Thursday, 1 March 2018

Singular Propulsion: The Official Starships Collection Issues 118 and 119

Here we go with a hectic month of delayed specials, specials delayed until next month and finally two regular issues that have left me a little needy. 

Opening up the first of the two we return - once again - to Wolf 359. It combines elements from the Galaxy and refitted Constitution Classes into the most compact Starfleet ship in the fleet.  Comprising of three elements - saucer, neck and engine, the Freedom Class USS Firebrand is pretty much devoid of intricacy or delight with the simplest of builds. 

The saucer itself, the top half of which is metal, carries five phaser strips around its elliptical hull rather than a single curved bank. Reflecting its simple and hurried origins for a graveyard scene, the Firebrand has this aura of being almost unfinished with the aztec paint scheme coming across as more dirty than a subtle two tone paintjob. I might also have this feeling because the one I got sent has some rather obvious glue marks to the side of the saucer which you csn clearly make out on the photos. 

The registry is similarly sketchy and although this will never make my favourites list, the fact that it seems incomplete does well to reflect the scene it was used for as well as its preparation for that moment. This was never something that was going to be at the forefront of the show but due to popular demand its now HAD to be there and Eaglemoss have done the best they can from fhe less than perfect source material.  

The saucer is smooth to a fault with only the five phaser banks and an almost missable bridge module to break up the plain surface. Note that there are no panel lines in play, only painted on white and black windows for more sporadic detailing. The bridge module itself barely rises above the hull and is finished with the thin slit of a shuttlebay to the back.

Turned over,  the now trademark metal/plastic border ring is very evident, running about midway round the centre of the primary hull. There are again five phaser banks marked out with three larger to the front and two smaller to the back. As with the top bu not mentioned, each bank does have red trimming at either end - something present on all these The Next Generation era ships. 

There's one more thing to this one because it has a very unique central feature in the shape of a whopping great phaser cannon. It makes the Firebrand more than memorable because its such an unexpected piece of tech to see bolted onto Starfleet vessel. 

That underside is still smooth and azteced but fortunately whoever put it together managed to avoid spreading their gluey fingers onto a second surface.

Down the back now and the borrowed neck section from a Constitution Class Starship is quite the angular contrast against the more curvy lines of both the saucer above and the warp engine below. The window detailing is all in place which is one thing that I find can be missing when it comes to these models. In this case there’s enough room to get them blobbed on and given the distance between the saucer and the engine it would have been obvious if it hadn’t been.

Right at the base of the neck section is a very familiar feature in the shape of a photon torpedo launcher. Resting on top of the engine might not be the safest place to fire high explosives from however it’s painted cleanly and clearly so from an accuracy perspective we have to let it pass. From a logic perspective this is utter madness!

Finally at the base of the Firebrand we have that single warp engine. Bearing all the hallmarks from the Galaxy Class, Eaglemoss have managed to squeeze in both the blue translucent warp field grilles and the crimson red bussard collector giving that much needed depth to the simplest of starships.

The nacelle is well decalled with ship registry and minor tech style callouts which breakup the uniform Starfleet grey overcoat. At the bottom you might also spot a small grey blob thats hanging down. If you’re a little confused I totslly understand because this, if you look closely at the magazine cover, is a tiny navigational deflector. Given the size of this item on the model i can see why it isn’t painted.

Given this is one of the smallest Starfleet ships from the whole collection I’m actually amazed at how seemingly overpowered and overarmed this thing is with multiple phaser banks, that idiotically big cannon and a low-placed torpedo bay. I think the Defiant might have had less weapons...

Issue 118’s magazine gives skant detail on the background of the Freedom Class noting only is main features , the likely heritage of its parts and its role before Wolf 359 as well as its part in the fateful battle. The plan views show how close the model is to the ‘real thing’ plus highlight some of the fiddlier features that have not been coloured due to their size such as that deflector and the torpedo tubes. 

Adding to your library of reference for the fourth season of The Next Generation, we have an interview with series writer Ronald D Moore on his contributions to the show with a strong focus on his stories including Family, Reunion and Redemption, the latter two being part of Moore’s work to revamp and update the Klingon Empire. The next four pages are given over to another key member of the behind the scenes team that made The Next Generation into the show it was, Michael Piller. For me he is the most significant player in the story of the show and the way in which Star Trek developed through Deep Space Nine and into Voyager with its tight storylines and focus on character.

Next to tick off the list is the Hirogen Holoship and it’s the second part of that name which sends chills down my spine. Remember the Federation Holoship from Insurrection? Y’know, the one that looked like a cheap TV remote control? Well upon hearing that we would be seeing this one from Voyager’s seventh season two parter Flesh and Blood, I started on the flashbacks to that review. 

Tragically they do have one thing in common - they’re both pure plastic models. The Federation block was two pieces painted and slapped together but here the luck that the Hirogen has a bit more flair to their starship design has saved what could have been another dire result.

The Hirogen Warship from issue 51 (yes, that long ago!!!) was a decent enough ship and as I start to be more selective on what’s displayed, it still remains out as one of the better craft produced. The Holoship likewise is a good representation being a little more streamlined than its more aggressive cousin. 

The paint scheme is instantly recognisable as being Hirogen with that gold and brown pattern playing out across the whole of the model. First impressions are that it’s a decent build with some nice minutiae to get engrossed with so let’s dive a bit further in.

This slimline starship has a slightly insectoid look to it starting right at the front. Those twin antennae only have a little flexibility in them but then they aren’t the only appendages to be aware of on this ship. 

The front probes lead back to a bullet shaped forward hull section. Here we have some basic hull detailing with grooved bodywork and a distinct bridge module sitting right at the top. Compare the model to the magazine and you can see that the CG emphasises the slight variation in tones between the panels on the hull, keeping instead to a single gold colour for the whole surface. From the bridge there's a raised section of hull which runs the length of the ship to the central, main engine at the rear. Stop when you see the two grill-finished dome structures because these are clearly not the correct colour versus the show or the plan views in the magazine. They have a more red tint to their finish while on the model they are rendered in the same gold as the rest of the hull. This error also covers the two similar structures on the underside.

Now this ship has a pretty clever build to it with a top and bottom half placed together and with a join hidden away thanks to the brown/gold wing formations that extend along the sides. Top and bottom these protruding pieces have some raised detail but then have some more spindly appendages sweeping rearwards. Also that paint scheme - it has an incredibly slight hue change dependant on the right light meaning it's not quite the solid colour you initially believe it to be.

I'm actually surprised that Eaglemoss have decided to keep these rather flexible aerials on the model as usually they are omitted because they are harder to reproduce although maybe their equipment is offering better results these days, I don’t exactly know. 

The hull is solidly built and evades the need for a particularly detailed paint job by adding a ton of surface detail, ridges and call outs. The biggest of these features of sorts have to be the horizontal fins that hide that central join but there’s also two extremities that seem to act as shields to the outside two of the three engines (the warp engines). As you do look towards the back, the panelling on the main hull becomes less and contrasts to the increased detail on those side fins. The grey/gold combination almost has a camouflage/worn effect to it and unusually it's not symmetrical left to right. For me that's a really great feature on this ship and something that's not often seen in this mass produced collection. That uneven nature gives a more hand-finished feel to the Holoship although some of the grey seems to have bled over onto the orange dotted sections to the rear of the craft just ahead of the engine exhausts.

I do have to correct myself because if you are paying attention to the Holoship you'll realise I've messed up - it does have a metal section that runs inside the craft and can only be seen at the back in the form of the central engine. That weight also cleverly helps to balance the model when it comes to slotting the impulse engine exhaust into the rather unique stand which grips only that protruding piece of the Holoship - might not be the most secure fitting ever by the way.

On the bottom the central panelling pattern is identical to that on the upper side and it also carries on the two slight golden shade variations in the paint. One difference though is that the detailing on the top of the two (outer) warp engines is a darker orange shade than the slots on the top which have a more yellowed finish to them. It's a minor touch but as with that non-symmetrical grey paintwork on both sides of the fins but it's these things which make it a bit different as does the tiny etched detail that circles the forward section in a slightly orange band.

Challenge with this one though is that it's not very exciting as a single episode Hirogen craft. It's barely memorable from the back end of Voyager and is overshadowed by its smaller warship version that played a part in season four of the series.

Opening the issue 119 magazine gives us a recap of the Flesh and Blood story in quite a lot of detail and with very little focus on the ship itself. Eaglemoss follow this up with the plan views which highlight just how different the hull finish could have been and how the warp engines bring life to the hull through the orange vents that are under the engine carapaces.

Robert Blackman then explains the design and varied build process for the Hirogen armour and how it changed from the fourth to the seventh season which shed a lot of weight for the actors to have to carry. Finally - and well worth the admission price alone for this issue - is a six page interview from Bryan Fuller about his involvement with Voyager which was conducted just after the show finished in 2001. Covering stories including Flesh and Blood as well as The Raven, Barge of the Dead and Mortal Coil, it discusses Fuller's time on the show through the latter stages of its journey.

So, yet another very average month from the Halls of Eaglemoss which adds to the legendary Wolf 359 fleet and puts some more meat onto the bones of the Voyager range within the series. I've not found either of these ships to be that incredible. They both offer some nice features but each month I find with these single appearance ships that I do want for more. Fortunately next month we are going to get that with the arrival - finally - of the USS Bozeman from Cause and Effect and also the Xhosa from Deep Space Nine as used by Sisko's other half, Kasidy Yates.

I'm geinuinely excited by the prospect of both these ships much more than I have for a while since the Bozeman is such an iconic part of The Next Generation and one of its most important episodes.

How do you feel about this month's ships? Is the Freedom Class a winner? What's your thoughts on the Holoship?

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