Friday, 21 November 2014

Acts of Contrition: Beyer's Voyager Vision Continues

Having read the previous book in this series the dramatic conclusion left me priapic with anticipation for the latest novel. For those unaware my review of Protectors did not put it in the best light. 

It wasn't until I started reading Protectors that I realised that it was part of a series of which I had transported into mid-phaser fight. Did I end up going back and reading the previous three books in the series I hear you ask? Erm, no I did not. Although I do appreciate that this might help my understanding of matters. Not to be deterred by this and relishing anything Voyager related, I ploughed through it with some difficulty, struggling to follow the already established plots. 

I know what you're thinking, what do you expect, you've jumped in half way through a series. I agree with this is but I believe an author should be able to draw a reader into an established arc with sufficient backstory such as Kevin J Anderson and his Saga of Seven Suns. Nonetheless I was prepared for this with the latest book, eager to see where the story would go. I still hold the opinion that Protectors was a filler, meant to tie the readers over until Acts of Contrition where the story was hopefully going to engage warp engines instead of manoeuvring thrusters. We haven't achieved much more than impulse at the moment.

Acts of Contrition neatly picks up where Protectors left off. Admiral Janeway is in charge of the full circle fleet tasked with opening diplomatic relations with the Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant, whose technology is on par with the Federation. In the previous book the Confederacy rescued the Federation starships Voyager and Demeter from an alien armada and although grateful, the crew of Voyager is disturbed in the way that the Confederacy was founded.

Introducing several of Voyager's adversaries from the original TV series, the Devore, the Voth, the Turei and the Vaadwaur all make interesting additions. The 'Karlon' and the 'Skeen' are the new faces which aren't explored in any detail. It would be interesting to have more development on these, especially as these have been created by Beyer. These have formed an unlikely alliance intent on forging war with the Confederacy, and Voyager's presence doesn't help matters. Recognise anyone mentioned above? The Devore were introduced in the season 5 episode Counterpoint where Janeway finally got a little bit of action, well as much as you can on Star Trek without the Doctor's approval. The Voth made an appearance in the season 3 episode Distant Origin and the Vaadwaur and Turei in season 6 Dragons Teeth. 
In my humble opinion there seems to be a bit of recycling of old characters going on here. It's nice to have some familar faces but we've got a whole quadrant of alien races that could have been introduced. Is this a wasted opportunity? I personally would have prefered more original content, these are races we have seen in the past. More to the point Beyer seems to have picked all the races with a grudge against Voyager and surprisingly they've banded together intent on capturing Voyager. The Turei and the Vaadwaur!!! Really, in what universe would that ever happen? These two species were at war with each for centuries. After discussing this with my colleague Mark who has seen this episode of Voyager more recently than myself, he considers it a major plot hole and had a look of horror on his face.

Beyond this both the Devore and the Voth had an element of xenophobia about them, would they really team up? Beyer is disregarding even the most basic established tenants of the series, instead opting to rewrite Voyager as she sees fit. Or as Tuvok elegantly put it in Worst Case Scenario (season three, Ep 25): "That is an entirely implausible plot development. Logic is an integral part of narrative structure. According to the dictates of poetics by Te'Hain of Vulcan, a character's actions must flow inexorably from his or her established traits."
Commander Tom Paris has escorted Seven of Nine back to the Alpha Quadrant along with Dr Sharak. As previously mentioned in my Protectors review, Paris' mother is seeking custody of Miral following a storyline from one of the earlier books in which Paris faked his wife and daughters death in order to protect them from some Klingon order. Mrs Paris believes that both Tom and B'Elanna are unfit parents and is applying for sole custody of Miral. I expected this part of the story to be quite boring, arbitration between mother and son, but was pleasantly surprised in the way this arc was explored.

This could be considered a soap style storyline, father of the child cliché. Was this a necessary sub-plot? My interpretation is that Beyer is wrapping up the Paris storyline, although beware, it looks set to continue in the next novel. Although it is not the strongest storyline Beyer portrayed the character very well causing me to sympathise with the issues facing the family.

Another continuing story arc is the catomic plague, from my review of Protectors, it has indeed developed into a more substantial reading point as I suspected. Unfortunately it is difficult to identify exactly what is going on, or where it is going. This is simply because amidst this devastating plague, Beyer chooses to focus on the Seven-Axum relationship which in my opinion is unrealistic and out of character. I imagine that Beyer intends to develop this plot in the next novel, my only hope is the Seven-Axum relationship isn't explored in as much detail. I believe a line needs to be drawn under this and for her to focus on the principle issue of the catomic plague. 

I have recently set myself the task of re-watching Voyager from start to finish and would like to revise my comment in my review of Protectors regarding the relationship between Chakotay and Janeway. The early seasons of Voyager were not may favourite and I haven't seen them for many years, but I believe these early seasons show the chemistry between Janeway and her former first officer. Although I believe that the relationship evolved into a friendship rather than a romantic relationship, it does give more credibility to the two being involved. This relationship is referred to in Protectors but isn't explored in any detail. This may be because it was covered in previous books in the series which I am unaware of, but it may have additional potential. Is an Admiral allowed to have a romantic relationship with a Captain?

If I said Riley Frazier to you would it ring any bells? It didn't for me but luckily I have just re-watched season three of Voyager and managed to connect the dots. For those of you unaware she is from the episode Unity in which she attempts to 'softwire' Chakotay into her mini collective. Once I made this connection I was a little disappointed. We've got Axum, Riley, various foes of Voyager banded together, Protectors from the season two episode Twisted, and that's just in the two books I've read. I feel that too much reliance has been placed on established storylines which have been merged together to create a series that is hard to follow. Not to say that I haven't enjoyed this book, each chapter ended on a cliff hanger compelling me to read on which is a credit to Beyer's writing skills. I just find that hers and mines version of Voyager following the conclusion of the series went on different paths.

At this point I'll offer you my conclusions but before I do, I need to get something off my chest.

I had a little theory from Protectors, I briefly mentioned it in an earlier paragraph but have decided to return to it as I no longer feel I had made a mistake. Sadly this chapter in her series has done nothing but strengthen my theory. I cannot escape the overall feeling that Beyer isn't actually writing the next Voyager installment, rather, rewriting the original TV show. With the ratio of 'recycled' material to 'original' material (and a distinct lack of detail in her original material), it does give me the impression that she watched Voyager and decided that it wasn't how she saw it should have played out.

Now, we all have ideas about what we'd have liked to have seen in the show, but we've known better than to disturb one of the best (in my 'humble' opinion) Star Trek shows thus far.
The continuation of this saga will be Star Trek: Voyager: Atonement, which is due to be released in either July or September 2015. I'm sure many people who have read the whole series will be anticipating the release of this next instalment with the dramatic cliff hanger that Beyer left you with. I say 'you' as to me it actually meant nothing, I've got no idea who this latest bad guy is.

How do you think Beyer is handling the Voyager series? Are these moves in the right direction?

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

20 from Generations

All Good Things... had come to an end and the eighth season of The Next Generation was not to be.  

The TV adventures of the Enterprise-D were over but Berman,  Moore and Braga went from the show straight into production of the first of four movies for Picard and the crew. The wide variance in quality of these four instalments is always up for debate but let's not stray from the fact that Generations also marked a generation's final journey to steal the tag line from Nemesis.

Kirk, Scotty and Chekov returned for one last hurrah (because Nimoy and Kelley wouldn't)  in an epic that spanned the two ground-breaking shows. Now if you've been paying attention you'll recall that this year marked 20 years since All Good Things... which in turn means it's 20 years since Kirk wound up in the Nexus. That's right. November 18th 2014 marks two decades since the theatrical release of the seventh feature length Trek to the stars. 

So what has been Generations legacy after two decades? What has it given to the franchise?  It gave Worf something of a reason to jump ship after the destruction of the Enterprise but there has to be more than that seeing as the film wouldn't have been better or worse if that hadn't happened.

At least it allowed Shatner to bow out with some style and maybe there's something poetic about the notion of him returning to that role two decades later for Star Trek 3 and the 50th Anniversary in 2016. At least on screen Kirk didn't get resurrected although Shatner did pen The Return and a number of sequels to keep the character alive. Some characters need and deserve to stay dead to ensure their legacy survives in tact and here, with Kirk, that is essential. Here we have a launchpad to a new beginning that would not have to worry about looking over it's shoulder at all that had gone before. The Next Generation had grown up - this was it's maturing moment and the point where everything subsequent would have to take note.

Generations is the only decent gap-filler between The Original Series and The Next Generation we ever got by seeing Kirk's successor and the Excelsior Class Enterprise-B confirm the lineage through to Garrett and on to Picard. Again in the non-canon literature we are afforded an expanded narrative but Generations gives us the notion that the galaxy will still keep on being saved for the next 78 years even if Kirk isn't around to do it. I for one think this is one of Shatner's best performances as Kirk in particularly un-Kirk-like surroundings only to realise just who he is when the odds are against him and the situation is grim. 

However, while that classic era section is a wonderful little swansong, it's The Next Generation section which features more prominently with the investigation at Amargosa and the mystery of the Nexus. The events of Generations never directly impact another episode although there is that link to The Way of the Warrior although it did cement the Berman/Moore/Braga era for several years to come. Importantly it also marked a point of progress. While the original crew had very little development from The Motion Picture to The Undiscovered Country (with the obvious exception of Spock), the crew of Picard's Enterprise began to change from the characters we knew from the TV show. Here Data's emotion chip loomed large once more to be featured again in First Contact before being totally forgotten for Insurrection and Nemesis

Killing off Picard's relations here was a bold move but again it was one of the early signs that things did not need to be stagnant for fans and causal viewers to "get" the movie. These were people who could be moulded a bit more and the tweaks that might have happened on the series could now be experimented with and explored in a larger setting - Geordi's sight and the Riker/Troi relationship would be the two most obvious points explored in the subsequent movies but in Generations there are the first indications that we would find corrections and changes occurring more often than we may have expected on the series.Destroying the Enterprise on the other hand isn't that big a thing. After the monumental obliteration of the original Constitution Class starship in The Search for Spock the expectation of a bigger and better, all singing and dancing replacement was expected before the saucer had even entered the atmosphere, backed up by Picard's knowing and satirical comment that this would not be the last ship to bear the name Enterprise (add in his reference to letters of the alphabet in First Contact too please).

Generations hits the life/death theme straight on with each of the three main characters battling that element of reality from numerous different angles. Kirk has died and has nothing left to prove, he's out there to enjoy himself with no responsibilities and a whole universe of his imagination to explore. Picard faces the bleak truth that life isn't always fair with the deaths of his brother and his Generations  nephew off-screen. Then there's Soran and his wish to cheat reality and the mortal struggle without a care for the impact it can have on anything in his way. McDowell does a fairly good job with the character although he admitted that he didn't get it and preferred his part in Tank Girl which was also around at the same time. His motivations are fairly realistic and as baddies go, he's one of the better ones, providing that spark of insanity right alongside apparent logical reasoning and desperation. Without a doubt McDowell has certainly left his legacy on the franchise if only for being the Kirk killer - and then only in the original version.

At the core the legacy of is simply the passing of that torch from one crew to another. The final tie cutting which meant that The Next Generation could flourish on the big screen and surpass the expectations of its predecessor - but the reality is that the spark was bright and short-lived as fans are more than vocal that both Insurrection and Nemesis are far from up to scratch. Easily the best of the four, Generations slides well into a comfortable second and for me it's definitely a decent movie which allowed Kirk to pull out one last fistfight interspersed with more of his more classic moves from The Original Series than you can shake a tribble at and on location no less.

At the time Generations was highly anticipated; I'd read the book including that skydiving scene and the original shot-in-the-back ending which rubbed preview audiences the wrong way. The Next Generation had been a ratings winner and the expectation on the big screen was no less. The shame of it was that there was an overconfidence and maybe over familiarity that let The Next Generation down. There was no gap, no decade of mulling over possibilities, no additional maturing of the cast and no chance to spread their wings elsewhere first to shed the type-casting. One day they were shooting an episode and the next it was filming a movie. Could it be that we didn't wait long enough for The Next Generation to deserve their own movie series?

Only 11 years after Generations aired it was all over for the Berman era in 2005 as Enterprise was cancelled and the show faded for a few years. Generations was a movie of the time, oppulent with its high level guest star, self-indulgent with its references to its past and existing at a pivotal moment in franchise history where three series would exist within a 12 month period at the Paramount Studios.

The Next Generation legacy fizzled and burned in just seven short years in the cinema compared to the 13 years of the original crew. So much promise perhaps handled badly at the peak of Star Trek's success? Was it the beginning of the slpppery slope? Was attempting that lightning strike twice on the big screen tempting fate? Were we all just bored? Maybe, maybe not but for the time, this union of Star Trek's two captains was the thing to see and today, seeing Kirk and Picard side by side to save the galaxy is still worth every second.

What do you think the franchise owes to Generations? Anything? Nothing? WHy not let us know here!

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Friday, 14 November 2014

IndieGoGo for season two?

Ensign Williams has survived!

Well she's survived the first ten episodes of The Original Series which means there's only 69 to go and with their IndieGoGo goal already achieved after just FIVE days it looks like the second batch of minisodes will be an even stronger offering.

So let's talk season one first; we reviewed episodes one and two when The Red Shirt Diaries launched and over the subsequent eight weeks we've joined Ensign Williams as she's undergone medicals, dealt with an evil Kirk, watched her colleagues go a bit "wah wah", found a deleted log and been woken up on her day off by some apparently inconsiderate alien.

It has been a mixed bag and weekly I've been dropping my thoughts on the stories back to Ashley as each one has been released. I am disappointed by the lack of appearances by Gertrude but on the whole it seems to have been a great success from the pens of Ashley and Jason Inman. Keeping them to a tight two or three minute length has worked a gem making them easily accessible and bitesize entertainment each Monday. While a couple haven't quite hit the mark there have been some moments of genius.

Season One focused on the run from The Man Trap through to The Corbomite Maneuver and all the variations in between. Rather than going for production order, the shows were slotted into their original airing order meaning that for Where No Man Has Gone Before we got an unusual "lost log" installment with Williams pining for her love Gary Mitchell - only to have him ripped away and transformed into a God - and killed.

That loss isn't permanent with a transfer of affection to McCoy in Miri. While he's not giving the greatest bedside manner, there's something about that doctor y'know..  There's also the classic "Is this what you humans call..." trope and inability to recognise robots over humans in the aside to What Are Little Girls Made Of. Etched with humour you know that anyone in security is destined to end up vapourised, mutated or worse but somehow Williams just keeps avoiding those crucial death moments. 

Williams has a wonderful positivity and lack of awareness about just how much danger she seems to be in from the start as more frivolous events encapsulate her and the rest of the ship goes on dealing with the Big Issue of the Week. It's very reflective of the show itself where only about six or seven individuals seem to be affected by whatever the headline might be. Two fantastic examples of that occur with Dagger of the Mind and the finale, The Corbomite Maneuver where Williams has an insane scientist screaming his head off next door, interrupting her log entry and then with the beaming First Federation ship captained by Balok keeping her awake and generally ruining an ensign's rare day off duty (not that she's ever off duty).

Certainly Ashley and Jason have picked on all the ridiculous points of the show, not mocking them as such but placing them into a more "realistic" environment of crew quarters (between the mess hall and sickbay conveniently) where we're able to see their craziness in another way; looking after a horned dog or conversing with a pink sock plant have never been so entertaining. Sometimes it perhaps edged a bit far (not a big fan of The Naked Now take) but there were more highs than lows to entertain the viewers. It's a tall order to live up to with season two but the IndieGoGo campaign is a big step.

To some extent Ensign Williams, aka Ashley V. Robinson agrees with our critique; "Season One is not perfect, by a long shot. It was a learning experience for Jason, myself and everyone else involved with the show. Over the past three months we've learned what kinds of episodes work and which ones are less popular and these are all things that we've discussed, collected and are looking to execute in production of the Season Two.

"With that in mind, fan reception has been incredibly warm and accepting! We get a lot of compliments on the look of the show, which is tremendously flattering because Jason and I agonized over developing the aesthetic of The Original Series for our show. There are some negative comments, mostly about the anachronistic costumes (we were on an extreme budget), or the lack of an overarching narrative inside three minutes, but all of the positivity from the press and the Star Trek fandom has been overwhelming and amazing. It really feels like The Red Shirt Diaries has been welcomed by our brethren where we could have been rejected."

And what now for season two? The team launched their campaign on 2nd November hoping for $2,800 and were already heading towards $4,000 by the following weekend. The question is what will that money provide the show? A full scale set for one meaning that the shoestring budget which provided Ensign Williams with a back wall can be expanded and the cast can all appear in authentic The Original Series uniforms which means that the occasional JJ-verse shirt that was spotted will be a thing of the past. Even better is that we'll have their first on location shoot at the unbelievably super-famous Vasquez Rocks aka Kirk's battleground with the Gorn in Arena and try out some new filming techniques not seen in the first season.

"In comparison the first series was funded entirely from the pockets of Jason Inman (director, writer, editor, Captain Kirk, Gertrude, et al), and I." explained Ashley, "It was completely a labour of love. We built the set with our bare hands over a week in February. This time around, with an actual budget, we're hoping to tell bigger and better stories in the world of The Original Series."

Ashley recalled how the fundraising process had been a lot of stress on the front end., "But fortunately for me, Jason Inman (co-creator, director, editor, Captain Kirk, Balok et al), spearheaded and executed most of the planning that went into the fundraising campaign for The Red Shirt Diaries season two. 

"It's fascinating because fundraising requires a different creativity than actually creating and bringing the episodes to life. It was really important to Jason and I that we have unique rewards to offer our supporters and to give them a sense that they were getting their donation's worth, in addition to becoming a partner in the continuation of The Red Shirt Diaries.

To entice viewers and fans to help secure the next 19 episodes, there are are a whole shuttlebay full of perks to choose from.The only challenge might be working out how much you can afford versus exactly what you want to get!

"Everyone who donates $1 gets a thank-you and a black-and-white PDF of our companion webcomic adventure A Night in the Enterprise! For a little more money everyone will get a color PDF of the comic and a lot of other amazing prizes at various reward levels." said Ashley.

And that is indeed very true with the production offering The Red Shirt Who Lived red rooibos tea blend (it steeps red and makes approximately 37 cups), two t-shirt designs, original art from A Night in the Enterprise by Jeremy Owen, an HD download of season one with bonus videos not originally released and The Red Shirt Diaries season 2 postcard with an autograph or doodle. Your name and photo appearing in an episode of The Red Shirt Diaries season two is also on the list as is a set of magnets handcrafted by Ensign Williams herself to adorn your fridge featuring Ensign Williams, Captain Kirk, Sulu, Uhura and Bones. Certainly they're not the usual run of the mill perks you might expect which makes them all the more collectable and interesting in my opinion - and I do love a good brew.

"Everything that we are offering as a part of The Red Shirt Diaries season two IndieGoGo campaign is exclusive to the campaign and will not be available for purchase after the campaign closes." reminded Ashley - and that's key so if you do want some of these items you're going to need to act fast.

With everything going so well with the fundraising it looks like their plans for production and release will be spot on as Ashley continued to enthuse when we spoke to her; "Writing will being in December and should be wrapped by January with shooting is set for March/April 2015. 

"As soon as the IndieGoGo campaign ends, The Red Shirt Diaries season two begins pre-production. This time around we really want to have rehearsals a week before we start filming and we're also going to have to spend twice as long filming as we did last year (a mere two days). At this point we're thinking about releasing the first episode in May/June 2015 and then the episodes would run for most of the rest of the year. Again, the more funding we get and the more stretch goals are unlocked the more potential there is for more and more episodes."

And those stretch goals look like they're going to be realised a lot sooner than either Ashley or Jason expected with the initial $2,800 smashed early on. "With the campaign set to run for another 30+ days we have a lot of plans in place to keep raising more funds for The Red Shirt Diaries season two:

The first stretch goal is to raise $3,600 (as of Friday 13th November the total stood at $3,283). "This will get contributors a limited edition sign 8x10 of Ensign Williams and will ensure that we make one more episode during season two for a total or 20 new episodes rather than a mere 19." said Ashley, imparting some exciting news about the upcoming season expansion;  "The bonus episode we are looking at is Amok Time, so we're basically asking for people to help fund Pon Farr!"

Which fan of that episode isn't reaching for a wallet right now? So for not that much more we'll get to see the team take on one of THE classics as a finale to the season. "Our second stretch goal is $4,500 and the rewards will be announced once the first stretch goal is hit!"

For fans of this ingenious web-series I hope that the stretch target is hit so we can get to see what lies beyond adding in Amok Time to the filming schedule. That's not to say that season two won't be a jump of monstrous proportions anyway because aside from a potential new set and some different filming techniques there's a quartet of new guest stars waiting in the wings to join Ensign Williams. 

"We'd been buying ad space on the Morning Stream podcast for season one of because Jason and I are both big fans of the show and the FrogPants network (Jason being the person who introduced it to me in the first place). Scott Johnson (who will play the voice of  Admiral Williams) and Brian Ibbott (who will play the voice of  the Romulan Commander) kept saying incredibly kind things about the show and myself and how much they enjoyed it, so we just reached out to them directly and went from there.

"Jason brought Katie Wilson (voicing Leila Kalomi from This Side of Paradise) on board. They know each other from their respective work in the YouTube world and she's a Los Angeles local, so it wasn't a hard sell bringing her on board."

Oh - and they also brought in Cat Roberts who Star Trek Continues fans will recognise immediately from her performance in Fairest of them All earlier this year (and we at SKoST thought she was brilliant). "It was the biggest surprise for me, personally," said Ashley, "She tweeted at me when The Red Shirt Diaries first launched and would always share our links. Having watched Star Trek Continues Jason and I were keen to have her take on the part of Yeoman Rand. I reached out to Cat and she was immediately on board. We haven't even begun pre-production and she's already helped out The Red Shirt Diaries season two take massive leaps forward. We owe her a lot."

As possibly Cat's next biggest fans after these guys, neither can we and we hope to see her much more in the expanded Star Trek universe. Good luck also to the other newcomers to the show who will surely help propel its success even further.

However, we couldn't let Ashley go without asking about what else we can expect from season two - what things haven't been revealed that we can reveal right here?

"We're looking to do an episode that crosses over with one of the other Star Trek series ... more to revealed in the coming stretch goals." teased Ashley, "Ensign Williams will probably get to kiss someone and the more money the IndieGoGo raises the more parts of the Enterprise we'll be able to build, explore and film in."

Could that be a hint at some of the stretch goals? We think so but we have been wrong before (seriously...Spock dies in The Wrath of Khan??!!!) but there's one more thing we can slip in here just to get those wallets and purses open. "We've been invited to shoot on The Original Series bridge in Oklahoma City for one of our upcoming episodes. However, we can't make the trip from Los Angeles to Oklahoma unless we reach our $4,500.00 stretch goal."

Truly that would make season two go with a bang and have a nice twist to help get Ensign Williams out of her quarters - maybe that's a tag for a teaser - #letwilliamsout? #rsdtothebridge?

So far the journey has been a good one for The Red Shirt Diaries, joining satire and Star Trek into some well-written and well-acted minisodes that touch on the lives of the nameless crew below decks who get the butt-end of all the command decisions and - occasionally - manage to survive.

For those who have already donated, The Red Shirt Diaries season two has started an IndieGoGo referral program. When you're signed into IndieGoGo and share the direct link and your friend click that link and donate to The Red Shirt Diaries season two campaign IndieGoGo keeps track of it. When your friends' donations total $100, $500, $1,000 and $2,500 there are more prizes!

"In the end it's been absolutely amazing!" closed our intrepid Red Shirt, Ashley; "The Red Shirt Diaries season two crowd-funding campaign reached our $2,800.00 goal in just three days! People have been incredibly kind and incredibly generous and it's not just friends and family - many of the contributors come from all over the world. It certainly feeds the ego and makes you feel like you're doing good work, but I think it also speaks to the huge Star Trek family out in the word that really wants more quality entertainment set in that world.

If you're interested in supporting The Red Shirt Diaries drop by their IndieGoGo campaign and also visit their great website for more details and, of course, to watch the show!

Have you watched the show? Are you interested in seeing their second season? Let's discuss!

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Monday, 10 November 2014

Begin Docking Procedures - at Starbase 24

At the edge of Federation space, one of the key installations stands, acting as a place from which both Starfleet and the Klingon Empire operate a joint fleet...

It's also the name of a UK-based Star Trek club who have a lot to offer.

Originally, Starbase 24 was a Starfleet/Klingon Banquet started as a group of friends, led by husband and wife team James and Charlotte, aka Admiral Mackenzie and Rear Admiral Kehlan. They arranged a sit-down meal after a well-known signing show in Milton Keynes and it was a different way to have some fun, eat good food and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Thanks to both Charlotte and Daniel Adams, one of Starbase 24's highly valued Command Staff, we're going to find out even more right now...

"I was at the SF Ball in Bournemouth and a bunch of Klingons were sitting round a table complaining that a Klingon banquet could not be done in this country." recalled Charlotte, "I made the mistake of butting in and saying I thought it could be done and that I would do it. The result was, I went home after the event and started looking into the idea. We quickly came to the conclusion that the whole “medieval banquet in a castle” thing was way overpriced and that there were not enough Klingons in the UK to make it a specialist Klingon event. 

"So we picked a date, found a hotel and planned it out. Then we went and sold tickets. I think there were about 48 people at the first banquet and we raised around £1200 for Macmillan Cancer."

One year, the signing show didn't take place in Milton Keynes but the event continued and since then, the banquet has moved from Milton Keynes to Northampton and to its current home in Peterborough. This eighth event took place on the 24th and 25th October and is a full weekend event, with parties on both the Friday and Saturday night. Notably for the first time they are offering a programme of daytime activities on the Saturday. All profits raised will be divided between Macmillan Cancer Support, and Eastern German Shepherd Dog Rescue. 

Since the First Banquet, the group has raised over £13,300 which includes the aforementioned Banquets, fundraising stands at events, and individual charity projects requiring sponsorship. Away from the fundraising side, the group runs a series of message boards and social network pages that encourage role-play, and offer a helping point for other clubs and groups seeking members or vice versa.

As you may have clocked, the last one of this series took place only a week or so ago "...and with 85 people in attendance we raised £3356 for our charities (3/4 goes to Macmillan and the remaining 1/4 to a local dog charity and a hedgehog hospital)" said Charlotte.

After a day spent transforming the venue into a haunted Federation starbase and a buffet the event was kicked off by Lieutenant Ramsbottom leading a group of “volunteer” Minions in doing the Minion YMCA. Yes - that's not a figment of your imagination, that did say Minions. According to Charlotte it was ..."a theme that led to much hilarity, lots of grown men wandering around in dungarees and yellow t-shirts and random cries of “Bottom”".

Saturday morning saw Fleet Captain Daniel Adams hosting a special training session, designed to teach advanced fleet tactics to the Academy cadets or in more common English they played Attack Wing. This was followed by a dance class for those of us with two left feet, to help us learn the convention dances. Anyone who has ever been to a con has probably noticed that there are set dances to many popular songs like Time Warp, Doctor Who and Joe 90 to name just a few, some of them more complicated than others.

Later in the day, Starfleet Intelligence held a seminar on historic medical techniques involved in interstellar espionage, with a particular focus on the Klingon Empire - or more literally a professional makeup expert held a masterclass on Klingon makeup.

The highlight of the event was the Saturday evening comprising of a formal three course banquet with guests sitting down to themed dishes such as Talaxian Hlaka soup, roasted targ in warnog sauce and the Tears of the Prophets. Special Guest for the evening was occasional Star Wars actor and costumer Alan Flyng who took a turn as both a Stormtrooper and an Imperial Officer for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi

He gave a short after dinner talk then followed by a charity auction, raffle and finally a disco. "We were caught completely by surprise, when Alan Flyng called us over and presented us with all his takings from signing autographs during the night which, combined with the money from ticket sales, the auction and raffle, meant we reached an unbelievably great sum of £2800." said Charlotte. "This wasn't good enough for our guests however, and a spontaneous collection was held, raising another £300 plus in just under 15 minutes. We later learned the true amount was £3356!"

As a result the group has been able to announce that they will be holding a Ninth Banquet, also to be held at the Park Inn, Peterborough, on 23rd and 24th Oct 2015. Their special guest for that event will be Virginia Hey known for her appearance in Farscape. Alan Flyng will also be returning but this time as a paying guest after enjoying the event that much. Funnily a few weeks ago Charlotte was "vehemently" against the possibility of a ninth go at the event - but with success like this, how can you refuse!

By now you're thinking that that must be the big - and maybe only thing - that this group do. You'd be wrong on that count and while I can imagine that organising the banquet takes a ton of time, they still manage to be active in a whole host of other ways. In fact, a lot of it can be traced back to that original fateful chat at that one convention...

"As all this (the original banquet) was being prepared, we went to a signing event and got chatting to a guy called Lee, exchanged email addresses, phone numbers etc." said Charlotte.  "One of the things I’d said in casual conversation was that I’d love to build a website to feature my Star Trek writing. Two days later, he rang me and said “go to this web address....” It turned out he’d gone home and built me a website. We added a forum to the site and a couple of friends signed up to it. That was the beginnings of Starbase 24."

Currently there are about 40 people registered on the forum and 300 on the Facebook group page. Over the years Starbase 24 has slowly built up relations with other groups, notably the USS Obready in Canada, who they are proud to call their sister club. The group also have a particularly good relationship with the UK branches of Starfleet International.

On the internet you can find them pretty easily with a very packed website containing just about every snippet of info, pictures and more that could want to know about this group. Over the years they're built up quite an archive from the banquets and events as well as a selection of famous people who've taken the seat in their very own Captain's Chair. Well worth a look that one just to see if you can name - or remember - all the faces that they've welcomed.

If you've looking for a chat there's some active rooms as part of the site and further in
there's a fantastically detailed history that chronicles the starbase's past as well as the Federation/Klingon fleet and their ranking system. There are also very detailed deck by deck plans of the base which will enthral series fans for hours and some new classes of ships specific to this group and their station within the franchise universe. The exposition here and the expansion beyond what was seen on the screen is very impressive. Clearly this group focus just as much time on the events of the real world as they do in strange new worlds and new civilisations.

"In all this, huge amounts of credit go to my Command Team, who over the years, made the mistake of getting involved and volunteering and ended up helping to run things. They are a fantastic, dedicated and caring bunch of people and I couldn’t do this without them." enthused founder Charlotte.

Interestingly it was the Some Kind of Star Trek article on the seemingly desolate fan scene in the UK which put Starbase 24 in contact with us. There we discussed just how vibrant the UK scene was for clubs, was there a future in Star Trek organisations on these shores and what could be done to help them survive and thrive. We can see from the banquets, events and fundraising exactly why this group has survived and is thriving but what does Charlotte, aka Rear Admiral Kehlan, get out of all this? What's the buzz in a time when Star Trek is just coming back from the brink thanks (or no thanks) to JJ Abrams.

"...Many things, not least the friendship of some amazing people, an outlet for my creativity (among other things I love making costumes and writing fan fiction), I get the satisfaction of handing over respectable amounts of money to various charities and knowing I’ve done something good. I love seeing people coming together and having fun, coming out of their shell and growing and developing. I have learned that I can do many things I never thought possible.

"The group has grown, developed and changed over the years but the core principles of friendship, fun and no politics, remain intact. The JJ movies, while controversial, did bring new members to the fold, members who have gone on to discover the older, original trek and fall in love with it. One thing that has helped hold us together is that we all share a common attitude - that this hobby we all love is supposed to be fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and can laugh at ourselves. Starbase 24 even has a Wraith Ambassador (please note that Stargate technology is banned in the Federation as it interferes with warp drive)."

"This is more of a group and perhaps less of a club. We are a group of friends and new friends are always welcome, regardless of race/sexuality/disability."

In the last two years alone Starbase 24 have gone skydiving for charity, attempted the ice bucket challenge (ever seen a Klingon do the challenge?) and their “choir” sang Star Trekkin' at the front of the Royal Albert Hall after the concerts in May. In April they took part in First Contact Day and also provided crew for a Star Trek movie marathon in Lincoln. Add in to that mix Christmas parties, BBQs, mini get togethers just for fun and you can see that this is a group that has a strong future."

I love that they have this dual position within the fictional Star Trek universe and also in the real world where they are regularly out and about and staying active. Surely Starbase 24 is a perfect example of how a Star Trek club can be run and sustained during these more lean times - and more notably in the UK.

Thanks to Charlotte Kebbell for her update on the recent banquet and its evolution and to Daniel Adams for filling in the history of the group.

All photographs and images by kind permission of Starbase 24

To find out more about Starbase 24, please check out!

Are you a member of a Star Trek club? What makes you tick? What keeps your group alive? How about letting us know and...

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Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Classic to be Reborn

An ambitious project? A chance to see one of the true screen greats reborn for a new age and the enjoyment of fans?

Paul Olsen has a plan - to build a replica of the original movie USS Enterprise refit by the very men who helped bring her to life in 1978 for The Motion Picture.

The model used for the film series - from it's encounter with V'Ger right up to The Undiscovered Country (same model different registry) - is now in the hands of a private collector and Paul, who was responsible for the iridescent pearl paint detail on the original filming model, is spearheading a project to raise $3million to make a new eight foot starship from scratch by the original MAGICAM team.

There are a few stages to the fundraising with the first $24,000 required to set the public relations machine in motion. That's the first three months of this 14 to 16 month goal and after that the physical build can start. Paul, already has a book on the subject of building the stunning original and it's just one of the perks available if you are willing to help fund this great project.

The 1701 Rebuild  project could easily be a classic adventure story - a lost artifact, the reunion of the team that created it and the journey to return it to the public domain after all this time. Should make a movie - but for now making the replica will have to suffice (like that's not the best thing EVER!).

I got the chance to find out more thanks to the wonders of modern communications technology (ok, the internet) to discuss what has to be the most gorgeous USS Enterprise ever constructed - Eaglemoss take note, this is how you do a refit Constitution Class.

"It will be a faithful, exact replica... with modern materials and electrics," explained Paul. "We'll be able to do some detailing inside the hull and have that baby light herself completely to knock the socks off everyone who sees her. Richard Taylor will design her display...and with him let loose, it will be a breathtaking knockout."

Paul attended the 2012 Destination Star Trek and his experience there led to his writing of the Creating the Enterprise book to document the story of the construction of the ship from The Motion Picture. That book then led to Paul ocean-hopping and brought him back in touch with both designer Richard Taylor and starship builder Jim Dow. They did some homework and found that the original had been sold privately some time ago and from there the 1701 Rebuild project was born.

The team are working to Richard's original drawings and will be starting from scratch exactly as it was done the first time. "It's been two years, several thousand hours and about $20,000 spent so far...two trips to LA...going down blind alleys...a LOT of work." noted Paul who is based in London. He has also brought on board Mark Stetson who was involved with the building of the original movie model and Boyd Crompton who many readers may know from TrekWorks both of whom add a lot of model-making expertise to the Rebuild.

Perhaps it's putting it lightly that even at this stage there's been a lot of work as Paul also directed me to five hours worth of reading and viewing material. How you can see this and more we'll come to shortly but what I can say is that even the fraction we got to see documents the full journey from convention appearance through to where we are now.

While you would expect this team to have been involved in the construction of other notable ships from the movie series you'd be surprised to know that aside from designing some of the effects for V'Ger, the Enterprise was the only model they were involved with. Saying that though, there's one that he would have liked the chance to build; "I loved the Bird of Prey...but really, to have been given the keys to the Enterprise and told it was up to me to finish her off for her debut was more than anyone could ever want."

Fans have responded well to the project and can help by spreading the word and, if they can, donate funds to boost the work. "Spreading the word [will] hopefully get others to become Prime Movers (project backers) so I can put the package together to raise the big money - a few dollars each from a million fans will do it. Once I have all the Prime Movers I need, it will be a done deal because I'll then be able to reach people all over the world through mainstream media, as well as the net." said Paul. 

Prime Movers will receive different types of perks dependent on their contribution from $15 to $500 as we're more than familiar with through platforms such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo which are springboards for fan projects such as Axanar and The Red Shirt Diaries. Among those items is a copy of the Creating the Enterprise book which helped light the spark for this daring and potentially $3 million project as well as photographs, copies of the original movie decals, access to exclusive material and interviews (some of which we got to see as a preview!) with the trio which reveal how they constructed the starship back in the late 1970's and for higher levels of donations a visit to the workshops where the model will be realised.

Jim Dow with the original model (photo courtesy of Paul Olsen)
As Paul discusses in his video introduction though, this new ship will be built with state of the art techniques and be even better than the original which, we are led to believe, is in a terrible state after being used for six movies and taking a pounding at the hands of ILM.

One other perk that Paul did mention was the Prime Mover sculpture which will sit with the finished model on display; "We will design [it] with all Prime Movers' names engraved on it---either Richard or myself will design it...or maybe both of us. That will travel with Enterprise everywhere so fans all over the world can pay homage to those who helped me in the beginning. They will become part of Star Trek history, and rightfully so."

I'm liking the vision here - the concept, the big dream to make something so iconic and recognisable be given a new lease of life using the most up to date methods possible. Over the next two years we intend to follow the path of the project as they gather funds and begin to piece the movie NCC-1701 together. I suspect one of the points that will be levelled is why would you want to see the movie Enterprise when the original TV series ship is going to be restored for the public to see at the Smithsonian? Well I for one am more of a fan of the movie refit and through the precise construction of this model - from the original plans - we will have a chance to see a missing piece of the Star Trek story as well as get to know what techniques have changed in model building in the last 35 years. In a sense it's a homage and an experiment rolled into one.

This will be the 1970's Enterprise perfected with the advances of 2015 tech which in a lot of ways is very fitting that she should be given this honour and chance at a second life for fans to wonder at once again.

You can get involved now with the 1701 Rebuild project by clicking over to the main site HERE.

Would you want to see this gem from the movies? Let us know below!

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