Thursday, 30 April 2015

FCD: Five Minutes with Garrett

Here it is - our 300th post!

A couple of weeks ago we trekked off to First Contact Day run by the fantastic Wil Ross, David Limburg and a team of dedicated miracle workers.

I also managed to grab a five minute chat with the one and only Garrett Wang just before he headed off for the evening.

The consummate professional, Garrett had captivated an audience of some 200+ Star Trek fans with a brilliant 45 minute talk and Q&A which was undoubtedly one of the top highlights of the Saturday.

But what could we ask Garrett? Well, we gathered from his talk that he was enjoying himself (although there could have been some sunshine) over the weekend but I wanted to find out a bit more and seeing as how I'm currently running through the early seasons of Voyager, what better place to start than there. How did he feel about being effectively sidelined for most of those first two seasons?

"I felt underused and that I was the victim of a nine-person ensemble cast....there wasn't a lot of character development. It led me to be in a bit of a state of depression for the first few years. Now when you're depressed one thing happens, you sleep longer than you normally need to sleep because you want to keep sleeping - you don't want to wake up to reality."

"I was late to work maybe two or three times; I came very close to being fired from Voyager because I was was because I was depressed. I was so on top of the world when I got the role because my momentum was moving - I turned down three projects to do Voyager. I was supposed to be in the Mortal Kombat movie playing Lu Kang's younger brother in the opening scene."

I went from being the toast of the town to being someone who was getting 1.2 episodes per season. When you sit there and say "Shields down to 30%" you're not really exercising your acting muscles. So that's where it all came from."

It seems that people in the rumour mill tend to suggest Garrett was doing drugs or partying but the truth was, as revealed, very different.

Garrett noted that Caretaker was all Ensign Kim and his assumption was that the character would be a major part of every single episode.

"But then they started focusing on all the other characters and it all kind of built up on me. By season three I was super bombed-out. I wasn't focused and I felt I had a lot more to give and I wasn't able to stretch my wings. I felt the character needed more humour, the character should have been more human, there should have been more emotion in the characters - but that was negated by Rick Berman. He asked the actors to downplay the human roles in order for the aliens to look real."

Garrett explained that it was desired for the actors playing the human roles to be more wooden, more militaristic and if they did try and do something else they were informed they would be sent a memo requesting them to reshoot the relevant scene.

"Because you put in too much emotion." recalled Garrett, "I had two notices like that in season one and I reshot two scenes and I learned my lesson. I shut up and I was a good company man."

Garrett said how Kate Mulgrew had to reshoot 30 to 40 scenes in season one such as where the character had been crying; "You don't see Janeway cry in season one because they wouldn't allow it! So the show would have been even more amazing if you let the actors just act."

Personally I've found Voyager much better on this rewatch (OK - aside from Threshold) and the Kim character does evolve as the series moves along. Garrett's best moments certainly come when he's given that wing-spread opportunity in episodes such as Emanations, The Thaw and The Chute to name one from each of the first three years. I still have Scorpion to hit which almost looked like Harry was going to go the way of the dodo for season four after being infected by CGI baddies Species 8472. As we all know, it would be Jennifer Lien's Kes that took the hit to make way for Seven of Nine.

Of all the cast I find Kim one of the most fascinating to watch as while he may not get a lot of time, when he does, the ensign gets to shine. 

"That's because as time moves on I got more episodes that could revolve around me," said Garrett, "and I got the 100th episode - that was the best - which was the signature episode of Voyager."

Hey, he's not quite eternally the ensign anyway, making that brief rise to captain in the alternative future of Endgame and perhaps that was another payoff for Wang in that he finally got at least one extra pip in some way.

Brannon Braga, as Garrett continued, wrote him the number one episode - period - hands down. It was Voyager's City on the Edge of Forever according to the series producer. 

And there's no question Timeless is one of the show's best - and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it again after a fair few years (couple of seasons to go yet...) but from memory even when he wasn't in the limelight, Harry was better fed with material in the later years, being much more an integral part of the cast than just telling us what percentage of the shields were left.

"After that it went along the lines of the Doctor, Seven, Janeway show," said Garrett, "and I didn't care because I'd already gotten the best episode so I was like that's fine if you want to focus on those guys! 

Thanks to Brannon Braga and Rick Berman for that! [Timeless]."

Was Kim served better in later years? There's some space below to add your thoughts! Thanks to Garrett Wang for his time and to Wil, David and the First Contact Day team for hosting the event.

If you'd like to know more about First Contact Day 2016 there is some info available HERE

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

McCormack Goes Missing

After having a wonderful chat with Una McCormack at First Contact Day I felt it only right to get stuck in to The Missing.

Now Una had dropped a couple of hints about a character and also how it did crossover with characters from other Star Trek shows but it didn't take me long to realise just how different Deep Space Nine has become in the years it moved from TV into the literary universe.

For one thing the subtitle of Deep Space Nine may as well purely refer to a location now more than to the ensemble of characters fans of the show knew and loved. There's no Sisko, Kira, Dax, Bashir, Worf or Nog for starters so that leaves you with Odo, Quark and a cameo appearance from Garak early on. O'Brien gets name checked a couple of times but the cast is balanced out with The Next Generation's Katherine Pulaski, new CMO of the station Beverley Crusher and now station commander Captain Ro Laren. 

Not a bad thing and I guess the book has to come under some form of banner given that it takes place on the recently built hi-tech Deep Space Nine station - but my warning to fans would be not to expect your favourites to turn up any time soon - a lot has changed.

But then I asked myself if all that really mattered and the answer was "no" because things are transient and it would be wrong to assume everyone would stay in the same place (unless you happen to be on Kirk's Enterprise) and with the expanded universe taking the story far beyond the end of Nemesis, the 24th Century has become a very interesting place.

Occuring after the end of the brilliant (can't say that enough) The Fall series from 2014, McCormack drops us back to the Bajoran sector where assisting an alien race looking to relocate is the name of the game. Fairly straight forward you might imagine but then this is Star Trek and we have another 300 pages to go so it can't just end there. Let's drop into the mix Pulaski about to head off on an Olympic Class starship, the Athene Donald, for regions and missions unknown and things start to take shape.

Not only do we get (I believe) the first meeting between the two former USS Enterprise-D Chief Medical Officers but the relationship between them is just as frosty and just the good side of adversarial and perhaps jealous as we would like. There's certainly no love lost and McCormack does make you feel that all their conversations take place behind gritted teeth with both of them having a certain bald starship captain at the back of their minds for every single word. In fact out of the whole book - which I burned through in a weekend - this was the highlight of the show and their meetings electrified every page they were on. I really felt Una hit these two perfectly in an environment we would never have placed either of them.

But that's only a portion of the story. Captain Ro has a new alien race looking for a home to deal with the People of the Sky but hey, just when we think Pulaski is out of the way she and the Athene Donald run into The Chain. No, not a Fleetwood Mac tribute band or a group of people attempting to buy each other's houses but an  offshoot of the race linked to Ro's recently arrived asylum seekers.

Convienient that this all happens at the same time? Possibly, but then it'd be a terrible story if half of it didn't happen if you catch my drift. The station and our characters are firmly planted between the two factions and there's a certain air of Sanctuary mixed in here.

A more interesting element that does mirror some of the earlier elements of Deep Space Nine and especially Homecoming are the missing soldiers from the Dominion War who, ten years later, have still not been returned from the Romulan Empire. It makes for a more interesting line as Ro acts as the mediator between the two races in the hope of a peaceful resolution. 

Oh and have we forgotten to mention the Tzenkethi?

Potentially but hey, why not now. Yes, McCormack even throws in one of the staples of the literary universe and member of the Typhon Pact, the Tzenkethi with one of their number playing an intricate part within the whole story almost from the first page. While not what she seems, Cordazame proves to link several elements of the story together while adding elements of mystery herself. One issue I do have here is that a solution I would expect to find (and we did) within the JJ Abrams movies is used here as a plot device. While I understand why and how, I did feel it detracted from the story and made me much more aware of the recent movies in relation to the Prime Universe than I might have expected.

Besides, McCormack has so deftly crafted several miniature arcs within this book that I could almost forgive mention of this Plot Device since it's rare to get so many elements all together through the course of just one Star Trek novel. Keeping track of them is certainly a skill and I found it easier to read in big chunks rather than a few pages here and a few there which might have meant I lost a strand. 

Having just a small, core group of main characters does work very effectively and Una has both doctors down pat. Pulaski is, as we've written, nicely crusty and just far enough into the belief in her own greatness while Beverley remains firmly grounded, ever the realist and certainly the diplomat her on Deep Space Nine. For the most part I found these two to be the best characters to follow within The Missing. Ro was OK but her journey from Starfleet to Maquis to Starfleet and ultimately captain of the most key outpost in the Federation never really ran true with me. This in turn made me feel the Bajoran captain was pretty average and didn't stand out well enough. 

Odo and Quark were great additions with the former almost fitting seemlessly back into a law enforcement role but its his albeit brief interactions with the ever-wise Ferengi bartender that remind us of one reason why Deep Space Nine was the best Star Trek series produced.

The Missing might not be an absolutely perfect novel, devoid as it is of the majority of recognisable Deep Space Nine characters as well as that Dominion threat which is long gone. Having this replacement station too only adds to distance the station of the page from the station of the show but none of this can be directed at the author who has still pulled a great read together from a very diverse range of people and situations and managed to resolve it within just one book. There are twists, turns and duplicity galore to keep fans entertained from the start here and some that I didn't expect.  I'd certainly recommend giving this one a go but try and read it in a few sittings rather than bitty dippings. Great to see the station back and fortunately we won't have long to wait for a return with David Mack's Sacraments of Fire coming soon.

For now though I'm turning my reading attention to Takedown which arrived last week and is set at the same time as The Missing. Back to the Enterprise we go!

Have you read The Missing? What were your thoughts on Una McCormack's latest Deep Space Nine novel? Let us know in  the comments below!

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Come's the Executioner('s Daughter)

Welcome to our latest reviewer, Dan Adams who has taken the reins for Greg Cox's latest, Foul Deeds Will Rise. As always, be ready for potential SPOILERS!

Some years ago when I took some old Star Trek books to my local charity shop, the sweet looking elderly lady quickly, (and gleefully) asked “any murders in ‘em?” Thinking she was hoping I had handed in a pile of contemporary murder mysteries I said “no, they're all Star Trek”. To which could almost hear her disappointment. 

But on reflection, the “whodunit” genre has been part of the Star Trek Universe since the very beginning. The beauty of a whodunit in a science fiction setting is that you have to keep your mind open to more than just the who’s, the how’s are equally rich and diverse. 

An early example of this genre of Star Trek is the episode the Conscience of the King. In the episode, Kirk is trying confirm that the actor Anton Karidian is the mass murdering Kodos the Executioner. As the evidence gets stronger that this is indeed the man who murdered thousands, the body count in the present day begins to rise. The victims? Those that could identify Kodos.

It turns out that, while Karidian was indeed Kodos the executioner, he had completely repressed his past. His daughter, who Kirk manipulated to get closer to her father, was the killer and killed her father accidentally in the episode’s climactic scenes, before suffering a complete mental breakdown. 

Lenore returns in Foul Deeds Will Rise, which takes place between the fifth and sixth Star Trek movies, in keeping with The Original Series' notion that mental illness can be cured as quickly as most illnesses in the Star Trek universe, Lennore is now rehabilitated, volunteering relief efforts on the planet Oyolu, who have just signed a delicate cease fire with the neighbouring Parvak. 

As part of the peace negotiations, The Enterprise–A is providing neutral ground for representatives from both worlds to resolve their differences. Meanwhile, Spock and Scotty are acting as Federation weapons inspectors, making sure that deadly protomatter warheads are being disposed of. 

By night, the group of relief workers that Lenore belongs to performs drama. It is at once such performance that Kirk lays eyes on Lenore for the first time in decades. She returns to the ship, at Kirk’s invitation and soon the body count starts to rise. Is Lenore still a deadly murderer? Or is she in the wrong place at the wrong time? 

What Cox does particularly well in this novel is revisit some familiar Trek Tropes. As mentioned above, in The Original Series, criminality was largely seen as a form of mental illness, easily treated by the technology of the day. Without going into too much detail, we learn that Lenore has regular doses of zetaproprion, the same drug that was used to completely cure the insane Garth of Izar in the episode Whom Gods Destroy. Considering the madmen we’ve seen in Star Trek before and since the idea that madness could be cured seemed a bit convenient. However, the characterisation of Lenore here helps to explore some of those themes. Is her madness gone? Or is it simply contained? 

Another familiar “Trek Trope” is that of the consequences coming back to haunt Kirk. In order to get closer to her father, the dashing Captain Kirk seen in The Original Series played with the emotions of Lenore Karidian, then a 19 year old girl. While Karidian was no angel, Kirk believably haunted by the actions he took in the early part of that episode, which fits in with the Kirk we see in The Wrath of Khan who faces the consequences of dumping the titular baddie on Ceti Alpha V. 

One of the welcome things about this book, is the pick up and readability of it. These days a lot of books set in the later Star Trek canon require awareness of what has happened in previous books across the range. With this book, it harkens back to the old days. The Pavakans and Oyolo, seen here for the first time are a throwback to Star Trek books of old. Their motivations are sensible, and are familiar both in terms of what we have seen in other fiction, and in terms of the real world. The Pavans with their faces adorned with thin fur, and Oloyu with their yellow skin and horns would be prohibitive on a The Original Series or The Next Generation budget, but work in the context of this novel. Finally, although Kevin Riley’s past in the novels as the former Admiral Kirk’s attaché is referenced, it’s a nice Easter egg that doesn’t take away from the experience of those who haven’t read the trucks of the motion picture era novels. 

The races themselves are interesting. The Pavakans are militaristic and had occupied great chunks of Oyolo territory. The Oyolo had been waging a savage war of attrition against them. Heroes on the Pavakan side are seen as butchers and murders on the Oyolo side. Meanwhile Oyolo figures revered as freedom fighters and martyrs are seen as savages and insurgents on the Pavakan side. Huge swathes of the Oyolo home world are destroyed, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis. 

With the presence of weapons inspectors and hostage taking, it’s hard not to draw parallels to today’s world, right down to the fact that Osama Bin Laden is mentioned in the book. I’ll avoid spoilers, but the murders that may or may not have been committed by Lenore, have ongoing implications for the peace process, as do Spock and Scott’s ongoing weapons inspection work. 

The biggest flaw I found in the novel is that the last few moments before the resolution to the threat there are a few things that would be impossible on a starship, particularly in the ease in which a shuttle can be stolen by a certain type of thief without triggering alarms. However, the final scenes keep you guessing as to the resolution, and you can easily imagine it as a set piece taking place in a full scale Star Trek motion picture. 

Like any good whodunnit, there are clues scattered throughout the story. Some are red herrings (my pet theory was proven wrong) others prove to be useful (keep an eye on Chekov) and there is a big clue as to the method used. 

Overall, I would call this a great book that expertly weaves a good whodunnit with some exciting action scenes.

Have you read Foul Deeds Will Rise? Did it fit your expectations for a movie-era novel and if not, what was missing? Let us know in the comments below!

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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Return of the Exeter

Updated and reworked with additional information from Exeter Trek

Back in the "dark" days when all we had was new Enterprise, a fan series came about that would energise fans and help inspire those who became the semi-pro Star Trek film-makers of today.

The show was called Starship Exeter and between 2002 and 2014 the universe of The Original Series and NCC-1706 lived on via the wonder of the internet. I say live on because, shockingly, there were only ever two episodes made in that 12 year period. The first, Savage Empire, was released in 2002 with its breakthrough coming in January of the following year due to coverage via SlashDot which crashed the hosting servers.

The sequel, The Tressaurian Intersection was filmed in 2004 with segments being released over a number of years with the full episode only being available in 2014; ten years later.

But why are we bothered about this show now? Surely everyone out there has reviewed it to death and it's "old news" as far as us writers and fans are concerned - seen it, done it, move on.

Not so. 

It seems someone out there wants to keep the Exeter name alive with... Exeter Trek.

If you've not seen it, Exeter Trek is designed as a prequel of sorts to The Original Series on the apparent secret prototype starship, the USS Exeter. Erm...At this point I shuddered as 50 years of canon was seemingly chucked out of a very tall building but I pray you refrain from that social media onslaught and read on.

I have supported fan projects a lot through Some Kind of Star Trek but with this I was initially disappointed before a minute of the trailer had run. Not because fans have come together to create a new Star Trek film but because they could have chosen another name and kept the canon. That said, it also provided a great chance to discuss the classic fan show, something one of my readers did ask about a while back and also to get in touch with the Exeter Trek team to understand more about their vision.

So it's time to set out the stall here. Starship Exeter's two episodes broke the fan film into the mass market and their legacy should really be respected. This new show could have chosen any name which could have helped circumnavigate that tricky prototype scenario they've cornered themselves with but no, instead they chose this one.

Let's step back and look at the legacy of those two episodes produced a decade ago. The Savage Empire might not be up to the levels of magnificence now being aired by the latest Star Trek Continues episodes but for its time it was mind-blowing, jaw-dropping; add your own cliché as applicable. Standing it next to the early Phase II (then called New Voyages) it's an equal in quality but their later offerings are much better which does hurt these stories a little. Remember - it has been 10 years since this was made and at the time, "cutting edge" would easily have applied.

The Savage Empire takes place for the most part on the Andorian homeworld on and below the surface. That fact in itself makes this an odd fan series with a lot of location work and, even more significantly, no full bridge set which is betrayed only by the fact that all the bridge shots are blue-screened and focus on just one portion of the command deck. Being a Star Trek show without much action aboard ship is very brave, removing the need to build some expensive sets but the budget could have stretched to a decent monster as perhaps the most hokey bit is the plastic alien Captain Garrovick and co fend off before heading below the Andorian surface. 

The minuscule budget does show through with some ill-fitting uniforms and questionable makeup for the rebellious Andorians and their Klingon associate but don't let that dissuade you from enjoying this snapshot of how fan-films started out. The cast itself is fairly small with The Savage Empire focusing mainly on Garrovick (understatedly portrayed by James Culhane), security chief Paul Cutty (Michael Buford) and Andorian comms officer B'fuselek (Joshua Caleb). The second installment take more time to also develop the character of first officer Commander Jo Harris (Holly Guess) who is confined to the bridge in episode one.

But before you start ripping the first installment to bits, remember that this was a more "primitive" time and this show effectively helped kickstart (all puns intended) the fan film explosion and thus the race to improve quality in what was being brought to the screen. The acting is perhaps more miss than hit but the soul of the show is there, the key elements of a starship, a planet in peril, aliens, phasers and a fist fight are all in droves. The scenario is very much A, B, C yet it feels exciting, refreshing and nothing if not experimental, testing the waters of what would be a continually developing medium. No doubt Gene would have been proud to know that the vision had been kept alive however it's The Tressaurian Intersection which makes the original Exeter's disappearance so disheartening.

With only a fraction of the location filming we saw in The Savage Empire, this second episode took a staggering NINE years to come to fruition with segments being finished and released sporadically until the final act was posted early in 2014. In the space of time from the opening of their first story to the closing titles of the second, there was such a radical jump in technology and opportunities. Not only is the video a lot clearer, the audio crisper, but the acting is a quantum leap from where they were in 2003. Add into that the CGI work here and Exeter had so much to offer yet never got the chance.  Just for that shot of the Kongo saucer section I could watch Exeter again and again.

The Tressaurians themselves are reminiscent of the rubbery (and much loved) Gorn from Arena but you're not really that bothered since the story itself is a big step up from its predecessor. I watched them in the wrong order so the step back was a fairly large shock considering the professionalism of The Tressaurian Intersection.

In contrast to The Savage Empire it's also set purely onboard the USS Exeter and this time with use of the bridge and a much more professional edge. This episode is a substantial step up from The Savage Empire in just about every sense, the acting, the story, the writing - and that's why seeing the name Exeter being used by another fan series just felt wrong. We get not only action inside the ship but no rogue plastic aliens instead we have the Tholians and a much tighter script which gives the cast some breathing room. This, sadly limited, production is one of the foundations for everything that's come since - would we have Continues or Axanar pushing the levels of expectation with each new release if it wasn't for the standards that the Exeter production team established?

I'd say "No" and I think a lot of fan-film fans would agree. In some respects, keeping the Exeter name alive is a great way to make sure this key segment of Star Trek fan history is remembered. Rumours do abound that the abandoned third episode, The Atlantis Invaders is being adapted as an audio adventure but for now, the only way that USS Exeter will arrive onscreen will be at the hands of producer John Sims who is also starring in the production as Captain Ellison J Moorey.

Based in the Pike era (and featuring Pike era titles), Exeter Trek has been searching for funds on GoFundMe but, as we'll see, that's just a small piece of the bigger plan. It's ambitious, Trek-retro and doesn't just follow either Continues or Phase II. Explained John, "Despite the small amount of money we have raised from GoFundMe, I have received private contributions in excess of $5,000. Not to mention my own payouts that exceed $10,000! Plus, we have set up a barter system for the post production as well as other aspects concerning the show. Basically, we have had the money and just needed some fandom help to push us over the edge to cover what we needed to bring a quality, action packed adventure-ala-1965!"

Getting very excited by this - maybe, because any vision of Star Trek and any opportunity to see something a little different even more so. The Pike-era setting is a curve-ball, a unique angle, but the level and quality of production is continuously being improved and redrawn and that's even true here with Exeter Trek that is barely recognisable from where it started.

It's also important to note that Exeter Trek has no link whatsoever with the Starship Exeter show and are more than aware that there's been use of that name before; "I and others are huge fans of what Jimm and Josh have done as well as their talents." said John,  "The reason we chose to use Exeter as our ship is simple and not because of Starship Exeter

I am the president (Captain) of the local chapter of Starfleet International. (John is here, far right) Plus, each chapter gets to choose a ship name and class of vessel. Seeing my family is from England and Scotland, I chose Exeter. She's been a main stay vessel in Her Majesties Navy since World War II and I thought it fitting. Also, being in the Pike era, we can explore a lot territory that is only mentioned on occasion in The Original Series."

The way that I discovered Exeter Trek was through falling onto the original trailer but times have changed since those couple of minutes were embedded online; "That promo video was made two years ago," recalled John, " and is very different to what we have filmed recently. Not to mention, major castings changes and a whole new direction I decided to take after we made that. We will have a new promo coming soon....."

And how has this all come about then, who has John got involved to make such a difference since those early days?

"Most of the production staff are folks that are good friends of mine. We, as a team, are the ones who helped out every Saturday to build the sets for Farragut. With Mike Bednar (big thanks for the support), Greg Greene and Royal Weaver leading the teams, we built the sets over a four year period. These folks have also come aboard to help with Exeter to help me see my vision of the future-past. They have also worked as Director, assistant director, sound engineers, lighting gaffers, etc,. These great folks have been on set for all the Farragut episodes filmed in Georgia as well as the early Star Trek Continues offerings. Plus, the all -new series Dreadnought Dominion (need to find out about this!!! - Clive) is another that some of my team worked on." said John.

"Our production team is simply put,..The Best! They care about making Star Trek that will entertain. Also, our acting talent, despite being local in nature (stage work, TV, commercials and theme park entertainers) have really brought out some great performances that will have a very organic feel. I personally have invested 1000's of man hours between writing the story/script, creating the characters, designing the costumes and constructing a number of them with the help of Lisa Colon. Props with help from Douglas Glenn and my main man with the set pieces...Mike McGee. Talent second to none."

And to back those statements up - not that he needed to after such in depth info on what's been happening - John kindly provided us with some great new promo shots including some of those Pike-era props including the phaser, communicator and console mini-monitors plus some shots from on-set filming. John, I was very honoured to receive them!

John has very clearly been super busy since I originally put this article together last year and through various events we've missed each other but finally I got a few words from the man behind the project; "On the weekend of January 4, we converged on the Farragut Films sets in Kingsland Georgia to shoot our interior scenes."

And remember that, unusually, this is pre-Kirk? Well - "We back-dated the sets some what to appear like those from the Captain Pike era (comparisons at the bottom of the article!). We spent two days there getting some rather good footage for our pilot. Very longs days, but we as a team, completed what we needed and then some."

In April this year the Exeter Trek team headed out to their location shoot and an abandoned cement facility to finish off the exterior scenes. Following that the story goes into post production for editing, effects, sound and the rest. "We also plan on filming a 30 second advertisement for a fictitious product that would seem right for 1965." added John, indicating that they'll be looking to recreate the effect of watching a whole hour of 60's TV, break and all. Add in the potential for some mini-sodes to keep us hooked..."Not to mention that we are in negotiations for a building space to build and house our own sets. But that's a story for another day I suppose!" he revealed.

The "original" Starship Exeter was a landmark, if a little rough around the edges - so maybe this new take is the perfect sequel if somewhat distorting the timelines we might have come to know and love. Now this unconnected production is making a bold step backwards if you will, exploring a time rarely seen in fan productions if only due to a lot of standing sets being from the Kirk-era.

Maybe we've now come to a turning point where there are two levels of fan production? On the one hand we have those which truly are done on a microscopic budget with little more than love and a prayer while on the other there are those vying to be the next big thing that every Star Trek fan wants to see and hold dear. Exeter Trek seems to fall more comfortably in the latter even though it is using one of the highest quality standing bridge sets in the US. However, although we might not appear to be highly confident now, in another two or three years who is to say that this won't be as big and as popular as Star Trek Continues?

John and the team are placing a unique spin on the fan series by placing it in the Pike-era which will make it stand out in the landscape of fan films which have traditionally walked the Kirk line. I am especially intrigued as to how they will have "de-aged" the sets to take them back to the look and feel of The Cage. I certainly look forward to hearing more from Exeter Trek as they develop their work.

Are you a fan of Starship Exeter and lament it's short appearance in fandom? What would you want from another Exeter installment if it was to happen? Does Exeter Trek raise an eyebrow? Drop us a line below!

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Images from Exeter Trek courtesy of John Sim

Friday, 17 April 2015

The John Doe Starship and the Intergalactic Binmen: The Official Starships Collection Issues 44 and 45

Has it really been four weeks since the Pasteur and Species 8472 bioship?

I only clicked yesterday and had to do a quick tally on the calendar but I reckon the arrival of the fourth special knocked my internal chronometer out of alignment.

So yes...another great Enterprise starship -  and only the second Starfleet vessel from the show believe it or not - the Intrepid kicks off April's entries. 

Making two episode appearances the Intrepid is a much more compact entry into Starfleet's ranks, acting more as a defensive craft rather than an exploratory vessel like it's warp five peer. This model is very, very plain but with good reason as I discovered and it does have a more cumbersome feel than the NX Class.

As always the primary hull is the more weighty piece here with the lower section in metal only. There is some dark window detail picked out across the surface which lifts the surface of the ship from being fairly non-descript. The aztec paint scheme does make its way right across every inch of the hull, nacelles and connecting section In contrast to the Enterprise it's also white rather than silver adding that note of distinction between the two which is probably more about making sure we, the viewers, could tell them apart on the small screen. 

The Intrepid is a little bendy in places and getting her out of the box was a careful operation - work from the front rather than trying to pry her out by the nacelles as there is some flexing in everything to the rear of the half-saucer primary hull. The shape is lovely and certainly holds firm as a precursor to the warp five craft but this model, perhaps because it was intended purely as a background starship, is very blocky in it's detail with a gold deflector, bridge dome and warp nacelle end caps with no blue sections to enhance the sides of those nacelles. That deflector isn't very accurate either, being more a slab of colour than screen accurate although scale and safety might be a factor here.

The bussard collectors do stand out against the rest of the ship in their crimson-red transparentness reminiscent of the USS Enterprise in The Original Series and, of course, the NX-01. Decal-wise there seems to be even less with a total of four - two around the sensor palettes at the edge of the primary hull and two on the underside of the nacelles.

Yet despite the very plain nature of the Intrepid, which meant it could be copied and pasted into scenes multiple times without fear that the registry would be spotted as the same ship, it's a beautifully crafted vessel with lots of recessed hull detail to the rear (which could have been a little more well-crafted) as well as a full covering of plating lines which, again, help to break up the plain paintwork. 

Stand positioning gets a nice tick here with the clip fitting to the nacelles and connecting section giving that more satisfying "flying" look.

For an Enterprise entry though, the Intrepid does seem to be very understated, Usually the series' entries are all bells and whistles with every intricate detail filled in to CGI-realised perfection and here the ship seems to go, quite interestingly, against type. Compare it to the complexities of the Romulan Drone or even the NX-01 and you're likely to agree.

The magazine covers the Intrepid's two series appearances in The Expanse and the show highlight, Twlight which saw it take an engine-breaking beating from the Xindi. Sadly there aren't a lot of photos of the ship from the show included in the magazine so we do get some fuzzy shots of the Enterprise alongside the computer created images for the production.

There's also some focus on the "Warp Delta" style ships from the title sequence and that were seen alongside the Intrepid in the series which means we will/won't be seeing a model of these in the future?

Designing the ship explores the discarded ideas and how Rob Bonchune tried to leash the concept firmly in the 22nd Century rather than the 23rd or 24th where some of the first drawings might have taken it. Unusually for the magazine series we get a close-up on a member of the show production team in the form of four pages dedicated to Bonchune who has already graced the collection through his work on the Nebula Class CGI model which he attempted to scratch-build for Voyager.

This is perhaps the stronger section here, understanding how Bonchune made his way through the ranks through knowledge, experience and a touch of luck to land his dream job and create ships and effects for Star Trek.

Going from the pristine curves of the Intrepid we jump a couple of Star Trek centuries and land heavily in the Delta Quadrant with the grimy, pollution-soaked Malon Export Vessel first seen in Voyager's fifth season.

At first the impression it gives is similar to that of the Intrepid in that it looks pretty bland as just a big stick but there's definitely more to this one than you might think. Looking particularly bulky and cumbersome, the export vessel doesn't scream spaceship at you being more function than form. 

Designed by Rick Sternbach, the Malon vessel is actually very impressive particularly around the waste containers and the cabling which wraps around them. 

For note this is the smaller of the Malon vessels seen in Voyager -  from the episode Night - while a larger version was seen later in the same season,  Juggernaut but the overall structure is very much the same. 

Rendered in a grim brown which adds to the pollution-soaked, unclean image of the Malon, the export vessel upper hull also carries the small exhaust towers and plating detail. To the rear there's the propulsion section which seems to have been a little sloppily painted.  It's also how the ship is attached to its stand with a clever little plastic sleeve/stand holding it at the back end. A clever way of displaying her but it might put a lot of stress on the engines over time given the weight of the rest of the ship hanging out in nowhere.  

However, it's the structure and detail of the waste containers that is the best bit here thanks to those unusual curves and the way they sit under the metal ship body. What does give me a bit of a head-scratching moment is that the pictures/CGI images in the magazine seem to give the ship a lot more shades of colour - albeit shades of grey as well as brown - they do make a better impression on the model but in "reality" it does look like it got a slap-on coat of brown all over.

Yes it's about the detail but also the way in which Eaglemoss have put the ship together. It can't have been a simple design process on this one but the result is certainly one of the best.  I'd go as far to say this is one of those months where the Enterprise release isn't the stronger of the pair and is definitely the less interesting of the two.

The magazine for issue 45 treads the familiar episodic details path for the introduction, covering the standard foray of details picked out from the ship's onscreen appearance plus a few titbits from the second Malon episode, Juggernaut.  The plan views are nicely presented but do re-affirm that the model which was used for reference didn't have quite as much detail as you might have expected which means that the recreation on the page does look a fair amount better than the model provided.

Time seemed to be the biggest enemy in the design of the Malon export vessel from Rick Sternbach but ultimately it came good with the final craft taking at least some of its inspiration from the 1950's trains of the USA. Certainly function takes priority over form here including one feature that Sternbach didn't purposefully add in but was suggested by fans. In some ways I'm surprised that we've had this before a Vidiian, Hirogen or even a Kazon ship considering their greater impact and larger number of appearances in Voyager - it'll be issue 51 when we get a Hirogen ship by the way.

The season five overview included here is pretty brief but manages to hit the key episodes (on the whole) in the year where Brannon Braga took over as exec producer from co-creator, Jeri Taylor. It is, as explained, a much darker season; a much stronger season in my opinion which steered away from the Seven of Nine focus that saturated a good deal of the fourth season but still gave us a great deal of Borg action as well as the memorable 100th installment, Timeless.

This variation on features through the two magazines does allow us to get a bigger picture on the Star Trek universe but it does stray from the headline title of a Starships Collection. I realise the magazines aren't the main reason we're collecting this series but on occasion I still find myself a little disappointed that the accompanying literature isn't as exhaustive on the craft and its associated race perhaps as I might have desired.

That said, this month has given us two very good quality entries but they are going to be easily eclipsed by issues 46 and 47 which feature the classic Enterprise-C and the Negh'Var, two of my favourite ship designs from the last 50 years. Also this month we've had the announcement of issues 61 through to 65 featuring the Norway Class from First Contact, the Voth ship of Professor Gegen from the Voyager episode, Distant Origin, the Antares from the remastered Charlie X, Zefram Cochrane's Phoenix and the Xindi Aquatic Ship. Quite a varied selection and I'd never have come up with Gegen's ship as an option even at a much later point - definitely a series curve-ball if ever there was one. Also, does the Antares count since it was only in the remastered version?

Just something to mull over!

Were you impressed with this month's starships from Eaglemoss? Drop your thoughts below! Don't forget you can still subscribe to the Starships Collection by clicking through the link in our left sidebar.

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