Monday, 1 August 2022

Nichelle


After the outpouring of affection over the last 24 hours, what more can be said?

Icon, trailblazer, actress, singer, symbol of empowerment, activist - Nichelle Nichols helped change the world into something more positive and far more respectful than we had seen before.

There's always going to be the story of that chance meeting with Dr Martin Luther King which helped keep her on the Enterprise following the first season, the nod from Whoopi Goldberg that Nichols inspired her in her career after seeing Uhura on Star Trek

Roddenberry's starship truly encompassed the globe but perhaps none of the characters or actors involved had the impact on civil rights that just the presence of Uhura did in the show.

Nichols onscreen time with the franchise started back with the first production episode, The Corbomite Maneuver and would remain with the series to its conclusion in 1969 before returning in the first six movies. The Undiscovered Country in 1991 would be her final canon appearance as Uhura although Nichols would play her legendary persona in the fan film Of Gods and Men. Sound clips from her appearances would be used even more recently for her animated appearance in Star Trek: Prodigy as part of a holodeck simulation drawing together some of the franchise's greatest crewmembers.

Portraying a character of responsibility (and not just a maid as Goldberg herself noted as a
child), Uhura and therefore Nichols presented a positive, optimistic role model which showed that at least (at that time) in the future everyone would be equal and have the same chances.

I was amazed at how just about every single post on my social media feeds was about Nichols and the impact she had on so many peoples' lives whether or not they met her. Pictures, autographs, memories are all there from fans who were touched by her role in Star Trek.

As a tribute to her memory, here are SKoST's Top Five Nichols Moments as Uhura

5. Mr Adventure

One of the more light-hearted moments from The Search for Spock shows Uhura on duty at a transporter station seemingly in the utter backwaters of Starfleet. Babysitting a junior officer who wants just a little bit of excitement, events soon come to pass. It's only when Admiral Kirk, McCoy and Sulu arrive that things start to hot up and he's forced at phaser-point to sit in the closet. This is a huge highlight for Uhura fans with more to do in one scene than she's had to do for the previous two movies. I'd recommend checking out the novelisation which adds even more to Uhura's narrative than we see on screen.


4. Taking Command

Often over-looked is this entry from TAS, the episode The Lorelei Signal. With the male members of the Enterprise crew subdued, Uhura takes command of the starship and the rescue mission.  Although "just" an animated episode this is a vital moment in the development of Lt Uhura from her position as communications officer into a full-blown commander of the ship and the mission. In later materials following The Undiscovered Country this wil go to the next step with Nyota gaining captaincy of the USS Leondegrance. More importantly it's another evolution of the ability of Star Trek to show the equality of all its characters in the ever-optimistic 23rd Century.



3. The Kiss 

How could any list of Uhura moments be complete without this? While the debate will continue ever-onwards as whether or not it was the first televised inter-racial kiss, it's an episode and a moment that lives on in near mythic status.
Perhaps Plato's Stepchildren as a whole hasn't aged that well and at points descends to a level somewhere near farce but it does have this one key scene. Forced to kiss by the Platonians, Kirk and Uhura made TV history if only because of the audience that saw it. The stories of ruining takes and angles have run around autobiographies and fan circuits for decades but once again Nichols was at the front and centre of a "risky" moment that networks were genuinely concerned about. It was banned in the UK for violent content, not for this watershed kiss.


2. The Gamesters of Triskelion

Maybe an odd one to include and I'm sure there will be debate as to whether there are others that I should have included. However I've dropped this second season episode in for the huge reason that Uhura is part of the unwilling away team alongside Kirk and Chekov.
The Gamesters of Triskelion is unusual precisely for the notion that it sidelines the usual Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate in favour of something different and rarely seen in TOS.
Chekov might have been the new kid on the block in 1967 but to have Uhura as a key player here was massive. Check out the first season and pretty much everything to this point and Uhura is very much a background player - a fact that we know nearly led her to quit. But through perseverance things finally paid off and here she has a starring role. Fighting off unwanted advances from her drill Thall is a key scene with her character at no point becoming a damsel in distress.


1. Got to have a Tailpipe?

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
 provided each and every member of the original crew with standout moments throughout its running time. While the use of the Klingon dictionaries to create a "believable" dialogue with the border guards is fun to watch, Uhura's biggest moment here comes from her solution to the challenge of the cloaked Bird of Prey. Remembering that the Enterprise is carrying equipment to catalogue gaseous anomalies, she's the catalyst for Spock and McCoy to perform surgery on a torpedo. Uhura's actions ultimately cause the resolution of the movie, destroying Chang's ship and allowing the crew to save the day in the nick of time.

Nichelle Nichols

28 December 1932 - 31 July 2022

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

The End of the Eaglemoss Dream?


Drafts in process, pics taken and then today's news finally broke.

After a storming run of collectible items, the world of Eaglemoss came plummeting down when news finally broke that the business was going into administration.

My thoughts go out to all the people who will be directly affected possibly with the loss of jobs and also to those collectors and fans out there who may now not be able to complete their collections or even worse, their part-works including the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. 

Existing in some form or another since 1975, Eaglemoss in recent years has been synonymous with Star Trek replica ships, plaques, graphic novels and more as well as further licenced collections in properties such as Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica and Marvel

My association with the brand has been since the arrival of the almost legendary The Official Star Trek Starships Collection that began back in 2013. I still remember getting that very first issue and then acquiring the whole series plus the XLs, specials, bonuses and a lot of other bits besides. We've had our gripes about the quality at times but the quantity delivered over the years has been second to none with some of the latest additions being among their best ever.

I've loved opening those brown boxes and discovering the intricacies of another ship from Star Trek and then sharing my thoughts through this site over the last nine years but for the time being I will be putting any further reviews on hold. Talking about products you can't actually get would seem, in my opinion, in extremely bad taste. In fact it's rare I post without some form of picture to accompany but this just isn't the time to show "what you could have won" if you pardon the expression.

The last couple of years have been very hard on a lot of businesses and examination of the financial records via Companies House up to 2021 do not make for fantastic reading. Piles of debt, reductions in repeat business, loss of customers; all of which make for some pretty torrid reading and signs of a company that's not having the best of times.

As you might expect, there's a lot of anger out there from customers waiting on pre-orders, those with unfinished part works and those even just waiting for some of the models that have been announced and delayed.

In some respects we should have seen this coming. The XL Stargazer was pushed back from September to November, the Expanse range went cold after not even a handful of issues, there were almost no new product announcements for several months. The last sale which ended on Sunday had some of the most mind-boggling discounts I have ever seen on the site and most certainly took advantage of. For me a red flag dropped when everything I ordered which was due for arrival on Monday turned up less than 18 hours after ordering on the Saturday morning.

Even worse was Monday when the shop went into "maintenance" right across the group and the customer services team went completely silent. If you check out the HeroCollector site their last article was published on the 6th June with Facebook and Twitter accounts equally falling silent.

I mused with friends that it might be some technical issue, maybe streamlining or a complete revamp but hours turned into a day and then two before the imminent administration was announced. The optimistic approach it became clear was not the one to go with.

I for one will be sad to see them go. At times the customer service was atrocious, the quality of the items barrel-scraping to hilarious but somehow they always managed to pull it back - apart from now. For many collectors this will leave a horrible hole in the heart and the wallet because there really was nothing much like it especially when it came to Star Trek replicas. 

We can but hope that there will be a buyer and that Eaglemoss will rise from this horrendous low to fulfil those items it has promised to its customers and in many cases taken money for. Rumour suggests that IF anyone did take over then all these part work series would have to be restarted from issue one leaving many with half built Enterprise-D's that will never be finished. Even more kicking is that those building ECTO-1 were but two months off finishing the whole thing.

There may be a future for the business, we may see those models and there could well be the mother of all clearance sales but at the moment there's certainly a bitter taste in anyone's mouth who has spent money with Eaglemoss on whatever franchise they love. 

For now though my thoughts genuinely go out to those people who will have lost out in some way - any way - by today's news. I do hope that there is a decent end to your final interactions with Eaglemoss in its current form. Could this be the writing on the all for such businesses given today's financial climate? People after all do not have the same disposable income they had five years ago when the collections were at their height. Maybe Eaglemoss will come back but a big part of me suspects that this won't be the Spock-like resurrection we all would desire.

Where are you at with the news? How have you been affected? What does the future hold for this type of business?

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Sunday, 10 July 2022

Picard S2: As Divisive as Before


Let’s get it out there to begin with. Picard season two was not perfect. Nor was season one but in many respects this second stint in the adventures of Admiral Jean-Luc marked a definite upturn - but in what precisely?

Choosing to utilise two of Trek's favourite things - time travel and Q, Picard jumped back into the 21st Century in a much more personal adventure than before.

It all started out with a bang and the return of the Borg, facing off against an assembled fleet of assorted Starfleet classes. This immediately made up for last season's copy-and-paste fleet of Inquiry Class vessels. Could season two actually be making headway and raise the fairly average height bar?

Setting up both this and Picard's family dilemma, the early part of the ten episode run took viewers into a parallel totalitarian Earth changed by a single event in the past. Certainly a new twist on the old Mirror Universe trope, the alternative path crammed a lot into its single hour of the show but it did bring us possibly the best Borg Queen to date.

Annie Wersching was perfectly cast in the role of a more speculative monarch and one torn from the collective by the galaxy conquering General Picard. A universe where the Borg were defeated and it's not good? An interesting concept if nothing else.  Wersching proved to be the perfect foil not for Patrick Stewart as we might have expected but for Alison Pill's Jurati. The use of the Borg Queen as a devil on her shoulder through the time in the 21st Century was rather chilling as she began to consume the doctor.

Jurati and the Borg Queen's relationship does take up a big swig of the ten episode run. The verbal sparring which leads to a standoff and unfortunate assimilation. Ok, it leads to what we would suspect is a break away Borg faction (lot of speculation in this season as to what things lead to...) and Pill leaving the main cast but it gives her an explosive and memorable arc in which to do so. Many will remember her for the red dress, singing Pat Benatar or being the Big Reveal but for me Jurati was the stand out character across the season, garnering the best screen time and perfectly partnered for a good chunk of it with Queen Wersching.

Tasked with investigating the 21st Century, Seven and Raffi continue some good hearted banter and relationship quibbles as they look for clues and also for Rios.

In a plotline that's been done over numerous times and certainly fits with Trek's choice to target current issues it's on the nose around illegal immigrants. For Star Trek though it used to be about subtlety and prodding these subjects in a much less conspicuous manner. Perhaps a sign of the times but it is quite heavy-handed in retrospect. Santiago Cabrera is great and at least Rios does have an arc this season  which isn't something that fits for Seven or Raffi. Bear with on this one.

While both the main story and the second line that follows Rios and his ultimate decision to remain in the 21st Century do have a clear path, the third line that traces Adam Soong's genetics work and "final" daughter, Kore does work on its own but it has zero payoff for the main threads. 

Yes, it manages to return Isa Briones to Picard as another Soong relative but it seems almost tacked in. None of the main characters interact with her and while the surprise cameo in the finale was more than welcome it doesn't quite make sense as to why the Watchers would choose to take her out of her time. Theoretically her disappearance would be realised by Adam Soong alone but I was surprised that it didn't play a more integral part to the story. Wil Wheaton's return did manage to raise an "Oh my f**king god" reaction because it was well worth including and seeing the being formally known as Wesley Crusher one more time.

So that's my issue in that this season has some really great, strong story threads but then when you combine them it all sort of falls apart a bit in terms of the bigger picture. The Rios story for one twists and turns with car chases, prison breaks, a more than inconspicuous nod to the US immigration policy and all the while you can't help but think this is just a way to take Santiago Cabrera out of the show. Spoiler; it's exactly that.

Of all the cast short-changed this season I did feel that Jeri Ryan got a short straw. Aside from losing the Borg implants following their sideways step into a universe where Annika was President, Ryan had very little to do until virtually the last scene of the season. Watch back when the crew are discussing Talinn's plan to jump into Picard's mind and Seven stands in the background and says not a single word for the whole of that piece. In some ways you can understand why there has been a slimming down of the cast ahead of the TNG reunion for season three.

Orla Brady's Tallinn and Laris roles are highlights of the season and bringing the actress more to the fore than she was allowed in season one. Tallinn is a bit of a plot device but does tie into the larger Trek mythology as does the brief return of another canon character almost at the very close of the season.

The big focus of the season though comes down to Q's fixation with Jean-Luc leading to the universe jump and then journey back to the 21st Century. Offering a chance for the admiral to get to know himself a little better, the concept that one of his relatives had to be on the mission to Europa does seem like a crucial moment in franchise timeline history but would she really have got this far in the programme with doubts this obvious?

Penelope Mitchell does a good job as the troubled astronaut and at least by the end there's the realisation that if she didn't complete the mission then Adam Soong's line of work would have taken precedent (for note there's a statue of him in the alternative 24th Century which is a massive clue in hindsight).

But there's more to this than a distant relative because Jean-Luc is obsessing over his own childhood at the chateau. This season chose to base itself around the Picard family estate and it uncovers a lot more than a few layers of dust. Why this only rears its head now when he's been back there for years is anyone's guess but the choice to cover mental health is hit and miss at best.

Played by Madeline Wise, the character of Yvette Picard initially scopes as a loving mother but there's mental fragility that the series explores but perhaps handles heavy-handedly on occasion, especially at its tragic end. Should there have been a warning of what was the season's most graphic piece of content? Maybe and I guess that depends on your perspective but it certainly shocked which you would hope it would given where it can lead if not handled carefully.

Now, knowing a little of Patrick Stewart's background, this mental health story may well have been borne from his mind although the father figure, played here by Battlestar Galactica's James Callis, is a more kindly figure than Stewart has described. His solution to Yvette's illness isn't what you would expect given the importance society places on such issues now let alone in the future.

It's also an odd season because there's no point I would say that there was a standout episode. I could rank all ten in order of preference but there's none that stand out more than the first and the last (maybe the alt-universe one too). Even in the middle there was a lot to like even if it was, on the other side, inconsistent and went from breakneck to dead stop at an odd rate.. There was a touch of humour, some great action  

Flashing back to an earlier piece I put together hurriedly at the beginning of the season, Picard has brought a real breath of fresh air to the franchise for me. I was missing the craziness of Lower Decks and the unexpected genius that is Prodigy. Discovery has tried to step up but each of the subsequent series have taken the lead and run with it. Even Discovery spin-off Strange New Worlds is a class unto itself and I can only see it becoming stronger.

Picard's second season did indeed feel like the intended homage to The Voyage Home but upped the ante. While that movie was played for a lot of laughs and lightness after the doom and gloom of The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, this run of ten episodes hasn't shied away from both real world events and the darkness that previous generations have sprinkled into the timeline especially the 21st Century.

Season two does just have that bit of everything though. For the TOS fan we have the return of the Watchers first revealed in Assignment: Earth with Gary Seven, numerous Easter Eggs back to The City on the Edge of Forever in the set dressings. With TNG there's the well publicised return of Guinan played by both returning Whoopi Goldberg and newcomer to the franchise, Ito Aghayere who is superbly cast in the role. Importantly Guinan's return isn't stupidly overplayed with her only included at necessary points in the story rather than fully tagging along for the show.

OK, Picard worked for me at a "dark time" in my relationship with Star Trek and for a lot of people it just didn't and I can respect that just in the same way that I would hope others would respect my opinion that it was good enjoyable fun. One thing I would absolutely say that the season blew out of the park was Q's final scene with Picard. Season one's send off to Data was excellent after such an up-and-down year but with Q it went straight for the emotions and my god did it work. Best scene of the season, best scene of the show and possibly, maybe, the best scene of the Kurtzman era. What smarts is the fact it doesn't come from the best show of our present age. 

Picard always feels as though it's got a great idea but in the execution it just gets muddled in the middle. Season two starts strong with loads of prospects. There's the Borg, new ships, alternate times but then the 21st Century feels a bit bulked out. The Renee Picard story is high stakes but it never reaches the heights of tension and excitement that you would want. Guinan's role is inconsistent and we have almost a whole episode of interrogation by a "rogue" police officer that adds nothing to the plot and has no long lasting effect. Even the officer's flashback is pointless to the overall season.

But I still enjoyed it even though there were bloated moments of nonsense. At least it all came back round to the Borg arrival at the beginning. The problem there is that it makes you question the justification for Q to send Picard and co through time in the first place. What actually is the point to the adventure? What's the reasoning or sending them all over the place?

Maybe on a re-watch things will become clearer as they did when I sat down for a second viewing of the first ten episodes. With the knowledge of what is to come for season three, season two does come across as a hurried cut off for several of the show's characters to make way for the TNG cast. Is this a chance for a better send off than Nemesis or a cheap shot to grab at an audience that has, according to social media, had serous issues with where the show has gone so far?

The final batch will answer that definitively but for now Picard's second season lies in a pool of mediocrity that many hoped it wouldn't. I'll keep with my view that it was entertaining but there's a concrete fact it's not where fans would have wanted it.

Where's your head at after season two? Has it changed on a binge/rewatch?

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Sunday, 3 July 2022

The Official Starships Collection: USS Prometheus XL Edition


Originally surfacing as part of the first wave of the regular Starships Collection, the USS Prometheus was a highlight of those early issues.

Following the up-scaling of the USS Equinox it was therefore only a matter of time before the prototype vessel made its way into the XL line - does this mean that a USS Dauntless isn't far off?

Size might be the blatant difference here but there is more when you scratch the surface (metaphorically please!). 

Just from a cursory glance it's more than apparent that Eaglemoss have completely reworked the paint scheme. Toned down from the dark grey with even darker highlights, the new Prometheus slips between a grey and a duck egg blue. The emboldened sections of the hull, most prominently the phaser strips and also some panelling towards the nose almost seem to have been tone shifted down to the colour of the smaller original edition's hull colour. On the nose we also have a blue-coloured deflector dish that was previously omitted. Another small detail picked up and corrected!

This is a huge improvement that means all of the highlight, differentiated panels, hull lines and aztec paint are more subtly worked in. The lifeboat hatches too have a more distinctive hexagonal shape which was unique to the Prometheus and on the XL they do stand out a lot more. On the smaller edition these hatches blended in with the darker paint job far too easily. 

Am I going to rat on the windows? Absolutely because it wouldn't be a ship review without mentioning all that horrid misalignment work. Now that was one thing the original did manage to get right since the window slits were just painted on rather than being lined up to certain hull recess markers. 

Talking of changes, to the sides of the top hull section there are four horizontal "road bumps" and on the new edition these have been matched into the hull colour rather than lightened. Again, great touch and it makes the XL feel much less of a patchy, blocky experiment and more as a single craft. 

Tonally you can see that there have been some reductions in tones, around the bridge for one, but also an increase with the spine of the Prometheus receiving a lot more attention both in colouring and detail. The registry too is much more legible with a sharper border and slimmer black centres.

There is some unforgiveable slippage when it comes to the colouring on the impulse engines to the rear of the primary hull which wasn't present all those years ago on its smaller predecessor and bizarrely the removal of the darker highlights near the shuttlebay also works against the finish. The second point there is understandable since there's the reduction in tone across the whole ship.

Only a couple of darker panels on either side of Engineering and also the shuttlebay door itself remain and its at this rear point that you can spot that this isn't just a copy and size-up but a new mould. Running under the front edge of the door is a new seam that shows the landing strip to be part of the plastic underside rather than the metal upper piece.

It is though, a huge step up from the regular version and any self-respecting fan needs to have this XL on the shelf. Even the engines - which do suffer from you seeing the fitting posts inside - just look great, tipped off with their glowing red bussard collectors. The deflector dish to the front is perhaps a little dull and lacks that hue you see on screen but that's acceptable given the impressive finish to the rest of the ship. 

Comparing the underside of the primary hull is a bit of a revelation. On this larger edition the subtle aztecing does stand out a lot more and it doesn't feel like an afterthought. Even those chiselled ends to the phaser bank just add to the enhancements here and are alluded to in the pocket size magazine also included in the box.

One huge, stupidly annoying gripe though to complete this one, the stand is terrible. Using the same fit as the original, the weight of the front of the Prometheus here is significantly more and it spends all of its time with the nose dipping to the floor. I suspect the stand was just scaled up with no real problems considered but I wish it had been redesigned.

The magazine covers through the standard design process work plus more information around some of those slight changes to the phaser strips ad lifeboat hatches that are actually present on the ship. It does however feel like a bit of a rerun of the original issue, covering Message in a Bottle once more. Fortunately this does spin off into the Voyage Home section detailing Voyager's contact with the Alpha Quadrant after the Prometheus' appearance.

This is a brilliant and deserved XL edition with a good weight to it and fantastic upgrades to the small first version. Cleaner, sleeker, better decalled and with a much more screen accurate finish, even down to the min-nacelle on the top, I'm a big fan. This one's going next to the Equinox right now.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Official Starships Collection: XL Discovery x2


Why review one XL model when you can do two and get to compare before and after at the same time?

Yep, we're back with another Eaglemoss review and this time it's two for one. Not only are we looking at the XL USS Discovery NCC-1031 as seen in Discovery seasons one, two and a bit of three but the refit Discovery NCC-1031-A from the 32nd Century.

Amazingly there are a ton and more differences between the two and not just down to those questionable detached nacelles. Let's plough straight in to this double dose of Disco dissection.

SImplicity is definitely the word when it comes to the original design of the Crossfield Class with a hint of aztecing from the paintwork but overall a very flat, composed and subtle finish to the hull. That allows for much better panel definition on the ship with some tonal changes front to back but also providing a steady consistency of look. In the show space is, obviously, a lot darker and the model allows an appreciation of the lighter tones used for the brown-tinted colour scheme.

It's also a very blocky ship. The hull is a sharp triangular shape, the primary hull a duo of crisp circles while the engines are two overly long sticks. There's nothing glamourous about the Discovery. The shape is basic, functional but Eaglemoss have still managed to shoehorn in some decent detailing.

But what is noticable here is the prominence of the windows and some of the more distinct stripes that adorn the secondary hull. It's a very, very clean recreation of the lead ship with even the bridge portholes marked out. The saucer is pretty strong as well, supported only by the neck piece and the four small struts from the outer to the inner ring. 

Incredibly this thing looks more gorgeous in the flesh than it does on the TV with a great attention to the striking lines and angular body shape. She's also light on decals with only registries on the saucer top and bottom to the front with two more even smaller (only spotted on the photos!) to the port and starboard as they were on the original Enterprise.

Discovery also carries some lovely edging detail along the sides of the engineering hull. Both the impulse engines as well as the grilles on the leading edge are distinctly marked out with Eaglemoss even managing a slight recess in the bodywork which a smaller scale doesn't account for. 

To the front the deflector dish is a bit hotch-potch. It's absolutely stuck on to the frame and sticks out with the antennae then protruding even further. If the edging benefits from the size up, the deflector dish hasn't faired any better with the probes looking way thicker than they should.

Stretching into the mid-distance from either side of the triangular body are the two lengthy warp nacelles. Discovery certainly emphasises these in comparison to the side of the other hull sections. They retain the same minimalistic panelling but even with the slim design both length and width-wise, Eaglemoss have crammed in a set of translucent blue elements along the edges and also the blue bussard collectors to the front. These could have been a paint on job as we've seen on a few other occasions over the years but the move to actually combine pieces here speaks of a push for a more premium product..

The stretched nacelles do have a lot of flexibility towards the tips which is to be expected since they are 100% plastic but they are finished well. As for the construction, the Discovery is a well-built piece carried by that solid metallic secondary hull and neck which links all the extremities together. You do of course need a ridiculously deep shelf to sit her on!

The magazine chooses a safe path reflecting on the design of the Crossfield class as does the edition included with the -A refit. 

Now for that comparison against the season three upgrade.

A more recent release, Discovery-A marked the first of Eaglemoss' attempts at mastering the detached nacelles issue and they're probably hit it in the only way they could - by adding in more transparent plastic elements. More on that, of course, in a bit but let's start at that saucer section.

For anyone with even a hint of OCD, the Discovery-A, especially when lined up beside it's previous version is a visual overload. The flattened surface of the original is replaced with a textured surface with a dulled paint finish completely changing the look of the starship. It's also wonderfully finished with a slightly worn feel which manages to capture the metallic nature of the beast. 

Worse perhaps is that the decals for the registry are almost indistinguishable from the hull patterning. Gone also are the four smaller struts securing the inner ring to the larger outer and also replaced is the squared off nek section leading from the bridge down to the secondary hull. This is a massive design revision in which only the basic shapes of Discovery have been retained. Those leading edges on the secondary hull are less blocky but still keep their blue grilled segments. 

It's very easy to get drawn into the changes here and not look at the model in perspective. Eaglemoss have got this one down to a tee and lining the before and after up, the two are almost identical in size.

I love the recessed deflector dish of the -A, the cutaway sections from the rear of the secondary hull and the more sweeping majesty of the upgrade that marks the leap of 1000 years in technology. The impulse engines are now slightly reshaped and the shuttlebay appears to have narrowed but this remains instantly recognisable as the series' lead ship.

When boxed in the newer style collectors case, Discovery-A is a rare kit form. Coming in three separate pieces along with connectors and stand, the ship only really comes together once you've pulled everything out. The two engine clasps fit perfectly to a set point on the nacelles which means you don't have one poking out back more than the other and that they also line up identically with the main hull. Further note; the engines are very, very light and flexible - but not too much!

That section again as with the original is metal with the two engines in plastic as well as the rings of the primary hull. As you can also see from the pictures, the -A has a much smoother look to its underside and loses the angular pod look behind the deflector dish  while also seeing the bussard collectors on the warp engines enclosed. 

Here there are no translucent elements just paint striping in a very light blue. Gone too are all the window ports that were raised on the hull of the original and painted in where required. This version eliminates that as well as those distinctive light grey hull stripes and adds weathering to the hull plating that lifts this beyond the flat scale of its 22nd Century overcoat. 

I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting a great deal to come from this one because of the notoriety of the plastic engine clips if nothing else. However I've been pleasantly surprised by a ship which has some incredibly intricate surface patterning and easily an increased amount of attention to the fineries. Adapting the design cannot have been easy - as we see from the magazine - but the result is far more spectacular than you might expect.

The visual differences between the two are considerable and so it's well worth getting hold of both. Having them on the same scale is also a plus point. Of the two, the -A is by fat the most interesting to look at - but definitely don't discount the original.

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Sunday, 12 June 2022

The Wrath of Khan at 40: The Classic Lives On


I was far, far too young to watch The Wrath of Khan when I first saw it.

My first experience of the movie doesn't come from 1982 when I was *cough* just two *cough* but from about three years later on a videotaped version from one of the (at the time) four terrestrial channels we could enjoy in the UK. 

It was the first Star Trek movie I ever saw and for a six year old it blew my mind. Honestly, I didn't realise that I was probably far too young for this movie as I just lapped up every scene with relentless excitement and awe. It was incredible, proper space battle stuff, phasers and explosions; Amazing! What more could you want from a sci-fi film? Apart from being slightly terrified by those ceti eels in a very much edited-for-Saturday-afternoon version.


This video was watched and re-watched with frightening regularity because it was and still probably is my favourite film of all time. If I'm right I wore the tape out because it was viewed that often and now I know the film, as many, many fans do, line by line. Each word is subconsciously pre-empted, every nuance and action anticipated but loved all the same.

I mean, The Wrath of Khan's brilliance has endured for four decades and - in fact when I originally started drafting this - I even introduced it to my wife who took it a lot more positively than I expected.

Melissa is in no way (read: any way at all) a Star Trek fan and would be happy if the s**t was removed from the house this instant and burned. But she has allowed it for many years and knows it's a part of who I am. Anyway, cutting back to the point, she watched it and enjoyed it. I might have even heard the comment of 'good film' in there somewhere. Mel has been more akin to the general movie-goer friendly JJ reboots and after watching those she dropped in during my in-sequence movie watch with The Search for Spock coming to realise that the more recent blockbusters merely touch the surface and offer a line into the wider franchise.

Going back and watching The Wrath of Khan was a great experience to see her drawn in by the story, the action, the subtle undertones and admit that it was easily the best of the movies. It was pretty much as I did back in the mid-80's watching Ricardo Montalban chew the scenery for the umpteenth time and eye roll at the recognition of Chekov which is the stuff of Star Trek legend.

Khan
is in no way a hard movie to say why it's so good and even the franchise itself has attempted to copy its brilliance with varying levels of success - First Contact and Into Darkness being those polar opposite examples. Indeed it's influence reaches into the writing of The Voyage Home, the writing and directing of The Undiscovered Country and ultimately to the direction of Discovery with the inclusion of Nicholas Meyer into the show's writers room. Heck, there's still that rumour that a Khan mini-series will happen and even in the last episode of Picard's second season there was an ominous reference to Project Khan in the hands of Adam Soong. It's influence cannot be underestimated which isn't bad for a movie that had a fraction of the budget of its predecessor. Think about it for a moment and just how much is reused. The Klingon K'tingas, Enterprise in spacedock, the crew uniforms are dyed rehashes of the ones from The Motion Picture and the two main sets - the bridges of the Reliant and the Enterprise are the same set

Even just with those you would be laughing and mocking a movie if it were made now and rehacked a substantial amount of its forebear but in that respect The Wrath of Khan is unique. The story is a huge upgrade, the stakes are unequivocally raised and slot in one of the most gut-punching final acts in cinema history and the sedentary plod through V'Ger is easily banished from the mind. 

People ask if you can single out moments from the movie which are classics but I find it hard to pull apart what is the perfect Star Trek movie. There is true heart, character and loss in every cell of the film from the opening "In the 22nd Century" right to Nimoy's one and only time recital of "Space; the final frontier...". No other Star Trek movie packs so much into its running time and effortlessly feels like every minute is finely balanced, every line just necessary; no more no less (more on that in a sec).

The legendary six day Meyer rewrite may have given The Wrath of Khan the kick that the franchise needed after the pedestrian nature of The Motion Picture it was a vibrant visual spectacular with those monster maroon uniforms, phaser battles, a submarine-like hunt in the Mutara Nebula and the Kirk/Khaaaaaaaaan exchanges but how come it's endured for so long and how come I still find it my go-to Star Trek movie more than any other?

It has matured exceptionally well with my younger self enwrapped in the action, the explosions and the burning starships but as I've grown older each viewing has brought something new to light and a new angle to view it from; life and death, winning and losing; vengeance and perhaps interestingly, growing older itself.  Like Kirk, I tried the desk job and it wasn't for me and I went back to something that I enjoyed before it was too late (!) and still after all that it still resonates. I might not be watching it with the regularity I managed in the late 80's but there are at least a couple of re-watches a year, even if it's just to enjoy the adventurous James Horner soundtrack.

Each scene delivers and provides almost a mini-cliffhanger as we bounce between the Enterprise, Reliant and Regula One with themes explored at the beginning re-emerging later in the movie without feeling forced. It's an action adventure that carries more weight than you think and barely has the two main protagonists speaking to each other let alone ever physically meet.


The Wrath of Khan really affected my views on Star Trek from something that I watched on a Wednesday night into something that I absolutely loved. I can remember recreating the final battle with my Ertl USS Enterprise which had been adorned with phaser and torpedo damage just as the ship had been in the Mutara Nebula - it was on the TV version of the ship however but my young mind could easily make the jump as the Enterprise rose up behind the Reliant/over the bedside.

Believe it or not this is actually going somewhere because June 4th 2018 marked 36 years since the movie was originally released and it still looks great in every frame and with every spoken line. It has everything you could possibly want from Star Trek and I firmly believe that without the success of this movie there would be no franchise today. The Wrath of Khan is one of those moments where Star Trek actually got it right in the right way at the right time. All the elements needed were where they needed to be and it pounced on the move to the cinema with veracity and energy rather than treading a similar line to The Motion Picture. 

Without the renewed vigour and dynamism of The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek may well have become a sci-fi footnote of 79 episodes and two so so movies whereas instead it breathes life into the show which still exists today. If you were to encapsulate the effect of this story in one word it would have to be ‘monumental’. A moment that is off-referred to, imitated both outside and within the franchise and still as fresh today as it was in June 1982.

Indeed, just think how many references to Augments, Ceti Eels, Ceti Alpha V, Khan himself,
great fictional works, the needs of the many or even the Kobayashi Maru have pervaded the franchise since this point - how many times has it perhaps attempted to regain that moment of "perfection"? Maybe the other way of looking at it is that The Wrath of Khan spawned the greatest period of Star Trek's history but was it also the most polluting factor at the same time with everything being rated against the second movie in every sense meaning that future writers and directors were consciously or unconsciously using it as a base?


Now in 2022 I can add another few paragraphs to my love of this movie because I've finally watched the Director's Cut. The differences are subtle; the nod to Scotty's nephew, slight extensions to a few of the scenes that add a little more depth to the narrative (and an odd one or to that actually remove a touch of the dynamic) but as a whole it still proves that this is a classic. Polished up and with some great extras it's a must to any collection and will more than likely be pressed up against the inevitable 4k Blu-Ray render of The Motion Picture that's recently arrived.

Perhaps back in 1982 there was even more riding on the success of a sequel than there was from The Motion Picture. That had proved the franchise could work on the big screen and attract a good size audience and takings but The Wrath of Khan had to do more for less. This one had to prove that there was longevity to this direction and it did that in spades. Even today there is no other film I have watched or quote more than this one, there is no other movie I have seen more times than this nor one that I enjoy as much on each viewing.

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan has been revered and imitated within its own franchise walls for 40 years and that love does not look set to dissipate any time soon. Maybe though there is one more thing for me to do with it and that's to see it up on the cinema screen itself as along with The Motion Picture and The Search for Spock it's one of only three Star Trek features I've not experienced in that environment. Fingers crossed it doesn't take another 40 years for me to make that happen. 

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