Sunday, 31 January 2016

Third Time's a Charm: The Other Starship

This weekend saw some new and very exciting concept art hit the internet.

Coming in the form of designs for the USS Franklin,  we now know there will be another Starfleet vessel making an appearance in Beyond along with the USS Enterprise. The poster above is being sent to those fans who donated to the Omaze charity fundraiser that ran alongside the making of the movie last year.

I first caught sight of this new design on Trekcore where they suggested a number of points surrounding the ship; that it will be seen early on in the movie following the destruction of the Enterprise and that we've also seen a fair bit of the Franklin in the first trailer. In fact Spock is wearing a Franklin jacket!

So this could make the Franklin the base of operations for the remaining crew who escaped and could well be the ship we've seen Sophia Boutella and Chris Pine climbing out of in behind the scenes stills. Of course they could be climbing out of the wrecked Enterprise saucer but this is all conjecture until later this year.

The arrival of the Franklin marks the third movie in a row where we've seen the introduction of a Federation starship besides the Enterprise and if it follows suit set by the Kelvin and the Vengeance it won't be in one piece come the end titles. So what does this new concept image tell us about the ship itself? 

One thing we do know is that this isn't quite the final version as indicated by The Official Starship Collection's Ben Robinson in a tweet on Saturday. Now that would indicate that Ben has seen the finished article (of course) and that collectors of the series should be expecting to see it in the run of specials.

Google Images
I'd suggest that the pennants will be altered since the ones on this image are more in line with the Prime Universe movies than the JJ-verse. The most noticable thing here though is that huge light source at the front of the saucer which would seem to be the viewscreen and gives an idea that this is a ship much smaller than both the USS Enterprise and the Kelvin. The edge of the saucer only has a single layer of portholes too and we know that the Enterprise has two decks at that point.

It also has the JJ-verse trademark blue bussard collectors and some odd orange lining detail along the warp engine struts. Those collectors do appear to have the "fan" style workings akin to those on the original NCC-1701. Saying that, the rear of the engines have a very familiar curve to them which fans might recognise from the Enterprise of The Original Series - nice touch there. 

That front part of the engine even has a resemblance to the front end of the movie Enterprise secondary hull (but I'm no doubt reading far too much into this picture). The hull surface is pretty different too with the saucer dipping and then raising to the edge plus some sort of crazy hull panelling fanning out to the curve. Certainly not something we've seen before even in the Prime Universe.

Google Images
But what period of Starfleet history is this supposed to represent? From the ramshackle nature of it's interior seen in the trailer and the grey exterior it does seem that the USS Franklin will be an older ship. Perhaps not as old as the Kelvin since the engines look to have evolved from that era but definitely with a few miles on the clock. Also of note and a reason for conjecture over her age is the fact that there is no registry number visible. Maybe that's because it hadn't been decided when this image was created or was it left off on purpose? OK, Vengeance didn't have a registry but that was for other reasons!

The great thing is that the Franklin is different again to the aging single engined Kelvin and the stealthy, angular design of the brutal Vengeance. How the ship appears on the screen may well be different to this image although I don't foresee too many changes if this is something they are sending out to charitable fans. It does add another dimension to the film in the possibility that the Franklin will be playing a larger role in Beyond than the Enterprise but with the fact the latter may well meet its maker early on that's not saying a lot.

So this makes the third ship we know will be in the movie alongside the Enterprise and those alien raider-type vessels glimpsed in the trailer hunting Spock and McCoy. Hopefully we're going to get some more! If nothing else the reboots have given us some interesting spacial additions to the franchise. I love the stealth elements and design of the Vengeance and now the Franklin is very much harking to the Prime origins of Star Trek and that would be in keeping with what we've been hearing from Simon Pegg about this movie respecting its past a lot more than the previous two.

Just to finish off - we saw the behind the scenes video from Entertainment Tonight a week or so ago. We got to see a bit more on the retro uniform styling, a bit of aging on the bridge - but was I the only one who wonders if Sulu's daughter is called Demora...?

Do you like the new starship design? Is it in keeping with the franchise?

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Mini Cubes and Octahedrons - Borg Expansions

As Dan has noted in our Tactical Cube take, the Borg are a formidable foe in the show and in the game. In fact those recent changes almost put me off expanding into their fleet. However, I finally reneged and decided to take the plunge.

My first addition was the small Borg Scout Cube first (and last) seen in The Next Generation's I,Borg from the fifth season. As you would therefore expect, the expansion is heavily themed around that episode with two Third of Five options in the set but more on that in a sec.

As to the ship, the movement is the expected Borg "straight-line" process and dependant on whether you're playing original or revised rules, that's spin and move or move then spin. Having played out both the latter makes you extremely predictable and does reduce the element of surprise but gives the opposition a better chance of kicking you into oblivion since they know where you're heading next. As for range of moves, the scout is manoeuvrable, giving you a full range of 90 degree moves on ranges one to four (with the top speed all causing the addition of an auxiliary power token) plus a very, very useful maximum of a three reverse.

The model itself is detailed all in black with the surface covered in a non-repetitive circuit-like pattern plus some fancy little corner accessories just so you can tell it's different from the massive main cube vessels. The images used for publicity have some great green highlights but that's all missing from the retail model.

As to the stats, she doesn't appear that strong and in the first head to head I ran her in she didn't take long to receive her marching orders although for note I was taking on the flying heavy weapon known as the Scimitar. Starting out with a three for offence and for defence, a two hull and four shields for 24 points, Scout 608 can also perform an additional green or white manoeuvre at the cost of discarding an upgrade. Choose wisely my friends, choose wisely!

For captain of your tiny cube you have Third of Five who provides you with an extra defence die at the cost of a Drone token. Pretty useful but it's best I also talk about these token thingys. Each Borg captain has a certain number of tokens assigned to them at the beginning of the game which is usually determined by a number on their card. This indicates their starting captain skill which will change during the game depending on the number of Drone tokens used/regenerated in the game. I really like this Borg feature as it plays as though they are relentless and virtually unstoppable without being, erm, unstoppable.  Third of Five starts off with three of these but there is also a second choice of a Tactical Drone if you don't want to spend too much on a captain for your geometric vessel.

That Drone allows a revenge attack during a defence roll for the cost of one Drone Token (for details on the use of Drone Tokens take a look at the Tactical Cube post) and the opposition don't get to defend it. Great feature that only costs a single squadron point. The third captain option is an average Drone that allows you to prep a single Drone Token but won't cost a single point.

As for crew, there's an unusual double in the form of Third of Five. Make your choice though since you can only have one version active nor can you equip him on the same ship or in the same fleet as Hugh which comes with the Borg Type Three ship. This crew option is a discard to target a ship at range one or two with the ability to disable all the crew upgrades on an enemy vessel even if they're cloaked. That's a big hitter for five squadron points especially as you'll be close enough to pop a shot at them in the Combat Phase.

While you don't get a complete set of five crew drones, the Scout Cube does supply both Second of Five and Fourth of Five, both of whom are represented by images from The Best of Both Worlds. Less expensive is Second at just three points and a discard but he does let you take away an enemy upgrade of your choice so no limiting to Crew as with Third. Fourth again allows you to act within that one/two range and to disable up to two enemy shields AND two upgrades of your choice. It's a double-play with serious benefits for a discard and a five point cost. I'd consider sticking this on a lot of Borg ships just for that two-way tactical advantage. Interestingly all three of those crew cards allow you to use them on cloaked vessels. 

As for tech, Long Range Scan operates at a more distant range three at a cost of four points. A disable card, it lets you convert one damage result into an Evade or Battle Station should you have the Scan token active on your ship. Nice for additional defence and I wish I'd used this more effectively when my cube was hammered. Secondly there's Subspace Beacon which is also a disable card operating up to range three, allowing you to perform Scan as a free action. Clearly something you can couple with the other tech upgrade and a no-brainer to pair up I would say. Again, should have used this!

Compared to the Tactical Cube 138 there's just one Weapon upgrade with Scout 608 but it is the Magnetometric Guided Charge (with a picture of the cutting beam; duh). Using the scout's primary weapon total of three dice, it lets the player convert a Battle Station into a Critical Damage and stops the opponent from defending. Why did I not play this ship properly?!?! I could've won if I'd used the upgrades much more effectively although with the new Tactical Cube I've acquired I can see a dreadnought being constructed.

Finally the Borg upgrades are pretty cheap. There's the standard Borg Alcove to allow regeneration of your Drone Tokens (cost of four points but does give you options for later in the game) and the I, Borg themed Scavenged Parts card at just two points which acts to replenish your Drone Tokens when you discard an upgrade. At least you're getting something for losing a feature but it does restrict you on when you can regenerate your drones.

My final addition to date is the tragically misspelled (on the cards anyway) Queen Vessel Prime aka the Borg Ocatahderon Octahedron. Nearly double the squadron points of the Scout just on the ship (24 to 42), the Queen's personal battleship just falls short of the Tactical Cube (46 points) but only on hull and shield points and then just by one on each. In comparison to that ship it also exchanges one weapon upgrade for a crew slot. Boasting a painful six in attack, zero defence ability, eight hull and seven shield points it's still more than formidable in any situation. Not wanting to spend quite so much? You could sacrifice a crew slot and a shield for just 40 points.

Unsurprisingly the Borg Queen is your main captain choice. She can switch onto another ship if required and comes with a starting skill/Drone Token number of seven. I'd have expected something a bit higher but it really limits more activity of your Drone Tokens than anything else since the ship has so much fire-power as standard. The Queen can also syphon an action from another friendly ship at range one/two as a free action which could mean pairing a couple of vessels so she can utilise a larger arsenal effectively.

Mr Tactical Drone returns as a second command option with a starting skill of five and a cost of four points but he will hinder your enemy if you choose to spend a Drone Token to force them to roll one less defence die. Certainly with the weaponry at your disposal using this captain could cut your offensive time substantially. There is the no-cost option with a skill of one but I doubt he'll ever see combat unless you're desperate to save points. Oh, hang on...Point heavy ships...

Queen Vessel Prime comes with two Elite Action upgrades that only the Queen card (in this pack) can take advantage of. We are the Borg comes into play during the Defence Dice step of the Combat Phase and provides up to three Evade results at the cost of up to three Drone Tokens. Not one you'll be able to use again since it's a discard but with zero defence I would think it's critical to have something you can use to halt the inevitable battering. Six points for this might appear steep but is it worth paying to keep you in the game?

Alternatively there is Resistance is Futile costing one more point at seven. An attacking move which costs up to three Drone Tokens to stop up to three dice from being cancelled, it's one more card that will play havoc with anything non-Borg on the board. You'll probably lose friends too.

One crew upgrade here as well with just Magnus Hansen getting a look in. I had expected more generic drones to be shuffling around the pack but at least it's a named and recognised character we have here and one specific to an episode in which the Octahedron appeared (Dark Frontier). He does reduce the number of Drone Tokens required to complete an action but does get discarded although with a cost of one point he's a good choice if you're looking to fill than last tiny gap on your ship.

The Power Node tech upgrade drops in at three points and lets you disable the card plus two active shields to avoid an Auxiliary Power Token if you perform a red manoeuvre. For reference the ship can move at speed four forwards and three in reverse with only the left and right "fours" and the reverse "three" as red. Not a particularly essential upgrade for your ship given it's innate ability and strengths and there are certainly more appetising tech upgrades with other Borg vessels.

Unusually for the Borg though we have one and only one weapon upgrade with the very, very expensive ten point Multi Kinetic Neutronic Mines. A one-shot minefield deployment card, any ship entering the field rolls four attack dice and suffer the consequences. If you're unlucky enough to be in range one of the token then you don't even get to defend. Boom, another victory for the cybernetic perfectionists. 

What you do get a few of to play with are the Borg upgrades. At four points you can select Transwarp Signal which lets you remove an Evade, Battle Station, Scan or Target Lock from an enemy ship and also hurt them with an Auxiliary Power Token. Additional note here that it doesn't work on those CG Species 8472 types but seeing as they have a minimal presence in the game I don't think it'll worry a lot of people.

Borg Assimilation Tubules is a reusable card letting Borg players steal a crew, tech or weapon upgrade from an opponent. Clever twist on the favoured Borg recruitment technique which doesn't affect flippin' Species 8472 and does mean you could get some juicy freebies from another ship. Cost is a pricey eight points but the benefits are considerable if you pick the right upgrade to nick. Cloak from the Defiant? Quantum Torpedoes? Grapple from the Vidiians? Lots of goodness.

Last up is the Borg Shield Matrix that is accompanied by its own instruction card. On the base of it you just add a shield matrix token to the card (maximum of three) each time you're damaged. But what does it do you're asking? Simply put it adds an extra defence die for every matrix token you have and if an enemy attempts to affect the captain or one of the assigned upgrades then you get to roll one attack die for each token on the card. Whether you have to "spend" these tokens isn't stated but I assume that you should only add one per turn to the card up to the three and that they are used to take advantage of the benefit. Otherwise after three rounds you'd be constantly at a certain level.

Fancy playing out a scenario then the Queen's ship comes with Collapse the Transwarp Conduit once more pitching the pack at those familiar with Dark Frontier. A one-on-one Borg versus Federation set up, the latter is tasked with destroying the final Interspatial Manifold (an Objective Token) and get the hell out of Dodge before the Octahedron reigns fire and brimstone. I'd certainly pick a pimped out 70 point USS Voyager against the Borg but whether that makes a big difference will depend on your style and risk taking since the cybernetic assimilators are massively points endowed at their basic level. Not a mission I've played yet but I'll have to put some careful thought into the upgrades on that Federation ship.

So that's the second of our Borg ship reviews while we've been waiting for Waves 19 and 20 to appear from across the water. My only major missing faction now are the Dominion (shocker seeing as I'm a huge Deep Space Nine fan) but the Borg are certainly very interesting to play if potentially game killers. I love their upgrades, the different plays you can implement and even the neat use of the Drone Tokens but playing them can make you either look like someone who can't bear to lose or a total amateur simply because of their starting stats. The only good thing is that the starting points for the Octahedron and the Tactical Cube mean that very little can be added on.

Are they worth getting? Debatable since a lot of tournaments ban their use. If you look at the world championships the first and second place used Borg Spheres so you can see the impact of the faction even at that standard of play. One for beginners perhaps more than others to get them into the game with a good chance of success while still offering more experienced players a chance to develop their anti-Borg tactics.

Borg fan or are you still avoiding the faction?

Wave 20 is available now with all ships recommended to retail at £11.99 each. The Borg ships here usually retail around the same price. You can track down your local stockist HERE

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

How the World was Warped

Without a question Warped is the definitive guide to the lost eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I say that with 100% conviction.

Never in my life have I read such made up,  crackers stories as I read in this book -  and that's kind of the point.

Warped is the brainchild of Mike McMahon,  creator of the @TNG_s8 Twitter account which has taken the ball and quite literally sped off into the distance with it never to be seen again.  Warped follows the hurriedly made and never released final final season of Picard and crew. Made on a fraction of a shoestring budget we get to explore every area of the series in some of the most bizarre episodes never made.

McMahon has created the ultimate spoof companion detailing not just 26 stories as if they were real episodes but also covers bloopers and background material to flesh out the "reality"  of the situation.

I did approach the book with some skepticism as to how this would manage to translate from the Twitter limit of 140 characters into a full blown 250+ page book but the end product exceeded my expectations and then some.

McMahon has truly dug into the foundations of The Next Generation and observed the nuances which made the characters -  or at least kept cropping up in the show -  and has used them just as the writers of The Next Generation did, creating stories around them. This however is a bit different and nowhere near as serious. Picard's terrible luck with turbolifts comes back to haunt him, the buddying of Geordi and Data is in full swing and Beverly just can't find enough desks to bang her fist on. Thing is once you've read them here in their enhanced and more noticeable form you'll see the seven seasons of the show in a slightly different way. Each character has their unique characteristics which are played on with each story but there's even more.

The plots themselves are cleverly thought out, swaying into car-crash B movie territory with over the top sci-fi premises with a severe helping of humour thrown in it really is no holds barred as the series veers into facepalm central -  but hey, it was like this to ensure there would be no ninth season(!!!). McMahon hasn't just successfully written an "episode guide" but has taken advantage of a tested book formula to play out other aspects of the season's supposed production.

While stories of combining crew members, Barclay deaths and Q interruptions are great it's actually made all the better for the additional material outside of the A and B plots provided. Dropping in notes regarding "real"  Borg with their own herder required for one episode or an overabundance of juvenile crew in another thanks to Bring Your Child to Work Day made this a book I couldn't put down for days. Every episode had something different that made me laugh and made the wife wonder how I could find anything to do with Star Trek funny. Honestly there are some really hilarious sections in here, my favourites being from the highlight episode,  Barclay's Day. I won't ruin it but all. I can say is Space Snakes.

Cleverly there are even errors and in-jokes dotted through the book which fans will love. There are a couple at the expense of Voyager which are very on point as well as referencing back to previous episodes from the show, even  being able to make fun of some of the real sillier moments such as the Exocomps from The Quality of Life or Geordi's poor luck with the ladies. Deciding to write this from a production perspective detailing the shoddy - purposefully shoddy - work on season eight, the author has created an hilariously believable experience which is fortunately maintained over all 26 synopses. 

Some of the lists dropped into the episodes are laugh out loud funny; alternate Tasha's (they turn up all the time y'know), oddball space pirates and many more. I think it's one of those books I couold go back to just to highlight those more eccentric points of the series. McMahon has managed to get every situation just ridiculous enough that it suits the characters we know from The Next Generation perfectly yet doesn't destroy the "real"  Star Trek universe if you get where I'm going.

It's a book that absolutely shows the author's love and understanding of the series to a great extent indeed to a point where he has more than competently poked fun at the show and succeeded in producing something extremely readable, entertaining and more than worthy of sitting alongside the other official series companions.

Every story has something different, a new character nuance that's exploited and while it's not a factual book about the series it's absolutely worth getting hold of because it will, I guarantee, entertain you at every page turn. Now just go and buy it.

Warped is available right now from Simon and Schuster priced £9.99 ISBN 9781476779058. Go on, get it.

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Saturday, 23 January 2016

Mothering Instinct: New Voyages' The Holiest Thing

After an extensive delay it seemed that New Voyages' latest offering slipped on line with almost no fanfare whatsoever.

Which is an utter disservice because The Holiest Thing is a cracking hour of original Star Trek material; in fact one of the best they've produced. Be warned if you've not watched it yet, there will be SPOILERS as we examine their ninth installment. 

With a slight revamp of the ship, we find the USS Enterprise attending Lappa III and a terraforming project led by Doctor Carol Marcus (Jacy King). An apparently freak accident vapourises the Federation ground base and leaves a large crater prompting Kirk to launch a full scale investigation.

The episode, written by Rick Chambers, is the origin story of the Kirk/Marcus relationship that formed a central part of The Wrath of Khan and will no doubt be totally overlooked for the upcoming Beyond.  It also marks the first time Brian Gross took on the role of Kirk even though we've already seen him in Mind Sifter which was released last year. That episode was a lot darker than the material Gross is presented with in The Holiest Thing and acts as a great comparison to show the range he is able to carry in the lead role. I actually preferred Brian here in a story that felt much more personal which I suspect was helped due to the fact that this is a script which focuses on a select number of the crew.

It's been a long time coming for The Holiest Thing. Originally set to be uploaded for Valentine's Day 2014 - as promo'ed at the end of Kitumba - but the choice was made to hold the release, rework it, give it an even better polish and present it to the world in a format that the production team were happy with. I can't fault the decision because it's a great episode for the most part led by a top script and some of - if not the best - lead acting in an episode of New Voyages.

As I've noted, Brian Gross is exceptional as Kirk and suits the more intimate one-on-one material and certainly exploring the captain's softer side is something that he's nailed. Perhaps the bigger surprise - and a pleasant one - is Jacy King as Carol Marcus. Whether delivering technobabble or expressing her emotions to Kirk as their relationship develops, King is totally believable and may well be the real star here. I found her performance one of the best in New Voyages and certainly their strongest guest star to date.

Also returning are Brandon Stacey as Mr Spock and John Kelley as Doctor McCoy. Both are firm stalwarts of the New Voyages episodes providing their usual, excellent portrayals of the iconic characters. Oddly though, Stacey does seem to be opening up Spock's emotional side with a hint of his human half ebbing through in more than one scene. Both Spock and McCoy play critical roles here. The science officer leads the investigation into the events that have transpired on the planet surface with Doctor Marcus and stands to the "business" aspect of Kirk. On the other side we have the Chief Medical Officer who acts to calm the captain's emotions as he falls for Carol. Kelley always seems to revel in the role and his interactions with Kirk are particularly good to watch and balance against some of the conflict/uneasiness you can sense the captain has with Spock in this story. I kind of think the Vulcan is finding his bromance threatened with that discomfort more than evident.

The choice to place Scotty, Sulu and Uhura (no Chekov this time) very much in the background does mean that their actors don't get a huge shot at the limelight here but it means the pacing is kept particularly tight and there's no baggage here. Everything just damn well works and it's a great episode from beginning to end. Chambers also drops in some key points that homage the second Star Trek feature film - terraforming, life from lifelessness, protomatter and more. The nice thing is that they actually work within the script and don't feel like the writer is just hammering them in for the sake of making fans go into continuity overload.

Graphically it's once again superb. The updated nacelles and forward torpedo tubes start to make the transition from TV to movie starship. For some this might seem a bit weird but I'd recommend watching the vignette Going Boldly which shows the upgrades taking place.  Sadly there's no CG Lieutenant Arex this time but we can hope for the future! The Ferengi ship too is very faithful to their species and the confrontation between the two vessels is stunning with the Enterprise emerging from the darkness to discover the hidden opponent. The environment of Lappa III is well realised in both the opening segment and in the away mission undertaken by Spock and Marcus. Nod for the homage to the forcefield spacesuits of The Animated Series too! 

This is all well and good for the first 43 minutes but then things take a bit of a turn. For the first section of the episode we've been wondering what has been the cause of the explosion - an accident or outside intervention? When it's revealed that there's an alien ship hiding out we have some idea that there's more to this than we initially thought but the problem I have is who these aliens are revealed to be - the Ferengi.

While their motivations are feasible and trade with the outpost (unbeknownst to Doctor Marcus) to provide them with the ability to make protomatter makes total sense, I don't see why it had to be the Ferengi. It could have been a new race, even Romulans for instance but the appearance of the galaxy's most profit-hungry merchants doesn't seem to fit. The performance of guest star Clayton Sayre as the Ferengi Commander is spot on but they aren't a race I would associate at all with The Original Series.

The other challenge this episode has is the pacing of the last ten minutes. Chambers has done a magnificent job to this point but then we seem to have a lot that he wants to cover in a very short period of time; the reason for Carol requesting that Kirk leaves her alone and "stays away" and that she's pregnant. Hang on a minute - haven't these two only been together for a matter of days?! That's good going if ever...

I appreciate that the Kirk/Marcus origins story is something never covered onscreen but to ram such big plot points into a tight epilogue does make it feel very rushed. I actually believe they could have left off both these points and kept this story as an initial meeting and the start of a relationship. Certainly the concluding revelation does line up with the concept of Marcus as the "mother" of new worlds (if only she knew...) but this could have been explored in a follow up or even just a little vignette/afterwards.

One final point has to be to recognise Carl Sheldon who appears as the older Scotty in the prologue and epilogue of The Holiest Thing. Very similar to the wraparound of Captain Sulu in World Enough and Time it shifts the series firmly to the modern day and recognising the later spinoffs while adding a new twist to the classic series. It's also one piece of the episode that was shot long after the original material was filmed thanks to Kickstarter funds raised by fans.

New Voyages has played a blinder here. A truly great character episode that has evaded the screen for too long. Gross has certainly affirmed his abilities in the role of Kirk and I simply can't wait to see what the next story, Torment of Destiny, has to offer. This is set as a sequel to the classic For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky guest starring Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch. Plus it seems we may eventually get to see the lost Origins story written and directed by David Gerrold. Hopefully more on that one soon.

Did you enjoy The Holiest Thing? Is it one of New Voyages' finest hours?

Check out their website for more adventures and news HERE

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Cochrane's Bird Flies Again: The Official Starships Collection Issues 64 and 65

Another new starships post within a week? Yes sir it is and this time were back on regular issues.

This time we're sticking close to the "early days" with both ships pre-Kirk. Starting us off is the iconic Phoenix from First Contact and a model that really should be one of the best in the collection hands down. It's one we've wanted, waited for and finally received but I'm a bit disappointed. 

What? Yes, I'm disappointed because I genuinely don't think this is up to the standard I was expecting but let's talk about the package as a whole and not just my gripes.

Firmly gripped amidships by the stand, the Phoenix is very light and well-balanced for display, modelled with the warp engines deployed as though about to take her momentous flight. The hull is in keeping with the "salvaged" vision of the movie missile with its surface wrapped with indents and raised sections of metalwork seemingly on every facet and displaying a wonderfully haphazard patchwork effect. Starting at the nose, the bubble windows are painted straight onto the hull in black making them one of the few things that isn't on point and seems out of place against the rest of the bumpy hull detail.

The great bit about the Phoenix is just how much there is packed onto the silvery-metallic hull and likely makes it one of the most accurate ships in the collection as far as panelling goes. That extends all the way down to the super-impressive rocket engine construction at the end/bottom of the Titan V missile. In both the upper plastic and lower metal the detail of the intakes, piping and rocket assembly is spectacular especially in the limitations of a small scale model. 

Comparing her to the images within the magazine it's clear to see that Eaglemoss have nailed this one when it comes to the physical aspects of the Phoenix even down to the red highlights dotted across points of the hull. Truly it's a masterstroke in diecast building and at the price it's a steal BUT I still have a few issues that have actually put me off the premiere warp ship.

There's a glaring seam line down the starboard side that's more than obvious and most of that gap is exposed in the very plain warp engine bays that line either side of the Phoenix. The other big issue I have is to do with those warp nacelles as the ones on mine are wonky as hell. One points slightly up and the other slightly down as well as neither lining up horizontally to the hull or each other. I've had a few tips given on how I might be able to realign so I'll update as and when I attempt that!

The build of the nacelles themselves is very good even if they are out of kilter. Eaglemoss have stuck in translucent bussard collectors, blue warp coils and even off-white exhaust "golf balls" in these two very tight tubes. The surface detail on them is also just as good as the rest of the hull although the white finish on them and the belly of the Phoenix does look a bit washed out and could do with another coat - a minor grumble in comparison to nacelle alignment!

My final point is that the much touted and referenced phoenix which Zephram Cochrane's painted on her hull is conspicuously missing. There's not a sign of the fated bird anywhere to be seen even in the views within issue 64 and it's a horrible omission I didn't expect (update - the phoenix wasn't painted on the ship in the movie so the Eaglemoss craft is actually screen accurate in that respect).

The Phoenix does demonstrates some wonderful advances in modelling due to the overwhelming evidence and attention to detail presented here but it's the bits hat are missing that do niggle with me. Don't get me wrong, it's a great ship and an essential purchase but I get a feeling that it was a bit rushed and things were overlooked and certainly quality control wasn't a high priority. She's also very clean and (I know, picky) but a bit of good old dirt weathering around the exhausts would have stepped it up a little.  

Y'know I just look at her and feel that it's not quite what I hoped. Perhaps my standards are a little too high or maybe it's because the last few issues have been that damn awesome that this feels like a dip in quality.

Once you've analysed every inch of the Phoenix you can turn your attention to the magazine. Oddly devoid of the usual ship identification the cover photo is a perfect match to the ship model. There are some top-notch images in here of the ship from all angles but the text for the profile section is very easily skippable if you're familiar with First Contact and even the plan views add very little fans will not already know.

The big hitter for issue 64 has to be the Designing... feature. Fortunately running over four pages it breaks down the history of the ship in the real world as well as providing some rarely seen images from the creation process and a great shot of the reactor assembly that needed to be scratch built. Luckily the production team had a real Titan missle to work with and redress so there's a lot of info on how that all came to pass. 

One section that might entice people into buying the recent book on Costumes covers some of the choices around the outfits designed for the Enterprise crew during their away mission to 21st Century Montana. If you've read the book it is, again sadly, not going to blow your mind with new background but keeps the magazine in line with the ship and the eighth Star Trek movie (which of course is the screen appearance).

Right, gripes over and onto the Xindi-Aquatic Cruiser. I had a bit of a head-scratch because it's backwards on the magazine cover and I wasn't sure if I had her the right way for a few minutes.

Much bigger in "reality" than the Xindi-Insectoid fighter we had some moons ago but smaller as a model, the cruiser is a ship that will err into the realms of completist rather than casual collector. It's also the first Enterprise ship I've felt hasn't been that impressive. Yeah, we're having a good month aren't we?!

With squidy origins immediately evident, the majority of the hull is covered in a pseudo-organic two-tone grey blotch pattern with the edges of the ship lined with an appropriately aquatic shade of green. While the surface is well-defined and precisely coloured, it's the lack of transparencies evident across the ship and painted dark green here which let it down. I appreciate that the ability to fit tiny transparencies would be near impossible so we have to "make do" here. Strange too is the note that the edges of the ship in green on the model are nowhere near that shade on the images in the magazine suggesting that there was some colour editing before the ship hit the screen.

The underside doesn't continue the blotch paint work and instead shifts to a basic two shade grey finish topped off with the watery-green and dark green highlights. To be honest there's not a lot to look at on the underside apart from marvelling at the panel lines and the shuttlebay which merges into the hull rather too well. There's also the odd plastic bottom insert section to make up the plastic quota for this issue that also gives two near-translucent windows to the rear but these will be covered by the stand.

Ah yes, the stand. It's got to be one of the worst in the history of the collection. Not since the Romulan Warbird have I wondered as much if the ship will be performing it's own planetfall. It clips around the rear of the cruiser and needs a firm push to make sure it stays there. To be fair I'm not sure if the ship will go first or the stand snap due to the pressure of the tail fins pressing into the clips.

It's not a bad model per se but it is one of the least inspiring and does leave me wondering why we've had ships such as this ahead of the Kazon Raider, the Fesarius or the Suliban cell ship. It's not one I'd clamour for and is without question my least favourite of the Enterprise series so far. Is it the worst? No, but I can't think of many more that have been less exciting to receive or impressive to display.

Although I feel I've underdone it on the Aquatic cruiser, the magazine is a good read covering a subject - and a race - that we don't get to know a lot about in the form of the Xindi. My knowledge of the "villains" from the third season is fairly limited so gaining some background information was more than welcomed. The ship profile has thoroughly gleaned what it can from the show in regards to the vessel but it does stray into storytelling the events of the season it appeared in all too quickly. The Creating the Aquatics section demonstrates how the later show tended to push the boundaries in terms of alien species and utilise the ever-improving realms of CG to create new lifeforms from the frontier.

The very water-based nature of the Aquatics is addressed in John Eaves' design of their ships which initially appeared in the  Azati Prime episode as the Xindi prepare to launch Weapon Zero at Earth. This design section has to be my high point of this month's releases, stretching over six pages and filled with Eaves' sketches and recollections of the cruiser's creation. I just wish every issue had this section because it's the kind of thing fans love and I thoroughly enjoy getting to understand the process from idea to seeing the ship take flight on screen. Closing out we have the episode focus being Countdown and Zero Hour which ended the Xindi arc and the third season to boot.

Our next two issues are due mid-February and that'll see the USS Raven from Voyager and one more from The Original Series; the Klingon D-7 battlecruiser. For now, January has provided us with some nice ships but they just don't feel as stellar as the range we've been treated to in the last few months. Yes I am a bit disappointed because of the Phoenix more than anything but they are still a lot better than the earlier ships and at least one of these two is an essential for any collection despite it's "errors".

Where will the Phoenix be sitting in your collection? Is the Aquatic ship the weakest Enterprise model to date?

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