Sunday, 1 May 2016

Frantic Photos - a Host of Beyond Pics


Maybe the growing shout for a new Star Trek Beyond trailer has had an effect on Paramount with a good wad of photos being sneakily dumped onto the net via Chinese language websites (hence the watermarks) among other places. 

So while other sites will dump and run, here's my take on what these pics say about the upcoming movie.

Let's start with the one I've chosen to head up the article from that Chinese website. It must be from a later point in the film after the senior staff have regrouped from the destruction of the Enterprise. I'd suggest this is actually aboard the Franklin due to the ageing look and size of the apparent bridge unit. Pretty standard Starfleet console formation with the twin console at the front with a captain's chair in the middle. I'd hazard a guess that the jackets are the Franklin ones too. No sign of Uhura in this shot (might explain one later) and I'd also draw attention to the phaser McCoy is holding which is a very clear redesign from the previous two movies.

Next let's take this second bridge shot. Still on that other ship (Franklin?) with Sulu and Chekov in their familiar bridge positions. Not the most exciting shot released but is that a ship dedication plaque I can see just to the left of Sulu's head? When yoou zoom in it's not a control panel so I'd say this confirms its a second Starfleet vessel. That and the English numbers on the door. Could this be the crew returning to a planet to rescue those captured when the Enterprise went down?

Third shot. Another on the rusty bridge set but this time Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella is making a relaxed appearance. Now from previous photos it seems that she'll be teaming up with Scotty and with Kirk at some point in the movie. What exactly her role is within Beyond remains clouded although the fact she's not under guard or with a phaser pointed at her suggests her alliances are with the Starfleet crew. I would hazard she will be a guide on the alien world where we will encounter Krall following the attack on the Enterprise.

Fourth pic and one which adds to the trailer sequence. Looks like Pegg has the Spock/McCoy relationship well, pegged, if you will. I'd suggest this one is post-Enterprise evacuation and pre-Franklin. One thing definitely to take from this is that Spock at least will have had some direct contact with an alien race since that weapon he's carrying is far from Starfleet issue. Could the pair have escaped from that labour camp-esque environment we saw in the trailer?

So as not to leave her out of the photos we have a shot of Zoe Saldana as Uhura. One thing that is unclear from the trailer and anything we've seen so far is that state of her romantic relationship with Spock. One pained look in a photo possibly in that prison camp, doesn't really go far in helping us get much in the way of the film. I suppose the fact that she's in her standard red uniform indicates this was not a prepped away mission! What the structure us behind her I can't say BUT the glimpse of an arm in the left hand corner does lie well with the captured crew scenario.


Adding to the rage of pics, that lovely website also provided two images from behind the camera with one of director Justin Lin leaning over the control console of the rusty ship. What I really get from this movie and the material we've received so far is just how little of it would seem to be played out on the Enterprise at all leaving the crew in a situation not so far distant from when they were without their familiar starship in The Voyage Home (although I suspect this won't hit those kind of highs...). 

Second shot has Lin in cahoots with Chris Pine again on this bridge set. From the amount of pics on it they're certainly getting their money's worth and, cleverly, it means that nothing has really been given away about the movie apart from the notion that the main cast will be, at some stage, together in one location. Only the one shot of Kirk and Krall has emerged so far and that is most certainly in the early stages of Beyond since its taking place in an Enterprise corridor section. Thoughts here - that Krall's attack turns from spaceborne into an internal fight...OR could this actually be the big climactic fight?

Ok, Ok, bear with me here. So the Franklin turns up and helps rescue the crew and then Kirk and co return in a new Enterprise to defeat Idris Elba's villain. Could happen and would help explain why only specific shots and bits of the film have so far been made available. Hopefully this new trailer coming in May will clear things up a bit. Or not at all.

Oh and here's another thing. By the time we were this close to the Into Darkness launch we'd had at least one movie poster (the one with Khan framed by the wreckage-shaped Starfleet delta symbol) and again, here we have...nothing. I hope that May 2016 will start answering a lot of questions.

So what are your thoughts on the plot of Star Trek Beyond? What have you gleaned from the bits of info we've had to this point? Will it be better than Into Darkness?


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Saturday, 30 April 2016

New Beginnings in A Pocket Full of Lies

Tiff is back with the latest on Kirsten Beyer's ever impressive Voyager novel series...


To say I was eager to read Kirsten Beyer’s latest novel was an understatement. 


But before I continue, I must warn you that this review contains spoilers.

Following on from Atonement, this new novel is the unofficial start of a new plotline as the previous arc finished with the last novel. the main thrust of which is the appearance of another Kathryn Janeway.

The novel starts of solidly with the ramifications from the events in Atonement still clearly present.

Nancy Conlon’s recovery from Seriareen possession has proved slow and difficult, both she and her partner Harry Kim have suffered greatly, the latter sinking into a state of depression and anxiety.

But now the author addresses one of the biggest ‘reset’ conclusions from Voyager’s seven season run, Year of Hell.

Beyer has attempted (and succeeded) in taking on an exciting and intricate challenge here but her detailed knowledge the subject has allowed her to blend back-story and conjecture into a satisfying tale.

The story balances on the actions of the Krenim species and their refusal to allow what they call a ‘chaotic variable’ to exist and threaten their imagined ‘perfect timeline’. This variable is of course Admiral Katherine Janeway.

Proceeding with their abduction, the Krenim actually take an incarnation of Janeway from her younger life, the episode Shattered.

Beyer’s encyclopaedic knowledge really flexes itself here, as we enter the foray of two Janeways and the villainous designs of the Krenim.

We also get a chance to revisit another previously neglected character, Thomas Riker (born of a transporter accident yet a sentient independent person from the more familiar Will); Chakotay comments that …“two identical people choosing very different paths become pale reflections of each other.”

Beyer asks the reader to reflect on matters of destiny and the nature of the single identity in its uniquity.

As viewers, we were able to witness all of the events of the Year of Hell from safely behind the fourth wall. Here we are forced to share and allow the characters of Voyager to have that memory thrust upon them with cruel reality and unavoidable memory.

Seven of Nine describes the similarities she sees in ‘our’ Janeway’s eyes which convince her that she is Janeway: “a specific combination of defiance and pain.”

It is at times painful to read as we secretly wish that none of them should have to know or feel the horrors of that year, but there is hope yet for reasoning. Janeway herself acknowledges some relief that of the many versions of her that she witnessed die, most were following a similar path to her, affording her some comfort in her chosen path in life.

Kirsten Beyer stated previously that the story of the ‘other’ Janeway was in need of telling, and I found her viewpoint that they were better versions of their own selves because of the ‘Year of Hell’ compelling and convincing.

Classic themes are abound, courage, forgiveness, redemption and destiny of course

Tuvok battles with Loss, the Krenim protagonist demonstrates courage, even the omnipotent Q ponders familial immortality.

It seems as though no one, not even a Q can escape destiny.

Hands down this is one of the best Star Trek books I have ever read.

I can’t wait to see what Kirsten Beyer has in store for us next. 

Are you a fan of the new Voyager novels? Keep watching Some Kind of Star Trek for Tiff's interview with author Kirsten Beyer!


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Monday, 25 April 2016

Explaining the Universe in The Star Trek Book


DK Books' last Star Trek offering was the much thinner and much more high level overview of the Visual Dictionary.   

I have to admit that I waited a long time to get hold of this time because it was aimed at a younger audience with a more introductory nature into the Star Trek universe. I did eventually renege when I snapped a copy up in The Works for a couple of quid about 18 months ago which I did feel was more than value for money. So as you can immediately tell my expectation for this was set fairly low because I 'assumed' that DK would be, again, dumbing down the franchise but the arrival of The Star Trek Book a full month and a half ahead of its release date (thank you DK!!!) shocked me.   

Gone are the over-simplistically annotated pictures of crew, ships, equipment and aliens, gone is the childrens'-section-in-Waterstones A4 page size and budget large font text cut around even larger unnecessary images. OK, a bit harsh as it was more than likely aimed at very young fans however here we have a much more well thought out production that runs to - gasp - over 300 pages (about 260 pages more than the Visual Dictionary and shines a light on many more aspects of in-universe Star Trek from both the Prime and JJ timelines. This is a big step up and I think treats kids who are interested in Star Trek with a lot more respect. It's a proper book rather than a set of pictures.

Hardbacked with a command yellow shirt cover (JJ timeline since it has the ickle delta shields), even the presentation of this book from the outset is a huge step up from Paul Ruditis' Visual Dictionary. Split into distinctive sections of Starfleet, Federation Allies and Enemies, Science and Technology and New Life and Civilisations, Ruditis plus author Sandford Galden-Stone and Consultant Editor Simon Hugo have examined the key elements of the franchise to provide a reference manual that keeps the information simple and straight forward. It's not a technical manual, there's no technobabble and for any fan of any age this is actually a very cool, concise guide to the show. My only concern for it is that we will be seeing the revised, updated and significantly more in depth Encyclopedia hitting the shelves just four months later although it will be carrying a price that is over four times the cost of Ruditis and co's work and will probably have a very different target market.

So to the book itself and how it reads. For the most part it relies purely on televised material, relating back episodes and incidents from the franchise through the four main headlings. Each of the main cast from the five shows receives their own double page overview, each main ship gets the same and all of the major races have likewise. Be aware though that if you are looking for episode minutae and perhaps some more detail on The Masterpiece Society for example then you'll be very disappointed. The Star Trek Book is still top level on information although the amount provided is a full 75,000 light years ahead of it's thin predecessor.

What makes this stand out content wise is the choice to include quotes from the series as well as a key facts block to the left of each entry labelled as a Captain's Log. There are also new diagrams and timelines within each section to help align aspects of the show with their position in the universe relative to other series and people. I did have a minor shudder at a couple of bits though. Using a quarter of a page to show Mr Scott's way of estimating repairs did seem a waste of space and whoever proof read certainly missed the use of Morning Glory as a subtitle on one page. I guess some things translate a little differently this side of the Atlantic(?!).


Those new, bold infographics are probably The Star Trek Book's standout feature in that it remains in universe for the duration. Maybe the only thing I can note about the writing style is the choice to write each article as if events circa the end of Nemesis are current. It can get a little confusing as to exactly "where" the present tense should be starting.

Once you head past the character info and basics there is actually a great section hidden right at the back beyond the alien races, friends and foes and fairly well-known details on tech such as transports, phasers and tricorders. In the New Life and Civilisations section we have almost a second part to the history section that opens the book, offering some useful information on key events from the Star Trek timeline including the never-seen Romulan War, the first Borg encounter at Wolf 359 and the later Dominion War. Providing these elements is a cool way of pointing fans in the direction of significant points in the 50 year history that might well hook them in more or remind of important storylines (one of which there never happened on screen).

It is a much simpler way of looking at Star Trek and perhaps suited more to younger or inexperienced fans although for more knowledgeable it does fit into a nice "quick reference" area. Trouble is this does retread a lot of material that is already easily available elsewhere and with this being the 50th anniversary year it is going to be a very full market when it comes to literature on the subject.

Certainly the inclusion of the JJ or Kelvin Timeline as it's called here is a strong move to influence fans of the reboot movies to check out this new book. Some fans do still debate whether it's canon but adding the events from the 2009 and Into Darkness into the narrative are important and could help expose fans of those films to the wider - and arguably better - shows and movies.

I find myself at a bit of a crossroads with The Star Trek Book because even though I know a lot of the content and it's ingrained into my brain this is still a flippin' good book that is well presented, well written and has a good range of various different visual aids to help back up the text. My only fear is that we are walking a very familiar path once more and more annoyingly it will be out of date as soon as July 2016 comes along and Star Trek Beyond.

I do recommend this one but more for younger fans and newcomers to the series because of the top level information it provides. There are one or two small pointers to events that we never saw or have been eluded to over the years such as the Romulan War or the events that saw Khan escape Earth in 1996 but this does help keep the book confined to the "real" Star Trek universe and be an easy to access reference guide.

I came away from reading through The Star Trek Book  with a real mixed sense. It is well presented, well written and well researched however, for me as a more "seasoned" fan I was gagging for more depth and a lot more meat on the proverbial bone. My son (who is four) absolutely loved looking through it and having me read it to him and asked lots of questions about the content, who was who, which ship was that and could link bits together. He recognises Spock, Picard, the Enterprise (original, A, B, C, D or E actually) and lots more. For him as he grows up this will be a great book to get him into the series and help him understand what is going on. I wish there had been a book like this when I had been his age and perhaps a bit older!

The Star Trek Book is released in the UK on June 1 with its US release one week later. You can pre-order now.

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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Anticipating Issues 77 to 83: The Official Starships Collection


I just caught this scrolling through Twitter and what a lineup we have coming our way!   

As Ben Robinson had indicated, Startrek.com did indeed get the dibs on announcing the next set of ships which take us from The Original Series, into The Next Generation movies to Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise

 Starting off with 77 we hit one that I know a few friends of mine have been begging for since the collection began; the Romulan scoutship from In the Pale Moonlight. No shocker that this was coming thanks to some crafty previews from Ben's desk over the past few months. Aside from being a damn superb episode, it was the only time this Runabout size Romulan ship appeared but it made quite a big impact nevertheless. The first look pic makes it look very enticing and a must have. No question there. Also makes sense for this to be in the series rather than a shuttle pack given its relative size. 
Anticipation Level: 4/5

Issue 78 is one we already heard about and have seen - the Voyager aeroshuttle (header pic) that did/didn't appear in the show. Another we knew was coming, it's a design that was created at the time the show aired complete with a launch sequence should it ever have been called for. It's the first time this will ever have appeared in diecast form and again looks fantastic from what we've seen. A welcome addition and could this suggest the Enterprise-D yacht could make an appearance at a later date...?
Anticipation Level: 4/5

The real oddball from this new selection goes to Harry Mudd's ship, the Stella, from The Original Series. Officially it only appeared in the remastered HD episodes from a few years back but I think we can let it slide. The design looks something like a slug with legs and I hope that the final version is a bit more interesting or it might get the same, loving, reaction that the Malon freighter did. Since this is only a CG render I'm not getting too hot under the collar for this one. Time will tell.
Anticipation Level: 2.5/5

Issue 80 next and one that the Starships Collection Facebook page has been clamouring for; the Federation mission scoutship (header pic) from Insurrection. Piloted by Data in one of the best sequences of the movie, this is only the second ship (after the Captain's Yacht in issue 75) to be included from the ninth movie as all the original CG was lost. The pic of the model has it with an unusual silver/metallic paint job which wasn't akin to the rest of the Starfleet ships around that time period but does keep it screen accurate. As with the Romulan shuttle/transport I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on this one purely because of its rarity. Watch this be out of stock for ages because a lot of people will be wanting this gem.
Anticipation Level: 5/5

Issue 81 brings back the Xindi from Enterprise's third season and it's the turn of the Reptilians this time. Wizkidz will have already put out their miniature version of this craft for Attack Wing but as for detail this will be the one setting the standard. Big expectations for this one because it's from the prequel series and we know how amazing these have been when they arrive. I've been impressed with the Xindi ships overall but will this be better than the Insectoid Fighter? Very wide stand on this one too so stability could be fun and not one that will be desired by everybody.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

We remain with Enterprise for issue 82 and the Warp Delta. The craft spotted being flown by young Jonathan Archer in Broken Bow, it's one of the few Earth ships that graced the screen during the show's four seasons. Again given the brilliance of the models from the show I know now that this is going to be a winner even if we don't have any official pics of the Eaglemoss model to go by at this time. Not a model that I've been dying to get hold of - I'd actually forgotten about it - but certainly one that completes the evolution of Starfleet craft.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Finally and perhaps unexpectedly we have a third Bajoran craft following the Solar Sailor (issue 18) and the Bajoran Sub-Impulse Raider (issue 74) in the shape of the Troop Transport. Seen first off in In the Hands of the Prophets it's dropped in and out of the show thanks to the use of stock footage. Again Wizkidz were ahead of the game with their small version but I would like to think this will be a vast improvement over that piece even if I do think it looks like an oversized door wedge. Good to see that Deep Space Nine has two entries in this list as it has been conspicuous through its sporadic entries to the collection.
Anticipation Level: 2/5

So there we have it. Still no sign of Kazon, Vidiian, Son'a or the Scimitar among the latest announced issues but the inclusion of that scoutship does tell us that all is not lost when it comes to the non-existent CG craft from Insurrection or Nemesis. Further for note, all of these craft are available in CG to start with!

We still await a date for the Mirror Universe NX-01 and the (probably much later) second shuttle set but for now this is a decent round of newbies with a highlight for everyone whatever your show of choice and political leaning!

What are your thoughts on these seven ship announcements? Which are must haves and what might you avoid? Let me know below!

You can also check out every starship review since issue one with the SKoST Collection archive!

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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Big Things Coming: The Official Starships Collection Issue 70 and 71


What a month and what a couple of corkers we have to talk about.   

Eaglemoss have actually surprised me on both counts with the Voth City Ship and the Klingon Transport being better than I had expected. One thing that has struck me in the bigger picture is how we've managed to get both of the Voth ships very close together yet we have yet to see a single Kazon or Vidiian design, both of which appeared in a lot more episodes than the singular saurian race.   

In the case of the City Ship from issue 70 the pictures we've seen so far have not done her justice. Being one of the biggest starships ever to grace any series of Star Trek there's a lot to do in such a small scale. I did fear that the detail would be lost given the size however you'll be amazed at what they've managed to cram onto the silver hull. Take a close look at the hull too because on the upper and lower surfaces you'll see that there's even a hint of panel tone differentiation that just brings it away from one solid colour and the fear of looking a touch like a toy.

On top of that metallic silver base coat we have multiple tiny coloured sections representing community areas, warp field generators and power conduits. To the rear we've also got the huge transwarp engine that powers this mammoth, seven mile long vessel. One thing I didn't expect or remember from the Voyager episode which featured it, Distant Origin, were the runes which are etched into the surface edges both on the top and underside of the craft.    

The lines are very cleanly finished on the Voth City Ship but I would expect nothing less seeing as there are very few extremities to be concerned with on the sleek end product. Had this been produced as per some of the original sketches shown in the magazine I can imagine this being a nightmare for the collection to manufacture.     
I had thought this was going to be a very plain design but the runic paneling and colouring make this a very impressive result which displays well in its rear-grip stand. Even flipping her over the City Ship detail carries right on down to the rune edging and smooth silver base.  In fact the story within the magazine does comment about how much smoother the final design actually is. It might well be but Eaglemoss have still gone to a lot of trouble to ridge along the hull and colour specific sections giving it a deep 3D feel even though it's still a very slender ship to look at.


Could there have been any translucent sections dotted around the hull? Honestly no. I think that with the scale here that was a physical impossibility as the blue hues painted on are very small and tend not to be that close together. I can only think it would be hell to try and bore out such small areas from the large upper metal section to make that happen. The choice to only have the lower surface in plastic has been a big success here. It's the only single flat piece on the City Ship while all the remainder of the craft has had its lumps and bumps formed in the stronger silver metal.

With the magazine we have 100% focus on the brilliant Distant Origin. Having two ships from the episode, for me, is a big win and the magazine offers much more in depth background on both the episode and the design of the craft too than the sub-standard Voyager Companion ever did (synopsis, trivia, jot all else). Ok the initial ship overview is a near retread of the piece from the Voth Research Ship with a spin towards the later phase of the episode which did take place within the sprawl of the City Ship. 

No new pics aside from the initial CG recreations but tightly written and to the point. Collectors are more likely to flick to the Designing article which brings in the perspective of its creator Rick Sternbach. Always (and I do mean always) a magical insight to the background of Star Trek, the sketches show it could have looked very, very different and morphed over time from a complex, layered craft into its more recognisable and smoother lines.  

The next article ahead of the Key Appearance (it's only appearance by the way) covers Ancient Life Forms. Taking a lead from the saurian race of Distant Origins we are provided with an overview of some of the other older creatures the crews have faced including the Progenitors from The Chase, Apollo from Who Mourns for Adonais and even the an anaphasic life form, Ronin, from Sub Rosa...although I'm sure we'd have been happy if this had been omitted! Finally Writing Distant Origin covers the path that led from dinosaurs with guns to a stunning Voyager story that remains a personal favourite. Offering the elements we have with this magazine and with the issue accompanying the Research Ship we now have a superb archive on a key story and certainly the package here makes issue 70 unmissable for any serious collector.   

As for the Klingon transport featured in the second season Enterprise episode Bounty, this could well slide into my top five. It's a majestically simple horseshoe design and almost as flat as the City Ship if you stand the two side by side. Ironically you have one of the largest ships ever designed along with one of the smallest in the same month (and the transport looks substantially bigger!)

No frills, no extras here but the paint tones skip between a grey and a green dependent on the light and the raised panel effects make it stand out like no other. As I've waxed on about before, the Enterprise models have become the real hidden gems and standout entries in the Starships Collection. In fact I can only think of the Nausicaan fighter being the weak link and even then it wasn't that bad.   

Goroth's transport ship works well given the larger scale it benefits from and just looks beautiful from every angle. In fact that red photon torpedo launcher slap bang on the front of her adds a gorgeous finishing touch as do some of the darker grey panels dotted across the upper and lower hull. Looking further to the back there are the highlighted green warp grilles at the 'wing tips' plus some easy-to-miss on-screen Klingon emblems boldly emblazoned on the upper port and starboard sides. Those grilles to the sides of the wings are in fact translucent although the red impulse engines hidden away just below them are simply painted in. Factually the colouring of those emblems does seem to be incorrect if you refer to the episode stills in the mag where these are seemingly line-etched into the ship rather than stuck on in four colours. It bugs me and I suspect it will you too.

From a detail point of view, the underside is 100% as good as the top with a distinctive loading hatch to the rear and a lot of technical elements prominent across the surface. Perhaps there could have been a little more definition around the disruptors and the photon launcher but that is very picky of me to point out as would be the suggestion that it could do with some weathering to really look "proper Klingon". As it is it looks a bit too new although again, picky me.  

She's got some weight behind her as well being a more chunky blocky mass than the City Shop we've also seen dock this month but I do have a severe leaning that this is the stronger entry into the collection for April 2016. For note as with the Voth ship, the underside panel is the only piece made from plastic giving you a ship that is about 70% metal and looks fantastic. Honestly, simple and flat it might be but I really am impressed with the design and did not expect to be in any way.

Into the magazine now and following on from the standard episode synopsis and screenshots we get another whammy from the John Eaves collection through more sketches and recollections of the design process. Actually it's not totally original for the Bounty episode as you'll find out. Less articles in here than issue 70 with a section on returning aliens filling out the second half before that solus key appearance. 

The point that Gene Roddenberry was never keen on bringing back Klingons, Vulcans and Romulans for The Next Generation is again documented but here we also turn to Enterprise and that it was absolutely essential that races such as the Andorians and Tellarites (with improved makeup) were brought into the prequel fold to show the evolution of their intergalactic relationships.   

Have to say that both here and in the Voth magazine the plan views do no justice whatsoever to the finished models and look rather bland in comparison. I've come to terms with the minimal notes but it's good to see that the main attraction - the ships - are now topping the images produced for the mag.

So to May and issues 72 and 73. We could have some interesting opinions with the former as it's the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A. Will Eaglemoss right the wrongs of the movie refit from issue 2? We pray. We really do. Second we'll have the Borg ship from Descent which has already been spotted and I'm not massively keen on so far. For those wondering where the heck my NX-01 refit review is, I'm wondering where the package itself is. Hopefully it will make it here soon....

What's your thoughts on the Voth and Klingon ships from April's releases? Better or worse than expected? 

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Friday, 15 April 2016

Berkmann Sets Phasers to Stun


Phasers to Stun isn't your typical Star Trek reference work nor is it a definitive history of the franchise since 1966.

Written by journalist and fan Marcus Berkmann, it's a personal love story with the show covering all iterations (some more than others) since that fateful September day.

While Phasers to Stun does allude to some points of Berkmann's life, glimpses of his childhood, his original attraction to the show, his conversion to The Next Generation and his opinions on the reboot movies, it is quickly apparent - even in the author's own words - that it's a book for the general public rather than the avid Trekkie. 

Berkmann provides the standard potted history of Star Trek from the creation of Gene Roddenberry's show and the infamous two pilots before descending into the bulk of the original 79 episodes. For regular watchers and fans this might become a bit laborious as it effectively becomes Berkmann's personal opinion on every single The Original Series episode boiled down into a few paragraphs or even just a few lines be it a theme, quotes or an incident within the show that was good, bad or downright awful.

But, he does make some very acute observations around story quality, repetitiveness, the level of consistency and how the battles off screen to save the show both benefited and handicapped it from the perspective of one UK viewer (and remember we didn't get it until 1970). Heck, you do find yourself nodding in solemn agreement that season two did have a lot of disembodied aliens/computers for Kirk to oppose and more than likely there was a parallel Earth round the corner as well as a sprinkling of brilliance in there too with Amok Time and The Trouble with Tribbles for example.

Most of the views about particular episodes are nothing new; The City on the Edge of Forever is incredible especially given it was a first season story, The Omega Glory is tosh, season three is a horribly mixed bag that starts and ends badly with only The Enterprise Incident and The Tholian Web worth watching. What does lift this from the average is that fact that it feels like you're chatting about Star Trek with a mate down the pub and getting his honest view from the heart. It helps that these opinions are laced with humour or it could have ended up very po-faced by the end and just another bland review book.

Marcus takes us through the uneven transition from series to animation to Phase II and finally into the motion picture series again tracking his experiences at watching Kirk and crew on the big screen. The Motion Picture was a lot of long, slow camera shots, The Wrath of Khan is still a classic, The Search for Spock is actually decent - although I did find myself disagreeing with his assessment of The Undiscovered Country although I will be watching pre and post Rura Penthe Kirk to see the differences from now on.

What I liked here (as well as in the series reviews) is Berkmann's attention to quoting direct from the episodes to firm up his points but also referring to a massive collection of works in the literary market including many of the cast biographies, Gross and Altman's reference works plus even a whatculture.com writer. Perhaps more of Berkmann's personal experiences with the show in the real world and away from the TV would have made for even more interesting reading (I have tried to do something like that with my Trekollections series here) but I guess page number won out on that one!

The choice to really explore these cast and fan sources is a winning stroke with the book and the extensive bibliography and notes sections are brimming with suggested reading that would hopefully lead a fledgling Trekkie scurrying to eBay or Amazon to locate a key book and devour that as well (admittedly I still have not read James Doohan's autobiography) There's also a useful episode five-star rating for both The Original Series and The Next Generation. Purely down to opinion but I have to say they are pretty close to where I would place the stories except perhaps one star for Aquiel and five for The Pegasus. Minor gripe and something I'll mention in a bit - no starred reviews for Deep Space Nine, Voyager or Enterprise nor for the movies or animated series.

As a long-time fan a lot of the stories and anecdotes are things I have known for a while but I can see how new advocates of the franchise would relish this information well-compacted into a single easy to digest volume. 

The book does go through the movies and intertwine the arrival of The Next Generation in 1987 (or 1990 in the UK), even alluding to the must-have VHS cassettes we Brits had to survive on until SKY and BBC2 caught up. His writings on the second TV series episodes are a lot more focused to individual likes and dislikes rather than all 178 instalments but the key moments are all covered from Encounter at Farpoint through Skin of Evil, The Measure of a Man, The Best of Both Worlds and ultimately All Good Things... but it did at times feel like Berkmann knew he was running out of pages to discuss the show.

Which is the issue I have because we have a ton of information on Kirk and Picard but Sisko, Janeway and Archer find themselves confined to a chapter at the end of the book which is only slightly longer, it feels, than the section on the JJ Abrams reboots.

I understand that if the general public gets into Star Trek and then The Next Generation there's a likelihood they will stumble into Deep Space Nine and thereafter but it does feel that these shows are bitterly under-served with not even their most key moments highlighted to inspire readers to hunt them out. There's no reference to In the Pale Moonlight, the Dominion or to Voyager and the return and effect of the Borg after such a large space is turned over to them around The Next Generation and First Contact. It is a real shame because I sensed there was a lot more that could have been said for these "lesser" series as they seem to be portrayed. As a huge Deep Space Nine fan I did feel short-changed however if Marcus wants a hand writing a sequel which could cover those shows I can supply a contact phone number...

I managed to get through the 300 plus pages of Phasers to Stun in just over three days of sporadic and focused reading. It is a very, very involving book and, as I said, it might not have been a chunk of new material but it still kept my attention because it is a personal account of one man's interactions with the show since it first arrived on UK shores. It's funny, honest and pulls no punches as to the author's real beliefs and interest in the subject matter - and that's evident on every page. There's absolutely no fear you'll get bored and it was refreshing to read a book that wasn't fixated with taking itself perhaps a little too seriously nor dishing the dirt on Star Trek. Good job there Marcus.

Long-time fans may find this a nice volume to tuck into their shelves to help mark the 50th anniversary but more as a way to reminisce over their favourite memories rather than a way to uncover wedges of new and unexplored material. New fans of the show and movies will find this an interesting, funny and different way to get into and explore the final frontier as Star Trek heads into the next 50 years of existence.

Set Phasers to Stun is available now from Little Brown priced at £13.99 ISBN 9781408706848.

Have you read Set Phasers to Stun or are you considering purchasing it? What did you think to it? Let me know below!


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