Thursday, 30 May 2013

What's Inside the Enterprise?! (and some other merchandising)

Where's the loo??? Is that the warp core? What's inside the saucer?

Created by the team behind Dragon Models' Project Cutaway line and available NOW, this plastic, fully painted model of the original TV series Enterprise uses transparent pieces to reveal the detailed interior of the ship that started it all. Measuring 18 inches long (good size that) and with a metal display base it also has the lovely RRP of $174.99. A bargain of course(!)

It looks awesome from every angle on these photos and I suspect Diamond Select Toys have got a winner on their hands no matter the cost.  Having not seen the finished item face to face I can't comment on the quality, scale or detail contained within but I don't think fans will be disappointed. An A, D and E variants must surely be coming at some point if the market takes this well enough? It's certainly unique and goes a bit further than the posters we saw in the 1990's of the A and D which were included in the boxes for AMT models (blast from the past). It just shows you how far technology has come in the last 20 years. I would have liked to have seen a bit more detail on the saucer pics as it just looks like it's showing the internal structure and corridors and not what's in the rooms. Warp core takes up a bit of room though, doesn't it?

Just to indulge for a second, I had both of these on my wall at home and the detail was beautiful. I hope in some ways these get re-released at some point as they were some of the best images created for the 30th Anniversary in 1996. I suspect a project might be to delve into their past a bit more and see if we can find out who was responsible for putting them together. (both images from memory alpha). Out of the two I preferred the "A" poster as it was easier to see all the finer points of the ship with less decks to fill up the image. It included a great little drawing of the bridge, the shuttle and even the never-seen saucer landing legs! I recall spending a lot of time crawling over both to spot the minor details and things that were drawn in to find - transporter rooms, backup control rooms...the loo....

Also released this week were the packaging images for the new Minimates range of figures. We've talked about these extensively before so I'm going to just include the pic for reference - at least it'll help you spot them quicker on the shelves after launch in June 2013.

Stores carrying Star Trek: Attack Wing will host tournaments for players to challenge each other for dominance of the Alpha Quadrant. Players will collect a participation prize each month as well as compete for a new playable ship that will only be offered via the Organized Play events. The player with the best record over the six-month event will be bestowed the title of Fleet Admiral and awarded a special grand prize at the end of the program.

Two more bits of "stuff" for you take a look over in the next few days. Firstly there's Hero-Clix. Now at initial glace it's a kids' game but what does make me a little bit more interested is the ships that are involved. Already in production, there's now a special event called Star Trek: Attack Wing coming online. The six-month storyline Organized Play program focuses on  the Dominion War from the Deep Space Nine timeline and looks like a lot of fun (big kid mode engaged).

Pre-orders are now being taken for the Star Trek: Attack Wing Starter Set and first eight expansions packs that launch this August at GenCon 2013. At the event players will be able to experience demos at the WizKids booth as well as limited tournaments to get a first look at the game.

Under license by CBS Consumer Products, Star Trek: Attack Wing utilizes the FlightPath™ maneuver system featuring pre-painted miniatures of iconic ships from the Star Trek universe. Players can assemble their fleet and customize ships with different captains, crew, weapons and tech upgrades.

Now this is where is gets a bit more exciting for fans as the Star Trek: Attack Wing Starter Set includes the USS Enterprise-D, a Klingon Vor’cha-class cruiser and Romulan D’deridex-class ships (featured on the poster above) as well as a rulebook and all the components needed to play. After that initial set up, there are further releases planned with the first eight expansion packs of two each of Federation, Romulan, Klingon and Dominion faction ships leading the charge. Anyone know if these are available in the UK? I just want the ships!

The upcoming release of another item might just help contain my Inner Trekker and give me the ships at the same time however. The Eaglemoss Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection which launches in August 2013.

If you register through the website you can get yourself a free trial of the product which gives you access to view the first issue for a limited time and then choose whether to buy or subscribe. I might be tempted to have a look over the first issue (priced £1.99) and get the Enterprise-D but once the price hikes up to £5.99 for issue 2 and then higher for each subsequent issue I'm not sure if I would be able to justify purchasing this regularly. It might be one of those where only specific ships influence my purchase along the run of 65 magazines promised.

Taking a look at the pages available it appears like a cross between the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual and the Star Trek Factfiles. Blatantly timed with the release of Star Trek Into Darkness this is going to be aimed towards the younger, newer fan market rather than the more seasoned fan as the content doesn't appear that "technical". The preview images are heavy on full colour pictures and low on text but it's more about the model and the quality that they can produce on a fortnightly basis. I look forward to seeing the result in a newsagent near me soon. Upcoming issues (two through five) promise the refit movie Enterprise, Klingon Bird of Prey, Romulan Warbird and the NX-01 from, of course, Enterprise.

If you pre-order then there's a plethora of goodies you'll get alongside the first few issues - binders, Enterprise-D dedication plaque, Borg cube (not full size), a digital copy of the magazine and, probably the best bit, a model of the Enterprise-D from All Good Things... resplendent with third nacelle. Oh, and you have the chance to win an iPad mini.

Eaglemoss are doing a good job with the presentation of the website and the offers to get people onboard ahead of launch but I would personally rather wait and get a better idea once it's had a first issue release as it could all be hype and I've seen this kind of publication before with Bond cars and all sorts of promotions. Certainly all the pre-launch material makes it look super-tempting for new, moderate and hardcore fans and I will endeavour to provide a review of the first issue when it's launched for the budget price of £1.99. No doubt office desks across the land will be adorned with miniature USS Enterprise models from August. While there is that sense of caution I am intrigued as to what will be on the shelves in two months. If Eaglemoss are reading, can you make sure there's every version of the Enterprise, Defiant, VoyagerPrometheus and Dauntless....!
One thing I can say is that their customer service team are on the ball. I've had some issues logging in but Arlene from Eaglemoss has been very helpful throughout the process...shame I still can't get into the trial section however.

Enterprise and Minimates images courtesy of Diamond Select Toys
Star Trek: Attack Wing images courtesy of NECA/Whizkids
Star Trek: The Official Ships Collection images from Eaglemoss

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Folded World

Receiving a new Star Trek book to review is always a pleasure but when you're faced with the potential of some kind of spacial rift in the back cover blurb you're more tempted to open an airlock without a spacesuit than get turning those pages.

So that was the situation I faced with Jeff Mariotte's new The Original Series novel, The Folded World. The back cover gives every indication (as I've mentioned before) that this is going to be something akin to The Animated Series episode The Time Trap and numerous Voyager episodes.

Moving past the wonderful cover art, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my expectations were not met and The Folded World has much more to offer than an expansion on a 30 minute cartoon from the 1970's or 1993 Voyager. It's got character, atmosphere and mystery which make an interesting soup in this new release. Linking an average diplomatic mission, spaceships trapped in a constantly changing rift with unstable crew and an alien world seemingly under attack certainly provides more than enough entertainment in 288 pages to handle and it doesn't seem that there's any excess along the way. It's streamlined, straight to the point and laced with an air of mystery that makes the cover synopsis a terrible understatement. Ok, here's the general gist of the story; the Enterprise is carrying the Ixtoldan diplomatic party back to their home world to begin admission to the Federation when the Starfleet ship ahead of them, the USS McRaven gets into distress and Kirk chooses to go and help (cue shuttlecraft and spacesuits). They find a weird rift in space where the ship is trapped and then end up embroiled in all sorts of temporal madness which isn't all it appears to be.

There's a lot to like about this novel so don't let that "spacial rift" put you off one bit. While not only do the ensemble The main triumvirate of Kirk, Spock and McCoy are all together for once in the main thread of the story however they are somewhat overshadowed by Petty Officer Miranda Tokolo who has some serious issues in the attic. If that's not enough there's a third element to contend with in the form of a separate narrative which runs in parallel and actually opens the book. More on that in a bit.

Characterisations of the main cast are pretty spot on with some exceptional sparring between Spock and McCoy which is absolutely in character. McCoy here is at his transport-hating, counselling and grumbling best, getting a chance to show off all sides of his personality during their off-ship activities. There's some of Kirk's past on show here, reflections on a fondly remembered childhood after trauma - mention of the incident on Tarsus IV which played a part in the episode The Conscience of the King - which helped him regroup. While not initially evident that this is relevant to the plot, it does become so as we move further into the story and echoes the experiences of Miranda Tokolo which help in making her such an interesting addition to this story. We also get to know a girl named Aleshia pretty early on and her story is the strand which seems initially separate to the main narrative. The way in which Mariotte has played this piece is very different, especially opening the book through unknown eyes. While she is questioning the events occurring around her we are left in the same position knowing nothing of what is happening but learning a bit more with every return to her village. Fairly insignificant within her community this girl has a terrible life ruled by famine and "domestic" violence it is just the tip of the iceberg. The conclusion of which is perhaps one of the pivotal moments of the story.

The Folded World really made me think. It's not a difficult book to read but there are a lot of threads which you have to try and pull together - one of which I hadn't cottoned onto until it appeared in the text and a second, a personal trauma, which was announced with chapter-ending grandeur was  then seemingly neglected until the closing paragraphs. With the events that take place within the story I was puzzled as to why this wasn't played upon a lot more and wondered if taking it away would have had any effect on the story in any way whatsoever apart from reflecting on Kirk's childhood memories.

I could try and point out one piece as the most important element of this novel however it's not one with anything I would call a sub-plot. The elements in each narrative strand all play a significant part here and it all comes together in a matter of time. Oddly that's something that is played with a lot here and not in the usual and perhaps expected manner that we have come to know from Star Trek. The Folded World has a unique perspective on the fourth dimension, using it both as a factor to consider within the spacial rift and as an element of the narrative itself. While this might sound a bit confusing in a review it makes perfect and Spock - logical sense when you read the book. Initially I found The Folded World a bit confusing. The opening section cleverly asks a lot of the reader; acceptance of a race of people and a viewpoint we have not experienced before. Seemingly intended for that precise purpose it works a dream and don't think it'll get answered straight away; as I noted, time is an overriding factor in Jeff Mariotte's work here. Not to give too much of the plot away, the crew's encounter with something inside the rift means experiences become more than a dream and we even get a nod to Star Trek of Kirk's future in one fleeting moment. It's a brief few lines but all the worth being there just for a bit of universal continuity. 

The mix of action and intrigue is managed expertly and accompanies the story well. It seemed that events occurred because they made sense rather than being used as set pieces. Explaining why some of them happen in the first place plays it's own part. In some respects it could be said that this is a novel offering some deep insights into both main and guest characters if only fleetingly on occasion however the Miranda Tokolo character is certainly centre stage. The thought of reading an Enterprise encounters a right and has an unstable crewmember on board might be initially off putting but the back story is both homage and believable to boot. Dealing with being the lone survivor from the Romulan incident featured in Balance of Terror would be enough to manage with on its own for most people but there's a deeper issue as well as the affections of two Enterprise crew to deal with into the bargain. It's going to be a bad day and they're wearing red. Tokolo is essentially built around this troubled mind and so remains as the flash point for much of the circumstances during the bulk of the away mission. It's a good exploration of character however it's very obvious what we're dealing with rather than exploring the nuances of Miranda's personality through the narrative.

Where I find this book slipping into very familiar territory is the portrayal of the Ixtoldan diplomats. Their stereotypical stuffiness and elusive nature is a Star Trek staple. It does play a part but they do come across as particularly average and stereotypical in their nature of the type of guests Kirk would have threatened to stick in an airlock on occasion. While their presence is not as secondary as it might appear, they are somewhat forgettable. Scotty certainly has his hands full and whether Mariotte has made the character a little softer than we might have expected is up for debate. On occasion he does raise himself to face off against the guest party however there seems to be lingering doubt in his own abilities that didn't really surface in the TV series. Aside from the Chief Engineer though the rest of the bridge crew are relegated to a few lines here and there but no serious standout moments when most of the story is set away from the Enterprise on an alien craft.

Indeed, those settings are well imagined and visualised whether an alien planet or a rotting starship, you can feel the atmosphere and sense either very real danger or the dark, gloominess that greets Kirk and the away team. The threat and the twists of the story are well concealed as Mariotte talks about the experiences that the crew encounter and how it affects them each in turn and how they make sense of what occurs during the mission.So let's add psychology to the mix of issues and themes being dealt with here. It certainly suits McCoy who really steps up to the plate.

The inclusion of the Ixtoldans is the initial catalyst for events due to the links to the USS McRaven which in turn leads Kirk and the Enterprise into this encounter but there is payoff which can't be said of all the strands explored with The Folded World. The rift itself which acts as the story's focal point is well realised and visualised by Mariotte and genuinely feels different. The further I read the less I felt that we were about to hit a slight rewrite of The Time Trap. In fact the author has created something that I found really interesting in this swirling mysterious space. Everything within The Folded World has a purpose and paying attention to the clues makes for a good reading experience. On occasion I referred back to previous chapters to make sense of dialogue or events as they unravelled within the text just to see how the seeds had been laid earlier. The later third of the novel is very action orientated and some of the exposition is almost lost within the sequences that occur there and close the story. At this point it's as if the story's pace shifts noticably as everything begins to draw together but yet it's not all over and done in a few pages giving a more natural end to the adventure. Leaving a few bits open-ended might be Mariotte's way of ensuring he can produce a sequel of sorts.

Also worth noting is the conspicuous lack of "drop in" references to other episodes that are not directly related to matters within the plot. I breathed a sigh of relief over this I can tell you. Mariotte has relied on making us identify with the cast through their actions and dialogue which is very accurate rather than playing on knowledge of other stories to show his subject knowledge and this makes the book much stronger. Creating a believable (and twisted) plot has proved a great strength here and it's been a good read and certainly currently in my top three Star Trek novels of the year. I have to say that after a tepid start that was, ironically, all in the mind, this book picked up speed straight away and turned into a very enjoyable read. Yeah, there are similarities and after so many adaptations, novelisations, episodes and movies, the odd repeat or deja vu moment is acceptable. A great effort that would make me want to read another tome from Jeff Mariotte in the future without doubt. I actually like the fact that it's a secondary character who mainly steers the plot here and unusually I actually liked Tokolo and how Mariotte dealt with her and the troubles she contends with. Perhaps Mr JJ Abrams should give him a call and put him on the writing staff for the next movie especially for the female characters. Also, an apology to anyone who wanted detailed plotting of the story - I haven't gone into any detail because I think it would ruin your enjoyment from page one. 

The range seems to be very dedicated to The Original Series at the minute with a few more volumes to come in the next few months although I believe there is an Enterprise volume just around the corner however and David R George III's The Fall will be coming later in the year crossing The Next Generation with Deep Space Nine - but such occasions seem very rare.

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Folded World is available from Simon and Schuster priced £6.99; ISBN 978147670282

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Trekollections IV: SKY's the Limit

The early 1990's were my Trek proving ground. My knowledge of the subject was growing and the franchise was about to move into what I consider its golden era. Everything was good...

Except I was going to miss every moment of it because we didn't have SKY and that was where season four of The Next Generation was due to premiere in the UK. The year was 1992 and the countdown to Family was on.

Now I'll rewind back slightly to Trekollections III at this point - I slipped in the mention of a saviour there and it's only fair to bring this in now. As you will remember I'd talked about the Christmas Day watching The Motion Picture and having turkey fritters for dinner. What had happened was that Dad had been made redundant and was searching for work at the time. Co-incidence had it that one day he was out gardening and started talking to the guy who lived directly behind us through the slatted wooden fence.

Over the next few weeks and months we came to know this man very well. George was ex-RAF and one of the nicest people I have ever known, bar none. He too was looking for a new job which led to many collaborations with my parents but George also had SKY. Now in the early 1990's in the UK that was a big thing and somehow the conversation one day turned to me being given the chance to go and watch some  if I wanted to. Now I jumped at the chance - but it would need to be weekdays around 5pm and could I video something say once a day...?

Personal library photo
At the cost of a bit of house-sitting and gardening i could now watch new Star Trek whenever I could. George would be quite a big influence on my life at this point and significantly, about 15 years later but we'll talk about that in due course. Being a writer himself when schedule permitted i was able to spend some time with our neighbour helping me develop a few essential planning skills which I used for a fair few years while I was focused more on novel writing. I believe we worked on a The Next Generation story on a few occasions and got a fair distance into the planning. Sadly time was against me and I never sat down to flesh it out properly.

While a lot of my friends and peers were getting into Blur, Oasis, Suede and other indie Britpop bands that were beginning to rear their head, I was turning away from the music scene and digging firmly into the sci-fi camp. My foray into the world of music would be put on hold for a long time. In fact it would only be the last 15 years or so that I have really started to hone my tastes!

Luckily for me George was very reasonable and at the cost of a VHS cassette I was soon receiving batches of The Next Generation on its first run through on SKY One. I didn't manage to see every episode during the run but I did get to see a good 70% of seasons four and five. My viewing of season six was a bit hit and miss but I had better luck when SKY cycled back round from Encounter at Farpoint before they embarked on the first showing of the seventh season in 1994. Actually this reminds me that my first encounter with these later seasons was Unification in it's movie-length format and for more on that one I would refer you to a previous blog piece on that two-parter.

Anyway, my recollections of this first run on SKY is of some grainy VHS quality episodes, particularly, Reunion, Future Imperfect and The Loss. Many of them were taken out of sequence so what I saw when is a bit of a blur but I do know that in the following season I managed Darmok and Cause and Effect at least. Why I missed a good chunk of the sixth season is hard to recall but what I can tell you is that SKY held back the first part of Descent which was the season cliffhanger to air with the final year. 

Now around this time I started to get TV Zone magazine from the local newspaper shop. The first issue I bought was number 52 (right). It was a must have if only for the brilliant episode guides for the seventh year of The Next Generation and the second season of Deep Space Nine. Magazines were a key way to keep up to date with any goings on in the Trek universe. TV Zone and Starburst in Copelands newsagents were a monthly revelation and I found out a great deal about the last days of The Next Generation through their pages. I also managed to find the odd copy of the now sadly defunct Starlog mag. Again while doing some loft rummaging and reminiscing I located the issue in which readers were asked to vote for their favourite 25 The Next Generation episodes. 

Oddly it's conducted before the seventh season and with half of season six still to run so whether any of those would have made the list we will never know. Anyway, the magazines gave some brilliant tit-bits of info and pictures of what was coming. You have to remember that this was in the days before something called the "internet" (you may have heard of it) so finding out information was a much more challenging hobby! I seem to recall reading my first bits of character detail and plot synopsis for Deep Space Nine's pilot there. At the time I didn't quite get what it was all about and thought it was going to be another show featuring a crew on a space ship in a completely different sector of space. Indeed, this would come true to some degree in season three of the series with the introduction of the Defiant

VHS was the format to get hold of new Star Trek back in the day and as with "Unification" it was the way that I managed my first viewing of Deep Space Nine's pilot episode in 1993. Rented from the local (and recently closed-down) Blockbuster Video shop it was my treat while mum and dad went out for the evening. Different was an understatement and I wasn't totally prepared for such a drastic departure from the Star Trek world we came to know and love in the hands of Kirk and Picard. It was rough, tough and gritty and really placed Roddenberry's vision on the edge of the final frontier. While Encounter at Farpoint had gripped me from the start of The Next Generation this was a much more tepid introduction and it would take time for me to appreciate how good this show was. During the first year I was even contemplating turning it off on occasion because it didn't seem to be going anywhere. While I had rented that first volume, it would again be down to the kindness of our neighbour, George and the Powers That Be at SKY who would provide me with the chance to see the remaining 18 episodes of that inaugural season and unlike The Next Generation it would be one episode per week on a Sunday night. 

When all this was going on I managed to gain a StarTrek ally in the form of Steven Bond. How we were introduced is now lost in the annals of history. What I can say is that we both went to the same school and were heavy StarTrek addicts. We would swap magazines and information regularly as well as VHS cassettes of the latest The Next Generation releases. Later it would move across to Deep Space Nine and Voyager episodes as while I was more of a fan of Sisko and crew, "Bondy" preferred the charms of Captain Janeway and the Delta Quadrant.

Neither of us had bought that many of the VHS releases upto this point with any dedication. The only ones I had at home were volumes bought by grandparents (which amassed to half of The Next Generation season) one along with the one video I had bought after much searching; Relics. To this day it is still the only Trek episode I have ever watched twice in one day. It was, to bring us nicely full circle in this blog, one of the episodes I caught on that first run through of seasons four through six on SKY. It is also one of the few episodes that I can still watch again and again and again and never get bored. This was also the first volume Bondy borrowed and it would continue with the majority of the final year meaning that when it did come round on SKY I only had a few to catch. When season one of Deep Space Nine had run its course this was exactly what happened. This was to be the final year of first-run The Next Generation and I had to wait until my birthday in 1994 to see the finale. Thanks to my VHS partnership with Bondy I'd managed to see the best of the last season; Parallels, The Pegasus, Genesis and Preemptive Strike still stand out from their first viewing and in the next few weeks I'm going to be going through them again, in order, for the first time since the mid-1990's.

Let's pause there for a second and take a breath - Deep Space Nine. That's the second reference here and it's about time I come clean that of all the Trek incarnations it's without any doubt my favourite. In fact probably for the opposite reasons that I should like Star Trek. It had conflict, it was darker, more unsettled and each week built on the last. There were repercussions from actions and the format didn't get the magic reset that plagued many an Original Series or The Next Generation episode. There is so much I'll come to talk about with this series but if truth be told in its first season I almost reached for the off button on more than one occasion.

In 1993/94 it was a huge shock to go from the comfort of The Next Generation to the frontier outpost of Deep Space Nine. The pilot was and still is my favourite of all the series inceptions but after that it was decidedly mixed. Q was just wrong for the series; we didn't need Lwaxana showing up, there was no action considering the promise from Emissary of what could be coming. It was very, very talky; nothing seemed to be happening and the characters were a bit, well, poor. Episodes such as The Storyteller, If Wishes Were Horses and Move Along Home didn't help the case for the defence but it seems as though Deep Space Nine managed to get a lot of its problems sorted in those first 20 hours. To this day I'm glad I persevered as otherwise my love of Star Trek may well have died with the end of The Next Generation in 1994.

Sadly on VHS the long-awaited finale of that show was a bit of a disappointment because after such great coverage of the entire series, All Good Things... was presented in its edited two-part format, missing some great little scenes to account for the restricted running time and addition of title and end credits. Later a feature-length version was released coupled with the Journey's End documentary and trailers for all seven feature films in a limited run but with my budget it was too late. I would have to wait a few months for SKY to show the finale as part of its Sunday run to enjoy such gems as Old Q and references to Leah Brahms marrying Geordi. Minor they may seem, but it was shocking to see them cut and the last The Next Generation ever presented in its hacked format. However as Picard proclaimed that "The sky's the limit." I already knew there was more to come. The main reason that The Next Generation had finished after seven fantastic years was so that the crew could move to the big screen. We were going to get our first Trek film since 1991. Star Trek Generations was on the way.

While I'd been avidly following The Next Generation through its swansong season I had inadvertently taken my eye off the Deep Space Nine ball as it had in turn passed into its second year in parallel. I'd kept a track of the episodes that were coming - there was a three-parter to kick off the season, an episode set in the past - but that was about all that interested me. When SKY started to run these episodes I dropped myself in front of the screen and prepared for more of the same as the previous year. I was surprised to find that the step up in quality that had been evident in Duet and In the Hands of the Prophets had been maintained and there was even the hint of an ongoing storylines around the Prophets, Bajor and something else... It was a much improved season all round and the second half of the year really emphasised that Deep Space Nine had a future and being different to the concluding The Next Generation was essential to that.

So here we are; it's coming to the end of 1994. I'd been a big fan of The Next Generation particularly in its later years when my love of Star Trek really took hold. How was I going to remain a fan with only Deep Space Nine to maintain my interest? It was nowhere near as good as Picard's Enterprise and there's no way it ever could be...Could it?!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Star Trek: My Shadow of Darkness

Ok, this is gonna sound really bad but I'm fed up with Into Darkness.

There you go; I said it and I don't regret a word of it. I'm sorry I'm going to brass a lot of people off in the course of this but hey, it's my opinion and I've just been kidding myself that it doesn't matter. It does. This is my last article for some time on the subject I hope. I need a break from the overload and yes, I have written quite a lot on it leading up to the premiere but enough is enough. For the sake of Scotty, let's call time; final round.
So why do I feel like this on the 24th May 2013 when the movie has only been out in the UK since 9th May 2013? The simple answer is because I do but in the bigger picture there are a whole battalion of reasons why I've actually got bored of the latest Star Trek installment. I don't think it's awful or that JJ has destroyed Star Trek forever. I do have opinions on that and briefly I don't think he has - in a lot of respects he's updated it and made it more accessible for Generation Y and the Millennials because of how they view and digest media. For example the media campaign, the viral site and the app are prime examples of a job well done. They caught us and held us right through the build-up, enticing us with little extras, pictures, clips, sounds and prizes...should we have realised at that point that the whole was not going to be as good as the sum of the parts? Were our own expectations as a community so high that whatever JJ and his crew managed to pull out of the bag, Khan or not, would never have satisfied the carnal sci-fi hunger of every Star Trek fan alive?!

What bugs me to tears is the constant battering and microscopic breaking down of every single facet of the movie beyond anything I've seen before and I've seen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In fact because the internet was awash with them, I purposely avoided writing movie review here on Some Kind of Star Trek because I felt I was drowning in them 24/7. Instead we looked at the novelisation and the differences it highlighted in contrast to the movie itself as well as a more numerical take on the film at the box office. We wanted to avoid being samey and do something different; that's what we do -  that's what we encourage from bloggers who want to write here.

Every Talosian and his ceti eel is kicking off about That Carol Marcus Scene and it's even been admitted by Damon Lindelof that it was gratuitous - purely to get the viewers and because they just wanted it there.  In fact I commented that it looked like a fan-boy pleaser way back when it first cropped up in the trailers (and subsequently every Into Darkness internet search).  Oh and now to counter all the criticism there's the Benedict Cumberbatch shower scene. Perhaps they doth protest too much? Is this actually a sign that Lindelof has made a bit of a mistake and now there's some furious backpedaling taking place? Seems to be the case from my perspective. In reference to the "original"  scene here - good grief; we get it and it's illuminated the internet like a nuclear explosion that will surely help increase the "meagre" takings Into Darkness has seen at the worldwide box office as might the new "deleted scene" that JJ is flaunting around the press in some vain attempt to show equality and that it wasn't meant to be as gratuitous as his writer has made perfectly clear. Two words: damage limitation. However...

That's also good and clever marketing whether you like it or not. There's no such thing as bad publicity and creating the furore over the Marcus scene has certainly brought the movie to the fore and it's portrayal of characters in the Star Trek universe right to the peak.. The portrayal of said female characters is particularly poor - Uhura and Carol are badly used, Kirk sleeps with two and Harewood's wife says not a word. The female navigator who replaces Chekhov gets a better part. Ultimately, the more we rant about it, the more people will want to see what we're all talking about and those box office coiffures will steadily expand. 

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the trailers and the hype all along the way. It was a really well orchestrated ride and the film is, well, average to say the most. There are a lot of massively negative and polar opposite scarily over the top reactions out there which just defy me as to how we can rant and rave at such diametric opposites with so much fury. Ladies, gents; it's a movie and one person's interpretation of someone else's idea. That's the be all and end all of it. I get the point of reviews but it just seems that we're going beyond the pail now even as hard-core fans. I enjoyed it but I've managed to remain in control of my emotions and my bladder when asked for an opinion and refrained from multiple exclamation marks at the end of sentences!!!
OK, maybe just the once I haven't but there's more to Star Trek than two reboot movies from JJ Abrams. I'm at a loss as to why you would even want to go and see it multiple times (there's  guy on Twitter I saw who was thinking about going for a sixth time - DVD/blu-ray???) unless you just want to help make the movie get a few more bucks and not be the "disappointment" some have labelled it. Surely we should be happy that Abrams created two new slices of Star Trek even if they aren't necessarily everyone's cup of tea because it's got everyone jabbering on about it. Saying the acting is amazing or waxing lyrical that it's just the best cinematic experience ever seems like the recipe for a stomach empty of astronomic proportions that we don't need to hear. Sorry - just an opinion however in comparison to previous outings this has gone to another level. Maybe the overwhelming influence of social media (including this blog) and including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, websites, Pinterest, publishers, writers, etc etc have more than aided in the frenzy to get a word in edge-ways on the subject. I know for one that  I've mentioned about the borrowed dialogue from The Wrath of Khan as well as other bits that didn't satisfy me, bits that I liked, things that niggled but perhaps the Star Trek community should just come together and decide that as of June 1st 2013 we'll stop bitching about the damn film and move on. Let's go back to complaining about viral videos of Riker sitting down, if DS9 or Voyager was better or whether THAT Picard meme is really, really, really annoying. Right. Let's make it official, who's with me in making June 1st 2013 International Star Trek Out of Darkness Day. No bitching, grumping, hair-pulling, over-enthusiasm, glorifying or in fact any emotional reaction to the movie at all. Let's keep it decidedly Vulcan...Or not....

Some of the magazine and news slots have been pretty awful and inconsistent with terrible editorial errors (Heat magazine referencing John Anderson is one of my favourites (right)) that show a total lack of understanding and a desire to jump on the boat whether right or wrong - check your stuff first if you're in the limelight might be a word of wisdom! While you might want to pass a verdict, seeing the movie helps if you're going to write something about it in the first place.

Over-analysing Star Trek Into Darkness is just killing anything that was good/bearable about the whole experience. I can get the themes, the characters are fine, the effects are good but we're dissecting it way more than it needs to be as a global community. Let me say it again; it's a film. I would try and avoid all these posts, tweets and the like, but everyone has a fierce opinion which you can't get away from but let's just start taking deep breaths and calm the **** down. We have effectively become part of that very marketing campaign through our maelstrom of views and comments right across the world. JJ Abrams, Bad Robot and Paramount couldn't have wanted a better, free medium to give opinion because they can sit back, relax and take it all in without spending a penny/dime/centime. Cha-ching, that's the sound of success right there. What we're missing is the notion that the "rebooting" of the Star Trek universe is confined to two blockbuster movies in 2009 and 2013 but encompasses the whole franchise history at the same time. It has reignited interest in Star Trek both virulently within its existing fanbase and also within new fans who are discovering it through these more action-orientated JJ installments. Whether good or bad, people are interested, news abounds and I would suspect that searches for the topic on Google have gone absolutely mental.
It's not a failure the more we discuss it and keep the fires burning. It's incited a fanbase into meltdown but perhaps we need to appreciate it's an action movie for the modern age and not Prime Star Trek. It is what it is and there's nothing we can do about it - although if it manages to raise a new TV series to our screens a la The Avengers with Agents of SHIELD then I doubt we'll be complaining. Ok, we probably will won't we? It'll be all Abrams-ified and that'll cause another storm in a nebula.

Now I applaud people for their opinions whatever they may be, it's what makes the world turn, sells newspapers, governments fall and Star Trek forums the bloody battlegrounds they are, but for the love of Kirk and Picard, how many times can you read a review of the film saying the same thing? Or reviews that just talk about how it's not "like it used to be". Sorry people, it's called Change. Yes, Star Trek Into Darkness has it's faults, yes it has some great moments and lines that will go down in Star Trek lore I'm sure but it'll never be a classic nor is it one of the worst things ever. It's average at best and average at worst. I doubt the Oscars will be heralding it as the next multiple award-winning movie to rival Ben Hur or Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Effects and hair-styling more likely but don't hold your breath.

Dammit, it's even made me write this piece on how I'm fed up with it. What gets me though isn't that I'm annoyed or grumpy with everything surrounding the film. I love the merchandising that's come out, I love the magazines, the books, t-shirts, little starship models, faux Lego Kre-O kits, behind the scenes videos that have been playing, uniforms, the whole shebang and a kitchen sink - it's just how we're dealing with the film and those involved with it that makes me uncomfortable. We don't seem to respect other fans views on the movie for one thing and there just seems no end to the bitterness. Trekkers/Trekkies always get a name for being obsessive, over the top, nerdy etc and we're always trying to prove that we're the opposite - we're cool, we're down with the kids (ok - bit extreme) and definitely not total mummy's boy, living in the box room at age 50 geeks who trawl the internet to pass opinion and comment on the length of Riker's beard. Sadly while the film attempted to be cool and hip and everything we wanted (almost) so that Trek fandom would be respected a bit more, what did we all do....? room, internet, you can fill in the rest. We reverted to type without even a slight prod of a Klingon pain stick.
Anyway, back to the point; it's all got too much really. Whether it's psychoanalysis, Carol's underwear (two mentions here alone), deep-meaningful's over the plot themes, Chekhov's accent, Uhura and Spock's relationship or disgust at the size of the Vengeance nacelles, we've got to rein it in. There's more to Star Trek than one 133 minute movie and maybe, just maybe some "interpretation" of Gene Roddenberry's 1960's vision will do just that. Love it or hate it, the rebooted universe is here and we can't erase them from history (we can of course personally recognise or deny them entrance to canon) and would we deny someone the right to be a fan of Star Trek if this is what gets them involved to being with? I suspect not. In all that's good in Threshold there's worse stuff that's considered canon and even more dire material that's in the non-canon universe of novelisations. We're reading too much into these two segments. Seriously. We are.

I also would like to add an apology. I'm sorry if this has seemed like a blog rant but I needed to expunge these feelings from my mind before I got jaded by the whole experience. it's been a little unnerving at times and there's still something about the whole Into Darkness bubble that just makes me uneasy - perhaps it is the sense that it's action movie of the season rather than a proper Star Trek experience. Maybe it's just because we seemed to be promised so much more - the options are numerous, the whole less than the parts perhaps but still an acceptable movie. I only saw it once, in 3D and that was enough. Is that telling me something about how I saw the movie? Am I wrong to not want to go back and experience it again and again in such a short period of time? For now I'm happy to have seen it, read the novel, got the great Michael Giachinno soundtrack (lot of snippets on there from the 2009 movie as well as new pieces) and can wait for the blu-ray. It won't change my life and nor will I be willing Abrams pain and death for his take on Star Trek. But does this mean I'm not a true fan? That I don't care enough? Can I expect to be lynched from my bed in the early hours and forced to watch Into Darkness over and over again until I submit? 

The answer is no. The reason is, and you'll get there before I do, it's just a movie. I do love Star Trek and I would miss it if I didn't have a regular fix, read a book, write about it and get my other half reminding me that "I'm too obsessed" (she has a point and that's one reason why I love her - she grounds me back in reality) but if I really settle down and act like a normal person, it doesn't matter. I find it hilarious sometimes when people find out I'm a fan - they don't think I look like a Trekker. Appearances huh, don't be fooled!

Now to prove a point and take some of my own medicine to calm the **** down I'm off to watch Spock's Brain, Shades of Grey and Star Trek: Nemesis back to stop sniggering at the back - go and wait for Star Wars Episode VII, then we'll see....

Additional images screenshot by SKoST unless stated

Thursday, 23 May 2013

I Have Emerged From the Darkness...Can Kirk and Co. Follow?

(Attention: Very minor spoilers to follow; no major plot points, but locations, themes and chronology from Star Trek Into Darkness may be explored, you have been warned.) In his second post for Some Kind of Star Trek, +Joe Hardacre handles the review and box office fallout...

Well, well, That’s all I can say really, my summary of what was a fantastic cinema experience. I finally managed to break my constraints and travelled up to my local VUE cinema to catch the latest JJ Abrams-fueled Star Trek outing, and incredibly I wasn't left disappointed, which was a nice surprise.

Loyal readers will recall that, during my first contribution to Some Kind of Star Trek, I offered a preview of Star Trek Into Darkness and my expectations of the film. Although at the time I anticipated that JJ would be able to deliver a top notch outing, as the days crept closer my optimism waned, and as I sat chatting with friends, regaling one another with tales from Star Trek 2009, and our expectation of Star Trek Into Darkness, I prepared myself for disappointment. Not necessarily in anticipation of a poorly made film, or even a sub-par story, but rather the burgeoning enjoyment Star Trek (2009) delivered, inflated somewhat by the ill-effects nostalgia can have on an individual. 

Regardless, my fears were unfounded for the most part, and Star Trek Into Darkness delivered the ass-kicking, lens-flaring, star ship destroying blockbuster that we had all hoped for. Once again, our charismatic lead duo displayed the on-screen chemistry the likes of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor would have been proud of, and Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrison encapsulated the dark and mysterious template villain prototype fantastically well, before exploding with a hundred different emotions in a glorious crescendo. Ultimately, it was yet another satisfying journey into the Star Trek universe, through the eyes of a director whose star is positively space-bound. 

However, my opinions aside, this piece is concerned not with my opinions of Star Trek Into Darkness, but rather, the rest of the worlds. Welcome to the first, and hopefully not the last, of my box office round-ups. Whilst Star Trek Into Darkness has been available in ol' Blighty and other areas of the world for over a week, the land of liberty across the pond had to wait an extra week (much like yours truly) in order to catch the Enterprise’s latest outing on the big screen; so, how has it fared?

Unfortunately, despite months of mystery surrounding the movie’s villain, and a massive marketing push highlighting catastrophe, jeopardy and impossibly high stakes, early reports from the US of A have been underwhelming. Now, don’t mistake underwhelming for disastrous, but this wasn’t the start Paramount was hoping for. Shifting from a Friday 17th release, to a Thursday 16th release just over a week before release, Paramount were hoping to take advantage of a relatively quiet release window and cash in over a 4-day weekend release, which mirrors the release of Star Trek (2009). Back in 2009, Star Trek managed to gross $86.7 million over its four day release window, which blew away every other Star Trek film released prior, in fact, if we don’t adjust ticket prices for inflation over the years, Star Trek (2009) grossed more in one day than any other Star Trek film did in its entire opening weekend.

Star Trek Into Darkness finished its US release window with a total gross of $84.1 million, which includes midnight showings on Thursday, and then full day reports from Friday through Sunday. As can be seen, the numbers are practically identical. It’s a surprise for sure, considering the US box office has seen massive sequel success over the past few years with the Batman franchise, the Iron Man films, Harry Potter's, as well as pseudo sequels the Avengers and The Hobbit, not to mention four years of ticket inflation. Throw 3D into the mix and the extra revenue it usually generates, and the final tally for Star Trek Into Darkness generates a resounding 'meh'. 

Really then, the question to ask is: what went wrong? (As well as, should we be worried about the future of the franchise?) To the second question, the answer is a resounding no. There really is little reason to panic; the Star Trek reboot was a great success domestically, and, perhaps importantly, it was a critical success as well, something the Star Trek films haven’t been able to boast since Star Trek First Contact (a fantastic 92% on Rotten Tomatoes way back in 1996. Star Trek (2009) for comparison holds a 95% rating, and Star Trek Into Darkness stands at 87%; by no means a disappointment). Rotten Tomatoes is a UK based website, so one could argue those results are skewed, however, even if we throw the oft-maligned Metacritic into the equation, which generally collates a broader selection of reviewers, the three films stand at 71 for Star Trek First Contact, 83 for Star Trek (2009) and 73 for Star Trek Into Darkness, which is good for second all time in the Star Trek franchise. Perhaps more importantly, Star Trek Into Darkness is receiving an average of an 'A' grade according to Cinemascore, which collates audience responses. Critically then, whilst not quite the unanimous success we saw with Star Trek (2009)Star Trek Into Darkness stands out as a success in its own right in this field. (For the more numbers-inclined of you out there, the following you can view some more figures over at this wikipedia page).

If critical response isn't to blame for the surprising box office performance then, what is? There are a number of theories thrown around to try and account for this; notes that the audiences skewed significantly higher towards males (64% compared to 60% for Star Trek (2009)), and those over the age of 25 (73% as opposed to only 65%). Small percentage differences for sure, but they certainly could account for a below par outing; furthermore, if one takes a glance at the releases in May so far, we may have another explanation. Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby have already been released this month, and both films deliver a significant amount of eye candy, with Iron Man furthermore providing high-octane action, to the point where audiences may feel as though their thirst has been sated. As shows, with The Fast and the Furious 6 on the horizon along with The Hangover Part IIIStar Trek Into Darkness will need to maintain that 'A' Cinemascore grade and hope word of mouth pulls it through a crowded release slate if it is to match Star Trek (2009)'s $257 million domestic tally, though at this point that looks like a long shot. 

Internationally, the picture isn’t nearly as bleak, although any enthusiasm generated should be held in check considering the fact that Star Trek (2009)'s international gross of $128 million was considered pretty woeful at the time. Star Trek Into Darkness has already expanded into a number of major foreign markets, including the UK, Australia and Germany. The performances there have been positive, in fact, the sequel has already grossed over $80 million worldwide in two weekends, so it’s guaranteed to pass Star Trek (2009)'s total, although where it ends up is anybody’s guess at this point; report that the only major expansion this weekend for Star Trek Into Darkness was Russia (where it has already grossed twice as much in one weekend as Star Trek (2009) did in its entire run there!), and at this point has only hit half of its potential markets, with China ($9 million for Star Trek (2009)), South Korea ($6 million), Japan ($5 million), France ($7 million) still to come. Whilst those numbers don’t scream huge success, it’s important to remember the worldwide box office continues to grow at a staggering rate, especially China; Iron Man 3, for example, has grossed nearly $110 million there alone, which is by far and away the greatest success a western movie has had in the Democratic Republic.

With recent worldwide trends, as well as the overall critical success Star Trek Into Darkness is seeing around the globe, a total north of $300 million worldwide, alongside a $200 million finish in America, seems well within reach. This would leave Star Trek Into Darkness with a combined gross somewhere north of $500 million, which would represent a successful outing, though not quite the blockbuster we were all expecting – for comparisons sake, Iron Man 3 is already north of $1 billion worldwide, and $500 million wouldn't even come close to matching Fast and the Furious 6 predecessor, Fast Five’s worldwide total of $626 million, truly phenomenal for the fifth film in the franchise. 

What does this mean for the future of the franchise? We’ve had four long, long years between JJ Abrams’ first and second Star Trek outings, and with the director now attached to Star Wars Episode VII, we could potentially be waiting longer if Paramount wish to wait around for double-J. Reasonably, with Episode VII coming in between, it could be 2018 before a three-quel hits the cinemas, and I for one don’t believe Paramount would rest of their laurels and allow that much time to pass before we see another outing. With that in mind, irrelevant of the critical or commercial figures Star Trek Into Darkness manages to finish with, I personally believe this is the last we've seen of the Star Trek universe through the eyes of JJ Abrams. 

Does this mean the end of Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock? uncertain. Ultimately, I believe the two films thus far have done a fantastic job of delivering a believable crew, despite the massive boots they've had to fill. If Paramount does stick with The Original Series crew for another film, I would be shocked if the majority of the cast didn't reprise their roles. 

That’s all for now; I’ll be looking to revisit the box office performance of Star Trek Into Darkness over the next few weeks and months, with the hope of delivering one final round up when Star Trek Into Darkness finally bows out of theatres, though I can’t imagine that’ll be happening anytime soon considering Star Trek (2009) remained in US theatres for 21 weeks! 

All facts and figures in relation to release and box office grosses courtesy of – please visit for all the latest movie release news and grosses – updated daily for America and weekly for worldwide reporting. All figures referred to correct at time of publication date.