Thursday, 29 August 2013

Star Trek The Official Starships Collection - First 30 issues Revealed!

With the first issue in the bag and the second less than a fortnight away, those lovely people over at EagleMoss have revealed which ships will be featuring in the first thirty issues of the magazine.

In my opinion there's a real range in here and some great ships that I can't wait to see. This should also help you plan out which ones are your priority buys if you're not intending on getting the full series as I've included the provisional issue dates for reference.

  1. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D
  2. USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (movie refit) (5th September 2013)
  3. Klingon Bird-of-Prey (19th September 2013)
  4. Enterprise NX-01(3rd October 2013)
  5. Romulan Warbird (17th October 2013)
  6. USS Voyager NCC-74656 (31st October 2013)
  7. Klingon K'Tinga battlecruiser (14th November 2013)
  8. USS Excelsior NCC-2000 (28th November 2013)
  9. USS Defiant NX-74205 (12th December 2013)
  10. Borg Sphere (26th December 2013)
  11. USS Reliant NCC-1864 (Miranda class) (9th January 2014)
  12. Akira class (23rd January 2014)
  13. Jem'hadar cruiser (6th February 2014)
  14. Cardassian Galor class (20th February 2014)
  15. USS Equinox NCC-72381 (6th March 2014)
  16. Ferengi Marauder (20th March 2014)
  17. USS Dauntless NX-01-A (3rd April 2014)
  18. Bajoran Solar Sailor (17th April 2014)
  19. USS Stargazer NCC-2893 (1st May 2014)
  20. Klingon V'orcha class (15th May 2014)
  21. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E (29th May 2014)
  22. Krenim Temporal Weapon Ship (12th June 2014)
  23. Nebula class (26th June 2014)
  24. Xindi insectoid ship (10th July 2014)
  25. USS Prometheus NX-59650 (24th July 2014)
  26. Tholian ship (7th August 2014)
  27. Romulan Bird-of-Prey (21st August 2014)
  28. Maquis Fighter (4th September 2014)
  29. Jem'Hadar bug (18th September 2014)
  30. Nausicaan Fighter (2nd October 2014)
A whole year and a bit planned out in starships! I'm looking forward to the Equinox, Dauntless and Prometheus models in particular as they're a bit more unusual. The Tholian Web is one of my favourite episodes so week 26 has also got a mark next to it! Odd that we aren't seeing more Enterprise's in these first 30 (only four) and some really odd additions such as the Xindi and Nausicaan vessels. 

Is there anything missing from these that you might have expected early on or is this a good range? Do you think that the Doomsday Machine or Gomtuu will be included? 

I think it'll allow EagleMoss to demonstrate how much access they have to CBS files and models with the more unexpected creations. Already this range suggests this is going to be a series well worth following either avidly or casually. Hopefully we'll be hearing more in the near future.

You can find out more about the new Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by getting down to a decent newsagent or by visiting the website now!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Star Trek Starships: Docking Complete

It's been great to see Star Trek back on the TV after so long - unfortunately it's just an advert but it is for something new that's sure to get every fan salivating more than a rabid targ.

Star Trek The Official Starships Collection was released this week and, initially I've not subscribed, choosing instead to purchase it from a newsagent and keep the economy in the UK alive for another day.

Trying to find it was one thing - TV adverts announced it as "Out Now" but none of the major supermarkets appeared to stock it. An email to EagleMoss themselves didn't make it any clearer as they didn't have any info I could have on where it was being sold. 

A conversation with a friend of mine, +Carl Thomson meant that it got tracked down to McColl's. Good spot, sir. I know where Issue Two will be getting snapped up.

Anyway, aside from a search that Spock would have been proud of, this is probably one of the highest profile magazine launches I've been aware of for a while and certainly it will ride the crest of the Into Darkness wave that rose in May and will resurface in September with the DVD/blu-ray arrival. Oddly though, as it's licenced by CBS, the one thing that it won't be covering is the JJ-verse that it is undoubtedly using to help enhance sales.

Issue One in the UK has the stunning premiere price of £1.99 and makes it impossible to avoid even for a trial. Coming with the feature magazine, a brief guide to the series and, of course, your first model starship, what could be better?

Let's focus on the model itself to begin with. Touted by the promotional material on the packaging that these are going to be designed and made based on visual effects (VFX) models from the five series and ten movies with authorisation from CBS themselves you can't help but be impressed and once you've prized NCC-1701-D from the packaging you can see why. The detail is stunning and more than justifies £1.99. Whether I'll feel the same when I part with £5.99 for Issue Two or £9.99 thereafter is another matter entirely but that's more to do with the overall package that I'll come to shortly.

The saucer of the Enterprise is of a sturdy metal construction and very accurate. The engineering hull is plastic with colour sections added for the nacelles. There are a couple of minor glitches in accuracy around shuttlebay size and decal location on the saucer but overall it's most impressive. The model itself is well balanced due to the dual-material construction and the secondary hull is equally well constructed. As noted, the Enterprise-D was in fact duck egg blue rather than shades of grey and this has been reproduced on the miniature. Well noted. I wonder what bits of other ships we may have visually interpreted differently on the screen?

More recent additions to the fan base might just be happy to learn about the ships that made history in the franchise beyond the JJ Abrams movies if they are looking to expand their interest. This is certainly a great way in. Beyond the model it's not just another episode by episode ramble. Firstly with this issue there's a series guide which outlines the high quality of the ships, the scale of the models and how they were sourced from visual effects material used on the show. 

Just to tempt you into more purchases there are some stills of what is to come including warbirds, birds of prey, Voyager, Excelsior, the refit movie Enterprise, the NX-01 and others reminding buyers that this will be with us every fortnight for some time. If you're looking to keep up with it there are a range of special gifts which will be delivered over successive weeks including a binder, Enterprise-D ship's plaque, All Good Things... Enterprise-D "future" model, a digital edition and a light-up Borg cube. 

This is all great stuff but I do have one bugbear with the Collection magazine which puts me in two minds about this series. Opening with some specs on the Galaxy Class starship it drops straight into detailing a history of the vessel within the Star Trek universe. accompanied with some new computer generated images of various areas and aspects of the Enterprise. EagleMoss have also covered the signature saucer separation and the images here are second to none in quality. 

There's a good mix of fact to fiction here as well with an article which looks back at the genesis of this now legendary ship from the mind and drawings of Andy Probert. While nothing new is really added in this piece it balances the whole production and some of the lesser known or realised ships later in the series will no doubt benefit from this part of the magazine. Actually the real world gets quite a lot of page space with details on how the ship was filmed between Encounter at Farpoint and Generations and why it ended up looking the way it did due to a mixture of CGI and models of various sizes. The colour actually changed over the course of its existence due to resprays and increased detail level for Generations - the carpet on the bridge wasn't the only thing that got updated it seems!

To finish there's a page on three key appearances and some more behind the scenes anecdotes but as I come to the back page and what's coming I'm not sure where this is aiming. Who is the audience and is this dumbing down fandom in some respects?

The model, without a doubt, is great and it's already got a shelf space but the magazine is another matter. As I noted, it is of good quality. The images are a split of old and newly envisaged shots but running to 18 pages it leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, it's more about the ship but there doesn't feel as though there is any depth of background. For a newcomer it's perfect and gives enough information to tempt you further into the Star Trek universe but for the more franchise-aware fan it might end up on the end of a shelf and get forgotten when compared to the substantially thicker and more detailed Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual

It does seem very basic and I was left wanting more after the (brief) time it took to read the four articles featured. The thing that does make it different to the manual however is in the addition of sections dedicated to the real world while the manual only did this in footnotes. EagleMoss could really capitalise on this as there's not been a lot written or great access to the more obscure vessels.

The first issue is an area and ship that has been charted before, many times and the real proof of this series will probably be beyond the multiple Enterprise's and Klingon ships. While these will be the more popular issues and craft I can only hope that there is enough material to fill 18 pages on the Akira Class, the Raven, Dauntless or the Jenolen for example without using too much plot synopsis for content. However, I do think it's worth emphasising that this series is very much more about the chunk of metal and plastic that the magazine accompanies than the literature itself. Let's also note that if this an example of the quality of the ships we're going to be getting I can't wait to see every single one. My modelling ability comes nowhere near and this is certainly a more space-friendly way of collecting the universe.

As an opener, it's a great effort and good to see Star Trek getting some good promotion with an exciting series. I'm not sure if the amount of material you get for £9.99 is justified at this time and I'll probably dip in and out across its lifespan it's just a matter of cost more than anything else. Next issue is the refit Enterprise from the movies and one of my favourite designs. While it's at the cheaper price I'll be buying and passing verdict. The other way we'll be able to judge how this series has taken is just how many of these Enterprise-D's end up on eBay in the next few months.

Star Trek The Official Starships Collection is available now from newsagents. Issue One is available at the cut-price of £1.99

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Coming Soon from Simon and Schuster

Just a quick note on the upcoming novels from publishers Simon and Schuster before the end of 2013.

With the release of The Original Series novel From History's Shadow by Dayton Ward it's securely into The Fall and a trio of tales from the pens of David R George III, Una McCormack and David Mack.

Now the cover art for these doesn't leave us a lot to go on but I think we can firmly say that Deep Space Nine and the Enterprise-E are going to be involved at some point along the way - more than that is clearly going to be guesswork but there are a few details available from Simon and Schuster...

Revelation and Dust

The Federation is rocked to its core as the Typhon Pact is suspected of being behind a barbarous act that shatters the fragile peace of the Alpha Quadrant. An original Star Trek novel, this is part of a five-book story arc that takes place over a 60 day period, but it is not necessary to read each novel in order to follow the storyline, which involves all aspects of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine universes.

The Crimson Shadow

The USS Enterprise has been sent to Cardassia Prime, where Captain Jean-Luc Picard is
involved in discussions over the removal of the small number of remaining Starfleet forces left over from the end of the Dominion War. Also present is the Cardassian Ambassador to the Federation, Elim Garak.

All parties involved are keen to see Starfleet leave Cardassian soil, not only because the Cardassians are now allies of the Federation, but because Starfleet has been badly overstretched in recent years and the resources are needed elsewhere. With so much goodwill at the highest levels, this meeting should be a formality. However, within a few days of the arrival of the Enterprise, a Bajoran Federation officer is found murdered. The crime may be racially motivated: an ultra-nationalist organization called "Cardassia First" has been stirring up anti-Federation feeling across Cardassia over the past year, and a Bajoran is an obvious target… 

A Ceremony of Losses

Despite heroic efforts, the Andorian species is headed for extinction. Its slow march toward oblivion has reached a tipping point, one from which there will be no hope of return. With countless lives at stake, the leaders of Andor, the Federation, and the Typhon Pact all scheme to twist the crisis to their political gain-at any price. Unwilling to be a mere bystander to tragedy, Doctor Julian Bashir risks everything to find a cure for the Andorians. But his courage will come at a terrible cost…

Still for announcement on plot details and cover art are the final two books in the series entitled The Poisoned Chalice and Peaceable Klingons...I await news!

Overall I'm quite excited about this series. Set in a 60 day period it looks to include everything we fans love about The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine whether it's Cardassians, Andorians or our favourite characters - at least Garak and Bashir are confirmed in these snapshots of the first three novels. How they will link has yet to be revealed but apparently you won't need to read them in order or all of them to understand what's happening. 

This will also be my first visit to Deep Space Nine and the new station replacing the Cardassian structure. While my experiences with The Original Series and The Next Generation have been good I hope the same can be said for my favourite series.

Novel covers courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Diamond Bounty and Pike on the Bridge

One of those "surely they'll make this..." models finally hits the shelves - and while it might just be a painted ship name it's sure not to disappoint.

Captured from Kruge in The Search for Spock and providing the escape route from Genesis, the HMS Bounty is now part of the Diamond Select Toys range and you don't have to travel to Vulcan, Q'onoS or 1986 to get it!

Measuring 19 inches wide by 12 inches long, this new edition of the Bird of Prey includes exclusive sounds and dialogue. The big thing that we're all looking for though is there - a set of landing gear with HMS Bounty on it!

Overall the ship isn't new but the changes and additions are something that hasn't (in my memory) been marketed before. I seem to recall that the first Bird of Prey kit AMT produced was for Generations. The recommended retail price for the Bounty is $70 (£44.96). 

Personally I just love this model. The design is, without a shadow of a doubt, a classic and it's great to see a model that directly ties into one of the movies - even if it is just a ship name on a landing leg cover. While I haven't heard the sounds, I'll pray that it has Scotty declaring "Admiral; There be whales here!"

From the pictures it looks well detailed and film-accurate. Great work here, Diamond Select, you might be convincing me to part with some money.

The second reworking of an existing Diamond Select item is a new version of the Minimates-style USS Enterprise, this time based on the pilot episode, The Cage. 

With new paint and sculptural details and an exclusive figure of Captain Pike, the ship measures 10 inches long and features an opening cockpit and a hidden Jeffries tube in the engineering section. 

Decalled up on the bridge as per the first pilot, Pike also comes in his pilot episode uniform and totes one of the more pistol-like phasers from The Cage.

For comparison The Cage starship is on the left while the Enterprise released with Kirk and his Tribbles is to the right. The clear difference is the addition of the spikes on the front of the engine nacelles but aside from that there (at first) appears to be very little difference between the two. Personally I'd probably aim to get this new variant just to be that little bit different.

Next question - any possibility of a movie variant of the Enterprise with a version of the Admiral or Captain Kirk to suit? Maybe even get an "A" suffix in there? Suggested retail price for this addition to the range is $29.99 (£19.26).

With this release of Pike as part of an Enterprise set could there be the possibility of more figures from The Cage in the future? Number One? Spock? Boyce? Now there's surely a couple of double sets just waiting to be licenced!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Big 100 and What Might Have Been

Reaching a post of significance is something to be proud of. I never thought Some Kind of Star Trek would last 50 posts let alone 100.

So how to mark the occasion? What could we do? How about this...

Let's talk 100 - the 100th episode to be exact and it's role within the Star Trek franchise. Of course there have only been three Episode 100's in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager which different success. But what has made them special? Unique perhaps?

Let's examine the facts starting with Redemption. Probably in the big picture this is the most memorable 100th being the last episode of The Next Generation's fourth season and also the first time Star Trek had reached that landmark. 

The Next Generation: Redemption

There would never be a hope in Sto'Vo'Kor that they could live up to the hype of The Best of Both Worlds from a year earlier but that really didn't matter. This was number 100. There was cake, celebration and the end of a landmark fourth season that had not only clicked the 79th but also the 80th episode. Did we also mention that this was the year of the 25th Anniversary? Probably not - so as you can see this was one Star Trek packed year where all eyes were on the franchise and a series that was going from strength to strength.

Now rated as one of the best seasons in the show's run and more recently launched on blu-ray as the feature-length remastered movie it's first half is a damn good episode and paved the way for a lot more "part one's" that were far superior to their conclusions. 

For me it's a wonderful episode and Worf's resignation is a great move although it does feel a little like we're short-changed after Picard getting assimilated the previous year. BUT on the flip-side it puts the Klingons back in the warrior-race frame and shows they haven't all gone soft and cuddly. In retrospect now though Deep Space Nine really threw everything into the air with our favourite culture by having them withdraw from the Khitomer Accords in The Way of the Warrior. That was a show that restored the Klingons to their The Original Series origins and nature.

Nicely though, episode 100 was also a rare example of a continuing story within The Next Generation. Effectively this whole scenario of Worf/Gowron/Duras had started way back with the introduction of K'Ehleyr back in season two's The Emissary, continued through into Sins of the Father and Reunion as well as suggestions of Romulan subterfuge in The Mind's Eye and the shadowy figure of Sela as revealed in the dying seconds of the finale.

While it was the first time that a series made it to this point, it wouldn't be the last by any means however in true Deep Space Nine style you might have missed just which story was their centennial....

Deep Space Nine: The Ship


Yep. It was. Now I love this episode as a show but there's nothing that screams "100th Episode" here at all. Why? Probably because their budget was being diverted elsewhere.

You have to remember that this story aired in 1996; the 30th Anniversary and also two episodes removed from Trials and Tribble-ations which sucked a lot of resource. Something had to give I guess and this was it. Remember we've only just noted that Redemption was aired during the 25th Anniversary.

Maybe it's something to do with the style of Deep Space Nine even that such a landmark was just carried as if it were a regular episode. The show's superiority on occasions was its ability to remain under the radar and produce some mammoth episodes - who can honestly say they knew In the Pale Moonlight was going to be THAT good or that the Galaxy Class Odyssey would get totalled in The Jem'Hadar only a few weeks after The Next Generation had concluded?!

Nevertheless it was a great start to the season following the conclusion of the Gowron/Changeling cliffhanger of Broken Link in Apocalypse Rising. Building an upside-down Jem-Hadar ship can't be all that inexpensive and neither can a lot of outdoor filming. The twist as to what the Dominion footsoldiers and their Vorta overseer are looking for is brilliant and did keep me guessing on the first watch. Subsequent viewings highlight the futility of the whole operation and the lack of trust that exists between the two parties - just how a little bit of honesty would have made a difference is searingly obvious by the conclusion.

As you might expect with Deep Space Nine, the ending itself is far from uplifting. Everyone appears to lose something and whether or not the "prize" of a Jem'Hadar vessel is worth it becomes the ultimate question. Fortunately this was one of the strongest things going for the show - in life we can't just hit the warp drive and skip to the next planet; actions have consequences and Deep Space Nine never feared to stick them right in the spotlight. 

Maybe the way that The Ship slips past is also more in line with the Deep Space Nine ethos. Essentially it was business as usual, little ceremony and gritty realism.

Voyager: Timeless

Nothing makes a landmark episode stand out more than being directed by LeVar Burton, guest starring LeVar Burton as Captain Geordi La Forge, crashing the ship, burying her under ice and using time travel. It also shows up how poorly treated the 100th installment of Deep Space Nine was in comparison.

Featured early in the fifth season of Voyager, Timeless is one of the high points of the show full stop. What isn't there to like about an episode that has evidently been made to stand out. Perhaps they should have tried some of the ideas in Flashback to make that a more memorable event than it was in the second/third season.

Beltran and Wang are at their best here playing older but not necessarily wiser versions of themselves as they attempt to save the Voyager of the past from the deep freeze. Want a great effects sequence? Try the crash-land here. It easily beats Generations for impact (pun intended) and looks a darn sight better even on a small screen. Want a jaw-dropper moment? How about the teaser shot of the ship buried under the ice pack?

Adding in La Forge for a cameo isn't the unexpected pleasure it should have been due to the fact his name is emblazoned across the onscreen titles in the first five minutes of the show. Oh - was that a Galaxy Class starship he's commanding? Yep, it is. As an episode goes there are some great nods and more than one boat being pushed out to turn in something both memorable and special.

Timeless is a feel good TV 45 minute movie that flips the reset switch that Voyager was so good at doing. At times the series really pushed those cliched boundaries to the limit and dared to be different and prove itself not just a poor man's The Next Generation. It also proved that the show didn't have to rely on the Janeway and Seven relationship; there were other cast members after Scorpion, Part II that could be well utilised. I for one think Chakotay was woefully underused in later years after his heritage was laid on thick in the first two seasons. 

So those are the three that made it to the ton. However, let's just theorise for a second. What would have happened if The Original Series or Enterprise had made it to the 100 mark?

The Original Series: Episode 100

Guessing the title is probably significantly harder than working out potential stories but as a starter it's worth looking into the past future of the show and Phase II. While this would have been produced almost a decade later, there are a lot of similarities between the two series aside from the characters and it's the nearest thing we have to seeing how another year might have panned out in the live-action world. (Just for note, I'm not including the animated series within the five year framework.)

The Phase II book is one of my favourite reference pieces because it deals with a might-have-been; a series that almost but never was and is definitely in the spirit of the original 79 episodes. Now on a piece of guess work I reckon that episode 100 would have fallen into the last few stories of season four. The preceding three years had inconsistent numbers of episodes but adding another 21 on gets us to the magic number so it SHOULD fall in the never-made '69-'70 season.

I would hazard that budget might also have been a constraint given that the third year under Freiberger was more tightly funded than a staff outing from Quark's Bar so a lot of the shows might have even been bottled (on ship) or using very minimal/reused sets. It's more than likely Freiberger would have had a second chance to kill the show if it hadn't in season three.

The Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate would probably end up in some sort of sticky away mission scenario involving a love interest for the captain and one or two logical scenarios for Spock to master. Computer for Kirk to defeat? More than likely and if not a computer surely a man to man fist fight before the closing titles. Maybe we could have even hoped for a return from one of the three Klingons or even a fourth to terrorize the Enterprise and her crew. Redshirt death? Think we can probably add that one to the checklist as well. I'd hanker for that taking place pre-titles, just before the long drawn out fade to black from Kirk's shocked, overacted expression.

Worry not though that the even more budget trimmed episode was made though, it'll get remastered by Mike Okuda about 40 years later!

But hey, we have no idea what would have happened if Star Trek had made it into a fourth year as it only just scraped the third and that was certainly below par to the preceding two years on a number of levels...Spock's Brain anyone...? Another path could even have meant that if Star Trek had made it into 1970 that the style might have had to change with the times. Roddenberry would have been totally out of the picture by this point but how might another set of live action stories have changed the future of the franchise? Would it have just disappeared into the vaults? Would Phase II have been made and The Next Generation never have existed? Might it even have happened a few years earlier - imagine how that might have changed the nature of the show and characters.

Enterprise: Episode 100

Perhaps this is something we could more easily work out. Given that if the show had made it to the fifth season we would have lost the terrible These Are The Voyages... and maybe even managed a cliffhanger to ensure that we knew year five was on the cards.

By my reckoning the 100th episode would have fallen two episodes into the season as with Deep Space Nine but probably would have received a greater fanfare. My thoughts are that there would have been three likely scenarios for the landmark story.

First - that we would get the reveal of just who Future Guy was. Hopefully it wouldn't just turn out to be James Horan. Brannon Braga famously stated that Future Guy was going to be revealed as Archer but I'm not sure if that was just to stir the waters a bit. Could it have been, as was thrown around the internet a while back, Kirk? What about one of the crew from Voyager for instance for a bit of spice? If Netflix does pick up the show then maybe we'll actually find out - although it might be under the budget restraints that we were familiar with back in The Original Series' third season...and we all know what happened there.

Second option - how about kicking off that Romulan War that we've heard so much about over the history of the franchise? A cool cliffhanger introducing the threat would have worked and then to really start the season, episode 100 could have shown the spark that started it all off in style. Would that have perhaps been a better occasion to kill off one of the main cast?

Third option - some kind of cross over episode with The Original Series or even one of the later shows but NOT a holodeck story as with THAT episode. The fear is that These Are The Voyages... would have ended up here and not as the final episode made. There's a chilling thought. Thinking back to that Netflix possibility though, a severe cost cut might even see the entire episode and most of the (shorter) season entirely set on the Enterprise and standing sets.

So where would The Original Series or Enterprise have journeyed for that 100th episode and do you think our thoughts are anywhere near? The 79th, 80th and 100th episodes are probably the ones we all looked out for. Would the series make it to one of these points? How would it be memorable and what unique storyline would they attempt? Would there be homages to Kirk and co? Deep Space Nine managed to hit both 100 and within two more episodes they bagged an utter classic with the 30th Anniversary episode Trials and Tribble-ations which did precisely that. In the pages of Star Trek history though it will surely be The Next Generation that is remembered most strongly because they were the first crew to set all the records and film the most episodes at 178. 

Personal favourite? I'm a sucker for saying Deep Space Nine but I have a stronger yearning for Timeless. It has everything going for it in a single-length story. Once again a Voyager conceptual triumph that I always place alongside Living Witness and Blink of an Eye. While that later series wasn't my top choice overall it had some sparks of absolute scriptwriter genius (see noted examples) which ensured that it wasn't a copy of The Next Generation in nature and might even have been the most innovative of the shows created. 

Timeless is a classic time-travel story and while it might not have the heart of Deep Space Nine's The Visitor it does reinforce the loyalty of the Voyager family and the desire to do good/correct the errors of the past which crop up on more than one occasion in the show's near-50 year history. Good story, Mr Berman, even though we all know it'll be fine at the end in true Voyager style. Luckily the finger was kept off the Reset Button - at least for a fair few years within the structure of the narrative!

Here's to the next 100 pieces from Some Kind of Star Trek. Thanks for reading, commenting and joining us in every aspect of the franchise and we hope you'll stick with us and even subscribe!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

We're Done! The End of the Enterprise Project

For my first ever solo model-making attempt I'll mark it at a seven.

Having slaved over the plastic frames, pots of white matt paint and finally an extensive set of decals I can tell you that the USS Enterprise model from Star Trek Into Darkness has been completed. If I'm frightfully honest I'm a little disappointed because I enjoyed the whole process.

Now I'm the first to admit I am NOT a modeller and never will I be but this has been a great kit to build and the final result is more than I expected. As I left it last time the saucer and secondary hull were linked and the engines were assembled. It was time to get the decals on. Get yourself a good pair of tweezers and a steady hand for this job!

There are a lot in the set. Some of them are a good size such as the NCC-1701, ship name and some of the lower hull and engine markings but there are a lot of fine lines to attach especially around the nacelles and the saucer edge. The three rows of detailing on the saucer are a precision art to align and even more delicate to avoid while you're attempting to put the rest of them on. Be warned.

I chose to use some kitchen roll and a cotton bud to help apply the decals and remove any excess water and creases. The cotton bud was a must through the whole process especially around the saucer edge and wherever there were fine lines. Indeed, both on the upper and lower surfaces of the saucer there were single circular lines to place which, again were very tricky to put on and keep in a circular shape. Patience is an absolute must at this point. I might add that the instructions for applying the decals aren't totally accurate at this point so refer to the box images for some of the positioning of the detail on the underside of the saucer. For note the two grey box-like shapes near the centre of the saucer (left) are not correct on paper. The additional grey details you can see in the centre were applied with a cocktail stick at the end of construction. This allowed for some precise detailing on the lower hull that I was having issues getting with a brush.

For the most part they all went on very easily, even those edging lines but the real test came on the two nacelles. The edging around the upper sections of the engines is, frankly, poor. Revell provide four straight lines in blue to trim the upper piece of the warp engines - which are curved. No matter how you bend and snip to fit there are two problems. One; a straight line doesn't bend and Two; they don't meet at the end. At first I thought I was making a mistake but by the time I'd completed the second nacelle I realised it was down to the quality of the decals and not my middling attempts at applying them. A further point to store in your memory for later is that you should apply the four horizontal strips that run the length of the nacelles LAST as they go over the top of a lot of other pieces that are running top to bottom or around the two cigar-like appendages. 

Another point to make in the decals is that the four that are supposed to wrap around the bottoms of the two pylons just don't fit. While they are curved it's a terrible join no matter what angle you attempt. After a short battle with the first two I gave up and hand-painted the grey stripe around the bottom and top of the struts. 

Oddly there is no decal for the tops. For reference, here (right) you can see the two painted stripes as well as the decals for the front and rear of the pylons. The decals for the edges of these areas were not the best either and I had to rely  on the clear matt to seal them to the spaceframe. You might also spot the out-of-alignment docking port bottom left. Be careful with those decals as they can slip even when you think they are set in place. With a dab of water and some delicate brushing I did manage to get it back where it belonged!

Attaching those pesky nacelles was the next obstacle. Luckily rolls of tape and paint pots were to hand to buttress against the Enterprise when they were slotted into place. They sit above the saucer so to get it levelled out and secure you will need to shore her up for a few hours. Happily they went on fine and have held up very well as has the saucer to engineering hull join.

The final step was to run a coat of clear matt (Revell 02) over the whole of the model with the exception of the clear plastic segments all evident from being in that watery blue colour that we applied right back on day one. This is more to seal the decals against damage, dust and greasy fingers than anything else and I hadn't been resting easy during the detailing because of the potential for a ripped line or a lost docking port. Fortunately the only slips were the docking port and a saucer line, both of which were soon resolved.

Setting her onto the stand marked the closure of The Enterprise Project for me. It has been a long and interesting journey to get her from box to full model and I certainly am looking forward to the next one - I'm not sure whether to try Voyager or the Prime Universe NCC-1701 from The Original Series at the moment. I would recommend this kit to fans of any ability but for younger Trekkies or Trekkers I would suggest some adult assistance would be good especially in the decalling stages which can be a little overwhelming at times and delicate at others (spot the gap on the backs of the nacelles to the right here). You can also see the red and green "lights" at the ends of the nacelles. These are repeated underneath and at the port and starboard points on the saucer. I used a fine-tipped permanent marker for these and also for the eight thruster points on the saucer edge which would have been too small to paint in with the brushes I had available.

But hey, there she is. Finished and sitting proudly on the stand. Be careful to only cut through the big blue decal you put on the bottom once the ship has been matt finished other wise you could end up ripping the detail at this late stage which would be a tragedy of galactic proportions. And why do you need to cut through it? Because the whole for the stand is right slap in the middle of it!

This definitely is a wonderful and not too expensive kit from Revell and is a million years away from the AMT kits that I remember from the 1990's. It fitted well (for the most part) and the decals went on easily (mainly). There are a few bits where more adept modellers will want to fill and smooth out but even with my limited abilities and two right hands I managed to come up with something fairly respectable as a solo effort (although the stand and some of the other painting did see me helped by my Better Half, Melissa). The finished product also made me think how odd a shape the Enterprise of the JJ Universe is - it sort of bends in the middle but I probably like her a bit more than I did having spent some serious hours pouring over a lot of plastic, paint and details.

So there should be no holding you back now. Go forth, buy it. Just make sure you have a decent length shelf to put her on once you've finished as the Enterprise is a lot longer than you might have expected.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Pinnacle of Star Trek? - Generations

It must be a good six years since I last watched The Next Generation movies and Generations in particular. Let's face it, they're not (on the whole) as good as the first six are they?!

Generations was the fourth Star Trek movie I'd seen in the cinema and the first I saw on a dodgy video before it was released on sale in shops a few months after its arrival in cinemas. To this day I have a soft spot for the movie. No, it's not one of the absolute best and the two films which lie either side in The Undiscovered Country and First Contact are significantly better but even now, Star Trek: Generations is different; unique within the cinematic history of the franchise.

To this day it still remains the only movie to unite two different series (alternative versions not included), two different Enterprise's and the only occasion where a member of the original cast dies and stays dead on screen. It is, by design, the ultimate bridge and baton-pass, even more so than Picard in Emissary, McCoy in Encounter at Farpoint or Spock in Unification. This is two captains facing one destiny and I really think sometimes that this film gets an undue battering. Perhaps in hindsight after seeing Insurrection and Nemesis it's easy to raise it as one of the stronger cinematic adventures for The Next Generation crew and there is an epic nature to the movie.

Let's just examine it a bit further - Soran might not have the same kind of vengeful goal as Khan or the lust for power that Kruge exhorted, he is perhaps the first movie villain who is doing it all for himself. There is nothing that he cares about more than returning to the Nexus and this does make him unique. As Guinan notes, he's "...not interested in weapons or power. All Soran is interested in is getting back to the Nexus...". His goal is simple and all in the way are eliminated to ensure that it happens. In fact the deaths of millions are nothing to ensure that his immortality within the Nexus is guaranteed.

Essentially that's the core of Star Trek: Generations and while 1991's The Undiscovered Country dealt with a final mission this is much more firmly drawing the line over the original crew's adventures. This is only emphasised more by the fact neither DeForest Kelley or Leonard Nimoy wanted to be involved and were replaced by Koenig and Doohan. Not all of the cast appeared and the introduction of the Enterprise-B firmly closes the door on the adventures of NCC-1701-A. Time has moved on and Kirk, Scotty and Chekov are now retired legends of Starfleet. Their time has passed - an interesting point considering this was essentially what Kirk alluded to at the beginning of The Wrath of Khan 12 years before.

That stamp of mortality and finality is deeply branded into the whole of the experience and might be one of the most obvious messages in Star Trek's 12 movie library. Not only does Kirk die - twice, but Picard loses family in a fire back on Earth and the Enterprise-D ends up planetside. Whether Berman, Braga and Moore intended it to be this heavy-handed and signposted I don't know, but it's all very abrupt and distinctly about dealing with the finite nature of existence and that, ironically, all good things must come to an end. Kirk's death on Veridian III certainly signifies the notion that the journey for the original cast is well and truly over.

Now you might wonder why I've said this is the pinnacle of Star Trek and it's more to do with time (a factor not lost on this, First Contact or, to a degree, Insurrection). In 1994 the franchise was probably at its highest point. The Next Generation was coming to a close, filming was well underway for their first feature, Deep Space Nine was running its second and third seasons and a fourth series, Voyager was already being lined up for a January 1995 premier. The future had never looked brighter for the show and the release of a new movie could only add to the media onslaught.

The fact that the seventh movie, the first not to be suffixed with a Roman numeral since The Motion Picture, would bring together the two great Enterprise captains could, equally, only whip Trekkers and Trekkies into more of a frenzy than ever. Fortunately it didn't go down the Kirk vs Picard route of the abandoned Maurice Hurley script and even I would be hardpushed to say that it's perfect in its finished state. For me it was also the first Star Trek movie where I paid a lot of attention to the rumour mill and the behind the scenes information that would be leaked out occasionally. The two Enterprise's were one of the first things we knew about but there were some raised Vulcan-like eyebrows at home when there was the suggestion of Data having sex with the Duras sisters to get parts to fix the broken Enterprise-D.

However there's a lot to Generations that we should be proud of and is, I believe epic in terms of the story it attempts to tell, spanning almost 80 years of the Star Trek timeline and those two key crews. 

I always feel fortunate that I got to read the original novelisation of the movie as there are significant differences - the orbital skydive and Kirk getting shot in the back stand out immediately, but there are some great things about Generations that make it stand out above a lot of the other films. I thought it would be worth highlighting what we gained from the movie. I would even say that the stories around the rewrites adds to the mythos of Generations as I don't recall any other Star Trek movie receiving such massive reshoots following the test audience viewings. 

It's taken a few years for me to see the crackly, original edits of these scenes and I can say that I was a little disappointed. In fact, I'm glad the orbital skydiving was cut as the opening works much better without it. The only two points I would suggest don't make complete sense are Kirk wincing at the back injury his skydiving caused as he races to save the Enterprise-B (could be construed as old age - watch it and see what you think) and the reference to the removal of the nanoprobe from Geordi's body following his incarceration on the Klingon ship. The scene which involved the nanoprobes was filmed with the rehashed uniforms and so never made it into the cut.

Then there's the whole issue with the abandoned uniform design saga which resulted in the mix of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine attire which overloads the viewer a little. It's not a bugbear for myself as I actually was more rattled by the notion that someone forgot to pay the electric bill for the ship - why is everything so dark?! It just seems really weird considering that there seems to be no issues with the lighting in All Good Things.... While we know that things have to change to be accommodated on the big screen it is strange especially as there was no gap between production of the two installments. Indeed, the Enterprise-E is immediately more suitable for the movies because it was designed for the task while it's predecessor was most certainly not. Totally destroying the iconic bridge and showing it in all its battered glory at the end just cemented the "no going back" line.

Overall the background machinations of Star Trek's seventh feature really interest me and of all the movies it might be the one that, from a behind the scenes perspective, is the most intriguing. Certainly an area of the franchise that I love to read and find out more about.

However, as well as that I thought I would champion some of the great things that did make it to the screen and mean I won't be letting another six years pass by before my next viewing....

The Enterprise-B

"This is the first starship Enterprise in thirty years without James T Kirk in command..."

It's a redress of the Excelsior but how long had we waited to see this girl? I recall the first image that suggested "B" would be such a ship was in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual in 1991. Here, three years later it was confirmed and she came with go-faster stripes. While she gets less screen time than even the "C", it's a nice nod to continuity even though her captain is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. The fact Kirk "died" onboard her does mark her out in starship history but we don't get anything else in official onscreen canon.

Stellar Cartography

Significantly larger than the set used for The Next Generation's Lessons in season six, I still love watching this scene. On the cinema screen it was just awesome to see and is the pivotal moment in the story where both Picard and the viewer realise Soran's plan. It looks like a truly massive set and the interactive nature of the screens gave me a "Wow" moment - Star Trek had suddenly gone super-techie, absolutely embraced CGI and it looked great. A landmark sequence in the franchise it also played out the Picard/Data father/son relationship, confronting that god-awful emotion chip and it's impact on the android lieutenant commander. 

Thankfully it was played down in First Contact and virtually ignored in Insurrection and Nemesis - just the same as the dream programme. Overall it's one of my favourite movie sets due to its smooth simplicity. For me, this room and that sequence are absolutely key to the movie - not only do we get to hear about Soran's plan but get to see what it is as well.

Kirk vs Soran and Saves the Galaxy (twice)

"Actually I am familiar with history and if I'm not're dead."

The twist of it being Kirk standing in front of Soran on the bridge wasn't enough. The fist fight is a classic and I think it's very well staged as the two opponents dance around the structures the doctor has created. Kirk even gets to throw in a couple of his classic moves from The Original Series as part of his swansong. I'm not at ease with the fact his death comes from falling into a ravine on a bridge rather than getting shot in the back by Soran. Shatner is at his action movie best here and it's only after it finishes that you realise his last decent fight sequence was back with Kruge on Genesis...

Not content with saving the crew of the Enterprise and the Lakul survivors he drops out of retirement to save some unknowns on Veridian IV. Nice work. I preferred his send-off in the 23rd Century a bit more however - that opening "prologue" section is great. Kirk's back in action one more time doing what he does best.

The Enterprise-D Crash Sequence

"All hands brace for impact!"

Aside from there being a few shots of the crashing saucer which are obviously a model on a hydraulic arm, I think it's a great piece of the movie. Starting right from the moment the Klingons start smashing chunks out of the Galaxy Class starship you just know it's going downhill for the flagship. I'd still say that the Enterprise blowing up in The Search for Spock had - and still has - more impact but this added the stamp of finality to a lot of things. The Next Generation had moved to the movies and they were going to need something bigger and more cinema-screen friendly to take them to their next adventure. This wasn't TV anymore and it wasn't all going to end perfectly. The Enterprise really got a pummelling and went down hard. Troi would get a second chance to smash up the ship in Nemesis but she manages a much more impressive result here. It's a write-off.

While the destruction of the battle section is fairly quick, the out of control saucer crash is great aside from the few seconds I've mentioned. Seeing it drop through the clouds and eventually come to a rest are great to behold only enhanced with Riker's skyward glance through the smashed observation dome atop the bridge.

Kirk and Picard - The Nexus

"...and from his point of view, he's just got here too..."

THE best bit of the movie. Kirk appears chopping wood and it's a wonderful sequence that is every fan's dream. The two captains united and armed with some sparkling dialogue to match. Ignoring the fact it's all in a make believe world, just seeing them together is enough but the conversation on horseback was milked to high heaven for the promo campaign. A shame because it's a nostalgic moment when Kirk makes the decision to make a difference and not mope around in the Nexus for eternity. Two things of interest with the Nexus - one is that it's also Guinan's last ever Star Trek appearance and secondly how do the two captains know that they HAVE left the Nexus since it can take you to any time and place you want...?

I find that once Kirk returns to the screen the whole feel of the movie changes in the click of a finger. You feel refreshed and excited about the moment and those last thirty minutes are just great, classic Star Trek. While the sum of the parts might not be spectacular, just seeing these two interacting made this movie for me. Getting Kirk on-board the Enterprise-D would have been the greatest if it had been possible but sadly it was not to be. Notably Picard only has Archer to tick off for a complete set of commanding officers as he met Sisko in Emissary and spoke to Janeway at the beginning of Nemesis. That second instance means there are two movies where two captains appear on screen together (but not in the same room by technicality).

In my opinion Generations is not bad at all and I would watch it easily in preference to Voyager or Enterprise. There are even a few episodes of Deep Space Nine or The Next Generation that might beat it too. It's a movie about passing the torch, feeling good and giving The Next Generation a springboard to a motion picture career at the height of Star Trek mania. The shame is they fared worse than the original cast, lasting only four films and with meagre box office takings into the bargain.

Next up for viewing is the superb First Contact. I'll try and work out something a bit different to mark it out in my passing!