Thursday, 21 March 2019

Relic of the Past: The Official Starships Collection Issues 142 and 143

Delayed due to a dispatching error, I was virtually chewing the door off to get hold of issues 142, and 143 of The Official Starships Collection.

This may well be one of the most anticipated double acts in the collection for a damn long while and I can hand on heart say that it actually delivers.

Issue 142 is a little gem of a ship in the form of the Promellian Battlecruiser from The Next Generation's third season episode Booby Trap. An episode so ingrained into my memory because I'd done something wrong and wasn't allowed the TV on that night. 

But hey, less of the anecdotal passings and let's talk about the ship.

In the episode the dimensions of the Battlecruiser aren't that apparent thanks to the way in which the camera tends to swoop around from the front to the back or that a lot of the perspective shots are taken from the rear including that final torpedo spread impact. Unusually, as the magazine explains, the ship is a reuse of a craft built for another film that one of The Next Generation's backstage crew had to hand when they needed a ship. Flipping it over it suddenly becomes something completely different and hey presto the Promellian Battlecruiser is born.

Stretching out above the oval stand, the Battlecruiser is an imposing model with a phenomenal level of detailing from bow to stern. The hull itself is two very light shades of blue/grey with every millimeter packed with greebles and panelling. The sloping sides of the hull lead down to a recessed edge which again has more of the raised surface detail although this is hidden in slight shadow by the overhanging upper panels. That slender neck leads back to a pair of wing-like structures which, as with the forward hull, slope out from the centre line and are overloaded with grilles, machine parts  and even some slightly recessed elements that add a lot of style to the look of the battlecruiser. 

Interestingly the Promellian ship is one of those rare occasions where Eaglemoss have managed to add a hint of weathering/aging to the craft. There's a dirt wash which clings to some of the elements that cover the hull most evidently towards the back end of the model. At the front there is evidence of that wash although it does seem heavier with there being less parts for it to seep around.

Annoyingly with all this brilliance and clever surface detailing on the top of the ship neither the sensor dome nor the bridge module on mine are straight. One kinks to the left and the other to the right although both retain that magnificent level of detail moreso on the sensor dome than the slimline bridge. 

On the underside of the Promellian Battlecruiser the visual overload of greebles, piping and grilles continues but on a higher level. The dirt wash as well is noticably heavier with one side seeming to be a little grittier than the other. The wash on top and bottom emphasises the brilliance of the hull detailing with it standing out strongly against the hull. All the raised and recessed elements are slightly different in colour to the base coat however the contrast of the aging is what makes this much more successful.

Cleverly the only parts in plastic are the two topside appendages plus the wingtip units and the insert to the underside which stretches from bow to stern. This piece is incredibly camouflaged into the hull due to the aging effect although again the wash seems to highlight raised sections much more strongly and clump at points when compared to how it lies on the metallic hull sections.

The stand glides nicely over the rear of the Battlecruiser between the plastic wingtips and the rearward facing ‘flicks’ just behind the bulbous sensor dome, leaving the ship to hover gloriously over the black base. Good grip here and she rests back into the plastic forks, avoiding that forward tipping. 

Opening up issue 142 gives us a history lesson of the Promellians and their "ancient" technology totting up 1000 years by the time of The Next Generation. The new CG images are a lot better than the finished model if we're honest since the scale of the Battlecruiser does cram a lot into a small space, most noticable on that long neck section that runs from the bridge backward. The magazine paints this in a lot more detail and from all angles plus covering a lot of the detail, as you would expect, from the episode Booby Trap

Building the Promellian Battlecruiser only gets two pages because, well, they didn't really build it. Filmed for Night of the Creeps, David Stipes dug up an old model when one was needed for the series, turned it over and the rest is history. The magazine shows a lot more surface detail especially to the rear that the model can't carry due to size and most likely manufacturing cost but it's a rare story where something outside of the franchise has come to the rescue.

Third in this issue we have Production Design for season three of The Next Generation covering a range of filming locations and sets that were constructed for episodes such as Booby Trap plus The Ensigns of Command, Who Watches the Watchers?, Sins of the Father and the Borg cliffhanger finale The Best of Both Worlds. It does divert into some of the concepts for a couple of the props but on the whole sticks to discussing the overall "big picture" look for the landmark third year of the series.

The Merchantman is one of those ships that shouldn't have made an impression and was designed to be almost instantly forgotten however 35 years after The Search for Spock fans had this on their list of ships that Eaglemoss needed to do. Luckily they did and even more fortunately it's one of the best replicas in terms of build quality and finish from 143 issues of the collection.

The most striking feature of the Merchantman is its metallic paint finish with the hull glistening with different colour shades from panel to panel and then again appearing different dependant on what light you are viewing the model in. 

Aside from the incredible panel shading, the Merchantman also has a mottled effect running beneath the top coat which adds an element of aging to the transport. The panel detail on the forward section really is mind-blowing and very precise with the two parallel grilled sections a striking addition with the edges of each piece distinct and abrupt. The accuracy in the look here is one of the best, more impressive given the craft’s brief onscreen lifespan even counting its subsequent TV series appearances.

The forward-sitting bridge module is coated in the mottled metallic finish with a lot of surface details molded around the central dome and raised unit. What becomes apparent as well is that the plastic and metal sections here do blur into one because the detail is so fluid over every surface. On first impression I would be hard pressed just from the look to be able to see which pieces are made from what.

The Merchantman is, you'll come to spot, non-symmetrical aside from its general shape. Panels differ left to right, even the wingtip aerial extensions don’t mirror and this all gels together to give an incredible overall effect just as that paint finish can make you think that plastic is metal. One for observation - the wingtip extensions are very flexible so just be careful when handling. 

Travelling to the centre of the Merchantman we have a much more industrial feel to the starship. The metallic grey engine section is aged with a blotched paint finish and contains a lot of raised mechanical pieces giving a more rugged and patchwork effect. Running from the midpoint of the ship out to the rear, the engine "block" contains most of the weight of the freighter and Eaglemoss have excelled at giving it a dirty, used look which suits the craft perfectly. There is another piece of the bronzed hull plating to the back which carries on the paint effect from the main hull before terminating in a five exhaust port cluster which is probably the cleanest part of the ship; ironic. 

The detail and piping that is laid out across the whole of this working section of the ship is brilliant. Because it's non-symmetrical it feels more realistic and man-made. There's even a piece of piping that extends from the bronzed cowl back which is independent of the five  exhausts and is a little touch that demonstrates the effort that has gone into completing the Merchantman for this collection. 

Flipping the ship over we have the insert to the main hull as well as everything stretching to the bronze cowling being metal. The joining of the sections on the Merchantman is just as good as the paintwork with the lines pretty much invisible. That "stingray"-style head piece is littered with tubing and greebles as well as a very impressive tarnished finish which has the "real" colour of the ship peeking out from under a substantial layer of dirt. Take some time to soak up the different levels of the hull here and how much information is packed into the underneath of the ship which you would think would be much less signficant.

The middle hull piece is fully bronzed up with hints of dirt and grime brushed over the paint before leading into the worn gunmetal of the bulbous engine. Here once again there's been an effort to buff the paintwork to emphasise the age and wear that the Merchantman has suffered over time that makes this a complete model experience rather than just another block of moulded plastic and metal.

I'd forgotten there was a whomping great fin on the bottom too and this is a plastic add-on slotted onto the main metal body as a single unit with the fifth, smaller exhaust port. It's sturdy and of a decent width which means this won't break off in a breeze. 

The Merchantman is a total work of Eaglemoss art in every way; well constructed, and beautifully realised with the cover price a bargain for something of this quality. I'm glad it wasn't rushed earlier in the series if it's taken this long to get it right because it does look fantastic and will easily sit in the top echelons of the series' releases. It looks solid, feels durable and offers up a very full experience of the onscreen item because of the unrelenting surface detail. Every look at it reveals something new or a different perspective. Eaglemoss should be very proud of this one.

I actually think the CG for the magazine here doesn't do the model any justice. The cover for one makes the Merchantman look flat and bizarrely a lot cleaner than the model in a rare it's-better-than-the-pictures moment. Flicking through this isn't a one off with the images created for this edition actually not giving an accurate feel to the ship. Very surprising as in some ways they make it look like the aging ship is straight off the production line. This even goes for the large plan views slapped in the middle of the publication.

Details on the freighter are skant given that it was intended to be forgettable with Eaglemoss having to refer to the number of crew and the fact it looked a bit cramped in the one shot we saw a fraction of the interior of the bridge.  Much more is made of its swift destruction at the hands of Kruge's Bird of Prey before turning attention to how Nils Rodis developed the "forgettable" design that wasn't.

Indeed it was kitbashed, it was a quick build because it was destroyed but yet it has endeared for over 30 years and made a couple of appearances as other craft in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine before being sold at auction in 2006. While there's no clear picture of the original, we are treated to concept sketches which show the original plan for the Merchantman.

Behind the scenes this time takes us into the Visual Effects of Star Trek III linking nicely into the recent Starbase special issue including design pics of the docking facility and the challenge that the movie created with several new ships required - Excelsior, Grissom, Merchantman and Kruge's iconic Klingon Bird of Prey.  This is a fascinating look a how the look of the film came together not just in relation to ships but even those microbes on the Genesis planet, how Kruge's pet dog was brought to life and the eye-opening explanation of how they made the Enterprise's final moments look so impressive on screen. 

Given that the writers must be struggling to find content each issue, this is a great read with some rare behind the scenes snaps that tell you a lot about how The Search for Spock achieved its look.

What a month huh? Two brilliant ships that have been long-awaited finally turn up and don't disappoint. These are a duo that Eaglemoss have pulled out all the stops for and have succeeded in creating two very memorable issues that will get all fans excited. I would recommend getting your hands on either - or both - of these editions because they represent all that is good about the collection in both the model and in the written word that accompanies them. Superb in many ways and a reminder that this series, no matter how long it's been running, can deliver on quality at a reasonable price.

Merchantman or Promellian Battlecruiser? Which was your winner? 

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Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Close to the Edge: Project Daedalus S02 E09


Spock's all fixed up however the attention this week turns from him - placing him almost into a B story with the main line being taken up by the little-addressed Lieutenant Commander Airiam.

Enigmatic doesn't come close since we've learnt absolutely nothing about this visually striking member of the Discovery crew since her appearance in the third episode of season one. Now in Project Daedalus we finally get some answers - she is an augmented human - plus we are hinted at just what has led to her current appearance.

Hannah Cheesman gets to play Airiam in and out of makeup this week as we explore a little of what it's like to be augmented but there's something lurking in the background waiting to awaken. When the Discovery heads to complete its rogue mission things begin to heat up.

Also returning this week is Jane Brook as Admiral Cornwell whose allegiance remains with Starfleet and not, as we might have suspected from an earlier encounter, with the dark Section 31. Looks like Starfleet itself is having issues with Control; the Section 31 computer system that has stopped relaying data from the organisation's headquarters located at a former penal colony...located in the middle of the universe's most intuitive minefield. Get in, solve the problem and speak to the admiral aboard; no problem.  

Additional bonus points for this week as Lieutenant Nhan (Rachel Ancheril) from the Enterprise returns to assist Burnham and Airiam on their away mission to the inhospitable Section 31 headquarters. Now Discovery's chief of security the Barzan gets a bit of a rough deal but manages to survive longer than her predecessor in season one...

But of course there is because the mines are being controlled and are anticipating the moves of the Crossfield Class starship. Blade mines cut the hull, blackout mines fool sensors and there are even ones attracted to shields meaning Discovery has to go in with its pants down and Detmer steering very, very carefully.

In parallel to this we have Burnham and Spock sparring as they attempt to crack the mystery of the Red Angel and why it contacted the Enterprise science officer in the first place. It leads to some incredibly charged moments between the estranged brother and sister over a hard fought - or maybe hard lost - game of three-dimensional chess. That repeated reminder that this isn't the Spock we know and love rears its head prominently here and Ethan Peck gets a lot of meat to dig into, unhindered by Spock's usually logical and stoic personality. He gets angry, riled, on the offensive almost bordering on emotional as Burnham starts to push his buttons in relation to the game and family matters.

Peck is great in the role. He really has taken it to be his own and make this iteration of the character different from the previous incumbents. He has the benefit of a more open canvas thanks to the nature of this season's story plus he is playing Spock at a time in his career that we have only seen in one episode many moons ago. This is unknown territory that he can build for the character and in an unusual move, expose his human side to the Star Trek audience. But he really does step aside from the limelight this week in favour of that other character; one that we knew would become more significant after a certain moment from a previous moment.

With Airiam you don't actually realise how much you've become attached and used to this character being around in the series. We do get to see more of what she's actually doing but this all ties in with the trip to the Section 31 HQ and also back to the lifeform we encountered earlier in the season that downloaded its lifetime of knowledge into Discovery's memory banks. Hannah Cheesman's portrayal has been incredibly minimal throughout season two since taking over the role from Sarah Mitich and while the bridge crew have been receiving a lot more screentime it's amazing to see a character plucked out and used in such a huge game changing way for the series. 

The visuals for the station as well as Discovery's journey through the minefield are spectacular but I was actually more struck with the arrival of Cornwell's shuttle at the very beginning as well as the starship gearing up for and jumping to warp speed. The upgrades to the Discovery CG model are amazing with such strong definition to the panelling and lighting that you can almost reach out and touch it on the TV. 

Project Daedalus, the namesake of the episode is itself still a secret even when we do reach the Section 31 headquarters. This looks like another thread in the Red Angel story but where does it all link in and how does Control fit with the overall arc for the season? This is a piece only recently introduced but I can't believe it's not there for a reason. In the same way it does mean I'm considering at least Calypso as a more significant segment of the Discovery story since it deals with the (far) future and time travel is without question a part of the tale and revelations yet to come from the series.

Another great episode here with one of Discovery's most shocking scenes to date. I didn't believe that it could happen but that may have been since we were lured into a similar eventuality with the Saru homeworld visit in The Sound of Thunder.  New Star Trek is taking risks and is grasping at the new form of televised storytelling; nothing is safe or sacred and Discovery is all the better for it.

Is Project Daedalus one of Discovery's most unexpected milestones?

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Monday, 18 March 2019

Rounding Up: The Graphic Novel Collection Issues 44 - 47

Once more diving into the Eaglemoss Graphic Novel Collection, Ian Kimmins opens the pages of another four issues...

Volume 44 Burden of Knowledge is written by well known Trek comic book writers Scott & David Tipton. The brothers are well known in the Star Trek universe for such classics as The City on the Edge of Forever, TNG/Dr Who crossover and the recent Mirror Broken among others, so you know you are going to get a well written tale.

In this volume we actually get four stories that all take place within the initial five year mission. Up first is Uncertain Prescriptions in which the  is heading to Mygadlus 3 for a routine mission(is there such a thing in Star Trek?). A new world wishes to join the United Federation of Planets however it doesn’t turn out to be all that it seem!

Up next is A Failure to Communicate and it’s another planet in the middle of a rebellion story albeit one with a difference-all the citizens are joined together by a thought network. As things escalate it’s up to Kirk to decide if he can interfere as they discover an underground group who have opted out of the shared mind.They resolve the issue in a typical Star Trek way and the planet realizes they are not ready to join the Federation just yet.

The third story is A Matter of Perspective which starts off with an Andorian engineering team coming aboard the Enterprise to perform some maintenance and display some un- Federation-like qualities. Once completed the Enterprise is sent to find the Lavota wind which they find destroyed and seemingly the Tellerites are at fault. As they sail into what looks like another interstellar incident the crew realise the Enterprise computer is giving them an Andorian point of view. As Kirk uses his charm to get them out of their latest predicament they receive a distress call from Lt Thompson who is looking for them to rescue him except Thompson is currently sitting at the Conn!!

The final story Burden of Knowledge continues the story of Thompson. Naturally the Thompson they rescue has short term memory loss. As the crew head back to Mygdalus 3(from the first tale) to investigate they discover a lot of Klingons & Gorn & even more Thompson’s! They are transporter replicants and
and how the Mygdalians were able to attract the interest of the Federation in the first place. The story does end a bit abruptly without any great resolution. Kirk just takes all the Thompson’s and leaves!!

We have our usual Gold Key Issue as-well The Evictors/The War that Captain Kirk Made. Overall this volume is another winner for DW/Eaglemoss although the ending of the main story is a little jarring.

Issue 45 covers Manifest Destiny which we have previously reviewed and has myself and Clive split on whether it's a good story or not. We'll let you refresh yourselves on our review before you make a call!

Issue 46 takes us into Year Four of The Original Series spinning right out of the closing moments of Turnabout Intruder. Continuing the epic adventures of the Starship Enterprise we have a very varied chain of events through this volume.  Drawing together a couple of visual styles across six issues, the narrative from David Tischman remains firm to the visions of Gene Roddenberry with the crew encountering new and exotic races (perhaps more exotic than the TV budget of 1966 might have allowed for) and even pushes the boundaries further than you might anticipate with the rather weird and wonderful trip to Phi-11 and it's TV-centric populace.

Each of the stories neatly dovetails into the next with one adventure leading to an encounter on the way to a second, a diversion on the way to a third world which ends up with the good captain tackling a robot nanny. Yes, a robot nanny.

Year Four certainly carries on some of the more outlandish moments of the third season of the show, adding in some wry humour from Tischman and a wonderful pallette if colours and pencils that brings the stories to life. It's not the most memorable of mini-series and I had to flick back to remind myself of the content of this issue but on reflection it looks great and reads OK.

At the back we have the ever-entertaining Gold Key with The World Beneath the Waves. Now, oddly, this isn't one of the weirdest adventures to have been packed into a volume however given the nature of some of the stories in the preceding pages of Issue 46 you might be forgiven for thinking that Kirk and Spock fighting sub-aquatic mutants is a bit tame...

Issue 47 Deep Space Nine: Requiem offers up a more gritty style from the halls of Malibu Comics. Seven stories beam in to the pages here returning us to the earlier and less Dominion heavy years of the station. Entering the fray through a story led by Jake and Nog, these are fast moving tales from writers including Trek novelist John Vornholt and franchise historian Mark A Altman.

This set touches on the events of Wolf 359 allowing fans to "see" the battle like never before since the page provides less restriction graphically. It opens up a chink in the armour of Sisko which was rarely approached the more that the Dominion took hold of the Alpha Quadrant.

Kira gets to go on vacation and gets involved with something not too unlike mini-Pacific Rim robot wars before - and not without want - the Cardassians turn up to add more dirt to the already raw comic strip.

Malibu's issues were much more grainy and "real" perhaps than the clean and crisp lines of, say, the Kelvin timeline but there's a more personal feel to the writing and a closer understanding of the nuances of the characters with Sisko for one being treated a lot better than he was on the screen at the time with some fairly decent material. Kira is almost spot on in her disdain for taking time off which would actually come up again in Defiant before having something of a change of heart towards the end of the story.

I would have liked to see a Deep Space Nine tale in the style of those Kelvin Timeline volumes from the later IDW years but this is a real sign of the times and telling of the era in which they were written. The short, fast-paced and rough edges here make the issue memorable and distinctive with only the Voyager stories - which would have been around the same time - showing any similarities in visual styling. As for the tales, they are very much defined by the more standalone nature of the first couple of years of the spin-off show and that's laid out in the way that each is unrelated to the next or previous. Worth a look and a read but potentially only accessible to more hardened Niners.

Gold Key's Prince Traitor reads like a 1930's epic swordfighting movie but once more a potential straight line of a story is expanded into the most campy of sci-fi concepts with senior staff riding ostriches and a reveal that wouldn't have been out of place in Errol Flynn's Robin Hood with only a few "forsooth's" missing just to get a full house. There;s lots of cheesy hokum to get your teeth into but I tend to find it's best in small bites to avoid sickness...

Issue 48 returns us to the Kelvin Timeline and we get the origin story of popular crewman 0718 and also to visit a newly discovered planet. It covers issues 31-34 of IDWs ongoing series. The first tale kicks off with a flashback and we get the story behind crewman 0718 who appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness.There are some story parallels that run similar to the motion picture This story highlights what the comics and Mike Johnson have done well and that’s give a bit more life and meaning to the Kelvin universe. The next tale finds the Enterprise on an undiscovered planet Naturally they discover some human DNA and a child’s NASA drawing. This is a good Trek tale that interweaves a few different Trek stories to produce another great read from IDW.

The less said about the Gold Key Issue The Oracle the better! It reads like Spock’s Brain crossed with a Spock bobblehead and gets even crazier than that!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

They Went There: If Memory Serves S02 E08

If you've only just managed to clean yourself up after last week's pant-wettingly incredible twist ending then you'd better keep a towel handy.

Continuing their escape from Section 31, Burnham and Spock arrive at the prohibited world of Talos IV after one of the most imaginatively clipped together "Previously On's" ever. For those doubting that Discovery exists in the same universe as The Original Series et al then this will really widdle all over your chips in 30 seconds. 

Hoping to cure Spock of his mental frailty, Michael meets a familiar face to Star Trek audiences in the form of Vina (Melissa George) who wears seriously inappropriate footwear but puts her and the ailing Vulcan in contact with the Talosians. Burnham is desperate to get the heart of the issue and has the native people assist in cracking the problem in return for her allowing them access to view the flashpoint that led to her and Spock falling out.

The journey into Spock's mind throws out the fact that he is not a murderer and means that Burnham and her brother have to relive one of, if not the, most paintful moment of her life.

On Discovery Pike is having to handle the circling Section 31 ship as well as their observer Tyler while trying to assist the fleeing shuttle containing Burnham and Spock. This and the A plot are interwoven tightly with Vina even appearing to Pike to offer guidance and you can sense the loss that both of them is experiencing. The emotions are quite raw and it's an almost glum precursor to their reunion in The Menagerie which chronologically takes place after this episode.

Also on Discovery, Tyler and Culber meet up for the first time since the part-Klingon killed the doctor. Their confrontation is highly charged with a raging fist fight taking place through the mess hall but leaving neither with any form of victory since both are men who do not understand who they have become. Is it right for Ash to be tried for murder? Does he deserve the vitriol Culber gives him? Potentially not since it wasn't Tyler that did the deed mentally.

If Memory Serves... oh man, what an episode and another one where the bar has just been raised that little bit higher. Season two continues to amaze and inspire at each turn with Dan Dworkin and James Beattie's script packing just about everything you could ever wish from a Star Trek episode. 

As mentioned, there's strong emotion sparking on the screen in the two fleeting opportunities that Pike gets to speak to Vina and the Mount/George pairing seems to be very effective with the Vina actress actually holding her own really well in a role that is intrinsically linked to the very origin point of the franchise. Her attire is very close to her clothing in The Cage and they even took the risk of showing the extent of showing her injuries and indicating that life since Pike left Talos IV has not been a bed of roses. George suits the part really well, being both a guide and a victim concurrently.

Pike does play a key part here while still on the Discovery and Anson Mount shows an unusual amount of weakness here clearly led by the emotion of returning to Talos IV and the woman whom he has fallen for. Such is his feeling for her that it affects his decisions for better or worse during If Memory Serves... and leaves the viewer wondering just how fragile he might be.

The re-imagining of the Talosians is extremely well handled with CG effects showing their brain activity now rather than air bladders being handled offscreen to show the cerebral work. Their appearance is perhaps minor in the big scheme of the episode but to bring back such a iconic set of aliens over 50 years since they were last seen and at such a prominent point in franchise history was a brilliant, bold and some might say risky mood. On the plus side they manage it perfectly even recreating the essence of the planet, the sounds and those strange blue vibrating plants.

Trying something like this so long after the original and after such a monumental piece of Star Trek history is a big line in the sand for Discovery but they handle it with respect and honour rather than turning it into something akin to the 30th anniversary stories from Deep Space Nine or Voyager.

Then there's Spock. So now it appears he's all fixed and we even get to see what exactly happened to lead Starfleet to hunt him down on charges of murder. Back aboard the Discovery after some nifty Talosian dealings we finally get to see the real, cooler, more logical Spock rather than the one seemingly ranting incoherently. There's still a Spock we've not met in here. A younger and slightly more emotional Vulcan who for the time being is getting along with his sister although retrofitting the story into canon would suggest that this won't be the case for long.

Discovery firmly plants its flag in the Prime Universe and within that states that it fits with The Original Series and all that came after (except JJ's trilogy of movies). The past is acknowledged, reconciled and utilised wonderfully to not only fill a little bit of nostalgia but also to further this ever advancing Red Angel story...

Is this the best episode of Discovery ever as many have suggested? I'd put it top three of which all three would be coming from the eight stories we've had released to date from the second season. Another ground-breaking hour of Star Trek that leaves you wanting more from the show. Can it deliver again next week?

What are your feelings on If Memory Serves...? Comment below!

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Saturday, 9 March 2019

Organically Speaking: The Official Starships Collection Issues 144 and 145

So the collection charges onwards and this month we're stepping into the realms of The Next Generation and Voyager...

Up first is an instantly recognisable craft from the third year of the Enterprise-D's adventures in the form of Tin Man or more accurately, Gomtuu.

To date the only organically formed ships have been those from Species 8472 and here is Eaglemoss' second attempt to create something very naturally created through plastic. It is a mixed success which overall is better than the result we had with the Bioship but still loses something in the translation from screen to physical hold-in-your-hands model.

In a few brutal words, this is one of the easiest models to build from the whole collection. It's two halves snapped together horizontally. There are no call outs, no aerials or protruding engines; not a one. It's very light as well given the minimal materials used in its construction but you can't just poo-poo it for these reasons.

The finish to Gomtuu is very good with the skin of the ship/creature seemingly layered all the way from front to back just as, is quoted, a pinecone in effect. What does get lost is the glowing, living effect that emanates from between each of the folds and brings Gomtuu to life in the episode. On a model the pulsating yellow just can't happen and however much it can be flowered up it still remains flat on the plastic hull. There's nothing that can be done in this respect as the build material is harshly unforgiving when it comes to creating a natural finish.

Cleverly Eaglemoss have managed to texture the skin/hull of Gomtuu so that it does retain the grainy finish that we see in Tin Man and it helps to take it away from just being two pieces of clipped together plastic. On this point it is worth stating that the two halves are distinctly different in their pattern and can only fit together in one way due to the non-symmetrical join line that runs around the equator of the ship.

At the front there's a hedgehog-head section which acts as the humanoid crew space. There's no distinction anywhere to whether this was added after creation or grew as part of the ship although there is a noticeable difference in texture finish between this nose piece and the larger rear area.

It's a decent enough recreation of the living ship but this is one area that Eaglemoss doesn't excel at and it does stand out against the other "production line" starships. Good effort though and a real chance taken.

In the issue 144 magazine the CG renderings really do breathe amazing life into the craft and comparing the ship to the pics and the shots from the series you can see how precisely Eaglemoss have aligned the segmented hull - it's screen replica perfect.

The initial profile section recounts the little information we know about Gomtuu's past plus the ever-so-standard episode synopsis. The magazine also covers in some detail the offensive and defensive capabilites of the living ship which were displayed in the show.

The double page designing section comprises mainly of Rick Sternbach's magnificent design sketches that cover the evolution of the ship and inspiration from the natural world. Finally the back six pages cover off Costume Design for the groundbreaking third season of The Next Generation touching on all points from the reimagined Starfleet uniforms to the wardrobe for Captain's Holiday through to the Klingon focused Sins of the Father and finally The Best of Both Worlds and how Locutus' look came about.

Great final section here that answers a lot of questions about the look of the show in the year that really made The Next Generation.

To issue 145 and one of those ships that, well, could have waited.

The Nightingale featured in Voyager's final season as Ensign Kim's first ever command. So what's my beef with this one? Simple - it's a barely disguised reworking of the Federation Attack Fighter/Maquis Fighter.

I absolutely preferred the Fighter to this but it's unfair to nail it because of it being a kitbash and focus on the transfer from screen to replica.

The whole top section is a single piece of metal augmented to the rear with plastic impulse engines. The shape of the Nightingale is, of course screen accurate with the hull rammed full of detail whether it's panelling, windows or engine parts. The paint finish across the hull gives an incredibly worn - and ship accurate - finish making this look like it's been in service for a fair few years.  

The challenge is that through this weather-worn look it all becomes a bit jumbled. There's the light grey undercoat from the Federation Fighter overlaid with all the additional detail. in two darker shades of grey. Look closely at the paint scheme though and you'll see that the light grey base is actually worn itself with a matt/gloss/aztec effect to add more aging to the craft. Eaglemoss have packed a lot onto the upper surface of the Nightingale however it does seem a bit OTT given the scale and the area available. 

The window detail around the raised bridge unit is incredibly tiny and barely visible as is some of the recessed panelling. You do have to squint a bit to make some of it out.

Along the top of the internally-placed warp engines, the venting detail is highlighted in orange just across the edges with the intakes to the front are inset in orange plastic which brings a bit of life to the cluttered design.

The underside central hull section is the only large piece made from plastic and continues with the weathered aztec effect yet it manages to avoid the over-complicated dorsal patterning and is a lot easier to take in. The underside is a lot more refined - maybe because it's not something seen heavily in the episode but it also doesn't seem to carry such a weathered finish and a stronger panel definition at every point.  Comparing directly against the metal of the wings, Eaglemoss have managed to keep the paintwork uniform and fluid across the two building materials.

The join line between metal and plastic is perhaps most evident around the warp engine collectors to the front and across the back at the point where there should be a shuttlebay but the thickness of the hull negates this potential and it's left totally blank. Just above this space on a rollbar piece across the back of the Nightingale we have two impulse engines in a slightly greener shade arcing to the back. These have a nice bit of slatted detail to the back and are completed neatly with that underlying weathered effect continuing in a different colour.

In terms of display, the stand fits around the rear engine block and give it the "fake flying" pose that works well on those models that can afford to have a back-grip clip. 

In the magazine we run through the story of the Nightingale from being saved by the Delta Flyer and its crew through to the twist at the finale and all points between including the cloaking device. The subsequent section on the magazine covers the design stage which comes off the back of the Maquis Fighter which became the Federation Attack Fighter that made one more appearance as the title ship of a certain Voyager episode. Lots of good pics of the original model here throughout its life on the franchise as well as some level of understanding of how and why the alterations came about.

Finally there's an interview with Starfleet's most neglected ensign in the form of a chat with Garrett Wang and the life and times of Harry Kim. Over the years Wang has commented (including to myself) about how the role affected him especially in the early years when he felt very left out as a character and almost considered leaving. This interview is a lot more positive, looking at the wins Kim experienced particularly during the last three years of the show as well as a "nice" payoff to finally be promoted to captain for Endgame.

The two ships this month are pretty average. There's nothing outstanding here and the changes to the Nightingale versus the Federation Fighter seem negligible to the point where I question if this one really needed to be in the collection at all. Definitely dropping this one into the bottom of the pile on look and necessity. Gomtuu is the better of the two here but that's not an endorsement. It's ok, very well aligned to the screen given the way in which the carapace/hull/shell is broken up and textured. A memorable ship done as much justice as the collection probably can.

Coming up next month - Fesarius - finally - and Baran's Raider from Gambit

Which was the better result this time? Fan of Tin Man or liking another variation on a theme with Nightingale?

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Thursday, 7 March 2019


They're almost ready to Make It So.

This week has seen the news that we have around six weeks to go before the cameras start to roll on the first episode of the as yet untitled (could be Destiny?) Picard series.

A first for the franchise, the opening tale will be directed by Hanelle Culpepper who has already cut her teeth on the franchise with work on Discovery. Jonathan Frakes is also due to direct the new show while also continuing to turn up on the credits for Discovery and also for the pseudo-Star Trek/alternative to Star Trek; The Orville. Something tells me he'll be directing at least one episode of Discovery's now confirmed third season - yep, this show really is failing isn't it...?

With only six weeks to go (allegedly April 15th) it's amazing to think that it's only now that we get the first news on castings with two names entering the Star Trek fold. Santiago Cabrera and Michelle Hurd are the two names joining the returning Patrick Stewart but there's nothing much to go on so far.

While Cabrera's character is undefined, Hurd is said to be playing an ex-con and pilot of Picard's ship. Looks like they're going to be taking the series down a line where the former Enterprise captain has returned to his passion for archaeology as witnessed in The Chase and later Gambit from the latter years of The Next Generation

There have been some supposed leaks regarding an ensemble cast of around five or six for the Picard series but these could well be speculation and until we get solid word from the House of Kurtzman I'm not inclined to blab about them. I would expect there to be at least one new alien race among the cast plus maybe one that we are familiar with and some form of link into Starfleet to keep the tradition alive. Also there's reportedly a teenage Romulan which would tie into the initial speculation that the series will show the effect of Romulus' destruction on the captain.

Over on Discovery, Michelle Paradise has stepped up from a writing position she held from midway through season two to become full showrunner alongside Kurtzman. My suspicion here is that Paradise is being set in place so that the franchise's new overlord can spend more time putting the finishing touches to Picard and give that the focus it needs to be a success now that Discovery has found its feet. This might become more akin to how Michael Piller reported into Rick Berman during the latter's tenure on Star Trek.

So who else would we want to see turn up in the upcoming series? What characters from the franchise should turn up and which should stay away?

The main ones that seem to be getting a lot of column inches are Guinan and Q. In the case of the Ten Forward bartender her relationship traverses centuries and at times acted as a reassuring opinion for the captain. This is more of an occasional guest role in the show than week in, week out much in the same way as having Q appear. That playoff of wills throughout The Next Generation made the Q episodes incredibly watchable and an interplay well worth waiting to see again and again.

I'd offer up Admiral Janeway too as one to add into the show to properly close down what happened to Voyager after it returned to Earth. Not all of the cast from that show need to turn up. Demand might push for a one-off appearance of Seven of Nine after the show has found its feet but let's at least add in a reference to Harry Kim finally getting at least one promotion in the Prime Universe.

That said about Voyager there has been a little rumour that one of the cast could be a hologram which a few outlets jumped on as meaning that the EMH will be back. I'd say that an EMH would make sense on Picard's ship and yes, it could be a retired EMH Mark One if Jean-Luc's craft is something old and worn. More likely it will be an updated model if included. 

Feeling from the cast of The Next Generation was that they didn't want to be involved if it was a lip service cameo (so noted Marina Sirtis at October's Destination Star Trek press conference) yet I would not be shocked if Worf or Riker drop by for a scene or two to assist the good captain on the net step of his career. Might we get to see the Titan or maybe Captain Ezri Dax on the USS Aventine? Will the galaxy be a smaller place thanks to transwarp or will the Federation have gone to pot? What's happened to the Dominion...? Calm down now...

But how about two characters that shouldn't turn up because actually, there are some Star Trek stories that need to stay closed.

For me that starts with Data and ends with Sisko. The android's journey ended in Nemesis and it may be playing on Picard's conscience even 20 years later but it's an event that needs to be respected as finite. Maybe the show will answer the question as to what happened to B-4 and the disassembled Lore but Spiner, with all due respect, is getting too old for the part. This is one character that might benefit from CG should he need to come back - but I'd rather Data didn't.

To Sisko and the way in which Deep Space Nine was concluded. He's another character more than likely not to return on the screen since Avery Brooks is reportedly done with Star Trek. There's no need to mention his disappearance and in this canon we should let him remain with the Prophets. Maybe there's a chance for Picard and his companions to end up on the other side of the Bajoran Wormhole as part of the plot however the return of Captain Sisko could undermine the legacy of that show and even cheapen the Picard series.

Just a selection of thoughts there on some do's and don'ts for the Picard show - but who would you like to see or perhaps more importantly not want to see meeting up with Jean-Luc?

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