Friday, 28 November 2014

The Official Starships Collection: Issues 34 and 35: Logic and Honour

Bless you, Enterprise for I have praised your ships every single time but it couldn't last.

It's not the show's fault, it's not Eaglemoss' fault but the huge Vulcan Surak Class that looks gorgeous on the small screen is potentially the dullest entry into the series to date. The refit Enterprise might have had "one" or "two" faults but at least it was interesting to look at. Here we have a stick with a ring, end of.

To be fair to Doug Drexler it does homage one of the designs Matt Jeffries came up with for the USS Enterprise of The Original Series but in miniature it doesn't pack quite the same punch.So before I launch into a design tirrade let's be fair. There's not a lot Eaglemoss could do about the design and I would think the conversations might have gone along the lines of "Well that's going to be an easy one..." in direct comparison to any meetings about the complexity of the Narada.

So let's talk about the recreation work in the model. Well, it's pretty accurate but due to the scale it does suffer from being a solid slab of one colour only broken up slightly with the lights of the decks on the ring-to-stick connecting section. It certainly evokes the pure and simple nature of Vulcan logic in every surface and shadow - it does the job it was designed for and nothing more. But here in the collection that's not necessarily a good thing. Even the red plastic impulse engines are sadly swallowed up in the reddy hull and the shadows of the tapered tail. Hull detail on both the metal and plastic sections can't be faulted. Plating lines are clear, the exhaust from the warp ring is very evident but being so think it suffers from not having a clear blue section to emphasise the drive.

The stand clipping is, as with the Runabout and Hideki last month, very, very tight and attaches to the already super-thin warp ring. Just heed the advice and go gentle. Nor does my stand fit together flush, meaning that my Vulcan starship has a slight lean to the bow or stern depending on your preference.

I can't fault the Surak Class on detail and delivery nor can I knock Drexler for the thought behind the design but for a tenner in the UK it doesn't feel like you get a lot of starship for your money and I do know people who are actively avoiding this one. There's something lost in the translation from screen to 3D model here and no-one is really to blame. I suspect given a bigger canvas the engine detail, the internal lighting showing through the windows and the luminescence of the warp ring would all be more prominent but here it just doesn't work that well.

Saying that, Enterprise does deliver a whammy with the 22nd Century Bird-of-Prey. While the Surak Class retains that simple approach, the Klingon raider takes the totally opposite line which actually makes this pairing very effective for comparison of two of the franchise's key races. Openly armed to the teeth with wingtip cannons (not identical you'll note), nose cannons and a huge mega-cannon on the under-belly it's not likely this would be leading any carnival parades. Echoing the earlier design (but actually the successor) of The Search for Spock ship design that became a Star Trek classic it has been effectively de-evolved. 

Aside from the extensive arsenal the surface of the ship is covered with ducts and cabling demonstrating a more primitive design process but the hinge mechanism and impulse engine placement remains the same as it would in the later B'rel and  K'Vort Classes. One challenge with my model is that the warp engines on top of the impulse engine housing are wonky; noticably wonky and may get broken off and reset as might have happened with the equally wonky sensor pod on the Nebula Class earlier this year.

The metalwork is almost submersed in a shell of plastic, making up only the central body, wings and neck sections of the Bird-of-Prey with the tubing and engines all in the lighter material. Nicely though all the surfaces are well detailed with the underside weathered and exposing bare metal. Having this worn finish is a big winner here and something that I'd like to have seen on other models (refit Enterprise with battle damage?) and as with all Enterprise models, even the Surak Class it's the precision finish that really makes this an attractive offering. 

Placing it alongside the magazine images (not the best and quite few and far between) it's very screen accurate and while I'm not going to start counting hull plating lines it has everything you would expect to see. Placing her alongside the later Bird-of-Prey just shows how much of a homage the Enterprise design was in every facet and then makes you question why the 22nd Century version is smaller - but that's a lesser complaint as this is a great, faithful reproduction and one every Klingon fan should be snatching up in an instant. Indeed, this is the fourth starship of the Empire after the Bird-of-Prey from Issue Three, the K'Tinga from Issue Seven and the Vor'Cha from Issue 20 - has it really been so long since we had a Klingon ship? 

OK. So the models are fairly detailed, another solid duo from the Enterprise staple but for us info digesters the magazines offer some more insights into what I think is a series of Star Trek that the collection has really opened up and explored. Travel back a few years and Enterprise is the only show that never received a companion book let alone a tech manual (neither did Voyager although you can buy one from Rick Sternbach on eBay). With this collection a lot of data from the earlier shows has already been covered but with Enterprise it does feel like a breath of fresh air because it is unfamiliar.

Sadly both the Bird-of-Prey and the Surak Class start off with the tried and tested ship overviews which do act as episode appearance guides with fleeting insights to the nature of the ships "in universe". It also took me a moment to realise that the picture of the Vulcan starship created exclusively for the series and on page 4 and 5 is a rear facing view, not the standard head on shot. The episodic pictures used in the magazines aren't of the best quality which means that the CGI recreations done for the collection really stand out and in some cases with the Surak Class look better than the finished, underwhelming, model. A familiar tune with these intro sections is that they start off really positively, relating material about the ships, their design, configuration, power - and then spirals into key events from the show which in both cases here did help me remember what their relevance was since I've not watched an episode of Enterprise for some time. 

With the Surak Class starship I'm assuming it's supposed to be the red version but that looks about ten shades brighter in the magazine with most photos focusing on the browner coloured adaptation of the design. Even the three-view pages opt for the latter as their colour of choice. There's great detail on these images though if we put that colour variance aside and comparing them to the associated model shows that these have been carefully crafted. If only this precision and detail had made its way into some of the earlier editions!

Both ships magazines include that key reading section on their design and following these stories is fascinating reading especially when you understand the process behind the Vulcan ship's eventual form. Not to sound too harsh this month but the magazine for Issue 34 is probably a lot more exciting than the centrepiece starship and that's bonus pointed with the subsequent pages exploring the creation of the CGI model. This also goes some way to appeasing fans who had dropped onto the Facebook page sometime to discuss the variations in the size and colour of this ship and whether or not there were too distinct classes. Seems that was never the intention and Drexler's original, lower resolution creation was spruced up a few degrees for better close up work. Eaves design and drawings on the other hand aren't too dissimilar to that of one Pierre Drolet's work on a suggested design for the Bird-of-Prey in Star Trek Into Darkness. Not surprising considering he worked with Eaves on the fifth TV series.

Either to avoid duplicating material or simply because we can't get enough Klingon stuff, the Bird-of-Prey magazine does delve into the mysteries of the warrior race this time, diverting away from being a wholly Enterprise offering and touching on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine for its sources. Not a massively in-depth piece but one that might offer up some questions about the Klingons and their development which is nice to see. 

Rounding out both 34 and 35 are the standard key appearances and in the Bird-of-Prey magazine we do get a couple of shots of the next edition which will be the eagerly awaited Oberth Class. While the model shot does bear the legend of the USS Grissom the closeups below are marked up as Admiral Pressman's former ride the USS Pegasus from The Next Generation's final season. I did a bit of a head-scratch at this one but I would think we'll be more likely to see the Grissom and have a chunk of references to the Pegasus along with the Tsilkovsky among many others that appeared and were blown to bits.

That's another month down and along with the Oberth Class next month we'll be receiving yet another Enterprise addition with the release of the Andorian cruiser. If you want to catch a glimpse of these and some of the other models coming up including the Enterprise-B and the Klingon Raptor. Notably there's also a "Klingon Patrol Ship Vehicle and Magazine" slated for a June 2015 release. Now working out that that has to be the special from Into Darkness it would suggest UK subscribers could expect her arrival in February as the Vengeance is down for a March 2015 release (four month trail). Could she be turning up at the same time as your adapted Excelsior Class perhaps?

Just a thought to end on. 

You can find out more details on the Official Star Trek Starships Collection by clicking the link to the left and dropping over to the site now and even subscribe.

What did you make of these two new Enterprise model releases? Better or worse than you expected? Drop a comment below or join us over on our social media platforms!

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Thursday, 27 November 2014

50 Years Today

Star Trek's official 50th anniversary is slated for 2016 and the inevitable movie to accompany it.

November 27th 1964 may actually be more significant though. This is the day that the cameras rolled for the first time. The day Nimoy became Spock and the first lines of dialogue were recorded. This was the day Star Trek was born... the first time.

Leonard Nimoy actually tweeted out a week ago that it was seven days until this point (one week being seven days...) and it would be wrong not to mention it - even though he wasn't on set for that event.

The scene that kicked off the filming of the first pilot episode, The Cage, was between Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) and Doctor Boyce (John Hoyt) and their discussion of the events from their last mission. The scene is key in both the character of Pike and the relationship he has with the medical officer. A strong leader, Pike has his regrets over what occurred and confides in Boyce which is a clear precursor of the Kirk/McCoy friendship we would see in The Original Series and a topic - that of the future of the commanding officer's career - that would be mirrored over a drink in The Wrath of Khan some 18 years later.

This scene truly does echo the philosophy of Gene Roddenberry - the exploration of that human condition - real people talking about real situations, how events affect our lives and change the path for the future and how some people begin a recovery process to deal with tragedy. Pike is ready to give it all up as Boyce attempts to dissuade him. I would have been interested to see where this friendship would have gone as it may have been the stronger pairing than Pike and Spock although whether Boyce would have been on away missions that often would have been a point for question.

The captain's quarters set is quite sparce with only some very 20th Century books adorning a shelf to indicate anything about the nature of Pike's character. Look closely though and not only do you spot a casually discarded phaser but also a cap reminiscent of the ones that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto wear during their time at Starfleet Headquarters during Into Darkness. Is that a ceiling we're catching there too? Most unusual for The Original Series.

According to Marc Cushman's These are the Voyages it was less than a perfect day's filming with nesting pigeons in the mothballed Stage 16 choosing to become vocal whenever either actor started speaking their lines. Much of the day was spent coaxing them out of the building before filming of the first scene of Star Trek could continue. It would take another 15 days to film (not the planned 11) and run to a cost equivalent to $4.3 million in modern currency. That;s a lot of money for a pilot.

I'm not going to run into the wonders of the show, the miracle of a cancelled pilot and a second chance because we, the fans, know all about that and what it became but just for today it's key to remember two actors without whose work that second chance, that golden opportunity, may never have happened. Maybe we should thank the pigeons too.

Over the next weeks and months we hope to discuss some of the other key moments from the birth of the pilot episode...are there any you'd want to talk about? Let us know below...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Three Dimensional Thinking

Khan would have serious issues with this offering which will fill more than a corner under your Christmas tree this year.

Star Trek Pop-Ups comes from Thames & Hudson providing fans with something a little innovative for the festive season with seven expansive vistas from the Prime Universe. Seven pages might put fans off as might the £20 price point however the result is suitably beautiful.

We get a 3D Enterprise encountering Balok's First Federation starship and Kirk cuddled up in Tribble Mountain from The Original Series and the first of those gives a great example of the art involved in putting this work together. The Enterprise fold-out background is a bone of contention for me. There are better situations to base it in and I would have thought The Doomsday Machine might have had more impact but the it's about the paper art not the backing sheet if you will.

Turning over I was disappointed to find that the choice of movie excerpt was the Klingon Bird-of-Prey swooping under the Golden Gate bridge rather than something from The Wrath of Khan (too obvious?) but the angle, the colouring and, once more, the imagination to bring the ship to life and off the page has to be applauded. This is certainly more technical in design and execution than the pop-up which was produced around the time of the 30th anniversary in 1996. A couple of the pieces both here and on the Deep Space Nine spread did clash together but not enough to rip yet I would air caution when you're running through its pages.

The Borg Cube (The Next Generation spread) is brilliant, (hence the header photo from Thames and Hudson that made mine look decidedly amateur) including a mini Enterprise-D for full effect and the bit that really works is the depth of the cube. I suppose anyone could do a pop-up box but McCarthy has managed to give the ship layers and more than just a simple cubic outer hull. It's a nice touch that works well. The flip out Enterprise-D is kind of cute although it's worth noting that you have to fold it away manually rather than turning the page.

My favourite though has to be the stunning Deep Space Nine scene with the station surrounded by Jem'Hadar and Cardassian ships as we saw her during the opening few episodes of season six between A Time to Stand and Sacrifice of Angels. There's a warship or a fighter coming from every angle around the curves of the station which make this a truly epic display. It's extravagant nature fits the very nature of the invasion as well as the size of the former Cardassian mining station.

The text accompanying however does refer to A Call to Arms and while that is a key moment in the show it doesn't link directly with the scene we are presented here. A swift bit of editing and rewriting could have encompassed all the activities of the seven episode arc - or even the addition of an escaping Defiant would have meant the model matched the text however that does make it a little disjointed. More on that in a bit but now I want to stick with the models.

Voyager gets the black and white retro citadel from Bride of Chaotica! which makes as much sense as including The Corbomite Maneuver but the build quality here is again fantastic to behold as the towers and walls leap out from the page. It does make for something very different (not just another space vista/starship) and that's perhaps another positive for this book - the variations of what and how McCarthy has chosen her designs. No two unfold in the same manner and each displays a different "paper technology" skill.

Finally there's Enterprise. It's a third starship foldout being a face-on view of the NX-01 launching from spacedock as seen in Broken Bow. A clear homage to the launch scene from The Motion Picture it's beautifully presented and very neat in its papery deployment. In fact this is quite subdued and closer to the page when opened up than we see with the Bride of Chaotica! or Call to Arms scenes. It comes back to that variation point in that every foldout doesn't have to be an explosion from the page - they can be more subtle, stylish and cleverly designed than an attack on your eyes. McCarthy has certainly chosen her subjects well and made her techniques suit the scenes she has picked. 

In all fairness the text is what lets this book down. The author's work and love for the subject cannot be ignored and should be highly commended but the narratives alongside are of poor quality and miss the mark - and in some cases the facts. They are ok and very, very top line but minor errors seem to have crept in especially on the first double page introduction section talking about Star Trek's initial lack of success and then revival at the hands of syndication. It may just be the choice of wording however it does niggle - although it's worth remembering the introduction is far from the main event here. Each of the pages does contain images from the respective series and some information (tenuously) linked to the pop-ups which manages not to distract but could have done with a bit more checking before inserting into the book - and at least making them relevant would have been a good idea.

Another obvious point that becomes even more and more evident as the years go by is that this features only the Prime Universe shows and movies. As with the new Ships of the Line book, anything to do with the JJ expansion is conspicuous by it's glaring absence. I would think a lot of fans will rejoice at this choice/licencing enforcement but in some way it does make Star Trek Pop-Ups just that little incomplete.

At just seven pages this isn't going to take you a day to digest or even an afternoon at a push and the price, £19.95 in the UK might put you off but the quality of the results is worth adding it to your library. The techniques to bring the scenes to life from a variety of angles and dimensions is superb and no two explode from the pages in quite the same manner - there's the subtlety of the Bird of Prey under the Golden Gate bridge which is followed by the towering Borg cube which can be explored from every side. I cannot question McCarthy's sterling ability nor her dedication to the art which has produced these paper wonders. I for one hope that Thames & Hudson get to commission a second volume with another variety of scenes from the show.

Star Trek Pop-ups is available now from Thames & Hudson priced at £19.95 ISBN 9780500517499

Have you bought this or are expecting it from Santa? 

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Friday, 21 November 2014

Acts of Contrition: Beyer's Voyager Vision Continues

Having read the previous book in this series the dramatic conclusion left me priapic with anticipation for the latest novel. For those unaware my review of Protectors did not put it in the best light. 

It wasn't until I started reading Protectors that I realised that it was part of a series of which I had transported into mid-phaser fight. Did I end up going back and reading the previous three books in the series I hear you ask? Erm, no I did not. Although I do appreciate that this might help my understanding of matters. Not to be deterred by this and relishing anything Voyager related, I ploughed through it with some difficulty, struggling to follow the already established plots. 

I know what you're thinking, what do you expect, you've jumped in half way through a series. I agree with this is but I believe an author should be able to draw a reader into an established arc with sufficient backstory such as Kevin J Anderson and his Saga of Seven Suns. Nonetheless I was prepared for this with the latest book, eager to see where the story would go. I still hold the opinion that Protectors was a filler, meant to tie the readers over until Acts of Contrition where the story was hopefully going to engage warp engines instead of manoeuvring thrusters. We haven't achieved much more than impulse at the moment.

Acts of Contrition neatly picks up where Protectors left off. Admiral Janeway is in charge of the full circle fleet tasked with opening diplomatic relations with the Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant, whose technology is on par with the Federation. In the previous book the Confederacy rescued the Federation starships Voyager and Demeter from an alien armada and although grateful, the crew of Voyager is disturbed in the way that the Confederacy was founded.

Introducing several of Voyager's adversaries from the original TV series, the Devore, the Voth, the Turei and the Vaadwaur all make interesting additions. The 'Karlon' and the 'Skeen' are the new faces which aren't explored in any detail. It would be interesting to have more development on these, especially as these have been created by Beyer. These have formed an unlikely alliance intent on forging war with the Confederacy, and Voyager's presence doesn't help matters. Recognise anyone mentioned above? The Devore were introduced in the season 5 episode Counterpoint where Janeway finally got a little bit of action, well as much as you can on Star Trek without the Doctor's approval. The Voth made an appearance in the season 3 episode Distant Origin and the Vaadwaur and Turei in season 6 Dragons Teeth. 
In my humble opinion there seems to be a bit of recycling of old characters going on here. It's nice to have some familar faces but we've got a whole quadrant of alien races that could have been introduced. Is this a wasted opportunity? I personally would have prefered more original content, these are races we have seen in the past. More to the point Beyer seems to have picked all the races with a grudge against Voyager and surprisingly they've banded together intent on capturing Voyager. The Turei and the Vaadwaur!!! Really, in what universe would that ever happen? These two species were at war with each for centuries. After discussing this with my colleague Mark who has seen this episode of Voyager more recently than myself, he considers it a major plot hole and had a look of horror on his face.

Beyond this both the Devore and the Voth had an element of xenophobia about them, would they really team up? Beyer is disregarding even the most basic established tenants of the series, instead opting to rewrite Voyager as she sees fit. Or as Tuvok elegantly put it in Worst Case Scenario (season three, Ep 25): "That is an entirely implausible plot development. Logic is an integral part of narrative structure. According to the dictates of poetics by Te'Hain of Vulcan, a character's actions must flow inexorably from his or her established traits."
Commander Tom Paris has escorted Seven of Nine back to the Alpha Quadrant along with Dr Sharak. As previously mentioned in my Protectors review, Paris' mother is seeking custody of Miral following a storyline from one of the earlier books in which Paris faked his wife and daughters death in order to protect them from some Klingon order. Mrs Paris believes that both Tom and B'Elanna are unfit parents and is applying for sole custody of Miral. I expected this part of the story to be quite boring, arbitration between mother and son, but was pleasantly surprised in the way this arc was explored.

This could be considered a soap style storyline, father of the child cliché. Was this a necessary sub-plot? My interpretation is that Beyer is wrapping up the Paris storyline, although beware, it looks set to continue in the next novel. Although it is not the strongest storyline Beyer portrayed the character very well causing me to sympathise with the issues facing the family.

Another continuing story arc is the catomic plague, from my review of Protectors, it has indeed developed into a more substantial reading point as I suspected. Unfortunately it is difficult to identify exactly what is going on, or where it is going. This is simply because amidst this devastating plague, Beyer chooses to focus on the Seven-Axum relationship which in my opinion is unrealistic and out of character. I imagine that Beyer intends to develop this plot in the next novel, my only hope is the Seven-Axum relationship isn't explored in as much detail. I believe a line needs to be drawn under this and for her to focus on the principle issue of the catomic plague. 

I have recently set myself the task of re-watching Voyager from start to finish and would like to revise my comment in my review of Protectors regarding the relationship between Chakotay and Janeway. The early seasons of Voyager were not may favourite and I haven't seen them for many years, but I believe these early seasons show the chemistry between Janeway and her former first officer. Although I believe that the relationship evolved into a friendship rather than a romantic relationship, it does give more credibility to the two being involved. This relationship is referred to in Protectors but isn't explored in any detail. This may be because it was covered in previous books in the series which I am unaware of, but it may have additional potential. Is an Admiral allowed to have a romantic relationship with a Captain?

If I said Riley Frazier to you would it ring any bells? It didn't for me but luckily I have just re-watched season three of Voyager and managed to connect the dots. For those of you unaware she is from the episode Unity in which she attempts to 'softwire' Chakotay into her mini collective. Once I made this connection I was a little disappointed. We've got Axum, Riley, various foes of Voyager banded together, Protectors from the season two episode Twisted, and that's just in the two books I've read. I feel that too much reliance has been placed on established storylines which have been merged together to create a series that is hard to follow. Not to say that I haven't enjoyed this book, each chapter ended on a cliff hanger compelling me to read on which is a credit to Beyer's writing skills. I just find that hers and mines version of Voyager following the conclusion of the series went on different paths.

At this point I'll offer you my conclusions but before I do, I need to get something off my chest.

I had a little theory from Protectors, I briefly mentioned it in an earlier paragraph but have decided to return to it as I no longer feel I had made a mistake. Sadly this chapter in her series has done nothing but strengthen my theory. I cannot escape the overall feeling that Beyer isn't actually writing the next Voyager installment, rather, rewriting the original TV show. With the ratio of 'recycled' material to 'original' material (and a distinct lack of detail in her original material), it does give me the impression that she watched Voyager and decided that it wasn't how she saw it should have played out.

Now, we all have ideas about what we'd have liked to have seen in the show, but we've known better than to disturb one of the best (in my 'humble' opinion) Star Trek shows thus far.
The continuation of this saga will be Star Trek: Voyager: Atonement, which is due to be released in either July or September 2015. I'm sure many people who have read the whole series will be anticipating the release of this next instalment with the dramatic cliff hanger that Beyer left you with. I say 'you' as to me it actually meant nothing, I've got no idea who this latest bad guy is.

How do you think Beyer is handling the Voyager series? Are these moves in the right direction?

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

20 from Generations

All Good Things... had come to an end and the eighth season of The Next Generation was not to be.  

The TV adventures of the Enterprise-D were over but Berman,  Moore and Braga went from the show straight into production of the first of four movies for Picard and the crew. The wide variance in quality of these four instalments is always up for debate but let's not stray from the fact that Generations also marked a generation's final journey to steal the tag line from Nemesis.

Kirk, Scotty and Chekov returned for one last hurrah (because Nimoy and Kelley wouldn't)  in an epic that spanned the two ground-breaking shows. Now if you've been paying attention you'll recall that this year marked 20 years since All Good Things... which in turn means it's 20 years since Kirk wound up in the Nexus. That's right. November 18th 2014 marks two decades since the theatrical release of the seventh feature length Trek to the stars. 

So what has been Generations legacy after two decades? What has it given to the franchise?  It gave Worf something of a reason to jump ship after the destruction of the Enterprise but there has to be more than that seeing as the film wouldn't have been better or worse if that hadn't happened.

At least it allowed Shatner to bow out with some style and maybe there's something poetic about the notion of him returning to that role two decades later for Star Trek 3 and the 50th Anniversary in 2016. At least on screen Kirk didn't get resurrected although Shatner did pen The Return and a number of sequels to keep the character alive. Some characters need and deserve to stay dead to ensure their legacy survives in tact and here, with Kirk, that is essential. Here we have a launchpad to a new beginning that would not have to worry about looking over it's shoulder at all that had gone before. The Next Generation had grown up - this was it's maturing moment and the point where everything subsequent would have to take note.

Generations is the only decent gap-filler between The Original Series and The Next Generation we ever got by seeing Kirk's successor and the Excelsior Class Enterprise-B confirm the lineage through to Garrett and on to Picard. Again in the non-canon literature we are afforded an expanded narrative but Generations gives us the notion that the galaxy will still keep on being saved for the next 78 years even if Kirk isn't around to do it. I for one think this is one of Shatner's best performances as Kirk in particularly un-Kirk-like surroundings only to realise just who he is when the odds are against him and the situation is grim. 

However, while that classic era section is a wonderful little swansong, it's The Next Generation section which features more prominently with the investigation at Amargosa and the mystery of the Nexus. The events of Generations never directly impact another episode although there is that link to The Way of the Warrior although it did cement the Berman/Moore/Braga era for several years to come. Importantly it also marked a point of progress. While the original crew had very little development from The Motion Picture to The Undiscovered Country (with the obvious exception of Spock), the crew of Picard's Enterprise began to change from the characters we knew from the TV show. Here Data's emotion chip loomed large once more to be featured again in First Contact before being totally forgotten for Insurrection and Nemesis

Killing off Picard's relations here was a bold move but again it was one of the early signs that things did not need to be stagnant for fans and causal viewers to "get" the movie. These were people who could be moulded a bit more and the tweaks that might have happened on the series could now be experimented with and explored in a larger setting - Geordi's sight and the Riker/Troi relationship would be the two most obvious points explored in the subsequent movies but in Generations there are the first indications that we would find corrections and changes occurring more often than we may have expected on the series.Destroying the Enterprise on the other hand isn't that big a thing. After the monumental obliteration of the original Constitution Class starship in The Search for Spock the expectation of a bigger and better, all singing and dancing replacement was expected before the saucer had even entered the atmosphere, backed up by Picard's knowing and satirical comment that this would not be the last ship to bear the name Enterprise (add in his reference to letters of the alphabet in First Contact too please).

Generations hits the life/death theme straight on with each of the three main characters battling that element of reality from numerous different angles. Kirk has died and has nothing left to prove, he's out there to enjoy himself with no responsibilities and a whole universe of his imagination to explore. Picard faces the bleak truth that life isn't always fair with the deaths of his brother and his Generations  nephew off-screen. Then there's Soran and his wish to cheat reality and the mortal struggle without a care for the impact it can have on anything in his way. McDowell does a fairly good job with the character although he admitted that he didn't get it and preferred his part in Tank Girl which was also around at the same time. His motivations are fairly realistic and as baddies go, he's one of the better ones, providing that spark of insanity right alongside apparent logical reasoning and desperation. Without a doubt McDowell has certainly left his legacy on the franchise if only for being the Kirk killer - and then only in the original version.

At the core the legacy of is simply the passing of that torch from one crew to another. The final tie cutting which meant that The Next Generation could flourish on the big screen and surpass the expectations of its predecessor - but the reality is that the spark was bright and short-lived as fans are more than vocal that both Insurrection and Nemesis are far from up to scratch. Easily the best of the four, Generations slides well into a comfortable second and for me it's definitely a decent movie which allowed Kirk to pull out one last fistfight interspersed with more of his more classic moves from The Original Series than you can shake a tribble at and on location no less.

At the time Generations was highly anticipated; I'd read the book including that skydiving scene and the original shot-in-the-back ending which rubbed preview audiences the wrong way. The Next Generation had been a ratings winner and the expectation on the big screen was no less. The shame of it was that there was an overconfidence and maybe over familiarity that let The Next Generation down. There was no gap, no decade of mulling over possibilities, no additional maturing of the cast and no chance to spread their wings elsewhere first to shed the type-casting. One day they were shooting an episode and the next it was filming a movie. Could it be that we didn't wait long enough for The Next Generation to deserve their own movie series?

Only 11 years after Generations aired it was all over for the Berman era in 2005 as Enterprise was cancelled and the show faded for a few years. Generations was a movie of the time, oppulent with its high level guest star, self-indulgent with its references to its past and existing at a pivotal moment in franchise history where three series would exist within a 12 month period at the Paramount Studios.

The Next Generation legacy fizzled and burned in just seven short years in the cinema compared to the 13 years of the original crew. So much promise perhaps handled badly at the peak of Star Trek's success? Was it the beginning of the slpppery slope? Was attempting that lightning strike twice on the big screen tempting fate? Were we all just bored? Maybe, maybe not but for the time, this union of Star Trek's two captains was the thing to see and today, seeing Kirk and Picard side by side to save the galaxy is still worth every second.

What do you think the franchise owes to Generations? Anything? Nothing? WHy not let us know here!

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Friday, 14 November 2014

IndieGoGo for season two?

Ensign Williams has survived!

Well she's survived the first ten episodes of The Original Series which means there's only 69 to go and with their IndieGoGo goal already achieved after just FIVE days it looks like the second batch of minisodes will be an even stronger offering.

So let's talk season one first; we reviewed episodes one and two when The Red Shirt Diaries launched and over the subsequent eight weeks we've joined Ensign Williams as she's undergone medicals, dealt with an evil Kirk, watched her colleagues go a bit "wah wah", found a deleted log and been woken up on her day off by some apparently inconsiderate alien.

It has been a mixed bag and weekly I've been dropping my thoughts on the stories back to Ashley as each one has been released. I am disappointed by the lack of appearances by Gertrude but on the whole it seems to have been a great success from the pens of Ashley and Jason Inman. Keeping them to a tight two or three minute length has worked a gem making them easily accessible and bitesize entertainment each Monday. While a couple haven't quite hit the mark there have been some moments of genius.

Season One focused on the run from The Man Trap through to The Corbomite Maneuver and all the variations in between. Rather than going for production order, the shows were slotted into their original airing order meaning that for Where No Man Has Gone Before we got an unusual "lost log" installment with Williams pining for her love Gary Mitchell - only to have him ripped away and transformed into a God - and killed.

That loss isn't permanent with a transfer of affection to McCoy in Miri. While he's not giving the greatest bedside manner, there's something about that doctor y'know..  There's also the classic "Is this what you humans call..." trope and inability to recognise robots over humans in the aside to What Are Little Girls Made Of. Etched with humour you know that anyone in security is destined to end up vapourised, mutated or worse but somehow Williams just keeps avoiding those crucial death moments. 

Williams has a wonderful positivity and lack of awareness about just how much danger she seems to be in from the start as more frivolous events encapsulate her and the rest of the ship goes on dealing with the Big Issue of the Week. It's very reflective of the show itself where only about six or seven individuals seem to be affected by whatever the headline might be. Two fantastic examples of that occur with Dagger of the Mind and the finale, The Corbomite Maneuver where Williams has an insane scientist screaming his head off next door, interrupting her log entry and then with the beaming First Federation ship captained by Balok keeping her awake and generally ruining an ensign's rare day off duty (not that she's ever off duty).

Certainly Ashley and Jason have picked on all the ridiculous points of the show, not mocking them as such but placing them into a more "realistic" environment of crew quarters (between the mess hall and sickbay conveniently) where we're able to see their craziness in another way; looking after a horned dog or conversing with a pink sock plant have never been so entertaining. Sometimes it perhaps edged a bit far (not a big fan of The Naked Now take) but there were more highs than lows to entertain the viewers. It's a tall order to live up to with season two but the IndieGoGo campaign is a big step.

To some extent Ensign Williams, aka Ashley V. Robinson agrees with our critique; "Season One is not perfect, by a long shot. It was a learning experience for Jason, myself and everyone else involved with the show. Over the past three months we've learned what kinds of episodes work and which ones are less popular and these are all things that we've discussed, collected and are looking to execute in production of the Season Two.

"With that in mind, fan reception has been incredibly warm and accepting! We get a lot of compliments on the look of the show, which is tremendously flattering because Jason and I agonized over developing the aesthetic of The Original Series for our show. There are some negative comments, mostly about the anachronistic costumes (we were on an extreme budget), or the lack of an overarching narrative inside three minutes, but all of the positivity from the press and the Star Trek fandom has been overwhelming and amazing. It really feels like The Red Shirt Diaries has been welcomed by our brethren where we could have been rejected."

And what now for season two? The team launched their campaign on 2nd November hoping for $2,800 and were already heading towards $4,000 by the following weekend. The question is what will that money provide the show? A full scale set for one meaning that the shoestring budget which provided Ensign Williams with a back wall can be expanded and the cast can all appear in authentic The Original Series uniforms which means that the occasional JJ-verse shirt that was spotted will be a thing of the past. Even better is that we'll have their first on location shoot at the unbelievably super-famous Vasquez Rocks aka Kirk's battleground with the Gorn in Arena and try out some new filming techniques not seen in the first season.

"In comparison the first series was funded entirely from the pockets of Jason Inman (director, writer, editor, Captain Kirk, Gertrude, et al), and I." explained Ashley, "It was completely a labour of love. We built the set with our bare hands over a week in February. This time around, with an actual budget, we're hoping to tell bigger and better stories in the world of The Original Series."

Ashley recalled how the fundraising process had been a lot of stress on the front end., "But fortunately for me, Jason Inman (co-creator, director, editor, Captain Kirk, Balok et al), spearheaded and executed most of the planning that went into the fundraising campaign for The Red Shirt Diaries season two. 

"It's fascinating because fundraising requires a different creativity than actually creating and bringing the episodes to life. It was really important to Jason and I that we have unique rewards to offer our supporters and to give them a sense that they were getting their donation's worth, in addition to becoming a partner in the continuation of The Red Shirt Diaries.

To entice viewers and fans to help secure the next 19 episodes, there are are a whole shuttlebay full of perks to choose from.The only challenge might be working out how much you can afford versus exactly what you want to get!

"Everyone who donates $1 gets a thank-you and a black-and-white PDF of our companion webcomic adventure A Night in the Enterprise! For a little more money everyone will get a color PDF of the comic and a lot of other amazing prizes at various reward levels." said Ashley.

And that is indeed very true with the production offering The Red Shirt Who Lived red rooibos tea blend (it steeps red and makes approximately 37 cups), two t-shirt designs, original art from A Night in the Enterprise by Jeremy Owen, an HD download of season one with bonus videos not originally released and The Red Shirt Diaries season 2 postcard with an autograph or doodle. Your name and photo appearing in an episode of The Red Shirt Diaries season two is also on the list as is a set of magnets handcrafted by Ensign Williams herself to adorn your fridge featuring Ensign Williams, Captain Kirk, Sulu, Uhura and Bones. Certainly they're not the usual run of the mill perks you might expect which makes them all the more collectable and interesting in my opinion - and I do love a good brew.

"Everything that we are offering as a part of The Red Shirt Diaries season two IndieGoGo campaign is exclusive to the campaign and will not be available for purchase after the campaign closes." reminded Ashley - and that's key so if you do want some of these items you're going to need to act fast.

With everything going so well with the fundraising it looks like their plans for production and release will be spot on as Ashley continued to enthuse when we spoke to her; "Writing will being in December and should be wrapped by January with shooting is set for March/April 2015. 

"As soon as the IndieGoGo campaign ends, The Red Shirt Diaries season two begins pre-production. This time around we really want to have rehearsals a week before we start filming and we're also going to have to spend twice as long filming as we did last year (a mere two days). At this point we're thinking about releasing the first episode in May/June 2015 and then the episodes would run for most of the rest of the year. Again, the more funding we get and the more stretch goals are unlocked the more potential there is for more and more episodes."

And those stretch goals look like they're going to be realised a lot sooner than either Ashley or Jason expected with the initial $2,800 smashed early on. "With the campaign set to run for another 30+ days we have a lot of plans in place to keep raising more funds for The Red Shirt Diaries season two:

The first stretch goal is to raise $3,600 (as of Friday 13th November the total stood at $3,283). "This will get contributors a limited edition sign 8x10 of Ensign Williams and will ensure that we make one more episode during season two for a total or 20 new episodes rather than a mere 19." said Ashley, imparting some exciting news about the upcoming season expansion;  "The bonus episode we are looking at is Amok Time, so we're basically asking for people to help fund Pon Farr!"

Which fan of that episode isn't reaching for a wallet right now? So for not that much more we'll get to see the team take on one of THE classics as a finale to the season. "Our second stretch goal is $4,500 and the rewards will be announced once the first stretch goal is hit!"

For fans of this ingenious web-series I hope that the stretch target is hit so we can get to see what lies beyond adding in Amok Time to the filming schedule. That's not to say that season two won't be a jump of monstrous proportions anyway because aside from a potential new set and some different filming techniques there's a quartet of new guest stars waiting in the wings to join Ensign Williams. 

"We'd been buying ad space on the Morning Stream podcast for season one of because Jason and I are both big fans of the show and the FrogPants network (Jason being the person who introduced it to me in the first place). Scott Johnson (who will play the voice of  Admiral Williams) and Brian Ibbott (who will play the voice of  the Romulan Commander) kept saying incredibly kind things about the show and myself and how much they enjoyed it, so we just reached out to them directly and went from there.

"Jason brought Katie Wilson (voicing Leila Kalomi from This Side of Paradise) on board. They know each other from their respective work in the YouTube world and she's a Los Angeles local, so it wasn't a hard sell bringing her on board."

Oh - and they also brought in Cat Roberts who Star Trek Continues fans will recognise immediately from her performance in Fairest of them All earlier this year (and we at SKoST thought she was brilliant). "It was the biggest surprise for me, personally," said Ashley, "She tweeted at me when The Red Shirt Diaries first launched and would always share our links. Having watched Star Trek Continues Jason and I were keen to have her take on the part of Yeoman Rand. I reached out to Cat and she was immediately on board. We haven't even begun pre-production and she's already helped out The Red Shirt Diaries season two take massive leaps forward. We owe her a lot."

As possibly Cat's next biggest fans after these guys, neither can we and we hope to see her much more in the expanded Star Trek universe. Good luck also to the other newcomers to the show who will surely help propel its success even further.

However, we couldn't let Ashley go without asking about what else we can expect from season two - what things haven't been revealed that we can reveal right here?

"We're looking to do an episode that crosses over with one of the other Star Trek series ... more to revealed in the coming stretch goals." teased Ashley, "Ensign Williams will probably get to kiss someone and the more money the IndieGoGo raises the more parts of the Enterprise we'll be able to build, explore and film in."

Could that be a hint at some of the stretch goals? We think so but we have been wrong before (seriously...Spock dies in The Wrath of Khan??!!!) but there's one more thing we can slip in here just to get those wallets and purses open. "We've been invited to shoot on The Original Series bridge in Oklahoma City for one of our upcoming episodes. However, we can't make the trip from Los Angeles to Oklahoma unless we reach our $4,500.00 stretch goal."

Truly that would make season two go with a bang and have a nice twist to help get Ensign Williams out of her quarters - maybe that's a tag for a teaser - #letwilliamsout? #rsdtothebridge?

So far the journey has been a good one for The Red Shirt Diaries, joining satire and Star Trek into some well-written and well-acted minisodes that touch on the lives of the nameless crew below decks who get the butt-end of all the command decisions and - occasionally - manage to survive.

For those who have already donated, The Red Shirt Diaries season two has started an IndieGoGo referral program. When you're signed into IndieGoGo and share the direct link and your friend click that link and donate to The Red Shirt Diaries season two campaign IndieGoGo keeps track of it. When your friends' donations total $100, $500, $1,000 and $2,500 there are more prizes!

"In the end it's been absolutely amazing!" closed our intrepid Red Shirt, Ashley; "The Red Shirt Diaries season two crowd-funding campaign reached our $2,800.00 goal in just three days! People have been incredibly kind and incredibly generous and it's not just friends and family - many of the contributors come from all over the world. It certainly feeds the ego and makes you feel like you're doing good work, but I think it also speaks to the huge Star Trek family out in the word that really wants more quality entertainment set in that world.

If you're interested in supporting The Red Shirt Diaries drop by their IndieGoGo campaign and also visit their great website for more details and, of course, to watch the show!

Have you watched the show? Are you interested in seeing their second season? Let's discuss!

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