Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Three Go to War

The Star Trek Wars podcast ended their first season episodic reviews this week with Operation: Annihilate, The Neutral Zone, In the Hands of the Prophets, Learning Curve and Shockwave.

But that's every single season-closing episode of every Star Trek series isn't it? Answer: Yes. That's one of the features of this hour-long podcast as they review one episode from each series each week. For example in week three they reviewed the third episode from each series and so forth. The only issues with that come towards the end of the seasons when there are a varied number of stories especially with The Original Series having 29 and Voyager only having 16 when you discount the four shows which were held over for year two (The 37's works so much better as episode 20 rather than episode one).

I came to this somewhat late but with rush hour traffic lengthening the journey to work I can get through two of these shows in a day. Hosted by Jeremy Reed, son Connor and wife Gina round out the reviewing trio providing a different viewpoint on each show and each episode. So how does it work?

For the most part it's a great concept. Jeremy acts as the seasoned fan, the voice of Star Trek experience while Connor provides the young, new fan seeing many of the stories for the first time. Initially Gina acts to provide the fun facts but as the show grew over the first season she became a more integral part to the discussion which I found very welcome.

There's a good reason for that call. In the initial podcasts Star Trek Wars is clearly finding its feet but it sacrifices good reviewing and analysis time for plot synopsis. Jeremy does add some weight to the show but I did find Connor's basic details terribly annoying after three or four shows. I understand he's 11 but there's only so many comedy accents, poorly remembered plots, mumblings, "he said.../she said..." "and he's like..." "and then"'s that you can deal with especially when it happens over the course of five mini-reviews in 60 minutes.

It's great to have a new perspective on the show and in a lighter fashion but there's nothing to balance this raw enthusiasm and exhuberance in the first four episodes. As Gina takes more time to discuss her views that balance comes into effect. She is indeed the voice of reason tragically overlooked in the early stages but making a lot of sense from their fifth show and onwards. Her opinions on the first season Deep Space Nine episode Captive Pursuit are what really made me notice the difference and this is something they need to retain for season two and after.

It can feel like the reviews of the five are rushed with the limited run-time of an hour and debate doesn't last that long at all once we get past the plot details. The Fun Facts are great as I've picked up several pointers from these that I'd either forgotten in the mists of time or honestly didn't know at all. If the discussion was more in this vein rather than simply plotting out the story it would enhance the show but on the flip side the various personalities and the back to basics approach does make it accessible to fans of all ages and knowledge levels. Perhaps you could watch out for spoilers though as there have been a few giveaway times that could ruin it for those who've not seen that show before (although in the case of Voyager I'm not sure you'll be too concerned during the dark days of season one).

Completing the hour are the Pros and Khaaaaaan's - once again though it's picking a moment from the five episodes either as the best or worst. Trouble is in most cases this is a repeat of something that's already been discussed and I would have liked to have seen something a bit different rather than stepping into already expressed points. Totting up the scores of the episodes is a logical way to finish and on occasion I have raised a smile when it's been announced that Voyager has won for a change (Eye of the Needle was deserved!)

Am I sounding harsh here? Maybe but I'm not a new fan nor am I 11 so that part of Star Trek Wars does fall a bit flat for me. I suppose it's clever to offer those different entry points to the series as I do enjoy both Jeremy and Gina's input which can be overshadowed by the amazing over-enthusiastic Connor who at times the show can centre around a little too much. We know you're enjoying it but let's turn it down to 11. For experienced fans I'm sure they would like to hear more from Jeremy about his personal memories of first showings, original thoughts and a slightly more retro feel than just talking through the story.

The final show of the season, focusing on the year one finales was a particularly entertaining audio journey. Aside from Voyager's season finale that's not a season finale, Learning Curve, I really like the other four as they do seem to pull out all the things you would expect to close your first year and make you want to come back for another bite in a few months time.

Anyway, this was a great episode, highlighting everything that was good with Star Trek Wars - the Jeremy/Connor/Gina balance worked perfectly (and Connor has toned his exuberance) allowing for a perfect mix of long-term expert, newcomer and logician. Keeping the plot of each episode limited and focusing on the issues and key points makes the podcast an even greater draw to me and I'm glad I've stuck with it through every installment be it in a more recent box-set binge listening fashion. I did feel that by this stage the team are holding back no punches and we're getting their real feelings and thoughts more than we saw at the beginning of the show and while the hour still doesn't allow for much more than top level analysis it still manages to cover a lot of the bases and the key elements. Still think the Pro's and Khans should be different from discussion points.

There have been a fair few memory-joggers along the road and in episode 23 there could have been a fraction more dedicated to the sense of closure that each tale brings (or doesn't) to year one as well as the first shot of a Warbird, the stellar conflicts of politics and religion brought to the fore in Deep Space Nine's finale or the unexpected brilliance displayed in the only first season cliffhanger, Shockwave, from Enterprise. It has taken me a while to fully appreciate this podcast. The road has been bumpy but the team are developing a keener eye for the content and with an ever growing watched back-catalogue it can only go from strength to strength. They've even grown to love Voyager a little - in places - and championed the greatness of the occasionally overlooked Sisko and crew.

What didn't work here was the first annual Star Trek Wars aWARds which relied much more on the ratings of each episode than anything else. It was a disappointment and I would suggest adding in some off-the-wall awards for crazy things they're noticed through the season. The ratings winners could be skipped over in a few minutes and this was a chance well and truly missed to wrap up the year in style.

However, this won't stop me from downloading the next episode and the first stories from the second seasons which I suspect should be Amok Time, The Child, Homecoming, The 37's and Shockwave, Part II - at least three of which are good episodes. These guys are becoming a regular part of my week and work journey, helping me to reminisce over episodes recently watched and some I still need to revisit. If I was giving them a rating it'd be a Gary Seven. I reckon by the end of next year this could easily be a Seven of Nine. 

If you're interested in listening to the Star Trek Wars podcast, drop onto the Gone Nerdin' website and download one or two today!

Have you listened to the Star Trek Wars podcast? Have you been enjoying their reviews?

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Fall-ing Over: Concluding Thoughts and Dayton Ward with Peaceable Kingdoms

It feels as though The Fall has been a big part of my Star Trek reading for a serious amount of time.

As series' go I've thoroughly enjoyed it although book two was a bit of a low however the later releases were brilliant, especially The Poisoned Chalice so thumbing open Peaceable Kingdoms was going to have a difficult act to follow. If we choose an old cliche, all the chess pieces were set in play ready for the final act. As cliffhangers go I literally closed one book and picked up the next to find out what was happening.

So raise your SPOILER alert to RED as we discuss the conclusion to The Fall.

While Riker and his activities on Earth are involved in this story, the main focus shifts away from the centre of Federation space to the voyages of the starship Enterprise under the command of one Jean-Luc Picard. Tasked with orders from friend and now superior Will Riker, the flagship commander is out to find the last piece in the puzzle and explain to the reader what the heck is going on.

Strangely though the adventure then takes a sharp left and you find that most of the action focuses not on the Enterprise but Doctor Crusher who, along with transport twin Tom Riker become the main protagonists of the piece. It's not something I expected and nor is the direction that the story goes. Beverley certainly holds her own here and turns out something of the hero discovering exactly what is at the core of the mystery although I did feel that her Cardassian doctor friend was a shoe-in for the last book. If he'd been around for a bit longer his impact on the story might have been more weighty than it was having him just in the narrative for book five - but then that's one of the issues of having five different writers turn their hand at a segment in the series.

Tom Riker held a significant role in the previous The Poisoned Chalice alongside non-returning (and conspicuous by absence) Nog and Tuvok. Much more likeable as a character than in his episodic appearances Tom becomes key here too, ensuring the survival of the Enterprise doctor and her plot-device Cardassian friend. This strand of the story is necessary as it fills in the backstory but it does seem to come at the cost of the main conspiracy story around Admiral Riker and the events at Starfleet Command which could have been expanded and made much greater in substance. In fact I never felt that Riker and his associates on Earth were in any depth of danger since the focus was strongly off-world.

There is space in the narrative for Picard and crew to fly off and do some investigating work but on the whole this is a lot more ground-based than the cover might lead you to believe. The crew of the Enterprise are placed in a difficult situation but it takes most of the book to get there and when it does, as I felt with the whole of the last section and the effective conclusion, it was over far too soon. From the Enterprise's intervention to the final moments it all swept by so quickly after five books of build up and a final novel in the series which had done so well to explain and detail precisely what it had all meant.

The interim presidency of Ishan Anjar following the assassination of Nanietta Bacco has run clean through this story since Revelation and Dust and while each novel has added a different twist to events occurring around that singular moment and thereafter, each has also provided morsels of evidence that something much darker is at work than is at first expected. We've had several possible assassins, involvement of Cardassian separatists, secretive Federation operatives with unknown agendas and even a split within the very membership of the galaxy-spanning organisation itself but Ishan has always maintained a presence.

Fortunately we get to see a bit more of the Bajoran pro tem president in the fifth book both in the present and the past which opens up his character but not in the ways that I was expecting. There's a lot more to Ishan than you might think and the part he plays is much less black and white. His approach is logical but the ends and means are perhaps crossed. Of the whole series The Poisoned Chalice was the strongest and provided a much more satisfactory journey towards the conclusion and hinted that the characters within its pages en masse would have more to do with the solution than the majority actually did. 

Revelation and Dust provided the perfect springboard to the series, placing us at the new Deep Space Nine but then the limelight on those players is swiftly shifted elsewhere and even their reappearances in A Ceremony of Losses doesn't give a lot to the final book. What you do come to appreciate is that while that Ishan story is the anchor that collects the series together this is perhaps looking more to further the cast and expand their horizons. By the end of Peaceable Kingdoms the literary universe is in a very different shape to how it started and not just because it has a shiny new deep space station. 

So what does this series mean for the future of the Star Trek universe in novel form? In terms of The Light Fantastic which was the next book to be published, very little, since that focused on Data, Lal and Geordi and avoided any references to the events of The Fall. However there are several loose ends which didn't get nailed down even as Peacable Kingdoms reached its conclusion. Going back to Book One, Revelations and Dust, what happened to Kira after the experiences she had within the wormhole? That never got answered and for all intents and purposes I guess she's still there. How will having Garak as the leader of the Cardassian people change their role within the Alpha Quadrant? How will he deal with the True Way who have been a constant throughout the series and appear to pose more of a threat to the Federation than the conspicuous Typhon Pact?

Then there's the whole issue with Ezri being released from prison with no charges following the events of A Ceremony of Losses and The Poisoned Chalice. Are those events going to affect her command on the Aventine and will they have any repercussions in the future? What too of the new Deep Space Nine? What's going to be different for Captain Ro and her crew?

Maybe the biggest question has to be over the future of one Julian Bashir who is still incarcerated following his involvement with curing the Andorian people which might have included delving into some top secret materials. Looking into future releases I believe that we'll have something of an answer to that in an upcoming Section 31 story - more on that as soon as we have a copy. The conclusion, as I noted, is somewhat rushed and not satisfying in the slightest given that I've spent a good few months reading away at the four previous installments, gathering information and building up expectations to a dramatic and jaw-dropping conclusion to be a little perturbed however the announcement that the Enterprise and her crew will be boldly going again on a deep space, long-term mission sounds highly promising and authors looking to dive into the exploits of Picard, Worf and the crew must be rubbing their hands with glee to know that the universe is their oyster and anything can happen. As with Voyager, the unknown will surely bring greater richness to literary Star Trek as we step further into the reaches of space.

Star Trek: The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms is available right now from Simon and Schuster priced £6.99 ISBN 9781476718996. You can also check out our reviews of the other four novels in the series by following this link

Monday, 13 October 2014

Retreading Old Ground

I swore to myself that I wouldn't get caught up in this debate but sometimes I just give in to temptation. 

For the past few weeks my news alerts have been filled with the news that William Shatner had been approached to reprise his role as Kirk in the third installment of the rebooted franchise. The world rejoiced and then Shatner promptly said he hadn't been approached - and then backtracked again and said that he had and that he'd be more than happy to do it.

For me all the machinations of who told who and who agreed with what and when are by the by but having a couple of weeks to digest the news and step away from the maelstrom has allowed me some time to think about it and I can't say I'm too happy.

For the past two rebooted movies Abrams has utilised Leonard Nimoy to return as Spock and "bridge" the two universes with his Prime Spock character. In the 2009 movie this worked exceptionally well aside from all the amazing coincidences that occurred around him such as purely by chance meeting both Kirk and Scotty on the same planet (predestination?) and it did indeed help link the two, very different, imaginings of the Star Trek universe.

The didn't-know-it-would-happen cameo in Star Trek into Darkness though did feel desperate as if JJ knew this was a bit of a dud and he needed a rock to shore up against. It was unnecessary and if Quinto's Spock hadn't realised that Khan was flippin' dangerous by this stage then he needed relieving of command. In the last 17 months since it was released in cinemas I have a new-found admiration for the second reboot movie and can enjoy it for what it attempts - to be an action-adventure movie for the 2010's but what would a Shatner appearance alongside Nimoy do for the reboot?

Personally I think it'll do a lot of damage. OK, Shatner did a skit as Kirk for the Emmy's last year but his final Kirk appearance was back in Generations...followed by Shatner bringing him back for his series of novels in the 90's (The Return, Preserver etc...) and for many, including myself, this is how it should stay. 

Death in the Star Trek universe has never been that final and in some cases it's been a career move - Scotty died, Worf died, Picard died and all of them came back. There are others that didn't and Kirk should remain one of those. I theorise that because of Shatner's age it could well be a future Kirk from the JJ timeline but who knows. I seriously fear that bringing Shatner in is a way to get bums on seats, make some money and try and appease fans after the disappointment of Star Trek into Darkness and if that's all then it could be more detrimental to the franchise than good.

The last decent idea to bring Shatner back into the fold was the mirror universe concept which we might have seen in season five of Enterprise. Archer and the crew would have discovered a planet where all the victims of the Tantalus Field from that alternate dimension ended up including the mirror-Kirk now older but still as angry hence providing a great opportunity to allow Bill Shatner back into the franchise in a sensible and acceptable manner. I would have loved to see that and I genuinely hope it either gets made by Continues or produced as a novel in the Rise of the Federation series (note to Christopher L Bennett.....).

Why else would it be bad? Because it's showing reliance on those original actors and I thought that the whole point was to move away from that aspect and let this version of the Roddenberry vision live on its own. OK, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise all had their episodes where there were character crossovers but not every single time. Would this mean Nicholls, Takei or Koenig turning up in Star Trek 4? Another turn by Nimoy? Get your JJ Abrams Star Trek bingo sheet ready to tick off the recurrences. If it's just all hype then great, it's producing interest and seeing as Shatner couldn't let Kirk go after Generations then all credit to making him live once more, even if it's just in people's imaginations. 

Would there be good reason to get him on screen? Well the fans would go crazy to see the original Kirk in action one more time just as they were about seeing Spock in the 2009 movie or whenever a crossover happens - RelicsUnification, Trials and Tribble-ations...the list goes on and coupled with the 50th Anniversary prospective release date it would go some way to recognising the reboot's origins and making it an anniversary to remember in every way possible. The 25th and 30th were amazing, the 40th not so big but this has to be the celebration to end all Star Trek celebrations. Having Kirk there might just be the icing on that cake. I guess it would have to involve time-travel or a flashback to make it viable - or a new twist on The Deadly Years with an aged Kirk since this third movie is supposed to be more in keeping with the episodic nature of The Original Series.

Personally I think that's where it should stay. Use Mr Shatner for publicity, get him to big up the third installment but don't rely on him to make it better. Drop some nice little homages into the script, some Romulans, Talos IV, the phaser rifle from Where No Man Has Gone Before, an M-113 salt vampire, a trip to Bajor, start out in the Badlands or in the Mutara Nebula...there's a ton of material to mine which will make fans just as excited and happy. Adding Nimoy into the last one didn't save it from scathing criticism from fans in fact it only added fuel to that fire. I am sad if William Shatner has sold out for a paycheck BUT I have to assume that he would only do it if the role was considerable and didn't damage his portrayal of Kirk from '66 to '94.

Talking of letting characters lie, talked to Michael Dorn at Destination Star Trek about the much-vaunted Captain Worf series. It never died and he's still waiting for Paramount to give the word since first writing the pilot back in 2012. Dorn is looking at potentially bringing back Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton and even Patrick Stewart for the first episode to send him on his way and there seems to be some traction with fans as nearly 80% of those who answered the poll as part of the article wanted to see a Captain Worf show.

I however was one of the minority. This goes back to the whole Shatner/Star Trek 3 argument I've already discussed - things need to move forward, the franchise needs to learn from it's past and strike out as the 2009 movie did and indeed every Star Trek series has attempted since 1987. Be different, be unique. OK, Deep Space Nine nicked O'Brien and Worf from The Next Generation but the others were standing on their own feet from day one. Worf has had an exceptional run of eleven seasons and four movies stretching from 1987 through to 2002. He's the character who's been in the most episodes and that's not bad for a role that was an after -thought for Encounter at Farpoint.

A part of me really would like to see a classic character and a much loved franchise actor tread the boards once more and restore us to the Prime Universe but with the current wranglings and focus on the JJ-verse that's STILL unlikely. Paramount might look at such a pilot script but that era is over and gone. We do love it but we have to move on and a new series needs a new approach and a new twist on the classics. Something that adds a new angle to the reboot movies would be fantastic (and would be no doubt a bigger winner and better made than Agents of SHIELD).

It would be good as fans, including myself are always wanting to see more about the Prime Universe rather than just reading the next David Mack or Una McCormack novel but how long would it survive, who would be in it alongside Worf? Would we grow tired of the Klingon? Would we just be wanting something to take us back to an era that effectively came to an end over a decade ago?

Your thoughts are welcomed...

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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Starfinder Strikes a "Balance" with Episode Two

Would you believe that the first episode of this audio series was released back in March 2013?

For many months now I've been pestering exec producer George Silsby about when we could expect the release of episode two and each time I've been told to hang-fire, wait, be patient. Now it's finally arrived. Balance has launched.

Since that initial release 18 months ago it's been a long journey punctuated by audio vignettes introducing additional characters and graphic novel stories to ensure that the Starfinder name has survived and in many ways has expanded from the pilot. Our review picked out a lot of good stuff within the structure as well as some areas of improvement and since then, there's been a ton of events behind the scenes which have affected projected release dates and forced the team's hand to make some massive changes.

"It was actually easy - ideas come easy to me, almost too many ideas," said George in relation to adding in the vignettes;  "The overflow of ideas spill into side stories like the minisodes, short stories, and comics. They [the comics] are simply additional side content to enjoy. They will never be required to read to tie into any episodes, but they can enhance the story for those that read them."

On the positive side this has meant that a lot more work has gone into the production of not just episode two but also three (previewed at the end of Balance) and four which, we are assured are pretty much ready to go although those Starfinder peeps are holding them back to make sure we get just enough of this long-awaited second episode before we can hear the next stages. From what I know we can expect them before the end of the year.

"It was more a case of personal problems myself or the audio engineer had going on behind the scenes, not the actual work that delayed it." said exec producer, George. "We got past our problems, and resumed work, we also had the issue of having to re-record lots of material and re-cast some of the characters coming into episode two. Over the long months these things just kept flip-flopping and that's why we got behind. We finally got our act together and here we are!

As we noted time has brought about a few changes within the structure of Starfinder but George seems to be happy with the current status quo; "I now have a "team" and some of the team (from the pilot) left. My new number one, so to speak, is Adrianne Grady who is a talented actress. She voiced characters for Star Trek Online and plays Lt. Valor, she also plays our upcoming female Q in episode five (spoiler!!!). She's a good friend and now my exec."

And what about those next episodes? 

"We are just doing some extra add-on content we call "bookends"," continued George; "Episodes three and four,  expertly produced by Michael Medeiros,  are woven into a four-part crossover story with our brother podcast Gates of Stovokor also by Busy Little Beaver Productions."

There's a lot going on as you can see and the Starfinder team certainly haven't been sitting around twiddling thumbs and playing dom-jot. So what do we think of Balance after one two listenings? 

Running at a slightly shorter 56 minutes it's a better fit for a single sitting although we have to remember that the first "pilot" episode was feature-length to introduce the many aspects of the Starfinder experience. For me and a commute to work this fitted precisely door-to-door so I can give it a thumbs up if you're looking for some Star Trek to entertain you on the daily voyage. But let's look at it in a bit more detail than that.

With the USS Starfinder heading into the Outback there's a lot going on around the ship. Our holographic captain is taking onboard a time-travelling, drunkard Vorta named Kenai who has dealings with the Breen and there are a couple of relationships taking shape too. Key to this episode though and the main story focuses on T'Kayla who was introduced in one of the shorter vignettes last year and has travelled through time to deal with this errant Vorta and help Starfinder stay out of too much trouble. Her presence isn't really explained too well in Balance and I'd suggest you download the earlier additional snippets to get to grips with some of the new arrivals and situations that take place here. It's not a bad thing to have continuing storylines but with Starfinder I can see that there are going to be a lot of threads going on and the more info you can get, the better your understanding will be.

Aside from this temporally-challenging story the focus on relationships flourishing is more than I had expected with both T'Kayla/Stark starting off their "thing" in this timeline and Sergeant Byrnes (voiced by exec producer George) also trying his luck with Vulcan security officer Valor.

Byrnes, the lead MACO on Starfinder does come across as a little too relaxed and almost comedic which I'm not sure totally suits the character however the twist that he puts in as part of his romancing technique did raise a smile and I look forward to seeing how this gets developed over the coming episodes since we know (thanks to T'Kayla) that they will become an item and start a family. Nothing like a good bit of pre-destination to make you raise the game.

"I'm biased over Sgt Byrnes because I play him," noted George; "but that's because he represents the "soldiers" that never got to exist on the show before Enterprise, I feel they represent a unique and interesting part of Starfleet. I also love writing the Vortas, the whole cloning line is full of opportunity to mine for stories, I like all the characters, really."

The Vorta character reminded me somewhat of Keevan from Deep Space Nine's Rocks and Shoals thanks to the slightly slimy and flippant nature of the voice used to portray him. He annoyed me to hell which was perfect as the role was one that didn't require one to like him at all. While this is very much a character building episode it does feel that it's in the middle of something with a lot more to give. The conclusion, which does have a couple of nice little twists in it, does seem to be over fairly quickly and the end credits roll (with the addition of an episode three preview). 

The pilot was very action packed, pretty well-paced and here, Balance is a lot more relaxed and in that respect shows off that Starfinder isn't a one trick pony. There's more depth to it and we get a lot more layers added to the background rather than heading off into a Star Trek Online style shoot'em-up. While that first episode was very choppy in places, attempting to introduce and set up a whole host of new and diverse characters, here we have more time to explore certain individuals than just get a sharp bio and a few lines. The Outback too has been set up to be a weird area of space and I look forward to seeing this expanded upon in future episodes as here we've got familiar faces such as the Breen, Vorta and Cardassians showing up to play off against the Starfinder.

"I have a very set story arc and sub-arcs mapped out for all of season one; the minisodes are the random ideas made live as we go." confirmed Starfinder creator George, "The story is the start of two arcs--a shadow war between Section 31 and the Department of Temporal Investigations and a new temporal war. It just sort of gelled from the start as the next story to begin."

On the side of audio quality it's still obvious that different cast have used different equipment to record their parts to then be spliced together by George. The inclusion of background noise into the scenes does help to detract but the tone change between actors makes it clear that they are using different equipment - it's a shame but probably unavoidable and I wouldn't want this to stop anyone from listening.

Having an audio series of Star Trek isn't something new but in the era of blogs and podcasts wishing to critique the show or fan films taking us in new directions, is Starfinder the right way to go, after all it's based on the online Star Trek universe?

"As a genre, audio series are underestimated and I feel we can help change that. it's a unique format of storytelling that goes back to the days of radio plays before TV came out. I've been very happy (with episode two) as the feedback and traffic for it has dwarfed episode one by a mile. If I had to change anything i'd have split up the number of romances begun in this episode (SKoST: I agree!)."

Looking ahead, I hope that this slower pace isn't a sign of things to come and that subsequent episodes regain the pace, potential and edge that the pilot showed 18 months ago.  There's also some great little references to a certain timelord (Captain Hartnell for one) which are fun to look out for and one thing we haven't mentioned at all is the ominous mention of The Choir and the War Monks, both of whom we will be coming up close with in the near future.

I am reassured by George here that this is all actually going somewhere and not thought up on the spur of the moment - there's a Big Plan, a mission and a vision. with this resolve I can see that the future for Starfinder is certainly bright and optimistic. Further to that, there's a new minisode coming out which takes a new twist on the Vorta (intended to be with us for Halloween if not before) and more graphic novel material is on the way.

Having heard the teaser from episode three (at the end of episode two and also available at the Starfinder website on its own) I'm curious if nothing else. As with all good teasers it tells you absolutely nothing but sounds enticing.To top that off I was very privileged to get a chance to hear an exclusive clip from episode three, Gorn of a Different Colour and what I can say about that is Klingons, Klingons and Klingons. 

It promises to be very different, take the action away from Starfinder and expand upon the mystery and happenings within the Outback. Beyond that I was sworn to secrecy about the events of episodes four and five but what I can say is that this is going to be worth keeping up to date with and following as the story unfoldsin the next few months. I don't even question if this will all make sense because we know that the eleven episode first season is mapped out. That must be some map.

All images courtesy of Star Trek: Starfinder

Episode Two of Star Trek: Starfinder is available now for download or streaming via the Starfinder website right now. You can also locate their minisodes, graphic novels and episode one to catch up on all the events taking place in and around this new chapter in the Star Trek universe.

Have you listened to Balance? What were your favourite parts? What are you hoping for with episode three and the two-part arc? Drop us a note below!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Rounding Up and Coming Up

Hold the front page!

What a weekend! While we didn't manage to make it to Destination Star Trek we did get some interesting updates especially from our favourite Official Starships Collection.

Now we know a LOT more about the coming years. The end of October (30th to be precise) will see the arrival of the USS Vengeance which looks oh so sweet from every angle but also that the fifth special in the series will be (not much of a shock) the USS Kelvin. Do we take it then that the sixth will be the model that Ben Robinson has openly declared is his biggest nightmare, the Narada?

Destination Star Trek gave fans the chance to get up close with the models and some of the ones yet to be released but it was also revealed that the NX-01 refit would be among those released and that a Borg cube was still a possibility as a special edition not just as a fancy plastic light up box for subscribers. Also the Norway Class would make an appearance after some serious rebuilding after it was deleted a long time ago. Ben explained to those in the audience at the Excelsior stage that he would want to make it super-detailed.

On news of the USS Titan petition, Robinson also ensured fans that if 5000 signatures on it were received there would be a model. If you've not signed it, get over there now.

So the big news that was tweeted out live by Collection fan Dennis Mosselmans is that issues 51 through to 55 were confirmed and here they are...

Issue 51 - Hirogen Hunter

Love it. I've been waiting for this beauty - we needed one of the more major enemy race ships from Voyager and now we'll have it - in about two years time...

Google Images

Issue 52 - Centaur Class

One of the two ships we were told "had been involved in a big battle" when issues 41 - 50 were announced. It was also one of the ships on the original announcement posters. Nice design but not the one I was quite waiting for. More on that shortly....

Memory Beta

Issue 53 - Klingon Attack Ship

The one from the three-part Augment story in the fourth series of Enterprise. Also not a very popular ship but it does tick the box for "ship that was hijacked" - my guess of the Enterprise-A got blown out then.

Ex Astra Scientas

Issue 54 - Steamrunner Class

Now THIS is the one I'm ticking off the days on my calendar for. One of my ultimate favourite starship designs of all time. Not one of the classic hull/two nacelles/saucer designs it just looks damn brutal and I want it. Now.

Google Images

Issue 55 - D'kyr Class

A second entry in the series for the Vulcans after the Surok Class in the mid-30's. Still busting that central ring design, I did consider that this might have been the T'Plana'Hath.

Memory Alpha
So what else can we reveal today (or at least update you on?) How about the next few months worth of releases from Simon and Schuster?

Star Trek: Voyager - Act of Contrition - Kirsten Beyer
Sequel to this year's Protectors.

Star Trek: Section 31 - Disavowed - David Mack
Could this resolve Bashir's predicament from the superb The Fall series?

Star Trek Ships of the Line - Doug Drexler
Hubba hubba - the return of the best visual Star Trek book ever, revamped with a whole load of new images and pics from the last few years of calendars.

Star Trek: The Original Series - Foul Deeds Will Rise - Greg Cox
Interesting choice of cover art with the movie uniforms...
January 2015
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Missing - Una McCormack
Star Trek: The Next Generation - Takedown - John Jackson Miller

Star Trek: The Original Series - Savage Trade - Tony Daniel
No details at present.

Star Trek: Rise of the Federation - Uncertain Logic - Christopher L Bennett
Another in the faux-Enterprise series overseen by Christopher L Bennett. 

Are there any of these releases you're looking forward to? Which ones are getting you itching for publication date? Let us know!

A New Venture: David Mack Opens Seekers

Taking us into the first of the new Seekers series is our newest scribe, Thomas Marsland...!

As my first book review, I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. An avid fan of Star Trek though, I was very happy when I received my book in the mail from Simon and Schuster, complete with a personalized note from the person who packaged it for me.

Star Trek: Seekers: Second Nature is set in The Original Series timeframe; the era of Trek I was least familiar with. But it was exciting. David Mack does an excellent job of describing a Starfleet still being founded more on the traditions of the current US Navy than later eras in Star Trek. With somewhat of a focus on the enlisted side of Star Trek, the USS Sagittarius has a Master Chief for a Chief of Engineering and plenty of enlisted crew throughout the story. This lends towards a realism not seen on the big screen.

The Seekers series tells the story of the USS Sagittarius, an Archer-class scout. A tiny little thing with a crew of 14, the Sagittarius is sent on a mission to investigate an area known as the Taurus Reach. On the planet Nereus II, where they arrive due to picking up some strange energy readings, they discover the Tomol - a species whose members all commit a ritualistic suicide just as they reach the cusp of adulthood.

Enter the Klingons, hell-bent on capturing one of these Tomol and figuring out a way to weaponize their abilities; a strange energy transformation that takes place if they don’t commit that ritual suicide, turning them mad. David Mack does an excellent job of integrating the captaincy of Clark Terrell into the story of the Sagittarius - the same Captain Terrell we see in The Wrath of Khan, turning his own phaser on himself after Khan ordered him to kill Admiral Kirk.

This is a crazy story, one packed with adventure. We never really get to see the story on the screen of the small Starfleet, the Federation-behind-the-scenes, so to speak, so reading about the story of the small scout ship, capable of planetary landings, with all of a couple decks and a tiny crew, makes us feel as if we’re on the frontier, and we are!

Complete with a battle between the Klingons and Starfleet in orbit around Nereus II, asteroid-dodging and all, as well as tons of excitement on the surface, the Seekers saga is one that I would gladly keep reading. We learn quite a bit about the Tomol as a species in this book, but I’m left wanting more. I’m satisfied with what I was given, but like I said, I must have more! It’s hard to strike that balance when writing a series, and David Mack does a wonderful job of it.

It’s an exciting book, and one that left me a bit upset - upset that I won’t be reviewing the second installment of the Seekers series, as that gets to be left to Clive. I’ll have to convince him to send it over when he gets done with it, if he’ll oblige me.

Thanks for tuning in to our reviews here on Some Kind of Star Trek, and stay tuned for more!

So what were your thoughts about this new novel series? Did Mack do a good job and did you want to get book two?

Our review of Seekers Two will be up shortly but until then, why not drop onto one of our social media sites!

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Friday, 3 October 2014

Another Two Ends of the Spectrum: The Official Starships Collection Issues 30 and 31


The first one of these two really had me stumped y'know.

For the first time in 30 issues I had to look up where this squat piece of brown plastic and metal had first appeared when I saw it on the official release list. I mentally narrowed it to Enterprise but beyond that, hey, anyone's guess.

With a little bit of online research (how did we ever manage with books?!) this craft first appeared in Fortunate Son which was very memorable as you can tell. Actually I'm being quite harsh there because the ECS Fortunate was recently announced as being one of the issues between 41 - 50 which makes it a bumper ep for ships.

Digression over. With the Nausicaan Fighter restraint is key. I returned home, opened the box and then handed it over to my dad who was dogsitting. Just as he was about to lever the ship out of its plastic I remembered a comment from Nicholas Garratt on Facebook this morning that underneath the rear of the ship is a little gun turret - and I'm glad I did remember because that's the natural point your hand goes to when you attempt to pop the fighter out of its packaging.

So what do I think to this one? As a one episode ship it does fall into a category also filled by the Dauntless in that all we have to go in is 44 minutes of screentime and with this fighter it's much less than that I expect. As with all Enterprise releases the detail is precise and it's certainly more unusual in that there are no transparent plastic sections - even on the inboard warp engines which are painted greeny/yellow. Nice to see that the hull is marked and worn sporadically which adds to the effect. I seriously believed this would be the weaker of the two releases in October however I seem to have been in error as the finished result holds up well and looks better than the marketing image on the website - unlike last time's Maquis Raider.

Comparing the ship to the image in the magazine there's more detail on the model than there is on the pictures with the ship showing up more hull plating lines although it does appear darker in the flesh than on the page. While it's not the most popular of models judging from the feedback on the collection's Facebook page, you can't help but (again) be impressed with this new Enterprise release (again).

The entire top section of the Nausicaan fighter is metal while the underside insert comes in plastic with the only minor disappointment being the thickness of the aerials and cannons which are moulded in that section. However, from a breakage and safety point of view I can see why they are a little more bulked out than the magazine views show. She is a bit of a lump but the finish is superb and with the rear-locking stand being one of the best fits, there's no concern that gravity might play a part in those antennae becoming a lot shorter very quickly.

It's aquatic origins are fairly glaring in the shape of the hull but there's also a somewhat retro feel through the flaring and excesses on the hull shaping. Nice to note that Eaglemoss managed to mark the cockpit windows in the right place this month. There is a bit of flash around the antennae and cannons on close inspection but this doesn't detract from the solid quality of the issue 30 starship. Mind, there has been a spate of fighters recently (Jem'Hadar, Maquis and now this one) although that looks to be over for the foreseeable future.

Over to the literature and with this being a "one-off" content was most certainly going toswing slightly off topic. The background on the ship is good but more reliant on information about the Nausicaans themselves than the fighter craft they used and also has only Fortunate Son to use as reference material onscreen. Indeed the Nausicaans, as you soon realise, were not big players which is probably why there's a nice section talking about the visual effects of Enterprise rather than stringing out and watering down the appropriate material. As it is, there's a picture of two fighters close to their base asteroid which is repeated on two separate pages. Whoops.

The VFX section is a great addition this month and not an area of the show I was ever familiar with. It is brief and could do with its own book (publishers take note) but there are a couple of trade secrets revealed and you realise that Enterprise was a very different beast to the other four series that preceded it at least in this respect. My question for the issue on ECS Fortunate Son is how are you going to fill those pages without repeating some of the material we've got here? By the way, I won't ruin the surprise of which episode is listed in the Key Appearances section.

The second release which will be hitting shelves mid-October is the Romulan Valdore from Star Trek Nemesis - just about as far at the other end of the Star Trek universe as you can go seeing as this ship appeared in the closing scenes of the tenth movie. 

My dad did the "where the heck is this from?" furrowed brow when I said it was coming out but then got quite excited as he realised it was a Romulan design and would probably look pretty sweet alongside his Warbird from issue six. I may rent it out. Possibly.

The Valdore is an elegant vessel and, like the Enterprise-D to the Enterprise-E there's hints at a stretched D'deridex class minus that lower hull section. Looking at her now it also does suggest a close relationship with the Klingon Bird of Prey through the style of wings and lengthy neck/head section. That said, the familiar darker green hull and more rounded features does remind you of the familiar Romulan style. For once we have a "later era" ship that features some incredible hull detail in every possible orifice from prow to stern. Every surface has a marking, a line, a recess or a window both ventral and dorsal and matches up well with the narrative in the issue 31 magazine.

The lines of the hull and the double-wing are absolutely meticulous in their construction, retaining both the open hull trademark of the D'deridex class as well as the legendary lines of the should-have-been-Romulan Bird of Prey from Star Trek III. Those double warp nacelles are a great touch and pretty well attached - as is the stand when you dock the Valdore. This is another one that won't have to worry about the Fall of Fate from you display shelves with a mightily snugg fit around her rear end. This warbird is definitely one of the more stunning - and wide - releases but has been presented in a far superior manner to the Enterprise-E which is a shame although scale has a deft hand to play in that I'm certain.

She's also fairly light in comparison to the Nausicaan fighter with only the forward neck section and top central hull rendered in metal. There is a joint slightly out of alignment at the back of the neck where it meets the engineering hull but that's hidden underneath. Overall though I have given it the official SKoST nod of approval and now suggests that if a ship is from a less adored piece of the franchise the model will be better than you expected - and better than some of the ones you did want.

Turning to the pages of issue 31 it's like a whole new story covering one of the lesser featured starships. If you recall, the Valdore makes it's appearance almost at the end of Nemesis and then only to get pummelled by the Schimitar and buy the Enterprise some time. This issue does fill out the details on its design but as with the Nausicaan fighter the overview of the ship is very limited in parallel with its screentime. There's a note on the reason behind those two pairs of warp nacelles but the section does fall into the plot of Nemesis very easily once this more unusual feature is explained.

There is a first within this edition though in that we're treated (if that's the right turn of phrase) to an interview with writer John Logan who penned Star Trek Nemesis with assistance from, among others, Rick Berman, Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart. Regarded by many as the worst The Next Generation movie and possibly one of the worst of the ten films in the Prime Universe, I was fascinated to see Logan's thought processes even if, as always, the interview was confined to four (half) pages and some big pictures to space fill. I think I'd like to speak to Logan and get a lot more in depth about what actually happened as here we only get the lightest touch of the surface. Aside from a couple of gorgeous CGI shots the pictures are a bit disappointing, coming as you would expect, from Nemesis alone.

As both of this month's ships were 100% CGI creations the Valdore doesn't get a filming section but there is a superb piece which tells of how two separate designers were tasked with bringing something new to the game for the Romulans to use. When you consider that it was 1988 when the D'deridex class first appeared in The Neutral Zone it was a long time coming. Examining the CGI render here and comparing it to the model really does show how precise the Eaglemoss production has been. Now all I need is a second one in bronze and the Schimitar...not much to ask.

Perhaps even bigger news was the additional in some deliveries this month of the flyer for the USS Vengeance which we'll be seeing around the 30th October. Thanks to Chris Warnes on Facebook for posting this up! This is massive news and for some reason either it's got into a few deliveries by error or most of us missed it?!

For those of you who might not have noticed, the collection website got an update on Thursday 2nd October with a whole new selection of 360 degree virtual tours of every ship up to issue 35 which is the Klingon Bird of Prey from Enterprise. I've included the four we have yet to see in stills below for reference. This means that next month we'll be getting two Deep Space Nine releases (yay!) with the Runabout and the Cardassian Hideki class.

Also remember that if you're heading along to Destination Star Trek this weekend you'll get to see the new models for issues 50 through to 55 on Stand Three!

Starfleet Runabout

Cardassian Hideki Class

Vulcan Surok Class

Klingon Bird of Prey 2252
What are your thoughts on this month's issues? Drop us a line below and let's discuss!

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