Saturday, 30 September 2017

Riker's Ride: The Official Starships Collection Bonus Edition Three - USS Titan

How one online petition can make all the difference.

When the Official Starships Collection launched, the demand for ships outside of TV and film canon was immediate. One was the Enterprise-F from Star Trek Online but the one that really captured the fan imagination was USS Titan.

Led by The Trek Collective, a petition was launched with Ben Robinson stating that if it gained 5000 signatures then the Titan would happen. Guess what happened..

A product of one line from the end of Nemesis wherein Riker is given command of the ship, the Titan took on a life of its own in the novels that followed spawning its own line as well as appearing alongside the Enterprise-E in the expanded The Next Generation story and even dropping by larger story arcs such as the recent The Fall five book series that included elements from Deep Space Nine.

It has become ridiculously popular over the years and the ship itself is the result of a competition to design her which was won by one Sean Tourangeau. As I'm writing this review, the Titan is already sold out on the UK webshop with a smattering of craft still available in the US and there won't be any resupply in the near future. I'd suspect we'll be seeing these kinds of demands when the USS Aventine, another from the expanded universe, arrives in October so be prepared.

This new "bonus" edition of the collection is in the standard size box as per a regular issue so she'll slide in nicely alongside Voyager or your Steamrunner Class. Construction is the usual metal and plastic mix and on first impressions when you get her out of the box it's a decent enough model. Indeed, most of the Starfleet ones are - but more on my thoughts about the Swarm Ship special in an upcoming piece...!

The slightly eliptical primary hull of the Titan is in metal and there's a surprisingly large amount of detail given the scale of the ship. Fortunately it's not the detail overkill that we got with the Sovereign Class back in issue 20 and the final product is a good, restrained replica of the craft.

The saucer bears some striking and familiar hallmarks of 24th Century design that were key to the original concept such as the shoulders protecting the bridge and that slab of sensor pod. Slight disappointment is the inaccurate ship name and registry font and the omission of the red bordering on the letters - luckily I know a man who can fix that. 

As for feature definition, the Titan’s top is cleanly moulded with the lifeboat hatches, windows and even RCS thrusters etched out. Here too the windows are spot on since there are no grooves for them to sit into however the phaser strip isn't as distinctly marked as I would have expected.

The sensor pod is fitted very securely to the upper hull and is actually set square to the saucer. The detail and greebling on the surface here are just as good and well laid out. As with the hull it doesn't feel overloaded with finishing touches.

The recessed impulse engines at the rear of the saucer are, although you might not believe it, transparent however they're so deep in the hull you're barely able to tell. 

From there the saucer leads into the engineering hull, the topside of which is metal and a continuous piece from the primary hull. The surface mechanics continue too down to the shuttlebay with its distinctive "landing strip" marked out in the darker grey tone which is also used across the hull for panelling highlights. The shuttlebay doors and the strip are well designed and presented in the model with it being one of the Titan's more distinctive features.

Moving sideways onto the engine pylons there's the two tone grey paint scheme in great evidence and there's good support with these two struts being attached to the single metal backbone of the ship that runs back to the tip of the saucer. The pylons are really strong and supportive - there is literally no give or movement in them because they are part of that central structure.

The nacelles are another story and probably the most disappointing part of this rather fine series addition. The shape and form of the warp engines is, as you would hope, spot on, however the finish is less than acceptable, I would have hoped for translucent warp grilles but instead we have blue painted sections on either side. The bussard collectors are translucent but the choice to go with painted grilles does cheapen the overall effect. Noticably the ship registry and pennant is on the wrong angle of the engines. It should be one drop lower rather than right butt up against the grilles.

Over on the belly you can see the design nods to the Sovereign Class as well as Excelsior in the shape of the hull. The rear (the underneath of the shuttle landing strip) continues in the metal of the topside but the bulk of the secondary hull and the inset portion of the saucer are all plastic. You can also just make out the captain’s yacht positioned just behind the lower sensor done which shows this model is based on the final design rather than Tourangeau’s original plans. 

The dark grey panelling is also a lot less frequent on the bottom of the Titan with the secondary hull only having a few surface details to breakup the smooth finish. Tragically the recesses for the window - as always - don't line up with the markings and the larger arboretum windows reminiscent of the movie Enterprise aren't even coloured. Now I love the ship but this bottom section looks horribly half-arsed and unfinished. At least it's got the Starfleet pennants on either side and the deflector is painted pretty accurately within the lines.

The underside of the saucer has a lot more windows marked out just at the edge of the inset plastic section. Cleverly this runs just behind the phaser strip and hides the join rather impressively. There is a lot of detail around the hull here with lifeboat hatches and panelling galore but as with the topside the registry is missing its red lettering trim and some of the finishing red trim is also conspicuous from its absence on several surfaces. 

To the special edition magazine and it’s odd not to be discussing an episode as here we have some background on the introduction of the USS Titan and its role within the expanded Star Trek universe courtesy of the novels. As someone who missed the earlier Titan stories this is a good opportunity to fill in some knowledge gaps and get a better look at the ship as it appears on numerous covers.

The back story to the design takes up the rest of this standard length bonus issue featuring a conversation with designer Sean Tourangeau. His design was chosen as the winning entry in a competition to come up with the Luna Class and it transpires he was further included in the development of the craft to the final result which saw inclusions of more phaser strips and the captain’s yacht.

We are fortunate that the mag includes some of his early concepts for the ship as well as Tobias Richter’s incredible final CG versions which definitely helped ramp up the ship’s popularity. 

This is a great and welcome addition to the Starships Collection and demand has well outstripped supply already so I’ll be grabbing an Aventine asap when it goes back up for ordering. It’s one of those ships we’ve never had in any form apart from CG and to actually have it recreated and available is fantastic. She has her niggles as we have noted but for fans of the expanded universe this is one you can’t afford to miss because of its prominence in the ongoing novel series.

I’ll be getting her up there alongside the rest of the fleet straight away and I’m very glad I took a punt before it was too late on the first run. A great ship and a great model - better than some of the regular issues if I'm honest! Real shame if you miss this one due to supply but apparently it will be back in some point.

Did you purchase a USS Titan? What did you think?

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Concluding the Prologue: S1 E2 Battle at the Binary Stars

If The Vulcan Hello is the pizza base, this is your meat feast topping.

Battle at the Binary Stars does precisely what it says on the tin pretty much from the off with war coming to the Federation as the Shenzhou stands off against the Klingon fleet and Burnham attempts mutiny off the back of Sarek's "advice".

The serial nature of the show really comes into play here. There's no recap and you do need to have been keeping watch to know what's been going on from the previous hour. 

So, what's this one all about? Well, at 38 minutes it holds the record of being the shortest live action Star Trek episode in history but that doesn't mean it doesn't deliver. The Vulcan Hello was all about set up and introductions to Burnham and the cast onboard the Walker Class Shenzhou but in this follow up it's all about the conflict build up and the politics on both sides.

Burnham does seem to be sidelined a little for a period of this story, sitting it out in the brig (or what's left of it following the Klingon attack) while the Federation fleet engages in one rather impressive - if short - space battle. The graphics for this are just amazing and they are certainly on a par with those of the reboot movies. There's a ton of new starships to check out and for those who didn't catch the names, we're introduced to the T'Plana'Hath, Clarke, Shran, Kerala, Sue, Rye, Earhart, Dana, Edision, Yeager and Europa.

But Battle at the Binary Stars isn't just focusing on the Starfleet perspective and this appears to be a big difference in Discovery because they are taking time to build up the background of the Klingons and specifically the culture and influence of the 25th House. There's a lot of background to T'Kumva here but I would hasten viewers to keep an eye on Voq too because his role in this show is going to get much bigger as hinted by his own appearance on a character poster a while back.

There's a lot of Klingon diversity in the styles of the houses we are presented with via holographic comms (two are named as D'Ghor and Mokai plus we know of the House of Kor) - just check out the ornate headwear and armour worn by the various characters T'Kumva addresses pre-battle.

It's a brutal episode that starts heavy and remains that way to the end. There are a few questionable bits in there around cloaking devices but I can look around these since the House of T'Kumva has returned to the Empire and hasn't been actively involved in it for some time. Again as with the first episode, Chris Obi is superb as the Klingon "king" uniting his people and it all points towards this being a very bloody season so don't get too attached to any of the characters!

For a 38 min episode there’s a lot packed in - four deaths, two incarcerations and a Klingon Cleave ship too. That last one is a right beast and is directly involved in one of the episode's most impressive visuals. It really doesn’t let up for a second and still crams in more Burnham background ready for our ‘second pilot’ next week with Context is the King particularly around her introduction to Starfleet - interesting that her entire career has solely been on the Shenzhou which will no question add to the conflict on the Discovery

Burnham certainly is the key recipient of development here and that makes a lot of sense by the end of the story although you get the feeling we might be in for a lot more flashbacks to her career as the year progresses.

As to the conclusion of the episode, there’s a decent close quarters battle on the Klingon ship and I have to admit I was surprised that a few elements were wrapped up so neatly by the end of this second instalment. Indeed, the final moments with Burnham definitely betray a different path to the rest of the season than I was expecting but it does mean that Discovery is going to be full of twists, turns and surprises this year. 

Overall this is a satisfying half-hour of Star Trek. Totally different look but one that suits the 2010’s just as Star Trek suited the look of the 1960's and The Next Generation the 1980's. It’s moved rapidly with the times and the script for Battle at the Binary Stars seemed a lot more natural and flowing plus it's not been weighted down by a huge and unnecessary amount of technobabble. It was straight-forward to follow and maybe a little "dumbed down" in some respects from what we might have expected from a Voyager episode for instance.

Saru is still the stand-out character for me ahead of introducing the rest of the main cast in episode three. There's so much to do with the character and one that is unusually happier to remain away from conflict rather than face the unknown which is what we've been used to in every single iteration of the franchise to date. He is powerfully different in his opinion, aloof to the point of snobbery but still more than likeable. Doug Jones has done a marvellous job of realising the Kelpien onscreen but I could also easily heap praise onto any of the other cast such as Michelle Yeoh or even Sam Vartholomeos who performed superbly to introduce Star Trek to a brand new decade. 

I would have loved to see a bit more of L'Rell in these two stories but I can see how the Klingon segments were definitely focused on Obi's T'Kumva as the vehicle for Klingon reunification. I would hope that this balance of both sides of the fight continues forward to once again create a very different Star Trek experience in Discovery.

For me the interest is in how we move from Burnham's predicament at the end of this episode to the next hour and where this will also place any of the returning characters we have met both Starfleet and Klingon. To finalise - bravo effort with tons of room to expand and improve but I have a sense that next week may not be quite what we have seen so far off the back of how this one ended.

Did Battle at the Binary Stars deliver? Is it what you wished for? See our review of The Vulcan Hello here.

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And Introducing: S1 E1 The Vulcan Hello

As first episodes go, The Vulcan Hello is both brilliant and incredibly understated.

Star Trek Discovery has always promised to be different and it has fully delivered from the first scene, opening on the return of the 25th ‘lost’ Klingon house and by proxy setting up the whole season in about one minute.

This ain’t - and I coin the phrase - your dad’s Star Trek and the Kurtzman influence from the reboot movies is evidently stamped all over the look and feel of the show. It’s modern, it looks incredible from every angle and feels more akin to a movie than it does to a TV series. The mellow and warm feel you might have felt from seeing the bridge of the NCC-1710-D is starkly absent as is the sleek and refined feel to the universe. Yet while this hour is all about defining a story and setting out the scene it actually feels a bit underwhelming and almost way too relaxed to be a premiere episode of a highly anticipated franchise that’s been off TV for 12 years. 

Each frame oozes with detail and quality from the off whether you’re looking at the alien eggs on a drought-ridden world or the Easter Egg filled ready room of Captain Georgiou there’s always more you can go back to find. Those trinkets aren’t confined to one room of the Shenzhou either with sprinklings of references all the way through this first episode for fans to seek out. 

You can see where the extensive budget (read Netflix payment) has gone in every instant.  I hate to say it but you knew with the previous shows that they were sets but here there’s depth, realism and a deep investment from the cast which truly makes the viewer buy in. There may well have been extensive delays since it was first announced Star Trek was returning but the evidence for why it took so long is right there on the screen.

The Vulcan Hello is less than perfect and while the desert locations, sprawling Klingon sets and magical space walks set the show alight there are some stilted moments of dialogue. Most noticable is Yeoh’s already noted delivery of Georgiou’s lines. On the Crepusculan homeworld(?) at the beginning its most evident but as the episode progresses you tend to spot it less and less. Nice to see the nods to the Prime Directive in there and the plan to not interfere but still somehow save a world - didn't Kirk do that in Into Darkness and get a kicking?! Generally it does feel oddly plodding even for just 43 minutes and I do appreciate a good set up but even the big moments in The Vulcan Hello such as Burnham’s encounter with the Torchbearer or even her later attempted mutiny seem oddly lacking in tension. I can’t quite put my finger on it but something feels a bit flat.

Actually the relationship between Burnham and her commanding officer is at the core of the Starfleet half of the story. There's a great deal of respect in evidence between the two but their situation here really pushes that to the absolute limit and indeed, as we were prewarned - there's conflict on that there starship.

Burnham is clearly the centre of this part of the Star Trek universe with episode one also introducing us to James Frain’s Sarek albeit via hologram (controversial and my God did that get fans talking) as well as setting up a lot of her backstory. Frain remains stoic to the last although how they will link Spock, Sarek and Burnham all together is unknown. His take on Sarek truly reveals zero emotion and, as he is Burnham's choice for advice, could well be key to the development of the season. 

In fact you have to kind of take both this and the subsequent Battle at the Binary Stars as a prologue to the main series. This is all about set up, all about getting to know a few of the key characters before we get acquainted with the Discovery and its crew.

The bridge of the USS Shenzhou (pronounced Shen-Jo) is filled with diverse aliens; blue skinned, adapted and even one that looks like a cybernetic cast off from a Daft Punk video, probably making it the most galactic series to date. Most prominent is the Kelpien Lieutenant Commander Saru whom nobody quite knows what rank he is when referring to him. Doug Jones might add a slightly camp element to the character but Saru is pure Star Trek gold from his very first moments on the screen and is instantly watchable. His relationship with Burnham is ever so competitive and their early interactions before the first officer’s spacewalk are the only lighter moments of these first two hours.

Both Saru and the Klingons are makeup of cinematic quality. The vision of the Klingons themselves is impossibly vast and we learn quite a bit about them in these early hours. Just be aware that everything they say is in Klingon so you'll be checking subtitles throughout. Chris Obi owns every scene he steps into even if hes on a viewscreen and opening the episode with him places T’Kumva in an extremely high position of importance for the story. His delivery of the Klingon lines does seem very slow so you'll find you're waiting for him to catch up with your reading speed. This first hour mainly introduces the Klingons as a threat and on T’Kumva’s efforts to reunite the 24 Houses of the Empire against the Federation. 

As for their ships we get a great look at the carved and ornate Obelisk ship overseen by the Torchbearer although the standoff with Burnham we saw in that teaser clip doesn’t quite turn into the one on one conflict you might expect it to be. The Sarcophagus Ship is every bit as impressive as you would hope and the link between the Torchbearer, the funeral scene and the revelation of just what coats the hull of T'Kumva's flagship all tie neatly together.

The Vulcan Hello does make sense as a title when you get to a certain point of the story and it does in fact refer to a pivotal moment in the show as well as in the relationship between captain and first officer. The build up through the first 43 minutes of Discovery is steady. Having just one plot and avoiding having to introduce all the main cast in the first hour is actually a masterstroke. It feels more natural as cast will come and go but it allows us to get to know Burnham probably better than we’ve known any character by the end of the first episode. 

Discovery has managed to do something that previous Star Treks had considered but never managed - to build up into the story and the arrival of the title craft rather than jump starting it artificially and perhaps forcibly from the start. The Vulcan Hello sets up the background to the remaining episodes as well as letting us take in all the new tech, the feel and the experience of a Star Trek that is firmly planted in the realms of today's media.

What I did spot was that The Vulcan Hello avoided the super-being cliche which appeared in the pilots of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager nor did it try to over complicate itself with too much deep-and-meaningful. This was a precursor to war, plain and simple. No whistles or bells here just straight-forward storytelling that did feel it could have done with a little faster pacing at times just to ramp things up. 

Saying that though, this is going to be a continuation every week and while there's no To Be Continued legend as per previous shows (nor are there episode titles at the start) this is one story you will need to be following from day one. 

In conclusion, The Vulcan Hello is a solid if average start up for Discovery. While it says Star Trek on the tin you can feel in the air that it's different, that it's firmly targetting an audience that wants more realism in their TV and want to be entertained and surprised by what they see. It needed to capture the imagination of millions and while it is a slowburner of a 43 minute story, it ticks a lot more boxes than it crosses. 

Essential viewing? Yes. The best start possible? Probably not but stick around...

Now drop over to this post for our review of Battle at the Binary Stars!

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Sunday, 24 September 2017

The End in Sight: The Eve of Discovery

November 2015 seems such a long time ago but we are now less than a day from The Vulcan Hello in the US.

After a wasteland of 12 years where we've had just three reboot movies to keep us fed and watered among the sea of Star Trek repeats, a new series will be with us - the first season of at least two. 

Opening with the free to view pilot, the second episode which we know is titled Battle at the Binary Stars will follow straight after almost exactly 30 years to the day after The Next Generation premiered with Encounter at Farpoint. That episode however will be available only on subscription TV such as Netflix and CBS' All Access service.

How far we have come in those three decades with the gap of transmission in the US and UK shrunk from three years to less than a day; a time when all the sci-fi elements were models rather than CG and the captain was played by an Englishman... well maybe not everything has changed.

The titles of the first four episodes are officially revealed as Battle at the Binary Stars (think we can work out what happens there), Context is for Kings and the lengthy The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry which screams "Klingon episode" if ever there was one. In fact the last week has been a real steam-roller/headf*ck of Discovery and I'm inclined to think there's been far more publicity and media storm around this than any of the three reboot movies individually or combined.

As episode titles go I think these are a total break from the punch "norm" of a Star Trek episode title. These are more cerebral, more diverse and suggestive. While a The Next Generation episode title could tell you about the story straight up, these just don't and I love 'em for it. It's another way that Discovery is setting itself apart from the previous generations.

In the UK we can expect to see the first two episodes drop at 7am on Monday so for us working peeps that means either a lunchbreak glimpse or a long wait for the evening. I'll be honest, I wasn't booking a day off for it.

There is so much speculation and even more excitement following the CBS premiere on the 19th where everyone who attended seems to be lauding praise on just about every aspect of the new show. Is it really? Well the rest of us will be finding out for ourselves very, very soon. I actually feel a bit overTreked this week with the onslaught of teasers, uniform vids, promo photos, schematics, warp diagrams and even half-page pieces in the TV magazines. There's been a lot and with the family changes I've experienced in the last couple of months it's been hard to keep up with. What I have to applaud is that they have kept fans enwrapped for months and the quality we have seen has been judged to perfection. Remember that Beastie Boys soundtracked first trailer for Beyond that totally mis-stepped us all? Nothing like that over the last few weeks - everything has been aligned to the vision of the show and all seems to be demonstrating that Discovery will be proper Prime Universe Star Trek. Heck, we've even had suggestions that we might see a dovetail into The Original Series style uniforms at some point.

The cast themselves have been key to the promotion of the show, perhaps none moreso than Anthony Rapp via his Twitter account which just seems to be a constant feed of Discovery info, retweets of fan media and praise for the production of the series. A brilliant ambassador for the series if ever there was. That said, who can't love the enthusiasm that the whole cast has shown for the show nor Jason Isaacs' brutal honesty? This really is going to be a new age for Star Trek. The first time part of the TV franchise will be open to the wonders of 21st Century social media.

It has been exhausting but after such a perfect PR journey it's finally time to see the results. I don't know that much about the plot, the characters or, really, anything, but it feels like I might have made that decision sub-consciously and I hope that it will mean I enjoy the spectacle of Discovery that little bit more. Whether us UK fans will get to see the After Trek post-episode show is still not confirmed but I'm thinking it's a big fat NO at the minute.

Couple of really exciting things that I have tracked this week though. Firstly Timelines, the mobile game, has updated its content and all players received a Saru (yay) plus there's more content well on its way from the new series including crew and ships. Secondly and more expensively Eaglemoss have announced that their Discovery Starships Collection lands in January 2018. Issue one - USS Shenzhou - will be an introductory £9.99 with every issue following coming in at the shocking price of £29.99 per month. Oh. My. Issue two is USS Discovery.

In regards to the future of the show, episode director and former Commander Riker, Jonathan Frakes let slip that there is going to be a Mirror Universe episode in season one. How flippin' cool is that?! Saru with a goatee? Stamets with a scar? Has to be better than The Emperor's New Cloak at the very least. 

I remain ecstatically optimistic for the experience we are about to see in the next 24 hours. This may be the dawn of a brave new era of exploration for Star Trek, new characters and new possibilities. Discovery promises to be different, it dares to challenge our preconceptions of Star Trek and while there will be significant changes to the fabric of the show I believe that it will, at its heart, still remain faithful to the positive vision of the future that inspired Gene Roddenberry over 50 years ago.

I will, as you would no doubt expect, be reviewing every episode - at least that's the intention at the moment but time will be dependent. 

So here we go...let's fly.

What are your thoughts on the buildup to Discovery? Too much? Too little? Was everything a winner or did they miss a trick?

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Cut to Discovery: There's a Lot to Catch Up On

If you're wondering why |I haven't just been posting about every single trailer it's because, well, there's not been a whole lot of new material shown in the run of 30 second teasers.

However Sonequa Martin-Green's appearance on The Late Show this week brought us the first clip from the show featuring her character, Michael Burnham, coming face to face with the Klingon Torchbearer.

It's only a fleeting few seconds of footage but it tells us a lot about the feel of the show. Gritty, realistic and edgy will certainly be terms that will pass the lips and across the keyboards of reviewers but from a fan perspective it's a lovely nibble at the corner of a much larger cake.

Burnham appears to be standing - as we've seen before - on the top of a Klingon ship. Just check out the graphics on the helmet heads-up display with the white dot moving with the turn of her head. The intuitive tech is something we've not seen in Star Trek before nor have we seen Starfleet officers wearing space-age garments underneath their larger environmental suits as Burnham does here (only just thought about this one...!). 

With the proximity alarm sounding on her suit, Burnham turns to be confronted by the Torchbearer who decides to talk with his bat'leth rather than his mouth. Loved the moment when Burnham's suit identifies the Klingon insignia - another sign of just how cool the tech aspect of this series is. How they will try and align it more with The Original Series as has now been indicated will be a challenge although on some of the official cast photos we've already seen that the control consoles do have buttons and knobs.

On the CBS morning programme, Martin-Green showed up again but this time with a second clip which has her in discussion with Captain Georgiou as they walk across the desert. The conversation is about how they would survive/escape from such a desolate planet and ends with the Shenzhou breaking cloud and descending right down to the planet. I don't believe it will land but there does seem to be a preference to let these huge craft enter atmospheres in recent years with no ill effects (Into Darkness...). Great shot of the NCC-1227 close up right there. The clip also includes some footage of Burnham taking on her spacewalk which I would think links to the clip of the face off with the Torchbearer from The Late Show.

As to the remaining few teasers we've only really had any new shots in the later ones. We've had Fortune Favours the Bold with Burnham stepping out of the Shenzhou for her spacewalk as well as notable shots of Lorca in action wearing the Starfleet flak jacket and sitting on the bridge of the Discovery as well as Cadet Tilly getting her first onscreen line ("This is so cool!) which is very current and perhaps not what you might expect to hear in the 23rd Century!

Beyond the Stars offers up nothing we didn't see in the earlier trailers while The Age of Discovery goes close up on the Klingons plus a shot of the new transporter effect but again, very little to get excited over. 

Perhaps more interesting are the new promo images we've received of the main cast. There's Lorca replete with phaser (great pic here, Isaacs looks damn cool), Burnham looking stoic and Lieutenant Stamets taking a call on his Starfleet issue communicator. 

With Saru's image you get a good chance to see some of the ship set detail. Is this Discovery rather than Shenzhou given the rather sleek looking computer console to the right? Does seem to be a lot of exposed mechanics on these ships. Indeed the set tours that have been circulating would seem to agree with this hypothesis since they all feature the cool blue touchscreens and sleek metal finish more inline with the Discovery.

Lieutenant Tyler gets more of an action shot with him at work in one of the shuttles ready to don the black body armour. 

The last trailer released has offered a little more for us to digest with new shots of Lorca, Burnham, Tilly and Stamets and one of Emily Coutts (Keyla Detmer) sporting some rather techny headwear. From what Lorca is saying; "The Discovery can take us to places we never dreamed of reaching. No other crew would have a chance pf pulling this off. Just us."; the Discovery is an advanced ship for its time being able to go further than any other ship to this point. 

The trailer also features Burnham on an away mission on location rather than being inside a soundstage surrounded by styrofoam rocks. There's not a lot that can be garnered from the images in this trailer even if there are a lot of new stills in there. It's just nice to see some new material. Happily, Stamets gets the final word in the trailer and for those of us who have been waiting for Anthony Rapp to get some more trailer screen time it's a joyous event.

There is still a strong focus on the Klingons too with the news that the House of T'Kumva is the 25th in the Empire. Hang on...didn't we mention a while back that there were - according to Discovery - only 24 Klingon houses?

Correct because this is the lost 25th house which still follows the "old ways". They are to-the-letter on the teachings of Kahless, wear armour that is two centuries old and are all bald-headed. It's a clever spin to ensure that there's still some continuity within the universe and means that acceptances can, in some form, be made for the look of the Discovery Klingons.

What I've thought is really cool is that the Sarcophagus Ship's hull is covered in its namesake i.e. the coffins of dead Klingons from across two centuries. It's a generational ship in every sense.

Finally; the theme. Listening to it there are very, very distinct parallels and homages to the work of one Alexander Courage and the immediately recognisable Star Trek theme from the 1960's but once those sharp tones have faded the main bulk of the theme feels dark and brooding with deep rumbling drums and a sense of foreboding all woven into the melodies. Jeff Russo has produced a significantly different theme again from the pioneering openers of Voyager or The Next Generation. Only Deep Space Nine comes close to the more shrouded bars of Discovery's theme especially in the first three seasons. There's nothing light about the theme for the new show with the strains of the tune really signifying the grim tone of the first season of the new show.

With the rather negative word that The Orville is receiving from critics, the way is clearly paved for Discovery to rule the roost this season and my anticipation levels are just building and building with each new reveal. It is however fairing better with real audiences but surely it can't be competition to the newest Star Trek kid on the block if the suggestions that it is a big rip-off are correct.

How they've managed to keep this Discovery so secret from the very beginning I'm at a loss to explain in a world where media hacks and breaches are commonplace, this is one that has remained under lock and key even with just 10 days to go. 

On the flip side to that though, we're now ten days from the US premiere and it seems that no-one has seen the pilot. The official first showing is (I recall) scheduled for the 19th which gives us four (or five for UK viewers) days to find out what the word on the street is about Discovery. There must be something redeeming since it's already been confirmed for a second season.

Every day gives something new be it a props discussion, a trailer, a still or the musical rounds. In fact there's so much one man on a UK site can't quite keep up with it all...!

What's been your favourite part of the trailers so far?

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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Quality Quibbles: The Official Starships Collection Issues 106 and 107

There is no more satisfying sight when it comes to postal deliveries as the brown strapped Eaglemoss box on the hall table.

That moment of realisation that you have double ship indulgence at your fingertips, the hurried searching for scissors and that heart-in-the-mouth moment as you open the box wondering if both of the ships have arrived in one piece...there's nothing like it is there?

My experience with this month's ships has been murky. On the one hand there's - finally - the arrival of the Kazon Raider from Voyager and alongside it, a semi-cop-out with the Klingon Bird of Prey (Attack Position). Hopefully I'll explain my thoughts as we head through examining both of these items.

The Kazon Raider is, like the recently released Vidiian Warship, vastly overdue - by at least 70 issues. Cleverly spreading those key ships across the range does keep interest and means those waiting for specific ships or collecting from one series are kept on their toes but it does feel like these should have been a lot earlier.

The Raider is actually one of the smaller Kazon ships and shouldn't be confused with the significantly larger Predator Class ships that the Delta Quadrant baddies also operated. This is a much smaller, more manoeuvrable ship and is also one of the most distinctive designs, I think, in Star Trek history.

On first inspection this is one small ship - and it's also very front heavy with that drooping beak as well as the whole top section being metal. The whole ship bears a brown, sandy, dusty sort of paint job and it screams out for a bit of dirt washing because you know that the Kazon would never have maintained these ships in such pristine condition. In fact the only time it would have looked like this was in dry dock.

While it is instantly recognisable, this is one of those ships that doesn't "do" it for me from the off and coming to review it I find myself terribly uninspired by it. That's a shame because of it's importance to Voyager's early years for one and secondly because it's been such a long time coming.

Don't get me wrong, the actual model is decent enough but there's no pzazz here. You can admire the curves and the lines from the nose to the stern and especially at the business end there's some lovely layered panelling detail as well as - surprisingly - windows and inset colouring that's actually in the right place (looking at you, USS Jenolan) and accentuates that base brown.

Those little blips of colour from windows and from the yellow of the engines to the rear are essential to bringing the Raider to life just as much as the pointed, dangerous look of the hull. Even the addition of the Kazon emblem on either side of the hull The top of the ship doesn't really have any really fiddly bits on it and by that I mean mechanical parts, exposed circuits and the like that we've seen on many other craft. It's a lot more enclosed with more subtle finishing details perhaps only with the recessed bodywork on the sides showing any real "depth" to the ship.

The plastic section here encompasses only the underside and the wing-type appendages to the centre and the rear. If we're going to talk bland then this is perfect fodder because there is a horrible lack of detail. Of course this can be blamed directly back to the original model from which Eaglemoss were working but there's just nothing to get excited about when you flip the Raider over. There are a few winglets on the rear fins, a minor piece of engineering detail to the centre which is recessed back slightly into the hull but that really is it.

The problem is that the Kazon Raider looks too perfect. There's not enough panel lining on here, it's just too smooth and refined to make it "believable" as a representation of the Kazon craft. It bugs me to hell because even the drooping proboscis at the front looks sad and lacking in true depth and detail; it feels like a model three-quarters complete. Probably one that will go towards the back of a shelf and I have hopes that the Predator Class Kazon ship will come out a lot better.

Stand position with this one is rear-clipping with the clear plastic arm grasping the back end of the Raider. Not too tight a fit but very stable even with all that forward weight from the droopy nose and heavy metal front.

The issue 106 magazine is a belter, full of great reference material that the Voyager Companion book was lacking. Offering some great coverage of the Raider and it's operational history under both the Trabe and the Kazon, the magazine does well to tie in the craft's episodic appearances. I thought it had all started out in Caretaker but I was very much mistaken and corrected here.  Excellent insights into the Kazon too which are well worth adding to your library.

Designed by Dan Curry due to an overworked Star Trek staff in 1994, the Raider's evolution story is fairly linear although it did get some minor chops and changes. Take note too that it doubled as the Kazon Fighter with only a cockpit section swapout being the visual clue as to which scale of craft was being used in that shot. I would think that means we won't be getting the smaller variant of this one in the future since that would be the only alteration (saying that....).

Ahead of the two episode choices of State of Flux from season one and Alliances from the Kazon-heavy second year of Voyager, Eaglemoss fill us in on the creation of the Delta Quadrant's "short Klingons". Their background, you might be surprised to know was supposed to have been based around LA gangs and be only two factions rather than the indistinguishable 18 sects that the show intimated. I love the honesty in this section given the love/hate relationship the show and the audience seemed to have with the Kazon although the choice to finish their two year arc with Basics was respectable and the right thing to do. Great magazine and one I recommend for general background Voyager reference.

Now, here's one for you. I remember back in the day that a lot of people called for the Klingon Bird of Prey to be offered out in its attack and landed formations. I genuinely didn't think that either would be included in the full run but might have ended up as an online exclusive. I was wrong because as part of the main run, we have the seminal Klingon craft with it's wings down.

One of the first issues released (issue three), the Bird of Prey needs no introduction but, as with the Kazon Raider, I'm finding it very hard to get excited over a ship that has only a change in wing configuration from its earlier version. 

As you might have noticed, we seem to be seeing a few more of these altered models or variations on a theme - ReliantSaratoga and the upcoming Bozeman (which was requested a lot!), the Bajoran Freighter/Smuggler's Ship, Armoured Voyager...but this one really doesn't give much more than the original.

The worst thing is with the one I received and am reviewing here while I wait for a response from Eaglemoss (two days and i ended up calling to get a replacement) is that the wing cannon on the port side is glued on cock-handed. 

Hence my comment at the beginning around opening the box. I've been lucky that only the Xindi Insectoid Fighter (two halves I glued together) and the USS Rhode Island (nacelle cover again glued on) have come with some form of damage probably from transit. This is just poor quality control and lazy building. 

Anyway, more on that shortly as we move around this B'Rel class scout because it's not the only issue simmering under the surface.

This is for all intents and purposes a carbon copy of the ship from issue three. I'd be so bold to say that the main body and neck are probably the same mould or build to save time and money with only the wings being altered.

Annoyingly when you compare it to the Kazon Raider this has received something of a dirt wash to take the edge off the green paint scheme and make it look used. To the front and the bridge module there are some subtle panel lines across the top of the hull. The deflector strip round the front really stands out being a bold brown and unweathered and is the more distinctive colour on the ship. It doesn't pull you away from the overall effect but it is very distinctive with the rest of the hull being dirtied down. 

Now I have to note that, well, it's not absolutely a carbon copy because there are a couple more raised details on the surface of the bridge module which does mean there has been a slight update in four years. 

The grime and the panelling continues back along the short neck section to the main body where you do notice the windows have been painted on rather than marked somewhere near to recessed holes as we've seen elsewhere. Again there's nothing new here. Along to the rear the detail there does feel a little more refined but there's very little to call between this new version and the issue three original. Even at the back the gap in the engine block to slot in the stand is identical although I did think the clip fed in a lot more easily this time around.

Underneath the detail continues in line with the first version with all the mechanics you would expect to be in place right there. Their definition does leave a bit to be desired but again there does seem to have been a slight clean-up when it's come to the finishing touches. On the counter though, there's still no definition as to the landing leg panels or ramp - the underbelly is horribly still devoid of detail.

Of course the number one, table-topping difference here is the fact that the wings are down. First seen dropping to pick off the Merchantman in The Search for Spock it's an iconic feature of the Klingon ship and, begrudgingly, it's nice to have it represented. Along with the Enterprise it's probably one of the most famous and instantly recognisable vehicles from the franchise.

The wing panel feather detailing is replicated precisely from the first version and you can make out how the two have been constructed. It's down to the two shoulder sections being different. These are the pieces which move the wings into place and with the Attack Formation version they are, stating the obvious, larger. The grille system that interlocks and closes to draw the wings up is very clearly cut although the front of the shoulder blocks lacks any kind of definition between the two moving sections rather it's just a plain and simple grey slab. For all the detail and effort in all the other parts surrounding this wing mechanism it just seems wrong for this, for the second time, to be lacking that finishing touch.

Talking of that lack of completion which seems to be a running theme this month, what about the underside of the Bird of Prey? Well, it is absolutely identical when it comes to paint scheme even down to the asymmetrical reddish tinted sections on the inside edges of the wings - they are 100% the same which confirms that only the shoulder sections here are significantly different across the two ships variants.

The biggest sin with this one is that I have to review it with a wonky disruptor as noted. Someone in the factory decided to glue one of them on at a bizarre angle meaning I've had to request a replacement. If the glue wasn't as strong as it is I might have been able to adjust it but in this case it's a no. While it doesn't ruin the overall experience of the model it's frustrating that such a small error can be so noticeable. 

The stand position is identical again to the original issue three release allowing the Bird of Prey to hang ominously over the stand. Now all you need is to drop a movie-era USS Enterprise in front of it and you'll be off recreating the final moments of NCC-1701 from The Search for Spock.

Luckily the magazine is a completely fresh wedge of material. Initially the overview covers the differences between not just the K'Vort and B'rel types but also the variations internally that were evident between every single Klingon Bird of Prey. It also goes as far as exploring the times in which the different versions were in use (including the rarely mentioned D12) and what outward changes there were to be spotted - and there were a few due to circumstances!

An excellent choice here to do rather than the standard plan views is the inclusion of a list of notable Birds of Prey from The Search for Spock right through to Martok's IKS Rotarran in Deep Space Nine. Covering not just their onscreen stories, this section does, in part, make note of some of the changes that were made due to difficulties with models and the significance of the chosen craft in the franchise. There are some cool new CG pics and a few sketches that will be welcomed to see such as the one from Star Trek VI's storyboards (check that gem!) but you won't be seeing a ton of new stuff. The chunk of the goodies are in the text itself.

Finishing out the magazine we have a brilliant and insightful chat with J G Hertzler which was conducted just after the end of Deep Space Nine. It offers real depth to how Hertzler played the character, how he came to be a recurring character plus why he enjoyed the role so much even down to the gruelling three hour makeup sessions. 

While the model is fairly average in its execution, this pack is well-rounded through the choice of articles in the magazine. The Hertzler interview is a certified highlight of the releases this month, perhaps moreso than the models themselves which I'm quite surprised by. In fact I might even say that both the magazines - for their written content rather than the lack of original photos - are damn fine this month. 

In four weeks time we have the hotly anticipated Cheyenne Class from The Best of Both Worlds, Part II's Wolf 359 graveyard and the Borg Queen's Diamond - now that looks like a killer ship!

Loving the voyage into the Delta Quadrant? Worth a second punt for the new Bird of Prey? Let us know below!

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