Sunday, 25 June 2017

Two Times the Enterprise: Headlong Flight from Dayton Ward

The potential in Dayton Ward's Headlong Flight is overwhelming just from the enticing cover art.

A story that promises the Enterprise-D and the E plus old school Romulans has to be something special - it just has to be because how could such a massive opportunity during the 30th anniversary of The Next Generation possibly be lacking?


Headlong Flight over promises and tragically under delivers in spectacular style. I can actually describe the whole book in a sentence - three ships get stuck in a dimensional mcguffin and then work out how to get back. There you go, all done and dusted. The issue for me is that this could have been so much more.

For those following the novel series that has evolved since Nemesis, the familiar Enterprise-E crew are back but are definitely not the most interesting part of the book. That title has to go to the crew of the Enterprise-D from an alternative universe and also from a point around the mid-fourth season of the show.

But this is a crew that lost Picard in the final confrontation with the Borg in Sector 001, a ship that still has Pulaski as its doctor, Data as its first officer, Wesley as a civilian advisor and Tasha Yar still at the tactical station. It has all the plus points just in those characters to be a blinder with what is the A plot really as an option to become the background story. Instead it seems like this is all wasted for a story which doesn't really go beyond the ordinary. 

I really wanted to see the moments that changed this crew develop as narrative rather than summarised plot points with Ward really delving into the background of what happened to Picard or how come Pulaski did remain. Even the anguish that is supposedly present from Picard's death seems trivial here. I just didn't feel an attachment to the Riker-prise or really care about their stories because there wasn't anything to latch onto. 

Nor did the Romulans fare any better although they do get to take some pot shots at the two Federation starships.  Indeed I reckon that Headlong Flight could have done without their appearance and just seen the two parallel Enterprise crews teaming up to get themselves free of the planet. In that case there would easily have been more room to discuss the backgrounds of the alternative crew from the Riker-prise.

The problem is that while the intention is good, the conclusion is a foregone conclusion and it really feels that nothing of any real note happens. I would even have been excited if this had been a story purely set aboard the parallel Enterprise or just from their perspective. There's no surprise, no tension, no revelation, just a reset and a book which, tragically, feels like filler from start to finish. I did want to care about the crews or the aliens but in both cases I fell short. Tasha's appearance back on the bridge was perhaps my biggest "yes!" for Headlong Flight but that isn't paid off at all. There's no reason given for why she's still alive nor what happened if/when they did encounter Armus. How is she still alive? It's never adequately discussed in the book and by two-thirds of the way through it seems to have been largely forgotten.

Ward unquestionably knows his cast and every nuance that can be. He avoids colloquialisms and keeps them true to their portrayal on the show and in the movies however that accuracy can't save them from a mediocre story that over-promises and under-delivers. In conclusion it has to be one of the biggest fails of the book series I've read so far. I genuinely love Dayton Ward's work and although I made it through to the final page it was more to confirm that I hadn't missed an interesting aside or a revelation as to what influence the time-stream to create these versions of the lead characters.

While The Next Generation's Parallels provided a series of insights into the crew in different timelines, Headlong Flight feels stale, unfulfilled and begging for something to raise the tension. However I find myself drawn to stories which do offer these twists on our expectations and if I'm looking at how it did keep me entertained I have to compare it to how many times I picked it up and put it down versus The Fate of the Unknown which I'm struggling through at the moment. In that instance I have to say this is a sure fire winner and one that I raced through in a couple of days. 

Praise? Yes, BUT I know that this is because I love the concept and was waiting for a big reveal or a character swap or something that might tag this standalone into future novels yet there was nothing. Maybe a standalone set in this parallel universe just after Headlong Flight is the answer? At least then there would be a payoff to this 300+ page story.

Headlong Flight is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £7.99 ISBN 9781501111310. 

Accurate review or was Headlong Flight a literary winner?

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Friday, 23 June 2017


The date is set, the audience prepared and the excuses(!) are in for Star Trek Discovery.

We will finally get to see the latest interpretation and vision of the Gene Roddenberry-created franchise on September 24th for the US with the Netflix premiere taking place the following day, September 25th. CBS announced the date with a shot of the Discovery shooting up the screen to reveal the date while Netflix received a pic of a Starfleet officer in a spacesuit (probably Burnham) standing on a rocky surface marked out as the Starfleet Command emblem.

CBS have also been quick to back up this nine month delay stating that due to the scale of the project and the care with which they have been taking with Discovery the initial launch date was extremely optimistic. The bridge set for the USS Shenzhou alone (noted to be an older ship than the Discovery) took six weeks to build. That's just one set from, I would guess, several that will have been required for the first episode. On top of that there's the sets for the Discovery which we haven't even seen yet - everything has been about Captain Georgiou and the Shenzhou. It's all about getting the look and the new universe right. Noting that this craft is older than the Discovery also crosses off one fan theory that the two are the same starship. 

We also got to understand a little more around Michael Burnham's background in that Sonequa Martin-Green's character is 100% human but raised by Vulcans which is a new twist and might even add some weight to the reason there is an uneasy relationship between Sarek and Spock by the time of The Original Series. Also it does mean that some of James Frain's comments within the teaser trailer make a lot more sense when applied to this relationship. 

Perhaps even bigger news from the Discovery camp were the two photos revealed from Entertainment Weekly featuring Jason Isaacs, Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh. 

The first out was Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca - a master tactician from the info - on the bridge of the Discovery herself. It's our first look (be it out of focus and in the background) of the new lead starship and it also emphasises just how blue the new uniforms are. In the darker, older, light of the Shenzhou bridge the colour didn't seem that striking but here the colour is electric enhanced with the command gold braid and captain shoulder pad epaulettes. Lorca looks ready for action (tense?) in this shot and I expect Isaacs to have a strong presence on the bridge. We have nothing to gauge his relationship with Burnham so far.

As to the bridge it's a lot brighter, cleaner and silver echoing the fact that the Discovery is a new ship and potentially a brand new craft at the time of the series. Now all we need to see is a few more shots of the rest of the cast main Discovery cast...Anthony Rapp where art thou????

Talking about the ship the promos for the launch date have included the title ship with much more surface texturing than we saw in that short tease over 12 months ago. I don't think this will be the final visual version for the show and is more a representation used for the purposes of the graphic. Does seem that the warp nacelles have been lengthened a little however.

Secondly we have a cracking shot of Burnham and her commanding officer, Captain Georgiou, on the transporter pad of the Shenzhou. I have a sense that a lot of the first episode is going to be set up and we'll be spending a good period of that story on this craft. Indeed, it's not unlike the original concept for how Enterprise might have started with the intention of the first season to lead up to the unveiling of the NX-01.

There's a gallon of stuff to love about this pic from the transporter room. For starters it's a massive departure from previous designs with a more linear nature to the pad and some very unique backing panels. The transporter seems a lot more openly mechanical rather than the smooth finish we might expect from the Enterprise-D. Are the big circular items behind the actors there for look or do they have a more practical involvement with the workings of the transporter? Here's another thing - is that some sort of heads up display screen infront of Doug Jones? 

Contrast this look to the pic of Isaacs on the Discovery and you can clearly see a huge difference in the quality of the tech involved. The title craft is a lot smoother with Captain Lorca having touchscreen controls on his armrests. They do seem to flip up too much in the style of Picard's in the early early days of The Next Generation.

The bigger interest in this transporter room pic is that away teams are finally getting their own armour *and not that we get a rear view of Doug Jones' alien makeup). No more redshirt deaths perhaps(!) the armour seems to look not too dissimilar to police riot gear and bears the Starfleet emblem on its left side. Also note the two pouches on the belt. The one sitting to the front might well be for a tricorder as it looks a little large for a communicator and those devices are usually rear slung. The second, which includes a thigh strap is the phaser. It's our first - murky - look at the iconic Star Trek weapon and this one definitely bears the hallmarks of the classic phaser. Will it bear any resemblance to the lasers from The Cage or not?

September is a strong month for Star Trek premieres with only Deep Space Nine and Voyager premiering outside it. Both of those had shortened first seasons and premiered in January. In the case of Enterprise and The Next Generation, both of these opened their accounts with fans the same week as Discovery will begin on 26th September 2001 and 28th September 1987 respectively. It in some ways seems fitting that the new show should kick off almost 30 years to the day since Picard and co took the Enterprise-D out for its first spin. 

Talking anniversaries though, it's fitting that at the time we are marking the 35th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan, it's director and now Discovery producer/writer Nicholas Meyer is reportedly working on a new Star Trek project. 

A lot of muttering seemed to immediately jump to suggest this might be another TV series - perhaps one post-Nemesis - but I'm more inclined to believe that he's working on the next movie. After all, Star Trek movies are something of a Meyer forte with him being directly involved with II, IV and IV with the classic cast. If your movie franchise was a little troubled then wouldn't you call in the experts? Not that Beyond was a bad film, it just wasn't received as enthusiastically as it deserved. Flip side to that would be if this is something he is working on for CBS and not Paramount as the former only holds the TV rights for the show; the other the movie rights.

Certainly the effort can be seen on the screen and now it's making sense just why it took so long for Discovery to become a reality. The Alpha Quadrant wasn't built in a day y'know...! I am absolutely behind this series and cannot wait to be writing about it and reviewing the stories.

What have you been most impressed by in relation to Discovery? What's been the big win so far?

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Friday, 16 June 2017

Titan Time: Orion's Hounds

As we continue our voyage through the post-Nemesis reading list, Ian Kimmins takes us back on-board the USS Titan under Captain Riker. 

Orion's Hounds is written by regular Star Trek writer Christoper L Bennett and features the "star jellies" from Encounter at Farpoint. If you cast your mind back to that episode (has it really been 30 years?!) you will remember that they communicated via telepathy so you know this is going to be a Deanna Troi story and Bennett doesn't disappoint. 

As we kick off the novel, Titan has been given orders to explore the Gum Nebula - a region of space still unexplored by the Federation. As they arrive to begin their mission they discover the star jellies under attack by the Pa'haquel. Titan decides to intercede to resolve the issue but soon realises the issue is far more complex than they could ever imagine. 

The character work in this novel is excellent. Riker and Troi's relationship is moved on well here with first officer Christine Vale still struggling with having Riker's wife on the command crew. We even get excellent characterisation for some secondary characters such as Tuvok's wife T'Pel who fits seamlessly into the story. Tuvok also comes across as a much more interesting character than he did for most of Voyager. The only one I feel that suffers is Riker as outside of his relationship with Deanna he seems very like a "generic Starfleet captain". 

In short Orion's Hounds is a well written story and while not the best one in this continuity it is the best Titan book by far. 

Google Image of USS Titan from Tobias Richer's Lightworks.

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

100 - Our Top Ten Regular Issues and Looking Ahead

With the Eaglemoss Starships Collection hitting its 100th regular issue we decided it was time to club together and come up with our definitive top ten starships from the ton of models to date. 

Be ready for a few curve balls as we pick out the ones that made us smile and a few that didn't...! Welcome back to Tiff, Chris and Rob to help pick out our selection.

Enterprise NX 01

Everything that came after issue 4 was rated against the quality of the NX-01. The Aztec panelling, the lines, the clean finish and the beauty of the thing all worked harmoniously together to create Eaglemoss' most near perfect model. Whacking a Terran Empire sticker on her was just a blatant excuse to get it again. 

Armoured Voyager

"A daring and radical choice for Eaglemoss." says Chris. Too right because it was the first time the collection had effectively duplicated a ship (issue six being the original Voyager). This one came from the end of the show's finale, Endgame with the starship covered in ablative armour to shield it from the Borg. A beautiful if simple finish and a good tester for future modded issues such as the Rhode Island also from Endgame!
Another Enterprise winner which benefits from gorgeous finishing detail on such a small and thin frame. An utter surprise at how great this was on arrival have etched it firmly into our top ten ships from the collection. 

The Runabout

"Bit clunky but spot on." says Rob while Chris comments; "Great size, solid as hell and they really nailed the detail. It also had the torpedo rollbar which was effing cool."
Very cool indeed and the size of the model really played to the collection offering the chance to get a fantastic replica. 

A real stunner that benefited from being a regular issue rather than being crammed into an alien shuttle set of four. Popular from the moment it made its one and only appearance during In the Pale Moonlight, Eaglemoss crafted a replica that had to be bought. Well made, well finished and a classic stand out issue.

Romulan Drone

I'd say this is the most intricate model the regular editions have produced with antennae sticking out all over the place and a body that is split into multiple armoured sections and then covered with various holographic projection points. While it's not one of my favourite ships, the model here was spell-binding and a real work of art. She displayed well and was intriguing from every angle. A true collection masterpiece if not one for everybody.

USS Centaur

Explains Rob; "The greatest kitbash! Right down to the spindly nacelles and the tiny greebles!" 
Yep, a very popular ship from the latter 50 to date and one that opened up a whole new range of possibilities for Eaglemoss and hope for collectors that a lot of ships would get variants. Step forward Saratoga et al...

USS Appalachia

Steamrunner Class

One that Chris and I agree on is this classic from First Contact. "...unlike the Akira Class it has epic tattoo effect aztecing despite the rubbish deflector. It's a tough ship and looked badass."
Yep, I'd still have to class this among the best of the collection not just because I love the class but because it's a well-crafted tank of a starship. Gorgeous to the tip of its nacelles.

Jem'Hadar Fighter

Another early issue but a good one nonetheless. A simple two-tone silver and purple paint scheme highlights an incredible level of hull detail from bow to stern. The "bug" aesthetic really shone through on the model for the Dominion starship and made it an essential for all collectors. 

USS Horizon

Rob is all over the 100th issue, adding it straight into the top ten; "It's a model I never thought I would get to own. It has origins right back to the creation of Star Trek and is a fantastically simple design that Eaglemoss has managed to improve with the addition of sensor palettes, hatches, weapon points and the deflector. It fits right in!"

And the Worst...

Malon Freighter

Hilariously referred to in certain circles as the "poop ship", the Malon Freighter is just, well, brown and dull. Modelling-wise it has some fine detail in there but it's a brown slab from front to back that packs all the excitement of an empty chocolate wrapper. Uninspiring but necessary.

USS Enterprise 

NCC-1701 Refit

Or "How to Disappoint Your Collectors in One Move", the second issue of the collection was a bit of a disaster. The NCC-1701-D was gorgeous and a treat for starters but this was awful. Bad joins, wonky engines, a terrible paint job with no aztec scheme and a badly stuck on deflector dish. Not up to scratch in any way and the "A" variant 70 issues later only corrected a few of the blips.

Federation Holoship

If the Malon Export Vessel was the "Poop Ship" then this is the TV Remote. No offence to the John Eaves design but this is essentially two pieces of plastic stuck together. Best they could have done? Quite possibly but it's a real oddment from the series that sets course for Boredom.


Now onto the next few issues and our usual glance to the future of the collection - what are we looking forward to...?

Klingon D5

One for the Enterprise fan among us but no question this will be a high detail extravaganza as any of the prequel models are. Always good to see the Klingons but not one that many will really remember even though it is a lovely design.
Anticipation Level: 2/5

Vidiian Starship

Looks weird, flies weird, it's pink. The Vidiian starship is a big chunk of kit and we are promised that the Voyager baddies' ship will carry a subtle aztec paint scheme. Personal opinion this one should have been done a lot earlier. Now, which way round is it....
Anticipation Level 3.5/5

USS Jenolan 

One more for the kitbashers with the ship from the brilliant Relics. Formerly an executive shuttlecraft in The Undiscovered Country it got flipped and nacelled up to become the Sydney Class NCC-2010. Very much wanted and very much looking forward to this one. Model looks good from the preview pic.
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

Smugglers' Ship

Previewed recently in its full model mockup, the ship from Unification makes a wanted appearance and ahead of any news on the much-used craft from The Next Generation's Gambit. One of those briefly seen ships, this craft has been on a few must have lists I've seen dotted around. Early shots look good.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Kazon Warship

Another one as with the Vidiian starship that should have appeared some time ago BUT saying that it would mean that we were just getting oddballs every issue. A very distinctive shape, the Kazon vessel will keep a lot of Voyager fans happy but seeing as this and all the other versions are virtually identical except for size I doubt we will see any others.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Klingon Bird-of-Prey 

(attack formation)

Waaaaaaaaaaay back in issue three the Klingon's most distinctive starship appeared in its cruise configuration with wings up and open. Now we have one of the rare variants within the series following on from the likes of the Reliant/Saratoga and the standard and armoured versions of Voyager.  One I have seen requested but I don't think we will get a 'landed' option anytime soon. Should be well detailed and will be interesting to see if the modelling has moved on much since those early days.
Anticipation Level: 3/5

Cheyenne Class

The second of the infamous Wolf 359 collection kicked off with the New Orleans Class USS Kyushu in issue 95. More compact, this kitbash is sure to be a huge success when released because we all love a good Federation starship especially one that doesn't get much press. Love the styling with the quad-engines here and those pencil warp nacelles.
Anticipation Level: 4/5 

Borg Queen's Diamond

Wow. The preview pic on this looks absolutely gorgeous. Without even a blink of an eye this has to be the best Borg ship to date and is based on the design used in Voyager. Fingers crossed that the preview is the finished item with this one!
Anticipation Level: 5/5

Springfield Class

Straight from Ben Robinson on his birthday came this new shot of the USS Chekov; a curvy screen-filler that is the third of the Wolf 359 quartet. Nothing seen of this one except those lovely original model pics but promises to be a stunner from all angles. There's clear echoes of the Nebula and Galaxy Classes here but I'm most intrigued about those back end lines - one of the more bizarre Federation starship designs if ever there was. Glad I held off posting this up until this shot appeared!
Anticipation Level: 4/5

Captain Proton's Rocket Ship

Another one we've had a shot of recently in all its monochromatic glory. Have to admit this wasn't one I was expecting at any point in the series namely because, technically, it doesn't actually exist being only a recreation on the Voyager holodeck. If nothing else that fact alone makes it unique. The Rocket Ship will most certainly stand out from the other ships because of its distinctive '50's paint-job and styling. Really excited for this one just because it's different!
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

USS Phoenix

These issues after 100 are sure supplying a lot of variants with this being one more on the pile. The big difference between this and the USS Bonchune Nebula Class from issue 23 will be the AWACS style read pod that adorned this, the first of the Nebula Class ships to appear in The Next Generation. I'm not gagging for the arrival of the Phoenix but the collection would feel incomplete without it. Just need a USS Bozeman now and everyone's happy.
Anticipation Level: 2.5/5

Lokirrim Fighter

A modified Akritirian warship, the fighter and the warship versions of the craft were not dissimilar in the Voyager episode Body and Soul. One of the more random alien craft from the show it makes me wonder when things like the Vaardwar fighters might make an appearance. Am I bothered about this one? Only to complete the set. Possibly my most unanticipated ship of the series which means it'll be an absolute blinder.
Anticipation Level: 1/5

Challenger Class

Just when you think they're all done along comes the fourth and final ship from the Wolf 359 fleet. This one has some weird lines - just look at the nacelle angles on this Rick Sternbach kitbash photo. Admittedly it was a quick fix for the graveyard scene in The Best of Both Worlds, Part II and whether Eaglemoss make adjustments will be interesting...
Anticipation Level: 3.5/5

Tellarite Starship

The Lokirrim fighter is one thing but this is another entirely. While they are an oft mentioned race it is again one of those that won't be on many - if any - must have lists. A reuse of a season two Enterprise guest craft (Arkonian Destroyer) it would see action again as the Xindi-Arboreal ship. Bit meh in my opinion and again an issue filler. Best pic I could find is this rendering from Reddit
Anticipation Level: 1.5/5

Shuttles Pack Three

We already know that pack three will contain the Observation Pod from the classic movies, the Work Bee alongside the Type-11 shuttle from Insurrection and finally the Argo from Nemesis. The first two have already been teased and look stunning so I can only believe that the latter pairing from The Next Generation movies will be just as damn gorgeous. While the pod will have a blanked out windscreen, the Work Bee WILL have clear plastic to show off the interior. Definite plus points and a first for the collection.
Anticipation Level: 5/5

USS Aventine

One from the ever-continuing novel series and under the command of Ezri Dax, the Vesta Class starship's arrival is the result of The Trek Collective's online petition to have her and the USS Titan included. The recent preview pic has given us all hope that this will be an awesome model and one that will be quickly snapped up by collectors. I'm impressed!
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

USS Titan

Riker's command after the end of Nemesis is a big fan favourite from the novel series and the Tobias Richter designed Luna Class is another ship destined to be in the online shop soon. The preview pic here to the left looks a lot lighter than the model we saw on Ben Robinson's desk a few weeks earlier so I'm anticipating that this has been photo-shopped down a couple of shades as it looked better in the darker grey. 
Anticipation Level: 4.5/5

And that's your lot! A good range of ships to come and now that we can say these are the ones due out between issues 102 to 115 plus the two "novel" starships I'm happy to preview with some certainty! What are you excited about?

USS Horizon image courtesy of Rob Gibson

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