Sunday, 29 March 2015

Looks Alright on Paper: Haynes Press Out and Build Manual - USS Enterprise

Heading back a couple of years, Haynes stepped into the Star Trek universe with the USS Enterprise Owners Workshop Manual

Written by Ben Robinson (now better know for his work on The Official Starships Collection) and Marcus Riley it was a itty-bitty reprinting of a lot of material from the Official Fact Files that weighed down newsagent shelves back in the late 1990's condensing all the info on the ships named Enterprise from the NX-01 through to NCC-1701-E and all in-between.

So the news that this was getting a card build-it-yourself model attached to it was a bit of a surprise but upon receipt of said item it's not all you might expect. Paper-backed rather than hard-backed, only the section regarding the USS Enterprise from the Kirk-era is included here being immediately followed by instructions for the complex model build - and it's more than a handful.

So I called on the expertise of my lovely wife on this one to see just how hard it might be for two grown adults to construct and I was surprised to find it earns its "5" rating for difficulty because none of the parts are numbered and on occasion it can be a guess just which part goes where and how it folds. Keen-eyed model makers will note the colour-coding that is on every piece and can be a life-saver at times.

Ok so let's talk about the build. One thing that I have to give it big thumbs up for is getting my wife to help me build it. One; this meant a solid joint effort and two - well, we'll come to that later. 

So, the ship gets constructed in three sections - the two hulls and the engines with the saucer your starting point. It does lull you into a false sense of security as the disc is built up in four quarters which then slot together very smoothly and allow you a moment to sigh with satisfaction. The edging strip on each section slipped into position poetically and I could fee the sense of achievement swelling. In fact it's a pleasure to build and I was damn happy with the result, especially when you slot it into place with the neck section of the Enterprise which begs for you to get the rest built. However that's where the dream ends and the real work begins.

The nacelles are a totally different kettle of fish. The struts are fairly straight forward with a few folds to make them fully 3D but getting the curve right on the nacelles is an absolute art and sadly one I'm not that good at. Yes, you're not only going to have to fold card but perform tricks that Yuri Geller would be proud of, bending the card smoothly into a tube-like shape times two. It's a real challenge and I would recommend you check your levels of patience before starting.

Having constructed the nacelle tubes it doesn't get any easier with starship builders then needing to fold up the bussard collectors. This is fairly fiddly given the spindly nature of the two pieces that you have to slide together to give the bladed effect plus the dome-like shape both at the same time. So add nimble finger to that requirement for patience. Those fingers are soon called into action again when you have to slot the pylons into the nacelles and then through the slots in the secondary hull before connecting them in a support structure which will eventually be hidden away. 

The fit on these is tight and I had concerns that either the support or the nacelles would be ripped putting these in place but there is a bit of "give" in the card which comes as a welcome relief. The rear exhaust caps are also a careful piece of maneuvering which does help if you get them curved nicely with the nacelles.

Now, this is where the help of Mrs B was most welcomed because putting the secondary hull together requires not just phenomenal dexterity but also a second set of hands. First of all you need to attach the saucer/neck to the four slots on the top of the secondary hull and then attempt to roll it into that familiar cigar-shape. This is a feat of superhuman skill and when you've done it you'll feel ten feet tall. Note too that it's worth getting some of that bending done BEFORE you start slotting all sorts of bits onto the engineering section.

What I should mention too is that Burrell Snr, my dad also had one of these to complete and chose to do it while watching the burial of Richard III last week. While my frustrations started hitting after the saucer was complete, dad was (and I quote) "ready to bin it" when he put those edging strips on. The reason I drop him in now is because he also admitted to not following the instructions which meant his neck and saucer keep coming off - make sure you secure them before rolling and securing the engineering hull.

Right, yes...The challenges just keep coming. I have to admit that to keep the hull from unrolling I had to apply a little bit of sticky tape along the join. I am a bad person for this but after several tries at hoping it would stay rolled I gave in. It's a bit wobbly if I'm honest given the weight of the saucer and I wouldn't trust hanging it from the hook on the back of the primary hull.

There's a strengthening tube to slip into the secondary hull and then the shuttlebay requires some coaxing and bending in much the same way as the bridge module and bussard collectors. Getting the underside curve to the piece is, once more, one that requires a steady and patient hand but the end result is pretty good and folds neatly int the rear of the engineering section.

Next up for construction is the front section of the secondary hull and the deflector dish. That front piece is one more section for you to roll and both myself and dad found it fiddly as hell to slot this section in as you can just see in the picture above. There's a good deal of folding and holding to get the dish itself constructed and some more bending to get the concave shape. Once this is in place though, which does need a slightly less stubby pair of fingers than I have, it's a case of slotting the engine grilles in and also dock the impulse engine unit behind the saucer - both of which are utter child's play in comparison to the rest of the build.

When I first opened this I thought it would be a breeze and how wrong I got it. There is a decent level of skill required for a lot of the parts here and while i got frustrated, pushed to the limit but ultimately did finish the job, it's a nice budget opportunity to build the iconic starship. Dad did have a couple of minor rips on the warp exhaust pieces and encountered wonky nacelles just as I did so between us we've probably got a complete ship. 

It's certainly different and Haynes have done a very accurate and detailed model in not necessarily the easiest material to build from. Weight distribution isn't good and hanging it from that hook on the saucer might see an unexpected separation. The design will work perfectly in zero-G however down here on Planet Earth it's not as simple and very soon I found everything began to sag. Nor were the instructions too clear in places but the colour-coding of parts did mean that the odd moment of confusion was solved by a piece by piece comparison. Mind, there were a couple of pics that weren't too precise on what was going where but it does add to the fun just working out if you've got it right.

It's a good package for any fan to enjoy and does include some detail from the Haynes USS Enterprise Owner's Manual as a side dish - just be prepared for what it could entail although the end result, as you can see from the pics, is more than satisfying. \Maddening as it was at points, I was pleased with the end product which was a first attempt at anything like this since I was six.

Might we push to suggest an Enterprise-D or a Bird-of-Prey in the near future? I think we'd all like to have a go after this one!

The USS Enterprise Press-Out and Build Manual is available now with recommendations to check out WH Smiths in the UK.

Anyone else out there managed to complete this one? Thoughts please!

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Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Ship of Future Past and Fluid Flights: The Official Starships Collection Issues 42 and 43

It's a lot longer than I thought.

No euphemism here, merely an observation on the shape of the USS Pasteur from All Good Things... which marks the first of this month's Eaglemoss starships.

Built and devised by ILM's Bill George, the Pasteur was notorious for being a homage to Matt Jeffries' original design for the USS Enterprise in The Original Series but was partially modified from a sphere to a saucer along the way to the now-iconic ship design.

With Issue 42 we get one of Starfleet's more diverse concepts with the Olympic Class hospital ship which, as I've already said, is a lot longer than I recalled. In fact on screen it looked a lot more squat. In reality the Pasteur seems a bit spindly with that oversized golf-ball primary hull, thin secondary hull and dwarfed warp nacelles capable of the miraculous warp 13.

On this occasion the lower half of the sphere and the secondary hull as a whole are in metal while everything above the top deck line of that secondary hull are in plastic. The detail - and for once the windows - are all in alignment; even my nacelles point in the same direction so no complaints on build quality from that side. Nor are any of the joint lines evident here between the two build materials. 

There are a couple of discrepancies between the plan views and the model in that there's a red stripe near the deuterium fuel port which is missing on the pics and there are also two black circles on the bottom of the sphere which don't appear on the very same image on pages eight and nine of the magazine. Those details missing in the pictures do turn up on the original studio model a few pages later however so we'll take that as the best source material!

That aside, even the number of lifeboat hatches mirrors the views and while it's only a small thing, I am impressed with the recessed deflector strip which I'd always thought was a phaser emitter. A couple of the hull details such as a "greyed" panel at the front of the sphere and the dashed line around it's centre aren't absolutely perfect but they're so tiny it's easy to forgive.The only thing that the pictures or studio model don't really give you a good comparison for however is the colour of the Pasteur which looks a lot more duck-egg blue than white.

The thin nacelles do feature our favourite red translucent plastic bussard collectors as well as the ship's registration. Notably the NCC-58925 emblazoned on the nacelles at four points is in The Next Generation title font rather than Starfleet ship standard you might have expected. Taking a glance at the model images in the magazine though you can see that this was how she was seen on the TV episode.

This is one of the models that I was pressing to see in the series and it's come earlier than I thought it might. I like the end result but perhaps I was hoping for something a bit more weighty and maybe just a slight bit larger. Just me probably but as  an end result the USS Pasteur passes muster for accuracy and will be one of the key ships fans will have been waiting to tick off their lists in 2015.

Issue 42 of the magazine does provide us with a superb CGI rendering of the ship on the opening profile section which concisely retells the story of The Next Generation's finale to the point where the Pasteur ends up in small pieces thanks to the attacking Klingons. As we've said, there's some nice plan views in here followed by a six page overview of the seventh season from The Next Generation and not a single picture from Gambit, Phantasms, Parallels or The Pegasus; oh the shame - but at least they are covered in the text. 

Why this takes over six pages when we get six paragraphs on Bill George's studio model is anyone's guess because I would have liked to see more of this vessel in detail. No other ship in Star Trek history looks like her and a few close-up shots of the hull would have been great as well as something on how they filmed her since there's a degree of 3D flying in that final episode. Maybe we could have even had some bits on the refitting of the "D" as well? We know that Doug Drexler turned up the third nacelle recently as part of a clean-up but what about the reasons all the bits were added for the finale? Perhaps for another issue...

Jumping from 1994 through to 1997 and the leap in technology is made very evident with the Species 8472 bioship which only ever existed within the framework of a computer. It's also the first organic ship we've had in the collection and there's every possibility that Gomtuu from Tin Man will be along at some point as suggested in a recent Twitter Q&A held by collection guru Ben Robinson.

This one's 80% plastic with the three fins cast in metal but this in no way detracts from the simple, slender design of the bioship which may also be one of the smallest and lightest models produced. Each panel bears the samel grey/brown "living" pattern surrounding the weaponised core  Eaglemoss have nailed the markings but the lack of lighting evident on the magazine cover does take something from the presence of the ship.

It's design is perfectly symmetrical along each fin which does remind me of the (later realised) Xindi Insectoid ship we had a while back but carries it off a little better (and that wasn't precisely symmetrical). Given it's small size - and a similar criticism I levelled at the Pasteur - this could have done with being just a little bigger to pick out some of the smaller detail on the tips of the forward prongs or in the centre module detail. It's nice but in comparison to the Starfleet ship from the previous issue there's not a lot to look at or investigate. 

In fact it's not been that easy to review given the repeated nature of the design. We can say that it's of a good build quality without question and that the precision taken to make each of the panels is very precise with no poor edges or, fortunately, sharp points on those fins. It's also incredibly sturdy but then the stabilising fins are metal so they will take a decent battering if the floor makes an attack. It's also mounted by those very fins in a stand which isn't the best of fits if I'm honest and on a couple of occasions the bioship has easily popped out of the grips which I've done a close up shot of here.

In the magazine the bioship looks a heck of a lot more exciting and way more cool than the model even if the pic on the profile page is a bit grainy. There's a good level of background on the ships and their most significant appearance in the two-part Scorpion story from Voyager. Split into two sections, this is comprehensive when it comes to the creation of the bioship which does make up a little for the disappointment of the model. The story of the craft is just as much a departure from the norm as the first Star Trek CGI aliens were when they took to the screen against the Borg. Certainly the text reflects the individual and instantly recognisable nature of the bioship at least making it one of Voyager's most impressive and notable enemies.

As with the Pasteur, the key moments for the bioship are limited to the one story it featured in and we round off the issue with the upcoming Intrepid in all it's blank-hulled glory.

In other related Collection news, Ben Robinson took part in a Twitter Q&A, revealing that there are some great plans ahead for the collection which suggest there's a ton of ships waiting to get their own issue.

Definite models include the NX-01 refit (never seen onscreen however) which is destined for the sixth special after the Klingon D-4 and the USS Kelvin. Ben also suggested that we'd get to see the K-7 space station, the glimpsed USS Enterprise-J and the Scimitar at some point although the latter is causing some headaches due to all those fins (note that he was even discussing this or a large scale Enterprise-E for a special release). The Romulan shuttle from In the Pale Moonlight was also alluded to and talking of shuttles, that set of four currently available in Europe will be heading to the UK but marketed differently.

Two of Ben's dream ships for the collection were mentioned. One being the Fesarius from The Corbomite Maneuver (which was listed on the back on the Issue Two promo pack) and the Breen warship from Deep Space Nine's final season. Apparently we'll be seeing the Breen ship first. Pushed further on upcoming issues Ben confirmed that there will be a mirror version of the Enterprise from Mirror, Mirror too. If that is the case I'd like to think we'll see the Avenger and the NX-01 mirror version at some stage. We will get to see the Enterprise-A dressed in an aztec paint scheme that was tragically missing from the refit right at the start of the collection.

Little additions of information did drop that Ben would think of adding the smuggler ship from Unification as well as Gomtuu from Tin Man, the Tamarian cruiser from The Next Generation's Suddenly Human as well as the Batris from Heart of Glory, the Merchantman from The Search for Spock and various Borg cubes.

And finally....Ben is now on Twitter and dropped a stunning pic last week that showed off some of the yet-to-be-released ships. I could four here - personal favourite the Steamrunner Class, the Sabre Class, the Romulan Bird-of-Prey from The Original Series' Balance of Terror and in the background a pair of nacelles that might well be attached to the NCC-1701. Then today we got an additional shot of the USS Appalachia close up which kinda made my weekend of Star Trek complete. Note with this one the rear stand - must not be a lot of weight in the front of the Steamrunner Class model to make that work.

And that's it for March's editions. Good but we've had better double selections and the teases we're getting indicate some stellar models to come - and even the possibility of USS Defiant and USS Voyager dedication plaques. One last point, apparently those annoying back issues we're missing will be resolved in the near future and seeing as it came from Ben Robinson I tend to believe it's true.

Liked this month's ships? Enjoyed Ben's Twitter Q&A? Let's discuss below!

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Making First Contact

We are just under three months away from one of the UK's most well-known Star Trek events and Some Kind of Star Trek will be there!

April 4th and 5th 2015 will be the annual First Contact Day convention at the National Space Centre in Leicester with Babylon 5's Claudia Christian, Voyager's Harry Kim, aka Garrett Wang in attendance as well as representatives from our friends at Risa and Starbase 31 who we can't wait to meet face to face.

A little more local than Destination Star Trek, this will be my first time at First Contact Day and the Leicester Centre even though, oddly, I worked there for a year just under a decade ago.

While First Contact for us Star Trek fans immediately conjours up images of Zephram Cochrane, Borg and the Vulcans it's important to note, as organisers Wil Ross and David Limburg indeed did, that a lot of shows have some form of first contact protocol such as Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1 - something that both organisers were keen to point out although there had been some discussion over it's apparent "Star Trek-ness" (makes perfect sense in the bigger picture!)

With the event just under a month away, I managed to grab an hour with Wil and David to understand just how preparations were going and also a bit more about the background to First Contact Day. 

"It originally started off two years ago as an event called Dawn of the Federation;" explained Wil, "It was the brainchild of former CBS Action host Raules Davies who was running an events group in Manchester and a few members of his team came up with an idea to celebrate First Contact Day. Unfortunately due to his commitments with other events and CBS he didn't have the time to run it so he asked me if I would organise and get it up and running."

Wil said yes to what was supposed to be a one-time deal and over the following six months he realised that it was capturing the imagination of more and more people and the closer the date came he could feel the rise in excitement, "I said to Raules at the time this could be something pretty big...this could be a bigger event."

The event, of course, was a massive success "...and immediately after people were asking me are you going to do it again?" said Wil. Initially he wasn't sure what to do but after discovering that Raules wasn't looking to continue the venture, Wil decided to go it alone which led to the second event being double the size of the first. "Everyone loved it and we got 99.8% positive was truly amazing. At the end everyone was clambering  to say we needed to do it again and that we needed to make it bigger and better and do it with guests. That's exactly what we've done this time."

For 2015 there's a bigger convention-style format to the previous two years. The venue is the same (Leicester Space Centre) but the First Contact Day organisers are looking to make this different to any other event out there - not just a signing, not just a meal, not just an evening party - "We want to mix it all together and have some fun." continued Wil. The team are very grateful to the Space Centre especially as Easter weekend is it's busiest time, potentially seeing 4,000 people passing through its doors on both days.

"A personal feel." added David, "It gives you a better connection to the people there and we're all in it together."

David had been looking for someone to join up with in the convention circuit for some time having been involved with them on both sides of the stalls so to speak since the late '80's and early '90's. He was growing disheartened with how events were being run as the years went on, concerned that fans were being taken for their money and herded through events without that key personal touch.

The team don't want you just to have 15 seconds and a signing by the guests. At First Contact Day you'll be able to mingle with them too. "They're there and you can talk to them. It's about interaction. It's all about quality and value for money." said David.

Fans will certainly get that with this being the first time First Contact Day has welcomed guests.  In fact originally they had only planned for Claudia Christian (minimal sales pitch to my dad to get him there when I mentioned this guest) to attend but matters escalated rapidly and soon Garrett was added to the list then another and another until the event reached its current number of headliners.

However, First Contact Day isn't just about the guests. From my chat with Wil and David it became evident that it's about an all-encompassing experience. Notably the event has gone from being a one day event attended by 200 people up to five times that amount anticipated for this year across the two days. 

Checking out the event's website you get a very good picture of exactly what's going on. Yes there will be the range and of dealers selling assorted memorabilia however there's a packed itinerary to keep fans enthralled for two days. 

Talks with authors Una McCormack and James Swallow - who both had entries in the recent The Fall novel series - as well as stage appearances from Garrett Wang and Claudia Christian are already locked in plus a session with Larry Nemecek via Skype on both days who is sure to talk about the mesmerising Enterprise in Space project. There is one thing that David is especially looking forward to; "The Red Shirt record attempt!"  which will be taking place on the Saturday afternoon plus there's the sure-to-be hotly contested costume competition a couple of hours later. 

David is also keenly awaiting the auctions which will be happening over the weekend; "Some people are bringing some really interesting bits which we hope will raise some money for our charities."

For note, the two charities this year are Help for Heroes and the C3 Foundation which helps 3.3 million people a year with alcohol-related injuries or diseases and is backed by First Contact Day guest Claudia Christian.

While the record attempt is purely on the Saturday the costume competition as well as the charity auction will be happening on the Sunday as well although we suspect there will be a few bleary eyes after the Saturday Night Disco with live music from the Smithemen. Heck, with this much going on you're guaranteed to need both days to ensure every box is ticked.

The two organisers met at an event and have a like-mindedness that is making this year's event a total success. David was invited along to the 2014 event by Wil to see what it was all about; "I was blown away," recalled David, who had been searching for an event to be involved with for over five years; "Everyone worked with was a well oiled ship! At that moment my search was over."

The Leicester Space Centre has been the venue since the event was known as Dawn of the Federation but due to ever increasing numbers, doubling the number of days and also a lack of engagement from the local area, it may be that this is the last time First Contact Day lands in the city. Both Wil and David are quick to praise the hospitality of the centre but only five people came from Leicestershire last year and the current demographic suggests the average attendee is between 25 and 45 from somewhere slightly to the north of Birmingham. Sadly Leicester's largest potential convention centre only holds a maximum of 1100 people which would also rule that out as a future venue.

Wil Ross
Cautious over being able to crawl before they can walk (so to speak), Wil and David are already thinking ahead to spectacular ideas for 2016 - but for now the big focus is just a matter of weeks away.

"Our plans for 2016 we're going to need a venue that will hold many more than that because it is Star Trek's 50th anniversary and we do plan on holding something quite special for that year." said Wil. 

Having such great guests - due to some very strong friendships with the organisers has certainly helped promote First Contact Day. "I don't think Garrett needed to hear the end of either my or Wil's pitch," recalled David, "He was there, he said he'd do it for us and I was taken aback."

David Limburg
They specifically wanted guests who craved the interaction, would look up and chat during an autograph signing session and wouldn't have the conveyor-belt arm for fan photo sessions. They're confident that with all the people coming to First Contact Day this won't happen and that they will be approachable even if they're having a coffee from the cafe!

Sharing a couple of "interesting" celebrity stories, it was clear to me that Wil and David really have a keen sight on what they want and what they want fans to get from the weekend - they want attendees to come away with good memories and great stories.

One of the tragic points about First Contact Day is that a Skype session had been in the early planning stages with Leonard Nimoy however following his loss the team are looking to create a special memorial to the Star Trek actor over the weekend. "We were well on the way to organising it." recalled Wil, "but then events took a turn for the worse. I'm now looking forward to doing a celebration of Leonard Nimoy the person and of Spock the character and it seems that, given their Star Trek roots "we're determined to do it well," explained Wil, "Spock was where it all began; before Kirk. In the first pilot Spock was there...this is something that should definitely be done."

And I absolutely agree - and the feeling from both parties is that it's a well-presented celebration as part of the event and that it is important to remember the great things he did.

First Contact Day is an immersive event where fans, dealers, cosplayers, guests and all points in between can meet and revel in the brilliant universes created for our entertainment and enjoyment. I'm thoroughly excited to be going and getting to chat with people face to face. This will also be the first event that Some Kind of Star Trek will be blogging LIVE from and there might be a line or two from a guest or three - at least we hope that this might happen. We're also intending to talk to some guests and our friends from Risa during the weekend and get to the heart of the experience. Let's hope that this breaks all their records, raises more money than ever for charity and is easily the best First Contact Day the universe has ever seen.

So if you're wandering around and you happen to spot a guy with a camera and his dad (who's secretly going because he wants to meet Claudia Christian) then come over and say hello. I won't bite but I'm not sure I can vouch for my dad on that one....

You can buy your tickets RIGHT NOW at the FCD website and we'll see you at First Contact Day on April 4th and 5th.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Soul Searching: News from Renegades and Star Trek 3

In the US or Canada and happen to be an actor available for work in the next few months?

Why not try out for casting in Star Trek 3 which is looking for people to fill all sorts of roles right this cotton-picking minute.

You can check out the ad right now and as long as you're free between June 1st and October 1st this year, the odds could be in your favour. The important thing to note is that they're looking for both starring and supporting roles which makes it a very open field.

That may mean that rumours around Bryan Cranston/a Bryan Cranston-type baddie are just that; rumours until better substantiated. From memory I think there were some indications they were looking to fill two female main cast roles as well but with the change in script and director, who is to say that these are even being considered anymore? How old were the rumours by the time we heard them?

Certainly news in relation to the movie is sketchy yet it is still 15 months until release - something that can't be said of Star Trek: Renegades which continues not to be available.

The news on this one is that March 15th saw the release of - and I couldn't quite believe this - a music video to promote the film. Serious. A music video from Automatik Eden. (who?)

Filled with some sunny, rocky imagery and front woman Cela Scott (who plays Lexxa's mum) in suitably futuristic/post-apocalypse attire, I never saw this one coming. It manages to spin in quotes from the trailers we've seen but I don't know if this was a good move. We've been teased, we've been appeased but there's still nothing substantial after all the waiting. 

Captain of my Soul is a bit samey if I do say so and while elegantly performed by the duo it's not a move I would expect from anything in Star Trek and will probably draw direct comparisons to a certain Russell Watson-vocalised main title from the early 00's.  Directed by Tim Russ and starring Automatik Eden's singer - probably at Vasquez Rocks - the song includes the rote from the second trailer and even bears it as a title which in itself is from Invictus by William Ernest Henley. 

Commenting on music isn't one of my strong points but the video does include some great shots of the Renegades ship seemingly in combat with the USS Archer as well as some more shots of Adrienne Wilkinson's Lexxa Singh taking on Vic Mignogna's Cardassian prisoner as per last year's clip and a couple of snaps of Tuvok and Chekov looking all anxious. There's also a shot of two black-clad heavies walking through the desert wielding phaser rifles. I've no idea how these guys fit in to the plot as it's the first time I've spotted them in all the materials to come out of the project.

The action sequences don't really give us a lot to go on especially where Lexxa is concerned as most of her clips involve some form of fist fight latterly with the new enemy featured in the movie.

There's also a few shots of Manu Intiraymi facing off against some opposition with one heck of an impressive piece of weaponry. Shame that we don't get much more to go on than stolen moments which don't appear to directly link. However, the shots of the key ships within Renegades does mean we get some glorious passing shots of the two vessels and gives us a good look at the unusual design of the Archer's secondary hull and gaping maw of a deflector dish. From the top, sleek and sexy but butt ugly from the front.

Automatik Eden's video is nice and glossy and relates directly to the Renegades movie. As a singer Cela Scott seems pretty good although I'm unfamiliar with anything else she and music partner David Crocco have done before this (heck - I had to check the web just to see if Automatik Eden is just one person or a group...). I will now have to go and check out other tracks they've done via their website.

But that aside which has opened me up to a new musical avenue, why do I feel like this is another stall in a process which seems to have taken an age to get anywhere? Just checking out the Renegades page on YouTube you can see how long it is since there was any serious activity and the same can be said of the website and Facebook pages. Apparently the visual effects are being sorted as we write with only 20 of the 627 left to finish and while this promo video does drop a few nice shots of makeup and CGI, I for one am right on the edge waiting to see the finished result...and soon please.

Have you watched the Automatik Eden video? Is it what you would have wanted to come from the Renegades stable? Check it out HERE.

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Friday, 13 March 2015

Space Operatics: Harve Bennett and the Movies

The passing of Leonard Nimoy stole sci-fi headlines across the globe last week and while we were also aware of the loss of Maurice Hurley, it took a few more days for new to filter that Harve Bennett had died on February 25th.

Bennett may never have been involved with Star Trek in its native small screen incarnations however he was more than key in its blossoming on the cinematic stage from the highs of The Wrath of Khan through to lows of The Final Frontier.

Bennett's influence on the franchise during that decade was hugely significant bringing Kirk and crew from the lengthy and some might argue, grey first motion picture into the more respected, pioneering and respected original series movies.

For me the memory I hold most strongly of Harve Bennett is from an interview he did for the 25th Anniversary Special in which he described Star Trek as "space opera".

For some reason this description has remained with me for a further two and a half decades and it's something I always associate with the Bennett-produced movie era which does belay a sense of musical grandiose and theatrical pomp on occasion. Think of all those scenes with a resounding James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith score pounding out of the speakers and tell me it's not verging on just what Bennett had described and envisaged.

Working both on production and on the scripts themselves,  Bennett was central to the development of the brilliant movie trilogy through II,  III and IV which are to this day some of the key moments in the history of Star Trek.

It's odd to think that within a two week period we lost two producers of Star Trek who were operating at the same time with very different outlooks on the franchise; Bennett on the movies and Maurice Hurley on TV. Bennett's vision is much larger and with some form of thread running between all four - there is continuity, a sense of arc and theme but also a much more militaristic style in the bug screen nature of his influence. 

Certainly on that larger budget, Bennett gave us spectacle, pace and a whole bucket-load of wonderful Star Trek moments over the course of seven years and four movies. Apparently thinking that the series was boring, he latched onto the key dynamic between Kirk, Spock and McCoy and helped bring Khan into the movies. Without Bennett's influence on the movies it could be suggested that Star Trek may well have gone the way of the dodo after its second outing and nothing more would have been said.

Instead, Bennett revamped the cinematic Star Trek and along with Nicholas Meyer and the rest is history. So good in fact that JJ Abrams borrowed some of it for Star Trek into Darkness. He even managed a cameo in The Final Frontier as "Admiral Bob" when Kirk returns to the Enterprise before travelling to Nimbus III. The classic cast movies are just that - classics of the franchise - and Bennett must be remembered for being instrumental in that journey.

What were your thoughts on Harve Bennett's contribution to the Star Trek universe?

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Monday, 9 March 2015

Space Ranger

Oddly stepping slightly away from our usual intergalactic musings,  I read this week that the USS Ranger is due to be scrapped after a lengthy campaign to save her from the scrap merchant.

Self-respecting Star Trek fans will know this was the aircraft carrier which stepped in to sub for the USS Enterprise CVN-65 in The Voyage Home.

Aside from guest-starring in Star Trek IVRanger (CV-61) also appeared in Top Gun as well as more importantly undertaking operational tours in Vietnam and the first Gulf War before being decommissioned in 1993. For some time she sat preserved in the Bremerton Naval Base with the possibility of being donated as a museum but the clock ran out. Sitting for manay years alongside Forrestal Class sister ship USS Independence and the carrier USS Constellation,  March 5th 2015 marked the beginning of the end for the great ship.

Already the USS Saratoga, and USS Forrestal - two of the four Forrestal Class supercarriers - have made their way to the Brownsville ship-breaking yard and this week the Ranger started her similar 16000 mile six month journey to face a similar fate. The reason for the length of the trip is because she won't fit through the channels of the Panama Canal. USS Independence, which sat near her at Bremerton is still awaiting her fate.

Given that we have recently lost two other high-profile names linked to the fourth Star Trek movie it seemed appropriate to pay respects to the naval carrier which saw operation for over 35 years from her commissioning in 1957. Truly a sad day for all those campaigning to save her since 1993 but also one more piece of Star Trek history that will soon only be a memory.

In other news, the former USS Enterprise CVN-65 remains as Newport News awaiting a similar fate. After being deactivated in 2013, there has been some interest in preserving the one-of-a-kind carrier as a museum but given that the removal of the eight nuclear reactors meant carving holes in her hull it seems very unlikely. Anyway, as part of her inactivation process all the useful materials have been removed. There has been a suggestion that her island structure may be saved but this is only a possibility at this time. Thanks to John Peters on Risa I understand that the ship will only become decommissioned once her fuel is removed.

On the brighter side though it was announced at that decommissioning ceremony that the third Gerald R Ford Class carrier, CVN-80 will be named USS Enterprise. She is due to be commissioned in 2025 at current estimates.

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

He Brought Us the Borg: Maurice Hurley

As Gene Coon was responsible for the bringing Star Trek fans the Klingons, Maurice Hurley brought us the Borg.

In the same week that we said goodbye to Leonard Nimoy we also bade farewell to the producer of seasons one and two of The Next Generation. Hurley was a divisive figure in the early years of the sequel series, allegedly being the reason Gates McFadden departed (and returned once he left) and why writer Herbert J Wright also departed. Eventually it would be Hurley's relationship with Roddenberry himself which led to his own exit from the show. 

While Hurley, who passed on February 24th, was responsible in part for Shade of Gray he was also partly responsible for the introduction of Lore in Datalore and the first "proper" Klingon episode of the show in Heart of Glory. The second season was indeed troubled by the infamous writers' strike but Hurley's greatest influence on the franchise is galactic and occurred towards the end of his short tenure with the show.

With sole writing credit for Q Who, his second Q episode after Hide and Q, Maurice Hurley brought the biggest and most lethal threat Star Trek had ever seen to the screen. Their desire for assimilation of other species would not be established until later in The Best of Both Worlds but here a potentially undefeatable enemy was firmly nailed to the board. An enemy so popular and dangerous that they would feature in a further five episodes of The Next Generation, a movie, be influential on the character of Sisko in Deep Space Nine's pilot episode and be a key part of the last four seasons of Voyager even  giving us a main character in Seven of Nine.

For me though, while I can't say I'm a big fan of Hurley's other episodes, Q Who is excellent and one of the best the show ever made - even if it is in the uneven first two years. A brilliant Q story to boot (and he's not in it that much), Hurley managed to erase the badly realised villain Ferengi in 45 minutes and propelled The Next Generation into a different league. Star Trek had never seen such a chilling, silent foe relentless in their pursuit of the Enterprise and a moment which led into some previously unseen continuity to be experienced in the season three finale.

Hurley's script sets out the collective nature of the Borg, establishes their overwhelmingly massive cube ships and even technically leaves Picard and the crew, for once, defeated and begging for Q's help. There's also the rather random Borg nursery yet even though they are not fully realised and are to a degree left quite mysterious the basics are there and easily recognisable - just imagine what could have been if the Borg had stayed as the insectoid race they were originally conceived as (see the Xindi). 

I love the script and the apparent conflict between Guinan and Q is even set in place here. If he'd never given anything else to The Next Generation this serves him well as an epitaph especially since it includes one of my favourite speeches from any series which comes when Q is begged by Picard to return the ship to the Alpha Quadrant:
"If you can't take a little bloody nose -- maybe you had better go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous -- with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross -- but it is not for the timid." - Q
The Borg are coming.

Hurley's time with the franchise might have been short and during the uneven formative years during its '80's rebirth but his contribution is one of the biggest in the 50 years of Star Trek's existence; at least in it's top five if not higher. For that alone, we must salute you.

Did you have a favourite Maurice Hurley episode? Was his contribution to Star Trek as significant as we think? Let us know here!

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