Monday, 28 July 2014

I Suppose You Want the Office? - Musings on the Major

I'm now up to the middle of season four of Deep Space Nine and I'm finding an enhanced appreciation of everyone's favourite Bajoran major.

Saturday was Nana Visitor's birthday (yes, we're 48 hours behind) and apt to think of how much happened to her character, Major Kira Nerys, by this half-way point in the show and just what she still had to come before What You Leave Behind.

That angry opening exchange between the major and Sisko in Emissary is probably one of the strongest and most memorable introductions in Star Trek as a whole and placed Kira in a very dominant position from day one. We weren't going to mess with her; no way; uh uh and it was going to be a turbulent relationship a far field away from that of either Kirk and Spock or Picard and Riker.

Nerys is the strongest - and absolutely the most confrontational - female character ever to grace the franchise which is probably why I think she's a truly superb addition and it's watching her back as I did the other day in Return to Grace that nailed home the fact I had to write something about her. 

I could go on about some form of Bajoran religious musings that she encountered through the show or perhaps we could debate the change of hairstyles and whether it was sensible to go for the severe military look after the pilot and then make her more feminine in season four; or what about uniforms and if it was a good thought to stick a military officer in heels after three years? And who wasn't giving the thumbs up when Kira gained a Starfleet rank and uniform in the final arc of season seven?

I looked back over the seasons and tried to look for that quirky little thing that makes the character. Perhaps not quite the human virus-catcher that Harry Kim was per se but I realised that with Kira taking it into "quirky thing" territory was doing a disservice to the character and to Nana Visitor herself.  God knows that if you need her off you'd be having a short conversation with the wrong end of a phaser. 

Nerys was able to hold her ground and give as good as she got from the start and she was never one to avoid giving an opinion. Tact was less than forthcoming on many occasions especially during the first couple of years and most definitely where Kai Winn was concerned and wherever she believed she was in the right - just check out Past Prologue and Progress for a couple of examples of that - she's not afraid to disagree with anyone. Also refer to The Collaborator to see how capable Nerys becomes as a match the devious Kai - it's what they don't say here that is the best bit of the conversation.

Indeed, the Kai was one of the two thorns in her side but while her opinion of the religious leader never altered, her relationship with Gul Dukat went through a heck of a lot of permutations over time. That's where Return to Grace got me y'see.

Watching that episode reminds you of the journey that Kira explores from the pilot, through to  Duet, into Necessary Evil then through episodes such as Second Skin, leading us to this point in the show. With the Klingons withdrawing from the Khitomer Accords, the Cardassians become uneasy allies in The Way of the Warrior and along with a uniform change, Kira's attitude does seem to soften somewhat. The discovery of Dukat's half-Bajoran daughter Torah Ziyal (Indiscretion) helps to draw the pair closer in mutual admiration only after he accepts her rather than attempting to murder her. Ziyal and her father's return later in the season readdresses that relationship with the junior Dukat very much the fulcrum tying together not just two worlds but the two characters. 

He's the person she loves to hate, representing everything she despises in the Cardassian people but yet there is something that draws them together. They find each other fascinating,  holding personality aspects that each is loathe to admire. But while that is true,  Kira still remains true to her culture even though she is swayed to other points of view,  her background always anchors her -  the situation in Sanctuary for instance shows where her beliefs and the needs of a displaced society comes into conflict. 

Return to Grace is almost exactly halfway through the whole series and more layers of Kira are left to unpeel beyond here most importantly following Dukat's choice to side with the Dominion in season five's By Inferno's Light and Ziyal's death in the excellent Sacrifice of Angels

For someone who was so untrusting and held such a deep set hatred of Cardassians, Nerys is more than capable of offering an olive branch and giving a chance when she wants but whatever path she chooses seems to have its fair share of incident along the way. Maybe I should have set her down as Star Trek's most outwardly emotional character as well seeing as how she takes a fair many things personally. The first season's Duet still marks out one of her finest moments/stories and placed her very highly among my favourite characters. Visitor stands her ground ably against Harris Yulin's Marritza as we get to see her confront the emotions she has buried following the Occupation. It's one of the show's most powerful episodes if you've not seen it.

Of course Kira is the onscreen, ever-present reminder that Bajor is only a short distance away - she is the voice of the local people, the guide to the area and the ways of life. A liaison she might be to begin with but perhaps "mediator" would be more apt as she developed. By season seven Kira is negotiating with Romulans during the Dominion War which is a far cry from her opening discourse with Sisko or even Bashir and his "frontier medicine". Had those talks been staged at that point in the series I wouldn't have bet against the odd Romulan taking a walk outside the docking ring minus a space suit.

But what is my point here? OK so we know that Sisko, until he grew a beard and shaved his head, was one of the most difficult characters for the writers to explore. Kira on the other hand get a lot of development (and the odd mirror universe moment), driving her character into dealings with religion, war, love, the balancing of duty and loyalty but crucially at no point does she try and fit in. Look at many other characters in Star Trek (those non-human) and how many want to be "more" human or find their comfort zone within the crew? I'm sure you can think of several just off the top of your head. Worf is a good example too and with his introduction to Deep Space Nine there's a good mix of him, as one trying to fit, Odo who is the observer of the human condition and then Kira who doesn't want to fit. 

Maybe that is the reason she works so well within this dynamic cast - Kira wants to be different and remain a true Bajoran - pulling on a Starfleet uniform isn't her idea of a good choice but she does it because it will ultimately help win the war as she leads a Cardassian freedom fighter group in the biggest career twist Star Trek ever dreamt up.

To be fair Visitor had a wide scope with the major from Bajor aside from the changes we mentioned earlier. What about acting as surrogate for Keiko's baby or getting to play a Russian secret agent? Just a couple that immediately stick in the mind and are worth a flick back thorough the mid-seasons just to catch again.

Through all that fighting and anger, there was the chance for a little romancing but I never saw her as the marrying type if I'm honest. As with most Star Trek loves, Kira didn't have the best of luck - her first boyfriend died (less said about Bareil the better), she split up with the only one that survived (Shakaar) and then watched Odo go back to the Great Link. She was better off with a phaser in hand or a Cardassian to argue with by far.

Romancing did mean that had  Visitor a lot more to do than be the tough first officer and it can be refreshing to watch those opening - and unrehearsed - scenes from Emissary then compare them to the more rounded, experienced and life-aware Kira. No more is she just the terrorist and in coming back to Return to Grace, this is the tipping point for Kira in that she chooses to care for Dukat's half-Bajoran daughter while he goes off to blow up Klingons in his newly acquired Bird-of-Prey. It's the first time Kira actually puts herself forward for a personal act of kindness. Previously she's only ever done anything begrudgingly (take her opinion on time off in Defiant) or unless there's been an extensive argument that's forced her into a very, very tight corner (pick almost any Kira episode for this one but I'd head for Destiny for starters).

Behind it all though, Visitor makes her real and also one of my favourite ever Star Trek characters from any series. She wasn't playing to a low cut cleavage or a provocative costume but relied on good, solid acting ability and some great storylines both to this mid-point of the fourth year and beyond. On the flipside, consider the development still to come from here - Children of Time, Wrongs Darker than Death and NightHis Way, that final ten episode arc - all key threads for Kira who was blatantly a writers' favourite even if the Bajoran religious stories weren't a favourite of the fans.

So we wish Nana Visitor a belated birthday. Maybe next year we'll actually manage it on the day.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Lost Years: One Constant Star - What Have We Missed?

There's a big gap of canon material between the end of the Enterprise-B scene in Generations and the flashback scene in All Good Things...

Which means it's a huge opportunity for the novels to mine and One Constant Star is my first step into this void with David George III as my guide for this adventure captained by Demora Sulu.

I received three novels in this package - this novel plus Serpents in the Garden and Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel - but George's addition to the series was always the one I'd been looking forward to reading since it was announced. I do enjoy reading the ever-expanding universe through the eyes of Kirk, Picard and all the others but in One Constant Star there really are no constraints apart from contradicting anything televised. This is a blank canvas of extraordinary scale even with the characters themselves since we only had brief glimpses of them onscreen in 1994 and then only in the case of then Enterprise-B captain John Harriman and his then-helmsman, Demora Sulu.

Kicking off with a mission featuring those two characters, we're then flung forward from 2309 to 2319 and a mission to a seemingly deserted world called Rejarris II where all, of course, is not as it seems. There's no suggestion this will be anything but incident filled (and a happy jaunt down to the surface and back for some flower picking would make for a fairly dull read) and the haunting, desolate nature of the planet leads into mystery solving coupled with monsters, portals, phaser-fire and occasional character back-story filling.

The latter point is pretty essential since we haven't met any of the main characters bar two and for a newcomer to The Lost Era I found this to be rather handy. There were also some references to other events within the "Time Gap" but this was a book surprisingly light on nods to any of the televised series and I really appreciated that. In fact, I found that not tripping over countless hat-tips to Khan, the Klingons on Organia, Tribbles or the Khitomer Accords a refreshing change. It also demonstrates that the writers can be free within the text and not have to rely on established material when they need to show their expertise in the franchise. There are a few peppered throughout but please, can we take this as a good example of how to respect the fans and not overload the references for the future just to show the author's understanding/justification of the franchise.

I'll also give a nod to the rear cover here because it's not the usual "blah-blah" plot synopsis and leaves some fairly big chunks of exposure for the reader to uncover as the story evolves - and I don't mean in the last 20 pages. In fact Harriman's return to the story once we've set the tone in the prologue isn't as soon as you'd expect and it allows the crew of the Enterprise-B under Demora Sulu to get a decent shot at page time. It's a fairly eerie start to the main part of the novel but there's always a tag to keep you turning the page and I've been hoping for a Star Trek novel like this for a few months now. The environment we start out in is not deadly or terrifying but acts as a great counter to the later events and setting while also presenting several questions that only time with the subsequent 300+ pages will help you answer. The lack of concrete evidence and fact that we begin with in One Constant Star is just a fraction of the tapestry that will keep you enthralled page after page.

While I'm not super-familiar with this literary crew due to my lengthy sojourn from the novel releases over the last decade or so, George made me give a damn about them from very early on. Yes there's the usual blurb on background to set out where they've come from but One Constant Star is much more about a crossroads in their careers with at least three of the main characters facing fairly life-changing situations as part of the central plot - and that's even before Harriman makes his arrival. Aside from Demora Sulu, the key people in this expansion are Commander Xintall Linojj, a Boslic who saw much of her childhood under Romulan occupation and has the mental scars to prove it and Security Chief/Second Officer Tenger, an Orion who chose a different path in his career than you might expect from the green-skinned slavers. 

I didn't feel that these characters were stereotyped either and having an Orion onboard did make for more interesting situations; I'm not sure how the maroon on green would look in reality but I found the security chief involving since he is placed into a commanding situation very early on. Linojj too was compelling to read more, again, for her journey here rather than the tragic backstory. Capable when placed into a command situation the events of One Constant Star do challenge her perception on life and I hope that all three of the command staff get more outings to explore the after-effects of this adventure.

Demora too has her fair share of action here although most of it is while separated from her command and in a hostile environment. Her predicament really left me with some serious worry lines because I could not see a glimmer of how their strand would be completed, even as I entered the last third of the book. It doesn't place her into some enemy confrontation, more of a fight for survival with some genuinely terrifying challenges to deal with.

Harriman too has benefitted from 20 years of literary review and is definitely a better, more rounded captain than he came across in the opening segment of Generations. Alan Ruck attempted to do him some justice in the spin-off Of Gods and Men but he seems to develop much more on the page. While Harriman's impact is limited within the story to a prologue and a return later (not really a giveaway since it's in the back cover synopsis) he's much more likable and while his return is almost Kirk-Generations in it's timing it makes a lot more sense and certainly adds to all that has happened.

In fact the now-Admiral Harriman dominates the latter third of One Constant Star and made it eminently more readable. His relationship with his wife is perhaps a fraction cliched but the reasoning behind his actions is commendable - there's even a point where something that makes very little sense gets a fairly rational explanation before we can nitpick it to bits. I really loved his return to the Star Trek fold - a shame he never got more canon screen-time to develop.

The Enterprise crew meanwhile is a lot more diverse than it's predecessors thanks to the removal of a movie or TV budget although the more significant individuals are humanoid and since Harriman's elevation to the admiralty there have been changes. In comparison to the unbelievably static nature of Kirk's crew's careers, there are certainly more things happening in the lives of all those we meet here. This doesn't mean it's necessarily easier to relate to them but they are very accessible within the events of the novel and feel that touch more human when we see that there has been some progression in their lives. Oddly there's no major villain here either so the whole focus of the novel is on the crew for once. It's only when you get nearer the conclusion that you realise it's not the standard Enterprise versus Some Form of Evil but more about how events affect those who are unwilling participants. It's a survival story; a learning curve if you will, maturing some very green explorers into greater characters - many of whom I hope to meet again in future volumes of The Lost Era.

Explaining just what happens here would ruin this rather excellent read and I found it very hard to read or do anything else until I'd closed the final page. The twists aren't on every page but I would advise you to be aware of those throwaway lines and occasional side-points that crop up because they're not as throwaway or occasional as you might be thinking - and as I thought while I hammered through the story. While the story uses the lesser-spotted Enterprise-B as the vehicle here, it doesn't play that big a part in the narrative and I might have liked to see more of her in action although, again, I do nod to the author for keeping fixated on the human element here and placing the perils of the cast above the metallic hull of an Excelsior Class starship.

That alongside the more in-depth character evolution is what seems to stand David R George III ahead of his contemporaries at present. Both Allegiance in Exile and Revelation and Dust have been two of my favourite novels from the Star Trek line in the last year or so and with One Constant Star that trend has easily continued. The only issue I did have as I closed in on the final page was how easily it did seem to get wrapped up after such an impressive buildup and threads of potential but it's all resolved so hurriedly and I think it could have benefitted from a bit more exposition and maybe two chapters more. For those of you who are perhaps looking for Star Trek that is a little more varied to read than a return to the adventures of Kirk or Picard I would give this one a big recommendation. I do have a personal leaning towards the movie era and with George I felt that I had returned there once more. I certainly keep my fingers crossed that more of The Lost Era is uncovered for us to enjoy and that the next one carries on just where One Constant Star leaves off.

Star Trek: The Lost Era: One Constant Star is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £6.99 ISBN 9781476750217

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Final Five for Three?

So that whole hashtag campaign to get Jonathan Frakes in the director's seat for Star Trek 3 seems to have amounted to nothing.

Frakes apparently wanted to direct the third movie from the alternative universe. To be fair, I would want to direct it but no-one got round to asking me. I can see what and why fans wanted the former Enterprise first officer to get the gig but the studio stood firm and while the publicity won't have done them any harm, they seem to have chosen another path.

Thing is the #bringinriker campaign didn't even see the seasoned director make the supposed final five.. Not only did Frakes not make the list but neither did rumoured Shaun of the Dead helmer Edgar Wright who was right in centre frame less than four weeks ago. God bless social media.

For those who haven't see the list, it supposedly contains Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), Justin Lin (Fast & Furious), and Duncan Jones (Source Code). OK, so actually the last one has already been fairly vocal in ruling himself out because he has other personal projects he wants to focus on and complete in the next few years which really leave four. I guess if we wait a few more weeks someone will leak the proper list and if we're really lucky, the whole script. Do I actually believe this is the list? Not a jot to be honest. Hey, all rumours are good rumours in the media frenzy.

So where am I going here? Well I think that the choice to ignore the Frakes campaign is a bold and sensible move on the part of Paramount. His record is excellent and certainly when it comes to Star Trek he took charge on the brilliant First Contact but we seem to ignore that he also ran the show on Insurrection (bit harsh as I like it) and Thunderbirds. If the script is total guff it doesn't matter who directs it - my near-three year old son might as well have a go - because there's only so much a director can do if he's handed a story that doesn't work. Insurrection is a good example of that. Frakes does a solid job and makes it look great but the story is still average, two-part episode fare. 

Look at Nemesis. John Lagan admitted he was a massive Star Trek fan (and it overpowered him) as is Robert Orci and,  by association so is Jonathan Frakes.  Does over familiarity cause an issue?  I think so. JJ might not have dealt what we expected but at least his Star Trek was fresh and unhindered by the previous 40-odd years. I suspect Frakes could be too attached to the vision of the Prime Universe and cause more issues with what is allegedly an already unwieldy project. Get some fresh eyes and a fresh perspective which will move Trek forward and avoid stagnation. We love Frakes but I'm,  for one,  happy he's not on the list and fans haven't been listened to in this case. 

Having Frakes on board would, for the older fans be great, the comfortable duvet of familiarity, the comfort blanket of the 90's Star Trek but that can't happen. A new director may better understand the way to gel the new and original more than Abrams and will have Orci on hand as producer (he'll have the time since he's also dropped involvement with Power Rangers) but if that story isn't sorted then it's a losing battle from the beginning. However, with all the media furore around the production and it's still 18 months from release, it's sure to be a big summer blockbuster if only for people wanting to see what the result is of all this turmoil.  

Of course all these suggestions could be a brilliant bit of misdirection by Paramount/Bad Robot to get us off the scent and then we'll find out that Frakes has been helming for about six weeks. If this is the case, you can say you heard about it here first. 

One thing I don't agree with is the rumour that the film-makers are envisaging that the franchise can survive without catering for the original fans. That rumour does seem utterly, UTTERLY ridiculous as these are the core who provide a sizeable portion of the viewing market and constitute the majority who are buying the DVDs, blu-rays and other assorted merchandising before, during and after release. The average filmgoer will more than likely know that the third reboot movie marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek unless they live under a massive rock but they aren't going to be doing much more than seeing the cinematic 3D experience. We're not saying that you have to retreat back to familiar ground but there has to be some tip of the hat to the original show. You owe it for giving you a box office success and also to me as I have hugely overused "seem", "apparently" and "supposed" far too much in this article.

The other rumour about the studio wanting Star Trek 3 to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy nearly made me cry. Jeez people, let Star Trek be Star Trek!!! Update and reboot yes, make it more accessible to a new fanbase; yes but don't plagurise others work. Let Star Trek be Star Trek and let Marvel do what Marvel do. I get that you want to replicate it's success and you do have Zoe Saldana but let that be as close as it gets please. I can't and don't want to imagine Kirk whacking on his mixtape of Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill as he blows up a squadron of D-4s. Star Trek doesn't need that kind of edge,  more action less thinking. It has its own identity and doesn't need to copy another for success. 

What's you take on the web of movements and words around the Star Trek 3 production? Still care...? Drop your thoughts below!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

When We Talked to Marc

With all our technical obstacles overcome we can finally post our interview with author, Marc Cushman.

For those of you in the know, it's also a pretty time to post this as July 13th marks 45 years since Star Trek was originally broadcast in the UK. For me in particular this is massively significant since without my Dad ever watching those airings I would never have caught the bug in the mid-80's and watched the BBC2 repeats then.

Shortly before the release of These are the Voyages season two we were granted a hour to chat to the man behind the three-volume series - but it went over by some time.

Which is why we've edited the interview into "bitesize" segments running from the introduction right through to our little test for Marc - but we'd recommend you listen in order.

So without anymore waffle, drop in and join us as we talk to Marc about all things Star Trek and importantly, the arrival of the second book in the series....and there are a few gems of info dotted here and there too....


Back to the 80's

So how did Marc get into all this and where did it stem from?

Getting into the Voyages

It took a few years to get started but now it's in full flow...

Compiling the Volumes

Marc talks about his expectations for the series.

Printing Up

Working with the publishers, producing the covers and the differences in the stills used and others out there.

Talking Research

Getting those key interviews and sources before it's too late; and what was going on with Spock's Brain???

Six from SKoST

And just to test Marc's substantial knowledge of The Original Series...

Wrapping Up

Thanks to Marc and signing off...

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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Monday, 14 July 2014

Old Baldy and Draping the St George on the Enterprise

Here at SKoST, we like to be concise. We also like to be punctual, factual, comical and slightly unique. So let me start off by apologising - to you our readers, to our reputation but especially to Sir Patrick Stewart.

We have been remiss in our duties. We debate our common interest, deliver our appraising or scathing remarks like a self-professed food critic or music mogul. Yet I find my proverbial tail between my legs to think we have completely missed such an important event - the Shakespearian actor's birthday! Like a champagne critic ordering up a 1988 Vintage Krug Brut by asking "I'll have the Lambrini". Paux Pas? We're way beyond it.

So in celebration, we'll quite happily break out the patriotism and gloat for having home-grown talent leading a series one of science-fiction's most popular TV shows...

A Yorkshireman, a countryman, a British classically trained actor in a sci-fi show??? Not since you Americans considered peanut-butter and jelly an amicable combination has there been such a juxtaposition. From delving into Sir Patrick's bio, the man himself recognised the oddity, refusing to unpack for six weeks, expecting to be on the next flight back to the land of hope and glory! Twenty-seven years later, we can look back on his contribution. Yes, in the first season of The Next Generation, I often believe I can sense the unease in his character and acting. I'm trying to convey a feeling I've never been able to shake in his first season - it's just a personal belief he was unsure of quite what he was doing there.

Years later however, we see him launch into such a tirade against the Borg, it would have left Shakespeare himself in awe! "This far; NO FURTHER!!! And I, will make them pay for what they've done!!" If you imagine someone who risks losing everything to an entity as brutal, cold and efficient as the Borg, you have been tortured and abused by them, they have threatened your home, your loved ones, everything you hold dear. All of that accumulating into one chance at revenge. I'd say this film housed his best dramatisation of these events, truly his best performance.

Besides the first season of The Next Generation, I don't think I'm alone here, I honestly feel Nemesis was far from his (and the rest of the cast's) best performance. There was a tired look about them, as if they had done one too many encores? I would love to get a personal account from him on what went on behind the scenes. Was that the case? Or perhaps it was the plot, or the director, or the general conditions? I wouldn't be surprised to find he's been asked this, ad nausea. Oh, and the Argo scene? Clearly Sir Patrick's idea for his love of cars I'm guessing!

Before this, there was high praise for sticking up for the little guy in Insurrection. I'm not going to go into each individual piece by him. Merely as a point of speculation, I've often believed Sir Patrick's performance and possibly his involvement as associate producer, were directly or indirectly as a result of his deep-seated humanitarian beliefs.
Too much praise? You may think so, I don't. I could digress into all aspects of his life, his achievements, beliefs, awards and honours, but this would be nothing more than what can be read up on Wikipedia, IMDB and so on. In addition, there are far too many events and years to cover - more than a single article could cover. What I'd REALLY love to do, is sit down with the man himself, let my wife grill him first over his love of Dr Who and Red Dwarf, then she would likely beg him to introduce her to Brian Blessed and then she would chat endlessly about Monty Python. By his next birthday, she may allow me 60 seconds to interview the poor man and get his thoughts! Imagine that... 60 second memoirs!

So, if anyone does happen to know where he is, his whereabouts, his schedule, when he'll next be in Scholar Green - Staffordshire, or if he entertains Skype? Please could you let him know I'm willing to battle his brains against the walnut I have in the space between my ears. If he really wants to feel at home, I actually drink Earl Grey. No, you didn't get me on it, my Grandma (bless her) did.

From a fellow countryman, I say happy birthday! Eat, drink and be merry! And in the spirit of our forefathers... Jolly good show old chap!

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

From Start to Finish: Official Starships Collection Issues 24 and 25: Xindi Insectoid Ship and USS Prometheus

A different slant to this month.

For a start it's Saturday morning as I'm writing this and occasionally the month's releases are dropped off by the postal service ahead of the shelf release on the following Thursday so why not have a quick forward think before they (might) arrive?

We got a preview of the two latest releases this week on and we've seen the ships ever so briefly in the recent Behind the Scenes video we discussed but aside from that and the usual slot on Entertainment Earth, these two have been kept fairly secret.

Going on the sole Enterprise release thus far, the NX-01, I'm expecting the Xindi vessel to be particularly impressive. It was a later CGI creation from the final televised show and should reflect the later advances in computer construction. I love the design of this craft - it's different, quirky and betrays a very different approach to design than anything so far in the series.

The USS Prometheus on the other hand is likely to be one of the more fiercely debated releases. A massive fan favourite since it's appearance in Voyager's Message in a Bottle, the prototype starship has to be a winner due to it's prominence and unique features. Taking a look at the early shots on you can see the good level of detail but I hold out until I've got the ship in hand. Notably it doesn't look that big which does concern me but again, might look totally different in reality.

And on the following Wednesday they arrived...

Let's tackle issue 24 and the larger of the two ships first. The Xindi Insectoid ship comes in one of the biggest boxes to date alongside the Bajoran solar sailor. I was gutted to find mine arrived in two sections but a blob of glue easily solved that and you'd never tell it came in a less than totally assembled form. As we saw in that behind the scenes video, this one is BIG and it does benefit greatly from having a larger surface area to play with which has a great deal of lined hull detail marked out but that's just the start.

There's some weight behind this triple-pronged warship which is, unbelievably, only the second full release from Enterprise and every bit as detailed as the first. The NX-01 from issue 5 is one of the best and this new starship is raising the bar on the level of detail found on alien craft. I may go as far as saying that it's in my top three.

Designed with a crab-like structure in mind, there's no official up or down with the Insectoid vessel which is emphasised by its near multiple lines of symmetry also meaning it was viewed in just about every angle possible during flight.  She does benefit from being one of the later craft committed to screen and thus more advanced CGI development which is displayed here in the Eaglemoss miniature. 

The hull itself is deep grey in colour,  the surface is punctuated with clear blue engine segments and lighter grey and blue panels with an overall deadly and striking appearance from bow to stern. There are minimal clear segments, only in the nose pieces and a touch on the arms. She is reassuringly solid and one of the less bendy products which always eases your tensions when first dropping them onto the display stand. Even more satisfying is the fact she sits well on the stand which attaches to the rear of the hull and lower two fins. 

Remember though there's no fixed up or down here and even in the magazine the vessel is shown sitting in in a variety of angles.The rear of the Insectoid craft is marvellously detailed with a lot of intricate angles and appendages which all fit closely together and mirror the CGI images in the accompanying literature perfectly. 

I love all the curves, line and edges here from both John Eaves design and Pierre Drolet's CGI model which was a slight evolution from what was signed off. I'd recommend dropping by Pierre's site to check out the "real"  article alongside his rendering of the NX-01 and Borg cube among other Star Trek and sci-fi creations. 

Sticking with the Xindi though and although not a big fan of that adversary or the show,  I'm mightily impressed with the result from Eaglemoss and look forward to issue 26 which will feature their third Enterprise release,  the 22nd Century Tholian warship. I already have high expectations for this one.

I'm also going to stop second guessing what will be in the magazines from this month on. I anticipated pages of Xindi general background but instead the content is more refreshingly focused on the Insectoid sub-species. My relatively inferior knowledge of Enterprise meant this was a good,  concise reminder and a kick to rewatch those later years at the very least. 

The monthly ritual of giving the in-universe blurb and exclusive artwork might not lead into aspects of filming since this ship was only ever real on a computer screen but instead covers the story of its digital evolution and also the origins of the Insectoids and how they were brought to the show. A lot is given over to the episode Hatchery which focused on both the race and the ship but as I've not watched it for some time I didn't mind - it's one of the best canon sources for the Xindi. One issue with this issue(!) is the lack of labelling on the plan views of the vessel. I'd suggest this is an oversight but for casual fans they may be wondering where all the advanced engine tech is housed or the weapons ports are fixed.

Moving on, issue 25 is one of those big payouts; USS Prometheus. Easily winning award for biggest gimmick in Star Trek history with the fantastical multi-vector assault mode,  it's sure to be out of stock for some time. 

The Facebook page reviews of both the Xindi and Starfleet vessels have been high on praise and it's well founded. We've already said that the Insectoid vessel was a winner and this prototype is also superb. I was concerned that after seeing the shots in promo photos and on the behind the scenes video that this would be small and far from up to standard. As you can see this was totally unfounded. 

The upper primary hull is metal while the rest is in plastic. With the nacelles being shorter than other Starfleet ships in the series they are less pliable and for once they are all evenly spaced and we'll constructed. Every issue is getting better and better but here we have one of those ships that really got the fans talking. Aside from Voyager this was the first time we'd seen another Federation starship and was our first glimpse back into the Alpha Quadrant proper. 

The design and features blew up away and while we can't separate this model into its three distinct sections without hefting her out of a first storey window, the result will satisfy any collector or casual fan of the show. Don't be worried about there being any possibility of the Prometheus doing a midnight swan dive as the stand is a mid-body fit and snug enough that she won't be going anywhere.

Hull detail is spot on with all windows, hatches, shuttle bay and phaser strips in their right place. In fact there are a lot of windows marked out on both hulls. If we look back at previous models there has been a bit of a disconnect between the detail on plastic and metal but again, over time, this seems to have been addressed and here the whole ship comes together as one piece rather than the metal being a higher quality finish as with the movie refit USS Enterprise for one.

The only grumble might be in the lack of detail on the underside of the primary hull but then this will be a CGI accurate recreation so I'll pass over that pretty quickly. As with the Insectoid ship, the marked out hull plating is excellent and looks superior to the images in the magazine - and that has to be a first. 

The hull detail including the "docked" nacelle atop the primary hull, is exceptional and definitely rivals Eaglemoss' best work from the preceding issues. The joint lines are clean between metal and plastic, everything is properly sealed together which  should negate any negative reactions from fans.  I suspect Eaglemoss are always a little cautious when the big name ships are released -  any of the Enterprise variants or the Thunderchild for instance - but with the USS Prometheus they have created one that will be sought after. I might even suggest a three-piece special would be a winner for the future but for now this is just awesome and I can't enforce how important it is that you go and buy this one when it hits shelves in a couple of weeks. To check the UK release dates, drop by our post here.

Ok - so to wrap up let's skip through the magazine for regular issue 25. It's great - again. There's lots of pics of the ship separated both from Message in a Bottle and newly created for the collection. Bot only that but there's also Rick Sternbach's detailed drawings of the three components and the fully assembled ship which were used to create the CGI model. 

The background on the Prometheus is a bit limited to it's one major appearance (yes, I know it was in Endgame) but that hasn't stopped Eaglemoss before with ships such as Dauntless or the Bajoran Solar Sailor, nor has it here. The special feature is, as you would expect, the multi-vector assault mode (titled as Ship Separation) which also briefly covers some of the internal features we didn't get to see on screen but were indicated by designer Sternbach. In fact those design details take over six pages of the slim magazine but they are worth it. 

Rick Sternbach's work is stunningly drawn, revealing the way in which the prototype was intended to be five composite sections and accompanied by the thought processes of how the Prometheus was just about the most advanced and experimental ship we ever got to see. In a way it's a clever thing we have with this month's releases since one is almost from the earliest era we saw on TV and the second from one of the latest. 

While it's not the magazine we buy this for, it is well worth the read and to collect just for the always mesmerising design-and-build sections. Subscribers have already made it clear that this is one of the must-haves of the collection - definitely make it one of yours.

Another brilliant month's worth of additions to the range and so many more to come. With Issue 26 we'll also be exactly ONE YEAR into the collection - hasn't time flown ladies and gents....???

Next month we'll be seeing two Enterprise releases with the Tholian webspinner and the Romulan Bird-of-Prey.

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The Eaglemoss Official Starships Collection is available from newsagents priced £9.99 (UK) every fortnight. You can also subscribe by clicking on the link in the sidebar and head there now to secure your ships.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Back to the Modelling Board; Revell's Original Series USS Enterprise

Back in 2013 we were fortunate to review the Revell Star Trek Into Darkness USS Enterprise.

Now we can bring our sequel of sorts with the completion of the Revell kit for The Original Series' legendary starship. However this time, instead of having a bash at building her, I handed control over to someone with a ton more experience and a far steadier hand (and dare I say it about 200% more patience); my Dad.

A Star Trek fan since the original BBC TV airings back in the early 1970's, Dad is the reason I like the show and can be therefore blamed for me taking it to another level. In the past he's constructed the Enterprise-A from The Final Frontier, Enterprise-D, Klingon Bird-of-Prey (here, left) and the Vor'Cha attack cruiser, USS Excelsior from The Undiscovered Country and USS Defiant (personal favourite) so his credentials at the interview for this article were already enough to guarantee we'd be getting some top-notch material. When I said I'd received this kit for review though he did jump at the chance to tackle the starship since it was the mid-1980's when he completed the classic AMT release.

What I can say ahead of his review is that this is light years ahead of that and I can also be certain that the result will be a good deal better than my attempt on the JJ Abrams USS Enterprise

Right, let's get it started....

Opening Up

Saucer section ready for assembly
The Revell kit of the original USS Enterprise comes in an end-tuck carton which is useless for holding parts or sub-assemblies but, from this point, onward to construction. 

The parts come in four packs, one of which contains the clear items. The rest are in a light grey plastic which all look crisply moulded and the etched lines look a little heavy but not unacceptable so no re-scribing should be needed. The instruction booklet is in Revell’s standard format which is very clear and straightforward. I would say, at this point, I do not intend to use the kit windows because this will mean a significant amount of masking when it comes to painting; instead I will fill the apertures with Micro Kristal Klear  after completion.

The Build

Saucer section built and filled
Construction starts with the saucer section into which the navigation lights are inserted first. There is some confusion here because the instruction sheet illustration appears to show the tapered end of the bridge recess at the front of the saucer and it is only by looking at the impulse engine locating holes that the correct orientation is recognised. 

The saucer section went together well with no gaps needing more than a smear of filler. The only complication was the sprue gates which on parts A16, A18, A20 and A21 were rather thick and took some effort in cutting away. This is necessary because the location points in the saucer are inside the gate recesses – now onto the warp engines. 

Hull complete and warp engines attached
The warp engines are quite straightforward from a construction point of view. The complications are in the painting. Parts C29 and C44 were cemented in and the area painted silver. The clear parts A30 and A45 were more problematical because the main is clear orange but the ‘ribs’ in silver were tricky and needed a magnifying light and a steady hand. Parts B32 and B47 were left off until final painting along with A34, A37, A49 and A52 and, because these are the same colour which is a mix, they need to be painted at the same time to avoid shade differences.

Next, the pylons, which are quite ingenious in nature. They consist of a ‘V’ frame and two inner panels. When completed this sub-assembly sits like a saddle across the main hull. Cleverly this performs two functions - it fixes the angle from which the pylons come away from the hull and it means that there is no stress trying to pull the hull halves apart which was the case in earlier versions – well thought out Revell. 

Now I fitted the warp engines to the ‘V’ frame - all was good with just a touch of filler to tidy up the joints. 

Final Construction

Secondary hull complete with engines
Next, the main hull. I fixed the two bracing pieces (D102 and D103) and left them to dry overnight. The following day the shuttle door (E104) was added along with the 90 gm weight. Fortunately there is plenty of room in the hull to accommodate such a large volume. This was super-glued and taped to stop it moving around because there will be no possibility of securing it once the sensor array and the pylons are fitted. The hull went together very well and there seems little need for filler at this stage. This sub-assembly is now taped ready for final assembly.

Final assembly consists of the now-completed warp engine/pylon sub-assembly, main sensor and saucer. The warp engines were attached and left to dry overnight. The main sensor inner (D68 and D69) were assembled and fitted. The only difficulty encountered was the fit of part D68 which needed some material shaving from the main hull to let it fit but this was easily accomplished.

The sensor dish was left off to be painted separately to avoid masking. The saucer section was left off at this stage also because the primer will be easier to apply. Dependent upon fit, it may be that it will be given its final paint coat and attached afterwards. This decision is best left until after the next step - onto painting. 

By Numbers

B35 masked up
I painted all of the ‘non hull’ colour areas around the warp engines, impulse engine and main sensor. The main sensor array was painted gloss black because it is the most effective undercoat colour for the copper. When all of these areas have dried, they will be masked off for the overall assembly colour. At this point I painted the stand gloss black (also the most effective undercoat for the gold insignia). 

Having painted all of the supplementary colours the masking can be tricky. A tip in masking recessed areas such as found on parts B35/36 and B50/51 is to run the tip of a cocktail stick around the edge to give a clear area to trim off the tape. 

The final assembly now completes the hull with the warp engine covers and the main sensor being fitted. All good fits with no filler necessary.

I Name This Ship...

Awaiting final assembly
Decal fitting was achieved with no problems. Colour register is very good due to the depth USS Enterprise and NCC-1701 on the saucer, there is virtually no trace of pigment with no ‘show through’.

The carrier film is very clear and, even on the main I used a decal setting solution on the major pieces and the decals reacted very well. For note you do also get the option to mark her up as either USS Constellation or USS Potemkin.

The final step is a coat of satin varnish overall and putting in the windows with Micro Kristal Klear to which a dash of gloss white or gloss black is added (personal preference). The main thing I would emphasise is the benefit of keeping the hull and saucer sections separate until the last task. This has helped tremendously in the handling of the pieces which, due to the awkwardness of the shapes, would have been very difficult to paint easily. This is possible because of the very good fit of the saucer to hull joints which is tight with no remedial work needed on the joint. 

The project has gone together very well and I would thoroughly recommend that any Star Trek fan with a modicum of scale-modelling experience gives it a try.

Many thanks to Revell for their assistance in the production of this model review.

Massive thanks to Dad for the time to build and review the kit.

All build photographs courtesy of SB2014

Final hero model shots by SKoST with exception of starship with box below (top right image) also courtesy of SB2014

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