Friday, 18 April 2014

Sails and Stars: The Official Starships Collection 18 & 19 (and some news)

Simply put, Eaglemoss, you've excelled yourselves.

I logged onto the Facebook page for the Collection earlier to see if subscribers had received their latest editions to find a load of comments about disappointment with the two new issues. Not a good sign and knowing they had arrived at home thanks to my Early Warning System (lunchtime call with the wife) it was a long wait until the end of the day.

Hometime and on opening the box I was not happy. I was VERY happy. 

The Bajoran Solar-Sailor and the USS Stargazer might not be two of the more in-demand models in the collection but I do think they are two of the best replicas to date. The Equinox and the Dauntless are personal favourites but the unusual Solar Sailor is probably the most unique design that will grace the series.

For once not saucers and engines, the Solar-Sailor from Explorers is definitely one of a kind, comprising a small crew compartment and five sizeable sails. Very light and a little tempramental on the stand, there isn't anything else coming that is as different as this two man sub-light craft.  It's those extremities which are the most fragile part here - as well they should be all considering and it seems some collectors are already experiencing challenges with it remaining in one piece. Coming in as both the tallest and widest of the regular issues, the sailor just looks stunning. The paint scheme isn't over technical, mainly being brown and a slightly lighter sandy brown but it's more about the shape of the ship and it's simple, stunning recreation for the Collection. 

There are a couple of conspicuous blobs of glue where the masts attach to the main body and some excess flash on the masts themselves but I can overlook those and just marvel in the delicate form on display. I never thought it would be one of the models I would be most pleased with and yet, shockingly, it is. None of the issues we've reported and discussed previously across 17 other issues are evident and Eaglemoss should be proud of themselves as we can't see anything amiss here (famous last words). Even +Hayley Atherton was pushed to find an error in the issue 18 release.

The magazine however then reveals that some of that detail you've been marvelling at just minutes before isn't that accurate - the curved window sections on the rear of the pod are missing and the detail on the top of the pod - is less than displayed in the view images. Overall though the pages are filled with some scant detail on the plot of Explorers and background on the Bajoran system. What is excellent news in issue 18 is the six page section dedicated to the design and development of the (from memory) first ship to be 100% CGI rendered and never created as a physical model. Jim Martin's sketches are wonderful and make this a great all round package - a winner in all areas this time which will reassure those who are forking out a subscription. Good choice by the publishers to dedicate a good chunk of the magazine to the creation of this one-off solar-sailor.

My only gripe with the magazine is that while Leeta's first appearance is noted in the trivia column, there's not a mention of the first spotting of Sisko's bad-ass goatee which also debuted here. Tut tut(!)

In the same delivery comes the Constellation Class USS Stargazer (shop release date 1st May 2014). Now we've all grumbled about the Starfleet vessels so far - wonky nacelles, poor colouring, bad build quality but here we've got a success to some degree.

There's a good feel to the 13.5cm long Stargazer which features a metal upper saucer section with plastic lower saucer, nacelles and support beams. The join between the two saucer halves isn't exactly invisible but it is surprisingly structurally sound. There is a bit of spring to the quad nacelles but the aztec paint job and hull detailing more than make up for that. There is however an unforgivable sin lurking on the underside of the saucer. 

Someone decided to put the registry decals the wrong way round but significantly it's, again, screen accurate as with the bizzare "Federaion" screen-accurate error (+JamesRye thanks for noting my error!) on the side of the USS Thunderchild. In fact I nearly used a picture of the bottom of the ship as the top because the script was the wrong way round. However, I have to say I have been corrected on this point thanks to +Nils W. The model is correct to the studio filmed Stargazer which has since been relabelled as the Valkyrie and can be seen here to compare. I bow to thee, Eaglemoss, good work. It does rile a percentage of fans but it gives the collection a nice little quirk and shows that a lot of research has been done. You're getting a replica of the item that was actually used in the show not just what you think it should look like. This of course means the magazine picture is incorrect....!!! While I'm at it, how come the registry numbers are also omitted from the ends of the nacelles in every image except the ones directly from The Battle?!

And there's something else. I wish I didn't have to point it out because this is a great piece of Star Trek shipping but my nacelles are wonky. Not by much nor would you spot it from directly above or below or from a distance but straight from the back they are off...slightly...and it will bug me. I can say that in comparison to the USS Equinox from issue 15 the joins on the nacelles are pretty well finished this time; no gaps. However, considering the cost, painting work and general result it's one of the good ones and maybe we are being over critical?

As with the Solar-Sailor this was a "one-off" (although it would turn up again as the Hathaway and the Victory in the second season) and as such the detail on the mould is great however the aztec colouring could have been carried on to the nacelles and some more painting detail should have been added for the impulse engines and on the supporting pylons. On the saucer the addition of the thruster markings and sensor arrays are superb so why were these other small points ignored? It's all there in the plan views but missing from the nice chunk of starship in the box. I don't want to say that this is acceptable but just stay mindful of the cost to produce these and the numbers required however Quality once again features in our reviews. Shame. Again.

The magazine follows the formula, the episode/history lesson first with a great CGI image of the featured vessel but this time covering the famous Picard Maneuver. We suspected that this would be the "special feature" with the Stargazer and there's not a shot of Patrick Stewart pulling his tunic down anywhere. The design and filming sections following the plan views offer some insights behind the camera but there are some errors (I believe) in the research especially in relation to the materials used for creating the Echo Papa robot from The Arsenal of Freedom. Plus there are a couple of typos which I didn't expect to see near-20 issues in.

Adding in pieces regarding the making of the show have made this series a great read although they are irritatingly short. Experienced fans will find a note or two here that are new and for new fans unearthing information on the early years of The Next Generation will hopefully want to seek out more after reading these excerpts.

Overall this has been a great month of releases from the Eaglemoss stable and I'm very happy with the results even though I have some grumbles. I wouldn't have picked them out as highlights nor are they on my essential hit list but I have to say they are among the best examples so far produced. No pressure then on the craft following in issues 20 and 21. None at all.

So far thought the series has glaringly omitted anything to do with The Original Series - not a single entry so far although there are three from the movies with the movie refit USS Enterprise, USS Excelsior and USS Reliant. There is of course more to mine from the likes of The Next Generation and all that came after but just one perhaps from the Kirk-era (and I'm not counting the JJ-verse here).

Also the magazine has now reached Japan where it will be released through Deagostini. The same gifts will be available but I'll be darned if I can translate the site.

Sadly this month there's no new shots of any of the upcoming starships beyond the Nebula Class or magazine covers after the Xindi insectoid ship. As more become available we will update. These will take us into June but there has been some interesting news via the Facebook page - it seems that there's a survey in progress.

Subscribers who have received two deliveries already have their USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D dedication plaque but there might be the opportunity to get yourselves a larger collection with Eaglemoss looking to find out how likely you would be to purchase similar items from the NX-01, USS Enterprise's NCC-1701 and A, B, C and E versions, USS Defiant, USS Voyager and the USS Prometheus (odd choice). Priced at £14.99 they're only just above cover price and below specials cost which could be a winner. I'd go for the Defiant.

Additionally the next question asks how likely you would be to purchase the existing Haynes Owners' Workshop Manuals for the USS Enterprise and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey with additional Star Trek Starships material as Project Manager Ben Robinson also worked on those publications. You can view our review of the latter on the link and we'd recommend purchasing - but what extra could there be to add into these great books?

Get your answers in now to have your say!

Next month we have two storming arrivals to slobber over - the Klingon Vor'Cha attack cruiser and the eagerly awaited USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E. The countdown starts here and let's include a couple of sneaky shots from of the new issues to just tempt you a bit more...

The Eaglemoss Official Starships Collection is available from newsagents priced £9.99 (UK) every fortnight. You can also subscribe by clicking on the link in the sidebar and head there now to secure your ships.

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