Monday, 26 August 2013

Star Trek Starships: Docking Complete


It's been great to see Star Trek back on the TV after so long - unfortunately it's just an advert but it is for something new that's sure to get every fan salivating more than a rabid targ.

Star Trek The Official Starships Collection was released this week and, initially I've not subscribed, choosing instead to purchase it from a newsagent and keep the economy in the UK alive for another day.

Trying to find it was one thing - TV adverts announced it as "Out Now" but none of the major supermarkets appeared to stock it. An email to EagleMoss themselves didn't make it any clearer as they didn't have any info I could have on where it was being sold. 

A conversation with a friend of mine, +Carl Thomson meant that it got tracked down to McColl's. Good spot, sir. I know where Issue Two will be getting snapped up.

Anyway, aside from a search that Spock would have been proud of, this is probably one of the highest profile magazine launches I've been aware of for a while and certainly it will ride the crest of the Into Darkness wave that rose in May and will resurface in September with the DVD/blu-ray arrival. Oddly though, as it's licenced by CBS, the one thing that it won't be covering is the JJ-verse that it is undoubtedly using to help enhance sales.

Issue One in the UK has the stunning premiere price of £1.99 and makes it impossible to avoid even for a trial. Coming with the feature magazine, a brief guide to the series and, of course, your first model starship, what could be better?

Let's focus on the model itself to begin with. Touted by the promotional material on the packaging that these are going to be designed and made based on visual effects (VFX) models from the five series and ten movies with authorisation from CBS themselves you can't help but be impressed and once you've prized NCC-1701-D from the packaging you can see why. The detail is stunning and more than justifies £1.99. Whether I'll feel the same when I part with £5.99 for Issue Two or £9.99 thereafter is another matter entirely but that's more to do with the overall package that I'll come to shortly.

The saucer of the Enterprise is of a sturdy metal construction and very accurate. The engineering hull is plastic with colour sections added for the nacelles. There are a couple of minor glitches in accuracy around shuttlebay size and decal location on the saucer but overall it's most impressive. The model itself is well balanced due to the dual-material construction and the secondary hull is equally well constructed. As noted, the Enterprise-D was in fact duck egg blue rather than shades of grey and this has been reproduced on the miniature. Well noted. I wonder what bits of other ships we may have visually interpreted differently on the screen?

More recent additions to the fan base might just be happy to learn about the ships that made history in the franchise beyond the JJ Abrams movies if they are looking to expand their interest. This is certainly a great way in. Beyond the model it's not just another episode by episode ramble. Firstly with this issue there's a series guide which outlines the high quality of the ships, the scale of the models and how they were sourced from visual effects material used on the show. 

Just to tempt you into more purchases there are some stills of what is to come including warbirds, birds of prey, Voyager, Excelsior, the refit movie Enterprise, the NX-01 and others reminding buyers that this will be with us every fortnight for some time. If you're looking to keep up with it there are a range of special gifts which will be delivered over successive weeks including a binder, Enterprise-D ship's plaque, All Good Things... Enterprise-D "future" model, a digital edition and a light-up Borg cube. 

This is all great stuff but I do have one bugbear with the Collection magazine which puts me in two minds about this series. Opening with some specs on the Galaxy Class starship it drops straight into detailing a history of the vessel within the Star Trek universe. accompanied with some new computer generated images of various areas and aspects of the Enterprise. EagleMoss have also covered the signature saucer separation and the images here are second to none in quality. 

There's a good mix of fact to fiction here as well with an article which looks back at the genesis of this now legendary ship from the mind and drawings of Andy Probert. While nothing new is really added in this piece it balances the whole production and some of the lesser known or realised ships later in the series will no doubt benefit from this part of the magazine. Actually the real world gets quite a lot of page space with details on how the ship was filmed between Encounter at Farpoint and Generations and why it ended up looking the way it did due to a mixture of CGI and models of various sizes. The colour actually changed over the course of its existence due to resprays and increased detail level for Generations - the carpet on the bridge wasn't the only thing that got updated it seems!

To finish there's a page on three key appearances and some more behind the scenes anecdotes but as I come to the back page and what's coming I'm not sure where this is aiming. Who is the audience and is this dumbing down fandom in some respects?

The model, without a doubt, is great and it's already got a shelf space but the magazine is another matter. As I noted, it is of good quality. The images are a split of old and newly envisaged shots but running to 18 pages it leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, it's more about the ship but there doesn't feel as though there is any depth of background. For a newcomer it's perfect and gives enough information to tempt you further into the Star Trek universe but for the more franchise-aware fan it might end up on the end of a shelf and get forgotten when compared to the substantially thicker and more detailed Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual

It does seem very basic and I was left wanting more after the (brief) time it took to read the four articles featured. The thing that does make it different to the manual however is in the addition of sections dedicated to the real world while the manual only did this in footnotes. EagleMoss could really capitalise on this as there's not been a lot written or great access to the more obscure vessels.

The first issue is an area and ship that has been charted before, many times and the real proof of this series will probably be beyond the multiple Enterprise's and Klingon ships. While these will be the more popular issues and craft I can only hope that there is enough material to fill 18 pages on the Akira Class, the Raven, Dauntless or the Jenolen for example without using too much plot synopsis for content. However, I do think it's worth emphasising that this series is very much more about the chunk of metal and plastic that the magazine accompanies than the literature itself. Let's also note that if this an example of the quality of the ships we're going to be getting I can't wait to see every single one. My modelling ability comes nowhere near and this is certainly a more space-friendly way of collecting the universe.

As an opener, it's a great effort and good to see Star Trek getting some good promotion with an exciting series. I'm not sure if the amount of material you get for £9.99 is justified at this time and I'll probably dip in and out across its lifespan it's just a matter of cost more than anything else. Next issue is the refit Enterprise from the movies and one of my favourite designs. While it's at the cheaper price I'll be buying and passing verdict. The other way we'll be able to judge how this series has taken is just how many of these Enterprise-D's end up on eBay in the next few months.

Star Trek The Official Starships Collection is available now from newsagents. Issue One is available at the cut-price of £1.99