Saturday, 25 January 2020

Three's a Crowd? The Official Starships Collection Issues 164 and 165

The question one has to ask with the inclusion of a THIRD USS Excelsior Concept is...Why?!

The collection has a limit of 180 and even now there are still some ships unaccounted for. Could a couple of these concepts have been slipped into the bonus editions (yes, I know they are onscreen in Unification but...)...

It's heavily similar to the previous two Nilo Rodis versions that also appeared in the Qualor II shipyard and therefore bears a lot of the hallmarks associated with the classic Excelsior design.

Right at the front, the saucer carries those familiar red stripes book-ending the ship registry with the speckled attempt at aztecing which is also something we've seen on these larger ships shrunk down to a less than advisable scale when it comes to the paintwork.

The inclusion of the light blue and grey panelling is an element we've seen on all three prototypes and would be refined down for the final movie version. The five phaser banks on the top of the hull are also very evident and accurately painted in. What is new here to see is just how extensive the grey panelling is and how the blue almost appear as huge radiator grilles on either side of the saucer. 

The detail is pretty impressive and Eaglemoss have provided a real insight into a "lost" design. This is certainly a slender take on the Excelsior with the deflector dish and engines providing any real "depth" to the starship which exists along a very thin plane. Tracing a path along the hull and past the very well realised warp core dome, the body of the ship continues the aztec scheme towards the rear shuttlebay and from the back you might be forgiven for thinking this looks not unlike Discovery in the way it flattens with the warp engines spearing out into space.

Annoyingly on mine the engines are slightly wonky as you can just see from the photos. It is noticable but not to an extreme as we've had on occasion before (check the side view for a real comparison). 

The engines; plastic to the main body's metal, are still bearing echoes of the other prototypes with the grey end spikes and now have shortened warp grilles. Everything here shouts speed and streamlining with minimal extremities and a very basic but functional form. If you stuck a couple of extra nacelles on here she'd look pretty close to the USS Prometheus

On the under side the distinctive curved hull with the recessed deflector is in place directly under the hull rather than being on the (here non-existent) secondary hull. The lines of the hull are really smooth and with only a few mods you can see that the final form of the NX-2000 is taking shape. Eaglemoss have done a great job of creating a rare ship and being able to really demonstrate the design lineage of the class.

In answer to my question at the top, this is well worthy of being in the collection and moreso than the slight variations we've had for the Miranda's or the Nebula's where there's been a sensor pod change for example. With the Excelsior Nilo Rodis craft we have a unique perspective to see and get up close with a thought process. 

There are so many bits that are clearly part of each of the prototypes that were advanced to the screen-used model even down to the rear-firing torpedo launchers hidden away on the ventral side of the hull and the shape of the warp engines. 

The length of the ship and the need to confine it to a certain size box is disappointing and larger version of these Excelsior predecessors would look amazing. Demand probably won't be there but they're begging for more, larger attention. 

I love this one after having spend some time pouring over the detail and understanding the lineage. If you've already got the first two it's a no-brainer to complete the set but not everyone's cup of Earl Grey.

The accompanying magazine opens up on a simple double page spread CG of the model and plan views (four pages down) before launching into four pages covering the evolution of this third design and its eventual use within the Qualor II shipyard as well as its influence on the screen representation. While these sections aren't giving us a lot of detail that hasn't already been covered, luckily the section profiling designer David Carson makes up for it a bit with the inclusion of drawings and screen comparisons from his work on Star Trek.

Moving over to what feels like a rare Deep Space Nine entry, we say hello to the Karemma Starship most recognisable in the Starship Down episode from the fourth season.

The ship has a certain quirkiness to it and is one that this collection would have felt incomplete had it not been included. The base grey colour here is accented with a subtle aztec paintjob not usually seen on anything beyond a Federation starship. On screen this wasn't that clear but here you can understand how the more brown patterning actually lessens the base coat.

The metal top piece carries varied levels of detail from the painted on "dots" of the windows around the forward section and the rear. Only on nearer inspection can you find that the windows are actually sitting on raised sections of the hull and rather impressively the white and the raised hull areas actually match up. The curved side sections around that forward section are cleanly shaped with the coloured detail standing out well although there is some of the forward hull elements that blend more into the structure. 

Some of that detail is incredibly hard to make out and again to the rear, the panelling is only really visible if you tilt the hull into the light to catch the edges of the rectangular sections. Between these two pieces are cargo modules with an almost spinal sense to it. The sections are very distinct and have avoided being overloaded with paint allowing you to appreciate the shape of the starship.

Over the top though is a plastic insert again in the grey and beige aztec colouring. It blends well however the edges to this piece are quite rough especially to the back and I've managed to catch a finger or two on them over the last few days. Do be aware that the top corners are also very sharp. 

Underneath the main hull it becomes clear that the length of the ship is a single plastic strip encompassing more of the grey/beige aztec with a brown ribbed effect running along the edges and managing to hide away the join lines rather pleasingly. To the front this plastic under-section includes the third "fin" to curve out from the hull which is a lot stronger than I imagined it would be and echoes the style of the pair either side of the front unit to the Karemma ship.

The consistency in the painting as well as the alignment of all the pieces in this craft are at Eaglemoss' best - until I examined the underslung engine pod which has a kink to one side and also ever so slightly upward on one side. Annoying but not overly obvious this might be, it's still a minor downpoint on what is an unexpectedly solid model.

Now, out to the sides the metallic pylons drop down to the two separate plastic warp engines. The design of these are one of the great spectacles of the ship and not because it incorporates the hull paint scheme into the curves of the two pods. The Karemma Starship has some lovely use of negative space towards the back of the engines, opening them up on three sides. The tragedy comes in that the inside piece is flat grey with no surface detail whatsoever. The result looks great from the side although there is some separation of the plastic pieces to create the effect to the front of the spaces.

For us Deep Space Niner's the Karemma Starship is an odd non-Federation, Cardassian or Dominion ship from the show that's been added to the collection. Even with some slight niggles, I'm still impressed with the overall result and how the various elements, angles and spaces have all been drawn together into this ship. Combining inserts, wrap sections, metal curves and all still (mainly) aligned, it's a quadrant away from our usual expectations of build quality.

Into the magazine now and we have the standard episode recount from Starship Down before a storming read on the designing of the Karemma Starship from John Eaves including sketches and also its other appearances in various guises. The issue rounded off by a very interesting read around David Mack and John J Ordover's pitch to Deep Space Nine which became the screened episode. This alone is worth a good read to see how the episode changed from conception to TV.

What did you make to the third Excelsior Concept?

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1 comment:

  1. I's a pity Eaglemoss did not reproduce the better looking actual Karemma ship but used the model of the Bajoran rip-off (longer nacelles and front tip with wings instead of fork).