Monday, 26 October 2015

The Good, the Borg and the Opinion: The Official Starships Collection Issues 58 and 59

I'm getting London bus syndrome this month.

Y'know you wait for one ship delivery and three turn up within the space of 24 hours. Saturday morning (and early, thanks Mr Postman) brought issues 58 and 59 plus the fifth special, the USS Kelvin and on Friday a total shock when after nearly two years of waiting, the issue nine (yes, honestly) USS Defiant arrived.

Atrociously this second wave edition did not have the decal correction on the port engine that I was expecting and is still wrong. Why they can get the errors on the USS Enterprise-D decals amended but not this is puzzling me - and if you have got one that has a corrected decal I have a thought that I've got a wave one version...

Right, to business. We'll leave the Kelvin for a separate review since it's the special which leaves me to introduce the second of our geometric ships and the by default the first Borg ship since issue ten; Unimatrix Zero's Tactical Borg Cube. First thing's first, this is 100% plastic so don't be expecting the armour to be a metal overskin. I suspect that would have driven the price up again and that extra £1 per issue is already getting flak.

What I can say is that the detail on this is stunning. Well, OK, on three sides it's stunning because as you look closer you realise that this is three panels duplicated to create the cube. The surface detail is very clear and even slightly weathered in metallic grey with the grey/blue patch-painted armour seemingly slipped over the top as a second coat to the deadly starship. The armour looks great saying that, receiving that two-tone paint scheme and clear plating lines across the board and making it look that bit better than the sphere.

Visually comparing it to the sphere, it does eclipse the earlier ship even though that one was one straight surface with varied detail and those green glowing Borg highlights dropped in for effect. Sadly the cube doesn't replicate this and while it does have some superb finishing work, it doesn't quite "come to life" as much as it's rounded counterpart although not to its detriment as the workmanship is certainly higher.

The stand too is a new design and rather than clipping onto the cube, your new Borg acquisition just sits on a little plinth - watch a few of these go sliding around (but being plastic there might not be too much damage) and there are four little raised pieces to help locate it centrally but there's not a lot of resistance.

This is particularly hard to review as a model since it's totally plastic and repeats in it's 3D format. On a good note the joins are near-perfect and the end result is great to look at if a little plain. It certainly eclipses that freebie light-up cube subscribers received. A couple of the projectile weapons are missing from the sides when you compare it to the magazine images but that doesn't take away from the product. Odd thing is that while it's not as plain as the Romulan Bird-of-Prey it's nowhere near as exciting, maybe due to that repetitiveness or maybe because it's not quite as classic. I know for the new, slightly increased price this might seem like an expensive model due to its lack of metal construction but I can understand that a lot of work will have gone into the process to create such a finely detailed ship surface.

This time's magazine runs through the events of the two-part Unimatrix Zero and Tactical Cube 138's only screen appearance (guess the story that's discussed in the Appearances section) which was key to some of the events plus there's some nice shots from the story plus the standard views which do highlight some small weapons position omissions from the model and also how well the surface detail has been reproduced. However, the main pull here is to read into the design process that took the regular cube into its more bad-ass state. 

Certainly a cube wasn't the only shape considered nor was just whacking on some armour so this does make for a good diversion as does the evolution of the Borg themselves which is also covered in this magazine. It does seem to focus on the inclusion of the Borg Queen for First Contact a bit more than I might have wanted but there's also information on how the race were "kept interesting" through the later years of Voyager which you may or may not have agreed with!

Moving swiftly on to issue 59 we have the, again, once-seen-in-Voyager USS Relativity. Immediately my mind screamed out that we haven't heard a glimmer about whether we'll see the USS Aeon which appeared in two episodes of season three but the later and larger Wells Class vessel clearly had priority.

Taken from the season five story, Relativity, the 29th Century ship is a marked departure from the standard saucer/hull/engines design of the 23rd and 24th Century Federation craft. It's also a bit of a departure for Eaglemoss with the ship sporting a rather fetching pearlescent paint job. Oooooh - sparkles.

Thing is, this ship has already raised a few grumbles from the collectors' community for a couple of inconsistencies so we'll come to those shortly but let's stay positive for the moment.

The Relativity is a very streamlined design with a very thin profile and does look really great when docked on the rear-grip stand. The colour scheme looks a little less purple than she did on screen but on the flipside the Eaglemoss team have managed to bring out some of the tones and hues that were not very evident in the episode. It also seems that there was more of a colour change from fore to aft than we get on the model but is shown in virtually every image. Probably a hard to reproduce technique for the cost and scale and I would imagine that getting the balance between CG model and actual onscreen appearance is, as usual, a pain to get right for everyone's approval.

Sadly there aren't any translucent sections either to make the temporal field generators or the temporal warp core stand out against the hull. That does seem a shame although I can tell that the intricate framework around the core would have been lost if that had been chosen instead. One missed point for a purple translucent section could have been that underside intake but again it's just painted in.  To the rear is the central temporal impeller which I guess is one big time turbine if you will and finishes off the unique design with a very different piece of technology. 

The big issue I have with the Relativity though is the total absence of any decals. According to the images in the magazine there should be two which run down the sides of the hull and bear the ship name and registry. Now I'm not convinced this is a production problem since we've seen some very, very small decals on Thunderchild and recently the Yeager. Seeing as these would be the 29th Century symbols it would have been great to have them on an unusual Federation ship and why we haven't is a bit of a mystery. If we take it in a slightly bigger context, this month's two ships actually have zero decals and zero translucent elements - probably a first.

Given that there's no images available of the underside of the Relativity and none I could see from a scan of the wonderful internet, I'll have to take the design we have here with a pinch of salt. The underbelly is a single piece of plastic locked into the top, metallic hull. It's a very good fit. As with the top the ship is pretty well streamlined and Eaglemoss have managed to pull some detail onto her with panel lines, windows and added sections of the temporal drive shown.

As a product the Relativity is nicely produced. There's no gaps, a crisp paint job, some nice texturing effects on the grey wings and some very well defined hull features such as the drive elements. Yet because of those missing decals it's a little subdued and certainly falls mid-range. A nice one to include but it does make this month's delivery 100% Voyager heavy.

The magazine addresses the fifth season episode as well as some of the key features of the Relativity which were shown on screen. Trouble here is that the CG work is markedly better than the model showing a lot more surface texture and variations. It just seems this is one of those that almost got there but didn't quite make the grade as expected. 

We also get a character overview on Captain Braxton who appeared (played by two different people) in Future's End and Relativity. There are no big reveals here since it's all direct episodic info that most fans will be at the least aware of. What I can't understand is why they didn't ditch the Braxton feature in favour of a longer section to discuss Voyager's best special effects. This is easily the best article of the month covering - briefly - everything from Timeless' crash-sequence to the Borg Queen and Species 8472. I know the Braxton piece keeps the magazine linked to the shop but the effects piece is a mere taster to something that a lot of readers would want to know more about - a second part in the future perhaps Eaglemoss?

As with the Tactical Cube the issue appearance page is dedicated to the lone episode in which the ship appeared; again no surprises and a shame that such a big chunk of magazine is taken up with repeating the same details of Relativity/Braxton's back story.

Next month (end of November) we have two issues that will keep a lot of people happy. A rare visit to The Original Series and a true classic with the Botany Bay (oh no...we have to get out of here...!) and the final entry for your First Contact fleet with the Norway Class USS Budapest.

Keep checking back as this week we'll also have the full review for the fifth special, the USS Kelvin from the 2009 reboot movie. Later in November you can also expect the full review of the Shuttle Pack.

What's your opinion on this time's starships? Hit or miss?

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