Friday, 24 May 2019


25 years ago Jean-Luc Picard fought to save humanity one more time.

Rather unexpectedly 25 years to the day after All Good Things... bade farewell to The Next Generation on TV - 23rd May 1994 - CBS dropped the first minute long teaser trailer for the next chapter in Jean-Luc’s story. 

"15 years ago today you led us out of the darkness. You commanded the greatest rescue armada in history. Then; the unimaginable. 
What did that cost you? Your faith? Your faith in us? Your faith in yourself?  
Tell us, why did you leave Starfleet, Admiral?"

As a trailer it's more about the monologue quoted above than the visuals. Nice to have it all tie into the vineyards of the Picard estate that we've seen before in Family and, of course, in All Good Things... but this Jean-Luc didn't become an ambassador, didn't grow that wispy white beard and certainly doesn't look like he'll be donning a straw hat anytime soon.

Loving the hovering crop dusters at the vineyard and of course the sweeping shot of a case of Chateau Picard to confirm that we're talking about a certain former Enterprise captain. 

This is 100% scene setting and leads us to believe that following some major incident Picard just walked away. Now, if we go by the hints given early in the development of the show that event has to be the destruction of Romulus but what caused him to step back from the final frontier?

So All Good Things... took place in 2370 with the destruction of Romulus logged as 2387 that would put Picard starting in 2402 (15 years later). That's if Romulus is the jump point for the series and why would it not be? We have to assume that whatever event that shaped his life took place after Nemesis and that's 2379 which means the earliest Picard could be set is 2394 at a push. Yet, when the series was announced we were told that it would be 20 years after we last saw Picard in action so shouldn't it be 2399?

I think Picard is more likely to take us into the early 25th Century which will also surpass the "future" date of 2395 set in All Good Things...  and fit perfectly with the dates established. It could be that the "20 years" comment was just there to indicate how far in the future we would truly be going for this next chapter.

The questions asked by someone who sounds not unlike Sonequa Martin-Green show how drastically Jean-Luc's life has changed from the man we knew on the Enterprise - how much of the captain remains? What effect is the memory of Locutus still having on him? What faith is being referenced?

At the end we have just a single shot of Sir Patrick Stewart back in the role and in civilian clothing. Now one suspects that this isn't actually what he's wearing for the show and just done for the tease but it does cement the point that JLP is back!

Also check out the teaser posters which have taken a bit of a lead from the Discovery posters with the vineyard now replacing the rocky planet surface to form the shape of the Starfleet Delta - you can see this in the pic in the sidebar to the right now.

OK, I'm stopping myself there. Over the next few weeks I'll probably drop back in to the Picard fold to work out any new suggestions and ideas. One that did play through my mind today was how similar that ensign uniform in the bookmark clip seemed to be with the discarded, collared uniforms that should have appeared in Generations. Maybe these aren't as formal but a glance at the Playmates range which was released with that design did have me thinking it over.

Picard is set to debut on Amazon Prime later in 2019. US and Canada can view the show on CBS All Access and you can trial a week by clicking the link in the sidebar now.

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Sunday, 19 May 2019

Well Settled: Star Trek Catan

Catan isn't a new game, it's not a mind-blowing revelation but for us Star Trek fans the reissue is more than welcome.

In simple terms the objective is to reach a ten point target by building the longest supply route, the most outposts/starbases while wisely trading and collecting to make the most of your expansion opportunities.

Ideally played with four, the Stoke on Trent Star Trek Club were willing volunteers, fielding four teams of two for a 90 minute session on the classic board game.

The layout of the board can change with every game since the 19 hexagons (planet tiles) can be rearranged into any formation within the six border pieces. Each of the 18 planets receives a number which, indicated by the font size, indicates the larger likelihood of that being rolled.

Each player in turn gets to pick where their two ships and outposts get to start, are provided with a number of resources from where their second (of two) base is placed and you're off. Each ship needs to be linked to another and another to create a chain along which you can then use collected resources to build bases or get development cards allowing you extra flexibility and opportunity during the game to dominate the sector.

Players take turns to rolls two die which indicates a particular planet and any players with an outpost or starbase located next to said planet receive the appropriate resource be it dilithium, tritanium, water, oxygen or food. But beware, roll a seven and that player gets to send in the Klingons and steal resources and you can always play one of the crew cards each player can select to activate a bonus action that can turn the tide of the game in a second. Different combinations of the resources allow you to invest in different things.

The key is to keep control of the rounds so ideally get one person to keep track of where you're at and ensure that all trades and builds are kept to the end of the round or it gets confusing. It's a lot of fun and player trades with four commanders is a lot better since you aren't restricted to trading 4:1 and can genuinely barter for items. You will no doubt be short of something in the initial few rounds when you're restricted to just the two outposts and are scrabbling round to build one ship and extend your trade route. Making friends early will be a big benefit later!

Now since the initial club game I've played this game a lot and every time it's come out differently in not just score but the way that the board evolves over time and the length it can take to get started properly let alone win. I'm more cautious as a player, choosing to expand slowly, collect and build bases as I go whereas I've seen others go for a long supply line then work on establishing bases further on.

There's a ton of ways to attack the game and it can get very strategic to block another
player's route off to strike out further from your own staging point. 

From a presentation perspective the game looks fantastic in its box and is themed around the classic movie era with Kirk and crew in their monster maroon uniforms. Each of the ships from the four colours - red, orange, white and blue - is modelled on the refit Constitution Class with the starbases resembling Space Dock when in their upgraded forms. The quality of the playing pieces, the cards and the game board is all excellent with minimal assembly required that you can do during your first run through. You also get a reassuringly thin rules book that also carries a quick start layout and a reference guide to all the terms in the game. The rules are fairly straight forward but there might be a few terms you need clarity on which this second book will help with and I keep to hand during any games.

I guarantee a lot of very entertaining and competitive evenings with Star Trek Catan. Yes it is basically the original game and might not gel too well with any of the Catan expansions for the original but for pure enjoyment based around your favourite franchise it's worth the price. Be prepared for this to last for at least an hour if you're playing a full four colour game. Variety is superb and every time there's something new; heck, I had a game last week where every other roll seemed to send the Klingons to another system. Another time I had more dilithium than I knew what to do with but no tritanium (wow, if only life were this easy...) - so you can't plan a solid strategy that will work for all situations. Just deal with what you've got and go from there!

Star Trek Catan is available now from all good games retailers. Check the Asmodee website for further details of stockists local to you!

You can also find out about the Stoke on Trent Star Trek Club (and follow them!) via their Facebook page.

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Thursday, 16 May 2019

The Sky's No Longer the Limit

Destiny? Nope. It’s Star Trek: Picard and well, that’s not a shock is it?

I am dead excited for the premiere later this year and the announcement of the series name was something of a gimme. It HAD to be Picard; there was no other sensible option given the core material for the who. However - do we have a colon in there? Is it just Star Trek Picard? Will we shorten it to PIC? Difficult questions we will need immediate answers to - nay sirs we demand this information forthwith!

Anyway...also released was a short clip of the show with a still from that making its way online and showing Sir Patrick Stewart on set reprising his iconic role. It does seem that the uniform in the bottom right IS a Starfleet uniform as has been seen in a few leaked set photos. 

Plus it was included with an ensign talking to Picard as part of a very brief scene used as within the All Access promotion trailer. These new uniforms appear to have reverted to the coloured shoulders but with a much higher collar and the loss of the purple/grey undershirt we saw in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Spot also the placement of the rank pin and the "dip V" in the middle which follows the cut of the collar. Does it look a bit fan flick and cheap?

More on that in a sec but first - CBS has now launched the Global Franchise Group which will encompass every aspect of Star Trek as the show enters what could be its third and most prosperous age.

With Discovery now free from the ‘constraints’ of canon for its third season (reckon Calypso is worth a few dozen rewatches...), we also have Picard , Michelle Yeoh prepped for Section 31 AND two animated series rocking CBS All Access and Nickelodeon you’d think that there’s a lot on the proverbial plate. Personally I'm happy that CBS have stepped firmly away from the much rumour-milled Worf and Sulu series. Phew.

The franchise group is focusing not only on the one active and three ‘in development’ TV shows but also novels, side projects, experiential events, upgrading and apparently more games - which for me is great since I’ve become horrendously addicted to Online in the last month. 

Due to be headed up by Veronica Heart the franchise group brings all the elements of Star Trek under one umbrella and I have to ask the question as to whether this is an early indication that CBS may well get their hands on the elusive, Paramount owned movie rights. What a commitment to the brand!

It would make sense for this to happen since Alec Kurtzman will continue to lead the televisual arm of the franchise and was involved with the JJ Abrams reboot in 2009. CBS is very cleverly positioning itself as THE singular home of Star Trek and with the waning interest in Star Trek 4 could this be the time to take it back and allow Quentin Tarantino to dabble in the Star Trek sandbox for the big screen?

It also goes to show that all the stories, the rumours and the utter bullshit are precisely the latter; rubbish. There is a strong belief and commitment to the brand especially with the resounding success of Discovery’s second season in particular. There are now as many televisual projects in the works as were produced from 1966 to 2004 with more probably on the way. Could this be a turning point for the franchise or are we already reaching super burnout levels just two years into its rejuvenation? Variety will be the key and taking Picard away from a starship may well be the biggest gamble in franchise history - can a show survive where Starfleet will not be the central organisation and what restraints will this remove. How will this affect Jean-Luc's choices?

Due out at the end of 2019, Picard (working title Royal Flushhas confirmed its cast (which I’m struggling to get excited about with the exception of Patrick Stewart himself) and now in an announcement from its star we know it will be showing on Amazon Prime around the world.

In the US and Canada the new series will be shown on CBS All Access yet the choice to go with Amazon Prime does seem a little odd. Ok, I subscribe to Netflix and have to declare that this did irk me that I’ll need to add another TV package to the monthly outgoings but the whole of the televised Star Trek back catalogue is on Netflix; every episode.

Which can only suggest that either Netflix can’t afford to spend for another Star Trek show or that Amazon Prime outbid them and ultimately offered the better package. Will we want to be paying for even more channels just to see our favourite show? Will we seek out other avenues to do it whether legal or illegal?

So Star Trek stands at another point of the unknown - a brave unknown future for Discovery, a 20 year leap unknown for a former Enterprise captain and the monetary unknown of a franchise group which might, for the first time ever, align every possible strand of Star Trek and properly universe build across time and space.

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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Fine Paint: The Official Starships Collection Issues 148 and 149

This month feels like we're back on track with the Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser and the Krenim Warship.

Two fantastic models this month. The latter isn't too glamorous but it still looks great from every angle. Now believe it or not, it's been four and a half years since the last Jem'Hadar ship graced the collection in the form of the Fighter (issue 29) and that was a great model. Now we have the third and final piece of the Dominion fleet with the Battle Cruiser. 

Already replicated in Attack Wing (recently reviewed in their Dominion Faction Pack), the Eaglemoss version is bigger, bolder, more detailed and all round epic. Sizewise this one clocks in just a smidge over the length of the standard black base and is one of the most intricately finished starships that's come out of the collection.

In comparison, both the Fighter and the Battleship are fairly simplistic whereas the Battle Cruiser has every millimetre of its form covered in surface detail. The base coat here is a purple-hued metallic  colour which helps draw out the panel lines, recesses and callouts right across the craft. The surface looks like a piece of art from bow to stern with every outcrop or undulation another mesmerising feature.

Out to the front of the cruiser we have two metal-cast prongs which give a hint of the rest of the ship. These two striking points might only be a very small piece yet Eaglemoss have still managed to introduce a second level of paint and detail although it pales when you look to the rest of the hull. All the way from the front to the back we have the purple base coat overlaid with a grey tiger-stripe pattern that compliments the eye-watering panelling. Thinking of how the Jem'Hadar were designed with rhinos in mind you can see the hard shell segments at the edges of the hull as well as some larger more regular segments on the dorsal section of the craft. It's a metallic work of art in no uncertain terms and outstrips both of the previous Dominion starships by a country mile - just disappointing we've had to wait so long to see it. 

The smaller inset panelling in metallic grey are exquisitely painted in as are the pink segments on the rear engine block and the scattering of yellow sections. It's got to be among the highest quality results from the collection and may well explain why we've had to wait so long to ensure it's been done justice. Even more impressive perhaps is the use of open sections of the hull within the wings of the Cruiser. 

To either side of the central hull we have two cutaway pieces which are linked in to the underside plastic section and are visible through the ship. It looks amazing and adds immense depth to the finished item. It could have just been done in recessed metal as part of the top hull section but Eaglemoss have chosen instead to go all out and make it a separate entity. Brilliant.

Nothing sits out of place here with every piece easily identifiable. The rear engine unit sits proud of the main hull and is a plastic addition yet its finish is a fluid transition from the metal of the main ship. Its also two straight halves locked together with the upper in metal,and the lower, plastic. This also makes it very easy to identify which way is up for display. You can also see the difference with top and bottom through the grilles on the upper sides of the engines and also in the golden hued bridge module that sits centrally in the forward module.

The strength of the engine block and the outboard pods is very noticeable with both offering very little "give"  but it's how that plastic under section is worked into the main body which is exemplary - and unique part of this edition. Both metal and plastic work closely together for the finished result and it works fantastically well.

I'm in love with this one in a big way so its limited TV appearances are even more cutting. The model relays such a threatening presence with its sharp, aggressive dynamic which Eaglemoss have captured perfectly. Everything on the Cruiser points menacingly to the front, even in the engines and weapon pods and it looks damn sharp.  

For me though the underside is even more interesting when it comes to the construction. The speckled purple/grey paint scheme wraps all the way round with some smaller panels again picked out with pink and yellowed sections.  On the underneath there does seem to be more in the way of panel lines too plus a nice array of bladed structural work that stands proud of the hull. 

All these underside pieces continue that gorgeous patterning in grey and are sturdily fixed into place. It adds a lot to the ship that these aren't moulded in but instead items added on externally giving depth and detail to the Battle Cruiser. Indeed, even more impressive is how these additional plastic pieces actually come together as part of the main hull and appear to integrate themselves into the metal - it really is a damn fine piece of sculpting; one of Eaglemoss' most well thought out concepts that looks amazing in the flesh.
Stand positioning for this one is from the rear with a single over/under grip leaving the Battle Cruiser "suspended" over the black base. To be honest I reckon you could stick this on a toilet seat and it would look just as brilliant. Love it - a real late bloomer in the series.

Now to the mag and the introduction offers up information on the reason for the creation of the Cruiser plus a range of its key features which came into play during the war against the Federation.  Most of the shots are from the Valiant episode plus the later Dominion battle from What You Leave Behind along with the new CG that helps bring the craft up to date. The discussion around the design of the supersize starship covers the next two(!) pages including some sketches of the process before heading into an issue filling interview with Deep Space Nine's Nog; Aron Eisenberg picking out highlights, memories and key parts from the series. A nice read but there will be a lot that fans are already very much aware.
Second out of the cardboard box this time is the Krenim Warship. Featuring briefly in Before and After, the craft would see more extensive televisual action in the following season's Year of Hell. Like the Battle Cruiser it's been a while since the Krenim have featured (June 2014 would you believe) with their distinctive Temporal Weapon Ship and it was in the magazine for that edition that we were teased with a shot of the Warship that Eaglemoss have now slipped into the expanding collection.

In the bigger picture of the franchise this is small fry but I guess now we are getting into the real dirt-under-the-fingernails stuff since some of the last "obvious" entries have been ticked off with the Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser this month and recently the Merchantman and the Fesarius. It's unique if nothing else with an odd swept pair of engines that seem to sprout from the rear of the starship and lunge forward.

I think that the model we have here is pretty fine and very, very different from the Temporal Weapon Ship with the two Kremin "kraft" having no distinct parallel features. You can tell a Klingon ship is Klingon or a Romulan one Romulan but between the two entries for this alien race you'd never put two and two together as each is very individual.

This Warship has a reassuringly used look about it, carrying all sorts of galactic muck and scum on top of it's rather eye-catching orange and grey paint scheme. Starting out at the matt black nose what does become apparent is that there is a lot of small detail on this ship and somehow the painting hasn't quite worked out for the best with greys and oranges mixing a little with the colours they're next to because of tiny gratings or an odd angle. 

It's not a horrendously blatant issue but you do pick up on it after a couple of passes over the hull. It seems, strangely, blotchy and a little haphazard particularly around that forward grey bridge piece where it also seems a total amateur painted on the windows and stripes. The actual metal casting detail is spot on with everything that should be raised and everything that should be lowered done correctly it's just that what's gone on over the top of that isn't on par with other creations.

Of course the main problem is that it's going to look a bit crap next to the stunning Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser also out this month but I shall endeavour to continue. The Warship has a surprisingly large amount of hull detail whether it's green piping, grey fins or silver engine elements, there's something going on everywhere and thank god it's on a decent scale. Anything smaller than this and the whole effect would have been lost.

Following the central green tubing detail off the bridge module and back into the main hull area, there are, perhaps hints across to the design of the Temporal Weapon Ship to the rear of the neck section the oval grey panelling is not too dissimilar to that on the earlier model but even then I think I'm pushing for a physical connection that probably isn't there. 

Saying that, the detail on this piece is pretty good but you'll find you're looking at the two translucent elements just ahead of it which protrude forward and hide behind the bridge module. These would seem to be warp engines and their cleanliness does make them look a bit out of place against the mucked up hull of the Krenim vessel.

This oval shaping design feature extends all the way to the rear here where the base orange coat is again messed up with the over painted grey and white striping and more of the Temporal Weapon Ship-alike grey shading. 

The shape of the Warship is highly curve-ball with, as stated earlier, the engines erupting from the rear portion of the body and sweeping round to the sides. The propulsion sections are marked out prominently with the off-white panels at the back, middle and forward points of this "U"-shaped ship piece. Again the build quality is exceptional and the melding of the different sections is indistinguishable on the craft. These protrusions are also very solid and well supported given that they extend forward, unattached at the front and retain the dirtied look that is so evident across the other sections of the ship.

Indeed the engines also near one of the two features which helps tell whether you’re looking at the top or the bottom in the shape of the triple stripped metalwork which curves enticingly around the fronts of the oval propulsion units. These grilles are not repeated on the underside and you can also see that the bridge module’s mirror block is black and scooped. Otherwise the paint scheme and weathered appearance are very much alike with its assortment of oranges and greys covering the remaining hull plates.

The paint effect here is a big winner and you can appreciate the intricacies of the pattern a lot more than you could from the episode and certainly from the stills contained in issue 149. Oddly the CG in the magazine make the Warship look a lot cleaner than it does in model form; the episode didn’t do the craft any justice. In fact the amount if grilles and raised hull sections is pretty impressive with the Krenim vessel. Each is very neatly defined with the whole model providing a very tactile experience due to its undulating surface. 

Finishing the  Warship off at the back is the equally checked impulse engine. The join between the top and bottom halves is obvious here with the exhaust point simply flat and grey. It might be covered by the stand but it should still be finished. 

The stand on this one slips easily around the rear engine unit of the Krenim ship to provide the slick "flying" pose just as with the Jem'Hadar Cruiser. 

The magazine does contain a lot of fuzzy images from the Warship's original Voyager appearances (and not specifically of the ship) plus some much more recent and certainly more crisp pics CG'ed up for the collection. The initial article on the craft covers its impressive weapons systems which caused all sorts of havoc for Voyager as well as mentioning the differences which occurred when Annorax's Temporal Weapon Ship altered the timeline. 

The plan views are lovely and clear but unsurprisingly give the minimal - and most obvious - comments on the features of the ship. That said the detail is excellent and you can make out a lot more than was evident in the episodes.

Designing the Krenim Warship is a brief two page article with 50 percent of the space dedicated to two versions of the same picture which seems a bit of a waste. Tragically the design process seems more a strike of luck than it being heavily planned out.

Flipping back to the onscreen action, Shows That Unhappened looks at that wonderful curiosity that Star Trek has dabbled with on multiple occasions - times when events have been erased by resetting the clocks so to speak - Year of Hell for one plus Deep Space Nine's Visionary and Children of Time are among the selection which are highlighted from the extensive back catalogue. Interesting article this one but more of a reminder and summation than really diving into any serious depth of the episodes.

Decent couple of ships here to add to the shelving and the Krenim one was a real surprise. Beautifully crafted, it's a little hidden gem however the winner has to be the mighty Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser with its sublime level of surface detail and one of the best paint finishes ever. That metallic purple/silver looks amazing and is razor-sharp across the whole surface no matter what it's made from. The other clever element has to be wrapping the plastic underside sections into the main hull. Eaglemoss have tied a lot together in this one and it works perfectly. Top Marks.

Next month - it's the fourth of the Miranda Class variants with the USS Antares from Deep Space Nine and secondly the easily forgettable B'omar Patrol Ship from Voyager.

Which was the winner this month? Is the Battle Cruiser out on top with that paint job or does the Warship clinch it with it's more used finish?

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