Sunday, 22 January 2017

Our 50 Greatest Moments

Some time ago we revealed our 50 greatest episodes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the phenomenon that is Star Trek.

But this got us thinking even more and now we can proudly (and belatedly) bring you our choice of the 50 greatest moments from the franchise's on-screen history. Some you'll nod in agreement to and others - well - we look forward to your comments because it was a right pain just to pick 50! So in no particular order let's kick off with an emotional powerhouse...

Picard plays the Ressikan flute; The Inner Light (TNG) 

Is there a dry eye left in the house as Picard plays tribute to his life as Kamin. While it's good to have him back, you feel the captains sense of loss in every single note in that final scene. One of the most perfect episodes of The Next Generation maintains its power and emotion right until the final moments fade to black. Television magic.

Captain Sulu arrives with the Excelsior;  

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Just when it looks like it's the end of the road for the Enterprise, the Excelsior arrives to take off some of the pressure after Sulu's been flying her apart from the Beta Quadrant. A rare double team starship battle against the might of Chang's cloaked Bird of Prey. A fantastic send off for the original crew as the two Starfleet vessels finally lock on and pummel their opponent with torpedoes..."To be...or be...?" 

“Mr Worf; fire.”; The Best of Both Worlds, Part I (TNG) 

Cue the music, cue Locutus, cue spinning camera as the weight of the galaxy falls on the shoulders of Starfleet's most reluctant captain. Jean-Luc has been captured, resistance is apparently futile and they have one last shot to finish the Borg before they continue on their course to Sector 001. There's one decision that has to be made - save humanity or save Picard...? To Be Continued...   

"It's REAL!"; 

Far Beyond the Stars (DS9)

Blimey that Avery Brooks can act. Returning to the office after being brutally beaten by two cops, Benny discovers he's been let go by the owner. The thin veneer cracks and in seconds Russell is a wreck with nothing left. A harsh allegory to the US' segregated past that delivered everything and two kitchen sinks. Brooks was at his peak, truly caught up in the turmoil of the writer.

Humans and Vulcans; The Forge (ENT)

As Soval and Forrest finally realise that they want the same thing it all comes crashing down with the terrorist attack on the Earth embassy on Vulcan. A touching moment where we see that these two, who have been gunning for each other since Broken Bow have a deep respect and admiration for one another and there's a glimmer that their work together will be very profitable for the future. Sadly it never comes to pass. 

Beaming into the Mirror Universe; Mirror, Mirror (TOS)

Daaaaah da da da da da-daaaah and so comes the creation of the symbol of every alternative or evil character version for he next 50 years as Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura step from the transporter platform to be confronted with the goatee adorned first officer of the ISS Enterprise. Nazi salutes, agonisers, the Tantulus Field and scarred Sulu all followed in the next hour but the first second on the flip side of the mirror are never forgotten. It's Spock alright but not as we know him.   

Kirk sees the refit Enterprise; 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

A love letter to the USS Enterprise and every starship fan's wet dream as Kirk tours the exterior of the completely overhauled vessel. It's the first time we got to see all the upgrades to the ship and to appreciate just how amazing a job had been done to transform the original version into something worthy of the cinema screen. Beautiful, visionary and a landmark moment for the franchise. Star Trek was back.

"The sky’s the limit."; All Good Things... (TNG) 

After seven years of reading Shakespeare in his ready room, Picard made it down to join the senior staff for their weekly poker game. If nothing else it was the chance to get the main cast together for one last shot as the series drew to a close and prepared for the transition to the big screen with Generations. Picard deals, the camera pulls back and the USS Enterprise flies onwards to new adventures... We all blubbed.

Dukat finds Sisko’s baseball; 

Call to Arms (DS9) 

It's a message... And it sure as hell is. Dukat cradles that baseball like his life depends on it for the following six episodes as he fears the return of his Starfleet nemesis. Ben commands the Defiant to join the fleet and we have the following season all nicely set up with the station in the hands of the enemy. A brilliant scene and a clever message that is superbly mirrored in the following year when Sisko takes it with him back to Earth - will he return? Not even he is certain. 

The Kiss; Rejoined (DS9) 

A touchy subject that is only now getting the true recognition it deserves in Star Trek Beyond and definitely in Discovery. Single sex relationships were danced around but is moment was as close as Star Trek dared to tread to actually having a gay relationship. Technically it wasn't and that fact made it a bit of a cop out however the kiss was between two female actresses which was a first for the franchise in any sense. 

Borg Defeated; Scorpion (VGR)

The shortest pre-titles teaser in Star Trek history sees the destruction of three Borg cubes in a matter of seconds. What the hell can do this? What has such immense power that it can defeat the Borg so easily? Species 8472; that's who.   

"Edith Keeler must die."; 

The City on the Edge of Forever (TOS)

A line that has echoed through 50 years and has as much resonance now as it did then. The City on the Edge of Forever is a truly tragic love story that will always be a true classic of the franchise. While I could have picked Keeler's death, it's this moment in which Kirk realises the darkness of the situation. The woman he loves must die to ensure the future happens as he remembers it.   Kick a man when he's down...

Four Lights; 

Chain of Command, Part II (TNG) 

Uncomfortable, distressing and one of The Next Generation's darkest points is the one on one battle of wills between David Warner's Gul Madred and Stewart as the tortured Picard. The final attempt to make Picard break is harrowing to the core, even more so when you later discover just how close he was to actually cracking completely 

Worf kills Gowron; 

Tacking into the Wind (DS9)

We waited from 1991 to 1999 for this. One of the best combat sequences filmed for the show sees the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council get his comeuppance after eight years. While it's not all been bad, we have been waiting for Worf to do the deal for some time (at least since Apocalypse Rising) and here he gets the job done with two broken blades from a bat'leth. Brutal but befitting Gowron to go out in style. 

Intro shot; The Cage

The camera pans down into the bridge of the USS Enterprise and we see the familiar set up of command staff and stations that will be as recognisable as the back of your hand 50 years later. While the pilot wasn't shown originally it's still seminal in every way and that opening must have been incredible in 1964.   

Sisko erases his personal log; In the Pale Moonlight (DS9)

"Computer; erase that entire personal log." Screen fades to black, credits roll and you get that chill down your spine that you've just watched something very, very different. Sisko broke the mould of what a Starfleet captain was expected to be in this episode which defined the character in every sense. His conscience gets the better of him as he removes all the evidence...

Command Codes; 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

One of two entries in our list for the second classic movie and understandably so. Seemingly cornered, Kirk goes back to his academy roots and cheats to buy the Enterprise a bit more time. The dialogue here is wonderful as Kirk counter-plays Khan using his own superior knowledge of the 23rd Century to take a seemingly hopeless situation and turn it around in an instant. Who doesn't remember 16309?

Kirk on the limit; Obsession (TOS)

Not one to appear on everyone's list but dammit it's on this one. A terribly underrated episode that has Kirk right on tipping point. His ultimate refusal to give up and declination to turn away has echoes of Moby Dick and for a rare moment you do find yourself logging on to the rest of the senior staff's wavelength when he decides to beam down and exterminate the creature. 

O'Brien and Bashir lineup for Kirk; Trials and Tribble-ations (DS9)

Filled with fan-pleasing goodness from the opening seconds, the inclusion of Bashir and O'Brien in the post-fight chew-out by Kirk is brilliant. Having Miles respond to the captain as well was inspired and their addition is flawless. To be fair I could have picked a ton of snippets from this episode but this just pipped it.

The "elastic band" is snapped; 

The Visitor (DS9) 

An emotional train wreck of an episode that sees Jake desperately searching for a way to bring his father back from subspace at the cost of his own hopes and dreams. The moments when the two are briefly reunited are the kicks to the story and the final time when we see that Jake is purposely killing himself to snap the cord and send Ben home is heartbreaking to say the least. Tony Todd is a master in the scene and this was his finest Star Trek guest role ever.   

The Borg are sighted; Q Who (TNG)

Guinan's warning isn't heeded by Picard as the Enterprise encounters its first Cube in system J-25. We're all screaming at the TV to get the hell away but Jean-Luc has to go and start prodding the hive with a stick. Subsequent appearances would have incredible impact on the franchise but their initial, silent and chilling appearance on the viewscreen here only just hinted at what might come.

Kirk's birth; Star Trek (2009)

Opening the reboot movie in 2009, the very feel of the USS Kelvin shows how different this was going to be. It was a grittier ship, much more basic and to a big extent much more grounded in technology familiar to us in the 21st Century. The background chatter is a lot more realistic. A truly dramatic opening sequence as the Kelvin is obliterated by the Narada just as Jim Kirk is born and his father makes the ultimate sacrifice. At the same time JJ raised his mid-digit to the fans and spun off into his own alternate universe...

"My God Bones, what have I done";

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

In real terms they were watching a tennis ball on a string but on the screen the death plunge of the first USS Enterprise is nothing short of spectacular. The crumbing saucer, the bridge exploding around the Klingon boarding party and finally the crew watching their former home race like a fiery comet across the sky marked the end of an era. Everything had been sacrificed for one Vulcan and this was a daring moment for the franchise to destroy one of the most sacred things associated with it.

Greeting the Vulcans; In a Mirror Darkly (ENT)

The alien ship lands and Cochrane steps forward as its occupants step out. They offer a simple greeting - and in return get shot. Totally unexpected and brilliantly executed (apologies for the pun) leading into this much darker two-parter set purely in the Mirror Universe and that included the titles. A return to form for the Mirror episodes too after the lacklustre final two outings from Deep Space Nine with every member of the cast being effectively used and Sato turning out to be a bit of a dark horse.

Spock returns; Unification (TNG) 

"And Captain Picard you have found him..."
The second part a disappointment after this insane buildup. We waited an hour for a glimpse of the man himself and in seconds there was the ultimate payoff. Spock was back. Shame the second half didn't pay off with quite the umph we wanted.

"Do not grieve..."; 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Even 33 years later this scene has an effect. It is seminal. It is THE scene that defines Star Trek in every sense. The battle is won but for Kirk the no-win scenario becomes real as he loses his closest friend to save the Enterprise. Nothing has come close to the brilliance of this moment in the whole franchise because Shatner and Nimoy are simply all over it. Oft-quoted, oft-homaged, never bettered. 

Enterprise is critically damaged; Azati Prime (ENT)

One of the show's best ever episodes and well worth a re-watch. Just as everything seems to be coming together it all goes horribly pear-shaped. Archer is captured by the Reptilians and then the Xindi head after the NX-01 to put an end to the Earth ship. A dark day for the Enterprise and a situation that saw the ship battle-scarred for the rest of the year.

The Picard Speech; 

The Measure of a Man (TNG) 

One of the great monologues of Star Trek and no listing would be complete without it. Patrick Stewart nails every word from start to finish with total, unwavering commitment. He believes every word and by association so do we. He made us care and by god we did on every single syllable.

The Triple-Cross; Counterpoint (VGR) 

Janeway and her opponent have been dancing around each other for the duration of Counterpoint even to the point where we believe the Devore inspector Kashyk (not to be confused with Chewbacca's homeworld) has defected when in fact he's just working a scam to uncover where the Voyager crew are hiding the telepathic Brenari. The moment you realise that he might have won - only to see that Janeway has already taken precautions is a rocky emotional ride from low to high. Brilliant writing and a fine end to a superb episode.

Voyager makes contact; 

Message in a Bottle (VGR)  

After six years of wandering the wilderness there's a glimmer of hope when the Doctor returns from his adventure aboard the USS Prometheus in the Alpha Quadrant. While this episode kicked off the brilliant Hirogen arc culminating with The Killing Game, it offered hope to the crew with the words that they were not alone. The journey home was certainly a little shorter...

Klingon Bird of Prey decloaking; 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The whaling ship fires its harpoon and with a clang it stops and drops into the sea. The decloaking of the HMS Bounty is one of those great moments that you always look forward to seeing and is one of those images you just never quite expect to see.

Entrance of the Borg Queen; 

Star Trek First Contact

For the duration of their appearances in The Next Generation, the Borg had been a malevolent horde driven initially to acquire technology and become the dominant species in the galaxy. In First Contact there was a dramatic shift as we experience assimilation and the goal to turn just about everyone Borg. However there needed to be a voice to speak for the Borg and with the Queen we were given a focal point and a way to solidify the "hive" concept. Her arrival in the second The Next Generation movie emphasises her importance no end as well as introducing her as a deadly and seductive force to deal with.

Jean-Luc and Robert fight; Family (TNG)

The previous two episodes had put the crew and the audience through hell and back but in a bold move the writers didn't hit the reset button for the second story of the season and instead chose to handle the aftermath. The Picard brothers are at loggerheads for the best part of the episode with a scrappy fight culminating in Jean-Luc opening up about the terrifying experiences he had at the hands of the Borg and his inability to stop the killing. If you thought Stewart had given everything for The Best of Both Worlds, watch this.

‘Time's up!’; Year of Hell (VGR)

Janeway goes Full Janeway and solves the issue of the Krenim time incursions in one brutal manoeuvre. Everything gets reset and Annorax even gets a better shot at his life away from eternity confined to his ship. Watching the remains of Voyager crumble into dust is a beautiful effect just a shame that the whole year is wiped away in an instant. One of the show's best two-parter's where anything was possible.

Voyager down; Timeless (VGR)

As 100th episodes go this is a belter at every beat but the thing that gets us all is seeing Voyager helplessly careering into the ice planet with it's trip home cut dramatically short. It was a toss up between this brilliant sequence - which made the saucer sequence in Generations look like a basic fan film - and the pan back to show the Intrepid Class starship entombed in the frozen waste. Classic.

Dukat reacts to Ziyal's death; Sacrifice of Angels (DS9)

Clutching Sisko's baseball, Dukat's world falls apart as his daughter is killed by Damar in the rush to escape Deep Space Nine before the Federation/Klingon fleet retakes the station. He's lost everything and the only person that really meant anything to him. A top class performance from Alaimo as his dreams come to an end. 

Captain Picard Day; The Pegasus (TNG)

"The resemblance is rather striking; wouldn't you agree Number One?!"
A stroke of genius that points you in completely the wrong direction to the dark path that the episode eventually takes. Not a story without some fine moments in itself, this opening skit shows how that Picard/Riker relationship has evolved since Encounter at Farpoint as well as the captain's "appreciation" of a boat-load of children.

‘Sir, I protest, I am NOT a merry man.’; 

Qpid (TNG)

If ever there was quotable Star Trek... Worf's displeasure at his Sherwood Forest attire tops his Justice "Nice planet" observation from season one. Ever one for the briefest of quips, it was the security chief at his most uncomfortable and, by proxy, funniest.

"We’re back!"; The Neutral Zone (TNG)

Aaaaah yes. This was a curveball if ever. The first season had been uneven as the show found its feet but the appearance of the Warbird and the announcement that the Romulans were returning from their own self-imposed seclusion was a massive event to finish the year. Shame they weren't utilised more effectively until season three with episodes such as The Defector and The Enemy.  

Tasha Yar reappears; Yesterday's Enterprise (TNG)

The Enterprise-C appears, Picard steps aside and we all expect Worf to reply to his question - but it's not! Still the best way that the show ever brought Tasha back only to have her (apparently) sacrifice herself for the good of the timeline. A nightmare to write it was the episode that had everyone talking - at least for a few weeks until The Best of Both Worlds dropped.

Marittza was just the filing clerk; 

Duet (DS9)

A brilliant tour de force from Harris Yulin and Nana Visitor is topped off with a sublime final scene in which Marittza reveals that his cover story that wasn't a cover story that was a cover story was in fact a cover story because he felt so horrified by the events at the concentration camp. His breakdown is frighteningly realistic and you feel every word.

Uncovering the Borg corpse; Blood Fever (VGR)

Throughout the episode (watch it back) there are little hints and one liners that suggest exactly what has happened to this world. The final pan in shot reveals, hidden in the undergrowth, that the Delta Quadrant was about to unleash its most deadly residents on the crew of Voyager. We'd waited three years for their arrival. The Borg were back.

The Tribbles bury Kirk; 

The Trouble with Tribbles (TOS)

Buried under a heap of Tribbles we see Shatner offer up some of his best comedic acting of not just Star Trek but his entire career. The episode is an undisputed classic of the original run but the very image of Kirk being bombarded by those fuzzy balls of love has remained strong for 50 years. Of course we all know they aren't just falling out of that hatch, Ben Sisko's chucking them around...

"You have no idea what's begun here."; The Jem'Hadar (DS9)

With the introduction of the Jem'Hadar, the destruction of the USS Odyssey and a safe return to Deep Space Nine it seems that we can take a breather but it's down to Quark to reveal the final twist. With one final line, the Vorta Eris disappears and the future of the show changed forever. Cue a massive rehash of the show, a new ship and some of the best stories Star Trek ever made. At the time we honestly didn't know what had begun there.

Sim's Decision; Similitude (ENT)    

Kick a man while he's down huh? Similitude is a rare moment in later Star Trek TV lore when the story really does have the heavy moralistic tale in there and isn't afraid to meet it head on. There's no alien intervention, no clever deus ex machina here to save the clone who has become a part of the Enterprise family in such a short time. His life for the life of another - is it right? Possibly not but the result is really the only way we know the episode can go. 

Kirk’s "Risk is our business..." speech; Return to Tomorrow; (TOS)    

A speech thatis simply legendary in its brilliance both from script and from its delivery. Truly one of the most exceptional points in the series, we see Kirk allowing his crew to make the choice and being prepared to respect their decision should it go against his wishes. The speech reminds both the crew and the audience precisely what Star Trek is about and what Roddenberry envisaged. It's not safe out there but the mission to boldly go and explore new civilisations is at the core of the Enterprise's reason to be. It's why they're out there after all... 

Spock overjoyed; Amok Time (TOS)

An episode that forged the very nature of the Vulcan people for the next 49 years and beyond. I could have picked a ton of stuff from Amok Time but the elation on Spock's face as he realises Kirk is still alive is priceless. As is said on many occasions Spock was not without emotion more that he kept it in check and this release - mere seconds - says so much about his personal relationship with the captain as it does with his own internal turmoils. Nimoy nails it on believability and it never makes you look at Spock any differently because it so perfectly fits the character.  

Data's head; Time's Arrow (TNG)

Not an episode that makes it into a lot of personal favourites but the image of Data's head lying on the floor of a cave underneath San Francisco is just mind-blowing and leads you into a solid 45 minutes of questioning exactly how it ended up there. Having seen the very head itself cemented this as one of my favourite moments in the show's history purely because it is simply so memorable and visually brilliant. The second part is nothing in comparison but it does mean the android's head is 500 years older than his body. Weird.  

"Fascinating"; The Corbomite Manoeuver (TOS)

Admittedly I stole this one after having my memory jogged by The Roddenberry Vault over Christmas. The first time Spock says this single word is character defining and sets him even more apart from the emotional human crew around him. He does very little in the scene, there's no physical reaction, just that one word and with it a generational icon is created.     

The Spock box; Star Trek Beyond 

Let's finish by bringing us bang up to date. Wow. For a film that was better than its predecessor but still fairly average, this moment was a real lump in the throat. Spock receives his older self's possessions and within them is a box that contains a picture of the classic crew lineup in their movie era uniforms (from Star Trek V). Cue classic score and it's THE moment of the film.

That's our 50 moments of choice - is there one you would add or one you might remove...? 

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Who Blinked First? Axanar is Settled

The Battle of Axanar is over - at least in the courtroom it seems.

In the last 24 hours Paramount/CBS and the Axanar production have agreed terms which mean that the law suit will not have to go to court and things can finally move on after just over 12 months of legal wranglings.

But what exactly does all this mean now? The fan film landscape has been left a virtual Mad Max-esque apocalyptic wasteland following the events that kicked off on December 31st 2015 leaving many with difficult choices to make if they wished to survive in some form or another. Sure there were - and still are - many who curse the name Alec Peters for screwing their projects but from the other perspective wasn't this perhaps something that was likely to happen in some form at some point; just a matter of time? How long would CBS have put up with feature length fan films being around when they have a brand new official Star Trek series just around the corner on their own pay-to-view subscription service...just saying...!

But hey, before we get bogged down in theoretical nonsense over what could have been let's be very clear; fan films in the Star Trek universe will never be as they were in 2015 because of Axanar.

While it now appears that Peters and co won't be getting their asses sued off by Paramount/CBS (although there are some legal matters that need to be resolved within the next sixty days), the path now seems clear for them to produce...something.

Flashback and you'll recall that Axanar was supposed to be the fan film/independent Star Trek production to end all fan film/independent Star Trek productions and got itself caught up in its own hype and success. The movie-length film will now no longer happen and in comms direct from Axanar themselves it seems that the proposed galactic adventure will now be reduced from the 90-minute odd feature to just two 15 minute segments that will be distributed for free on YouTube. That says to me donors won't be receiving any DVDs any time soon as one of their promised perks.

The biggest point to note and one that will unquestionably affect the production's future is that Axanar cannot fundraise pointblank. However it can accept donations but I have a feeling this is going to be an bone of contention with fans who will be expecting to see just how their money was spent up on the screen over 12 months since it was donated in one of the biggest Kickstarter fundraisers ever. For some time that's a question fans have been vehemently asking especially in light of documentation that indicates it was used in perhaps different ways than might have been expected. 

Prelude to Axanar cannot be used at official Star Trek conventions but can be used at festivals and the like but non-commercially. Paramount/CBS are very clearly ensuring Axanar is not making a penny from their intellectual property. Nor can anyone working on it be paid in any form and that includes the four actors it seems they are allowed to have on the production - Richard Hatch, Gary Graham, Kate Vernon and J G Hertzler; three of whom are classed as Star Trek veterans.

While the tone of the communications from Axanar seem very upbeat it does come across that they have had to bow to the wishes of Paramount/CBS and conform to the fan film guidelines which were issued in June of 2016. In fact I can see the only win in the list of points they address as being able to use the services of the four actors who appeared in Prelude alongside Peters and the non-returning Tony Todd. I suppose there is an element of victory here in that Garth of Izar: The Movie will come to pass in some form, if somewhat neutered, sooner than we might have thought following the news that it was going to court. 

How that will now look will of course be dramatically different and there will clearly be questions around cost since it looks like it has to be done gratis or at the most using the funds that remain from the Kickstarters et al. I actually feel that finances might be at the core of all this and I'm just speculating here but might it be that there just isn't enough coinage in the coffers to have fought a case that looked to have been already won, closed and nailed shut by the Paramount/CBS juggernaut? Did it finally make sense just to hammer out a deal which meant that Peters and Axanar could get their film made in some form and give something - however minimal and below original expectation - just to keep the fans who backed it happy?

Axanar is now a word that does send a shiver down many a Star Trek fan's spine and will forever be associated with changing the face of the franchise's fan film look. The case does look to be severely in the networks' favour although there does not nor do I believe will there ever be a declaration of a "winner" in this instance. Paramount/CBS have stood firm and protected their property to the hilt and Axanar has been made the example, the warning to others. At least now the battle can take place on the screen rather than behind the closed doors of a courtroom. 

Honestly I do wish the Axanar production well and that we do get to see them finish the project so many fans have so desperately wanted to see happen. I have no personal ill-will towards the team and believe that their hearts were in the right place when this idea was sparked. The tragedy is just what happened following that which may well have robbed us of some very fine fan productions that were in development. 

Long term we'll get cheaper, more fan film than independent film quality productions with severely limited run times and no big franchise names in association. It also means we as fans can get back to the important stuff of arguing over whether The Final Frontier is canon or not(!)

What we can say is that Axanar is back. Thing is, in what state and is this really the end of the matter?

Pleased it's (almost) all over? Will you be waiting to see the finished result or has it gone on for so long you just aren't bothered anymore?

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Friday, 20 January 2017

So It (Should) Begin - (Maybe) Roll the Cameras on Discovery

January 24th 2017 marks (at least at time of writing) the first day since March 8th 2005 that cameras have rolled on an official Star Trek series.

In layman's terms that's just a fraction under 18 years and roughly about the same kind of time between the end of filming of The Original Series and The Next Generation. How odd.

I had previously wondered if we were going to get some more cast announcements before filming commenced next week but now it does appear that the seven names we've had so far are the regular cast for season one.

Well that's about what I thought until 7pm last night when it crops up that we have another official cast announcement in the form of James Frain who will be dropping onto the show as Sarek. So does this mean that we still have more names to come? Perhaps not all of those so far mentioned are main cast and are simply guest roles?

Anyway, yes, goddamn Sarek of Vulcan. Now go back a few years and for some bizarre reason when I saw him I did think he would make a decent Vulcan so this news sent a bit of a chill down my spine. Frain's very demeanour makes him perfect for such a role although just how big a part this is likely to be we don't know. It could be every episode, it could be recurring but there are a few things that make it very, very exciting. 

The very fact that they have announced a casting of Sarek means it's a big deal and it really is. It emphasises the importance the new production team are placing on linking the show into existing canon and embracing Star Trek's rich past. More than likely this isn't going to be the only familiar face showing up over the course of the show but it might be the only one in the first season. Whether this is an indication that we might get to see Spock at some point I really wouldn't read too far in but there's always the dream and a sliver of hope. Besides I'm sure the writers will love dropping some knowing winks into the story...

Sarek also cements the fact that along with the teased Andorians and the certain casting of three Klingons, the Vulcans are going to be a key player within the first season of Discovery. Remember too that this will be a Sarek only a decade younger than we saw him in Journey to Babel and as such that does pave the way for a possible appearance by his wife, Amanda as well. 

Frain is an actor I've caught in a few bits over the years. I actually first saw him back in the three-part BBC drama Armadillo back in 2001 and much later in 24. Both times I thought him excellent and once more it's a top level addition to this rather impressive cast list. He'll actually be the fourth actor to play the role after Mark Lenard in The Original Series, two movies and a couple of appearance in The Next Generation, John Simpson in The Final Frontier and Ben Cross in the 2009 reboot.

Looking into those castings a bit more deeply and with this latest announcement does mix things up a little. I am leaning now more to the belief we are being purposely drip fed with low level information to keep fans happy and that there are bigger things to come. For one the only Starfleet captain in the main cast isn't even on the Discovery and only two of the seven are slated to be on the titular craft. Seems a bit silly to call your show Discovery if it's not getting that much screentime.

Scanning over the IMDB info it also seems that we can only expect Sonequa Martin-Green to be the only cast member guaranteed to survive the first season and be in every episode. But in that instance let's also point out that she's not actually been officially cast!

The way in which the main cast is segregated across several places and ships immediately makes this a very different and unique Star Trek. Never before have multiple locations and a criss-crossing of races as part of the main cast been such a major piece of the story. You can see the influence of multi-location shows such as Game of Thrones in the approach and does account for the high cost per episode but on the other hand is this actually going to be out of format? Will too many locations actually make it un-Star Trek

Maybe the casting of Sarek also indicates that we're being sold a few dummies at the minute. Are all these guys really main cast? Are some of these Klingons actually just recurring or guest stars? Do we still have a chunk of the main cast, who will be back each week, to be revealed by CBS? I really don't know because as we've seen from the further delays, nothing is set in stone - or very wet cement in this case.

Finally though it wasn't all good news around the Discovery series because it now seems that the shifted launch date to May 2017 has become somewhat transient. Now there is no confirmed air date for the show only that CBS are taking their time with it to make sure that it's right. Good on the one hand that they aren't prepared to churn out something mediocre just to fill a slot but bad that we have a longer - undefined - wait until episode one.

Will Discovery get to the screen in 2017? Have you passed caring?

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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Scouting Around: The Official Starships Collection Issues 90 and 91

Monday 16th, apparently, is the most depressing day of the year but how can that be when you have a delivery from Eaglemoss?!

Especially this month as the first box of 2017 contains two amazing models (and I do emphasise the AMAZING part) which - let's be fair - has been a bit of a rarity recently.T o actually get two in the same delivery that are this spot on hasn't happened since the Saber Class and the Romulan Bird-of-Prey in my opinion but this couple have reminded us of just what the collection can deliver every fortnight when it gets it right.

To issue 90 and a true classic from The Next Generation. Only the third Romulan design to be introduced to the Star Trek universe (seventh issue to feature Romulans in the collection mind), the Scout Ship debuted in season three's The Defector and popped up in various guises over the years; not all of them green or Romulan for that matter.

Just taking her out of the box you can't help but be impressed. She looks stunning and I think that's down to the simplicity of the Rick Sternbach design. There are no silly curves, recesses or tricky niches to work into the model; just plain and simple shapes that make an effective and immediately recognisable design. It is a true beauty. That distinctive green tone and style harks to the Warbird which had appeared almost two years previous and paved the way for Romulan design forever more. The curves of that monster are evident here in the wings and nose and while there's no large open gap in the middle the venting and shape betray the family genetics.

The surface finish is exemplary with multiple panel lines, exposed machinery and a fantastic, simple, two shades of green paint scheme that makes this just a joy to look at. The wings (top plus front and back edges are the metal element here) curve out strikingly from the central "neck" section with the panelling giving that bird-like feather appearance and even the plastic bottom insert matches precisely in detail making this a really fine piece of work. Remember also this is one of the few early The Next Generation ships we've had in the series so far.

The forward "head" section is cleverly attached to the plastic underside which might have meant that the detailing has come out that little bit better than if it were in metal. Again, as with the rest of the hull, it's a masterpiece of panelling and precision. The tones of green are exact in their placement; the blackened windows are aligned perfectly with their marked ports and the lines are super-clean. That nose shape is such a distinctive sweep and the fitting of the parts around it are suitably clean meaning the bottom detail finishes nicely to meet the vertical lines from the front section.

This has to be one of the most accurate and best finished ships to date - I simply can't find anything that has been slightly misplaced - remember all those out of place windows on the earlier ships?!

Out at the end of the lovely curved wings are the two warp engines which are probably the most plain sections of the whole craft. There is a slight bit of panel "fanning" to the rear but there are translucent green segments inserted for the warp coils and the bussard collectors. Challenge here is that the longer segments don't really benefit from being see through since they are slapped right across the end of the wing. Bit of a bummer however I think that if they were painted it would cheapen the end result (more on translucence with the Saratoga so bear with me). Minor note too that my warp engines have a slight kink to them if you check her alignment out head on. It's microscopic and virtually unnoticeable until you scour every inch and angle.

The Romulan Scout Ship is a cracking ship presented perfectly on this scale. Ben Robinson and the Eaglemoss team really have produced a corking ship that delivers at every point and every level of expectation. Honestly this has to be in my top ten at this point. It looks great, it feels good and solid and displays marvellously on its rear grip stand - just a note with this though that the fit is very snug so watch out for some possible paint wear around the back of the wings.

Here's a bizarre thing too, the image on the front cover of the magazine doesn't look anywhere near as good as the finished model in any way. I'd go so far to say it actually look stoo clean and clinical. Weird because you open the mag and the pic on page four and five has a slightly weathered finish to it and looks the part. You then get to the plan views and that waxed and polished look is back again!!!

The Ship Profile section here covers not just the appearance of the craft in The Defector but also its suggested presence (in bits) in The Enemy. There are a few titbits of information on the Scout Ship class and Romulans in general here tucked amongst the standard episode recap material. Two pages cover the designing of the craft by Rick Sternbach and the line drawings relate just how accurate the model is to the plan - outstanding that we have something here that is that precise. Also interesting to see that the model was used not just as the basis for the Romulan Science Vessel but also for a ship in Voyager!

This time's feature piece is all about Ronald D Moore. Purely examining his time on The Next Generation from his hiring to write The Bonding in season three through to All Good Things... and many points in between. Certainly a great article to have in your archive since Moore is one of the most influential members of the team on that show and helped forge its identity. Six pages is a good chunk here but I would push for a part two for films, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Issue 91 marks a rare return to familiar territory. It's been rare to see variants within the main sequence of the collection with only the Enterprise refit and Enterprise-A and Voyager and Armoured Voyager springing to mind. Of course there have been the Mirror Universe "M" editions and the subscribers future Enterprise-D but now there's another.

Welcome to the USS Saratoga, a variation on the Miranda Class most familiar to viewers as the USS Reliant in The Wrath of Khan and later as the Brattain and Lantree in The Next Generation and others beyond. What is important to note about the Saratoga is that this isn't just a reuse of the excellent Reliant mould from issue 11 but a totally new product. 

Fans will recall that this ship appeared in the pilot of Deep Space Nine with Ben Sisko as its first officer and a Vulcan captain (who would later be better known as Martok!). While she lasted only a few minutes of screentime in the Wolf 359 pre-credits sequence a lot of the episode would be based around the tragic events that took place there and formed the person Sisko became. While you might grumble about getting a variant of a ship we already have, this one is well worth it given its importance to the show. It will also mean fans will be begging for a USS Bozeman very soon.

The Saratoga is a larger, more complex ship than the original from issue 11 and the loss of that rollbar is nothing when you take a look at what's been done here. For starters the stand is a much better, tighter and more secure fit than with the Reliant; mine has a tendancy to be a little slippy at times.

Eaglemoss have painted the base layers of the Saratoga with the distinctive Federation grey aztec scheme which is magnificently asymmetrical front to back, top to bottom. The fractional upping of the scale has meant that the craft benefits from a lot more finishing touches than were evident on the Reliant

OK it's not a huge size increase but it does mean that the RCS thrusters look a bit more accurately placed and the detail towards the rear of the ship seems to be more defined than on the Reliant. Point for point though the livery is the same with the Starfleet emblems on both of the phaser ports, the red striping around the saucer and even the "1" and "2" numbering still there on the rear-facing shuttlebays. If you will, this slightly larger scale has meant that Eaglemoss have been able to make subtle improvements on what was an early classic in the collection. Anyone else notice that the recessed pieces just behind the phaser ports aren't as deep as they are on the Reliant?

When you look to the rear and the greebling around the warp core you can see how the panelling now stands out that little bit more prominently and is ever so slightly more defined. There are also little blips on the hull upper surface that I can only assume are either lifeboat hatches or access ports - something that isn't present on the original. 

As we've stated the biggest difference between the pair is the removal of the rollbar and the addition of the two distractedly orange sensor pods on little winglets. The definition again on these is wonderful with the surface a patchwork of difference levels and elements to really bring it to life. A second change from the Reliant is that the Saratoga's warp engines don't include any translucent segments. Given this is larger you would have expected those to be here but on NCC-31911 we simply have the warp coils painted out in a shade of blue. Not sure why this would be the case since they are (slightly) larger units and would therefore have been easier to build?

The underside of the Saratoga is however virtually indistinguishable from the Reliant. Something that does become clear though is that the paint scheme on this new version is not as tonally different. On Reliant the two shades of grey are markedly apart while now there is only a slight tonal difference. It's a more subtle play on the paintwork and I personally feel that it's a benefit and also demonstrates how much the team producing these have learnt over the years. 

The rear darker "mechanical" area colour is still just as dark a grey as previously with the detail being a carbon copy but look at the precision of the paintwork and you can see that this is a much higher standard. Things are more pin-point accurate and there's not even a hint of bleed onto the hull colour. Also the underside construction now has the whole of the bottom of the saucer being a plastic clip-in rather than just the middle piece.

Just an amazing job on this one and I wasn't (as usual) expecting it to be this impressive but just with making some subtle changes, Eaglemoss have produced a winner and one that I'm very happy with. 

The magazine for issue 91 has some great new CG images of the Saratoga although the pennant in there has the words "United Federation of Planets" included on the nacelle pylons alongside the ship name so I do have a challenge on which is correct. For size I might surmise it was left off the model. As you might expect this profile section does cover off the differences across the Miranda Class plus the potted history of the ship.

In respect to filming the Saratoga this section briefly discusses the changes made to the model over the years between The Wrath of Khan and Emissary. Not a lot of detail and it actually discusses the requirements of filming the mock-ups from the original moulds which were used to create the destruction of the craft.

Ahead of the key appearances piece we get six pages dedicated to my favourite captain, Ben Sisko and the way in which he changed across the course of the show. Certainly one of the most fleshed out characters in the history of the franchise and one that received the most evolution it's not all just about shaving your head and growing a goatee apparently...

The USS Saratoga package is certainly a nice one that manages to bring the focus back to Deep Space Nine which I do feel sometimes gets a bit of a poor deal in the collection. There aren't a vast amount of ships that can be covered from that show but when we do get them the model and the magazine do the show justice and explore the wider universe. 

A great month for the collection with two amazing, top quality entries I can't get enough of. Also the month to pre-order your second shuttle collection (£75) and your Enterprise-A plaque if you so desire.

On collection news it also seems that due to legalities the Planet of the Titans USS Enterprise is being delayed BUT we will be getting the Phase II version and the Andy Probert USS Enterprise-C versions (as revealed via the Facebook collection fan group) so good news there. Oh and in case you missed it, here's a blatantly exploitative picture of the upcoming USS Kyushu that Ben Robinson posted on Twitter yesterday. Grrr!!!! Need this!!!! It looks so good!!!

Next month we'll have the Medusan Starship from the remastered The Original Series and the Suliban Cell Ship from Enterprise. Not a pairing that I'm particularly fanatical about and I'm not sure how it could even come close to the level of this month's duo...

Were these two worth the wait? Let us know below!!!

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