Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cue Training Montage: The Official Starships Collection Issues 96 and 97

We are now just three issues away from 100 and the mythical Daedalus Class.
Hold fire though because first we have another remastered starship and a split-second guest-starring one man craft to help get us there.
My opinion of the remastered stuff to date is not great. So far I've found every one below par in some respect. Indeed a friend of mine noted, when i said this, that the Antares was decent....but only after a dirt wash. I rest my case.
I can't off the top of my head and there aren't many more remastered ships to go and while it's brilliant that we are getting these recent rare additions to the Star Trek universe included i don't think their design and by proxy their model representation has been all that wonderful.

In many instances it's been a case of turning an unrecognisable blob into something fresh. Mike Okuda's Orion Scout Ship is one such fine example which has even incorporated that spinny blob element into its form.

Originally appearing in Journey to Babel and reformatted into something more distinguishable over 40 years later, it's one to add to the blink-and-miss shelf of starships. First impression is that this is a very small model but the size of the rear circle structure actually determines the size of the rest of the craft based around, i would think, stand shape and boxing restrictions.
Starting from the front the Scout Ship has a small wedge shaped command unit which carries a very noticeable two shades of grey mottled together providing a very nice worn finish.
Arcing above and below the tight command section are two weapons pods. There's very little detail on either of these pieces either due to size or possibly that there was none on the CG model for the remastered episode since that's where the designs are, I believe, pulled from. Back a little from the module and the small connecting neck section branches out into an arc which then connects into the rear of the craft. Both the bridge module and this connecting arc are metal with the rest of the small, fast ship in plastic.

A direct homage to an original element of the first Matt Jefferies USS Enterprise, the circular enclosure has a well crafted, ridged design element to it that does emphasise the two tone grey colour scheme. I think if it wasn't for the shade difference this would be very low on my appreciation list but this does give the Scout Ship a bit of freestyle and personality. Well, to be fair its the eight translucent balls at the centre of the circle that really make the feature element of the model.

Held in place by eight spindly rods these are the beating heart of the craft and in "reality" would spin to line up with the similar spinning effect that was used when it was just a blob of light in 1967. The rods are basic in design and are more functional than there to admire as part of the design. In fact they are plain from one end to the other.

Now this area of the Scout Ship is high on detail and one of those unique and fiddly areas we model fans love to see. The finish and construction on this bit has come out really well. Certainly waiting 97 issues to hone those building skills has worked as this does look a bit battered and outdated. The bridge itself is poorly finished with a very smooth surface but the further back, the better the result.  

The inside of the engine ring is a smooth finish however which does ruin a bit of the starship illusion but the externals there are pretty good with a repeated pattern marked out around the full circumference.

The Scout Ship is made to look even smaller when you get it on the stand. The plastic grip slots nicely into the bottom curve of the engine circle but because she is quite compact, the Orion ship sits to the rear of the stand leaving a massive gap to the front. It just looks a bit odd.

The magazine once more shows off a lot more weathering, panel detail and finishing touches than the model does which is a little tragic since the images in this issue make it look much better. Maybe a dirt wash will bring out the finer points on this one however I'm not sure it will inspire me any more. The recount of Journey to Babel gives very little on the Scout Ship nor does the subsequent Designing section really push the boundaries on this issue. It was very necessary to make this craft visible for the episode however it is a fleeting glance (even less than the Trainer from the next issue). It's a cute little ship bit one that is for all intents and purposes pretty easily forgettable along with some of the other additions to the remastered The Original Series. Please bear in mind I'd love to see a Doomsday Machine at some point to make it all worthwhile.

Finishing out the issue we have DC Fontana's memories from her time on The Original Series appropriately focused around the seminal Journey to Babel which introduced Spock's parents as well as the memorable Andorian and Tellarite races. 

So to the 97th issue and a craft that was little seen on screen but played a huge part in the fabric of the episode - the Starfleet Academy Trainer from The Next Generation's The First Duty. A compact one/two man craft the trainer is only capable of impulse speed at best and one of the few ships we've seen that's limited in its range.

The oddest thing with the Trainer on first inspection is the yellowed paint scheme. Since it doesnt appear in the episode for that long i couldn't recall the precise shade but ill take this as exact since the research for the collection is meticulous. It does however give the impression that you might have left your model out in direct sunlight for six months. Aside from the not-Starfleet-grey paint-job the model is a great piece for display and I might even group all the "one-manners" together for a nice bit of visual comparison.  Running front to back, purists will straight away know that this model is not 100% screen accurate as licencing issues prevented the use of the GI Joe (Action Force as it was in the UK) Cobra emblem on the nose. 

Instead, in keeping with The First Duty, Eaglemoss have used the Nova Squadron roundel. Technically its much more befitting and on point so there can't really be a complaint that they thought logically what could replace the red serpent.

As with all of the single-seat craft the cockpit is blacked out before the neck of the ship plunges straight to the rear. I am amazed with the panel detail on this one, perhaps more than a lot of others because of the sheer amount of lines crossing the hull. The precision of the grey sections to the yellowed areas is incredibly sharp but the craftsmanship doesn't finish there. This is one of the most heavily decalled ships in the collection. 

Just take a look at the number of red edging strips placed across the wings, around the cockpit and along the neck of the Trainer. Slapped on the two stubby wings we also have the Starfleet emblem and the United Federation of Planets wording just to clarify whom the ship belongs to if you weren't sure.

My favourite thing about the Trainer though has to be the teeny tiny writing on three of the grey (access?) panels. Squint up close and you'll see that this isn't just a jumble of letters but properly scripted warnings designed for the Academy ship. Now that's a sign of dedication and awareness of your fan base. Trekkies love a good bit of precision and this goes that extra mile and a half and more than balances out for not getting the geeky pleasure of the Cobra logo on the nose.

Even on the underside of the Academy Trainer the paneling and edging detail continues once more including a whopping great Starfleet pennant that adorns the centre of the ship and is applied perfectly. In fact I couldn't spot a single red line that wasn't where it should be, was kinked or split. Top marks.

The surface detail on the Trainer really is exemplary. Everything is precise, aligned and adds real character to this ship. Certainly with such a shallow craft having the surface detail - including that bit of greebling towards the back - builds an appreciable depth to the ship.

So, killer question; Best small craft of the collection? Tragically I have to say yes and why tragically? Well, i really didn't want to nor did I expect to like this one. It never appealed to me as one that would be included in the series nor one that would actually turn out to be such a cracking little ship. Even as I've been writing the review I've found my affections for this little ship have increased and it ain't half a great replica.

One disappointment is the centre line where the upper metal and lower plastic sections come together. The join is absolutely fine and clean at all points around the craft however the paint work on the black detailing which is recessed at this point is a bit sloppy with some parts not quite finished to the line and bits of the main yellow hull can be seen. For a series which has had some great finishing paint flourishes this is a bit rough given how precise the lines are at every other point on the hull.

Even without warp nacelles, Eaglemoss have still managed to slip in a few translucent sections to represent the impulse engines (blue) and the thrusters (red) fitted into the rear of the structure. They aren't a stand out part but again they exemplify the accuracy and effort that Eaglemoss are still putting into the collection as we near the 100th edition with no real sign of it slowing down for at least another year.

The all-important stand fitting test is a success with the Trainer as it slots firmly into place at the rear with no effort at all and provides that cool illusion of the ship in flight - just not doing the Koolvort Starburst of course (you need another four to try that out and even then its not recommended).

Turning to the 16 page magazine the opening section offers up the high quality CG close ups that have become an expectation in the series. There's always a fraction of variance from the model and i find it interesting even now to see what could be done in metal and plastic and what was either too fiddly, too expensive or too time consuming to make a reality for collectors. Of course this section provides the chance to reflect on the fifth season The Next Generation episode and also leads nicely to the later piece with Wil Wheaton reflecting on his four year stint (and couple of one episode returns) as boy genius turned Ensign turned Traveller Wesley Crusher.

May is just around the corner and with it will be issues 98 and 99 showcasing the Nova Class modified USS Rhode Island from Voyager's finale Endgame and then the Assimilated Arctic Transport from Enterprise's Borg story Regeneration. Very excited by that second one!

Also we might see the next special, the USS Franklin, break cover and land on doorsteps. The latest shots of the eighth special make it look like it could be one of the best of the series full stop. There have also been sightings of the Franklin ship plaque set to be available around the same time and maybe a shot of the ninth special, the Swarm ship also from the most recent movie, Beyond. Add to that the latest sneak peeks at the first version of the USS Titan and there's a lot to get hot under the starships collar about.

In the coming weeks I'll also be dropping an anticipation post for the next chunk of issues now we definitely know that the Bajoran Transport and the Klingon D5 will be issues 101 and 102 respectively...

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