Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Fuller Back for 2017

Bryan Fuller's greatest dream has probably just come true.

Announced yesterday, Fuller is to be one of the co-creators of the new series set to launch in January 2017. It's big news for the former Deep Space Nine and Voyager writer who at one time had put forward his own plans for a new series but didn't see the idea come to fruition.

Of course, now he's on board alongside Star Trek movie scribe Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin there's every likelihood that some of his ideas from that project will surface within the framework of the new series. I mean, come on, why else would you take him on board unless you want to tap that extensive Star Trek knowledge and understanding of the Roddenberry ideology we know he fully grasps.

There have been some comments out there that his luck with previous series has been hit and miss with not many running their full course. Hannibal was cancelled after three seasons, Pushing Daisies felt the axe and so did Wonderfalls but that doesn't mean this will go the same way (unless it's really horrific)  but it does indicate that CBS are looking to plant some firm foundations and look to the Prime origins of the franchise rather than chasing after the line followed by the JJ Abrams films.

His Deep Space Nine writing credits (a series that inspired him to write for the show) push to just two episodes from season five in The Darkness and the Light and Empok Nor while his Voyager credentials runs to acting as story editor and later co-producer as well as being involved with 20 episodes including the two final season two-parters, Flesh and Blood and Workforce plus Fury from season six and two of my all-time favourites in Gravity and the top notch Living Witness. Fans might question his non-Star Trek material but his work on the show cannot be questioned and I am very pleased he's on the board to steer the new show in, hopefully, the right direction. For one thing I'd request that we stop ratting on him when not a character has been cast. Why Star Trek fans have become so cynical I can understand a little but let's give the guy a chance please.

From what Kurtzman is quoted as saying on, it seems he's very happy to have Fuller on board - of course that could be because they now have someone on the team at the top who has some modicum of an idea where they need to be heading. On the other hand could the return of Bryan Fuller actually restrict the show and hold it back from evolving and being something relevant for the times? We know from his thoughts that while he liked Deep Space Nine and Voyager, he was a bigger fan of the bright luminescence of the 1960's series which he felt was a little lost in the later shows (info from interview on Perhaps having such Star Trek rich beliefs could stifle the creativity and not allow it to explore new frontiers?

Apparently it was known last year that he would be exec'ing on the show (as noted by Ben Robinson from The Official Starships Collection on Twitter) so the question does have to be raised - why has it taken so long to announce? Is it down to contracts, dragging out the publicity a little...? Could it be they want to have at least two full-time hands on the rudder since Kurtzman may well be pottering off to work on The Invisible Man reboot movie? Just a thought but I go back again and say this is a very, very good move. 

He has experience with the franchise in its TV form, he provides a firm link to the Roddenberry vision and can therefore offer the guidance that I for one have hoped they would taken to ensure it steers in line with Star Trek's vision and ideals. If there are hints of his Reliant series smattered about that can't be a bad thing since it will anchor the show with its history.

Anyway, just a few thoughts on the news from me. I don't want to speculate too much as I know there will be more to come. At least we've had some new news on the show after it's November announcement. Now all we need is a trailer for Beyond which makes it look like Star Trek and not just some kinda big summer action movie...

What do you think to the news that Bryan Fuller is returning to the Star Trek fold?

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Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Red Shirt Diaries Closes the Book

By far one of the most original and entertaining Star Trek related webseries of the last year has to be The Red Shirt Diaries.

Brainchild of Ashley V Robinson and Jason Inman, we've been entertained with the adventures and commentary of Ensign Williams across 30 episodes (ten first season, 20 second) but alas due to lower than expected viewing figures versus the high cost and , perhaps, a natural end to the story of our long-lived red shirt, the series has come to a close with Amok Time. (if you've not seen the whole show yet, come back later as there will be a few SPOILERS)

I've been a big fan of the show since it's first episode, watching each one religiously every week and looking forward to Mondays for my next few minutes of Star Trek-inspired escapism. So while we can mourn the passing of this great show, let's take a gander back at the second batch of episodes from the Jawiin team running from The Menagerie, Part I to their finale.

One of the big things that's immediately noticeable about the second season of the show is that the Kickstarter funds raised during the hiatus have been put to extremely good use. The set is a little more expansive, we get to visit the bridge and alien worlds, the uniforms are correct to the Prime Universe rather than a mix of Prime and JJ-verse plus there's a ton of more glorious USS Enterprise CG for ship fans to laud over.

But at the core of the show is Ashley V Robinson's Ensign Williams and while all the changes do have an impact it's down to how Ashley portrays her character and carries each of the short instalments that makes it all work. Through the 20 episodes she's joined by Cat Roberts (seen in Star Trek Continues), Larry Nemecek as Doctor McCoy one more time,  Hal Rudnick and Nick Mundy from Screen Junkies as well as Jason Inman in various guises. 

Ok you can easily say that the series has improved visually but if it wasn't for the scripts and Ashley it wouldn't work.  Fact. I actually think that the best episodes of this, tragically, final 20 were totally based in Ensign Williams' quarters (which now has a shelf!)

The Menagerie two parter started off the run with Captain Pike under a space tarpaulin while escaping Starbase 11 and Yeoman Rand (Cat Roberts - bit of a fan and still hoping I can sort out a chat) getting phasered for being too inquisitive (or just darn nosey). The concluding part saw the Talosians selling the perfect life to the ensign but managing to pick out just about every bad thing that's happened since the show began. The two parts aren't really connected more using material from the original story to expand upon and poke a little fun at. How Spock got away with having Pike on board always puzzled me. 

The Conscience of the King reveals Ensign Williams and her visiting sister, Tamara to be the biggest fans of Anton Karidian - so it's a bit of a surprise when it turns out he might actually be mass murderer Kodos the Executioner. Oh, and don't mention the Scottish Play. I really enjoyed this one, especially with the total twist in priority from a mass murderer to the effects of saying That Play's name. 

A lot of the comedy element comes from the audience's complete understanding of the original material and perhaps that's most evident in not just the tap-covered Captain Pike but also in Williams' excitement to be attending a space wedding in Balance of Terror. The groom, as we know, doesn't make it but again the priority is slightly flipped from Williams consoling her grieving friend to being unable to transfer the Romulan Commander's comm-line to the bridge. 

Shore Leave has Williams screwed over and left alone while the more senior staff (as usual) get to swan off down to the planet in an unusually "quiet" episode - well, it is once Uhura "does one" and leaves the ensign alone! The following Galileo Seven brings back Cat Roberts as Yeoman Rand(y) as Kirk has the ladies distract Commissioner Ferris while he attempts to rescue the shuttlecraft. We get to "experience" Williams' yearnings for Doctor McCoy at a whole new level here I have to say as well as her dissatisfaction at having to remain on the ship instead of being able to join Bones on the Galileo.

As for guests, it's funny to see Hal Rudnick from Screen Junkies camping it up as the Squire of Gothos and it's got to be one of the best episodes of the show produced just to see him skipping around the set and generally ruining Williams' day.

Arena is one of those that followers of the series were absolutely gagging to see since it's the only true red shirt away mission of the 30 episode run and filmed on location at the iconic Vasquez Rocks which saw the original Kirk versus Gorn encounter. As with so many of the episodes, Williams ends up on the fringes of the encounter once more acting as our enthusiastic observer while managing to skip lethal away mission duties one more time. 

The time-jumping Tomorrow is Yesterday has her once more missing all the key action but getting totally sucked into the TV of the 1960's - Bonanza, Mr Ed, The Addams Family and more that inadvertently leads to her colleagues gatecrashing the party and getting rather annoyed when they have to get back to the future. 

One of my favourites from the second season has to be Court Martial just for the A Few Good Men homage and Old Timey Chris who must be the second worst layer of all time. Heck, computers untrustworthy which is a bit of an issue for him considering the Enterprise is, well, a giant flying computer. Williams' court martial for filing incorrect casualty reports turns out to be an error and not that  Williams which "leads" to Yeoman Rand's disappearance from the series - at least according to The Red Shirt Diaries at least.

Return of the Archons is the first of two appearances from Sulu in the show and does borrow a teeny bit from The Original Series in its reference to Red Hour and the wonders of Landru. It's a very neat encounter with religious brainwashing with Williams almost falling to the will of Landru after Sulu's sermon. Luckily there's some super-strong green scotch from Scotty to solve the mind control. Space Seed could have been difficult to work with given its seminal importance in Star Trek history. Without focusing on the facial features of Khan and instead reminding us of that ultra-fashionable red jumpsuit we have sleezy Mr Singh attempting several futile flirtations with Ensign Williams and coming across as a bit of an annoying dumbass who can't even recognise a particular woman - must be all the fatigue he's growing under.

Be careful what you bellieve with A Taste of Armageddon because you can'r be certain if that really is Captain Kirk calling you for immediate disintegration on the surface. At least Williams has Scotty's help to recognise the fake Kirk communicating with the ship and his intimate knowledge of General Orders to ensure that no-one ends up beaming down for immediate death on Eminiar VII.

This Side of Paradise gets Williams out of her quarters and onto the deserted Enterprise bridge to help Kirk regain control when the crew are affected by those "happy" plant spores. Being a security officer though, the ensign isn't too useful when it comes to anything to do with ship functions although she is pretty good at finding ways to button mash, fire the phasers and photon torpedoes. That probably makes Williams the perfect red shirt; it's not like she'll ever get to work the bridge with her life expectancy! 

Continuing the cameos from Screen JunkiesThe Devil in the Dark has the very funny Nick Mundy dropping by as an engineer with a mission. Unfortunately for Williams that mission is to strip her quarters of every useful element possible to save the ship while the red shirt ensign once again misses out on another seminal away team assignment.Lieutenant Mundy is one angry officer y'know even if he is very good at his job. For Diaries fans too there's the long awaited return of Gertrude which I'm certain will be seen as the show's greatest moment in years to come.

"Instrument of violence!" is the line which will now be eternally linked with the episode that originally introduced us to the Klingons; Errand of Mercy. In regards to that show, Williams' experiences with two Organian light balls reminded me of just how silly their response to the Klingon/Federation standoff was. Fighting violence with violence that they are denying that is, well, violence, blows logic apart as does the backward thinking policies of having no women on their council which in itself shouldn't exist since they have no board of authority.

Probably regarded as one of, if not the weakest episode of the first season, The Alternative Factor in the hands of The Red Shirt Diaries is far more interesting as the universe blinks in and out introducing us to anti-matter Williams who might not actually be quite as evil as you "expect" from another universe and there's not a goatee in sight. In fact this Williams has called her Dad, might have a bit of a crush on Khan and has saved the captain's life...all in a day's work....! 

The City on the Edge of Forever has to be one of the best episodes of the whole run if only for the scope of the story in just a matter of minutes. With all the messing around in the timeline caused by Kirk, Spock and McCoy we get to experience what might have been happening on the Enterprise as Williams is tossed through a universe where Hitler rules supreme, the Mirror Universe and even something that "hints" at Trek's to come if you will. The script is superb and tightly packed into those few minutes so I have to applaud the scope achieved especially as it's referencing Sherlock and The Man in the High Castle making it a very clever little cultural commentary.

Operation: Annihilate! is the real finale here, closing off Williams' story as she helps hard-drinking CMO McCoy (Larry Nemecek) to realise the solution to the flying pancake issue the crew are facing. Nemecek is wonderfully extravagant here, certainly enjoying his bottle of blue booze way too much!

That discovery (from hitting a creature with a picture no less) leads to a promotion but in the excitement the ensign misses a vital call from her father whom we later discover has sadly died. It's a real punch to the stomach after such an uplifting, satirical and always enjoyable series but it works perfectly. Amok Time then provides a fitting epilogue as Williams finally meets her neighbour (Jason Inman) before shipping off to lieutenant's quarters complete with a longer sleeved and gold-braid endowed uniform. Needless to say that the subsequent incumbent of the room soon lives up the true reputation of an Enterprise red shirt. 

The Red Shirt Diaries have been a big success at least in terms of their vision and satirical content. It's disappointing to know that the viewing figures didn't live up to expectations versus the cost of producing each segment. The show has put a clever spin on the first season of a classic show, pointing out the twists, the asides, the clever - and silly - storylines and overall just how damn lucky Williams was to survive a full year on the Enterprise. Given all the cool stories and the humour that permeates that web-series, it's a shock that there is such a kick in the last two episodes that counter the jubilation of Williams' promotion.

The real tragedy though has to be the poor response to the show, the lower than expected viewing and in turn the fact that it doesn't justify the costs to produce each episode. As both Ashley and Jason have noted via social media, Amok Time does provide effective closure to the ensign's arc and see her move on so it's not as though there's not been any thought into how to round out the Diaries. It will be missed by many for its unique spin on the classic first season of The Original Series and maybe one day, Ensign Williams will return (please!).

You can watch all of The Red Shirt Diaries now over at the Jawiin Youtube channel now.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Destination Star Trek 2016: The Official Announcement

Here it is!

Less than a week ago we were given the news that the 50th anniversary would see a Star Trek event on UK shores. As of 12 noon today (2/2/16) we now know a little bit more about what to expect from the event. Below I've reproduced the official press release but let's break it down paragraph by paragraph...

LONDON, February 02, 2016Destination Star Trek Europe, the premier Star Trek fan event in Europe, will once again open its doors to thousands of Star Trek enthusiasts from across the universe for a three-day celebration of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. Set for October 7-9 at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, England, Destination Star Trek Europe will pay tribute to the characters and stories that have inspired generations of fans, joining a year of celebrations in honour of this milestone year for the franchise.

No big shock on the venue since William Shatner announced it would be Birmingham in a tweet last week. The NEC is the obvious venue and offers a lot of space for the event. Good choice for the three days!

Destination Star Trek Europe, under license by CBS Consumer Products, will offer fans the opportunity to meet cast and crew, explore interactive exhibits, learn about Star Trek’s impact on science, space and technology, and enjoy parties fit for a golden anniversary. 

The legendary William Shatner (Captain Kirk), will headline the event and be joined by Christopher Lloyd (Commander Kruge), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Jonathan Frakes (William Riker), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Alexander Siddig (Dr. Julian Bashir), Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax) and Nicole de Boer (Ezri Dax). Additional guests will be revealed in the coming months.

OK... so to the guests. We have The Original Series covered off by Shatner and Koenig (no doubt promo'ing Renegades too), The Next Generation represented by Frakes and Sirtis, Deep Space Nine by Siddig, Farrell (again a Renegades link) and de Boer as well as a special appearance by The Search for Spock guest star Lloyd  (what have they done to his eyes on the DST site?) - but no news on anyone SO FAR from Voyager or Enterprise. Note too we're getting double Dax for the event! Could those guests to be announced include another four captains perhaps? Maybe some behind the scenes guys such as Rick Sternbach and Mike Okuda? New series cast....???? Aside from Christopher Lloyd though it's nothing super unbelievable so far.

There will also be four stages -  Enterprise,  Excelsior,  Voyager and Enterprise-D hosting talks across the weekend including All Hail the 50 Year March of the Klingons and 50 Years Not Out: Celebrating Star Trek's Many Reinventions. 

In addition to autographs, photos and panels, fans will be able to take command of the bridge on the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 or NCC-1701-D, investigate a Borg hive, take charge of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, explore a shuttlecraft, and see original props and costumes in the Destination Star Trek Museum.

WOW. That's some pretty cool attractions. I'm a sucker for sets and props so that's going to be awesome to experience. The shuttle is one I'm very interested in seeing - and which one will it be? I suspect that getting a pic on one of those mock-ups might cost a couple of quid so take some cash along for these and for those all-important cast shots and autographs.

Checking out the site there is going to be a themed Klingon zone along with a gaming area and two parties on the Friday and Saturday night for fans to attend. The museum is promising items seen previously at Destination Star Trek such as scripts, Borg drones and Odo face masks as well as some surprise new items.  

Tickets are now available at

No brainer. Go and book. Tickets start from £29 for a single day through to the four packages of Lieutenant,  Commander, Captain and Admiral each offering a different set of increasingly impressive options. 

“For five decades, Star Trek has influenced the world around us through its voyages to the Final Frontier,” said event organiser, Mark Woollard. “Destination Star Trek Europe will honour the series’ impact and celebrate its legions of fans that are inspired to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016. Born from the mind of Gene Roddenberry, the original Star Trek series debuted on September 8, 1966 and aired for three seasons -- a short run that belied the influence it would have for generations. Launching the careers of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, the series also broke new ground in storytelling and cultural mores providing a progressive look at topics including race relations, global politics, the environment, and more. It spawned five more television series and 13 feature films spanning the course of half a century. 

Nice few cliches of the associated phrases and the like here. Bit of background for the uninitiated but for most readers we'll be skipping over the generic background looking for any further info on what to expect at this point in the release. No news on if this is going to have any links into Beyond and the JJ-verse or if we're going to be given any teasers for the upcoming TV series in 2017. Actually, it's pretty mute in regards to anything from 2009 onwards...

Beyond its impact on the entertainment landscape, Star Trek has also inspired some of the greatest minds steering the direction of our modern world and sparking the biggest technological advancements of our time such as the cell phone, universal translator, smart watch, tablet, sonogram, and countless other inventions. Those who cite Star Trek as an influence on their lives include Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk, and countless others.

Yep, Star Trek had cultural impact! Few nice name drops but are any of them going to guest?! No news on that.

Destination Star Trek Europe is organised by Massive Events, in association with Showmasters and Media 10.

OK....not the biggest announcement. It confirms a few guests and a few of the attractions but nothing about what stands, businesses etc are going to be on show for us. Will Timelines be there? Can we expect to get hands on with some upcoming models from the Starships Collection? Are there going to be some exclusive screenings during the three day event?

The next few months will unquestionably keep seeing bits of information drip onto the event page which is now open to buy your tickets. Get to it!

What are you looking forward to at Destination Star Trek Europe? Which guests do you want to meet and what will you be heading for?

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Monday, 1 February 2016

Destination Star Trek 2016: The Wishlist So Far

Hurrah for Destination Star Trek!!!!

It's back in the UK two years after its last visit and on February 2nd, exactly 24 hours from the time I'm posting this, we'll be able to find out a few tantalising details of what's in store. Also seems that #DST is making it's way to Birmingham rather than London - big twist there if the reveal from Mr Shatner on Twitter was anything to go by! Roll on 12noon TOMORROW for our first announcements.

But,  just as we did before, let's have a think about what we want to see at this - unquestionably - huge event. Well, OK, it's the second biggest of the year in the UK after First Contact Day(!)

1. The Original Series Cast

Whether or not everyone wants to be in the same room as Shatner is always something worth a few lines of debate but it's 50 years and surely differences can be put aside for three days?  If not what about getting together as many guest stars as funds might allow for this three-dayer?

2. The Captains

We're not just talking the five from TV but also Chris Pine and - potentially - one other.  They're all worthy of being there as the leaders of their respective crews.

3. Preview of Star Trek 2017

When will we be able to refer to it other than by release year? This would be the perfect time to give us a trailer or two and maybe get some of the cast over for their first taste of fandom.  Maybe a little too much of a trial by fire but we gotta see it sometime and an unveiling at this event would send UK fans wild. Could we get our first footage? First sneak peeks of the new ship? We can dream/hope/pray (delete as applicable).

4. The Star Trek Encyclopaedia and the Okudas

The biggest Star Trek book launch of the year and it would be only fitting for those behind it to be at the UK's biggest Star Trek event in 2016. It's been a long time coming for an updated version of the ultimate reference guide to the future and I think it's a book that's on every fan's must have list for this year.

5. Love for the Fan Series

Can we have some time to appreciate the work of Continues and Phase II/New Voyages and more at DST 2016? Screenings, fan panels etc would be good to see as these guys and gals have been flying the flag for Star Trek since it went off air in 2005.  

6. Media

Rumour has it that at the 2014 event there was a media booth for us bloggers, vloggers and errant media beavers to use but no-one knew! Can we have some more info on this as I think it'll get a lot more use in 2016 - I could certainly find a use!!! As for a media session, it would be great to see if we could get a lot of us into a room for a chat!

7. Official Starships

Boys and toys moment as I would like to think Ben and the Eaglemoss team will keep a few gems secret for reveal at DST. I'm hoping he'll take along the specials from Beyond - and we know there are three ships from that and one of those is the Enterprise. But here's a thought I didn't drop into the piece on the Franklin - how do we know that he's talking about the Enterprise from the first two reboots?!?! (think about it....we know Ben doesn't like doing ships with minor changes).

8. Idris Elba

Now this would be a galactic coup? I know we've already spoken about getting Pine along to get the stage filled with all six screen captains (to date) but how about getting the villain of the summer Star Trek movie up for a Q&A with the fans? He is a Brit so this would just be a little trip down the road for one of our finest.

OK, so these are all just things I would like to see but who knows what's coming and who is coming. Will there be a full series cast reunion? Is it going to be Deep Space Nine rather than The Original Series? Will we get the whole crew from Beyond? How about a chat with Alex Kurtzman? We could go on...and I suspect after tomorrow we will!

What - or who - do you want to see at Destination Star Trek 2016?

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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Third Time's a Charm: The Other Starship

This weekend saw some new and very exciting concept art hit the internet.

Coming in the form of designs for the USS Franklin,  we now know there will be another Starfleet vessel making an appearance in Beyond along with the USS Enterprise. The poster above is being sent to those fans who donated to the Omaze charity fundraiser that ran alongside the making of the movie last year.

I first caught sight of this new design on Trekcore where they suggested a number of points surrounding the ship; that it will be seen early on in the movie following the destruction of the Enterprise and that we've also seen a fair bit of the Franklin in the first trailer. In fact Spock is wearing a Franklin jacket!

So this could make the Franklin the base of operations for the remaining crew who escaped and could well be the ship we've seen Sophia Boutella and Chris Pine climbing out of in behind the scenes stills. Of course they could be climbing out of the wrecked Enterprise saucer but this is all conjecture until later this year.

The arrival of the Franklin marks the third movie in a row where we've seen the introduction of a Federation starship besides the Enterprise and if it follows suit set by the Kelvin and the Vengeance it won't be in one piece come the end titles. So what does this new concept image tell us about the ship itself? 

One thing we do know is that this isn't quite the final version as indicated by The Official Starship Collection's Ben Robinson in a tweet on Saturday. Now that would indicate that Ben has seen the finished article (of course) and that collectors of the series should be expecting to see it in the run of specials.

Google Images
I'd suggest that the pennants will be altered since the ones on this image are more in line with the Prime Universe movies than the JJ-verse. The most noticable thing here though is that huge light source at the front of the saucer which would seem to be the viewscreen and gives an idea that this is a ship much smaller than both the USS Enterprise and the Kelvin. The edge of the saucer only has a single layer of portholes too and we know that the Enterprise has two decks at that point.

It also has the JJ-verse trademark blue bussard collectors and some odd orange lining detail along the warp engine struts. Those collectors do appear to have the "fan" style workings akin to those on the original NCC-1701. Saying that, the rear of the engines have a very familiar curve to them which fans might recognise from the Enterprise of The Original Series - nice touch there. 

That front part of the engine even has a resemblance to the front end of the movie Enterprise secondary hull (but I'm no doubt reading far too much into this picture). The hull surface is pretty different too with the saucer dipping and then raising to the edge plus some sort of crazy hull panelling fanning out to the curve. Certainly not something we've seen before even in the Prime Universe.

Google Images
But what period of Starfleet history is this supposed to represent? From the ramshackle nature of it's interior seen in the trailer and the grey exterior it does seem that the USS Franklin will be an older ship. Perhaps not as old as the Kelvin since the engines look to have evolved from that era but definitely with a few miles on the clock. Also of note and a reason for conjecture over her age is the fact that there is no registry number visible. Maybe that's because it hadn't been decided when this image was created or was it left off on purpose? OK, Vengeance didn't have a registry but that was for other reasons!

The great thing is that the Franklin is different again to the aging single engined Kelvin and the stealthy, angular design of the brutal Vengeance. How the ship appears on the screen may well be different to this image although I don't foresee too many changes if this is something they are sending out to charitable fans. It does add another dimension to the film in the possibility that the Franklin will be playing a larger role in Beyond than the Enterprise but with the fact the latter may well meet its maker early on that's not saying a lot.

So this makes the third ship we know will be in the movie alongside the Enterprise and those alien raider-type vessels glimpsed in the trailer hunting Spock and McCoy. Hopefully we're going to get some more! If nothing else the reboots have given us some interesting spacial additions to the franchise. I love the stealth elements and design of the Vengeance and now the Franklin is very much harking to the Prime origins of Star Trek and that would be in keeping with what we've been hearing from Simon Pegg about this movie respecting its past a lot more than the previous two.

Just to finish off - we saw the behind the scenes video from Entertainment Tonight a week or so ago. We got to see a bit more on the retro uniform styling, a bit of aging on the bridge - but was I the only one who wonders if Sulu's daughter is called Demora...?

Do you like the new starship design? Is it in keeping with the franchise?

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Mini Cubes and Octahedrons - Borg Expansions

As Dan has noted in our Tactical Cube take, the Borg are a formidable foe in the show and in the game. In fact those recent changes almost put me off expanding into their fleet. However, I finally reneged and decided to take the plunge.

My first addition was the small Borg Scout Cube first (and last) seen in The Next Generation's I,Borg from the fifth season. As you would therefore expect, the expansion is heavily themed around that episode with two Third of Five options in the set but more on that in a sec.

As to the ship, the movement is the expected Borg "straight-line" process and dependant on whether you're playing original or revised rules, that's spin and move or move then spin. Having played out both the latter makes you extremely predictable and does reduce the element of surprise but gives the opposition a better chance of kicking you into oblivion since they know where you're heading next. As for range of moves, the scout is manoeuvrable, giving you a full range of 90 degree moves on ranges one to four (with the top speed all causing the addition of an auxiliary power token) plus a very, very useful maximum of a three reverse.

The model itself is detailed all in black with the surface covered in a non-repetitive circuit-like pattern plus some fancy little corner accessories just so you can tell it's different from the massive main cube vessels. The images used for publicity have some great green highlights but that's all missing from the retail model.

As to the stats, she doesn't appear that strong and in the first head to head I ran her in she didn't take long to receive her marching orders although for note I was taking on the flying heavy weapon known as the Scimitar. Starting out with a three for offence and for defence, a two hull and four shields for 24 points, Scout 608 can also perform an additional green or white manoeuvre at the cost of discarding an upgrade. Choose wisely my friends, choose wisely!

For captain of your tiny cube you have Third of Five who provides you with an extra defence die at the cost of a Drone token. Pretty useful but it's best I also talk about these token thingys. Each Borg captain has a certain number of tokens assigned to them at the beginning of the game which is usually determined by a number on their card. This indicates their starting captain skill which will change during the game depending on the number of Drone tokens used/regenerated in the game. I really like this Borg feature as it plays as though they are relentless and virtually unstoppable without being, erm, unstoppable.  Third of Five starts off with three of these but there is also a second choice of a Tactical Drone if you don't want to spend too much on a captain for your geometric vessel.

That Drone allows a revenge attack during a defence roll for the cost of one Drone Token (for details on the use of Drone Tokens take a look at the Tactical Cube post) and the opposition don't get to defend it. Great feature that only costs a single squadron point. The third captain option is an average Drone that allows you to prep a single Drone Token but won't cost a single point.

As for crew, there's an unusual double in the form of Third of Five. Make your choice though since you can only have one version active nor can you equip him on the same ship or in the same fleet as Hugh which comes with the Borg Type Three ship. This crew option is a discard to target a ship at range one or two with the ability to disable all the crew upgrades on an enemy vessel even if they're cloaked. That's a big hitter for five squadron points especially as you'll be close enough to pop a shot at them in the Combat Phase.

While you don't get a complete set of five crew drones, the Scout Cube does supply both Second of Five and Fourth of Five, both of whom are represented by images from The Best of Both Worlds. Less expensive is Second at just three points and a discard but he does let you take away an enemy upgrade of your choice so no limiting to Crew as with Third. Fourth again allows you to act within that one/two range and to disable up to two enemy shields AND two upgrades of your choice. It's a double-play with serious benefits for a discard and a five point cost. I'd consider sticking this on a lot of Borg ships just for that two-way tactical advantage. Interestingly all three of those crew cards allow you to use them on cloaked vessels. 

As for tech, Long Range Scan operates at a more distant range three at a cost of four points. A disable card, it lets you convert one damage result into an Evade or Battle Station should you have the Scan token active on your ship. Nice for additional defence and I wish I'd used this more effectively when my cube was hammered. Secondly there's Subspace Beacon which is also a disable card operating up to range three, allowing you to perform Scan as a free action. Clearly something you can couple with the other tech upgrade and a no-brainer to pair up I would say. Again, should have used this!

Compared to the Tactical Cube 138 there's just one Weapon upgrade with Scout 608 but it is the Magnetometric Guided Charge (with a picture of the cutting beam; duh). Using the scout's primary weapon total of three dice, it lets the player convert a Battle Station into a Critical Damage and stops the opponent from defending. Why did I not play this ship properly?!?! I could've won if I'd used the upgrades much more effectively although with the new Tactical Cube I've acquired I can see a dreadnought being constructed.

Finally the Borg upgrades are pretty cheap. There's the standard Borg Alcove to allow regeneration of your Drone Tokens (cost of four points but does give you options for later in the game) and the I, Borg themed Scavenged Parts card at just two points which acts to replenish your Drone Tokens when you discard an upgrade. At least you're getting something for losing a feature but it does restrict you on when you can regenerate your drones.

My final addition to date is the tragically misspelled (on the cards anyway) Queen Vessel Prime aka the Borg Ocatahderon Octahedron. Nearly double the squadron points of the Scout just on the ship (24 to 42), the Queen's personal battleship just falls short of the Tactical Cube (46 points) but only on hull and shield points and then just by one on each. In comparison to that ship it also exchanges one weapon upgrade for a crew slot. Boasting a painful six in attack, zero defence ability, eight hull and seven shield points it's still more than formidable in any situation. Not wanting to spend quite so much? You could sacrifice a crew slot and a shield for just 40 points.

Unsurprisingly the Borg Queen is your main captain choice. She can switch onto another ship if required and comes with a starting skill/Drone Token number of seven. I'd have expected something a bit higher but it really limits more activity of your Drone Tokens than anything else since the ship has so much fire-power as standard. The Queen can also syphon an action from another friendly ship at range one/two as a free action which could mean pairing a couple of vessels so she can utilise a larger arsenal effectively.

Mr Tactical Drone returns as a second command option with a starting skill of five and a cost of four points but he will hinder your enemy if you choose to spend a Drone Token to force them to roll one less defence die. Certainly with the weaponry at your disposal using this captain could cut your offensive time substantially. There is the no-cost option with a skill of one but I doubt he'll ever see combat unless you're desperate to save points. Oh, hang on...Point heavy ships...

Queen Vessel Prime comes with two Elite Action upgrades that only the Queen card (in this pack) can take advantage of. We are the Borg comes into play during the Defence Dice step of the Combat Phase and provides up to three Evade results at the cost of up to three Drone Tokens. Not one you'll be able to use again since it's a discard but with zero defence I would think it's critical to have something you can use to halt the inevitable battering. Six points for this might appear steep but is it worth paying to keep you in the game?

Alternatively there is Resistance is Futile costing one more point at seven. An attacking move which costs up to three Drone Tokens to stop up to three dice from being cancelled, it's one more card that will play havoc with anything non-Borg on the board. You'll probably lose friends too.

One crew upgrade here as well with just Magnus Hansen getting a look in. I had expected more generic drones to be shuffling around the pack but at least it's a named and recognised character we have here and one specific to an episode in which the Octahedron appeared (Dark Frontier). He does reduce the number of Drone Tokens required to complete an action but does get discarded although with a cost of one point he's a good choice if you're looking to fill than last tiny gap on your ship.

The Power Node tech upgrade drops in at three points and lets you disable the card plus two active shields to avoid an Auxiliary Power Token if you perform a red manoeuvre. For reference the ship can move at speed four forwards and three in reverse with only the left and right "fours" and the reverse "three" as red. Not a particularly essential upgrade for your ship given it's innate ability and strengths and there are certainly more appetising tech upgrades with other Borg vessels.

Unusually for the Borg though we have one and only one weapon upgrade with the very, very expensive ten point Multi Kinetic Neutronic Mines. A one-shot minefield deployment card, any ship entering the field rolls four attack dice and suffer the consequences. If you're unlucky enough to be in range one of the token then you don't even get to defend. Boom, another victory for the cybernetic perfectionists. 

What you do get a few of to play with are the Borg upgrades. At four points you can select Transwarp Signal which lets you remove an Evade, Battle Station, Scan or Target Lock from an enemy ship and also hurt them with an Auxiliary Power Token. Additional note here that it doesn't work on those CG Species 8472 types but seeing as they have a minimal presence in the game I don't think it'll worry a lot of people.

Borg Assimilation Tubules is a reusable card letting Borg players steal a crew, tech or weapon upgrade from an opponent. Clever twist on the favoured Borg recruitment technique which doesn't affect flippin' Species 8472 and does mean you could get some juicy freebies from another ship. Cost is a pricey eight points but the benefits are considerable if you pick the right upgrade to nick. Cloak from the Defiant? Quantum Torpedoes? Grapple from the Vidiians? Lots of goodness.

Last up is the Borg Shield Matrix that is accompanied by its own instruction card. On the base of it you just add a shield matrix token to the card (maximum of three) each time you're damaged. But what does it do you're asking? Simply put it adds an extra defence die for every matrix token you have and if an enemy attempts to affect the captain or one of the assigned upgrades then you get to roll one attack die for each token on the card. Whether you have to "spend" these tokens isn't stated but I assume that you should only add one per turn to the card up to the three and that they are used to take advantage of the benefit. Otherwise after three rounds you'd be constantly at a certain level.

Fancy playing out a scenario then the Queen's ship comes with Collapse the Transwarp Conduit once more pitching the pack at those familiar with Dark Frontier. A one-on-one Borg versus Federation set up, the latter is tasked with destroying the final Interspatial Manifold (an Objective Token) and get the hell out of Dodge before the Octahedron reigns fire and brimstone. I'd certainly pick a pimped out 70 point USS Voyager against the Borg but whether that makes a big difference will depend on your style and risk taking since the cybernetic assimilators are massively points endowed at their basic level. Not a mission I've played yet but I'll have to put some careful thought into the upgrades on that Federation ship.

So that's the second of our Borg ship reviews while we've been waiting for Waves 19 and 20 to appear from across the water. My only major missing faction now are the Dominion (shocker seeing as I'm a huge Deep Space Nine fan) but the Borg are certainly very interesting to play if potentially game killers. I love their upgrades, the different plays you can implement and even the neat use of the Drone Tokens but playing them can make you either look like someone who can't bear to lose or a total amateur simply because of their starting stats. The only good thing is that the starting points for the Octahedron and the Tactical Cube mean that very little can be added on.

Are they worth getting? Debatable since a lot of tournaments ban their use. If you look at the world championships the first and second place used Borg Spheres so you can see the impact of the faction even at that standard of play. One for beginners perhaps more than others to get them into the game with a good chance of success while still offering more experienced players a chance to develop their anti-Borg tactics.

Borg fan or are you still avoiding the faction?

Wave 20 is available now with all ships recommended to retail at £11.99 each. The Borg ships here usually retail around the same price. You can track down your local stockist HERE

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