Monday, 21 August 2017

Next Gen Guest Double: The Official Starships Collection Issues 104 and 105

The latest duo from Eaglemoss drops us into the fifth and sixth seasons of The Next Generation.

Up at issue 104 it's one more kitbash to add alongside the Kyushu and Centaur in the form of the chunky Sydney Class USS Jenolan

Ok, ok I dig this one in the ribs a little too much with that line because the Jenolan is a ship I'm really rather fond of. So it might be a flipped and nacelled-up version of the SD-103 shuttle that makes a fleeting appearance near the beginning of The Undiscovered Country but so what, this little ship has a special place in the hearts of fans across the world since it's the craft Scotty reappeared on in Relics.

Crashed on the Dyson Sphere, the Jenolan had seen better days but here we have it presented in all it's launch day glory. She really is a right block of a ship which makes no matter in space since gravity and aerodynamics aren't really that important (or are they...?) and it's not going to win any beauty prizes. In essence this is the Starfleet version of a National Express coach or a cross-channel ferry. It's no science vessel, cruiser or deep space explorer, it's effectively a very big shuttle.

Yet I still love the damn thing and having a model of it is something I've waited a long time to see. The shape is clearly that of the shuttle but there's a lot of additional extras and the Jenolan is significantly bigger than the shuttle set counterpart we were treated to at the end of 2016. 

So NCC-2010 has some fantastic detail for such a lump. The metal top section isn't overly covered in detail with the exception of the ship registry to the front which leads into the bridge module (definitely nicked from a Constitution Class model) that trails back again to some exposed mechanics and also to the blue raised warp core cover.

The colour scheme is distinctly Kirk movie-era with a full white overcoat from nose to stern. Having only minimal detail doesn't crowd the surface although it does feel a little blocky with the grey touches just a sprinkling across the upper hull and a couple along the sides and back. 

The central/upper metal section is enclosed by the rest of the plastic build with the side panels closing in around the metalwork on either side. It's a quite an impressive piece of construction with four pieces of hull coming together to form the shape of the Jenolan. The hull detail right at the front is a little washed out with the two side panels on the front "prongs" making it very obvious since they are much more pronounced.

Along the sides of the hull we have the United Federation of Planets pennant on either side - and both the right way up and spelt correctly however the three decks of windows are all out of alignment with their recesses on the hull surface. Maybe one day huh, Eaglemoss? Maybe one day...

I have to admit to liking the tiny bit of hull marking/panelling towards the front as its nice and subtle and doesn't, again, overpower the whole hull as full line definition might well have done. Also this detailing then makes you realise that the Jenolan is, unusually for a Starfleet vessel, devoid of any aztec paint scheme. Probably too much for something this size and the Runabout too avoided that finishing touch if you recall.

Flipped over and the real detail on the Jenolan can be uncovered. There's a lot of engineering works all the way along the ship with some incredibly tiny greebling everywhere you look. Oh - and look out for the very obvious Romulan Warbird nacelle glued in there! The hull sides again hug around the central body and it's a very distinct feature of the craft which has been replicated on the model perfectly. Choosing to have them as individual pieces certainly brings depth to the result.

It's an amazing finish and such a shame that for it's life on display you'll barely ever see the work that was done on the underneath (or topside if you're thinking of it from the SD-103 shuttle perspective).  I mean, in concept this should be the other way up and thus exposing all this wonderful detail but then we have the shuttles set for that!

The only really ugly bit on the Jenolan has to be the joins between the nacelle pylons and the main hull. They are gappy and seem a little misaligned when viewed from the underside. From the front and top it isn't too bad - again this is the angle you'll be seeing it from for most of the time.

The pylons are beautifully crafted with a very tight sweep and turn in the middle arcing out to the warp engines. Now these are very clearly stolen from a Constitution Class ship with that glaring movie-era shape and grille placement. For me on the Jenolan it's the finishing touches like the older nacelles and the registry edged in red that make this such an exciting ship to add to the collection. It bridges a gap, introduces a different type of Starfleet vessel and gets to be the vehicle which returned Scotty to Star Trek

Lastly to the rear there's a ship name and a couple of guidance lights plus the greyed out engine of the SD-103 shuttle converted into just another hull panel. It's only really at this end that you can appreciate how the Jenolan model has been put together. The stand is a rear fit which grips right around the backside of the craft giving the illusion of flight and providing a decent sturdy support although I need to file the peg down to fit into the base more snugly. 

While it's not the streamlined Enterprise-E or an intricate ECS Fortunate freighter the build here does impress me. Love it, love it, love it.

The magazine retells the story of Relics among the details of the craft itself. The initial CG picture is actually really nice giving a rear view of the ship and you can clearly make out some form of observation lounge at the back that isn't evident on the TV. Of course the mag skips over this being apparently the only ship on which you can beam through shields(!) but has some great stills from the episode in question. I'd have liked some coverage of the story pre-Relics that was included in the novelisation but I understand that it's not classed as canon since it wasn't screened.

The views of the ship are great to look at but they do reveal that the impulse engines on the model aren't marked out and that there is a magazine/ship discrepancy between paint finishes on the "spine" running from the bridge to the rear of the ship. Follow this up with a double page on the designing of the Jenolan and you get quite a detailed picture of a one-ship wonder. It was used again as a shuttle (Generations) and a starship (Trials and Tribble-ations) but not in this configuration. She really is a one off.

Eaglemoss have chosen to pay tribute to James Doohan here with six pages devoted to the Scotty actor. A perfect way to complete this issue given its focus on the return of the character aboard this very vessel. The coverage touches on all points of Scotty's appearances from his virtual cameo in Where No Man Has Gone Before through to the movies, the crossover of Generations and his "final" appearance in the 24th Century. A great overview and well picked.

Issue 105 travels back a season to Unification and the so-called Smuggler's Ship. Now you might be getting a sense of deja vu since it's only four issues ago that we saw the Bajoran Freighter which is this ship in another guise - have a look in that magazine to see what else this model has made an appearance as since 1989!

Ok, it is a little soon after the Bajoran Freighter to be dropping this one but there are significant differences between the two. 

The Smuggler's Ship (or should that be Smugglers' Ship? Was there really only one smuggler? Anyway, I'll remain true to the magazine cover) is a one coat black finish all the way across with only the red engines, white portholes and light blue forward viewscreen acting to breakup the darkness.

The ship is two clean halves with the top in plastic and the bottom - which includes the two pairs of "wings" being metal.

The wings, the removal of the rear pod and of course the colour change all help to radically alter the look of what was a Bajoran freighter into something a lot more sinister. In fact there's a lot more surface detail on this ship with additional "bobbles" along the upper hull sides at the front and back as well as more defined mechanics on the upper mid-section. Interestingly this model also has the fins thinned out that were filled in on the Bajoran freighter. I'd suggested this was down to moulding but I'm not convinced having seen this.

The aggressive wing formation to the front really set this model off and add to the look making it almost ready to pounce on an unsuspecting craft. Having them as a single element with the underside of the ship adds a lot of strength and stability to these pieces. The panelling on these isn't too heavily lined and contrasts to the extensive markings on the rest of the Smuggler's Ship.

One clear addition to the ship are the three gun structures on the top and the single one on the bottom. Again it adds to that darker purpose for this version of the model and also it's great to see that Eaglemoss aren't shying away from sticking in some very fiddly bits. Without these I don't think that the look of this craft would have been quite right somehow.

What amazes me with this issue is how a few changes can make something look completely different and even feel different within an episode of the series. This is a lot more futuristic and tech heavy than the freighter and in only a couple of episodes between appearances it's barely recognisable. In fact if I had the choice of which one I would display if it came to it, I would pick this one.

The all over detail on here - top and bottom - is lovely to take in and although it's one more of the "one shot" starship, the work on this one is exemplary considering this was The Next Generation model time and not the impressive CG results we've had from Enterprise. Really the only area that suffers a little on finish is the engine block at the rear. The red is't as bright as I expected and it seems to fade into the black of the main body.

The Smuggler's Ship feels good, it's a solid, robust piece of Star Trek and even the four gun emplacements are pretty secure.  The stand fitting is a singular clip that wraps around the rear and claps cleverly over the two levels of the hull at the back. It's a lot of weight at the back of the ship for something with this kind of length but it still looks and feels fine. 

The 500m ship gets minimal background in the magazine this time as it was there to serve a purpose for the story, hence the reuse of an older model. The magazine tends to defer to the plot of Unification but aside from the two new CG pictures and the plan views of the Smuggler's Ship there is very little of the craft from the episode - probably understandably due to its fleeting appearance. That said the CG pics are gorgeous and help to bring out the hull detail which can, in some lights, be lost due to the one colour finish.  

I've looked over her several times since she arrived and keep spotting a bit of tech here or a window there that I hadn't seen before purely because the black shrouds everything.Even when photographing her the light changed and meant a couple of shots made her look a lot lighter and brought out some of the hull panel lines and greebles (hence the shot above right).

Thankfully if you do want to get an impression of what it looked like on TV, the Creating the Smuggler's Ship section shows a couple pics of the model itself and there's a good shot for comparison of the back end. Minor grumble but that image does give the tail end a lot more depth to the hull surface than the model however I'm more thankful that some of the reduced detailing on the freighter version has been "upgraded" for this one.

I suppose it's apt that this and the Jenolan were released together since both are the results of "parts bin" refurbs having previously been something very different.

Next up is a section covering the making of the classic 25th anniversary two-part Unification. While I did know that there had been longstanding plans to get Spock into The Next Generation it fills in the process from that early point to the development of the fifth season landmark and adds in something I've always said - that the second half is way, way too wordy and lacking in action. I still find watching this as a single movie is a drag once Spock steps out of the shadows at the end of the first part.

The "Making of..." piece ties in Unification to both The Undiscovered Country and the tragedy of gradually losing Gene Roddenberry (who would have been 96 this month) through the character of Sarek. This piece does have some good in depth information around the story and the elements within it - Sela, Spock and Data, the Enterprise's mission and the final, touching meld between Spock and Picard. It'll still be a talky last 45 minutes but this has added a few sparks to watch out for in future viewings.

Again as with the Jenolan the episode On Screen section can only be the one episode the ship appeared in. The sad thing with this page now that we are getting into repeat territory quite a lot and also into ships that only appeared once and very briefly is that this episodic recap is getting repetitive. It only discusses the episode as a synopsis rather than honing in on the ship plus the info in these paragraphs has been stated several times over and over in the rest of the mag. Time to maybe look at doing something different here? For note though I'd still keep the Trivia trio since that can be moulded to the issues/episode/relevant characters.

I've been impressed with this month's double act. I absolutely love the USS Jenolan and have done for years since I first saw her crumpled hull on the Dyson Sphere so a model is icing on the cake and this one is pure class even with a few niggles. The Smuggler's Ship is just different and although released very soon after the Bajoran Freighter it is different enough to just get away with it but I know collectors will grumble because of the proximity. Solid entries, well made and a welcome step back into The Next Generation.

To next month and we finally get another of those elusive opposition ships from Voyager with the release of the Kazon Predator Class warship and one that will probably eclipse it in popularity even though it's a "twicer", the Klingon Bird of Prey in attack formation (wings down). Will there be any notable improvements or changes to this one or will we just be getting the same body mould as issue three

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