. Could there even be a glimpse at the NX refit?

The design of the Discovery itself, whilst other proven vessels are available, is a seemingly unique design, a secret vessel perhaps? With a moniker such as the one carried by this ship you would think it would be a vessel for exploration but does that more severe finish indicate a darker and more military purpose?

Also by 2255 a Starfleet captain named Christopher Pike will have been in command of a well known starship for some three years taking over from Robert April. I would imagine that to feature the USS Enterprise would be a little too over the top, that being said, all of us would be happy for a passing reference to establish the all important familial link.

Fuller has only teased a few details, but one notably stood out; ‘New Crews’ was stated in the initial announcement teaser. Are we truly going to have a cross-crew Star Trek story and if so can we really hope for multiple starship joy?

I think we will be seeing lots of crews in the story. One of the things that is exciting for me is that we are telling a 'Star Trek' story in a modern way” (Bryan Fuller)

It seems we will be seeing a new kind of storytelling from that which we are used to, instead of weekly partitioned stories. Fuller has hinted at a serialization of sorts and has stated on more than one occasion that the new show would be ‘modern’ in style.

This could explain the multiple ships theory and perhaps how a central ‘incident’ maintains the focus of the actions of several starships and crews.

"There’s an incident, an event in Star Trek history in the history of Starfleet that had been talked about but never fully explored." (Bryan Fuller)

The crews in question could be drawn from across the Alpha Quadrant’s major players, Klingon, Romulan, Federation, even Tholian or Gorn may be thrown into the mix and who is to say that we won't be getting a perspective from an alien race, Anyway this is an exciting possibility and aside from the story opportunities, it means seeing a varied collection of ships in play.

The only form of Federation ship ever really shown in The Original Series in its broadcast form was the Constitution class (The Doomsday Machine, The Ultimate Computer...). Later in the re-mastered episodes we eventually saw ships like the Antares in Charlie X. Non-canon publications (such as FASA) have postulated a huge number of alternate designs for the period and so there are these to draw upon if CBS needs a selection of Starfleet types.

Could there be a disregard for Roddenberry's "even number of nacelles" demand (that gets ignored anyway...), might we have more compact ships in line with Enterprise and Intrepid from the prequel series for example rather than the style of The Original Series?

There are many of these wonderful examples that would look amazing on screen but with so many seasoned designers and artists available, CBS will most likely demand its own dedicated starship models. However there's one that does beg an appearance if only to marry in some form the two Houses of Star Trek in Paramount and CBS - the USS Kelvin. Given that the series is ten years before Kirk's mission it would place it roughly 22 years after his birth and perhaps place that ship at the end of its operational career.


Including the Kelvin would acknowledge it's existence in the Prime Universe and give some form of cohesion between the two productions but I'm not saying it's essential here - just a possibility although it's design might be radically different to the way that Fuller's Star Trek ships appear to be heading. Could another specific ship to pop up be the USS Ares or whatever craft CBS want Garth of Izar to be commanding? 

As I noted, CBS are more likely (sadly) to want to have the designers come up with their own identity and range of ships for Discovery. There are exceptions to this of course (we hope); the classic Klingon D7 battle cruiser is an icon of the Star Trek universe and it would be a travesty to not include these but then they could curve-ball in a D6 just for the hell of it. Also the work done by the Enterprise Design department from 2001-2005 already introduces several ships to the canon, (especially Klingon, Vulcan and Andorian craft) that could be reused as they would still be available options to these races post-Archer.

The era in which Discovery is set has been the subject of a lot of controversy, (although to be fair that would be the case no matter what CBS had decided upon). Storytelling will be the key to both the success of the characters themselves and the starships (who are in many ways as much characters as those on board them)

The scope of the new series seems to be a broad stroke across many worlds;

We're telling a 13-chapter story in this first season. It's nice to be able to dig deep into things that would have been breezed past if we were doing episodic and had to contain a story to an episode." (Bryan Fuller)

We are left with only guesswork until January 2017, a mere five months ahead an important month for the future of Star Trek as a whole. May all our Trekkie dreams come true?

What ships would you like to see in Discovery? What new designs might we get or what influences do you think we will see?


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Friday, 26 August 2016

The Podcast Episode Seven



Going a little old school this time with the podcast as we welcome Lee "VHS Covers" Hutchison onto the show.


In this time's chat we cover off our thoughts on the latest Star Trek: Discovery news PLUS little bits on the FanSets pin collection, my SS Enterprise finally arriving (yes, finally) and more.


Then we're heading into the main topic to chat about our recollections of Star Trek collecting in the 80's and 90's particularly in line with the VHS range and the amazing artwork - how did we link those decades with buying our favourite episodes? From where? What do we remember?

We look back at the 25th, 30th and 40th anniversaries through a vaseline coated lense and wonder about what the 50th might still offer up...

You can read our SKoST VHS articles HERE which will send you to Part One and links to Part Two.

Come and join us on iTunes or Soundcloud to hear our recollections and maybe bring back some of your own!

You can follow Lee on Twitter @startrekvhscovers and Tiff @skrrll for more Trek related goodness!

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Pinned Down with FanSets


Straight from the US come the stunning Fansets pin badges.

Over the course of the last couple of months those WONDERFUL people over at FanSets have sent Some Kind of Star Trek a sample range of their pins - both the crew and the ships and we've been blown away by the quality of every single one.

The results of this range are absolutely superb. The smaller of the metal pins portray the crew in perfect caricatured detail and even manage to get across their very different personalities in tiny form.

This officially licenced product has to be one of the best ranges of merchandise on the market this 50th year and if there's not uncontrollable demand it's a crime. 

At first you could pick up Kirk, Spock, Mirror Spock, Klingon, Borg, Gorn, Quark, Sisko, Archer, Seven of Nine, Picard, Riker, Janeway and Chakotay plus the Klingon D7 ship badge. but this has recently expanded to include McCoy, Sulu, Uhura, Jem'Hadar, Data, Dax, M'Ress from The Animated Series and T'Pol plus a load of ship emblems - Reliant, Excelsior, Enterprise NX-01, USS Enterprise NCC-1701, Enterprise-B, Enterprise-D, USS Voyager, Deep Space NineUSS Defiant, the Galileo shuttle, Romulan Bird of Prey, Borg Cube and the Enterprise-E Captain's Yacht.

If you went to San Diego Comic Con this year you could also get your hands on two more pins which will be exclusive to the event - a unique USS Enterprise badge and a pin which remembers Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and James Doohan; certain to be collectors items - check out the website because these are now available there too and probably in very limited supply. There are also the Captain pins which are being gradually released as part of a unique 50th anniversary collection and another special to mark the Mission New York event.

Just take a look at the badges available and you'll see the level of accuracy is nigh on perfect down to the Science swirl and Command star on Spock and Kirk's uniforms, the design of the Klingon armour or the screen-accurate tattoo worn by Chakotay. It's all there and better than you might have imagined possible. On the ships, each has its registry embossed on the hull as well as pennant markings on the hull and intricate panelling and shadowing on every surface.

Priced at $8.95 (currently works out at £6.78) per badge and $12.95 (£9.82) for the larger ship emblems, they're very reasonably priced especially when you consider the finished result and the detail and work put into them. Take a look at our first review video here which features the first batch of characters we were sent:




You see?! These cannot be bettered in my opinion and the additional characters and badges are helping to enhance an already impressive range. I'm sure there are a ton of characters that we'd hope to see and it's good to know that already Q is coming soon as are Odo, Doctor Crusher, Khan, Saavik and the one my wife has been badgering me for, Deanna Troi. With these on the way I might have to add a request for a Weyoun...

These additional pins - which will surely not be the last - continue the fine work established with the first batch. Off topic just a bit but there's going to be a lot more coming from FanSets in the very, very near future so I would 100% recommend you keep an eye on their website for news on their lines.

Our second video review focuses on the ships range. As noted the detail is just exemplary. There are a few small missing details but due to the size of the badges and nature of the detailing some of those sadly have to be omitted but that doesn't take anything away from the high quality of the end result.




While the character pins will be popular, their ships may well see the highest amount of interest. Fans don't seem to be able to get enough of the Enterprise, Defiant or Voyager for example and we are keeping fingers crossed for a Prometheus or a Dauntless in the future. Each ship badge will appeal to the fans of the respective series and convey the title craft in excellent detail. 

One more thing to watch our for is the Augmented Reality range which really sets this aside from any other badge range available. By putting certain badges together famous scenes from Star Trek will be recreated when viewed through a smartphone app. That sounds unbelievable and something we've got to experience! This is one collection that is now proving itself to be very forward thinking and in touch with tech trends.

We wish every success to the FanSets team and look forward to reviewing more of their range in the future.

Check out the FanSets website for their full Star Trek range and much more.

Which are your favourites from the range and which characters or ships would you like to see in the future?

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Back Before Kirk with A Child of Two Worlds


Tiff steps away from the Voyager novel series with one from an earlier time...

Written by the New York Times Bestselling Author Greg Cox, A Child of Two Worlds is set in the Star Trek: The Original Series timeline and I must warn you that this review does contain spoilers.

As a fan of The Original Series, I was really looking forward to reading this book, my first by Greg Cox and one of only a few novels to focus on this time period, reuniting Captain Pike, Dr Boyce, Number One and a young Spock after the events of The Menagerie and The Cage.

The story begins with a prologue of Spock’s seventh birthday; He is struggling to maintain a Vulcan veneer, despite the constant interference of his human tendencies. We are then plunged headlong straight into the action onboard the USS Enterprise.

It is the year 2255, Captain Pike and his crew are dealing with a critical outbreak of Rigelian Fever on board the ship. There is however an experimental ‘cure’ on a Cyprian colony nearby (a rare mineral that may help the fast ailing crew). True enough whilst en route to the colony, they receive a distress call from a Cyprian ship under attack by Klingons!

Events spiral out of control and crises overlap when it emerges that one of the crew of the ship rescued is a child abducted and raised by the Klingons who lay claim to her, demanding her return (by force if necessary!).

More complications arise as it turns out the girl, Elzy, didn’t actually want to be rescued, certainly not by her biological sister. Elzy becomes a symbol for her peoples’ ambitious politicians who have been menaced by the nearby Klingons for many years populist Mob politics create a situation that it seems is almost impossible for Pike to solve.

The theme of the book is clear from the start, literally a child of two worlds whose destiny seems enforced by vested interests, Elzy serves to remind Spock of his own personal dilemmas. It creates some great character moments for Spock as he witnesses Elzy’s burden, being reconciled with her family on one hand, while her Mother disapproves of her insistence that she is a Klingon. Indeed this can be further seen within the relationship between Spock and his half brother Sybok as he reflects on the path his brother took when he chose to reject Vulcan logic in favour of exploring his emotions instead. 

But this familial crisis can be seen throughout the novel. Captain Pike, bound by his Starfleet ethics but trying at the same time to do his best for his crew and all concerned in the dispute around Elzy. The author does a wonderful job with the characterisation especially with the more familiar crew members and it’s heart-warming to have a chance to revisit Dr Boyce and Number One and especially the younger, less mature Spock.

The novel provides a wonderful insight into this rather neglected time period. Readers may also find some similarities here to The Next Generation episode Suddenly Human.  There are some shortcomings most notably the style of the novel is rather less mature than other Star Trek novels I have read.

My first impression was that it was written in the style of a Young Adult novel and my fear is that the author has misinterpreted the unique style of The Original SeriesInstead he has created a more simplistic read, both in style and format racking up the tension to almost unbelievable levels before miraculously, a solution is presented.

Today, we have a tendency to view The Original Series as bright, nostalgic and a little silly at times and it’s true that people have misinterpreted this as a simplistic version of Star TrekIndeed this novel at times encapsulates that within its Young Adult style. The Original Series at the time of its’ original airing was groundbreaking and covered a great many difficult and at time controversial issues and it’s a shame that A Child of Two Worlds doesn’t represent this.


That being said, as a light read, I enjoyed it immensely. It was fun to read, but ultimately very forgettable.

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Voyager Season Three: The Big Reveal


The conclusion of Basics proved that Voyager could capably complete a two-parter and make it work over two seasons.

The loss of Lan Suder was perhaps inevitable but even a few years later I still wonder how he would have affected the ship if he'd survived. I mean the guy is a one man killing machine taking down a whole engineering team of Kazon to save the ship. I do enjoy Voyager's two-parters and the third season packs in this one plus Future's End which is another top notch 90 minute effort.

Let's start properly with Basics though. The shipboard scenes are great with the cat and mouse game being played out by the Doctor and Suder against the Ogla led by Cullah and Seska. It successfully closes off two years of Kazon antics and these guys are never seen again in an original episode. Many hurrahs for sure across fandom but there were definitely worse enemies in this show than the "short Klingons". The crew's encounter with the natives on their new home feels like filler and you are clock-watching for when Voyager will show back up.

Future's End drops the crew onto 90's (at the time present-day) Earth and provides the Doctor with the mobile emitter but it does more than that, introducing Captain Braxton and confirming that Star Trek is in an alternate universe since Chronowerx is blatantly a social comment on Microsoft/Apple. Filled with action, gadgets and a baddie who still makes me uneasy, it's a worthy double-length story slap-bang in the middle of the year. Anyone else wonder about the Eugenics War???

The early stages of the year are somewhat less spectacular than Tom and Tuvok chasing a truck in a VW camper, Sacred Ground and False Profits are left overs from the previous season and aren't that bad to be honest. Sacred Ground brings out the Prime Directive and the whole non-interference topic once again and is pretty effective with Janeway taking a prime spot to save Kes' life. False Profits brings the two Ferengi from The Next Generation's The Price back as we discover them taking full - and not unexpected - advantage of a naive race. Back on first-run these two cheesed me off no end. Filler, average and nothing interesting but 20 years later they are both signs that Voyager was getting better. It's about characters, it's about exploring the rich background of the franchise and answering the "what if's". In fact False Profits is a decent Ferengi episode where Neelix is useful and contributes to some great scenes. There are far, far worse than these two eps - in this season as we will see - but first there's Flashback.


Cards on the table, it's not Trials and Tribble-ations. Nowhere near. George Takei (who wasn't in The Trouble with Tribbles) and the late Grace Lee Whitney are back to replicate their scenes from The Undiscovered Country plus some extra bits in a story that seems like it's taped together around the 1991 movie. Seeing Sulu and Rand in Star Trek again is a feast for fans but I just don't think either is totally comfortable here and the model work isn't up to scratch either. I know the Excelsior isn't the same model as in The Undiscovered Country and adds another nail into this substandard anniversary show. Going up against Deep Space Nine's seminal episode was a Kobayashi Maru if ever there was one but at least they tried.

Worst Case Scenario might not draw on history that far back but it does take a leaf out of the Voyager Origins casebook with one of the show's clever "What If" episodes along the same lines as Living Witness and the two-part Equinox, (there's another but I'm coming to that...) offering a view of the ship had the Maquis managed to take control. Only a holodeck program that goes wrong (again) but one possible option we never got to experience. Bringing back Seska (she's back again in season seven's Shattered) works very well and even more chilling is her after-death "revenge" on Tuvok by re-writing the scenario. A great story, it gets lost in an otherwise average year.

The only other episode this year to really draw on the past of the franchise is The Q and the Grey, returning everyone's favourite omnipotent being accompanied by the ever-watchable Suzie Plakson. Now I've loved Plakson as Selar, as K'Ehleyr and as Andorian Tarah in Enterprise. I even love her here as she's one of my favourite guest actresses but as a Q episode this is barrel-scraping, so much so that when we get to Q2 in season seven (yep, four Q-free years after this garbage) I think the producers were on the verge of ordering a new shiny reinforced barrel. A civil war and Q procreation are awful concepts not too far off the Warp Five speed limit controversy of The Next Generation's final year. Gladly it's not repeated, just heaped on top.

Macrocosm attempts to do for Janeway what Starship Mine did for Picard and while it doesn't quite manage to turn her into the female Starfleet John MacClaine it's a valiant effort with a rare (at this time) CGI alien being that's a little bit terrifying and makes this episode a little bit of a guilty pleasure. It's pure action, moderate nonsense but very enjoyable as the captain suits up to kick some bacterial arse.

Season three seems to have a few episodes I either erased from my mind or never paid that much attention to in the '90's. There are two of those culprits later in the season, the first one being Fair Trade. Even the three line synopsis on the DVD gave me no clue as to which episode this was. Ten minutes in and I was none the wiser and even by the closing credits I was still wondering if I'd ever watched it in the first place. Now it's not a shocker, it;s probably one of the stronger Neelix episodes and it has something that actually shows that time - and space - have passed in that the Talaxian is starting to become "redundant". Great touch that I felt worked well for the development of the series and this maligned character. 

Neelix also has a prominent role in Tuvok and the Great Metal Elevator or Rise as it's titled here. A whodunnit in the classic confined space combined with one of sci-fi's biggest tropes. While Voyager was always seeking the concept angle it's heavily recycled here providing average season filler with little character exposition for the sake of some nice CGI.


Another one from the vault that my memory forgot is Coda. I remember there being a massive build up for this one which saw the return of the Vidiians and acted as a springboard for Jeri Taylor's Mosaic novel (which I managed to get hold of last year). Examining Janeway's character it's the strongest episode to focus on the character from the start of the show, opening up both her strengths and weaknesses in a so-so episode. 

Things don't tend to really kick into gear until the closing seconds of the Lets All Pon Farr episode, Blood Fever where the Borg finally turn up. We have to wait another ten episodes for them to actually prove a viable threat but even the hint of their presence in the show - something we had been waiting for since Caretaker - meant the remote possibility that this series was going to take it up a notch or three. On this note I was actually right but let's come to that in a moment.

To get to that season finale there's a ton of good and bad. The Borg-teasing Unity brings familiar Alpha Quadrant races back into the fold who want to be in a collective rather than have their total individuality. A good Chakotay story (yes, seriously) that places him in a very precarious role and at least the experience is something that the writers chose to reuse in the conclusion of Scorpion at the beginning of the following season.


Talking of underused characters, Ensign Kim is almost conspicuous in the third season after The Chute. That episode is one of my favourite stories of the year however and even knowing the twist on a rewatch didn't ruin it. There's a lot to like here and entrusting the bulk of the screen time to Wang and McNeill works really well. It is a lost situation for them as they try and survive as best they can and there are some very distinct religious and social overtones that are less than subtle throughout. Watch for the "Christ" moment if you know what I mean! 

Harry's other big story before he's attacked by Species 8472 in Scorpion is Favorite Son. Is Harry an alien? No; not a chance in hell and guess what - he isn't. Now if they had kept that in it would have been a moment of genius totally inspired and against all expectations but the fact that we just know there will be a reset and Ensign Kim is 100% human from the start takes all the emotional power from the tale. Voyager had a tendancy to do grandiose, dangle the carrot and then whip the rug out from under your feet on a few occasions - just check out the ending of Year of Hell if you want to see probably it's biggest offender or perhaps the final 30 seconds of Endgame.

The Doctor also gets a fair share of screen time to indulge in flippant wastes of ship resources especially in the torrid Real Life although his turn as something not far off Jack the Ripper in the earlier Darkling is almost inspired if a little predictable even before the "big" reveal not that far into the episode. Potentially that early epoch saves the episode from ruin and heavily relies on Robert Picardo - a trait that would continue with zest in the later years when coupled with Seven of Nine.

For me within that end of season batch there are a couple of stand out episodes. One is Before and After and the second is Distant Origins. I'll address the Kes time travel one first in that it might be standard temporal breakfast for Star Trek but it's a late blast of greatness from Lien given that her exit from the show would come so abruptly in the fourth season. It drops a few hints at what is to come from the Krenim in Year of Hell plus provides a glimpse of how Voyager might have evolved had the journey taken the lifetime it was suggested back in the first season. I think this is one of those stories we needed to see to tempt us with the future and the "could be" options just in the way that Parallels did very late for The Next Generation. One note though that the Krenim were originally supposed to have been the third season cliffhanger but Scorpion took that slot relegating Annorax and co to the following year.

To be fair it had been a pretty poor year for old Kes since her only other major starring role had been in the (equally good) Warlord chewing out cast and scenery in what should be a standard body-swap episode. This is fairly by numbers from start to finish but Jennifer Lien's swaggering performance does raise its profile but not enough that it's going to scar any top 20's.

As I said though, the end of the year also presented what I consider to be one of the show's classics; Distant Origin. Proving that Voyager could nail high concept once again, the episode is much more orientated to the perspective of the dinosaur-descended Professor Gegen and the Voth than it is the main cast. It's a good move allowing an unusual look at the human condition and contemplating just how we might be considered from another viewpoint. In fact our existence debunks their very idea of evolution. A good Chakotay episode again! Wow, they really screwed with this guy in the later years didn't they?

Season three does close with one of the show's biggest ever episodes that I would easily include in the same breath as Living Witness, Blink of an Eye, Timeless and Equinox - Scorpion

Returning the Borg to the small screen after their makeover for First Contact can't have been that easy and it's a finale that gets a lot right but isn't perfect. I still question the decision to give the Borg their own nemesis if you will but you can't fault the power of the pre-titles teaser nor the scope of Voyager's first Borg encounter proper.

Species 8472, Star Trek's first major CG baddie are a huge threat to just about everything and fortunately weren't overused by the show (although they still did a humanise-the-enemy ep which was unnecessary) and left Voyager to take on the Borg as its main threat. Scorpion showed the true opportunities that the series could explore - the real dangers of the Delta Quadrant and a storyline that could truly be ongoing. Of course we had no idea what the concluding part would bring - or who.

What was the highlight of season three? Do you think Voyager was right to bring back the Borg?


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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Beyond - The Drama of the Box Office


What the hell happened? 

With a marketing campaign that sung its credentials from all angles, Star Trek Beyond looked like a total, sure fire hit. The reviews were great, Rotten Tomatoes even certified it Fresh. It was easily the best of the three reboot movies, there was no lens flare and the story was, for the most part, pretty solid. It wasn't the perfect Star Trek movie but it was showing that the movie arm of the franchise was moving in all the right directions.    

In a lot of ways it felt like Star Trek was coming home and getting somewhere near its roots again in this key 50th year but, after the release weekend and it's number one opening slot in the US (second to The BFG in the UK) it disappeared off the face of the Earth. There's been no movie novelisation this time, no sustained drive on marketing after that 22nd July premiere and only by the fact that a few reminder adverts keep popping up on @TheWarpCore Twitter feed did I know that it was still out. A visit to the cinema yesterday showed that it's now down to two daytime showings and the building had no posters or promo on it aside from the touchscreen booking terminal which had the one-sheet poster to select a screening. I have it on good authority that Star Trek in 2009 was still spinning around cinemas five months after release while this will be looking optimistic to be pushing five weeks (thanks to @zer0 on Twitter for that nugget).

The numbers have been less than was expected. The opening weekend was apparently on target hitting around $60 million. Not a behemoth of the box office but still respectable however the second week saw an over 50% drop in revenue and then the third week around another 50% drop in relation to the week before. Indeed, by the end of its second week we were looking at only $24.7 million in takings which is significantly less than the amount Into Darkness took at the same point ($37.2 million). Frankly it seems that once the hardcore fandom had been and seen the movie it was all over and done with. Star Trek is, it seems, no longer a sure fire box office winner and a 'banker' if you will.   


So where did it all go wrong? For starters I think the suggestion that people boycotted the movie because of the revelation that Sulu was gay is utter garbage and a waste of good journalism. Perhaps having JJ Abrams not as prominently linked to the project as director could have had an impact on the takings. After all his name on the previous two movies certainly had an effect but his reduction to a purely production role in favour of the some little film called Star Wars may have put off some cinema goers. If he'd "abandoned" the franchise then maybe his fanbase did too.

Then there's the publicity before hand. The first trailer was all guns, bangs, loud Beastie Boys music and action all he way which reinforced the credentials of replacement director Justin Lin and would appeal to the masses however writer Simon Pegg quickly jumped in to reassure fans that this was going to be more like the original Star Trek than either of the previous two movies. There was a fan event and three subsequent trailers which then gave mixed messages versus that original adrenaline filled two minutes of footage. Could this have warned off potential viewers? Possibly. 

Viewers may not have really understood what they were going to be getting - old school cerebral Star Trek or Fast and Furious action or maybe a messy mix of both. Nor do I believe that the boycotting campaign in light of CBS/Paramount's law suit against Axanar had much of an effect. That fan production really would have only influenced a hardcore central to ignore the movie and that wouldn't have made that much of a week on week dent in the takings. The amount of people viewing the trailers versus those viewing Axanar leans more to the movie than the fan film by some ridiculous margin.  

The marketing campaign too was far more subdued in virtually every sense. From day one there was very little information forthcoming and it seemed to take an age for anything to surface of any substantial quality. It was like pulling teeth for ages then there was a bit of a spurt and then it fizzled just as quickly as it started. This was due, it was revealed later, to the fact that the July release date was immovable and the production schedule was reduced substantially after the departure of Roberto Orci and his team and the restart from scratch that had to take place. Beyond may not have had the best of luck therefore from its conception but does the sudden demise of this movie show something else?

Some sites have suggested that Star Trek is no longer a "box office certainty" or that it's had its day or that it should have remained as was under Abrams but, personally, I don't think it ever was. The franchise has never had the same universal appeal as Star Wars for example because of its more (dare I say it) "cerebral" attitude which doesn't gel with the masses. 

Beyond did something different and visually tried hard to bridge the feel of The Original Series with the box office action draw that is demanded in the current time. Monetarily it's already being seen as a flop even though its now only just opened in South Korea and some more far flung points of the globe are still to follow but the same would have been true of the previous movies. I don't think in any way that this is the end of the franchise as some websites I won't even care to name are trying to sensationalise but it would be prudent to expect that the already announced fourth movie will have a budget less than Beyond's $135 million and also be required to edge more towards the higher action bracket that the 2009 and Into Darkness flicks chose to step into.

Finally though, maybe it's just apathy for the cinema (take credit for this one @Captain_Revo) since there have been a lot of action "blockbusters" around - Suicide Squad, the reboot Ghostbusters, Independence Day and the like. Perhaps fans are just getting bored with getting the same old material pumped their way? Is the time of the action movie as it exists now coming to an end and we'll have to think of another way to do it other than just look to The Avengers for inspiration? None of the summer's expected big films have performed as first thought and that might have impacted on Beyond since its marketing was initially pushed towards the same genre.

It's a huge let down that Beyond hasn't hit the stellar heights fans and (more than likely) the studio were predicting given the year and the adjustments that had been made since the last movie. what does concern at this point is that CBS have a new series just around the corner which will be costing an absolute bomb and will now be coming off the back of a box office "flop". While Star Trek is more suited to the small screen it must still be a worry to those involved. Are fans not inclined to shell out after the disappointment of Into Darkness for a third "substandard" movie which isn't in the 100% spirit of the original? I actually think that's most realistic. In fact I know that a few people have taken that stance and will catch it on DVD or when it premieres on a network. A shame because it did look great on the big screen (if a little dark in places).

The end of Star Trek? No way, however there may be some significant changes ahead and they will probably become evident very soon indeed.

What do you think has affected Beyond at the box office?


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