Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Terra Firma: Discovery S03 E09/10

David Cronenberg will be back for season four but now he's helping sort out the conundrum of Philippa Georgiou's mystery illness.

Terra Firma opens up with us having the fact that Discovery is in the Prime Universe thanks to the holographic arrival of Vor. He's a time soldier from 2379 who didn't survive the time and universe jump due to being out of sync. 

Vor is from a timeline created by the incursion of a Romulan mining ship and wears a TNG season 1/2 uniform with a First Contact combadge. Ok, I can hear the grumbles now, but in that timeline this uniform might have been used from the 2360's through to the 2370's rather than just a couple of years before it had the piping removed. Let's just roll with this because it's not as odd as things get.

Georgiou is indeed dying thanks to her displacement in time and space so she needs to go to Dannus V where there's a 5% chance she'll survive. Under approval from Admiral Dance, the Discovery spore jumps to the planet with Georgiou and Burnham beaming to the surface.

It's a nice mirror to the desert scene that introduced both characters in The Vulcan Hello and leads them, inexplicably to a well dressed gent in an armchair reading a newspaper. The door by which he sits is the 5% chance and of course, Georgiou takes it.

Who is this Carl? A Guardian of Forever? A Q? Will we find out? Probably not and it's got to be up there among strangest plot moments in the whole of Star Trek, yet this is on the start of the Terra Firma story. 

The other side of that door is the Mirror Universe. Only a couple of episodes before we were told the gap between the realities had widened but now Georgiou is right back there and at a point just before Burnham turned traitor.

Terra Firma is, very clearly, a full on Georgiou two-parter and once she's into the Mirror Universe that is all we see until the cliff-hanger. All the regulars are back as their alternate selves including Hannah Cheesman (Ariam v2) in human form. 

With her knowledge of the future of this timeline, Georgiou is prepared for the treachery ahead and makes some drastic changes to her actions. The return to the Mirror Universe isn't what I expected to see half-way through the season that's taken us deeper into the future of Star Trek than ever before yet it is completing a circle and more than likely setting everything up for the announced Section 31 series. 

Clearing her Discovery account we are getting a very clear presentation of how Mirror Georgiou has been changed by her experiences on the other side. She shows a glimmer of kindness towards the servant Saru, spares Burnham and perhaps most controversially, accepts a hug from Prime Tilly. 

In that sense, Terra Firma is not your usual run of the mill Mirror story in which we get all the bad things, moustache-twirling and evil spins, this is serious look at how the Emperor has become a different person. She's not quite the homicidal, stone cold dictator of season one and has been smoothed by the passage of time in the Prime time. 

There's nothing particularly flashy either about this one. We know what's going to happen, Georgiou even telegraphs it if you've forgotten but once that choice to imprison and not kill Burnham is taken, the story is in new territory.

Part II doesn't break its stride either, imprisoning Burnham and focusing on the parallels to Georgiou's relationship with Michael in the Prime Universe.

Georgiou is very clearly changed, offering herself new choices to old problems. That's not saying that the answers are what she wants or expects. Her link to Burnham is key and breaking her is key to destroying the plot to remove Georgiou from her throne. 

The removal of the conspirators is nice and swift but you just sense it's not going well. Philippa's change in attitude towards Kelpiens also rises to the fore; explaining to Saru that the vaharai is not an end but a start - nor is ganglia on the menu. 

It's not that Georgiou has become any less brutal in fact she chooses to make Burnham's suffering prolonged to break her and is easily prepared to go hand to hand when the occasion arises. With her experiences in the Prime Universe though, her judgement is now more balanced and open. She is capable of seeing opportunities and variations rather than a simple A to B.

As for Kirk's later plea to Spock to reform the Empire, Georgiou sees a chance to change her era. A common theme again because this isn't a timeline where such things sit well or will ensure the longevity of the Empire beyond the 24th Century.

Ending in Georgiou's death at the hands of Burnham, the second part reveals that the whole experience back in the Mirror 22nd Century was a test to see if the emperor would make the same decisions or has changed. Of course it's the second but the bigger and more burning question is, who has been causing this.

Georgiou's medical device indicates that she's gained three months worth of memories while only having been unconscious for a matter of a minute. In what may be ne of the most jaw-dropping fan service moments of Discovery's history it comes to pass that the bowler-hatted newspaper reading Carl is...the Guardian of Forever.

Returning for a third appearance - City on the Edge of Forever and Yesteryear - the Guardian has been hiding out at the edge of the Gamma Quadrant on Dannus V to keep out of the way of the Temporal War. The sphere data lodged aboard Discovery located the portal in an attempt to save Georgiou.

This links back to Saru's belief that the sentient data is now looking after the ship just as they saved it from Control. While there's no cure, the Guardian does give Georgiou the appropriate send off into a time where the two universes are closer together and won't kill her...just in time to prep for Section 31.

Yet with all the Mirror Universe excitement, there's something missing from this two parter that leaves a sense of disappointment. The reveal of the Guardian is incredible and suitably upgraded for 2020. It could have been absolutely anything from a Q to, well, the Guardian, and it's easily the highlight of this hour. The Mirror scenes are over-snarly, revenge-fests that, by the end, feel unfulfilling. They are a clear vehicle for Michelle Yeoh's show and a way to separate her from Discovery and the 32nd Century.

It does leave us non-the-wiser as to when she'll show up again and you can guess it'll more likely be in the 22nd, 23rd or 24th Century to link into one of the older shows or even Picard.

Slipping almost under the radar is the continued research into the Burn. Thanks to Book, Stamets and Adira are able to link into the KSF Khi'eth's sensors and as such be able to find out what's been going on in the Verubin Nebula. Not a lot to add to this part of the arc however the Kelpien ship has been there for 125 years so it might not even still be there...

Terra Firma Part II  doesn't fit well with the overall structure of this season. It's a necessity to relieve the show of Georgiou and counter The Vulcan Hello in showing how this Burnham/Georgiou relationship has flourished but it stalls the season and offers only a tiny insight into the overall season arc.

Track back on our season three Discovery reviews HERE

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Friday, 18 December 2020

The Sanctuary: Discovery S03 E08

Try beating Unification III will you?

Then perhaps best not to and Discovery makes the wise move to turn in another direction. Taking a slight jump back a couple of weeks, we're back on the trail of the oft-mentioned Emerald Chain and in particular, Osyraa, their as-yet unseen leader.

But first a word from our sponsor: The Burn, because we have to get this in. Turns out this week that the cataclysmic event emanated from the Verubin Nebula and from a precise point. That music we've been hearing? Once it's been rinsed through the sensors it is revealed to be a Federation distress call. Yes, a Federation distress call. If this ends up being the time-displaced Burnham/her mum/the Discovery I will not be surprised.

At the same time, Adira opens up about her decisions on identity and no longer wishes to be referred to as she/her but rather they/them. In terms of there being two personalities within her body it works as well as the more important gender neutral identification. Great and understated performance again in a very short set of scenes for Blu Del Barrio and Anthony Rapp. Their piano/cello scene is wonderful as Adira opens up about how she is dealng with the multiple pasts swirling around and gives a better sense of how a Trill joining might affect the host.

Wisely we don't spend too much time dwelling on this the Burn and instead the Discovery is
dispatched to Kwejian. Book has news that the Chain are planning to collect a debt from his homeworld. The Chain had provided a repellant to make the sea locust plague retreat to the sea and traded the planet's trance worms as payment but have now returned for more. He wants the Federation to help out and take the pressure away however since Kwejian isn't part of the organisation, they can only go along as observers.

The great thing with the spore drive is that we can now avoid lengthy warp trips across the galaxy but on the flip side we do lose something of the character moments from the series which tended to drop into these points of the episodes.

Osyraa it transpires is a rather lovely lady. Her first scene sees her executing her nephew (from Scavengers) for losing the Andorian Ryn and she's later not too concerned with firing on the planet. Osyraa is nicely slimy but does go completely against type when it comes to Orion women we've met before.

Also in the background of this episode are the continuing issues with Georgiou's health. Now,
I'm thinking this is going to be the start of a path which will see her depart Discovery before the end of the season so that Section 31 can finally get in front of the cameras. Lots of flashbacks and, if you read some of the other commentaries out there, it's apparent that the excellent Die Standing is going to have some form of tie in to the Georgiou story. Have to say if that's the case then well done to CBS et al for some pretty serious forward planning.

There is a family aspect to the story this week, with Book being reunited with his (not biological) brother. There's been some bad blood between the pair but hey, you'll be sure it'll be rectified in the next half hour. The story on the Discovery around Ryn as well as how Tilly and Saru are working as first officer and captain is potentially the more interesting element.

Ok, Saru looking for his own "Make it so" is a tad on the cringeworthy end of the scale but Tilly genuinely seems to be sinking her teeth into the XO role. It does appear to be a lot more of a paperwork role than anything else at this point, however there's a telling point when she dresses down Ryn for incorrectly addressing the captain.

The Sanctuary isn't an episode that will set the franchise alight anytime soon. It has some good performances from David Ajala and from Sonequa Martin Green (no tears this week) while they are on Kwejian. Book's "brother" is ncely shady and backed into a corner by Osyraa but it's all a bit foreseeable. So is his choice to side with Book rather than the Chain. 

What does make a pleasant change is Detmer piloting Book's ship manually. Ths is the highlight of the episode and suggests that the writers have found a member of the crew who they can explore a little further. Detmer is the least bland of the background ensemble if we're truthful. Here you can tell Emily Coutts is enjoying every minute of her scenes as she weaves around Osyraa's Viridian starship. Her attacks are effective with the Chain retreating... for now.

Book and Kyheem are then faced with the locusts that will lead to the population starving
since they now have no repellant and the bugs have moved even further in land. their combined powers plus a boost from Discovery does the job and offers a sense of hope for Kwejian. Again, it's all very nicely set out but gives nothing new to thr story except for the reveal of Osyraa.

The trouble with this week is that it lies in a bit of a dead zone. The big hitter was last week and now we're on the build up to the finale. The Emerald Chain have repeatedly been mentioned as the big villain of the season, turning up since episode one at the market and then returning even if just in a mention throughout the season.

But they just don't seem that great a threat. Orions in Enterprise and The Original Series seemed a bit slimy, dangerous and if truth be told, a little bit sexy however Discovery has turned them into slightly unbelievable thugs. Time has moved on but I'm not feeling the threat. I'm much more invested in Georgiou's story or seeing more of Detmer or Tilly being XO. The makeup for the Orions is still troubling me and I can't see pas them as much more than caricatures with their smoothed out features. The Dominon was a real threat. You felt that they were going to be an issue but with the Chain they come across as more of a minor irritation.

The makeup, as said, doesn't help but maybe they are a reflection of the time. No longer is it that there are any huge galactic powers but instead its the era of the opportunist. Travel is more restricted than ever thanks to the Burn so it might be that my expectations for this season's nemesis was overstepping the mark. What would once have been dealt with in an episode by Picard and the Enterprise-D now present a clear danger because of how the galaxy has "scaled down".

Maybe rightfully so in keeping with the theme of the show but it's not on a par with anything that we've had previously and I'm even including Control and the Klingon War. This season has offered up a lot but now at episode eight it's feeling a little out of steam and in need of a bit of a kick. Unification III was a big dice roll that did pay off. Aside from the news that the Chain are running out of dilithium - which is why they want Ryn "disappeared" - this week felt redundant and sadly, quite forgettable.

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Thursday, 3 December 2020

Attack Wing: Cardassian Connections

The powerful
Keldon Class was a late addition to Attack Wing, but added a great deal of weight to the Dominion fleet.

In fact the Dominion is fast becoming my go-to faction with a good range of ships from the fighters and attack ships right up to battleships. 

The Keldon Class Cardassian starship certainly sits more towards the latter category, acting as the most powerful vessel from the annexed race.

The model itself, as became of the later expansions, has a good level of detail and a fairly accurate, sandy paint scheme. The panel definition is quite impressive given the scale and there's some space for grey highlights although the blue window markings are a bit blobby.

Running a five for attack, one defence, four Shields and three Hull, it has the potential for greatness and could well act more as a capital ship than a cruiser. The Koronak can Action Evade, Target Lock, Scan and Battlestations with open slots for two Tech, Two Weapons and a Crew upgrade. 

Spending your Scan token, if in play, you can spend it and perform a three dice attack against two separate ships. Probably a feature I should have used more actively following a rather brutal defeat to the Romulans recently. The Koronak costs 26 points to put on your fleet while the generic Dominion Starship version drops a Weapon slot the Unique Action and a Hull point for 24 points.

Movement could be restrictive unfortunately but it's not when it comes to speed with a top of five. However, the bank turns are available at ranges two to four with hard rights and lefts at ranges two and three incurring that wonderful Auxiliary Power Token penalty.

Gul Dukat leads the command options for the Koronak expansion and costs five points. His skill of seven is average at best but he does offer a free Evade or Battlestations in addition to your Action on each round with no disable or discard in sight. Dukat can also field an Elite Action but the main ability here makes him essential for any Dominion fleet.

Gul Evek, one of the few characters to appear in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, costs just two points and has a skill of four. He too is a solid option for your fleet, allowing you to re-roll all your blank results when defending. What you might want to do is pair this up with a card (or another ship) that rolls more than one die as the Koronak does.

Coming in for your lone Crew slot is a lone Crew offering but one that is super effective when lined up with Gul Dukat. Boheeka (two point cost) allows you to convert a blank result over to a Damage as long as you have the Battlestation token in play. It's a combo that I've seen mentioned on a few sites and one that doesn't involve discards or disabling. This pack could have done with at least another option for your Crew as this solo entry is disappointing from a numbers point of view.

Enhanced Weaponry is this pack’s version of Photon Torpedoes as its disabled to work and requires a Target Lock in place. Costing a cool five points, this one kicks in at ranges two and three with a roll of five attack dice. If it’s used on the Keldon Class itself then you can make this six which does make it a touch more exciting to use than standard torpedoes. 

Dorsal Weapons Array is slightly less powerful with a three dice attack in any direction although it’s not in continuous use as you find with the Enterprise-E’s dorsal phaser array. Three points will add this to your ship and it’s effective at any range which does mean those attack strafing runs can be fully utilised. 

The Koronak also comes with a couple of Tech cards. Tetryon Emissions is a big help especially on a ship with just a single defence due to counter your opponents. It does. It does as you would expect, need disabling  it adds three defence die to each encounter that round and costs three points to place in play. With this and the Cloak ability you might have a bit greater survival chance.

Cloak does cost four points itself but does offer the standard increased defence plus that Sensor Echo shuffle that can make a big ranging difference. The card itself is disabled so you’ll need to choose when to decloak and engage wisely because you then might not be in a good place just to use and Action to re-enable the ability. This one’s also very specific to the Keldon Class given that it will cost NINE points if you put it on any other ship.

Last up is Captured Intelligence, the Elite Action for the Koronak expansion. It’s one of those chances to correct an error or counter an unseen attack by throwing this card in to place an Evade token by your ship AND it allows you to add in a defence die for each time you come under attack that round. 

For three points it’s a great card that enhances tour evading ability but I would definitely stick it onto any ship with a single die for defence...pretty much like this one then!

Tying the Koronak into one of the Keldon Class' few appearances, the included mission is born from the Defiant episode of Deep Space Nine and sees a 120 point Dominion fleet take on an 80 point Federation team. The aim is for the Federation ships to scan the Cardassian base and "find out" whats going on while the Keldon fleet is there to stop them from getting the data away.

The Reklar Cardassian Galor physically takes up almost all of the Keldon class characteristics physically except for the rear unit added to the top of the Koronak.

The colour seems way off, coming in as a dark brown rather than a sandy desert colour that’s not exactly, but more like, the shade on the Koronak. The yellow and blue highlights are a bit gawdy against the brown and unfortunately the bridge module - ironically the same error I had on the Eaglemoss version - is set at a kinked angle. 

The stats make this ship as viable as the Keldon Class with four in attack, one defence, four Hull and four Shield. This makes it come in with exactly the same cost (26 points) as the Koronak but with a slightly more balanced card although you'll still need to work on building a solid defence. 

Luckily its Unique Action does just that. Place a Battlestations next to the ship and when defending you can roll an extra die. At least it's a bit more balance. As you'll spot, the Battlestations is missing from the Action Bar and there's still the usual Evade, Target Lock and Scan. Two Crew slots are open here plus one for Weapons and one for Tech. The generic version minuses off a Crew slot, the Battlestations Unique Action and one of those Hull points for 24 points. I actually would keep away from this one since it does eliminate that Battlestations option and that could be costly.

Able to achieve the same top speed of five as the Koronak, the Reklar is a little less maneuverable, dropping the banking turns at speed four and it retains the full and bank curves at speeds three and two with the sharper ones incurring the Auxiliary Power Token handicap.

Spun towards the classic The Next Generation two-parter, Chain of Command, the Reklar includes the two key Cardassian figures from the story in its command options. The seven-skilled Gul Madred can also be flipped as a Fleet Admiral and costs five points on either side. Having him able to deploy will be useful for those outlying attacks since he can target a ship within ranges one to three and if the Captain has a skill of six or less then both Madred and that card are out of play. If it's over or equal to 7 then the captain of the opposing ship rolls two Defence dice and if at least one Battlestations comes up then nothing gets discarded. It's a bit of a gamble as an Action either for the Fleet or on a single ship.

Four-skilled Gul Lemec had to deal with Edward Jellico and that cost sort of reflects his loss. Costing three points, Lemec likes to pick on the underdog as seems to be a trait here started with Madred. Any captains his ship takes on with a captain skilled less than his own is hit with an additional attack die making him fairly lethal on small opponents. It also offers up a thread of more underhand methods perhaps employed by the Cardassians and their Dominion masters.

Gul Ocett, taken from The Chase in season six of The Next Generation was the first female Cardassian we encountered in the franchise. She's carrying a skill of three here (unfair in my opinion since she was more effective than Lemec) and costs only two points. She's a ruthless card to have in play since critical Hull Damage will lead you to dig out Power Disruption or Minor Explosion from the Damage Deck rather than pick a card at random. Note as well she's continuously usable - no discard or disable which would make her a real asset.

With two Crew slots, the Reklar comes with two Crew to fill them. Glinn Tajor is a three pointer who takes the comfort out of a long range defence with any opponent fired on at range three not having the benefit of the extra defence die. It's a one time deal as he's a discard but might offer a nicely sneaky way to finish off an enemy ship.

Corak (two points) can be repeatedly called on as an Action and increases the Captain's skill by three until the end of the round. This will give you an early attack opportunity potentially against some bigger fish and not having to disable or discard means you can step in earlier more than once.

The Aft Weapons Array (four points) gives more chances to give fire from every angle. The full 180 arc already available is a big advantage but this provides a full 360 window. Offering four attack dice and an unusual chance to use this over the full three distances, the Array has to be disabled to be used and is limited only to ships with four Hull points or more. Given the gravity of the weapon's ability it does mean that the primary weapon value of the ship it's on will be four at a minimum. Firing all around is always a good advantage but having to re-enable this might kick some of the wind out but one shot could be all you need.

Subspace Carrier Wave punches out at range three only and rolls four attack dice. It's an Action and for each Damage or Critical Damage rolled you can disable the Captain or a Crew upgrade. It offers a chance for some disruption of plans rather than reducing a direct attack.

The Reklar's first of two Elite Actions, Coded Messages, unusually works on another ship in your fleet that's outside of ranges one to three and it can perform a move of speed three or lessas a freebie plus both ships gain a Battlestations token for the round which we know with both this and the Koronak pack are items to be prized and can be used very effectively by a Cardassian ship.

With Coded Messages costing five points, it's a big outlay for a one off use as I'm fond of noting and it's also sort of true when it comes to the Standard Attack Formation costing four points. This one's also a discard and very, very, very situational, relying on you keeping a very tight knit fleet as you'll need two other ships from your own battlegroup to be within range one. Also the ship that you're attacking will need to be in all three ships' forward firing arcs. Now, for a Cardassian ship that's not a big ask since they have 180 degree windows but it's a lot to ask just to get an additional two dice for a single attack. I'd suggest it's worth combo'ing this one in with a Target Lock for a super re-roll to ensure maximum damage.

The accompanying scenario takes us into the McAllister C-5 Nebula with a large portion of the standard 3x3 playing area acting as the nebula itself with the Federation starting along the southern edge of the board. Ships in the nebula also have the advantage of adding an extra three die when attacked, not being able to be Target Locked, only roll one die at range three in defence, can Sensor Echo and have to use two attack dice whenever there's an ability used that involves Scan - if the result includes a Battlestations then it's failed.

One more thing - each round, the ships in the nebula take one damage to the Hull and for each Damage card present that vessel rolls an attack die  and can suffer Critical Damage if the relevant symbol comes up. 

The core of this is for the Federation to place Anti-Matter Mines (so you'll need that card) ideally as they add an extra die in attack but ultimately it's a straight-forward fight to the end.

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