Sunday, 31 March 2019

Buried Treasure: The Official Starships Collection Issues 146 and 147

We've waited 145 issues since it was first indicated that the Fesarius would be included in the Starships Collection.

Well now it's here and I'm shockingly underwhelmed with what could be the shortest issue review ever.

It's a ball.

Done, dusted move on to issue 147? Probably should, but we have to give it at least some column inches and a fair trial so let's go.

The Fesarius originally appeared in 1966's The Corbomite Maneuver as a ball covered in cut in half ping pong balls and fairly out of focus. The version replicated here is, as with all of The Original Series entries, modelled on the version created for the remastered episodes.

Essentially it is that ball and is covered totally with a lot of smaller yellow dots to represent the domes across its surface. These are clustered into groups as they were onscreen  and are all perfectly painted on. 

The whole thing is purely made of plastic and in just two pieces which interlock along an equatorial line. It's also one of the largest ships replicated in the series and due to the scale one thing that is lauded in the magazine but tragically omitted on the model is the base patterning that lies beneath the yellow domes.

As for stand fitting, it sits straight on to the curved four strut plastic cup and...erm...yeah...that's it. It just sits there.

The Fesarius is one of those ships which is a necessity to the collection; it HAD to be included since it's the first alien starship encountered in the whole of the franchise full stop but is particularly uninspiring when it translates from screen to physical item. On a good note though, the magazine really earns its keep since the model is such a non-starter. 

The Fesarius magazine opens by recounting the tale of The Corbomite Maneuver since there was never any major detail of the giant space ball revealed in the episode. The new renderings plus shots from the remastered edition fill out the narrative but it's when we get to the Designing... section things get a bit better delving into the original build plus what was done to update the Fesarius for the re-release. The side-by-side comparison is polar although the model doesn't quite carry the update off as well as the page.

Six pages of Matt Jefferies' work on Star Trek takes up the remainder of issue 146. Filled with models and sketches and text which covers why consoles were a certain way, how sets were constructed and much more is a fantastic article for anyone interested in the background of The Original Series. Tons to take in and essential to understand how the look of the USS Enterprise was achieved and why.

Issue 147 does step up the quality a little with the arrival of another one of those ships that is essential in the form of the Miradorn Rai- sorry - reading the base of the stand - in the form of Baran's Raider from The Next Generation's two-parter Gambit

The raider is one of the franchise's more unique designs, resembling an insect complete with pincers and aggressive posturing, turning up in a few guises over the years and remaining instantly recognisable.  

The original filming model is something I've seen a fair amount of photos of but what is evident comparing the two side by side is that the top surface detail on the "real thing" has a lot more depth to it than Eaglemoss have added here. It's not that the panelling is in the wrong place more that the depth of the detail seems shallow with the grey overcoat almost washing everything out.

That's maybe an extreme but the grey finish does take away from the large amount of panel detail etched on the raider from the tips of its forward "pincer" disruptors all the way to the back. The lining isn't especially heavy but it breaks up the unusual hull shapes even more and adds texture to the small craft. 

It's not one of the lookers of the collection either with some fairly abrupt angles making their debut on the four extremities of Baran's ship. There are a few points where a yellowed hull segment contrasts to the base grey but this is a lot less exciting than I had hoped for. There's no "wow" factor; it's plain, very subtlety detailed on the ventral side with the odd bit of weathering in a corner or along a panel line to add some aging to the craft.

The pincers themselves are very stable and a lot less flexible than I expected given their shape. I was thinking they would all be metal but the only piece of metal on the ship is the middle of the underside and the front "snout", everything else is in plastic.

That underside is nicely detailed with some yellow and red highlights plus there's a very subtle hint of mottling on the base grey just as there is on the top giving that hint of an aging vessel. The panel lines for the most part on the bottom are much more clearly defined but in comparison to the version we saw in Gambit this model is horribly uninspiring and might have worked better if it had been painted up as the Miradorn Raider. Admittedly it has more to it than the preview pics suggested but that's not saying much when you plonk it alongside the spherical wonders of the Fesarius

Perhaps it's most interesting feature is the recessed triple engine exhausts to the rear. Not translucent but at least cleanly painted.The CG in the magazine and some of the screenshots go to show how slight the definition on this model is. Potentially that's down to the thin nature of the craft but it trades off against the end result which could have been so much better. 

Issue 147 tackles the standard details of the vessel gleaned from The Next Generation two-parter plus covers the plot of one of the shows most adventurous tales. Remember the Stone of Gol? Talera? Beaming weapons? Well it's all here to refresh you ahead of Ricardo Delgado's coverage of the ship design that was, as we all well know, originally made up for Deep Space Nine before appearing in The Next Generation and ultimately ending up guesting in Voyager. The design is one of the most distinctive from the franchise and I'm surprised they managed to get away with using it three times!

The final section takes us behind the camera to look at the work of producer Peter Lauritson who worked on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. His work can be seen in achieving fleet battles between the Dominion and the Federation as well as helping craft Species 8472, Star Trek's first CG aliens and directing Gambit, Part I - which is why he turns up in this issue. 

It's a good magazine that probably outshines the model it accompanies because of the quality of the material it contains - shame it also manages to show up the raider model for being lacking in that surface definition.

These two haven't set the starship collection world alight so I'm not even going to bother picking a favourite out of the two here. Quality is certainly variable with both editions saved purely on the strength of their magazines. Next month that should be resolved with the arrival of the Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser and the Krenim Warship which both look fantastic in the preview images.

Disappointing month or worth the five year wait for the Fesarius?

If you've enjoyed our review please like and share!

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Thursday, 28 March 2019

Press Reveal: The Red Angel S02 E10

Episode ten of Discovery’s second season is its most linear storytelling of the year.  

Focusing purely on the Red Angel narrative (as you might have guessed from the title), the episode kicks off with Airiam’s funeral and the revelation that it seems the enigmatic being appears to have exactly the same signature readings as Michael Burnham. 

Could it be that she and the Red Angel are, shock, horror, gasp, one and the same?!   From the fact that this is pulled from nowhere fairly early into the story you can immediately guess that this is ultimately the least likely explanation and luckily by the end credits we finally have an answer to this season’s greatest conundrum.   

But that;s not all. Section 31 are back but this time Leland and Georgiou return to Discovery to deliver a lot of damn important plot information in one especially big chunk. Seems that the Klingons were dabbling in time travel which prompted the Federation to have a go which in turn led to the recruitment of Burnham’s parents (specifically her mother) to work on their version of the project.   

It's a rather emotional hour for Sonequa Martin-Green this week since she has the loss of Airiam to cope with followed by the reopening of old wounds. Section 31's Leland is also more key to their murder than we had been told and cleverly this all brings Burnham’s story full circle back to her recovery by the Vulcans following the murder of her parents by the Klingons who were bent on recovering their time crystal. She plays it well, keeping it all in check but there are visible chinks in Burnham’s shell this time and a close encounter with Tyler then allows a lot of buried emotions we’ve not seen since last year return to the surface.  There's so much mistrust and discomfort in this episode it's a screaming example of a story that would never have happened in the days of Roddenberry; the conflict of Burnham and Tyler is just one element with the Stamets/Culber relationship also taking a beating and providing Georgiou with at least a minute of entertainment.

The Red Angel isn’t one of this season’s biggest highlights for me aside from the galactic reveal in the dying seconds. Why? Because it unloads a ton of exposition around time travel and future interference all in one truckload. While absolutely necessary for the show and to move the story forward it’s dropped in one slab about 15 minutes in and if you have any sense you’ll work out the twist in a split second. It is very, very talky since we as the audience have to be led from A to B to C and perhaps we are signposted and hand-held a little too much here. Could we not have spread some of the info dump over a couple of stories? 

Oh - and Project Daedalus? Yep, it's the Red Angel; a time travelling suit created by Section 31. Didn't see that coming however when it all unravels it's not actually that unexpected; it kinda makes sense.

What the crew do come to realise is that Burnham is the link to the appearances and when there’s not been an incident to deal with, the Red Angel has arrived in time to save Michael so she volunteers as bait in a trap to ensnare the traveller.   

The Red Angel does utilise the larger cast with great effect, allowing the underused Stamets and the regenerated Culber in much stronger positions. While Cruz’s doctor has been very out of the picture until his rescue from the mycelial network, Stamets seems to have been on the backfoot for a lot of the season potentially because the spore drive and in turn the network itself have barely been utilised in favour of the Spock storyline.

Episode ten is an exposition heavy piece for the first half, but when we arrive at the Project Daedalus test site with the plan to restrict and capture the individual within the Red Angel suit it does kick into a second gear.There's a technobabble heavy explanation of how this all happens involving micro-wormholes, tethers, forcefields and the like but nothing can prepare you for the final revelation of the episode. We were all wrong (or were we?) and when the deactivated Project Daedalus suit deposits its occupant on the deck its more than we could have expected.

Discovery's strengths are played on here with the main plot well developed and every main character getting some meaty scenes. Culber and Stamets are definitely well served but I'm concerned that Tilly is now just becoming comic relief and a caricature rather than a serious crewmember - I mean, would you have her serving on this ship because she's starting to seem like a liability and she has no idea of Starfleet etiquette at all. Did she go to the academy?!

The Red Angel does go as far as to answer one of the season's biggest questions yet with four episodes still to go we have the imminent apocalypse of the universe to contend with as well as finding out just why the occupant of the suit read as Burnham. I don't want to post the answer but it's got to be something to do with time travel hasn't it....?

What are your predictions for the end of season two? Drop them below and share our article to help add to the conversation.

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Thursday, 21 March 2019

Relic of the Past: The Official Starships Collection Issues 142 and 143

Delayed due to a dispatching error, I was virtually chewing the door off to get hold of issues 142, and 143 of The Official Starships Collection.

This may well be one of the most anticipated double acts in the collection for a damn long while and I can hand on heart say that it actually delivers.

Issue 142 is a little gem of a ship in the form of the Promellian Battlecruiser from The Next Generation's third season episode Booby Trap. An episode so ingrained into my memory because I'd done something wrong and wasn't allowed the TV on that night. 

But hey, less of the anecdotal passings and let's talk about the ship.

In the episode the dimensions of the Battlecruiser aren't that apparent thanks to the way in which the camera tends to swoop around from the front to the back or that a lot of the perspective shots are taken from the rear including that final torpedo spread impact. Unusually, as the magazine explains, the ship is a reuse of a craft built for another film that one of The Next Generation's backstage crew had to hand when they needed a ship. Flipping it over it suddenly becomes something completely different and hey presto the Promellian Battlecruiser is born.

Stretching out above the oval stand, the Battlecruiser is an imposing model with a phenomenal level of detailing from bow to stern. The hull itself is two very light shades of blue/grey with every millimeter packed with greebles and panelling. The sloping sides of the hull lead down to a recessed edge which again has more of the raised surface detail although this is hidden in slight shadow by the overhanging upper panels. That slender neck leads back to a pair of wing-like structures which, as with the forward hull, slope out from the centre line and are overloaded with grilles, machine parts  and even some slightly recessed elements that add a lot of style to the look of the battlecruiser. 

Interestingly the Promellian ship is one of those rare occasions where Eaglemoss have managed to add a hint of weathering/aging to the craft. There's a dirt wash which clings to some of the elements that cover the hull most evidently towards the back end of the model. At the front there is evidence of that wash although it does seem heavier with there being less parts for it to seep around.

Annoyingly with all this brilliance and clever surface detailing on the top of the ship neither the sensor dome nor the bridge module on mine are straight. One kinks to the left and the other to the right although both retain that magnificent level of detail moreso on the sensor dome than the slimline bridge. 

On the underside of the Promellian Battlecruiser the visual overload of greebles, piping and grilles continues but on a higher level. The dirt wash as well is noticably heavier with one side seeming to be a little grittier than the other. The wash on top and bottom emphasises the brilliance of the hull detailing with it standing out strongly against the hull. All the raised and recessed elements are slightly different in colour to the base coat however the contrast of the aging is what makes this much more successful.

Cleverly the only parts in plastic are the two topside appendages plus the wingtip units and the insert to the underside which stretches from bow to stern. This piece is incredibly camouflaged into the hull due to the aging effect although again the wash seems to highlight raised sections much more strongly and clump at points when compared to how it lies on the metallic hull sections.

The stand glides nicely over the rear of the Battlecruiser between the plastic wingtips and the rearward facing ‘flicks’ just behind the bulbous sensor dome, leaving the ship to hover gloriously over the black base. Good grip here and she rests back into the plastic forks, avoiding that forward tipping. 

Opening up issue 142 gives us a history lesson of the Promellians and their "ancient" technology totting up 1000 years by the time of The Next Generation. The new CG images are a lot better than the finished model if we're honest since the scale of the Battlecruiser does cram a lot into a small space, most noticable on that long neck section that runs from the bridge backward. The magazine paints this in a lot more detail and from all angles plus covering a lot of the detail, as you would expect, from the episode Booby Trap

Building the Promellian Battlecruiser only gets two pages because, well, they didn't really build it. Filmed for Night of the Creeps, David Stipes dug up an old model when one was needed for the series, turned it over and the rest is history. The magazine shows a lot more surface detail especially to the rear that the model can't carry due to size and most likely manufacturing cost but it's a rare story where something outside of the franchise has come to the rescue.

Third in this issue we have Production Design for season three of The Next Generation covering a range of filming locations and sets that were constructed for episodes such as Booby Trap plus The Ensigns of Command, Who Watches the Watchers?, Sins of the Father and the Borg cliffhanger finale The Best of Both Worlds. It does divert into some of the concepts for a couple of the props but on the whole sticks to discussing the overall "big picture" look for the landmark third year of the series.

The Merchantman is one of those ships that shouldn't have made an impression and was designed to be almost instantly forgotten however 35 years after The Search for Spock fans had this on their list of ships that Eaglemoss needed to do. Luckily they did and even more fortunately it's one of the best replicas in terms of build quality and finish from 143 issues of the collection.

The most striking feature of the Merchantman is its metallic paint finish with the hull glistening with different colour shades from panel to panel and then again appearing different dependant on what light you are viewing the model in. 

Aside from the incredible panel shading, the Merchantman also has a mottled effect running beneath the top coat which adds an element of aging to the transport. The panel detail on the forward section really is mind-blowing and very precise with the two parallel grilled sections a striking addition with the edges of each piece distinct and abrupt. The accuracy in the look here is one of the best, more impressive given the craft’s brief onscreen lifespan even counting its subsequent TV series appearances.

The forward-sitting bridge module is coated in the mottled metallic finish with a lot of surface details molded around the central dome and raised unit. What becomes apparent as well is that the plastic and metal sections here do blur into one because the detail is so fluid over every surface. On first impression I would be hard pressed just from the look to be able to see which pieces are made from what.

The Merchantman is, you'll come to spot, non-symmetrical aside from its general shape. Panels differ left to right, even the wingtip aerial extensions don’t mirror and this all gels together to give an incredible overall effect just as that paint finish can make you think that plastic is metal. One for observation - the wingtip extensions are very flexible so just be careful when handling. 

Travelling to the centre of the Merchantman we have a much more industrial feel to the starship. The metallic grey engine section is aged with a blotched paint finish and contains a lot of raised mechanical pieces giving a more rugged and patchwork effect. Running from the midpoint of the ship out to the rear, the engine "block" contains most of the weight of the freighter and Eaglemoss have excelled at giving it a dirty, used look which suits the craft perfectly. There is another piece of the bronzed hull plating to the back which carries on the paint effect from the main hull before terminating in a five exhaust port cluster which is probably the cleanest part of the ship; ironic. 

The detail and piping that is laid out across the whole of this working section of the ship is brilliant. Because it's non-symmetrical it feels more realistic and man-made. There's even a piece of piping that extends from the bronzed cowl back which is independent of the five  exhausts and is a little touch that demonstrates the effort that has gone into completing the Merchantman for this collection. 

Flipping the ship over we have the insert to the main hull as well as everything stretching to the bronze cowling being metal. The joining of the sections on the Merchantman is just as good as the paintwork with the lines pretty much invisible. That "stingray"-style head piece is littered with tubing and greebles as well as a very impressive tarnished finish which has the "real" colour of the ship peeking out from under a substantial layer of dirt. Take some time to soak up the different levels of the hull here and how much information is packed into the underneath of the ship which you would think would be much less signficant.

The middle hull piece is fully bronzed up with hints of dirt and grime brushed over the paint before leading into the worn gunmetal of the bulbous engine. Here once again there's been an effort to buff the paintwork to emphasise the age and wear that the Merchantman has suffered over time that makes this a complete model experience rather than just another block of moulded plastic and metal.

I'd forgotten there was a whomping great fin on the bottom too and this is a plastic add-on slotted onto the main metal body as a single unit with the fifth, smaller exhaust port. It's sturdy and of a decent width which means this won't break off in a breeze. 

The Merchantman is a total work of Eaglemoss art in every way; well constructed, and beautifully realised with the cover price a bargain for something of this quality. I'm glad it wasn't rushed earlier in the series if it's taken this long to get it right because it does look fantastic and will easily sit in the top echelons of the series' releases. It looks solid, feels durable and offers up a very full experience of the onscreen item because of the unrelenting surface detail. Every look at it reveals something new or a different perspective. Eaglemoss should be very proud of this one.

I actually think the CG for the magazine here doesn't do the model any justice. The cover for one makes the Merchantman look flat and bizarrely a lot cleaner than the model in a rare it's-better-than-the-pictures moment. Flicking through this isn't a one off with the images created for this edition actually not giving an accurate feel to the ship. Very surprising as in some ways they make it look like the aging ship is straight off the production line. This even goes for the large plan views slapped in the middle of the publication.

Details on the freighter are skant given that it was intended to be forgettable with Eaglemoss having to refer to the number of crew and the fact it looked a bit cramped in the one shot we saw a fraction of the interior of the bridge.  Much more is made of its swift destruction at the hands of Kruge's Bird of Prey before turning attention to how Nils Rodis developed the "forgettable" design that wasn't.

Indeed it was kitbashed, it was a quick build because it was destroyed but yet it has endeared for over 30 years and made a couple of appearances as other craft in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine before being sold at auction in 2006. While there's no clear picture of the original, we are treated to concept sketches which show the original plan for the Merchantman.

Behind the scenes this time takes us into the Visual Effects of Star Trek III linking nicely into the recent Starbase special issue including design pics of the docking facility and the challenge that the movie created with several new ships required - Excelsior, Grissom, Merchantman and Kruge's iconic Klingon Bird of Prey.  This is a fascinating look a how the look of the film came together not just in relation to ships but even those microbes on the Genesis planet, how Kruge's pet dog was brought to life and the eye-opening explanation of how they made the Enterprise's final moments look so impressive on screen. 

Given that the writers must be struggling to find content each issue, this is a great read with some rare behind the scenes snaps that tell you a lot about how The Search for Spock achieved its look.

What a month huh? Two brilliant ships that have been long-awaited finally turn up and don't disappoint. These are a duo that Eaglemoss have pulled out all the stops for and have succeeded in creating two very memorable issues that will get all fans excited. I would recommend getting your hands on either - or both - of these editions because they represent all that is good about the collection in both the model and in the written word that accompanies them. Superb in many ways and a reminder that this series, no matter how long it's been running, can deliver on quality at a reasonable price.

Merchantman or Promellian Battlecruiser? Which was your winner? 

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Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Close to the Edge: Project Daedalus S02 E09


Spock's all fixed up however the attention this week turns from him - placing him almost into a B story with the main line being taken up by the little-addressed Lieutenant Commander Airiam.

Enigmatic doesn't come close since we've learnt absolutely nothing about this visually striking member of the Discovery crew since her appearance in the third episode of season one. Now in Project Daedalus we finally get some answers - she is an augmented human - plus we are hinted at just what has led to her current appearance.

Hannah Cheesman gets to play Airiam in and out of makeup this week as we explore a little of what it's like to be augmented but there's something lurking in the background waiting to awaken. When the Discovery heads to complete its rogue mission things begin to heat up.

Also returning this week is Jane Brook as Admiral Cornwell whose allegiance remains with Starfleet and not, as we might have suspected from an earlier encounter, with the dark Section 31. Looks like Starfleet itself is having issues with Control; the Section 31 computer system that has stopped relaying data from the organisation's headquarters located at a former penal colony...located in the middle of the universe's most intuitive minefield. Get in, solve the problem and speak to the admiral aboard; no problem.  

Additional bonus points for this week as Lieutenant Nhan (Rachel Ancheril) from the Enterprise returns to assist Burnham and Airiam on their away mission to the inhospitable Section 31 headquarters. Now Discovery's chief of security the Barzan gets a bit of a rough deal but manages to survive longer than her predecessor in season one...

But of course there is because the mines are being controlled and are anticipating the moves of the Crossfield Class starship. Blade mines cut the hull, blackout mines fool sensors and there are even ones attracted to shields meaning Discovery has to go in with its pants down and Detmer steering very, very carefully.

In parallel to this we have Burnham and Spock sparring as they attempt to crack the mystery of the Red Angel and why it contacted the Enterprise science officer in the first place. It leads to some incredibly charged moments between the estranged brother and sister over a hard fought - or maybe hard lost - game of three-dimensional chess. That repeated reminder that this isn't the Spock we know and love rears its head prominently here and Ethan Peck gets a lot of meat to dig into, unhindered by Spock's usually logical and stoic personality. He gets angry, riled, on the offensive almost bordering on emotional as Burnham starts to push his buttons in relation to the game and family matters.

Peck is great in the role. He really has taken it to be his own and make this iteration of the character different from the previous incumbents. He has the benefit of a more open canvas thanks to the nature of this season's story plus he is playing Spock at a time in his career that we have only seen in one episode many moons ago. This is unknown territory that he can build for the character and in an unusual move, expose his human side to the Star Trek audience. But he really does step aside from the limelight this week in favour of that other character; one that we knew would become more significant after a certain moment from a previous moment.

With Airiam you don't actually realise how much you've become attached and used to this character being around in the series. We do get to see more of what she's actually doing but this all ties in with the trip to the Section 31 HQ and also back to the lifeform we encountered earlier in the season that downloaded its lifetime of knowledge into Discovery's memory banks. Hannah Cheesman's portrayal has been incredibly minimal throughout season two since taking over the role from Sarah Mitich and while the bridge crew have been receiving a lot more screentime it's amazing to see a character plucked out and used in such a huge game changing way for the series. 

The visuals for the station as well as Discovery's journey through the minefield are spectacular but I was actually more struck with the arrival of Cornwell's shuttle at the very beginning as well as the starship gearing up for and jumping to warp speed. The upgrades to the Discovery CG model are amazing with such strong definition to the panelling and lighting that you can almost reach out and touch it on the TV. 

Project Daedalus, the namesake of the episode is itself still a secret even when we do reach the Section 31 headquarters. This looks like another thread in the Red Angel story but where does it all link in and how does Control fit with the overall arc for the season? This is a piece only recently introduced but I can't believe it's not there for a reason. In the same way it does mean I'm considering at least Calypso as a more significant segment of the Discovery story since it deals with the (far) future and time travel is without question a part of the tale and revelations yet to come from the series.

Another great episode here with one of Discovery's most shocking scenes to date. I didn't believe that it could happen but that may have been since we were lured into a similar eventuality with the Saru homeworld visit in The Sound of Thunder.  New Star Trek is taking risks and is grasping at the new form of televised storytelling; nothing is safe or sacred and Discovery is all the better for it.

Is Project Daedalus one of Discovery's most unexpected milestones?

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Monday, 18 March 2019

Rounding Up: The Graphic Novel Collection Issues 44 - 47

Once more diving into the Eaglemoss Graphic Novel Collection, Ian Kimmins opens the pages of another four issues...

Volume 44 Burden of Knowledge is written by well known Trek comic book writers Scott & David Tipton. The brothers are well known in the Star Trek universe for such classics as The City on the Edge of Forever, TNG/Dr Who crossover and the recent Mirror Broken among others, so you know you are going to get a well written tale.

In this volume we actually get four stories that all take place within the initial five year mission. Up first is Uncertain Prescriptions in which the  is heading to Mygadlus 3 for a routine mission(is there such a thing in Star Trek?). A new world wishes to join the United Federation of Planets however it doesn’t turn out to be all that it seem!

Up next is A Failure to Communicate and it’s another planet in the middle of a rebellion story albeit one with a difference-all the citizens are joined together by a thought network. As things escalate it’s up to Kirk to decide if he can interfere as they discover an underground group who have opted out of the shared mind.They resolve the issue in a typical Star Trek way and the planet realizes they are not ready to join the Federation just yet.

The third story is A Matter of Perspective which starts off with an Andorian engineering team coming aboard the Enterprise to perform some maintenance and display some un- Federation-like qualities. Once completed the Enterprise is sent to find the Lavota wind which they find destroyed and seemingly the Tellerites are at fault. As they sail into what looks like another interstellar incident the crew realise the Enterprise computer is giving them an Andorian point of view. As Kirk uses his charm to get them out of their latest predicament they receive a distress call from Lt Thompson who is looking for them to rescue him except Thompson is currently sitting at the Conn!!

The final story Burden of Knowledge continues the story of Thompson. Naturally the Thompson they rescue has short term memory loss. As the crew head back to Mygdalus 3(from the first tale) to investigate they discover a lot of Klingons & Gorn & even more Thompson’s! They are transporter replicants and
and how the Mygdalians were able to attract the interest of the Federation in the first place. The story does end a bit abruptly without any great resolution. Kirk just takes all the Thompson’s and leaves!!

We have our usual Gold Key Issue as-well The Evictors/The War that Captain Kirk Made. Overall this volume is another winner for DW/Eaglemoss although the ending of the main story is a little jarring.

Issue 45 covers Manifest Destiny which we have previously reviewed and has myself and Clive split on whether it's a good story or not. We'll let you refresh yourselves on our review before you make a call!

Issue 46 takes us into Year Four of The Original Series spinning right out of the closing moments of Turnabout Intruder. Continuing the epic adventures of the Starship Enterprise we have a very varied chain of events through this volume.  Drawing together a couple of visual styles across six issues, the narrative from David Tischman remains firm to the visions of Gene Roddenberry with the crew encountering new and exotic races (perhaps more exotic than the TV budget of 1966 might have allowed for) and even pushes the boundaries further than you might anticipate with the rather weird and wonderful trip to Phi-11 and it's TV-centric populace.

Each of the stories neatly dovetails into the next with one adventure leading to an encounter on the way to a second, a diversion on the way to a third world which ends up with the good captain tackling a robot nanny. Yes, a robot nanny.

Year Four certainly carries on some of the more outlandish moments of the third season of the show, adding in some wry humour from Tischman and a wonderful pallette if colours and pencils that brings the stories to life. It's not the most memorable of mini-series and I had to flick back to remind myself of the content of this issue but on reflection it looks great and reads OK.

At the back we have the ever-entertaining Gold Key with The World Beneath the Waves. Now, oddly, this isn't one of the weirdest adventures to have been packed into a volume however given the nature of some of the stories in the preceding pages of Issue 46 you might be forgiven for thinking that Kirk and Spock fighting sub-aquatic mutants is a bit tame...

Issue 47 Deep Space Nine: Requiem offers up a more gritty style from the halls of Malibu Comics. Seven stories beam in to the pages here returning us to the earlier and less Dominion heavy years of the station. Entering the fray through a story led by Jake and Nog, these are fast moving tales from writers including Trek novelist John Vornholt and franchise historian Mark A Altman.

This set touches on the events of Wolf 359 allowing fans to "see" the battle like never before since the page provides less restriction graphically. It opens up a chink in the armour of Sisko which was rarely approached the more that the Dominion took hold of the Alpha Quadrant.

Kira gets to go on vacation and gets involved with something not too unlike mini-Pacific Rim robot wars before - and not without want - the Cardassians turn up to add more dirt to the already raw comic strip.

Malibu's issues were much more grainy and "real" perhaps than the clean and crisp lines of, say, the Kelvin timeline but there's a more personal feel to the writing and a closer understanding of the nuances of the characters with Sisko for one being treated a lot better than he was on the screen at the time with some fairly decent material. Kira is almost spot on in her disdain for taking time off which would actually come up again in Defiant before having something of a change of heart towards the end of the story.

I would have liked to see a Deep Space Nine tale in the style of those Kelvin Timeline volumes from the later IDW years but this is a real sign of the times and telling of the era in which they were written. The short, fast-paced and rough edges here make the issue memorable and distinctive with only the Voyager stories - which would have been around the same time - showing any similarities in visual styling. As for the tales, they are very much defined by the more standalone nature of the first couple of years of the spin-off show and that's laid out in the way that each is unrelated to the next or previous. Worth a look and a read but potentially only accessible to more hardened Niners.

Gold Key's Prince Traitor reads like a 1930's epic swordfighting movie but once more a potential straight line of a story is expanded into the most campy of sci-fi concepts with senior staff riding ostriches and a reveal that wouldn't have been out of place in Errol Flynn's Robin Hood with only a few "forsooth's" missing just to get a full house. There;s lots of cheesy hokum to get your teeth into but I tend to find it's best in small bites to avoid sickness...

Issue 48 returns us to the Kelvin Timeline and we get the origin story of popular crewman 0718 and also to visit a newly discovered planet. It covers issues 31-34 of IDWs ongoing series. The first tale kicks off with a flashback and we get the story behind crewman 0718 who appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness.There are some story parallels that run similar to the motion picture This story highlights what the comics and Mike Johnson have done well and that’s give a bit more life and meaning to the Kelvin universe. The next tale finds the Enterprise on an undiscovered planet Naturally they discover some human DNA and a child’s NASA drawing. This is a good Trek tale that interweaves a few different Trek stories to produce another great read from IDW.

The less said about the Gold Key Issue The Oracle the better! It reads like Spock’s Brain crossed with a Spock bobblehead and gets even crazier than that!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

They Went There: If Memory Serves S02 E08

If you've only just managed to clean yourself up after last week's pant-wettingly incredible twist ending then you'd better keep a towel handy.

Continuing their escape from Section 31, Burnham and Spock arrive at the prohibited world of Talos IV after one of the most imaginatively clipped together "Previously On's" ever. For those doubting that Discovery exists in the same universe as The Original Series et al then this will really widdle all over your chips in 30 seconds. 

Hoping to cure Spock of his mental frailty, Michael meets a familiar face to Star Trek audiences in the form of Vina (Melissa George) who wears seriously inappropriate footwear but puts her and the ailing Vulcan in contact with the Talosians. Burnham is desperate to get the heart of the issue and has the native people assist in cracking the problem in return for her allowing them access to view the flashpoint that led to her and Spock falling out.

The journey into Spock's mind throws out the fact that he is not a murderer and means that Burnham and her brother have to relive one of, if not the, most paintful moment of her life.

On Discovery Pike is having to handle the circling Section 31 ship as well as their observer Tyler while trying to assist the fleeing shuttle containing Burnham and Spock. This and the A plot are interwoven tightly with Vina even appearing to Pike to offer guidance and you can sense the loss that both of them is experiencing. The emotions are quite raw and it's an almost glum precursor to their reunion in The Menagerie which chronologically takes place after this episode.

Also on Discovery, Tyler and Culber meet up for the first time since the part-Klingon killed the doctor. Their confrontation is highly charged with a raging fist fight taking place through the mess hall but leaving neither with any form of victory since both are men who do not understand who they have become. Is it right for Ash to be tried for murder? Does he deserve the vitriol Culber gives him? Potentially not since it wasn't Tyler that did the deed mentally.

If Memory Serves... oh man, what an episode and another one where the bar has just been raised that little bit higher. Season two continues to amaze and inspire at each turn with Dan Dworkin and James Beattie's script packing just about everything you could ever wish from a Star Trek episode. 

As mentioned, there's strong emotion sparking on the screen in the two fleeting opportunities that Pike gets to speak to Vina and the Mount/George pairing seems to be very effective with the Vina actress actually holding her own really well in a role that is intrinsically linked to the very origin point of the franchise. Her attire is very close to her clothing in The Cage and they even took the risk of showing the extent of showing her injuries and indicating that life since Pike left Talos IV has not been a bed of roses. George suits the part really well, being both a guide and a victim concurrently.

Pike does play a key part here while still on the Discovery and Anson Mount shows an unusual amount of weakness here clearly led by the emotion of returning to Talos IV and the woman whom he has fallen for. Such is his feeling for her that it affects his decisions for better or worse during If Memory Serves... and leaves the viewer wondering just how fragile he might be.

The re-imagining of the Talosians is extremely well handled with CG effects showing their brain activity now rather than air bladders being handled offscreen to show the cerebral work. Their appearance is perhaps minor in the big scheme of the episode but to bring back such a iconic set of aliens over 50 years since they were last seen and at such a prominent point in franchise history was a brilliant, bold and some might say risky mood. On the plus side they manage it perfectly even recreating the essence of the planet, the sounds and those strange blue vibrating plants.

Trying something like this so long after the original and after such a monumental piece of Star Trek history is a big line in the sand for Discovery but they handle it with respect and honour rather than turning it into something akin to the 30th anniversary stories from Deep Space Nine or Voyager.

Then there's Spock. So now it appears he's all fixed and we even get to see what exactly happened to lead Starfleet to hunt him down on charges of murder. Back aboard the Discovery after some nifty Talosian dealings we finally get to see the real, cooler, more logical Spock rather than the one seemingly ranting incoherently. There's still a Spock we've not met in here. A younger and slightly more emotional Vulcan who for the time being is getting along with his sister although retrofitting the story into canon would suggest that this won't be the case for long.

Discovery firmly plants its flag in the Prime Universe and within that states that it fits with The Original Series and all that came after (except JJ's trilogy of movies). The past is acknowledged, reconciled and utilised wonderfully to not only fill a little bit of nostalgia but also to further this ever advancing Red Angel story...

Is this the best episode of Discovery ever as many have suggested? I'd put it top three of which all three would be coming from the eight stories we've had released to date from the second season. Another ground-breaking hour of Star Trek that leaves you wanting more from the show. Can it deliver again next week?

What are your feelings on If Memory Serves...? Comment below!

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