Monday, 20 November 2017

Not a Simpson in Sight: The Official Starships Collection Issues 110 and 111


The arrival of the USS Chekov marks the third model included in the Official Starship Collection to come from the infamous Wolf 359 encounter.

Another kitbash special, the effects team on The Next Generation sure knew how to fit a Galaxy Class model into numerous different configurations with this being one of the weirdest - if that’s at all possible. 

Beginning topside, the clear parallel to the Enterprise is that elliptical saucer replete with lifeboat hatches, the undersized bridge module and the oversized starship registry. Of course if we scale this against a Galaxy Class the registries would probably be the same size but on this much smaller vessel it looks clumsily large. The painted on windows mean there’s no misalignment - at least topside because underneath the square ones are totally out of sync with the recesses on the hull. Notably there is also a significant reduction in the number of lifeboat hatches again reflecting the smaller scale of the Chekov versus the Enterprise; yet the bridge module is still the same size...?! (Yes, I know, model constraints....). Right at the back of the saucer are two blacked out impulse engines. Comparing to the cover photo at least, these should have a hint of red to their rear but on the replica there's just more black.

That said, it is well detailed across the whole surface with a reduced number of hatches visible and the phaser strip standing out in the darker grey tone. The first major difference you spot is, of course, at the back of the saucer in the shape of the mission-specific pod bolted onto the top of the ship. The handlebar catches at the front suggest it’s a swing cap from something and has found its way into this kitbash. The back-end, to be fair, is moulded cleanly into the saucer and I would think this is probably a better and more polished finish than the original screen used prop.

The saucer itself is topside metal with the lower section has a plastic insert. Cleverly this topside metal also extends back to the upper "back" body section and out to the pylons giving a lot of much welcomed structural support. This leaves the secondary hull, nacelles and mission pod all made from plastic. 

On that lower saucer side that misaligned printing is annoying but at least the longer windows towards the outer edge are printed on. Again there's a distinct and crisp phaser strip arcing around the midway point and boundaries the windows and ship registry with that line marking the join between plastic and metal.

Underneath that hunking sensor pod is the instantly recognisable rear end of a Galaxy Class starship. Blended seamlessly into the saucer, the underbelly and warp pylons are glaringly obvious. They too bear the azteced grey two tone scheme that stretches over the Chekov’s hull. Eaglemoss have retained the phaser strips and paint job, as per the original model but now on top of the pylons are two repurposed marker pens. In what seems to be a running theme across the Cheyenne, New Orleans and Springfield classes these markers seem to be turning up with frightening regularity albeit heavily disguised under paint and decals.

Again, Eaglemoss’ work here is perfect with the slim nacelles looking exactly the same as the marker pen variant (!) used on the Cheyenne finished off with bronzed EM field coils and Starfleet pennants on both bearing the starship name and United Federation of Planets name. Around the edges and only slightly recessed are the painted on - no transparency here - warp engine field grilles which still have the distinct ridged line effect all the way round. It’s a small detail but adds that depth to the engines that would be lost if it had remained a flat surface. 

To the front of the nacelles we are blessed with those glorious emerald red translucent bussard collectors that add a touch of needed non-grey colouring to the starship. Around the edges too is a thin edging decal plus there’s a tiny registry label at the tips of both engines. 

Now to the underneath and this is where this mode starts to go in some real new and oddball directions. Remember the Oberth Class and it’s disconnected secondary hull? It’s back in a more streamlined form with the Springfield Class. Two almost right angle arms reminiscent of the pylons for the warp engines swoop down from the bottom of the elliptical main hull to connect to the similarly elliptical secondary hull. To the front of the unit sits a small, recessed deflector dish (didn’t have one of those on the Grissom...) which is brightly painted blue (similar to the paint-job on the issue one Enterprise-D with just a central gold detail to complete. This also seems to go against the more orange deflector pictured throughout the magazine.

Making out any form of details on the top of this small engineering hull is hard work given it sits in the shadow of the larger primary hull. Even though it's hidden by the larger primary hull, the top is still panel-lined almost identically to the bottom. The underside though does bear two phaser banks plus some greyed and raised panels, One other thing to notice is the decalling of Starship USS Chekov along the pylons in front of the dark grey grille style features. If we go by the magazine at least one of these two - there's one on each pylon - should read United Federation of Planets. However, seeing as how small this was on screen we'll never know for certain precisely what's printed there however comparing to the original Rick Sternbach model there is no legend on either secondary hull connecting pylon meaning, probably, this isn't screen accurate (the magazine makes it appear that the port side should bear the ship name underneath). On a good note though, both original and replica do have the Starfleet pennant at the centre line.

Also comparing to that original model there is some yellow panelling missing from the underside and the back of the warp pylons and Eaglemoss have added some "lined and dotted" detail at the back of the warp engines. Odd one this since it seems there's contradiction between the replica and the source material. One for the quality controllers too as my starboard nacelle has a distinct lean to the front meaning it's not parallel to its port-side counterpart. At least on a minor note they aren't two port nacelles or two starboard nacelles since each has a different rear pilot light to match the ones at the edge of the primary hull (red/green).

Finally, stand positioning here sees the plastic clip sliding over the nacelle pylons. I suspected it might have been around the edge of the saucer but no, it's a much more rearward grip around what is a very structurally sound area of the ship in those metal pylons. 

Into issue 110 and a brief overview covers the mission purpose of the Chekov and the Springfield Class in general as a frigate, crew complement and some of the class features plus of course there's mention of its appearance at Wolf 359.

Fortunately because there is so little onscreen footage of the Chekov we are treated to a lot of wonderful CG images of the ship which are all fresh and new - and contradict the model as we've already seen. Oddly if you look at it from the top it looks like an updated version of the NX-01 don't you think?

Anyway, the sparce details on the Chekov get covered in a mere three paragraphs with some further suggestion that this might well be the final ship of the class and was subsequently retired after the disaster of Wolf 359. The plan views offer up a great close up of the remastering of the class before this time's gem which covers the Little Known Ships of Star Trek. This is four pages of identifying some of the real hidden wonders of the Star Trek universe including the soon-to-be-realised Curry Class and one I really hope to see; the transport Lakul from Generations. In total there are nine and some of them are blink and miss them appearances.

Weighing in with the remaining six pages of article space is the work of illustrator Rick Sternbach. One of the true visual legends of the franchise, Sternbach is responsible for a lot of the looks of The Next Generation that set the tone for everything that came afterwards including phasers, the Borg and even, later, details for the Deep Space Nine station. It's a quality piece which covers not just the items that Sternbach created but also how his work evolved with the movement from physical models to the computer world especially where Voyager was concerned in the late 1990's. Thoroughly engrossing reading that is well illustrated with some great examples although I'm sure that's the Negh'Var (All Good Things... original version) on page 15 and not a Vor'Cha cruiser.

Now the follow on model for issue 111 is perhaps the most off the wall entry to date. While it did appear in Voyager it never actually left the holodeck so it's one of those where it might count but it also might not since it was never "real" - it's Captain Proton's Rocket Ship from Bride of Chaotica!.

First up this has to be one of the heaviest regular models in the collection and I'm of the mind that apart from a slim section on the underside and the stumpy little wings this is solid metal. It also might be the least colourful model yet produced due to its monochrome existence within the black and white Captain Proton fantasy cooked up by Tom Paris. 

Literally the whole of the ship with the exception of four recessed squares on the top and and emblem on both sides of the nose, this is a metallic, slightly sparkly silver.

But what will fans actually make of this one? It did leave me scratching my head since it is so left field. The Rocket Ship is stupidly retro in every sense from the slab of single colour through to the very design. Start at the front and there's a stubby Destructo beam weapon leading back into that missile-esque rocket nose cone that resembles the front end of a World War II bomb but then is accented with the horizontal fins and lining that hints at its 1940's and 50's inspiration. There's nothing subtle here in the recreation of this craft with very distinctive lines and points of separation from each section to the next.

What you do appreciate is how true to the intended era of origin the design is with the aeroplane style portholes and entry door positioned at the midpoint on the ship over the short wings. Now on those wings the finishing touch of the two rows of rivets is stunning and very period accurate. The embellishments here in the form of the winglets and again those parallel slats just ahead touch on that Flash Gordon ideology that evidently inspired this jaunt and the materials contained therein.

Finishing the tapered rocket look of the ship we have four pointed stabilising fins that protrude back beyond the rocket exhaust port. Very difficult to go into any more detail when that's precisely what is lacking - any detail. That is until you look on the bottom where there are two parallel darker grey markings that run from the nose right by the spark-like emblems to just behind the wings. They do break up the singular paint-job but the bottom isn't that plain. There are two, what appear to be rocket boosters, hung from the hull. These two are in plastic as there is a central insert to the  underside so they could be created separately and added in later. They are good and rigid as well so no concern over any movement from these appendages.

Overall though what’s not to love about this unique entry to the collection? No one else would have even considered doing this one because it’s not a “proper” starship from the show yet it’s a big part of the Voyager experience in its later years when they finally got a holodeck arc right (Sandrines...Fair Haven....) and this model is a representation of this success. 

I absolutely love the retro simplicity that the Rocket Ship presents. Original, heavy and lovingly recreated it’s a great issue. If I did have a grumble it would be about the very prominent join line right along the horizontal axis at the front. Bit gappy on the model I received but more than countered with the overall result. 

Given the weight of this one, the stand position is crucial and clipping around the rear tail fins utilises the most structurally stable bit of the craft - the hefty metal back end. 

Issue 111 dives firmly into the background of the Chaotica holodeck programme. The same size as the "real world" Delta Flyer, the magazine covers the usual array of craft features but more than that it discusses the creation of the Rocket Ship within the holodeck fantasy of Tom Paris.The six pages dedicated to the background covers all of the Captain Proton episodes with most notable coverage of Bride of Chaotica! This all makes it a bit different in the magazine since all of the pics are in black and white but the ship is absolutely spot on to the CG images most probably down to the simple finish of the monochrome rocket.

The Designing Captain Proton's Rocket Ship section is extremely short and a bit disappointing. The explanation is there that this was a pretty straight forward creation process and didn't take that much time since they had a very specific concept in mind. Bonus is that we do get some nice concepts but there aren't that many due to the linear creation stream.

The other six pages for articles are taken with Weapons of Captain Proton explaining the design process for the arsenal created for the Captain Proton episodes. Interestingly there are some elements of colour in the designs plus there's one that was never used - but was designed and built - for Tuvok.

Alan Sims and HMS Creative Productions were also responsible for the photonic lifeforms' scanners and Archania's reverse-grip pistol. There are some fantastic behind the scenes reference pics in here of the props designed for the show and again it provides a well-rounded story of the episode. This is a great example of when the magazine really comes into its own and wraps up a full package around a specific piece of the Star Trek franchise.

A good month that provides two unique and never before seen models from the franchise. I absolutely love them both but the Springfield Class does just win out because it's from the seminal Wolf 359 battle and adds another ship to the growing fleet collection. The Rocket Ship has classically simple lines and standing it alongside the 24th Century craft from The Next Generation you can plainly see the difference of 400 years and two very opposing design processes. This pairing is a top example of just how different and imaginative the creative team behind Star Trek could be when called for on a regular basis even after three series had been on air consecutively from 1987 to 1999 (by this point in Voyager). 

Next month we revisit the Nebula Class with the original version as depicted in The Wounded from The Next Generation with the USS Phoenix and secondly with the Lokkirim fighter from Voyager

Good and diverse additions to the collection this month? Was the Rocket Ship a necessity?

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Thursday, 16 November 2017

Tribble Trouble: The Official Starships Collection Deep Space Station K-7


What is not to love.

Since Deep Space Nine - actually more likely since issue one of the Collection, fans have been asking/demanding that we get more starbases - Spacedock, Regula One, the Caretaker Array - and one in particular.

K-7 is as iconic as the episode in which it featured in 1967. A spinning outpost packed with quadrotriticale and the centre of attention for both the Enterprise and the IKS Groth, it’s unusual design makes it instantly recognisable. 

Now Eaglemoss have brought that beauty down onto the diecast level and by gum has this been worth the wait. Arriving in one of the biggest specials boxes to date, K-7 is, as always, styrofoam packed to ensure damage-free delivery. 

Easing her tenderly out, this is definitely one of the largest models to date with a diameter of xxcm so be sure to plan your shelf space in advance. 

Starting down at the cylindrical base, the series producers have even managed to include a shuttle bay and not just sealed doors with actual depth to the open deck disappearing back into the main structure. The panelling here and at every point is kept very simple with everything seeming to spread out from the central core of the station. There are one or two panels highlighted in a darker shade but these are few and far between on this item.

Travelling vertically the shuttlebay is connected by a slender strip of plastic which leads up towards the main central hub of the station. Here, first, there’s another larger circular section from which the trio of outer modules are attached. As with the other classic remastered vehicles from The Original Series, the detail is minor, with the shape and overall style being more in dominance of the design rather than a lot of flashy finishing touches.

That base actually sits into the claw shaped display holder. It's a good fit and with the base being a hefty metal weight it certainly keeps K-7 grounded and looks fantastic out on display. Wish Deep Space Nine had something official to stand it on like this one but hey, different times...!

Now we do like a good greeble but putting this alongside the NCC-1701 or a Klingon D7 if it was super detailed would just look plain wrong. Here minimal is optimal and from that grey mid-cylinder you are drawn up to the large mushroom head of K-7. That uniform space grey colour is in every orifice of the station yet even on the top of the central unit there are defined panel lines which do function to take a degree of over-simplification away. Eaglemoss have scored the panelling in very precisely on this circular hull and there’s no horrid blobby buildup of paint.

Topside is the most prominent of the details on the station being the United Federation of Planets banner printed around the structure and K-7 just above on the cone-shaped command unit. All the windows here and out on the KA, KB and KC trio of pods are, as you would expect from Eaglemoss, completely misaligned with the surface details moulded onto the station. In respect to the upper ones on the central structure, they almost slip onto the darker grey top aerial. My aerial did come a little bent however with some encouragement it has now gone straight.

The station, above the shuttlebay is totally plastic and it's the only way that the three outer units would feasibly work. scored with vertical panelling lines, the arms reach out to the three small structures, two of which are "lit" red and the third, "green". Aside from the lettering and colours, the three are identical and there's not even a glimmer of difference in quality between them. Very nice and to some degree they are scaled down versions of the large central piece with the cylindrical unit replaced with the connecting point of the arms.

I love the 1960's basic design here. The lines are so clean and the lack of detail makes this even more enticing as a piece. Even when you turn her over the underside is equally simple; just the grey and that splayed panel design which has everything emanating from the middle of each unit whether outlying or the large core.

This feels like a no-brainer for any collector and while it is more expensive this is such a lovely model and one of the few that seems to have retained its distinct appeal and look from The Original Series. I've appreciated the ships from the remastered episodes but this has something more exciting to it. It represents not only a classic moment from the first series but also from the revisit in Trials and Tribble-ations. Apart from the horrid window alignment which now seems to be an Eaglemoss hallmark of "quality", it is a stunner and does make me kind of forget about the blandness of the previous Swarm Ship special. 

As for display purposes this has something that Deep Space Nine lacks - a stand! However, hang on from singing its praises because the stand is more of a cradle and the station isn't totally secure. It can spin and lift out very easily so just bear that in mind when you're lifting it onto that top shelf. Also has anyone else noticed that the plastic "grip" pieces are not fitting as well into the black bases on a lot of models recently?

In the magazine there's a skant overview of the station and it's role within The Trouble with Tribbles (shame it missed getting in the nod made in Choose Your Pain from Discovery). Second in is a section narrated by David Gerrold, writer of The Trouble with Tribbles covering the development of the episode and then we have a further piece on the creation of Trials and Tribbleations and the technology involved to bring it to life. 

The magazine is lacking some plan views of the station for print reference however in the bigger picture the episodic info is far more useful and a better utilisation of the space available. The content is wonderful but I would have loved more background on the model especially as it's only the second space station that has graced the collection in four years.

Absolutely love this one and now just need to make a big enough gap for it to take a good spot on display!

What's the next space station we should get from the collection?


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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Keep on Jumping: S1 E9: Into the Forest I Go


Ted Sullivan's prediction that the mid-season finale of Discovery was going to be "Balance of Terror good" was perhaps a little over-stated but still the fledgling Star Trek show managed to pull off a damn fine bit of drama to bring this first chapter to a close (or at least a suitable stopping point).

Kicking off virtually from the end of Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, Into the Forest I Go is a neat way of bringing a lot of these first half season elements to a tidy conclusion but, as you would expect, also kicking off some right crackers at the same time.

Where to start - well, Lorca is ordered to take the Discovery back to Starbase 46 but being the dedicated warmonger he is, leaving a potential fight at Pahvo is out of the question and miraculously, he's up for saving a peaceful planet (which, on a side note we barely see at all in this installment). I think that's just an excuse so he can load the torpedoes one more time and instead of using the spore drive to zip them home in an instant he chooses to take a leisurely three hour warp five journey back to give the crew time to work up some form of solution to combating the Klingon invisibility shield.

The solution is just mad enough that it might work - install sensors at the front and back of the Klingon Sarcophagus Ship and then map the ship to create an algorithm that will allow Starfleet to see their cloaked enemies. Oh - and to speed up the process and get the Klingon flagship mapped more quickly he asks Stamets to perform 133 consecutive micro-jumps with the spore drive around the Klingons.

All well and good but Stamets is suffering from the overuse of the drive but Lorca wants to push on especially when he reveals he's been tracking all of the jumps the Discovery has made and that there could be the potential for crossing into alternative universes using it (no spoilers there then...!). 

Burnham and Tyler take on the task of placing the sensors once they had spore-jumped back to Pahvo and enticed the Klingons into a firefight. The first one is a breeze but before placing the second on the Klingon bridge, the pair locate Cornwell...and L'Rell. Both are worse for wear but seeing L'Rell again spins Tyler into PTSD and he's left a wreck with an immobile Cornwell as his defender for the time being.

Burnham manages to place the second transmitter but has to engage Kol in direct combat to bide time for the Discovery to complete its 133 jumps and match the algorithm to defeat the Klingons. 

Of course it's success seeing Kol and the Sarcophagus Ship vanquished and Cornwell back home for treatment. However, the Discovery takes one final jump to get home - and ends up...somewhere....

What a damn fine piece of work that Erika Lippoldt and Bo Yeon Kim have created here to round off the first nine episodes of Star Trek's return to its rightful home on the small screen. Everyone has their moment here but for me this is Burnham's hour as she is left to single-handedly deal with the transmitters to assist Discovery but then faces off against Kol. The link back to Georgiou in that Kol has kept her delta badge as a toothpick/momento is interesting since he was never there at the moment of her death and has swept into T'Kuvma's position with the greatest of ease. He sees himself as the new Klingon saviour and his abrupt fall from grace here is deserved. 

Burnham's journey has certainly been expansive giving Sonequa Martin-Green more than enough material to get her teeth into and prove she's more than a zombie-killer. From being a reluctant passenger on the Discovery back in Context is for Kings she now places herself in danger to ensure the completion of the mission and help to make right her errors on the Shenzhou which started the war. Martin-Green is brilliant here getting to play through some genuinely fraught emotional moments with Tyler (more on all that very soon) to full on hand to hand combat with an in-form Klingon warrior on his own ground. I think her work in this show has been phenomenal from the get go.

Lorca is very much our man of action here getting to take command of a battle situation once again as well as having some key scenes here with Stamets around the effects of the spore drive and his choice to transfer the award from Starfleet to the mycologist because of his strength to complete the arduous number of jumps. Stamets is pushed to the edge in Into the Forest I Go as the continuous and heavy use of the spore drive nearly claims his life. Anthony Rapp is even closer to the precipice here than he was in Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad time-looping around for an age but it's in a different way as the drive is pushing his mind to its very limits and - as we see at the end - beyond perhaps even that.

The main story with the USS Discovery jumping around the Klingons to match and defeat them is wonderful to watch and the more I see the ship the more I fall in love with the sleek retro design and the amazing work that we are seeing from the CG in every episode. 

While the A story is thoroughly gripping, Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt have also dropped some seismic stuff into this story. Aside from the first ever male/male kiss which should be applauded (and it didn't feel forced) and the emotion behind Culber watching his partner go through spore drive hell, the confrontation between L'Rell and her one-time prisoner/plaything Ash Tyler is Trek-breaking.

We all remember Picard's torture at the hands of Gul Madred in Chain of Command but the flashbacks here take pain to a whole new level with blades, screams and blood dripping from tables all intimating the excruciating treatment that Tyler suffered for seven months. It's burned so deeply he totally shits down and hats off to Shazad Latif for playing this trauma for the darkness it descends upon the lieutenant. Graphically the production team have gone all out on these sequences and it's hard not to include them extensively in any review of the episode. As we discover through his heart to heart with Burnham and by fairly explicit flashbacks torture wasn't the only thing she was getting out of him. 

As the episode closes Tyler visits L'Rell begging to know what she has done to him but all she reveals is that it will become apparent "Soon.". I think we all know what our money is on for that reveal.  The L'Rell and Tyler sequences were not hard to watch but for Star Trek they were a first. We were warned there would be more violence and possible sex scenes but this was much more brutal than I expected. Again, applause to the writers for pushing the story and what Star Trek could do this far. Brave and that's what this show should be about just as The Original Series was. We should be talking about it and what it has done that is different.

In fact I might go as far as to say that this is the most original Star Trek episode since Living Witness or Blink of an Eye in Voyager's later years. Enterprise just didn't cut it when it came to really "making a difference" but it feels here with the ninth episode of Discovery that we have finally recaptured that brilliance and uniqueness that made Star Trek such an exciting and innovative prospect. More importantly I came out of this episode realising that I really have started to invest in these characters and their stories. 

The majority of the character background with our cast comes from the depth of the arc - Stamets and the spore drive, Burnham and the Shenzhou, Tyler and the Klingons, Lorca and Cornwell with seemingly Tilly dropping into each of these characters arcs at some point almost as the audience perspective character dipping into each storyline and opening up each person to the viewer.

If a screenshot from the episode is to be believed then Lorca really is the darkest of Starfleet captains because it seems he might be responsible for that final, fateful jump rather than it being a quirk of fate. However, wouldn't it have been jump 134 into the "unknown" or jump one of a new cycle? Was this all part of his plan and if they do get back to the Prime Universe then what of the spore drive? I mean, this guy is the perfect salesman and properly sells Stamets down the river with the "one last time" promise. Will it continue to be used or is this the end of the (first) Great Experiment?

A mid-season finale is an odd one for a Star Trek series which didn't even attempt such a thing when it used to take the Christmas break on network TV. To plant a cliffhanger - and a damn good one - right there is credit to the new writing team and the fresh outlook on the show that has been brought aboard in the Harberts era. There are still haters and there will be fans who won't be happy with this but damn, this has been a mighty strong and consistent first season - is Discovery possibly THE best planned and plotted Star Trek series of all time? Is this the best opening year since the 1966/67 season?

I will be harsh and say that the serialised nature of the show has meant that a few points have melded together and I really can't say that there's anything in this batch that would break into my Top 50 but it's transparently heading in the right direction and I would be shocked if, by the time this show closes out, there aren't a batch of stories which have become Star Trek classics in their own right.

Well you have two months of theory spinning and conspiracy building to abide before Discovery returns with its final six season one episodes which, we know for definite, will see the end of the Klingon war.

A worthy cliffhanger? What are your expectations from Chapter Two?


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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Scream for Me: S1 E8 Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum


There’s a sense of desperation in this week’s Discovery with our motley crew seeking solutions in every corner to defeat the surging Klingon war machine.

As it goes there’s not a lot of war war in this story besides the opening few minutes but it’s certainly one of the most energetic bridge combat scenes I think there’s ever been in Star Trek. We even manage a little touch of ascerbic Lorca in there as the Discovery jumps into the middle of a battle between the Shepard Class USS Gagarin and it’s overpowering Klingon adversaries. This scene get busy, anxious and right at the edge helped by sharp cutting of camera angles and brisk no nonsense dialogue. It also contrasts starkly against the rest of the episode which is, for the most part, quite sedate.

The bulk of this week takes us to the idyllic forest planet of Pahvo. A world where everything is peaceful and in harmony so much so that the world has its own melody that fills the air due to the natural vibrations given off by every element. It all sounds perfect but as you would guess, it isn’t quite so.

The reason we are here is because there’s a crystalline structure which radiates this melodic signal into space and Starfleet believes that it might give them the upper hand against the cloaking technology employed by the Klingons. Indeed, the tech that Kol has stolen from T’Kuvma’s Sarcophagus Ship is now being replicated across all the ships of his allies and is undetectable by the Starfleet vessels.

So it falls to Saru, Burnham and Tyler to investigate but their trip to the seemingly uninhabited turns up some kind of lifeform which turns it into a first contact situation led by the Kelpien first officer. Trouble is he gets a little too involved and the planet seems to take control. His inate skepticism and fear as a prey species vanished and we have a more confident and relaxed Saru who appears incredibly at peace with himself which puts him at loggerheads with his companions. He wants to stay and Burnham and Tyler are more than prepared to leave but Saru’s connection makes this seemingly impossible. 

Doug Jones rules this episode from the very start whether he’s dealing with the inner conflict resolution thanks to the Pahvans, crushing communicators or speeding at up to 80mph through a forest, we learn so much about Saru in this episode and makes up for his sparse appearance and use in the last couple of weeks. It’s an emotional journey here as he finally feels - for a short time - free of fear - to the point where remaining on Pahvo becomes more important than completing the mission and helping to save the Federation. 

At moments it does come across as Saru has received enlightenment and at the conclusion his desire to stop Burnham from contacting Discovery sizzles off the screen as he races to halt communication. His relationship with Michael is put under even more stress since it is she whom wants to put a stop to his choice to remain and contact their ship.From the beginning their one-upmanship has been a staple of the story with each playing off the other and genuinely getting under the skin of their colleague/superior/former superior where possible. Here it is a much more confrontational and direct issue that hasn't been seen before due to Saru's prey species nature. It also echoes that already this character has been on an extensive journey in just eight episodes from a promotion, change of ship, being placed in a difficult command position and now leading a crucial away mission. His development has been more under the radar than others but in Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum all of these elements come together.

The relationship between Burnham and Tyler also rises to the surface here if only briefly. Last week they forgot their first kiss from one of the multiple 30 minute timeloops and get to live it again (for the first time?) providing Burnham the perfect opportunity to recite a bit of classic Star Trek dialogue about needs of many (or the one). It's an even more relaxed moment in the episode that parallels the seemingly paradisaical nature of the harmonious planet. I'm convinced this is a doomed relationship the more I see it - it's too good to be true.  

Stamets and Tilly only get a little bit of screentime this week (boo!) yet it remains relevant to the arc with the mycologist beginning to return to his normal "grumpy" self following his DNA restructuring. We do get to see how he "logs in" to the spore drive which has been made a lot more comfortable however his conversation with Tilly in the mess hall reveals that he's losing cohesion with the world around him the more he's using the drive - something isn't quite right and it's getting worse. Prediction on this one - at some point this is going to cause a bit of dimension hopping which will, of course, bring us into line with the Mirror Universe as has already been hinted. 

As this seems an episode significantly about double acts (and then Saru acting alone), there's one more that really sets this story alight and for me eclipsed the A story. L’Rell and Cornwell are electric here and leaves a lot of questions hanging for the mid-season finale. Jayne Brooks and Mary Chieffo are definitely the highlight of this episode as both come to realise that there is more to the other than they first thought but L'Rell's carefully laid plans are shattered forcing her to take an alternative path - that equally doesn't look like it was a good choice. 

Her foil in Kenneth Mitchell's Kol is the perfect nemesis being just as devious as L'Rell and both of them in fact being uncharacteristically underhand as Klingons. At least with L'Rell she can account for that being due to her heritage as part of the House Mokai who were described as spies and liars back in Battle at the Binary Stars. Side point - we do have mention that Voq has abandoned her however given that this episode covers quite a bit of deceit and more than meets the eye when it comes to more than one of the duos we are observers to it seems that this might need to be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum is a good episode although I did feel that there was a significant weight of overhype due to it being written by Voyager novelist Kirsten Beyer. Did it live up to the emotional sledgehammer that we expected? No. It was good and it's a lot of "middle" to set up the mid-season finale which is coming next week. What I would say is that every part of this story contributes to the whole and there's no filler present which I believe has been shaved away thanks to the reduced season length (26 to 15)Doug Jones is great here taking centre stage as Saru giving his a lot of depth to himself and his species but that Cornwell/L'Rell partnership really does resonate more after the credits have rolled. As character pieces go I still prefer Lethe and after some of the higher octane episodes so far it did feel a little more relaxed even at the more intended moments of tension. Not Discovery's finest hour of the season but not terrible.

How did you rate Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum?

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Saturday, 4 November 2017

Cheyenne Bright Like a Diamond: The Official Starships Collection Issues 108 and 109


Man have we been busy with ship arrivals!


There was the Aventine, then there was the Titan plus I had late deliveries of the K-7 station and a replacement for my Bird of Prey with a bent gun. 


Now the second of the Wolf 359 fleet has docked with the Cheyenne Class USS Ahwahnee, another of the kitbashed background wreckage from the classic The Best of Both Worlds, Part II. 

The fact it’s kitbashed is fairly evident from outside of the box before you even get your hands on it. The Galaxy Class saucer is shouting at you from a distance but the odd point here is that this primary hull - the only hull really - is two bottom halves of a Galaxy Class saucer mated together. Take a look and you’ll see the recessed square windows near the centre on both the top and bottom pieces plus the curvature of the saucer from outer edge to centre starts a couple of centimetres from the rim rather than the doming effect of the top of the Enterprise-D saucer.

As a comparison just pull your Eaglemoss issue one Enterprise alongside to check out the parallels on the detail and you’ll see. In fact it’s brilliant that the producers of the collection have gone to the effort of replicating that saucer detail on both sides from the original source material. To be fair the source is probably the AMT model kit for the D rather than the studio starship!

There’s also a stupidly big ship registry and name emblazoned across the front of the hull here. I mean, jeez, it’s massive. Maybe there’s a Federation standard size for ship numbering fonts but this is out of proportion to the rest of the damn ship. Also if you like your starship comparisons the top of the saucer is in metal while the flip side has a plastic insert. 

Detail-wise they are identical in quality with one exception in that the topside has the bridge module in centre spot and probably massively out of proportion while the bottom appears to have a captain’s yacht docked. Otherwise there’s only the rim to mark out where the plastic and metal come together being the obvious difference. 

Spot also the aztec paint job again as a comparison to the Enterprise-D saucer. While this ship was designed and built to be a floating blob in the background of a scene rather than a centre screen hero ship it was still afforded a decent finish!

So, moving backwards there’s the double cobrahead lifting the quad nacelles above and below the oval main hull. Now with these engines in their formation here it does make the Ahwahnee look like the lovechild of a Galaxy Class starship and a Babylon 5 Starfury but that’s not a bad thing(?!).

We do have a reduced number of windows in the double cobrahead as with the saucer since these are supposed to be much smaller than the model class they were pillaged from. 

What I do like here is the inclusion of the Starfleet pennant atop the engine pylon assembly. It draws the design together and the simple red edging down the cobrahead and also on the engines lifts out the two tone shading on the hull. 

This whole rear section is a scratch build from the splitter engine bar and out into the nacelles themselves. As with the New Orleans Class USS Kyushu back in issue xx, the warp engines are heavily disguised marker pens but if you didn’t know you wouldn’t guess since the work to hide them is so good with golden vent detail, warp grilles and bussard collectors all attached to the four extremities. 

At the rear you might have thought that the designers would have slacked off but there appear to be a shuttlebay fitted to the rear of each of the splitter pylons and sitting either side of a tragically unpainted impulse engine block. It’s an ugly oversight and the only thing going for it is the fact that you’re not likely to have it displayed with the backend facing out. Personally grab a red Sharpie and colour it in. 

For me the consistency of detail top and bottom especially when it comes to a ship that was only ever window dressing is stunning. She does look total class even if she is simplistic in execution and for fans of all things Borg the Ahwahnee is a certain addition.

As for stand positioning, the clip slides over the whole of the rear four warp engines’ pylons. There is some lateral movement so you might need to give it a gentle nudge to centralise and the end result is pretty good to look at.

The issue packed in the box with the ship gives a skant overview of the ship since it is a background kitbash. Even though it is only glimpsed for a frame or two in the season four opener of The Next Generation there's enough info to at least give some meat on the bones and provide fans with something of a background to the only starship that was salvaged from the battle. 

Instead of a section dedicated to designing the ship, we have a guide to the craft that were involved in at Wolf 359 and have, to date been "officially identified" either in the episode at the time or in references since. It's a good, full section that nods to starships we know are due in the next few issues plus some others that we have yet to hear about. Offering some details on their construction, reasons for naming and other sprinkled facts makes this a fantastic inclusion to this expanding library.

Ok, next up is something equally incredible to look at in the shape of the Borg Queen’s Ship from Voyager

This has to be up there as one of the most intricate designs ever to cross from the screen into the collection given all the angles, textures and pointy bits that mark every surface on the model.

The first thing that struck me is the paintwork. While there is still the metal/plastic combo in play it’s hard to tell what is what because of the textured paint finish that makes ALL of the quadrahedron look as though it’s brushed metal. It’s a really impressive finish on the ship to the extreme that actually telling the metal and plastic apart becomes challenging. A cursory glance won’t help and even to the touch is testing.

However, the two component parts don’t have a defined top and bottom here rather they are worked together into the main frame each forming two ‘sides’ of the outer skeletal structure. It’s a new step for Eaglemoss with this process rather than doing certain pieces in metal and others in plastic as we see with a lot of Federation starships.

In the Borg Queen’s Vessel the parts are virtually indistinguishable since they all have the same surface panel detail, appendages and fantastic brushwork. It all combines for an impressive overall visual effect that really works. 

At the centre of this unique design is a core again painted in the brushed metal effect. The main thing to spot here are the ‘glowing’ green sections which gave the craft more depth on the screen. The challenge here is that the translation from screen to model means that the depth of the centre block and the indication that it rotates does get lost somewhat due to the restrictions of cost if nothing more.

The energy signatures spotted around the surface of the ship in green emphasise the Borg nature of the diamond-shaped ship plus it brings some life to what is a brilliantly realised model. This has to be recognised for the great paintwork at the least - that and some of the rather sharp edges. 

Of all the Borg ships this, for me, is probably the most accurate and has the right feel to it. Both the Sphere and the Tactical Cube suffered from being 100% plastic and losing something of the ‘weight’ that the metal brings physically and metaphorically to the Borg Queen’s Ship. While not totally metal the overall effect that is carried across the whole surface is fascinating and varied from one side to another and creates a very unique and distinctive product. The intricate little interior details, cutouts and prongs are just perfect and add depth to the visual experience here. It feels alive and it looks spectacular at every angle - which is a good thing since it is supposed to be fairly symmetrical.

The stand is equally as unique as you would expect for a Borg ship being two pairs of vertical prongs into which two sides of the outer diamond framework slot. Solid and secure in this one with my only note being that the base needed a slight bit of filing to fit snugly into the black base. 

Into the pages of the magazine as always after a good examination of the model and we have a big focus on Dark Frontier. Luckily we’ve only examined this from the perspective of the Hansen family when Eaglemoss released the Raven but here we have more attention to the Borg. Recounting some great background to the Queen’s Ship, the opening section does well to stay away from simply telling the episode plot as many of these can. That’s left to some of the fact blocks scattered through the issue while we have a section that looks at the design of the quadrahedron.

Being Borg it’s all about picking the right geometric shape for the occasion and then adapting it to the look of the Star Trek nemesis. Actually a fairly straight forward process we still manage to pull out two pages and some initial sketches!

Dominating this issue however is the analysis of the journey of one USS Voyager. Covering pretty much every successful attempt to shorten the journey from Caretaker through to Endgame it’s a rather useful overview of the show with some great nuggets of information to tuck away for that rainy day Star Trek conversation. In fact it is a decent read and I did feel by the end of not just this issue but also the mag with the Ahwahnee that the collection has now found itself a great niche in offering condensed - and relatively model related - fact dumps each issue. The last few I’ve found particularly good and refreshing.

While I did have to wait a little longer than expected or desired (!) for these two they were well worth the wait and have made me even more eager for the remaining Wolf 359 ships AND the hope that there will be a more accurate Borg Cube coming soon to complete that set. Great month, cracking ships and a firm flag planted that this collection is maintaining its quality and providing some real oddball stuff that’s got fans clambering for more. Send me more NOW!!!!

Best Borg box to date? Loving the Wolf 359ers?


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