Thursday, 17 May 2018

Living Next Door to... The Official Starship Collection Issues 124 and 125

A month has flown by like the Enterprise at maximum warp and for the first time in a LONG time we have two arrivals that are 100% fresh.

Well...that’s not totally accurate but we will come to that point shortly. 

Now, issue 124 steps into new territory by using a ship seen initially in the Enterprise title sequence (and later in the Mirror Universe) in the sweet form of the SS Emmette. Followers of the collection and the show will spot the similarities between this and the Warp Delta right away and whether through requirement or design it’s no coincidence.

Unusually though I’m going to start this review at the back end of the Emmette. Why? Because it might be the Kardashian of the starship world with one of the most recognisable arse-ends ever - well, it graced the opening sequence of every episode of Enterprise for one!

That back end is also where all the design work for this one seems to have gone. The engine block, recessed exhausts and deep grey surface detail really stand out. Why? Because the rest of it is a rehash of the Warp Delta.

If truth be told and you can see this from the magazine, designer John Eaves was tasked with making the back end for that title sequence with (and no offence to the man himself) no real need or intent to have the rest of the Emmette realised. 

When it did become a more 3D craft it’s made as a precursor to the Delta which means Eaglemoss have a bit of a squib to deal with in some respects. For instance the already released (earlier in the timeline) Delta has something to it - a bridge module, exquisite surface detail - but here on the Emmette its a plain finish.

Now I do need to distinguish here. While I’m not a big fan of the overall design, Eaglemoss have produced a cracking model of what was envisaged and the simplicity of the Emmette has probably played right to their strengths allowing for a rather wonderful two tone silver paint job across the whole of the craft. It glistens and gleams and really gives a solid impression of a metallic hull in all its glory. It’s unevenly toned which gives a much more man-made feel to the smooth surface.

That chiselled nose sweeps back to open out to the Warp engine pylons and here there’s some superb, grubby panel lining that’s an out of the ordinary touch for these ships as we don’t get to see much dirt and that ‘used’ feel very often (more on that with issue 125...). The panelling is distinctly scored onto the plastic with the greys and the grooves intermingling to give the Emmette surface depth as well as visual texture.

At the rear of the dorsal section of the hull we have the continuation of the instantly recognisable rocket section that fills the back end. Not overly painted up, there’s light detail to complement the propulsion system and if you’re comparing to the Warp Delta you’ll see just how big a difference there is between the two at the rear.

Flip this one over and you can see that the underside is a plastic insert section into the metal top and pylon piece. What’s also notable is that it’s absolutely 100% identical to the top. There is no difference in surface finish whatsoever on this one even down to the placement of the two tone sections and the panel lines. The only way you can really tell that it’s the bottom is because of the insert and which way the engine pylons face. However kudos to Eaglemoss for replicating the metallic detail onto the plastic (or vice verse) so accurately.

Out to those warp nacelles now and the design is totally parallel to the Warp Delta with Eaglemoss slapping translucent crimson bussard collectors on the front and further detailing in the Warp field grilles along the sides. Being so small it’s welcome to see that the level of finishing touch does not diminish on these plastic sections.

Stand fitting too is solid with the clip sliding around the whole of the back end of the hull reducing slip risk to a factor of zero. 

The magazine is a good read, blitzing some very brief class history (and I do mean brief) followed by some great development pics of the design from John Eaves as well as how it evolved out of a set of rocket engines into a much more tangible craft.

Finally there’s an overdue breakdown of the elements which made up the distinct Enterprise titles - and don’t be afraid there’s not a hint of Russell Watson anywhere. Eaglemoss separates the titles out into its various elements and explores the relevance in each shot albeit in brief.

Next - Alice

Now I recall Ben saying that they worked really hard on the Romulan Bird of Prey from The Original Series to avoid making it look like a toy yet this one seems to go against the grain, being a blocky and very vividly coloured craft.

One of the smallest ships converted into a regular issue, Alice is a real oddment from the collection with its garish colour scheme, big windows and very basic structure. This is one of those that could have done with a bit of weathering around the edges to add a sense of realism to the model as the very fresh look is a sharp contrast to a lot of the other entries in the series.

Some of the bits might also look familiar since part of the Alice shuttle is carved up from the remnants of the Galileo/Copernicus shuttlecraft from Star Trek V - when are we going to get it in a shuttle set by the way, Eaglemoss?!

The big scale means that the detail is well marked out and that starts right at the front with the vented box feature which rises out of the curved cockpit structure.Leading back to that very cockpit you can see the echoes from the movie shuttle with a lovely sweeping curve from the front to the top of the craft that then frames the blacked out window. Understandably it removes the necessity to show the internals of the craft however by its very inclusion the finish of the shuttle does feel a little cheapened with the blacked out windows on three sides and especially with the front one being so large.

The actual surface of the Alice is fairly plain and the scale emphasises the lack of smaller detail. Along the sides of cockpit there are a couple of decals and on the side skirt just below the grille detail is precisely painted in, again a benefit of the larger scale. Heading to the back the grey shoulders of the Alice sweep up into what appear to be engine intakes but have very little depth to them versus the images on the cover and within the magazine.

That chunky bodywork looks very cumbersome but the lines and painting are very precise so while the ship itself isn't the most exciting to grace the franchise, Eaglemoss have produced something that is more than respectable. There's a lot of angles in this back end of the craft and what is notable is the almost invisible seams between the metal and plastic. I had to get very close up to see the lines and check which was which because they are so well hidden within the design.

At the back we have the entry hatch grooved top to bottom again with a blacked out hatch this time slightly recessed into the frame and as with the rest of the craft, expertly painted. Either side of the hatch and also at the back end of the sidepods we have a series of engine exhausts. At first look they just seem to be hollow tubes with coloured interiors but close inspection also reveals that each has a translucent green inset disc to represent the engine "colour". Given that they are quite far down and shadowed by the small circular ports, it does make it quite difficult to see the internal detail.

Out to the sides is the first hint you have of the two materials joining with the seam running through the middle of the primary energy weapons. In all fairness this is where most of the detail on the Alice sits with each of the fins bearing that circular logo that's present on either side of the cockpit. The larger sections of the sidepods have some minor surface detailing with blue markings toward the front before they strike out in silver barrels. Now for note these aren't at all flimsy because Eaglemoss have made them with a decent thickness. One other point is that the navigation lights that sit on the block sections of these side-mounted weapons are only very slightly painted white. Its almost a glance over with a brush and the magazine makes them look a lot more defined.

On the underside of the Alice the design is very plain and simple. There's not much to talk about here as the detail is just the blue/grey colour scheme. It's hella basic with only four slightly raised sections at the outer edges and that front blue grilled section seeming to wrap around the nose.

The stand itself wraps around the back of the ship, gripping it top to bottom. It doesn't reach too far forward although it does sit firmly around the "shoulder" sections either side of the cockpit and gives a secure display pose.

Overall the construction of this teeny ship is spot on with some of the cleverest joins and curves in the collection. The whole of the upper hull to and including that grey skirt line as well as everything to the back bar the exhausts is metal cast and this feels solid in every sense. Alice is definitely well built if not visually underwhelming and the finished article is an impressive build at least topside. Perhaps there could have been a bit more texturing to the grey sections of the ship and some wear and tear as suggested but not bad, not bad at all.

Issue 125 covers off the basics of the Voyager episode featuring the craft, making note of its size as well as the unique selling point - it's neurogenic interface that gets Tom Paris all obsessed. The CG images and the shots from the show do highlight that some of the finer details in the blue segments around the weapons pods were missed out as well as further emphasising the lack of gritty texture on the grey bodywork.

The work of Tim Earls comes under the microscope when we come to the design of the Alice shuttle. This was unusually a one-scale model that was built and placed on the soundstage for use in the episode. This section also explains to some extent why the exterior of the shuttle is as plain as it is.

Last segment for issue 125 covers the visual effects of the sixth season of Voyager. Now this is a cracker, discussing everything from the ship junkyard in Alice to the final moments of the USS Equinox in the season opener through to the cityscapes of Dragon's Teeth and the Starfleet Research Centre for Pathfinder. It's a fascinating look into the creations that helped mould the look of the Delta Quadrant digitally towards the end of Voyager's run and there are a lot of memorable items that are nodded to. Good read again here and it's forming a recent trend to give us more techie info from behind the scenes of the franchise.

Of the pair from this delivery I've actually found Alice to be the more interesting and memorable of the two most likely because of the Emmette's distinct similarity to the Warp Delta. Let's be honest, if I was flicking through the magazine binders I think I'd be more shocked to recall the Emmette was in here than the Alice

There's a certain wonder that goes with the little shuttle because of its more basic finish and while I might have had a bit of a moan about the paint job it's probably the better realised of the pair. To be fair the colour scheme is nigh on perfect even down to the turquoise and grey.  

Righty, next up we have one more entry to the Wolf 359 fleet with the Niagara Class and then we zip back to Spock's Brain (yes...yes we do) with the remastered Eymorg Starship from the "classic" segment of The Original Series

Was Alice a basic success? Is the Emmette just an "easy" rework of the Warp Delta? Did it need a model?

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