Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Quibbles with Tribbles: HeroCollector Gets Nitpicky

Available from September 22nd, Star Treksperts can try their hand at Eaglemoss/Hero Collector's latest hardbacked offering - Quibbles with Tribbles.

You're probably now scratching your head wondering what the heck I'm going on about and perhaps if I might need to take a break but alas no, this is a new book that puts your observational skills, memory and minutiae knowledge to the test across eight lovingly crafted - and mistake laden - scenes from The Original Series.

Although not requiring a magnifying glass and a steady flow of paracetamol, Quibbles for Tribbles is certainly an exciting product that offers a unique challenge to Trek fans in several ways over the double-page pics.

In fact there are four specific threads to follow through the error filled pages; there’s one reference hidden throughout to each of the 79 original episodes (Artifact Incidents) , there are (in each pic) five things which shouldn’t be in that precise scene (Nerd Alerts) and third there is an Exploding Tribble to be found. Finally and not in every scene is a Super Quibble - an error that only a super SUPER Star Trek fan would know. 

To help you keep score the book comes complete with a scoring sheet although my personal recommendation is a lined A4 sheet and numbered points to avoid trashing the product. There's even a full run down of the episodes from the show plus a short section detailing a sprinkling of series background before heading into the filling of this new book.

At the rear each of the scenes is then dissected into grid squares to help you easily pick out all the discrepancies once you’re sure you’ve spotted the lot and even goes into a little bit of additional detail as to why said item/person/event is in the wrong place or timeframe...

It’s a brilliant idea and one that had me joked immediately. Of course you want to see just how good your Star Trek fact knowledge is and especially if you can spot those rock hard and rare Super Quibbles. However there’s a bugger of a drawback - once you’ve found them all you’ve expended the book’s use. Either store it away for a decade for a second go or pass it on for someone else to enjoy. It’s brilliantly illustrated by John Ross, recreating eight classic moments but what I also found was that it was easy to confuse some of the episode references for scenic cock-ups and at that point I did question what was going on what list!

I do believe that this would appeal to any generation of fan though - newbies might not spot everything for a while as they watch The Original Series through while more experienced Trekkies will be kicking themselves silly at missing the Romulan cooking toast on the warp core (outlandish example and it’s not in the book!) but might spot Number One piggybacking a Horta (again, not in the book!!!) 

Hero Collector have delivered something totally different and engaging that only the Nitpickers' Guides from the 1990's attempted to even get close to - and that was all about finding the errors in the real episodes rather than these mind-bending scenes. The levels of engagement through the three different challenges do offer a chance to ‘progress’ if you will from novice Trekkie to full blown Starship Captain levels of ability - probably best to start spotting the episode references before checking out those scenic errors!

Purposely with the review I've only used sections from one of the double-page spreads since you need to have this book to really experience the level of fandom it's reaching. A new twist on the franchise but one that will be short-lived in its usefulness; good one to lend out to friends.

Quibbles with Tribbles is available now from Eaglemoss HeroCollector priced £11.99

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Veritas: Lower Decks S01 E08

Second week in a row, this series has nailed it.

Given that last week was the best thing so far, Veritas once again raises the bar that bit further for the increasingly impressive Lower Decks.

Landing us right into the action, our four ensigns are under questioning from Imperium Magistrate Klaar of K'Tuevon Prime in regards to a series of incidents aboard the Cerritos while their senior officers are held in some form of suspension beam.

Revisiting the courtroom/flashback formula that was most prominent in Deep Space Nine's Rules of Engagement, Veritas unusually places all the main cast in one location and focuses all of its half hour run time to one single story and flip me does it pay off in every sense. By design the very feel of the room screams Klingon courtroom from the shrouded figure sitting in judgement to the circular dais on which the crew give their testimonies through the Horn of Candar. 

Veritas 100% plays on fans' knowledge of The Undiscovered Country and  Enterprise's Judgement before whisking that rug briskly away and you might only catch some of the clues on a rewatch just as I did making further notes for this piece..

Each ensign is called to relate their own evidence taking us back to recent events once more filled with a myriad of Star Trek easter eggs and Actual Funny Moments that make this easily the most watchable series to date. Favourite one here - Earth's just all about vineyards, wine and seafood restaurants and positively the most boring place in the Galaxy. 

The episode highlights how much or little the lower decks team get to know about what is going on. Mariner and Boimler blag being late to the bridge during a red alert situation, Tendi unwittingly ends up kicking ass as part of an undercover mission into Romulan space while Rutherford suffers memory blackouts placing him in increasingly more bizarre and dangerous situations.

The brilliance of Veritas is in absolutely maxing out on the strengths of the different characters and it feels like McMahon's team have finally clicked with what this series is and where the main cast are most successful. Dropping the cues in is working more seamlessly and who says that Roga Danar isn't more of a badass than Khan?

Tendi's naivety leads her from cleaning cat fur off the conference room chairs into battle with Romulans with her testimony cleverly tweaked to censor delicate information (but not that precisely) and sees her being extremely proficient in the field. Rutherford has his implants "borrowed" by Shax and Chief Engineer Billups leading him into Vulcan space, a starship museum (spot all the references in there!), aboard a stolen Romulan Warbird and the  ability to skip in and out of events here means we also get a Gorn wedding (including camcorder wielding guests. Added bonus with the immortal fan dance distraction distinctly poking fun at a certain sequence in The Final Frontier. This truly left me breathless and I know there are references in there I've not even touched on that will have your Trek mind spinning for ages and definitely demanding a second or even third play through. the biggest and most hotly anticipated drop in has to be from John De Lancie's Q appearing a couple of times during the episode, demanding to continue the trial of humanity, playing games with the senior staff, placing them as human chess pieces.  It's not hugely important to the plot but it does mark the first true crossover appearance with the rest of the franchise, meaning this is the fourth series that Q has now stepped into - and even for the few moments he's there it makes an incredible impact on the show, elevating an already decent episode into the best of the year.

You can't help but love this one for the twists of the story plus the plethora of links to other Trek shows, even back to a certain salty looking woman from the Early Days and a rather identifiable shuttle craft. Veritas - and I use this word in its fullest context - LITERALLY has everything from a great, new story to recognising almost every corner of its past. If this is what we're going to be getting then lets hope Lower Decks is here for many years to come.

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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Much Ado About Boimler: Lower Decks S01 E07

Impressively episode seven ties all the plot points together in just 25 minutes.

With Freeman, Ransom and Shax on a secret away mission, the Cerritos receives a stand-in captain, Ramsey, who turns out to be Mariner's best mate from the academy. While that's all developing, Rutherford uses Boimler as his guinea-pig for a transporter upgrade but ultimately renders him slightly out of phase and continuously sounding (loudly) like he's mid-materialisation.

Add another element into the mix - Ensign Tendi's genetically engineered dog called, erm, The Dog and you'll be wondering how all of this can be packed into such a short amount of time when live action Star Trek can barely contain itself within an hour (or 42 minutes as it got to with Voyager!!!).

I thought last week's was a turn of comedic genius with the introduction of the legend that is Badgie yet Much Ado About Boimler feels like it dials that up at least another notch.

Noticeably separating the Mariner/Boimler partnership, leaving Rutherford to his own intents and purposes and teaming Tendi up with Bradward adds a little spice to the Lower Decks mix after seven weeks. Predictably, fills out the background of Beckett Mariner even further.

In Much Ado..., both lines of the story actually carry a decent amount of weight and we see that Mariner actually is a decent officer but would rather work out all her kinks, stay relaxed and work it all out below decks rather than on the bridge where she would probably be incredibly effective as we see here and have seen in previous red alert situations. Mariner's ineptitude throughout is, apparently, a front to keep her from receiving a second, third and fourth pip - she was the top of the class at the academy but we've still to uncover just what moment turned her away from a career to the top.

Ramsey also brings her own crew including a Vulcan and a Trill...and, I might be wrong but is the third member of her team the same race as Jaylah from Beyond? For the last couple of days I've been trying to work out if they're the same race. If you have an answer to that, let me know.

For Lower Decks this seemed a much more somber tale and character piece while Boimler's takes us into a spin on Section 31.

Assigned to The Farm to recover, Brad encounters other Starfleet officers who've been on the bad end of intergalactic science as he's taken aboard the very un-Starfleet looking USS Osler NX-75300. There's a delta radiation case (spot the Pike wheelchair), two crew merged together and...Anthony! Round of applause for the show this week by somehow managing to pull in Threshold and give it comedic dues after a good 20 plus years of bashing from fans. 

The variety of characters on the ship s incredible, led by one officer who is both undergoing accelerated growth and reverse aging at the same time - is Division 14 exactly what it seems, controlled by a dour Triexian (that's the same race as Arex from The Animated Series so be VERY excited!!!) - or is there something else going on? 

Hammed up to the max, the patients are sufficiently over the top and desperate to get away from the USS Osler which, shock horror - is The Farm (or is it...?) and everything  looks to be all doom and gloom. 

Tendi's engineered dog is both cute and also pant-wettingly terrifying in a B-movie horror sort of way with some very out of character traits that you wouldn't find in your average Earth-bound canine. Suitably this is played more into the background of the episode and gives Tendi a reason to be on the Osler with Boimler. The Orion seems to be the voice of reason here but doesn't have quite the same calming effect that Mariner would displaying her naivety (also explains why she'd create The Dog in the first place!)

Rutherford cleverly ties this arc in with the Boimler thread. Responsible for the ensign's initial medical issue, he's also key to help wrap this one up. Close your ears for this bit if you haven't seen it but...doesn't that alien at the end look incredibly like the ones that unfolded themselves at the end of Encounter at Farpoint. This may well have been intentional as a nod to long term fans and if so it's a huge piece of continuity to play out 33 years later. 

Much Ado About Boimler is an episode stuffed full with hat tip references (babysitter Jellico-type...), action, fun, bizarre characters and decent exploration and use of all of the main foursome. If I recommended last week then this one has the full package from start to finish and doesn't underuse a single second - bravo to the writers here because there are a few tips they should hand over to the guys on Picard and Discovery...

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Saturday, 19 September 2020

Terminal Provocations: Lower Decks S01 E06

Dammit Lower Decks I bloody laughed this week. 

A story, not so brilliant; B story - absolutely classic. I could leave the review there but that would be horribly unfair on something that will be attached to Treklore for a long time to come. Attempting to recover some long-forgotten Starfleet scrap (nice touch that it's NCC-502 and an Antares Class freighter utilised in the remastered Original Series), the Cerritos is stuck in a dispute with the Drookmani (badass Gorn-wannabes) who also want to lay claim to the junk. 

Meanwhile our beloved ensigns are watching one of their peers chug from the replicator and getting nacho cheese stuck in the Chief Medical Officer’s fur. Among their number is the highly popular all round great guy, Fletcher who, while trying to be the highly popular all round great guy that he is,  manages to create a malevolent lifeform just because he wanted a quick win while Mariner and Boimler sneaked off to watch the Chu Chu in the ship’s bar. A fabled event that we will probably never see and therefore create huge fan lore around, 

Anyway, this creation goes on a rampage sucking in and utilising anything it can get its multiple claws on before its utilised to inadvertently save the ship. Enjoyable it is but the hunt to eliminate this creation isn’t super memorable. Boimler and Mariner’s friendship is made out to be all that more solid here with them double-teaming to save the day so there are signs of character development even if the stories are standalone. 

Hats off too for the mention of the Q, potentially aligned with the news that John De Lancie will be guesting as the omnipotent one in a future season one episode albeit briefly. Heading up to the bridge the inanity of Lt Shax's repeated begging to fire on the Drookmani echoes the multiple occasions that Worf was belayed by Picard and then when the chance finally does come it’s impossible for him to take action due to the substantial damage the Cerritos has taken while Captain Freeman has attempted the more diplomatic Starfleet approach.  The secondary story however eclipses that with the introduction of Badgie. 

Now what we have here is a thread which revisits Tendi’s recent graduation and that she never passed her zero-G training. Of course, equally tech nerd Rutherford has a solution with his handy holodeck training programme (cue a select list of characters featured in The Next Generation) all led by his created avatar, Badgie. 

With his introduction and  coupling this with a malfunction, you have all the right ingredients for a Star Trek size catastrophe as Badgie transforms into a psychotic killing machine chasing the pair across a Bajoran marketplace and up the side of a freezing mountain. The story of these two underlings within the main cast of Lower Decks cemented a few things for me and their utilisation of both Tendi and Rutherford was much better with one assisting the other at least with all the best intentions. 

It's clear to me now that Tendi represents the young, new fan of the franchise; the entry point we all used to get aboard the Cerritos in Second Contact but for the last few episodes I’ve felt - and noted - that shes felt at a loose end and without purpose. Terminal Provocations revitalises the Orion ensign offering her to the audience as the one seeing this all as a new experience and a gateway to other things. 

Rutherford is set in as the nerd, the tech geek in the group and on reflection to Cupid’s Errant Arrow, this was starting to be evident although both he and Tendi seemed to be sharing traits as they scanned and battled to get their own T-88 tricorders. 

Terminal Provocations is a season highlight and a surprising twist in that Tendi and Rutherford had the better storyline this week. Badgie is inspired even down to his loading time and sweet-saccharine personality that grates from its loveliness. Surely he’s going to be in demand to turn back up at some point in the future?   

McMahan’s series is growing each week with the brilliance of taking an average scifi plot and spinning an outlandish twist on it. This week’s has been partially successful with the killer assortment of parts being totally eclipsed by a shiny combadge with a personality. Its this kind of line that Lower Decks is excelling at - that bizarre element that only an animated series could get away with making relevant. In the live action shows this would be laughed off the screen yet the very nature of Lower Decks especially its ability to take a cheeky wink at its own past hits the mark. 

Terminal Provocations really is two extremes - a rather steady A plot which works to further the relationship of our two, clear, main characters while the B plot explores those crazier possibilities with aplomb. Truth be told it felt like the series was trying to build on its comedy elements over the scifi concept that was instilled in the franchise over 50 years ago. What I also love is the balance between new and recognising that lengthy TV and movie heritage. 

Unlike some of the novels, Lower Decks sprinkles in just a touch of references that are relevant to the story and the conversations such as this week’s holodeck listing or the inspired cold opening discussing warp engine sounds. It’s kept to a respectful level that importantly doesn’t overshadow the idenity of the show yet brings it into the established fold and canon. 

Terminal Provocations, for all its averageness in the Boimler/Mariner plot does stand above the rest so far but only due to our shiny friend Badgie. Is it a sign that gimmicks and one offs could be the key winner for the show? I’d rather it isn’t and we keep with interesting stories and that twisted lower deck perspective on those big missions.  

But what did you think to episode six? Did it break out of the confines of Star Trek seriousness or was this a big mistake? Let us know below!

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Friday, 18 September 2020

Errant Cupid's Arrow: Lower Decks S01 E05

Slightly below par last week but bouncing straight back with an episode that plays to a great set of classic sci-fi topics!

Errant Cupid's Arrow makes a lot more sense as a title by the end of what is a rather fast paced 30 minutes of Star Trek.

Assisting the flashy USS Vancouver on a mission to relocate part of a civilisation from their soon-to-be-demolished moon, Boimler has the chance to introduce Mariner to his new girlfriend. Of course, she has to be an alien, a parasite, something that's 100% intent on killing the by-the-book ensign and Beckett is out to discover precisely what's going on and cover her friend's back at the same time.

Running through a series of typical mishaps and surveillance, Mariner's paranoia actually comes across as a little on the stalkery side as she initially gets in the way before Bradward (not Bradley) Boimler also gets jealous of Barb Brinson's relationship with another of her crewmates from the Vancouver.  The instant belief that Boimler's girlfriend has to be a changeling, a Suliban or some other form of dangerous lifeform plays to the franchise history especially Conspiracy from The Next Generation, the Dominion war and several - if not many - classic 60's stories such as The Enemy Within and Whom Gods Destroy to name just two.

There are some fantastic cross-references in here on Mariner's wall as she plots together the threads that must indicate something's up so watch out for transporter duplicates, shapeshifters and whales in that bit. Nice little trip back to Ensign Mariner's past to demonstrate her over the top suspicions complete with First Contact style uniforms, along with a familiar starship design...and just a hint of a place it's docked at...!

It's an amusing story at the least that does push more into adult territory than we're used to by the end. Once more though, it's Mariner who receives the most development - a flash to her past, more understanding of how her mind works and perhaps an indication that there's a through and through Starfleet officer in there.

On the other side of Errant Cupid's Arrow we have Rutherford and Tendi obsessing over the Vancouver's sexy T-88 tricorders and the chance to get one.  Now, bit of a spoiler, while the end chase is a little crazy, I actually understand Lt Cmdr Docent's reasons for his actions. Being on the front line, being the ones dealing with the red alert situations and all the imminent dangers must take a toll and for once it seems we get to see the result even if it is taken to a more extreme level. Good on you, Lower Decks for touching on one of those very unanswered - and untouched - subjects.

I think Errant Cupid's Arrow may not be Nobel prize-winning literature but it makes you think yet it even manages a little twist and more in one half an hour slot. The difference between Mariner and Boimler is perfect however while we did get to see more of Rutherford, aside from a couple of nuances both he and Tendi are almost the same character. I still don't get the spark there, I don't see the brilliance of the pair and their competition for the tricorder as a particularly Starfleet quality - seeking a physical item over a friendship - but it does remind us that these guys are seriously into their tech (as we'll see more next week). 

Episode five feels more settled in terms of the structure of the A and B stories, establishing the four characters early on then splitting them into pairs to run each of the week's threads.  The situation that is being dealt with on the bridge plays only slightly into the two pieces with the senior staff feeling very much like a tack-on this time, being revisited to tie in the reason for Brinson and Docent to be around for the "main" tales. Captain Freeman has to be one of the least disciplined commanders in Starfleet, taking very little s**t from anyone including her peers or whiny aliens wasting time (let's just blow up the damn moon).

Overall, Errant Cupid's Arrow has a steady pace with two clever twist endings that convinced me this show has a lot to give. If we'd not even been privy to the events on the bridge that wouldn't have had any effect on the rest of the episode and just having two elements means that the run time isn't pushed and trimmed to the max.

Thoughts on episode five? Still working for you?

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Thursday, 17 September 2020

A New Path of Discovery

It would be horrendously remiss of me to ignore that this week saw Star Trek's 54th anniversary.

As is well-documented, The Man Trap aired on September 8th 1966 and we're still talking about the show now. To celebrate the most Trek of all days, a series of panels took place on the main site with the biggest reveal of the day being a new trailer for the soon-to-arrive Discovery season three.

Ok, so there might have been a mid-season teaser for Lower Decks including that shot of one omnipotent Q - but the real talked-about piece has to be the return of Burnham, Saru and the rest after their 930 year leap into the future.

Discerning the jump from the two seasons of the show set in the 23rd Century, Discovery has inherited a shiny new logo and the trailer finally gave us a few answers to what the hell has happened to leave the Federation in tatters.

The year 3188 opens with a vast array of debris spinning in space - where exactly are we? Is this New Eden? Earth? Or somewhere further afield?

Revealing that Discovery crashlands, this second flash of images only goes to reinforce that season three will be a vast change in tone from its predecessors and means that the show is no longer restricted in what it can do, marking the furthest point into the future we will have had a full series set.

New character Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala) reveals to Burnham that the Federation crumbled following "The Burn" - an event which saw the galaxy take a rather abrupt left turn although what that exactly entailed is still a mystery for us to uncover in a few weeks time. 

Perhaps the key moments are seeing the rag-tag bunches of settlers living very much away from the sleek tech of the 24th Century as well as Book handling one of the new style pulse-phaser weapons spotted in the first trailer. There are shots to reassure us that the whole crew have made it into the future in tact with even Jet Reno making an appearance and Doctor Culber officially joining the main cast on the teaser poster.

The Federation's new style - reduced - flag returns as well however the big news from this trailer and from the couple of weeks before has to be around the announcement of Blu Del Barrio as Adira and Ian Alexander as Trill host Gray.

What has made their announcement significant is that Del Barrio identifies as non-binary gender as does the character they play and Alexander is the first out transgender Asian-American TV actor. Del Barrio's Adira will be on Discovery as spotted in both trailers for the season and is also included on the cast promo poster as displayed here.

Star Trek seems to be moving ahead of the curve here by casting actors with these backgrounds and I genuinely hope that this is a move that will be integrated into the show as part of its DNA rather than be a token, attention-drawing move. There appear to have been nods already that this is a big step although one-off moments from the franchise past such as The Outcast from The Next Generation which dealt with gender identification on a planet where there was no such thing seem to have been casually forgotten.

However, if we examine Star Trek's past there have been occasions where the writers have attempted to broaden the franchise's horizons and it took until season one of Discovery for there to be an openly gay main cast member with Lieutenant Stamets. Star Trek - for a series which has prided itself on being diverse even back to those early days of The Man Trap in 1966 failed to address some of the key issues in its time(s), notably even sidestepping an analogy to the AIDS epidemic in a David Gerrold script unproduced from the '80s and later resurrected by James Cawley's Phase II fan series (Blood and Fire). 

It likes to be bold, state that it's forward-thinking but has more stumbles and excuses than a lot of other less established shows. Discovery has, in many ways, had the kahunas to push the tentatively prodded  boundaries and make that difference. I want to see that these two new actors and their roles in the show are managed professionally and sensitively to display the positive merits of their identities and not be used as a marketing ploy for an audience share. Make them relevant, make the audience understand their relevance and importance to the show and we will be there.

Alexander's casting as an aspiring Trill host is an inspired move since gender for that race would seem to be fluid dependent on both host and symbiont and even their very relationship after joining. I’m hopeful that it’s played out more effectively and openly than the Dax kiss from Rejoined. Still to this day I feel that was wedged in and played out in the wrong way with Star Trek shying away from hitting the subject matter it should have been focusing on directly.

For a series and franchise that was ‘rumoured’ to be getting completely cancelled it’s still doing well whether or not you pay attention to the spinmasters or supreme doubters and season three looks to be taking Discovery to a unique level that might unlock its true potential.

Noah Hawley’s totally unique movie may also still be on with the Paramount wing of CBS now looking a little bit egg-faced following Star Trek’s success on the small screen. But don’t take it all as great and fabulous news. Those Rotten Tomatoes scores for the three seasons of live Star Trek look ok from the critical perspective but the fan scores for all leave much to be desired. Ok, this isn’t a base line for the whole of fandom but it does suggest that Discovery season two and Robo-Picard will have their work cut out in their next seasons.

That very competition could come from within its own walls since Lower Decks has kicked off strongly plus there’s the heavily fan-demanded Strange New Worlds coming which will take Star Trek back to its story-of-the-week formula that did it well in 1966 and again in 1987. 

Just four weeks until the Discovery premiere - ready to feel The Burn?

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Thursday, 10 September 2020

Digital Fleets: Star Trek Online Starships Collection Issues Three and Four

What if the Galaxy Class took a jump forward into the 25th Century? What changes would be made to this already iconic design?

Issue three of the Online Starships series answers that question with the Andromeda Class - bigger, meaner, sleeker than its 24th Century inspiration but with just enough there to make the classic lineage recognisable.

Taking the move to a circular saucer over the elliptical Galaxy Class, the USS Andromeda model immediately sets the tone; it's the same but with a slightly different agenda. 

The model is as good in quality as that very first issue of the original starship collection with extensive detailing across the hull to the very tip of those sleek warp nacelles. Up front, the primary hull sticks to an off-white base coat neatly accented with darker grey striping at the edge and centre of the circle. The lifeboat hatches too are carefully dotted in with the imprints in the hull lining up against the change in colour. There's a lot of colour going on here with darker greys adding highlights but also making this model feel very cluttered.

Tragically too, the ship name and registry number haven't been applied too well to the surface, disappearing into the deflector grid lines and in some respects almost being illegible. This might, of course, be on purpose but the effect, along with the paintwork, make this ship look older than it should and in a way, worn out - that edging grey for example looks like it could have done with another coat but somehow it works and is an unusual choice for a Federation starship.

The features on that saucer are in keeping with the "older" Galaxy design encompassing a raised two-tier central section now widened to the rear rather than tapering in sharply. Fortunately that central section really comes to life through the multiple paint levels and blocking paired up with the rather delicate red stripes paralleling towards the top of the Andromeda's main shuttle bay.

The bottom of the saucer removes the thick outer edge stripe of grey with two rows of lifeboat hatches drawing down into the phaser arc then a darker hull curve to the centre. Now here's the biggest issue with the Andromeda. The lifeboat hatches look great however the decals on the sensor array/captain's yacht are way out of alignment as is the registry. The speckling of the paint in that inner ring isn't too clean either giving a dirty effect to the hull. 

This is pretty much the only thing to shake your head at with this one though because the secondary hull is packed with detail. The spine running down to the back of the engineering hull has a bit of everything. Red decalling, two further shuttlebays and a large, brightly painted up impulse engine. That worn effect from the dark greys of the saucer have made their way down onto the secondary hull and raise focus onto the curves of the class shape - especially down to the "chicken leg" style pylons that have echoes from the original plan for the Enterprise-E, sweeping forward rather than back and out.

It's a great section of detail and variation with the key elements of the ship crystal clear to see and marked up. To the front there's a translucent blue deflector which means you do see the holes underneath it into which it's attached but we do have the addition of some fine golden detailing on the deflector panels. The bottom of this hull too is well presented with a large dark grey piece slicing down the centre with more hatches lining the surface. You can even make out the tractor beam emplacement sunk into the hull at the back before it sweeps up into the flat area at the very rear.

The engines look amazing and while familiar in their wide, flat-topped approach, the detail on them is much heightened versus the Galaxy Class. The pennant striping is reduced in comparison with some impressive cut-out sections that allow you to "see" the warp grilles from above as well as along the edges of the engines.

The bussard collectors are more protected too in keeping with a more military outlook for the 25th Century online fleet, only visible through narrow slits to the front, shrouded in the housings. One of the biggest differences to its hallowed lineage is the decision to taper the nacelles vertically and as the magazine notes, this is one piece that gives the ship the impression that it's always in motion even when it's not.

Cudos also to Eaglemoss for the detail on the thick neck connecting the two main sections of the ship. Reknowned to be fiddly as hell to paint in, this time there are actual windows all the way up and on both sides of the curved structure. 

The resulting Andromeda Class model is, aside from the decalling disaster under the saucer, a brilliant replica from the online game and I'm amazed just how much work has gone into this one. The panelling detail is off the chart, the phasers all have decalled red curves at their ends; everything is just about perfect and genuinely exciting to look at. Comparing it to the Galaxy Class model in some ways does this one a disservice because there's a lot more depth to the product than we saw so many years back. I'm seriously impressed how much there is on the ship!

As you might imagine, the issue three magazine turns its attention in-universe to the development of the class from the fabled Galaxy line of the 24th Century and the mission parameters that aided in its design and build. The simple line off the back of it for the "real" world comes from how to take the classic, iconic and instantly recognisable shape of the Enterprise-D and make it relevant to the 25th Century as envisaged by Cryptic. The articles in here do well to cover both bases although you do sense that this lineage is much more concerned with its defensive abilities than before! 

To our first non-Federation ship now and we welcome in the Klingons with their digital flagship, the IKS Bortasqu'. 

What a design. Taking over from the Negh'Var, the Bortasqu' is a space-faring battle platform that looks lethal even in diecast form. The shape is distinctly Klingon with that large "head" leading into the neck piece and back into a wide engineering section where the engines lie out to the sides. 

The paintwork right across this one is stunning with the green, main colour overlaid with light grey sections which, here, look as though the base coat is wearing through in patches. The magazine makes the Bortasqu' appear cleaner and better painted however the model is a much more worthy version in every way that benefits from the wear and tear applied here.

The panel lines are much deeper than on a Federation ship such as the Andromeda Class above, notably on the neck and centre line but this may be down to the contrast grey painting that draws out the prominence of the hull detail. 

Windows are painted onto the hull in white with no indents to line up against and these can be seen along the neck into the blocky engineering section. Before we get there though, take a good look into the upper unit sitting atop the neckpiece. This is an extra piece fixed on and stretching down to the main hull from what appears as a secondary bridge unit.

I love the attention to detail on this ship and it's one of the most inspiring Klingon designs for years. The model itself feels substantial; there's a weight to it and the Bortasqu' even in metal and plastic radiates danger. The split line on the ship is perhaps more evident around the wing and pylon assembly, cutting horizontally and around the engines as well as extending forward to just before that scythe-shaped front piece.

What continues to be effectual across the ship is the choice to go with a paint scheme that doesn't mirror and reflects the wear and potential exterior neglect that you wouldn't experience on a Federation ship for example. Oddly though the green base coat, which does feature aztecing, doesn't have a scratch on it - maybe just not worth paying the extra for the highlights?

The blocky rear also contains a brilliant bit of design echoing a feature on the Odyssey Class USS Enterprise-F in that it has a Bird of Prey docked and ready for action. Sitting proud of the ship you can see the red and green warp engines but it's only when directly looking from the back that you appreciate its wings cut through the hull when docked and you can see the wingtip cannons painted grey when you take a look from the bottom up. The detail here is fascinating and this is a unique feature that Eaglemoss have wisely included in the Bortasqu' model.

At the rear the impulse engines, like the red detailing at the front are painted in but out on the engines the warp grilles within the pods are translucent, creating a glow around the units that there should have been more of to truly lift this model. 

Aside from the mention of the Bird of Prey guns that sit docked into the hull when viewed from below, the paint combination of azteced green and grey/blue highlights. The ventral profile of the Bortasqu' is nowhere on a par to the structure of topside, but it does retain the bird-like patterning and chunks of grey to break up the green.

Note also the numerous lifeboat hatches on the bottom here and none on the top - they line the edges of the engines plus along the centre line closest to all of the main habitable areas - but strangely none near the bridge - note of duty bound bridge crew perhaps? An expectation of the rank? 

Decalled only with a pair of Klingon emblems on the sweeping wings, the very presence of the Bortasqu' comes from its chunky, brutal design that is well conveyed through the structure of the Eaglemoss model. The panelling is fairly subtle but the contrast of the grey/green is magical and only bettered with the choice to have it chipped and worn. We might only be four issues into this series but already this design and product have set a high line for expectation.

What has become apparent already is just how far that level of detail online has translated into the models we've already seen released. They are damn close screen-accurate, perh
aps even that little edge above because those pixels have been smoothed out and aligned to a "real world" reflection. The Bortasqu' has also marked the first ship to include extra pieces attached - the underslung arc element to the front, the mini Bird of Prey engines to the rear, the central structure - all building on that main hull and completing an impressive - and large - Klingon flagship fit to take on the Enterprise-F.

In the magazine we have a decent write up on the creation of the new flagship itself and what is now clear from these is the length that the Online team have gone to in order to create backstories for the ships in the game. While the TV ships were sometimes cobbled together for one shot to fit a brief, these have real depth into why they look a certain way and what would have led to their inception both from the in-game and real world developer perspectives. It makes for a better read throughout with the magazine here - as with previous editions, taking both paths individually and clearly.

Two more issues in and this collection is really hotting up with some sensational models. The magazines are an insight (especially for someone who isn't that heavily into Star Trek Online) but shows the care, attention and overall love that Cryptic know they need to put into the game to keep fans interested and engaged with the stories and the craft they can command. There's a spark here that resonates off the screen and into the models which I wasn't expecting and certainly the arrival of the Bortasaqu' has heightened my interest in dipping a toe into the game once more. 

There isn't a clear preference either this month because these two just look so damn great. The Klingon flagship might have a slight advantage because the decals are all in the right place but you can't quibble with the overall structure of the two in any way. Great models, great magazines and overall a brilliant delivery!

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

What's been your favourite so far? Is this collection what you expected? Drop a comment below!

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