Thursday, 30 September 2021

20 of Enterprise

Aside from The Original Series, Enterprise has the ignominy of being one of only two shows from the franchise to date that were cancelled before the end of their projected run. 

Running to a rather unfortunate 98 episodes, two short of that key 100, Enterprise has received mixed reviews over the years and is often, perhaps wrongfully, accused of attributing to franchise exhaustion at the end of the Berman era.

Offering many similarities to the classic Kirk show, Enterprise even went down the line of a minimum number of alien races amongst its crew - two - and even chose to go back beyond The Cage to the very origins of Starfleet, even going as far to initially ditch off the ‘Star Trek’ moniker due to its setting on the timeline.

Billed as the prequel series, Enterprise promised a lot. After the saturation of the 24th Century from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager it was, literally, a step back to a simpler time of warp five, shuttles  and exploration. A time when the Klingons were Klingons, the Andorians were angry, the Vulcans were super-sneaky and the Romulans were unseen.

Viewing figures started well with 12.5 million tuning in to watch Broken Bow but there was a steep slide with that US audience over halving by the end of the season with just 5.28 million watching Archer get stranded in the future.

While The Next Generation had pulled in a consistent 12 million across the years with 17.4 million for its finale, All Good Things... , Enterprise struggled to retain its audience, dipping as low as 2.53 million in its final season (Babel One) and never hitting about five million after season two's Marauders which was only the sixth aired of the year.

There were a lot of changes to try and shore up its future - the reintroduction of the Borg, a season long (and brilliant) arc with the Xindi and a fourth season that really tried to explore some of the origin stories of Star Trek. Alas it was all too late with the cast being informed they were cancelled during the filming of In a Mirror, Darkly.

But was the writing on the wall long before that point? Of course it was and any Star Trek fan will readily agree. Enterprise has undoubtedly aged well. In fact I would be as bold as to say that it is much better on a rewatch and a hundred times more enjoyable 20 years on. At the time the change to the very flashpoint of the Federation was an exciting prospect. A new old start and a back to basics approach however the first season was mired with some very average stories about mysterious aliens and cargo ships. 

There were some standout points such as the return of the Andorians and their discovery of the secretive nature of the P'Jem monastery. The Temporal Cold War (since featured in Discovery's muddled third season) worked well for a time especially with the season cliffhanger but it all seemed a bit familiar.

Behind the scenes that was certainly the case with Rick Berman in charge since the late
1980's and TNG and VGR writer Brannon Braga helming as producer. The characters themselves in some degrees were a little bland with Mayweather receiving next to no screentime or development bar one or two episodes. Scott Bakula was dependable as Archer but the spark of a Kirk, a Sisko or even a Picard(!) just didn't materialise. In truth, Enterprise was not that exciting.

Step forward the Xindi and the sheer destructive power of their prototype weapon that rips a whole in the US in what was a very clear parallel to 9/11 with Archer and the NX-01 embarking on a war against terror - or in this case a mission to stop the Xindi from perfecting and launching Weapon Zero. Made up of six distinct species; Primates, Arboreals, Reptilians, Aquatics, Insectoids and the extinct Avians, the Xindi social structure was likened to that of the Dominion with its compartmentalised nature. Season three would be the year that Enterprise became Star Trek: Enterprise just in case anyone was in any doubts to its background and there would be some seminal highlights. There was the the mesmerising Twilight as well as the shocking Azati Prime which demonstrated that Enterprise wasn't afraid to mix things up and leave them mixed and the excellent conclusion in Zero Hour but even this shift wasn't enough.  The other issue was that it actually went against some of the premise of the show. Ok, it was extremely different to try a story contained to just one season (DS9 had swung an arc across its last three/four seasons) but fans were "troubled" by how such a huge event had been completely overlooked by later Star Trek series. It was messing with established continuity! Not that that has happened since...???

Think about it; Enterprise was supposed to be about the origins of Starfleet, the beginnings of the Star Trek we had come to know in the 60's, 70's and 80's but instead its third season was dominated by a singular thread with all other concerns seemingly cast aside. Yes, it was making an incredibly loud social commentary as Star Trek intended but this wasn't necessarily what viewers signed up for.

So it was that too little too late chimed in with season four. Embarking on three part narratives, exploring the background of the Vulcans, the Augments, the Mirror Universe, all of which were well received yet the ratings continued to plummet. Even with the assistance of new producer Manny 24 Coto on the scene and a breath of fresh air in the storylines the audience was already gone. 

After 18 straight years of Star Trek TV and movies, 2005 marked the end of Enterprise and rightly so. The franchise was tired and repeating itself. Take a ganders at the early two seasons of Enterprise and spot the backsteps to pull in the Ferengi, the Borg, even the later E2 is Children of Time from Deep Space Nine given a cover over. Star Trek had suddenly become frighteningly irrelevant and a shadow of its former self, retreading its own ground and failing to go where no episodes had gone before. It was knackered, run down and needed a breather. New hands at the helm, a new butt in the captain's chair, whatever you want to term it as but Star Trek needed it like a Tribble needs pregnancy advice.

We can debate the fifth season possibilities for an age - the Romulan War, Future Guy, the NX-01 refit - but they will never happen apart from in the novel series or in onscreen references in the shows currently or about to air. Enterprise was perhaps not different enough given its press and even Trekkies had consumed too much with around 24/26 new episodes constantly every year at a minimum. 

Maybe newer shows have learnt something and with the condensing of modern TV seasons to 13(ish) episodes, the quality can be refined and the aren't as many space filling shows to flesh out the year. The Kurtzman era of Star Trek has and also needs to learn something from that period in its history. Too much of a good thing can indeed be too much however look at where the franchise stands today.

The variety within the shows is impressive. Each series has an identity, each show is diferent and not all are limited to a single ship or base. There's diversity and that, in many ways, is what Enterprise didn't have. TV was changing and Star Trek just hadn't. Shows such as CSI, The West Wing, 24 and Lost were all hitting the airwaves and Star Trek was stalling in its 90's format. 

Change of course would come in the form of JJ Abrams and then the televisual rebirth from Alex Kurtzman but Enterprise represents a huge milestone in the franchise. The end of a style of Star Trek born in the 1960's that met its end in 2005. Star Trek had inspired much including the rebirth in fantasy and scifi TV but it had been left behind. Now, oddly on a rewatch, Enterprise stands out as an exceptional series that was a grassroots show we actually needed but it was lost in the lethargy and over familiarity of the time. Go and grab a coffee and celebrate Star Trek's most understated and underrated (visually and verbally) with a catch up. Maybe it's time to give this one a bit more love. 

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Saturday, 25 September 2021

To B or not... USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B XL

For many, many years I have winced at the redesigning of the Excelsior for use in Generations as the Enterprise-B.

We knew from the '90's Technical Manual that the B was Excelsior Class but it was only the seventh movie which confirmed that and also spun that visual twist. OK, for the movie all the go-faster parts were added so that the original model wouldn't be damaged when the B was inside the Nexus. However, they couldn't be removed from the model after filming hence it turns up in Paradise Lost from Deep Space Nine as the USS Lakota.

Over time I've warmed a little to the design. I was never a huge fan of the Excelsior back in the Star Trek III days and seeing it splutter and cough to a stop as the Enterprise escaped was always a highlight of the movie.

But perhaps this is like that proverbial fine wine and has aged better with time. Certainly the recent arrival of Eaglemoss' XL version of the ship has gone someway to doing that. Both the Excelsior and the Enterprise-B suffered from the restrictive packaging size of the Official Starships Collection, turning them into shadows of their grander selves. Here though we have a real chance to get under the hood of the B and see her in all her glory.

The weight of the ship is astounding. With this XL both the saucer and the majority of the secondary hull are cast in metal with only the engines and the top panel of the engineering hull in plastic. It feels the part and easily takes it head and shoulders above the regular issues just for this fact.

The light grey hull paint isn't azteced as one might have expected with the finish instead flecked with darker grey spots for depth. The dorsal saucer detail is wonderful with clear decals and well laid out colouring of the bridge module and stretching back towards the impulse engines.

The Enterprise-B has a very heavy paint scheme on that saucer with the channelling around the bridge particularly impressive but there is slight misalignment of some grey detail on the outer impulse units where it should fit into the marked recesses. Something that Eaglemoss have struggled with multiple times since day one. Again on the top of engineering hull there is segmented panelling keeping with the grey/blue colour scheme leading towards the shuttle bay.

This is one super-detailed XL and not just for the paintjob. The moulding on the B is very precise and gives a lot of light on the differences between it and NCC-2000. The only gripe I have as we look further down the ship is the grey accenting around that deflector dish is patchy at best. 

Yet its successes far outweigh a few minor paint issues. The stripe decalling around the warp engine pylons is spot on as is the inset grey detail. The engines themselves do contain those "B" upgrades including the grey tubing and the larger bussard collector units at the front. 

There is some give in these thin engines which are happily sitting in parallel from every possible angle. Including both ship decals and translucent sections, they definitely add a lot to the overall effect and banish the smaller series edition as a bad memory. I can guarantee it won't see the light of day for some time.

Underneath there is more blocked light blue panelling as well as the dark grey paint speckle identical to the top. One thing of note that isn't the same here is that the lower cargo pod area is moulded into the metal and doesn't recess as you might see on a Revell kit. It's forgivable due to the build process in this instance but is a little disappointing given the overall spectacle of this superb model.

The included magazine for this edition is sub-par however. Understandably most of the material on the B was covered in the main collection and given it had only one appearance there's not much that can be expanded upon. Ok, you could go into Beta canon but that's for another day. Instead we divert into the depths of Generations and the transition of TNG to the big screen followed up with an article on crashing the saucer of the Enterprise-D. It does at least remain focused on the movie that featured the B but as a special issue it falls far short of discussing the actual ship itself.

Removing the magazine from the equation here, the Enterprise-B XL edition is one of the best there is. Much, much better than the regular version (as you will have gathered) and with such an impressive aesthetic that you can only keep admiring her from every angle possible. Eaglemoss have just got this one right; everything from the RCS thrusters to the construction of the warp engines is solidly built. The choice to make this 75% metal is a huge bonus that really cements the quality of the replica. One of my favourites, pure and simple.

Check out all our Starships 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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Friday, 17 September 2021

Shipyards: Starfleet 2294 - The Future

Unless you're a Trek fan living under a rock since 1969, you'll more than likely be aware that Eaglemoss/HeroCollector are responsible for the largest starship model collection in eternity.

As part of the collection each ship is accompanied by a magazine of varied size which contains background info on the ship both in and out of universe.

Collected here in this updated work, we have a lot of reprinted material stretching from 2294 through to the Timeships Aeon and Relativity and the Enterprise-J however HeroCollector haven't been resting on their laurels and have added some substantial bonus bits into this 300 page volume.

Ok, so we can cover the first chunk easily especially if you're familiar with the ship collection. While it only covers the ship in detail as if we are part of the Star Trek universe and none of the behind the scenes work, this book does help with the occasional memory jog plus it cuts down a heck of a lot of shelf space which the huge A4 binders once did.

You'll have some fun flicking back through the First Contact fleet and the ships of Wolf 359 but the huge draw here is that we have vessels included from Picard, Discovery and Lower Decks for the first time ever.

The Picard entry is the rather clunky Wallenberg tug but from Lower Decks we have new CG for both the California Class and the Parliament Class as seen in season one. Their descriptions are on the VERY brief side but even to have them in here is amazing. There's also the Titan now that it's onscreen canon, again thanks to Lower Decks

Perhaps an even bigger draw for fans are the 32nd Century ships viewed fleetingly in Starfleet Headquarters during Discovery's third season both on the namesake ship's first trip there and substantially during the season finale battle.

Having only been glanced in the series, to see these on the page in great detail is another thing. Every single one is a complete curveball and you find yourself immersed into a whole new starship language unlike anything that's been conceived for the franchise before. The detached nacelles are a bit of a trademark now but there's the chance to see all the angles and add in an even more titillating paragraph of background into the newest additions to the fleet. Yes, the Discovery-A is in there as is the Voyager-J and the Nog which means the important ones (and the weird ones) are all covered.

The CG on these new ships is, as you would expect, beautiful and we have several views of each to really cover off everything you would want to see. Unusual doesn't even cut it slightly and I hope that in the future we find out just why starship design has taken such a turn to the left in the 32nd Century. I would be inclined to think that we'll have more designing aspects when the 32nd Century ships are included into the Star Trek Universe ship collection.

Shipyards updated 2294 - The Future book is the biggest starships volume produced to date and covers every Starfleet ship you can imagine and more from the time frame noted. Definitely a volume to pick up even if you already have the original in your library and with more coming in the next few months, this is quickly turning into the must-have reference material.

Starfleet Ships: 2294 - The Future is available from HeroCollector HERE

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An Embarrassment of Dooplers: Lower Decks S02 E05

Mid season and episode five is a mixed as episode four.

Charged with escorting the Doopler emissary to Starbase 25, the senior staff of the Cerritos have been on tenterhooks to avoid upsetting him. If they cause any sort of emotional imbalance then he could duplicate and fill the ship Tribble-like. So you can guess where this is heading already.

What episode five also manages to do is address the not-mentioned-so-far mental reset of Ensign Rutherford after the season one finale wiped his memory. The building of a miniature and fully working USS Cerritos is a high five for a good portion of the fan community whether as collectors or builders themselves. The added bonus that this one helps nurture the friendship between Rutherford and Tendi.

OK, An Embarrassment of Dooplers does revert to the more "favourable" pairings of Boimler/Mariner and Tendi/Rutherford and it only goes to prove how strong the duos are. The latter's modelling tale does weave into the senior staff's peril on the ship while Brad and Beckett's adventure on the surface joins everything back up right at the end.

It's definitely an action packed half hour to get all three strands to tie in with a slew of reappearing aliens from TOS' Tellarites to TAS' Aurelians and even a Mizarian from TNG's Allegiance, the references are now just everywhere as well as right in front of you. 

Background pictures, locations and even items for sale are all picked out from the background of the franchise again with a strong lineage back to TOS in particular. However, it's easy once more to get tied into the minutae and not really focus on those main story points.

An Embarrassment of Dooplers goes to highlight the ineptitude of the senior officers and just how far down the line of importance the Cerritos is. Starbase 25's Captain's Party is the event to be at - everyone's there including Captain Shelby (The Best of Both Worlds) and Thaduin Okona is DJing - who wouldn't want to get on the list? But the reversion to the pairings this week is more about how far they've both come since the end of season one and it's well thought through. Mariner and Boimler have stuff to work out after he left for the Titan while Rutherford feels inept against his former self pre-memory wipe.

Once more Mariner's questionable past is dredged up and causes a few issues on the starbase but hey, transporting a box full of Data bubblebath should be fine, shouldn't it? One - there might be a couple of Lore's in there and secondly...well, that trouble has a way of coming round.

The car chase sequence is excellent, combining the usual Lower Decks humour with some niche references and visual gags with a fast-paced and genuinely exciting scene. Perfectly entertaining, ...Dooplers does what Trek does best and focuses on the characters and their relationship foibles. It's a great one to rewatch and possibly even one you could use to get new viewers into the show.

It's great that Lower Decks is now becoming aware of its own mythos and lineage as much as it's ramming a lot of earlier franchise references into every corner. These characters are growing each week and now there's the chance to develop their friendships and working relationships off the back of the experiences we as the viewers have seen.

While perhaps not keeping within Starfleet's parameters, the last act of ...Dooplers is poetic if nothing more and only goes to cement the link between the four main characters and the senior staff... for now at least.

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Thursday, 16 September 2021

The Upcoming Shows

Star Trek
Day 2021 wasn’t quite the level I expected. 

With insights from cast past, present and future, there was a real sense of heritage and family which was quickly lost in the madness of new footage for Prodigy, Lower Decks and Picard.

With the dust having now settled after a few days, let’s take a look back in brief at the latest news on the handful of Trek shows currently in production.

Slated for a mid-October release, the new trailer for Prodigy finally allowed fans to see CG Janeway voiced by Kate Mulgrew. Focusing more on the discovery of the Protostar and the formation of the initial motley crew, Prodigy’s trailer dropped in some neat shots of the bridge plus a first look at the two antagonists how are hunting for the prototype starship. 

It’s my there are also shots of a new style combadge and LCARS displays on the ship as she restarts. Couple of interesting pieces in here too. One it looks like the Protostar can enter atmospheres easily and land (rather than crash) and may have some form of new land vehicle hidden away in its stores. That new truck is driven by Dal and seen more than once in the footage. 

Also we see Gwyn tied to the captain's chair (main pic, top) which indicates that all isn’t plain sailing between the characters to begin with. 

Prodigy is a real dilemma to me. It’s definitely Trek but I'm not sold on the look of the animation, It's very similar to the Star Wars animation of The Bad Batch which has just aired on Disney+ and could be the first show I'm not seriously hooked into. The whole kids factor and where this is aiming doesn't seem to sit well with me and I have my concerns that it could be The Show Too Far... but then I was utterly wrong about Lower Decks.

Big news here as well because Discovery's fourth season will be hitting screens from November 18th. Why is this important? Because this will be the first time since 2000 that there will be two Star Trek series on air at the same time. The last time it happened was for DS9's seventh season and VGR's fifth.

The trailer for the second half of Lower Decks' second season teased Tendi as a giant bug, the Borg and a ton more. It seems that the show will be continuing its trend of drawing on events and characters from the past in no uncertain terms.

In there we've got Shaxs buried under containers not unlike Worf and a major, MAJOR homage to The Wrath of Khan featuring Rutherford. Honestly, there was so much crammed into that two minutes that only a slow down and freeze frame helped. We are getting something Mirror Universe themed but the best nod has to be the outfits featured in this pic (middle and bottom left) that have been oft mentioned since their appearance in season three of TNG!!!

But this still remains the most consistent and exciting version of the franchise in existence at the moment. The scope is incredible and even this season 2.5 trailer is only going to be a scratch on the surface. Bring it on and bring it on NOW.

That said, the biggest attention grabber for the day has to be the news that Picard's second season will be arriving in February 2022 and that the series has concretely been picked up for a third season. 

We still haven't spotted a single frame of Guinan in any of the promotional work for season two but the trailer here goes a long way to confirming what the enigmatic metropolis-style poster was all about.

While not only having Q transport them into a fascist parallel universe, the crew of the La Sirena are also going to be travelling back to the 21st Century. The recent announcement that Annie Wersching would be playing the Borg Queen have to be in response to the footage that was intended to be shown on September 8th. We got our first look at the captured and disabled monarch who is being kept as only a torso and a head - and the reason why she's in the show.

The Borg Queen is the way to travel back to the 2100's and that also means Sanctuary Districts and Seven of Nine driving cars recklessly. It's a big departure from the worlds of season one and could they be attempting to capture a similar vibe to either The Voyage Home or VGR's Future's End? Both of these Trek instalments chose to go for a "present day" setting with a good level of success it has to be said.

Ok....bit of a drum roll because I was more excited for the news from Strange New Worlds even more than Lower Decks. We knew who was in the cast but until Star Trek Day we were still in the dark as to whom they would be playing. The diversity here is stunning with fans of TOS receiving a huge payoff while also including some new and intriguing roles into the starship mix.

Anson Mount, Rebecca Romjin and Ethan Peck return as Pike, Number One (Una) and Spock respectively but now we know who will be filling out the rest of the main crew. Babs Oluksanmkun breathes new life into Doctor M'Benga originally played by Booker Bradshaw in A Private Little War and That Which Survives. Jess Bush takes on the role of Nurse Chapel which means that there will be two characters on the ship who were originally played by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.

Celia Rose Gooding has the monumental task of stepping into the early life of one Cadet Nyota Uhura which must be an incredible honour and also slightly scary at the same time. Christina Chong will also be heading in a familiar direction with her playing La'An Noonien Singh. I can't imagine that's a fluke and might suggest some superhuman heritage at the least.

Then we have Bruce Horvak as Andorian Aenar (first seen in Enterprise) Hemmer. Horvak himself is registered blind - another first for the franchise and the first regular cast Andorian.  Finally Melissa Navia will take on the role of Lt Erica Ortegas. For those of you with a deep knowledge of The Cage, Ortegas was the original surname for the part that evolved into helmsman Jose Tyler.

Strange New Worlds
, even from these images, looks to be the most exciting prospect for Star Trek in the 21st Century. Kurtzman was wise to jump on the opportunity following the popularity of Anson Mount's Christopher Pike. His portrayal of the iconic second Enterprise captain was as off the chart as we could have expected and now seeing shots from the new series would seem to back this up as a Very Good Move.

No trailer for this one as yet and it's slated to air at some point in 2022.

What did surprise me was the lack of Discovery material given that the show is going to be back for the already filmed fourth season and an announced fifth. Amazing to think that only a few years back it was the only - the first - of this new age of Star Trek shows, some of which have surpassed the benchmarks it set.

For now let's enjoy the second half of Lower Decks second season and then await the arrival of Prodigy just next month!

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Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Shuttles 7: Heavy Duty

To date this is the last batch of shuttle released and has to be the most diverse quartet of mini-ships produced in the series.

Bringing in the Enterprise-D's Captain's Yacht Calypso, a Docking Shuttle, Cyrano Jones' Spacematic and the TNG Type 9A Cargo Shuttle, there's a bit of every style in here.

The 25th Shuttle entry is its most simplistic in the oval shape of the yacht. Seen in every episode but yet not seen in every episode, the Calypso spent seven years docked in the saucer of the Enterprise only to end up absolutely scuffed to hell when it acted as a brake during the Veridian III crash.

You can see why this wasn't a standalone issue since it's fairly plain (however there were some full entries to the collection that it could have easily replaced) with the highlight perhaps being the undercarriage and entry hatchway. What confuses me a little is how the Insurrection Captain's Yacht and the Voyager Aeroshuttle both got main collection editions but this didn't when it was the original "hidden in plain sight" craft.

Anyhow, the decalling and paint scheme on this flying pebble. All the windows are lined up to their recesses and the decals are nicely placed and aligned. In all honesty it's a good job although there's very little to go wrong here!

The best bit though IS the undercarriage because it's that instantly recognisable circular structure that sat in the centre of the D's primary hull. The way Eaglemoss have chosen to model it though does put the previous version - included as two pieces in the AMT model kit - to shame. IN that instance there were no decals for it nor any real surface detail on the top. It could be displayed just as a piece separate if you chose to have the ship in two pieces but was otherwise non-descript.

On this, larger, version we have the landing legs and docking platforms extended meaning
that it really does show off its most unique feature and doesn't need the stand at all.

The Docking Shuttle is classic Star Trek, looking very much as though it's a huge kitbash exercise. 

We've already had the Starfleet Tug in issue 140 which followed a similar take but this is a little more squat and unusual in its form. Featured in TNG's 11001001, Coming of Age, Remember Me and Starship Mine, the Docking Shuttle isn’t something we got to see very often but plays a big part in Starfleet operations. It’s also the most basically detailed ship in the set and one that I actually struggled to remember when listing down what the four craft were in Shuttles Seven.

It’s just a bit…meh. There’s a one colour paint job, some interesting shapes cobbled together but the overall effect is somewhat bland. Ok, on the screen it might have been great spotting one chugging around in the background reversing in an Excelsior Class or moving some cargo but as part of the Shuttles series it feels like a barrel scraping. What the magazine fails to admit but is in print over on Memory Alpha is that this model was a rough and ready construct built from a robot foot with Gillette disposable razors for engines. Perhaps the most disposable ship ever? The addition of the pennants and striping does help build the illusion but the singular paint work doesn't help.

The inclusion of Cyrano Jones’ ship suggests that Seven was a set that didn’t quite have enough Starfleet options to pack it out but surely there was something with a bit more excitement than the Docking Shuttle?

There is, admittedly a lot to the Docking Shuttle when you look at the various components but all that does in turn is reassure you that it could have been subbed out for something else; even a Ferengi shuttle would have been an improvement (maybe that'll be Set Eight).

Third in here is that Spacematic. Forgive the name because of the four it’s the most interesting. On the rebuilt K-7 for Trials and Tribble-ations it was parked in the station’s shuttle bay and by that became part of canon instantly. 

What makes this so exciting is that it’s the first non-Starfleet shuttle included in this series and it makes you wonder why it’s taken so long to get to this point. The design is completely different to the other 27 ships that we’ve seen and there’s genuine joy in these words as I look over it.

It reminds me of the camper in Spaceballs and Eaglemoss have really captured the travelling trader nature of Jones in the form of his own ship. It too is a little shabby with some wonderful finishing touches such as the pearl blue side pods and landing gear and the mass of engine equipment strapped to the top and rear. It's lovably makeshift and something that we didn't really see in the series. The painting of the main window is flayed at the edges but overall this is a minor glitch in what is a great little craft. The worn out look cascades across the hull and into the mechanics on the roof which are well defined - certainly more so than the instrumentation strapped to the sloped front which is lost under the blue.

I think this one works so well as part of the set because of its unique look and entry as a non-Starfleet ship. There's more colour to it and variety in the styling which, again, Eaglemoss have done a great job with. Note too that this is technically the first shuttle taken from the remastered TOS and only the second shuttle (after the Galileo in Shuttles One) to come from that show.

Finally there's an old familiar in Set Seven with the 9A Cargo Shuttle. It's a beast of a ship and almost limousine in length compared to the other shuttles stored on the Enterprise-D. When I say that, it's in the loosest terms because after some research to refresh my memory of shuttles, it only appeared in the TNG Technical Manual from the 1990's and the Enterprise Owners' Workshop Manual from Haynes. I have scoured the internet and aside from that book, the only other place it seems to have been mentioned is in the USS Titan novel Sight Unseen but that's your lot.

The design itself is taken straight off the black and white page from the classic Okuda and Sternbach work that was on every self-respecting Trekkie's bookshelf during that golden era. The pointed nose, darkened windscreen and off-white bodywork are all hallmarks of the '90's vision edged with that distinct red trim and Starfleet emblems. The surface detail isn't overwhelming; kept to a few panels, call outs and thruster points, the 9A demonstrates its purpose through the stretched body and overlong hexagonal nacelles. No bussard collectors here but there are phaser points showing this heavy hauler was ready to defend itself although you can imagine it being a fairly slow, large and stoppable target.

It's not Eaglemoss' most elegant recreation given its form but it does make this the first model of its type and certainly mirrors the thought processes behind its design in "real life".

The mix here is sot on and the introduction of the Cyrano Jones ship heralds a new turn for the Shuttles series. As we now know, Set Eight will be out later in the year and features support craft for the Ferengi, Klingons, Xindi and Vulcans, all of which have been much requested. A good set of ships here and certainly exhaustive of the Starfleet options.

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, 12 September 2021

Mugato, Gumato: Lower Decks S02 E04

Crossing the TOS and TNG streams,  with high levels of danger and excitement episode four of Lower Decks feels as though the brakes might have been applied slightly.

In brief; the Cerritos is called to Frylon IV where Denobulan scientists have been getting all puffed up (literally) due to sightings of the Mugato. Dispatched as part of the away team, Mariner, Boimler and Rutherford discover there's a rampant market for Gumato horns. On the ship Tendi is tasked with tracking down the select few individuals who have avoided the annual medical including the elusive Patient 080119.

There's a clear moral story here around poaching, rhinos etc which isn't even subtle but somehow the nuances of Lower Decks' humour seems to detract from the importance of the narrative and launches a little too much into Homage Central.

Wow... ok, that was a bit of a shock because I expected to be writing about how amazing it was but no, Mugato, Gumato actually falls apart a little because the show is trying to tackle something fairly serious yet remain true to its comedic/satiric Trek vibes. Not that it doesn't work, but I'm not sure it's fitting of the series model. Ok, the tracking of the Mugatos, the inclusion of this classic TOS creature and the continued rotation of the matchups does work to a degree but did we necessarily need THAT sex joke? Was it a bit too much for once? The choice to have Boimler and Rutherford in control and be the ones to engineer the final act of the episode as a good twist on the Mariner-saves-the-day formula that's evident through a lot of the aired episodes but somehow the writers make them out to be much more incompetent than ever before. 

In a sense, Lower Decks latest episode doesn't do either of the characters justice and makes Mariner just seem ridiculous. Suggesting Mariner was a secret operations agent was always going to be ridiculous and having Rutherford and Boimler both believing it could be true was just as far fetched - as was their lack of knowledge around the Mugato and its venom. Their meeting with the apparent Mugato expert (a Tellarite) is hilarious too with him quickly succumbing to his own stupidity (read five books on them...he' an expert). While maintaining it's humour, this one does carry a few nice surprises and that's one of them.

It just doesn't hold together very well and I can't see the Ferengi changing their ways for a more difficult way to make money as is played out at the end of the story. Everything about the characters feels a bit wrong in this one however because of the presence of the Mugatoos and the Ferengi you tend not to see the implausibility of the episode until a second watch.

Seriously, take a watch back and while you'll be looking out for the usual (and seemingly getting larger per week) number of references, have a breath and watch the characters because something feels a little off.

Then there's the Tendi plot which is very much a B to C grade arc in the episode. While it plays to her exuberance straight away, the big question of who the final patient is on her list is so obvious you know who it'll be before the reveal that there IS a final, unknown patient. I do admit that the fact she's given this seemingly impossible task by T'Ana because the Caitian doctor knows it's a no hope job is clever however she omit to account for Tendi's focus and drive. This is much more true to the character than the A plot with some nice sparring and bluffing as Tendi completes her assignment. It's also not overly seen with her sections of the episode almost clipped into the main thread however it does paralle in pace and does advance the character (there's even a reference in there to just how fast she's changed). 

UPDATE: I've watched this a second time and it's definitely an "ok" episode. The appearance of early TNG Ferengi certainly spices it up especially with a laser whip and the odd element of Quark's wardrobe (these are Last Outpost Ferengi of course...!) but then there's also the clever spin with the diplomacy game that Boimler and Rutherford are playing at the beginning. Now if you think back to any of Star Trek's ambassadorial missions they all tend to end up at some form of impasse. While it's there for dramatic purposes in the episode, Mugato, Gumato parodies the scenario so that by losing and actually having no hope you've jointly won. It's almost as if there's no no win scenario...spooky.

I also really, really liked the pretitles with the Amb-Jistu match leading into the "revelation" about Mariner being a secret agent. The accuracy of the show is insane on every level from the script and to call back to that was fantastic. Seasons one and two of TNG seems to be a favourite to be pulling randoms from - watch out for more!

This one's a solid entry to the season if nothing quite as spectacular as the previous three entries this year. Good mix up in the pairings, rather logical way of bringing it all together in the final minutes and 100% enjoyable. Keep it up Lower Decks!

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ALSO check out our full set of season one and two reviews HERE!

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