Monday, 30 June 2014

Trek Modelling 101: Warp Engines and Body Building

Last time we covered building the saucer on the AMT USS Enterprise and now we're going to move on to the warp nacelles.

Bear in mind since there are two of these so you will repeat the same steps for both. With building the nacelles you will notice the supports are already attached and lining everything up can be tricky that is where your clamps and rubber band come in real handy. 

First you will need to dry fit basically put the two halves together without glue and see if any adjustment is needed; if not you are good to glue. I recommend trimming the fitting pegs off and lining it up by hand and eye, after which tape them together and glue a little bit at a time just remember you want everything lined up squared and true. 

From there it's back to sanding again and here is a tip - while sanding a round surface be sure to sand back and forth as to not sand flat spots on the nacelles as they are supposed to be round in shape. After your first time sanding, shoot some of your handy primer on it to see if you need to putty and sand. 

Here's a tip from a friend of mine (maybe you have heard of him his name is Trekworks) for when applying putty to seam. Take two pieces of tape and lay them parallel to the seam, then take your putty and use your finger to smear it onto the seam.  Let the putty dry, remove the tape and there is your putty line for sanding all nice and neat! 

Since this kit is pretty old you will need to putty, sand, prime and repeat a couple of times until your seams are all gone. From there you just need to put it to the side and wait for the engineering section which we'll be covering now...

Secondary Moves

The Engineering section is arguably the worst piece of this kit. It has five pieces but it's the sides where the seams are that will have you screaming. 

First thing you want to do is glue the top section of the engineering hull which is in two pieces but the important thing here is the line up of the two halves so do several dry fittings first and when you are satisfied then glue. 

From there, glue the seam underneath as well to provide extra reinforcement I would also recommend taking some strip styrene and gluing it to the joint for extra extra reinforcement as this seam is known to bust time and time again. Then sand that seam smooth. 

It will take a while and you know you are done is when you take your pinky finger and run it over the surface it is smooth no stair step. Then it’s the gluing of the shuttle bay door which is really simple so just line it up and glue in place, allowing it to dry. 

Now come the time to attach the bottom to the top and this is where the nightmare comes in. 

As you are dry fitting you will notice huge seams down both sides where the top meets the bottom. Try to line it up as best you can and when you get it where you like it glue the parts together. Next comes the hard part as you will be sanding, puttying and priming several times until that seam is smooth.  When you finish, use the pinky test as described above and from there it is the front of the engineering section again as before. Line it up, glue it in place and with more puttying and sanding that ends the engineering hull.

Next time we'll be painting and detailing. Until then Get out of here and build something.

You can catch up on all Chris' modelling tips and techniques by clicking back through the Trek Modelling 101 Archive and if that's not enough, check out the Google+ Sci-Fi Fans and Modelers' United Community

Friday, 27 June 2014

No Trek to Netflix - Is it Time to Get Real?

Even now the internet never ceases to amaze me with it's ability to blow things into ridiculously big proportions.

While I've taken the decision to stop the end of month round-ups on news because they're pointless (and you're going to be reading for that stuff anyway), I do love a good misquoted rumour but they are taking the spotlight away from more worthy stories.

Sadly the mouth from which it wasn't uttered and was allegedly wrongly understood was Star Trek afficionado +Larry Nemecek. Quite rightly, Larry quickly dropped a post on Trekland to refute the claim and very well played there, sir. Recently on the Starfleet Escape Podcast I pretty much said the same thing - a Star Trek show is unlikely to end up on Netflix. Sorry to those of you who might be following the superb Enterprise fifth season campaign but I just don't see it being a feasible idea unless it's backed by a network and right now I seem to get the feeling CBS, Paramount et al are backing another movie-making horse right now. To ensure the maximum audience, to get the biggest revenue this will have to be a network-based series; in fact the costs of producing such a show now would virtually ensure that is the only way to proceed. 


For another thing, how many column inches were given over to talking about one line on a studio press release confirming Star Trek 3 for 2016? I think we'd gathered it was going to be on the 50th anniversary but seriously, it was dragged out a lot more than it needed to be. That said, I have noted one or two stories in the last couple of days declaring that Robert Orci has said he will be taking the franchise back to the feel of The Original Series more than the 2009 and Into Darkness managed. 

This sounds like good news but is he just setting himself up for a massive fall when it turns out to be much in the same line as JJ's two blockbuster movies and his statement is more about easing fans concerns before a single roll of film has been shot? The frenzy around Into Darkness was nuclear and a superb marketing campaign that failed to deliver as a lot of fans would have hoped. In fact after all the hype there was probably no way on Earth or Quo'noS that it could have. 

Declaring this so early on as well as reinforcing the ending of Into Darkness with the announcement that we will be in deep space on the five year mission could be a masterstroke of course, perhaps that Orci is trying to distance himself from the Abrams vision of the alternative timeline and restore at least some sort of "normality" to the Star Trek franchise. Defining that will be the challenge and let's hope it involves something deeper than a few explosions and some nifty CGI. Also let's just accept that the Abrams universe does exist. It happened, it's alternative and at least it got a few more rears on seats - and thanks for finally getting round to releasing a decent blu-ray.

I digress. What annoys me about these rumours is that they ended up detracting from some of the much more newsworthy items about Star Trek that were around at the time. For one, Star Trek Continues' brilliant third episode was released but found itself in the shadows a bit over the overblown Netflix story as did the news that Phase II have begun shooting Mind-Sifter after a lengthy delay then there's Nestle who are supposedly looking to build a working replicator! These are some great articles, superb media creations that lost the limelight because of a "might be". Usually when we get some good fan-produced material the internet lights up and my news alerts shine brightly with reviews and opinion on the latest episode - this month it was severely underwhelming.


I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that we have to be on the button with Star Trek at the moment. There really isn't a lot out there and it seems we're clawing at every word just to find something to talk about. There is a lot to talk about but clammering at throwaway lines just won't sustain the franchise and we need to be looking at the fan productions, the official novels, Destination Star Trek and the tangible things that are out there right now for us in Trekdom. I might add that these rumours could have been thrown in for exactly the reason to detract from the offerings of Mignogna and the Continues cast and crew.

We keep drifting back to a land of eternal hope and if I read one more line about that Captain Worf or Captain Sulu series I swear I'll begin sharpening my bat'leth - let's stop living the fantasy (ironic line) and check in to the JJ Reality. Any new show will be in his universe but if Orci keeps to his word then we might see a show that will make us think for a bit more than the closing credits.

We've also had those great The Next Generation season six blu-rays this month including Chain of Command in movie form and while all the upgrades are stunning, we still appear happy to dwell on material from the mid-1990's and churning over old news instead of grabbing the wealth of new Star Trek episodes, movies and materials being produced across the worlds by passionate fans.

Yes, they are great episodes and the only Prime Star Trek we can get is that - now firmly restricted to the years 1966 to 2005 so we have to make do with whatever we can get in that form. However, those fan films are in a sense sticking to the old (mainly due to cost) but they are importantly expanding the stories, using affordable new technologies to do amazing things and being original. If we keep looking over our shoulder we'll miss some great stuff that's coming soon - Axanar, Horizon, Futures, EquinoxAmbush and a whole host of others that offer great promise as potential webseries such as the Tim Russ/Walter Koenig led Renegades. In that respect, who out there hasn't heard of Farragut and or the tragedy that Starship Exeter took a while to get the final act of its second and final episode finally online. I'm gutted we won't get to see any more of that show and we need to keep them alive if we do care as much about the Prime Universe as we do. 

The imagination used for these shows is boggling and instead we choose to pick out literally one liners in the news. Are we hanging on to hope or keeping up the level of anticipation to see some new, big budget Star Trek? Let's remember that while movies are sporadic and incredible sights, the show was designed for TV and that's it's true home.

With all these stories flying around and being debunked in hours it reminds me that back in the 1990's we had to rely on magazines and TV entertainment spots to get some news on what we could expect - if at all. Those rumours could take weeks to solve and there was no chance to discuss because, well, the internet didn't exist in anything like the form it does today.

Seems like an eternity ago but it did happen and I remember getting very excited over the upcoming Voyager series and the possibility of Riker turning up in Deep Space Nine's third season and no-one apart from my dad and a couple of friends to discuss it with. Now those stories would be across the internet in seconds and have been refuted by teatime however now we seem to drag even the smallest one line rumour out.

But these were always stories worth hearing and there was always a decent amount of evidence behind them before they went to print. Now one throwaway line becomes the next big thing. Let's wait until we get some more substance on these Star Trek 3 stories and see what Orci has in store for fans before we get too worked up. For now look to YouTube and the fan communities - there's enough there to keep us all interested for a long time coming.

So are we looking at the wrong parts of the Star Trek universe? Are we ranting about the parts we hate but might as well accept rather than giving more time to the good work of the fan community? Let us know your thoughts....

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Monday, 23 June 2014

Small Additions: Hot Wheels Starships

For a while we've known that Hot Wheels were releasing a small version of the USS Vengeance as part of their HW City range.

After several months of waiting it's finally arrived and I stumbled on it by chance in Tesco of all places this week. Now before going any further, remember, THESE ARE NOT BIG REPLICAS!

Usually the confines of the toy aisle are restricted to visits with my two year old son to increase the ranks of his own car collection (never more than a foot away from a Hot Wheels car in this house) but when the addition of a new Star Trek ship was announced there was another reason to hunt through the die cast range.

I had suspected it would be one of the rarer models however there were at least three in the box which means it won't be too much of a fight to get hold of one. Anyway, while we're waiting for the inevitable Eaglemoss replica (special number three I bet), this will have to do and for those on a tight budget or with a low amount of house space, it's recommended.

I already had the JJ Abrams USS Enterprise which was released around the same time as Star Trek Into Darkness last year but the 2014 USS Vengeance is definitely a step up in production quality as you'll be able to see straight away.

With both ships the main body and saucer are metal while the nacelles and struts are a particularly pliable plastic which means they're less prone to immediate destruction once out of the packaging and into junior's active hands.

By no means are these super-accurate replicas designed to be glass-cased alongside your Polar Lights NX-01 but for less than £2 you can't go wrong. The engines on NCC-1701 are super bendy and minimally decalled with some impressionistic battle damage on show as well as atop the saucer. 

For a small model it's quite heavy at the saucer end which also is very basically detailed with the ship name, registry and raised sections. What does let it down is something they rectified with the Vengeance - the stand is a little loose and this tough little ship ends up swinging around all over the place. Now I have road-tested the Enterprise with my sub-three year old son (under supervision of course) and aside from a cheeky bend of the nacelles it survived intact so as a toy it's nice and robust. Good work there, Hot Wheels, but fortunately he's more inclined towards items in your range with four wheels!

The Vengeance is easily a better mini-model with a "key/lock" style stand which keeps her straight, steady and firmly upright. Oddly for a smaller ship the stand is actually bigger. This time the upper primary hull has the aztec paint job and the unusual cut out section around the bridge however the secondary hull does lose a lot of detail due to the scaling of such a large vessel. You can make out the odd "stealth" style bodywork and the deflector dish but being grey/black means it all ends up in shadow under the primary hull. I'll just make sure I'm viewing her from above in the future.

She is smaller (irony) than the Enterprise Hot Wheels toy but the end result still seems to be better - joint lines are hidden and the nacelles don't look anywhere near as out of place as those on the flagship and the detail on them is a step up - and not a spot of fake battle damage anywhere. The underside of the saucer does disappoint on both the Vengeance and the Enterprise with both receiving minimal detailing in favour of model details and copyrighting information. The undersides of the secondary hulls also suffer from some big securing pins which are a necessity and hard to conceal in something this size  - but hey, these aren't collectors items and that's the big point.

For little more than pocket shrapnel you can pick up a teeny tiny model of both ships from Into Darkness and for the young fans who might (and of course shouldn't have due to age restrictions) seen the Abrams movies these are great little tasters to get them battling in their imaginations. I suspect both of mine may well end up being parked on the top floor of Joshua's car garage and I suspect they won't be the only ones that will.

Personal view? They're kind of cute but not brilliantly constructed and are absolutely made to take a bit of a battering at the hands of younger fans looking to recreate the final few scenes of the latest movie. It might also keep wandering hands off those slightly more expensive Eaglemoss or Hot Wheels collectors models that are sitting on nearby, reachable shelves.

The USS Vengeance Hot Wheels model is available in shops. Some shops...Good luck!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Get to the Escape Pod!

As you might have gathered by now I do like to discuss Star Trek.

Usually it's through the forum of Some Kind of Star Trek but occasionally I've been known to stray from the written word into other formats and last week was one of those opportunities. 

Back in April 2013 we reviewed the 18th and 19th episodes of the Starfleet Escape Podcast and immediately struck up a great relationship with the team behind the production, +Aaron Gallo +Marty Hogan and +Eric Berry . I've been an avid listener and question-answering contributor ever since and on many, many email conversations there has been the suggestion that at some point I could join the crew and lend my voice to their discussion.

Well, after more than a couple of failed attempts (more due to me than anything) we managed it - even though I had to stay up well past my bedtime to link in with the Boston-based segment who are about seven hours behind the UK and it was worth it. 

Sadly I was only able to talk Trek with Aaron but it was still a fantastic experience and one I hope they will allow me to repeat in the not too distant future. If you're not familiar with the show, here's a brief summary - the team run through the latest Star Trek news, voicing their opinions on a range of topics which this time included Phase II, medical tricorders and Jonathan Frakes continued directing career as well as a featured product which this time were The Original Series ceramic shot glasses.

After that we got into the nitty gritty of All Good Things... since we've recently marked it's 20th anniversary. You might recall that I dropped a piece on the blog about that finale a few weeks ago but this conversation took it to a whole different level and even managed to divert off into tangents of Red Dwarf, cult movies and Doctor Who which were totally unplanned but meant it was a great free-flowing conversation from start to finish. No question we left a lot of stuff untouched but we still managed to get into a lot of areas of All Good Things..., pass an opinion or two and reveal some of our real thoughts on The Next Generation's final TV story. It was great to have a chat with someone whom I've been emailing or messaging in some form for a good year and a bit and it's strange to think that when All Good Things... was originally aired, a Google+ Hangout conversation was a thing of dreams and we'd have had to make do with snail mail. A podcast certainly wouldn't have been possible.

From all the threads and diversions we managed to pull out an hour and three quarters on the news and main topic. Rounding it out were listeners opinions on whether they would use time travel or not and Aaron's grumble - or as it's better known, the Quantum State of Flux. It was a shame I didn't get to bounce our thoughts off Marty and Eric this time which does give me some leverage to go back for a second attempt but we'll leave the fans and the Podcast team to decide if that's such a good idea. I loved every second of the show as you'll be able to tell from a touch of over-exuberance and have to thank the team for letting me into their audio lifeboat this time round.

In the mean time I can 100% recommend that you get yourselves over to the Starfleet Escape Podcast website and download the latest installment as well as have a run through their back catalogue of both main episodes (totalling 41 now) and supplemental slots. I guarantee you won't be disappointed with the rich variety of topics and opinions which have acted as a companion for many a long road journey. A lot of work has gone into the show and when I found out that the recording is only a fraction of the work behind the scenes I was even more impressed (especially since I could go to bed!!!)

Keep up the great work guys - looking forward to the next installment.

Take a trip right now over to the site and check out the team's work TODAY!

You can also find the Starfleet Escape Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and Risa. No excuses.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Marc's Second Term - These are the Voyages Season Two

We loved the first season and they just keep getting better.

But before we dive into the review just a quick note - we have an audio interview still to publish - this will be coming shortly now we have resolved some technical issues. We had hoped to release both together but this has not been possible although we tried...hence the delayed review of Season Two.

Photo by Albert L Ortega
The main concern for those looking to make a purchase here is that there won't be an expanded second edition as there was with Season One. Surely this alone will make a lot of fans breathe a great sigh of relief knowing that their hard earned cash isn't going to get split across two books when one, complete edition will more than suffice. Marc Cushman told me himself there won't be and I, for one, believe him (minor note that no doubt in about ten years a whole chunk of stuff will appear and...yep...we know where that's going...!)

But let's just hold for second because there's some great news for the author as Marc Cushman will be receiving a Special Achievement honor at the 40th Annual 2014 Saturn Awards for this comprehensive series. Robert Holguin, president of the Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Films who are hosting the awards, said that Marc's books constitutes "one of the greatest achievements in the world of literature [in] the past year. The level of research in writing these books are of the highest order."

So here we are, at book two with it now being recognised at the highest level and it's been a long wait for the sequel. My first season copy has been getting very lonely, more so since the release date of it's followup was delayed from the end of 2013 until the start of 2014 and with good reason. Admittedly dropping this review now has been a lucky hit because only this week we've seen the arrival of Star Trek Continues latest offering Fairest of Them All which acts as a sequel to the classic second season episode Mirror, Mirror. Secretly all this coincidence was planned. Promise...(!) Honest.

Compiled in their original production order, this is the essential companion to the most reverred season of The Original Series. While the first year packs in heavyweight episodes such as The City on the Edge of Forever, Arena, Space Seed and Errand of Mercy, the 1967-68 shows were a step up even though all was not well behind the scenes and don't we get to know about it here.

This could easily slip into a big nostalgia-fest and laud glory on all but Marc has never intended this to be just a simple reference guide to the episodes, their stories and a smattering of pre-production footnotes. This is every breath, heartbeat and drop of sweat that went into the production of everything between Catspaw and Assignment Earth. Each page is a slice of Star Trek history with much of it never printed or glimpsed before. Here we get to find out why Gene Coon left, how John Meredith Lucas came on board, how high emotions really were running when it was announced that the show was being cancelled, then reprieved short-term and finally just what it meant for fans, the cast, crew and the network mail-room when Star Trek was renewed for the swansong third year.

Allan Asherman and Stephen Whitfield's work which have been on my shelves for a fair few years are, among others, referenced throughout but Cushman doesn't just regurgitate their valuable literary editions but builds on it. He's carefully sourced information compiled from Roddenberry's own extensive archives, talking to cast and crew who have never (repeat, never) been interviewed about their part in the show and attempts to fill in the blanks that so many publications have left open.

It's clear from this that I'm a total fan of Marc's series, the first volume of which has come in for some factual criticism. All I can say here is that devoting a good six years of your life to something is never going to be an easy and relaxing task. Sure there might be a few typos and errors but on the whole this is a work that will stand the test of time and prove to be one of the three most valuable resources on The Original Series. The other two will be the volumes that sit on either side of the number "two".

All well and good, but what else is here? What am I getting for my cash and why would I want season two? 

Easy answer; because this reveals the dirt under the nails in our favourite stories (although I have to wait another season for The Tholian Web). I could find something new on every single page as you read through the story of each episode from inception through development, filming, post-production, viewing figures and even letters received by the studio once the shows had aired. It feels that there is no frame of film left untouched by this book - every (major) decision seems to be noted or discussed from model shots to cast entrances, story lines through to wardrobe decisions. With each episode there is always something different or a point that is being grumbled over for a quick resolution.

Take a couple of fan favourites  - The Trouble with Tribbles for instance; originally not a comedy nor Tribbles but the pages here chart an extraordinary evolution, the changes, the reasons why and how they came about. Sometimes it was more from a fluke thought than a huge idea-bashing session or a spark came from the mind of a more experienced story editor such as Gene Coon (Gerrold did a big edit that ensured he kept the main credit for the episode). How about the fact The Doomsday Machine - one of the ultimate classics of the show - came in under budget and in a record number of days for the second season? What about the hotch-potch stories that got stitched and moulded together into Patterns of Force that you might not have known about? Maybe you're just interested in finding out about the torrid events and dealings that went into the making of the aborted series pilot that was Assignment: Earth? It's all in here and there's so much more to discover as you go. Get reading. That's an order.

Every episode will at some point have you uttering the word, "Really?!" or the phrase; "I did not know that." In fact your opinions on a few episodes might just change when you read what took to get them to the screen. While you might not like what ended up on TV, the journey there was more fraught than you might care to imagine; The Omega Glory can take a bow for that. I loved the narrative that accompanies this episode - one of the three original ideas for the second pilot.

Here Marc's own voice is quite strong in support showing that there is definitely a degree of passion and support to ensure we appreciate every frame of the series and what went on. With The Omega Glory though it's slated by those who worked on it but by the end of that section you genuinely feel that it's one of Star Trek's all-time misunderstood episodes. It's a mark of the depth to which Cushman has researched that there is such a level of evidence in each chapter that you are called upon to examine every aspect of the show from the ground up not only in each chapter but after each watching of the series and then, most likely again when you head back to cross-reference in These are the Voyages.

The additional sections within the book are essential to getting your feet under the Star Trek table and knowing what influenced the show's background evolution - whether it be ever-increasing levels of infighting, the Hollywood press rumour mill or true stories of how-it-happened-on-that-day, it's all here and explains why the legendary show turned left instead of right or hired one person rather than another. Rarely do I leaf through an appendix but here the story assignment list is a must see. While we get to know how and when a story was planned and assigned, there are a number which fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons. These are covered in their own chapter but here the true extent of how many were unused, unworthy or too expensive can be easily visualised. I suspect that if we clustered all the unmade episodes from '66 to '69 there would be enough for one more (over-budget) season without another idea being submitted.

Even more inviting are the viewing figures which are more than pleasing but were no help to Gene Roddenberry as his relationship with the network went from bad to worse to downright catastrophic over the course of the year. To tell you the truth I came out of reading this book with a mixed view on the show's creator as well as a totally different perspective on Gene Coon - neither of which I expected when I started the season. Marc's style makes this ever more accessible and easy to understand. 

This isn't a book to sit down and read from cover to cover either. I found it much more beneficial to dip in and out of the chapters, reading each episode as a section rather than overloading the old grey matter with line after line after line of new and surprising information. We covered some of these points in our audio interview recently but there are loads more to discover. In fact let me expand on that.

Each evening I chose at random an episode or a section to read and this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the overall product. In some way the weaker or less well known episodes provide more layers to the overall picture and the epilogue as is provides a key link to the third year. I had expected the letter-writing campaign and subsequent resurrection of Star Trek to be featured as the opening to the final These are the Voyages but there's something that feels so right about using that event; that pivotal fan-led mission, as the final chapter here.  Actually the work Cushman does here does indeed open up the true story - the volume of letters, what actually happened, how narked the network were that they got a vast amount of "Thank You" letters once the show was picked up for the '68-'69 season.

Marc's six year research project is now two-thirds complete and, even with the criticisms that were levelled against book one this is an absolute essential for your Star Trek library. The other books which exist will always have their place - they are part of the history of the show and reflect the views of the last fifty years through the eyes of fans and those involved. Marc Cushman may well be the last person to document the stories of those who were there at the time; those people who were in front and behind the camera for those defining years in TV history and it would have been criminal if their stories had never been properly documented. Many of them have never been interviewed before in regards to their involvement with Star Trek but their observations and recollections are now secure for generations of fans now and in the future; new and existing.

Go out, get a copy and barricade yourself into a room with a DVD player, TV and this book. You won't regret a second because afterwards you'll know all that there is to know about the second season. Just make sure you resurface to purchase the third volume.

These are the Voyages is available right now from Jacobs Brown priced $29.95. You can purchase your copy by dropping over to the site HERE.

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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Third Time's a Charm: Star Trek Continues: Fairest of Them All

If I was in the Phase II fold right now I'd be getting seriously concerned.

While we still await the release of The Holiest Thing which has been delayed since February,  Star Trek Continues have now launched their third installment - and the second one in just six months.

Filmed during March with second unit filming in mid-April 2014, their latest episode takes us back to not just The Original Series but one of its most influential episodes. Mirror, Mirror spawned a whole series of Deep Space Nine episodes and the standout story from EnterpriseIn a Mirror Darkly. As with that two parter,  Mignogna and the Continues crew have set this story purely in that universe and cleverly continued the narrative from Kirk's original venture there.

Indeed, the opening scene is word for word and move for move a "Mirror, Mirror" of the Shatner and Nimoy conversation we've seen more times than we dare count and then the new script kicks in. If you ever wanted to know just how the Mirror Spock began the reforms that Kira talks of in Crossover, then this is the episode for you.

Taking place directly after the events of the original this is the Mignogna and Haberkorn show from the off, placing the characters of Kirk and Spock in opposition. It's unusual to see the two characters not continuing some form of bromance and instead be at loggerheads as "Prime" Kirk's influence begins to manifest itself. At first it's logical suggestion to spare the Halkans but over time it evolves into mutiny and the desire to reform the Terran Empire.

Storywise it's straight-forward bottle show material with all the action taking place on the ISS Enterprise as captain and first officer go head to head for control of the starship. Without doubt Kirk and Spock are front and centre here with the two actors putting in sterling performances all the way. I made some comments in the review of Lolani that Vic Mignogna was channelling a little Shatner but now I think it's the right direction and in Fairest of Them All the nuances and intricacies of the original Kirk actor are superbly recognised and recreated making this a true Continu-ation.  Todd Haberkorn is excellent as Spock, charting quite a change in the Mirror universe version of the character from cold, calculating officer to peacemaker in 40 minutes. His performance previously was described as a bit stilted but in this episode he's nailed the role and adding the beard seems to have worked wonders. Maybe having the chance to play with the character away from the "norm" was just what the doctor ordered and the final scene is just the icing on the cake - but we'll say no more on that to make sure you watch!

Mignogna does enjoy a good scene-chew as the more evil and less-morally restricted Kirk, doing what the hell he likes and screaming blue-murder to the last. There's also several wonderful occasions where there's a typically 1960's Star Trek drop in the lighting to place the captain in some shadow to add to the mood (and some soft focus for good measure). Continues really has hit the mark to recreate The Original Series - music, lighting, atmosphere, even the way in which the Tantalus Device is revealed and activated are authentic to the memory of The Original Series; you would easily believe that this story could have been slipped into the fourth season and the script, from a story by Mignogna, would have suited Shatner and Nimoy to a tee.

A bottle-show this may be but the story does explore the idea of change and reform while adding a lot of action elements at the same time. There aren't a lot of effects moments either which means this relies more on the power of the cast and the story to keep your attention. From memory there's a couple of phaser shots, a transporter beam and an Agoniser in use which isn't a lot but then it doesn't need more to keep you watching for the duration.

However, I do have some reservations no matter how good I think the end result is. For a start the characters of Uhura and Scotty seems almost identical to their Prime alternates in fact the former seems far from aggressive or adversarial, seeming more like a pushover when it comes to choosing or switching sides. While Scotty does side with Spock he too just comes across as "normal" Scotty. I have nothing against Chris Doohan's performance but would this engineer really have survived so long to make chief in the Empire given his relaxed attitude? How cool would it have been if this Scotty was a raving alcoholic with a wry twinkle in the eye and a penchant for slitting the occasional throat or two? Just a thought. 

McCoy does elate some more disturbing qualities and remains loyal to Kirk as he coldly tortures a crew-member for information and I would have liked to have seen more but he's sidelined as with the majority of the crew in this story to maintain the focus on the Kirk/Spock dynamic. Larry Nemecek will be missed from the production by fans at the least but new arrival Chuck Huber does an admirable job providing the chills here.

Chekov spends some of the episode in and out of the Agoniser booth or acting as cannon fodder given the captain's mood over his attempt at dethronement and as such doesn't get to do a lot. Sulu is perhaps one of the few to be allowed some exploration of his Mirror personality, complete with scar and redshirt. He certainly is just slimy as we might remember George Takei's performance originally and Grant Imahara looks to have enjoyed taking a more liberal role here as the security officer out for blood. Sadly he's the only one who gets any time with Michelle Specht (Doctor Elise MacKennah) who turns up in a brief role as his girlfriend when called to the captain's aid.

Taking up some bridge duty is Kipleigh Brown as Smith. It's a decent enough part but again leaves little for the actress, familiar to Star Trek fans for a role in Enterprise, to spread her wings here. She does manage to get berated by Kirk as a highlight but beyond that she remains steadfastly at the helm and I do hope she comes back in the next episode and gets more involved in the action!

The biggest revelation has to be the actress onboard to play Marlene Moreau. Asia DeMarcos could well be a clone of Barbara Luna who played the part in Mirror, Mirror. Her mannerisms are very close to Luna's and she does a great job here as a foil to Kirk as well as one of the architects of the deluded and increasingly erratic Enterprise captain's downfall.

Fairest of Them All may not venture to new worlds or new civilisations here, choosing instead to make use of the standing ship sets but that takes nothing from the excellent result. Cutting the running time to 40 minutes certainly makes this a tighter and more refined episode, moving from beat to beat and maintaining a high level of energy and momentum throughout. My one point of concern though is just how fast this revolution seems to be happening given that it's taking place right after the Prime versions of Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura have only just returned to their own reality. That aside, this has to be one of those episodes that should have been made and never was. The Original Series really was owed another stab at the Mirror Universe. 

Spock's motivations and Kirk's opposition fit perfectly with the original if we if we ignore the speedy transition and you do sense that we're getting payoff and answers to questions we've always had about the Mirror Universe. It also confirms that this isn't just some twisted evil place rather a twist on the characters that we would get. from the subsequent Deep Space Nine revival in the '90's.

I have to admit that some of the comments we made about Lolani seem trivial now with a third episode of such calibre produced in such a short space of time and no doubt another in close behind. Indeed that timescale is impressive given that to produce this episode the crew looked back to the original story to accurately recreate not just those "minimal" uniforms in all their shininess but also used Mirror, Mirror as a benchmark to repaint the bridge set as it appeared in the second season. Now that's attention to detail and it all shows right from that scene recreation at the opening of the show. 

Everything here is just perfect and there's no question that the crew and cast have a genuine love for their work and apparently a few other people do too since Michael Dorn (Worf) acts as the voice of the computer and the recently rebuilt and restored Galileo shuttle makes a triumphant appearance and that guy who turns up as a Halkan? Well he's only Bobby (Gorn) Clark who played Chekov's henchman in the original episode. That's three episodes in a row where notable alumni have been directly involved onscreen and we're even getting defections from Phase II as that series' Kirk's nephew actor, Bobby Rice, gets agonised.

Even down to the rewriting of the opening titles monologue,  this web-series has done everything in its power to produce something special.  While Phase II seemingly struggles to get material and Continues is improving quality with each release. Mignogna and the team have done exactly what it says on the tin and continued the five year mission not providing a new take or a weird parody but instead playing on the strengths and adding new elements and angles to the classic Star Trek show. This is the show that could have been if we'd had a 1969 — 70 season. OK, so it's definitely more in the action/adventure realm than digging deep and looking at thought-provoking themes but there are signs that these elements could well be further developed as with the Spock story here to reform the Empire. Giving time over to the action element does mean that this could do well with the younger, modern day Star Trek fan who is more familiar with the lens-flare and big explosions of the JJ Abrams universe.

When we found out that this show was being devised,  Phase II was the series to beat and the one to watch. We expected Continues to take a while to mature and find its feet but in a remarkably short time it has gone from being the young upstart to the head of the pack and should be proud to stand tall against the competition. Star Trek Continues is now the level to which all fan produced shows based on the franchise have to aspire to match at the very least and no doubt their next adventure will raise that bar a touch more.

To view the new episode from Star Trek Continues, click here and to visit their website click here

What did you think to Fairest of Them All? Was it the episode you'd been hoping for? Let us know in the comments below!

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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Previewing Prelude - In Detail

Dear Alec Peters

We are very sorry we haven't talked about Axanar for a while. Hope you can accept our apologies. We will address this inconsistency forthwith.
Warmest Regards
Some Kind of Star Trek

It's true we haven't spent any time looking at the amazing progress of Prelude to Axanar if nothing less, but in the last fortnight we've been privy to some brilliant new footage. So, let's start at the beginning of that journey.

First up was a great little sneaky look behind the scenes which showed our first proper glimpse of the cast in character and the crew at work. It's definitely heightened interest and we all thought that this was going to be our lot for a while.

As actual in-movie action goes there's not a lot - a shot of Kate Vernon as Captain Sonya Alexander a bit beaten up is really your payoff there but we do manage some superb closeups of Richard Hatch being made-down from his role as Klingon Supreme Commander Kharn as well as some shots which reveal his uniform is not too far off that of General Chang from Star Trek VI. Chang is actually in Axanar as Kharn's subordinate for those who might not know. Gary Graham is also there in a couple of shots in full, older, Vulcan makeup as Ambassador Soval whom he originally played in Enterprise

Both Hertzler and Todd can be seen in their Starfleet dress uniforms during filming and there's even a snippet of dialogue in there as Todd's temper frays in his role as Fleet Admiral Ramirez. The dress uniforms do have a sense of The Original Series' dress uniforms with a touch less silky sheen to them while the glimpses of duty uniform are very much, as we knew, in keeping with the feel of The Cage. Understandably there's some green-screening in there which will help keep the sets budget down if nothing else and also means not too much is being given away here.

Hearing from the major players here gives a lot of resonance to the Axanar stable. If the speed at which the basic funds and then the stretch goals for this project were reached are anything to go by then completing the full length movie might not be in the bag but it's almost certainly going to be an easier task than might have first been expected.

And Then Came June 11th

So while we were getting all wrapped up in the excitement of the sneak peek, those Axanar bods pulled the full 2:53 trailer together and IT'S AMAZING.

"The basic idea of what Prelude is, is totally different from anything Star Trek fans have seen before." Executive Producer Alec Peters told us; "It is basically a History Channel special on the Four Years War."

Straight off and seconds in we're seeing some stunning CGI of the Klingons taking the battle to the Federation, destroying ships, worlds and anything that seems to get in their way. 

Then we get to hear from some of the key players - those notables that we've already heard from briefly in the sneak peek but this time fully in character - and can Tony Todd chew out a scene or what. This is a very different way to explore your project and present it to fans - first giving just a morsel of information and then a short film to introduce what you're going to attempt in the larger movie.

Peters and the Axanar team don't really give much away even in the monologues from the onscreen characters which do start to show us how they are going to be portrayed and maybe glimpses of their angles within the story. Yes, we see some ruined and badly damaged buildings, others engulfed by fire as well as multiple space-borne conflicts to whet your appetite but I really think the key is to look at how each of the protagonists here responds to the unseen interviewer, what does it tell us about their characters and what we can expect?

Admiral Ramirez (Tony Todd) is certainly a character cast in the best tradition one leading from the front, giving stirring speeches and seemingly passionate about defending the traditions of the Federation to provide a better future - could he be a man prepared to do anything to ensure that this is achieved? 

Captain Samuel Travis (J G Hertzler) is much more reflective as he looks back at Axanar. While we're not sure exactly what he's referring to here, there seems to be some appreciation for Admiral Ramirez and also the realisation that something had to change. Looks as though Travis could be some sort of advisor in the movie, providing suggestions on where the Federation need to go to secure victory or even a mentoring role with Garth.

Heading the opposition and fleets of D-6 cruisers is Kharn (Richard Hatch). A seemingly confident man who's confidence and misunderstanding of the Federation could ultimately lead to his downfall and the defeat of the Klingon Empire. His monologue shows the wonder of hindsight are alive and well in the 22nd Century.

One of the two characters in the trailer who previously existed in the canon Star Trek universe is Ambassador Soval (Gary Graham) last seen in the four seasons of Enterprise. For once we see a Vulcan admit failure - a costly failure at that. How Soval will appear in Axanar will be interesting. Will he continue to negotiate for peace or will we see him clearly side with Starfleet to fight - the only logical conclusion to failed peace talks?

The second of three fleet captains featured in the trailer is Sonya Alexander (Kate Vernon). Her brief appearance indicates a commanding officer faced with a futile battle and an apparently lost cause against the seemingly mightier Klingon forces. Is she destined to be the more pessimistic counterpoint in Axanar to Garth or Travis? Will Alexander be a part of the final battle and what part will she ultimately play? I suspect the prelude will show her constantly on the back foot against the Klingons.

Perhaps rightly so the final sound-out is granted to Kelvar Garth (Alec Peters), the hero of Axanar. I actually think this is the most insightful of the sneak peek talking heads, demonstrating that the original intent of Starfleet was far away from battle. Is there a reluctance to fight or is this an acceptance of the brutal truth of reality? We look forward to finding out.

Said Alec in relation to the performance of his assembled cast: "(Their work was) Outstanding. I think everyone is impressed. And Christian (Gossett) did a great job directing them, so the performances are insanely good."

While the interviews are at the core of this trailer, the graphics are mind-blowing and give us some crystal-clear closeups on four different types of Starfleet ship (three pictured here and the fourth being the USS Ares) and the D-6 Klingon cruiser. We also spotted those phaser cannons which are more reminiscent of the JJ Abrams USS Kelvin than The Original Series. In fact there are some bits on the ships in the image here that also indicate a leaning in that direction. Now Alec Peters has told us that the Federation ship classes have yet to be named but we've got some suggestions if he's interested in hearing them or how about a fan competition to choose?

While we can admire the beauty of the CGI, the work on the talking head interviews is equally as perfect. The lighting works a treat, playing light and dark against each other and you instantly forget that the backgrounds are digital because everything looks so authentic. So far this is looking to be one of the truly great and epic fan works made so far and could well be the benchmark for years to come - and that might only be a nod to Prelude let alone the full movie.

"Everything went smoothly (with the production)." reported Alec. "I think the greatest challenge was managing the budget, as a professional film has much greater costs than a fan film, and this is mostly definitely not a fan film."

Our "inside man" at Axanar confirmed that the project is going better than they expected; "But also it takes longer than we would hope because quality takes time!" - and I'm sure as fans we're more than happy to hear that there's care and attention being paid to ensure a high quality result.

The response from fans globally for Alec Peters' project has been something of a phenomenon with 25,000 people alone following their updates on Facebook. The buzz has been immense and is outstripping a lot of other well-known fan projects for interest - maybe with the exception of Renegades which is pushing a Facebook following of 105,000 but that's had even more publicity perhaps and features an equally franchise-recognised cast.

So what's next? Well the 20 minute Prelude to Axanar will get it's premiere at San Diego Comic Con and then the Kickstarter funding for the full length Axanar feature will begin with filming planned for the Fall (Autumn) of 2014. It still seems like completion is a long way off but the release of the sneak peek behind the scenes and the magnificent Prelude trailer will have reassured fans, backers and those involved with the project that this is happening and will come to fruition.

Excited about it? 

We are.

All images courtesy of Star Trek: Axanar

You can find out more by visiting the official Axanar website HERE and you can view their trailer right now...

Are you ready for Axanar? Is it the film you're waiting for? Let us know below!

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