Friday, 28 September 2018

Short Treks - But Not For the UK?

So how are the fans in the UK going to get their next fix of Discovery?

News from the CBS fold is that the four 15 minute “Short Treks” will not be landing on Netflix leaving followers of the show to miss out on these tasters to keep us engaged until season two drops in 2019.

Focusing on Tilly, Saru, Mudd and Craft, the four bite size instalments will be released once a month giving new insights into each character. 

Now whether or not these four pieces will dovetail into the second season I don’t know but if they do and Netflix isn’t going to carry them then that means the UK - and potentially every territory outside the US - won’t be getting the full Discovery experience. 

Starting just next week we will have Runaway featuring Tilly encountering a mysterious visitor on the Discovery. The trailer released today seems to show a cloaked alien female character trashing the mess hall while Tilly ducks for cover with some sort of red goop also involved. The brief 26 seconds of footage doesn't give much to go on apart from the mess hall carnage but at least it means this isn't just a big media conspiracy and it's really going to land....! 

Then it's Calypso on November 8th centering on Craft played by Aldis Hodge. Now this is a totally new character and the only one of the four Short Treks that does so. We will find Craft awakening in an unfamiliar sickbay, trying to survive with only an AI interface for company. 

Certainly the much-advertised Saru short has been widely anticipated since it will give more information on the first officer’s homeworld as well as just who or what the predator species that stalks the Kelpiens is. Entitled The Brightest Star it will take us back to Saru's early life and explain the path that he has taken. This will air December 6th with the final piece, The Escape Artist premiering January 3rd 2019 and centering on Harry Mudd attempting another con in a very dangerous place. I would think that will be a month before season two hits Netflix given the way these have been planted going forward.

I think these little teasers are a great addition to the franchise to build up to the next season of stories but will removing them from UK access prove to be a bad move? I doubt that it will stop fans from finding and downloading them via that wonderful thing called the "internet" because where there's a will there's a way but does holding it back suggest something else?

Might this be a taster to see how Star Trek is accessed by fans when it isn't on Netflix with the potential thought that the now in early production Picard series won't be heading to the online service? 

It's just a random thought that popped into my head today but might this be a test of the waters to see if there might be other ways to more successfully market Star Trek's newest shows overseas that will profit CBS more directly?

I'll leave that one right there for now...

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Thursday, 27 September 2018

FaceLift: The Official Starship Collection Issues 132 and 133

One of the marks of the starships collection has been it's desire to do everything on screen including a hell of a lot of variants.

The Miranda Class variants in the Reliant, Saratoga and Bozeman (and soon to include the Lantree); the upcoming Keldan Class Cardassian ship is a spin on the Galor Class, the versions of the Arctic One; the Smugglers' Ship/Bajoran Freighter...the list goes on and now we have the third of four versions of one of the hero ships from Star Trek in the form of Warship Voyager.

We've had the original, the armoured version from Endgame and we will soon have the Borgified variation as a bonus edition but now here's a twist on the Intrepid Class that I've certainly been keen to acquire.

On the whole the main spaceframe for USS Voyager remains unchanged due mainly to the time and cost it would have swallowed up to make even more dramatic alterations to the ship.

Eaglemoss have brought this one out most likely thanks to huge demand and while there are visible changes to the upper hull and rear, it is ostensibly the same mould that was used for the original ship nearly 5 years ago. So what has Eaglemoss done to improve on that issue six craft alongside the new weaponry that's bristling all over the surface of the starship?

The answer to that question is - quite a lot.

In fact it has to be said that the work that's been done on this almost makes you want Eaglemoss to go back and completely overhaul the issue six Voyager because it's almost chalk and cheese. Let's start right at the front for example. The forward sensor platform at the tip of the primary hull now has distinct segmented panels running up to it in the dipped section of the hull but that's only the start.

Take a good look at the two hulls side by side and you can see that on this Warship the panelling is far superior and much more defined rather than looking as if the factory painted it far too thickly. Every line can be made out, the phaser strips are sharper because not only is that hull finish more precise and clean but the weapons emplacements themselves have a darker finish and a razor sharp edge to them. 

Lifeboat hatches are also more finely implemented although, as usual, both they and some of the painted on windows along the side of the saucer don't quite match their hull dimples. However what is noticeable is that there are a lot more windows that you can physically make out on the surface because it's not overpainted especially towards the rear of the primary hull either side of the central "lump".

Looking then to that centre piece and the bridge, the markings here are again a light year ahead of the original; darker, defined, seemingly even machined better to really highlight the detail of the command module and surrounding features. 

Sweeping back towards the secondary hull, the neck section is a delight to behold with the service hatch and the twin torpedo launchers much easier to make out with much better contrast of colours and darker shades to really pick out the parts. Now the clever thing is that, because the upper hull section is in metal it's the only piece that Eaglemoss have actually had to do any work on. I'm taking a pot shot guess but the lower hull is identical in its makeup below that join line that mates the plastic to the metal. 

Aside from the impressive hull upgrades, Warship Voyager does have some distinctive differences that weren't seen that much on screen but have meant that it's been a desired item for a while in my collection.

There are now three large gun emplacements (plastic) inserted into the primary hull either side of the registry and centre between the two curved phaser banks. Moulded into the metal there are a further two cannons mounted slightly further back and below the phaser strips as well as some rather menacing fins that jab out from the rim of the primary hull. 

Along with two prong attachments either side of the shuttlebay, as well as two further bolt ons just above the warp engine pylons, these aren't a lot of differences but - from above - they do change the appearance of Voyager a teeny bit.

But that's where the big changes end because in terms of the pylons themselves and the engines it's exactly what we got in issue six and will likely see again when the Assimilated Voyager turns up next year as a bonus edition. 

One thing I have noticed with this ship is just how badly the RCS thrusters have been marked on. The finish is blotchy, hurried and barely filling the defined slots around the edge of the primary hull. Tut tut Eaglemoss it's something that stands out against the improvements in every other respect.

The definition of the bussard collectors, coils and transparent warp field grilles on the engines are lovely and identical to the original although once more the painting on the hull sections (pylons) is much more precise and the story continues unabated on the bottom too.

The're nothing different in comparison to the hero vessel except you can see the fins to the sides of the primary hull but look straight to all the other features and you can see that Eaglemoss have gone to town to get this so much more intricate and actually enjoyable to look at than they did before. 

The finish is clean and once more the colours feel as though the producers turned their work up to 11 meaning everything is distinct. There's no washed out panelling; phaser strips arc effortlessly round the hull, decals are perfectly aligned and recessed lines don't just blend into their darker neighbours. Even the main deflector is cleanly finished and seems somewhat brighter - it's amazing how much of a difference just changing the paint work can do to a model and this is a great example of learning from the original and improving on it. I know a lot of people might have complained about getting another Voyager but this is definitely worth seeing.

The stand position has also changed to the same place as is used on the XL version. Rather than a rear grip around the pylons, here Voyager is caught behind the ears(!) with the clear plastic holder slipped around the rear of the main hull. It's a better, more central hold and feels like it takes the weight of the ship much more ably than that rear position.

Issue 132 covers the essential elements of Living Witness and recounts the story with a little focus on the ship but not much. It then turns to designing the alterations for Voyager which, shockingly, weren't actually as many as you might recall and were limited since the production team didn't want to cause any damage to the Voyager hero CG. Oddly this section does lean into giving us more details on unseen features of the original Voyager physical model rather than swaying towards details of the features added for Living Witness.

Finally Tim Russ, who directed the episode, is interviewed about his experiences on Living Witness plus some of his favourite moments from the seven years of the show. It's seamlessly worked in given Russ' background link to the episode but as with the story of designing the Warship, it tends to veer off into relatively unrelated territory.

Over to issue 133 and we stay with Voyager but race on over into season seven for a ship from Drive; Irina's Racing Ship

This is one of those times that the previews make it look dreadful and you're considering leaving it in the box for all eternity but then it turns up and oh my is it something else indeed.

Lesson one is never go with the promo shots (take note of the Fortunate for one and the Arctic One for another) because what turns up may well knock you for six and this is another one of those times. 

It is a shade smaller than we are used to with the Starships Collection but it more than makes up for that in terms of features and finish. Right across the hull we have some very intensive panel lines that fill the whole surface of the craft and even seem to line up precisely if you run them from one engine, across the bridge and onto the second engine.

It's pinpoint accurate as is the definition of the red stripe that runs front to back. It remains tightly packed into a very small area of the ship and at no point does it appear to bleed out into the golden main hull colour.

Amazingly the blacked out bridge windows to the front are aligned to their respective recesses but there are only four and they are close together which might be why it's been managed so effortlessly in this instance.

While for the most part the hull is golden with that red racing stripe, there are also numerous pebble-like markings around the central spine of the ship, to the rear and again underneath and out onto the warp pylons. The alignment of paint to bump is perfect in every single case here and it has to be a small win for Eaglemoss that they are actually getting better at matching things up across the miniature fleet.

For something this small there's a good bit of weight behind it with the whole top section of the Racing Ship, its pylons and the upper halves of the engines all being metal. Perhaps the cleverest piece here has to be the construction of those engine pods though. The back halves are a metal/plastic combination but the front half is pure plastic.

Now initially that might seem a bit boring but Eaglemoss have used transparent pieces painted over in sections with gold and red. It gives a deeper sense of worth to the model and something a bit different to the usual inlaid strips for warp field grilles with a significant area of the ship given a more thought out finish that works with the light to make it stand out that little bit more.

On the underbelly all the markings are emphasised even more with more grey and red call outs packed into a very confined hull surface. With the cockpit gone on the ventral side, is there again but also extenuated with a metallic-coloured area just at the rear of the bridge module. The plastic bottom is just as well completed as the top, mirroring the "ZZ3" style decals on both the engines as well as the raised "braille" panels on the pylons. 

In the show this wasn't anything to write home about given that a lot - if not all - of the racing ships featured in Drive were rehashes of already seen craft. What Eaglemoss have managed to do is turn something that was screen fodder into a tightly worked, excellently painted model that's a little gem hidden in the folds of the collection, overshadowed by the big names.

Irina's Racing Ship wasn't an eye-turner on the page but in metal and plastic it's presented well given it's size.  Display is pretty decent too with the stand clipping around the sturdy engine pylons for a good mid-ship balanced pose.

The accompanying magazine offers up better CG than we got in the series alongside some technical details around the Racing Ship and it's speedy capabilities. There are call outs to the events of Drive but what I felt here was that it was kept more relevant to the craft than had been managed in the Warship Voyager magazine. 

Designing the craft is a little quick to skim through given that it was a reuse of an alien vessel from Latent Image which was only glimpsed for a second or so.  As with the Warship this does - and very quickly too - diverge into a summarised discussion of the other competitor ships for the race and their scrappy origins as well.

Last but not least there's six pages of text and pics recounting the writers' experiences of season seven and bringing Voyager home. There's more of a focus on the range of stories that the show told as it wound down towards Emdgame rather than focusing on the series' final episode so we have recollections of not just Drive but also Workforce, Shattered, Prophecy, Lineage and Homestead to single but a few out. Some of the original ideas for the final year are discussed too, providing a new look at what might have been...

A good month again from Eaglemoss with both Warship Voyager and Irina's Racing Ship raising the stakes and providing us with two great models for display. Voyager's changes are pretty cool and this is one I've been waiting for but the overall finish and look of the Racing Ship model makes that this one's winner by a pointed nose - and it's odd for me to be saying that a random alien craft is better than a pimped out version of the namesake starship from the series...but it's true.

Next two editions coming our way will be the Carbon Creek Vulcan Survey Ship and secondly, adding to our range of craft from these big players, the Xindi Humanoid starship.

What are you liking about the Racing Ship? Has it made enough of a difference to make fans want it?

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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Arctic Monkey: The Official Starships Collection Issues 130 and 131

Two craft that have strong links to the Borg but from different ends of the Star Trek timeline have arrived (flippin’ late) from Eaglemoss.
Due to all sorts of warehouse moves, wormholes and probable Klingon invasion, August’s subscriber issues were delayed by a whole month meaning collectors are only just now receiving their models. 

While it means there was a longer wait for August’s issues it does mean on the flip side that there will be a very short wait for September’s craft.

Ok and to the first of the two issues and the Borg Probe which popped up back in Voyager’s fifth season TV movie, Dark Frontier.

A more rectangular craft than the more familiar cube, the Probe mirrors the distinct metallic polished finish that has been used on the Borg Queen’s ship and also to some extent on the issue 10 Borg Sphere. The surface finery om this,ome is mighty impressive - at least 50% of it is because theres the distinct feeling of deja vu not seen since the Borg Tactical Cube - the top and bottom sections are identical. Yes, honest to goodness this is 50% of thrnship that you would have wanted. It also maes reviewing it a pain in the ass because there’s 50% less than usual to talk about dammit.

Ok, calm down now...deep breath. 

The whole of the Borg Probe is plastic however your first thought when looking at it is that there must be at least a hint of metal somewhere. There isn’t and regular readers/collectors will have vivid flashbacks to the TV remote ship aka the Federation Holoship from Insurrection. Thing was with that while it was 100% plastic there was variation in the hull detail front to back and top to bottom. What we have here is a mirror finish top to bottom and a front and back which are nearly identical.

Have to say while the Borg are a cool baddie, their ships really are dull and repetitive but, I. begrudgingly admit, functional to the core. The surface maze of wiring and black versus silver components is effective if a little boring after you’ve looked over it once but Eaglemoss have, faithfully, recreated the ship as seen in the episode. For that and the excellent finish on the small Borg craft they cannot be faulted and at least there are a few kinked angles in the outer hull that make it a bit interesting at least.

The stand, as with all the Borg ships is something unique with the Probe resting in it like a cradle and not dissimilar to the plastic bases that the shuttles sets utilise. Like the Borg themselves it’s functional, end of.

The magazine opens with quite a bit of information around the reason Voyager was after Borg ship in the first place as well as highlighting that the small ship wasn't actually that much of a challenge to the Intrepid Class starship. Unusually the section overviewing the Probe covers a good chunk of its capabilities and not too much of the episode.

John Eaves' work is once again given a decent level of analysis with the Probe originally starting out as a design for the Borg ship in First Contact. It certainly evolved from that plan - and downsized - into the craft that was used for Dark Frontier. Finishing out the edition is a great piece on the work of the late Cliff Bole perhaps most famous for his work on The Best of Both Worlds - from his own perspective including his personal favourite episodes to work on and his experiences with the multiple casts. 

Absolutely loved reading this edition alongside the Probe. There's a good spread of information on the ship itself plus background detail into its production and, to a degree, the episode in which it featured as well since Bole was involved with its direction.

Providing a lot more to talk about is the Arctic One transport craft from the Enterprise Borg episode, Regeneration. We’ve already had the complex end result of the Borg’s handiwork with the assimilated version of the ship a matter of issues ago and now we have the original shape to compare.

Doing away with the checkerboard two shade of green paint job as seen in the promotional pictures is a good move from start as the more solid base cost here suits the finished item more than the concept model seen via HeroCollector.

The upper section of the exploratory craft has been formed in metal and now bears a more blocked out two shades of green with the lighter playing out as the base coat. For an Enterprise model it's surprisingly light on the surface panel detail although there are definite hull sections marked out with distinct grooves - for some reason it just feels "incomplete" alongside the other CG craft from the prequel show. 

Rising up from the middle of the craft is a distinct bridge module which rests over the landing gear and part way towards the rear of the transport. You can make out some of the structure of the command deck and running close by it some more windows - that aren't aligned to their recesses. As usual.

What we do have with the Arctic One is quite an undulating hull occasionally marked up with black or white window ports. In this instance the windows are marked on to the hull and avoid recessing their positions into the hull. Once more we have two different ways of the windows being applied with the former (the recesses) still not working out exactly as they should. Is it time to give up on the recesses totally?

One tragic error - and one down to the original rather than the model creators is the use of the ANTarctic rather than the Arctic as part of the logo emblazoned on either side of the transport. Bit of a silly one but hey, you can't be perfect every time - and just think of some of the classic model errors that were transferred direct from screen to collection.

Slipping towards the back of the Arctic One there's a good amount of highlighted panel detail around the triple raised engine units. Again its not overly complicated but the contrasting panels add depth to the surface. What could have been good was to add a bit more depth to the back end. The pair of impulse engines and the central warp engine have no real substance to them and merely protrude from the hull with no real purpose or level of reality. 

Protruding out from the hull and over the back of two of the impulse engines are two plastic fins inset into the upper hull. It's a curious choice not to just mould them into the metal and rather have them as two separate pieces. It's more effective that way since the gaps above the engines add depth of detail.

Why is this such a problem? Because flip the Arctic One over and you find that Eaglemoss have bothered to include blackened detail around the thruster ports on the underside of the ship which immediately draws your attention back to the rather bland rear propulsion system.

The scorched detail is a lovely touch on this one and combines perfectly with the greens of the ventral panels. There might not be any windows or emblems filling out space yet the underside is just as interesting to see as the top. Add in that, unusually, the plastic underside inset is actually a front, centre and rear split and you have something even more unusual in the collection.

That middle section actually curves out from the hull to carry two of the three landing skis.and it's a very flexible part of the ship since each ski is connected by only two slender arms on each side. Set into the hull in between the struts are two grey sections which appear to contain some form of thruster arrangement with inset blue detail.

The third ski is right to the back and on my Arctic One is bent to the right. I did attempt to bend it back to centre however the slight "crack" sound after shifting it about a millimetre told me to do otherwise. The supports for the struts are complete with piston and joint work and then also have a further two blue inserts within the hull. In both instances it looks like these grey blocks will be hidden away by the skis when fully retracted.

Issue 131 explores the function of the United Earth Arctic One, its layout and capabilities before turning its attention to exactly how the Borg made their initial (and bizarrely last) appearance in the Star Trek universe in season two of Enterprise. Certainly it's the franchise's biggest curveball but there were plans to go further for season five and there was a big consensus that it had to all make sense...

Finally this time we examine how the Borg were designed for Q Who - and then redesigned for their later movie, Voyager and lone Enterprise appearances - and people complain about the reworking of the Klingons! Visually it all works because of the TV versus cinematic budgets but here we see just what thoughts went into making them a reality.

So two fairly middle of the road editions here with the Arctic One being only just out ahead in this Borg-related pairing. But next time's duo offer's something a little exciting with the Warship Voyager from Living Witness as issue 132 and a Irina's Racing Ship from Drive showing up as issue 133. 

What did you like about the Borg Probe or the Arctic One?

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