Saturday, 4 November 2017

Cheyenne Bright Like a Diamond: The Official Starships Collection Issues 108 and 109

Man have we been busy with ship arrivals!

There was the Aventine, then there was the Titan plus I had late deliveries of the K-7 station and a replacement for my Bird of Prey with a bent gun. 

Now the second of the Wolf 359 fleet has docked with the Cheyenne Class USS Ahwahnee, another of the kitbashed background wreckage from the classic The Best of Both Worlds, Part II. 

The fact it’s kitbashed is fairly evident from outside of the box before you even get your hands on it. The Galaxy Class saucer is shouting at you from a distance but the odd point here is that this primary hull - the only hull really - is two bottom halves of a Galaxy Class saucer mated together. Take a look and you’ll see the recessed square windows near the centre on both the top and bottom pieces plus the curvature of the saucer from outer edge to centre starts a couple of centimetres from the rim rather than the doming effect of the top of the Enterprise-D saucer.

As a comparison just pull your Eaglemoss issue one Enterprise alongside to check out the parallels on the detail and you’ll see. In fact it’s brilliant that the producers of the collection have gone to the effort of replicating that saucer detail on both sides from the original source material. To be fair the source is probably the AMT model kit for the D rather than the studio starship!

There’s also a stupidly big ship registry and name emblazoned across the front of the hull here. I mean, jeez, it’s massive. Maybe there’s a Federation standard size for ship numbering fonts but this is out of proportion to the rest of the damn ship. Also if you like your starship comparisons the top of the saucer is in metal while the flip side has a plastic insert. 

Detail-wise they are identical in quality with one exception in that the topside has the bridge module in centre spot and probably massively out of proportion while the bottom appears to have a captain’s yacht docked. Otherwise there’s only the rim to mark out where the plastic and metal come together being the obvious difference. 

Spot also the aztec paint job again as a comparison to the Enterprise-D saucer. While this ship was designed and built to be a floating blob in the background of a scene rather than a centre screen hero ship it was still afforded a decent finish!

So, moving backwards there’s the double cobrahead lifting the quad nacelles above and below the oval main hull. Now with these engines in their formation here it does make the Ahwahnee look like the lovechild of a Galaxy Class starship and a Babylon 5 Starfury but that’s not a bad thing(?!).

We do have a reduced number of windows in the double cobrahead as with the saucer since these are supposed to be much smaller than the model class they were pillaged from. 

What I do like here is the inclusion of the Starfleet pennant atop the engine pylon assembly. It draws the design together and the simple red edging down the cobrahead and also on the engines lifts out the two tone shading on the hull. 

This whole rear section is a scratch build from the splitter engine bar and out into the nacelles themselves. As with the New Orleans Class USS Kyushu back in issue xx, the warp engines are heavily disguised marker pens but if you didn’t know you wouldn’t guess since the work to hide them is so good with golden vent detail, warp grilles and bussard collectors all attached to the four extremities. 

At the rear you might have thought that the designers would have slacked off but there appear to be a shuttlebay fitted to the rear of each of the splitter pylons and sitting either side of a tragically unpainted impulse engine block. It’s an ugly oversight and the only thing going for it is the fact that you’re not likely to have it displayed with the backend facing out. Personally grab a red Sharpie and colour it in. 

For me the consistency of detail top and bottom especially when it comes to a ship that was only ever window dressing is stunning. She does look total class even if she is simplistic in execution and for fans of all things Borg the Ahwahnee is a certain addition.

As for stand positioning, the clip slides over the whole of the rear four warp engines’ pylons. There is some lateral movement so you might need to give it a gentle nudge to centralise and the end result is pretty good to look at.

The issue packed in the box with the ship gives a skant overview of the ship since it is a background kitbash. Even though it is only glimpsed for a frame or two in the season four opener of The Next Generation there's enough info to at least give some meat on the bones and provide fans with something of a background to the only starship that was salvaged from the battle. 

Instead of a section dedicated to designing the ship, we have a guide to the craft that were involved in at Wolf 359 and have, to date been "officially identified" either in the episode at the time or in references since. It's a good, full section that nods to starships we know are due in the next few issues plus some others that we have yet to hear about. Offering some details on their construction, reasons for naming and other sprinkled facts makes this a fantastic inclusion to this expanding library.

Ok, next up is something equally incredible to look at in the shape of the Borg Queen’s Ship from Voyager

This has to be up there as one of the most intricate designs ever to cross from the screen into the collection given all the angles, textures and pointy bits that mark every surface on the model.

The first thing that struck me is the paintwork. While there is still the metal/plastic combo in play it’s hard to tell what is what because of the textured paint finish that makes ALL of the quadrahedron look as though it’s brushed metal. It’s a really impressive finish on the ship to the extreme that actually telling the metal and plastic apart becomes challenging. A cursory glance won’t help and even to the touch is testing.

However, the two component parts don’t have a defined top and bottom here rather they are worked together into the main frame each forming two ‘sides’ of the outer skeletal structure. It’s a new step for Eaglemoss with this process rather than doing certain pieces in metal and others in plastic as we see with a lot of Federation starships.

In the Borg Queen’s Vessel the parts are virtually indistinguishable since they all have the same surface panel detail, appendages and fantastic brushwork. It all combines for an impressive overall visual effect that really works. 

At the centre of this unique design is a core again painted in the brushed metal effect. The main thing to spot here are the ‘glowing’ green sections which gave the craft more depth on the screen. The challenge here is that the translation from screen to model means that the depth of the centre block and the indication that it rotates does get lost somewhat due to the restrictions of cost if nothing more.

The energy signatures spotted around the surface of the ship in green emphasise the Borg nature of the diamond-shaped ship plus it brings some life to what is a brilliantly realised model. This has to be recognised for the great paintwork at the least - that and some of the rather sharp edges. 

Of all the Borg ships this, for me, is probably the most accurate and has the right feel to it. Both the Sphere and the Tactical Cube suffered from being 100% plastic and losing something of the ‘weight’ that the metal brings physically and metaphorically to the Borg Queen’s Ship. While not totally metal the overall effect that is carried across the whole surface is fascinating and varied from one side to another and creates a very unique and distinctive product. The intricate little interior details, cutouts and prongs are just perfect and add depth to the visual experience here. It feels alive and it looks spectacular at every angle - which is a good thing since it is supposed to be fairly symmetrical.

The stand is equally as unique as you would expect for a Borg ship being two pairs of vertical prongs into which two sides of the outer diamond framework slot. Solid and secure in this one with my only note being that the base needed a slight bit of filing to fit snugly into the black base. 

Into the pages of the magazine as always after a good examination of the model and we have a big focus on Dark Frontier. Luckily we’ve only examined this from the perspective of the Hansen family when Eaglemoss released the Raven but here we have more attention to the Borg. Recounting some great background to the Queen’s Ship, the opening section does well to stay away from simply telling the episode plot as many of these can. That’s left to some of the fact blocks scattered through the issue while we have a section that looks at the design of the quadrahedron.

Being Borg it’s all about picking the right geometric shape for the occasion and then adapting it to the look of the Star Trek nemesis. Actually a fairly straight forward process we still manage to pull out two pages and some initial sketches!

Dominating this issue however is the analysis of the journey of one USS Voyager. Covering pretty much every successful attempt to shorten the journey from Caretaker through to Endgame it’s a rather useful overview of the show with some great nuggets of information to tuck away for that rainy day Star Trek conversation. In fact it is a decent read and I did feel by the end of not just this issue but also the mag with the Ahwahnee that the collection has now found itself a great niche in offering condensed - and relatively model related - fact dumps each issue. The last few I’ve found particularly good and refreshing.

While I did have to wait a little longer than expected or desired (!) for these two they were well worth the wait and have made me even more eager for the remaining Wolf 359 ships AND the hope that there will be a more accurate Borg Cube coming soon to complete that set. Great month, cracking ships and a firm flag planted that this collection is maintaining its quality and providing some real oddball stuff that’s got fans clambering for more. Send me more NOW!!!!

Best Borg box to date? Loving the Wolf 359ers?

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