Monday, 18 August 2014

Starship Excitement Factor 9.99

"No, I'll not do anything on those announcements."

Famous last words to friend of the blog +Nils W. via why not joint post and get talking about the massive Starships weekend?!

For months fans have been nagging the team at The Official Star Trek Starships Collection to let us know what the heck is coming up in the next few issues. Then this weekend it went absolutely crackers with not one, not two, not three but well...LOTS of announcements about the range.

Before now we'd discussed the news that it would be going to 90 issues not 70 (which screwed this article we wrote back in April) and that the Enterprise from The Original Series, the Enterprise-C and the Negh'Var would be within the bounds of issues 41 - 50. So let's take a breath and regroup. What have we learned about the collection from this weekend?

Intentionally we held this piece back until today so we could fully round up but Friday kicked everything off with two new photos - the first of which not only gave us Ben Robinson's address (subsequently removed on an update!) but actual shots of actual models yet to be released.

Fans have been begging for some teasers for a while and the first picture for some time gave us four ships already ordered for issues 36 through 39 with the Oberth Class, the Andorian Cruiser, Delta Flyer and Romulan Drone all appearing on Ben's desk (with a cameo from the JJverse Enterprise to the left).

Let's look at these first, starting with the dominant Delta Flyer. Being smaller it benefits from being able to pack in a lot more detail. I'm guessing these are prototypes as the painting around the cockpit is a bit flared but I have to say this is a superb realisation with a rear stand. Also we can make out the maneuvering thruster (front below the registry) and the blue and red transparent sections on the warp engines.

Unfortunately the Oberth Class is half-hidden but taking a look at what we can see it's using movie style decalling - cleverly we've not got exactly which one of the class it will be but I'd bet Grissom. The same photo angling does mean bits of the Andorian Cruiser are obscured however we do get a good idea that it's going to be about half the length of the JJverse Enterprise and be one of the thinner entries to the collection. We can just make out the red and blue transparent engine sections towards the rear and some of the panelling detail on the silver hull. 

Official Starships Collection
The best view though is of the Romulan Drone from Enterprise. Once more a classic green in colour it has some of the most intricate detail yet seen on a collection model with a significant number of antennae protuding from the front and underside of the hull. Apparently this is now one of Ben Robinson's favourite designs and you can see why. The ventral view on the website doesn't do this ship justice - and yet again it's an Enterprise release that provides the highest quality.

Added Nils: "The Romulan drone looks like it might be the most intricately detailed model yet, and Ben reveals it is probably his new favorite. The Andorian cruiser looks perfect, and from what I can see the Oberth class will give the Federation ships a much needed break from the standard layout. Of course the Delta Flyer is up front and looks crisp and clean, and I can not wait for them all! I'm really looking forward to the Surok Class Vulcan ship, and would love to get a teaser shot for that one...."

Memory Alpha
By close of play on Saturday we knew what was allocated to issues 41, 42, 43, 47 and 50 (which meant we knew the previously confirmed Enterprise-C would be among the other five) and we had news that the next two special editions would indeed be USS Vengeance and, perhaps a little surprisingly, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey from Star Trek Into Darkness. This does mean that three of the four specials will have been from the reboot leaving some fans wondering what's going to be released in this line from the Prime Universe - we're thinking K-7 for special five.

The craziness continued on Sunday morning (we asked for issue 45 by the way) with another revelation that issue 49 would be the ECS Fortunate from the first season of Enterprise and that issue 48 would be the ablative armour version of Voyager from Endgame. Both of these are total curve balls which no one saw coming and definitely ensure we're getting infinite diversity through the selection and the order. I'm not thrilled by the Fortunate however the Voyager variant looks sleek and will be the first ship to appear twice. The only other 'repeat'  as such we know of apart from this one is the Enterprise-A. Again it seems that the armoured Voyager has been planned since day one. Well done on keeping that a secret,  Ben! 

Official Starships Collection
Issue 46 then popped into reality with the inclusion of the already announced Enterprise-C. We do hope that the final model isn't exactly like the pic featured on the Facebook page since it's not 100% accurate to the ship we saw in Yesterday's Enterprise. Great to have it's position in the release order but not that big news. This meant that there was a Voyager and an Enterprise entry still to come by 5pm GMT.

That Voyager entry turned out to be the Malon freighter from season five and the final entry came out later that night as the Intrepid from Enterprise. I', more enamoured with the latter of those two which should be as good as her warp five successor. I'm still surprised we're not getting a Vidiian, Kazon or Hirogen first.  

Those final announcements made three from Enterprise, one from The Original Series, two from The Next Generation, one from Deep Space Nine and three from Voyager.

What a weekend for Collection fans huh? So what does ace photographer and friend, +Nils W think to all this?

"There is a lot to be said for letting the excitement build up. It was getting to the point where fans and subscribers were more or less begging for more news on just the next TEN issues beyond #40. And then, he gets online with a fantastic teaser. A photo of the models on his desk, and boy do they look great! (Also, saying that there will be AT LEAST 90 issues and more if we want.)

Courtesy of Nils W.
I have a little bit of mixed feelings about the specials though, and from what I can see, I'm not the only one - we want more space stations!!! The Deep Space Nine special was simply awesome, and it felt.....special. Larger, not just a ship. Almost all metal. I just think that the slightly larger size lends itself perfectly for stations like K-7, or Regula One, Space Dock etc... and they make nice center pieces for our expanding fleets to be displayed around.

Of course some ships would be extra nice as specials too. Imagine the Ring Ship, or the Phoenix, or even V'ger as specials! I'm afraid that Ben will get a fair amount of grumbles (maybe less so if he had picked the Kelvin) if he goes through with three specials in a row all from the NuTrek movies. I would be far from angry about the NuKlingon ship as special issues # 4, but I will admit I'd rather it was a station or something from a different show/movie just to mix it up. Of course I want the NuKlingon ship in the collection though too! In fact, I want them all!!!!!"

Notably only two of our five wants have been included here in the USS Pasteur and the Negh'Var which means we're waiting for news on the Kazon warship, the Botany Bay and the Galileo shuttle. Hints have been dropped in conversation that we will get the SS Raven from Dark Frontier, the Borg Tactical Cube, the Enterprise-J and the Borg "Type 3" from Descent. It's going to be some time before we get another mass explosion of info from Eaglemoss but for now here's the confirmed list from 41 to 50 (and when they were announced) along with episode reference, our excitement level and pic. Enjoy!

41 Klingon Raptor 

(Saturday 16th August)
Picture of the ship plus CGI modelwork image for the creation of the final product - note the stand positioning! Enterprise: Sleeping Dogs. Also means they are doing every single Klingon variant.
SKoST Excitement Factor: 3 (out of 5)

Official Starships Collection

42 USS Pasteur 

(Saturday 16th August). 
SKoST Excitement Factor: 5
CGI image only - which is superb! The Next Generation: All Good Things...
We've been waiting, demanding, expecting. Payday!

Official Starships Collection

43 Species 8472 bioship

(Saturday 16th August) 
SKoST Excitement Factor: 4
From Voyager: Scorpion, Parts I & II this is a lovely design and will be unusual. Colour and detail in the supplied image make us very interested in the final version.

Official Starships Collection

44 Intrepid

(Sunday 17th August)
SKoST Excitement Factor: 3
Featured in season three's The Expanse as well as the fan-favorite Twilight and season four two-part opener Storm Front it's one of the few Starfleet vessels to feature in Enterprise. Tight design and with a lot of similarities to the NX-01.

45 Malon Freighter

(Sunday 17th August)
SKoST Excitement Factor: 3
The intergalactic binmen turn up with their leaky ship. Hopefully the model will be more environmentally friendly.

46 USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C

(Sunday 17th August)
SKoST Excitement Factor: 4
Lost a bit of the excitement since we knew it was coming. Means we only have the J and the A left to appear. Will we get the Probert original later on?

Official Starships Collection

47 IKS Negh'Var 

(Saturday 16th August). 
SKoST Excitement Factor: 4
CGI again  and featured in Deep Space Nine: The Way of the Warrior and By Inferno's Light. Second of two Klingon designs in the ten announced and the only entry from Deep Space Nine.

Official Starships Collection

48 Ablative Armour USS Voyager

(Sunday 17th August)
SKoST Excitement Factor: 5
Dribble... Please be very silver. That is all.

Official Starships Collection

49 ECS Fortunate

(Sunday 17th August)
SKoST Excitement Factor: 2
It's a freighter from one episode of Enterprise and the first season at that. The detail will undoubtedly be stunning as the prequel ships have been the outstanding additions but there are more interesting ones out in this period. Didn't anticipate this one though did we?

Official Starships Collection

50 USS Enterprise NCC-1701 The Original Series

(Already announced as 50th issue)
SKoST Excitement Factor: 4
The classic, the original, the ultimate model? Fingers crossed - and it's the 50th...

Oh...and then...

Just when we thought the news was all over, Ben dropped back on Facebook today with the following statement:

Some hints for issues 50-59. 2 of these classes of ship have defended Earth from an invasion inside our solar system. One of these ships was hijacked. Two of them are operated by a race with pointy ears. Two of them are from the Delta Quadrant. We saw one of them fight in a war. One is both older and newer than a ship we've already done that has the same name. One of them had a captain who was played by two different actors. It'll be a while before I announce what they are though, so plenty of time for theories.

So to finish, here's our 51 - 59 theories...

  • Two classes that have defended Earth - probably a couple from Steamrunner, Saber, Centaur, Yeager or Norway Class
  • One of these ships was hijacked - USS Enterprise-A perhaps?
  • Two operated by a race with pointy ears - Romulan Scimitar and classic Bird-of-Prey? The Romulan scoutship from The Next Generation? Or could one be the Vulcan T'Plana'Hath?
  • Two are from the Delta Quadrant - there's two from the Hirogen/Vidiian/Kazon ships
  • One of them fight in a war - Jem'Hadar warship? Maybe the Breen ship from Deep Space Nine?
  • One is both older and newer than a ship we've already done that has the same name - Romulan Bird-of-Prey? Would make sense.
  • One of them has a captain who was played by two different actors - must be the USS Relativity from Voyager as Braxton was indeed played by Allan G Royal and later, Bruce McGill

So there you go - happy with the choices? Like the curve balls? Why not drop us a line here and let's discuss...

Thanks to Nils for his input and pics - think we'll be doing something like that again!

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Friday, 15 August 2014

The Original Series: Serpents in the Garden - Kirk's Clean-up Operation

The glorious benefit of hindsight still blights us in the 23rd Century it appears in Jeff Mariotte's latest novel Serpents in the Garden. Prepare your spoiler alarm - we're heading in.

Acting as a sequel to the second season episode A Private Little War; in itself a parable about the Vietnam War being fought at the time, we are returned to Neural and face the results of Jim Kirk's interference in that planet's affairs.

Of course that time there were Klingons involved which clearly gave him justification to provide arms to the Hill People and his friend, Tyree to defend themselves against the Villagers (not known as The Village People) and again that situation is presented but with a few years added on since that encounter.

I love the idea here and for a long time I've imagined that there's some poor captain and crew who spend their entire careers just following Kirk and the Enterprise and cleaning up after them. While that's not precisely the case, we do have the promoted Admiral Kirk heading back to this world to investigate the possibility that the Klingons have expanded their presence and are further interfering with the evolution of Neural.

I'd have settled this more into a "lost era" than The Original Series just due to it's timing since Serpents in the Garden is set after the five year mission and during the USS Enterprise's refit pre-The Motion Picture. It's a time from future history I find fascinating since there's a lot of scope in that frame just as we've recently seen in the Generations to Encounter at Farpoint gap with David R George III's One Constant Star.

A Private Little War wasn't an episode I would be racing to watch however it is one I seem to have quite vivid memories of which probably helped in the reading of Mariotte's novel. It's certainly a case of Kirk seeing the aftermath of his interference but it's more about what the long term results have been across the planet. Now seemingly in a state of war, Freedom (a town established by the Hill People) is defending itself against the Villagers who now reside in Victory and are backed by the might of the Klingons.

Central to the novel is, of course, Kirk and his relationship with Tyree, the chief of Freedom and also with his attache, Rowland. The former is certainly more prominent as there is an element of reconciliation since the former starship captain killed his wife on his previous visit but this gets passed over fairly quickly. The remainder of the book tends to focus on the conflict between the two civilisations of Neural and how Kirk can prove Klingon involvement which will mean they are going against the Organian Peace Treaty.

While it's a good read and enjoyable there's no big twist or reveal within Serpents in the Garden. The plot is pretty ABC but does step up to the plate a little more once we get into the settlement of Victory later in the story however it never reaches the heights of Mariotte's 2013 entry to the catalogue, The Folded World which was one of the best novels of last year. Even the arrival of the Mugatos on a couple of occasions doesn't lift the pace of the story and there was a certain eminence that everything would be nicely tied up  by the final page. 

The character of Kirk here has nothing new either; he's on a mission with a fairly inexperienced staff member and a couple of expendables redshirts, mixing it up with the locals and getting into the occasional firefight. There's some romantic titilation but that doesn't last more than a couple of pages and is scarce more than flirting. In fact, going back to my note in the last paragraph, it is only when we see Victory that there is any sense of real peril or danger and that this isn't going to be as clean cut as might have been hoped.

Kirk's aide and Tyree don't really come alive in this novel and even when the ante is raised do you feel as though they are as integral to the story as Kirk. Tyree fairs perhaps the worst as a generic local - Apella in Victory stands out a lot more as a character although he is merely a puppet of the Klingon regime. At times he does show change as his relationship with the Klingon,  Krell evolves through the story. In my opinion this is the better pairing here since there is a sense  that Apella comes to realise the error of his ways although it's taken a considerable amount of time.  

Krell, playing the archetypal Klingon doesn't really pose the main threat to Kirk here. The admiral's opponent in the mines proves a more worthy physical adversary but the mental sparing partner you might hope for never materialises. He's the manipulative baddie lauding all over his subjects who believe they are equals rather than a slave army. Both Krell and Apella are disappointingly realised. Nothing lifts them from the page and tragically I'd forgotten the latter's name almost as soon as I'd turned the last page.
Given that Kirk provided flintlock rifles to the Hill People I didn't find him especially wracked with guilt even though he should take some responsibility for the way in which this culture has evolved. Maybe the real reason we don't get that is because neither Spock (on Vulcan) and McCoy (inactive) are present here. Is it that Mariotte is giving us the chance to see Kirk without his two moral compasses to keep him in check. They are conspicuous by their absence leaving Kirk to go about his gun-toting alone while also leading his inexperienced right-hand man into a war zone with seemingly no combat experience. Sometimes you do wonder how Jim Kirk is still an officer and not behind bars for these actions.

The only other lip service we do get is from the inclusion of Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov who are busy helping to refit the Enterprise under the direction of Captain Willard Decker. Their involvement does make up the numbers and ticks the "must see the Enterprise" box but their actions within Serpents in the Garden are fairly limited with Scotty getting the most to say. While I understand why and how they get involved it really makes very little impact to the rest of the story which is set on Neural. Worse still I felt that they got in the way a bit and were a bit too interested in activities well outside their remit. While they deem to care about Kirk's well-being I'm not convinced they would make themselves a nuisance around HQ. Their appearance did feel shoehorned more for a name check than anything else and if we could get away with not mentioning the good doctor and our favourite Vulcan then was there a need?

Mariotte has provided a good entertaining read here and I did feel that while the build up at times was slow and padded, the ending was over and done quickly but with no real resolution. It was very much like a classic episode and you have to wonder what poor sod is going to have to go back and sweep up the mess that Kirk leaves behind once more.

As a time filler this was a good little read but One Constant Star which we reviewed a few weeks ago was much better in virtually all aspects as was Mariotte's last effort. Yes, he's a good writer but nothing really happens here and the plot winds around several minor incidents before we see any results. Having to keep his real origins secret does (intentionally?) hinder the pace since it's all about preserving the Prime Directive from Starfleet's perspective while the Klingons demonstrate a disregard for the natural development curve. 

There's some nice touches and references back to the classic second series episode (got to love an angry Mugato or two); the title in itself does mean you're wondering just who the serpents are by the conclusion and even now I'm not convinced that it's quite as clear-cut and I'm sure readers will have their opinions once they've experienced the two sides. However that little twist doesn't make up for the whole and unless you're hardcore Kirk without the other two parts of the Trek Triumvirate I'd hold off for Seekers....

Serpents in the Garden is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £6.99 ISBN 9781476749655

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Monday, 11 August 2014

In the Middle of an Ambush: Trek Lives in the UK

There's a UK-made fan film? Seriously???

I couldn't have been more excited - I nearly fell out of my hand-forged captain's chair at SKoST Towers.

For as long as I can remember (which limits it somewhat due to my shocking memory) all of the major fan films and web-series have been born out of the States. I won't insult your intelligence but already you've come up with a list of at least six that are still in production now. Having one made on the shores of this Fair Isle is a real turn up for the books and we just had to find out more.

Already in production, Star Trek: Ambush is the brainchild of Greg Lock and sets a new crew right amongst the events of The Original Series or more specifically, just after the incident featured in Balance of Terror.

Now you're already wanting to know what makes this unique in the ever expanding library of Star Trek films and I think it has some great points which do stand it out from the field aside from being made in the UK (hurrah!). Already the Kickstarter fundraiser has amassed over $4000 which hit target (four times over) which means they aren't looking for the millions you might have seen elsewhere or expected. 

The crew of the USS Ambush seem to be be much more of an elite "damage limitation" team than the explorers we find on Kirk's Enterprise. Explained Greg: "There's a scene in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country that only appears on some versions of the film. It's really weird, it's on my two-disc DVD of it, but not on my Blu-ray of it. Anyways, the scene is just after Kirk and McCoy have been sentenced to prison on Ruthe Penthe set in the UFP President's Office.

Major West (played by Rene Auberjonois) comes with a flip chart and proposes a military operation to extract Kirk and McCoy from Ruthe Penthe, from the heart of the Klingon Empire. The President refuses to sanction the operation, and of course Kirk and McCoy got out anyway. But that scene always got me thinking, who would Major West have sent if such a dangerous and risky plan was authorised? The USS Ambush maybe?"

Running at just 20 minutes this production points a tight spotlight on a single mission to rescue a captured Starfleet commander from the newly rediscovered Romulans but while that might not pique your interest it's how they're doing this that really intrigues.

"An awful lot of work is involved in making any decent film and even a film that's only 20 minutes is no different. So as everyone is working in their free time, making a film that's 20 minutes long is a more realistic target." said Greg.

"The general saying with short films that we've come to appreciate is that there's two types of short films. Ones that are too long and ones that are way to long! In the past we've found that 15 to 20 minutes is an ideal run time for a short film; that way we can get right to the core of our material, without it being saturated with filler and we don't outstay our welcome with the audience."

It's certainly a clearly thought out project with the time constraint there to assist rather than hinder the creation of this short film. But is that all we're ever going to get? We asked Greg if there were any plans to take Ambush beyond this initial foray.

"The main purpose of Star Trek: Ambush is to introduce the audience to our new crew, to give you an idea of what they represent and let you see them in action. We hope that 20 minutes will be enough to get that covered.

It is something different and in my opinion hasn't been properly shown in Star Trek before. So even though I have plenty of ideas, I'd like to see how audiences take to Star Trek: Ambush first. Making a Star Trek film is something that I didn't think would be possible for me, so I'm focusing on getting this film done first.

But to tease you with a couple of ideas, I do have ideas in my head for a direct sequel. I also have ideas for a prequel that is set exactly 50 years after Enterprise and 50 years before The Original Series. That is when the assignment USS Ambush was created, so I'm really keen to explore the story and why such a offensive assignment was created in the first place. But for now, I'm trying not to get ahead of myself and get this film done first.

I'm also open to the idea of others taking the characters we give them in Star Trek: Ambush and incorporating them into their own original pieces of fiction. If someone likes the crew so much and wants to put them into their own stories, I'd probably be pretty cool with that (if they asked me). That's something I really like about Star Trek is how people take these great established characters and events, then do their own thing with them. It's like taking the ingredients and making your own unique dish."

For one it looks as though Ambush is going to be set largely on location rather than relying on standing starship interiors which will certainly mark it out against some of the more popular and well-known US productions. At the time we talked to Greg those location shoots were in the can and the next step of the project - building and filming interiors was the focus of his time.

"We have filmed approximately 50% of Star Trek: Ambush, which consists of mainly all our exterior scenes. It was important to us to get those scenes filmed just before the summer as an overcast day is in our opinion the best to film on. We get a nice soft natural lighting on the action and no harsh lighting that a clear summer's day can give us. Also as filming outside poses risks such as public interference and weather problems, we felt those scenes would be the better ones to get wrapped first.

Now our main task is to get the sets built and our plan is to work our team around the clock and build our 2 main sets together simultaneously. This way we can bring all our actors and crew down for the second part of the shoot and wrap them all in a solid block shoot like we did for the first part of production."

That's a fair chunk completed already however there is a lot more to come - interior filming and then the probably longer task, post-production to get all that phaser fire and those transport beam-outs looking just right.

"Shooting films on location is something that I'm used to and have done many times." continued Greg Lock. "From the start I wanted Star Trek: Ambush to take place over an away mission and I didn't want that away mission to look like it was taking place in a studio. The UK has loads of great natural locations and I really wanted to be able to take advantage of that and show the world that the UK can hold it's own in the world of Sci-Fi. We've even managed to film in a location that was used for Doctor Who back in the Tom Baker era.

Although most independent Star Trek films are mainly ship based, they're either filmed on a large set that stays up for months or they use blue/green screen. I didn't want to be restricted with a green screen, I want my actors to feel like they're there in the action and in turn I want my audience to feel that. 

Also I'm very keen to show that some of the more traditional methods of making films still have a lot going for them. Which is why we're also using models for the majority of our ships. Then onto large sets, if I was to build a set of a starship I would want it to be as grand as the sets of the Enterprise. The truth is making films is an expensive trade and getting the space to build these sets and have them up for the whole duration is a very expensive enterprise, pun intended! Particularly in the UK and in the aftermath of a national recession.

You just have to look at projects like Axanar, Phase II and Continues, they have the majority of their Kickstarters going towards renting warehouse units to keep their sets up there. It is an expensive thing to do and their very successful Kickstarter's reflect the money thats involved in that. I have nothing but the upmost respect for those projects, the sets for Phase II and Continues are flawless and very very impressive. The concept for the Axanar sets looks amazing and I can't wait to see them. As this is my first Star Trek film, I didn't want to get into that league just yet, particularly by myself. We're starting small and realistic, then we'll see where we can go from there."

And what of the cast - it's all good us talking about locations, spaceships and effects but Star Trek has always relied on a good set of characters and people to play them onscreen. Greg's been all over that factor too so there's no concerns here: "Our cast consists of 11 main characters, who are played by a number of professionals that myself and friends have befriended over the years. Also a lot of them have done other work within the film industry so when they're not acting, they're doing another job on the shoot. No one sits around waiting on our sets, this way we were able to save a considerable amount by having actors moonlight as crew.

Since my time at film school I've been very privileged to be included in a great entourage of actors and crew, and between us we have near enough every job covered, we're always helping each other out on various independent projects.

As for the characters, well we like to think that we're keeping Roddenberry's vision of a utopian future in mind. We only get to meet 5 crew members of the USS Ambush, but those 5 do cover a range of different cultures and personalities. We've got them covered from the number cruncher to the shoot first ask questions later type. When we're a bit closer to being able to release the trailer for Ambush, I'm hoping to be able to launch the Ambush website, which will have a very insightful interactive feature profiling the crew members.

The main challenge is getting everyone involved free at the same time. We all have full time jobs, some in the film industry, some not. But these full time jobs is how we pay our bills so that always takes priority. All our cast and crew and volunteering their free time to work on Ambush, so we can only work in that free time. Roughly half of us work weekdays the other half work weekends. We're based all over South England, covering over 200 miles roughly, so being able to get everyone together for a decent film shoot is a very big challenge in itself.

This does have an impact on the finished product in the sense that we can't have scenes right now involving hundreds of extras. The story was written with this small scale in mind though, so that can be said to influence the finished project."

Excellent news I'm sure you'll agree and we had to ask - when will we get to see some more of Ambush aside from the few shots and bits that are out on the Kickstarter page and social media sites?

"Concept art for the shuttle's will be coming soon, as for the ship, that's different." declared Greg, keeping his cards close; "I want a big reveal for the USS Ambush in the finished film, so that's going to be the first glimpse of the ship."

Dropping over to their Kickstarter page there's a wealth of info on what they have within the Ambush arsenal to make the movie a reality including studio space to build a shuttlecraft (looking forward to seeing that!), workshop space to build props as well as up to date camera and sound equipment to get the action on film.

Greg continued with news of how we, the fans, will get to see this new chapter in fan films; "As soon as we've finished our second part of the shoot, we're going to be working on a trailer. After that we'll still have many VFX shots to composite, models to build and then to shoot. We're still hoping for sometime around December for the finished film.

Star Trek: Ambush will initially be released online, exclusively to our Kickstarter backers. It will be eventually released online with public access, more than likely after all the perks have been received by our backers. Everyone will in the end get to see it somehow."

Though still in early days, there is a possibility of Star Trek: Ambush being shown as part of a Star Trek Fan Film Festival that Alec Peters of Axanar and Phase II is putting together. But I'm not going to get into that just yet, I need to finish the film first!"

You can follow Star Trek: Ambush on Twitter as well as getting up to date and seeing their promo trailer on the Kickstarter page.

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Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Official Starships Collection Issues 26 & 27: Prequel Opposition

Marking the first anniversary of the Starships Collection (a year - honest!) falls to the Tholians as their webspinner drops in at issue 26.

For subscribers this was a slightly controversial release as some retailers were selling the model on the Wednesday before it was officially supposed to be on the shelves which was coupled with many subscribers having to, unusually, wait until release day to receive their parcel.

Facebook opinion on this one seemed to be that it's one for the completists and why was this being released ahead of an Enterprise?  Well there has to be diversity and releasing all those signature ships early would kill the collection early on.

For me it was one on the essentials although I'd rather have had the version from my all-time favourite The Original Series episode,  The Tholian Web but here we have the more detailed John Eaves designed CGI creation from the 22nd Century and more specifically,  Enterprise.

Another heavy product from the halls of Eaglemoss,  the Tholian webspinner is a sharp little craft with some great hull detailing which marks it out from the Kirk-era original. Appearing in less than a handful of episodes it's not a major threat and nor is the design a stunner. It's very, erm, functional and in comparision to the Romulan Bird-of-Prey we'll talk about in a bit, very big, rocking in at 13cm in length. There's more than the usual amount of transparent panelling here in both blue and yellow (we are spoiled) as we're treated to another solid entry in the catalogue. The hull paint job is excellent, presenting a rusted, mottled effect which is very effective and harks back to the lighting effects used to colour the original version in the '60's as well as giving it a "used" feel. While it's not intricate, this does add a level of unique styling to the ship.

And my gripe with this one? Just that whoever glued her together was a bit heavy-handed since when looking from the back the three hull sections don't quite line up and there's a blob of filler stuck to the surface of one of the fins.. From the front you'll never notice but I know it's there now and it will bug me to some annoying degree. 

From every angle this ship is virtually symmetrical along it's length with only one of the three smaller flat metal panels between the uprights being distinctly different in its markings. I love the simplicity here, the angles, the methodology behind such a basic shape as well as the evolution of the ship but I can clearly see why this would be one for the completists - it's just not got the "Wow" factor you have from a Prometheus or a Klingon Bird-of-Prey; it's not one of those iconic designs or a Starfleet ship. the trouble is that for the next few issues it looks as though we'll be into potentially unappreciated territory with the Maquis and Nausicaan fighters both due.

The build quality of the webspinner is (apart from the gluing matter) spot on with the middle hull section in metal with all the plastic external fins and nose piece clipped around it. The rear fin points on mine did feel a bit sharp where they meet so watch your fingers - which should be fairly easy as she docks at the back onto the included stand.

It's a good fit too which allows you to see the whole hull from every angle and while it's not an inspiring design for everyone I'm more than pleased to see her arrival this week. The Enterprise entries have proved to be the more detailed and well built with both the NX-01 and the recent Xindi Insectoid Ship being some of the best vessels in the collection to date.

Unusually we get another Enterprise guest in August with that series' take on the Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Again, just as with the Tholian webspinner, this is an updated take on a design fromThe Original Series, in this case from the first season classic Balance of Terror. It's a bit of a risk supplying two ships from the same show which are redesigns/retro designs of two very fondly remembered ships and both models and accompanying paraphernalia provide more than enough to show it was done with a lot of love and respect for those icons.

I think we can also be assured that the Bird-of-Prey from Balance of Terror episode will follow in the expected 90 issues which were confirmed at the Las Vegas Convention last month. Hopefully the same will be true of the more basic Tholian design so we completists can be, well, complete. Here though we're into green territory more akin to The Next Generation's 24th Century Romulan vessels than the 23rd Century adversary colour scheme of grey.

It is a stunningly beautiful design, clocking in at 11cm wide and a central hull of 7.5cm in length (including stabiliser fin) lots of curves, smooth shapes and a predatory look that is echoed through all of the designs from this people. As with the Tholian ship it's not one that we got to see a lot of in Enterprise but her sillouette is easily recognisable and again it's a good replica from the original with a lot of hull detail marking out panelling, the bridge module and engine detail. Sadly there's no bird-of-prey on the underside (as there wasn't in the show) but for once the whole vessel has full detail coverage from every angle. 

She sits nicely in the mount clipped at the back so you get to appreciate the view with this "free-flying" position. Interestingly the closer you get the more you do spot with the Bird-of-Prey as there are some porthole lights around the main hull edge which you only see upon careful inspection. As I noted with the webspinner, this is a trait we're seeing a lot of when it comes to the ships being recreated from Enterprise; they are the best of the field whether you like what they are or not.

The main hull here is metal with the sweeping pylons and nacelles (including equally green and transparent casing segments) in plastic as you're probably expecting. The fit is exemplary with no evident joint lines anywhere on the ship. I took a good deal of time looking for them I can assure you but on this and  the Tholian webspinner the presentation is "A" grade.

As you'll have noticed I've gone for both the models this month before talking about the literary materials packaged with them. In Issue 26 the standard ship profile discussion covers a bit of basic memory-jogging info on the Tholians' first appearance in Enterprise as well as the ability to spin the legendary web. I'm still disappointed there isn't more annotation on the plan views in these magazines as here there's so much I would have liked to have understood about the Tholian ship aside from the bare bones which we always get. Yes, these images cover the core parts of the ship but I can't be the only one who finds these low on information.

Ever get the feeling we say the same things?! Possibly - because the design section and that on Reimaging the Tholians are once again brilliant reads. Any chance to see a John Eaves design and understand the path that led from the original 1960's shape to the heavily detailed 2000's revamp is a pleasure - and let's not forget the reuse of the original wooden miniature in The Way to Eden while we're at it.

The story of their reimagining discusses how it was the disappearance of the USS Defiant in The Tholian Web which prompted their first appearance in Enterprise but nearly didn't when Future Tense ended up seeing a few alterations to Mike Sussman's concept before it went in front of the cameras. Fortunately that episode kept the Tholians but they would turn up again to resolve the mystery of that vanishing starship in In a Mirror, Darkly two years later. While the 1960's gave us a glimpse of the alien webspinners, Enterprise and the advances in CGI meant we got more Tholian for our money and we get to see how important it was felt to get their return - and first full appearance in the show - just right. I think they managed it but here we do get to see what the path was that brought them back to TV.

Issue 27's green meanie follows the format too, giving basic details on the Bird-of-Prey as well as episode reminders of the first time they featured in the prequel show. As with the Tholian webspinner, there's a great shot of the Romulan vessel on the first page which has been an installation of each issue since the Enterprise-D. The pictures in the issues do vary in quality from some great new, clean CGI recreations to shots from episodes we've seen many a time before. With these being lesser-spotted starships a lot of the pics used aren't that often reproduced so there's a lot of material to take on board which you might not remember.

The love of the series is evident again within the Designing... piece this time with clear homage Balance of Terror and even a picture of the 22nd Century ship bearing the bird-of-prey graphic that was intended but never seen on screen. That itself is a big bonus as are some absolutely dynamite drawings from John Eaves. The more I see his work from Enterprise in particular, the more I really want to speak to him!
to the ship featured in

Moving away from this Enterprise-focused month of releases we do get some more detail on the origins of the Romulans and their appearance in Balance of Terror as well as The Enteprise Incident and their almost-didn't-happen return for The Next Generation in 1988. In regards to the backstory here it's been covered well but there won't be anything new for fans to uncover around the two The Original Series episodes nor will anything be garnered from the lipservice paid to their return in The Neutral Zone. Good for the newcomers but not the page-turner established fans will be hoping for. 

I wasn't clammering for these two models yet they are fine examples of Eaglemoss' work as well as highlighting how much had changed in the time from The Motion Picture through to Enterprise's third and fourth seasons. The attention to detail is magnificent and these pieces become not only a testament to Star Trek as a whole but to the ongoing advancements in technology and the talent of those involved with their creation.

Next month we'll be seeing the Maquis Fighter and the Jem-Hadar Fighter. Both look like brilliant additions and I'm excited for both to arrive and to have a month with a bit of series variety. Also over on Entertainment Earth we've got a glimpse of the Valdore Warbird from Nemesis. While the film wasn't great this was a spectacular addition to the Romulan fleet.

One point though - any chance of some entries from The Original Series soon? I know there aren't many we can expect because a lot were just lights on a viewscreen but when can we get news on the Fesarius or the original Bird-of-Prey or even the first Tholian webspinner? Releasing these reimaginings together does make the absence of classics even more obvious to us collectors....

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