Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Out and About with The Escape Artist


The Short Treks have reached their end with the return of one Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

Now I never "got" the character back when he was played by Roger C Carmel thanks to the poor attempt at humour that surrounded the two episodes in which he appeared but the reinvention of the role from Rainn Wilson has been eye-opening and fantastically watchable in every way. 

To be graced with 15 minutes purely on this individual is more than welcome in a story directed by Wilson himself and written by future Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan. It's absolutely spot on, giving us a much lighter instalment and spinning off in a new direction. If there's something to be said for these bites of Trek its that each one has had a very distinct identity with, ironically the two featuring characters away from the main cast probably being the strongest.  

Captured by a Tellarite - yep, we’ve delved into The Original Series canon again - Harry Mudd is on his way into the hands of Starfleet for a substantial bounty. As the story develops we see how he has used the approach several times on other parties with, you would guess, some modicum of success.  Fortunately the more humorous aspect of the narrative is subtlety downplayed and there's a noticeable absence of comedy incidental music which usually confounded an event in a Mudd episode. Wilson is just as loud and cunning as before in the role with the Tellarite captain, a Klingon, the Orions (rather shocking!) and another undetermined alien bounty hunter all playing supporting roles as we explore his murky past and difficult situations. 

The script is rather sparkling and of the four this is the one which seems to have the most life and spring to its step. Wilson's energy as Mudd leaps off the screen reinforcing just why he was such a big part of season one and therefore deserved this return to the Star Trek universe. Gifted with a silver tongue he might be but it's pretty much the same routine every time!

The trouble with The Escape Artist doesn't come from the bulk of the story which works very well but from the ending. While it is a playful twist which does also tip the hat to I, Mudd, it all doesn’t make a whole heap of sense when you put it together. If these were androids given just enough programming to fool his captors for a short time where are these flashbacks coming from? Are they indeed flashbacks or are they instances of other replicas of Mudd being captured and taken to Starfleet? 

Either way it doesn’t quite compute. Sipping jippers or not, these recreations are just too advanced in some respects but then totally downplayed in their abilities by the conclusion. If you do step over this bit of the script its incredibly enjoyable and makes perfect sense that Mudd would want to divert attention away from himself to continue his nefarious activities.

Of the Short Treks this is probably number two in my list with Calypso still being the one to beat and also being one of Discovery's best moments to date. The news is that the Short Treks tag will be living on with the second animated show - but could it be used on all the new series to add in extra bits here and there and expand that galaxy we talked about the other day even more?

With Short Treks the Kurtzman stable can experiment with different characters, reuse sets (which they did in abundance with The Escape Artist, Calypso and Runaway) plus add new angles to existing characters, do things that can remain unconnected to the main shows but still be canon and, as demonstrated here, be successful and not be a Starfleet episode in almost any way.

Was The Escape Artist your sipping jipper or something else? Best of the four? Let us know below and if you've enjoyed the read, why not share us!!!

You can check out the other Short Trek reviews HERE

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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Kelvin Out/31 In


SJ Clarkson is now assigned to the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel and with no resolution to the Pine/Hemsworth contract dispute (probably) among other things, Star Trek 4 is now officially shelved. 

I'm not hugely shocked by this news as it seems none of the puzzle pieces were fitting together well and there was zero sign of a script.

It means that the Kelvin Timeline may well become known as the Kelvin Trilogy and remain one of Star Trek's more unique spin off elements. 

But the influence of those films, or at least a key part of them will live on in the Kurtzman Era as the destruction of Romulus is set to have had a profound effect on Picard in his as yet unnamed series which will, along with the transference of Prime Spock over to that timeline, cement the three movies firmly as part of canon.

While it seems like the behind the scenes dilemmas are the reason for the seeming end to the adventures of alt-Kirk and co, it's been a pretty good run. While I openly admit that Into Darkness isn't a masterpiece and borrows chunks from another Star Trek movie you have to admit that the visual quality, the acting and the very feel of these three stories has been exceptional. 


The 2009 movie is one of the best Star Trek movies to have ever been made. Doing something that was a possibility back in the days of The Undiscovered Country, it took the crew back to the Academy and their first meetings. It reset our expectations of Star Trek while simultaneously and subconsciously updating it for a new generation of fans. In fact this would be a generation of fans that would have never seen The Original Series or heard of Deep Space Nine. At its heart it was just a damn good sci-fi movie that happened to be Star Trek at the same time. 

Beyond rounded out the three with the destruction of the Enterprise which kind of means these three films become the story of that singular ship but of the trilogy its probably the one closest to the feel of The Original Series in its look and feel. 

However as one door appears to have closed, another one has sprung open with the official announcement that we've all been expecting for a little while; that Michelle Yeoh is getting her own series as Mirror Georgiou in a new Section 31 show.


Hardly surprising which means there must be some meat on the bones that we'll be getting a second animated series plus something to do with Starfleet Academy in the (very close) years to come. Due to be produced by Discovery writers Yeon Kim and Erica Lippoldt who were responsible for the Saru episode Into the Forest I Go in season one. 

That now brings the confirmed series total to four including Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. plus there are supposed to be seven in play by 2020. So...we're just over half the planned amount of shows which will definitely solidify Star Trek's place back on the small screen.

From chatrooms/boards it's clear that fans are naturally concerned about the number of shows online and are having flashbacks to the mid-'90's "Golden Age". If managed well then there shouldn't be a problem - but look at the diversity too.

In the '90's the style of the shows and movies were all very similar visually, in the way they told their stories and most notably in their focus on Starfleet. What we seem to be getting from the Kurtzman era is a galactic sandbox in which we are going to see different aspects of every corner of the Alpha Quadrant (and maybe more) with neither Picard nor Georgiou part of Starfleet directly. This new Section 31 show will certainly be exploring the darker corners of the galactic landscape away from the sharp, duty bound lines of the Federation.

But does this mean that our Star Trek is going to be less Star Trek? Will this massive expansion dilute the brand and the strength of the storytelling? If they are going to branch out I believe this will be a bold and brilliant step to offer something refreshing to the franchise. If every series was, as you might recall from 20 years ago, a Starfleet crew out exploring the galaxy then yes, we'd be in some serious trouble but this new approach has chosen to give each new show a completely fresh identity and path to travel. Wise move and a very sensible one to boot.

Which of the new shows are you looking forward to? Are you lamenting the potential end to the Kelvin Universe?


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Sunday, 13 January 2019

Beyond Enterprise - The Official Starships Collection Special Edition


The third movie from the Kelvin Universe was certainly one of recent Star Trek's highlights and it also saw a revamped rebooted USS Enterprise too. 

If I'm brutally honest this revamp makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It's like the designers purposely regressed the ship to take a pummelling - and that’s the truth. With the recent news on the JJ movies, it seems like the perfect time to 

My gripes with the design aside, this is about accuracy and how Eaglemoss translate the onscreen information into the scale model so let’s take it away and get right into the nitty gritty of this item.

The finish is, to be fair, as basic as it was on the second special, the original Kelvin Universe USS Enterprise which avoided a lot of the minutiae on the surface. As before, the saucer top is metal while the insert is in plastic. 

The saucer detail could have been so much more screen accurate but instead we have just the slight aztecing of the final coats and some very minimal edging around the bridge module. Dont get me wrong, the aztecing is a wonderful touch here but the lack of colour on the three phaser banks, the running lights and also the RCS thrusters is dreadful. To then only mark up the bridge module with two sets of black strips and leave the rest of it in the base colour is verging on a travesty. Did I mention three phaser banks there? Yes I did - because if you actually look at the refit of this ship there should be at least another four. There ain't.

The panel lines across the hull surface plus the actual structure of the central bridge unit are very well produced but the singular lack of colour takes any sense of ‘realism’ if you will, out of the product. Adding insult to injury, there are two T shaped protrusions from the hull to the rear of the saucer which do get colour - if only a darker grey - but are much less significant features on the ship.

The plastic insert underneath fairs no better. It continues the aztec pattern but the lack of colour on major features is again glaringly obvious. The central sensor platform is blobbed with a few specks of grey and the dome isn't even fully painted up. It's a grave disappointment and again the phasers and thrusters are left in the hull base coat. Makes you kinda want to scream for mercy. At the rear the wide impulse engine is haphazardly painted in with frayed paint edges and barely fills out the allotted space. Once more any real detail is lost leaving us with the basic shape of the exhaust.

Moving down to the neck of the Enterprise it's a pleasant surprise to find that the aztecing continues down what is usually a forgotten area especially on the regular-sized starships. This connecting section is incredibly thin but on the model it does feel sturdy even though there's a hunk of metal saucer perched on the top. A couple of spots of darker grey highlight the forward torpedo launcher and a ribbed section of the neck although the windows are not painted in and remain only as slight recesses on the surface. I can imagine dotting those up would have been a nightmare.

The aztec painting flows down into the slimmed down Engineering hull but only on the sides and then only as far as the front of the warp engine pylons. Everything to the rear of that and the back of the neck section is in the single grey/white base coat with no form of texturing on the top of the hull or the inside edges of the warp pylons. The outsides and both warp engines continue the two-tone effect but for some inexplicable reason it just stops dead in a very obvious manner. The lack of panelling detail - any detail - at this point doesn't help, leaving a total blank space that you can't avoid.

The front end is much more interesting to look at though with the bright blue deflector dish lighting the way and a ship registry and double Starfleet pennants adorning the hull. It's as though someone got bored with this one the further back they got... Anyhows, at least at the back Eaglemoss managed to slap a tiny ship registry underneath the shuttle bay doors but that's all you're getting so no texture, depth or further detail here. Move along. Nothing to see.

The annoyingly spindly warp pylons on the outside do have the aztec paint plus some more infamous dark grey paint details but that's all you can really say as it continues to be a bit dull. On the engines themselves the translucent bussard collectors are finished with a web effect which is an unusually fine detail to have included on the ship when compared to what has been left off. The aztec pattern coats them 360 degrees plus that dark grey paint has been out again to pick out the vents and panel changes to add essential depth to what could be too very "flat" tubes.

As for build quality here, the pieces do fit together well. There's a slight gap around the underside of the saucer but the remainder of the craft is a good quality construction. It's the paint job that lets this one down on every level and having that huge aztec gap at the back really grates.

The special edition magazine skates over the rather extensive changes in a fleeting second noting what has taken place between Into Darkness and Beyond before launching into a section dedicated to the design of the flagship craft and also the pimped up "A" that's seen at the very end of the movie.

This section encompasses some fantastic pieces of artwork from the development of the third Kelvin Timeline movie as well as the lengths the production team went to when it came to having the ship cut to ribbons by an alien attack. Whether you approved of the abrupt end to the ship or not, the sequence was fantastic and to see the plans here as well as what would happen to the crashed saucer are a real treat for any fan. This is a worthwhile read and something that needed to be documented. All I can say is that it's a shame they had to redesign the ship to make it so flimsy!

The Star Trek Beyond USS Enterprise Special Edition is a real heart-string puller. With the news that Star Trek 4 is shelved for the time being, the "A" featured here in the magazine could well be the last cinematic Enterprise for some time and we do need to see it in model form as part of the collection. 

This model isn’t quite what I hoped for and makes just as inadequate a job of reproducing the Enterprise as happened with the first version of this ship some time ago. Could have made a few more upgrades on the detail to get it properly in line and that’s just on the paint job.

What’s your verdict on the Beyond USS Enterprise?


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Thursday, 10 January 2019

Six New Arrivals to 150


A new batch of starships have been unveiled this week which will take the collection up to another landmark number - but what's the verdict on the six we've got coming...


Nightingale

Oddly enough from the episode of the same name this rust bucket of a starship reminds me of something. Hang on.... two secs... yes - it’s a recolouring of the Federation Fighter! The first of three ships of the six that would be either reworked or a reworking of something, this one isn’t on on any list I’d ever considered. Not a fan of this one for sure but will be interesting to see the alterations for comparison. 
Anticipation Factor: 1/5 




Fesarius

A ship of legend and one that we’ve been promised for over five years. The first ever alien ship in Star Trek and definitely one of the simpler!  Fesarius is a true classic from the ages and thoroughly deserves to be in the collection. Essential, long awaited and can’t wait to see this one for real.
Anticipation Factor: 5/5

Baran's Raider

(Top) Another favourite indulgence story for me has to be The Next Generation’s seventh season two parter, Gambit. The ship has turned up in many different guises but this was perhaps the one that was on screen the most. AKA the Miradorn Raider from Deep Space Nine, it’s a striking design with some good meaty Star Trek background. Looking forward to seeing this in the flesh soon!
Anticipation Factor: 4/5 

Dominion Battleship

Appearing initially in Valiant, the Battleship is best know for pummelling the Defiant class ship into another quadrant as well as being the largest of the Dominion fleet. It's been conspicuous by its absence from the collection so good that this will finally be joining the ranks. Very excited about this one as its only appeared in Attack Wing to date and that's not a big replica.
Anticipation Factor: 4/5




Krenim Warship 

From Before and After and subsequently from the fourth season’s Year of Hell two-parter. Armed with chroniton torpedoes the Krenim ships were a serious threat to Voyager and this is only the second vessel from that race to appear after the distinctive Timeship. Definitely a good one for completism and even more so because it was featured in the magazine for the Timeship all that time ago. Another entry that feels as though the collection is trying to tick off as many outstanding obvious entries as possible.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

USS Antares NCC-9844

Another Miranda Class variant? Really? Five of the damn things? This one managed the least screentime only appearing briefly in the background as a grainy addition to fill some space but we’re still getting it as the 150th issue...isn’t there something more suitable than this for the landmark issue following on from the 50th’s NCC-1701 and issue 100’s USS Horizon Daedalus Class. A rare Starfleet entry that hasn’t been done but you have to ask if this one was necessary. Of course this is the second Antares of the series after the earlier version from The Original Series.
Anticipation Level: 1/5

What do you think to the latest batch of ships to drop onto the Starships Collection? Any that you’re really looking forward to and any that are going to be avoided? Let us know below!


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Saturday, 5 January 2019

Predicting 2019


Once more we’ve completed a spin around the Sun and welcome in 2019. But what will this year hols in store for Star Trek?  Here's our top ones to watch

1. Discovery

The item at the top pf any Star Trek list has to be the continuing success of the latest series. Frankly, screw the doubters because its back for a second series and treading into the territory of recognisable characters with Pike, Number One and Spock all showing up this year. The premiere for season two is but 15 days away so how can this show be failing especially as there are at least two shows in the pipeline that will launch in the next 18 months. I'm predicting a renewal for the show for season three with a 2020 launch date probably announced at the midpoint in the 15 episode run but I also think that we won't be getting any more Short Treks past the four we have received this time around. Nice placeholder and I hope they use the material contained therein within the show itself.







2. Picard

Probably timed to coincide with the end of Discovery’s second season I believe that we will have the first teaser trailer for the new Picard series by mid-year. 2019 will most likely see further main castings for the show plus hints at what the future holds for the former Enterprise captain. Can we be more specific than this? Not at this time. What we do know is that Patrick Stewart was heavily involved with the initial talks about the direction of the series and how Jean-Luc would be treated within its framework which was part of the reason that he agreed to come back to the franchise after a 20 year gap.

3. Lower Decks

As with Picard's return we'll be getting more hints on what the future holds for this spin off from the franchise. I think this one might be set between the original six movies and The Next Generation since there's a good 70 year gap we've never explored. Big concerns are that this is going to be a humorous animated encounter like nothing we've seen before in the Star Trek universe. Truly the unknown - also well worth paying attention to the last of the Short Treks; The Escape Artist which was written by Mike McMahan and might give a hint at what this new show will be like tonally. Plus, any excuse for a Rick and Morty pic...

4. Novel Series Restart

Yay! So 2018 was a bit of a dud year for the Star Trek novel series but with a new deal completed we are going to be seeing a good flood of Star Trek book titles in the new year from all aspects of the franchise and that, it seems, includes the Kelvin timeline as well as the Discovery era. I'm predicting a return of the time travellers from Dayton Ward plus the continuation of the Deep Space Nine Gamma Quadrant saga which kicked off so well late in 2017. 

5. DST 2019

George Takei and Michelle Forbes are already confirmed for the 2019 event which nobody expected since it took two years for the event to return to the UK after the 50th anniversary. Last year's October-fest was a much more streamlined and organised celebration of Star Trek than before with much more for fans to get involved with across the weekend including tabletop and video gaming, talks, fantastic displays from Discovery and the first 50 years. The 2019 event has to equal this so I'd expect more props from the latest TV series as well as guests from the show (Anson Mount must be top of that list with Ethan Peck). Personally I'd love to hope Avery Brooks drops in but that's a long shot at best. What about an appearance from John de Launcie? Is a drop in from Patrick Stewart an option?

6. End of the Starships Collection?

Is it finally time for The Official Starships Collection to call it a day? I think this is the year it could come to a close with the Discovery collection striding on plus the Graphic Novel and Busts series also still in play. It's been going for a fair few years now and the majority of the craft from the show that anyone generally cares about have all but been announced. Recently it was confirmed that the Fesarius as well as Baran's Raider and the Scimitar would be included so I'd give this one a maximum of 12 months before it's closed up. Watch me be horrifically wrong on this one.

7. Confirmation of Star Trek 4

As in if it’s on or off. The lack of news on this makes me think that the Kelvin timeline may have drawn its last breath with the 2016 Beyond and, honestly, that's not a bad way to go out. The quality of the three films has been on the whole decent but another year without any progress on story at the least will kill it off and leave the way very open for the vaunted R|-rated Quentin Tarantino movie. Prediction for 2019 on this one is that we'll be in exactly the same position in a year's time. Neither of these projects will move forward and they'll be rotting in Development Hell for a little bit longer. Almost certain we'll have no action in regards to big screen Trekking this year.

8. 30 Years of The Final Frontier

 Who isn't going to want to celebrate this gem of an anniversary?! Yes, 2019 will mark 30 years since William Shatner asked God what he needed with a starship. A highly maligned Star Trek movie that's never mentioned anywhere else in any context ever and is almost considered the most un-canon item of canon just ahead of Threshold. I'd look forward to lots of reminiscing over filming of The Final Frontier, what went wrong, a ton of comparisons to Discovery and a few oddball rants about how this was the sign that the franchise was failing before the year is out.

9. 25 Years Since The Sky Was the Limit and It Was Fun 

...And on a more positive note, it's 25 years since The Next Generation drew to a close on TV before stepping in front of another set of cameras to take the voyages of the Enterprise-D to the big screen with Generations back in 1994. Definitely an opportunity for the cast to get back together and maybe a reason to get Malcolm McDowell along to Destination Star Trek along with Shatner and Stewart for a rather expensive but damn fine photo shoot?

Expect 2019 to revisit best episodes from the show's run as well as offer up potentials for what could have been the eighth season. Remember too that this will also mark 25 years since Shatner's last onscreen appearance as Captain James T Kirk.

10. Axanar Rolling On

It's off, it's on, it's off, it's... who knows. Even now we're two years down the line from THAT decision which changed the face of Star Trek fan films as we knew them, Axanar still exists and I think we'll be hearing more from this one in 2019. The plan, apparently, is to launch two 15 minute slices of the story rather than the epic independent movie we were initially promised. Maybe 2019 will see the first footage from Alec Peters other than the now infamous "Vulcan Scene" filmed oh-so long ago.Love it, loathe it, despise it more than anything ever, you still can't get away from it and this story will continue!

What do you predict to be the big Star Trek stories of 2019? Will we be wrong on any of these?

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