Thursday, 22 March 2018

Over and Over...: The Official Starships Collection Issues 120 and 121

The USS Bozeman NCC-1941 is possibly one of the most famous starships in Star Trek history outside of craft called Enterprise.

Going back four odd years the conversations suggested that because this was just a variant on a Miranda Class theme it might never see the light of day. However, due to overwhelming popularity and the continued success of the series itself we finally have the Soyuz Class science vessel. 

The second model to be produced in the series based on the USS Reliant (the first being the USS Saratoga), the Bozeman has the most alterations to its physical form. Indeed the shape of the ship with its single saucer hull and two underslung warp nacelles is immediately identifiable but there's lots of new bits to explore.

The topside of the hull has a wonderful aztec paint scheme that is punctuated with some very precise detailing touches. The panelling is very clear with crisp lines running across the semi-circular front section and also the rear rectangular engineering area. The triple phaser banks are painted in accurately and even the ship registry is almost perfect except for a tiny misalignment of the red bordering to the black lettering - but it's annoyingly close. It's also missing the RCS thruster points that are evident on the Reliant saucer. Right around the edge of the saucer though is an unusual piece of decalling in the form of the ship name and numbers.

The striking inclusion on the top though are the red edging strips which run around the base of the bridge module and also bordering the registry itself. The numbers are a little out of alignment with the strips but the overall effect is very good. The bridge module at the centre of the hull has another strip around its base with a darker ring of grey at its base. There's some minor window detail and the dome has another of those distinct red strips at its centre plus turbolift "Mickey Mouse" ears. Admittedly in the episode we didn't get too clear a glance at the top of the bridge module but against the Reliant and Saratoga there's a difference of detail between all three dependant on what refit we look at. 

Very impressed that Eaglemoss have managed to add in the tiny Starfleet deltas on top of the two weapon units either side of the bridge.

Both the Saratoga and the Bozeman are missing the signature rollbar over the flat rear of the hull which means we get a clearer view of the mechanics in the darker grey banks that run to the back of the craft. There's some good raised engineering works in these two areas although on screen there seemed to be more definition to the height of the components but the scale here isn't conducive to these more fiddly elements.

The biggest addition to the hull is the rear block that connects the deck to two of the outlying sensor pods. That's sensor pods and not guns even though they look like the latter. More great hull detail here with the top arm holding the sensor pod in metal with the pod itself plastic. Also at the back of that block there's a third

On the bottom of the Bozeman the plastic sections carry on with the aztec patterning and has a second set of striping either side of the smaller NCC-1941 registry. These strips line up with the numbers a lot better than the ones on the top and even the red outer of the script is tighter to the black. 

This lighter paint finish really does enhance the detail on the surface of the Bozeman and the underside benefits from this with even more lining all the way round. At the middle of the saucer this time isn't a standard sensor dome but what looks like some heavy-duty gun emplacement. Once more it's a sensor platform bristling with antennae and the number of fine aerials sticking out is not a regular occurence in the collection. 

The plastic inlay sits very well on the ship feeding right to the back with the rear block pod splitting horizontally for the two sections to join with very little impact on the surface finish. 

At the back of the vessel there is a large dark grey section which bears more mechanical gubbins than the two banks on the top. At the middle of this technical section we have the lower warp field generator which is a hold over from the earlier Reliant

Attached under the port and starboard sensor pods are the warp nacelles are fully plastic without even a trace of translucent plastic to brighten them up. The warp field grilles are all painted on and not very tidily at the very ends with some signs of gaps in the curves.The nacelles are two clips together halves and what I have noticed here is that some of the points on that join line are quite jagged on the starboard engine. At the back of both of the units there is the ship name and registry while the connecting pylons carry the Starfleet pennant.

In the magazine we have some good CG images of the Soyuz Class ship plus a bit more on its operational life including a couple of "Easter Egg" mentions it received in Generations and First Contact. The design section revolves around how the production team could make this look different with some alterations to the original Reliant model and the purpose of these added extras. 

Finally - and in keeping with the recent choice of articles in the magazines we have a section devoted to the fifth season of The Next Generation touching on key episodes such as Redemption II, The Game, The First Duty, The Inner Light and of course, Cause and Effect.

The Xhosa from issue 121 is a strange one. A ship that was mentioned multiple times in the latter half of Deep Space Nine's run but seen less than a handful of times - in fact twice in The Way of the Warrior and For the Cause from the following fifth season.

Given that its appearances were few (very few) and far between, I can't really get an idea of the true accuracy of the piece in relation to its onscreen counterpart. It also weighs a flippin' ton and must be about the heaviest starship produced for the collection. Is there a lump of concrete in each one?!

First impression here - this isn’t very exciting. It’s fairly rectangular although there is a high density of surface detail from bow to stern. The forward command/bridge section has a raked nose which is covered in multiple raised panels and callouts of some description. 

At the base of it, the Xhosa has a plain grey coat with two shades of darker greys to show off the protrusions and hatches. Some of the detail to either side of the bridge unit does seem washed out and not as prominent which looks due to a machining choice rather than overpainting. There are also a few green ventilation points on that forward section once more breaking up the uniform hull colour. 

Things get a lot more interesting as we get onto the rear section which opens up with a larger, blockier built up unit that also shows off lots of conduits and panelling plus a subspace antenna that sticks forward and is a plastic insert piece into the large metal top section. 

Moving to the main cargo section and the more rectangular slab, the detailhere seems to get better even though it's the same metal as the forward piece. The panelling is particularly crisp with the brown slatted cargo hatches standing out against the hull and surrounded by more light grey highlights. The callouts on the back end are really nice and clear on the Xhosa although the panel details on the slanted sides that drop away to the bottom don't have the definition of the top section. The panel lines are a lot smoother and seem to mould into the hull without a sharp edge in sight. 

At the back we have the triple engines and there's a unique paint effect here with the exhausts appearing to be burnt with an orange/red tone lightly sprayed into each of the units.

Now, to the underside and from the over abundance of detail on the hull, the bottom is terribly underwhelming. First off this piece is a plastic insert that runs from the nose right to the back (just in front of the engines) and it's super, super bland. The detail is not in keeping with the feel of the topside with only a couple of distinguishing features evident in the two darker shades of grey to contrast against the base coat. Problem is that the lack of details means that it looks awfully fake and flat. I would have expected more to be on there but, I suppose, since it's not going to be seen that much it doesn't matter too much.

As for the stand fitting, the clear grip piece fits smoothly over the engines and above and below the rear section but there's still a lot of weight in there all resting back on the slim neck fitted into the black base so just be aware that there could be a balancing act here.

The magazine takes us through the appearances of the Xhosa in the fourth season of Deep Space Nine plus some of its more basic features plus some of the best CG images of any ship I've seen in the collection. Honestly, some of the shots produced for this issue are class and give the ship a lot more wear and depth to its features than you can see on the model.

The placing of the detail on the metal craft is very precise and compares favourably with the plan views contained in the magazine. What the lack of portholes or windows does mean is that you lose a sense of scale against other ships in the collection. Even putting her besides something like the Defiant doesn't real help because the hull is only covered with hatches and access panel-like features.

What I did appreciate after reading this issue is how many times this ship has been used and reused again and again with a nip here and a tuck there, all starting back with the Batris from The Next Generation's Heart of Glory. Whether, as with the Bajoran Freighter, we will ever see some of these variants is open to debate but since we have the Smugglers Ship and also the various modded versions of the Reliant I can't see why one or two of these wouldn't end up as future releases. Indeed, I think the Batris would make quite a popular addition to the series.

Now while some elements of the model are disappointing with the Xhosa, the mag is a different kettle of fish, with six pages dedicated to the work of John Eaves on updating the armaments of Deep Space Nine for The Way of the Warrior. The illustrations are amazing to pour over with both the phaser and torpedo pods examined as well as the reasons behind their positioning and concealment. A great section and makes up for some of the seeming sloppy ventral detail on the Xhosa's hull.

Ok, I love the Bozeman and for the most part the Xhosa is a good model even if lacking in those underside finishing touches. A good pairing that have appeared in other guises over the course of nearly 40 years of the franchise. While my Deep Space Nine love should make me lean more towards Kasidy Yates' freighter I have to say I'm more impressed with the classic lines of Captain Bateson's starship. With previous experience of freighters - Horizon, Fortunate and even the Malon, there have been mixed to brilliant results with these auxiliary vessels. Of the Miranda variants I really do love the Bozeman to the point where it might be my favourite of the three, even over the original version from The Wrath of Khan.

Next month we have the kitbash of all kitbashes with the Yeager Class and another ship which started out in a slightly different form with the Romulan Science Vessel. Refreshing my mind in regards to my anticipation levels, this might not be an especially exciting duo...!

Liking the Bozeman? Fan of the Xhosa?

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