Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Make Or Break? Eaglemoss Official Starships Collection Issues 20 and 21

Note to readers: I'm dropping this line onto the blog with the full intention of reviewing both the Klingon Vor'Cha Attack Cruiser and the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E however...

Somewhere between Eaglemoss and SKoST Towers the delivery has vanished. It was due on Wednesday 14th May and now it's Friday 16th May.  The team over at the STSS page have assured me that it is on it's way. Fingers crossed, hey?


Incredibly just before heading out for a bit of shopping with the family what should turn up this morning (Saturday 17th May)? Yep, one Eaglemoss-sized box containing the very two ships released this month. Opinions on the whole, according to the Facebook page, seem to be praising this month's ships but we're always skeptical until that box gets opened and the craft are on their stands. So what can we say about the Klingon attack cruiser and the Federation's flagship?

The Vor'Cha cruiser first hit screens back in 1991 in the episode Reunion, carrying the dying Chancellor K'mpec to begin the process of succession. As with the USS Enterprise special recently, my last experience with this ship was in  model kit form but this time more expertly constructed by my dad back in the 1990's. I recall the colour being a lot lighter green than we see here but this is direct from the CBS archives - the paint job is officially what we saw on the screen. 

For once, the third Klingon ship to feature in the collection seems to have more metal than plastic in its build. The weapons platform, flying bridge and nacelles are in plastic with a fair portion of the ship cold to touch. Good call, Eaglemoss - and it really does matter when you examine the upper hull detail. The main body even appears to have some weathering applied giving it a dirtier look than we have been used to before. Another tick on this one is the point that there aren't any horrible join lines. Everything fits together well. Not a first but after off-centre nacelles, badly-fitting pylons and all the other errors, it's good to have a model solidly made. On the point of nacelles, the warp radiator grilles and collectors are formed in red clear plastic as are the well fitted impulse engines on the rear. To back that point the three Klingon ships in the series have all been built exceptionally well (the other two being issue three's Bird-of-Prey and issue seven's K'T'inga). Additional plus points for the Vor-Cha being that it's one of the less flexible ships we've seen. I don't recommend dropping it out of a third storey window to test this but it's not as fragile as the nacelles on the Equinox or the whole of the Solar Sailor.

Even the underside detail is great and comparing the whole thing to the plan views in the magazine show how close the two are this time. Aside from some minute browner-coloured panelling the two are indistinguishable. Comparing the detail across to the older AMT kit, I'm hard-pushed to find anything out of the ordinary or any discernable mistakes; this really is a great finished Klingon Vor'Cha Attack Cruiser. Ok. There is one thing that makes me wince here (you'd be disappointed if there wasn't) - the stand is one heck of a tight fit, squeezing in under the weapons pod and the underside of the hull. I was worried that I'd be popping the pod off as I positioned the ship - anyone out there broken it yet?

Evolutionary Tales

Opening up Issue 20 there's a potted history of the cruiser class which also confirms that the first ones we saw in The Next Generation were a lighter green (nice one Dad).  The later versions did have the same paint job as the model accompanying this magazine. The following section deals with the evolution of the Klingons rather than focusing on the ship (something I guess we'll see more often going forward), examining the reinvention of the warrior race from The Motion Picture onwards. Significantly this highlights just how much influence Ronald D Moore had in their backstory from the third season of The Next Generation onwards. Shamefully though their continued cultural evolution in Deep Space Nine is conspicuous through its absence. However, it did help jog my memory on some events from the past which will come in handy for our review of The Klingon Art of War which I'm reading at the moment!

As we've said before the highlights in here tend to be the design and filming sections and Issue 20 doesn't disappoint. Featuring some stunning sketches from the library of Rick Sternbach you get a true sense of the evolution of the Vor'Cha Class from it's origins within the shape of the D-7 of The Original Series and the K'T'inga Class which first appeared in the movies. Only criticism we could point at the magazine content was the lack of any new images beyond the CGI recreation of the Vor'Cha on pages four and five. Other than that, a totally flawless package and one of the best yet without a doubt.

Golden Sovereign?

Issue 21 however is the hot coal of the collection. It's been 17 regular issues since we were rewarded with an Enterprise and the arrival of the "E" marks the fourth in the collection as a whole after NCC-1701-D, the movie refit, NX-01 and the alternative timeline special edition (fifth if we're counting the All Good Things... subscribers model). Over on the Facebook page opinion has certainly been polar on this ship - is it really the make or break model for the series? What's the consequences if it isn't up to standard?

On arrival this was the first one to be unboxed and placed on its stand. Initially it looks stunning but after a few seconds something else seems to drift in - dismay. Considering the amount of hull detail that is present here, this really could have done with being made into a larger special edition. The surface is litterally crammed with lifeboat hatches, captain's yacht, light and dark panelling, phaser strips, registry... the list goes on. Just bumping down the scale a bit would have made this even more impressive.

As it goes, the result is very, very good - the top section of the saucer is forged from metal while the secondary hull and nacelles (a pattern consistent in the collection) are plastic moulded. Compared to the plan views there's a good deal of accuracy - until you flip her over.

Whether this is a one off error or not but I have misaligned decals on the lower hull and the saucer registry does seem a bit blurred (or I've been on that green stuff of Scotty's) and your heart does sink - so close to perfection but once more let down by some minor details at the last post. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy with the ship and think this will reassure a lot of fans but the consistency and quality time and time again seem to ebb and flow from collector to collector and from model to model.

Importantly here the detail isn't limited to the main body of the ship with the specialist paint job making its way all along the nacelles and their sleek, sweeping pylons. I suspect that having a physical model for reference would have been a great help here - in fact as the magazine reveals, this was the last of the great Star Trek Enterprise models built (for First Contact) before everything went CGI. 

Strangely she does feel a bit stumpy having no neck section between the two hulls and without all those blue and red hues it's one ship that does seem a little, erm, dull in the flesh (or plastic/metal). That's nothing against the publishers and model makers, more a nod that the power of technology in the movie world can do some great things.

The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E has gone some way to repairing the disappointment from earlier editions - there's no massive open gaps, ill-fitting pylons, wonky nacelles or "screen correct" errors to fuel discussion for once. It's a good solid result that reassures me the collection is being handled well and fan reaction is being listened to. Yes, this could have been a disaster but for those who aren't subscribing and are waiting for it to hit the shelves, you'll be happy with the result. Even the decals on the side are the right way up and the right way round.

You Say Narada...

Flipping through the magazine I was, inevitably drawn towards the filming section. I'm gradually discovering that my knowledge of starships in the last 14 years has been a bit lax and the details regarding the adjustments and modifications to the Enterprise-E between films were genuinely interesting to read (as I'd found with the JJ-Enterprise special). Unlike the previous Vor-Cha issue there are a good number of pics that were unfamiliar  to me alongside the usual fodder of Enterprise versus Borg cube, Enterprise versus Schimitar and the like. For note there is one cock-up referring to the Narada as the ship Troi rammed which does niggle seeing as it's correctly referenced just a page back. 

I'm now finding that I end up skim-reading the first couple of pages as when they focus on the more popular ships it does tend to be a plot summary (as here) of its appearances on screen which won't be new ground to existing fans. The designing and filming sections are excellent once more. The stretching of the Galaxy Class lines to form the basis of the Sovereign Class is fully explained while we also get to see some bits that never made it on screen. I do think that the double page on internal layout could have been better utilised. 

While LCARS images are always welcome, why not look at the features John Eaves never managed to update for the "lost" fifth film but get hinted at almost on the final page. Could we even have had a section devoted to the extra craft the Enterprise-E carried such as the yacht, the Argo or the shuttle that we saw in the latter two The Next Generation movies? 

One thing that does manage to get avoided is the manual helm control used in Insurrection. Just that omission ensures that Issue 21 is a winner in my eyes. The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E might not have received anything like the screen time of some of its illustrious predecessors but fans can be reassured that the production here has done her proud. Surely this must be one of the best month's to date for the series and long may this trend continue. 

Perhaps with recent announcements as well as the ever-increasing number of markets our opening statement is extreme - success has certainly flowered with the collection and I would suggest that a run of 70 issues is now more pessimistic than optimistic.

Eaglemoss Updated

We're still waiting for the official update on 41 - 50 but we have now seen a better image of the Krenim Temporal Weapon magazine cover and an in-focus still of the Nebula Class starship from issues 22 and 23 due for UK release in June. Aside from that it's been very, very quiet from the publishers. However, we would like to offer them a few questions for their Facebook page...

  1. What was the first starship named after a fictional Star Trek character? USS Gorkon
  2. Where is Admiral Kirk's shuttlepod granted permission to dock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Portside Torpedo Bay
  3. Two starship classes are involved in the rescue of the USS Prometheus in Message in a Bottle - what are they? Akira and Defiant
  4. An Intrepid Class starship has only been named onscreen twice - once is, of course, USS Voyager; but what was the other? USS Bellepheron
  5. Which Galaxy Class starship was dispatched to assist Deep Space Nine during The Way of the Warrior? USS Venture
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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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