Monday, 29 October 2018

The Voyager That Wasn’t: Eaglemoss Starships Bonus Edition

Back when The Next Generation was about to bow out, Rick Sternbach was busy creating the first drawings of what would ultimately become USS Voyager.

Ultimately - and as happened with Andrew Probert's Enterprise-C design - there were some major revisions and what ended up on screen was a million light years away from what was originally conceived.

Fortunately for us fans, Eaglemoss know just how to push our buttons with the release of the Rick Sternbach USS Voyager discarded concept and just like Probert's C and the Phase II NCC-1701, it's one of those you just have to have; a fork in the road not travelled and I think something really important to know about in the history of the franchise.

USS Voyager NCC-73602 (as was) is one of the most compact ships to grace the collection alongside the equally titchy USS Aventine. Now unusually I'm going to talk about the magazine first because this is jam-packed with Voyager concept goodness from the legend that is Rick Sternbach relating the initial thoughts on the design through to its eventual dismissal leading to the Voyager that we know today. Rick's original work is magnificent and there's more than a hint of the movie refit USS Enterprise in the look of the more angular NCC-73602.

Now when I heard that the collection would be issuing the concept USS Voyager that's the one I was expecting - the chunkier craft that Sternbach created a prototype model and that graced the pages of my Where No Man Has Gone Before book from the mid-90's. But that's not what we've got here because the magazine then goes on to explain that Sternbach and CG modeller Fabio Passaro then worked on how the ship would have been modified had it been approved. The version we have here is actually what "would" have made it to screen had that prototype been green lit back in 1993.

Which really disappoints me because I think that's what we should have received here and not this updated version that "might" have been what the concept had worked out as. However would it have done if Sternbach had updated the plans 25 years ago? 

Potentially it's a no but yeah, that's what we have here with this latest bonus edition - the Voyager that might have been but actually wasn't nor ever was going to be if you will.

As a translation from the Sternbach and xxxxx plans, the Voyager concept is frighteningly compact which causes a few issues.

At the front there's a very familiar pointed primary hull that fans will recognise from both Voyager and maybe Prometheus which was definitely more pronounced. With it being such a small scale though a ton of detail gets lost and the finish seems cluttered with hull detailing. Not just that but the ship name and registry are almost unreadable on such a tiny canvas. 

You can see a lot of bits that did make it into the final approved starship such as the curving phaser beams and the levelled bridge structure. Right at the front there’s the recessed secondary deflector complete with its squared orange panelling. This is a distinct feature that also appears on ‘true’ Voyager and has kept its definition on the Eaglemoss concept version. What has lost something in translation is the sensor platform just behind that feature. As with the hull, the scale has reduced the level of detail possible leaving this as more of a bobbled grey section than anything else. 

The bridge module is placed right at the back of the saucer with well marked out lifeboat hatches but the domed structure itself isn't that well formed. The same is true when you look back down the neck of the ship towards the secondary hull. Eaglemoss have managed to include the pennant stripe across the stepped levels of the hull but the detail on the surface has been neglected, I keep saying the word "definition" but it's true again here because the small scale of the ship has obliterated the nuances of the hull evident on the drawings and on the original concept model.

The deflector dish - which went through a few changes before its form here - is a blob of colour but look closely and you can see that the panelling is clearly marked and there's something very familiar about how this one looks from the front of the secondary hull, even down to the photon torpedo launchers either side. For once on the concept ship the precision application is spot on with the outer edge of the dish in blue and the centre of the dish bronzed out. 

Right, back to the spine and there's a familiarity here that you might have been accustomed to on the Runabout because that's what it seems like. The warp core housing is evident between the stubby nacelles as is - slightly behind it - the shuttlebay and landing deck.  There's clear indication of the landing strips on the deck which is probably one of the clearest details on the whole ship.

Both the saucer and the spine as well as the warp pylons are all rendered in metal giving a fair bit of weight to the concept Voyager given it's compact size.  Sticking with this heavier section, the bottom of the primary hull is familiar again and surprisingly detailed. 

The Aeroshuttle outline is present along with segmented cargo doors highlighted in a duck egg blue. The definition of the panelling, phasers and emitters is actually more impressive than the upper side. The same goes for the underside of the secondary hull. There's a lot of panel lines embedded into the design here topped off with a Starfleet pennant striped from the front to rear. There's more gimbles on the hull too plus a further phaser strip covering the lower decks.

There's also more duck egg blue hull markings underneath the shuttle landing deck which looks similar to some of the hull lines on the Enterprise-D.

Finally there's the warp engines which are a hybrid between those found on the movie refit USS Enterprise with the glowing bussard collectors from the Enterprise-D. They're very thin with a series of angles that do look out of place alongside the more curved and easy-on-the-eye primary and secondary hulls. I suspect that's because my mind is expecting to see the shorter nacelles on the regular Voyager!

Eaglemoss have put in both the translucent bussard collectors (which are an update on the original concept) and blue warp field grilles running along the sides which were later changes that update the model from something that might have existed in the 23rd Century to a starship more befitting the 24th.

The stand fit on here slides behind the primary hull to give a mid-ship grip but with the way the Voyager concept is built this means that it actually sits more to the rear of the black stand than it should and looks a little odd on display. Not too odd, just a little.

This one is a real mixed bag. I both love it and hate it at the same time.  In one respect this should really have been the original Voyager concept as Sternbach designed it and fans would recognise from the 1990's mock-up - effectively in it's pure form. Then there's a part of me that appreciates the updates to get it to where it might have been worked up to for the series. However, this part of me is strictly in a minority. 

I think this is a misstep from Eaglemoss that could have been avoided but was done with all the right intentions. Maybe it offers the chance for a future bonus edition to be the original concept rather than this "pimped" version but for now this one will have to do you...

Would you want the original concept Voyager? Which concept ships would you want to see?

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Friday, 26 October 2018

Somewhat Animated

It's back! Again!

Discovery, Picard...and now CBS All Access has announced that Mike McMahan will be helming Lower Decks, the next Star Trek series to boldly go in the Kurtzman era.

But what makes this any different from the multitude of series before it? Well this one won't be live action and for the first time since 1974 we'll be seeing an animated Star Trek.

The title itself might also suggest where this is going to be set - away from the bridge and senior staff just as we experienced with the classic The Next Generation episode of the same name. 

Press for the show has confirmed that it has been ordered for two series and will focus on the support staff of a particularly unimportant starship - and it's going to be a comedy. It will be produced by CBS Eye Animation along with (of course) Alex Kurtzman's Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment.

My affinity for Star Trek's lighter moments is not well publicised - because it don't exist - so I'm quite unsettle by this announcement today. What does sway in it's favour is that Mike McMahan was responsible for the @TNG_S8 Twitter account and the subsequent Warped book which was a mighty good read and also the rather excellent Rick and Morty TV series. It does suggest that there's going to be a top level of quality plus a creative mind that knows its Star Trek which does give me hope.

Star Trek's history with animation is limited to its brief dalliance in the mid-70's which saw the original cast (except Walter Koenig) reprise their roles vocally. The results were mixed with one highlight certainly being the time-travelling Yesteryear that filled in some of Spock's backstory as well as the first mention of Tiberius as Kirk's middle name and even the appearance of the Enterprise's first commanding officer Robert April. 

Now the original animated run was not considered part of canon which might suggest this will also be held outside of the timeline but at this stage we don't even know what point in the Star Trek universe it will even be set. My guess is that it will be in the 24th Century with McMahan's previous works being set in that time period rather than adding anything else into the 23rd Century. 

I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of characters, ships and adventures we're in for although the comedy element still sits tapping away for attention on my shoulder annoyingly.

Have a look back through Star Trek history and there have been a few attempts to resurrect Star Trek as an animated series. Final Frontier was one example that could have made it in the post-Enterprise pre-Kelvin universe with Captain Alexander Chase and his crew facing off against the Klingons in the far future where the Federation has crumbled following war with the Romulans. It piqued CBS's interest but a certain 2009 film stopped it dead in its tracks which is a shame because there's a whole host of characters developed and a lot of great material available at the developers' website. Go take a look, there's scripts an' everything!

A second could have been a Captain Sulu series on the Enterprise-B battling the Kzinti (ironically a baddie from The Animated Series in the '70's) but again nothing really happened and details are a a little slim on this one. A third might have come from Kurtzman and Orci off the back of the 2009 reboot but allegedly it was early in the game and securing the movie series was the first thing that needed to be done before Star Trek could spread its wings wider.

Other question - will this mean we are at peak Star Trek saturation? Will the quality here wain because there will be three shows - each with a very distinct personality - but they will be running concurrently and it'll be the first time three such stories will be on air at the same time. The nearest it's been to this was the year in which we had VoyagerDeep Space Nine and First Contact being made.

Personally I'd LOVE to see it set in that missing era between Generations (Kirk era) and Encounter at Farpoint - retro, filled with movie era uniforms, chunky starships, armoured up Klingons and all aboard something really small like a Sydney Class or an Oberth Class ship. Could this be the crew going in to "clean up" after the "big boys" have been in and completed first contact? I think that would be a great line to take.

But now we have confirmation that an animated Star Trek series is not too far away - certainly closer than 1973-74 and means that there are now two shows in pre-production to get excited about. Let's hope that it stays strictly in the Star Trek mould however with a sprinkling of humour in there to lighten the tone and make it more accessible to a younger audience. This could be the start of something even bigger and I think if this is done right then there's a whole truckload of merchandise that could be coming off the back of it.

Fun times ahead!!!

What would you want to see from a more humourous Star Trek?

Let us know below and like and share to spread the SKoST word!

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Friday, 12 October 2018

Tilly’s Runaway

The first 15 minute Short Trek landed at the beginning of the month shortly before a brand new Discovery season two trailer.

So why not combine them into one Super SKoST post? Why not indeed.

Being only a quarter the length of a ‘regular’ episode of Discovery, Runaway sees Ensign Tilly’s day take an unexpected turn when a strange alien interrupts her lunch.

Able to cloak herself, Po is a Xhean who is trying to escape her own world for some - initially - unknown reason. 

The whole look of the show seems to have experienced something of a minor revamp with the visuals of the Discovery herself plus those of the shuttlebay both from space and internal are a definite shift up in terms of quality. Even for a 15 minute tease, this really does mean business.

As promised, Runaway does indeed tell us a bit more about the character of Tilly with her facing a holographic communique from her mother professing her lack of support for her recently promoted daughter.

Runaway therefore seems to be examining the innate abilities of both Tilly and the stowaway Po who both doubt themselves and their capabilities. Tinged with a few moments of humour, this Short Trek offers a little action but ultimately is all about the interaction between Mary Wiseman and Yadira Guevara-Prip. 

The two are fairly different in demeanour but ultimately realise there's more in common between them than they might expect. The neat factor here is how Xheans are connected to their planet since both were born at the same time making their homeworld effectively their twin.

A steady story, there is a twist at the end to the tale but what I found was that I left watching this one thinking about how it will all link in to the bigger arc of season two - if at all?

Track through it and there are the references to Xhea's importance because of the dilithium mining and also because of Po's incubator which recrystalises the valuable fuel source. I can't see this being a throwaway line or piece of plot given how much emphasis there was placed on virtually every line and shot in season one of the show (so what were the black badges all about by the way....?).

I would think that there will be at least a reference back to this incident although how Po managed to stay totally hidden on Discovery and how Tilly managed to commandeer a transporter to send her back home is utterly flummoxing and probably best to ignore as a ridiculously big plothole.

Mary Wiseman is super-watchable in the Tilly role with all the quirks and nuances of her character back in the fore. The communique with her mother at the start probably tells us the most about Tilly because of the way in which the two relate. I believe it says a lot about how the newly minted Ensign behaves since her mother seems to be such a dominant, controlling and disapproving parent!

Runaway does exude quality ahead of the January 2019 return of the series. The crisp feel of the short and even the minor details such as Po's horizontally blinking eyes demonstrate that there's nothing being left to chance and everything is being fully realised. Everything must have a point!

Talking of having a point...we've all seen the latest trailer huh? Well for once I watched it and thought about whether or not there was much point spending hours pouring over every frame because, let's be fair, everyone is talking about the final shots of Spock replete with beard.

Starfleet is a promise. I give my life to you; you give your life to me. Nobody gets left behind

But there is actually more to this trailer than just the final few "oh my" seconds. As with the first trailer there's a lot more spacesuited antics from the crew and you can only hope that these exterior scenes are more in number than we saw in the first season. If you recall the trailers made a lot out of the space walks when there were only actually a couple of minutes focused on it (admittedly very key minutes...!).

Pike is a major focus for the trailer with him appearing both in command yellow and the Discovery uniform throughout the two minutes of footage. He's in command but how much of the ship will be left might be debatable since we have shots of Burnham carrying an injured Saru through the corridors as panels and lights explode around them.

What the trailer does tell us is that Discovery is being dispatched to find the source of seven signals which are spread out across the galaxy. Cleverly these signals have also been woven into the poster for the season and are linked not only to something called the "Red Angel" but also to Mr Spock. There will be a return for Mira Sorvino as Amanda since she is seen visiting Discovery and discussing Spock's adventures with his adopted sister.

This Red Angel would appear to be the centrepoint for the main story of the year and while there was speculation it might be the return of the Borg and maybe this figure is the Borg Queen I would strongly disagree since that would diverge the universe more rather than bringing it all neatly together as we have been told this second batch of episodes will attempt.

Now, one of the last things that we saw from season one was the cut scene of Mirror Georgiou being approached by a member of Section 31. It teased that the alternative version of the Shenzhou captain was likely to return and here (0.51 seconds in) she indeed does. Georgiou is in hiding or undercover, shifting her image from an alien to the visage of Michelle Yeoh - and that hint of Section 31 is back with (shocker) an insert of Yeoh holding the black badge - pay off - as well as her turning up, fully leather clad and honing her inner Intendant with Pike and Burnham on the Discovery.

Interspersed with the new clips we have more of the flying pods, more spacesuit walking thrugh alien ruins as well as that haz-mat style tunnel being led by some forms of aerial drones but it just gets better with two other things.

One is the shot of the Klingon D7 cruiser on a lovely green schematic for just a moment and the second is the return of the Klingons. 

Since Georgiou was last located on Quo'noS it makes perfect sense that we would end up back there. In a shot I spotted of Jonathan Frakes directing one of his two instalments this season, Shazad Latif was in shot which confirms his return to the show and here we know that L'Rell will also be back - but there are other Klingons in the mix too.

Suiting up and now with added hair it might seem from what we see in this trailer and it's incredible to think that adding just that one thing makes them look a lot closer to the image we have that was first introduced in The Motion Picture.

Making another first appearance in the Discovery era is Rebecca Romjin in command colours as Number One. A role filled originally by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry for The Cage, Romjin only gets a brief introduction on screen here but I am really intrigued as to how they will bring her into the story and for how long since we only see her in the Enterprise yellow.

So next question - what the hell is Stamets pulling out of Tilly with that giant gun thing? Is it related to the spot of liquid that fell on her in the closing scenes of season one? Will it all link back? Does it have any relevance to that mighty machine that the crew are standing around on a planet surface? Is that in turn linked to the Red Angel? 

Lots of questions raised in these two minutes and some only very briefly dabbed at with a few key shots. In fact the remaining minute of the tease is made up of more explosions and chasing through asteroid fields in the Discovery pods before the final big kick which is the reveal of an (shock horror gasp) unshaven Spock being awoken.

It's fair to say that fandom went into a bit of meltdown over this but really?! It's 2018 and we have to move on. Discovery is always going to be different...production values...scripting...look....smell...can we not just accept that it's not 1966 anymore?

Ethan Peck is going to be playing one of the youngest versions of Spock ever seen and who is to say what he's been going through and what's been happening since this an unknown portion of his life. This Spock is a junior officer, inexperienced and just beginning to make his mark. We'll almost certainly see quite a different Vulcan to that as portrayed by Nimoy or even Zachary Quinto.

In the trailer Spock is being transferred to a medical unit (to or from?) and being awoken from his sleep - but to what and for why is this all happening? For me the trailer only really throws up some big questions two or three times and relies on a lot of footage that must be from the first couple of shows.

Only the Red Angel suggests the link for the season that will draw the characters together - but what's it all about...?

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