Monday, 2 December 2019

Jefferies Ideas: The Official Starship Collecton Bonus Editions; Galileo and Phase II


It’s 1966 and Star Trek needs something. 

While the transporters are fantastic and save having to find a way to inexpensively land the USS Enterprise, the good starship needs a shuttle.

Who better to design it therefore than Enterprise creator himself Matt Jefferies. So was the shuttlecraft born however before it did make an appearance it would go through a drastic change to look like we now know it from what it was originally conceived.

Jefferies has a much broader and more unrestricted vision for the Enterprise’s supplementary vessel and Eaglemoss have wisely chosen to highlight it as part of the bonus editions of the Official Starships Collection.

So ignore the box on legs that was the Galileo and check out the smoother, swept finish to this beauty of this model, the Al-Biruni. Wider at the front, the forward section of the ship is dominated by the triple window offering almost 180 degree visibility. Eaglemoss have definitely encapsulated the art deco feel of Jefferies concept with an admirably smooth hull finish and a shape not too dissimilar to the sub from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The dual hatches are a subtle indent into the metal body either side of the windows which is then succeeded by the USS Enterprise moniker and NCC-1701/5 registry. This takes up a large proportion of the shuttle's sides, covering the very light grey/white scheme 

The retro feel continues down the spine of the shuttle which seems more movie era than The Original Series with venting evident as well as a much more industrial theme than is evident on the rest of the ship. It's not overly filled with gimbles although the layered panels do look more like armour. This darker grey section extends down the rear of the shuttle and also out along the sides, recessing into the hull with a heavy grilled effect. 

One thing that is particularly striking is the way in which the warp pylons seem to sweep out from the main hull into a wonderfully unusual double arch which results in the warp engines. These warp engines are almost identical to the ones on the USS Enterprise complete with "golf ball" exhausts. These are a little larger in scale to the ones on the Enterprise and also have white bussard collectors fitted rather than the glowing red on the starships. 

The overall paintwork is immaculate for the body however around the windows, the black does seem to have chipped/not quite covered at all points and slips in a teeny bit of disappointment given how much I love this craft.

A more tragic misfire with this otherwise exemplary model is that you can't display it without the stand as you would with the other shuttle sets. The wing "feet" do sit slightly proud of the main struts as indicated in the magazine and the original designs but without the rear support strut it just falls backwards.

The nature of the strut probably makes it incredibly fiddly and expensive to add on here but I do know of at least one person that has managed to build and fit one...(thanks to @bobmat for the pic...)

If you don't manage to build yourself a third leg(!) then the underside of the Al-Biruni is somewhat plain with only the dividing line between plastic and metal around the lip of the central structure being a visible "feature" if you will. To give credit, the ventral section of the shuttle is completely smooth and blemish-free, continuing the off-white paint scheme across the full surface. Does it need any extra detail here? Absolutely not because there's a real awareness of a functional minimalism that does transfer across from the original starship of Jefferies design. 


This is one cracking design and the Jefferies Concept special issue magazine dives straight into the initial story around the necessity for a shuttle, the fact one was missing for some time and also the point that the Matt Jefferies concept while brilliant and in keeping with the look of the show was not feasible when it came to a quick construction schedule - enter AMT and Gene Witfield who came up with the Galileo that we know today.

The whole magazine covers this story and is filled with a ton and a half of design work from Matt Jefferies. Some of it is very familiar but there are even very early almost alien-esque/Jetsons craft that wouldn't have looked right on the flightdeck. Damn good read here and a lot to look over.

Skipping forward just over a decade we get to one of the most fascinating sections in Star Trek history with the never-made Phase II

Eaglemoss have already included the concept for the USS Enterprise into this series as part of this bonus line and now we have the Matt Jeffries Concept Shuttle to add in and it's just as impressive as his vision for The Original Series.

Stepping away from the conventional design of a box with nacelles, this one is actually a redesign of a ship from a never produced War of the Worlds TV series. Opting for a more tubular shape, the NCC-1701/9 shuttle takes a line from a winged rocketship or an airliner and certainly shows the influence of 70's styling. Bizarrely it does carry some parallels to the Enterprise NX-01 shuttlepods especially to the front.

The curved nose arcs out to provide the craft with an oval shape from all sides and under that nose there looks to be some form of sensor or navigational deflector sunk back and painted very precisely. This upper hull section carries a decent amount of weight - it's a very large metal piece making up two thirds of the resulting model. There is a lot of space taken over by the blacked out windows and the fuselage is marked up with The Original Series livery including the pennant and blocky registry. Eaglemoss have also included clear lines sunk into the metal to demonstrate where the entry hatches are on both sides of the shuttle.

The detailing is pretty crisp and minimal with only red stripes across the nose and around the rear of the passenger compartment, just ahead of a very inconspicuous engine painted in the same light grey as the hull. I would have thought this would have warranted something more striking to lift it from the rest of the ship.

To the back there are the swept wings which make this appear more like a plane than a shuttle, jutting sharply back and out from the hull, these are attached to the plastic "flat" bottom and are surprisingly strong. To the front they are wider due to the grilled effect, tapering to a sharper edge at the rear. The panel detail on the wings is slim at best with the upper sides probably fairing better and looking more "winglike" than the ventral surfaces.

Now from some angles the odd vertical fin arrangement doesn't look right and is a distinct move away from the shuttles of ol'Star Trek. In reality all this aerodynamic fluff would offer nothing in space but on the flip it might work more in favour of the ship once it's heading down to a planet. Quibble here has to be that the probes sticking out from the wing tips on mine are ever so slightly bent down. Very, very minor I know.

The underside provides a flat base so this one can be displayed without the standard black base and clear grip piece.  Aside from the wraparound grey, the base has a series of metallic painted ovals and circles which could be magnetic locks or some form of landing thrusters - your guess is as good as mine.

The Phase II Concept magazine offers lots of dribble-worthy CG images of the shuttle steering more towards how the design was forged and then swapped to the Star Trek show. The story of Jon Povill takes over the majority of this one though, covering his journey with Star Trek through its multiple revival attempts in the 1970's right up to Phase II itself before splitting into a second secton looking at the development of the proposed return of Star Trek that would eventually mutate into The Motion Picture. A veteran of TV, this section covers Povill's work plus his relationship with Gene Roddenberry in great detail and as a fan of this era of the franchise it's an insightful read.

Both craft are available now online from Eaglemoss.co.uk.

What's your take on the concepts? Is there one that stands out more? Are they in the Star Trek mould?


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1 comment:

  1. It would be interesting if Eaglemoss decided to make models of some of Mr. Jefferies early design concept sketches of the original Enterprise.

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