Monday, 28 August 2017

So What Are Ships For? - Star Trek Continues Episode Nine

The latest Star Trek Continues installment packs a story written by cast member Kipleigh Brown (Lieutenant Smith) and two stellar guest stars. 

The Enterprise arrives at the isolated Hylenas where it is needed to help with a dangerous virus which is attacking the native populace and evolves rapidly causing death and thereby the extinction of the people.

Not only that but the planet is subjected to such a high dose of radiation from the Hyleni sun that means everything is monochrome. Yep, we're delving into the world of black and white with this story and its just like when I first saw The Original Series.

Perhaps more notable than the two-tone look of the episode is the guest cast which boasts classic Battlestar Galactica actress Anne Lockhart and for The Next Generation fans, Q himself, John De Lancie. It's great to see him as something other than Q but there are a few moments where the omnipotent being's personality shines through in his performance. Even the attire they choose to dress him in has glaring echoes to the Napoleonic era uniform Q sported in Hide and Q. De Lancie is a big draw and will get a lot of people talking about this episode. 

His role within the story is key from the perspective of the natives and it is his attitudes that drive the conclusion. Lockhart on the other hand feels underused and while she is a major element to the story I just couldn't get excited or really involved with her role as it seemed more to be a plot device than a character to be developed.

While the lead guest actor gets to shine, it's a fairly ABC plot for a Star Trek Continues  episode as we are introduced to a neighbouring planet with whom De Lancie's people have some beef and in true form for the franchise it comes down to Kirk to mediate on their differences.

It's a familiar line with Star Trek and most relevantly The Original Series which took great pleasure on many occasions at playing the race versus race card.  Let This Be Your Last Batrlefield, A Taste of Armageddon and Patterns of Force being just three that spring straight to mind in a flash. It's a fairly established trope of the show and here in What Ships Are For it's strongly forecast from the start and never lets up. That's not to say that Brown's teleplay isn't enjoyable but in comparison to the previous eight episodes of Continues this is just not as dynamic when it comes to the impact of the story or the umph that the superb guest cast pack into the hour. It feels as though we've trodden this path many times over.

It does, to some extreme, feel like a box ticking exercise with Kirk falling for Inner Council intern, Sekara, one of the inhabitants of the planet they are helping to save. But then there's a twist when she beams up to the Enterprise which you can probably see coming through your black and white tinted spectacles. In fact the whole monotone thing itself is a thinly veiled allegory for the story of you think about it.  

Elizabeth Maxwell goes all out as Sekara, playing the vulnerable victim, the frightened child and the lover. Certainly the part in What Ships Are For allows her the most flexibility of the guest cast and also the most screen time of the visitors to Continues. The role is very much in keeping with the female guests of the Kirk era even down to the foil-esque costume and that sweeping vulnerability.

For me What Ships Are For - exploration and the discovery of the new if you go by Kirk's speech at the end of the episode - is a bit disappointing. The main cast are utilised well with Mignogna, Haberkorn and Huber all taking the expected fair share of the episode. It is heavily Kirk-centric with the romance between himself and Sekara (Elizabeth Maxwell) being the mainstay of the time on the Enterprise and considering very little else. It does come across as a very singular episode because of this with there being nothing outside the main thread ti really comment on. Everything hinges around saving Sekara to build up to the big reveal and just who the neighbouring Obeshians are.

While De Lancie is captivating whenever he is on screen, Lockhart can at times be a little overhammy even for a retro webseries such as Star Trek Continues. She acts as De Lancie"s conscience for the most part and is then a major part of the big reveal towards the end of the show and a factor in the resolution but it still lacks any punch. It is for me the weakest of the 11 announced episodes so far released and plays on a race playing very dumb. I suppose in some sense that is keeping with a few of the races encounters in The Original Series and I have to say that the style of writing for the script is incredibly in keeping with the Kirk era episodes. It feels authentic to the 60's classic as does the usual Continues attention to costume detail that beds it in the original show.

As for the ensemble behind the lead characters, everyone is back in play and doing their bit for a low amount of screen time be it Kim Stinger's Uhura, a fleeting appearance by SKoST friend Kat Roberts as Lieutenant Palmer or Grant Imahara's very underused Sulu. I wish with Continues that they had been able to use some episodes to explore their secondary characters more than they have as there is a ton of potential in there. Even Kipleigh Brown is under the radar in her own penned episode.

So as you can see for quality and presentation Continues still shines brilliantly strong but What Ships Are For attempts a big hit in its story material but just slightly misses the mark. Every minute is still inspiring from a fan film angle due to the level that the Continues team go to in order to remain authentic to The Original Series. The choice of black and white in the episode might not be in keeping with the desire for everything to be in bright colour for the TV of the '60's (had an interesting Twitter discussion over whether it was appropriate) but the storytelling is still well in keeping with the ethos of the show so why the heck shouldn't this be allowed?

That being said, given current political climate in the US this episode may have more relevance than we can really assess - or want to more by chance than design. A rewatch in a few months with the benefit of hindsight might well be worth it.

You can check out What Ships Are For HERE

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Trailer Three: Lorca Ups the Ante

Don't get too excited about the arrival of a third trailer for Discovery because you've seen a lot of it before.

There's more sand walking, more shots of tension and the same soundbytes that came from the three minute tease a few weeks back - T'Kumva waiting for a someone worthy etc... but now we get some more of Captain Gabriel Lorca.

It's a distinct switch in this respect with Captain Georgiou almost relegated to the background and that indicates to me that Michelle Yeoh isn't going to be there for a long time after the pilot - if she survives the first episode that is. The new trailer is definitely pushing Lorca to the front more and good timing what with his out-of-context comments being twisted in all sorts of directions on Twitter and without just cause.

So let's talk about this new trailer a little more and what it adds to the foundations for Discovery

The shooting style is such an echo of the JJ/reboot universe movies. Darker tones, sweeping angles around ships and in every visual sense this can't be mistaken for anything other than Alex Kurtzman's baby. Those years with JJ have certainly been ingrained into his psyche and it's showing here. In his defence(!) it does make the series look more realistic and down to earth but you know fans will be comparing the two instantly. Check out the closeups of the Klingon armour and the hand grasping what I can only think is the handle of a d'k tahg knife. Shiny!

We stride towards this dream of peace...where all species can share a common ground...yet no dream will protect us...from you - Burnham

So says Burnham over a series of previously seen clips. There aren't a ton of them so watch out for the bits we haven't seen especially that shot of a starship exploding. It looks like it's come into contact with Klingon shields/cloak and goes all fiery - money says that this is the USS Europa from the earlier trailer.

There are a lot of hero-stances and epic camera angles going on here with us zooming into the Shenzhou bridge, seeing some more explosions plus a better shot of the Walker Class starship ejecting escapepods as well as a nice long look at the cathedral-like Klingon "sarcophagus" ship once more.

Another watch out moment is Burnham being tackled by a Klingon on their ship - it's a fraction of a second but hints at the finale of the pilot. 

The work we do is hard...and it is not without sacrifice...we are a long way from home...but I know...that it is a sacrifice worth making. - Lorca
But to be fair what everyone is really talking about in this minute of footage is the appearance of Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca. This guy seems to be very measured but I can see there being quite a cold side to him when the s**t hits the fan. His attitude is very military, very dedicated to the job and I suspect he's going to be quite a marmite character in the series. Perhaps that harshness will wear off over time as it did with Picard.
You know what we need to do? 
We need to win. 
That's the spirit.
This little exchange between Lorca (lines 1 and 3) and Burnham (line two) is brilliant. I think this shows that their relationship is going to be rocky but there is a common goal between them - to defeat the Klingons and defend the Federation. Isaacs abrasiveness might make him an unpopular captain initially but it will bring life to the series and I would believe him to be a very different mentor to that of Georgiou.

Forgive me if I'm wrong but check out Burnham's uniform in this shot - she's in silver rather than the gold piping (compare to the header shot above) and she's missing the Starfleet delta - are we looking at a scene post-incarceration? 

It's a nice placeholder trailer that highlights a few new treats. It sits nicely alongside the character trailers that have appeared and include Voq. Still we don't know who is playing him but the fact that he's got his own little teaser ahead of T'Kumva makes me think he's kind of a big thing. Looks like he's carrying one of the new style bat'leth's as well!

So what's with that TV-MA thing as well? Well with a tiny bit of digging it looks like this is programming suitable only for over 17's. Yes, Star Trek is going all adult on us. It does seem to be a rating associated mainly with streaming and premium networks and indicates that the programme will contain strong and frequent sexual content, extreme violence or both. Wow, big stuff.

Now if that's not a massive turn up for the books then I don't know what is. I'm convinced Discovery is going to be a winner and with this all-out declaration that it is going to be very gritty from the start it just makes waiting for September 25th (UK!) even harder to bear...

What else did you spot in the new trailer for Discovery?

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Monday, 21 August 2017

Next Gen Guest Double: The Official Starships Collection Issues 104 and 105

The latest duo from Eaglemoss drops us into the fifth and sixth seasons of The Next Generation.

Up at issue 104 it's one more kitbash to add alongside the Kyushu and Centaur in the form of the chunky Sydney Class USS Jenolan

Ok, ok I dig this one in the ribs a little too much with that line because the Jenolan is a ship I'm really rather fond of. So it might be a flipped and nacelled-up version of the SD-103 shuttle that makes a fleeting appearance near the beginning of The Undiscovered Country but so what, this little ship has a special place in the hearts of fans across the world since it's the craft Scotty reappeared on in Relics.

Crashed on the Dyson Sphere, the Jenolan had seen better days but here we have it presented in all it's launch day glory. She really is a right block of a ship which makes no matter in space since gravity and aerodynamics aren't really that important (or are they...?) and it's not going to win any beauty prizes. In essence this is the Starfleet version of a National Express coach or a cross-channel ferry. It's no science vessel, cruiser or deep space explorer, it's effectively a very big shuttle.

Yet I still love the damn thing and having a model of it is something I've waited a long time to see. The shape is clearly that of the shuttle but there's a lot of additional extras and the Jenolan is significantly bigger than the shuttle set counterpart we were treated to at the end of 2016. 

So NCC-2010 has some fantastic detail for such a lump. The metal top section isn't overly covered in detail with the exception of the ship registry to the front which leads into the bridge module (definitely nicked from a Constitution Class model) that trails back again to some exposed mechanics and also to the blue raised warp core cover.

The colour scheme is distinctly Kirk movie-era with a full white overcoat from nose to stern. Having only minimal detail doesn't crowd the surface although it does feel a little blocky with the grey touches just a sprinkling across the upper hull and a couple along the sides and back. 

The central/upper metal section is enclosed by the rest of the plastic build with the side panels closing in around the metalwork on either side. It's a quite an impressive piece of construction with four pieces of hull coming together to form the shape of the Jenolan. The hull detail right at the front is a little washed out with the two side panels on the front "prongs" making it very obvious since they are much more pronounced.

Along the sides of the hull we have the United Federation of Planets pennant on either side - and both the right way up and spelt correctly however the three decks of windows are all out of alignment with their recesses on the hull surface. Maybe one day huh, Eaglemoss? Maybe one day...

I have to admit to liking the tiny bit of hull marking/panelling towards the front as its nice and subtle and doesn't, again, overpower the whole hull as full line definition might well have done. Also this detailing then makes you realise that the Jenolan is, unusually for a Starfleet vessel, devoid of any aztec paint scheme. Probably too much for something this size and the Runabout too avoided that finishing touch if you recall.

Flipped over and the real detail on the Jenolan can be uncovered. There's a lot of engineering works all the way along the ship with some incredibly tiny greebling everywhere you look. Oh - and look out for the very obvious Romulan Warbird nacelle glued in there! The hull sides again hug around the central body and it's a very distinct feature of the craft which has been replicated on the model perfectly. Choosing to have them as individual pieces certainly brings depth to the result.

It's an amazing finish and such a shame that for it's life on display you'll barely ever see the work that was done on the underneath (or topside if you're thinking of it from the SD-103 shuttle perspective).  I mean, in concept this should be the other way up and thus exposing all this wonderful detail but then we have the shuttles set for that!

The only really ugly bit on the Jenolan has to be the joins between the nacelle pylons and the main hull. They are gappy and seem a little misaligned when viewed from the underside. From the front and top it isn't too bad - again this is the angle you'll be seeing it from for most of the time.

The pylons are beautifully crafted with a very tight sweep and turn in the middle arcing out to the warp engines. Now these are very clearly stolen from a Constitution Class ship with that glaring movie-era shape and grille placement. For me on the Jenolan it's the finishing touches like the older nacelles and the registry edged in red that make this such an exciting ship to add to the collection. It bridges a gap, introduces a different type of Starfleet vessel and gets to be the vehicle which returned Scotty to Star Trek

Lastly to the rear there's a ship name and a couple of guidance lights plus the greyed out engine of the SD-103 shuttle converted into just another hull panel. It's only really at this end that you can appreciate how the Jenolan model has been put together. The stand is a rear fit which grips right around the backside of the craft giving the illusion of flight and providing a decent sturdy support although I need to file the peg down to fit into the base more snugly. 

While it's not the streamlined Enterprise-E or an intricate ECS Fortunate freighter the build here does impress me. Love it, love it, love it.

The magazine retells the story of Relics among the details of the craft itself. The initial CG picture is actually really nice giving a rear view of the ship and you can clearly make out some form of observation lounge at the back that isn't evident on the TV. Of course the mag skips over this being apparently the only ship on which you can beam through shields(!) but has some great stills from the episode in question. I'd have liked some coverage of the story pre-Relics that was included in the novelisation but I understand that it's not classed as canon since it wasn't screened.

The views of the ship are great to look at but they do reveal that the impulse engines on the model aren't marked out and that there is a magazine/ship discrepancy between paint finishes on the "spine" running from the bridge to the rear of the ship. Follow this up with a double page on the designing of the Jenolan and you get quite a detailed picture of a one-ship wonder. It was used again as a shuttle (Generations) and a starship (Trials and Tribble-ations) but not in this configuration. She really is a one off.

Eaglemoss have chosen to pay tribute to James Doohan here with six pages devoted to the Scotty actor. A perfect way to complete this issue given its focus on the return of the character aboard this very vessel. The coverage touches on all points of Scotty's appearances from his virtual cameo in Where No Man Has Gone Before through to the movies, the crossover of Generations and his "final" appearance in the 24th Century. A great overview and well picked.

Issue 105 travels back a season to Unification and the so-called Smuggler's Ship. Now you might be getting a sense of deja vu since it's only four issues ago that we saw the Bajoran Freighter which is this ship in another guise - have a look in that magazine to see what else this model has made an appearance as since 1989!

Ok, it is a little soon after the Bajoran Freighter to be dropping this one but there are significant differences between the two. 

The Smuggler's Ship (or should that be Smugglers' Ship? Was there really only one smuggler? Anyway, I'll remain true to the magazine cover) is a one coat black finish all the way across with only the red engines, white portholes and light blue forward viewscreen acting to breakup the darkness.

The ship is two clean halves with the top in plastic and the bottom - which includes the two pairs of "wings" being metal.

The wings, the removal of the rear pod and of course the colour change all help to radically alter the look of what was a Bajoran freighter into something a lot more sinister. In fact there's a lot more surface detail on this ship with additional "bobbles" along the upper hull sides at the front and back as well as more defined mechanics on the upper mid-section. Interestingly this model also has the fins thinned out that were filled in on the Bajoran freighter. I'd suggested this was down to moulding but I'm not convinced having seen this.

The aggressive wing formation to the front really set this model off and add to the look making it almost ready to pounce on an unsuspecting craft. Having them as a single element with the underside of the ship adds a lot of strength and stability to these pieces. The panelling on these isn't too heavily lined and contrasts to the extensive markings on the rest of the Smuggler's Ship.

One clear addition to the ship are the three gun structures on the top and the single one on the bottom. Again it adds to that darker purpose for this version of the model and also it's great to see that Eaglemoss aren't shying away from sticking in some very fiddly bits. Without these I don't think that the look of this craft would have been quite right somehow.

What amazes me with this issue is how a few changes can make something look completely different and even feel different within an episode of the series. This is a lot more futuristic and tech heavy than the freighter and in only a couple of episodes between appearances it's barely recognisable. In fact if I had the choice of which one I would display if it came to it, I would pick this one.

The all over detail on here - top and bottom - is lovely to take in and although it's one more of the "one shot" starship, the work on this one is exemplary considering this was The Next Generation model time and not the impressive CG results we've had from Enterprise. Really the only area that suffers a little on finish is the engine block at the rear. The red is't as bright as I expected and it seems to fade into the black of the main body.

The Smuggler's Ship feels good, it's a solid, robust piece of Star Trek and even the four gun emplacements are pretty secure.  The stand fitting is a singular clip that wraps around the rear and claps cleverly over the two levels of the hull at the back. It's a lot of weight at the back of the ship for something with this kind of length but it still looks and feels fine. 

The 500m ship gets minimal background in the magazine this time as it was there to serve a purpose for the story, hence the reuse of an older model. The magazine tends to defer to the plot of Unification but aside from the two new CG pictures and the plan views of the Smuggler's Ship there is very little of the craft from the episode - probably understandably due to its fleeting appearance. That said the CG pics are gorgeous and help to bring out the hull detail which can, in some lights, be lost due to the one colour finish.  

I've looked over her several times since she arrived and keep spotting a bit of tech here or a window there that I hadn't seen before purely because the black shrouds everything.Even when photographing her the light changed and meant a couple of shots made her look a lot lighter and brought out some of the hull panel lines and greebles (hence the shot above right).

Thankfully if you do want to get an impression of what it looked like on TV, the Creating the Smuggler's Ship section shows a couple pics of the model itself and there's a good shot for comparison of the back end. Minor grumble but that image does give the tail end a lot more depth to the hull surface than the model however I'm more thankful that some of the reduced detailing on the freighter version has been "upgraded" for this one.

I suppose it's apt that this and the Jenolan were released together since both are the results of "parts bin" refurbs having previously been something very different.

Next up is a section covering the making of the classic 25th anniversary two-part Unification. While I did know that there had been longstanding plans to get Spock into The Next Generation it fills in the process from that early point to the development of the fifth season landmark and adds in something I've always said - that the second half is way, way too wordy and lacking in action. I still find watching this as a single movie is a drag once Spock steps out of the shadows at the end of the first part.

The "Making of..." piece ties in Unification to both The Undiscovered Country and the tragedy of gradually losing Gene Roddenberry (who would have been 96 this month) through the character of Sarek. This piece does have some good in depth information around the story and the elements within it - Sela, Spock and Data, the Enterprise's mission and the final, touching meld between Spock and Picard. It'll still be a talky last 45 minutes but this has added a few sparks to watch out for in future viewings.

Again as with the Jenolan the episode On Screen section can only be the one episode the ship appeared in. The sad thing with this page now that we are getting into repeat territory quite a lot and also into ships that only appeared once and very briefly is that this episodic recap is getting repetitive. It only discusses the episode as a synopsis rather than honing in on the ship plus the info in these paragraphs has been stated several times over and over in the rest of the mag. Time to maybe look at doing something different here? For note though I'd still keep the Trivia trio since that can be moulded to the issues/episode/relevant characters.

I've been impressed with this month's double act. I absolutely love the USS Jenolan and have done for years since I first saw her crumpled hull on the Dyson Sphere so a model is icing on the cake and this one is pure class even with a few niggles. The Smuggler's Ship is just different and although released very soon after the Bajoran Freighter it is different enough to just get away with it but I know collectors will grumble because of the proximity. Solid entries, well made and a welcome step back into The Next Generation.

To next month and we finally get another of those elusive opposition ships from Voyager with the release of the Kazon Predator Class warship and one that will probably eclipse it in popularity even though it's a "twicer", the Klingon Bird of Prey in attack formation (wings down). Will there be any notable improvements or changes to this one or will we just be getting the same body mould as issue three

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Sunday, 20 August 2017

Mey-er Be Khan Again?

When I think I've seen the most stupid thing the internet has to offer around Star Trek and then it pumps out another.   

Seems there's some thought out there that Nicholas Meyer might be working on a Khan Noonien Singh series that would take place following on from the Space Seed story from season one of The Original Series detailing his survival on Ceti Alpha V. The other strand to this rumour was that this was being prepped should Discovery bomb as an immediate replacement.   

Now I think we can eject that latter consideration faster than a critical warp core but the former might hold some stead. Meyer and Khan are intrinsically linked thanks to his directorial and six-day rewriting skills that turned out the Star Trek masterpiece which is The Wrath of Khan. Thanks to him a one episode villain from The Original Series is as well known as Kirk, Klingons and the USS Enterprise, so much so that he was rebooted for Into Darkness.   

Here's my beef with this idea and there are a few slices to work at. One; is it too soon to be thinking of another Star Trek series when Discovery has yet to air and gauge audience reaction. Two; Won't a Khan series be a little restrictive? Thirdly; Khan - again?   Latter day Star Trek always took a few years to introduce a new show with Deep Space Nine coming six years after The Next Generation debuted, Voyager two years after Deep Space Nine and six months after The Next Generation ended and Enterprise went solo the TV season after Voyager came to an end. 

There's always been spacing, a good spread but two running almost simultaneously might not be a great move. We do know that Meyer is working on a new Star Trek project but it needs to give Discovery time to gestate before launching to the audience. It might work as a one off six or ten episode mini series and that could be a further way for the franchise to expand. 

We know Fuller had an anthology concept for Discovery originally but this might be the evolution of that.   Over the next few years Meyer might be developing an anthology of series based on Star Trek guest characters exploring their stories further (cant you just see that Garth of Izar story happening....?!). 

A Khan one would definitely be a popular choice to kick off such a series but its the content which is then the issue. After six months Ceti Alpha VI exploded and "...everything on this planet was laid waste..." to quote Khan himself. This would mean that should the story be taken beyond that point its going to be focusing a lot of time on a group of people sitting in cargo carriers from a DY-100 sleeper ship.   

Khan will always be a fascinating character in the franchise, even when messed about with for Into Darkness - as a side line i have a friend who watched this for the first time with only exposure to the 2009 film previously and absolutely loved every minute of it. Perhaps proof that Khan is a villain for all times.   

Having Khan as a replacement series ready to go if Discovery flops just cant be right. I cant think of a worse idea nut it does work as a side line one off although fans of the expanded literary universe will probably grumble when it goes against the series of books which documented that whole period. Just be thankful (for now at least) that Discovery isn't obliterating the whole universe developed by writers since the end of Nemesis.   

I just don't see how a Khan series would work long term. There can only be so many episodes of him brooding, reading Moby Dick, brooding some more, feeding his Ceti eels and dealing with soap-opera level issues amongst his superhuman collective that we could deal with i think. For me it just doesn't work unless its got a restricted time frame and number of episodes as a companion series to Discovery

Hey, Meyer might not even be working on a Khan series - he might be looking at a show that parallels events in Discovery for example in another part of the quadrant. Then there's that third point. Khan - again. Yes, he is superb and highly regarded character in Star Trek lore who is often referenced in every frame of the franchise but a fourth appearance may further dilute the power of the character.

For example, take a look at the Borg. The more that we saw of them the more I believe they were neutered and their power and impact with the audience was reduced. They were overused and the same might now be turned to Khan. Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan are excellent. The former establishes a fantastic villain and one who is a clear match for Kirk while the movie sequel is without question the pinnacle of the Star Trek movies and one of the greatest stories ever told in the whole of the franchise. It is probably my go-to comfort movie and has been watched more times than anything else in my collection.   

Khan is, you could say, a safe bet, a security blanket but isn't Discovery using enough of those already with the inclusion of Sarek, the Klingons and Harry Mudd? Isn't Meyer better going in a totally new direction and, dare i say it, somewhere no one has gone before? We know the mixed success that reboots can bring given how well 2009 was received and performed versus the dire reaction to the re-imagining of Khan's story for Into Darkness. Cumberbatch is a fine actor but sadly he ain't Ricardo Montalban...he hasn't got the pecs for it at the least.  

Using Khan again suggests that the franchise would rather play it safe and retreat to familiar ground than go out there and explore. Need I note that Discovery is itself exploring an event previously mentioned in The Original Series and in an area of the franchise's 23rd Century history that is already well packed with material. We all know what happened to Khan so do we need to revisit it? Probably not but what other characters might benefit from a mini-series? 

If we keep it focused to those around The Original Series there are a few that jump to mind. First there's the obvious Harry Mudd option and given his nine episode inclusion in Discovery this could well be set up for Mudd to go put on his own (perish the thought...although I have some more on this shortly). What about that Gary Seven series that was backdoor piloted with Assignment: Earth? How about a series looking at the story of Cestus III and the Gorn pre-Arena?    

I think that might make an interesting spread but it might change perceptions of the original show and retread already established lore. I would hope Meyer is working on something totally new - maybe something from the 'lost era' after the launch of the Enterprise-B and before Encounter at Farpoint. Surely there are a few flashpoints in those intervening years that could do with some more exploration? I'm convinced that whatever this project of Meyer's that is confirmed as being Star Trek related but not linked to Discovery will be of the greatest quality given his (limited) track record. Ok it might only be three entries now but we will get to see more of his input during season one of Discovery which we know now is up to completing the script for episode 13 of the planned 15.   

Ultimately would another turn on Khan be an error? I strongly say yes. Time to loosen the reins and let this new team take the franchise forward on TV truely into new territory?

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Path of Discovery - Round Up and Opinion

Holy mother of God (which is word we can't say in Star Trek so let me correct that). Oh my.

San Diego Comic Con and now Star Trek Las Vegas are helping in the media campaign which is building us towards September 24th (25th for us in the UK) when Discovery will finally arrive. 
The Comic Con was a great chance to take in production design shots, sketches as well as a ton of Klingon and Starfleet uniforms (including the medicals whites shown below); Las Vegas - and the time between the two has unveiled some new character shots, background details, posters and photo shoots which have allowed the cast - for the first time to tell us more about their roles within the show. So, rather than just show a ton of photos from the events, let's try and work out what it tells us about the show and what we might expect. 
The Entertainment Weekly photoshoot with its three distinct covers gave us some nice shots of the whole main cast with, unusually, two captains in shot with both Lorca and Georgiou in frame together. There were some corridor shots which included Michelle Yeoh wielding that phaser rifle plus one of the whole main cast on the Discovery transporter pad which has a very, very familiar look to it and is certainly more in keeping with the look of a generic Starfleet transporter room than the Shenzhou.

It also linked in nicely to a chance for the cast to share their favourite episodes of the franchise with Sonequa Martin-Green choosing Amok Time and Anthony Rapp (Stamets) choosing The Devil in the Dark as his. Some of the other choices were a little hazy but these two seem to have their reading and watching well up to date. Rapp in particular has been all over Twitter with some hefty Star Trek re-watching which has recently seen him diving into early Deep Space Nine

Folks in the UK can now get their hands on the SFX magazine which is carrying some new material on the show and includes a 1000 question Star Trek quiz book and a Juan Ortiz The Next Generation print as two freebies. Cost of the mag - £5.99.

San Diego Comic Con highlighted just how much detailing has gone into the costumes especially the Klingon armour. It's exquisite with figures moulded into the design and script etched into the weaponry. It all seems a lot more organic and raw than we've seen before and it was revealed that Bryan Fuller has expressed that the Klingons be bald as one of his caveats for the show. 

Fuller's departure has also been covered in more detail last month explaining that his original thoughts for Discovery were to do an anthology series with each season being a different Star Trek time period. Eventually this would have seen us pass Nemesis and into the future but CBS wanted something with a standard cast over multiple seasons hence it has become the show we now expect in September. The disagreements between Fuller and CBS over the choice of David Semel for director of the pilot episode as well as issues surrounding the announcement of Sonequa Martin-Green as the lead AND the need to do some serious universe building all contributed to the delays which have seen Discovery out back by nine months.

So what have we learned about some of the cast/characters?

Well, we now know that Burnham is raised by Vulcans, specifically Sarek whom I would guess will be the one giving her off the record advice during the show as a father figure. I would think she will also allow for some exploration of the "human condition" that each of the five previous series has unwrapped but from a slightly different angle being human herself. We also saw at Vegas that the first Discovery novel - Desperate Hours - will be set a year before the pilot episode and is therefore set a year after the original pilot, The Cage

It will focus on Burnham aboard the Shenzhou as a newly promoted first officer when a Federation colony is under attack. Written by David Mack it's due to be released around the time of the pilot airing in September. The second novel will be set ten years before the pilot episode and will be penned by show writer Kirsten Beyer. No news on a title as yet for this one but the news is that they will be tying the novels, comics and generally everything that is not on screen into the show to create an all round media experience with the show. Now, that makes me believe that you'll be able to find out things about the show by paying attention to the other materials available - possible clues and hints off screen...?

What has also been banded around is that Burnham is actually an experienced officer who specialises in first contact situations which again nicely dovetails into the situation with the Klingons - which will only be the focus of the first season. Each year it seems will be a self-contained arc.

One of my favourite things about all this Discovery news is that Lieutenant Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) has finally been given a bit more breathing space to let us get to know the character. Aside from being one of the 11 posters covering Klingons, the crew and a lone Vulcan, Stamets being the first gay character in the show's TV history (not counting the Sulu nod in Beyond) is certainly a big talking point. There have also been four animated promos featuring Lorca, Burnham, Saru and Georgiou providing a one-shot of each character to announce the upcoming show.

Burnham is also narrating the slightly longer trailer for the show which again stays very generic and avoids any series clips. It does have a new monologue from the Discovery officer and while there are murmurings it could be an opening speech a la "Space, the final frontier..." I'm more inclined to say it's just for this promo;

As we stand at the edge of an unknown universe, we know our greatest challenges lie before us – that our future is not bound by fear, and that our mission is not to conquer, but to discover. That is our destiny; a destiny written in the stars and so we boldly go where we have never gone before.

Nice speech and certainly echoing the lines of a certain Kirk and Picard from their shows. Oh and talking of those two gents I see Jason Isaacs on Twitter was rampng up the ante saying how Discovery is going to nark off fans of the earlier shows. Hate to say it but I actually agree it probably will to some degree. Not all fans but there will be those that will take a dislike to this new angle on Star Trek. I think Isaacs is intelligent enough to realise that Star Trek has had to change with the times and that might be one reason so many good names are attaching themselves to the project - it's perhaps not seen as the geeky issue it might have been when Enterprise finished and its appeal is to be more mainstream. 

Isaacs did come back on Twitter to addendum the interview comments noting that he hadn't attempted to knock Shatner or Stewart for their roles but he wasn't concerned about attracting the hardcore Trekkies.

I'm convinced this is going to be handled well and without a stupid amount of fanfaring. It's a normal way of the world and relationships and good to see Star Trek finally catching up and from what I can see and hear, Rapp is loving the role and the opportunities. Now when I heard that he was a science officer who would be mainly focusing on funguses and the like I wasn't overly excited but having listened to some of the interviews I think we are greatly underestimating the importance of Stamets' role in the show. He could be a key figure in the storyline and I don't see why they would have chosen such a curveball occupation if it wasn't

Watching an IGN interview with Mary Wiseman who plays Cadet Tilly in the show, she explained that the fourth year trainee will be working closely with Stamets around this major plot point. Tilly, explained Wiseman, is also a bunkmate to Burnham which also suggests that this is going to be one cramped up show if we have people sharing quarters - not something we even saw on Enterprise!

Cadet Tilly's uniform also drew attention with it's slightly different Starfleet delta. Rather than being just the arrowhead shape it's enclosed in a black rectangle which I guess indicates her academy status.

Shazid Latif has also managed to slip under the radar since his sideways casting from a Klingon to a Starfleet lieutenant (Ash Tyler). Now I seem to have missed this point virtually everywhere but this guy starts out the show (according to an interview with Latif) as a prisoner of war and is reintegrated into the crew of the Discovery when the show starts. This is another very different take on a Starfleet officer and might well throw in a lot of the conflict we are hearing so much about in the series. Having a very shaken viewpoint from someone who has most likely suffered a great deal at the hands of the Klingons will make for some shocking and maybe uncomfortable viewing.

Talking of Klingons, let's divert away to these guys.

Among the character posters that appeared were three for T'Kumva (Chris Obi), L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Voq - as yet we don't know who is playing this part. It seems that we have so far "only seen one Klingon house" in the show and there are, apparently, 24 in total. What I'm loving about this is the attention to the storytelling detail. It looks like Kirsten Beyer has been keeping the writers on their toes ensuring accuracy within the realms of the facts of the franchise. I totally get that aesthetically it's not going to look like The Original Series or Enterprise because of production values and the way in which it is filmed but the in-universe background has to be correct for it all to sync perfectly. We were told too exactly why the Klingons look like they do and exactly why they have the ridges. Apparently it's all down to skeletal structure and airflow don't you know...!

We got some new shots of the Klingon armour close up plus their array of armaments which are in keeping with the franchise and include bat'leths, d'k'taghs and mekleths. We've even had some new closeups of Battle Commander L'Rell to tease more of the distinctive Discovery Klingon look and T'Kumva will also be adorning the cover of the first comic to come from the new series. Just check out the detail on the clasps, the inscriptions on the blades and the clever involvement of the Klingon logo in all the designs. 

PLUS we had a first look at Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) from the House of Kor - and yes, it seems from all the hints that it is the same house as the Klingon played by John Colicos in Errand of Mercy plus the Deep Space Nine episode Blood Oath, The Sword of Kahless and Once More Unto the Breach. Nice link through again showing attention to the bigger picture and this guy looks very hardcore Klingon. The one thing that has been noticed with Kirk is that his armour bears a Starfleet captain's badge and rank pips. Certainly no love lost there and tells us a lot about the aggressive nature of the Klingons in the show.

This Klingon armour is something of a sensation and is one of the things a lot of people seem to be talking about whether it's the differences between each character or the distinctive Torchbearer suit that we saw at San Diego and briefly in the trailer. The finishing touches are just unbelievable (I know, second mention but it is super impressive) and we've never seen precision and vision in the costumes like this before on a TV show. I think the most detailed item I recall before this was perhaps the symbols added to the screws on General Chang's eye-patch in The Undiscovered Country.

Among all the designs we saw there were some ship ones in there including a new Bird of Prey which has hallmarks from the D5 of Enterprise as well as the trademark vessel first seen in The Search for Spock. I'd actually go as far to say that there are a few touches of Romulan design in there too but you can clearly see the lines of the 22nd Century ships from the prequel show in the form of the new craft. Here's a nice addition too - they're Mar'Tok Class. 

As for merchandise it's all good news with MacFarlane Toys being handed the official licence for the franchise and all it's past iterations. Unveiled at Vegas was their $39.99 Discovery screen-accurate phaser which will be launched soon. It looks like a beauty and no fan will want to be without one (definitely this one!!!!) plus there is more to come from the company including their new range of figures which has been seen to include a Picard screen-accurate to the third season of The Next Generation. 

Ping over to our friends at FanSets and the news around Discovery from them is that there will be a set of pins for the show and they announced four of them ahead of the convention. Georgiou, Saru and T'Kumva were the first characters revealed plus the ship pin for the USS Shenzhou. This last one caused fan meltdown with the note that the badge announced it to be a Walker Class ship. Spurious rumour suggested this was a homage to The Walking Dead from which Martin-Green has recently departed however designer and starship extraordinare John Eaves levelled that by informing us that it's named after X-15 test pilot John Walker. So there.

The Official Starships Collection also broke silence over Discovery and you can read that news here but the final bit of excitement for me was that the Timelines game will be adding Discovery characters and ships in the near future.

Las Vegas has been a real eye opener for Discovery and has revealed a lot of little bits of background information to show how much care and attention has gone into the universe building and the bigger picture. My confidence in the series grows each time I see something else revealed and I'm really liking the comraderie that is apparent between the cast be they in Starfleet uniforms or under Klingon ridges. Discovery could well be a huge landmark for the franchise and a jump off point for a lot of other works as The Next Generation proved to be in the 1990's. 

A lot has happened since the first announcement in November of 2015 and September is just a glimmer away. I'd suspect the news is just gonna keep on coming thick and fast.#

What's your favourite bit of Discovery news from the last few weeks?

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