Thursday, 25 May 2017

FCD 2017 Interview: Voyager's Doc - Robert Picardo

"Didn't I speak to you earlier...?"

Voyager actor Robert Picardo is heading across the room from where he's just finished a photoshoot at FCD 2017. I've been granted - nay I'm honoured to be granted a few minutes with a man who is in great demand today.

The thing that has really impressed me is that he's remembered speaking to me earlier in the day when I queued up for his autograph. It might be a small thing and it was only a matter of seconds but with the hundreds of people he must see and chat to every day it's a "wow" moment for me. 

As we Star Trek fans know. Picardo is known for his role as the Emergency Medical Hologram for the whole seven seasons that Voyager aired, probably receiving the most character development of the cast and in turn creating one of the great characters of the franchise. Indeed, Picardo must be in possession of such holographic tech himself as he looks exactly the same as he did then and very well for it too.

An actor for over 40 years, Picardo's experience takes him through film, TV, theatre and while the Doctor had a penchant for opera it's not something he's tried himself although it's not the thing he looks back and considers that he might have done; "I have very little experience in classical theatre," he explains as we take a seat in the green room, out of the main event room for a few minutes. "I've done a fair amount of new plays, musical theatre, but if I had a regret it would be that I've never done any Shakespeare professionally only in training.  

"Frankly it applies to theatre in general. Once you work in television you go several years without being able to do a play because you can't schedule it entirely for your own schedule between seasons of a television show. Since Voyager ended quite a while ago I've been able to do more theatre as I did before I was a series regular on television."

In fact Picardo will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe festival for the first time this year alongside Sylvester McCoy - another TV Doctor(!) in a play written by Dan Freeman called A Joke. "We are having a crowdfunding campaign for it and will be performing across the last few weeks of the festival." he continued. "It will be my first time ever being at that festival as a performer."

While a good chunk of my memories of Robert Picardo are filled with him stating the nature of the medical emergency, his back catalogue of appearances is a true treasure trove - the model for "Johnny Cab" in Total Recall, appearing in Gremlins 2 and as The Cowboy in the classic Innerspace. What I wanted to know was if there were particular roles away from the Doctor which he was recognised for?

"Innerspace is a funny movie and it also came along at that moment in technological history where people could buy movies on video cassette...and it was quite expensive if you bought movies so if you got one you watched it over and over again. I've met many, many people in their late twenties through early thirties and forties that have watched Innerspace multiple times either they bought it or have downloaded. It's a fun movie and such a strange role that I play (The Cowboy). 

"I'm also very proud of my first series which was China Beach. It was a Vietnam drama that won a lot of awards in the States, was also popular in Australia I guess because next to the US there were a lot of Australian soldiers in the Vietnam conflict. It was a great show as my first series role."

Before heading out to Hollywood Picardo also walked the stage on Broadway with two successive lead roles in show seasons; "The second of which I played second fiddle to the great Jack Lemmon playing his son. That was an amazing experience for a young actor to work with someone of Jack's talent. He'd been an established movie star for 25 years by that time and he could not have been more gracious to me as a young colleague. If I could wish any part of my career on any young actor it would be to have an experience like that and work with someone whom I personally admired so much and had been a fan of his films."

I asked Robert Picardo if he felt that having such an incredible experience with Lemmon had influenced his roles after that point, perhaps including the Doctor on Voyager; "Things I remembered that he did, things that he thought were know Jack had an amazing way of taking dialogue and making it sound off the cuff . He always said look for the humour in any role and it's more important in a drama to find those moments of lightness so the audience doesn't get worn out.

"I remember he told me - and I think I did it in Voyager once - he had a theory that one eye was very funny on stage."

Now this might sound a bit odd but Picardo went on to explain how Jack Lemmon could use rolling one eye to create humour in the moment as part of the play they were performing. "I remember stealing that," recalled the actor, "possibly in Voyager.

"In fact it was always fun on Voyager when we got to do physical comedy. It was very rare in Star Trek although my character had more of a licence to disrespect the officer mould because he was a hologram. I could change up the audience's expectations; they don't expect to see a Star Trek medical officer acting as silly as I did and I had the freedom to play all these negative qualities that you don't see in a regular Starfleet crew-member.

"The Doctor could be cowardly, he could be arrogant, he could be self-involved, very puffed up, very disdainful. I had the capacity to play these negative sides because of the concept of the character because he was a willful computer program where they were working the kinks out of it and it didn't quite work.

"His much vaunted algorithms and sub-routines to give him a bedside manner didn't quite work and most of his feelings were focused in on himself rather than on you [the patient]. I had such freedom that I could overact, be over-expressive then I could underplay in a moment. For the audience I think it was delightful that I could be unpredictable."

Certainly this versatility with the character helped make him, in my opinion, fairly central to the show and its success. "I started with nothing," said the former EMH, "a blank slate. Very little affect; he rarely smiled. He was a fairly narrow palette and a single joke early on. He had a problem with everything and then as he grew and developed he had a much wider emotional palette. I got to smile, I got to change and go from being a pompous, self-important defamatory doctor to being recklessly excited about some new addition that I was going to make to myself that would make me invaluable to the crew.

"The saving grace of the character was that he wanted to be better. He wanted to be more useful."

Certainly classic Voyager episodes such as Darkling - which exposed a shadowy side to the hologram - and Living Witness - which gave the Doctor a chance to defend his crewmates in an errored historical record. For note in Darkling, Picardo got to use his contact lenses from his role as Eddie Quist in the 1981 werewolf movie The Howling.

In an earlier question and answer session, Picardo had talked about how he used to "jump out of bushes" to give ideas of what could be done with the Doctor to series producer Brannon Braga and I wondered if the inclusion of the mobile emitter had been one of the things he had campaigned for in the early seasons; "I made some suggestions that they took and some they didn't." said Picardo; "I was dead wrong about the holoemitter."

It transpires that Picardo was concerned that taking away the Doctor's limitations - in this case the physical limitation of being confined to Sickbay - that he would just be another crewmember; "At first he [Brannon Braga] flattered me," he recalled, "It's always a good way to get to any actor and then he said that your character's become so popular we want to put you in more storylines and we want to be able to do this.

"He basically prevailed by saying that I'd still have my limitations and I'd still be different but that I would be able to be put in more storylines."

Picardo joked that appealing to his ego was definitely the way for Braga to go and that he turned out to be completely right; "It was great to be able to get out  of Sickbay and/or the Holodeck and be able to go on real away missions."

One of the other questions he had been asked during the morning FCD session was whether Picardo had been approached in relation to Star Trek Discovery. He hadn't as you might have suspected but he did allude to something called "stunt casting" which is where you drop an actor from another show into an episode for extra ratings etc etc.

Now if you recall, Picardo himself appeared in First Contact as the EMH and in Deep Space Nine as Lewis Zimmerman. I wondered how those two instances came about considering what the actor had mentioned earlier; "The movie one came about because I kind of planted the seed and said why does Voyager have more advanced technology than your flagship, the Enterprise? How come we have this emergency medical hologram and your flagship doesn't?"

Picardo asked Rick Berman this question and in turn he was asked why they would all look alike.

"Because he's first generation, a new piece of technology and he'd be like a popular screensaver so of course they would look alike."

This of course nicely links into the end of Author, Author where we see the EMH Mark 1's resigned to mining duty rather than being in the sickbays of starships. Fortunately it also means neither instance was a "stunt casting" rather a cool way of knitting the franchise's various threads together.

Berman thought it was an interesting idea and left it at that. Picardo managed to successfully plant that seed again with both the writers of First Contact (Brannon Braga and Ronald D Moore) and also the director (Jonathan Frakes). 

Shortly after, Picardo received a note in his trailer saying that they had decided to put the Doctor in the movie. "I paused and said...that's a very interesting idea....!!!"

In regards to the Deep Space Nine appearance in Dr Bashir, I Presume? that was something born from the minds of the writers. "It made total sense," said Picardo, "My programmer Doctor Lewis Zimmerman was a real person who was back at Starfleet. I had that other ability...because I had a creator who had based the EMH on his looks, he could appear on Voyager as a hologram instruction manual and be on Deep Space Nine."

His most recent brush with Star Trek has been in relation to the fan series Renegades (in which he played Zimmerman again in the pilot) but with recent rulings that webseries has now evolved into its own identity outside the franchise sphere. 

"Paramount [and CBS] has put the brakes on and it doesn't surprise me. I was surprised they didn't do it earlier. They really flexed the corporate muscle on the 50th anniversary of the franchise. I think the studio understands that the fan-created stuff delights the fans and keeps their interest during the dry spells when there is no new television series or no new movie but I have a feeling that this cooling is going to last for some time."

Thanks to Robert Picardo for sparing the time to speak to me

Thanks also to Wil and David from FCD for giving me this golden opportunity.

Live on YouTube
Like our page on Facebook 
Follow us on Twitter
+1 us on Google+
Add us on Tumblr 

Friday, 19 May 2017

Analysis: The Discovery Trailer

Two and a half minutes of new Star Trek just dropped and don't it look good!!!

The wait is finally almost nearly over maybe for the arrival of Discovery with our first good look at the new show which will debut this Fall (Autumn) on CBS All Access and around the rest of the world on Netflix.

"Captain where are we going? We have no map. You can't set a course without a star."

Today we've been teased with a couple of promo pics from the trailer of Captain Phillipa Georgiou and Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham on a desert planet and another of Burnham in her spacesuit but this evening the big reel dropped and Discovery truly arrived. I'm not going to go through the trailer in sequence as the CBS and the Netflix versions have large variations in order (and a couple of sneaky changes) so here goes...

"It's hard to imagine you've served under me for seven years....Commander Burnham I think it is time we talked about you having your own command"

Kicking us off on that desert planet we have Georgiou and Burnham trekking through the sand with the commanding officer declaring that they must discuss her sub-ordinate taking her own command. She flips open a communicator and a beam effect begins...

Desert worlds are not a new thing to Star Trek and I was immediately reminded of Sisko, Ezri and Jake searching for a lost Orb in Shadows and Symbols from Deep Space Nine's final year or Archer and T'Pol crossing the Forge in Enterprise. However, their journey didn't end with a shot of a starship breaking cloud cover but this has to be the Shenzhou and why? Because there's a glimpse of the all-important ship registry as NCC-1227 which means this is a newer ship than the title vessel. So how does Burnham end up on the older Discovery? What happens to land her there? Is the sugggestion of her needing a promotion after seven years actually going to be rejected after some sort of terrible incident. I'm hedging bets that Burnham actually gets demoted after an "incident" (more on that in a bit) and ends up on NCC-1031.  Even at a distance at this time you can clearly see the familiar design elements and it resembles the wire model from the earlier behind the scenes trailer.

We get to see the new bridge design for the Shenzhou (still no Discovery) and there's more than a few echoes across to the Vengeance bridge from Into Darkness and certainly to the bridge of the Kelvin from the 2009 reboot. It's dark, metallic, functional and not a bit like the Enterprise-D. I would even go so far as to say that it's not too far from the Enterprise-E bridge we saw from First Contact although it seems a lot more cramped and with a much lower ceiling. Note that the forward consoles have a very familiar design to them which would be more at home on Sovereign Class starship than something pre-Kirk. Interesting point to note here as well is that the bridge of the Shenzhou is actually slung under the ship rather than above. Check out the structure of the bridge versus that "upside down" shot of the ship and you can see this new twist on the design. Kinda makes more sense defensibly...

"Great unifiers are few and far between but they do come. Often such leaders will need a profound cause for their followers to rally around."

Sarek (James Frain) shows up as a hologram and giving rather grim Vulcan stoicism. This attitude is more in line with the vision of the green-blooded race from Enterprise than The Original Series. There seems to be a darker tone to Sarek's words, a more disdainful approach to the human race than in The Original Series for instance. Even his later soundbyte sounds stark and against humanity's exploration of the stars.

"What have you done out there on the edge of Federation space."

It makes me wonder if he's integral to the pilot or the season but each time he's a little chilling and direct. Here he could be scorning anyone and Frain's portrayal seems even more stark than Mark Lenard's in Journey to Babel. How they'll explore the character transition will be good to see. Is Sarek going to be the disapproving type of Vulcan we saw in Enterprise, still disgruntled that the humans are stepping out of their comfort zone. What kind of relationship does the Vulcan ambassador have with Starfleet? Is it a personal one with Burnham or something more general? To whom is he talking?

"You will never learn Vulcan, your tongue is too human."

Those familiar with the original "making of" teaser will obviously spot the new uniforms too. So we were completely wrong and the blue with the added piping are actually the duty uniforms and NOT as I suggested, the dress uniforms. They seem very functional and one-piece regardless of male, female or alien. Very form-fitting from what we can tell although there does seem to be a short-sleeved version on show during one shot of a ship corridor. 

Gold braiding indicates Command therefore with silver for Sciences and bronze for Engineering and the other Support Services. Also Georgiou has additional braiding on her shoulders to mark her out as the captain. Wondering about the ranks? Well they're etched into the left-hand facing spike of the delta in the style of The Next Generation's pips rather than The Original Series' stripes. Nice touch. I've included a nice big pic of Doug Jones in character at the bottom of this article so you can see the ranks more clearly!

"What am I looking at?"
"Object of unknown origin."

That hint of the final frontier comes across in the reveal of a mysterious graphic that the starship is scanning and Burnham's enthusiasm to get to grips with something new. It's probably their first sign of real exploration we've seen since the end of Enterprise and certainly pushes hope that this will be a series taking us to new extremes.

"We've come all this way captain. It would be irresponsible to leave whatever that is unknown."

A few shots around the bridge give us the tech contrast of gunmetal to blue displays but we also are visually introduced to two new species of alien - one with some form of cybernetic implants either side of his temples and a second blue-skinned figure with a type of crystalline pattern down one side of his face. There is a third who has more to say in the trailer than anyone else and I'm convinced that this is Doug Jones. Buried beneath a ton of makeup he might be but that voice is quite distinctive. Now, the Netflix variant drops a couple of these shots to add in some others later on.

Jones' alien is another new race to the franchise with a pronounced skeletal structure around the face and piercing blue eyes. Now unless my eyes are playing tricks, the braiding around the edges of his uniform are silver so this has to be the way of distinguishing departments rather than gold, blue and red as we've been led before.

Visually we get a huge treat as Sonequa Martin-Green tries out an environmental suit fitted with rockets taking her out into the galaxy. This has to be the most advanced spacesuit created for the show and you can see that from the use of internal displays and the ability to move itself around.

"Computer; ignitors."

This and the earlier desert scenes demonstrate the care and attention that has been sunk into the show. No desert sets in a studio - we're talking full location shoot in Jordan and a lot of money thrown at making space scenes look breathtakingly real.

"Captain warp signatures detected!"

Back on the bridge and Sam Vartholomeos is getting all worried with the apparent arrival of a lot of ships. Georgiou has to state the obvious as a load of familiar triple-pointed blood red emblems appear and it looks like war is on. 

"Contact Starfleet Command....we have engaged the Klingons."

I get the sense that this is going to be a very action-orientated Star Trek and even from the visual style we've seen here it's nowhere near as clean and polished as we experienced through the '80's and '90's Star Trek shows. This has dirt under its nails and is getting grubbier. Nor does it seem to have any light touches (no sign of Mudd yet so hold a breath for that) but this feels like it's going to be a heavy journey from start to finish - a finish that we know will now have two additional episodes making season one 15 chapters long rather than the original projected 13.

"I'm trying to save you...I'm trying to save all of you."

Take another note of how this trailer is highlighting Georgiou, Burnham and Doug Jones' alien character. He gets a decent amount of screentime in here as well as some lines. I'm suggesting he is going to be one of the main characters in the show alongside Martin-Green's lead. Who we are saving...hmmm...could be the Klingons themselves?

"Target it's neck, cut off its head."

But let's talk about the other major element present in the Discovery trailer before we get bogged down in gold and silver braid, hairstyles and lens flare (oh yes there is....) and go Klingon.

These guys look badass. The reveal of the Klingon look for the show is far closer to the JJ Abrams vision from Into Darkness than to the Prime Universe. Clearly the uniforms we were teased were those designed for the warrior race with the spikes and the intensive skeletal structure. These are very different Klingons. The ridges are still there but as with JJ's interpretation they're bald and oddly remind me more of the Xindi Reptilians from Enterprise than what they are supposed to.

Chris Obi's character does actually appear to be more regal in golden finery but that could just be ceremonial since we do see some sort of sarcophagus being lifted away and the Klingon death howl conducted. Now, could this be the result of a Starfleet attack? Could Discovery firing first cause this death and therefore plunge the quadrant into all out war? What if that's not a sarcophagus at all but some form of super weapon? After all we do see Burnham standing one some form of expanding structure at a later stage and facing off against Obi's Klingon "king". What is the nature of the attack we see with all the crew clutching their ears as a white light explodes across the screen?

Oh - and as for changes CBS vs Netflix, the latter includes a shot of a clawed, metal clad Klingon hand and a close up of a Klingon dagger (included at the bottom of the article for reference).

"Starfleet doesn't fire first."
"We have to!"

Indeed, is it Burnham herself who is the reason that the war starts? Does she push for the attack? Is this the reason that Jason Isaacs character will arrive because Burnham gets most of the crew of Shenzhou killed in a retaliatory attack from the Klingons? Will this be that incident I mentioned earlier that drops Burnham from potential promotion to an older ship with little prospect of going further for some time? Is the captain going to become a disposable character? Honestly as I wrote that I then thought - hang on - what the hell is going on?!? Gotta love a good, vague trailer to make you ask questions.

"My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone; to sense the coming of death. I sense it coming now."

I know I'm coming back to Doug Jones' alien again but if we want to talk haunting moments this has to be the one. I mean, this guy can sense death?! That's going to be something to dread going forward and might be pulled out when the cast starts going through changes? We have to assume that the majority of the players here are going to be disposable to some degree because that's the nature of more "realistic" TV these days. Characters en-masse don't tend to stick around for the whole lifespan of a show anymore. I would think that we will have a very different line up by the end of Discovery than we do now and I personally feel this will be a journey for Burnham as we see her evolve as a character from lieutenant commander through to captain with a lot of bumps in the road to overcome.

This is definitely not the Star Trek your parents knew and not the series spin-offs we saw 25 years ago. Look at the visual style - it's big, grandiose, expensive and on location. How you can say they haven't thrown a lot of money at this beyond question. This is big screen Star Trek done for the small screen. Check out some of those camera angles especially around Sarek and you get that immediate reminder of Star Trek from 2009. There's a majestically epic feel to Discovery that the trailer lavishes over in every frame and I'm really excited for it. No hint whether this is going to be a more graphic, violent and more adult Star Trek than before but there's some seriously impressive random aliens dropped in there too which does add to the sense that comedy episodes will not be on the menu.

However, there has to be substance beneath the gloss and that's where the 13 - now extended to 15 - episode run will come into play. There's room for expansion, exploration and adventure to blast from every second of the show. I don't care if the Klingons are a bit different, I don't mind that the bridge looks a bit JJ-style (and frankly it could be set in the Kelvin timeline as long as it's decent) but there has to be meat on the bone. This has to look good for today's audience expectations and there has to be a step up to encourage not just Star Trek fans but general sci-fi fans to take a chance and watch. Netflix might have stumped up such a large amount that it paid for season one but there has to be a return on investment especially from the CBS All Access platform.

These two and a bit minutes of Discovery ooze quality and give little away. There are some wonderful touches and teases in there and some notable faces cleverly missing (Isaacs) which indicates a ton of stuff to come - and to be honest I don't even think we've seen the ship properly. I did try to squint a bit at some of those visuals but trying to work out what ship they are from was a nightmare. Everything - by that I mean the gory details - seems to have been cleverly omitted to keep fans guessing right up to the premiere.

Add to al this that we will have a companion programme to follow each episode called Talking Trek that will help expand the background and help us get to know the nitty gritty of the show. For us behind the scenes lovers I can't wait for this new addition to the franchise.

I suppose it's also a wise point to note the new poster that's arrived. Now aside from Sonequa Martin-Green being the cover girl and the customary Vulcan salute taking a lot of space, just get close and spot that starship right in the middle. If anything confirmed we haven't seen the finished Discovery yet, this has to be it. The lines are similar to that original tease and not to the ship we have pictured above from the latest trailer. I think there's a lot going to be happening in this first episode we haven't even seen a shred of yet.

Autumn is coming, fellow Star Trek fans and this just makes you want it a bit quicker...

All images from CBS All Access and Netflix trailers.

Still excited? Anything in the trailer getting you hyped up?

Check out the whole Discovery story with our archive!

Live on YouTube
Like our page on Facebook 
Follow us on Twitter
+1 us on Google+
Add us on Tumblr 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Modified: The Official Starships Collection Issues 98 and 99

Thanks to Eaglemoss (but probably fluke rather than design) there's a nice little theme running through this month's pair of releases.

Both of these ships actually started out as something else. In the case of the Nova Class USS Rhode Island it's an updated version of the USS Equinox while the Assimilated Arctic Transport was actually upgraded and changed during the episode in which it appeared so both of these are in their "final forms" so to speak rather than their original configurations.

Let us begin therefore with issue 98 and the upgraded Nova Class ship featured in the Voyager finale, Endgame. Now the original version of this ship is one of my all-time favourite craft and with the modifications made for Rhode Island I think it loses a little bit of its endearing character.

Not saying that this is a bad model in any sense but smoothing her out and making the mods does make some significant visual differences. Take the nose. On the original model there was a "cut out" for the secondary deflector at the front of the primary hull while here Rob Bonchune chose to fill in the gap and make that deflector a little smaller. It brings the hull here to a sharp, wedge point and although I niggle it didn't need the change the model does a good job of blending the old with the update. 

The hull detail is a lot more subtle here than on the Equinox which you will inevitably compare her to and that was a conscious decision during the alterations. There doesn't feel to be as much depth to the panelling here but the surface of the hull still offers up some lesser greebling detail with modified lifeboat hatches and more distinctive phaser strips right across the surface. Indeed with the Equinox there really was no distinct hull detail beyond the panelling but now the updates have made the finish much more striking.

The precision on the added paint details is quite wonderful with the Rhode Island especially at the pointy front end with the greys and orange panelling making a real impact visually. It's also in keeping with the paint scheme that adorns the deflector and surroundings on the Equinox but what you do come to realise here is that the overall paint job is a shade or two lighter than its predecessor.

Certainly the exposed circuitry detail has been much improved upon and the red decal lines around the nose feel a lot crisper than ever before. Even the registry on the Rhode Island seems a better fit with the red trim as a nice added touch which was sorely missed on the Equinox. Stepping back and another difference is the lack of blackened windows here. All the square recessed windows most notably are white and it combines well with the lighter paint job on the starship.

The trim around the bridge has also been touched up but now the command module sits higher rather than being recessed into the hull. Behind it are some further updated hull markings replacing some more nondescript recesses from before. 

Looking down to the spine of the Rhode Island and you can spot a big change. The panelling here isn't as prominently marked out and continues the smoother effect right to the rear shuttle bay. The Nova Class vessel is clearly a lot sleeker in every department with Eaglemoss getting a second chance to tweak a collection favourite for the better. While the panelling isn't as darkly marked it has more detail within its confines and this is allowed to shine through with the blacks and greys of various elements contrasting strongly against the light grey of the hull. With the Equinox the darker top coat meant that features were almost drowned by its shades rather than allowed to stand out.

The pylons sprouting from the sides of the engineering hull retain their dark markings but the biggest update to the model - and this comes from a manufacturing point of view rather than an "in universe" alteration is the construction of the warp engines.  Back on the Equinox the engines clipped together with a seam that ran across the top of the nacelle, slipping the registry marking and leaving a dirty great gap. It looked horrible and the bussard collectors were just painted on. It looked a bit ropey to say the least but changes have been made.

The nacelles now split along their centre line top/bottom rather than left/right meaning the registry is in tact and it's a much better finish to the eye. This time the bussard collectors as well as the warp coils are in translucent plastic suggesting a more refined and precise way of creating gaps in the plastic moulds has been found since the holes here appear smaller than the Equinox versions. Note too that the fins have been removed to enhance that sleeker impression.

Flip her over and there's some noticeable changes here. The phaser strip decals are more precisely aligned and some of the grey added detail has gone. The metal upper section now finishes closer to the leading edge than previously and the join is a much better fit.  The primary hull details are virtually identical in regards to panelling with a sharper ship registry but the engineering hull itself has been totally smoothed out. In fact two of the recessed panels on Equinox just behind the deflector and two parallel to the pylons have been replaced with decals however the one around the hexagon shaped hatch (warp core ejection point) is just off alignment.

The smoother finish does make the hull a lot less cluttered and I welcome that. It does look a whole lot better. The stand is a re-run of the first, slotting around the edges of the primary hull for a mid-point hold as with many other Starfleet ships.

The Rhode Island, while not my favourite version of the class is a whole light year or six ahead of the Equinox when it comes to the presentation of the model. My only niggle is that I had to glue the top of the port nacelle on which had come loose in the box. Minor issue and quickly resolved. I really like the way this model has been developed and honed from the original as well as introducing the updated elements. I and several friends did breathe easier when we saw that the yellow detail on a pre-production model had been removed!

The magazine replays through the updates of the Rhode Island both from the in-universe perspective of Endgame plus then from the point of view of Rob Bonchune who took it upon himself in his own time to tweak the popular Nova Class for the Voyager finale. Of course the former section does tend to meander into retelling the episode but you can forgive that when you read the development information.

Perhaps the grumble this month should be levelled at the magazine which chooses to talk about the Unimatrix Zero two-parter which has absolutely nothing to do with the starship at all and can only be tediously linked via the Borg. Very odd choice but I guess by this time in the collection it is getting more and more difficult to find relevant topics to include in the magazine.

Issue 99 does manage to continue the Borg theme through however with an entry from the Enterprise batch. One of those occasional curve ball craft, the Assimilated Arctic Transport is a real crazy inclusion.

From the second season episode Regeneration, the transport starts out looking very different but ends up Borgified by the end of the show. It also comes with the weirdest most fiddly, hardest stand in the whole collection to get the damn thing on. Be warned there could be breakages with this one.

Ok, there's a lot to talk about here because it has got a lot going on. For starters there are aerials and antennae all over the place. Right at the front there are protrusions from the nose as well as two spiked arrays jutting aggressively out from the sides and ahead of the craft.

Now it might be as ugly as sin but you have to take this one as it comes because the craft of the final item is actually really, really good. I don't especially like this one but there's so much to pour over. Cloaked comprehensively in black, the transport surface is a roadmap of bumps and undulations indicating the haphazard manner in which it was being changed as the episode progressed. Everywhere you look there's something going on or a piece of technology that seems to be reaching out over the surface; it's almost Borg artwork.

That individuality *which is not something you say everyday about the Borg!) and bespoke surface work covers the whole thing from top to bottom and front to back with almost no space to breath. The further back you do go, the more intense and crazy the modifications get with one whole side of the transport asymmetrical to the other thanks to a huge clunking piece of machinery. A uniform colour once again there are little blips of green against the black which hint at the typical Borg paint scheme that marks out their vessels. 

But it's not about the paint here because this is a ship that has lots of ins and outs - literally. The whole back end is a maze of pipes, aerials and workings that expand out from the original vessel and actually produce a fairly chilling end result. The single tone paint doesn't detract from the detail as every piece has a clear form but it is a rather fragile piece. Not the level of the Bajoran Solar Sailor I have to say but it's one of the less stable pieces due to the flex in some of the antennae.

Flipped over you can see the single metallic piece here is the inset underside of the transport. Covered with Borg tech in every space possible, you can barely see the original hidden underneath. The additional green highlights do break up the monotone but the surface changes still mean everything can be made out. 

The challenge with the transport though has to have been working out a location for the stand to fit and the result is ingenious if rather tight. It fits around the large rear section just managing to avoid a couple of those pesky aerials. It's a firm grip and getting it off provides an even greater risk to your model. I wish you all good luck.

Into the magazine and we talk about the plot of Regeneration and are then taken into the two-fold design process for the ship. While it finishes up in this configuration (and was ultimately supposed to become a Borg Sphere) it began life as a civilian ship used to transport scientists up to the Arctic to investigate some unknown wreckage from a crash many, many years before. The process takes us through the steps that see the ship evolve during the show which is a very interesting read given how little we really know about this one. 

Budget constraints on the product do become very evident when you take a look at the plan views (and the cover) of the Assimilated Arctic Transport. There the textures and shading across the ship really do look amazing. Sadly with plastic and metal and on such a small scale it becomes difficult to truly belay its true nature and I think we can use the Species 8472 Bioship as another example of that.

Then we get Mike Sussman's first hand account of how Regeneration came about. It's one of those episodes that splits fans down the middle. I used to hate it because I felt it ruined the Borg but after a recent revisit I realised it's a clever story sequelling the First Contact movie and prequelling Q Who? all in 42 minutes. If truth be told because the Enterprise-E didn't clean up their mess properly it's their fault the Borg take a glance over at the Alpha Quadrant 200 years after this story. 

Reading Sussman's interview and recollections has added a new slant for me on the episode and it's even tempted me to give it another shot. If there's one thing that Regeneration does do, it makes the Borg hauntingly mysterious and terrifying all over again - something that I don't think had been successfully managed since First Contact.

Issues 98 and 99 are great entries into the series and even at this stage it's not running out of steam but instead seems to be producing better and better items. Coming next month we have issue - wait for it - 100!!! This means we'll be seeing the seminal Daedalus Class along with the Bajoran Freighter for issue 101. 

Still collecting or have you called it a day?

Live on YouTube
Like our page on Facebook 
Follow us on Twitter
+1 us on Google+
Add us on Tumblr