Sunday, 22 November 2015

A True Classic Returns: The Official Starships Collection Issues 60 and 61

It's only the third ship we've seen from The Original Series but without question the SS Botany Bay is going to please a lot of fans.

Marking 60 issues of the series, the aging DY-100 freighter "lost in space from the year 1996" is perhaps as legendary as the original USS Enterprise of the Kirk era. One of the few starships built for the '60's show, it marked the arrival of one of Star Trek's greatest villains, Khan Noonien Singh (and not that one from Into Darkness).

So in my mind the image I had of this one was a plain, grey design with minimal detail as per the ship we saw (or think we saw) in Space Seed. Now fortunately the Eaglemoss team have avoided pimping her out to the level that we saw in the remastered episodes from a few years ago so there aren't any multiple panelling tones, a tanning of the hull or an excess of fiddly details. What we have here is a close reproduction of the original in all it's grey glory.

The length of the hull (to the top of the rear fins) as well as the top of the cargo pods is rendered in metal while the pods and the rear stabilisers are in the less weighty plastic. The basic colour is that one-tone grey with some of the upper hull panels highlighted in a darker grey but that's as far as colouring goes and it's a massive contrast against the Norway Class we'll come to shortly. Aside from the colouring the only other detailing that does exist on the Botany Bay is the name tag just beneath the submarine-esque conning tower.

The underside is particularly sparce on detail; no darker greys, no marking, no, well, anything to be fair. It's probably the easiest "bottom" review of all time (please no jokes) but that's not the real winner here. The overall weathering effect is exemplary, more-so coming so close to the equally well-weathered USS Kelvin special. The effect of nearly three centuries of space dust and debris has been well captured on the model on every surface and makes up for that spartan undercarriage very easily. 

One thing I was disappointed about on my model which might not be on all those produced was the fitting of the pods to their metallic lid piece. There's a bit of a gap between the two sections which is noticeable as is the space between the tail-fin section and its metallic top section. That's also the point where the stand clips in and it's very sturdy considering it's rear-clipping position that slides around three little raised hull blips. Nice fit, good position and well held so no worries of collision with this one.

What I do suspect is that there could be a second version of this one made in the future (Ben Robinson, take note) to replicate the remastered version which is featured equally as prominently in the magazine. The colour scheme and detailing is different enough that I think fans would jump to have a second freighter highlighting the change in technology between the model and the CG. 

The magazine is pretty good too. Acting as a companion more to the Khan story than the ship itself we do have the usual opening section exploring ship features, the story of the Botany Bay and Space Seed itself before launching into an excellent design section and then finally the evolution of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the origins of the landmark movie. One note I do have is that the plan views included here seem to be a mash-up of the CG and original versions of the Botany Bay so we have a brown colouring with minimal detailing - I think it would have been better to keep the images aligned with the model rather than the wonders of 21st Century computer tech. Also, the choice of the image for the back cover is lacking this time. Better to have picked a top view?

Our next ship from The Original Series will be the Antares and to date these original ships are turning out to be a revelation. The USS Enterprise was more hit than miss but still looks damn fine. The Bird-of-Prey was amazing and this third arrival has firmed up my belief that these are just as exciting to receive as the ships from Enterprise. Just an FYI to all collectors if you've not already looked, the ISS Enterprise from Mirror, Mirror is now in the Eaglemoss shop. Priced £9.99 just be aware that the addition of postage will bump it up to at least £12.94 if you don't select same day dispatch.

OK so onto the last of the First Contact Alex Yaeger-designed ships, the Norway Class USS Budapest. As fans will know it's the only one of the four designs from the movie that doesn't appear anywhere else because the CG model was corrupted at sometime after production. As things go this makes the ship a real Star Trek rarity due to its lone appearance but that hasn't meant any less attention to detail on the 61st model in the series.

For note the model of the Botany Bay actually appeared more times on screen (as the Woden in The Ultimate Computer) but that was reused footage so they both only made one proper turn on the screen. I wasn't looking forward to the Norway Class that much and I recall that Ben Robinson said this was his least favourite of the four and I can't see why because it's potentially the most impressive of them all.

As surface detail goes it's almost on overload. Every inch of the surface has something to look at, to examine and to take in and we mean every single inch. The metal versus plastic unity means only the engines and underside of the saucer/wedge are in the lighter material but the two work really well here and are fitted very snuggly. The wedge top could do with a little more definition around the escape pods and the Voyager-esque recess at the front but it does carry the hull panel lining and some well-defined windows. My only other dislike is the lack of detail on the (tiny) deflector dish buried in the centre of the primary hull. 

That very hull also bears a two-tone scheme of grey and a green/grey/yellow in certain parts. We do have the thrusters and the phaser banks clearly marked and at the centre, protected by the "claws" of the engineering hull, the tiny bridge module. I almost overlooked it on first glance because it's so well hidden but look even more closely and you'll spot that the windows of the observation lounge have been painted in.

There's also two impulse engines to the rear of the wedge, painted rather than translucent however but the real top detail here is on the underside of that primary hull. With an interesting concave curve, two hidden shuttle-bays and a surface which reveals a lot of hidden intricacies on the medium cruiser. 

I've said a few times that this underside detail has been neglected and that there are only a few where it's truly on par but here it's the best bit of the whole ship and wonderfully recreated. The markings on that underside are crisp, well defined and give it a very unique finish that I've not seen on any other Starfleet ship.

Edging out the primary hull through to the raised engineering section and onto the pylons we have some red Starfleet pennants and trimming that extends out onto the pylons and onto the twin warp engines tipped with translucent bussard collectors. Two engines that are precisely parallel and well built I might care to add. Good to see these have been applied straight and true and there's no horrific bubbling or even a slight kink to raise a Vulcan eyebrow in dismay. 

But if you want to have a grumble it has to be the delta symbols on the engines. Take a closer look, compare them to the plan views and you'll spot that two of them are mirrored. Now the plan view has them all the "standard" way if viewed from above or below but if you think about other ships they do point to the front with the thinner leg of the delta to the outer edge. Which is right? I'd say the ship.

That engineering section is small and does lose some panelling definition for the sake of window markings which is a little disappointing given that the rest of the hull maintained the structure lines. I can see that it would have been horribly cluttered with the red trimming as well as those windows so it was probably a good call to make.

Truth be told there's quite a bit of decalling right across the already packed hull surface here whether it's ship registry or just hull marking,  it must have been one of the more difficult to implement in the factory. Just note too that there's no ship registry on the top of the wedge. The only identification of it being the Budapest comes from the dual names and numbers on the pylons, the two names on the underside of the hull and the large registry which sits, unusually, within a darker arc of hull plating to the front of the ship. 

Comparing to the plan views the ship is damn close on accuracy with even the port and starboard red/green lights marked out. There are some minor markings on the warp engines missing but they're so insignificant to the overall effect it's barely worth a mention.

Stand positioning is again to the rear and very stable since the clip rests around the metal pylons for the warp engines so no issue of them bending after a few years on display. Actually it's very sturdy indeed given that the warp engines project back and sideways on two struts that sprout away from the main hull. 

The magazine offers zero surprises in the way of the ship overview and can only ever regurgitate the story of First Contact and some of the details already noted with the other three ships established in that movie. Keeping with that theme the magazine dives into eight pages of costuming which seems very relevant given a recent Titan Books release and it means that First Contact is probably the most detailed live production the collection has covered in 61 issues. Not just by magazine pages either, I think it may be the single production which has provided the most models too. Those pages on the costuming are OK but the book does it at a much higher level of detail.

So bye bye November and two A grade entries. To be fair I wasn't excited by the news of the Norway Class because I already had Steamrunner which is in my top three of all time for starship design. However I've been very pleasantly surprised by the result, perhaps a bit more due to the fact it was seen only once due to a corrupt computer file.

So what's up next? Well for December we'll be seeing the Voth Research Vessel from Voyager's Distant Origin and then back to The Original Series and a ship that may well be unique in the collection as it first properly appeared in The Animated Series and then returned in the remastered Charlie X, the Antares. Given how great those older ships are looking it's definitely the one I'm most interested to see in a month's time.

A good month for the Starships Collection? What do you think?

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