Thursday, 10 July 2014

From Start to Finish: Official Starships Collection Issues 24 and 25: Xindi Insectoid Ship and USS Prometheus

A different slant to this month.

For a start it's Saturday morning as I'm writing this and occasionally the month's releases are dropped off by the postal service ahead of the shelf release on the following Thursday so why not have a quick forward think before they (might) arrive?

We got a preview of the two latest releases this week on and we've seen the ships ever so briefly in the recent Behind the Scenes video we discussed but aside from that and the usual slot on Entertainment Earth, these two have been kept fairly secret.

Going on the sole Enterprise release thus far, the NX-01, I'm expecting the Xindi vessel to be particularly impressive. It was a later CGI creation from the final televised show and should reflect the later advances in computer construction. I love the design of this craft - it's different, quirky and betrays a very different approach to design than anything so far in the series.

The USS Prometheus on the other hand is likely to be one of the more fiercely debated releases. A massive fan favourite since it's appearance in Voyager's Message in a Bottle, the prototype starship has to be a winner due to it's prominence and unique features. Taking a look at the early shots on you can see the good level of detail but I hold out until I've got the ship in hand. Notably it doesn't look that big which does concern me but again, might look totally different in reality.

And on the following Wednesday they arrived...

Let's tackle issue 24 and the larger of the two ships first. The Xindi Insectoid ship comes in one of the biggest boxes to date alongside the Bajoran solar sailor. I was gutted to find mine arrived in two sections but a blob of glue easily solved that and you'd never tell it came in a less than totally assembled form. As we saw in that behind the scenes video, this one is BIG and it does benefit greatly from having a larger surface area to play with which has a great deal of lined hull detail marked out but that's just the start.

There's some weight behind this triple-pronged warship which is, unbelievably, only the second full release from Enterprise and every bit as detailed as the first. The NX-01 from issue 5 is one of the best and this new starship is raising the bar on the level of detail found on alien craft. I may go as far as saying that it's in my top three.

Designed with a crab-like structure in mind, there's no official up or down with the Insectoid vessel which is emphasised by its near multiple lines of symmetry also meaning it was viewed in just about every angle possible during flight.  She does benefit from being one of the later craft committed to screen and thus more advanced CGI development which is displayed here in the Eaglemoss miniature. 

The hull itself is deep grey in colour,  the surface is punctuated with clear blue engine segments and lighter grey and blue panels with an overall deadly and striking appearance from bow to stern. There are minimal clear segments, only in the nose pieces and a touch on the arms. She is reassuringly solid and one of the less bendy products which always eases your tensions when first dropping them onto the display stand. Even more satisfying is the fact she sits well on the stand which attaches to the rear of the hull and lower two fins. 

Remember though there's no fixed up or down here and even in the magazine the vessel is shown sitting in in a variety of angles.The rear of the Insectoid craft is marvellously detailed with a lot of intricate angles and appendages which all fit closely together and mirror the CGI images in the accompanying literature perfectly. 

I love all the curves, line and edges here from both John Eaves design and Pierre Drolet's CGI model which was a slight evolution from what was signed off. I'd recommend dropping by Pierre's site to check out the "real"  article alongside his rendering of the NX-01 and Borg cube among other Star Trek and sci-fi creations. 

Sticking with the Xindi though and although not a big fan of that adversary or the show,  I'm mightily impressed with the result from Eaglemoss and look forward to issue 26 which will feature their third Enterprise release,  the 22nd Century Tholian warship. I already have high expectations for this one.

I'm also going to stop second guessing what will be in the magazines from this month on. I anticipated pages of Xindi general background but instead the content is more refreshingly focused on the Insectoid sub-species. My relatively inferior knowledge of Enterprise meant this was a good,  concise reminder and a kick to rewatch those later years at the very least. 

The monthly ritual of giving the in-universe blurb and exclusive artwork might not lead into aspects of filming since this ship was only ever real on a computer screen but instead covers the story of its digital evolution and also the origins of the Insectoids and how they were brought to the show. A lot is given over to the episode Hatchery which focused on both the race and the ship but as I've not watched it for some time I didn't mind - it's one of the best canon sources for the Xindi. One issue with this issue(!) is the lack of labelling on the plan views of the vessel. I'd suggest this is an oversight but for casual fans they may be wondering where all the advanced engine tech is housed or the weapons ports are fixed.

Moving on, issue 25 is one of those big payouts; USS Prometheus. Easily winning award for biggest gimmick in Star Trek history with the fantastical multi-vector assault mode,  it's sure to be out of stock for some time. 

The Facebook page reviews of both the Xindi and Starfleet vessels have been high on praise and it's well founded. We've already said that the Insectoid vessel was a winner and this prototype is also superb. I was concerned that after seeing the shots in promo photos and on the behind the scenes video that this would be small and far from up to standard. As you can see this was totally unfounded. 

The upper primary hull is metal while the rest is in plastic. With the nacelles being shorter than other Starfleet ships in the series they are less pliable and for once they are all evenly spaced and we'll constructed. Every issue is getting better and better but here we have one of those ships that really got the fans talking. Aside from Voyager this was the first time we'd seen another Federation starship and was our first glimpse back into the Alpha Quadrant proper. 

The design and features blew up away and while we can't separate this model into its three distinct sections without hefting her out of a first storey window, the result will satisfy any collector or casual fan of the show. Don't be worried about there being any possibility of the Prometheus doing a midnight swan dive as the stand is a mid-body fit and snug enough that she won't be going anywhere.

Hull detail is spot on with all windows, hatches, shuttle bay and phaser strips in their right place. In fact there are a lot of windows marked out on both hulls. If we look back at previous models there has been a bit of a disconnect between the detail on plastic and metal but again, over time, this seems to have been addressed and here the whole ship comes together as one piece rather than the metal being a higher quality finish as with the movie refit USS Enterprise for one.

The only grumble might be in the lack of detail on the underside of the primary hull but then this will be a CGI accurate recreation so I'll pass over that pretty quickly. As with the Insectoid ship, the marked out hull plating is excellent and looks superior to the images in the magazine - and that has to be a first. 

The hull detail including the "docked" nacelle atop the primary hull, is exceptional and definitely rivals Eaglemoss' best work from the preceding issues. The joint lines are clean between metal and plastic, everything is properly sealed together which  should negate any negative reactions from fans.  I suspect Eaglemoss are always a little cautious when the big name ships are released -  any of the Enterprise variants or the Thunderchild for instance - but with the USS Prometheus they have created one that will be sought after. I might even suggest a three-piece special would be a winner for the future but for now this is just awesome and I can't enforce how important it is that you go and buy this one when it hits shelves in a couple of weeks. To check the UK release dates, drop by our post here.

Ok - so to wrap up let's skip through the magazine for regular issue 25. It's great - again. There's lots of pics of the ship separated both from Message in a Bottle and newly created for the collection. Bot only that but there's also Rick Sternbach's detailed drawings of the three components and the fully assembled ship which were used to create the CGI model. 

The background on the Prometheus is a bit limited to it's one major appearance (yes, I know it was in Endgame) but that hasn't stopped Eaglemoss before with ships such as Dauntless or the Bajoran Solar Sailor, nor has it here. The special feature is, as you would expect, the multi-vector assault mode (titled as Ship Separation) which also briefly covers some of the internal features we didn't get to see on screen but were indicated by designer Sternbach. In fact those design details take over six pages of the slim magazine but they are worth it. 

Rick Sternbach's work is stunningly drawn, revealing the way in which the prototype was intended to be five composite sections and accompanied by the thought processes of how the Prometheus was just about the most advanced and experimental ship we ever got to see. In a way it's a clever thing we have with this month's releases since one is almost from the earliest era we saw on TV and the second from one of the latest. 

While it's not the magazine we buy this for, it is well worth the read and to collect just for the always mesmerising design-and-build sections. Subscribers have already made it clear that this is one of the must-haves of the collection - definitely make it one of yours.

Another brilliant month's worth of additions to the range and so many more to come. With Issue 26 we'll also be exactly ONE YEAR into the collection - hasn't time flown ladies and gents....???

Next month we'll be seeing two Enterprise releases with the Tholian webspinner and the Romulan Bird-of-Prey.

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