October 2018~ Destination Star Trek Birmingham

This was the fourth official Star Trek event run by Showmasters/Media10 and the second to be held at the NEC in Birmingham.

If you read my blog post on the 2016 event you will recall that I was hugely disappointed with the whole thing. From the lack of things to do to the layout and the quality of some of the prop shoots that were available. I bitched, I moaned and with good reason. At one point I even refused to go again up until I had a chat with one of the organisers. That chat, and the temptation of meeting the Discovery cast was enough for me to give them another chance and I’m honestly glad I did. Life is too short to be holding on to grudges and I wanted to have some fun.

Most of the hotels were either fully booked or overpriced so I decided to stay a bit further out at the Travelodge Maypole. The crew of the USS Iceni were also there so I was able to grab a lift in with them.

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Things began on Thursday evening when Larry Nemecek (Trek Oracle and all round nice guy) and The Trekkie Girls organised a “Landing Party” quiz. There were about 10-12 teams, and my team came second. We won a bag of goodies provided by various people.

Friday morning arrived and we headed off to the NEC. Doors would be opening at 2pm but we had to put the finishing touches to the Iceni table. Once that was done I was able to have a look around.

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Hall 5 was bigger than the hall used previously and the layout was far, far better. The photo shoot areas were all along one side which greatly helped. In between each main shoot area you had the museum, the Discovery mirror universe exhibition (which was awesome) and the various green-screen shoot areas. This meant that there was no congestion around these areas and they were all well organised.

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The three stages had a corner each with the main Enterprise stage being right by the Iceni table. There was also a covered screening area with a set programme of episodes being shown over the weekend.

There were a number of prop shoots around such as a transporter, Borg chamber and a Horta with her eggs- I do feel that she could have been positioned better. There were also two bridge sets- the classic Constitution Class bridge from the original series and the Galaxy Class bridge from the next generation. I hope that they eventually make another bridge set. Maybe Voyager or the NX-01 bridge. Finally there was a Klingon captains chair and a replica of Quark’s bar on DS9. Lots to do!

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There were a lot more dealers than in previous years and the quality of the dealers was better too.

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The European Space Agency were also present, doing talks, giving away freebies etc.

Lastly, there were two gaming areas. One for board games and one for console/computer games and pinball machines. I got to have a play before the con opened.

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Matt Irvine, designer and model maker was also on hand with many of his pieces.

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John Eaves, Starship Designer was also present. It was good to talk to him about what influences his art. He was also signing and giving away a limited edition print of the USS Shenzhou from Discovery. He was a pleasure to talk to.

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The event itself ran smoothly. I only managed to get to one talk on props and model making as I was busy having photo shoots. I did however manage to get nearly all my autographs done on the Friday which made Saturday and Sunday even easier. I used my Discovery poster that I was given at the Netflix event last November.

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So in general there was much more to do this time around and the layout was better. Moving forward, I would still like to suggest dedicated seating areas for people as I did see lots of people struggling and not everyone is able to sit on they floor. Also, the fold up chairs that are used are not very comfortable. But that’s a minor gripe. I also think the fan zone needs work with a dedicated coordinator as Zoe was rushed off her feet!

As you can imagine there was lots of cosplay going on with many people making Discovery costumes, both prime and mirror universe.

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I had an absolute blast meeting the Discovery cast, especially my favourite, Sonequa Martin-Green who plays Michael Burnham. She loved my #Bonkers4Burnham shirt, which was inspired by the #Silly4Tilly shirt that Shazad Latif wore to a con. This inspired my friends and I to come up with a range of hashtags and have them printed on shirts. I have promised Doug Jones that I will come up with a suitable one for Saru. Mary Chieffo also liked the #Longing4L’Rell shirt but I didn’t get much of a reaction from Mary Wiseman over the #Krazy4Killy shirt by comparison. Just a “nice shirt!” In her defence, they all looked tired having just flown over from set. I got the impression that I, being a big chap, scared her and Anthony Rapp. I do hope not!

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I also managed to have a good chat with Astronaut Fred Haise who was part of the Apollo 13 mission, and Sandra Lee Gimpel who played a Talosian and a Salt Monster on the original series.

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They have announced a 2019 event for late October. Will you be there? I think I will.

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Showmasters, if you are reading this can we please have Rekha Sharma as a guest? Thank you muchly! I have a hashtag shirt to show her…..

October 2018~ Star Trek Short Treks

BLACK ALERT! SPOILERS FOLLOW….

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It was announced at San Diego Comic Con that CBS would be releasing a series of 4 “Short Treks”- 15 minute long episodes that would begin airing in October, and take us up to the start of Discovery Season 2. Each episode will be centered around a character.

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Now I will freely admit that I had to find an alternative way of watching this as CBS have made it US only. This is a bad move as A)there are fans worldwide like me who pay their Netflix subscription so they can watch Trek and B)it forces us to find other ways to watch as we have no idea if they will ever be seen! Sort it out CBS!

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The first Short Trek, titled ‘Runaway’ is begins with the now-Ensign Sylvia Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman, communicating with her mother, Siobhan Tilly, who is cautioning her over her choice of career path and reminding her to know her limitations.

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Shortly thereafter Tilly is in the Mess Hall when she encounters a young Xahian stowaway named Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po, played by Yadira Guevara-Prip, who is a talented engineer. It is up to Tilly to help her return home in time for her coronation.

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It’s a great episode and definitely worth watching. Mary Wiseman is awesome once again as Tilly.

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The episode also has a couple of the best quotes from Tilly so far. “Hormonal space rabbit” and “quadruple espresso with milk alternative- it’s my best friend” both had me laughing out loud.

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Can’t wait for Season 2!

August 2018~ Star Trek Discovery: Spock casting!

When Star Trek Discovery began in 2017, many Trek fans, myself included,  hoped that they wouldn’t go anywhere near Kirk, Spock and co during the first season. I felt it needed to be accepted on its own merits. Season one was a complete success (for most fans) and it was an amazing sight when the Discovery finally came nose-to-nose with the USS Enterprise…..I must admit a little tear was shed!

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This led many to believe that the Enterprise would somehow play a big part in season two. That was subsequently confirmed by CBS when they announced that actor Anson Mount was cast to play Captain Christopher Pike (Commander of the Enterprise before Kirk), another Trek character to have been played by multiple actors.

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Anson Mount, Jeffery Hunter, Sean Kenney & Bruce Greenwood as Captain Christopher Pike

What little information we do have tells us that Spock has vanished; Pike and the crew of the Discovery, including Spock’s adopted sister Michael Burnham, set out to find him.

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Sarek (Spock’s father) & Michael Burnham

Since the announcement that Spock would somehow play a part in Discovery season 2 there has been a lot of speculation about who would play him if he were to appear.

Many fans were excited at the prospect of a new Spock, whilst others said that to recast would be tantamount to sacrilege as there can be only one- many said that Quinto was bad enough in the JJ Abrahms movies (FYI even though I’m not a fan of the JJ-verse, for me Quinto and Zoe Saldana were perfect casting choices).

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To me, Leonard Nimoy (Grandpa Leonard 🙂 ) will always be the quintessential Spock. However, for Trek to continue, recasting becomes necessary.

I’d like to remind people that to date, 9 people, including Nimoy and Quinto have played Spock:

So there IS a precedent for a new actor playing Spock at a different age and I’m cool with that. I’m sure the new actor will pay homage to Leonard Nimoy- Leonard’s family seem to approve!

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Ethan Peck (Centre) with (L-R) Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: DS9 and wife of Adam Nimoy), Adam Nimoy, Julie Nimoy & David Knight (Julie’s husband)

So who is the new Spock?

His name is Ethan Peck and he comes from good Hollywood-acting stock; his grandfather was the actor Gregory Peck who I loved in The Omen, The Guns of Navarone, To Kill A Mockingbird and more…..

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Ethan already has a good list of acting credits under his belt and I’m sure he will be a great addition not only to Star Trek Discovery, but to the whole Trek family!

Welcome Ethan!

March 2018~ Walker Stalker Con London

This year’s Walker Stalker Con would be my third and my last.

I really wasn’t intending on going this year as I had met many of the cast before. But the addition of Sonequa Martin-Green, who had moved on to be the lead on the new Star Trek: Discovery, changed my mind. I met her previously at a Netflix event in November 2017 but the selfie we took was so bad I wanted to get a professional photo op. I also wanted to try and meet Emily Kinney who I had missed on a number of occasions.

One of the things that had always attracted me to Walker Stalker (and FanFest cons in general) was that they limit their numbers. Yes, that means that prices are a bit higher, but I didn’t mind paying more for a more relaxing time.

This year was to be completely different. Now, at this point let me remind you I’ve been doing cons for around 30 years…..

This year’s price list went up and it was a shock to everyone. All autograph prices had gone up considerably, some almost double. The excuse given by the organisers was that the guests set their own prices and it’s down to them. Having crewed cons I know that isn’t true. Especially when some guests would be appearing at a con in Wales a few weeks later for up to 75% less than at WSC. But that all became insignificant and quite trivial when the day of the event came.

Normally you are able to collect your pass/lanyard etc. the day before. This year we were instructed to come on the Friday only if we were VIP or higher, or had lots of photo op tickets to collect. I was General Admission and only had one op so waited until the Saturday. I wasn’t worried as in the previous two years it was easy enough to turn up at 10.30am and be inside within minutes. Boy was I wrong.

I arrived at 9.45am. I joined the queue in front of Gate B and the line ran down in front of the venue and into an old train shed that stood next to Olympia station. It then snaked inside the shed and out the other side. It took me 15 minutes to get into the shed and that is where I stopped.

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From then on it all moved very slowly. This was at 10am.

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I eventually made it out to the far side of the shed and the snaking continued. There was not a member of Walker Stalker Con staff in sight. Only the odd Olympia Security people who were no help.

Two hours passed and I started to panic for a number of reasons. I’m not good in crowds that don’t move, especially when I’m getting squashed, and two I had my photo-op with Sonequa at 12.25pm and had yet to get in and collect my ticket.

The line was poorly managed. A group of young guys decided to have some fun and try to skip lines which meant in a huge surge forward and lines combining. This was enough for me. The other attendees (not all, but quite a few) were feral and it was fast becoming unpleasant. I decided to break line and storm to the front. I would either find help or go home- as I was walking along I had other attendees yelling at me (some quite nasty) but I kept going. I eventually found a tall American lady (I think her name might have been Amanda) who listened, was not impressed with what I told her and then helped me get inside- this was at 12.15pm. I made it to my photo-op with Sonequa with about 5 minutes to spare, thanks to the help of WSC staff inside.

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Amazingly, Sonequa remembered me. I was greeted with “Hey you, its good to see you again.” She also commented on my shirt (which if you look carefully, is slightly different to the normal DISCO shirt) we had the photo and I left.

I was still quite anxious so I went to see my friends Steph and Ann in the chill out room. I left after about 20 minutes to venture out on to the con floor.

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It wasn’t particularly busy, I’ve seen busier, but  the attitude of attendees was shocking. Lots of pushing, shoving and general unpleasantness.

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I finally found Emily Kinney- the map they handed out was way too small for me to read so I had to do it the old fashioned way. Emily had a very small queue so I got to meet her quite quickly. Got my autograph and photo and was on my way.

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I’d missed most of the talks I wanted to see due to being stuck outside for 3 hours but there was one just about to start. It was ‘The Troublemakers; with Austin Amelio, Steven Ogg, Michael Traynor and Pollyanna McIntosh. I found a seat near the edge with ease and the talk began. I think I lasted all of about 10 minutes as the other people watching in my area were too busy chatting, plus they were still letting people in, all who were very loud and didn’t seem to care.

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I couldn’t hear so I left and decide to leave altogether.  I did manage to snap a quick pic of Zombie King, Greg Nicotero, Ross Marquand and the always lovely Alanna Masterson on the way out but that was it.

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I was anxious and frustrated. I was meeting friends to celebrate my birthday later that evening but due to the extreme prices inside Olympia I hadn’t eaten and I’d dropped my water. I headed off to get some food and drink and to calm down. This was at 2pm. I’d been at the con for about 90 minutes- the entry ticket was £45 quid.

I’m due to take my brother and his family to HVFF, run by the same organisers, in May and I’m concerned. My brother has mobility issues and my niece has autism. Neither would be able to deal with lines and attitudes like this. Shockingly, all of my tweets to the Walker Stalker account, the Celeb-Photo Ops account and to the guy that runs the show have all gone unanswered. I was tweeting from the line, asking for help but all I got was silence in return, even though they were busy tweeting from the show floor.

I’ll be contacting the Disability Services but I want some assurance from them that none of this will happen again. But I am worried, especially seeing as there has been little official response, without being prompted, about yesterday’s debacle.

 

November 2017~ Netflix- Star Trek: Discovery Fan Event.

In late October, Netflix began sending out emails to Trekkies inviting them to a fan screening on Sunday 5th of November at Millbank Tower, next to the River Thames in London. I initially didn’t receive an invite, so I emailed and asked to be put on a waiting list. The following day I received my invite.

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It came with the additional information that there would also be an exhibition of props, as well as a Q & A with some of the talent- Aaron Harberts (Showrunner), Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), Shazad Latif (Lt. Ash Tyler) and Jason Isaacs (Capt. Gabriel Lorca). We were told that doors would open at 12pm.

Knowing what Trekkies (including myself) can be like, I decided to arrive early. 9 am to be precise. Shortly after I arrived, some friends also turned up. They too were also decked out in DISCO tops, all sourced from an unofficial, popular online auction site.

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We tried to get a coffee at a nearby hotel but it was jam packed so I headed back to the front of Millbank Tower to wait for another friend. Whilst there I met up with a guy from Netflix (who I would later find out seemed to be running the whole event) and he was surprised to see us there so early. He pointed me in the right direction and told me where to wait and that he would see me at noon.

Lots of friends arrived and as time went on, the crowds grew. It wasn’t really a line at one point, more of a loose assembly, but the guy I saw earlier came out, said ‘Hi’ and had a look around. He then told someone else to sort out a line, starting with me. After that I must admit I got a bit snappy if anyone tried to jump in front of me and my friends.

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12pm came and we were let in. We all received a Netflix wristband and the first 25 of us would be allowed to meet the guests and get autographs. This was an amazing bonus!

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An express elevator ride to the 29th floor deposited us in the Altitude 360 restaurant which had been transformed into an exhibition hall. At one end we had the Captain’s chair from the USS Discovery as well as props such as phasers, Klingon blades, uniforms etc. The other end had been transformed into a room holding the spore drive and console.

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As fans we could wander round, take photos and interact with the items on display and each other, all the while enjoying the vast amount of refreshments generously laid on by Netflix.

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At about 1.15pm we were directed down to the theatre to watch the 8th episode ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ (If you want peace, prepare for war).

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Before the episode was shown, Jamie East (of Thronecast fame) who was presenting the show, introduced the guests. The four of them said a quick hello before settling in to watch the episode with the fans.

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Once the episode was over, a hilarious Q&A followed. There is a video somewhere which I will post later. The highlight for me, apart from hearing all the behind the scenes gossip, was Jason Isaacs getting Jonathan Riker Frakes’ name wrong! All of them were extremely humble and a joy to listen to. Jason was amazing at praising his fellow actors and the creative team. Hearing the gorgeous and very talented Sonequa tell us her own backstory for Michael Burnham was equally awesome and she brings a fresh outlook to the Trek universe. Shazad was very cagey about his character and I think there is more than meets the eye to Ash Tyler. It’s also quite clear that Aaron Harberts wants Discovery to be groundbreaking but also honour all the Trek that has gone before.

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After that, it was back upstairs for a meet and greet with autograph and selfie opportunities. It was an awesome day and I would like to thank Netflix for putting on such an amazing event!

Star Trek Discovery

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October 2017~ Star Trek Exhibition- Blackpool

The Star Trek Blackpool exhibition ends in November this year. I managed to pay a visit before it closed.

To be honest, it was a let down. The majority of exhibits came from Martin Netter, the German collector who also sells merchandise at highly inflated prices. I’ve seen all these props before at various Trek cons. Most are in poor condition and can do with a bit of TLC.

There were only two good parts to the day. Meeting up with mates to have a variety of photos taken on the bridge set and seeing the new props and chair from Star Trek Discovery. Apart from that it was a waste of time.

Photos below.

September 2017~ Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek is back on TV (kind of) and back where it belongs and as usual there are plenty of fans already picking at it like vultures on a carcass.

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Star Trek: Discovery was announced in November 2015 and premiered on CBS ALL-ACCESS on Sunday 24th September. It was released on Netflix the following day for international viewers.

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Please note: If you have not yet seen the show, some spoilers follow.

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The series is set ten years prior to the original series with Kirk, Spock, McCoy and co. It follows the exploits of the USS Discovery. It is the first show to have the leading character who is not the ship’s captain. Commander Michael Burnham is the Discovery’s First Officer, played by Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha in The Walking Dead) a Starfleet Officer with a unique background. Her parents were killed in a Klingon raid and she was raised by Sarek of Vulcan, essentially make her an adopted sibling to Spock.

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In episode one “The Vulcan Hello” we see Burnham struggle with decisions, and a battle with her Vulcan upbringing versus her Human nature. These decisions would eventually lead to full scale war with the Klingons, the deaths of those closest to her and the loss of many Starfleet ships including the USS Shenzou, an old Walker Class Starship commanded by Captain Phillip Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh. It’s not until episode 3 that the USS Discovery, commanded by Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) puts in an appearance.

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I love Discovery so far. Like all Trek it breaks new ground somehow. This time around we have not only a person of colour (one day we will get past the need to separate us by colour, gender etc but that’s a whole other blog post.) but a female as well and so far I’m impressed. Burnham is a hard character to like but tough choices have to be made. I can’t wait to see how she develops and Sonequa plays her so well. It also has the first same-sex couple which has also caused some controversy. So far Discovery is much darker and grittier than the previous iterations, with the exception of DS9. I look forward to seeing how the show develops.

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As usual, Trekkies all over the globe have started picking the show apart. Most in a positive way, looking for hidden links to the other shows, but there are still a few who seem intent on finding fault with every little thing. I’d like to pick up on a few now.

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First, it should be known that many of the production staff have said that they are aware that people would be nitpicking. They have also asked fans to be patient as they guarantee all the nitpicks will be answered.

1- The visuals of the show. This includes the look of the ships, uniforms and everything else. The main complaint is that it doesn’t fit in with the look of the original series.

My response: Why would it? Yes, it is set 10 years prior, but improvements in television production mean that the show will have a different look. If TOS had the tech we have now, I think it would look very , very different. Let’s face it- If they used 60s tech nowadays to film, or made it look visually the same, it probably wouldn’t do very well.

2. The Klingons- From their look to their ships some folks are unhappy. “We’ve never seen these Klingons before”, “these ships don’t look right” or “these ships look like the ones in DS9”. 

My response: Are you serious? Even though we have seen a lot of the Trek universe over the years we haven’t seen everything. A new show like this gives the creators the chance to expand the universe even more. It’s already been said that these are not the Klingons we know. To say “if you’ve seen one Klingon you’ve seen them all” is kinda racist! 😉 As for the ships? They looked old. Which fits in with the backstory of the new Klingons coming from an old house.

3. Aliens- There are aliens on Starfleet vessels, like the new character, Saru. A Kelpian who can literally sense impending doom/death. “There were no aliens in Starfleet in TOS” is the cry I hear.

My response: Umm, Spock? Vulcan I believe? Anyway, apart from the Enterprise, we didn’t see much of Starfleet or any other starships in TOS, so how would we know. Besides. the tech wasn’t easily available in the 60s to regularly make effective looking aliens.

4. Uniforms and ships- The uniforms just don’t fit with TOS seeing as it’s set at the same time as The Cage. Starship interior design doesn’t match either.

My response: The answer to both of these issues can be found in the Discovery novel, Desperate Hours. But think for a minute. The ships themselves, both interior and exterior, are quite similar to those in Enterprise. Very submarine/battleship-like. The uniforms themselves look like an offshoot from the Enterprise jumpsuits. If you would like the answer revealed in the book, please scroll down past the picture. I can highly recommend the book. It’s well worth a read.

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Uniforms- The uniforms the we know from TOS are a new design, currently only being issued to those crew who are part of the new, elite, Constitution Class Starship programme with the idea of eventually rolling them out to the rest of the fleet. There is precedent for multiple uniforms being used at once. Think about the DS9 jumpsuits at the same time as the TNG uniform.

Ships- Many of the current ships in the fleet are old. Based on a design similar to the very early NX Class. The new Constitution Class ships are designed for long-term voyages and were designed in a more ‘homely’, less ‘battleship’ manner. If this works, it is also to be rolled out fleet-wide.

This is my interpretation of what is in the book and what I have read elsewhere (I could be wrong!). This same info can also be found on many other websites. I think it’s a great way of joining Discovery with TOS.

I’ve only ever had one BIG issue with Trek continuity and that was with Star Trek Into Darkness, but that is a whole other issue. The only thing for me that has yet to be answered with Discovery is the use of what originally was The Enterprise Delta for the whole of the fleet. In TOS, every ship had their own logo. As the Enterprise became the most successful, most famous ship, its logo was adopted by the whole fleet. But this was after TOS. Would like to hear the explanation as to why it appears now.

I’m sure there will be more gripes for people to moan about and I will try to update this list at some point. But I suggest you just sit back and enjoy the ride!

EASTER EGGS- There are quite a few hidden links. I’m not gonna list all of them but here are a few:-

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  • Internal ship sounds (doors, com whistles, alerts etc) similar to TOS
  • Phasers and communicators similar to TOS/The Cage
  • Bottle of Chateau Picard in the Shenzou’s Ready Room
  • TOS titled books in Ready Room
  • The Prime Directive is called General Order One (as it was in TOS)
  • First Officer Burnham is known as Number One (Majel Barrett’s character in The Cage and Wil Riker in TNG)
  • Vulcan nerve pinch and mind meld
  • Sarek (Spock’s daddy!)

Again, I’ll update this as time goes by…

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LLAP!