Sunday, 29 August 2021

We'll Always Have Tom Paris: Lower Decks S02 E03

A Caitian Libido Post, a Tom Paris plate and the resurrection of a senior officer make for probably the best episode of the season so far.

We'll Always Have Tom Paris not only takes its running time to play out as many Star Trek twists and turns as possible and as viewers would hope but also manages to address its own consistent inconsistencies in the way in which events play out.

Dr T'ana sends Tendi on a mission to acquire an old family heirloom from Qualor II (yes, that Qualor II) as Boimler attempts to get his Tom Paris plate signed by the visiting Voyager legend and Rutherford tries to get to grips with the return of Lt Shax (yes, the one that died).

With an A, B and C story, it's a packed 22 minutes of action but at no point does it feel overwhelmed with story. Each piece lasts out just enough and there's a bunch of laugh out loud moments all the way. 

Tendi chooses to take Mariner with her and there's a fairly blatant nod to the audience reactions to season one that didn't see these two take on any adventures together. Seeing it as a bonding exercise, Mariner approaches it with the usual over exuberance that filled out many of her episodes with Boimler which is the polar opposite to Tendi's na├»ve cautiousness.   

Their mission to retrieve T'Ana's box takes a turn though (as you would expect) that sends us off across two more worlds and a whole heap of trouble that explores a lot of background of these two characters plus manages to drop a load of franchise references along the way from planets to bars to alien races and even long-forgotten emblems. The attention to detail within this part of the episode is meticulous to say the least and goes even further to provide more information on two of the four main characters.

I'll touch on Rutherford's narrative first ahead of Boimler. This is a classic Trek trope all the way. How many times have we seen characters resurrected? Numerous. How many times in The Original Series did it happen and there was no explanation? (Ok, so accuracy wasn't as laser like as it is now...). We'll Always Have Tom Paris plays on this with the inexplicable return of Lt Shax who we saw die a the end of season one. It's messing with Rutherford horribly with the ensign obsessed with how it's happened. Watch out for the lengthy reel through of how it could have happened and tick off all the actual instances mentioned!

Now for the main event and the incredibly well kept secret of Tom Paris' return to Star Trek.

Boimler's fan obsession is nothing short of your pinnacle of, well, obsessive fandom. It's not helped by the fact that a security update to the ship has rendered him virtually invisible to its systems which leads him to the most extreme ways to reach his Voyager (or VOY as he calls it to save time saying it, wink wink) idol and a missing autograph from his plate collection. 

Honestly this was a scream of a storyline and as a whole We'll Always Have Tom Paris felt way too short with the amount crammed into the relatively short runtime. Of all the three threads this is by far the simplest executed but with the biggest payoff with Robert Duncan McNeil voicing the Voyager helmsman once more - as only it could be.

The humour is absolutely on point but episode three feels as though it has much more depth and is deserved of at least a second watch and not just to pick out the glut of references to its series predecessors. It's an episode that at its heart really is about the characters and their relationships with each other. The missed oversight of pairing Tendi with Mariner is long overdue and adds a dynamic to the show that we have been robbed of for 12 episodes. While Boimler's pairing with Mariner emphasises his neuroses, Tendi's arrival beefs up her role and gives her more to do than we've seen since the beginning. 

She's now not just the initial guide to our arrival on the Cerritos but our lead when it come to seeing more of the Orion people and her uncomfortable place within it. For once she's the one with as many answers as Mariner when it comes to resolving their splintered predicament although Beckett is the one ultimately willing to self-sacrifice as usual to save face for her colleague - no, her friend.

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Monday, 23 August 2021

Yesterday's Enterprise - XL'd

Liam MacCreadie joins us once more to take a look over the latest XL Starship from Eaglemoss...

Originally published 28/11/2021. UPDATED 23/08/21

Welcome to this month's review of the latest starship to get the XL treatment, the second most anticipated supersize release since the Enterprise-A. 

I must start by saying I’ve always liked this ship since seeing her in Yesterday's Enterprise. Although she only gets a small amount of screen time I had to buy the AMT model kit so this release has been high on my radar since it was announced.

First impressions from opening the box is that she’s a very chunky ship. The level of detailing on the saucer is incredible; the top of the saucer is diecast with the bottom plastic and we have raised areas for phaser strips and lifeboat hatches which are well painted.  

The windows from a distance look well done and numerous, it’s not until you get close that you realise she suffers from the same window misalignment that afflicts other ships, however as the indents are so light it isn’t noticeable until you get right up on it. The big let down for the ventral though is the yellow either tractor emitters or sensors painted over the escape pod indents, something I’ve only just noticed, and something you can’t unsee unfortunately.

The registration and name look bold with the correct red outline on the black lettering that was missed on the previous XL USS Reliant
The underside of the saucer is much the same story with detail , raised escape pods and phasers, however the window alignment is a lot worse underneath with not only missing the indents but the black and white lines are on different heights, again from a distance it’s a trivial thing.

The secondary hull and neck are mainly diecast which adds the weight to the model and feels great. The windows are well aligned on this section on the diecast at least but the plastic slips again, all decals look great and mine has the pennants the correct way up unlike some. The biggest flaw though on this model is the deflector dish. This time we have the correct inset dish however as its transparent you can see the joining peg inside and a lot of models seem to be affected with glue visible on the interior. This could have been solved by having a solid backing, a simple addition that would make a lot of buyers happy.

Aft we have the much hyped impulse engine a detail noticeably missing from the regular sized model and something I’m glad was included, although I can’t help but feel it should be red and not blue - feel free to correct me if not the case! 

Carrying on down to the back we have a very nice shuttlebay, which is luckily well aligned, again on some models this is not the case.

Nacelles and pylons are nice and straight with bright plastic bussard collectors and warp grilles, something we’ve been use to seeing on a lot of these models. Registration numbers and pennants are all in place and correct too.

Before I finish I’d just like to compare her to the regular issue we had back in issue 46. First off we have moved the pylons from straight up to a more sloped back design with registry numbers now applied. The blue deck lines on the edge of the saucer have been omitted on the XL as happened on the Enterprise-B. 

As mentioned earlier we have the impulse engine present, the correct deflector dish and lastly the sensor dome underneath the saucer has changed completely from the Zhukov style on the regular to a correct Constitution class variant on the XL. 

Overall she’s a great looking model and I would rate her a solid 8/10. Like all the XLs it's a really great model only let down with silly little flaws but if a life long Trekkie I feel you can look past these . 

Have you been collecting the XL models from Eaglemoss? Which has been the highlight so far?

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Sunday, 22 August 2021

Kayshon, His Eyes Open: Lower Decks S02 E02

As if the references and links to the golden era couldn’t get any stronger with Lower Decks, this weeks instalment blows it out of the water.

In a quick overview, the Cerritos is tasked with assisting in the cataloguing of a Collector’s vast collection as well as the arrival of a new Security chief with Starfleet’s first Tamarian Officer.

On the Titan, Boimler is still right at the cliff face of the action dodging phasers and torpedoes every second and ending up making some big decisions.

Perhaps not as impactful an episode as Strange Energies, Kayshon works purely as a vehicle to introduce a mass of familiar concepts into the formula of Lower Decks. The return of a collector a la Kivas Fajo from The Most Toys is an Easter Egg fan’s wet dream. The scenes in amongst the artefacts are incredible and packed full of things to look out for in every corner. Problem is, there’s so much that it starts to distract from the main thread of the episode and dilutes a lot of the impact.

I’m stating now that it’s essential to watch this one twice so as to keep up with events after you spend the first time through going ‘Isn’t that…’ and ‘Look! Over there it’s a…’ plus other predictable quotes. 

Kayshon is a clever introduction thanks to, but not limited to, his multiple Darmok references through his universal translator. He also completely mirrors his predecessor Lt Shax in attitude and mannerisms providing a new dynamic on the bridge of the Cerritos. With a sash perhaps more as a nod to Worf than the Tamarians, his appearance in the episode contains the best twist in what is pure escapism from start to finish.

But let's delve a little deeper here. The mission against the Pakleds with the Titan's covert squad is excellently played out and offers up an interesting view of how the rest of the fleet might view the Enterprise-D's adventures. Is it jealousy? Do others think that Picard and co were a bit "less" Starfleet? It does allow for Boimler's rather brilliant speech about the purpose of Starfleet itself which, if you read a little more into it, could be a prod at both Discovery and Picard which have chosen a more action heavy path than we were used to in the '90's.

Plus the whole battle sequence with the Pakleds is gorgeous to watch with the Titan having received (as with the Cerritos) some serious visual upgrades since season one. The flexibility with animation shines through in every frame and slightly more so in that we have the Titan flipping around to combat their enemy. 

While the Titan arc brings us full circle with Boimler back to No Small Parts via a pretty brilliant twist and hat tip to TNG, the big draw will be that A-story and the Kerner Hauze collection that's booby trapped against anyone removing any part of it. Filled with references to just about everything (yes, that's Khan's necklace...yes, that's a Picard bust from The Pegasus...) the attempted escape is pretty solid with Jet taking on some parts of the usual Boimler role but managing to nark off Mariner even more quickly.

Jet is in himself a classic - one that appears with no backstory or explanation (that's sort of
pointed at from the start) and then is gone by the closing credits. It's not just a reference to characters in Star Trek that have come and gone but a lot of series across the breadth of TV. I somehow don't think he'll show up again!

It's also nice here that we haven't got that Tendi/Rutherford versus Mariner/plus one split which bodes well for the remainder of the season and does demonstrate that the writers are purposely avoiding something that was a heavily used plot point in season one. 

If you thought that Crisis Point in season one was a love letter to the franchise with its take on the movies then this is a must see. Drawing on TNG lore to provide a scenario to overload even the most hardcore fan is damn fine impressive and one of the best things to have ever popped into the mind of a Star Trek writer. Kayshon triples down on just about everything from the opening moments in the sonic showers to the final seconds. I'm not going to give anything away about how the episode ends but it absolutely fits with the ethos of the series.

Lower Decks has easily excelled when its not taken its heritage too seriously and utilised it for the better of its own stories and continuity. This is 100% where it succeeds over other recent arrivals and will continue to do so. Lower Decks is actually funny and even more hilarious if you're aware of all the running jokes tacked in. It's great to be in a time where you're genuinely excited to see the next episode!

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Thursday, 19 August 2021

Gene @ 100

Pioneer, visionary, genius, drug taker, womaniser...

All things that have at some time (whether true or false) been aimed at the famed Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

If you buy into all the stories or not, Roddenberry would have turned 100 in August and even though he died in 1991, we are still talking about him and his seminal influence on pop culture three decades later.

If you want to read a detailed biography then there are a ton to pick from so I'm not going to be simply recounting the life of the Star Trek creator but rather exploring my own thoughts and opinions on a man that, while I never met him, has technically been a part of my life for nearly 40 years.

Odd to think about it like that but Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future is a concept that will have affected in some way millions of people across the globe. If you've watched Star Trek and taken any interest in it then that's going to be the case.

Roddenberry was hardly a saint which might almost seem hypocritical given his affinity for the vision of Star Trek. Women and drugs were fuels to his fire with both taking a toll on his life but in amongst it all were his shows. Only Star Trek succeeded in breaking out beyond an initial run. Before he broke the the big time there was The Lieutenant, a military legal series and after 1969 there were pilots and concepts but yet nothing would ever top Star Trek.

Many of the concepts and pieces used in The Questor Tapes, Genesis II and Planet Earth would be built into The Next Generation alongside embers of the stalled Phase II although Roddenberry would only be involved once he realised it was going ahead with or without his involvement. 

Many of his ideas in that ‘wilderness’ period from 1969 to 1979’s The Motion Picture are filled with some fairy outlandish plans. God complexes and Kennedy assassinations crop up regularly either within Star Trek concepts or alternative pilots with them being equally regularly shot down at the earliest stages.

The tragedy is that this at-odds attitude with the studio ultimately fractured his relationship with the franchise and by that his own creation. Go back to the 1969 season and producer Feed Freiberger was in much more control as Roddenberry's interest in Star Trek wained as he came to terms with the realisation that it was almost certainly going to end. His early heavy involvement with The Next Generation was gradually scaled back once attorney Leonard Maizlish was out of the picture and placed into more stable and constructive supervision with the Rick Berman era. That involvement in itself was a hand forced by the studio who were going to be making new Star Trek with or without it's creator.

But while you might mock some of Gene Roddenberry’s apparently crazier and more extreme views and unwavering belief in the ideals of Star Trek, his impact on pop culture is undeniable. Gene passed in 1991, managing to see the 25th anniversary of his creation in September of that year as well as attending the dedication of the Roddenberry Building on the Paramount Lot. It means that Star Trek has been around a lot longer than Gene may well have ever expected and perhaps not in the form that he might have desired.

That need for the elimination of conflict between his Starfleet characters or the strong opinion to keep away from established races and stories was something that was soon toyed with in the 90s following his passing and has certainly been placed on ice for Discovery and Picard. Recently William Shatner openly stated that Roddenberry's optimistic vision of the future is something that is very far off, possibly unobtainable which would ally to the more dystopian universe envisioned in the more recent shows. But does that mean that they aren't Star Trek

Roddenberry's vision was for that bright future, reaching to the stars and exploring to further humanity (just as Picard states himself in First Contact in discussion with Lily Sloane) and we have to be thankful for that. Perhaps it's better that we view anything from Deep Space Nine onwards just as it says at the beginning of every title sequence since - Based On Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry. 

Gene knew of Deep Space Nine and neither that nor The Undiscovered  Country were high on his approval list at the end of his life. While the former was full to the brim with conflict thanks to the inclusion of non-Federation characters in the cast, Star Trek VI charted racism, the crumbling of a superpower and no sign of a Kennedy assassination conspiracy anywhere. Gene’s desire to get his story onscreen was a battle to the end and one that he had lost in the cinema in 1982. But both show something that is continued through into Voyager and Enterprise in that humanity of the 22nd, 23rd and 24th Centuries had put aside its differences and moved on. Truly Gene had created something to be proud of however the new Kurtzman era has certainly moved beyond that. Although it still attempts to tell stories, it is based on a more grounded, modern realm complete with all its challenges therein.

Star Trek - maybe even specifically The Original Series, The Motion Picture and early The Next Generation are the best examples of Roddenberry's more hands on period of involvement. The trouble was that it became more difficult to get away from that bubble and his ideas weren't where movie producer Harve Bennett wanted to go and nor were they where later season TNG writers decided to head either. While he was the spark, by the mid-1980's Star Trek was barely his property, twisting and turning away from Gene's idyllic dream.

It would only be after Roddenberry's death that two more of his shows, Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict would see the light of day on TV. They would come to fruition thanks in no small part to the assistance of his widow and Star Trek guest regular Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. Neither of these shows however would even come close to a fraction of the power and attraction that Star Trek generated - and that as we all know got cancelled. Oddly both lasted for 110 episodes if you check on IMDb but that's it. Star Trek really did dominate everything Roddenberry did.

But let's just bring this together. Gene Roddenberry had an idea, a concept to go where no one had gone before and ran with it. He inspired other producers and writers to play within the universe he initially created. In the 25th Anniversary celebration he even notes that others will take over and add their own twists to Star Trek. Whether he would approve is another matter entirely but Gene set them on a path of discovery. He inspired others to create their own series, novels and movies because of the revolutionary, united vision of Earth he proposed through Star Trek. Perhaps Shatner's opinion is brutally realistic that we won't reach the bliss of the 23rd Century given the "wokeness" of the modern age, the damage of a pandemic and in some cases our own global stupidity. 

However, Star Trek represents the expansive and contagious optimism of one Eugene Wesley Roddenberry. Over 50 years since his show debuted and now 100 years since his birth it's still growing and adding new fans by the day. Now that's one heck of a legacy to be proud of whether you like every piece of it or not.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Shuttles 4: Small Time Kelvin

Although it's taken a while to get to them, I've been bowled over at some of the wonders contained within Eaglemoss' Shuttles sets. 

Perhaps with the exception of Set Four. This is what you might call the odd one out, comprising of support craft featured in the three Kelvin Timeline movies. In a bizarre twist, while the hero ships from that trilogy were all large Special Editions, the shuttles have gone the opposite way. Inexplicably they're smaller than the Prime Universe ones.

Each does once again come complete with a stand (three of the four here don't need it) as well as a lithograph print of each vessel which is also included on the back two inner pages of the accompanying mini magazines.

Featuring in the 2009 reboot, the Transport shuttle is one you need to keep an eye on. If you sneeze there’s a good chance it’ll vanish. The smallest of the small quartet, it still carries a good level of detail but could have done with being ever so slightly bigger. It’s not as if the box is filled out and it’s also very off scale with the other three more conventional craft. 

With the standard blacked out windows, the Transport Shuttle has a fantastic weathered finish with worn paint, scuffs and colour variance. Given it should have been afforded a slightly bigger scale, the finish is impressively carried off. There’s also a fair amount of decals applied to the ship with warning arrows, the registry and hatches wing panels all added. 

The weathered look manages to cover up some of the less defined panelling as well as the loss of size versus its peers but what you do feel is that the more realistic finish contrasting to the more sci-fi (and cheaper) elements of the TV shows actually doesn't weigh into its favour.

The second up is the Passenger Shuttle seen in both the 2009 reboot and also Into Darkness, the craft is on a much better scale. Once more featuring the weathered finish, the Passenger Shuttle is more recognisable thanks to its underslung engines.

Assigned to the USS Enterprise, this craft has brushed up well with the same worn effect as the Transport Shuttle. It also benefits when it comes to the registry decals which are much easier to read due to the letter spacing and can even afford to add in the black edging. On the Transport Shuttle all that finery just becomes a bit of a blob. 

The panelling too is more defined with distinct ridges on the shuttle surface rather than a series of undulations that gave the smaller Transport vessel a little of its character. It does have a much more industrious look to it as well as that more blocky shuttle silhouette that is distinctive in the Prime Universe sets. Where the Passenger Shuttle does excel is in the retro nacelles which include recessed buzzard collectors and also exhaust points that are a distinct homage to the back end of either/both the original 1960's Enterprise and/or the Galileo shuttle.

It’s a lovely design and well executed. Possibly a tad on the small size but packing a lot of good finishing detail and a more realistic, used appearance than we’ve seen in other sets.

Famed birthplace of one Kelvin Timeline James Tiberius Kirk, the Medical Shuttle from NCC-514 is another little gen in this box. With a similar form to the Passenger Shuttle, the boxy Medical variant has a lot more in common to a classic shuttle than any others especially with that wide pointed nose. 

I love the surface detail on this one even more than the Passenger Shuttle because of the speckled, patchy effect that gives a spectacular uneven and realistic finish. Featuring three distinct entry points, the Medical Shuttle is also the most visual attractive of the four thanks to the boatload of red markings that scream out loud it’s role. 

Along with the medics markings striped across the hill, the shuttle also has some general use warnings around there being No Step to the side door off the nacelles. These little touches, which are evident right across the pack, might not seem significant thanks to the scale disappointment yet they make the Kelvin Quartet a more tangible group with warnings and labels that you would hope for and expect to be used on such a craft if it were real.

The Warrant shuttle from Into Darkness got double duty both involved with the initial Nibiru mission and then used when McCoy and Carol Marcus need to access one of Admiral Marcus’ top secret torpedoes. 

Of the four, it’s the only one that doesn’t sit flat hence all of the pictures include the stand. It also seems to bear a strong resemblance to the Kelvin Medical Shuttle with some minor body modifications including the repositioning of he warp engines. Again there's a lot of strong and crisp decaling on this one set against that angled, weather bodywork with the name, starship registry and pennants all crystal clear. A little more rugged than the Medical Shuttle, the Warrant's detailing is potentially the best of the four but that's not a gold star in any book. The panel lines are prominent and the black window blocking sits perfectly into its assigned recesses but you still feel it's (yawn) undersized and missing an opportunity. 

I can't emphasise how good the weathering on all four is and it really does make all of them look a lot more solid as replicas. The retro engine design too, which is present in the cowlings and collectors of the Warrant are equally impressive but Eaglemoss seem to have really let themselves down with this group especially when compared to those Kelvin Timeline specials we received many moons ago.

Each of the magazines is an incredibly brief resume of the shuttles' appearances in each of the Kelvin trilogy just to jog your memory as well as screencaps and new CG to fill out the background but don't expect too much as each will take you moments to flick through. The best bit is probably the tech spec at the back.

Comparing directly against the other six sets available, this one falls far short of the standard that fans have come to expect from Eaglemoss. Yes, all the elements are here and work but that size issue has really ground my gears this time since that disappointment has seeped in since I opened the box on its arrival.

Check out all our Starships (and shuttles!) posts HERE

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

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Sunday, 15 August 2021

Strange Energies: Lower Decks S02 E01

How I've waited for the return of Lower Decks and episode one was well worth it.

Following up on the events of the first season finale, Mariner is now best buddies with her captain mum and given virtual free reign over her own side missions whenever she wants. Tendi is concerned that Rutherford's implants aren't working correctly (he has an obsession with eating pear now) and Boimler... well he's over on the USS Titan with Captain Riker.

Revisiting the second contact mission structure that we were introduced to in season one's starter, Ransom is sent to finish off the mission while Captain Freeman allows Mariner to do some jet washing of their buildings and ignore the first officer's orders.

Tendi spends the episode trying to prove that there's something up with Rutherford which is very similar to the time when Mariner was convinced something was all weird with Boimler's girlfriend.

The opening scene is fantastic. Mariner is apparently captured by the Cardassians and attempts an escape, leaving Boimler (still not forgiven him for leaving) chained up. Taking her own torturer with her, the pair board a conveniently parked Miranda Class ship and head out, only for us viewers to discover it's all a holodeck "workout" simulation for Beckett Mariner.

The attention to detail is immense. Mentions of lights, the registry on the Miranda Class ship, the appearance of Hideki fighters and the classic movie era bridge replete with pink chairs is more than enough to hook you in from the first minute. Lower Decks is back and proving straight off that this season is business as usual.

Mariner's good intentions with the Apergosians do, of course, take a comical turn for the worst when she manages to activate an ancient system that turns Commander Ransom into a god-like being. Another great call out here to Gary Mitchell and Where No Man Has Gone Before even down to how the first officer is ultimately stopped. 

The pacing of Strange Energies is superb. We're into the action and the twists right from the start and it runs right the way through. There were more than a couple of laugh out loud moments but they tended to be on the more Star Trek in jokes that perhaps more seasoned fans would get. Casual Lower Decks viewers might also find this first episode a little confusing since there are several nods to the events of season one so it would be well worth a quick refresher on those ten episodes. I for one am glad that I've done a run through in the last week or so as there were things I'd clearly forgotten.

With Boimler out of the picture for a good 99% of the episode, Mariner s very much on her own and the way in which the character has turned does suggest that Brad was an anchor to keep her level in the same way Rimmer was for Lister in Red Dwarf. Boimler is her conscience and sensibility an without it Mariner really is out of control. 

This means we also see Tendi and Rutherford paired up again and while it was great, we were told that there would be less of these distinct pairings for season two - but clearly not in episode one. Not that it distracts from the story which is absolutely spot on.

Parodying every time some form of unknown powers crop up, Strange Energies is both poking that little bit of fun at the franchise and an early overused concept plus honouring and hat-tipping to the classics. Lower Decks has dipped a little bit of continuity in here with links to No Small Parts plus a call back to Rutherford’s date from Second Contact but it feels more welcome development than ongoing storyline.  However I’ve been more impressed that it has, for the most part, stayed away from overly huge story arcs that have pervaded Discovery and Picard. Yet, these are early days and there’s no certainty that season two won’t start to build on Lower Decks’ place in the galaxy. 

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Saturday, 14 August 2021

Michael in Wonderland: Burnham's Missing Year Explored

I would suspect that from the title of this piece there are a few people out there thinking; "Who cares?" and honestly, after the events of season three I was sitting very close to that fence indeed.

But you can't keep away from a novel from one of Star Trek's modern day super writers in the form of Una McCormack.

McCormack has steered us literary Trek fans though a whole host of events across the last 20 years. Even though this is her first take on the Discovery universe I was confident it would be expertly handled.

Rightly so because Wonderland not only fills in a gap we didn't see on screen but helps to develop the characters of "fish out of water" Burnham, Cleveland "Call me Book" Booker and Federation administrator Sahil, all of whom we met or were reacquainted with during the season three opener.

Something that becomes evident very early on in McCormack's latest volume is how much opportunity there is for story and galaxy building on the page. Discovery itself is visually budget limited to a degree but here in this new novel there is the chance to really expand the canvas and explore the very different, disjointed and at times horribly bleak 31st Century. It's very much a universe "rebuilding" novel in that we get much more specific details on the ships Burnham explored to research the Burn, we get to see how she acquired her on transport vessel for courier runs and just what happened within the relationship she nurtured with Book.

In light of the nature of the galaxy without warp drive, the story is very self contained spatially and fortunately this means we get to see more of Starbase 47 and the remnants of what has become of its Starfleet contingent. There are moments of optimism in there - possibly more than we actually got to see in the whole of the third season - but I found that knowing the actual outcome of this and how Wonderlands fits into the overall arc of Discovery let it right down after about 100 pages. 

McCormack has also had to drop in the odd expletive as has become something of a staple for Discovery and Picard. It's not the worst thing to happen but y'know, we managed 50 years without overuse of them which makes their appearance in any form of the franchise rather jarring. McCormack's dialogue is excellent as it has always been in every one of her stories and you can't fault the effort and the care to ensure that everything lines up with onscreen events but it's likewise constricted by just that.

Novels from the other Star Trek series have worked because they have been able to step away from the frame of the TV but Discovery's serialised form nips away at any chance to freestyle because of the potential impact on its characters and a clear desire for the novels to fully tie in with the series. The same seems to be happening with Picard and with the imminent end of 20 years of continuity in the Coda trilogy we may find that a lot of our novel entries become less imaginative if they are needed to align with the franchise's plans.

Wonderlands is a well written piece of Trek but it can't be saved thanks to its writer's abilities. This one's a disappointment that hints at things we already know and doesn't, tragically, add any real depth to Discovery as a whole. Not one I'll be going back to anytime soon sadly but it does serve a purpose to fill in some of that "lost time".

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Thursday, 12 August 2021

The A-Game? Eaglemoss' XL Movie Enterprise

The Enterprise-A took on General Chang in a lethal prototype Klingon Bird of Prey and even went to find the almighty beyond the great barrier but now she faces her toughest test, how well will she hold together under the scrutiny of us starship collectors as this £49.99 XL edition?

Welcome to Dan Houston with his first XL ships review for SKoST and what a way to start...! UPDATED 12/8/21 with new images

At long last one of the most adored ships in Star Trek fandom has landed on my doorstep, thankfully all in one piece.

After initial shots of this ship were released a few months back I have been eagerly awaiting her arrival. First impressions are not great however as the box itself proudly displays an image of the A which is unfortunately mirrored, how this slipped by is anyone’s guess but we aren’t here for the box art so I will let that one slide.

Upon opening the box and delicately picking her out of the polystyrene packing, like all the other XL releases, the first thing that smacks you is the size and weight of the ship. Its extremely satisfying to hold, the weight really giving off a quality feel. Sitting her in the regular Eaglemoss stand and standing back, the ship looks fantastic, the light white paint with faint aztecing and duck egg blue/grey details all come together nicely, it appears to be a nice model of the Enterprise-A.

Going into further detail lets take a look at the plastic warp engines, there is some use of translucent plastic on the warp grilles. Appearing black until light gives them a dark blue tinge, it’s not a bright clear plastic and is very subtle. The warp nacelle front end caps have the white ‘cross’ painted in which really is a bugbear of mine on the smaller model and we have the NCC-1701-A lettering at the rear of the nacelles which appears to be two or three sizes too big of a font.

Heading down the metal nacelle struts to the secondary hull which is constructed with a metal upper section down to a join into a plastic piece just below the deep blue rec deck windows, we have neat pinstripe and hull detailing, the shuttlebay area is great with nicely moulded shuttlebay doors and at the front the torpedo launcher is neatly picked out with paint application. We have more translucent plastic for the deflector dish giving a nice deep blue. 

All the docking ports are present and sculpted into the sides of the hull and torpedo deck with a fine red outline, though curiously not as much decal detail as the port at the rear of the bridge module. The join line is pretty apparent along the length of the engineering hull which is a shame and also we have a oddity with the decal application in that the Starfleet delta on the hull pennant is a deep shade of silver instead of a light silver, I see a pattern emerging here.

Now onto the two piece saucer section with the upper surface being metal with a plastic lower part nestled underneath, the saucer unfortunately is where the model really slips up. First we have oversized decals at the rear of the bridge and also along the saucer rim, other than those errors the rest of the hull wording and aztec detail is good. It would have nice to have had some clear plastic in the impulse engine but what has been done with the impulse dome in a contrasting blue design and red engine ports looks ok. 

There is missing detail however around the saucer rim of the banding strips that can be seen on the filming model, the windows are incorrect along the rim plus the docking ports are missing. Add to that the fact the RCS thrusters are the wrong colour it seems errors are starting to really pile up.

However here is the big one, whatever reference Eaglemoss have used for the sculpt of the saucer is completely wrong, from the saucer lip to the odd Phase II style bridge with faint docking ports seemingly moulded to the side of the module that were not on the final ship seen on screen. The decal graphics used to decorate the bridge seem to be correct however because the moulding is so wrong it seems to distort how they sit on the model, this is particularly apparent at the rear where the large windows are. 

It seems to be some kind of concept that has been used instead of the actual final design and really is not acceptable on a model of this price and considering just how well fans know this ship plus how Eaglemoss present the product as using actual shots and files to sculpt the model you would have thought that it would be a fantastic replica. All this presents me with a difficult, contrasting opinion.

On one hand as I mentioned this should be pretty damned near perfect for £49.99 and on the other when she is nestled on the shelf next to the other ships in the collection these issues I have mentioned seem to melt away and I’m left with a nice looking model of the A.

Now I’m no great model builder and I know that taking into consideration time and materials there is no way I could make a model of the A for £49.99 that looks any where near as good as this due my skill level as a model maker and I’m never going to show what a balls up I made of the 90s AMT kit!. Let’s just hope that Eaglemoss learns from the mistakes made on this ship so they do not continue on to further XL releases as at this price they are stepping into Diamond Select territory with their electronic starship range which includes the Enterprise-A and from what I’ve seen of images of that it seems the Diamond Select version is superior.

The accompanying magazine also puts a slight downer on the model as the cover shot shows a extremely detailed CGI shot of the ship with a heavy aztec design and little red squares around the perimeter of the saucer which are not present, the RCS thrusters are shown in the correct yellow, the saucer docking port at the side is there, the windows are the correct layout, not the odd blocky versions on the model and of course the bridge looks correct. If Eaglemoss had access to a CGI model of this detail how did it not translate over into the actual product? 

Inside the magazine you
will find information on the return of Star Trek on the big screen with The Motion Picture which is a nice read but is a bid odd with no in depth information regarding the Enterprise-A herself.

So am I pleased with the model? Overall I would have to say yes which some of you may find surprising given what I have described but it does look great on the shelf and that is what matters to me. Factor in the price and it does put a cloud over it especially when you compare it to the NX-01 refit which was half the price but a nicer issue. There is potential in this model, with a few improvements and a stunning pearl aztec paint job you would have a fantastic 1701 refit from the motion picture. 

Here's to hoping these improvements are made because this XL Enterprise-A does fall apart under closer scrutiny, after all, much like a certain Montgomery Scott, we all know this ship like the back of our hands.

Are you collecting the XL line? What did you think to the Enterprise-A?

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Wednesday, 11 August 2021

L-Z: Back End of the Delta Quadrant

Hero Collector’s newest volume completes your Voyager ship spotting with the back half of the alphabet.

As with the first book there’s a good mix of existing material that’s appeared as part of the main Starships Collection line and additional ships not seen in print before.

All of this is accompanied by new CG and episode background information so readers can link it altogether. If you’ve already purchased A-K then adding this substantial volume to the library is a no-brainer yet even more casual fans may gain something from it.

Notably the larger sections are copy and paste lifted from the Starships Collection so readers and followers of that series will easily identify the Vaadwaur fighter, a Malon Export Vessel or the Species 8472 bioship. But there’s still more in there, making this an almost essential purchase for any Voyager fan. Take a good look at new images of the Think Tank for example or the Nubari ships; it makes you appreciate how much there was in the background in some episodes.

What is fascinating is just how many reuses some of the existing models got across seven seasons. You’ll find yourself engrossed in spotting a redressed Bajoran freighter, a modified Vidiian ship or a not at all altered Romulan Science Vessel across the pages. Even the Merchantman from Star Trek III makes another appearance with very few changes to mask its original appearance.

Not only is this a great book as a reference for ships versus episodes but also a solid record of the creativity that went into the series particularly in the early seasons before the ships went to CG. The only real downfall to this book is that a good chunk has already been published as is typical with the Shipyards books and also the Designing Starships series from the publisher. Yes, it does highlight - as volume one did - the glaring missed issues but coincidentally also shows just how many didn't need producing since they were alterations on an already used craft.

In some instances I even found that there were ships I didn't recognise or even realise I'd seen in Voyager but that's where the additional information comes into play - most notable in that category are those included in the motley fleet from Year of Hell, Part II

It's a good read though and will keep you entertained throughout and also acts as that cool reference point in any good starship discussion. What is additional here alongside the L-Z indexes by ship and by episode is the inclusion of a full A-Z which covers both volumes and neatly ties everything together.

A good read perhaps only let down by the amount of ships that you generally go "Who?" at kin comparison to the first volume which maxed out on Borg, Hirogen and Kazon to name but a few. If you do like your more extreme alien races then this will definitely be a good stop over. Also for anyone in the know, there's a glaring error on the cover with the Vidiian ship effectively flying backwards...

Star Trek Shipyards: Delta Quadrant L - Z is available now from Hero Collector HERE

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