Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Same As It Was Then?

Back in December 2015 when I reached 400 posts and celebrated three years of writing this site, I wasn't sure where 2016 would be going. Now we've just shy of 600 I have to wonder what I was worried about!

At that time in December I wondered if I'd I said everything I wanted to say about Star Trek. No; not even a glimmer to be fair and I can't wait for all the stuff we're going to get to talk about in the remainder of this year!

Y'see with all this Nu-Trek and the prospects of a substantial amount more in the next 18 months, I wondered if Star Trek has the same impact now as it did during the days when it aired its original 79 episodes? Is it as cutting edge in discussions of race, politics and sexuality (for example) as it was then? Maybe even more concerning, will that voice be evident in the new episodes?

The Original Series certainly packed a punch when it came to the topics of the day. Legendarily Plato's Stepchildren showed that (first) inter-racial kiss, Miri dealt with the tender subject of puberty and to add a third (and I could pick a load more), A Private Little War dared to speak about the terrible cost of conflict just as the US were making a rocky stance in Vietnam. As these show, while there was humour, action and Vulcans, Star Trek never stepped away from the things that mattered to the people at that time and influenced popular culture; Roddenberry wanted to give a social commentary to his series and make it relevant and definitely made it uneasy for the network to stomach.

In fact in repeat it might not be directly addressing issues of the day but it still carries a lot of weight in the subjects the show chose to discuss and represents the viewpoint, a time capsule if you will, of a generation's thoughts on the events that were shaping the world around them as it truly stepped out of the shadow of the Second World War and looked boldly to the future. It wanted to make a statement, Roddenberry wanted to make a statement and nark off the network but he wanted to be the voice of the people through this little sci-fi show that valiantly fought for its life for three tough years.

My opinion of the show's "edginess" does change when it comes to the series of the '80's and '90's. Perhaps a more conservative era, the Powers That Be continued to use the show to talk about different matters but never took it to the extreme grounds that The Original Series dared to wander. In the UK MiriPlato's Stepchildren and The Empath were all cut from the original run because of their content while The Next Generation had The High Ground skipped from the first run on BBC2 due to a single line referencing Irish reunification in 2026. None of the later shows (Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise) after that suffered episodic removals which either demonstrates a "play it safe" attitude or something else entirely. Look at The Next Generation's first two seasons and you can see that the remnants of The Original Series are still there. Episodes such as Justice might look a bit shlocky but they ultimately had a moral theme at their core. The Voice was still there as the show pitched more on that "anthology" style than looking at the individual people. It looked more at the situation than at the participants. They were merely there perhaps to push events forward. Those early The Next Generation seasons are the closest that latter-day Trek has ever come to embodying the Roddenberry vision through their narratives and scope.

For me the Piller/Berman/Taylor/Braga years that followed those two seasons seemed to play a more audience-friendly game but it might in turn be because we're a more open and accepting society than we were in the 1960's. Roddenberry's old guard were gradually removed and the emphasis turned from situational dangers to a true exploration of the human condition on a more personal level and potentially nodded to a more dysfunctional family environment even though the ship was designed to promote just that factor. Interestingly though does that actually mean it was smoothed out?

Issues that shocked in the 1960's were more freely talked about and the explosion of media certainly means that avoiding touchy subjects has become almost impossible unless you choose to live under a very, very large rock on a very remote island. The crew of the USS Enterprise-D explored issues of gender (The Outcast and to some extent The Host), threats of terrorism, addiction and loss (among a lot of others) but came across as a show which was much more interested in the character and the human psyche than making a fanfare on current global issues. Heck, the doctor was a single mother, the first officer and counsellor were ex-lovers and there was a Klingon (raised by humans) on the bridge firing the weapons. Uhura's appearance as an officer in The Original Series might have raised a few eyebrows in a more close-minded era but no-one really batted an eyelash at any of those from Encounter at Farpoint.

Now that doesn't mean that it too is outdated but its narratives and deeper themes are certainly ones which continue to be very relevant with viewers because it chose to look inwardly more than at a snapshot of events across our blue and green sphere. The Original Series may have those deeper levels too but the shock value and the pressure points they were tapping for inspiration have long since depreciated and the pioneering attitude of Gene Roddenberry hasn't cast a shadow across the franchise in anger since well before his death in 1991.

The same feeling that exists for me around the power of The Next Generation passes into Deep Space Nine and Voyager too. The former did dare to be different and engage openly in religious debate as well as multiple conflicts between its own crew as well as a range of alien races there were only perhaps fleeting glimpses of those more cutting stories that really drilled into deeper material. Certainly Deep Space Nine's Far Beyond the Stars and In the Pale Moonlight nailed home the matters of racial equality and morality between them and off the top of my head Voyager's Counterpoint stands out as a superb exploration of subjugation not too dissimilar to the Nazi "solution" in the Second World War. 

However, you have to consider that the introduction of a catsuit-clad Borg, the arrival of Worf, the Dominion War...were to secure ratings and ensure the longevity of the shows and in today's market that has become more important than addressing the issues. The '60's series was in that same battle for ratings supremacy but Roddenberry chose to battle the network and go for that edge which his counterparts in the '90's perhaps didn't want to risk.

In fact I think Voyager repeated that examination of social division on a number of occasions including Critical Care and Natural Law, both from it's final season. Certainly for a larger proportion of Voyager's time in the Delta Quadrant the emphasis was firmly on the action and adventure aspects of the show rather than deeper personal explorations which were only really tackled through the arrival of Seven of Nine to dive into the "human element" that Star Trek hungrily poked in every generation.

Maybe a critical point on the Star Trek series is that while they do all deal with different issues and relate those specifically to characters within the cast, that perceptive eye has become a little more closed over the years to accommodate the changing audience. While in the 1960's it may have been possible to avoid news by switching on your favourite sci-fi or comedy show, Star Trek managed to bring those issues right back to the doorstep but now that's just not the case because of the "smaller" nature of the world in which we live. 

Avoiding news is near impossible either through a 24 hour news channel, Twitter, Facebook, the papers, just about everywhere you look. The classic series offered escapism but tinged it with relevance while the later shows have maybe tended to look at much more personal points and on a smaller scale, bumping more time towards graphics, space battles and the like which are bigger draws in a more technological age.

Looking to Star Trek Beyond and Discovery, there are a lot of challenges when it comes to storytelling. Beyond was already on the back-foot and while Into Darkness attempted to look at the issues around global terrorism in a post-9/11 world behind the veil of the Khan story it still pushed more for the action/adventure line than the social commentary. Beyond did include a gay character but many saw the inclusion of Sulu's partner and daughter as a bit shoehorned rather than a tip of the hat to George Takei. A mis-step perhaps but one that has attempted to take the franchise in the right direction.

For over 50 years Star Trek has bent the line around the subject and needs to tackle it head on and with dignity; something that Rejoined definitely didn't. The problem is that this won't make it edgy because every series under the sun has a homosexual character in the cast and its part and parcel of today's world so there will need to be a big jump forward to create must-see and must talk about TV.

Discovery meanwhile has hit this challenge head on it seems. They have a gay actor playing a gay character in the form of Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Stamets right from day one - establishing a new person in the universe with his own backstory and ability to cement a believable character in the Star Trek universe. Certainly another thing that will make Discovery unique within the franchise is the choice to remove the Roddenberry ruling that there cannot be conflict between the characters. This is something that has stifled writers for decades and was a factor in the way that Ronald D Moore developed Battlestar Galactica. This is a huge leap away from the original concept of the show in that humanity has moved past such trivialities but the production team behind Discovery have come to realise that the realism level that exists on TV now is far removed from the way in which Enterprise was written back in 2001. Things have moved on and I think this paragraph has certainly backed that up. 

Discovery may well be more on the nose than any previous Star Trek series if this is the case. Imagine that it will be able to more directly tackle conflict and issues between its main characters rather than having to rely on bringing in guest stars and alien races to create that friction. Whether Discovery will be able to make any comments on current US politics or world issues specifically (ISIS, financial meltdown...Trump?!) I don't know. I suspect that with the way in which the season has been planned it will focus more on a specific storyline that, I would surmise, is more directed at the Klingon Empire. That doesn't in any way mean that there won't be parallels to our current worldly events but Discovery does have to take a firm hold of its place in a very different media world to that of 1987, 1993, 1995 or 2001 even. There is a slightly more "spoon-fed" nature to TV and movies because of the way we consume media around us. I hope that Discovery doesn't "dumb" itself down too much or sink into its own darkness.

What would it need to tackle otherwise to remain relevant, cutting edge and that show that everyone is talking about the day after - and not just because one of the cast got their head blasted open with a chainsaw. The threats of global terrorism and cyber terrorism would be straight to the top of the list. The perspective of a future Star Trek series has to embrace that 21st Century skepticism and uneasiness. But if not for war and terror, what else would it need to speak about? The family unit is much more open than it was in the 60's, we're facing a period of tighter financial controls and distrust for the political system. These are topics that a Star Trek show should relish and would retain the mark of its forebears well into the next decade.

But let's drop back again to the original show. Maybe now it has become so revered for what it produced afterwards that it's relevance is not in the topics it chose but in the nature of the televisual animal that existed in the 1960's. Today dying TV programmes end up as a DVD box set or traded out to one of those channels deep down in your cable or digital numbers. Some of those may even get a bigger audience (notably Babylon 5 did very well on DVD, even better than first run on TV I understand) and some may fizzle away to nothing (Space Above and Beyond - tragic) but with a smaller number of channels and a very much smaller range of media offerings in any form it was a lot harder to escape Star Trek than it would be today. It still exists, it will be reborn but how it will be spun is as yet a mystery. 

Star Trek of 1966 to 1969 now more than anything offers an opinion of the future and a mindset of a decade where the world was finally shrugging off the events of the Second World War and hit very personal and resonating issues head on. Today we're harder to shock, freedom of speech is very free indeed and a new Star Trek series will need to find its own niche in a TV world becoming dominated by superheroes and reality shows - definitely a million light years away from the landscape of the late 80's and 90's. Maybe the show needs to get back to those more personal issues. It doesn't need to be gory, sensationalist but it does need to talk to its demographic about things that matter and be less escapist than, say Legends of Tomorrow.

I look forward to seeing how the new series will comment on this generation and the world as it is and how will be regarded in 10, 20 or even another half century - will it stand the test of time and will it have made an impact? Three months and counting...

Do Star Trek's messages of The Original Series talk to you? Which episodes still have the most resonance in 2017?

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Catch Up - Graphic Novel Collection Issues Eight to Eleven

A busy few weeks have meant that I've neglected SKoST somewhat.

It also meant that there was a pile of reading mounting up at my bedside that was begging for my attention. Aside from a couple of novels there were also four of the Eaglemoss Graphic Novel Collection waiting to be opened.

Starfleet Academy (issue eight) is one that Ian Kimmins covered on here last year so I'll drop a link back to his review here for reference. Personally I found this to be a great read if a little predictable by the end. There are definite echoes of Cause and Effect running through the story plus (unintentional?) parallels to the backstory covered off in the brilliant The Pegasus also from The Next Generation.

Set in the Kelvin timeline, Starfleet Academy returns old faces Kirk and Uhura during their time at the facility and then a group of five cadets from three years later. The two stories interconnect as you would expect and while the story isn't overly original it is well written and beautifully rendered, a genuine pleasure to read.

Issue Nine was probably the biggest draw for me from this set of four we're reviewing here, taking us away from IDW and to Marvel for the first time. This time we're diving into The Early Voyages - or at least part one of The Early Voyages in this case. Choosing to step back in time, this series returned us to the captaincy of Christopher Pike and these initial four stories take place in the time leading up to the events of The Cage.

Instead of just running a series of stories which bring us to that familiar moment in franchise history, The Early Voyages utilises the perspective of various characters to tell events from their angle. We get to see Pike take command from Robert April, experience the perils of "that" mission which took place before The Cage from the viewpoint of Pike's yeoman and get an incredibly candid view of the Enterprise from Yeoman Colt when she is quickly assigned to the ship.

While Colt's story does, to some degree, retread the events of the pilot episode it is also the one which resonates the most in the four tales. Unquestionably it will forever put a different spin on The Cage when you understand the background to events  but I also suspect it has the strongest connection since we already know of these events.

The level of tension, storytelling and general Star Trek ambiance with The Early Voyages is definitely an experience and I look forward to seeing where this line of tales is heading.  The recreation of the events from the pilot are beautifully done with the added twist of being from another character's perspective which helps keep it fresh while adding to the mythology of the episode at the same time.

Third is possibly the most disappointing of the batch. For those of you familiar with the series, each edition comes with a headline story plus one of the Gold Key 1960's/1970's comics thrown in for weight and good measure. With issue 10 we get a whole volume dedicated to the The Classic UK Comics Part One and why? I'd suggest it's because of the similarity between this and Gold Key. 

Evidently the writers and artists for the UK comics had seen a Star Trek episode in passing so we get stories which are extremely outlandish, have a range of very retro '50's style additional vehicles, the Enterprise landing at one point and even a strange foreshadowing of The Planet of the Apes crossover with the crew meeting a race of simians. As with those Gold Key tales these have to be read to be believed and really do go to the all-out extremes of pulp sci-fi and are just jam-packed full of errors that show a latent inexperience with the series. Each story is split into four parts with each part contained across a double page spread. This is wonderful because it means there's a ridiculous amount of Star Trek crammed in but the way in which it's bound means that all the central panels lose parts of speech or their art into the binding strip.

To be honest I could have done without hitting this volume because the quality is as questionable as that of the Gold Key archive - in fact it's near as hell the same although they have managed to at least get the uniforms fairly correct. It's also a volume you just can't sit down and consume in a single sitting. With Nero, Spock or Starfleet Academy the layout is far less cramped and chaotic than in these 40 year old narratives. They're much easier to digest and the artwork is more precise. Because of the size of the text and the pictures it does take more time to work through the volume and I've digested it over a fair few days. In that respect at least you're getting your money's worth!

The Classic UK Comics are an experience and the appearance of David Bailey rather prominently suggests that the writers might only have managed to see a handful of the earliest first season episodes (since Bailey is from The Corbomite Maneuver) and as Chekov is not even a glimmer in anyone's eyes. Teleporters are back too but a good 1950's style transport is always preferred if there's the option. Watch out for the appearance of "Captain Kurt" in the first couple of stories as well as the sudden turn to red and blue shirts in the later stories in this volume. Notable too how the artwork changes when the series transfers into the TV21 comics. As to why there's the movie Enterprise on the cover, God knows.

Finally there's The Next Generation's Intelligence Gathering. Now if you flash back to issue five's The Space Between the format is virtually the same with a series of individual stories all linking back together in the final part. Here in issue 11 the main protagonists are the Romulans but there are a series of other circumstances in play.

Set during the fifth season of the TV show, every main character is included plus there are appearances from Chief O'Brien (how does he keep busy down there - it's even commented on!), Ro Laren and even Barclay. It's an enjoyable romp across the galaxy allowing dedicated time for each of the main cast although I did find the conclusion a little lame even to the point where it seems the writer is pointing out the same thing. 

The one thing that is strong across three of the four volumes noted here is the artwork. That of Starfleet Academy and Intelligence Gathering is very similar and while The Early Voyages is perhaps more free-form and sketched, it's still wonderful to read through and easy to follow. That's a key thing that distinguishes the work from the 90's and later to that from the 60's and 70's. It's not as compacted and hard to walk through, the panel work is obvious and neatly set out but the substance that was present in some of the Kelvin timeline stories isn't quite there. It's as though the graphic novels seem to accommodate and suit the new generation of Star Trek stories rather than the Prime Universe. Might the same be said for the upcoming Discovery?

Each of the novels - except for The Classic UK Comics - comes with the statutory Gold Key archive story and the three we have here are The Youth Trap, The Legacy of Lazarus and finally Sceptre of the Sun, all of which maintain the usual "high quality" stories that we have come to expect from the previous editions. Absolutely entertaining with only a shred of Star Trek DNA running through its veins and as I said, this shares more than a few traits with The Classic UK Comics. I would run through the stories from the archive but I've tended to find myself repeating the same few lines. Once more - have a read, they're a lot of fun and a bit hokey. Fans of canon Star Trek will have hours of entertainment ripping apart the inaccuracies while for others they will make a nice change of pace and scenery from the more recent IDW offerings.

As for subscribers, this month we saw the arrival of the Gold Key archive metal covers. The quality of both of these items is excellent and luckily, if you don't have the wall space to space what with all those posters and Jonathan Frakes autographs, the tin that's designed for the movie posters is a perfect fit to store them in. Nice move, Eaglemoss, nice move.

Up next we have The Edge of the Universe and then the UK Marvel Comics Part I

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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Two Times the Enterprise: Headlong Flight from Dayton Ward

The potential in Dayton Ward's Headlong Flight is overwhelming just from the enticing cover art.

A story that promises the Enterprise-D and the E plus old school Romulans has to be something special - it just has to be because how could such a massive opportunity during the 30th anniversary of The Next Generation possibly be lacking?


Headlong Flight over promises and tragically under delivers in spectacular style. I can actually describe the whole book in a sentence - three ships get stuck in a dimensional mcguffin and then work out how to get back. There you go, all done and dusted. The issue for me is that this could have been so much more.

For those following the novel series that has evolved since Nemesis, the familiar Enterprise-E crew are back but are definitely not the most interesting part of the book. That title has to go to the crew of the Enterprise-D from an alternative universe and also from a point around the mid-fourth season of the show.

But this is a crew that lost Picard in the final confrontation with the Borg in Sector 001, a ship that still has Pulaski as its doctor, Data as its first officer, Wesley as a civilian advisor and Tasha Yar still at the tactical station. It has all the plus points just in those characters to be a blinder with what is the A plot really as an option to become the background story. Instead it seems like this is all wasted for a story which doesn't really go beyond the ordinary. 

I really wanted to see the moments that changed this crew develop as narrative rather than summarised plot points with Ward really delving into the background of what happened to Picard or how come Pulaski did remain. Even the anguish that is supposedly present from Picard's death seems trivial here. I just didn't feel an attachment to the Riker-prise or really care about their stories because there wasn't anything to latch onto. 

Nor did the Romulans fare any better although they do get to take some pot shots at the two Federation starships.  Indeed I reckon that Headlong Flight could have done without their appearance and just seen the two parallel Enterprise crews teaming up to get themselves free of the planet. In that case there would easily have been more room to discuss the backgrounds of the alternative crew from the Riker-prise.

The problem is that while the intention is good, the conclusion is a foregone conclusion and it really feels that nothing of any real note happens. I would even have been excited if this had been a story purely set aboard the parallel Enterprise or just from their perspective. There's no surprise, no tension, no revelation, just a reset and a book which, tragically, feels like filler from start to finish. I did want to care about the crews or the aliens but in both cases I fell short. Tasha's appearance back on the bridge was perhaps my biggest "yes!" for Headlong Flight but that isn't paid off at all. There's no reason given for why she's still alive nor what happened if/when they did encounter Armus. How is she still alive? It's never adequately discussed in the book and by two-thirds of the way through it seems to have been largely forgotten.

Ward unquestionably knows his cast and every nuance that can be. He avoids colloquialisms and keeps them true to their portrayal on the show and in the movies however that accuracy can't save them from a mediocre story that over-promises and under-delivers. In conclusion it has to be one of the biggest fails of the book series I've read so far. I genuinely love Dayton Ward's work and although I made it through to the final page it was more to confirm that I hadn't missed an interesting aside or a revelation as to what influence the time-stream to create these versions of the lead characters.

While The Next Generation's Parallels provided a series of insights into the crew in different timelines, Headlong Flight feels stale, unfulfilled and begging for something to raise the tension. However I find myself drawn to stories which do offer these twists on our expectations and if I'm looking at how it did keep me entertained I have to compare it to how many times I picked it up and put it down versus The Fate of the Unknown which I'm struggling through at the moment. In that instance I have to say this is a sure fire winner and one that I raced through in a couple of days. 

Praise? Yes, BUT I know that this is because I love the concept and was waiting for a big reveal or a character swap or something that might tag this standalone into future novels yet there was nothing. Maybe a standalone set in this parallel universe just after Headlong Flight is the answer? At least then there would be a payoff to this 300+ page story.

Headlong Flight is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £7.99 ISBN 9781501111310. 

Accurate review or was Headlong Flight a literary winner?

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Friday, 23 June 2017


The date is set, the audience prepared and the excuses(!) are in for Star Trek Discovery.

We will finally get to see the latest interpretation and vision of the Gene Roddenberry-created franchise on September 24th for the US with the Netflix premiere taking place the following day, September 25th. CBS announced the date with a shot of the Discovery shooting up the screen to reveal the date while Netflix received a pic of a Starfleet officer in a spacesuit (probably Burnham) standing on a rocky surface marked out as the Starfleet Command emblem.

CBS have also been quick to back up this nine month delay stating that due to the scale of the project and the care with which they have been taking with Discovery the initial launch date was extremely optimistic. The bridge set for the USS Shenzhou alone (noted to be an older ship than the Discovery) took six weeks to build. That's just one set from, I would guess, several that will have been required for the first episode. On top of that there's the sets for the Discovery which we haven't even seen yet - everything has been about Captain Georgiou and the Shenzhou. It's all about getting the look and the new universe right. Noting that this craft is older than the Discovery also crosses off one fan theory that the two are the same starship. 

We also got to understand a little more around Michael Burnham's background in that Sonequa Martin-Green's character is 100% human but raised by Vulcans which is a new twist and might even add some weight to the reason there is an uneasy relationship between Sarek and Spock by the time of The Original Series. Also it does mean that some of James Frain's comments within the teaser trailer make a lot more sense when applied to this relationship. 

Perhaps even bigger news from the Discovery camp were the two photos revealed from Entertainment Weekly featuring Jason Isaacs, Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh. 

The first out was Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca - a master tactician from the info - on the bridge of the Discovery herself. It's our first look (be it out of focus and in the background) of the new lead starship and it also emphasises just how blue the new uniforms are. In the darker, older, light of the Shenzhou bridge the colour didn't seem that striking but here the colour is electric enhanced with the command gold braid and captain shoulder pad epaulettes. Lorca looks ready for action (tense?) in this shot and I expect Isaacs to have a strong presence on the bridge. We have nothing to gauge his relationship with Burnham so far.

As to the bridge it's a lot brighter, cleaner and silver echoing the fact that the Discovery is a new ship and potentially a brand new craft at the time of the series. Now all we need to see is a few more shots of the rest of the cast main Discovery cast...Anthony Rapp where art thou????

Talking about the ship the promos for the launch date have included the title ship with much more surface texturing than we saw in that short tease over 12 months ago. I don't think this will be the final visual version for the show and is more a representation used for the purposes of the graphic. Does seem that the warp nacelles have been lengthened a little however.

Secondly we have a cracking shot of Burnham and her commanding officer, Captain Georgiou, on the transporter pad of the Shenzhou. I have a sense that a lot of the first episode is going to be set up and we'll be spending a good period of that story on this craft. Indeed, it's not unlike the original concept for how Enterprise might have started with the intention of the first season to lead up to the unveiling of the NX-01.

There's a gallon of stuff to love about this pic from the transporter room. For starters it's a massive departure from previous designs with a more linear nature to the pad and some very unique backing panels. The transporter seems a lot more openly mechanical rather than the smooth finish we might expect from the Enterprise-D. Are the big circular items behind the actors there for look or do they have a more practical involvement with the workings of the transporter? Here's another thing - is that some sort of heads up display screen infront of Doug Jones? 

Contrast this look to the pic of Isaacs on the Discovery and you can clearly see a huge difference in the quality of the tech involved. The title craft is a lot smoother with Captain Lorca having touchscreen controls on his armrests. They do seem to flip up too much in the style of Picard's in the early early days of The Next Generation.

The bigger interest in this transporter room pic is that away teams are finally getting their own armour *and not that we get a rear view of Doug Jones' alien makeup). No more redshirt deaths perhaps(!) the armour seems to look not too dissimilar to police riot gear and bears the Starfleet emblem on its left side. Also note the two pouches on the belt. The one sitting to the front might well be for a tricorder as it looks a little large for a communicator and those devices are usually rear slung. The second, which includes a thigh strap is the phaser. It's our first - murky - look at the iconic Star Trek weapon and this one definitely bears the hallmarks of the classic phaser. Will it bear any resemblance to the lasers from The Cage or not?

September is a strong month for Star Trek premieres with only Deep Space Nine and Voyager premiering outside it. Both of those had shortened first seasons and premiered in January. In the case of Enterprise and The Next Generation, both of these opened their accounts with fans the same week as Discovery will begin on 26th September 2001 and 28th September 1987 respectively. It in some ways seems fitting that the new show should kick off almost 30 years to the day since Picard and co took the Enterprise-D out for its first spin. 

Talking anniversaries though, it's fitting that at the time we are marking the 35th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan, it's director and now Discovery producer/writer Nicholas Meyer is reportedly working on a new Star Trek project. 

A lot of muttering seemed to immediately jump to suggest this might be another TV series - perhaps one post-Nemesis - but I'm more inclined to believe that he's working on the next movie. After all, Star Trek movies are something of a Meyer forte with him being directly involved with II, IV and IV with the classic cast. If your movie franchise was a little troubled then wouldn't you call in the experts? Not that Beyond was a bad film, it just wasn't received as enthusiastically as it deserved. Flip side to that would be if this is something he is working on for CBS and not Paramount as the former only holds the TV rights for the show; the other the movie rights.

Certainly the effort can be seen on the screen and now it's making sense just why it took so long for Discovery to become a reality. The Alpha Quadrant wasn't built in a day y'know...! I am absolutely behind this series and cannot wait to be writing about it and reviewing the stories.

What have you been most impressed by in relation to Discovery? What's been the big win so far?

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Friday, 16 June 2017

Titan Time: Orion's Hounds

As we continue our voyage through the post-Nemesis reading list, Ian Kimmins takes us back on-board the USS Titan under Captain Riker. 

Orion's Hounds is written by regular Star Trek writer Christoper L Bennett and features the "star jellies" from Encounter at Farpoint. If you cast your mind back to that episode (has it really been 30 years?!) you will remember that they communicated via telepathy so you know this is going to be a Deanna Troi story and Bennett doesn't disappoint. 

As we kick off the novel, Titan has been given orders to explore the Gum Nebula - a region of space still unexplored by the Federation. As they arrive to begin their mission they discover the star jellies under attack by the Pa'haquel. Titan decides to intercede to resolve the issue but soon realises the issue is far more complex than they could ever imagine. 

The character work in this novel is excellent. Riker and Troi's relationship is moved on well here with first officer Christine Vale still struggling with having Riker's wife on the command crew. We even get excellent characterisation for some secondary characters such as Tuvok's wife T'Pel who fits seamlessly into the story. Tuvok also comes across as a much more interesting character than he did for most of Voyager. The only one I feel that suffers is Riker as outside of his relationship with Deanna he seems very like a "generic Starfleet captain". 

In short Orion's Hounds is a well written story and while not the best one in this continuity it is the best Titan book by far. 

Google Image of USS Titan from Tobias Richer's Lightworks.

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

100 - Our Top Ten Regular Issues and Looking Ahead

With the Eaglemoss Starships Collection hitting its 100th regular issue we decided it was time to club together and come up with our definitive top ten starships from the ton of models to date. 

Be ready for a few curve balls as we pick out the ones that made us smile and a few that didn't...! Welcome back to Tiff, Chris and Rob to help pick out our selection.

Enterprise NX 01

Everything that came after issue 4 was rated against the quality of the NX-01. The Aztec panelling, the lines, the clean finish and the beauty of the thing all worked harmoniously together to create Eaglemoss' most near perfect model. Whacking a Terran Empire sticker on her was just a blatant excuse to get it again. 

Armoured Voyager

"A daring and radical choice for Eaglemoss." says Chris. Too right because it was the first time the collection had effectively duplicated a ship (issue six being the original Voyager). This one came from the end of the show's finale, Endgame with the starship covered in ablative armour to shield it from the Borg. A beautiful if simple finish and a good tester for future modded issues such as the Rhode Island also from Endgame!
Another Enterprise winner which benefits from gorgeous finishing detail on such a small and thin frame. An utter surprise at how great this was on arrival have etched it firmly into our top ten ships from the collection. 

The Runabout

"Bit clunky but spot on." says Rob while Chris comments; "Great size, solid as hell and they really nailed the detail. It also had the torpedo rollbar which was effing cool."
Very cool indeed and the size of the model really played to the collection offering the chance to get a fantastic replica. 

A real stunner that benefited from being a regular issue rather than being crammed into an alien shuttle set of four. Popular from the moment it made its one and only appearance during In the Pale Moonlight, Eaglemoss crafted a replica that had to be bought. Well made, well finished and a classic stand out issue.

Romulan Drone

I'd say this is the most intricate model the regular editions have produced with antennae sticking out all over the place and a body that is split into multiple armoured sections and then covered with various holographic projection points. While it's not one of my favourite ships, the model here was spell-binding and a real work of art. She displayed well and was intriguing from every angle. A true collection masterpiece if not one for everybody.

USS Centaur

Explains Rob; "The greatest kitbash! Right down to the spindly nacelles and the tiny greebles!" 
Yep, a very popular ship from the latter 50 to date and one that opened up a whole new range of possibilities for Eaglemoss and hope for collectors that a lot of ships would get variants. Step forward Saratoga et al...

USS Appalachia

Steamrunner Class

One that Chris and I agree on is this classic from First Contact. "...unlike the Akira Class it has epic tattoo effect aztecing despite the rubbish deflector. It's a tough ship and looked badass."
Yep, I'd still have to class this among the best of the collection not just because I love the class but because it's a well-crafted tank of a starship. Gorgeous to the tip of its nacelles.

Jem'Hadar Fighter

Another early issue but a good one nonetheless. A simple two-tone silver and purple paint scheme highlights an incredible level of hull detail from bow to stern. The "bug" aesthetic really shone through on the model for the Dominion starship and made it an essential for all collectors. 

USS Horizon

Rob is all over the 100th issue, adding it straight into the top ten; "It's a model I never thought I would get to own. It has origins right back to the creation of Star Trek and is a fantastically simple design that Eaglemoss has managed to improve with the addition of sensor palettes, hatches, weapon points and the deflector. It fits right in!"

And the Worst...

Malon Freighter

Hilariously referred to in certain circles as the "poop ship", the Malon Freighter is just, well, brown and dull. Modelling-wise it has some fine detail in there but it's a brown slab from front to back that packs all the excitement of an empty chocolate wrapper. Uninspiring but necessary.

USS Enterprise 

NCC-1701 Refit

Or "How to Disappoint Your Collectors in One Move", the second issue of the collection was a bit of a disaster. The NCC-1701-D was gorgeous and a treat for starters but this was awful. Bad joins, wonky engines, a terrible paint job with no aztec scheme and a badly stuck on deflector dish. Not up to scratch in any way and the "A" variant 70 issues later only corrected a few of the blips.

Federation Holoship

If the Malon Export Vessel was the "Poop Ship" then this is the TV Remote. No offence to the John Eaves design but this is essentially two pieces of plastic stuck together. Best they could have done? Quite possibly but it's a real oddment from the series that sets course for Boredom.


Now onto the next few issues and our usual glance to the future of the collection - what are we looking forward to...?

Klingon D5

One for the Enterprise fan among us but no question this will be a high detail extravaganza as any of the prequel models are. Always good to see the Klingons but not one that many will really remember even though it is a lovely design.
Anticipation Level: 2/5

Vidiian Starship

Looks weird, flies weird, it's pink. The Vidiian starship is a big chunk of kit and we are promised that the Voyager baddies' ship will carry a subtle aztec paint scheme. Personal opinion this one should have been done a lot earlier. Now, which way round is it....
Anticipation Level 3.5/5

USS Jenolan 

One more for the kitbashers with the ship from the brilliant Relics. Formerly an executive shuttlecraft in The Undiscovered Country it got flipped and nacelled up to become the Sydney Class NCC-2010. Very much wanted and very much looking forward to this one. Model looks good from the preview pic.
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

Smugglers' Ship

Previewed recently in its full model mockup, the ship from Unification makes a wanted appearance and ahead of any news on the much-used craft from The Next Generation's Gambit. One of those briefly seen ships, this craft has been on a few must have lists I've seen dotted around. Early shots look good.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Kazon Warship

Another one as with the Vidiian starship that should have appeared some time ago BUT saying that it would mean that we were just getting oddballs every issue. A very distinctive shape, the Kazon vessel will keep a lot of Voyager fans happy but seeing as this and all the other versions are virtually identical except for size I doubt we will see any others.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Klingon Bird-of-Prey 

(attack formation)

Waaaaaaaaaaay back in issue three the Klingon's most distinctive starship appeared in its cruise configuration with wings up and open. Now we have one of the rare variants within the series following on from the likes of the Reliant/Saratoga and the standard and armoured versions of Voyager.  One I have seen requested but I don't think we will get a 'landed' option anytime soon. Should be well detailed and will be interesting to see if the modelling has moved on much since those early days.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Cheyenne Class

The second of the infamous Wolf 359 collection kicked off with the New Orleans Class USS Kyushu in issue 95. More compact, this kitbash is sure to be a huge success when released because we all love a good Federation starship especially one that doesn't get much press. Love the styling with the quad-engines here and those pencil warp nacelles.
Anticipation Level: 4/5 

Borg Queen's Diamond

Wow. The preview pic on this looks absolutely gorgeous. Without even a blink of an eye this has to be the best Borg ship to date and is based on the design used in Voyager. Fingers crossed that the preview is the finished item with this one!
Anticipation Level: 5/5

Springfield Class

Straight from Ben Robinson on his birthday came this new shot of the USS Chekov; a curvy screen-filler that is the third of the Wolf 359 quartet. Nothing seen of this one except those lovely original model pics but promises to be a stunner from all angles. There's clear echoes of the Nebula and Galaxy Classes here but I'm most intrigued about those back end lines - one of the more bizarre Federation starship designs if ever there was. Glad I held off posting this up until this shot appeared!
Anticipation Level: 4/5

Captain Proton's Rocket Ship

Another one we've had a shot of recently in all its monochromatic glory. Have to admit this wasn't one I was expecting at any point in the series namely because, technically, it doesn't actually exist being only a recreation on the Voyager holodeck. If nothing else that fact alone makes it unique. The Rocket Ship will most certainly stand out from the other ships because of its distinctive '50's paint-job and styling. Really excited for this one just because it's different!
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

USS Phoenix

These issues after 100 are sure supplying a lot of variants with this being one more on the pile. The big difference between this and the USS Bonchune Nebula Class from issue 23 will be the AWACS style read pod that adorned this, the first of the Nebula Class ships to appear in The Next Generation. I'm not gagging for the arrival of the Phoenix but the collection would feel incomplete without it. Just need a USS Bozeman now and everyone's happy.
Anticipation Level: 2.5/5

Lokirrim Fighter

A modified Akritirian warship, the fighter and the warship versions of the craft were not dissimilar in the Voyager episode Body and Soul. One of the more random alien craft from the show it makes me wonder when things like the Vaardwar fighters might make an appearance. Am I bothered about this one? Only to complete the set. Possibly my most unanticipated ship of the series which means it'll be an absolute blinder.
Anticipation Level: 1/5

Challenger Class

Just when you think they're all done along comes the fourth and final ship from the Wolf 359 fleet. This one has some weird lines - just look at the nacelle angles on this Rick Sternbach kitbash photo. Admittedly it was a quick fix for the graveyard scene in The Best of Both Worlds, Part II and whether Eaglemoss make adjustments will be interesting...
Anticipation Level: 3.5/5

Tellarite Starship

The Lokirrim fighter is one thing but this is another entirely. While they are an oft mentioned race it is again one of those that won't be on many - if any - must have lists. A reuse of a season two Enterprise guest craft (Arkonian Destroyer) it would see action again as the Xindi-Arboreal ship. Bit meh in my opinion and again an issue filler. Best pic I could find is this rendering from Reddit
Anticipation Level: 1.5/5

Shuttles Pack Three

We already know that pack three will contain the Observation Pod from the classic movies, the Work Bee alongside the Type-11 shuttle from Insurrection and finally the Argo from Nemesis. The first two have already been teased and look stunning so I can only believe that the latter pairing from The Next Generation movies will be just as damn gorgeous. While the pod will have a blanked out windscreen, the Work Bee WILL have clear plastic to show off the interior. Definite plus points and a first for the collection.
Anticipation Level: 5/5

USS Aventine

One from the ever-continuing novel series and under the command of Ezri Dax, the Vesta Class starship's arrival is the result of The Trek Collective's online petition to have her and the USS Titan included. The recent preview pic has given us all hope that this will be an awesome model and one that will be quickly snapped up by collectors. I'm impressed!
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

USS Titan

Riker's command after the end of Nemesis is a big fan favourite from the novel series and the Tobias Richter designed Luna Class is another ship destined to be in the online shop soon. The preview pic here to the left looks a lot lighter than the model we saw on Ben Robinson's desk a few weeks earlier so I'm anticipating that this has been photo-shopped down a couple of shades as it looked better in the darker grey. 
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

And that's your lot! A good range of ships to come and now that we can say these are the ones due out between issues 102 to 115 plus the two "novel" starships I'm happy to preview with some certainty! What are you excited about?

USS Horizon image courtesy of Rob Gibson

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