Thursday, 14 September 2017

Cut to Discovery: There's a Lot to Catch Up On

If you're wondering why |I haven't just been posting about every single trailer it's because, well, there's not been a whole lot of new material shown in the run of 30 second teasers.

However Sonequa Martin-Green's appearance on The Late Show this week brought us the first clip from the show featuring her character, Michael Burnham, coming face to face with the Klingon Torchbearer.

It's only a fleeting few seconds of footage but it tells us a lot about the feel of the show. Gritty, realistic and edgy will certainly be terms that will pass the lips and across the keyboards of reviewers but from a fan perspective it's a lovely nibble at the corner of a much larger cake.

Burnham appears to be standing - as we've seen before - on the top of a Klingon ship. Just check out the graphics on the helmet heads-up display with the white dot moving with the turn of her head. The intuitive tech is something we've not seen in Star Trek before nor have we seen Starfleet officers wearing space-age garments underneath their larger environmental suits as Burnham does here (only just thought about this one...!). 

With the proximity alarm sounding on her suit, Burnham turns to be confronted by the Torchbearer who decides to talk with his bat'leth rather than his mouth. Loved the moment when Burnham's suit identifies the Klingon insignia - another sign of just how cool the tech aspect of this series is. How they will try and align it more with The Original Series as has now been indicated will be a challenge although on some of the official cast photos we've already seen that the control consoles do have buttons and knobs.

On the CBS morning programme, Martin-Green showed up again but this time with a second clip which has her in discussion with Captain Georgiou as they walk across the desert. The conversation is about how they would survive/escape from such a desolate planet and ends with the Shenzhou breaking cloud and descending right down to the planet. I don't believe it will land but there does seem to be a preference to let these huge craft enter atmospheres in recent years with no ill effects (Into Darkness...). Great shot of the NCC-1227 close up right there. The clip also includes some footage of Burnham taking on her spacewalk which I would think links to the clip of the face off with the Torchbearer from The Late Show.

As to the remaining few teasers we've only really had any new shots in the later ones. We've had Fortune Favours the Bold with Burnham stepping out of the Shenzhou for her spacewalk as well as notable shots of Lorca in action wearing the Starfleet flak jacket and sitting on the bridge of the Discovery as well as Cadet Tilly getting her first onscreen line ("This is so cool!) which is very current and perhaps not what you might expect to hear in the 23rd Century!

Beyond the Stars offers up nothing we didn't see in the earlier trailers while The Age of Discovery goes close up on the Klingons plus a shot of the new transporter effect but again, very little to get excited over. 

Perhaps more interesting are the new promo images we've received of the main cast. There's Lorca replete with phaser (great pic here, Isaacs looks damn cool), Burnham looking stoic and Lieutenant Stamets taking a call on his Starfleet issue communicator. 

With Saru's image you get a good chance to see some of the ship set detail. Is this Discovery rather than Shenzhou given the rather sleek looking computer console to the right? Does seem to be a lot of exposed mechanics on these ships. Indeed the set tours that have been circulating would seem to agree with this hypothesis since they all feature the cool blue touchscreens and sleek metal finish more inline with the Discovery.

Lieutenant Tyler gets more of an action shot with him at work in one of the shuttles ready to don the black body armour. 

The last trailer released has offered a little more for us to digest with new shots of Lorca, Burnham, Tilly and Stamets and one of Emily Coutts (Keyla Detmer) sporting some rather techny headwear. From what Lorca is saying; "The Discovery can take us to places we never dreamed of reaching. No other crew would have a chance pf pulling this off. Just us."; the Discovery is an advanced ship for its time being able to go further than any other ship to this point. 

The trailer also features Burnham on an away mission on location rather than being inside a soundstage surrounded by styrofoam rocks. There's not a lot that can be garnered from the images in this trailer even if there are a lot of new stills in there. It's just nice to see some new material. Happily, Stamets gets the final word in the trailer and for those of us who have been waiting for Anthony Rapp to get some more trailer screen time it's a joyous event.

There is still a strong focus on the Klingons too with the news that the House of T'Kumva is the 25th in the Empire. Hang on...didn't we mention a while back that there were - according to Discovery - only 24 Klingon houses?

Correct because this is the lost 25th house which still follows the "old ways". They are to-the-letter on the teachings of Kahless, wear armour that is two centuries old and are all bald-headed. It's a clever spin to ensure that there's still some continuity within the universe and means that acceptances can, in some form, be made for the look of the Discovery Klingons.

What I've thought is really cool is that the Sarcophagus Ship's hull is covered in its namesake i.e. the coffins of dead Klingons from across two centuries. It's a generational ship in every sense.

Finally; the theme. Listening to it there are very, very distinct parallels and homages to the work of one Alexander Courage and the immediately recognisable Star Trek theme from the 1960's but once those sharp tones have faded the main bulk of the theme feels dark and brooding with deep rumbling drums and a sense of foreboding all woven into the melodies. Jeff Russo has produced a significantly different theme again from the pioneering openers of Voyager or The Next Generation. Only Deep Space Nine comes close to the more shrouded bars of Discovery's theme especially in the first three seasons. There's nothing light about the theme for the new show with the strains of the tune really signifying the grim tone of the first season of the new show.

With the rather negative word that The Orville is receiving from critics, the way is clearly paved for Discovery to rule the roost this season and my anticipation levels are just building and building with each new reveal. It is however fairing better with real audiences but surely it can't be competition to the newest Star Trek kid on the block if the suggestions that it is a big rip-off are correct.

How they've managed to keep this Discovery so secret from the very beginning I'm at a loss to explain in a world where media hacks and breaches are commonplace, this is one that has remained under lock and key even with just 10 days to go. 

On the flip side to that though, we're now ten days from the US premiere and it seems that no-one has seen the pilot. The official first showing is (I recall) scheduled for the 19th which gives us four (or five for UK viewers) days to find out what the word on the street is about Discovery. There must be something redeeming since it's already been confirmed for a second season.

Every day gives something new be it a props discussion, a trailer, a still or the musical rounds. In fact there's so much one man on a UK site can't quite keep up with it all...!

What's been your favourite part of the trailers so far?

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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Quality Quibbles: The Official Starships Collection Issues 106 and 107

There is no more satisfying sight when it comes to postal deliveries as the brown strapped Eaglemoss box on the hall table.

That moment of realisation that you have double ship indulgence at your fingertips, the hurried searching for scissors and that heart-in-the-mouth moment as you open the box wondering if both of the ships have arrived in one piece...there's nothing like it is there?

My experience with this month's ships has been murky. On the one hand there's - finally - the arrival of the Kazon Raider from Voyager and alongside it, a semi-cop-out with the Klingon Bird of Prey (Attack Position). Hopefully I'll explain my thoughts as we head through examining both of these items.

The Kazon Raider is, like the recently released Vidiian Warship, vastly overdue - by at least 70 issues. Cleverly spreading those key ships across the range does keep interest and means those waiting for specific ships or collecting from one series are kept on their toes but it does feel like these should have been a lot earlier.

The Raider is actually one of the smaller Kazon ships and shouldn't be confused with the significantly larger Predator Class ships that the Delta Quadrant baddies also operated. This is a much smaller, more manoeuvrable ship and is also one of the most distinctive designs, I think, in Star Trek history.

On first inspection this is one small ship - and it's also very front heavy with that drooping beak as well as the whole top section being metal. The whole ship bears a brown, sandy, dusty sort of paint job and it screams out for a bit of dirt washing because you know that the Kazon would never have maintained these ships in such pristine condition. In fact the only time it would have looked like this was in dry dock.

While it is instantly recognisable, this is one of those ships that doesn't "do" it for me from the off and coming to review it I find myself terribly uninspired by it. That's a shame because of it's importance to Voyager's early years for one and secondly because it's been such a long time coming.

Don't get me wrong, the actual model is decent enough but there's no pzazz here. You can admire the curves and the lines from the nose to the stern and especially at the business end there's some lovely layered panelling detail as well as - surprisingly - windows and inset colouring that's actually in the right place (looking at you, USS Jenolan) and accentuates that base brown.

Those little blips of colour from windows and from the yellow of the engines to the rear are essential to bringing the Raider to life just as much as the pointed, dangerous look of the hull. Even the addition of the Kazon emblem on either side of the hull The top of the ship doesn't really have any really fiddly bits on it and by that I mean mechanical parts, exposed circuits and the like that we've seen on many other craft. It's a lot more enclosed with more subtle finishing details perhaps only with the recessed bodywork on the sides showing any real "depth" to the ship.

The plastic section here encompasses only the underside and the wing-type appendages to the centre and the rear. If we're going to talk bland then this is perfect fodder because there is a horrible lack of detail. Of course this can be blamed directly back to the original model from which Eaglemoss were working but there's just nothing to get excited about when you flip the Raider over. There are a few winglets on the rear fins, a minor piece of engineering detail to the centre which is recessed back slightly into the hull but that really is it.

The problem is that the Kazon Raider looks too perfect. There's not enough panel lining on here, it's just too smooth and refined to make it "believable" as a representation of the Kazon craft. It bugs me to hell because even the drooping proboscis at the front looks sad and lacking in true depth and detail; it feels like a model three-quarters complete. Probably one that will go towards the back of a shelf and I have hopes that the Predator Class Kazon ship will come out a lot better.

Stand position with this one is rear-clipping with the clear plastic arm grasping the back end of the Raider. Not too tight a fit but very stable even with all that forward weight from the droopy nose and heavy metal front.

The issue 106 magazine is a belter, full of great reference material that the Voyager Companion book was lacking. Offering some great coverage of the Raider and it's operational history under both the Trabe and the Kazon, the magazine does well to tie in the craft's episodic appearances. I thought it had all started out in Caretaker but I was very much mistaken and corrected here.  Excellent insights into the Kazon too which are well worth adding to your library.

Designed by Dan Curry due to an overworked Star Trek staff in 1994, the Raider's evolution story is fairly linear although it did get some minor chops and changes. Take note too that it doubled as the Kazon Fighter with only a cockpit section swapout being the visual clue as to which scale of craft was being used in that shot. I would think that means we won't be getting the smaller variant of this one in the future since that would be the only alteration (saying that....).

Ahead of the two episode choices of State of Flux from season one and Alliances from the Kazon-heavy second year of Voyager, Eaglemoss fill us in on the creation of the Delta Quadrant's "short Klingons". Their background, you might be surprised to know was supposed to have been based around LA gangs and be only two factions rather than the indistinguishable 18 sects that the show intimated. I love the honesty in this section given the love/hate relationship the show and the audience seemed to have with the Kazon although the choice to finish their two year arc with Basics was respectable and the right thing to do. Great magazine and one I recommend for general background Voyager reference.

Now, here's one for you. I remember back in the day that a lot of people called for the Klingon Bird of Prey to be offered out in its attack and landed formations. I genuinely didn't think that either would be included in the full run but might have ended up as an online exclusive. I was wrong because as part of the main run, we have the seminal Klingon craft with it's wings down.

One of the first issues released (issue three), the Bird of Prey needs no introduction but, as with the Kazon Raider, I'm finding it very hard to get excited over a ship that has only a change in wing configuration from its earlier version. 

As you might have noticed, we seem to be seeing a few more of these altered models or variations on a theme - ReliantSaratoga and the upcoming Bozeman (which was requested a lot!), the Bajoran Freighter/Smuggler's Ship, Armoured Voyager...but this one really doesn't give much more than the original.

The worst thing is with the one I received and am reviewing here while I wait for a response from Eaglemoss (two days and i ended up calling to get a replacement) is that the wing cannon on the port side is glued on cock-handed. 

Hence my comment at the beginning around opening the box. I've been lucky that only the Xindi Insectoid Fighter (two halves I glued together) and the USS Rhode Island (nacelle cover again glued on) have come with some form of damage probably from transit. This is just poor quality control and lazy building. 

Anyway, more on that shortly as we move around this B'Rel class scout because it's not the only issue simmering under the surface.

This is for all intents and purposes a carbon copy of the ship from issue three. I'd be so bold to say that the main body and neck are probably the same mould or build to save time and money with only the wings being altered.

Annoyingly when you compare it to the Kazon Raider this has received something of a dirt wash to take the edge off the green paint scheme and make it look used. To the front and the bridge module there are some subtle panel lines across the top of the hull. The deflector strip round the front really stands out being a bold brown and unweathered and is the more distinctive colour on the ship. It doesn't pull you away from the overall effect but it is very distinctive with the rest of the hull being dirtied down. 

Now I have to note that, well, it's not absolutely a carbon copy because there are a couple more raised details on the surface of the bridge module which does mean there has been a slight update in four years. 

The grime and the panelling continues back along the short neck section to the main body where you do notice the windows have been painted on rather than marked somewhere near to recessed holes as we've seen elsewhere. Again there's nothing new here. Along to the rear the detail there does feel a little more refined but there's very little to call between this new version and the issue three original. Even at the back the gap in the engine block to slot in the stand is identical although I did think the clip fed in a lot more easily this time around.

Underneath the detail continues in line with the first version with all the mechanics you would expect to be in place right there. Their definition does leave a bit to be desired but again there does seem to have been a slight clean-up when it's come to the finishing touches. On the counter though, there's still no definition as to the landing leg panels or ramp - the underbelly is horribly still devoid of detail.

Of course the number one, table-topping difference here is the fact that the wings are down. First seen dropping to pick off the Merchantman in The Search for Spock it's an iconic feature of the Klingon ship and, begrudgingly, it's nice to have it represented. Along with the Enterprise it's probably one of the most famous and instantly recognisable vehicles from the franchise.

The wing panel feather detailing is replicated precisely from the first version and you can make out how the two have been constructed. It's down to the two shoulder sections being different. These are the pieces which move the wings into place and with the Attack Formation version they are, stating the obvious, larger. The grille system that interlocks and closes to draw the wings up is very clearly cut although the front of the shoulder blocks lacks any kind of definition between the two moving sections rather it's just a plain and simple grey slab. For all the detail and effort in all the other parts surrounding this wing mechanism it just seems wrong for this, for the second time, to be lacking that finishing touch.

Talking of that lack of completion which seems to be a running theme this month, what about the underside of the Bird of Prey? Well, it is absolutely identical when it comes to paint scheme even down to the asymmetrical reddish tinted sections on the inside edges of the wings - they are 100% the same which confirms that only the shoulder sections here are significantly different across the two ships variants.

The biggest sin with this one is that I have to review it with a wonky disruptor as noted. Someone in the factory decided to glue one of them on at a bizarre angle meaning I've had to request a replacement. If the glue wasn't as strong as it is I might have been able to adjust it but in this case it's a no. While it doesn't ruin the overall experience of the model it's frustrating that such a small error can be so noticeable. 

The stand position is identical again to the original issue three release allowing the Bird of Prey to hang ominously over the stand. Now all you need is to drop a movie-era USS Enterprise in front of it and you'll be off recreating the final moments of NCC-1701 from The Search for Spock.

Luckily the magazine is a completely fresh wedge of material. Initially the overview covers the differences between not just the K'Vort and B'rel types but also the variations internally that were evident between every single Klingon Bird of Prey. It also goes as far as exploring the times in which the different versions were in use (including the rarely mentioned D12) and what outward changes there were to be spotted - and there were a few due to circumstances!

An excellent choice here to do rather than the standard plan views is the inclusion of a list of notable Birds of Prey from The Search for Spock right through to Martok's IKS Rotarran in Deep Space Nine. Covering not just their onscreen stories, this section does, in part, make note of some of the changes that were made due to difficulties with models and the significance of the chosen craft in the franchise. There are some cool new CG pics and a few sketches that will be welcomed to see such as the one from Star Trek VI's storyboards (check that gem!) but you won't be seeing a ton of new stuff. The chunk of the goodies are in the text itself.

Finishing out the magazine we have a brilliant and insightful chat with J G Hertzler which was conducted just after the end of Deep Space Nine. It offers real depth to how Hertzler played the character, how he came to be a recurring character plus why he enjoyed the role so much even down to the gruelling three hour makeup sessions. 

While the model is fairly average in its execution, this pack is well-rounded through the choice of articles in the magazine. The Hertzler interview is a certified highlight of the releases this month, perhaps moreso than the models themselves which I'm quite surprised by. In fact I might even say that both the magazines - for their written content rather than the lack of original photos - are damn fine this month. 

In four weeks time we have the hotly anticipated Cheyenne Class from The Best of Both Worlds, Part II's Wolf 359 graveyard and the Borg Queen's Diamond - now that looks like a killer ship!

Loving the voyage into the Delta Quadrant? Worth a second punt for the new Bird of Prey? Let us know below!

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Monday, 28 August 2017

So What Are Ships For? - Star Trek Continues Episode Nine

The latest Star Trek Continues installment packs a story written by cast member Kipleigh Brown (Lieutenant Smith) and two stellar guest stars. 

The Enterprise arrives at the isolated Hylenas where it is needed to help with a dangerous virus which is attacking the native populace and evolves rapidly causing death and thereby the extinction of the people.

Not only that but the planet is subjected to such a high dose of radiation from the Hyleni sun that means everything is monochrome. Yep, we're delving into the world of black and white with this story and its just like when I first saw The Original Series.

Perhaps more notable than the two-tone look of the episode is the guest cast which boasts classic Battlestar Galactica actress Anne Lockhart and for The Next Generation fans, Q himself, John De Lancie. It's great to see him as something other than Q but there are a few moments where the omnipotent being's personality shines through in his performance. Even the attire they choose to dress him in has glaring echoes to the Napoleonic era uniform Q sported in Hide and Q. De Lancie is a big draw and will get a lot of people talking about this episode. 

His role within the story is key from the perspective of the natives and it is his attitudes that drive the conclusion. Lockhart on the other hand feels underused and while she is a major element to the story I just couldn't get excited or really involved with her role as it seemed more to be a plot device than a character to be developed.

While the lead guest actor gets to shine, it's a fairly ABC plot for a Star Trek Continues  episode as we are introduced to a neighbouring planet with whom De Lancie's people have some beef and in true form for the franchise it comes down to Kirk to mediate on their differences.

It's a familiar line with Star Trek and most relevantly The Original Series which took great pleasure on many occasions at playing the race versus race card.  Let This Be Your Last Batrlefield, A Taste of Armageddon and Patterns of Force being just three that spring straight to mind in a flash. It's a fairly established trope of the show and here in What Ships Are For it's strongly forecast from the start and never lets up. That's not to say that Brown's teleplay isn't enjoyable but in comparison to the previous eight episodes of Continues this is just not as dynamic when it comes to the impact of the story or the umph that the superb guest cast pack into the hour. It feels as though we've trodden this path many times over.

It does, to some extreme, feel like a box ticking exercise with Kirk falling for Inner Council intern, Sekara, one of the inhabitants of the planet they are helping to save. But then there's a twist when she beams up to the Enterprise which you can probably see coming through your black and white tinted spectacles. In fact the whole monotone thing itself is a thinly veiled allegory for the story of you think about it.  

Elizabeth Maxwell goes all out as Sekara, playing the vulnerable victim, the frightened child and the lover. Certainly the part in What Ships Are For allows her the most flexibility of the guest cast and also the most screen time of the visitors to Continues. The role is very much in keeping with the female guests of the Kirk era even down to the foil-esque costume and that sweeping vulnerability.

For me What Ships Are For - exploration and the discovery of the new if you go by Kirk's speech at the end of the episode - is a bit disappointing. The main cast are utilised well with Mignogna, Haberkorn and Huber all taking the expected fair share of the episode. It is heavily Kirk-centric with the romance between himself and Sekara (Elizabeth Maxwell) being the mainstay of the time on the Enterprise and considering very little else. It does come across as a very singular episode because of this with there being nothing outside the main thread ti really comment on. Everything hinges around saving Sekara to build up to the big reveal and just who the neighbouring Obeshians are.

While De Lancie is captivating whenever he is on screen, Lockhart can at times be a little overhammy even for a retro webseries such as Star Trek Continues. She acts as De Lancie"s conscience for the most part and is then a major part of the big reveal towards the end of the show and a factor in the resolution but it still lacks any punch. It is for me the weakest of the 11 announced episodes so far released and plays on a race playing very dumb. I suppose in some sense that is keeping with a few of the races encounters in The Original Series and I have to say that the style of writing for the script is incredibly in keeping with the Kirk era episodes. It feels authentic to the 60's classic as does the usual Continues attention to costume detail that beds it in the original show.

As for the ensemble behind the lead characters, everyone is back in play and doing their bit for a low amount of screen time be it Kim Stinger's Uhura, a fleeting appearance by SKoST friend Kat Roberts as Lieutenant Palmer or Grant Imahara's very underused Sulu. I wish with Continues that they had been able to use some episodes to explore their secondary characters more than they have as there is a ton of potential in there. Even Kipleigh Brown is under the radar in her own penned episode.

So as you can see for quality and presentation Continues still shines brilliantly strong but What Ships Are For attempts a big hit in its story material but just slightly misses the mark. Every minute is still inspiring from a fan film angle due to the level that the Continues team go to in order to remain authentic to The Original Series. The choice of black and white in the episode might not be in keeping with the desire for everything to be in bright colour for the TV of the '60's (had an interesting Twitter discussion over whether it was appropriate) but the storytelling is still well in keeping with the ethos of the show so why the heck shouldn't this be allowed?

That being said, given current political climate in the US this episode may have more relevance than we can really assess - or want to more by chance than design. A rewatch in a few months with the benefit of hindsight might well be worth it.

You can check out What Ships Are For HERE

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Trailer Three: Lorca Ups the Ante

Don't get too excited about the arrival of a third trailer for Discovery because you've seen a lot of it before.

There's more sand walking, more shots of tension and the same soundbytes that came from the three minute tease a few weeks back - T'Kumva waiting for a someone worthy etc... but now we get some more of Captain Gabriel Lorca.

It's a distinct switch in this respect with Captain Georgiou almost relegated to the background and that indicates to me that Michelle Yeoh isn't going to be there for a long time after the pilot - if she survives the first episode that is. The new trailer is definitely pushing Lorca to the front more and good timing what with his out-of-context comments being twisted in all sorts of directions on Twitter and without just cause.

So let's talk about this new trailer a little more and what it adds to the foundations for Discovery

The shooting style is such an echo of the JJ/reboot universe movies. Darker tones, sweeping angles around ships and in every visual sense this can't be mistaken for anything other than Alex Kurtzman's baby. Those years with JJ have certainly been ingrained into his psyche and it's showing here. In his defence(!) it does make the series look more realistic and down to earth but you know fans will be comparing the two instantly. Check out the closeups of the Klingon armour and the hand grasping what I can only think is the handle of a d'k tahg knife. Shiny!

We stride towards this dream of peace...where all species can share a common ground...yet no dream will protect us...from you - Burnham

So says Burnham over a series of previously seen clips. There aren't a ton of them so watch out for the bits we haven't seen especially that shot of a starship exploding. It looks like it's come into contact with Klingon shields/cloak and goes all fiery - money says that this is the USS Europa from the earlier trailer.

There are a lot of hero-stances and epic camera angles going on here with us zooming into the Shenzhou bridge, seeing some more explosions plus a better shot of the Walker Class starship ejecting escapepods as well as a nice long look at the cathedral-like Klingon "sarcophagus" ship once more.

Another watch out moment is Burnham being tackled by a Klingon on their ship - it's a fraction of a second but hints at the finale of the pilot. 

The work we do is hard...and it is not without sacrifice...we are a long way from home...but I know...that it is a sacrifice worth making. - Lorca
But to be fair what everyone is really talking about in this minute of footage is the appearance of Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca. This guy seems to be very measured but I can see there being quite a cold side to him when the s**t hits the fan. His attitude is very military, very dedicated to the job and I suspect he's going to be quite a marmite character in the series. Perhaps that harshness will wear off over time as it did with Picard.
You know what we need to do? 
We need to win. 
That's the spirit.
This little exchange between Lorca (lines 1 and 3) and Burnham (line two) is brilliant. I think this shows that their relationship is going to be rocky but there is a common goal between them - to defeat the Klingons and defend the Federation. Isaacs abrasiveness might make him an unpopular captain initially but it will bring life to the series and I would believe him to be a very different mentor to that of Georgiou.

Forgive me if I'm wrong but check out Burnham's uniform in this shot - she's in silver rather than the gold piping (compare to the header shot above) and she's missing the Starfleet delta - are we looking at a scene post-incarceration? 

It's a nice placeholder trailer that highlights a few new treats. It sits nicely alongside the character trailers that have appeared and include Voq. Still we don't know who is playing him but the fact that he's got his own little teaser ahead of T'Kumva makes me think he's kind of a big thing. Looks like he's carrying one of the new style bat'leth's as well!

So what's with that TV-MA thing as well? Well with a tiny bit of digging it looks like this is programming suitable only for over 17's. Yes, Star Trek is going all adult on us. It does seem to be a rating associated mainly with streaming and premium networks and indicates that the programme will contain strong and frequent sexual content, extreme violence or both. Wow, big stuff.

Now if that's not a massive turn up for the books then I don't know what is. I'm convinced Discovery is going to be a winner and with this all-out declaration that it is going to be very gritty from the start it just makes waiting for September 25th (UK!) even harder to bear...

What else did you spot in the new trailer for Discovery?

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Monday, 21 August 2017

Next Gen Guest Double: The Official Starships Collection Issues 104 and 105

The latest duo from Eaglemoss drops us into the fifth and sixth seasons of The Next Generation.

Up at issue 104 it's one more kitbash to add alongside the Kyushu and Centaur in the form of the chunky Sydney Class USS Jenolan

Ok, ok I dig this one in the ribs a little too much with that line because the Jenolan is a ship I'm really rather fond of. So it might be a flipped and nacelled-up version of the SD-103 shuttle that makes a fleeting appearance near the beginning of The Undiscovered Country but so what, this little ship has a special place in the hearts of fans across the world since it's the craft Scotty reappeared on in Relics.

Crashed on the Dyson Sphere, the Jenolan had seen better days but here we have it presented in all it's launch day glory. She really is a right block of a ship which makes no matter in space since gravity and aerodynamics aren't really that important (or are they...?) and it's not going to win any beauty prizes. In essence this is the Starfleet version of a National Express coach or a cross-channel ferry. It's no science vessel, cruiser or deep space explorer, it's effectively a very big shuttle.

Yet I still love the damn thing and having a model of it is something I've waited a long time to see. The shape is clearly that of the shuttle but there's a lot of additional extras and the Jenolan is significantly bigger than the shuttle set counterpart we were treated to at the end of 2016. 

So NCC-2010 has some fantastic detail for such a lump. The metal top section isn't overly covered in detail with the exception of the ship registry to the front which leads into the bridge module (definitely nicked from a Constitution Class model) that trails back again to some exposed mechanics and also to the blue raised warp core cover.

The colour scheme is distinctly Kirk movie-era with a full white overcoat from nose to stern. Having only minimal detail doesn't crowd the surface although it does feel a little blocky with the grey touches just a sprinkling across the upper hull and a couple along the sides and back. 

The central/upper metal section is enclosed by the rest of the plastic build with the side panels closing in around the metalwork on either side. It's a quite an impressive piece of construction with four pieces of hull coming together to form the shape of the Jenolan. The hull detail right at the front is a little washed out with the two side panels on the front "prongs" making it very obvious since they are much more pronounced.

Along the sides of the hull we have the United Federation of Planets pennant on either side - and both the right way up and spelt correctly however the three decks of windows are all out of alignment with their recesses on the hull surface. Maybe one day huh, Eaglemoss? Maybe one day...

I have to admit to liking the tiny bit of hull marking/panelling towards the front as its nice and subtle and doesn't, again, overpower the whole hull as full line definition might well have done. Also this detailing then makes you realise that the Jenolan is, unusually for a Starfleet vessel, devoid of any aztec paint scheme. Probably too much for something this size and the Runabout too avoided that finishing touch if you recall.

Flipped over and the real detail on the Jenolan can be uncovered. There's a lot of engineering works all the way along the ship with some incredibly tiny greebling everywhere you look. Oh - and look out for the very obvious Romulan Warbird nacelle glued in there! The hull sides again hug around the central body and it's a very distinct feature of the craft which has been replicated on the model perfectly. Choosing to have them as individual pieces certainly brings depth to the result.

It's an amazing finish and such a shame that for it's life on display you'll barely ever see the work that was done on the underneath (or topside if you're thinking of it from the SD-103 shuttle perspective).  I mean, in concept this should be the other way up and thus exposing all this wonderful detail but then we have the shuttles set for that!

The only really ugly bit on the Jenolan has to be the joins between the nacelle pylons and the main hull. They are gappy and seem a little misaligned when viewed from the underside. From the front and top it isn't too bad - again this is the angle you'll be seeing it from for most of the time.

The pylons are beautifully crafted with a very tight sweep and turn in the middle arcing out to the warp engines. Now these are very clearly stolen from a Constitution Class ship with that glaring movie-era shape and grille placement. For me on the Jenolan it's the finishing touches like the older nacelles and the registry edged in red that make this such an exciting ship to add to the collection. It bridges a gap, introduces a different type of Starfleet vessel and gets to be the vehicle which returned Scotty to Star Trek

Lastly to the rear there's a ship name and a couple of guidance lights plus the greyed out engine of the SD-103 shuttle converted into just another hull panel. It's only really at this end that you can appreciate how the Jenolan model has been put together. The stand is a rear fit which grips right around the backside of the craft giving the illusion of flight and providing a decent sturdy support although I need to file the peg down to fit into the base more snugly. 

While it's not the streamlined Enterprise-E or an intricate ECS Fortunate freighter the build here does impress me. Love it, love it, love it.

The magazine retells the story of Relics among the details of the craft itself. The initial CG picture is actually really nice giving a rear view of the ship and you can clearly make out some form of observation lounge at the back that isn't evident on the TV. Of course the mag skips over this being apparently the only ship on which you can beam through shields(!) but has some great stills from the episode in question. I'd have liked some coverage of the story pre-Relics that was included in the novelisation but I understand that it's not classed as canon since it wasn't screened.

The views of the ship are great to look at but they do reveal that the impulse engines on the model aren't marked out and that there is a magazine/ship discrepancy between paint finishes on the "spine" running from the bridge to the rear of the ship. Follow this up with a double page on the designing of the Jenolan and you get quite a detailed picture of a one-ship wonder. It was used again as a shuttle (Generations) and a starship (Trials and Tribble-ations) but not in this configuration. She really is a one off.

Eaglemoss have chosen to pay tribute to James Doohan here with six pages devoted to the Scotty actor. A perfect way to complete this issue given its focus on the return of the character aboard this very vessel. The coverage touches on all points of Scotty's appearances from his virtual cameo in Where No Man Has Gone Before through to the movies, the crossover of Generations and his "final" appearance in the 24th Century. A great overview and well picked.

Issue 105 travels back a season to Unification and the so-called Smuggler's Ship. Now you might be getting a sense of deja vu since it's only four issues ago that we saw the Bajoran Freighter which is this ship in another guise - have a look in that magazine to see what else this model has made an appearance as since 1989!

Ok, it is a little soon after the Bajoran Freighter to be dropping this one but there are significant differences between the two. 

The Smuggler's Ship (or should that be Smugglers' Ship? Was there really only one smuggler? Anyway, I'll remain true to the magazine cover) is a one coat black finish all the way across with only the red engines, white portholes and light blue forward viewscreen acting to breakup the darkness.

The ship is two clean halves with the top in plastic and the bottom - which includes the two pairs of "wings" being metal.

The wings, the removal of the rear pod and of course the colour change all help to radically alter the look of what was a Bajoran freighter into something a lot more sinister. In fact there's a lot more surface detail on this ship with additional "bobbles" along the upper hull sides at the front and back as well as more defined mechanics on the upper mid-section. Interestingly this model also has the fins thinned out that were filled in on the Bajoran freighter. I'd suggested this was down to moulding but I'm not convinced having seen this.

The aggressive wing formation to the front really set this model off and add to the look making it almost ready to pounce on an unsuspecting craft. Having them as a single element with the underside of the ship adds a lot of strength and stability to these pieces. The panelling on these isn't too heavily lined and contrasts to the extensive markings on the rest of the Smuggler's Ship.

One clear addition to the ship are the three gun structures on the top and the single one on the bottom. Again it adds to that darker purpose for this version of the model and also it's great to see that Eaglemoss aren't shying away from sticking in some very fiddly bits. Without these I don't think that the look of this craft would have been quite right somehow.

What amazes me with this issue is how a few changes can make something look completely different and even feel different within an episode of the series. This is a lot more futuristic and tech heavy than the freighter and in only a couple of episodes between appearances it's barely recognisable. In fact if I had the choice of which one I would display if it came to it, I would pick this one.

The all over detail on here - top and bottom - is lovely to take in and although it's one more of the "one shot" starship, the work on this one is exemplary considering this was The Next Generation model time and not the impressive CG results we've had from Enterprise. Really the only area that suffers a little on finish is the engine block at the rear. The red is't as bright as I expected and it seems to fade into the black of the main body.

The Smuggler's Ship feels good, it's a solid, robust piece of Star Trek and even the four gun emplacements are pretty secure.  The stand fitting is a singular clip that wraps around the rear and claps cleverly over the two levels of the hull at the back. It's a lot of weight at the back of the ship for something with this kind of length but it still looks and feels fine. 

The 500m ship gets minimal background in the magazine this time as it was there to serve a purpose for the story, hence the reuse of an older model. The magazine tends to defer to the plot of Unification but aside from the two new CG pictures and the plan views of the Smuggler's Ship there is very little of the craft from the episode - probably understandably due to its fleeting appearance. That said the CG pics are gorgeous and help to bring out the hull detail which can, in some lights, be lost due to the one colour finish.  

I've looked over her several times since she arrived and keep spotting a bit of tech here or a window there that I hadn't seen before purely because the black shrouds everything.Even when photographing her the light changed and meant a couple of shots made her look a lot lighter and brought out some of the hull panel lines and greebles (hence the shot above right).

Thankfully if you do want to get an impression of what it looked like on TV, the Creating the Smuggler's Ship section shows a couple pics of the model itself and there's a good shot for comparison of the back end. Minor grumble but that image does give the tail end a lot more depth to the hull surface than the model however I'm more thankful that some of the reduced detailing on the freighter version has been "upgraded" for this one.

I suppose it's apt that this and the Jenolan were released together since both are the results of "parts bin" refurbs having previously been something very different.

Next up is a section covering the making of the classic 25th anniversary two-part Unification. While I did know that there had been longstanding plans to get Spock into The Next Generation it fills in the process from that early point to the development of the fifth season landmark and adds in something I've always said - that the second half is way, way too wordy and lacking in action. I still find watching this as a single movie is a drag once Spock steps out of the shadows at the end of the first part.

The "Making of..." piece ties in Unification to both The Undiscovered Country and the tragedy of gradually losing Gene Roddenberry (who would have been 96 this month) through the character of Sarek. This piece does have some good in depth information around the story and the elements within it - Sela, Spock and Data, the Enterprise's mission and the final, touching meld between Spock and Picard. It'll still be a talky last 45 minutes but this has added a few sparks to watch out for in future viewings.

Again as with the Jenolan the episode On Screen section can only be the one episode the ship appeared in. The sad thing with this page now that we are getting into repeat territory quite a lot and also into ships that only appeared once and very briefly is that this episodic recap is getting repetitive. It only discusses the episode as a synopsis rather than honing in on the ship plus the info in these paragraphs has been stated several times over and over in the rest of the mag. Time to maybe look at doing something different here? For note though I'd still keep the Trivia trio since that can be moulded to the issues/episode/relevant characters.

I've been impressed with this month's double act. I absolutely love the USS Jenolan and have done for years since I first saw her crumpled hull on the Dyson Sphere so a model is icing on the cake and this one is pure class even with a few niggles. The Smuggler's Ship is just different and although released very soon after the Bajoran Freighter it is different enough to just get away with it but I know collectors will grumble because of the proximity. Solid entries, well made and a welcome step back into The Next Generation.

To next month and we finally get another of those elusive opposition ships from Voyager with the release of the Kazon Predator Class warship and one that will probably eclipse it in popularity even though it's a "twicer", the Klingon Bird of Prey in attack formation (wings down). Will there be any notable improvements or changes to this one or will we just be getting the same body mould as issue three

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