Thursday, 1 September 2016

Scouts and Reptiles: The Official Starships Collection Issues 80 and 81

After last time's trip back to The Original Series we skip forward to Insurrection and the distinctive Federation Mission Scout Ship.

Designed by John Eaves, the Scout Ship features in one of the more memorable sequences from the ninth Star Trek movie but you'll be pleased to know this model doesn't come with a Gilbert and Sullivan MP3 built in.

Smaller Federation ships seem to be the order of the day at the minute with the Captain's Yacht and the Aeroshuttle both making recent appearances along with other alien "single seater" craft and smaller ships such as the Bajoran Sub Impulse Raider and Goroth's Klingon Transport. The Scout Ship also marks only the second time Insurrection has made an appearance in the series after that very yacht (third if you count the Enterprise-E). 

The Scout Ship may have only been in the movie for all of five minutes but its sleek lines are instantly recognisable. The central body of the ship features a lot of raised and recessed panelling from the forward deflector to the rear impulse engines. The upper metal surfaces are very, very well detailed and contrast rather effectively against the simple design of the sweeping wings/warp nacelles. One major feature used in the film was the lower docking hatch and here Eaglemoss have gone to the effort of ensuring its clearly marked and there's even one on the top too - but more on that in a bit.

Eaglemoss have even managed to etch in the phaser emplacements to the rear of the wings and at the sides of the cockpit. The whole of the underside is also as plain and smooth as the upper wings and having this in plastic and the upper in metal really suits the level of detail rendered on both sections. 

The majority of the hull is finished in a wonderful silver with a couple of panels to the rear of the wings and underneath coated just a shade darker. Certainly helps break up the monotone across the Scout Ship.  Indeed, the only additional details are the registry on the top and bottom of both wings and on either side of the central hull block. 

Even though it is mostly a single colour, it's still a great ship to look at and all the greebling on the upper hull and behind the blacked out cockpit are very exciting for Star Trek ships fans to oggle over. Nicely here - given the size of her too - we have the RCS thrusters painted out in blue, translucent bussard collectors on the warp five engines, the blue hued (but not recessed) deflector on the nose and painted red impulse engines on the back of the central hull section. In fact that deflector is probably the weak link here. Painted up correctly it might be but without the recess it does dull the overall effect and looks like a blue blob on the nose.

Although there's not a lot of different colours in there, these little points break up that smooth silver surface and add a little character to the Scout Ship. Check out the port and starboard red and green lights too which are a tiny finishing detail either side of the passenger entry doors on the wingtips but reflect the attention to detail. 

Admittedly the more you look at the ship the more it starts resembling a duck from the front end and actually a bit cumbersome from the rear but you can see hints of other ships in there especially the Defiant in the shape of those side pods and to some extent the pointy nose. For a more science-focused craft it's definitely designed for more rugged environments and Eaglemoss have produced a fine model here that is well-finished and will impress any and every collector. 

As for the stand, this one fits to the rear which is always a bit cringeworthy but this time there's a clever couple of raised end clips which actually hold the Scout Ship firmly in place. Great to see Eaglemoss thinking about how to ensure their ships aren't slipping out of these plastic grips - shame we couldn't go back and change a few of the earlier ones.

Overall though, top marks for a top job on this one - always good when the joins are flush and the paintwork is well finished in every aspect. I suspect not having a lot of surface paint changes does help!

To the 18 pages of the magazine and we open with some background on the class and its comparison to both shuttles  and also to the larger Runabouts more often seen on Deep Space Nine before diving off into a brief review of the key scene from Insurrection.  Both the CG views, the opening page image and the cover do show much more surface hull colour differences across the whole of the ship not just the rear panels and I am left to wonder why this craft was robbed of a subtle aztec paint scheme. Only correction I would note is that the interior of the shuttle craft used in the scene was actually from the Runabout not the Voyager shuttle as stated.

Eaves' recollections of the design and filming of the ship are good as always but kept pretty brief - at least it explains why there are two docking hatches on the hull. Herman Zimmer mann rounds out this time's issue with a peek inside his production diary from the making of Insurrection. Not focused on the ship side of the movie, Zimmerman's notes look into the set design and filming of the ninth feature and give an unseen look at what went on behind the scenes.

The Scout Ship is a very exciting addition to the range given its limited screen time and lack of model prior to this. As with all the Federation ships it will inevitably be a big winner and attract a lot of buyers.

Issue 81 flashes us back to the prequel years. I've just finished watching seasons three and four of Enterprise and enjoyed every second so getting my hands on the Xindi Reptilian Warship was something I've been looking forward to. Wizkids were due to beat Eaglemoss to release their version first for Attack Wing but changes to the schedule (bah) have put the magazine collection in position to release their, larger, version first.

It's a huge and gangly contrast to the more solid, blocky Federation Mission Scout Ship I received at the same time and we've just talked and it's something of a pleasant surprise.

Easily one of the longest regular models to date, the warship bears a very unique and eye-catching colour scheme with most of the hull in sandy brown intercut with black and slightly darker brown highlights however the most striking thing about this vessel is just how intricate it appears.

As a design it has to have been one of the most difficult to reproduce given that there she's full of curves, angles and multiple elements. The two "horned" side pieces and the subtlety recessed forward central deflector section (yes, they recessed it unlike the Scout Ship)  form the supporting structure here with the more delicate trailing tail and stabilizers made from plastic. That choice does provide more flex to the more fragile rear section but I suspect a few of these might arrive with subscribers in less than perfect condition.

The Insectoid Warship is a real work of art in terms of starship design. The shape flows, the colours accentuate the form and everything about it is serene. The surface detail isn't over complicated either with just the two tone brown, those black markings, purple deflector and tiny porthole detailing to the front.  One thing that is missing though is the mottled paint effect on some of the hull surfaces which is evident on the magazine cover. It does relate the reptilian nature of the craft and not having it on the model does take some of that emphasis away in one go. Sadly I would think cost means it's hindered in its final form much the same way as the Species 8472 Bioship in that making anything seem organic in these materials doesn't translate too well. 

The underside does suffer from this as well but the identical paint scheme on the upper surface is reflected below plus there's some wonderful arched plastic sections which add to the overall effect on what is a masterful ship and a visually stunning reproduction. All these shapes and angles really work in across every surface to make this one of the most alien craft that ever graced the franchise. Simply beautiful and deadly from every angle even if there are some painting issues.

For display purposes the stand is pretty solid, clipping to the sides of the metal "horns" and sliding firmly into place. Another ship that will be staying put and offers a more central, balanced position. There's not a lot of weight in this one either which only helps the stand stability.

As with all the Enterprise ships however it is one of the best replicas in the series as well as being super thin and refined. Have to say I'm really impressed with the finished result here which does benefit from some accurate painting and construction all round. While not everyone's cup of tea it has to be admired as a really fine example of the top workmanship this series has produced,

As for the magazine, the ship overview offers a skating level of detail on the warship before relating the standard episodic narrative covering the majority of the third season/Xindi arc of Enterprise. The plan views included only emphasise the point that the model is (sadly) missing the semi-organic paint work across many of its surfaces. 

The story of the designing of the warship is really interesting given that Doug Drexler had just 48 hours to come up with the craft before it was to be digitally mastered for the show. Always a winner, this section offers up some of the other stealth-inspired designs that Drexler considered before leaning towards the more spindly shapes that it became.

This is in turn followed up with a rather excellent (but as usual brief) overview of all the ships that were operated by the Xindi. A cool little article it just makes you realise how many more Xindi ships there are still to come in the collection and we have been promised that they will all be included at some point since Ben Robinson sees them as essentials along with all the Klingon, Romulan and other major race designs.

The Xindi Reptilian Warship is far more detailed and more involving visual experience than the Federation Mission Scout Ship however I think we all know which one will be the bigger seller. In that case it will be a shame that the Xindi craft doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Drexler's design is every inch as good as Eaves and the replica from Eaglemoss here is first class. Have to admit that these days I'm finding it difficult to pick too many faults with these ships or to pick a favourite for the month. OK, we've had some duff ships but the end results have always been exemplary even if you've not liked it in the series (Baxial). In the case this month both ships have some real high points and a few niggly lows but I really couldn't choose between them. If I wasn't subscribed I'd definitely be buying both as this is a marvellously exciting couple of starships.

Next month we have the Warp Delta from Enterprise and the Bajoran Troop Transport from Deep Space Nine.

Scout Ship or Warship? What's your choice for this time's offerings?

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