Saturday, 5 September 2015

Shoot the Runner: The Official Starships Collection Issues 54 and 55

OK. Let's deal with the fallout first.

For those people in the UK who subscribe, this week was somewhat trying as Saturday came and went, the Bank Holiday vanished, Tuesday and Wednesday fluttered by and then the Steamrunner Class issue 54 hit news shelves....without a single subscriber seeming to receive their ship.

So for a few days we subscribers were reliant on quality pics and the solid opinions taken by those who got it off the shelf. It just made us even hungrier to see her for ourselves because everyone was saying she was damn good. 

Apparently this delay was due to some stock issues (with issue 55 perhaps?) but they did start to ebb out over the weekend accompanied by a lovely flyer stating that the cover price of each issue is going up to £10.99 from issue 56. Happy days. I suppose it was inevitable but couple with the fact that the issues were late and you could drop into a newsagent for a copy from the 3rd September it will surely have left a few people a little disgruntled. I've also spotted the continued frustration that binders are in horrifically short supply. I'm starting to horde issues and I hope they turn up soon. Please!!!

Now as some of you who I regularly chat with across our media platforms will know, I'm a big fan of the Steamrunner, on occasion referring to her as the juggernaut of Starfleet. She's a truck, pure and simple. Thick hull, encased nacelles and shoulder-pads that would make an 80's pop video embarrassed. I love her which means that the gripes I have with this model really bug the s**t out of me.

OK. First off my stand is appalling. The clear plastic peg barely fits the base and since the morning of unboxing she's been wobbling like your auntie at her 50th birthday party. One minute fine and the next all over the floor with a little difficulty standing back up. The weight distribution is a little iffy with this being a rear grip on the nacelle pylons but where else you could have put it is a difficult question to answer. Secondly the underside of my primary hull (saucer/wedge shape bit) doesn't quite fit right. In fact when I opened the box I had to clip it into place and still there's a bit of a lip and a gap.

Ok, phew, that's out of my system so let's press on. I LOVE this ship. Marked out as the USS Appalachia from First ContactMike McLeod on Twitter was blown away by the "insane" level of detail on the ship and add to that the fact that for the first time ever the windows on the hull actually aligned with the recesses they were supposed to. Given the two issues I had with this model I got past caring about them as fast as it's taken you to read this paragraph. Seriously this is one mega model and if the Norway and next month's Sabre Class ships are anywhere near as good, the First Contact fleet could well be the pinnacle of the collection.

That level of hull detail is, as Mike so rightfully noted, absolutely insane. Not only are we getting perfect window alignment on the metal top of the primary hull but there's a subtle aztec pattern going on there plus a ton of lifeboat hatches and decals all spot on and just A-grade all the way. Even the tiny, tiny writing on the nacelles bearing the Federation name is letter perfect (looking at you Akira Class) and there's even small ship registry markings right at the tips of the engines. I just love the result here.

Given the scale we have translucent bussard collectors buried in the saucer plus blue clear venting on the nacelles themselves. This might have the most coloured plastic parts on it as the impulse engines are also in the same plastic as the collectors. To the rear of that saucer the two shuttlebays are clearly marked out - ok they're numbered and it's a grumble that the doors aren't etched out a bit better but I'd suspect that's a factor in the production process that couldn't be achieved. Mind, whoever is responsible for overseeing the decalling needs a medal because the precision here is quite exemplary, I'm most impressed with the lining around the pylons and just how straight an edge had been achieved. 

The only significant single piece of plastic is the primary hull underside and even that has sublime detail - the aztec pattern, the windows, the hatches with the only let down being that you can see the join line around the edge (sigh). The bottom of the tiny secondary hull is also plastic but you don't really notice until you spot the crease through the deflector dish but that doesn't ruin any of the effect. This is a total 100% must have for your collection and I expect this is going to be damn hard to find very soon.

Heck I could go on for hours about this ship because she is firmly one of my all-time favourites in the franchise and definitely one of the (I repeat) THE best examples of what this collection can and has produced in the last two years. So to the magazine. To be fair I've skimmed it because the ship is flipping awesome and I've spent too much time just drooling over those compact, heavy-set lines to really care.

I jest my friends; the magazine is a perfect companion to the Appalachia, explaining the design process in making her a more tactical ship than one built for exploration. A smaller size ship than something like the Enterprise-E, the class takes some leads from the Defiant and its trends are echoed across the First Contact fleet designed by Alex Jaeger. Comparing the ship to the plan views in the pages of issue 54, the two are virtually idential. There's a bit more lighting on the illustrations but overall, for once, the two marry up pretty well.

Indeed, Alex's design process for this notable class is detailed here with a lot of drawings I'd never glimpsed before today. None of the thought processes even compare to the final design I have to say because she really is one of a kind. Also there are some visions of ships that might have - but ultimately didn't - appear in First Contact. Now that's a real treat for fans as we don't tend to see a lot of this kind of stuff!

It seems that this is very much Alex Jaeger's issue as we get a superb analysis of how the Borg assimilation process was designed. If you think about it, we'd never actually seen someone being assimilated until First Contact. There were some slight hints and minor fiddlings when Picard was being converted in The Best of Both Worlds, Part II but aside from that we'd never seen anything with any real substance. I've come across some of this before in a few "Making of..." books from the '90's but this is certainly a good refresher with some top quality sketches to illustrate the possibilities of the process on screen.

Closing out is the Appearances page. Now, why oh why do NONE of the pictures on this page have a Steamrunner Class ship in them?! Most odd. I think that someone got confused with the one at the top which features the Borg Cube in destructo-mode. There's a Sabre Class there but that's next month...!

Righty; to issue 55 and the D'Kyr Type Vulcan ship from Enterprise. This is only our second Vulcan ship to date and I'm thinking that we're potentially only going to get one more in the form of the T'Plana-Hath from (nice link this) First Contact.

We do have some aztec-ing here with a two-tone dusty red/brown paint scheme. Luckily it's not the torrid muck brown of the Malon Freighter and is much more thinly painted allowing the detail of the scheme and the nuances of the hull much more chance to shine.

The thing is that this month the D'Kyr just gets eclipsed by the Steamrunner Class. Any other month and she would be a winner. I like the design, the smooth lines, the minor window detailing here but she pales in comparison to the accompanying Federation ship.

The hull does have some class touches here with different levels of plating, that distinct curved aft section and the vertical warp ring. Sadly it doesn't fold flat nor do we have any translucent sections to reflect the purple hue of the engines online however the replica of the CG ship is still first class. I'm no Vulcan fan and wasn't blown away by the Surok Class some time back but here I think the scale has worked in Eaglemoss' favour allowing a much better and tighter model to be produced. One thing that was avoided probably due to their size was making the impulse engines translucent but given how big they are on the ship I can guess why they didn't.

Here we can really get to see what the surface of the ship is like and even get a glimpse (if somewhat basic) at the unusual centrally-docked support craft within that warp ring. She's also a lot lighter than the chunky Steamrunner and one with a higher percentage from plastic than metal. Only the upper hull is in the harder material with the whole of the rest of the ship (including the ring) made from plastic. It works well with the seam traversing the centre of the upper and lower sections avoiding a lip and almost fading into the lines of the ship. Comparing stand fittings, she's very firmly in place, gripped on the warp ring and the base fits perfectly with the clip stand. No issues to report ladies and gents - in fact it's the same fit style as the Surok Class.

While she is a good and well built model, the D'Kyr just doesn't inspire me as some of the other ships have. Quality-wise she's great and there's no bends or wobbly bits I need to glue or be careful not to wiggle. I can see she's much more of a "completist" ship than an essential however lovely. I just don't know of a lot of people who will be relishing the chance to get hold of this one after some of the other more significant alien craft to say the least.

Issue 55's magazine supplement covers the usual basics with a nice rear shot of the D'Kyr type so we don't get a repeat cut and paste of the front cover which has been appearing a few times recently. Covering the class appearances during the prequel series with the usual assortment of screencaps fills out the profile section easily. The plan views match up very well, again, with the model but I will continue to champion the need for more labelling. Between three angles there are just seven (SEVEN!!!) points noted and one of those is "Main Bridge" twice. Poor, poor, poor.

John Eaves' work gets the focus this time in the always impressive design section of the magazine as usual detailing the origins of the ship which in this case aren't totally straight forward and owes a little something to the US Navy. There's a good bit of time devoted to the support craft too and this does make up for the fact we never really got to see her in any detail during the series. She'll go don as another of those "captain's yacht" concepts I suspect!

A real gem of the issue is the piece tackling the reformation of the Vulcans within the Enterprise story. The race are incredibly different to the people we know from The Original Series and the subsequent series of the '80's and '90's which made for some great viewing. I'm giving this bit of the mag a real thumbs up and I hope they do more deep-dives into cultures particularly from the prequel show as the series moves forward. At the very least Eaglemoss have managed to keep this issue 100% relevant to the ship and its builders rather than venturing into offshoots as has happened a couple of times.

The onscreen appearances do look, as you would expect, to Enterprise and round out a good solid and informative issue. September has brought two very good, well-sourced and well-produced ships and magazines. I honestly can't complain and if I've missed a typo somewhere what the heck; it doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things. I'm sure that while there have been some unexplained (!) delays to the latest two issues no-one can be put out by what they have received. Top grade, Eaglemoss and well done on a superb month's work. No pressure then for next month's Sabre Class (at a slightly higher price) I'm sure....

What did you think to issues 54 and 55? Were you as impressed as I was? Comment below or chat on one of our media platforms!

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