Friday, 2 February 2018

Have You C-een Her? The Official Starships Collection Bonus Edition USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C Probert Concept

So far every model that's been released has been seen on screen or been featured in the ongoing novel series but now Eaglemoss is turning its attention to its first conceptual starship.

Yes, with the Probert Concept USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C we have the first of several might-have-been's. Seen in profile on the wall of the Enterprise-D conference lounge for the first few seasons of The Next Generation, the first version of the Ambassador Class was a much more obvious visual missing link between the Excelsior and Galaxy Class. 

For the first time here we have the opportunity to get this rare design in your hands. There's no big departure from the primary and secondary hull configuration bordered with two warp nacelles but it's when you get down to see how the design changed between 1987 and Yesterday's Enterprise that things really get interesting.

For starters let's kick off as you would expect by casting our eyes over the metal top section of the primary hull. As with the re-imagined later design it's still a familiar round saucer section yet there are a myriad of differences and details to get in close with. There's a much darker tone variation in the blue/grey aztec paint scheme and rather than having three separated phaser banks there is a single strip running around the hull much like the later Galaxy Class. It cuts a better balance on the hull in my opinion and breaks up what could be a very large and singular hull pattern.

Dotted across the hull and raised we have a number of lifeboat hatches. What is it with raised versus dipped detail on this collection I ask? Here the raised hatches are absolutely perfect in colour and alignment to that colour but then...well, we'll come to it in a bit so bear with. Across the whole of that upper hull section we have further emitter and feature detail picked out in a dulled yellow with printed-on windows in white. No sunken detail here so their placement is, again, spot on.  The bridge module to the centre, which apparently was conceived to be able to detach as a separate vessel does not have the definition to its edges that we see on something like the Enterprise-D. 

There's much more of a sweeping bump to the surface of the hull with a moderate level of detail in evidence. It's not great and the colours of the hull features do seem to blend in with the rest of the saucer a little too easily. When you do line her up against the Yesterday’s Enterprise C, the difference in the registry decal size is glaring with the Probert C much less in your face and also bearing some wobbly red bordering.

To the back of the saucer we have two more features to discuss that are painted up in pastel shades - the wide shuttlebay and also the warp field generator plus impulse engines just underneath. They are as muted in their colours as the rest of the call outs on the saucer and in comparison to the redesigned C they fade into the background a lot more easily - so much so I nearly missed them completely. Maybe this is quite telling of the design to in that there was no later development of this particular version which means some of the fineries were likely never refined if you will.

While we’re here lets mention the stand fitting. Its the usual rear saucer clip, fitting around the secondary hull as we’ve experienced with virtually every other Enterprise since the dawn of time. the base and clip fitted together perfectly for once which means my Probert C doesn’t have that inconvenient list to port that a couple of ships seem to carry.

Let's flip the saucer over and take a look at the underneath. Straight off you can spot the inset plastic saucer section which does align perfectly with the aztecing pattern on the outer metallic edge. It also sits nice and flush into the slot but perhaps would have made more sense if it were parallel to the underside phaser strip which mirrors the single bank that circles the top of the ship. There's also more of that creamy coloured highlighting but this time blocked around the lower sensor platform and following the edges of what appear to be landing struts or at the least some form of access panels.

Again the saucer carries the ship registry and in keeping with other ships of the line, the name Enterprise sits snugly in front of the neck. Both the underside decals are pristine and well aligned as are the decals marking out the ends of the phaser strip. To be honest, the bottom of the saucer is well finished if a little bland. Even the rows of windows are well spaced and finely painted on. 

Now lets move a little bit to the south and that graceful neck section bringing the two hulls together. There's certainly the suggestion of the shape of the Galaxy Class in there but Probert has twinned that design piece with the slated, black support that was evident on the earlier USS Excelsior. The pattern might not cross the whole of the neck but its very noticeable and is the first of the more major differences between this and the Yesterday’s Enterprise finished product.

To the rear of the neck section and sitting below the red impulse engines of the saucer we have what is for all intents and purposes a second impulse engine suggesting that the C would have had separating capabilities like the later, larger D. This engine sits mid-neck flanked by two columns bearing more printed on windows. The painting on that engine block does look a little rushed for my liking and there’s no break in colour for the two bars which run across the middle - its just one big blob of paint.

However, your attention probably won’t be drawn to the blobby engine but to this ship’s most glaring and embarrassing omission. For some inexplicable reason all the secondary hull detail forward of the neck section on both sides doesn’t exist. There’s no aztecing, no windows, nothing but the blue hull paint and its fairly baffling as to what has happened. Was it a real error? Was it due to a fiddly painting angle (can’t be as I would guess the saucer would not be fitted at this point) or something else? 

There seems to be no real reason from Eaglemoss on this one and it does bring some level of disappointment to what has been a highly anticipated starship. Nevertheless the remainder of the topside of the secondary hull has its paint scheme fully intact with two tone blue/greys and a smattering of windows for good measure. Thing is once you’ve seen the gap at the front your eye gets automatically drawn to it.

The hull shape is distinctly moving away from the Constitution Class guise and combining the traits of the B and D with a more elliptical and raked shape. On the top we have the Federation red stripe from the neck right to the second shuttlebay with two phaser strips marked up and running parallel to the hull. Behind them and in tiny script we again have the ship name and registry to the port and starboard respectively. Just a little off with the red edging decals for the phaser strips but we’re talking millimetres not centimetres. 

Pushing out past the phasers we are onto the warp engine pylons that echo the first iteration of the Enterprise-D’s. Sweeping forward, these pair of supports show some real grace and flair, lifting up to carry a rather spindly pair of warp nacelles.

Now we have mentioned that the ‘real’ C and this concept are very different in size and the most obvious point is right here in the warp engines. These are much more slim-lined, longer and a bit pointy. The top warp grilles are there as with the later version and here the paintwork of grey and blue seems to meld together at points rather than being distinguishable particularly at the bussard collector end. The grilles to the sides of the engines are incredibly thin and well done to Eaglemoss for managing to engineer them into the design and make them translucent. Each nacelle also carries the ship registry right at the rear tip and the field emitter coils burn a striking bright orange again well painted into the recess of the engine. Those bussard collectors are, correctly, fitted in translucent red and really finish off a very good and complex engine construction.

Again moving underneath, you’re hit by the gaping size of the main deflector. Similar to the Galaxy Class ‘eye’, the is solid coloured blue with a darker centre and dips back into the hull. If there's one other inconsistent consistency along with windows in this collection its the ability to create a sense of depth and light in the deflector dish and this is no exception. The grey dashed detail around the edge is on the other hand very nice and correct to the hull indentations but it doesn’t make up for the deflector blob.

As with the primary hull there are the standard raised lifeboat hatches and horizontal phaser strip as well as the two Starfleet pennants along either side. Some of the windows do appear misaligned and very close/overlapping onto the liftboat hatches. Take a closer look and it seems that the aztec paint scheme is slightly out of alignment too as it doesn’t match up with the red decals sitting just above the ventral phaser strip. Now that's disappointing. This error then extends down to the four square red decals between the two warp pylons and in the decals kerbing the end of the two phaser strips under those said pylons.

Here too is another join line and this one is very obvious with mine having a larger gap to one side than the other - and this is the problem with this bonus edition.  It feels unfinished and in some of the things I’ve highlighted here, rushed. Maybe mine might be the exception when it comes to the decals lining up to their intended spots but the error in the paintjob to the front of the secondary hull is unforgivable. 

Right, to the magazine now and this edition is rammed full of just about everything you could ever want to know about this conceptual design, the origins and some of the finer details we never got to see - actually no; no it isn’t. For me the magazine is a completely 100% missed opportunity from Eaglemoss. The opening pages might bear a fantastic CG image of this gorgeous and tragically near-forgotten design but the bones of the ship are missing in every way. Basically Andy Probert designed her for the lineage, there was a relief created for the observation lounge wall and that’s your lot. 

Magically and well worth a read in an attempt to pick yourself up from the gutting disappointment that was the ship overview there’s a good spread om the influential work of Mr Probert during the evolution of The Next Generation. This magazine IS filled with multiple examples of his work on the bridge for the D, the exterior of the iconic starship and many more pieces that he was involved with during the early years of Star Trek’s return to TV. This piece does make the magazine worthwhile but I think fans will feel shortchanged that there wasn’t more discussion around what features were dreamt up for this version of the Ambassador Class.

For all of the errors and faults that this kodel carries its still a brilliant glimpse of the Star Trek that might have been had Probert’s design remained a part of canon for Yesterday’s Enterprise and the Ambassador Class as a whole. What we can now look forward to is the Phase II USS Enterprise and the concept for Voyager. Given how well this one appears to have sold, fans definitely have a hunger for the more obscure designs that we never saw.

What are your thoughts on the Probert-C? Good model or shoddy finish?

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