Thursday, 23 August 2018

Cameo Klingon: The Official Starships Collection Special 13

A new Big Green Machine is on the block courtesy of Eaglemoss but this isn’t one with which you’ll be overly familiar.

It’s only made (so far) one, solitary appearance in the Star Trek universe and even then it was barely glimpsed on screen on a screen.

The 2009 reboot movie features a Kobayashi Maru sequence and within that infamous scenario we have the opposing Klingons using the Kelvin Timeline equivalent to the D7 Battlecruiser.

To be fair it probably appears on screen longer than any of the ships from the equally infamous Wolf 359 graveyard and it’s absolutely in keeping with the Prime Klingon design ethos that wasn’t necessarily followed when it came to the Bird of Prey from the subsequent Into Darkness.

Coming in at xxcm long, the Klingon Battlecruiser is one heavy muthafucker. Painted up in two-tone green, the design heritage - or homage perhaps more accurately - is there for all to see with the basic command section, connecting neck and body plus nacelles formation firmly in place.  

Let's - unusually - start from the back. The twin warp nacelles sit at their slightly jaunty angle and carry a nice bit of tech detail on their surface. There’s the usual assortment of lumps and bumps indicating that more function-over-form approach you might expect from the Klingons but what is missing are the translucent inserts for the warp field grilles. On something of this scale I would have expected this almost as a standard instead of painting in the paired grille slats. 

These two chunky engines then lead back into the short green pylons and then onto the main engineering hull section. The origin of the form is clearly planted in the D7 Class from The Original Series and get there are a ton of nuances and tweaks that make it distinctly Kelvin. Take the hull plating for example. At first glance it’s very similar to the K’T’inga upgrade but the pattern of the bird feathers feels more aggressive thanks to the addition of a couple of fins here and there and extra firepower. 

Mind those two additional leading edge guns though because they are fairly bendy and thin - certainly bits to be cautious with. At the rear edge there are two yellow protruding impulse engines that seem oddly stuck on and out of place, flanking a rather basically detailed docking port - definitely the area of the cruiser that's been neglected in the design process. For note, only this hull upper and the warp engines are in plastic with the majority of the ship produced in metal and on the bottom this really works well as we will see shortly.

Just adding on top of a great design has added to the visual spectacle of the Battlecruiser and Eaglemoss have managed to produce a piece of kit that shows off all its assets far better than they were in 2009 in the blink of an eye. Look closely and you’ll see the echoes of the triangular pattern from the K’T’inga towards the centre of the hull while out towards the nacelles there is a more unique interpretation more mechanical in form than bird. Placing the ship alongside its two regular Collection cousins emphasises both these similarities and differences which Eaglemoss have captured so well.

Down the centre line of the Battlecruiser there’s a lot more chunky Klingon hardware to pour over with the main engine compartment to the back and more armour plating stacked up down the more vulnerable neck section resembling vertebrae - literally a neck!

Now interestingly on that section, the finish mirrors the effect that was designed for the Klingon armour which was cut from the Rura Penthe scene in the 2009 movie It even goes a step further with the plating around the main command section imitating the shape of the Klingon helmets from the same film with the side pieces arcing around the torpedo launcher opening.

What you can see getting towards the front end is that the mix of colours comes to a very abrupt end with everything from the vertebrae forward in the singular green. This is the case on the underside too where the forward sections are in one colour and the more ornate designs are left to the sole benefit of the body piece. In fact the finish on the underside is a little more tightly packed than the topside with the triangulated pattern emphasising the "bird" effect along the wing edges. It's very striking and Eaglemoss have managed it without any hiccups right across the hull. 

The bridge section is lightly detailed but with that solo paint scheme remaining constant. The mixed finishing pieces to the top give it a more individual feel and avoid that mass-produced left/right mirror effect and adds more to that Klingon "personality" conveyed through their architecture. The similarities to the K'T'Inga are strong again with the central superstructure a clear descendant of the movie original.

The stand grip clips around the rear central housing that sits proud of the engineering hull and then under the belly of the beast as per the other Klingon cruisers. Steady posture on this one and certain to look particularly menacing as part of any Klingon display.

The magazine poorly disguises just how little background material there is on a ship purely created as a piece of the background with almost half the pages dominated by big sketches and CG renderings. There is very little to go on here aside from the point that the Battlecruiser was 90% a copy and paste job and 10% adding some fins and flicks to the established design before sticking it into the simulation. A lot of the concept for the finished product actually came from a scene in the 2009 reboot that never made it to the final cut.

Closing out the printed piece of this edition we do get to enjoy the evolution of the Klingon cruiser through its various forms from The Original Series' D7, through to the Vor'Cha and the Negh'Var before spinning back in time to the D5's and such like from Enterprise. Lots of good old model shots from 90's Star Trek in there to drool over!

Is this one to add to the fleet? Great special?

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Monday, 20 August 2018

Desperate Times...? Desperate Hours

What with family and work, my reading time has been severely limited but I've finally managed to finish David Mack’s first Discovery novel.   

Desperate Hours is a prequel to the latest series, taking us back before The Vulcan Hello to an encounter between the USS Shenzhou and the USS Enterprise. Now, the funny thing is that I’ve finished reading this after the first season has concluded and just as the season two casting announcements have reached fever pitch it feels like the right time to get this review up. 

Opening, the novel finds us at a point where Burnham has just been placed as acting first officer of the Shenzhou under Captain Georgiou and the starship is sent to the Federation colony of Sirsa III to deal with an unknown attacker threatening the planet. This craft turns out to be a lot more dangerous than anticipated but then it comes to pass that the colonists are not telling everything they should. This cascades into Admiral Anderson dispatching the USS Enterprise to deal with the unrest planetside - which ultimately puts the two starships in direct opposition to each other through their mission objectives.

Within the story to solve the mystery of the alien craft and precisely what has come to pass on the surface, there are three key relationships that are the crux of Mack’s work - Georgiou/Pike, Saru/Number One and of course Burnham/Spock. The first two seem merely to exist for a bit of fan immersion into the mixing of the two crews but in the third there is something much deeper.

David Mack clearly gets a grip on the new Discovery series characters within Desperate Hours and it’s easy to visualise Michelle Yeoh or Doug Jones speaking their lines yet there is so much to glean from the relationship between Michael Burnham and a young Lieutenant Spock.

We get a real sense of the uneasiness between them even though logic signposts that they need to work together for the good of the planet and their respective ships but there's something more underlying which is partially revealed when the pair are forced to mind meld to complete a series of challenges which require both their particular skill sets.

In this section of the book Mack's work is exceptional as he manages to make each challenge different and indeed challenging which in turn drives the tension forward. Oddly it's not a speedy process here but it highlights just how intelligent and almost an equal to Spock mentally that Burnham is thanks to her adoptive upbringing.

The concept of Desperate Hours providing a prequel to onscreen events is a clever choice although novelists have been doing it with all the incarnations of the show for decades although this is the first time such a work has been on the shelves so near to the airdate of the first episode. There's a lot of tie in and I wouldn't be surprised if, looking ahead, the series and the novels do have some crossovers and cross-references to link the Discovery timeframe into a much larger "universe build".

Opening the account with this Shenzhou-set adventure lays out the CBS stall quite nicely providing more background to the events of A Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars both through events we saw on screen and relationships that were hinted at off screen. With season two's news that Spock (Ethan Peck) is going to be appearing I can guarantee that the showrunners will be drawing on some of the material here to demonstrate how all-encompassing the Discovery story is and how it will (I believe) link in with all the other materials produced around it for a true multimedia experience which you will only get the most out of if you dip into all the parts.

Desperate Hours marks what could well be a new type of start for Star Trek and by using the reknowned and brilliant David Mack to kick it all off, CBS and Simon and Schuster sure know they have a pair of reliable hands here. The action is tight, the politics well related and overall your attention retained. With its significance as the first Discovery novel, this is a must-buy in every Trekkie/Trekker's library.

Desperate Hours has been out for a while(!) now and is available direct from Simon and Schuster at their website HERE ISBN 9781501164576 priced £10.99

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Pecking Away While the Kelvin Timeline Pines...

Will the next Star Trek movie be the Tarantino-directed adventure? Will it be helmed by S J Clarkson marking the first female directed franchise movie?

But before those questions can be answered it seems we might not even have a full cast with the surprise news that talks with both Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth have collapsed leaving Star Trek 4 potentially without two of its biggest star attractions.

Now you can whinge and whine as much as you want about JJ's Star Trek movie saga but it did bring the franchise back to the masses after a drought of four years since the end of Enterprise and seven years since Nemesis had disappointed the fan base with its non-ending to the cinematic adventures of The Next Generation.

But the rebooted adventures of the USS Enterprise under the guidance of James T Kirk may be restricted to just a trilogy following the news that Pine and Hemsworth - who was set to reprise his role as George Kirk - were expecting a bigger deal more befitting their A-list status.

The Wonder Woman and Thor stars have certainly been elevated to another Hollywood level in recent years but we did believe that they were already signed for the fourth Kelvin Timeline movie however it doesn't seem to be the case. In fact the disappointing response to Beyond may have provided leverage when it came down to the hard cold fact of negotiations. You have to suspect that Pine will have had some form of get-out clause in there should the third movie have been a box office disaster which for all intents and purposes versus the '09 and Into Darkness movies it actually was.

While the fourth movie might be able to survive without Chris Hemsworth (after all George Kirk was only in the 2009 movie for five minutes), it certainly can't continue without its Kirk and recasting now would surely prove a bad move given how much we as fans have bought into this rebooted crew. Just as recasting Chekov following the tragic passing of Anton Yelchin was quickly vetoed, adding a new actor in as Kirk would misstep the franchise and maybe set it back even further than Into Darkness managed.

I would theorise that this isn't the last we will hear of this story since there's been very little word on the next movie excursion bar the potential directors and the involvement of Hemsworth which was announced almost as soon as Beyond was released. Will Bad Robot bend to their demands or will they walk away? Who can say at this moment but you'd have to be thinking that having the two Chris' in the cast list would be a surefire winner at the box office.

While Star Trek 4 is looking like it might be losing some of its star quality, Discovery is firing in the other direction with the official announcement that Ethan Peck will be donning the ears and Starfleet uniform to become the third actor to play an adult version of Spock.

This time the Vulcan is on the USS Enterprise as its chief science officer under the command of Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) but with the late casting announcement and the series surely about to take its mid-season filming break you can but speculate that Spock is going to appear in the mid-season cliffhanger a matter of seconds before the screen cuts to the end credits.

Grandson to movie star Gregory Peck, the new Spock actor certainly comes from a healthy background of acting and has already been endorsed, it seems, by the Nimoy family as seen via the Adam Nimoy Twitter feed today.

There's not a lot else to really say about this one apart from I would think a lot of work will have gone into making sure that this is as good as possible a casting otherwise there will be a revolt amongst Star Trek purists.

I'm quite excited about seeing Peck's interpretation of the role since it will be the first Spock appearance on the small screen since he turned up in season five of The Next Generation for the 25th anniversary story, Unification - yes, it's been that long! Now it's only a matter of time until we get the first shots of Mr Peck in full makeup.

What do you think about the latest events rocking the franchise? Will everything end up happily ever after? Will this mark the end of the Kelvin Timeline?

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Monday, 13 August 2018

The New Bird: The Official Discovery Starships Collection Issue Four

I think this ship has received the most bad press from any ship in the new Discovery range, mainly due to how different she is to previous incarnations. To those people I say suq ghoD; I’ll let you translate.

Liam is back with his second review from the Discovery collection - so what's this new ship like...?

I must admit after seeing her she didn’t tickle my fancy but seeing the model in the flesh really changed my mind.

First impressions with the box is that it’s a lot smaller than the other ships in the range but this in no way makes up for her quality you observe when lifting that polystyrene lid. he overall is design is that of a gothic cathedral, something that they delve into in the magazine, which is a nice accompanying read.

Starting at the bridge we have a tiny blue view screen with the same shade carrying on to highlight the details along the neck to the main hull. Below the bridge we have two mini cannons which show no signs of weakness or coming loose. From the head, along the neck and carrying on down the ship we have the most amount of gold piping and strips that I have ever seen. These help to brighten up the solid green base coat on the model, and also give the appearance of hunched shoulders to the ship, thus adding to the established  bird design.

Aft, we have a some very ornate ribs leading to what looks like a secondary bridge and I’ve just noticed if you pivot the ship back it looks like it could be a hawk attacking, holding it from this angle you get a great view of my favourite part of the model, the underside and what I consider to be the best use of plastic insert in any model, the finish of which really draws the eye to the "abdomen" of the ship.

Last stop on our tour is the wings, Eaglemoss have really gone to town on the black here to give an authentic weathered look, almost looking like feathers, a detail that is mirrored on the underside too. In fact this ship seems to be designed to be viewed from both top and bottom, almost like a real predator so that you can’t tell if it’s looking at you or not.

On display she fits firmly in the stand in a level attacking stance, or in its hawk attack as I'm calling it. So far she’s sitting top of the Discovery releases purely for the detail and originality. If the rest of the Klingons are anything like this ( and judging by the Las Vegas convention news they will be) this is going to be a great collection.

What did you think to the new style of the Bird of Prey?

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

JLP Returns

What an absolute load of twaddle.

Is what no fan said EVER when they heard that Patrick Stewart has now confirmed he will be returning to the role that he played for 15 years from Encounter at Farpoint through to Nemesis.

Just like the man himself I think we all believed that this was a closed chapter in the Star Trek saga but now with the news of five new projects in universe, we know that Jean-Luc Picard will be the lead in one of them.

From what we're expecting it seems that the captain's new series will be focusing on his life and adventures post 2002's tenth Star Trek feature but apart from that there's nothing else to go on. Both CBS and Stewart himself have released statements indicating their joy at reopening one of Star Trek's biggest series and the life of one of its most monumental characters.

While there's been no word on the rest of The Next Generation cast, could there be an opening for a cheeky cameo or two? Might Riker and Troi drop in from the Titan? What's Geordi up to and could Spiner even manage a few minutes more in makeup to play B4? What if Data was somehow reborn as per the expanded novels (just think what a new Picard series will mean to all those books since 2002....!!!)?

I guess the other question would be how deep are the pockets at CBS to make these things happen and still want even more from Star Trek? Allegedly CBS want to have huge catalogue available which might suggest a new show every two or three years. Will Picard's new adventures be Netflix'd or will they end up somewhere else?

On the flip side does the confirmation of Star Trek: Picard (or whatever they'll call it) abruptly put the nail in the coffin for a Worf or Sulu series? I can't see how reviving either of those instead of providing four new facets to the universe would be warranted. To be fair I get why you would return to Picard because of his popularity and it's going to be a huge draw for the older fans who relish the late 80's and 90's era show.

Stewart himself stated that he has been rewatching The Next Generation including episodes he’d never seen before and combined with the response he has had from fans about the seven season sequel it seems that it was an easy decision to step back into the role once more. 

Stewart broke the news with a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas convention today (Saturday August 5th) and while there's clearly overwhelming joy...just how the hell are Kurtzman, Heather Kadin and the creative team going to relaunch the character after a 16 year break? Here's a few concept ideas that might be thrown around...

1. Admiral Picard

After a life commanding starships it's time for the captain to step back into the surroundings of Starfleet Command and reside back at the Picard family home in France. Perhaps a more Earth-centric and political Star Trek series?

2. Enterprise-F

Might be a bit of a push to be running two shows which are set on starships exploring the final frontier but this one would be at the back end of the 24th Century as opposed to Discovery. A brand new crew on the ship with Picard continuing to lead and this time get away with being on a few away missions now that Riker has flown the coop. Honesty with the news that Picard won’t be a captain this is 99% not going to happen but who is to say the E or the F won’t make an occasional appearance?

3. Troubleshooter Picard

More of a lone-gun option with Picard dropping into dangerous situations to resolve accompanied by his attache. Maybe a little similar to 1. but with more offworld intrigue.

4. Picard at the Academy

Training the next generation of Star Trek heroes from their San Francisco base. This would place Picard into a more mentoring and senior role, overseeing - ironically - the next generation of Starfleet officers and thereby avoiding any serious action work for the 77 year young Stewart.

But perhaps the biggest opportunity here isn’t the one which will see Stewart return but the galaxy that is built around this 24th Century extension to the franchise. Just what has happened to the Romulan Empire? Will it tie into the reboot movies with the destruction of Romulus? Think too about all the potential cameos that can happen - who from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager can drop by? Maybe this show will answer questions onscreen as to whether Sisko ever returned from the Prophets and what happened with Voyager after its triumphant return home. What would you want to see wrapped up? How about seeing where the signal sent at the end of Conspiracy ended up?

Everyone from Riker to Seven of Nine has a chance to pop up in this show potentially making it the event that fans have wanted since the announcement of a new Star Trek three years ago. As I noted, the Captain Worf series might now be dead but who isn’t to say that Captain Worf can’t appear?

So for now the long wait to airdate begins as Kirsten Beyer fleshes out the seventh live action series of Star Trek. All we can say is this - Make It So.

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