Friday, 19 May 2017

Analysis: The Discovery Trailer

Two and a half minutes of new Star Trek just dropped and don't it look good!!!

The wait is finally almost nearly over maybe for the arrival of Discovery with our first good look at the new show which will debut this Fall (Autumn) on CBS All Access and around the rest of the world on Netflix.

"Captain where are we going? We have no map. You can't set a course without a star."

Today we've been teased with a couple of promo pics from the trailer of Captain Phillipa Georgiou and Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham on a desert planet and another of Burnham in her spacesuit but this evening the big reel dropped and Discovery truly arrived. I'm not going to go through the trailer in sequence as the CBS and the Netflix versions have large variations in order (and a couple of sneaky changes) so here goes...

"It's hard to imagine you've served under me for seven years....Commander Burnham I think it is time we talked about you having your own command"

Kicking us off on that desert planet we have Georgiou and Burnham trekking through the sand with the commanding officer declaring that they must discuss her sub-ordinate taking her own command. She flips open a communicator and a beam effect begins...

Desert worlds are not a new thing to Star Trek and I was immediately reminded of Sisko, Ezri and Jake searching for a lost Orb in Shadows and Symbols from Deep Space Nine's final year or Archer and T'Pol crossing the Forge in Enterprise. However, their journey didn't end with a shot of a starship breaking cloud cover but this has to be the Shenzhou and why? Because there's a glimpse of the all-important ship registry as NCC-1227 which means this is a newer ship than the title vessel. So how does Burnham end up on the older Discovery? What happens to land her there? Is the sugggestion of her needing a promotion after seven years actually going to be rejected after some sort of terrible incident. I'm hedging bets that Burnham actually gets demoted after an "incident" (more on that in a bit) and ends up on NCC-1031.  Even at a distance at this time you can clearly see the familiar design elements and it resembles the wire model from the earlier behind the scenes trailer.

We get to see the new bridge design for the Shenzhou (still no Discovery) and there's more than a few echoes across to the Vengeance bridge from Into Darkness and certainly to the bridge of the Kelvin from the 2009 reboot. It's dark, metallic, functional and not a bit like the Enterprise-D. I would even go so far as to say that it's not too far from the Enterprise-E bridge we saw from First Contact although it seems a lot more cramped and with a much lower ceiling. Note that the forward consoles have a very familiar design to them which would be more at home on Sovereign Class starship than something pre-Kirk. Interesting point to note here as well is that the bridge of the Shenzhou is actually slung under the ship rather than above. Check out the structure of the bridge versus that "upside down" shot of the ship and you can see this new twist on the design. Kinda makes more sense defensibly...

"Great unifiers are few and far between but they do come. Often such leaders will need a profound cause for their followers to rally around."

Sarek (James Frain) shows up as a hologram and giving rather grim Vulcan stoicism. This attitude is more in line with the vision of the green-blooded race from Enterprise than The Original Series. There seems to be a darker tone to Sarek's words, a more disdainful approach to the human race than in The Original Series for instance. Even his later soundbyte sounds stark and against humanity's exploration of the stars.

"What have you done out there on the edge of Federation space."

It makes me wonder if he's integral to the pilot or the season but each time he's a little chilling and direct. Here he could be scorning anyone and Frain's portrayal seems even more stark than Mark Lenard's in Journey to Babel. How they'll explore the character transition will be good to see. Is Sarek going to be the disapproving type of Vulcan we saw in Enterprise, still disgruntled that the humans are stepping out of their comfort zone. What kind of relationship does the Vulcan ambassador have with Starfleet? Is it a personal one with Burnham or something more general? To whom is he talking?

"You will never learn Vulcan, your tongue is too human."

Those familiar with the original "making of" teaser will obviously spot the new uniforms too. So we were completely wrong and the blue with the added piping are actually the duty uniforms and NOT as I suggested, the dress uniforms. They seem very functional and one-piece regardless of male, female or alien. Very form-fitting from what we can tell although there does seem to be a short-sleeved version on show during one shot of a ship corridor. 

Gold braiding indicates Command therefore with silver for Sciences and bronze for Engineering and the other Support Services. Also Georgiou has additional braiding on her shoulders to mark her out as the captain. Wondering about the ranks? Well they're etched into the left-hand facing spike of the delta in the style of The Next Generation's pips rather than The Original Series' stripes. Nice touch. I've included a nice big pic of Doug Jones in character at the bottom of this article so you can see the ranks more clearly!

"What am I looking at?"
"Object of unknown origin."

That hint of the final frontier comes across in the reveal of a mysterious graphic that the starship is scanning and Burnham's enthusiasm to get to grips with something new. It's probably their first sign of real exploration we've seen since the end of Enterprise and certainly pushes hope that this will be a series taking us to new extremes.

"We've come all this way captain. It would be irresponsible to leave whatever that is unknown."

A few shots around the bridge give us the tech contrast of gunmetal to blue displays but we also are visually introduced to two new species of alien - one with some form of cybernetic implants either side of his temples and a second blue-skinned figure with a type of crystalline pattern down one side of his face. There is a third who has more to say in the trailer than anyone else and I'm convinced that this is Doug Jones. Buried beneath a ton of makeup he might be but that voice is quite distinctive. Now, the Netflix variant drops a couple of these shots to add in some others later on.

Jones' alien is another new race to the franchise with a pronounced skeletal structure around the face and piercing blue eyes. Now unless my eyes are playing tricks, the braiding around the edges of his uniform are silver so this has to be the way of distinguishing departments rather than gold, blue and red as we've been led before.

Visually we get a huge treat as Sonequa Martin-Green tries out an environmental suit fitted with rockets taking her out into the galaxy. This has to be the most advanced spacesuit created for the show and you can see that from the use of internal displays and the ability to move itself around.

"Computer; ignitors."

This and the earlier desert scenes demonstrate the care and attention that has been sunk into the show. No desert sets in a studio - we're talking full location shoot in Jordan and a lot of money thrown at making space scenes look breathtakingly real.

"Captain warp signatures detected!"

Back on the bridge and Sam Vartholomeos is getting all worried with the apparent arrival of a lot of ships. Georgiou has to state the obvious as a load of familiar triple-pointed blood red emblems appear and it looks like war is on. 

"Contact Starfleet Command....we have engaged the Klingons."

I get the sense that this is going to be a very action-orientated Star Trek and even from the visual style we've seen here it's nowhere near as clean and polished as we experienced through the '80's and '90's Star Trek shows. This has dirt under its nails and is getting grubbier. Nor does it seem to have any light touches (no sign of Mudd yet so hold a breath for that) but this feels like it's going to be a heavy journey from start to finish - a finish that we know will now have two additional episodes making season one 15 chapters long rather than the original projected 13.

"I'm trying to save you...I'm trying to save all of you."

Take another note of how this trailer is highlighting Georgiou, Burnham and Doug Jones' alien character. He gets a decent amount of screentime in here as well as some lines. I'm suggesting he is going to be one of the main characters in the show alongside Martin-Green's lead. Who we are saving...hmmm...could be the Klingons themselves?

"Target it's neck, cut off its head."

But let's talk about the other major element present in the Discovery trailer before we get bogged down in gold and silver braid, hairstyles and lens flare (oh yes there is....) and go Klingon.

These guys look badass. The reveal of the Klingon look for the show is far closer to the JJ Abrams vision from Into Darkness than to the Prime Universe. Clearly the uniforms we were teased were those designed for the warrior race with the spikes and the intensive skeletal structure. These are very different Klingons. The ridges are still there but as with JJ's interpretation they're bald and oddly remind me more of the Xindi Reptilians from Enterprise than what they are supposed to.

Chris Obi's character does actually appear to be more regal in golden finery but that could just be ceremonial since we do see some sort of sarcophagus being lifted away and the Klingon death howl conducted. Now, could this be the result of a Starfleet attack? Could Discovery firing first cause this death and therefore plunge the quadrant into all out war? What if that's not a sarcophagus at all but some form of super weapon? After all we do see Burnham standing one some form of expanding structure at a later stage and facing off against Obi's Klingon "king". What is the nature of the attack we see with all the crew clutching their ears as a white light explodes across the screen?

Oh - and as for changes CBS vs Netflix, the latter includes a shot of a clawed, metal clad Klingon hand and a close up of a Klingon dagger (included at the bottom of the article for reference).

"Starfleet doesn't fire first."
"We have to!"

Indeed, is it Burnham herself who is the reason that the war starts? Does she push for the attack? Is this the reason that Jason Isaacs character will arrive because Burnham gets most of the crew of Shenzhou killed in a retaliatory attack from the Klingons? Will this be that incident I mentioned earlier that drops Burnham from potential promotion to an older ship with little prospect of going further for some time? Is the captain going to become a disposable character? Honestly as I wrote that I then thought - hang on - what the hell is going on?!? Gotta love a good, vague trailer to make you ask questions.

"My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone; to sense the coming of death. I sense it coming now."

I know I'm coming back to Doug Jones' alien again but if we want to talk haunting moments this has to be the one. I mean, this guy can sense death?! That's going to be something to dread going forward and might be pulled out when the cast starts going through changes? We have to assume that the majority of the players here are going to be disposable to some degree because that's the nature of more "realistic" TV these days. Characters en-masse don't tend to stick around for the whole lifespan of a show anymore. I would think that we will have a very different line up by the end of Discovery than we do now and I personally feel this will be a journey for Burnham as we see her evolve as a character from lieutenant commander through to captain with a lot of bumps in the road to overcome.

This is definitely not the Star Trek your parents knew and not the series spin-offs we saw 25 years ago. Look at the visual style - it's big, grandiose, expensive and on location. How you can say they haven't thrown a lot of money at this beyond question. This is big screen Star Trek done for the small screen. Check out some of those camera angles especially around Sarek and you get that immediate reminder of Star Trek from 2009. There's a majestically epic feel to Discovery that the trailer lavishes over in every frame and I'm really excited for it. No hint whether this is going to be a more graphic, violent and more adult Star Trek than before but there's some seriously impressive random aliens dropped in there too which does add to the sense that comedy episodes will not be on the menu.

However, there has to be substance beneath the gloss and that's where the 13 - now extended to 15 - episode run will come into play. There's room for expansion, exploration and adventure to blast from every second of the show. I don't care if the Klingons are a bit different, I don't mind that the bridge looks a bit JJ-style (and frankly it could be set in the Kelvin timeline as long as it's decent) but there has to be meat on the bone. This has to look good for today's audience expectations and there has to be a step up to encourage not just Star Trek fans but general sci-fi fans to take a chance and watch. Netflix might have stumped up such a large amount that it paid for season one but there has to be a return on investment especially from the CBS All Access platform.

These two and a bit minutes of Discovery ooze quality and give little away. There are some wonderful touches and teases in there and some notable faces cleverly missing (Isaacs) which indicates a ton of stuff to come - and to be honest I don't even think we've seen the ship properly. I did try to squint a bit at some of those visuals but trying to work out what ship they are from was a nightmare. Everything - by that I mean the gory details - seems to have been cleverly omitted to keep fans guessing right up to the premiere.

Add to al this that we will have a companion programme to follow each episode called Talking Trek that will help expand the background and help us get to know the nitty gritty of the show. For us behind the scenes lovers I can't wait for this new addition to the franchise.

I suppose it's also a wise point to note the new poster that's arrived. Now aside from Sonequa Martin-Green being the cover girl and the customary Vulcan salute taking a lot of space, just get close and spot that starship right in the middle. If anything confirmed we haven't seen the finished Discovery yet, this has to be it. The lines are similar to that original tease and not to the ship we have pictured above from the latest trailer. I think there's a lot going to be happening in this first episode we haven't even seen a shred of yet.

Autumn is coming, fellow Star Trek fans and this just makes you want it a bit quicker...

All images from CBS All Access and Netflix trailers.

Still excited? Anything in the trailer getting you hyped up?

Check out the whole Discovery story with our archive!

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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Modified: The Official Starships Collection Issues 98 and 99

Thanks to Eaglemoss (but probably fluke rather than design) there's a nice little theme running through this month's pair of releases.

Both of these ships actually started out as something else. In the case of the Nova Class USS Rhode Island it's an updated version of the USS Equinox while the Assimilated Arctic Transport was actually upgraded and changed during the episode in which it appeared so both of these are in their "final forms" so to speak rather than their original configurations.

Let us begin therefore with issue 98 and the upgraded Nova Class ship featured in the Voyager finale, Endgame. Now the original version of this ship is one of my all-time favourite craft and with the modifications made for Rhode Island I think it loses a little bit of its endearing character.

Not saying that this is a bad model in any sense but smoothing her out and making the mods does make some significant visual differences. Take the nose. On the original model there was a "cut out" for the secondary deflector at the front of the primary hull while here Rob Bonchune chose to fill in the gap and make that deflector a little smaller. It brings the hull here to a sharp, wedge point and although I niggle it didn't need the change the model does a good job of blending the old with the update. 

The hull detail is a lot more subtle here than on the Equinox which you will inevitably compare her to and that was a conscious decision during the alterations. There doesn't feel to be as much depth to the panelling here but the surface of the hull still offers up some lesser greebling detail with modified lifeboat hatches and more distinctive phaser strips right across the surface. Indeed with the Equinox there really was no distinct hull detail beyond the panelling but now the updates have made the finish much more striking.

The precision on the added paint details is quite wonderful with the Rhode Island especially at the pointy front end with the greys and orange panelling making a real impact visually. It's also in keeping with the paint scheme that adorns the deflector and surroundings on the Equinox but what you do come to realise here is that the overall paint job is a shade or two lighter than its predecessor.

Certainly the exposed circuitry detail has been much improved upon and the red decal lines around the nose feel a lot crisper than ever before. Even the registry on the Rhode Island seems a better fit with the red trim as a nice added touch which was sorely missed on the Equinox. Stepping back and another difference is the lack of blackened windows here. All the square recessed windows most notably are white and it combines well with the lighter paint job on the starship.

The trim around the bridge has also been touched up but now the command module sits higher rather than being recessed into the hull. Behind it are some further updated hull markings replacing some more nondescript recesses from before. 

Looking down to the spine of the Rhode Island and you can spot a big change. The panelling here isn't as prominently marked out and continues the smoother effect right to the rear shuttle bay. The Nova Class vessel is clearly a lot sleeker in every department with Eaglemoss getting a second chance to tweak a collection favourite for the better. While the panelling isn't as darkly marked it has more detail within its confines and this is allowed to shine through with the blacks and greys of various elements contrasting strongly against the light grey of the hull. With the Equinox the darker top coat meant that features were almost drowned by its shades rather than allowed to stand out.

The pylons sprouting from the sides of the engineering hull retain their dark markings but the biggest update to the model - and this comes from a manufacturing point of view rather than an "in universe" alteration is the construction of the warp engines.  Back on the Equinox the engines clipped together with a seam that ran across the top of the nacelle, slipping the registry marking and leaving a dirty great gap. It looked horrible and the bussard collectors were just painted on. It looked a bit ropey to say the least but changes have been made.

The nacelles now split along their centre line top/bottom rather than left/right meaning the registry is in tact and it's a much better finish to the eye. This time the bussard collectors as well as the warp coils are in translucent plastic suggesting a more refined and precise way of creating gaps in the plastic moulds has been found since the holes here appear smaller than the Equinox versions. Note too that the fins have been removed to enhance that sleeker impression.

Flip her over and there's some noticeable changes here. The phaser strip decals are more precisely aligned and some of the grey added detail has gone. The metal upper section now finishes closer to the leading edge than previously and the join is a much better fit.  The primary hull details are virtually identical in regards to panelling with a sharper ship registry but the engineering hull itself has been totally smoothed out. In fact two of the recessed panels on Equinox just behind the deflector and two parallel to the pylons have been replaced with decals however the one around the hexagon shaped hatch (warp core ejection point) is just off alignment.

The smoother finish does make the hull a lot less cluttered and I welcome that. It does look a whole lot better. The stand is a re-run of the first, slotting around the edges of the primary hull for a mid-point hold as with many other Starfleet ships.

The Rhode Island, while not my favourite version of the class is a whole light year or six ahead of the Equinox when it comes to the presentation of the model. My only niggle is that I had to glue the top of the port nacelle on which had come loose in the box. Minor issue and quickly resolved. I really like the way this model has been developed and honed from the original as well as introducing the updated elements. I and several friends did breathe easier when we saw that the yellow detail on a pre-production model had been removed!

The magazine replays through the updates of the Rhode Island both from the in-universe perspective of Endgame plus then from the point of view of Rob Bonchune who took it upon himself in his own time to tweak the popular Nova Class for the Voyager finale. Of course the former section does tend to meander into retelling the episode but you can forgive that when you read the development information.

Perhaps the grumble this month should be levelled at the magazine which chooses to talk about the Unimatrix Zero two-parter which has absolutely nothing to do with the starship at all and can only be tediously linked via the Borg. Very odd choice but I guess by this time in the collection it is getting more and more difficult to find relevant topics to include in the magazine.

Issue 99 does manage to continue the Borg theme through however with an entry from the Enterprise batch. One of those occasional curve ball craft, the Assimilated Arctic Transport is a real crazy inclusion.

From the second season episode Regeneration, the transport starts out looking very different but ends up Borgified by the end of the show. It also comes with the weirdest most fiddly, hardest stand in the whole collection to get the damn thing on. Be warned there could be breakages with this one.

Ok, there's a lot to talk about here because it has got a lot going on. For starters there are aerials and antennae all over the place. Right at the front there are protrusions from the nose as well as two spiked arrays jutting aggressively out from the sides and ahead of the craft.

Now it might be as ugly as sin but you have to take this one as it comes because the craft of the final item is actually really, really good. I don't especially like this one but there's so much to pour over. Cloaked comprehensively in black, the transport surface is a roadmap of bumps and undulations indicating the haphazard manner in which it was being changed as the episode progressed. Everywhere you look there's something going on or a piece of technology that seems to be reaching out over the surface; it's almost Borg artwork.

That individuality *which is not something you say everyday about the Borg!) and bespoke surface work covers the whole thing from top to bottom and front to back with almost no space to breath. The further back you do go, the more intense and crazy the modifications get with one whole side of the transport asymmetrical to the other thanks to a huge clunking piece of machinery. A uniform colour once again there are little blips of green against the black which hint at the typical Borg paint scheme that marks out their vessels. 

But it's not about the paint here because this is a ship that has lots of ins and outs - literally. The whole back end is a maze of pipes, aerials and workings that expand out from the original vessel and actually produce a fairly chilling end result. The single tone paint doesn't detract from the detail as every piece has a clear form but it is a rather fragile piece. Not the level of the Bajoran Solar Sailor I have to say but it's one of the less stable pieces due to the flex in some of the antennae.

Flipped over you can see the single metallic piece here is the inset underside of the transport. Covered with Borg tech in every space possible, you can barely see the original hidden underneath. The additional green highlights do break up the monotone but the surface changes still mean everything can be made out. 

The challenge with the transport though has to have been working out a location for the stand to fit and the result is ingenious if rather tight. It fits around the large rear section just managing to avoid a couple of those pesky aerials. It's a firm grip and getting it off provides an even greater risk to your model. I wish you all good luck.

Into the magazine and we talk about the plot of Regeneration and are then taken into the two-fold design process for the ship. While it finishes up in this configuration (and was ultimately supposed to become a Borg Sphere) it began life as a civilian ship used to transport scientists up to the Arctic to investigate some unknown wreckage from a crash many, many years before. The process takes us through the steps that see the ship evolve during the show which is a very interesting read given how little we really know about this one. 

Budget constraints on the product do become very evident when you take a look at the plan views (and the cover) of the Assimilated Arctic Transport. There the textures and shading across the ship really do look amazing. Sadly with plastic and metal and on such a small scale it becomes difficult to truly belay its true nature and I think we can use the Species 8472 Bioship as another example of that.

Then we get Mike Sussman's first hand account of how Regeneration came about. It's one of those episodes that splits fans down the middle. I used to hate it because I felt it ruined the Borg but after a recent revisit I realised it's a clever story sequelling the First Contact movie and prequelling Q Who? all in 42 minutes. If truth be told because the Enterprise-E didn't clean up their mess properly it's their fault the Borg take a glance over at the Alpha Quadrant 200 years after this story. 

Reading Sussman's interview and recollections has added a new slant for me on the episode and it's even tempted me to give it another shot. If there's one thing that Regeneration does do, it makes the Borg hauntingly mysterious and terrifying all over again - something that I don't think had been successfully managed since First Contact.

Issues 98 and 99 are great entries into the series and even at this stage it's not running out of steam but instead seems to be producing better and better items. Coming next month we have issue - wait for it - 100!!! This means we'll be seeing the seminal Daedalus Class along with the Bajoran Freighter for issue 101. 

Still collecting or have you called it a day?

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Friday, 12 May 2017

Franklin My Darling... The Official Starships Collection Special Seven

"Wait a minute, is this your ship?"
"No Montgomery Scotty, it's yours."

Camera flips to a dedication plaque and the audience realises that we are onboard a Federation starship; the USS Franklin NX-326.   

With perhaps just as much build-up and ceremony in the real world, collectors of the Official Starships Collection will this week see the next in the line of larger special models arrive with the release of that very starship from the third Kelvin timeline feature, Star Trek Beyond.   

There has been an immense amount of hype and a ton of promotional shots of this one over the last few weeks and I can assure you all that they are all correct. The Franklin is a damn masterpiece in every sense.   

Delivered in its distinctive special box, the Franklin is solidly packaged with the stand and base sections slotted into the polystyrene block. She comes in at 20cm from tip of saucer to warp engine exhaust port and is, in my humble opinion, one of the most well-built models in the series. Now the NX refit was special because Eaglemoss took all of their wins from the regular NX-01 and scaled it up but here the big success has to be how the manufacturer has managed to age the ahip and make it look used and dirty.   

This is a good, sizeable special model with a very distinctive look. As you will recall from the film, the Franklin was the first warp four starship pre-dating the Enterprise NX-01 but was mysteriously lost and never heard from again. Towing that line very successfully, the Franklin model is heavily weathered to emphasise the bleak conditions the starship has survived.

As always let's start at the front and the leading edge of the saucer. That discolouration caused by burial for a fair number of years is evident right away and even on the one that came to me the ship's NX registry and name are partially worn away through the layers of grime. The primary hull is beautifully curved with a layered effect and a lined pattern that was originally proposed as a folding entry hatch curving around the upper body of the ship. Eaglemoss have produced every nuance with the Franklin especially in the different surface textures on the hull and the different levels of the structure as your eyes make a path from outer edge into the central superstructure.

The panel divisions are very precise and the added grime only enhances the distinction in the construction of the starship. Every line stands out and a slight error would easily be picked up. The finishing details and flourishes on the Franklin aren't excessive but still give the ship a decent level of depth and realism that has rarely been seen in the collection. Can you imagine this ship in pristine condition for example without the intensive weathering?

The recessed viewscreen is quite a draw for the eye too being set back into the central command module and being such a prominent feature on a small starship. Anyone else think that the Franklin and the Discovery have some striking similarities when it comes to primary hull detail?

Behind that is a nicely complex superstructure that indicates where the main bridge is situated. The layered section of the bridge is wonderfully detailed front to back not just with the recessed metalwork but also with the venting and grilles that lead you from the bridge back to the open curve at the rear of the primary hull.

The brilliant thing with the Franklin is that it isn't over-complicated. While there is extensive panelling and detail for the eye to behold there is a certain simplicity to the design and finish that an aztec paint scheme might well have overkilled the end product.  It's also a well-weighted beast with a satisfyingly heavy saucer section that reassures you of its quality. 

At the rear of the saucer things get even more interesting with layering gone mad, some smaller access panelling, venting and teeny impulse engines. While it might not have a lot of colour variation, the back of the Franklin offers something different in the elliptical cutout between the warp engines and the way in which this open space is stepped into the forward section of the starship. It's visually beautiful and gradual and you can feel how your gaze is drawn from the red of the impulse engines through and up to the back of the bridge module.

On the underside of the saucer the grime and the detail isn't as in-your-face. The contrast given that years of buildup would have settled on the topside of the ship while it was grounded is a sensible move. There is some weathering evident but the bottom of the Franklin is a much more basic affair with clean lines and only a portion of the panelling that we see on the undulating upper saucer surface. That weathering is actually much more blotchy and grey than the topside and I really love that differentiation of how the ship would have been affected by its position over the years. 

Tracking back and sweeping away from the lines arching out from the sides of the bridge section are two of the sturdiest nacelle pylons on just about any Starfleet vessel since the dawn of time. Thick and angular these are a far cry from the spindly arms on the USS Enterprise or a Nova Class (keeping it relevant to May 2017 there) this chunky pair strike out from the rear not in a dissimilar way to the Delta of the Enterprise era. Plastic in contrast to the metal brilliance of the upper saucer, the pylons continue the weathered nature of the Franklin adding in further panel detail and radiator grilles which blend the detail across the multiple surfaces so seamlessly. 

It becomes more evident the longer you drool over the Franklin how much effort has gone into the production of this special. I mean it has the benefit of being the most current ship seen in Star Trek at just under a year since it's big screen debut and I don't think that opportunity has been lost. Maybe the fantastic result in the Franklin is again a chance to compare how CG technology has stepped forward since the days of the NX-01 and the later The Next Generation movies because it does seem that the finished product here has a certain crisper edge to it.

Finally we come to the warp nacelles. Tapered front to back they carry the distinctive half-globe bussard collectors in a translucent orange which immediately reminds you of the engines on the original USS Enterprise. For the movie they even had the "spinner" effect but here you just have to imagine that additional touch. It detracts in no way mind since the finish, the paint job and the detailing on both engines is just magnificent. There is a distinctive surface shaping to them and they end in just as equally familiar a structure as they began with an exhaust tip that's again reminiscent of the NCC-1701 from The Original Series. These grey tips are a little longer and have translucent orange globes inserted however the design flow between the Franklin and the later Constitution Class cannot be ignored. The design echoes are very clear if not obviously in your face.

Construction-wise this is flawless (at least mine was) with all the join lines flush and nothing bending or straining to meet anywhere around the structure. For display purposes the stand fits smoothly into the rear elliptical gap and clasps around the rear of the saucer. It doesn't rub but the fit means there's no chance of Warbird Syndrome.

So what are my gripes here? Well, the damn windows on the vertical edge of the saucer are misaligned. Again. Horribly. The little white blob of a viewscreen is a bit meh and they do distract to a minor degree from the overall spectacle of Sean Hargreaves monumental design. Move over QMX, move over cinema drink toppers (!) this is THE definitive USS Franklin model that all others will aspire too and at the price you just can't argue with it.

The magazine is, as with the other specials, just that few pages longer with most of the time spent discussing the development of the ship from a small scout to a tough little explorer. Given the rather turbulent process that Beyond went through it's very similar to the changing conditions that the Franklin was asked to deal with on the screen. I did find it interesting that this is almost a reverse Reliant situation as the nacelles were eventually flipped from being under-slung to their final position perched above the hull. Again some quality information in this edition which will fill in gaps for fans of all ages and knowledge range. Add in a ton of development pictures and concepts plus that now legendary poster image that revealed the Franklin for the first time and you have a superb companion piece to the NX-326.

Easily one of the top three specials and a ship I would slip into any collection top ten in a heartbeat. From opening the box it's been one to treasure and I suspect it will be a solid fan favourite for a long, long time.

One of the best? What's your take on the USS Franklin?

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Monday, 1 May 2017

Continues to Discovery

Season one of Discovery seems to be in full flow now and a further five guest stars have been announced.   

Perhaps the most familiar will be Rekha Sharma. Formerly one of the Final Five on Battlestar Galactica and more recently (like this month recently) guest star on Star Trek Continues new episode Still Treads the Shadow, Sharma has signed on as the title ship's security chief Commander Landry. Whether this is going to be a continuous role or one that will be recurring throughout the show is unspecified but surely such a major position on the starship would be main cast? However, this could again be an example of the show steering away from the standard senior staff-centric attitude of all its predecessors. 

Next up there's Kenneth Mitchell from CBS' Jericho playing Klingon Commander Kol. Immediate note - this ain't a new character annoucement but more on that shortly. But let's be absolutely realistic here, the amount of Klingons we've now had announced for the show HAS to confirm that the event discussed but never seen has to be related to the warrior race. I mean, come on, we haven't had a single word on a Romulan a Tholian or a Xindi(?!) and this in turn does make me reconsider just why CBS and Paramount poked Axanar with such a big and pointy stick just around the time that Discovery went into full production. Coincidence....naaaaaaaah. 

Third and portraying Dennas, a female leader of the Klingon Empire, is Clare McConnell. I'm once again shocked by the response to this announcement from some parts of fandom who are spitting feathers over the part. Seriously?! Did you forget Azetbur in The Undiscovered Country? Do we not remember the Duras sisters leading their house in The Next Generation? Short memories indeed especially for something that might be spinning the Klingons as a little more progressive than we saw in The Original Series. Given that attitudes have changed in 50 years its wiser to be taking your tips from Enterprise on that front. 

Fourth on the lineup is another Klingon leader and the small-minded will be pleased to know its a bloke. Damon Runyan whose credits include Suits and Supernatural will be Ujilli. That is a lot of Klingons and Klingon leaders we have on the roster that I'm interpreting means we are going to be spending a lot of time either with some sort of fleet or possibly on Qo'noS with the High Council.   

Finally - and the one which really has got people talking - is the recasting of Shazad Latif. Formerly the Klingon Kol (now played by Kenneth Mitchell) hes transferred over to the Discovery and stripped back the makeup to play Starfleet officer Lieutenant Tyler. 

Could this cause some re-shooting of the first couple of episodes to account for the change in actor and what has led to the change in roles at this late stage? I'd suspect Latif wasn't working out as the Klingon and has been found a more suitable position on the Federation starship. Just a little strange its taken this long for the switch to take place.   

And another thing to note. How long has it been since we've had any news of crew for the Shenzhou? A while and as the series is now into full flow might we take the guess that the second named Federation starship of the series isn't going to last more than the pilot? Has to be a realistic thought given the show must be filming episode five or even six by this time. Could it be that the suggestion that Shenzhou and Discovery are the same ship or that one is sacrificed be true?

I'm staying positive and stepping away from all the negativity. Discovery might not be filling me with the level of excitement I felt when Deep Space Nine or Voyager were announced but any form or vision of Star Trek is going to be better than nothing...isn't it?

What have you found out about Discovery? What news might have slipped us by? Drop a comment below and let's talk!

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