Sunday, 10 June 2018

Brainy Remastering: The Official Starships Collection Issues 126 and 127

We’re back with the next two issues of the Starships Collection which transport us to 1968 and 1990...

Initially we have our seventh starship from the Wolf 359 graveyard. The USS Princeton NCC-59804 is only one of two onscreen triple-warp-engined starships across the whole 52 years of the franchise - and to be honest, it wasn't really supposed to be noticed  because it was built solely as wreckage for the aftermath of the Borg encounter.

Response to this one has already been overwhelmingly positive given the comments I've seen on social media so let's get into our usual nitty-gritty.

The saucer section will be recognisable straight away if you've already received/purchased/stolen the Freedom Class starship since it has the same simple surface detail and quintuple phaser banks around the edge of the primary hull. The two-tone aztec colour scheme mirrors down the front to back central line with the paint shade reminiscent of the first issue (remember that far back?) USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. 

It's a grey/beige combo that allows the lighter grey to stand out ever so slightly more than we've seen on the white on white aztecing on other ships such as the Reliant and the Enterprise-A. The numerous lifeboat hatches across the upper surface are lifted in a third and again slightly darker grey. It's not overwhelming but manages to isolate each element and make it highly visible on the Princeton

The raised bridge module is a subtle extension from the hull, raising to a quadruple tier which continues the aztec paint work nicely although in the metal some of the bridge detail is lost due to the size of the module on that tiered design. The decal to the rear of the bridge is centrally aligned and in turn screams out that the two recessed window blocks just behind at the rear of the saucer are well out of sync with their black and white light effects. Thing is, when you see that you then start to realise that all the windows on the main saucer areas (not the tiers oddly) are out of alignment be it only slightly.

Perhaps this highlights that different detailing takes place at different points since the registry and all of the red phaser end "brackets" are all spot on.

Underneath the saucer we have five similar phaser banks and also another series of lifeboat hatches covering the established two-tone scheme. I love the smooth finish on this one because it allows that aztecing to flow right across the hull and even though there's the transition from the edge to the plastic central insert it all stays perfectly co-ordinated. At the centre of the underside is what appears to be a sensor platform but again there's a slight loss in detail due to the moulding.

Everything from here on in is plastic with the Niagara Class and our path to the secondary hull takes us across the narrowest of neck sections and into very, very familiar ground. After all, the Engineering section of the Princeton is identical to that of the Ambassador Class more well known as the Enterprise-C.You have to love the fact that the aztec scheme runs right on through into the curved body which is finished off with more painted on lighting and two Starfleet pennants on either side. 

The build work here - especially for a ship that was originally built for screen damaged is seemingly flawless. The join that marks out the connection of the left and right parts of the hull is hidden away in the spine of the ship with only its appearance down the shuttlebay doors to the rear any evidence of its existence. For once Eaglemoss have managed to paint in the impulse engine on that stubby neck section and very precisely too.

It's a real hallmark with this one how precise the result is (apart from those damn windows) and also impressive that there's one other massive change in play - the main deflector dish is painted in rather than being stuck on as it was on the Enterprise-C. In fact there's a lot that can be taken from this ship for when the XL version of the Ambassador Class vessel is produced. That deflector did cheapen an already disappointing model but the painted on option here works much better.

So to the back my friends and the most unique thing about the Niagara Class - it's three warp engines. Evidently taken from the Galaxy Class, each sits atop its own pylon which in this case were designed an built purely for this model in the show. The finishing detail is again meticulous with dark grey panelling highlights, the continuation of the aztec colour scheme and even strong hull lines all coming together in these small plastic spaces. The same can be said for the engines themselves which all contain translucent blue sections for the warp field grilles and crimson red elements for the bussard collectors.

These are smoothly constructed, each with its own Starfleet pennant streaking across the top and the gold of the coils just adding that finishing touch - actually hold that because the engines are all aligned!!! Magnificent!

The stand fitting for the Princeton is a bit fiddly requiring some manoeuvring of the clips around the body and nacelles to clip to the saucer section. This does mean that it's a steady grip and a nice mid-point balancing position. 

Seriously though, it really is brilliantly made and such a different ship to have in the collection but its a little sad since this is probably the last entry for the ships featured in The Best of Both Worlds cliffhanger conclusion.

In the magazine there's a real sense of unity between the CG and the model with only the noticable dark grey edging on the saucer being a difference. Spot also that the CG pic doesn't have the dark grey panels on the upper two nacelle pylons.

In the Ship Profile we find out about the Niagara Class' main purpose as well as the advantages and disadvantages of that third nacelle experiment. Take note as well that the Princeton later turned up as a wreck in Unification I's Qualor II scrapyard. The plan views are also a bit confusing since the side shot appears to show gaps within the upper pylon struts - bit of inconsistency across all areas there.

Building the Niagara Class covers how Greg Jein's model shop utilised moulds from other craft and some extra spare parts to create the Princeton and the Freedom Class new for the Wolf 359 scene - in fact constructing them ready-damaged!

Third and finally in issue 126 we get Ira Steven Behr's take on the time he spent working on The Next Generation's third season well ahead of his taking the reins for Deep Space Nine. As a writer, Behr was massively involved in key stories through the transition year of the show, dealing with Romulans, terrorists, Klingons and whether or not Data did shoot Kivas Fajo in The Most Toys. It also spins around Behr's memories of the other stories around in that year including his near involvement with The Best of Both Worlds. Well worth a read.

Now, usually I skip over the episode appearance page because it's usually fairly obvious after the preceding 14 pages but here the magazine does something slightly different and steps out of universe to drop some key facts about the conclusion of the Borg story that opened season four. I had to double-take when I read it because it's so out of character for the production! 

Overall, great ship and magazine - brilliant package for this one and well worth a punt.

So yes, our second new arrival is one of the ships to be featured within the remastered versions of The Original Series and begrudgingly it’s from Spock’s Brain.

The Eymorg Starship fits right in with the majority of the remastered starships in that it’s a bit dull. Now you know that the design of the craft isn’t any of Eaglemoss’ fault and frankly it’s a step up from what graced the third season episode back in the day but it lacks that excitement factor and will surely be a completists requirement only. 

That said, Ben Robinson and Eaglemoss have done a splendid job of making the CG craft into an issue of the series and, begrudgingly, I have to admit that the end result is decent...but not stand out.

Based around a central circular design the one-woman Eymorg ship is nothing if not unique in the folds of the franchise so this time we're going to have to go front to back rather than the traditional top to bottom.

At the front as said there's a mushroom-shaped nose that bears a full azteced grey finish and also a wonderfully asymmetrical range of hull features with orange (weapons ports) and dark grey call outs bringing it to life. The central dark grey indicates the entry hatch to the craft.

Joined to the main body at five points is the propulsion ring. Detailed with the aztec grey pattern, there are five ion drive engines attached to the hoop. Both the ring and the engines have darker edging detail and to the rear of each is an orange translucent insert to indicate the exhaust ports. There is evidence of the mould line across the engines and ring which are one of the few machining indications on the starship. Around the ring there are open sections which seem to be hull detail rather than offering some form of practical use.

Spinning round to the rear the slitted exhaust ports are fitted into the metal forward body section and are coloured in orange paint rather than a series of translucent inserts, all clustered around another the central primary engine exhaust.

The design isn't out of this world but what you can say is that Eaglemoss have done a great job of reproducing the craft from the remastered third season of The Original Series

The stand fixing for the ship is exceptional, gripping one of the curved engine pods firmly with absolutely no movement at all once in place.

The Ship Profile piece recounts the events of the "classic" Spock's Brain and the part in which the craft played to steal the Vulcan's mind. The plan views offer minimal identification of the ship parts but there is a strong correlation between the model and the renders in the magazine.

What does seem not to translate too well is that the hull aztecing in the magazine looks more like weathering (this ship is supposed to be quite old) than paint effect. From a distance it does work but close up and in good lighting it doesn't do it any favours.

Niel Wray then discusses creating the new Eymorg Starship for Spock's Brain and how he diverted from the original 50's style rocket used in the '68 episode. The end result is visually much better than the rocket and was produced, as we discover, under some tight budget and time constraints.

Last article up in issue 127 recounts the story of Gene L Coon (or Lee Cronin to use his pen name) who was instrumental in the first two seasons at creating some of Star Trek's most iconic characters, concepts and races from Khan and the Horta through to the Klingons and the Prime Directive. Even after leaving his production position, Coon provided four scripts under the Cronin pseudonym for season three. 

Two well prepped and made models this month no matter what you think to the design of either. Both have exemplary build quality, stand position and finishing details across the board so it's very difficult to be critical. As part of the collection they work well and continue to demonstrate how the series continues tp move forward with each new craft. The Princeton is the easy winner for visual result this time round but I can think of a few other ships that wouldn't have even garnered a second look against the Eymorg ship. 

What do you think to the remastered ships of The Original Series? What other kitbashes should Eaglemoss make?

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