Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The New Line on the Block: The Star Trek Online Starships Collection Issues 1 and 2

As The Official Starships Collection bows out in a matter of weeks with its 180th issue, Eaglemoss are already setting out to new frontiers with their Star Trek Online Starships series.

The first two issues are out right now featuring the USS Gargarin and the USS Chimera

As it's the opening salvo from this new collection, let's dissect this from a box level down. First of all, the packaging has stepped up to the mark and away from the generic blue sleeves from The Official Starships Collection. Taking instead a line from the busts, the boxes are a full six sides with a windowed front. The sides are decked out with info on what's contained within and for those looking to line it all up as a "bookshelf" series, the spine side carries the issue number and ship detail.

All in all it's a big move away from the plastic bag ship and mag combination we've seen for the last seven years and instantly looks a darn sight more professional and inviting. On the back - and not therefore not taking up any unnecessary magazine space - is a preview of the upcoming issues, naming a few more than there are pictured.

This is definitely a positive shift for Eaglemoss who are also notably stamping it with their Hero Collector brand. Also a move in keeping with the Busts and Discovery collections is the downsizing of the magazines to fit into those boxes. Good move for space saving after 180 larger magazines but dead fiddly and certainly the text is harder to read. More on the mags at the end.

Ok, here’s issue one’s lowdown. The USS Gagarin is a visually upgraded version of the Shepard Class from Discovery, offering not just a 25th Century structural makeover but also a striking new paint job.

Utilising the same model sizing as The Official Starships Collection, the Gagarin has a set of crisp lines and immediately you realise that this is  as close as close as close as you could get to the craft on Online. Why? Because the CG models have always been Eaglemoss’ preferred media of choice when it’s come to creating their starships series and was most evident when you compared the Enterprise ships to any of the series that preceded it. 

That accuracy is continued here, beginning with NCC-97930. Take a look firstly at the circular primary hull with its detailed panelling - there’s a lot of it and in comparison to the TV shows, this ship doesn’t carry those ramrod straight lines emanating from the bridge module out to the edge. It’s a more curved pattern, weaving across the deck symmetrically along the dorsal centre line of the hull. The paintwork is very Online, taking the choice to head for the sharply contrasting white and black blocking. It’s simple and effectively painted on but raises your awareness of the very average decalling particularly  when it comes to the ‘slipped’ markings indicating the ends of the dorsal phaser arrays. 

The more distinctive feature than its primary hull though are the split pylons connecting the main body to the pair of warp engines. They don't run parallel to each other with the lower sweeping back while the top arm runs straight across. The pylons again continue the black/white Online colour scheme and a slight angle adjustment means that the engines sit just a fraction above the primary hull. The crossbar upper pylon is detail heavy with further contrast panelling as well as ship registry and red striping, both of which are placed perfectly. The lower pylon is perhaps a tad more interesting with a central slit cut into the metal drawing your eye to the black edging of the upper arm. It does feel that the design has some space to breathe here after the onslaught of colour and intricate decalling of the saucer.

The warp engines themselves attach at two points to the unique double pylon concept and also feature a very unusual design. Angled from front to back as though heading out to a distant vanishing point, the front section is capped with a translucent bussard collector . Now on mine, the starboard collector wasn't attached firmly and just came away from its slot so I'm not hugely thrilled it's another minor repair job.

The rest of the engines have the stripes of the Starfleet pennant top and bottom plus the full item on the sides including more ship registries. It's the back of the units where the design goes a little funky with a split/forked arrangement that includes warp field grilles along the interior edges. 

The ship design and in particular the attention to getting the pylons correct has meant in turn that the warp nacelles have remained parallel to their tips. The design and execution of the panel lining here is clean and remains in line on the two prongs of the distinct design. For me, it's the back end where this class really works visually. The saucer is just too busy, there's a lot of shape and colour while the pylons and engines seem more considered and simply painted allowing for the design to come through more effectively. 

The red decals around the lifeboat pod hatches are in contrast a lot more in sync with the hull details as are the trimmings around the outer extremes of the saucer and also around the bridge module. What does let it down is the blotchy ship name just above the ok ship registry. While the latter is in a bigger font, the name has lost a little definition in the shape of the ‘A’s and the ‘G’s that sounds ruin the effect.

The bottom of the saucer is perhaps even more cluttered than the top with the continuation of the black and white scheme but the window painting on the black sections does make it appear that the coating is flecked or damaged. Once more, the decals around the lifeboat hatches on the interior are spot on while those lining the outer edge are painted very precisely in line with the raised "blips" on the hull. 

The central strip is also just as well completed with the key feature here being the blue, recessed and almost invisible deflector dish which seems to have its own "barrel" if you will that runs down the middle of the ship. To be fair it's as filled out as the top half of the saucer so the utilisation of space on the Gagarin has been used to a premium although at times it seems there's detail for the sake of detail instead of putting in a few breaks!

As an upgraded design from Discovery's Shepard Class it's ok but not one that really strikes home the 25th Century out of the box thinking that echoes from the digital realm of Star Trek Online - but we'll see that in issue two. 

As an opener the model is well detailed, given a good, clean paintjob and is extensively detailed on every surface to recreate the starship as it is in the game. While I'm not totally familiar with the vessel, the finished product looks awesome probably due to that double pylon spin.

Issue one, a mini-mag included inside the model bx, sets the standard for future issues with a run through of the in-universe nature of the Gagarin plus it's development from the 22nd Century "classic". The pictures - a lot smaller than I'm used to with the bigger editions of the Official Starships line - are extensive with multiple angles of the ship, showing off its key elements alongside some fine plan views which are almost devoid of any callout details.

What does step this issue up however are the Design and the Yard 39 features explaining how the ship came to be in the game both from the real world slant and then from the historical background linking the ship to its "lost" past as part of an abandoned set of ships that could not be reached due to spacial phenomenon. It's just odd enough to work as a concept and shows some of the thinking behind the online game allowing players and fans access to a ton of ships from different eras of Star Trek while also remaining true to the 25th Century setting.

While the USS Gagarin exemplifies the visual changes that have made Online ships so distinctive and contrasting to their TV counterparts, the USS Chimera NCC-97400 goes back to a tried and tested formula. Commanded by one Ferengi called Nog, the quad-warp-engined starship cuts a sharp look as part of the digital fleet.

Carrying that familiar grey overcoat trimmed with black, this model looks not dissimilar to the USS Prometheus from the top. Again heavy on the deflector grid panel lines as with the Gagarin, the Chimera places itself firmly as a ship ready for battle with a tight profile, swept pylons, entombed bridge and chunky yet streamlined nacelles to finish her off. 

The detail on her is very good, relying more on the paint to mark out distinctive features including the curved edge concealing its "devastating" Phaser Lotus. This does, for someone who's not dived that deep into the Online pool, seem like a gimmick and half that's just a step beyond the USS Prometheus' Multi-Vector Assault Mode but hey, different timeline, different theories so who am I to argue against it. 

What I do like about this is the placement of the impulse engines to the back of the engine pylons and Eaglemoss have managed to paint them in pretty perfectly even though it's an incredibly thin edge to use. The warp engines themselves are surprisingly well built with two sections in each of the four modules being completed in translucent plastic - the bussard collectors to the front and the blue field grilles to the rear. There's even a sliver of blue across the centre if you look closely and these might be the best production engines on any ship since these collections began. Honestly, these are a real work of art and model construction - and they're very solid as well so top marks for effort and accuracy.

Also take note of that central hump. Not only does it demonstrate a more logical way to protect the bridge than leave it prominently out in the open but also leads back to the well-executed inclusion of the shuttlebay and landing pad. The decals here even include a microscopic ship registry - again, a fine attention to getting these screen accurate.

The decalling overall is inspiringly accurate for an Eaglemoss piece with the lifeboat hatches in alignment and the Starfleet pennants on the sides of the lower hull and warp engines also being well defined. The latter also includes another small version of the ship name and registry. 

Now the underneath of the Chimera is not what you might expect. Rather than a smooth raked back finish sliding nicely towards the rear we have a gaping maw of a deflector dish that drops sharply back into the secondary hull.  The solid single tone base paint scheme is augmented with darker grey panelling and a wide move right across the ship is to decal on the windows to the smooth surface rather than dipping the hull and having them nearly be aligned to the right spot. For the bulbous secondary hull especially, this move has worked perfectly allowing the whole of the section to be fully realised without ruining the overall effect. Minor grumble - one of the red curves marking the end of the phaser bank here does appear to be off-centre but I really had to look for it.

The oversize secondary hull does sweep back up just as abruptly as it drops but this time is broken by the white doors of the main shuttlebay which juts out in the opposite direction to the quantum slipstream lump at the front of the main deflector. While the Chimera is unusual, the design balances itself out around this bottom-heavy concept that, for all intents, still looks incredibly deadly and a natural progression down the line of quad-engined starships for the 25th Century Online.

These magazines are a real eye-opener for someone who's fairly inexperienced with the Online advances and they come at the designs from two angles - that of the real world work from the artist who brought it about and then the understanding of its features and reason to be from the in-universe Star Trek perspective. These are great reads accompanied by some very realistic plan views including the now familiar fleeting nod to parts of the ship (but actually here they make sense!). 

In issue two we get to explore the processes behind the development of this ship as a reward for lifetime players before turning to a biographical article on the career of Captain Nog following his time at Deep Space Nine. Closing out we have the in-game stats for the class as with the Gagarin

This is a much better ship with a decent magazine in the package. Stepping away from the contrast paint scheme gives it a more realistic feel than the Gagarin while the design is pure STO built for the game alone. I love the crackers, huge gaping secondary hull and the quad-pod engines - it looks the part and fits perfectly with the game's more aggressive ship battle feature.

The Online collection looks to be an exciting selection to follow and, just from a presentation perspective is a big step up from the original collection we've reviewed for 180 issues. Coming up are a variety of Starfleet ships as well as Klingon, Dominion and Romulan craft from the long-running game. 

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Thursday, 25 June 2020

Two Sides to the TNG: The Official Starships Collection Issues 176 and 177

It feels like the collection really is just counting down the weeks until issue 180 with two ships that would be utilised in other forms across the franchise's Golden Era.

Arriving in The Next Generation's first season episode, Haven, the distinctive Tarellian (Plague) Ship incited fear in civilisations across the galaxy. A visually basic design (its a rectangle with a ball), it does lack the detail and sadly therefore the interest from myself because it pales in comparison to many later starships. However, in a backwards sort of way it's a perfect example of the show finding its feet and design aesthetic.

Enough of my mumblings though and on to the starship in question. The Tarellian Ship is light on surface detail with the base light grey coat azteced and then accentuated with darker grey highlights to focus the eye onto sections of panelling laid across the hull.

It's a very simple paintjob overall with Eaglemoss ably completing the job without any errors and potentially made even easier with the note that all the darker shaded areas are raised up on the hull. The window ports along the side almost manage to line up with the surface impressions but, alas, with only a handful of issues to go it's still not in the right place although it's close. 

As with the panel detail, surface greebling is definitely toned down here with only a slim piece in front of the warp bubble and then some directly behind that feature. Definition on them is decent with the pant not overwhelming their shapes. Nor does the red paint fill in the grille lines on the panelling at the back either. 

Now I would go into massive detail about the underside of the ship but...it's exactly the same as the top. The only visual difference is the bug-pincer nose which drops away from the top giving the only real indication of orientation. The nose itself is also the split point for the hull with it attached into the metal upper piece. Aside from the join line at the front though it's a near "seamless" join all the way round. 

Now, onto the "main feature" if you will and that rollerball centrepiece of the ship. In the Star Trek universe this marks the distinctive Tarellian warp drive with the sphere representing the field when the craft is stepping up to faster than light speed. I can grasp pretty quickly in the model that this doesn't translate very well into plastic. The central negative space looks great, it's the delivery of this section which really deflates the model however. Even a blue tint to the plastic half-spheres can't get you away from the reality that it's not as glowing nor "alive" if you will as the screen starship because you simply can't deliver a special effect in a box, just the same as we felt with the organic craft of Species 8472. 

The display of this one is particularly wobbly with a rear grip that's not that robust. With a slight lean to the rear it does sit but it's less than perfect and might be a rare shelf-diver.

The magazine sprinkles in the story of the Tarellians and their notorious plague ships as well as it's standard array of features. It does dwell a little bit on the difference to Starfleet in warp tech although this only draws even more attention to the glorified hamster wheel that's attached to the boxed model.

Designing the ship furthers the line of thinking around the centre element of the craft plus the ways in which it could have been different to start with. Definitely a recommended read to see where the thought processes were heading in 1987 as The Next Generation took its first steps into the world. Closing out had to be a feature on the making of the episode in which the Tarellian ship made its only appearance, in this case; Haven. It's not the greatest story in 50 years of Star Trek but it has its reasons for being a significant 50 minutes of TV and those are explored here.

To the Sheliak Colony Ship for issue 177 and lo, we've got that sense of deja vu which is expected since this is a reworking of the classic Merchantman from The Search for Spock. As with several ships before we waited a long time for that one to arrive - and not quite so long after it to get another iteration. As I've said on several occasions, these are all well and good but we have sacrificed issues of the regular series for these where we could have had Quark's Shuttle or Lazarus' ship or... ok, well maybe not the last one but I know we're all on the same page.

Appearing in The Next Generation's The Ensigns of Command, the altered Merchantman had a serious makeover changing it's colour from the sandy red through to a more utilitarian grey. Usually there's something removed to help with the design "transition" but with the Sheliak craft it's all about the additions. 

Starting out to the front, the ship has gained two warp engine "skis" and underneath the ventral fin has been slightly altered. There are also what seem to be additional tanks strapped in on the underside. On the top there's a second bridge-like module behnd the first as well as increased amounts of piping running from said unit back to the quad impulse engines. 

Without question the original format of the ship is far more attractive and iconic within the franchise while the modifications here change the feel of it and not just the aesthetic. Eaglemoss have done a great job in adapting the design (and for note this is smaller than the earlier Merchantman) and capturing the differences made for The Next Generation.

The paintwork has a textured weathering leafing away from the front edge towards the rear engine assembly and the grey coating works exceptionally as it isn't a single flat shade. The painting from the tips of the warp engines back into the wide forward hull section is really something to behold giving depth to the hull as well as a used look to the Sheliak ship.

The wingtip extremities and the piping on the top do look flexible when you take her out of the box and while the former do have considerable flexibility in their structure, the added materials on the top of the craft are very solidly fixed in place.

The detail on the hull of this one still astounds me, even with that slight reduction in scale and its conversion has only added to the already heavy amount of hull detail evident along the lighter grey side sections and into the very intricate engines at the back. It's an intricately constructed model with a lot to take on board and even on the underside, the hull features, most significantly to the front, are still visible. All of this provides that crucial "realness" to the model, a sense of depth and heavy construction heightened by the weather-worn paint that wraps itself around the whole structure.

Onscreen the greys of the Sheliak craft do mean that a lot of the features to this one were lost in translation but now there's the chance to see just what was done to fully utilise the available resources of the Star Trek franchise where a budget was concerned. 

With this model it's not the quality of what's been produced that's the issue because for all intents and purposes, this is a really, really well presented piece that actually builds on an earlier release - but I still come back to the argument of how many slight alterations there should have been in The Official Starships Collection given there are some screamers that were missed - Borg Scout Cube, Kazon Predator Class... the list is not endless but it does have some unseen highlights.

Issue 177 doesn't have a ton to say about the Sheliak craft itself and more focuses on a retelling of the key events from The Ensigns of Command.  It's not an episode I've watched a lot (time for a skip back to it I think) but this gives an ample enough refresh on the events from the show. 

Feeling like another slight refresh is the choice to cover off the reuses of the Sheliak craft in the franchise from its time in The Search for Spock through to this inclusion and on to Deep Space Nine and beyond. Some you might remember and a couple you might not!

Then there's a great overview of the season that changed The Next Generation's fortunes and could well be responsible for Star Trek's continued TV existence to this very day with coverage of the excellent third season which included a first appearance from a classic character (Sarek), a continuing story with Sins of the Father, the return of Beverly Crusher and ended on...well, we all know how the year finished!

As a package both issues 176 and 177 deliver in ways I didn't expect. Both magazines are excellent and add to the wealth f background material a fan can never have too much of while they also reflect two very different periods in The Next Generation's history which are only separated by two years. The simplicity of the Tarellian ship, while great to see, pales in comparison to the tech overload of the modified Merchantman and betrays a much more serious and darker tone to the show which had not been seen in seasons one and two. 

Perhaps for this month it's more about the mythos and exploration of The Next Generation  than about the actual ships themselves although they do tell a great story about the evolution of the franchise.

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

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Monday, 22 June 2020

The Lockdown Interviews: Natalija Nogulich

Opening an interview with a discussion of the finer points of Leicester is not what you might expect when chatting to Starfleet's most straight-talking admiral.

Appearing in six episodes across the final two season of The Next Generation and seasons two and three of Deep Space Nine, Natalija Nogulich's Admiral Nechayev was a force to be reckoned with - even by one Jean-Luc Picard.

"It was a small convention but it was one of the most enjoyable because we were actually with the fans the entire time in the hotel." recalled Natalija in regards to the 2003 UK convention; "The fans came from far and wide so they were buying a lot of stuff because they had made the trip. In the evenings we all ate together, they had a band one night we all stayed up and danced. It was it an unusual and wonderful time!"

"I really enjoyed it...I'd love to come to the UK to Destination Star Trek - who knows now because of what's going on."

With hopes that 2021 might be a better year, we moved on to talk about her current turn towards writing. Personal commitments and current climate are meaning that Natalija isn't getting a chance to continue this line, started with One Woman's War, at the minute but they're definitely not scrapped; "I have the second and third one outlined, I just got to get my butt in the seat!"

While we as Star Trek fans are more than familiar with Natalija Nogulich's appearances in the sci-fi franchise, her acting resume goes back much further and is more diverse than you might expect.

"I was very fortunate to get involved with a theatre group in Chicago that was founded by David Mamet and William H Macy - who knew they would have such stellar careers! The Chicago group of that period of time (1970's) went their separate ways to New York, California and so on and I'm really grateful and very lucky to have had them as teachers."

With a solid foundation in the theatre, Natalija threw herself into dance as well which she had performed at a younger age. This experience was a big help when it came to a move to New York;  so I got into theatre in a roundabout way and my mother can attest to this that I would end up in drama.  "I did a lot of theatre and got further training at the great Stella Adler academy before getting roles in a few Broadway shows which I absolutely adored. This can be the pinnacle of an actor's career and I loved it. Having people waiting at your dressing room door to see you was incredible. Such a great experience all round."

"The second one (Broadway production) I did was with Jason Robards," continued Natalija,  "After Broadway we turned in Los Angeles for a six week run. I had not interest in moving to LA permanently at that point. I liked New York, I thought, I'm making a living here and I love it so, I'll just go do the tour of The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill and then come back to NYC. It's a great play but long, and we weren't sure the audience would want to sit through a four and a half hour production - but they did, and they lapped it up!"

The work kept coming in, and the actress was being seen by casting directors and producers and directors leading to continuous theatre work. "I thought, this is weird, being that LA is a movie town, but okay I'll do another play in LA, still keeping up my apartment in New York. I kept doing one play after another and so on."

But it wouldn't stop at the stage after a chance meeting one day; "At that time I met a director at the coffee stand at the theatre and I was doing this play written by Edna O'Brien called Virginia about Virginia Woolf.

"I'm at the coffee stand and the director who was directing in the big theatre (we were in the smaller one) was there and he goes; "Hey, I'm Sam - do you ever play Italian?"

"Well, I had black hair at the time and he explained that he was doing a pilot and had just lost the actor for the Italian mother lead. Would I consider auditioning for the role?

"Anyway, next day I auditioned for it, got it and earned more in one week on a TV sitcom than I made in 6 months in New York Theatre. Still I wasn't convinced I wanted to stay in LA." 

During the day Nogulich would film and by night be working on stage. "It was an actor's dream but it was the beginning of seeing the volume of work that there was to be had in LA." explained Natalija, "Even though I said my devotion to the theatre was not going to conflict with sitcoms or other TV shows, one thing led to another and I was getting more and more television work. I kept up my apartment in New York City, while in LA, with one foot on a plane heading back to NY, never thinking of staying in LA. It just didn't grab me at that time."

Back in New York in 1990, Natalija was onstage on Broadway again, with fellow Star Trek: Voyager guest actor Jason Alexander in Rupert Holmes play entitled Accomplice. Mr. Holmes was quite the toast of the town on Broadway having written long running hit, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and the well known song Escape - the Pina Colada song. While there she again considered staying "home" in New York.

"I met with a number of people who asked if I was crazy because all the work was in LA and no-one does a Broadway show every year apart from Hugh Jackman! So I went back to LA and settled in but I was restless for theatre."

This led to Natalija establishing her own theatre company (The Grace Players) in the early 1990's and it was around that time that she was cast in Star Trek.

"In 92-93 I'd just completed Hoffa with Jack Nicholson where I played his (Hoffa's) wife, who was a bleached blonde, and Director Danny DeVito asked me, "Do you want to wear a wig or would you want to color your hair?" (I was a brunette by birthright!)".

"I'd always wondered what it would be like blonde so I bleached it and just left it that way which I think led to my keeping it for Admiral Nechayev."

Natalia had auditioned for Star Trek a couple of times but didn't get cast; "The feedback from my agent was that I was too strong a character for the roles and then a very short time after that they called me in specifically for the admiral."

Admiral Nechayev’s first appearance would be in the seminal sixth season episode, Chain of Command, Part I in which she would be responsible for stripping Picard of command and sending him on a top secret mission against the Cardassians.

"I kind of felt - and it might just be my gut - that they had me in mind for this because they had seen me a couple of times and knew I had Russian and Slavic background and most of the time I play strong roles."

Anyway I went in and at the time I didn't know it would be recurring. The first episode was so sick with dialogue - I mean it was heavy - especially when I fired Picard and I thought "Wow this is great!"

"It was meaty and it had meaning. There was a resonance to what was going on in the world at the time as there was a lot of trouble in the Balkans where my family comes from. The episodes that I did sort of reflected that without saying it. You could feel the writers were exceedingly aware of what was going on in the current world and it placed Patrick Stewart as the humanitarian with me as the federalist trying to hold it all together."

Nechayev’s initial appearance would be followed with a reminder to Picard of his decisions surrounding Hugh Borg in Descent before dropping by to hand him a mission concerning native American settlers in Journey's End and coming back again for Pre-Emptive Strike and more Maquis machinations. Then there would be two further appearances in Deep Space Nine - The Maquis and finally in The Search, Part II with the real tragedy being that this last instalment would only be a recreation of the admiral in a Dominion simulation.

Indeed, Nechayev’s presence in the Star Trek universe pervaded more than just those episodes with her inclusion in novels and with the admiral playing a key part in the removal of a Federation president. Some fans have even commented that the character of Admiral Clancy in Picard wasn't too dissimilar to the attitude that Necheyev would have taken with the former Enterprise captain!

But how close to Natalija Nogulich is Alynna Nechayev?

"I think there's a side of me that is exceedingly strong on my principles but I have more of a sense of humour!

"I grew up in an old fashioned household and was expected to be a good student, read Tolstoy, not date until I was 17. In the way I work I look to access that side of me and bring that to the character. I don't want to bring the character and drag her down to be me. 

I want to access a part of me that will accommodate that character. We have infinite resources within us and the way I do that is to write a very extensive autobiography of all my characters and I did it with Nechayev. I wanted to research what it meant to be military."

As part of that research, it brought Natalija back to her father's part in the Second World War; "He was part of the D-Day invasion and is my hero. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart - amazing man - one of that fine generation.

"But I didn't really grow up with a military feeling family, he was a lamb but when he tells some of the stories from the war it's like wow, who was that? I have a great deal of respect for him and felt it was actually my responsibility to do a little research about the hierarchy of military."

Back in the days before a good Google search would give you answers in seconds, Nogulich used libraries and movies to get the swagger, the posture and the physicality right for the role.

"When I taught acting, students would ask where I got that walk. I really didn't consciously do it but I do such a detailed autobiography of what their life must've been like before the story starts that it get inside your head and find a certain walk for a character.

"Certainly in playing Nechayev and in a movie called Dying to Dance where I was playing a Russian dance and ballet master I mean I was almost there as Nechayev again. I studied ballet and had a teacher like that. She worked with a stick and if your leg didn't go high enough she would just hit it so I've been exposed to a discipline to hold something you cherish together."

Founding the theatre company in 1994 was a big challenge "...because I didn't do it with enough Nechayev." recalled Natalija, "I did too much of the kind and compassionate Natalia in the beginning and I had it for 15 years but as time went on I realised that I had to be the tough one."

Active across five decades of TV and film. The character of Nechayev has influenced future roles for Nogulich who acknowledges it's her most recognisable role. "I was cast in a voiceover because the producer was in love withStar Trek. It had a lot of influences."

"The way they wrote Nechayev, she admitted that she didn't want to relocate the native Americans and I brought up the point they were relocating people to effectively become nomads but it had to be done to complete what we were effecting. I think every tough guy general has had a compassionate moment or they wouldn't progress.

"I was there to keep the Federation together and Picard was the humanitarian side so I had to build my case and we had an interesting adversarial relationship on screen."

Nogulich has pondered if there had been another season of The Next Generation could have developed something between Nechayev and Picard - certainly a shift in their relationship; "The first time we meet I fired him and then by the end he's serving me tea and my favourite canope!"

One of the questions I've never asked but got a chance to this time was around the iconic uniform; "It was tailored within an inch of my life." said Natalija, "Tailored really tight and crisp. I begged Paramount to have the uniform and would have paid but they said absolutely not. I had one made up and wore it last year at a convention."
"So many people coming for photo ops because a lot of actors can't get the costumes and it really changes you (in the role). You don't have to be in costume at rehearsal but it helps make the connection with the character. I do recommend wearing the right shoes to actors during rehearsal. You will feel differently in ballet slippers or combat boots. Never cheat yourself on preparation, I say."

Ok, so there was one other of Natalija's roles that's stuck in my memory for many years - her part in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation as Chevy Chase's boss' wife.
"The white fox coat I had in that movie was worth $50,000 and came with security guard all the time!"

"Getting the part however is something else. It was Jeremiah Chechik's first movie and the cast were vets of film. Anyway, I'd auditioned for a commercial for Pizza Hut and I was told by my agent that they wanted me to prepare a little something and then go in.
"I had a Shakespearean monologue from As You Like It as Rosalind which I did with a Brooklyn accent. ...what the heck I was doing. I thought it would be memorable and the casting director - Chechik - is taping it and looking outside the camera wondering what I'm doing.

I go out in the corridor and all the other potentials are preparing something to say about Pizza Hut. I called my agent when I got home and apparently I was supposed to prepare a testimony of Pizza Hut. The director called me back in and I had to do it again - I got the advert!

"Two years later Chechik gets his first feature which was Christmas Vacation. They added lines to the script for me and he wanted me to meet Chevy Chase as part of the process. So,  I go into his office and Chevy said that he wanted to meet the person who did Shakespeare for a Pizza Hut commercial. We laughed a lot and that was the audition and I got the part!"

So, finally, bringing us back to Admiral Alynna Nechayev, what are Natalija’s thoughts on how this character has endured the best part of 30 years?

"I have a couple of thoughts, the first being that I couldn't be more surprised. It's the gift that kept on giving and I didn't expect to do more than one episode. I was several years out of shooting when I heard about conventions and my manager said why aren't you doing them? OK, it sounds like fun! The first convention I went to people were coming up to me saying they were waiting for the admiral to come!

"I've found that fans have a great desire or attraction to have an adversary to their hero. Picard was their hero and we were worthy adversaries who went nose to nose; but we went at each other in a respectful way.
"The audience is hungry to see where principle falls and where it should be challenged. I feel that today. People are confounded and I see the question today of whether to stand for principle or follow your feelings. Sure we don't want to all be rules and regulations, but I believe we have to take a stand about certain things. I didn't expect to still be linked to Nechayev and Star Trek and it shocks the hell out of me. The ideas behind the episodes I did were universal issues. Maybe we've not even answered some of those ideas today. 

"I didn't want to create someone who was a bad guy but she was someone who wanted to save the Federation and make the hard choices."

We thank Natalija Nogulich once more for her time to chat to Some Kind of Star Trek for this interview!

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