Thursday, 22 February 2018

New Ways of Thinking: Star Trek Discovery The Official Starships Collections Issue One: USS Shenzhou


The USS Discovery might be the main ship of its series namesake but as fans will know it wasn't the first hero starship of the latest Star Trek show.

These larger starships come at just under three times the price of the regular starship collection issues and are limited to just one every four weeks. How will we survive? 


Scaling in relative to the special issues in both price and cost, the USS Shenzhou is a masterful piece of work from Eaglemoss. Packaged in its own polystyrene carton in a unique Discovery Collection box, opening it up and taking the first look at her nearly took my breath away. It seems that Eaglemoss may well have a real winner on their hands with this new series.

Getting her out of the pack and taking a closer look impresses even further. The upper hull from the front of the saucer to the shuttlebay at the rear is one solid piece of metal with the shuttle landing deck, the warp pylons and engines plus the lower half of the saucer all being in the lighter plastic material - much in the same way as you would find in the other much longer running Starships Collection.

The detail is just as good as you would expect in the special issues but somehow it feels as though Eaglemoss have really nailed this collection given that issue one launches just before the finale of the first season and in the fact that they have had direct access to the original files from which to build these brand new scale replicas.

The saucer section itself is incredibly eye-catching with that two shades of grey paint scheme and then the sharp red striping bearing the registry and name which arcs around either side of the hull as well as cutting a scythe down the centre of the circle. Right at the front we have the main deflector including the double prong and this little dish is actually made in plastic and attached to the front. 

You do notice the lack of purple hue around the dish and also just behind it, leaving this forward feature a little dark yet there are still some lovely finishing surface details around and on the deflector itself. To either side it is guarded by two "shoulder"-like features which bear recessed hull detail.

Examine these more and you'll note that these should not be so flush to the hull as they are on the model and that they are missing the white dashing to indicate windows. In fact the surface detail in both these hollows is a bit blurred. While we are on the subject of windows, those coloured around the edge of the saucer do not line up correctly and are straying across both the dark and light grey striping that marks the end of the hull.

Step back from the deflector and you have a raised central feature which extends right back to the top of the singular shuttlebay. There are a series of white dashes to indicate the windows on the hull and Eaglemoss have wisely avoided the classic recessed windows with an attempted paint alignment which has failed on virtually every model since the original collection started four years ago. 

What I would say here is that given the Shenzhou is supposed to be an older ship and that the red paint coupled with the greys does make it seem of a more senior age, there is a glaring lack of aging on the surface of the craft. 

One of the more distinct things about the hull to the rear of the primary hull are the fins and the printed surface detail which has been worked into the original ship mould. The saucer has some sublime subtle hull panel lining while the darker panelling is also privvy to some careful work which impresses when it comes to accuracy.

Take note that there are four small squares to either side of the saucer. Look at the mag and you'll see there appear to be phaser banks but on the model these must have just been too damn fiddly to reproduce and are missing from the scale Shenzhou. While I am niggling, it could have done with a bit of weathering just to show the age of the NCC-1227 which has seen, I would guess, much better days.

Also back there we have the ship name across the top of the shuttlebay again in hull colour against the red decals. The added colour on this one really helps bring the ship to life and helps highlight her most important attributes. The shuttlebay door itself seems a little under detailed and fairly simple, sitting just above the main join line. Either side we have two pink hued impulse engines painted out rather than being in translucent plastic.

The stand fits around the back end of the Shenzhou very cleanly, gripping above the impulse engines and underneath the lower pylon. Very smooth fit and holds the weight well although my plastic sprew was a pain in the ass to get into the standard black base. Note as well, Eaglemoss, make sure you have a spellchecker as it should be labelled Shenzhou and not Shenzou!

On the underside the most prominent feature is that underslung bridge with its large forward windows. The detailing here is less vibrant however it continues with the two shades of grey and red highlights. Significantly though the windows painted on  to the two concentric darker grey bands are perfectly aligned which leaves me wondering how the hell they cocked up the ones on the top.

The panelling lines are also a lot stronger in the plastic underside in comparison to the top of the saucer.  Again we have some lost definition when it comes to the recessed sections towards the front but the amount of defined panel lines and also the inclusion of the teeny tiny registries to the port and starboard sides more than makes up for the lack of depth on some of the sections.

The distinctive red markings draw your attention back to the business end of the Shenzhou and the warp engine assembly. This is great piece of design and build work with struts arcing out from the underside of the saucer and also between the two nacelles creating some interesting open space work that is fairly unusual for a Starfleet vessel.

The lower of the two supports again bears that dark and light grey colour scheme blocked out to remove that solid uniform finish. In fact it's very noticable that there is no aztec pattern anywhere on the Shenzhou leaving the four different hull colours to define the ship in a very different way to anything else we've seen in recent years in a Starfleet vessel. We shall return to that issue shortly...

Then we're down into the warp engines with a more aggressive look than we've seen before. These are almost blades to cut through the fabric of space rather than the tubes or oblongs that we see on an Enterprise for example. The very shape of them is spectacular, sweeping to a sharp point at the rear. Nor are these particularly flexible which I might have expected from the length of the engines.

I would be careful around children and the points however because they are quite sharp. Looking from the front edge back you can see that there is an inset translucent section within their structure opening to a vent-like slit about a third of the way along. It parallels to the red markings again present as a continuation of the paintwork on the main hull and with this on both sides, the engines are also finished off with a Starfleet pennant that's probably more suited to the movie era than to ten years before The Original Series. These might be small but from a timeline point of view they are massively out.

I suppose that's actually the thing with the Shenzhou; it highlights the creativity of John Eaves' work as well as the advances that Eaglemoss have made combined with the chance of recreating this direct from the source reference materials that are mere months old rather than decades.

It's a stunning model and the scale works wonders although many will feel it is horrendously expensive at just shy of £30 a pop - and even more wallet destroying if you're already committed to The Official Starships Collection and the Graphic Novel Collection.

Also in the box this month we have a leaflet giving an overview of what's to come plus the first magazine. The artwork is a bit of a bummer because it shows off some of the subtleties missing from the good but not perfect scale model. For one there are those missing phaser banks but also there's the screamingly obvious aztec pattern. It's not as blatant as before but every CG image of the ship clearly shows off the tonal differences. Frustrating? Yes.

The compact 16 page mag, which fits inside the delivery box, is spit between the ship profile and then a designing section. It's a format that Official Starship Collection fans will know in a second as it's been around for over a 100 issues elsewhere. The stories around its creation and design necessities to be distinctive from previous Starfleet ships as well as being different enough from the USS Discovery is fascinating and with all this it feels right that this should be the first craft released into the wild as part of this new series.

Ok, let's shut this down finally. It's going to be an incredible if expensive collection. As yet the subscriber gifts are still unannounced so signing up is a little bit of a gamble (looking at you freebie Borg Cube) but I don;t think it'll disappoint in any way when it comes to the main attractions. Winner - yes. Path to bankruptcy - definitely.

What are your thoughts on the first of the collection? What are you looking forward to?


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