Thursday, 28 June 2018

Picard Deserves a Return

The initial news that Alex Kurtzman had secured a deal to oversee Star Trek for the next five years - and the potential introduction of four new elements to the franchise - was met with a great deal of positivity.

But the news shortly after that was, apparently, that Patrick Stewart was close to a deal which would see him return as Jean-Luc Picard very nearly broke the internet.

I may have slightly exaggerated there but that's what it felt like. Could Picard return after 16 years? Had Patrick Stewart verbally agreed that it was going to happen?

Part of me was dead excited at the prospect while a tiny little bit wondered if it was worth retreading the boards after such a long absence from the screen. How would Picard fair after such a long gap between appearances - four years more than the gap between Turnabout Intruder and The Motion Picture if you were wondering versus Kirk's tenure in command.

Yet of all the captains of the five "older" series, Picard is the one who deserves one final last hurrah more than any other. In 1994 William Shatner bowed out as Kirk taking on Malcolm McDowell's Soran in Star Trek Generations. In 1999 Avery Brooks ascended to become one with the Prophets/Wormhole Aliens in What You Leave Behind and closed the seven year story of Deep Space Nine. Janeway not only brought the crew home in Endgame but to rub salt into the Picard-sized injury she turned up promoted to dish out Jean-Luc's orders in Nemesis. Even Archer had some sort of finality to proceedings with his background being revealed onscreen in In a Mirror, Darkly (future Federation president) and overseeing the formation of the Federation in Enterprise's substandard series finale.

But Picard never got that shot. All Good Things... had a great ending in the form of the poker game yet there was nothing conclusive because The Next Generation's cast were going from TV straight into movies with Generations which was a mere continuation to their adventures in a bigger format. 

Both in the case of Janeway and Sisko there was a finality to their respective series and their purpose was done; circle was complete etc etc... but there was never a Big Plan for Picard mainly because of the era in which The Next Generation was conceived.  Think about this as well - The Next Generation was massively popular, moreso than the three shows that followed it so why wouldn't you want to draw from that televisual well of success and see if you can reel in those fans who have not warmed to Discovery and are hankering for the olden days. Surely they will flock in their droves to the screen whatever the size to see Picard back in action once again. Not only is it great for news coverage but it won't hurt the profit margin either I would expect.

The concept of the story arc, the expansive universe building and all those other pieces which helped shape Deep Space Nine and most certainly Discovery were still some years away. The Next Generation was episodic and to give Picard some form of arc and ultimate purpose now could be an amazing thing to do. On the flip side it does kind of go against the set up of the role in its very episodic nature!

The ending for Nemesis might have see Riker moving to the Titan and the death of Data but for Picard the world spun onwards and there was no concrete conclusion to his story.

So off he wanders down one of the Enterprise-E's many curved corridors with the knowledge that Data may not be dead since B4 can sing Irving Berlin. But there's no finality, no closure to the journey for Picard even at that point in what was billed as A Generation's Final Journey Has Begun. Not only can Kurtzman provide this but he can do something that many fans have been begging for since the announcement of a new Star Trek series over two years ago - something set post-Nemesis, a show set in the far, far future.

Perhaps we are thinking on too grand a scale. Might this be a TV movie for CBS or its All Access platform? Perhaps a six part series to round off the voyages of The Next Generation and thereby destroy nearly two decades of the literary universe?! Very credible option but what if Picard is going to turn up as a cameo just to send a new crew off on their voyages or act as a mentor across several episodes, turning up sporadically or even just the once as he did for Emissary

There really is no way to be concrete certain what the plan apart from Stewart to return to the role somehow in the very near future. Then there could be that Logan style sendoff which Stewart oddly enough also appeared in as Professor X - there's lots of possibilities and I'm sure you already have your own dream of how he should come back.

Stweart's Picard is also a good choice to bring back because he represents everything that the Federation stands for; he's an old school believer in the Prime Directive who will stand for what is right and is the model diplomat. He is the statesman of the Star Trek universe and would give a stable balance between the action of Discovery and the more thoughtful overview presented in those 1980's and '90's iterations of the Roddenberry vision.

Picard is one of the most iconic Star Trek characters of all time and to bring him back into a universe that has only just discovered Discovery and that Spock had an adopted sister is a bold move indeed. You have to ask how the vision of Picard's 24th Century will be remastered just as the 23rd has been and whether or not he'll even be in the 24th Century. Might Kurtzman actually be about to whisk him back in time just because...? How much influence on the character direction (conclusion?) will Patrick Stewart - now 77 - be allowed?

The mind truly boggles but Picard - if not the Enterprise-D/E crew - deserve a stronger finale and way to round off the narrative of that generation cleanly. Is it Star Trek's biggest open dangled thread that had no way to be paid off at the time? I'd say so and I trust that the Kurtzman era will respect the character and not ruin one of the franchise's great icons. Who would have thought that when he stepped out of the shadows of the observation lounge in 1987 that we would be contemplating his continuing adventures 31 years later? Who'd have thought indeed...

What's your theory on how Picard will return to Star Trek? How would you like to see him bow out? Drop your thoughts below!!!

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

Monday, 25 June 2018

That Difficult Second Season

We are done, finito, the end - of the first year of Discovery and amazingly production on season two is already well underway this month.
There was one monumental arc, lots of min-stories within it and some of the most dynamic character development the franchise has ever borne witness to in 52 years. Whether you have personally liked it or not there is no doubt that Discovery is a runaway success of galactic proportions and thoroughly deserving of the second season which is already in the process of being formulated.

Now Discovery has probably come up with the best first season of any of the Star Trek series since The Original Series if for no other reason than it knew where it was heading from the moment the cameras began to roll. It had its own identity, its own purpose and a vision to work to, not something that can be said for its predecessors in every case.

But we're past that point and into the high hopes and expectations for Year Two and the arrival of one USS Enterprise. Season one has certainly bucked the trend when it's come to those introductory episodes but what about that "difficult second season"? Those follow up years have all thrown up a lot of varied quality, even taking into account The Original Series However The Original Series second season is strong with such entries as The Doomsday Machine, The Trouble with Tribbles and Amok Time to just sprinkle in a trio of stone cold classics in there for the prosecution. Star Trek knew what it was and where it was going with a purpose. The stories were reflections on the era, the characters fully realised and packed with life from the now legendary cast. Mind, it does also include The Omega Glory...

It's really when we reach The Next Generation that you start to see a pattern with that second innings. In this case there is the additional fact that there was a writers' strike which cut the season from 26 to 22 episodes and meant there needed to be some rushed scripts and some recycling to make the show work - looking to you The Child and Shades of Gray.

But look at year two here and you can see that in comparison to where the show ended up it was a tricky time because they were still focusing on the "alien of the week" trope just as with The Original Series to some extent rather than, as Michael Piller preached from season three, to focus on the characters and make each show a story about one of the primary cast. 

The 1988/89 season of The Next Generation suffers mainly from bad timing as well as continual backstage issues that didn't allow it to really hit its potential for yet another year but paralleling it to Discovery there was no big plan from the start with only the late inclusion of the Borg and the idea to use them for the (originally planned) season finale that showed any kind of real forward planning. Season two of The Next Generation is horribly uneven, peaking with episodes such as The Measure of a Man tackling Data's rights as a sentient being and the Borg-introducing Q Who towards the back end of the year. But for every good one there's always something to counter that includes Up the Long Ladder and The Outrageous Okona.

Aside from a few snatched episodes there wasn't much in the way of character development and although there is a strong echo of The Original Series in its nature and style this is something that Discovery will, easily, avoid because of the depth of planning that has gone into its first run of stories. 

Discovery has direction and drive plus it has the benefit of all the other shows being its 700+ "pilots" if you will, meaning the mistakes of the past can be avoided - in the case of The Next Generation it didn't have the benefit of five previous series, only the original show and four movies with just the one crew to show it the way. 

Here's another thing - of all the shows that came after Kirk, The Next Generation even in its second season chose to push itself knowlingly at arm's length away from its predecessor. In the first year it nodded to the classic show with DeForest Kelley's retired admiral in Encounter at Farpoint, the return of the Psi 2000 virus in The Naked Now the Klingons in Heart of Glory and the Romulans from The Neutral Zone it stayed away from specific characters and moments. Season two went further with very little connecting it to the adventures of the NCC-1701 and you'll struggle to spot a direct link anywhere in the 22 stories told.

Discovery’s not had the easiest of evolutions what with the Fuller fiasco just after the first two episodes were completed and then this year with the sharp departure of Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg there are strong echoes back to the early years of The Next Generation. and the coming and going of producers such as Bob Justman and Maurice Hurley. Is this a portent that the third season - like so many Star Trek’s before it - will mark the show really getting into its stride - and if that’s the case just how is it going to top what has already been a mightily solid first season?
Discovery did a lot of nodding to its ancestry during that formative year - so much at one point I thought its head might fall off under the strain with references to Robert April, Chris Pike, the appearances of Sarek, Amanda and Mudd plus that jawdropping final scene of the final episode emphasised how strongly the show wanted to be accepted into the fold whether it needed to demonstrate it or not.

Over on Deep Space Nine the first two years carry on that worrying trend. There are a couple of significant changes that show there was some form of planning starting to be formulated with the Bajoran religious arc continuing from Emissary and In the Hands of the Prophets but also there were the first suggestions of the Dominion in the background. The choice to add that element of serialisation to the show in its second year is a big change to the Star Trek lore which for two series and one season had chosen to keep more aligned to a block of standalone stories that didn't rely on watching another story. Elements of this only crept into The Next Generation with The Best of Both Worlds and Family but here, fairly early on, Deep Space Nine was already prepared to make major shifts in its established format to be different and unique within the Star Trek bubble. 

For Deep Space Nine, that second season had to be different because it had come under fire due of its narrative standalone similarities to The Next Generation and at this time, the show was under pressure from another space station drama in the form of Babylon 5 (something coming up on this one later). The serialisation does feel like a bit of a knee jerk reaction to that show which had a much more established plan from conception rather than Deep Space Nine changing on the fly. It had stayed formulaic and not gone to the edge of the frontier as it boldly promised, choosing to retain the winning strategy from Picard of a story-of-the-week but it needed something different and the second season spearheaded that early on, titillating the audience almost unknowingly. 

It’s when we hit Rules of Acquisition and Sanctuary that we have the most throw away of hints that there might be something out there that’s more than we have expected or seen before - indeed, probably the most organised empire in the entire history of Star Trek; an anti-Federation if you will. In fact for Deep Space Nine that second season is a lot more inspiring and far reaching. The characters are set and more fleshed our and for year two there’s a big flag from the start that it dared to be different to The Next Generation not just in its setting but in its tone and its ideology. Kicking off with an unprecedented but soon to be beaten three part Circle arc was a huge statement of intent and at the other end of the season - which happened just around the time The Next Generation waved farewell - it closed without the ‘customary’ cliffhanger but with all the foreboding it could possibly muster to wave in a very bleak era in the franchise. They even managed a subtle hint to the end of its sister show by blowing up the Galaxy Class USS Odyssey

While Deep Space Nine’s first year brought in familiars such as Q, the Duras Sisters, Vash and Jean-Luc Picard, its second brought it closer to The Original Series in a way similar to Discovery. In the space of four episodes late in the year we met up with the three classic Klingons and then flipped over to the Mirror Universe - a place of which followers of Discovery will be more than aware.

While season one of Deep Space Nine played it safe and tagged along more with the Bajoran arcs and more local stories to the station, season two set out exploring and poking things with sticks. The Next Generation didn’t stray too far from its core as Roddenberry wanted but it’s bastard cousin raised the vees and charted a new course. Comparing to the possibilities of Discovery, the darker tones of Deep Space Nine appears more applicable but will the show choose to carry themes from year one to year two or will it contain each season as a separate story block? 

The continuity would work in it’s favour and ignoring the events of the first 15 episodes to start something new would seem to make very little sense at all. What we can see is that things will change with more regularity than any previous generation. Lorca and his security chief Landry plus Ash Tyler were all key figures but all have either been killed or chosen to wander new paths. Discovery is going to get a new captain and for several characters they have stepped up in rank as stated on screen. Now that in itself is significant because of you look back at both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine promotions happened more often than not off screen and between seasons almost unnoticed.

As for lauding back to its heritage, Deep Space Nine is perhaps the worst offender of the lot especially considering its first season steered away from The Original Series refererences. Mind, it did still grasp onto the training reins by dropping in Q, Vash, the Duras sisters and a lengthy appearance from Jean-Luc Picard in Emissary to signpost the connection. Season two played havoc with the family tree with the three original Klingons completing their Blood Oath with Dax and then Kira and Bashir crossing over to the Mirror Universe just three episodes later. Subtle and multiple connections no; glaringly obvious yes. Now fans love a good bit of crossing over but has it been the right choice? Deep Space Nine certainly avoided its furthest predecessor until safely into the latter part of year two but The Next Generation and perhaps Discovery fell into an easy trap to acknowledge the past a little too quickly.

What’s for season two though? Definitely more Enterprise-ing if you forgive the pun. That final scene is pure set up and marks a tonal decision that only Deep Space Nine really latched onto with its Mirror and Kor arcs. Perhaps we ought to nod to Trials and Tribbleations at the same time.

What all three of these Star Trek series do show though is no long term plan, no real forward thinking beyond completing the year with enough stories to fulfil the quota. Both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were rocky and uneven in their second years with the main characters still seeming to be fully formed. But both seasons do express some elements of change. The Next Generation offered some new cast, a bearded Riker, Geordi in Engineering and Troi restyled but visual changes could not hide those cracks. 

What Discovery faces instead is that its first season was incredibly confident, well planned and with a clear path from start to finish, even managing to use its first two stories as a prequel to the remainder of the year. It also has to tackle the arrival of the USS Enterprise which will throw up some interesting casting choices that will cause some major fissures in fandom when they are announced. Expect this to be the third casting of Pike after Jeffery Hunter and Bruce Green - four if you count the wheelchair bound and radiation scarred Sean Kenney from The Menagerie.

Then there’s Voyager. Both this second batch and that of Deep Space Nine show the same development opportunities taken. Season one was again, a rocky process with lots of standalone scene setting but nothing more than the ship starting its trip home. The crew was pretty sketchy with only Janeway and the Doctor really being gifted any serious time to flourish. Of all the shows, Voyager is the one where season two realised there was more cast than the captain and a holographic medical officer and ran with story arcs but shamefully forgot about character.

Season two has a couple of issues though. One) it has to shoehorn in four leftover eps from season one which immediately show their age and would have worked better in the first year (especially The 37’s which is not a season opener much more a closer) and it also realises that it has to move on in difference to all the other shows. Voyager had to be different every year and tie up loose ends swiftly and this wasn’t something season two was very comfortable with. The Maquis were neutered sharply and while the Kazon/Seska arc does complete in Basics (which was dragged over into season three as a cliffhanger even though it was made in season two) it’s not as strong a continuous story thread as Deep Space Nine broached. Why? Because the main protagonists were relatively short lived and bore no major weight on the series long term. Only the over-used Borg would provide that later but the treachery of Jonas is dispensed with off the cuff and far too quickly, ending halfway through the year. 

Voyager was trying to be both The Next Generation in terms of exploration and Deep Space Nine in terms of storytelling and forgot to find its own voice for the first couple of seasons which in itself is a tragedy that it may never have recovered from. If you think about it, only the Hirogen would offer any real long term threat to Voyager with a mini-arc in season four and in season seven’s Flesh and Blood. Memorable yes but they couldn’t be kept around and instead the series fell back on the Borg.

Talking of them curves nicely into probably the wobbliest of all second seasons with Enterprise. Now this really was unsure of its footing within the franchise the year is full of missteps once you get past the cliffhanging Shockwave and the intriguing Carbon Creek. In fact I'd probably go as far as to say this is the single most forgettable year in the history of Star Trek perhaps with the late appearing Regeneration and those annoying Borg plus The Expanse proving there was life in the prequel concept yet. It's a very difficult year where the show tried to stick with the story of the week line but then tries to weave in continuing stories - and for the most part failing. 

There's the ongoing Klingon arc surrounding Archer that kicked off back in Broken Bow and continues through Judgement and Bounty but there's no serious payoff. Precious Cargo is horrendously insulting to all involved and the viewer and the rest is pitifully mediocre. Luckily both seasons three and four would go someway towards realising the potential of the show only for it to be cancelled before hitting its zenith.

In actuality Enterprise displays something that Discovery can learn from - an overconfidence in its abilities and its heritage. Season two of the Archer-led prequel attempts to walk the walk after an impressive first year and falls flat because it thinks it deserves its place amongst the best of the franchise and then becomes lazy, misdirected and low on originality. Discovery has to be self-aware and not think that it has its heritage to fall back on. Just as each Star Trek show has had to prove itself before in its second year, so too will what now appears to be Kurtzman's first televisual step into the broad arms of the Star Trek franchise. 

Each story, each season, each series has to be strong enough to hold its own and gather its own fans through the strength of its storytelling and base in the foundations of Gene Roddenberry's ethos that comes right back from the 1960's. If nothing Discovery has a great deal to learn from to not make the mistakes of the past and strike out with its own distinct identity. I think that's already true from season one - and that's the lead it should take for year two. Be different, be Star Trek but continue to be Discovery...

What things do you think Discovery could learn from the shows of the franchise's past?

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

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Changes for S2; Kurtzman's Five Year Mission

A busy week in the world of Star Trek thanks wholly to the continuing adventures of Alex Kurtzman.

Already a major Star Trek writer after involvement with the stories for both the 2009 film and the Into Darkness sequel, Kurtzman has now taken full control of the show with a particular focus on the writers' room following the unceremonious removal of producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.

When we say unceremonious, it appears - from news reports - that tensions mounted in the writers' room with Harberts getting increasingly verbal and confrontational leading to potentially serious Human Resources involvement. Lovely stuff.

Not just that but costs for the sophomore season of the CBS All Access show have allegedly spiralled uncontrollably. The series is now drawing to a hiatus in production after episode five with suggestions that there will need to be some harsh recouping of costs in the remainder of the season - watch out for a lot of bottle shows at the back end of the year in that case and tons of reused sets.

I'm not going to dwell too much on the ins and outs of the Berg/Harberts withdrawal from Discovery but it does mean that Kurtzman is now in full day to day control of the TV franchise and his hold on Star Trek is only tightened furthermore with the news that he has signed a five year deal with CBS.

This five year deal places Kurtzman in a position to create new live actions shows, mini series, online content and even - could it really happen - a new animated series all under the Star Trek banner. Perhaps there's a certain satisfaction with this news if you're not so inclined towards Star Wars since it appears all their spin-off plans have now been ditched to focus on Episode IX and a new trilogy thereafter. Things are not looking so great within the House of Mouse but quite the opposite seems to be true over in TV-land and CBS.

The last time we saw any kind of huge outlay was the mid-90's around the time of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and First Contact but this looks like a much bigger slice of the franchise pie than Rick Berman ever experienced and given the money and universe building that was put into Discovery this could truly be a second dawning, a second Golden Age of the franchise that we are months away from seeing first glimpses of.

Already speculation abounds that one of the new projects could focus on Picard. Now my opinion on this is that it would have to provide something of a satisfactory end to The Next Generation. Both Voyager and Deep Space Nine tied up their loose ends but Nemesis left threads trailing - B4, Riker and the Titan... just for example. A Picard mini-series would be ideal to round off those elements and maybe even lead into a Titan series although I suspect Jonathan Frakes is much more entwined with his directorial career rather than acting as Riker once more.  Saying that does it have to be a Patrick Stewart-led Picard venture? There's all those years on the Stargazer to explore for one and a younger actor could take on the role just as Chris Pine has done with Kirk in the Kelvin Timeline.

The fans might not like that to begin with but it could be a grower. Might Kurtzman dare to step into the years beyond Voyager and Nemesis and tackle the 25th Century? How much of the expanded universe would survive such a step and what would be cast aside? 

I do believe that Trekkies are clamouring to see their favourite characters back on the screen after nearly 20 years of onscreen drought but realistically will Kurtzman decide to divert into universe and mythology building of his own design rather than go back to Roddenberry's core? It has to remain true to its core beliefs but there are so many options to branch out into that even placing a show on a space station for seven years will have failed to explore. This is a new age for Star Trek and it's not the same world that The Next Generation entered in 1987. The way in which we consume media changes almost daily it seems and consumers will demand that its different enough from Discovery but his work will have to - I honestly think - contain the same aesthetic to make it relatable and accessible to the audience that are watching it today. 

We have to remember it's been a while since a lot of our favourite characters from that era of the Star Trek franchise "Golden Age" have taken to the stars. Kurtzman can easily build a new empire but it needs to (said this before) honour the beliefs and values of Gene Roddenberry and the reasons he created Star Trek in the first place. It must remain true to its origins while also coming up to date in the same way that Discovery has succeeded.

Ironically it's the animated series rumour that gets me excited the most especially as we got the news that there's going to be an Animated Series crossover with Transformers in the IDW comic range This does open the option of continuing the adventures of Sisko, Janeway, Archer and the rest because of the format. All the actors could return to voice their roles and stay, I'm sure they'll be happy with this, forever animatedly young.

But...we all know what happened to that Golden Age in the 90's when we were eventually over-saturated with films, Voyager then Enterprise which spelt the end until 2009 and until just last year back on TV. There was too much just as Star Wars might be finding at the moment. With five projects in the offing plus the Meyer series (or is this included in the five?) a Tarantino movie and the Kelvin timeline potentially back for a fourth outing this could be even more of an overload but if the demand is there then why not!

Star Trek was made for the TV medium but five projects does sound heavy. Maybe one or two might be full-length series designed to run one after the other with the other two being six or eight-part one offs focusing on a certain aspect of the universe maybe away from the Federation. A six part Romulan story? One involving the Augments? Kurtzman's leadership could see us traverse a lot more corners of the Milky Way than ever before. Already our lead character is no longer the captain (in fact they killed the captain off!) so there are now no rules as to what has to happen.

Personally its a huge win for CBS and shows their faith in Star Trek as a major marketableStar Trek is different and perhaps some of these new projects will even be on specific platforms, download only, subscriber exclusives and other new ways of watching and enjoying the franchise.
brand once again. Retiring it for a while hasn't done any damage but instead has allowed a new type of fan to join the party.

It's an exciting time for Star Trek and Kurtzman and you can bet that whatever comes out will spark a ton and a half of debate however it all turns out.

What do you think might come from the new House of Kurtzman Star Trek era?

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

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Final Wave? Attack Wing's Ship Expansion 31

With the introduction of fleet packs, card packs and the revamping of the starter set for Attack Wing, it appears that Wave 31 was the last batch of individual ships released for the game.

All the major factions have now been covered with the Xindi completed in Wave 30. That left the last wave - 32 - to purely be filled out with repaints from earlier selections. This latest - and last -set of three was a pleasant surprise in one respect but a downer in another. Let's examine...

First up let's get the refit USS Enterprise out of the way. It's a reissue and repaint of the ship from Wave Six. For that review drop across to this entry for the full breakdown. The only difference here is the paint scheme with the refit starship painted up in silver. It's a more precise paint job all round in the silver and especially in the smaller detail around the warp nacelles and the deflector dish. The problem is that while the paintwork is a step up the model is exactly the same one as Wave Six which means the saucer and the warp engines are totally misaligned. For me it's one of those packs where you have to deal with a poor miniature to get to what is quite an exciting expansion with a great single player mission to try out.

Now with that sorted, let's get to the pair of ships I'm really excited about. The remaining two repaints from Wave 31 belong to the Dominion, the only faction I'm severely lacking in participants. So far I have the Dreadnought Missile, the generic Jem’Hadar ship in the Robinson expansion and. That's. It. Odd really since I adore Deep Space Nine.

Leading my foray into the Dominion fleet is the 5th Wing Patrol Ship. The pack is originally from Wave One and now features a rather swanky updated paint scheme. I'd go as far to say that this is possibly one of the best repaints in the history of Attack Wing. 

The Patrol Ship is exquisitely detailed on every surface and Wizkids have managed to include different coloured panelling right across the craft as well as a stunning metallic finish which really sets this little model off. More spectacular is that the ship panelling has ZERO bleed, the engines are both aligned perfectly to the hull and - well - screw me but this is nigh on flawless. Yes, I'm actually going to praise a Wizkids model to high heaven.

But don't just rush out to get this micro-size model without truly understanding how great this Attack Wing expansion is.

Based on the fourth season Deep Space Nine episode To the Death, the pack introduces a lot of cool Dominion features and characters to bolster - or start up - your ranks.

This is my second Jem'Hadar ship after the Robinson (although that wasn't specifcally a Dominion expansion) and attacks with three dice, defends with two, has three hull points and three shields. Your optional extra slots can take two Weapon, one Tech and one Crew upgrade alongside the standard Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Station actions.

The 5th Wing Patrol Ship costs 22 points and as its unique action allows you to add an extra attack die in for the round at the cost of one defence die. Great way to "transfer" power from one part of the ship to another and keep yourself in the fight. The generic version loses a shield point, a weapon slot and that unique action to cost 20 points. 

Three Captain options sit in this pack with, as usual, one being the zero pointer. The four point costing Weyoun offers a skill of six plus the chance to disable him to stop a crew upgrade from itself being disabled. Useful to the max allowing quick double use of what could be a much needed upgrade. Luaran costs just two points and might be a stronger option even with the reduced captain skill of theee purely because she also decreases the cost of one of your Dominion upgrades by two points. This opens up the chance to use the spare credit from choosing her not Weyoun and those couple of points from the cheap upgrade to invest in more abilities for your Warship. 

For crew you are given three new cards in the form of Jem’Hadar soldiers which all cost five points each. Toman’Torax can only be used on Dominion ships and is discarded for the opportunity to remove a Crew card from an opponents ship at range one and active shields aren't an issue! Second up is Omet'Iklan who, I personally think is an essential upgrade for any Dominion ship since he can convert any rolled result (one die of...) into a Damage result. Dead handy considering how unlucky I can be on the dice with this game even if I've employed a cloaking device. Finally there's the word heavy card for Virak'Kara offering another Action possibility which is oddly similar (to begin with) to Toman'Torax. 

In fact I'd go as far as to say that if you had to choose between the two I would pick this one without a second thought because this time you can disable an enemy upgrade as well as disabling your own card before using your opponent's card's Action as a free Action during the round. It's a disable rather than a discard so there are multiple chances to use this during the game and I could see this being a real pain-in-the-ass card if you have some high powered Crew cards in play.

For Tech there are two cards in play with the expansion with the costly five point Suicide Attack and the two point Long Range Tachyon Scan. The first is an Action card which relies on you remembering to make a forward one manoeuver during the Activation Phase and place an Auxiliary Power Token on your ship. It's a lot to spend on one of those "Might Happen" cards that need specifics to take place and this one needs a lot of luck. It requires you to end up overlapping another ship's base  after having made the move and placing the token just so you destroy your own ship and roll eight dice to damage your opponent. It gets to defend but it seems a costly option for such a random moment in the game to come into play. 

The Long Range Tachyon Scan is more realistic as when you are attacking a ship at range three you can spend an in-play Scan token to force the enemy to roll two less defence die. There are a lot of ships out there you could really hurt that use a maximum of two at the best of times.

Finally there are two Weapon choices both costing five points. The ever-present Photon Torpedoes is available at all ranges and is back with the old spending of the Target Lock and being disabled to use the five attack dice in a single hit. Phased Polaron Beam is useful at range three and is another card to be disabled and is effective at range one to two.

This time the damage inflicted by the three attack dice ignore shields and go straight for the hull which could open up some Critical Damage cards earlier than you might expect.

Taking its lead from the sixth season of Deep Space Nine, players can try out their skills at The First Battle of Chin'Toka placing a Federation, Klingon and Romulan fleet up against a Dominion opponent. Each side has 150 points to spend but the Dominion player must equip Suicide Attack and take control of four Orbital Weapons Platforms which are placed around the planet token. The Dominion player has to either destroy the opposing fleet or perform a successful Suicide Attack to win. The Federation player needs to destroy the four platforms. 

This looks like a killer scenario with a lot of possibilities and a cool additional piece in play from the Orbital Weapons Platforms. Also loving the combination of the allied fleet putting three different races into play with different abilities.

Next; the Dominion Fourth Division Battleship model is a beauty. Wizkids have perfected the paint scheme on this one with aplomb. The purple/grey finish is glorious with the panels all finely marked and a really impressive, worn finish right over the whole hull. Given the scale of the ship, you might expect there to be a dodgy edge or a panel line that doesn't line up but this Battleship is almost verging on a mini work of art given the scale and precision. These repaints have really brought life into the range and expressed just how much improvement has gone on within the development of the waves.

The Fourth Division Battleship is a behemoth of a ship and one that will strike fear into the heart of many opponents. Landing with a solid six dice for attack, none for defence, seven hull points and five shield points, there's a lot of firepower on offer out of the box for your 36 points. The upgrade bar is jammed full with the chance to stack up to three Weapon, one Tech and two Crew abilities on the craft. If there's a friendly ship within Range one to two (must be a Jem'Hadar ship) then they can have a free Action  each round they are within the catchment area. 

Should you want to use one of the inbuilt Actions on the Battlecruiser, there are Scan, Target Lock and Battle Stations on offer too. The generic version loses one Shield point, the unique action and a Weapon slot. Now considering that it's a juggernaut this has the worst movement options of any ship I've seen. 

It can manage a top speed of five with only banking turns available at speeds one to four and full 90 degree turns at speed three but that will incur the cost of an Auxiliary Power Token. Overpowered and lumbering might be the final word on how this thing works up.

There's a second Weyoun in this pack costing five points for a steady Captain Skill of seven and the Elite Action slot. Weyoun here opens up two extra Crew slots each of which have a reduced cost by one point as long as they are Dominion upgrades. 

Galnon costs three points with a Captain Skill of five. He lets you launch a two dice attack during the Action stage of the round as long as the opponent craft is within range one. That craft will incur damage as usual with the additional benefit that Galnon allows you to place a Battle Stations token on your ship if one of the dice you roll shows the corresponding Battle Stations symbol. There is also the standard zero points costing Captain should you want to spend your points in other ways.

As with the fighter there are three Crew upgrades packed into the expansion but this time there are varied costs to the Jem'Hadar soldiers. Least expensive at two points is Ixtana'Rax. An elder warrior in the series, his Action is to flip over all Critical Damage cards assigned to your ship and disable the Crew card into the deal. Fairly useful for reanimating your ship if those cards have taken away manoeuvrability or abilities. 

Kudak'Etan costs four points and allows you to disable all the Crew upgrades on an enemy ship at range one even if that craft is cloaked or has active shields. A close quarters advantage that can have a long term effect on an enemy ship. Last but not least we have Ikat'Ika who costs five points and is a Discard upgrade. This one forces an enemy ship to re-roll any dice you want it to when you're under attack. It's only for one ship and a one time only use which does make a lot of sense given the power it wields. If you want to use this on a non-Dominion ship it's going to cost an extra five points.

You'll have to scour other packs for more upgrade options because the Battleship only comes with one Tech upgrade, Shroud. Brilliantly it allows you to discard this card rather than the one you're using and therefore giving you a second use of the ability. I can see this coming into its own with Ikat'Ika or Toman'Torax from the fighter.

The Weapon upgrades are the exact same as the Fifth Wing Patrol Ship with the exception that Phased Polaron Beam uses four attack dice instead of the three in effect on the fighter. 

Finally there's the Ketracel-White Elite Action card for two points that is discarded so you can reactivate any disabled Crew upgrades. Dead useful again because you can max out on your equipped cards before doing a single move to re-enable them all. 

Included here we have the Collect Technical Data mission which is a slight spin on the Deep Space Nine episode Valiant. It's a one on one battle although the Dominion player has 80 points available to the Federation player's 20. Now, if you've collected the later wings you'll have the Valiant pack and can play the story "as was". The Federation player has to equip Scan on their ship and if it is within range one or two of the Battleship it can perform a Scan action and place a Mission Token on the Federation ship card. 

Three of these collected means the full data has been collected - but will you choose to get the data and escape or destroy the Battleship? Each Mission Token collected means one attack die can be re-rolled by the Federation player upping the chances of Dominion defeat.

I'm loving the two Dominion packs in this (final) ship wave and they offer some real devastating options that I'm glad I've had a second chance to get hold of. Just need to keep my eyes peeled for some Cardassian ships now to bulk out the fleet and offer some proper opponents for Deep Space Nine and the Defiant.

What do you think to the latest Attack Wing updates?

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

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Brainy Remastering: The Official Starships Collection Issues 126 and 127

We’re back with the next two issues of the Starships Collection which transport us to 1968 and 1990...

Initially we have our seventh starship from the Wolf 359 graveyard. The USS Princeton NCC-59804 is only one of two onscreen triple-warp-engined starships across the whole 52 years of the franchise - and to be honest, it wasn't really supposed to be noticed  because it was built solely as wreckage for the aftermath of the Borg encounter.

Response to this one has already been overwhelmingly positive given the comments I've seen on social media so let's get into our usual nitty-gritty.

The saucer section will be recognisable straight away if you've already received/purchased/stolen the Freedom Class starship since it has the same simple surface detail and quintuple phaser banks around the edge of the primary hull. The two-tone aztec colour scheme mirrors down the front to back central line with the paint shade reminiscent of the first issue (remember that far back?) USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. 

It's a grey/beige combo that allows the lighter grey to stand out ever so slightly more than we've seen on the white on white aztecing on other ships such as the Reliant and the Enterprise-A. The numerous lifeboat hatches across the upper surface are lifted in a third and again slightly darker grey. It's not overwhelming but manages to isolate each element and make it highly visible on the Princeton

The raised bridge module is a subtle extension from the hull, raising to a quadruple tier which continues the aztec paint work nicely although in the metal some of the bridge detail is lost due to the size of the module on that tiered design. The decal to the rear of the bridge is centrally aligned and in turn screams out that the two recessed window blocks just behind at the rear of the saucer are well out of sync with their black and white light effects. Thing is, when you see that you then start to realise that all the windows on the main saucer areas (not the tiers oddly) are out of alignment be it only slightly.

Perhaps this highlights that different detailing takes place at different points since the registry and all of the red phaser end "brackets" are all spot on.

Underneath the saucer we have five similar phaser banks and also another series of lifeboat hatches covering the established two-tone scheme. I love the smooth finish on this one because it allows that aztecing to flow right across the hull and even though there's the transition from the edge to the plastic central insert it all stays perfectly co-ordinated. At the centre of the underside is what appears to be a sensor platform but again there's a slight loss in detail due to the moulding.

Everything from here on in is plastic with the Niagara Class and our path to the secondary hull takes us across the narrowest of neck sections and into very, very familiar ground. After all, the Engineering section of the Princeton is identical to that of the Ambassador Class more well known as the Enterprise-C.You have to love the fact that the aztec scheme runs right on through into the curved body which is finished off with more painted on lighting and two Starfleet pennants on either side. 

The build work here - especially for a ship that was originally built for screen damaged is seemingly flawless. The join that marks out the connection of the left and right parts of the hull is hidden away in the spine of the ship with only its appearance down the shuttlebay doors to the rear any evidence of its existence. For once Eaglemoss have managed to paint in the impulse engine on that stubby neck section and very precisely too.

It's a real hallmark with this one how precise the result is (apart from those damn windows) and also impressive that there's one other massive change in play - the main deflector dish is painted in rather than being stuck on as it was on the Enterprise-C. In fact there's a lot that can be taken from this ship for when the XL version of the Ambassador Class vessel is produced. That deflector did cheapen an already disappointing model but the painted on option here works much better.

So to the back my friends and the most unique thing about the Niagara Class - it's three warp engines. Evidently taken from the Galaxy Class, each sits atop its own pylon which in this case were designed an built purely for this model in the show. The finishing detail is again meticulous with dark grey panelling highlights, the continuation of the aztec colour scheme and even strong hull lines all coming together in these small plastic spaces. The same can be said for the engines themselves which all contain translucent blue sections for the warp field grilles and crimson red elements for the bussard collectors.

These are smoothly constructed, each with its own Starfleet pennant streaking across the top and the gold of the coils just adding that finishing touch - actually hold that because the engines are all aligned!!! Magnificent!

The stand fitting for the Princeton is a bit fiddly requiring some manoeuvring of the clips around the body and nacelles to clip to the saucer section. This does mean that it's a steady grip and a nice mid-point balancing position. 

Seriously though, it really is brilliantly made and such a different ship to have in the collection but its a little sad since this is probably the last entry for the ships featured in The Best of Both Worlds cliffhanger conclusion.

In the magazine there's a real sense of unity between the CG and the model with only the noticable dark grey edging on the saucer being a difference. Spot also that the CG pic doesn't have the dark grey panels on the upper two nacelle pylons.

In the Ship Profile we find out about the Niagara Class' main purpose as well as the advantages and disadvantages of that third nacelle experiment. Take note as well that the Princeton later turned up as a wreck in Unification I's Qualor II scrapyard. The plan views are also a bit confusing since the side shot appears to show gaps within the upper pylon struts - bit of inconsistency across all areas there.

Building the Niagara Class covers how Greg Jein's model shop utilised moulds from other craft and some extra spare parts to create the Princeton and the Freedom Class new for the Wolf 359 scene - in fact constructing them ready-damaged!

Third and finally in issue 126 we get Ira Steven Behr's take on the time he spent working on The Next Generation's third season well ahead of his taking the reins for Deep Space Nine. As a writer, Behr was massively involved in key stories through the transition year of the show, dealing with Romulans, terrorists, Klingons and whether or not Data did shoot Kivas Fajo in The Most Toys. It also spins around Behr's memories of the other stories around in that year including his near involvement with The Best of Both Worlds. Well worth a read.

Now, usually I skip over the episode appearance page because it's usually fairly obvious after the preceding 14 pages but here the magazine does something slightly different and steps out of universe to drop some key facts about the conclusion of the Borg story that opened season four. I had to double-take when I read it because it's so out of character for the production! 

Overall, great ship and magazine - brilliant package for this one and well worth a punt.

So yes, our second new arrival is one of the ships to be featured within the remastered versions of The Original Series and begrudgingly it’s from Spock’s Brain.

The Eymorg Starship fits right in with the majority of the remastered starships in that it’s a bit dull. Now you know that the design of the craft isn’t any of Eaglemoss’ fault and frankly it’s a step up from what graced the third season episode back in the day but it lacks that excitement factor and will surely be a completists requirement only. 

That said, Ben Robinson and Eaglemoss have done a splendid job of making the CG craft into an issue of the series and, begrudgingly, I have to admit that the end result is decent...but not stand out.

Based around a central circular design the one-woman Eymorg ship is nothing if not unique in the folds of the franchise so this time we're going to have to go front to back rather than the traditional top to bottom.

At the front as said there's a mushroom-shaped nose that bears a full azteced grey finish and also a wonderfully asymmetrical range of hull features with orange (weapons ports) and dark grey call outs bringing it to life. The central dark grey indicates the entry hatch to the craft.

Joined to the main body at five points is the propulsion ring. Detailed with the aztec grey pattern, there are five ion drive engines attached to the hoop. Both the ring and the engines have darker edging detail and to the rear of each is an orange translucent insert to indicate the exhaust ports. There is evidence of the mould line across the engines and ring which are one of the few machining indications on the starship. Around the ring there are open sections which seem to be hull detail rather than offering some form of practical use.

Spinning round to the rear the slitted exhaust ports are fitted into the metal forward body section and are coloured in orange paint rather than a series of translucent inserts, all clustered around another the central primary engine exhaust.

The design isn't out of this world but what you can say is that Eaglemoss have done a great job of reproducing the craft from the remastered third season of The Original Series

The stand fixing for the ship is exceptional, gripping one of the curved engine pods firmly with absolutely no movement at all once in place.

The Ship Profile piece recounts the events of the "classic" Spock's Brain and the part in which the craft played to steal the Vulcan's mind. The plan views offer minimal identification of the ship parts but there is a strong correlation between the model and the renders in the magazine.

What does seem not to translate too well is that the hull aztecing in the magazine looks more like weathering (this ship is supposed to be quite old) than paint effect. From a distance it does work but close up and in good lighting it doesn't do it any favours.

Niel Wray then discusses creating the new Eymorg Starship for Spock's Brain and how he diverted from the original 50's style rocket used in the '68 episode. The end result is visually much better than the rocket and was produced, as we discover, under some tight budget and time constraints.

Last article up in issue 127 recounts the story of Gene L Coon (or Lee Cronin to use his pen name) who was instrumental in the first two seasons at creating some of Star Trek's most iconic characters, concepts and races from Khan and the Horta through to the Klingons and the Prime Directive. Even after leaving his production position, Coon provided four scripts under the Cronin pseudonym for season three. 

Two well prepped and made models this month no matter what you think to the design of either. Both have exemplary build quality, stand position and finishing details across the board so it's very difficult to be critical. As part of the collection they work well and continue to demonstrate how the series continues tp move forward with each new craft. The Princeton is the easy winner for visual result this time round but I can think of a few other ships that wouldn't have even garnered a second look against the Eymorg ship. 

What do you think to the remastered ships of The Original Series? What other kitbashes should Eaglemoss make?

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