Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Enterprising Bonuses - SS Conestoga and Klingon D4 Concept

Glimpsed on a computer screen, the SS Contestoga made a big impact.

Not in regards to its planetside landing since it was stripped down to create the colony of Terra Nova but because it was a design that wasn't clearly seen for long and indicates an early choice of direction for Earth-produced starships.

The Conestoga is a workhorse designed with one purpose - to transport colonists and then support them during their initial years establishing a base. Surprisingly it's not an ugly, chunky freighter design simply blocked out but instead has smoother lines alongside some familiar Starfleet/Earth technology that also continues to add to the lineage that includes the NX-01 and later editions.

I love the design here and there's some serious detail replicated in this bonus edition and that starts right at the front end. The nose of the Conestoga is filled with antennae that plunges back into the head of the starship. The minutiae of the aerials might be lost into the plastic but you can see the structure of these items on both sides.

Over those aerials is the bridge section to the ship. The model manages to distinguish the command deck and even includes horizontal strengthening bars across the observation ports. Then back from this the way in which Eaglemoss have reproduced the Conestoga relays the simplistic construction with the panelling lines distinct across the surface. In fact if you look from the centre section onto the tops of the elliptical pods the panels are of differing heights although to make them a bit more haphazardly placed would have added to the less "professional" finish.

Saying that, the burnt orange cargo doors on the top of the ship do show irregular patterns of wear with the silver of the hull showing through the top coat. I definitely approve of the way in which this has been completed although the wear only on the doors could have been expanded across the rest of the metalwork.

Those worn sections show up again in the forward sections of the elliptical shape of the ship and either side of the command block. 

Some of the finer details to pick out are really distinctive to the Conestoga and again illuminate the heritage of Earth ships. To the side of the bridge and also dead centre to the rear there are two familiar deflector dishes that wouldn't be too out of place on the nose of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 and on the curved sides of the ship are the United Earth emblem and name of the craft again placing this firmly as a pre-Federation creation. 

Now to the back there is a significant propulsion unit with four large and four smaller additional exhausts. Like the metal hull, these eight elements show no wear but are another part which reflects other Earth craft, in this case the back end of the OV-165 and the SS Emmette.

Even at this size, the Conestoga fizzles with the energy of that pioneering spirit given its bulky, basic form and those ret-conned warp engines. Irritatingly the warp engines on this one are the only thing that really narked me off because they aren't level with the port nacelle jutting upwards at the tail end and therefore not parallel with its starboard counterpart.

The pointed bussard collectors, grilles and rear plating does make up for the kink mind, with the collectors in translucent red but the warp grilles on the insides of the tubes painted in blue and from what I can tell these were formed as a tube rather than two halves stuck together - unless those joins really are that well hidden!

The split for the metal to plastic runs along the mid-line of the Conestoga just under the engine pylons and from the back you can see where the curved underside meets the top. The light and dark grey panelling continues here as well as the worn effect on the orange/brown hatches. One significant point to take in is the designation of "1" and "2" on the belly of the Conestoga denoting either shuttlebays or cargo doors - I'm thinking the former.

Stand placement is pretty standard(!) with the clip closing around the pylons and suspending the ship mid-flight. 

The bonus issue magazine somehow makes the Conestoga look newer than the model unusually. It's also incredibly brief when it comes to the background of the ship. Ok, this was a flitting screen CG but it was at the core of the episode and along with the single paragraph of info, the plan views aren't labelled with anything nor are there any additional episode anecdotes in the LCARS callouts.

There is, following this disappointing feature, a decent six page read on the missing years of Star Trek's fictional universe history from the point where it splits from "our" timeline in the 1990's and the Eugenics Wars which saw the rise to power of one Khan Noonien Singh. For six pages this piece fairly extensively covers events from that time through to the beginning of Enterprise. 

Finally there's word from John Eaves on the designing of the ship which was second to the creation of the Terra Nova colony and the buildings that would have been deconstructed from the body of the Conestoga when it arrived at its destination. This piece does help to appreciate the form of the ship more as its look included the necessity to become modular and also be shown as a ship that had been requisitioned with warp technology specifically for its mission.

Alongside it we also have the Klingon D4 Concept that was planned but never used for the Enterprise series.

The Conestoga at least made it to the screen but sadly we were never given the opportunity to be awestruck by one of the more striking Klingon designs in the franchise.

The concept issues have been the ones to collect in my opinion, giving us an extra peep behind the curtains at a Star Trek that might have been and bringing something to fans that we would never have expected. Certainly here there's a ship that I think the producers should be kicking themselves silly we never saw in Enterprise.

Overall it has the familiar "D" series shape consistent with both the D7 and the movie variant, the K'Tinga Class yet there's that clever retro feel to the model that steps it back a good century and cues it up against that 22nd Century Bird of Prey.

She's an absolute stunner out of the box with that slight green-tint paintwork azteced with a familiar spiked Klingon pattern that glistens bronze in the light. The two colours are right across the D4 and at points the bronzing helps to highlight sections of the hull and adds depth to the visual experience of the ship. Look especially to the head piece and compare the intricate dark grey details on the front to those on the magazine cover - it's a great side by side and not the biggest area to have to try and replicate it on!

One grumble to kick off with early is that the neck and command module are 100% plastic and glued onto the metal body. While it reduces front end weight on the rear clip-on stand position, it's quite bendy and is easily the weakest point of the D4. That's not a detraction from the detail with that superb paint-job and the distinct tower structure for the bridge all well molded as is the underside, recessed photon torpedo launcher staring forward from the bulbous nose.The neck parallels the Bird of Prey from this era and also the D5 with thick cabling extending from the forward module back to the engineering hull. The detail on the cables is minimal and actually would it be needed in space? Does the neck need the support? Who cares because it looks kind of cool at least.

The secondary hull shape is once more a familiar element ret-conned more from the higher detailed K'Tinga rather than the block basic D7 from The Original Series. The panel lines are clear and to the port side we have the Klingon tri-pointed emblem, the only decal on the ship. 

The colours just work so damn well on this one; it looks stunning and the steps "back" such as the use of negative space in the wings and the cables to "strengthen" the starship make it firmly grounded in the Enterprise time frame. Perhaps it was just too familiar to use for the show as it is virtually a carbon copy yet Eaglemoss have created something in this concept model that might rival the editions of the ship that made it into the regular line.

I love the crisp painting of the impulse engines along the back of the raised engine module to the back, there's even a small docking port that I only noticed after a few look-overs. Eaglemoss have pulled out a winner that looks amazing from all angles here and I can't see that they're put a foot wrong. Ok, I have to say that since there's nothing to compare it to on screen and this oozes quality and believability all the way.

Final great point here - those warp engines which echo the D5 and the Raptor with the use of negative space to the back. But that's not all that's worth a second look because the engines look used with blotchy paintwork making the units seem overworked and under maintained or could it just be exhaust gases staining the paintwork?

Building the secondary hull as a solid piece has worked to Eaglemoss' advantage too because all the extraneous elements such as the cables, the engines and the neck and command module have all been "bolted" on to complete the effect. Love it, love it, LOVE IT. 

The magazine only disappoints on the first double page since it's CG image of the ship n all it's dark, Klingon concept glory - and then the rest of the whole issues is given over to the master of Klingon shipwork, John Eaves. There's a ton of starship designs and sketches here along with Eaves' words on how he came up with the look of the fleet from The Way of the Warrior through to the prequel craft of Enterprise (plus the wingtip gun for the closeup in Star Trek V some years earlier). 

Enthralling, entertaining and essential reading for any fan of the Empire, there's a lot to take in from the Negh'Var to the Klingon scoutship and all points and sizes in between, one of the best pieces to accompany any starship from the whole of the collection thus far.

These two bonus editions are more impressive than a lot of the more recent issues of the regular line. The SS Conestoga and the D4 are once again ships that show off how far CG had come by the time of Enterprise against the model-reliant years of Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation. The detail on every inch of both ships blows your mind and they absolutely look the part from every conceivable angle and distance. 

These feel used, worked and serviceable and are paired with magazines that function as excellent support material to both vessels. While the initial concept of both might not excite, once AGAIN it's the underlings from Star Trek's oft-maligned prequel that are the real stars of the show.

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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Monday, 30 March 2020

Gang Mentality: The Kazon in Attack Wing ( Expansion Review)

Not a faction I was too bothered about, the Kazon do have some redeeming features.

Managing to get hold of an early wave Predator Class as well as a Kazon-Nistrum Raider, I now have a bit of a fleet going on and it's a good base to test out some more outlandish ideas I might think up.

The Predator Class was first spied back in Voyager's Caretaker pilot episode eventually succumbing to a suicide run from the Maquis raider commanded by Chakotay. This is the powerhouse and flagship of the Kazon fleet with the Ogla-Razik sect being in control of this vessel. A 26 point cost is on a par with a Sovereign Class starship so that tells you this isn't a ship that will be easy to mess with and its minimal shields and defence are strongly countered by a roasting attack and hull points. You'll be rolling four to strike at your enemy with one to counter while there are three Shield and five Hull points on the sheet.

A standard array of Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battle Stations fill up the Action bar with two Crew, two Weapon and one Tech slot available to bolster your resources for the upcoming battle. If you're allying yourself with a few Raiders, the Unique Action allows all Kazon ships within a maximum of range two to gain an additional defence die. Theoretically this would mean your Raiders would defend with three dice if you're using the Named versions.

This all looks great on paper initially because the Predator Class can repel attacks as a capital ship and also provide assistance to its smaller associates - but it's a right git to turn with the full right and left moves at speeds two and three requiring the placing of an Auxiliary Power Token when used with banks at speeds one through three and only forward at speed four. The ship does provide the option for a speed one reverse but again you'll be incurring that annoying Auxiliary Power Token to interrupt your Actions.

You'll be fine initially but if there's a need for sharp, evasive moves to get out of fire then this could be difficult and leave you either Actionless or open to assault.

The generic Predator loses a Shield point and a Crew slot as well as the Unique Action and will cost just two points less to purchase for your fleet at 24.

The model to represent the starship is a chunky piece and also, thanks to the news that the Official Starships Collection is closing after 180 issues, this is about the only way you'll be seeing it in miniature form. The paintwork is fairly basic with a mustard finish highlighted with brown callouts. The surface detail isn't overly impressive with the ship coming off as a bit of a blob - however if it kicks arse I'm not fussed what it looks like...

There's a standard generic Captain too with a skill of one and a zero cost but players will be wanting to stick either the six skilled Razik or five skilled Jabin onto the base of their ship. Razik does give an "either or" option to disable a Crew upgrade and reroll an attack or defence dice or discard a Crew upgrade and reroll any number of attack or defence dice. Effectively a card that can be reused through the repeated disabling of Crew or as a last chance to go all in.

Jabin is perhaps the better constant though, offering to increase defence by one dice permanently during the game. Certainly with a single dice at the base level this card does step the Predator Class ship up to become a more serious threat that can take some punishment. Two Crew options are available in the expansion with Haliz (four points) and Karden (three points). Haliz can be used to cancel an attack but that will come at the cost of your existing Captain. This Crew member then becomes the captain and gains a skill of three. I'd have him as a backup but if your Captain was Jabin then removing him might put you in a worse place. 

However, Haliz will mean that a combo or large dice attack will be cleared immediately. Karden can be reused through the disable feature and adds two attack dice at the cost of two defence dice for the round in which he is activated. Karden (originally played by the late Aron Eisenberg) is only applicable for a Kazon ship and bear in mind that boosting the aggression may have consequences later. Along with the Crew duo there's a pair of Weapon cards that could come in useful. Photonic Charges operates only at range one and costs four points to put on your ship - but it costs a additional four points if not applied to a Predator Class starship.

Utilising four attack dice, the same as a standard attack, this will not just incur damage but also drop an Auxiliary Power Token onto your opponent as long as there's an uncancelled damage or critical damage result on your dice. This one, as it seems to many of the cards here, offers more than one effect and will slow down the opportunities of your enemy. Particle Beam Weapon steps up your number of attack dice to five and costs four points again. The big benefit here is that not only do you get more punch from the attack but it will work up to range two. This one is even operable front or back and I would put this as an essential weapon for the Predator Class offering a larger firing arc and with the ability to disable and not discard, it again can be reused.

The final upgrade in the box is Tractor Beam. Costing a low two points, this one does rely on certain conditions being met early on in the turn. An enemy ship within range one needs to reveal a maneuver of speed three or higher to which you can then discard this card and reduce that speed by two, effectively placing this enemy firmly in range and you've certainly got a few options available to deal out damage.

First Maje is a bit of an oddity as it doesn't need an upgrade slot to be equipped to a Kazon ship with a Kazon captain. I'd put this as another essential even though there's a significant five point cost to stick this on your ship. The additional Tech slot might not be a big draw but the increase of Captain skill by two will make a difference during the Combat Phase of the round. Potentially this would give you a maximum of eight if you were to use Razik in conjunction with it or seven with Jabin (makes him a bit more attractive an option!). Convolutedly you can end up chucking this card in during the Planning Phase to disable a Tech upgrade on an enemy ship at range one and use it on your own ship. I'm not one for using a lot of Tech upgrades but with the cost and the options already available with it, it could dial down the threat posed to your fleet so choose wisely if you decide to go with it.

The Array mission replays the end of the Caretaker pilot with a 100 point Kazon fleet taking on an 80 point Federation contingent. The aim is for the Kazon defend the defenceless Array and eliminate the opposition while the Federation need to destory the Array and leave the play area with at least one ship in tact. Now that I’ve added the Maquis Raider to the collection it’ll be good to run this as per the episode itself.

Alongside the Predator Class capital ship we have the Nistrum Raider. In a previous review we’ve touched on the Kazon Halik Raider and this one isn’t disimiliar when it comes to the basic stats. For 20 points you’ll get two attack and two defence coupled with three Hull and three Shield points. Basic Actions available are Evade, Target Lock and Battle Stations  so you’ve not got the Scan feature of the larger ship.

The Raider model isn't as contrastingly painted as it's bigger brother opting for the darker brown panelling still with a slightly lighter shade for the base coat. The detailing on here is much better with grid lines and lots of raised elements and even window ports. As a small model it's weird that this one looks much better than the Predator and putting the two side by side just makes the Raider look even more impressive for its size.

As for upgrades, you can snap on up to two Crew, one Weapon and one Tech card.  The Unique Action of the named Raider adds an extra two dice to your attack as long as the target ship has a Scan token in play. That’s very conditional but does offer a huge advantage should the occasion may arise in the game, giving your Raider the same firepower as the Predator Class and also having better defence in place from the off. Even better than that has to be the notion that this isn’t a feature you have to disable or discard and so can be used over and over again!

For 18 points and the loss of a Shield, a Tech upgrade and the Unique Action you can ship out on the generic Raider but at lower prices, those lost features make a big difference.

In comparison to the Predator, the smaller Raider does have more flexible manoeuvrability. I wouldn’t say better as you don’t get any reverse moves although she still provides the full set of turns and banks at speeds two and three. Both the full right and full left turns at speed three incur the Auxiliary Power Token penalty. There’s a bit more green on here at lower speeds to counter the red and the 180 come about at speed three does provide the chance to flip the game around in terms of attack.

As for captains, you might be using Jabin or Razik from the Predator Class since the top skill here is a lowly four for Culluh.

I would have expected him to be higher up the specs but given that the Nistrum were one of the lesser sects it’s understandable that he isn’t head honcho for the Kazon. The small cost of two points might sway you to give him a chance and for the discard of one Crew upgrade you can perform an Action from the Action Bar as a freebie. For half the price and half the skill though, I’m actually more in favour of using Rettik. 

Without a discard or a disable mentioned, this captain will allow you to reroll one blank defence dice each time you defend. Multiple use, fairly flexible and the only drawback is that you need to get a blank result - if needed - to roll again. Perhaps the two Actions here should be swapped with this being the more expensive?

Turning to Crew, the Kazon Raiding Party works in a slightly similar fashion to Tractor Beam on the Predator Class. If you cause at least two points of damage you can discard this upgrade to reduce the damage to one Critical Damage that affects the Hull and ignores Shields plus you can disable and then steal a Tech upgrade from the enemy ship. Five points isn't cheap but the double bonus of an extra upgrade unrestricted by your own loadout and hull damage can't be under appreciated.

Classed as a Kazon Crew upgrade (and not a Cardassian one?), the four point Seska allows you to target a ship at ranges two or three and the disable one of their Crew. It's not spectacular BUT you can even use this on a ship that's cloaked which is a good bonus. Seska herself is also disabled meaning this can be used again and again on multiple Crew/ships.

Finally there's Tierna whom you might recall was the Kazon who "self-destructed" and kicked off the Nistrum assault on Voyager in Basics. For three points Tierna is in keeping with his onscreen persona as he is discarded to roll two attack dice as an Action against an uncloaked and unshielded target who in turn doesn't defend. Tierna's ship itself cannot be cloaked and its Shields must be deactivated to work the Action. This does leave you open to direct Hull attack so realistically is this something as a final act of the game?

Photonic Charges offers an attack of three (same as the base Raider score) but what makes this a better choice than just blasting with your primary weapon? 

Operating at ranges one and two, this card gets disabled and drops an Auxiliary Power Token onto your opponent's ship should there be at least one uncancelled Damage or Critical Damage result. Honestly here I'd not bother with this one due to a three point cost for something that depends on a damn fine bit of dice rolling that you have to commit to before you roll!

The solo Tech upgrade comes as Masking Circuitry for three points. It's one I would immediately add on to any Kazon ship, perhaps more so the Predator than the Raider since it gives the ability to Cloak and while cloaked perform the Sensor Echo move. Three points is an absolute steal for this massive advantage even if it does incur the dreaded Auxilary Power Token. If equipped to anything other than a Kazon ship though it will incur a five point penalty - but if you're clever you'll have a ship with the ability to steal Tech...enough said!

To the mission and you'll be utilising the Kazon Raiding Party to steal Tech from your opponent and then leave the play area. Alternatively you can just obliterate your enemies and still win. For the opponent, they need to destroy the Kazon ships and manage to retain at least one Tech upgrade between them or it's counted as a loss.

The Kazon faction might now be able to be included within the Independents yet even as their own group, there are some cool options and abilities going on. I can see this working well as the Predator Class flanked by the two Raiders picking off Tech upgrades and Crew left, right and centre. Movement isn't the winner here, it's tactical planning of wearing down your opponent and giving them less things to play with before dealing a killer blow that they can't defend. If there's a faction I might have totally underestimated, this might well be it.

Have you used the Kazon? What are their big advantages in the game? Is there a more underappreciated or underestimated faction around?

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Sunday, 29 March 2020

Picard: Et in Arcadia Ego, Parts I and II

Making it to the synth homeworld, it seems that the mission will end in failure in sight of the end goal.

That is until the reactivated Borg cube arrives to save the La Sirena from Narek’s attacks.

Et in Arcadia Ego raises the stakes, places Picard firmly planetside and reveals more about the synthetic colony established in secret. 

The trip to the Borg cube to see if Elnor and Hugh survived does allow us to see the swordsman and Seven partnered up to save the remaining XB’s and provides Jean-Luc with a chance to say goodbye to the nearest approximation to a son that he’s had since the death of Data in Nemesis

It’s never felt as though this relationship ever really formed nor did we ever get to see Elnor truly at Picard’s side as his bodyguard. Most of his time has been spent on the Artifact away from La Sirena and even then Elnor has never truly evolved as a character and his presence has been sidelined in the few episodes in which he has appeared.

The bulk of the episode rightly focuses on the arrival of Soji back at the synth community. With the added element of trekking across to the crashed cube, I was almost exhausted and frustrated when we finally arrived because the episode felt like we were delaying the inevitable. I understand we needed to know what happened to anyone aboard the Artifact but it did slow the pacing of the episode down.

The biggest reveal of episode nine is the return of Brent Spiner. Not as Data, Lore or B4 but as Noonien Soong’s son (retcon!), Altan Inigo (A.I.). This guy is all for the synthetics of course, being the man responsible for the look of the android bodies while Maddox focused on the minds. Soong is creating a golem in which to place a human consciousness - nothing much revealed about it in this episode but you do sense that its something we need fo pay attention to for episode ten. 

So let's discuss these androids. My god, they seem to have developed a fashion sense off the back of The Original Series with lots of free-flowing fabric but what is quite unsettling and I would think intentionally so, is the choice to have them all gold skinned with distinct yellow eyes a la Data. Their skin tone is much more pronounced and makes them an eerie set of creations. The sister of Janna (whom Rios encountered on the USS ibn Majid is still there, looking like a much more artificial version of Soji.

But these synths have a bigger plan to contact an ancient cybernetic race and bring an end to the rule of the organics. Et in Arcadia Ego does plant a lot of set up in it's first part from the golem to the plight of the synths from the approaching 250 strong Romulan fleet. To be fair by the end of the first part you're not really sure who you should be rooting for - is it the synths who are threatened with extinction or should you be with the Romulans who, for all intents and purposes, are just looking to secure the future of organic life in the universe?

The belief that Jurati and Soji are both swift to change allegiances does to push your ability to believe a little although given their recent past it does seem understandable but the synths do have a tendancy to seem, with the possible exception of Soji-twin Sutra, to be wishy-washy at best with no real oomph behind them apart from the beliefs and drive of Altan Soong and to a minor extent, Jurati. 

The other problem is that the synths of Coppelius don't really play a huge part in the conclusion, Aside from a few reactive shots, most of the action around their enclosure in Part II focuses on Soji activating the beacon which will draw an ancient race to their location. It's not quite on a par with Veridian IV from Generations where we never even saw a native but they do get ridiculously sidelined especially Sutra who is responsible for Narek's escape from confinement. 

But that's not the heart of the conclusion to the season and actually, if I'm brutally honest here, the lack of golden androids doesn't take away from what I might controversially call the greatest episode of Star Trek for about 20 years.

This episode is full of emotional highs and lows, a true cliched roller-coaster of an episode that brings the Romulan navy and Starfleet face to face once more although a firefight (for the second time in the episode) is avoided.

Picard's neurological condition has played a big part since his departure from Earth and here it really comes to the fore leading to an unexpected moment of drama to which you know there has to be a get out clause. Perhaps this is actually the issue with Et in Arcadia Ergo, because for the first 30 minutes of the story there's a lot going on at breakneck speed. Narek teams up with the La Sirena crew, Seven takes on the Zhat Vash skills of Narissa (although she seems to give less of a fight than she did with Elnor disappointingly) and Picard is freed by Jurati with the pair of them flying Rios' ship against the Romulan warbirds.

It's a lot to take in but that piece of the season does end satisfyingly not without the help of an acting, familiar, starship captain and his own fleet of Arbiter Class vessels. While it's not clear if Acting Captain Riker (on a redress of the Discovery bridge) is in command of this fleet, it did raise a few questions for me - how come there's suddenly a huge and super-advanced Starfleet when it's been suggested that all is not well after the Mars attacks and surely they would have managed more than one design? This does feel a bit lazy from the designers but at least we've had one new starship design this season huh?!

However it's the latter half of the episode that really kicks and potentially lifts it from an average run of the mill finale packed with phaser battles and frantic pacing because it comes down to two core characters and a goodbye that wasn't completed.

My next couple of sentences are huge spoilers but there's no way to review this without doing so. There's the warning now...

Killing Jean-Luc Picard felt inevitable from the moment we heard he was developing a terminal condition although I was counting on it being something that would be stretched across a season or two with that being the ultimate endgame. I wasn't right and I should have taken the golem much more strongly into consideration for the admiral.

Being mentally scanned and saved, Picard gets to meet Data once more in a quantum simulation. This is the neuron that Maddox took from B-4 and from which he in turn spawned Dahj and Soji to uncover the real story behind the ban on synthetic life.

In what has to be one of the most moving and well written pieces of this new Star Trek era, Picard and Data have closure, a time to say goodbye and lay everything to rest. Indeed, Picard admits that he has been unable to get over that very event since the day it happened and now Data can also have his peace requesting that his consciousness be terminated. 

Flicking back to the dream sequence of Data and Picard in the vineyard, we realise that we have come full circle and it might be that the father/son tale here has been the stronger thread running along all the time. We successfully avoid Data coming back to life while also simultaneously celebrating the rebirth of Picard who keeps his promise to a very old friend.

The punch of this second half hour is incredible. Just to see "proper" Data and Picard in conversation once more is seriously emotional because there is such a strong whiff of finality. Capping it off wth Isa Briones' version of Blue Skies truly brings us back to Remembrance and to see Data pass visually of old age is a nod to his desire to become human. While Nemesis ended the story, Et in Arcadio Ego has provided a coda to the narrative and feels more satisfyingly conclusive than the last The Next Generation movie.  Picard's demons too and his health problems are now cast aside by the end of the episode as the crew come together to head out and explore the galaxy; 20 years of regret are done with.

Et in Arcadia Ego does a great job to tie up the season and makes the decent choice not to cliffhanger us over into season two unlike it's contemporary, Discovery

How Commodore/General Oh managing to escape scott free didn't sit too well with me - she must know a vast amount of Starfleet secrets and seems to have been able to just walk ut and also return to the Empire following her defeat over Coppelius. We also didn't really have a firm conclusion on what became of Narek and it's certainly annoying not to have a full conclusion but I suspect they might just pop up again in the future seasons of Picard

With all the doom, gloom and roundabouts of emotion powering through the second part, to have some closure and optimism for the future and for all the characters aboard La Sirena, it feels that Picard has come a long way since its more grey beginnings and less than positive outlook.

You can follow all our Picard season one reviews here

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Thanks to Chris Groves for assistance with screencaps

Saturday, 28 March 2020

A Fury-ous Entry: The Official Starships Collection Issues 168 and 169

A second Suliban ship joins The Official Starships Collection with the spiky freighter arriving as issue 168.
The freighter is a really cool bit of modelwork overall. The strong metal core here works a treat to support what initially looks like a rather fragile structure but cleverly only two sets of the cargo spines - those to the sides - are plastic add-ons to the hull although on just an first observation you'd be very hard pressed to figure out which were metal and which were not.

With only a forked tail section to determine which way is the front, the Suliban Freighter has a similar structure for all of its spine pieces. Each is coloured with a two-tone brown paint scheme with some blue detailing at the edges and a very strong panel formation on each section. All 12 of the modules are identical with only the front and back pieces being slightly longer.

The spines do give a one-off look to this freighter but the central "body" is the most impressive element. Almost wrapped in the brown painted hull, the centre of the Suliban ship is a network of supporting struts to which the cargo elements are then attached. The detail on this black metalwork is just as good and clean as that on the spines and you can see each segmented piece that makes the whole. Even more impressive is that this detail isn't restricted to just the outside but you can see into the core of the freighter and there's even more to the metalwork than is immediately obvious.

What initially looks like a fairly repetitive structure is one that has a great deal of visual depth and detail that's certainly more than hull deep. Face palm however for the fact that some of the recesses in the hull don't line up with the blue window sections which are then lying just ahead of where they should be. In fact this is every single recess on the whole ship not just on the forward section.

Issue 168's magazine explores the purpose of the freighter and it's role within Suliban society before discussing the process of designing the geometric nature of the ship which is in keeping with the Suliban's established simplistic style. The magazine also talks about the return of the Tholians and the odd homage to Doctor Who through the time-bending Future Tense.

One of Star Trek's 90's recycled designs makes it into issue 169 with Kes' Shuttle from the Voyager sixth season story, Fury. A compact little design, the shuttle carries some fantastic weathering all over. It's a "proper" spaceship design with the sweeping cockpit leading back to those impressive twin engines. Eaglemoss have really gone to town on the look of this one so while the panelling and overall look is, of course, in line with the appearance of the ship in Fury, the dirt wash across the hull which follows the hull shape is spectacular.  Eaglemoss have really aged this one, caked it in grime with particular attention around the tail fin which is almost black. 

Strangely around the engine exhausts there appears to be a lack of dirt with the pair painted metallic and oddly looking as though they have just come from the production line. That might sound as if I’m dissing the shuttle while its actually because this is a great, aged finish for a starship and a look that we are rarely treated to as part of the Collection.

In general the smaller the ship, the better the scaling when it's converted and this one does feel very solidly constructed, nicely opposing the spindly design of the Suliban Freighter also sent out this week. The detail actually seems to be more vivid towards the back and also on the underside which is jam packed with panels and further dirt washing at all points. The twin engines under the wings are more weathered to the rear than the pair on the top so there's a full, wraparound completion to the model that we don't get often enough in this series. 

The plastic/metal split here is pretty well concealed through the contours of the shuttle with the engines as well as the recesses utilised to line the pieces up. It's a clever build and one that brings the parts together seamlessly and where there are join lines near the cockpit and to the back, they are easy to ignore since the majority are not in plain sight.

This time in the magazine we look over the shuttle but focus much more on the story of Fury since the craft is only onscreen for a matter of moments. 

The episode is recounted in extensive detail to be honest with some good screenshots and new CG of the ship alongside. Skip past the sprinkling of call-outs on the plan views and also note that it's becoming more frequent that the boxes to the right are devoid of any story factoids. We do have the coverage of just what the model turned up as five episodes of Voyager that's an eye-opener and one to look out for in future viewings.

Bryan Fuller's recollections of writing Fury are handed just two pages (one page if you take out all the pictures) and we're treated to four pages exploring David Lombardi's work on Fury as well as a reminder of some of his other influences on the series for Deep Space Nine and Voyager when the franchise began to embrace the use of CG more, bringing in the talents of Digital Muse.

I'm not picking a "winner" this month because, well, these two just didn't float my boat in any big respect. They're ok and that's it - and key because it probably tells you how we've just come to accept these models and because of the quality we've seen elsewhere these just end up middle of the road and easily forgettable. Had these been earlier in the series the bar would have been well set because they are, like it or not, actually well constructed and finished, Their build gives me zero niggles but that "Wow" factor has definitely passed by.

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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