Monday, 19 August 2019

Return to the Nebula: The Official Starships Collection Issues 156 and 157

If you had your fill of Class variants then you might want to look away.

Eaglemoss' 157th issue of the Official Starships Collection drops a third Nebula Class offering following on from the USS Honshu (issue 23) and the USS Phoenix (issue 112). But what more can you give from this Galaxy Class kitbash? 

The biggest difference with the USS Melbourne is the removal of the rear sensor pod to be replaced with the smallest warp nacelles you've ever seen although a closer inspection reveals that Eaglemoss have stepped up the quality on this variant in a significant way. Apparently it's a prototype y'see - and one that surpasses it's earlier siblings.

The Melbourne has the highest level of detail on any Galaxy Class type saucer. It's a marvel and, as I've repeatedly, repeatedly said it shows how the machining and finishing of the models has simply become better and better over the course of the last few years with many lessons learnt.

Here the surface aztecing is flawless; the paint tones subtle and the lifeboat hatches cleverly shaded darker on one side to add a sense of depth to the surface. This saucer is all metal with some very distinct and ingrained panel lines emanating from the central island. The paint application means that the lines are very strong and Eaglemoss have avoided washing out the result. 

The saucer also carries four very distinctive yellow transporter pattern emitters but as with the window alignment it feels that these are just ever so slightly out by a fraction of a  millimetre. What makes up for this is the excellent marking on of the windows around the very edge of the elliptical primary hull and the near-perfect registry that adorns the dorsal side. It's neat - both as in cool and good.

As for further colour, there are the four RCS thrusters (tiny yellow dots!) at the edges of the hull and two postbox red impulse engines at the back. These do look a tad out of place being bright and red an' all but it does make the whole ship "pop" thanks to this and some other detail touches.

Leading out and down from the saucer section is the cobra neck here partially hidden away due to the sweeping arms of the warp pylons. Eaglemoss have covered the patchwork body here with the familiar aztecing and phaser banks.This plastic section then feeds directly into the twin warp nacelles hanging down under the hulls. These sections also seem to show off the aztec paintwork more visibly as does the unit connecting the ship to its mini nacelles.

These are a carbon copy of the larger pair with Eaglemoss even managing to fit all four with translucent bussard collectors and warp grilles plus Federation pennants. What I have noticed is that the colouring of those pennants, particularly the smaller ones on the upper mini nacelles is misaligned in the oval behind the delta. On the trio adorning the underside of the Melbourne this isn't as obvious but is still present.

I was also disappointed to find that one of these upper nacelles had paint marks on it from the black detail blobbed at the back of the engine units. That noted, the fit of the small nacelles as well as the unit attaching them to the hull is well built and without any huge gaps. Overall, I can't offer anything but praise for the construction quality here - easily the best of the three Nebula's.

Flipped onto her back there's immediately the awareness that the aztec pattern is missing. It's a single grey shade right the way across the underside of the Melbourne and that includes the secondary hull and the nacelles as well as the saucer. Panel detail lines remain as does the moulding of the captain's yacht at the centre and the multiple lifeboat hatches.

Thing is that the windows are awful. Moving away from the misaligned colouring to the hull indents, the Melbourne has the lit and unlit window slits out of alignment with each other. Somehow the larger square recessed windows are spot on in their gaps but the lined paint ins are horridly out of sync. 

Eaglemoss has managed to decal in the cargo bay hatches on either side of the yacht and also towards the underside front of the secondary hull perfectly but everywhere you look the windows just don't line up even on the engineering section. It's bloody annoying.

The pennants are slightly better here with the red of the ovals only a teeny bit out of place. The deflector dish painting also needs to be noted here. Again a big improvement over the years with both Galaxy and Nebula classes featuring on multiple occasions. The orange/blue combo is well executed and the hull in the recess bearing some very clear lining.

There are more evident signs of the construction methods on the bottom most prominently towards the rear but it's one line on a very well built replica. Y'see that's the gripe. The build is great, even dropping in a tiny tractor beam, strong colours and  very stable "back end" service pod but it's typically let down by that failure to attend to the detail that's plagued the collection since issue one.

As with all the Nebula variants the stand slides around the warp engine pylons from the back making a solid display pose for the ship. 

The magazine's a decent read too, explaining the reasoning behind the mini-nacelles, the fact there were two different USS Melbourne's at Wolf 359 and some of the variables through the Nebula Class. 

Following up, there's a double page on Ed Miarecki including the work he did restoring some of the original models used on the show including Deep Space Nine itself. Ed's work on the show is then covered in more detail with a selection of his models detailed over subsequent pages. 

It's a bit of a "best of" issue with the Rules of Engagement article then listing out key battles throughout Starfleet history from Azati Prime and the near destruction of the NX-01 The Ultimate Computer to Wolf 359 to the retaking of Deep Space Nine in Sacrifice of Angels plus a lot more. Issue 157 certainly covers a lot of ground in its pages offering a sprinkling of information. Most of it is generally in universe and already known but the Ed Miarecki 

The month's second starship - and a fresh design for the collection - is the Cardassian freighter Groumall

Best recognised as the ship commanded by the fallen-from-favour Gul Dukat n Deep Space Nine's fourth season, the freighter is one you might have expected to see a lot earlier in the series.

Carrying a dusty yellow paintjob from nose to engines, the Groumall finds itself with panel highlights striped across its forward pincers as well as on the stumpy cargo pods which cover its surface like the plates of an armadillo. I'm not a huge fan of the paint on this one as towards the front and the aggressive forked nose the detail of the hull surface seems to be lost in the colour.

The further you go back, the more the paint seems blotchy with the brown and grey highlights appearing fuzzy-edged and again, as with the Melbourne, ever so fractionally out of sync with the raised panel points it's supposed to be aligned to. The white window details are bang on to the edges and must be part of a separate painting process so no quibbles there however it still feels like a rush job.

That's not the biggest offender with the Groumall though as the join lines are barely concealed. At the nose there's a visible gap with a seam then running all the way across the top of the freighter hull right to the engine block at the rear. The "over" side to the left if you look from the top is metal front to back including the engine block while the left "insert" also runs the length of the craft with identical detailing. The paint is also flaked around this central join line and while it's great that the freighter has a worn look, it's obvious that construction has caused the superficial damage.

The rear engine block is one solid piece of starship with two thirds of it being metal. Once more emblazoned with the brown and grey highlights, it also carries, on both sides, the emblem of the Cardassian Union. Unlike the CG ships of the Enterprise era it has a much more angled and simplistic finish avoiding any intricate piping works or fiddly recesses such as with the Klingon Freighter last month. 

Also to the rear are the two large, vertically parallel engine units. Slat painted red with a grey surround, the look is very effective and the lower piece is utilised as part of the grip for the display stand. The detailing is well presented with the red restricted to just the exhaust points and there's no bleed into the surrounding hull works.The side impulse engines are uncoloured and almost nondescript. A bit if translucent plastic work here would have done wonders but the tight space and multiple colourings of the hull potentially make that too fiddy. The surface markings do exist but blend in unnoticed to the browns and greys.

Turning her over the Groumall is almost identical to the top with the one distinction that the wings to the rear (attached to the engine block) are now pointing up (think about it...). Note as well that the blue paint for the square details on these rear fins is vertical on one side and horizontal on the other, failing in any way to line up with the raised hull detail. It's a bit of a facepalm move to not even attempt to get them the right way. Ok, these squares will be hidden underneath but many a discerning fan will be checking every inch when they pull it out of the box on delivery day.

The issue 157 magazine details the uses of the Cardassian freighter with the clear focus on the Groumall's voyages under the command of the disgraced Gul Dukat including its final mission and secretive upgrades. There's some excellent CG to just highlight the flaws in the model because, well, the pics are that good. Of curse we also have some shots from Return to Grace. The detail of the images in the mag do appear a lot cleaner and crisper than the finished product as though it were new off the production line. 

Designing the Groumall calls in John Eaves and his cracking art which oversees the evolution from something very Cardassian to something not so Cardassian and the reasoning behind it.The Groumall does carry a lot of the traits that fans will see in other freighters from the franchise and even the story behind it belays that it was the direction Higher Powers wanted it to show.

Finally it's all wrapped up with a Cardassian flavour discussing The Rise of Damar under the expert guidance of actor Casey Biggs. The relevance of the character here was that Return to Grace marked his first - fleeting - appearance in the series. Biggs relates the key moments from that episode right through to his role as a figurehead leader to inspiring the Cardassian resistance. 

I really, really want to love the freighter but the detail and build of the USS Melbourne is a light year ahead of it. The Groumall is a key part of the Deep Space Nine story and certainly more visible than the Nebula Class prototype yet the very visible joins and some less than aligned paint features grind the gears.

Cardassian fan or one for the Nebula? What's your choice and thoughts on this month's starship pairing?

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