Tuesday, 30 January 2018

What's Ahead for 2018

Slightly later than planned, we're back with our annual reflection on last year's predictions while also launching ourselves into the maw of 2018 not too far afield from the Constellation and the Doomsday Machine.

So to last year and those lovely guesses (seriously they were stabs in the wind if ever I saw some). 
First up we looked at The Next Generation hitting its 30th birthday. Due to time restrictions - that and adding to the family - the end of last year was a bit hit and miss for SKoST which meant I didn't get to cover The Next Generation's 30th anniversary in anywhere near the depth I would have liked. To be fair though it was overshadowed by the fact that some show called Discovery premiered the same week and pretty much eclipsed it. 

Deep Space Nine's What We Left Behind lost it's director in Adam Nimoy and filmed ahead of its planned 2018 release and there were lots of fundraising announcements throughout the year. Hope the results are out soon because this is one no fan will want to miss.

We also predicted a good year for Eaglemoss but didn't expect it to explode the way it did with the Starships Collection now set to hit a whopping 160 issues plus at least eight bonus issues, nine specials, four XL hero ships (so far), three shuttle sets, three Mirror Universe craft...and what else is to come? A big year however the regular issues did flag with a lot of filler and one-ep vessels appearing. A wide and varied collection which was accompanied by the ongoing graphic novel collection and the announcement of the Discovery Official Starships Collection to start early 2018.

Let's leave last year and our rather flexible predictions of what to watch behind. 2018 has now arrived and before we get into February, here's my top tips for the year ahead...maybe more successful a list this time huh?!

1. Discovery

The show that split fan opinion has returned after its Christmas break for ‘Chapter Two’ and the second half of its first season. It's been a whirlwind of epic proportions every week and as I write there are just two more episodes until the full season finale. Were the delays worth it? Yes, because it’s all been about the quality and it shows on the screen each week. The show wraps in six episodes and the next season is due in 2019 but don't despair because Simon and Schuster will be publishing at least two new Discovery novels this year. My question is when will we start seeing some crew figures available a la Diamond Select? Where's the merch? When will we get season two?!!!

2. Tarantino Trek

R-rated? The darkest, most graphic Star Trek film ever? I’m not passing judgement yet however it would indicate that the news of Chris Hemsworth’s return as George Kirk might be done and dusted if this is the case. News is that this is flying at the moment with Paramount genuinely interested in seeing what possibilities they can make work to the point where there are actual screenwriters attached to the project. It's a bizarre and attention garnering news story and I don't know if it's a good or bad thing at this time even if Quentin is a huge fan of the franchise. Well worth keeping an eye on throughout the year as we might receive a new movie in 2019 all going well. Might not be able to take the kids to see it mind.
Alongside this we can also note the rumours of a re-merger of CBS and Paramount which would bring all the Star Trek elements of TV and film back under one owner and make the universe a lot easier to manage.

3. DSTE UK/Germany

Thirty years of Deep Space Nine, the return of Star Trek to the TV and at least three of it's cast and guest cast appearing, Shatner back in the UK, a whole weekend of Trek indulgence...what more could a fan want? The last event was great fun and while I couldn't manage the whole weekend last time I'm definitely up for it this year. Not just that but there will be guests from Discovery and who would want to miss celebrating the 25th anniversary of Deep Space Nine in the presence of some of its legendary cast?. Set your clocks for October because this looks set to be the biggest Destination events ever in both locations. 

4. Rebirth of the fan film?

Now that the dust has almost settled after the Axanar fiasco, 2018 might be the year in which fan films make their reappearance on the block. Gone are the heavyweights of New Voyages and Continues, cut short by the rather restrictive fan film guidelines leaving the way open for more one-offs, short fan movies and daring new ways of storytelling. There are some notables out there including Pacific 201 but none have broken cover as yet. 2018 might give us some new stars to celebrate.

5. New Collection from Eaglemoss?

Perhaps a long shot since 2018 will see them running the Starships Collection, Graphic Novel Collection and the new Discovery Official Starships Collection all at the same time. Given the varied quality and reliability of deliveries and/or customer service, three might be tipping point but surveys sent out would indicate that Eaglemoss are looking to add to what must have been a successful and monitarily beneficial licence acquisition. Crew busts anyone? Part-work USS Enterprise-D perhaps? Just a couple banded around in 2017 but no more word as yet. Might be worth steadying the ship for this year and embarking on something new in 2019.

6. DS9 @ 25

As a big Deep Space Nine fan this is a huge anniversary for the third and most maligned of the Star Trek series. It will be overshadowed by the closure of Discovery's first season however it's a monumental occasion that should be celebrated and I would argue it should be recognised for its individuality and ground-breaking storytelling more than The Next Generation. I would like to see this series really represented and celebrated at Destination Star Trek this year.

7. New stories in print

The Star Trek novels calendar is looking a bit thin for 2018 with less than a handful scheduled in. News has it that there's been a renegotiation which has brought the Kelvin Timeline into the fold. Could this mean seeing those long-lost Kelvin Timeline novels from 2010 finally published or are we due a whole new raft of titles? It would make sense for the four written to be run out and test the waters from there. Plus we will be seeing the second and third novels from the Discovery line which will continue to act as unofficial prequels to the TV series.

What do you think will be the big Star Trek stories of the year?

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Sunday, 28 January 2018

Official Starships Collection Issues 122 to 130 Preview

A new batch of starships has been announced with a proper mix of Federation and alien as well as ships from each series.

As always, here’s the SKoST guide to what’s ahead.

Yeager Class

The kitbash to end all kitbashes, the motherland, the fabled bastard child of the Intrepid Class and a Maquis Raider. It had to come at some point as it’s on screen but bizarrely the preview looks like it’s got more detail than the two craft it’s salvaged from combined! Weird as hell paint scheme and definitely, without question one for the completist.
Anticipation Factor: 2/5


Romulan Science Vessel

Turning up in The Next Phase, this slight redress of the Romulan Scout Ship it’s been more than overdue. The disappointing thing is that it’s just another modded ship we’ve already had. Great to have every Romulan ship but not much new on this one. Biggest difference? They changed the bridge module. Boom. 
Anticipation Factor: 2.5/5

SS Emmette

One of the first ships we saw in Enterprise...and again...and again...and again every week because it’s part of the titles. We only ever saw the underneath and the back so this one will five fans a much better opportunity to see the whole thing - and even from the front. One of the better announcements from this batch and that's saying something.
Anticipation Factor: 3/5


The Alice is another one we have been expecting for a while. Personally I’m not overly excited by the news we are getting this one man shuttle but it did feature prominently in the episode and was reworked into other ships later in the franchise. 
Anticipation Factor: 2.5/5

Niagara Class USS Princeton

Wolf 359 still has ships for the collection and this piece of space debris is the next one. Admittedly these 359ers have decreased in quality from the days of the New Orleans Class but they still act as a great way into the series as well as being refreshed and repaired visually for the collection. This one is a mash-up of  Ambassador and Galaxy which adds at least some variation to the mix we've received.
Anticipation Factor: 3.5/5

Eymorg Starship

Hear that? It might be the bottom of the barrel splintering as we have the remastered version of the ship from Spock’s Brain added to the upcoming releases. Looking nothing like the original it still has to be one of the less inspiring entries. Maybe the first ship I’m really not fussed about in any way. 
Anticipation Factor: 0/5


Another from the Enterprise title sequence, the OV-165 looks to be some kind of passenger transport from the early days of space flight. At least we have a better idea of what this one looks like from the front. Neat idea to include the ships from the titles which begs the question - will we get an Orbiter Enterprise?
Anticipation Factor: 3.5/5

Tholian Ship 23rd Century 

Damn, it’s the remastered version and as a huge fan of The Tholian Web I’ve been holding out for the original version of the ship. Tragically it looks like I’ll be making do with the pimped our version from a decade back rather than the iconic flat panels of the 1968 design. Between this and the 22nd Century version we already have I can’t see a lot of difference.
Anticipation Factor: 2.5/5

Borg Probe

Ok.... this wasn’t one I’d have dropped on any list and frankly I’d forgotten it even existed. The Borg Probe popped up in Dark Frontier only to be summarily obliterated by Voyager. Looking at the shape I’m concerned right away that this is going to be another plastic lump like the Holoship from Insurrection
Anticipation Factor: 2/5

Let’s be honest here, this selection is not the inspiring list of additions we might have wanted. There are some screaming omissions now for various reasons such as the Son’a ships from Insurrection, the Jen’Hadar Battleship from Valiant or the Fesarius from The Corbomite Manouever. Four of these eight are reworkings of ships we already have which is a disappointment in itself. The Enterprise title sequence ships could be good but they’re not a ‘proper’ part of the series and were never physically in any of the episodes. Of all the new announcements The Niagara Class adds more depth to the collection but shockingly it means that the Borg Probe is the only ship on this list that’s a brand new design actually used within a story.  

Are we running out of steam on the Collection? I hope not yet with a rather sub-par batch it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed. 

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Friday, 26 January 2018

A Spicy Dish: The Official Starships Collection Issues 117 and 118

The time of the kitbash continues as for the fifth subscription delivery in a row we have a ‘made up’ ship out of the gate.

This time it’s not from Wolf 359 but from the other big military encounter of Star Trek, the Dominion War in The shape of the Curry Class.

Featured once and only once in Deep Space Nine’s A Time to Stand pre-titles sequence, the USS Curry is another one of those oddments that fans have revelled in for years along with those Wolf 359ers. 

A clear combination of Excelsior Class parts, I was fully expecting the Curry to be a letdown; a horrid matchup of leftovers slammed together just to fill a screen gap. Now in the case of the original that might well have been the case but with the Eaglemoss replica there feels to be something more to this one the second you pull her out of the box.  

Just getting your hands around this one there’s an immediate sense that the Curry has been well-constructed. It feels solid, it looks detailed and not the hitch-potch it could have been. For starters the reconstituted Excelsior saucer section is a solid metal circle and you can appreciate how much more this model ‘gives’ in regards to detail as opposed to the very small scale Excelsior and Enterprise-B. That upper hull carries a rather gorgeous weathered aztec paint scheme coupling an off-white base colour with a mottled grey which adds depth to the hull.

The paint isn’t over-applied either as we have seen on multiple occasions where the panel lines have been almost lost under layers of grey. We also get to have a really close look at the impulse engine block to the rear of the saucer and the very impressive two-blue finish Eaglemoss have managed to work on here. The precision panelling is spot on with each piece defined by the tone on top of that base off-white coat. 

The raised detail is fantastic and I definitely recommend a quick compare of how well this scale has worked for the Curry as opposed to the same tiny and over cluttered section on the Excelsior. Eaglemoss even manages to work a third colour, gold, onto the bridge dome and add to the depth successfully because it's a clean marking up.

Ok, let's drop down slightly because the metal dome of the saucer also extends down onto the warp engine pylons. Good shout there because it adds to the overall strength of the ship and you can never have too much metalwork when it comes to engine attachment. The metalwork does end with the standard middle plastic insert into the underside of the saucer that connects the primary hull to the modified Excelsior Class Engineering section.

Again the scale here allows a much clearer analysis of the fan favourite starship class first seen in The Search for Spock and you can only imagine how great the XL version of the Enterprise-B will be. The hull plating is stunning, azteced and with a ton of colour and easter eggs to boot.

The secondary hull is connected by the chunky Excelsior Class neck but a close look and you'll spot a reconditioned half a hull from a Type 6 shuttle chucked in there as a greeble. cool move and it's mirrored on the underside of the secondary hull to the back with another butchered shuttle but hold that thought.

The fact that we have this recreated is amazing - it shows the attention to detail that Eaglemoss have gone to that even a really well hidden feature such as this is there to see. The upper part of the hull is again superbly finished with that familiar grey sectioned paint scheme in evidence but with the noticable difference of the shuttlebay being switched to the front rather than the rear. It also has the addition of the Starfleet delta emblem riding on the nose which wasn't evident in the distance shot from A Time to Stand thanks to the severe battle damage the ship had incurred. This model in comparison means that we get a complete vision of the "mint" version of this Frankenstein starship rather than the battered version we saw limping from battle.

The challenge with the secondary hull is that the placement of it - quite centrally under the saucer - means that the top detail is only just visible in the right light and up close. Flip over again and take a look at the rest of the hull. Marked up with the usual Starfleet pennants to both port and starboard, the deltas point the same way to the front and in the font you can make out the ship name and United Federation of Planets but it's hard to see even at this level. For once it's great to have a deflector that is accurately painted. It's a good, clean circle set slightly back from the lower edge of the recess with a lovely smooth finish wrapped around it. Here's one to check out on the bottom - those two red stripes are actually raised hull features and not just decals which I suspected before running a finger nail over them. They're actually raised and painted!

One more thing here is the quality of the finish on the deflector and the recess. It's just on more point as to why the Excelsior Class ships should have been just that bit bigger.

That underside on the secondary hull is awash with features. Immediately the unusual curvature of the hull draws you in and then back to the rear where the photon torpedo tubes are still evident but there's also, slapped right between them, another cut up shuttle section. Good reuse of materials and quite unexpected but that's some of the beauty of these replicas is that they contain the errors, the mini jokes and the outside-box-thinking that was all part of life on Star Trek when it came to building real, physical starship models. The inclusion of these two different shuttles is genius and for Eaglemoss to honour that is brilliant - it truly is trying to bring these to life in their most realistic form possible.

The stand positioning is decent with the Curry, with the clip sliding firmly over and under the saucer in that familiar position it seems 98% of Federation ships seem to have. No problems with this one keeping its place on the stand.

Finally the Curry is tipped with two warp engines. There's no translucent sections on these and the warp field grilles are opaque. In contrast to the rest of the ship these two propulsion units are from the older Miranda Class starships (ie USS Reliant, USS Saratoga...) but are in their largest reproduced form to date. The detailing is slick with the backs marked up with the ship registry. Also there's a lot of blue highlights on these engines and when you spot this it draws your attention to the colouring that's to the rear of the main hull and the paintwork at the back of the saucer. Must be one of the more brightly detailed Federation ships in t\his respect. Only minor gripe is the join lines around the engines are very visible and there were a few gaps around the edges on mine which were very noticeable when you look from the bottom.

Frankly though this is a magnificent kitbash and I'd say it's one of the best, certainly a better result than the lovely Centaur Class we've already had. The inclusion of these kitbashes is a brave move but it means we are getting to see some of the more weird and wonderful ship designs from the last 30 years of the franchise.

The magazine offers up the full backstory and reasoning as to why the Curry Class looks like it does and how it came about. Being from Deep Space Nine it allows the narrative in the ship profile to cover the events of the Dominion War and the part that the Curry played in at least one encounter. 

The CG images are wonderful with the plan views in particular emphasising the mottled paintwork on the hull as well as the multiple colour shades that are in play. 

The creation of the USS Curry model is well documented and it's a pleasure to see a ton of images of the finished, onscreen, starship replete with its extensive scarring and damage. The speed that Dan Curry came up with the design is incredible and this double page just covers off the details of that lightning quick process from concept to screen.

Closing out the issue is, in fact, a whole section dedicated to the starship;s namesake and the work he put into Star trek be it as an occasional director, the creator of the mek'leth and bat'leth or one of the original team that worked on creating the effects for The Next Generation, Dan Curry has had a huge impact on the look and feel of the 24th and 22nd Centuries of the franchise and this article goes some way to show exactly what impact that was.

Second up for this delivery is the Ferengi Starship from Acquisition in Enterprise's first season. Only the second Ferengi ship in the collection with the first being the Marauder back in issue 16 (102 issues ago!!!). I suspect the next time we see these guys will be the shuttle from Little Green Men and The Price.

I wasn't waiting eagerly for this one yet, as with most of the Enterprise entries it doesn't disappoint on the quality.

The overall golden brown paint scheme is a distant shot from the sandy brown of the Marauder but the metallic finish is spectacular especially plastered across the metal top section of the ship. It sparkles away nicely but don't get caught up in the funky paint because the hull has more to reveal. 

Afterall, there's that distinctive scarab beetle shape to the ship with the plating resting on each other in the same way as shell armour does on such a creature. It's a simple organic shape and given the single colour across the whole of that top surface, it needs something to give it some life and raise the interest. Fortunately it does and the metal surface works splendidly, giving rise to a rather intense collection of panel lines and surface features from front to back and side to side.

Right from the angular pincers at the front there's an overload of crisp etched markings across the top and over all of the varied structures that appear on the hull. About half way along on either side is a docking port with a golden hued hatch offering a quick way out or passage onto another craft to pillage. Even these have tiny hatch detailing on them which really surprised me when you think of all the things that Eaglemoss haven't marked correctly that would have been easier to do.

Y'see it bugs me that I love this ship not for the overall design, shape and feel but for the actual attention to detail that oozes from every millimetre of its hull. To the back of the smooth and sleek shape is the engine block which is highlighted with a touch of gold and stands out only slightly from the sandy (and still quite golden) main hull colour.

The top of the ship is a glowing advert for quick, sharp and futuristic tech but it's on the bottom that the Ferengi ship that everything really comes to life. That flat underside reminds me of how I used to draw spaceships at the age of five or six but while it is a very sharp edge and odd for a Star Trek craft to have a flat underside, check out all the detail that John Eaves managed to fire at her.

For a start there are the six distinctive landing legs which fold away underneath. Even the nuances on these feet are amazing - just squint closely and look at the panel lines on each of them, the recess around each of them which gives the feet that retracted depth and even the central tiny markings and alternate colour which stand each of them out against the hull. 

But just look at the work on this underside. Every millimetre carries some form of differentiation to the next millimetre and it's as though we have a ship of two very distinct halves; a serene upper hull and a belly that hides away all the workings and gubbins - very swanlike in its design and by that I mean graceful on the surface and paddling like f**k under the water. Somehow this one has managed to pull at my starship heart-strings and I kinda like it.

Centrally and protruding from the flat underside is what can only be described as a radar dish. Even that has some classy little finishing touches and you can't help yourself but love what's been done here. It actually puts some of the other ships to shame once you stop and take stock of what has been achieved on what should - and could - have been a mind-numbingly bland entry to the collection. I mean, come on, adding this in mid 110's isn't pushing it as a star attraction is it? 

But *sigh* once again, a ship from Enterprise has delivered and it hurts to say it but it's a visual masterpiece in regards to both the metal and plastic detail. The underside's more flimsy construction material suits the larger amount of ups and downs that the jigsaw feel of the floor gives off while the metal topside is perfect for the elegant curves of this Ferengi craft. It actually makes me want to see the shuttle even sooner because it's so ridiculously beautiful. I just can't stick it anywhere near the Vidiian or Kazon ships because this paintwork makes those two look particularly bad and I can guarantee it ain't sitting on the same shelf as the Malon freighter.

The stand arrangement goes for a normal rear grip over the engines and between the two raised shoulder sections to the back but what did give me a head-scratch moment is the height that the ship stands at when in place - it's very, very high given the slimline nature of the Ferengi Starship.

The magazine doesn't disappoint either because there's a full background on the ship and just how it was operated as well as how the internal space was divided up - let's say there's a lot of room for cargo in here.

John Eaves was once again called on to come up with this design and it was one of three that he initially proposed with some clear parallels to the 24th Century The Next Generation craft that we might be more familiar with.  

More unusually we have an in depth interview with the four actors who played the Ferengi in the first season episode which included three people who had previously worked in Star Trek namely Ethan Phillips, Jeffery Combs and Clint Howard plus newcomer Matt Malloy. It's a damn good read covering the making of the episode from the actors perspective and while there are mentions of other appearances in other series, the article remains nicely focused on the Enterprise story.

February will bring us the Freedom Class from Wolf 359's graveyard and the Hirogen Holoship from Flesh and Blood in Voyager's seventh season.

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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Two By Two: S1 E12: Vaulting Ambition

With the revelation that Georgiou is the Emperor of the Mirror Universe, the future doesn't seem to be too positive for Burnham.

And rightly so since her former - and dead - captain is in this universe a seditious ruler who feeds her guests Kelpien ganglia on chopsticks for dinner before having them carted off for execution; but that's only the start of the troubles in this shorter than usual 37 minute episode (35 and a half without the recap). 

The main thread of this week sees Lorca brought before Georgiou as a traitor to the Terran Empire before being dumped into another agonizer chamber to suffer lengthy punishment until death. Meanwhile Burnham dines with the Emperor whom, we discover, became something of a mother figure to her and Michael's safe return from this foolish mission to capture Lorca has put her mind at ease. 

Or it would have had Georgiou not surmised that Mirror Burnham had actually been conspiring with the Lorca from the Terran Empire to bring about the Emperor's downfall. To save her own skin for another day, Burnham reveals that she is from a different universe, using the schematics of the spore drive on the Discovery as a bargaining chip for her freedom. Thing is it's during this final exchange with Georgiou that Burnham suddenly puts together the pieces and realises that her captain is not actually the man she thought he was.

It is Burnham's desire for this Georgiou to be like the captain she knew both acts as her downfall and the tool by which the Mirror Emperor manipulates her into a position that will benefit the Terrans and the Terrans alone in acquiring the technology on the Discovery and simultaneously killing their plans to use interphasic space to return to their own universe. Michelle Yeoh is better here as her bitter Mirror self than she ever was as the captain of the Shenzhou, playing Burnham at every angle while Michael is totally blinded by the belief that her dead captain's duplicate could be the same woman she knew. My thought is whether or not Burnham would be this blinded considering what she has witnessed in this universe along with the mental butchery she has encountered with Tyler/Voq that nearly got her killed last week.

Back on Discovery we have two arcs which both use Saru as their crossover point. He's not doing such a bad job commanding the ship but now he has not just Stamets to be concerned about because Tyler is having some major internal conflict with Voq.

In regards to the former, Stamets is somewhere on the mycelial network with his Mirror Universe counterpart from the ISS Charon (Emperor's ship) who helps him to understand more about the spores and helps him to escape back to his body. From the perspective of Tilly and Saru his return is nothing less than miraculous and does suggest that there might be a chance of getting back using the spore drive - that is until Stamets checks the mycelial forest which is already decaying. With one stroke we get Stamets back and the hope of salvation but with the other it’s dashed by the news that there are no spores to harvest. At least with this story thread we can't say we know how it's going to pan out which leads nicely to my next point...

OK, let's deal with the biggie here and move on. Lorca.

Is actually Mirror Lorca. It's not come as the biggest shocker of all time since the signposts have been very obvious and it's been difficult to avoid the rumours and theories right across the Star Trek crevices of the internet. It's well executed here with Lorca choosing to not give in to one of his captors whose sister, it seems, lost her life in Lorca's service. His choice to take the pain right to the end where he is freed in error by said officer shows his determination but more than anything we as the viewer feel vindicated that the un-Starfleet-like nature of Lorca can be easily quantified because he isn't Starfleet. It explains the war room, it explains the eye drops, it explains the Burnham fascination; it explains everything and Isaacs does a superb job of ditching some of the "Prime Lorca" facade when he gets out of the Agonizer booth, putting the boot into his former torturer - and also remembering the name of the girl who died thus confirming he is the Mirror version.

It all kind of makes sense when you piece together a lot of other bits too because god knows how many times Lorca has gone against Starfleet's wishes - his rescue of Sarek, that war room, his obsession with defeating the Klingons - it's all there and sets his apart from not just Picard and Kirk but also strides away from even the darkest aspects of Sisko. What's the score with the "real" Lorca though? Is he still alive? Will he be back for season two or will Mirror Lorca continue to command the Discovery with only Burnham knowing the truth - this would in turn allow for some future twist and meet up of the two of course.

This season has been almost exclusively about hidden layers, multiple layers to personalities, switching roles which is, very effectively, all summed up by the appearance of the Mirror Universe. If nothing screams out about two sides to everything then I don’t know what does and Vaulting Ambition represents the culmination of that with both of Burnham’s most recent commanding officers both being seen here in Mirror form and both having more to reveal than we first see. Everyone has two sides be it Burnham with her Human and Vulcan upbringings clashing or a more literal one in the form of the Tyler/Voq equation, Discovery has firmly been about the diversity not just of its cast but of the range within each of their characters. One thing I can guarantee is that I'll be watching Context is for Kings pretty much bang on after the season finale just as a means to compare the start and end points aboard the title starship.

Vaulting Ambition is a good episode but after the tumult of the last two weeks this face to face with the Emperor and the Lorca reveal feel a lot slower even in a 37 minute story which should help speed things up.  Lorca’s secret has been signposted and called out a long time ago and perhaps this over emphasis on being clever and plot twisting has taken a little of the wind out of Discovery’s sails. For me this week didn’t have the same level of tension, excitement or character when it came to the main story.

Saying that, even the subplots felt a bit plodding. Stamets and Mirror Stamets within the mycelial network was interesting and at least gave us an understanding of what the he has been seeing in his visions as well as what all the Mum kings about forests and palaces was about but add this into the pot with the Lorca reveal and it feels as if we were privy to a 37 minute info dump with not a lot behind it.

The Tyler/Voq and L’Rell story seemed to be wrapped up at lightning pace although it does mean Doug Jones gets another excellent monologue opportunity. In fact he does get a lot of the best lines doesn’t he?

Voq is clearly unstable within the confines of Tyler’s body, destroying not just sickbay but his own body leading Saru to come to a deal with L’Rell to save what is left of one of the personalities crammed into the one body. It’s actually rather terrifying how much Shazad Latif manages to throw himself around here but the end result, a bit of sciencey bobbins from L’Rell sees, it seems, the Voq personality die although I’d put money that this will show its face again. Amazing how she's the only one who can sort it out and it's all resolved in less than two minutes.

The inclusion of the Klingon Death Howl does signify the finality of the Voq storyline and leaves Mary Chieffo’s character as the sole remaining Klingon in the show and also at something of a loose end in Discovery’s brig. She now has truly sacrificed more than Voq, allowing her lover/co-conspirator to be eliminated for the sake of a Starfleet officer. 

Vaulting Ambition does take something from it’s title in that it is openly ambitious in its scale. The acting and action are great all through and while those twists have been anticipated we now have the question of What Now?

What exactly is going on and how is this season going to come to a close? Where will this ship end up and will it be the same Universe they left in episode nine? We as fans might have worked out the twists so far but with three episodes still left to air there has to be more coming our way.

What were your impressions of this week's episode?

Track back through our reviews of every episode HERE

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Never Forget a Face: S1 Ep11 The Wolf Inside

My initial thought that Despite Yourself was going to be the pinnacle of season one were blown out of the water with The Wolf Inside.

Burnham is fully undercover as her Mirror self although she is beginning to lose herself within the facade. While this isn't a wholly evil universe she is struggling to come to terms with the casual racism, slavery and the brutality that the Terran Empire has brought to the galaxy.

Tyler is proving to be her only support since Lorca (whom we see very little of and may be compromised) is still locked away in the Agoniser booth. The challenge Burnham faces is to pass the heavily encrypted data files on the USS Defiant and its passage to the Mirror Universe back to the Discovery and has that weight added to with the Empire demanding the destruction of a suspected rebel outpost.

Burnham sees an opportunity to reach out to the rebels and save them in return for an understanding of how the alliance of Klingons, Andorians, Tellerites and Vulcans was formed. When Burnham and Tyler do get down to the surface and avoid being blown apart by the rebel forces, they discover that the fabled "FireWolf" is in fact Voq, the Klingon we saw back in the first trio of stories as the Torchbearer and heir-apparent to T'Kuv'ma.

Also there, suitably goatee-adorned is one Sarek of Vulcan aka The Prophet. He confirms via mind-meld that Burnham is telling the truth about her origins however Voq's words manage to activate whatever has been laying dormant within Tyler. Of course the reimagined Andorians and Tellarites are as big a draw for fans in these scenes as that legendary Mirror Universe beard and I think that the makeup artists of 2017 have done a stunning job in adding their own twist to these classic Star Trek aliens. Heck, the Tellarites get better every time they're resurrected.

Yes, it's finally out that Tyler is Voq (picture to the right via Entertainment Weekly). The Starfleet version goes hell for leather at his rebel-leading Mirror self but the real issue chimes in when we get back to the ISS Shenzhou because the facade of Tyler slips and the Klingon comes to the surface, attempting to kill Burnham and only being stopped by slave Saru.

The fight is great as are the more graphic flashbacks to Voq's transformation into the traumatised Starfleet security chief but after all the ramblings of the internet it does feel that Discovery's worst kept secret is a bit of a let down because, well, we all worked it out back in episode four.

Sentenced to death Tyler is spaced only to be quickly "rescued" by the Discovery. Seems Burnham had slipped the disk with the Defiant data on it onto the disgraced officer...

The Mirror Universe isn't quite that straight mirror that The Original Series made it out to be because here we see the strain of maintaining that false front, to act like the "savages" we might believe them to be. Burnham is placed in a horrible situation and looks certain to circumvent genocide however the arrival of the Emperor puts paid to that. The roles of her and Lorca are totally flipped within this Mirror Universe arc with the captain and prisoner in opposite places. Sonequa Martin-Green is the driving force behind this episode, commanding a dark starship, facing the news that her lover is not what he seems and, erm, that final one which really screws with her world.

With Burnham's life being pulled down around her, the tour de force of the episode comes from Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler. My god this guy is pushed to the limit playing a range of both Tyler and Voq's aspects as well as, effectively, playing both the sides of the character on screen in the same episode. The sequence in which he finally trips into Voq is truly chilling as his Klingon beliefs and motivations come to the fore. Breathtaking.

The Mirror Universe given the life it is here is being given the chance to breathe more than ever and for us as the viewer to explore more than ever before. The inclusion of the nameless Saru here and the systems of contempt in operation drive home the darkness but at its core, is The Wolf Inside really about seeing past the layers to what's really at the heart of us all?

In a literal sense the title is shouting out the plot twist around Tyler/Voq (Wolf inside...get it? Voq's the WOLF inside...yeah...you see where I'm going...) but it also betrays what might be lying deep within Burnham too. Her action to sentence Tyler to death may have an alternate reason to it however there's not even a flicker of regret when he gets spaced. It's a far cry from her voiced concerns during the diary entry at the start of the show (and part of the longest pre-titles sequence ever?). Plus there's the fact she omits to tell Saru on the Discovery about his Mirror self while he in turn decides not to reveal that Culber is dead allowing that to be left to the vengeful Tyler/Voq. Cleverly it seems that the main characters are taking much darker turns in personality since crossing over and the reorientation back to normal life on the de-Empire'd Discovery could be a treat to behold.

While all this is going on aboard the Shenzhou, Saru is left in command of the eponymous starship and allows Tilly to attempt to save Paul Stamets. The lieutenant is at the cliff-edge after discovering that Culber has been murdered (Tyler admits this to Burnham before trying to kill her) but Tilly believes that she has the solution to bring him back. Her answer, probably one of the most technobabble filled explanations of the whole series, at first looks set to get her on the command track but ends up killing Stamets. Never fear because he's soon back to life however he's out on the mycellial network and encountering his alternative self. More on that I suspect, next week.

It is a much smaller part of the episode but the final scene of Saru and Tyler plus the speech which he gives the troubled officer/Klingon is one of the best of the series to date and reminds us just what Starfleet is about even though the ship is stranded in a morally-corrupt universe. If there was doubt about how the writers' room sees Star Trek this was the 30 seconds that proved they know precisely what they are on about.

On another note it's important that we see Saru in this command role given just how much indecision and troubles his last attempt at command was when Lorca was captured by L'Rell. He has come on a great deal although there are still a few seconds of wavering judgement in there around whether or not to provide medical aid to Stamets or allow Tilly to get her way however it's a far cry from where he was.

From the pacing and the feel of the episode I suspect we might be in the middle of a min-arc that will come to an end next week ahead of the final three episodes that will, I would think, close off the Klingon War and the Voq storyline. While The Wolf Inside is a great indulgence episode that gives a lot of nods to fans, there are some inherent issues with it which come from the two plot twist revelations however amazing they are on screen. They are, sadly, predictable because of the wonders of the internet in regards to Tyler/Voq and because, well, it just had to be that character as the Emperor didn't it? I mean, there was such a big thing made about That Person being included in the cast! As stated already though, the decision not to drag these "revelations" out any longer is a wise move and viewers will appreciate it.

I firmly believe that episode 12 will end the Mirror Universe line and return the Discovery home but not as cleanly as we might have expected. I think there will be casualties and maybe a crossover but that might be reading into things way too much. What we are promised is that the season will end but not as we might expect and for the sake of the show I really do hope that the twists and turns that come up are as unexpected as Culber's untimely demise...

How do you rate The Wolf Inside? Predictable or gloriously indulgent Star Trek?

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