Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Change of Pod: The Official Starships Collection Issues 112 and 113

Sense of deja vu?

Yes as this month’s ship releases from Eaglemoss contain something new - and something of a variation on a theme. 

Stepping up at issue 23 is the USS Phoenix. It was the first variant of the Nebula Class starship to recognisably appear on screen after the wreckage of the USS Melbourne in The Best of Both Worlds, Part II. We had our first encounter with the Nebula Class in the form of the USS Bonchune back in issue xx and just on a cursory glance over there’s one clear difference in the form of the AWACS style sensor pod. 

However, it would be wrong to skate away a review based purely on changing one piece so let’s see if this has received any other updates since we last unpackaged a Nebula Class.

The first difference to notice is the slightly darker paintwork that's coating the Phoenix and in turn means that the brilliant aztec paint scheme really stands out on the hull. Every inch is covered, even in those hard to see niches under the saucer and around the sensor pod. Being a little darker seems to benefit the overall finished product here but the similarities between the two Nebula class vessels are very strong too, perhaps moreso than the differences.

All the windows are in the precise alignment and colours as the Bonchune and that's applicable right across the whole of the hull both primary and secondary. The detail of those windows, the phaser strips and the lifeboat hatches all contrast cleanly against this darker hull tone plus someone has taken more time to print up the ship registry. It's a more crisp decal with very defined red edging and black alpha-numerics.

The smooth hull top also includes the distinctive Galaxy Class-style bridge module and shuttlebay structure which draws your attention towards the rear. However we'll get there first because I want to make a special mention of the underside of the saucer for this one. For some inexplicable reason it's missing the ship registry.

Now the Bonchune has it and the magazine blatantly shows the Phoenix has it (even in the episode stills) but somehow it's not made it onto the finished product here.The whole of the underside is, as with the top, absolutely identical to the earlier release with some of that now cringe-worthy misalignment of windows that is expected with every metal hull.

Let's edge backwards now because the loud and screaming difference in the Phoenix is the sensor pod. While the Bonchune's wedge pod was connected to the hull with a single vertical beam, the Phoenix has two struts with one connected to each opposing edge. The wedge pod on the older model came wonky and by a tragic it-fell-off-a-shelf moment it broke and I was able to realign more precisely. Here the AWACS pod is nice and straight, equally balanced on the double struts and is wonderfully detailed. The surface has the aztec paintjob plus the Starfleet pennant as the icing on the starship cake.

The shape is a clean oval and sits atop a slot in piece which means Eaglemoss can nail out variants of the Nebula Class for years to come with whatever rear pod they want to slot on just as with the "real thing". The attachment block is, well, blocky and clearly the add-on piece here. It links down onto the secondary hull which is taken from the Galaxy Class and stuck right under the elliptical saucer section. Please note that the sensor pod also sits perfectly straight as opposed to the wedge which, before it crashed, was at a slight angle, pointing more starboard than central.

Even though it's pretty dark under there, Eaglemoss have still detailed the hull with the aztec pattern plus the windows again are identical to the layout on the Bonchune. One thing that does appear wrong are the pylons both in their shape and the finishing touches. Take a look at the photos of the original and you can see that the front should have a curve to it rather than the straight edge that is here. Again the structural error is one not corrected, it seems, from the first version. The clear answer for keeping it the same is production cost - but why if we know it's wrong and flippin' obvious on the magazine cover?!

Anyway...the nacelles are nicely finished again as previous with the translucent bussard collectors and engine grills although there's a rather wobbly feel to the whole engine assembly from the pylons down which sharply contrasts to the solid-as-hell saucer directly above. They are both well finished with the aztec paint job and the pennants but the springiness in them is troubling. Stand position still uses the nacelle grip but the stand is a better fit together and this one doesn't lean anywhere near as much as the Bonchune does. Good fit, very secure and a definite shelf-hugger.

The accompanying 16 page handbook tumbles us into The Wounded alongside some episode shots and those lovely new CG renderings which each ship in the series receives - and which show up a multitude of sins depending on which item you believe. The majority of the ship overview does relate to the incident televised plus a little background on the function of the ship, crew complement and basic armaments. A lot of this has already been used for the Bonchune but I already have to say I prefer the Phoenix as a finished model. The plan views do line up pretty well alongside the ship and even manages to keep the registry inaccuracy in place so at least the two do agree with each other this time. Production Design on Season Four deserves SO much more than a double-page spread in this magazine. 

Two sides doth zero justice and we get a few design pics that many will have seen before and nothing groundbreaking. It feels like filler and should have been treated as much more. Instead we have an overview of the fourth season which takes up six pages. Weirdly this also seems to have been tragically undercut and could we have lengthened either article out to eight pages and scrapped the other? More info on either topic would have been good but both end up very top line and skate over any real detail. You just can't cover 26 episodes that quickly nor can you explore the design of the 24th Century in a couple of paragraphs. Great topic ideas for the mag but poorly explored.

Over to issue 113 and a ship I would be hard-pushed to recognise in any of its various incarnations especially this one from Voyager; the Lokirrim Warship. As with the Bajoran Freighter/Smuggler's Ship, this one has been through the model workshop blender a few times across Deep Space Nine, Voyager and finally Enterprise in multiple altered forms. The shape we have here is from the last season of Voyager and the episode Body and Soul.

Now I’ll be straight, the ship is gorgeous which is annoying that this one-off is such a great finished product because I’d have to be guided to the episode to have a clue at recognising its rakish hull and sexy arsenal. On the positive side the detail is truly Eaglemoss at the top of their game and this is one to really experience in the flesh.

The hull is a mix of bronze, copper and grey sections with each of the colours helping to highlight a piece of the ship. At the front the bronze prongs surge forward from the main shell, bringing you back into the winglike craft. They lie either side of a central habitation/command/engineering unit marked out with cabin lights that are as always not aligned to their flippin' recesses. Get's boring to write after 113 issues but keep it coming Eaglemoss, I'm sure we can last that line out to 130 at least.

The central hull piece has a couple of raised units which appear to be photonic weapon ports with a purple toned slit-like opening as the business end. These ports also appear to the front of the wings, at the tips of the tubular (standard) weapons on the wings and also on three openings on the belly of the beast which would suggest this is very heavily armed. One thing; the shuttlebay door is painted up in a very bright white (right on the nose) which shows up precisely nowhere else in the accompanying magazine or any of the images. It could have done with being toned down a few shades as it does scream at you in comparison to the paint work on the whole of the rest of the ship.

As we head further back along the hull the copper/bronze paintwork mixes together giving an orderly but patchworked effect with venting, recessed and raised hull tech detail. If you actually look at this ship as a whole there are a lot of really neat techniques used in the building work. There are the slots within this metal upper hull at the front and to the rear, the accurate detailing of the purple photonic weapon ports we just mentioned and some stunning aztec paintwork on the underside that at first you might not spot. There's a lot of things that have been learnt, I would think, from earlier issues and attempts which might be why we are now seeing some of these more fiddly and curve-ball models coming into the collection.

Indeed, the metalwork to the rear of the Lokirrim Warship has all sorts of ups and downs and cutouts to keep your eyes entertained but I actually think the most impressive piece here are the wings.

Sweeping out majestically from either side of that central hull pod, the drooping wings carry some of that heavy arsenal both on their main surface and also on the winglets that sprout from their ends. Forged in the same single piece of metal that forms the topside of the ship, the winglets are very strong with zero movement at their tips and no movement either at the slim attachment point to the main body of the ship. In fact all of the extremities are secure on this one and they're all metal so the fragile rear-clip stand won't need to be a massive concern for shelf-fall damage.

The underneath is just as beautiful as the top. Now, remember I'm usually used to lauding praise on the "one-off's" from Enterprise that came from the minds of the CG department and you can see here that those later years on Voyager were definitely the starting point at creating such amazing digital models. 

Again there's that melding of the bronze, copper and grey elements across the surface. The bronze is the dominant space-frame colour as on top but it benefits massively from that toned aztec finish as well as a lot of callout hull elements that aren't present on the other side. There's something very insect-like about the bottom and I found that I was likening it to a wasp or a bee with some of the cross-hull markings and those two forward-thrusting prongs.

As noted there are three more of the protruding ports which look like weapon emitters equally spaced in the centre of the craft and dotted with the copper paint work. The most significant difference is the placement of the engine and its exhaust, running from just past halfway along the hull right to the back. There's no colouring at the exit point but the styling is really nice and it does feature some more tonal finishing and copper/bronze detail to bring it to life.

The only section of this one to be in plastic (aside from the stand of course) is a central arrow piece that slots into the underbelly of the Warship. The melding of the two pieces is near perfection with the plastic piece fitting exactly - and flush - into the hole. The paint job between the parts is also exact with some spot on alignment of some of the callout panel sections that are placed right across the ventral section. 

Ok, to the magazine. In the first section we are told more about the Lokirrim society and its distrust/dislike of photonic (holographic) lifeforms than we are about the ship itself. The Warship gets a few paragraphs while the people get about a page and a half(!). The CG images here make you realise that the model actually is a pretty good representation but they also point out that the ship itself is much, much more finely detailed than the finished product. Eaglemoss have done a sterling job however but there is so much that isn't quite up to where the CG images indicate it should be.

Second section in here is dedicated to the other guises by which the Lokirrim ship managed to photo-bomb its way into more episodes of the franchise at all sorts of angles and under all sorts of paintwork and appendages. Some of them you'll spot right away but there are a couple where it was hiding away in the corner. Not a ton of text here and more a chance for some sharp shots from various episodes to make you think!

Closing out is, linking to the Doctor's role in Body and Soul, an interview with the man behind that hologram, Robert Picardo. A great interview with a ton of questions I wish I'd asked when I met him for this site it's six pages of insight into the background of Voyager that's a good sit down read and thoroughly enjoyable.

A good month once again for Eaglemoss with two great models. I much prefer the Phoenix to the Bonchune and the sensor pod is extremely well finished and brilliantly more stable than the weapon wedge. Definitely love this one even though it's just an update. The Lokirrim Warship is an utter pleasure and might just pip the Phoenix as the better of the two releases. It's uncluttered and simplistic construction accompanied by the wealth of surface detail makes it a real, unexpected winner. Not one I would have recommended to get when it was announced but, surprise, surprise, I was wrong. Again.

Next month we are expecting another one from Wolf 359 with the vertically nacelled Challenger Class and one from the Enterprise data banks in the shape of the Tellarite Starship.

USS Phoenix or the Lokirrim your favourite from the month? Is it worth doing another Nebula variant?

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