Monday, 15 March 2021

Avenger Assembled: The Official Online Starships Collection Issues 11 and 12

First looks can be deceptive and with the USS Avenger it’s easy to fall into thinking it’s a horrendous Starfleet mashup. 

Nacelles from one thing, a primary hull from another and a deflector dish straight out of a Lego set. Yet take a look further into the design and lineage of the Avenger and you begin to understand it a lot more.

Emblazoned with the distinct Star Trek Online Starfleet black and white paint scheme, the colouring actually helps to highlight some of the battlecruiser’s features. Certainly squat for its configuration, the class was conceived to company larger threats most notably following the withdrawal of the Klingons from the Khitomer Accords. 

The design and therefore the model has all those typical Federation hallmarks as alluded to and while it’s not a favourite when it  comes to aesthetics, this is one of Starfleet’s more functional platforms. 

The model conveys that very well with the recessed windows, prominent phaser banks at the front of the saucer and those tightly hung nacelles pressed nearer to the hull.  The most striking part of the ship though has to be the utilisation of the twin neck also seen on the Enterprise-F and the rigid, high-sided spine that runs to the rear of the ship. 

The paintwork does let this one down ever so slightly. Again, the black markings don't cover the whole of the areas its marked out for with some of the panel lines still showing up white and the panels slightly speckled.

But the detail still remains with the overall effect of the ship still coming off strong. Eaglemoss have recreated the main elements that make this one unique although how they would have presented the activation of the ablative armour is another question for another day.

Even down to the front where the class-specific Variable Auto-Targeting Armament (VATA) torpedoes are launched is included on the Avenger and even if this is one of the least smooth Starfleet designs it is important to include given its nature as the first battlecruiser to be included in Online. That is then reflected in the very nature of this model build. Strucurally it's rock solid and Eaglemoss have made the unusal step of making the secondary hull and not the saucer in metal.

In turn this gives the Avenger a lot more stability. Plus, the detail level is consistent. Along the spine you can easily make out the shield generator and the eight warp plasma phase conditioners needed to deal with the immense amount of power this craft generates and requires.

Out to the engines and the pylons (ridiculously thick!), the level of detail matches the main hulls with the ship registry evident on the nacelles. The bussard collectors and warp grilles are painted in this time since they are buried within the hull in line with the ship's mission directive.

Perhaps the only things working against this model are the recessed windows whch are just recesses with no indication of detail. Along the saucer edges the choice to paint them on has worked and the little touches here are what makes the Avenger really shine. The stripes, the edging, the lifeboat hatches; all of them are meticulously added.

The sensor array at the tip of the primary hull is also lacking the detail you can make out on the magazine cover however it is a very thin edge along which to add any fiddly painting and it's one point against a very impressive vista for such a compact design. 

Issue 11 covers the usual ship specific points, an explanation of the VATA feature and the design history of the class adding a good deal of meat the to bones. The plan views are uninspiring and lack much detail save for some obvious features. The design article covers the path from the real world and the reason for the Avenger's existence in the game. This time round we also have the backstory for Starfleet at War expanding on the changes to the galaxy as part of the Online story.

Following the surprisingly cool (yep, changed my mind by the end of that review) Avenger is the Klingon Raptor-style IKS Mat'Ha.

A design lineage that was lost through the alignment with the Khitomer Accords, the attacking Raptor class vessel is initially a bit of an eyefull. The colour palette on these Online Klingon ships is very overpowering and a sharp contrast to the two colours of Starfleet's ships.

The bright green base and brown highlights do make the Mat'Ha stand out. The neck/wings design marks it out immediately as one of the Empire's vessels with hints in there from the Somraw, the Bird of Prey and also the Vor'Cha class.

Eaglemoss have forged the main body, wings and engines in metal here with impulse blocks and structural cabling added in plastic. The colours are a lot more vibrant than we ever saw in the live action series and here it emphasises the different panel depths and features of the ship.

The features themselves are incredibly prominent from an oddly menacing forward deflector to the blatant primary and secondary weapon emplacements on the nose and wings. These are fairly stable and will take some punishment even as protrusions from the main hull. 

The buzzard collectors and exhaust points on the warp engines are another matter. The collectors themselves are a bit gappy when it comes to a smooth and aligned fit with the metal nacelles. They are fairly large pieces of translucent plastic which, maybe, could have just been painted metal. Saying that, the effect looks great if you’re not too close to start spotting fitting errors. 

Simplistic is definitely the word when it comes to the Mat’Ha. The paint is blocky, the style is a set of simple shapes and it all combines here to present a craft very much as functional as the USS Avenger which we have already had the pleasure of getting to know. It’s not as stunning as the bulky Bortasqu’ or the more recent Mogh but it still cuts a spectacular swathe in the collection. 

As to the mini magazine in the box, the usual rules apply. Background details and screenshots from the game including standard in universe backstory followed by an equally comprehensive note on the work that goes on from Cryptic to transfer the initial need and vision into a playable craft in the game. This time’s expansion on the Online lore deals with a very specific section of the game, Delta Rising, which introduced a whole new section of the galaxy to the game.

This in turn explains how classic races from Voyager’s seven year trek were incorporated into the larger framework of the story and continue to be involved today. 

Just a note on display for both of these ships; there are no issues with the clips around the ships with the fitting for them being around the wing/pylons. One thing that does need to be brought up is that the bases don’t seem to accommodate the plastic pegs very well. I think every one I’ve seen in the last six months has needed some amount of filing to fit snugly.

The Avenger and the Mat’Ha have both grown on me considerably during the time of writing this review and Eaglemoss have done immense justice to both Online ships. Certainly the magazines go a long way here to explaining the design decisions and making sense of the spins placed on established Star Trek starship design.

Check out all our Online Starships posts HERE

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

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Saturday, 13 March 2021

Behind the Trek: Updates and Thoughts

Two new stories about Trek movie productions in as many weeks and now the History Channel looking to delve deep into franchise lore with a Centre Seat documentary series. 

Set for an eight part series, Centre Seat will be deep diving into the franchise's extensive 55 year story - and hopefully we can learn a thing or two from this new angle.

What’s really exciting is that these are all bona fide projects taking place away from the Kurtzman series spotlight at a time where the fourth and fifth incarnations of the televised universe are soon to be revealed.

The news of Kalinda Vasquez’s movie proposal with Paramount was a wonderful piece to hear especially given that it was offered without even a script proposal and would include the most recent production company of Trek movies, Bad Robot and therefore under the wing of rebooted JJ Abrams. Vasquez has previous with Star Trek having written Terra Firma, Part II and also the Short Trek, Ask Not.

No confirmation whether this is a fourth instalment of the Kelvin Universe or something completely different however the note that Michelle Paradise, exec producer on Discovery, commented on a tweet relating to the matter seems to cement this as happening.

Even more sensational perhaps is the news that Nicholas Meyer, the man who saved The Wrath of Khan in six days, has also dropped a proposal for a new movie to Paramount. Now if memory serves, the last we heard of Meyer was that he was working on a Khan mini series. 

This was after he’d worked on season one of Discovery but nothing has even been rumoured since. Given that we bow know that only five series are being produced at one time, that Khan show could be way off - even further away than Section 31. This may in turn be part of the reason Meyer has shifted his focus away from the small screen.

But finally and most recently, let’s indeed lock on to TV. Strange New Worlds is now in production in Toronto as confirmed by a new video from the cast. But not just Mount, Romjin  and Peck. Five new faces have now been added to the line up.

Babs Olusanmokun (Black Mirror), Christina Chong (Line of Duty, Doctor Who), Celia Rose Gooding (Broadway production Jagged Little Pill), Jess Bush (Australia's Next Top Model, Playing for Keeps pictured left) and Melissa Navia (Billions, Homeland) have all now been confirmed to take their stations aboard the USS Enterprise although who they will be playing is still a cast iron secret.

Along with the established Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks and upcoming Prodigy, this looks to be the Trek lineup for at least the next 18/24 months although there’s probably a fair wait until we see something back on screen...

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Sunday, 7 March 2021

Episode Archive: Silicon Avatar

Having nattered on about TOS' Obsession, TNG's Silicon Avatar came up as a natural successor to the story.

Both are focused around a mysterious space creature that seems to be up to no good but there's more to this 1991 instalment than just that.

Coming four years after Datalore, in which the Crystalline Entity first appeared, Silicon Avatar questions the nature of the creature as well as to what level of redemption is necessary.

Beginning the colonisation of a new Federation world, the initial scouting party finds itself up against the destructive power of the Entity as it strips the planet of all natural resources. The Borg would be proud of its efficiency but for some reason it leaves the colonists who hide away in the caverns alive. A first.

Enter Doctor Kila Marr, a scientist who has spent her life studying the Crystalline Entity and whose son perished on Omicron Theta. Now for reference that's the world where Data was discovered and that was ravaged by the same Crystalline Entity.

Marr is all out to destroy it from the off although Picard is considering all the options and ultimately would rather it live than die. As an episode it compares well to Obsession since the two creatures initially seem to be driven to survive only and lack sentience however this is where the two episodes take a turn away from each other. Through the episode she sees Data as the embodiment of all that is left of her son since he carries the colony's database. IN the end though, Data is as logical as ever in noting that her Marr's son would not have been pleased with her ruthless solution. Certainly a good episode for Data's understanding of humanity and one person's driving force in life.

In the case of Silicon Avatar, the being can communicate but its cares are for survival only. The classic Obsession has but one priority from the start and never sways from it, focusing purely on the destruction of the gas creature and never anything else. There is no doubt of its malevolence, only backed up by Kirk's previous encounter on the USS Farragut. Picard of course differs in that he looks further than his one past experience with the creature and hopes for something more.

The something more is indeed there as is revealed through the communication attempt yet Marr takes it as a chance to eliminate the creature.  But is it her right to have that choice? 

We never know if it would have understood reasoning or come to terms with the notion that it was killing people. Lore took full advantage of the Crystalline Entity for his own ends and perhaps the audience's perception of it is mired by this initial appearance.

Both Obsession and Silicon Avatar end up with their respective creatures destroyed but the feelings left by the action are polar opposites. The mist of Obsession was relentless and seemingly without remorse or sentience, existing to survive if you will and is eradicated for the survival of thousands of lives. The Crystalline Entity however isn't. It's sentience is revisited in the closing minutes of the episode and there's a chance that it might "see" the error of its ways - but we are robbed of this through Marr's singular resolution.

Apparently in the name of her lost son, Marr was always set on eliminating the entity and her plan is executed coldly, calmly and precisely. The reminder of the colony at Omicron Theta, Data's recovery and the stored memories and journals of the colonists makes this just as hard-hitting as Obsession although that feels more personal due to the Kirk connection.

The initial death of Carmen Divila is brushed past quickly once the colonists are back on the Enterprise with the focus of the story clearly switched to Kila Marr and her (dare I say it) obsession. But in the cold, hard light of day, this is nothing like that gas creature. Just look at the way in which the entity rips the landscape apart in seconds, devastating everything in its path not unlike the destruction at Jouret IV in The Best of Both Worlds. It's easily more terrifying and devastating than the effects of Kirk's Obsession cloud which was pretty slow moving and confined to very localised targets. The massive spacefaring Entity on the other hand is at quite the other end of the obliteration scale.and...could Kila Marr actually be right in what she does? This is planet-killing stuff not seen since the Borg and her action is decisive and may well save millions. Does it matter if this creature is sentientSomething to think about there!

While perhaps not remembered as strongly as Datalore, Silicon Avatar is still a strong episode that adds more to the tragic backstory of Data's creation. Well worth a stop off if you're heading through that way!

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