Friday, 28 November 2014

The Official Starships Collection: Issues 34 and 35: Logic and Honour

Bless you, Enterprise for I have praised your ships every single time but it couldn't last.

It's not the show's fault, it's not Eaglemoss' fault but the huge Vulcan Surak Class that looks gorgeous on the small screen is potentially the dullest entry into the series to date. The refit Enterprise might have had "one" or "two" faults but at least it was interesting to look at. Here we have a stick with a ring, end of.

To be fair to Doug Drexler it does homage one of the designs Matt Jeffries came up with for the USS Enterprise of The Original Series but in miniature it doesn't pack quite the same punch.So before I launch into a design tirrade let's be fair. There's not a lot Eaglemoss could do about the design and I would think the conversations might have gone along the lines of "Well that's going to be an easy one..." in direct comparison to any meetings about the complexity of the Narada.

So let's talk about the recreation work in the model. Well, it's pretty accurate but due to the scale it does suffer from being a solid slab of one colour only broken up slightly with the lights of the decks on the ring-to-stick connecting section. It certainly evokes the pure and simple nature of Vulcan logic in every surface and shadow - it does the job it was designed for and nothing more. But here in the collection that's not necessarily a good thing. Even the red plastic impulse engines are sadly swallowed up in the reddy hull and the shadows of the tapered tail. Hull detail on both the metal and plastic sections can't be faulted. Plating lines are clear, the exhaust from the warp ring is very evident but being so think it suffers from not having a clear blue section to emphasise the drive.

The stand clipping is, as with the Runabout and Hideki last month, very, very tight and attaches to the already super-thin warp ring. Just heed the advice and go gentle. Nor does my stand fit together flush, meaning that my Vulcan starship has a slight lean to the bow or stern depending on your preference.

I can't fault the Surak Class on detail and delivery nor can I knock Drexler for the thought behind the design but for a tenner in the UK it doesn't feel like you get a lot of starship for your money and I do know people who are actively avoiding this one. There's something lost in the translation from screen to 3D model here and no-one is really to blame. I suspect given a bigger canvas the engine detail, the internal lighting showing through the windows and the luminescence of the warp ring would all be more prominent but here it just doesn't work that well.

Saying that, Enterprise does deliver a whammy with the 22nd Century Bird-of-Prey. While the Surak Class retains that simple approach, the Klingon raider takes the totally opposite line which actually makes this pairing very effective for comparison of two of the franchise's key races. Openly armed to the teeth with wingtip cannons (not identical you'll note), nose cannons and a huge mega-cannon on the under-belly it's not likely this would be leading any carnival parades. Echoing the earlier design (but actually the successor) of The Search for Spock ship design that became a Star Trek classic it has been effectively de-evolved. 

Aside from the extensive arsenal the surface of the ship is covered with ducts and cabling demonstrating a more primitive design process but the hinge mechanism and impulse engine placement remains the same as it would in the later B'rel and  K'Vort Classes. One challenge with my model is that the warp engines on top of the impulse engine housing are wonky; noticably wonky and may get broken off and reset as might have happened with the equally wonky sensor pod on the Nebula Class earlier this year.

The metalwork is almost submersed in a shell of plastic, making up only the central body, wings and neck sections of the Bird-of-Prey with the tubing and engines all in the lighter material. Nicely though all the surfaces are well detailed with the underside weathered and exposing bare metal. Having this worn finish is a big winner here and something that I'd like to have seen on other models (refit Enterprise with battle damage?) and as with all Enterprise models, even the Surak Class it's the precision finish that really makes this an attractive offering. 

Placing it alongside the magazine images (not the best and quite few and far between) it's very screen accurate and while I'm not going to start counting hull plating lines it has everything you would expect to see. Placing her alongside the later Bird-of-Prey just shows how much of a homage the Enterprise design was in every facet and then makes you question why the 22nd Century version is smaller - but that's a lesser complaint as this is a great, faithful reproduction and one every Klingon fan should be snatching up in an instant. Indeed, this is the fourth starship of the Empire after the Bird-of-Prey from Issue Three, the K'Tinga from Issue Seven and the Vor'Cha from Issue 20 - has it really been so long since we had a Klingon ship? 

OK. So the models are fairly detailed, another solid duo from the Enterprise staple but for us info digesters the magazines offer some more insights into what I think is a series of Star Trek that the collection has really opened up and explored. Travel back a few years and Enterprise is the only show that never received a companion book let alone a tech manual (neither did Voyager although you can buy one from Rick Sternbach on eBay). With this collection a lot of data from the earlier shows has already been covered but with Enterprise it does feel like a breath of fresh air because it is unfamiliar.

Sadly both the Bird-of-Prey and the Surak Class start off with the tried and tested ship overviews which do act as episode appearance guides with fleeting insights to the nature of the ships "in universe". It also took me a moment to realise that the picture of the Vulcan starship created exclusively for the series and on page 4 and 5 is a rear facing view, not the standard head on shot. The episodic pictures used in the magazines aren't of the best quality which means that the CGI recreations done for the collection really stand out and in some cases with the Surak Class look better than the finished, underwhelming, model. A familiar tune with these intro sections is that they start off really positively, relating material about the ships, their design, configuration, power - and then spirals into key events from the show which in both cases here did help me remember what their relevance was since I've not watched an episode of Enterprise for some time. 

With the Surak Class starship I'm assuming it's supposed to be the red version but that looks about ten shades brighter in the magazine with most photos focusing on the browner coloured adaptation of the design. Even the three-view pages opt for the latter as their colour of choice. There's great detail on these images though if we put that colour variance aside and comparing them to the associated model shows that these have been carefully crafted. If only this precision and detail had made its way into some of the earlier editions!

Both ships magazines include that key reading section on their design and following these stories is fascinating reading especially when you understand the process behind the Vulcan ship's eventual form. Not to sound too harsh this month but the magazine for Issue 34 is probably a lot more exciting than the centrepiece starship and that's bonus pointed with the subsequent pages exploring the creation of the CGI model. This also goes some way to appeasing fans who had dropped onto the Facebook page sometime to discuss the variations in the size and colour of this ship and whether or not there were too distinct classes. Seems that was never the intention and Drexler's original, lower resolution creation was spruced up a few degrees for better close up work. Eaves design and drawings on the other hand aren't too dissimilar to that of one Pierre Drolet's work on a suggested design for the Bird-of-Prey in Star Trek Into Darkness. Not surprising considering he worked with Eaves on the fifth TV series.

Either to avoid duplicating material or simply because we can't get enough Klingon stuff, the Bird-of-Prey magazine does delve into the mysteries of the warrior race this time, diverting away from being a wholly Enterprise offering and touching on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine for its sources. Not a massively in-depth piece but one that might offer up some questions about the Klingons and their development which is nice to see. 

Rounding out both 34 and 35 are the standard key appearances and in the Bird-of-Prey magazine we do get a couple of shots of the next edition which will be the eagerly awaited Oberth Class. While the model shot does bear the legend of the USS Grissom the closeups below are marked up as Admiral Pressman's former ride the USS Pegasus from The Next Generation's final season. I did a bit of a head-scratch at this one but I would think we'll be more likely to see the Grissom and have a chunk of references to the Pegasus along with the Tsilkovsky among many others that appeared and were blown to bits.

That's another month down and along with the Oberth Class next month we'll be receiving yet another Enterprise addition with the release of the Andorian cruiser. If you want to catch a glimpse of these and some of the other models coming up including the Enterprise-B and the Klingon Raptor. Notably there's also a "Klingon Patrol Ship Vehicle and Magazine" slated for a June 2015 release. Now working out that that has to be the special from Into Darkness it would suggest UK subscribers could expect her arrival in February as the Vengeance is down for a March 2015 release (four month trail). Could she be turning up at the same time as your adapted Excelsior Class perhaps?

Just a thought to end on. 

You can find out more details on the Official Star Trek Starships Collection by clicking the link to the left and dropping over to the site now and even subscribe.

What did you make of these two new Enterprise model releases? Better or worse than you expected? Drop a comment below or join us over on our social media platforms!

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