Friday, 18 March 2016

Two Sides of the Fight: The Official Starships Collection Issues 68 and 69

I really, really, really wanted to like the Federation fighter with issue 68 but for some reason I'm not getting as excited as I thought I might be.

One of, if not the smallest Federation ship to be included in the series alongside the two man shuttles, the attack fighter is a charming little craft notable for its fleeting - and speedy - appearances in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine either in the hands of the Maquis or fighting against the Dominion.   

Coated in familiar Federation grey, the fighter is about 70% metal with only the underbelly and the lower sections of the impulse engines made from plastic. What makes this even more noticeable is because the plastic areas are not weathered with a sort of irregular rust/damage effect that's splattered across the surface. That's a cool touch and one we don't see too often. 

Here it helps to age the vessel and suggest this is 'likely' to be a version servicing the Maquis cause. That surface detail extends into the panelling at every point on the craft from nose to the tips of the impulse engines. Just a shame that they aren't made from translucent plastic which would have topped it off. Nor are the warp engines that visible here with only minimal blue edging to indicate their location on the upper and lower hull.   

The actual shape of the Federation attack fighter is particularly gorgeous with a sweeping curve most evident when viewed from dead front and centre. That curve is absolutely perfect and with the choice to mould the wings in metal, it's damn strong. The choice of mounting the fighter using the gap between the hull and the engines as the balance point is particularly inspired and works to offer a more "suspended" impression of the tiny two-man craft.

While the fighter is impeccably finished, cleanly painted and with one or two highlighted sections on its top section including the blacked out cockpit window I still can't get super excited about it. Why? 

Because it just doesn't carry that "wow" factor that so many of the absolute best in this collection have presented. The rough paint finish is nice, the build itself is perfect but as a design it doesn't ignite my starships passion that the NX-01 did or the Fortunate managed with its modular structure. It is, quite simply...simple. A bit plain but that's not to say it's a poor model because as always Eaglemoss has recreated the original as much as they can given technology and the budget constraints imposed by an £10.99 cover price.

The magazine intro does focus more on the use of the fighter by the Maquis in Pre-Emptive Strike and The Maquis two-parter with some references towards the end of their use during the Dominion War and most prominently during the battle to retake Deep Space Nine. We do get a "designing" section albeit a two page skant overview of the process before this time looking at the behind the scenes work completed by Digital Muse during the sixth season especially for the monumental battle in Sacrifice of Angels. For anyone with the companion doe Deep Space Nine the info will not be new but it's a relevant addition to the appearance of the fighter.

Issue 69 next and the eye-catching Breen warship that entered the Star Trek world during the final ten-part arc in Deep Space Nine's closing season. You'll be hard pressed to find another craft as weirdly designed and asymmetrical as the warship and I've been expecting this to turn up for a fairly long time. I can understand why it's taken a while to get to this ship with so many other notables to include early on so its arrival was highly anticipated. Honestly, this might be another reason why I wasn't too fussed with the Federation fighter.   

With a solid metal arc holding the elements of the warship together just the design and work that has gone into making this impresses me. I believe this is the first time such a ship has been realised in miniature and Eaglemoss should be congratulated for the result. Even on this scale the model carries off the crazy, seemingly random design of the ship in what appears to be a collection of very, very bright colours. Certainly it contrasts well against the bland grey of the Federation fighter but even from the preview pics I wasn't expecting it to be quite so colourful. The reason for that is, as with so many of the more extravagant colour schemes, they were toned down on the TV. 

Odd it might be initially but this is one of those models that you're going to spend flipping ages looking over because the surface has so much to examine. Every surface has a lump or bump worth examining from the tip of its forward weapon to the rear of the engine blocks. On a detail level this has to be one of the most covered craft yet in the collection which is more incredible if you consider that it's actually a very big ship in universe so cramming a lot of raised and dipped areas is a big achievement.

The quality and definition of the detail on the plastic sections - the two pieces attached above and below the grey arc - is visually much better. That said, the colour palette used is large for a starship with green, yellows of the engines and forward energy dampener, browns, greys and blue of the main reactor with a dash of white and a sprinkle of red all evident in the design. It's detail and colour that is expressed in every inch and every crevice of the ship with clear definition of the weapons emitters, bridge module and engines as well as some extremely small differentiated panelling which really lifts the design out of the norm.

I mean, the shape is striking for one but with the overall effect of the paint scheme included it's an utter beauty even if she does look obscure from just about every angle (even below as right). The stand isn't the best this time with the clear plastic grip wobbling like hell on the base however the grip around the rear of the Breen ship is firm and steady. Good choice on the arm positions to make that happen!

Definitely a hidden gem of the franchise and certainly a shining star when it comes to the Starships Collection. Being from Deep Space Nine might not be to all fans' tastes nor will she be in every display, but I really think you're missing out if you don't add this one.

The magazine continues to Breen it up with coverage of their franchise history from a first, brief mention in The Loss from The Next Generation to their use as the never seen super-villain responsible for probably just about everything the Klingons, Romulans or Borg weren't right to their first on screen appearance in Deep Space Nine's Indiscretion and onto their pivotal role within the Dominion War and the final ten-part arc of the space station saga.

Within the pages we also have info on their origins and the reason why they were used on screen in Deep Space Nine plus - and what would the magazine be without it - John Eaves discussing just how he came up with and developed the Breen warship from a fairly standard craft into the curved beast we have in this issue and finally into a realised CG vessel capable of incapacitating the Defiant. Aside from Eaves' concept drawings, 99% of the pics are lifted from the show either of the ship or clips from the ten-part arc so nothing majorly new here. The ship views are actually a bit poor since there is no dorsal view included and therefore no way to really compare. We only get front, side and rear images which don't tell a lot since this is a very "flat" ship.

For two issues focusing so much on Deep Space Nine (which I must applaud) there is quite a difference in my opinion between the two ships mainly on their appearance. Certainly it's a dramatic contrast from the bright colours of the Breen to the subdued grey tones of the Federation fighter  and in this instance the alien craft is the clear winner for its impression on me this month. Neither is a dud, let that be said, but this month's Federation design doesn't pack its usual punch.

If you've missed it recently Ben Robinson from the collection has recently posted up pics of both the Romulan shuttle and the USS Voyager Aeroshuttle models which we have yet to have issue numbers confirmed for. Could the aeroshuttle be an online special since it was never properly seen in the show? Hmmmm. One for your thoughts there! Both of these ships look spectacular and got a lot of collectors excited so I'm hoping these will be appearing in the late 70's or early 80's at the latest. We also got another image of the soon-to-be-released NX-01 from the Mirror Universe. Looks great and definitely more changes than we saw on the ISS Enterprise M1 recently (pics here from Ben's Twitter feed).

Next month we have the Voth City Ship from Voyager and Goroth's Klingon Shuttle from Enterprise. Right now these two aren't floating my boat but let's wait and see what the models are like. Oh and if you're waiting to see my thoughts on the NX-01 refit hold your breath a little longer - mine has been delayed (not sent out) so it'll be here shortly.

So what are your thoughts on issues 68 and 69? Good to see more Deep Space Nine recognition?

As always...

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