Thursday, 27 September 2018

FaceLift: The Official Starship Collection Issues 132 and 133

One of the marks of the starships collection has been it's desire to do everything on screen including a hell of a lot of variants.

The Miranda Class variants in the Reliant, Saratoga and Bozeman (and soon to include the Lantree); the upcoming Keldan Class Cardassian ship is a spin on the Galor Class, the versions of the Arctic One; the Smugglers' Ship/Bajoran Freighter...the list goes on and now we have the third of four versions of one of the hero ships from Star Trek in the form of Warship Voyager.

We've had the original, the armoured version from Endgame and we will soon have the Borgified variation as a bonus edition but now here's a twist on the Intrepid Class that I've certainly been keen to acquire.

On the whole the main spaceframe for USS Voyager remains unchanged due mainly to the time and cost it would have swallowed up to make even more dramatic alterations to the ship.

Eaglemoss have brought this one out most likely thanks to huge demand and while there are visible changes to the upper hull and rear, it is ostensibly the same mould that was used for the original ship nearly 5 years ago. So what has Eaglemoss done to improve on that issue six craft alongside the new weaponry that's bristling all over the surface of the starship?

The answer to that question is - quite a lot.

In fact it has to be said that the work that's been done on this almost makes you want Eaglemoss to go back and completely overhaul the issue six Voyager because it's almost chalk and cheese. Let's start right at the front for example. The forward sensor platform at the tip of the primary hull now has distinct segmented panels running up to it in the dipped section of the hull but that's only the start.

Take a good look at the two hulls side by side and you can see that on this Warship the panelling is far superior and much more defined rather than looking as if the factory painted it far too thickly. Every line can be made out, the phaser strips are sharper because not only is that hull finish more precise and clean but the weapons emplacements themselves have a darker finish and a razor sharp edge to them. 

Lifeboat hatches are also more finely implemented although, as usual, both they and some of the painted on windows along the side of the saucer don't quite match their hull dimples. However what is noticeable is that there are a lot more windows that you can physically make out on the surface because it's not overpainted especially towards the rear of the primary hull either side of the central "lump".

Looking then to that centre piece and the bridge, the markings here are again a light year ahead of the original; darker, defined, seemingly even machined better to really highlight the detail of the command module and surrounding features. 

Sweeping back towards the secondary hull, the neck section is a delight to behold with the service hatch and the twin torpedo launchers much easier to make out with much better contrast of colours and darker shades to really pick out the parts. Now the clever thing is that, because the upper hull section is in metal it's the only piece that Eaglemoss have actually had to do any work on. I'm taking a pot shot guess but the lower hull is identical in its makeup below that join line that mates the plastic to the metal. 

Aside from the impressive hull upgrades, Warship Voyager does have some distinctive differences that weren't seen that much on screen but have meant that it's been a desired item for a while in my collection.

There are now three large gun emplacements (plastic) inserted into the primary hull either side of the registry and centre between the two curved phaser banks. Moulded into the metal there are a further two cannons mounted slightly further back and below the phaser strips as well as some rather menacing fins that jab out from the rim of the primary hull. 

Along with two prong attachments either side of the shuttlebay, as well as two further bolt ons just above the warp engine pylons, these aren't a lot of differences but - from above - they do change the appearance of Voyager a teeny bit.

But that's where the big changes end because in terms of the pylons themselves and the engines it's exactly what we got in issue six and will likely see again when the Assimilated Voyager turns up next year as a bonus edition. 

One thing I have noticed with this ship is just how badly the RCS thrusters have been marked on. The finish is blotchy, hurried and barely filling the defined slots around the edge of the primary hull. Tut tut Eaglemoss it's something that stands out against the improvements in every other respect.

The definition of the bussard collectors, coils and transparent warp field grilles on the engines are lovely and identical to the original although once more the painting on the hull sections (pylons) is much more precise and the story continues unabated on the bottom too.

The're nothing different in comparison to the hero vessel except you can see the fins to the sides of the primary hull but look straight to all the other features and you can see that Eaglemoss have gone to town to get this so much more intricate and actually enjoyable to look at than they did before. 

The finish is clean and once more the colours feel as though the producers turned their work up to 11 meaning everything is distinct. There's no washed out panelling; phaser strips arc effortlessly round the hull, decals are perfectly aligned and recessed lines don't just blend into their darker neighbours. Even the main deflector is cleanly finished and seems somewhat brighter - it's amazing how much of a difference just changing the paint work can do to a model and this is a great example of learning from the original and improving on it. I know a lot of people might have complained about getting another Voyager but this is definitely worth seeing.

The stand position has also changed to the same place as is used on the XL version. Rather than a rear grip around the pylons, here Voyager is caught behind the ears(!) with the clear plastic holder slipped around the rear of the main hull. It's a better, more central hold and feels like it takes the weight of the ship much more ably than that rear position.

Issue 132 covers the essential elements of Living Witness and recounts the story with a little focus on the ship but not much. It then turns to designing the alterations for Voyager which, shockingly, weren't actually as many as you might recall and were limited since the production team didn't want to cause any damage to the Voyager hero CG. Oddly this section does lean into giving us more details on unseen features of the original Voyager physical model rather than swaying towards details of the features added for Living Witness.

Finally Tim Russ, who directed the episode, is interviewed about his experiences on Living Witness plus some of his favourite moments from the seven years of the show. It's seamlessly worked in given Russ' background link to the episode but as with the story of designing the Warship, it tends to veer off into relatively unrelated territory.

Over to issue 133 and we stay with Voyager but race on over into season seven for a ship from Drive; Irina's Racing Ship

This is one of those times that the previews make it look dreadful and you're considering leaving it in the box for all eternity but then it turns up and oh my is it something else indeed.

Lesson one is never go with the promo shots (take note of the Fortunate for one and the Arctic One for another) because what turns up may well knock you for six and this is another one of those times. 

It is a shade smaller than we are used to with the Starships Collection but it more than makes up for that in terms of features and finish. Right across the hull we have some very intensive panel lines that fill the whole surface of the craft and even seem to line up precisely if you run them from one engine, across the bridge and onto the second engine.

It's pinpoint accurate as is the definition of the red stripe that runs front to back. It remains tightly packed into a very small area of the ship and at no point does it appear to bleed out into the golden main hull colour.

Amazingly the blacked out bridge windows to the front are aligned to their respective recesses but there are only four and they are close together which might be why it's been managed so effortlessly in this instance.

While for the most part the hull is golden with that red racing stripe, there are also numerous pebble-like markings around the central spine of the ship, to the rear and again underneath and out onto the warp pylons. The alignment of paint to bump is perfect in every single case here and it has to be a small win for Eaglemoss that they are actually getting better at matching things up across the miniature fleet.

For something this small there's a good bit of weight behind it with the whole top section of the Racing Ship, its pylons and the upper halves of the engines all being metal. Perhaps the cleverest piece here has to be the construction of those engine pods though. The back halves are a metal/plastic combination but the front half is pure plastic.

Now initially that might seem a bit boring but Eaglemoss have used transparent pieces painted over in sections with gold and red. It gives a deeper sense of worth to the model and something a bit different to the usual inlaid strips for warp field grilles with a significant area of the ship given a more thought out finish that works with the light to make it stand out that little bit more.

On the underbelly all the markings are emphasised even more with more grey and red call outs packed into a very confined hull surface. With the cockpit gone on the ventral side, is there again but also extenuated with a metallic-coloured area just at the rear of the bridge module. The plastic bottom is just as well completed as the top, mirroring the "ZZ3" style decals on both the engines as well as the raised "braille" panels on the pylons. 

In the show this wasn't anything to write home about given that a lot - if not all - of the racing ships featured in Drive were rehashes of already seen craft. What Eaglemoss have managed to do is turn something that was screen fodder into a tightly worked, excellently painted model that's a little gem hidden in the folds of the collection, overshadowed by the big names.

Irina's Racing Ship wasn't an eye-turner on the page but in metal and plastic it's presented well given it's size.  Display is pretty decent too with the stand clipping around the sturdy engine pylons for a good mid-ship balanced pose.

The accompanying magazine offers up better CG than we got in the series alongside some technical details around the Racing Ship and it's speedy capabilities. There are call outs to the events of Drive but what I felt here was that it was kept more relevant to the craft than had been managed in the Warship Voyager magazine. 

Designing the craft is a little quick to skim through given that it was a reuse of an alien vessel from Latent Image which was only glimpsed for a second or so.  As with the Warship this does - and very quickly too - diverge into a summarised discussion of the other competitor ships for the race and their scrappy origins as well.

Last but not least there's six pages of text and pics recounting the writers' experiences of season seven and bringing Voyager home. There's more of a focus on the range of stories that the show told as it wound down towards Emdgame rather than focusing on the series' final episode so we have recollections of not just Drive but also Workforce, Shattered, Prophecy, Lineage and Homestead to single but a few out. Some of the original ideas for the final year are discussed too, providing a new look at what might have been...

A good month again from Eaglemoss with both Warship Voyager and Irina's Racing Ship raising the stakes and providing us with two great models for display. Voyager's changes are pretty cool and this is one I've been waiting for but the overall finish and look of the Racing Ship model makes that this one's winner by a pointed nose - and it's odd for me to be saying that a random alien craft is better than a pimped out version of the namesake starship from the series...but it's true.

Next two editions coming our way will be the Carbon Creek Vulcan Survey Ship and secondly, adding to our range of craft from these big players, the Xindi Humanoid starship.

What are you liking about the Racing Ship? Has it made enough of a difference to make fans want it?

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