Monday, 31 August 2015

This Place Where I Belong: Deep Space Nine: Season Five

How much do I love season five of Deep Space Nine?

It has everything going for it - battles, treachery, death, big character developments, the Dominion and, most importantly, Martok.

Yes, I'm a fan of the most Klingon of Klingons to the point where I would have trouble deciding if he or Sisko is my favourite Deep Space Nine character ahead of Weyoun and Garak; First COntact Day can't come soon enough so I can meet the man behind the prosthetics himself, JG Hertzler.

Anyway, where did I finish - yes, that's it, Broken Link. Wow. Big finish there huh? I remember sitting with my dad when the revelation over Gowron spilt from Odo's lips about what he'd experienced in the Great Link and spending days trying to work out what it would all mean - was Gowron dead? If so for how long? What had happened? How were they going to stop the Klingons and reveal him as a Changeling???

No fear because the veritable Powers would unleash Apocalypse Rising on us for the season opener and for my dad seeing a ton of Klingons punching seven shades out of each other as well as Sisko, O'Brien and Odo made up with full foreheads was worth the price of admission alone. It's not as explosive as The Way of the Warrior and you do get a softer start in the storytelling as the crew go undercover to expose the Changeling infiltrator plus provide us with further insight into the wonders of Klingon Kulture. Playing the long game overnight does make this episode feel a lot longer than it is with all the serious action happening in the last five minutes but this is a slow, steady buildup as everything gets put in place. Shame of the story is that while we get the reveal and it's a cunning little twist that will come back later in the year, the show is upstaged by the fantastic episode that follows it; The Ship.

Simple in execution, the 100th Deep Space Nine episode gets shockingly overlooked against Redemption and Timeless as I discussed in our 100th post yet it perhaps has a stronger twist than Apocalypse Rising manages. Claustrophobic, tense, tinged with the sadness of losing a comrade and topped with Dominion sliminess it's a top story, well-written that, again, has echoes that will reverberate further down the line.

I can't say that for the subsequent Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places. A Klingon episode that falls flat nay stumbles first and then falls flat. Attempting a sequel to season three's nicely played The House of Quark was never going to be easy and while adding Worf into the mix might make it a tempting offering I didn't connect in the '90's or now. Average season fodder that doesn't really affect anything else around it. I suppose the same could be directed at Nor the Battle to the Strong as it does tie back into the Klingon war arc which is coming to a close following Apocalypse Rising but it's more than just a military story. 

What my re-watch has made me realise is how much development went into Jake Sisko once Cirroc Lofton matured. The Muse isn't mind-blowing but it pushed the character onwards after the legendary The Visitor and here we get to peel back another layer and expose his fears and find out just how much he isn't nor will ever be Starfleet material. I admire the writers for their line on making Jake terrified of the ugliness of war and highlighting his cowardice because it makes him more human. This story really made me appreciate Lofton and the contributions he made to the show. Allowing him stories like this was a master stroke and Wesley never got anything this good to work with on The Next Generation.

The Assignment however leaves me fairly cold. It's not risen in my expectations over the years and even with the introduction of the Pah-Wraiths it's not the most endearing hour of my watching time. I like Keiko and Miles but Rosalind Chao doesn't make for electrifying viewing even when coupled up with Meaney. Luckily the arc that flushes out of this into the sixth and seventh seasons bore better material which would ultimately end up in What You Leave Behind. I do sense that this was a filler episode at the time with the Pah-Wraiths as a nice idea but with no vision to take it any further.

Happily though it gets the season to Trials and Tribble-ations marking 30 years of Star Trek. Worryingly it's now 48 years of age which makes this episode 18 years old in its own right.  It's utter indulgence from start to finish and a solid, very clever, episode. In fact on this rewatch it was one of the few that light up the start of this season. Truth be told season five has a very average kick off aside from The Ship and the 30th anniversary story with Let He Who is Without Sin next up and the Necessary Evil semi-sequel, Things Past dropping next. The former makes me want to curl up and hide and even worse is that I don't think I minded about it that much back in 1996. Now I do and I found it slightly uncomfortable to watch if a little sexist and very dated. Things Past is a firmly-based Odo story again looking back to his days under Cardassian management in near-monotone effect. The vehicle to send them back is ok but the way in which the story unfolds as opposed to the narrative flashback of Necessary Evil isn't as effective.

The Ascent too keeps Odo in the frame but this time alongside Quark and marks a route into much more character-centric episodes than the ensemble affairs that opened the '96-'97 series. I never rated this one but with some degree of middle-aged maturity I can see that it's a platform for Auberjonois and Shimerman to play out the sparks of their bromance with the benefits of some rare location filming (I say rare but this is the third location-based ep this season after The Ship and Let He Who is Without Sin). This pairing is always watchable and with an average script and story they still pull out a great and watchable show.

Rapture welcomed the new First Contact greys and blacks with Sisko not getting to grips with combadge placement until Darkness and the Light. I know this isn't a big hit with a lot of people as it returns us to Bajoran society (second time this year) and the role of the Emissary. I really enjoy this one. I've watched it a few times over the years and I think the whole archaeological aspect appeals to me. Kasidy's return after her incarceration in season four's For the Cause is underplayed against Sisko's monolithic obsession. I also becaome more aware this time around of how all these Bajoran storylines are starting to link together and become as prophetic as we may have been promised as far back as Emissary and the set up of season one. The real killer moment is Sisko's resolute determination to stop Bajor from entering the Federation. For the first time there is a real sense that the conflict we have had suggested since The Jem'Hadar, the season two finale, is just around the corner.

Indeed that realisation is half-played out in the season's brilliant, near-perfect two-part entry which is only a hop and a skip away in the season - By Purgatory's Shadow and By Inferno's Light. As a split story and a 90 minute movie it's spot on every step playing every key secondary figure from Weyoun, Dukat, Garak, Gowron and Martok onto the board and showing that they are just as important as the main cast. Setting up an apparent invasion that then turns out to be the invasion of Cardassia is a shock to most but even when I knew the plan it didn't detract from the setup, the second-guessing and the preparation for what could be coming through the wormhole. For character development it's one of the best ever action-orientated episodes to do so, adding more layers to Worf and claustrophobic Garak as well as, later, Martok. What's not to love. 

It also feels that this is a staggered storyline opened in Apocalypse Rising with the restoration of the Khitomer Accords by Gowron through this double and then leaping straight into one of my all-time favourites and the best season-closer ever, A Call to Arms - but more on that one in a bit.

That Dominion storyline still isn't that evident. Everyone talks about it; a lot but when it comes down to it there's not a lot seen on screen save for key points in the season. That doesn't make it a bad year in any way though. The arcs are well-paced and later two-thirds of season five are magnificent. Even the Ferengi episodes aren't that bad this year. 

Kenneth Marshall's return in For the Uniform is Eddington's finest moment as he toys with Sisko in a way not too dissimilar to a certain Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II using historical literature as his beating stick. Once more it's the more emotional Sisko that makes this so watchable and I've lost count how many times I've sat through this one. In my mind I can never be sure how much of this was Brooks acting and how much of it was him genuinely being seriously p***ed off with the punchbag. There is the two-episode holographic communicator and one of our few chances to see the refit Excelsior Class which also add to a great episode. Probably not on everyone's chart but for me it's one of Deep Space Nine's most intense episodes ever. I recall talking about this one for weeks after I saw it for the first time. Blaze of Glory which turns up in the last handful of the season's episodes nicely ties up the Eddington arc but I felt then as I do now that it could have been so much more. It is very much a one-on-one but the spark that we saw in For the Uniform doesn't leap from the screen and while I enjoyed it I feel Eddington deserved a stronger sendoff even if here he does go out as a hero.

Thinking that I've forgotten to mention the Kira-heavy The Darkness and the Light and The Begotten off this? Sorry - for a second I did. The Darkness and the Light is a return to the Shakaar resistance cell we finally met in season three but their gradual demise through the episode didn't concern me. Kira's capture was well realised and the imminent danger to her unborn child at the hands of a slightly deranged Cardassian is chilling to the core if somewhat wrapped up more quickly than I can sneeze. Her tormentor remains hidden for a great deal of the time, playing in the words of the episode title although exactly which one is in which category is the true debate here. Again, I find that years on the more cerebral episodes, the ones with a lot more base in character carry much more weight for me and The Darkness and the Light is certainly one of those.

The Begotten brought Odo's penalty of being a solid to an equally speedy conclusion and if that kind of sentence for murder was in place in the real world we'd all be dead by now. Watching Rene Auberjonois play with a jar of semi-solid goo isn't what I signed up for and the fact I could remember bare seconds of this episode this time around makes me believe I didn't care for it when it was originally aired. James Sloyan is good as Mora Pol but even he can't pull this one out of the "Average" bin.

I was holding back mentioning them to go alongside A Simple InvestigationBusiness as Usual and Ferengi Love Songs. Now I seem to remember season five being way better than it was on this revisit as sporadically throughout the year there are some slow-burners I'd forgotten and those five sit firmly in that category. The addition of Steven Berkoff did raise at least my interest for a few minutes but at this stage in the game any offhand episodes seem to badly detract from the main Dominion thread and seem a bit out of place. That's not to say I don't, 20-odd years on, appreciate the writing and the subtexts here but you do get the sense that there's a chunk of season padding to make the 26 episode quota. Imagine if they did make a new Star Trek show now and restricted it to the more popular 13 episode run?

Luckily the season spills out a gem dead centre with the two part In Purgatory's Shadow/By Inferno's Light. As with last year's The Way of the Warrior it's a game-changer and significantly impressive for it's Bashir twist as well as the return of Martok who would continue as a semi-regular for the remainder of the show's seasons. How I missed the huge significance of this two part story back in the '90's is beyond me. I suspect that having the wonders of foreknowledge of seasons six and seven helps a lot. This one sets up the Dominion/Cardassian alliance and ramps up the danger level, pre-empting the darkest season close in the whole history of Star Trek bar a certain Borg one from The Next Generation. Watching this one as a single movie is a nice experience and for once the pacing works across the full 88 minutes without a second-half slump which was a particular failing of Picard's Enterprise in later years. For once the second part might actually be my preference.

Season five keeps them coming with Robert Picardo guesting in the surprisingly clever and character redefining Doctor Bashir, I Presume. Alexander Siddig might not have liked the redirection but it does bring in the often-mentioned genetic enhancements a la Khan Noonien Singh in a more positive light and would lead the arrival of the "Jack Pack" in season six. Bashir's English parents might not be the best actors on the planet and that had been my one memory of the episode for years, even moreso than Doctor Zimmerman's letching over Leeta. It's a good piece for Picardo to stretch and become one of the few actors to don all three uniform shades during his tenure and play a slightly more flexible character than the Doctor on Voyager (barely) however it is all about Bashir and Siddig adds more to the role than ever. I would go as far to say he's the most developed character in the seven years of the show and to think how annoying he nearly was in Emissary.

Having already mentioned a few slow burners mid-season the year closed on an explosive run starting with Soldiers of the Empire. Now my dad was always one for the Klingon episodes and they could get bogged down with all that honour and chest-beating, totally avoiding any decent character evolution and plot but in this one, we tick all the key boxes and it has to be said it's down to the return of Martok who is perfect against Worf and is the regular counter that character has been needing since the midpoint of The Next Generation. It's easily become one of my favourite Klingon episodes that cemented Martok as one of my all-time Star Trek favourites. 

Recalling the VHS that this episode came on, it was a double-winner with the second ep being Children of Time. At the time it was a classic but since I think it gets hugely overshadowed by the more emotion-kicking The Visitor. Children of Time is one of my all-time favourites. Not for the Kira/Odo relationship reveal but more for the dilemma itself. We know they are going to survive but the how and the ultimate decision NOT to change the course of time are more Deep Space Nine curveballs. This isn't explosions, twists and turns but good, character-defining TV solidly performed. It does, at the end, slightly miss the edge that The Visitor found but I'd pick it to watch anyday.

Season Five also introduced us to another Nor Class space station. With a bit of a camera tilt we were on Empok Nor and being hunted by Cardassian sleeper soldiers and then by a rogue Garak. Good thing there's Nog or O'Brien around in that mass of not-seen-before security folk and engineers or it would have been a total bloodbath. Nice, edgy, dark stuff that means Andy Robinson got to chew the scenery and go full out evil/psycho on drugs. Also this episode raised the question as to why Deep Space Nine only rarely got to use the First Contact rifles while Voyager seemed to have a plentiful supply of them and also some nifty other pieces of weapon tech. We would return to the slanty station for season seven's religious cult episode Covenant.

Closing off the boxset were two Dominion episodes. The first being In the Cards with Jake hunting for the perfect gift for dad with the assistance of Nog. Wrapping in Weyoun, the bizarre Dr Giger and the Kai made for one heck of a weird setup but somehow it works and makes this a great, calming story with some comedic turns, which acts to mis-step us all into a false sense of security right before Call to Arms

This is how to do a season finale, easily on a par with The Best of Both Worlds and showing how you go down fighting until the bitter end - Voyager take note. Sisko truly flourished in season five and the speech he gives on the steps of the Bajoran temple before he beams away to the Defiant is one of the series best, emphasising his links to the station and just how far we've come since the reluctant Commander Sisko grumped his way though his first few days looking for a quick way out. The VHS cover in the UK was even different to emphasise the importance of the episode with Jem'Hadar and Cardassian ships attacking the station as, literally, everything changed. One of the best to finish the year, one of the best not-a-cliffhanger cliffhangers, one of the most infuriating fade-to-blacks of all time. Oh - and there's that magical moment where Dukat gets his hands on the baseball...we too know Sisko will be back. All round, every second of Call to Arms has something to love, another piece to add in and we really do get to understand what this station oand the Bajoran people have come to mean for the defeated Starfleet crew. Five out of five.

My favourite season of Deep Space Nine and by default, Star Trek, is a close toss up between five and six. Five packs a ton of character with the most intense build up in anything the franchise has ever done and ever would do. It started out with layers of suspicion and the potential that the Dominion may have infiltrated further than we thought and left with the very future of the series in balance. Twist in there some major character revelations, the introduction of two of the show's best recurring characters in Martok and Weyoun (proper) and magnificent standalone episodes and you know it's a winner. While we knew the station would be returned to Sisko, it was a very real case of just how long that would be. The best thing was that season six  was going to be just as strong. It could well be said this was the year that got it right from start to finish, solidly maintaining the back-story while managing, somehow to build the existing main cast and enhance the stories of several recurring characters. Season Five cemented without doubt that Deep Space Nine was the best of the franchise and like Sisko, there is no other place I would rather be. It's the place where my love of the series firmly belongs.

Was season five of Deep Space Nine the perfect year? Was there a more quintessential season of Star Trek?

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Full Trek Jacket

The latest photos from the set of Star Trek Beyond have raised just as much interest into Chris Pine's Kirk wardrobe as they have into the background of Sophie Boutella's pale-faced character.

The recent images have again come from what appears to be a crash-landed starship and has Pine, Boutella, Chekov actor Anton Yelchin and writer/Scotty actor Simon Pegg emerging from the wreckage.

Whether the Kingsman actress' character is a friend or foe has still to be revealed but here it does look as though she is assisting the Starfleet officers. Is she doing this willingly? Is Boutella some sort of mercenary as might be construed from the leather-effect attire? Maybe not but hey, this is only a photo from one moment of one day of shooting so we can conjecture as much as we want and still be miles away.

Talking of cast briefly, there was also the addition of Lydia Wilson announced last week. Known for About Time as well as Ripper Street and Misfits, she's joined in an as-yet unknown role. While it's great to see new faces as part of the franchise we do know that Joseph Gatt will not be returning as Science Officer 0718 (even though IMDB lists him on the cast). Apparently he was in it and then the role was cut out. 

So too it seems we won't be getting the return of Alice Eve as Carol Marcus unless she's showing up for a brief cameo or later in filming that we don't yet know about. Bit of a shame since there was a fairly big thing made of her joining the crew for the five year mission at the end of Into Darkness. Guess that also means that Lin will need to find someone else to undress to their pants this time round.

Anyone else also noticed that Pegg's Starfleet uniform seems subtlety different to the one he's worn in 2009 and Into Darkness? T|he collar shape has definitely altered and I cant make out if the uniform is still adorned with those tiny Starfleet deltas however that might just be down to distance. 

The collar is certainly thicker and more defined with the seams also adjusted. Is it me or is the shade of red somewhat, well, redder and shinier too? Take a look at this comparison shot from Into Darkness and judge for yourself but I certainly think there's been some changes. I personally felt that the previous version was a bit too casual and the neckline too low with black undershirts rather than collars as per The Original Series. Of course this might be some form of away mission shirt which will blow my theory right out of the water (apologies for image quality - had to be cropped).

Now going back to the start of all the Beyond hype kick-off, director Justin Lin tweeted that image of the Starfleet emblem. It now seems that the badge was attached to the jacket that Kirk is wearing in the scenes being filmed here. Starfleet jackets seem to have become a "thing" with the reboots as we had cadet jackets in the 2009 movie, the more formal dress greys complete with caps (very military) in Into Darkness and now these blue options worn by Kirk and Chekov. They may well be away team attire (why isn't Scotty wearing the same?!) or they could be a formal variant but again, conjecture conjecture conjecture.

I like the look of it but it would have been cool if this was a captain's variant perhaps just for Kirk akin to his season one and two wraparounds from The Original Series or perhaps more in line with the super-cool Picard leather and suede combo from The Next Generation designed by Robert Blackman. That was hands down my favourite but given the cost from Anovos I doubt I'll ever get to own it!

Sisko obviously wasn't important enough to get his own version and had to do with a two piece version of the First Contact grey/black which could open up jacket-stylee. However, he did get to rock the captain's waistcoat with full threatening potential on more than one occasion. Janeway didn't get anything sadly aside from the odd Die Hard vest moment (Macrocosm) and Archer's bomber jacket very rarely made an outing as the NX-01 crew were firmly restricted to their combat flight-suit uniforms. 

If we go back to basics though fans will recall that an away team uniform -  nay jacket -  has been there since the very beginning. Right back in The Cage,  Pike's crew are kitted out in some very plain and simple grey jackets designed by the legendary Bill Theiss.  So simple that there's no ship emblem or anything to distinguish the Enterprise officers. The concept was never carried forward to The Original Series and it remains one of those lovely lost bits of Star Trek which it seems has now oddly come full circle! 

Looking back to the previous two movies as well it is apparent that the away team gear has been redesigned for a third time (if you count the atmosphere suits in 2009) abandoning the skin-tight jumpsuits that were seen in the opening sequence of Into Darkness in favour of something a little more flattering for the cast. I can't imagine they were all too thrilled with their websuits.

The new blues, which also feature gold shoulder detailing and that previously seen Starfleet patch on the arm. They do appear more hard-wearing Starfleet issue especially when combined with the boots we can see Pine and Yelchin wearing here. I suspect that given the near-release of the Costumes book from Titan these won't be featured (grumpy face). What I think I can say is that the piping on the shoulder does reflect division since both are gold. Think I'm right? It also suggests Chekov will be sticking with the command division and not being pedalled off into Engineering to don a redshirt.

Certainly we're looking at some part of a major action sequence here but exactly what just can't be guessed. Interesting to see, certainly but we've been disappointed before - need I remind us all of the great sneak pics from Into Darkness and how that turned out in the end. This pic does also give us a chance to see the movie's phaser design (seems unchanged) and also the communicator hanging from Yelchin's clip belt. The other item might be a communicator but we haven't had a good enough angle to confirm.

The full set of pictures can be seen via ScreenCrush. Some have been reproduced here as part of this article.

What are your thoughts on these new pics? What do you think it suggests about Star Trek Beyond?

Carry on the conversation now...
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Saturday, 22 August 2015

Getting Better All the Time: FCD Countdown!

There's still a whopping eight months left until First Contact day 2016 but that's not stopping Wil Ross and David Limburg from delaying their plans for the event.

As their media followers will know the line-up is already pretty much confirmed (and note the use of the phrase "pretty much" there). Garrett Wang, aka Harry Kim from Voyager is back and this time acting as MC. Authors Una McCormack and James Swallow and Babylon 5's Claudia Christian will also be returning but this year they will be joined by even more Star Trek luminaries.

Deep Space Nine's Nana Visitor will be crossing the waters from the US as will Klingon legends Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) and J G Hertzler (Martok) who I can't wait to see. Patricia Tallman, well known for her stunt work on Star Trek as well as her starring role in Babylon 5 as Lyta Alexander is another set to meet fans at First Contact Day in April next year.

Bringing a touch of the independent films to the event will be John Carrigan who is soon to be seen in Star Trek Renegades and rounding out the group is Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch also now associated with the Axanar production as Klingon General Kharn. Star Trek afficionados will also be keen to meet and chat to Doug Drexler and Trekspert Larry Nemecek (who I'll be talking to HERE soon!)

"It's a massive leap," said David in comparison to the 2015 First Contact Day line-up. "The reason we've been able to do it is a massive amount of hard work and direct talking on the level with these people, explaining the situation, telling them what we're all about and letting them know what our goals and objectives are. We're not claiming to be anything like the larger events and these people aren't necessarily bothered about that. They want to know it's going to be a good event where everyone has a good time. We've been straight-talking. 

"The interest and love for our event and the people is amazing," continued David; "The amount of positive comments we're getting through our postings or on direct messages you would think that we were celebrities the way people are talking to us and are appreciative of what we're doing. We're just being honest and on the level with everyone."

Personally I think they're underplaying just how much work has gone into the 2016 event already with two thirds of a year still to go before the doors open. 

"In relation to the guests we've got we're showing what can be done." explaining Wil, "With some creative thinking and balls of steel and we're trying to be completely different to the larger events. Our overheads are larger than 2015 but if we do things right then I don't see that being a problem. It's going to be tough and there's a lot of hard work to come. I think we're about DefCon Three now but come November/December there will be little time for anything and FCD Events will become a full-time job for David and I because there's going to be so so much that needs to be done."

Wil noted that in the past they might have been able to get away with certain things since they were effectively amateurs but with the calibre of guest lined up there will be certain expectations. They'll need to be on their A-Game as even now First Contact Day is under close scrutiny on how it is portraying itself and how it is perceived across the wide expanse of media available.

"It's a risk for them as well," said Wil referring to the stellar guest list, "because they have helped us hugely and without their support and friendships this would not be happening in the way it is happening. It's a big risk but a good risk."

Some of the guests have been cost-shared with an event running in Scarborough the week after First Contact Day and it's also been about making sure it's financially viable for those attending to be out of the US for up to two weeks - that's effectively two weeks work they'll be sacrificing to be in the UK.

Still to announce there's at least one female, UK-based guest who will be bringing something different to Telford's International Centre - "It'll be complete fun!" commented David, "Without doubt!". Stay tuned because there are sure to be a ton of announcements between now and April.

So what else can we expect from the event? What's already being set in motion? For those who attended 2015, you will remember the world record attempt at the number of Star Trek redshirts in one place at one time. That record is likely to be attempted for a second time but perhaps the more interesting fact is that the event itself may actually set a world record. "We're playing around on a few ideas how we can make a sea of red!" said Wil.

"To our knowledge the last solely fan-funded event took place shortly after The Wrath of Khan was released and it had about 2,500 people but it wasn't actually a record." he explained, "San Diego Comic-Con is non-profit and without a doubt it's the biggest event so we have to be careful how we bill it."

"There will certainly be talks," continued Wil, "and our social media partners are heavily involved with this. More on that another time!"

Talking of media partners, attendees will be able to come and have a chat to myself along with the team from Visionary Trek, The Engage Podcast, Geek Apocalypse and online networking site Risa.

There will also be a mock-up of the Enterprise-D bridge thanks to the Riker's Beard team and master builder Kevin Chapman who is currently working on the tactical station. It means they'll be able to do some bridge shots plus you'll be able to try out the Klingon throne and The Original Series command chair that I managed to slip into this year.

"No doubt as we get closer and closer and people see what we're doing they will offer stuff. It's usually the way and it happened a lot with 2015 and we had to say no due to space."

Dealers will be better linked in with the main stage and guests this year as they will be in the same room. Some of the dealers who will be coming back have been working with the team back to when it was even called Dawn of the Federation.

Wil isn't just thinking about what's going on inside the event either and has been contacting hotels around the area to see if there are any deals which can be done considering the amount of people that could be attending the event. To give you some idea, that could be around 5000 people if every ticket sells. "We want the people of Telford to be involved;" said Wil, "local businesses, schools, community groups. When the new term starts we're going to contact schools in the area to see if they want to be involved, do some artwork, design posters and we'll select winners. We have some really crazy plans about how to start the event on the Saturday. There's a lot in our brains and on our chalk boards!"

"The other big thing we have is the acting workshop from Richard Hatch," noted David, "and we might have something else on writing and talking. I've seen Richard do his workshop before and it's always packed."

And the next big target? If you've been casting your eye over Twitter then you'll know Wil has been dropping a couple of hints in the direction of a certain William Shatner. "Let's get him over here!" enthused David. 

"We looked at other cast from The Original Series," said Wil, "but due to commitments it would be down to seeing if we could get Bill but at the moment we've not had anything back."

Seth MacFarlane even tweeted about FCD and how cool it would be for him to be there considering he was only in Enterprise for all of 30 seconds. Actually Seth has big links into the Star Trek family with numerous references to the franchise and that brilliant episode with the whole cast of The Next Generation

In the near future there will be a a crowd-funding programme coming into play to help pay for JG Hertzler's band and also there will be a lot linked in with the Mick Holt Fund which is FCD's own charity. In line with that there will also be raffles and auctions to raise money throughout the weekend.

So there's a lot happening and in a very short time since the last FCD took place. Thanks again to Wil and David for their time to bring us up to date on their progress with the event. I know we'll be back for more news shortly!

You can buy tickets, find out more info and join the discussion via the First Contact Day event page on Facebook. What are you looking forward to? Which talk? Which guest? Let's hear about it!

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Monday, 17 August 2015

WizKids Proposes New Frontier

As regular readers will know I've become a bit of a fan/obsessive over Attack Wing.

Which made Friday's announcement from Wizkids somewhat worrying. At least initially.

It appears that in February 2016 the game manufacturer will be delivering us Star Trek: Frontiers, offering a whole new spin on the franchise through roleplay and strategy. According to the promo material that landed this weekend, it will offer something new with players beaming away teams to planet surfaces and getting a different game each time.

Apparently it's going to be a bit of a spin on Mage Knight which is not a game I'm familiar with in any way so for myself it'll be a great, unexplored experience to dive into. I suspect for those people who have played that game it's not going to be a big deal. The Venture Tile System is the piece which will probably be key in making this stand out from Attack Wing and is the element borrowed from Mage Knight. This means that every game is constructed effectively at random and therefore totally unique. 

Designed by Andrew Parks (who I believe was involved with the creation of Attack Wing) and Vlaada Chvatil (Mage Knight) it seems that the game will be played out over a series of scenarios with commanders planning out away teams to further their reputations, gain experience and make fascinating new discoveries out on the final frontier. 

Fortunately for those players who can't get a regular competitor to face off against the game is designed for between one and four players. Certainly a little more limiting than Attack Wing but more inclusive for anyone who wants a bit of secret practise!

Mage Knight - which is about to receive a major expansion - has been a winner for Wizkids so it's understandable that they would use its formula to create other games. In fact I think that the Venture Tile System is a really exciting prospect - just a few bits worry me if I'm honest. What also raised the Vulcan eyebrow was the backstory that players will be forming a Federation/Klingon fleet as they head through a wormhole and into battle against Romulans, Borg and whatever else WizKids choose to throw in.

For those of us that have invested in Attack Wing it seemed that January's wave could well be the last. It's probably not a co-incidence that we knew all the releases right up to the month when Frontiers will be released and nothing else. Fortunately this weekend I uncovered the news that releases are planned for at least February and March 2016 giving us waves 23 and 24. These two will give us the Sabre Class USS Montgolfier, the K'T'Inga Class IKS Amar and IRW Jazkal Bird-of-Prey followed by the USS Raven, IKS Klothos and the Warbird IRW Davoras (info via Ikon Collectibles).

All of these models have been previously available in other wings or as OP prizes over the last two years. It will be the first time that the Sabre Class and the Raven are available as retail expansions. It does appear that these later wings are recycling models with the new time token rules and we're seeing less first run ships. Not a problem really unless you're starting to develop a complex that D'Deridex Warbirds are haunting you as there have been about five variants of this one now since the starter set. At least with the announcement of these two waves, Wizkids have assured us that the two games can co-exist - at least for two months.

Have to say I'm excited by the Sabre Class, the Raven and also the Amar which will have some cool associations with The Motion Picture I suspect. The Raven is reported down as an Assimilated Vessel which indicates Federation/Borg upgrades perhaps? I have no idea what the Montgolfier will be coming with although duplications of cards from OP prizes are showing up a lot more which might suggest the well is drying up. While those competitive players won't be too thrilled, the more casual acquaintance with Attack Wing will be happy they haven'y got to spend a fortune on eBay for that elusive and essential upgrade if they do head into that territory.

Not knowing much about Mage Knight I have this strange feeling we're going to be seeing some of the miniatures from Attack Wing all over again in this new game. From images I've seen it'll also feature a lot of cards very similar to the current headline Star Trek tabletop game but how all this will pan out and be a change from Attack Wing we have yet to see as this is pretty much all we know about the next game. Could we also be seeing mini-versions of our favourite captains, first officers and engineers? Certainly the initial layout for the game seems high weighing in at $79.99 (£51.13 at current exchange rate) so there needs to be a fairly impressive launch pack to justify the cost which is double the outlay for the starter set for Attack Wing and I would surmise that additional miniatures and board pieces would be reason enough.

I have become a big fan of Attack Wing and do kick myself for coming to it later in it's life and with the announcement of Frontiers it seems like it will all be over. The forums have shown that there has been a lot to learn from WizKids current Star Trek title particularly in more appropriate costs for upgrades dependent on what they do as well as how to handle the Borg correctly among many other things. I hope that these have all been taken into account to make their next a big success.

Then again I could have this all wrong and be making a mountain out of a molehill. Frontiers is going to be more board-based than Attack Wing so the two could co-exist since the latter operates on the FlightPath system and can be played anywhere you have a large enough area. Frontiers will need specific items setting up as you can see from the image and seems a lot more "land" based which could mean we're not going to be doing a lot of space battles here. Maybe there's hope after all.

Perhaps more interesting to see is how Frontiers will fare against the Gale Force Nine hobby-themed Star Trek board game(s) that are planned to arrive in Summer 2016 and are promising (as told to that it will give "...a compelling gaming system that will explore all corners of the universe and bring gamers and fans alike into the world of Star Trek like nothing that’s come before."

You can sign up for updates on the Gale Force Nine titles here.

Have to say that from the gamers perspective, 2016 is looking to be very lively and the competition will be fierce. Frontiers does have the advantage of time being released in February but playability will be the ultimate factor deciding the fate of each - which one will we still be playing come New Year's Day 2017...?

Think that Attack Wing will survive a bit longer or are its days numbered? Will you be playing Frontiers? Let us know below!

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Spock and Beyond

Simple title this time but one which more than adequately covers off what we're covering.

While the third movie is definitely filming and I have some bits on that here, what is interesting me more at the moment is William Shatner's LLAP campaign gathered alarming pace via the portals of social media.

Shatner asked for fans to selfie themselves doing the Vulcan hand gesture and sending it across to (I never do selfies but I moved out of the comfort zone for this one and I'm assuming I'm in there somewhere). It seemed that the end result was up frighteningly quickly after the first request went out but the tribute image is stunning as have probably already seen and can see one more time above. 

Shatner took quite a verbal beating for not attending his long-time screen companion and friend's funeral and with this tribute the Captain Kirk actor has in some way rebuilt bridges with the fans, bringing the worldwide community together to create this memorable mosaic which will exist forever more.

It sounds like a nice way for fans to honour the man who was Spock and coming soon after the great news that Adam Nimoy has been fully funded for the documentary on his father it shows that Leonard's memory is still very much with the whole of the Star Trek fandom and will be for a long, long time to come. I was unable to help with the funding of the project due to other more immediate matters but I fully intend to follow and promote Adam's work as he brings all the parts together.

Loosely hanging off that Spock theme, Star Trek Beyond is starting to leak out a few images and bits of info here and there. Alongside Brit Idris Elba we have now had confirmation that Joe Taslim, known for The Raid and Fast and Furious 6 is joining the cast as well as Kingsman assassin Sofia Boutella. Certainly the third reboot movie is drawing in big names which does suggest the franchise is seeing something of a revival and maybe is inspiring a younger generation of actors. We can hope I suppose but if you were offered a massive paycheck to do Barney: The Movie you'd probably take it if it put food on the table. As a list of names, only Elba really clicked with me (showing age) due to his appearances on UK TV and in Thor. The others I wait to see and I'm planning to catch Kingsman soon so I might have a better opinion on Boutella shortly. 

We've also had four Omaze vids now featuring all combinations of the Beyond cast and the latest even pulled in director Justin Lin to nearly blow Ryan Cummins from Omaze to bits. The first of these featured an alien head and some cool Star Trek gadgets including the iconic flip communictor and other trinkets which will probably make a lot more sense in 12 months time (just under 330 days if you're counting).

The latest couple of minutes from Omaze returns Chris Pine and newcomer Idris Elba to the bleach-level-whitened bridge (Klingon or not to Klingon?) as they vie for the centre seat and generally muck around to promote their charities which are part of the competition. Remember, there's still time to visit the site and get involved and you could be in the new movie and see lots of really cool stuff most of us will have to wait until 2016 to see. If you spin by the Omaze website you can donate to receive a perk and stand a chance of getting one of the remaining walk-on roles. 

More precisely you have just 19 days left to donate anything from $10 for a digital campaign badge right up to $50,000 for an exclusive pre-screening of Star Trek Beyond. The more you donate, the more exclusive the perk itself and also the number of entries you receive into the draw to visit the movie sets in Vancouver. Being in the UK I'm stepping away from this one but it seems a good way of getting funds for the array of charities the cast are supporting and involving fans in the 50th anniversary event.

Talking of Lin - and not being as lame as the last link, the brilliant TrekCore shared a few on-set blurred, long distance shots which will pique fans interest. Nothing to over-analyse just yet but we have seen some odd wigs, tech and an alien headpiece so far as well as evidence that Lin has been on set. From what I've seen there does appear to be something akin to a ship hull taking formation along with the now compulsory green-screens. More will be forthcoming at a snail's pace I suspect but there's nothing better for column inches than rife speculation, fuzzy pictures and spurious rumour. I'm remaining positive and will likely be hitting the cinema at midnight as I did with Into Darkness in order to have my hopes and dreams smashed into tiny fragments one more time. Sucker for punishment? Yep.

The best pic I've seen so far is what might be the remnants of a crashed starship that I came across on TrekCore. Hopefully not some kind of massive super starship/craft controlled by some Big Evil Meglomaniac...I mean, not like that was the conclusion of the last two movies or anything...

Seen anything interesting to do with Star Trek Beyond? Any of this retaining your interest or are you not that fussed about the third installment of the reboot?

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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Visual Logs

Just popped by for a quick chat!

As some of you may know, I recently decided to head into the land of YouTube after a significant absence and have started to drop a few shorter reviews onto the much-neglected Some Kind of Star Trek channel.

At the moment there are a fleeting handful of reviews available including some from the good old days when we started (time flies...). In the last few weeks however we've added a couple of visual reviews of the latest Starships Collection arrivals as well as the Wave 15 and 16 Attack Wing expansions.

All I can ask is that, if you use YouTube, please pop by, have a watch, pass your opinion with the thumbs and subscribe to the channel - share it out along with this site if you can. The more people I see using it, the more I'll review. On that note as well, please let me know if there is anything you would like to see on the channel, perhaps send in a question for a Q&A session, whatever you like (within reason and the restraints of UK law please).

I'll try and dig out something more unusual for the next YouTube vid which should be up in the next week or so. Potentially on some bits I have from the 90's but there's not a lot since some of it was lost in a move about eight years ago.

Thanks again and also a big thank you to all those people who have chosen to follow Some Kind of Star Trek across our multiple social media platforms plus a huge level of respect and appreciation to the fan series, producers, merchandise creators, gamers, writers, friends, podcasts, vlogs, sites and anyone else who I've been in contact with. As long as you all want this I'll keep doing it.

Got a suggestion or an idea for a vlog post? How would you like to see them done? Let me know!