Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Sound of Thunder: Into Battle with the Akira Class

Now this is a model I have been waiting to come out for personal reasons more than any other. 

The USS Thunderchild NCC-63549 is a special ship to myself as I, for more years than I care to remember, have gone by and used the handle or tag of Thunderchild on radio as my call sign, and messenger services etc. So this is my starship!

Again Eaglemoss have done a good job on the model as it feels solid and heavy. However SKoST member +Mark Thwaite  noticed that on the United Federation of Planets decal the word "Federation" is missing the "t" poor attention to details is letting Eaglemoss down. (NB: This is actually correct on the original filming model - Clive)

I love the design of the Akira Class much in line with the early NX Class (which it in fact inspired) no secondary engineering hull, but the Thunderchild is nevertheless one mean lean fighting machine! 

Effectively Eaglemoss confirm that the class are aircraft carriers with a fly-through hanger on deck 12 and space to fit 40 fighters as well as a number of shuttles.  That design makes it ideal for operating in some of the more inaccessible regions of space such as the notorious Badlands featured as the base of the Maquis. Did you also know that the Akira Class is fitted with enhanced weapons most notably a weapons pod on the aft dorsal sail housing a number of torpedo launchers? Thought not - and that's the big selling point if you were considering purchasing this new installment in the Collection.

Let's talk a bit more about the specs of the Thunderchild - the usual crew complement is 500 with a top speed of Warp 9.8 which makes her no slouch and equal in speed to some of the more noted ships in Starfleet. Indeed, that saucer is about the same size as a Galaxy Class primary hull! 

One difference is that with this model the name is not shown on the hull, only the registration number. I am gutted at this as I would, from a personal view, have liked to see USS Thunderchild somewhere on her.

The Thunderchild first appeared in First Contact and the battle for Sector 001 against the Borg which was soon followed by appearances in the Deep Space Nine novel The Fall of Terok Nor and a lot of blink-and-gone moments which you might have missed. Fortunately the accompanying magazine does offer some satisfying memory joggers.

In fact this magazine is a bit of a first. Up to this point each ship has in some way "headlined" or at least been a big feature in Star Trek - Borg Sphere, Defiant, the Bird-of-Prey - but this is the first "support ship" if you will. Never truly in the spotlight but glimpsed in the background as part of a fleet maneuver or being engulfed in a ball of Borg energy fire. How much can there be to write about a "lesser" starship? Enough for Issue 12 that's for sure. It's not necessarily about a special feature here either (as with Voyager's Aeroshuttle or saucer separation) but more about the creation and evolution of a ship which seems to be the backbone of the fleet to some extent. Eaglemoss have done a great job in unfolding the story of the class and have shown just the right amount of depth behind the design.

There are some sublime sketches and probably rarely seen images and CGI scattered liberally throughout the pages of the magazine which truly ensure this is the most informative piece about Thunderchild and it's siblings since we first saw her taking on that cube in First Contact.

What becomes apparent is that it's not just about slapping together an image in a computer and dropping it into a battle scene. The Akira Class was originally one of 12 concepts for First Contact and one of only four that were picked. The magazine takes us through not only the design and construction process but also exactly what the point of the class is as we've already noted above. Until this production we at SKoST didn't really have a great understanding of the ship but now it's battling to be among our all time favourites just because of its purpose.

She may not be the prettiest ship in the fleet but was designed as a true warship to face the threat of the Borg where Starfleet needed smaller, faster, heavily armed ships. Perhaps she's not as popular as an Enterprise or Voyager but definitely one I've proudly added to my fleet. It also means I've managed to make an important decision. For personal reasons and if I was going into battle I sure would want the Thunderchild at my side.

While we're at it let's also look ahead and for this I'll just pass over to +Clive Burrell ....

The next four issues are an interesting range covering The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The Jem'Hadar cruiser is a gem of a model which we are looking forward to seeing that one. It looks prepped for war if ever I saw a ship more ready - and it's pictured the right way up too (!) 

The arrival of issue 14's Galor Class means that you can recreate some of the Dominion War if you call on your Bird-of-Prey, USS Defiant, Romulan Warbird and cruiser from issue 13.  As a Deep Space Nine fan it's one to ensure is in the collection but she's not the big draw in the next few installments. That's left for issue 15.

For various reasons the one that we're REALLY looking forward to is the USS Equinox. First suggested way back in The Next Generation Technical Manual it's a classic and, with certain other things happening out in the real world, it seems like the perfect time for this vessel to arrive on the scene. The styling on the Equinox is perfection in my opinion - small, tight lines which make it look a bit like a compact Sovereign Class to some degree. As Voyager goes that show definitely got some of the best looking starships didn't it - Dauntless and Prometheus being the immediate ones that spring to mind and they'll be along soon enough.

Following on from that we have the Ferengi Marauder. Not especially a favourite and not that often seen but still, it's coming and I am intrigued to see whether the markout for the shuttle in the bottom of the hull will make it onto the model given recent variations in quality with the range. Indeed, those errors are a concern when it comes to the ones you wait for such as the Constitution refit back at issue 2 which had a shoddy mirror transfer on one side (and was one of the weakest models to date actually). 

Anyway, we'll hopefully keep you updated with anything new we discover. The next big question is will the USS Vengeance be the third special following the announcement that the JJ USS Enterprise is going to be Special Two...

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