Monday, 1 September 2014

The Success of Our Time: Axanar Powers On


Are we heading into a new golden age of Star Trek spurred on by fans and their passion for the subject?

From our perspective it seems like it after the first Star Trek: Axanar Kickstarter campaign closed last weekend smashing it's $100,000 target and reaching $638,471 by close of play on Sunday 24th August. The highest stretch goal they had accounted for was at $400,000 so this was massively unexpected and incredibly $200,000 was added in the last 24 hours after one George Takei promoted the film and showed his support for the project.

But what is it about this independent Star Trek production which has inspired not just fans and backers but members of the show's various casts to not only promote Axanar but want to be in it as well? What is it that has made this the Star Trek film every fan this side of the Bajoran Wormhole is talking about?

Axanar
"I first saw mention of the Axanar project on Doug Drexler’s Facebook page. I can’t recall if he posted or commented, but the reference was to Tobias Richter doing some design work for a pre-TOS project." said friend of SKoST and franchise fan, Dan Foster; "I went to their Facebook and have been watching closely ever since. I was really impressed early on with references to the FASA game timeline (which was really the game that pushed me over the edge from “casual fan” to “Trekkie Acolyte”) and that Richter would be borrowing some influence from the Alternate Original Series (AOS) timeline, popularly known as the JJVerse."

For Dan though, what's drawn him in and might be the same for many fans is the work of that graphic designer: "I think Mr. Richter did an incredible job taking the best of the two design philosophies.  I am a sucker for “nacelle porn” and he was really delivering.  Then they started talked about the Prelude film and cast and I realized this was more than just a fun fan production; this was the next step in Star Trek’s evolution."


Axanar
Interesting points there because those designs by Richter are simply spectacular and have taken the outer space experience to another level that makes CGI from the latter Star Trek series look amateur on occasion. Having Richter among those involved steps up the game for Axanar and shows they are 110% serious about delivering the ultimate Star Trek experience that fans want.

"I am a fan of the Abrams films," continued Dan,  "- we can have that discussion another time - but have watched the available technology available to any fandom reach a point where the studios are no longer really necessary for new features.  If a show was cancelled too soon, OK.  That show’s fandom can now take it a run with it.  I know Star Trek isn't dead (the box office on the last two movies proves that) but since Star Trek has always lent itself toward alternate versions or histories or different takes on canon, it is a great platform to showcase the professional level fan production.  Axanar seems to be doing just that.

In the end, I will pay for good entertainment.  I go to movies, buy videos; now instead of a movie ticket I just give to Kickstarter.  I can live with my money going there rather than CBS or Paramount (though I wonder how long those companies will be comfortable with it) and Paramount never sent me a cool uniform patch for buying a ticket!"

Can't argue with any of that at all. It seems to be the way forward. We hear a lot more about great series, films and more finding their audience before they even get made through the power of these funding campaigns - if you can't raise it, no-one wants to see it. Fans can keep projects alive and series going by having them funded and put elsewhere. Ripper Street in the UK is a good example - axed by the BBC and picked up by Netflix; Renegades from Tim Russ and co is also crowd-funded and looking for a web-series after the pilot if it's a success. Would Firefly have continued for instance if Kickstarter or Netflix had existed back in the day?


Anyway - the crucial thing with Axanar is that it's returning Star Trek to the fans and back to its origins that have also welcomed series Phase II and Continues to name but two.

And what about why fans have given their cash so freely to the project? Is it because of that? "I think some is a nostalgia for the pre-JJ days," continued Dan, "but I also think the obvious care and passion the producers of Axanar have for this project is what sways a lot of people. We like to support people who enjoy what we do, and as much as I defend the Abrams movies, he is the guy who said in interviews he wasn't a fan."


Aaron Gallo from the Starfleet Escape Podcast, who interviewed Alec Peters early on before Prelude had been filmed, thinks it might be down to the exec producer as to why Axanar has been a killer success with fans; "I think a lot of it has to do with the enthusiasm of Alec Peters. The way he pitches the story to the world makes you think, "Hey this could be something great." I think it will borrow a lot of the grit from the Dominion Wars and add a sense of realism to the battles that we have not seen before in Star Trek. There seems to be dedication to keeping this in line with what is canon in the "prime" universe which I think fans care about."


Aaron and the Podcast team recently discussed the Prelude and were clearly blown away as we all were - even suggesting a campaign of #archerforaxanar via Twitter - which makes sense seeing as the former NX-01 captain was present at the launch of NCC-1701.

"Fans have been saturated with crowd funded projects recently." said Aaron; "I myself never imagined fans would raise the amount of funds that they have in the past year. Is that sustainable? I honestly do not know. Axanar might be special in the fact that they produced a quality 20 minute feature that gave fans a taste of something they've never seen in the realm of independent Star Trek productions. Would another Kickstarter campaign from Axanar reach the same levels that this one has? I don't know. I find it hard to see that happening without a second short production being produced in the interim to entice new donors to the table."



Axanar
And there Aaron has hit the nail on the head - Phase II and Continues as well as Brit Star Trek project Ambush have done very well from crowd-funding (and there are a lot that have failed) but it's been near impossible to get away (not that we want to) from Axanar. The campaign has been spectacular and the transparency of how the money will be used has been exceptional from the off. The recently concluded first fundraiser raised almost double it's top stretch goal and seeing if this is sustainable to the end is going to be well worth the wait. I think Axanar will make the grade because fans want to invest in it. Prelude showed what could be achieved on a fraction of the budget and still be a unique and professional production. It made us believe to a point where even we donated to the cause which never happens.

For me the detail that we know about the background of Axanar is key to fans buy in as they understand what the aims of the project are coupled with some brilliant perks for those willing to part with their cash. At the end though there was one massive hand that helped push the funds to another level as exec producer Alec Peters adds; "Without a doubt, the two posts by George Takei on his Facebook page, and his Tweet, gave us a huge boost on the last day. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude."


Not that it needed a big boost but having the social media powerhouse of Takei behind them can't be a bad thing. There again is another winning factor - the Axanar team have created something that people directly linked to the franchise's 50 year history are proud to discuss and shout about - it's that good. So good that even as we roll towards the time to get sets built and film the adventure, even more names are getting linked to the production.

And how about a word from the latest addition to the Axanar cast who will be playing the role of a Klingon commander? None other than one of the most accommodating actors we've had the pleasure to chat to, a man who was intrigued by the chance to play a member of the classic warrior race; Garrett "Harry Kim" Wang; "I think it is a climate of hope for new Trek television content. It's been 9 yrs [and] I think it's the choice of actors like JG Hertzler finally playing a human character; my playing Klingon for the very first time..."

He's not wrong - and we've still to see Michael Hogan in front of the screen to add to the Roll of Honour that makes up the exceptional cast. For every cast and production there has to be someone conducting that orchestra so to speak and in this instance it's Christian Gossett.

Taking a few moments from his busy schedule, Christian also shared his thoughts on why Axanar has gone from strength to strength: "First you have Alec, for whom this is a do or die project of love and vision. Secondly, there is Alec's choice of director and writing partner(!)"

While that point might have been made with tongue firmly in cheek, Christian is a key element in the whole process, bringing Alec's vision to the screen and making sure it holds true to the page. In fact the director's perspective here is really interesting, looking more about how the team has worked behind the camera to bring this production to life - a team of stellar talent who truly believe in Axanar and have decades of experience between them.

"I'd have to say that the professional network of co-producer Jhennifer Webberley was absolutely critical to our success. Thanks to her we brought on Carter Smith, a veteran camera professional to assemble a world class camera, lighting and electric team. This alone put us on par with world class productions. It also allowed us to take full advantage of the incredible cast we had. Actors are very important to me, and I wanted them shot right, made up right, taken care of correctly, to be involved in the making of their characters and dialogue. This was possible because of Jhennifer and Carter, both veterans of the industry.

The next element for me is director of photography Milton Santiago, who 
sculpted the light so beautifully on the faces of our actors and gave us a look that matched the unique and incomparable 3D action of Tobias Richter, without whom everything Alec and I dreamed of becomes much more difficult if not impossible."


Richter has had a massive impact on the imagery of the project as noted already. His creations are not only iconic but an essential part of the Axanar experience. "I'll give Alec the lion's share of the credit here as he approached Tobias and earned his interest. Every time I think of Tobias, I breathe a sigh of gratitude and relief. His love for Star Trek is expressed in his work and his work is, I will repeat, incomparable."

On that note we just can't wait - the more we do though, the more calibre actors we see added to the impressive "Who's Who" line up. As we noted, the perks for supporting are amazing - posters, t-shirts, fleet patches, scripts, (and for the more financially stable) set visits and production credits. A donor store is due to open soon if you've missed anything from the earlier campaigns that might have tempted you to open the wallet. Star Trek: Axanar is a force to be reckoned with and that's not to question because 8,548 backers can't be wrong. Set construction is now funded and as well as donors getting a nice Andorian patch extra, the team can modify their warehouse for the film and pay pre-production costs. I would also suspect the additional funds over that total will be well-used to make the final film even more stunning and well-produced. We're in for the long haul and wish every success to the team.

Why do you think Axanar has been such a runaway fundraising success? Have we got it right? Why not comment below...

Thanks also to all those who contributed to this article!

You can view the brilliant Prelude to Axanar via the official site NOW


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Friday, 29 August 2014

Trek Modelling 101: Look at that Body...


Let's run though a checklist before we start off this month's post.

We're all set with the secondary hull, saucer and engines as far as building goes which means that we must be playing with paint? I'll let +Christopher Whitford take over from here...

This month we are indeed working on painting the saucer and engineering hull of our starship. Painting a model is not as hard as it seems and can be done in a couple of easy steps.  

Painting can be done by airbrush, rattle-can (aka spray paint) or brushing by hand. For the purpose of this article we'll be using rattle-can as it's easy and since the Enterprise does not have that many colours to it you can paint it relativity inexpensively. We'll also be covering base coats and color coating as we get further in. 

The first thing you want to do is prep your saucer and engineering hull by dusting them and giving a quick sand to make sure your surface is smooth and free of dust. Next thing you want to do is go outside in a clear area so as not to let over-spray get on walls or flooring. I also recommend laying down some cardboard so you have something to sit the model above while you're painting. 

The colour I choose for this project is Model Master flat light aircraft grey. Now using a spray can for paint is not ideal as you have to use it outdoors and the weather has to be perfect to spray - and you also need to account for humidity because if that's too high paint dries to fast and can be splotchy. 

Firstly you need to run your can under hot water since this allows the paint in the can to properly disperse when it comes out of the nozzle. When spraying your model you need to do it in even strokes back and forth building up your coats. Your base coat does not completely cover your model as it provides a base for your colour coat and after you let your base coat dry you need to sand it down with a fine grit sand paper, making sure that once you finish sanding your model it is clean and free of dust and dirt.  

After that you need to apply your color coat and follow your same process as before even strokes back and forth allowing it to fully dry when you are finished your paint is smooth to the touch and with that we wrap up another month. Next month we will go over detail painting with a brush and how it adds to you model. And as always get out of her and build something.

You can catch up on all Chris' modelling tips and techniques by clicking back through the Trek Modelling 101 Archive and if that's not enough, check out the Google+ Sci-Fi Fans and Modelers' United Community


Expanding the Contingent


With the increase in available material and our desire to cover as much Star Trek as possible in our own unique way it's time to add one more to the SKoST ranks.

A couple of months ago we featured the chat-based RPG, Star Trek: Engage and from those hallowed halls we say hello to our newest recruit - Tom Marsland.

Clearly a man with a passion for the subject he's counting down to the arrival of his first novel for review but frankly, he couldn't wait to start so first of all, let's get to know him a little better...

"Hi all! I’m Tom Marsland, the newest member of the SKoST Contingent.  I’ll be doing book reviews and more for the team, and am anxiously awaiting my first book.  So anxious and excited, as a matter of fact, that I figured I’d write my first piece for the site while I wait for the shipment to arrive.

I’ve been an avid ‘Trekkie’ for years now.  The first Star Trek series I watched from the beginning was Voyager.  As an almost-31-year old, I was still in the public education system living with my parents when The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager were on the air.  I still remember sitting in my bedroom in the evenings, watching the introduction sequence and wondering why I was born in the wrong timeline, why I couldn't be one of them out there.

Star Trek has had an amazing way of bringing people together.  Ever since The Original Series debuted, and now, with JJ Abrams remakes, generation after generation of people follow the crews of the starships, tuning in one night a week or (unfortunately, I might add) wait for a new movie to be released. 

There are conventions around the world.  I would have trouble finding someone nowadays who doesn't know where ‘Live Long and Prosper’ comes from.  There are countless games.  Video games like Star Trek: Armada and Bridge Commander, and chat RPG games that make you a part of the crew and think with your mind, like Star Trek: Engage and A Call To Duty. I come to the SKoST team from Star Trek: Engage, which is a chatroom roleplaying game where you assume the duties of one of the key crew positions aboard a starship and go on missions, led by a Dungeon Master of sorts ala Dungeons & Dragons, in this case called a Game Director. He tells you whether your actions and those of your crewmates are successful, and in general sets up the story for you to navigate through.  Each ship or station runs for an hour each week, and then, to further bolster the story and enrich it further, you submit a piece of writing on your characters thoughts and actions in the downtime, most times in the form of a duty log.  It’s a great time, and I encourage anyone who misses Trek to check it out.

Star Trek is a family and a culture. One that I’m introducing my daughter and two sons to as they grow up.  And one that all of us here at SKoST plan on sharing with you as often as we can.

I’m rewatching all of Star Trek right now, and will share my thoughts on each episode as long as the team will let me, as well as whatever else Star Trek comes into my mind.  For those of you who want to know more about me, I’m a United States Navy sailor - been in for 13 years.  I work right now as an instructor at the Nuclear Power School in Charleston, South Carolina, and when I deploy, I’m in charge of the nuclear reactors that power our ships and submarines.  I have a wife, Jennifer, who is an avid small business owner, massage therapist, and birth doula (www.rainierholistic.com).  As mentioned before, I’ve got three wonderful children, Chloe (4), Cooper (2), and Colin (8 months).  Outside of Star Trek and the Navy, I’m pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in IT Security, and spend much of my free time working on our house in Charleston and with my family.

As far as Star Trek, my favorite series has to be Deep Space Nine. While I grew up watching Voyager from the beginning, I can’t pull myself away from the awesome politics that Deep Space Nine brings to the table. My favorite portion of these, naturally, is the entire Dominion War. Not sure exactly where my favorite episode lies, but one of my favorites is actually a Voyager episode, where the Prometheus Class starship is introduced. And right now, I am slowly amassing a collection of every Trek TV episode and movie there is.

So once again, stay tuned, and I look forward to being a part of the SKoST Team!

So welcome to Tom - looking forward to that first post....

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Deep Space Nine: Season Three: Step Away from the Changeling


For me the third season of Deep Space Nine is the turning point in quality.

I enjoy watching seasons one and two but with the third year the show came into its own whether by chance, design or because it knew it had to with The Next Generation finishing the previous year. Deep Space Nine was now the flag-bearer for Star Trek on the small screen and expectation was high. Very high. After all Sisko had declared at the close of The Jem'Hadar that the station would need to be ready for any attack from the Gamma Quadrant...

The overall quality of the show is much steadier and there is a tighter focus and a clearer sense of direction. While season two had dropped in references to the Dominion with infrequent irregularity that viewers easily blinked and missed, this year stepped the reveals through the 26 episodes. This made for much easier viewing, not having to wait a full season for the payoff that you might or might not have remembered and allowed for a steady buildup to The Adversary. I much prefer the way that the producers phased season three, giving us milestones to reach which acted as pieces to the larger "puzzle" of the year.

The Search started that trend immediately, announcing Odo's people as the Founders of the Dominion and killed two birds with one stone - we knew where he was from and got the brains behind the whole operation in one. Opening the year with another multi-part story as with The Homecoming, The Circle and The Siege was a masterstroke to beef up the series and introduce some key new features. I missed this on it's UK VHS launch day and spotted it randomly in a local shop a week or so after it came out. I'd not seen The Jem'Hadar by that point either so ended up watching them out of sequence - my next purchase was that aforementioned season finale!


Aside from the new briefing room we also gained a new Starfleet security chief and a Romulan. One of those managed to become a decent recurring guest cast member while the other faded into obscurity as a character. It's only when you watch this episode back that you recall they had someone specifically to look after the cloaking device who vanished after only a pair of episodic appearances. Dropping the Defiant off at the station to defend the sector allowed better storytelling that couldn't be achieved on those suped up shuttlecraft, the runabouts and providing her with a new phaser effect truly stuck the mid-digit up at the established laws of Star Trek. Watching those shots of phaser fire slam into the Jem'Hadar ships gave me literal jaw-drop. It's the moment that changed my views on this show and the whole franchise. Hooked for life.

But season three isn't just about that. The characters seem more real, Sisko has become a stronger, determined (and angrier) leader and less of a builder; it's as if everyone woke up on the right side of the bed for the first time in two years, smelt the raktajino and decided it was time to make a difference and do what this show was supposed to have done from Emissary - be unique and challenge the Roddenberry philosophy. There's a different feel here and even Odo seems to have become grumpier for the season kick-off. Luckily that only lasted until the second part of The Search or it would have been one very long, annoying year.


Season two had managed to pull the threat/hint of the Dominion out for a full 26 episodes and there was no chance of repeating that kind of temptation without fans going up the wall so instead it's a season of dangled carrots with sooner payoffs. Defiant is the prime example to hold in case here. The fleet being built in the Orias system and Riker's target would eventually be revealed as a secret armada constructed as part of a Romulan/Cardassian intelligence service alliance to destroy the Founders homeworld in The Die is Cast. That Romulan presence which we have on the Defiant at the season opener is revisited during the intelligence debriefing that happens during Visionary and again leads into the events of the two-parter Improbable Cause opens a few stories later. Those in turn spiral into The Adversary and by circumstance into The Way of the Warrior and then Homefront.


The budget was splashed out for The Die is Cast, making it the most strategic episode of the year although the limited battle scenes in the second half are nothing in comparison to the events in the following fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh seasons. I recall there being a lot made of those sequences as they took six months (reportedly) to film using miniatures. Odo's torture was one of the most uncomfortable moments of the show's whole run but was incredibly watchable since it pushed the dark aspects of Deep Space Nine even further. It would have been beyond any of our thoughts in The Next Generation for one of the recurring cast to be as multi-faceted as Elim Garak, truly one of the greats of the franchise and pairing him with the constable provides an uneasy, distrustful duo.


One thing that The Search, Heart of Stone, The Die is Cast  and The Adversary all have in common which threads the season through is the "No Changeling Has Ever Harmed Another" line. From the start of the year you just know that it won't take long for this one to be broken and with the sporadic mentions akin to the name-dropping of "the Dominion" in season two it hits a crescendo with the season finale. It never got that good a press back in the 90's but I really loved it then and do just as much now. The fallout from that would rear it's head in the fourth season closer, Broken Link illustrating the importance of Odo within the main plotline. It's most definitely the tag of the year but in comparison to the subtlety of the Dominion references in season two this one is made a lot more transparent.


That said, I don't think this year is overpowered with Dominion stories and that's an intelligent move as many would have expected the opposite after the doom-and-gloom foreboding that closed The Jem'Hadar. It also establishes the Dominion up as more calculating, political and devious than the Borg or the Klingons sets them up as a very different kind of foe. But the not-so-Dominion-dominated season allows for some diversions into the cast, gearing them up for the darker upcoming events while also closing off some lose threads.


The average Equilibrium gets a payoff in the same year with the later and better role-changing Facets revisiting the buried Trill host personality of Joran Dax among others. To that point, it's one of Avery Brooks' best and most sinister performances although it's all over and done in a matter of four minutes. Maybe these were hints at the darker tones of the Sisko character he would draw out in seasons five and six.  Facets is a mix of light-heartedness and personal revelation for Dax and is a better shot than the Equilibrium mystery.

For the captain though the beard arrival in Explorers did move the character forward and I couldn't imagine that scene in the holding cell possessed by Joran without it.  Originally Explorers bored me to tears but on my recent run through it does have it's moments - perhaps it's that I'm now in the father role now myself that it struck a chord but not as much as The Visitor. The CGI ship is a wonder and I only sat and watched Explorers shortly after I'd received the model from the Eaglemoss collection. It's a rare, lighter story for the pair and when you look back it's amazing how much more hopeful this year is.

Aside from the The Search, The Abandonedthe two-part obliteration of the Tal-Shiar and Obsidian Order and the brilliant season finale, The Adversary, (recently covered in its own post), this year does allow us to explore the build up to war and the behind the scenes machinations much more than we got to with the expected arrival of the Borg in The Next Generation. While the preparations for that happened off-screen, it seems that here on Deep Space Nine we get to see it warts and all. Beside that we do get some momentous character segments into the pot too.

Maybe the biggest losers this year are the Cardassians and the Bajorans with only three episodes from the season highlighting the former's existence in the franchise; Civil Defence, Second Skin and Destiny and Life Support, Explorers and Shakaar for the latter. Of those six it's Second Skin the easy standout with another superb performance from Nana Visitor and some sublime dialogue between Sisko and Garak as they head to Cardassia to rescue her. This is one of those great moments I mentioned just a paragraph ago and one I had totally forgotten about until recently. In fact I love it so much I'm reprinting it here.




SISKO
We'll be travelling under false transit documents prepared by Starfleet Intelligence. Mister O'Brien's reconfigured the shield harmonics of the Defiant so that, on long-range sensors, it'll appear to be a Kobheerian freighter. We leave in three hours. 

 Garak weighs his options, then reluctantly takes the dataclip from the desk.

GARAK
Fine. I'll go along on your little fool's errand. But I want one thing to be perfectly clear... I have no intention of sacrificing my life to save yours. If it looks like we're in danger of being captured... if there are any signs of trouble at all... you're on your own. 

SISKO
Mister Garak, I believe that's the first completely honest thing you've ever said to me. 

GARAK
How perceptive of you, Commander. 


It might seem like a knock-off version of Face of the Enemy from The Next Generation but this does make a more compelling story and frankly I never found Troi a convincing officer to kidnap given her position on Enterprise.

On a second watch through Destiny was a little more interesting and I've been finding the Bajoran elements easier to follow and comprehend (the benefit of middle age I guess!) but there are lows to the year. It's still 44 minutes that isn't up to the bar; nor is the slushy political/romance Life Support which does at least see the exit of Phillip Anglium as Bareil. I was never a fan, he was way too mediocre a character and his mirror version killed Resurrection in season six dead. For one of the few times in Star Trek I didn't mind that he was being written out. Anyway, Louise Fletcher's Kai was always going to win and this one does act as a reminder as to why Starfleet is hanging around in the first place. We'd have to wait until Rapture in season five though for Federation admission to be pulled from stasis.

Actually, while I'm droning on about poor episodes, what was the crack with Meridian?!


Giving column inches to that one, directed by Jonathan Frakes and penned for the screen by Mark Gehred-O'Connell (who also wrote Who Mourns for Morn?) is sacrilege in itself. One thing Deep Space Nine seemed to do badly at this stage was romance. Whether they got any better is also a debate for another time, but the drippiness of both Meridian and soon after the kissy-kissy-fest that was Fascination were again low marks for the series. I know for sure that Meridian is an episode I would shelve alongside Voyager's Threshold and The Next Generation's Justice. Shoddy, poor and we know Dax will never leave the crew (at least not at this stage and for this guy...).

Talking of second watchings, there are a ton of great moments and stories here before you think I'm season-bashing. Defiant was class and made up for Frakes having to direct the trashy Meridian (which has more mentions in this post than any other ep oddly).  I do chastise the writers for not showing the USS Defiant taking on the Cardassians onscreen and instead placing us in a command station with Sisko and Dukat but this episode is much more about seeing Tom Riker back, stripping those beard pieces off and going hunting. I must've watched this one more than a dozen times over the years and it still holds it's own. Why Tom Riker never got a third outing is criminal but here the relationship he has with Kira makes you want to see more of Frakes' slightly different transporter twin.


Fascination which followed it was an OK Lwaxana episode (and I'm far from a Troi fan at the best of times) and her last but one if memory serves. Comedy never seemed to fit with this show which is why I never took to the Ferengi shows (see below) and felt Lwaxana was a bit out of place on the station. For note the Bajoran festival of gratitude would also show up in Tears of the Prophets

Moving swiftly along though we have one of the great unexpected classics of the show in Past Tense. Set on Earth rather than the station which in itself is more than a little unusual, it gave Avery Brooks a real chance to spread his wings and channel a little of his inner demon in 21st Century San Francisco. Again, one of my earlier Deep Space Nine VHS purchases (UK volume 3.6 for the record), Past Tense was a revelation and showed just how far the show could go and that Star Trek hadn't lost it's abilities to touch on issues - and closer to home than usual in some respects. The story was helped by a great guest cast especially during the claustrophobic siege in the concluding part and those little aside comedy scenes as Kira and O'Brien try to locate the missing Sisko, Bashir and Dax (who's wardrobe is exceptionally bizarre). Avery Brooks is magnificent here as the replacement Gabriel Bell and commands Past Tense from start to finish. Brilliantly realised, Deep Space Nine could hit where it hurt.

And what of the others? The House of QuarkDistant Voices, Prophet Motive and Family Business? Average again I'm afraid. I recall seeing promos for the Bashir 30th birthday episode which saw him delve into his inner psyche thanks to an attack from a Lethian but the actual story didn't work as well as I hoped. Nice makeup, great chance for Siddig to spread his wings but not a patch on some of his later work in Our Man, Bashir, Dr Bashir, I Presume or Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. But it's a start and a few levels above his shadowy (read shaky) performance in The Passenger.


Then there's those three Ferengi shows. I could just leave it there but they are worth a couple of lines. Quark-Ferengi stories were my least anticipated. I found the humour forced and weak and the aspects they explored cringeworthy. Have my thoughts changed? No. Grand Nagus Zek is a quirky character once or twice but after that I preferred scraping my nails on a blackboard - and equally as dubious was the introduction of Quark and Rom's Moogie. Total gagh. That's all I can say. I really, really tried but these kind of stories were rock bottom for Deep Space Nine and fortunately they were few and far between, moreso with the oncoming war. Saying that I did enjoy The House of Quark both in the '90's and now. It's an unusual mix of Ferengi and Klingon but seeing Gowron attempting to understand Quark's financial records and just being utterly confused is priceless.

I love Shimerman and Grodenchik as actors and their roles in other episodes are brilliant especially where they act as the audience onscreen, passing judgement and opinion on the events unfolding but the Ferengi dominated stories tend to be the weak links. I would suspect this is because it usually comes down to greed and strained humour , the latter of which Star Trek generally never excelled. Shimerman and his Ferengi co-stars would get some better material in season four with Little Green Men but it would only be a small break from the norm.

Twenty years on, the 1994-1995 season has stood the test of time well and I'm certain it's better than I remember it. Heart of Stone, Destiny and Explorers were definitely stronger than I thought they were but I was really itching for the later part of the year and more than that, season four. The stand out pieces were Past Tense and The Search for me but I would be hard-pushed to pick a standout single-length story. Even writing this I'm debating how high up I would place Visionary with its clever little time travelling twist that rivalled the one in Voyager's Deadlock. Character-wise, Garak was a show stealer on more than one occasion as he would be every year but also kudos go to Nana Visitor particularly for Second Skin and Rene Auberjonois for all the work as Odo coming to terms with the fact that his people are the Dominion's Founders - and when he harms another, boy does he do it well.

Whatever you say, season three is still a mark up in quality and placed all the key players for the advent of war. Just a minor issue of some Klingons to sort out first though I believe....

What are your memories of the third season? Was it a turning point or are we just spouting gagh? Why not drop a line below...


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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 email....so 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!

If you've enjoyed our musings, why not do some clicking...

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