Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Correcting the Errors of the Past? The Official Starships Collection Issues 72 and 73


It's August 2013. Issue one of the collection releases and we all go pretty damn mental over the stunning beauty of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D model. With almost uncontainable excitement we descended on our local newsagents for issue two and the movie refit USS Enterprise

What a disappointment. A poor paint job, bad was not what we hoped for and, after I spoke to Ben Robinson I appreciated it wasn't what he had hoped for either. Some of the errors were corrected on the USS Reliant from issue 11 but we've had to wait 71 issues from that original refit to get the collection's revised and updated version in the form of NCC-1701-A featured in The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country. On a technicality you could say this is the first time the main stream collection has repeated a model seeing as the movie version with or without the "A" is effectively the same ship.

The first let down has to be that subscribers had to wait until the Saturday after the retail release to get their hands on the model. Grumble grumble....

Let's pull no punches here. In the same way that the movie ship was the same model as the one used for the first three films, this is exactly the same mould as the one from the issue two refit hence making it the first true duplicate of the whole run.  But surely Eaglemoss are not such underhanded players so what's the game with this one?

Well it is a completist model meaning you now have everything from the NX-01 through to the Enterprise-E available in the collection which will certainly get fans digging in their pockets for a few quid. Secondly this is a Quantum Leap ship and here's what I mean by that - it means that Ben Robinson has been able to go into the past and right what once went wrong. As we know the by-word for poor ships was the refit movie Enterprise and if ever there was a bad model it would be immediately compared to that craft.

Here they have gone to extra lengths to rectify the problems. Gone is the godawful battleship grey one tone paint scheme now replaced with an azteced two tone white on both hulls. That paint scheme alone makes a massive difference to what is one of the most iconic designs in 50 years of the franchise. The phaser banks on the saucer are a more subtle grey and the bridge module has been relinquished of its golden touch. Improvement - yes, but this is for me the definitive Enterprise design and since that second issue is this the solution I've been waiting for?

Yes (but bear with me) the paint scheme - which was originally tried and tested on the issue 11 USS Reliant - works perfectly, but it's the mould itself which houses the core problem here. The nacelles are still nicely aligned but the joints on the engineering section especially around the connecting neck section and forward torpedo bays is just horrendous. Smooth it ain't people and every time I look at her my eyes are immediately drawn to this screaming join line and accompanying gaps. Stand positioning is fairly "stand"-ard too with the clear grip sliding over the saucer and around the secondary hull exactly the same as the refit and the original USS Enterprise from issue 50. Would I also be right in suggesting that the odd fixture on the port side of the saucer would be for the filming mount and if so, why is this on the finished starship?

Equal to that is the scrappy joining of the warp engines to the secondary hull. It's marginally better than on the refit and the white does blend it in better than the monotone grey. Also what's with the big red blob on the shuttlebay doors? I have zero recollection of that being there or the thrusters being that shade. OK, it breaks up the white but so do the hull details on the underside of the engineering section and the updated pennants along either side of the same piece. The bottom of the metal saucer (secondary hull and nacelles are plastic) is just as well detailed but could have done with a bit more colour on that central lower sensor dome. 

Why are the RCS thrusters on the saucer now grey? On the refit they were yellow and even in the mag they are yellow? Erm...this just doesn't seem right somehow. The translucent sections on the ends of the warp engines are now a more reassuring black with just the longer grilles in the glowing blue just as they should be. But once again there's a question - shouldn't the pylons have some distinct coloured sections in a dark grey/black - again as with the refit?

However on the positive side, the panelling, phaser banks and decalling is all really crisp in fact it's a much better result than the finished Enterprise-E decals which were all over the place and had far too much packed in way too small a space. But talking of registry, the one behind the bridge module is far bigger than it should be nor is the large registry on either side of the saucer edged in red as it is in the films or in the magazine - or even as it was on the refit from issue two. What is going on?

To the magazine then and issue 72 trips over the events of The Voyage Home's closing moments and the events of The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country in a couple of pages before jumping into the details of how the original model used from The Motion Picture was revamped for its appearances with the "A" suffix.  Note too that the reverse angle CG pic used in the overview also doesn't have that glaring red blip on the shuttlebay doors.

It had a rather varied life and was certainly well travelled before being sold off as part of the 40th Anniversary auction, selling for a stunning $248,800. Following that we have a brilliant piece on Nicholas Meyer (very topical) and his work on The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country. Meyer was certainly prolific when it came to the classic crew movies and its good to read about the elements he used and the influences that helped shape two of the finest instalments of Star Trek cinematic history.

I feel that I have actually been very harsh with the "A" because of the standards it had to beat and honestly, I think it's made some improvements but then dipped in others. The full body repaint, aztecing and sprucing up have worked a treat but here it's those little details that have slipped such as registry edging and random blobbing that have almost made it equal to that long-ago issue. I still love the "A" but these blips mean I can't stick it into a top ten anytime soon.- there are just too many ships which are of a much higher standard.

The 73rd instalment brings us Borg. In fact it brings collectors their third Borg starship after issue 10's Sphere and issue 58's Tactical Cube with the Renegade Ship from The Next Generation's Descent two-parter. 

Going against all Borg constraints of geometric design and thereby emulating the renegade Borg and their individuality it still strikes me as one of the most bizarre creations that ever graced the screen. Totally asymetrical from every single angle its nice to finally get a close up look at what was a massive craft in the show.

While we didn't get to see the interior, the outside here gives us a lot to pour over. The paint scheme might not be awe-inspiring with one shade of grey all over but I'd hold back on launching a verbal offensive until you've looked more closely at the detail on the surface of this vessel.

First of all look out for the Borg "fist" emblem that adorns the hull in a couple of spots and matches the one on the floor in Lore's hall from the episode. I honestly can't recall seeing these in the episode but we didn't get up close to it and when we did it was at quite a pace. The brickwork effect isn't as tiny as the magazine makes out but it gives a very close approximation given the scale. The real beauty here lies in the grey/blue hued sections that are carved out of the hull representing live equipment and cooling vents. Also look out for the distinctly un-Borg windows (yellow) which are mainly to the rear of the central, metal block. Certainly a different looking ship in relation to its tones and shape.

As ships go she isn't the prettiest model we've been graced with over the years but I think the end result is better than the preview images. The two outlying pods on the uneven pylons are the only plastic sections of the ship but also contain some impressive tech detailing. There are some clear join lines but definitely no gaps (on mine) to complain of. The construction is spot on and she does feel very solid.

The final thing that will make you give a nod of approval with this one has to be the unique stand design that cups the lower section of the ship above the stand. Great idea to do it that way and the ship is very well balanced - oh and the black base sits sideways which should be fun to fit on the shelf.

I'm loathe to say it but at this point the Borg Renegade Ship is looking like this month's stronger entry and that's saying something because it is just a big grey lump at the end of the day. Eaglemoss have done a good job in transferring it from screen to diecast. It's just a shame that there are no coloured warp engines or translucent sections to help lift it a little. The trouble is that black and grey does make it a tad non-descript and does detract from the fact it's a solid model if a bit plain. Mind, it is the Borg and to them this must have been fairly racy.

The magazine is just as vague about its origins as the episode was. Did the Borg construct it or steal it? Did they modify it? We just don't know and the initial pages are left to recount the two-part season cliffhanger alongside episode screenshots. There are a couple of good CG images of the unusual Borg craft but two of them are from the back (including the cover) and one is from below. Only the plan view gives a good glimpse of the top.

The "Designing" pages total just two with very big pictures and very little text. Covering its evolution from styrofoam idea to finished model is interesting if brief and how it came to look the way it did will make you look at it very differently from now on.

An unexpected treat here is the six pages donated to an interview with Hugh actor Jonathan Del Arco. Only appearing in two episodes, Hugh still carved a lasting impression on The Next Generation and here we can look back at Del Arco's memories of his time working on both the second part of Descent for the seventh season and I, Borg for the fifth year of the show. It uses a lot of shots from both episodes to back up the narrative from the actor but this is a nicely written piece that details everything from his initial contact for the show through to his continued fanmail and convention interest 24 years after he appeared in the show.

Finally the episodic appearances are limited to both parts of Descent unsurprisingly but there are a couple of footnotes here that might spark your interest although one of them is extremely well known.

Issues 72 and 73 have a lot to offer this month, perhaps more so in their magazines than in the ships themselves. Both craft are pretty plain but will definitely garner a lot of buyers given they are an Enterprise and a Borg ship. I'm not wholly disappointed but more frustrated particularly with the "A" and the fact that while it's corrected errors it has also created a few more to replace them. I utterly love the "A" and really want to have that same level of affection for the model. It's just not quite happening I'm afraid.

Final point here, next month will see the Bajoran Sub-Impulse Raider and the Enterprise-E Captain's Yacht from Deep Space Nine and Insurrection respectively. Really looking forward to these two craft. Fingers crossed they top at least this month's fairly average results.

Oh - just before I go, one comment on the newly released Graphic Novels Collection - where the heck is selling it? I can't find a copy anywhere locally so if you got one please let me know where you managed to hunt it down because I'm at a loss and it seems their website has yet to list back issues. Could this be a trial run...?

What are your thoughts on this month's starship arrivals? Is the "A" a winner or just as disappointing as the refit from issue two?

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