Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Metaphorically Speaking: The Official Starships Collection Issues 166 and 167

Right - we're going straight into Issue 166 and get ourselves up to date with the regular collection.
Two bonus edition reviews are coming next week and now we're tackling the classic Tamarian Deep Space Cruiser. That's Tamarian not Tallerian which means we're talking Darmok from The Next Generation.
A slimline design cowboyed off the Tarellian (not to get you all too confused) starship from season four's Suddenly Human, the budget restrained cruiser still cuts a very distinct swathe through Star Trek mainly due to the impact of the episode in which it appeared.
A plain grey colour, the cruiser is one solid model. The whole body with the exception of the undersides of the engines and the central hub is one casting. As we've seen on other models this can be a big win in some respects with a nicely weighted starship and for the most part some good raised hull detail across all of the panels. The wedge-shaped forward section leads with the patchwork grey colouring and with a thin enough paint finish, the grilles and bumps don't blend into the background. 

The central hull piece is fairly thin and benefits from the metal build quality, strengthening both this and the four pylons which stretch out to the warp engines and wings. Here again the grilled panelling manages to stand out from the hull although it's the nacelles where the most distinctive part of the Tamarian ship resides.

The engines include inset red plastic pieces utilising the plastic coverings on the underside to hide how they are installed. The light seeps right through from top to bottom through the eight panels on each unit with the inset pieces even wrapping at the ends of the tubes to blend the materials. The join lines for both the engines and the central body piece are well hidden, almost inconspicuous as panel edges which does manage to bring at least a bit of life to the grey starship. As for the forward swept wings, these work well from the perspective of showing their panel lines in that the sections are noticeably raised versus the base hull level. 

The stand position clips the ship in from the rear and there's no give so she's firmly in place from the get go. Lovely design, definitely one that was missing from the collection and should have been included much, much earlier. In the magazine the CG images give a great, crisp look at this one-off ship from all angles alongside the recounting of the Darmok episode and the fact that the Tamarian ship was one of the ships more well-armed than the Enterprise. 

Issue 166 also covers the unique way in which the Tamarians communicated alongside some minimally detailed views of their starship. Honestly, by this point I've given up attempting to reason why these plan views aren’t more adequately labelled given the audience.

Rick Sternbach is once again in the hotseat for the double page spread explaining the transformation of the Talarian Observation Craft into the more distinctive Tamarian vessel. Minimal drawings again here with a simple before and after comparison between the two starships to line up the changes that were made to help reduce costs on the expensive opening batch of season five stories.

One of the most interesting articles perhaps of the whole Starships Collection appears here with an interview with Darmok writer Joe Menosky opening up about the background to this The Next Generation classic which began life in a very different form to what was eventually filmed. Beyond that the article also delves into Menosky’s further involvement with the fourth and fifth seasons of the series culminating in writing the season concluding/cliff-hanging Time’s Arrow. 

Over to another gorgeous Enterprise arrival and this one's from the early days of the first season with the Axanar Freighter from Fight or Flight. When we mean early, we mean episode two so this one is a real stab in the dark for the series as it found its feet. Luckily John Eaves was on hand to whip up a freighter design that's both familiar and also offers new twists on our expectations. The quality of course as you would expect from Enterprise is stunning. 

The model itself is spectacularly detailed from nose to tail starting out with the snout like front piece nestled between two overlapping side panels. The overall silver finish is also incredibly striking but where the Axanar Freighter wins for me is in the precision of the finish. Freighters as a whole aren't that exciting but this one almost feels like a work of art. The panelling is well marked and from above you can appreciate the segmented nature of the ship and that solid metallic silver covering. 

Each of the segments is individually decalled on the left and right as well as the nose carrying two sets of markings as well.  Perhaps infuriatingly the hull sections at the rear and behind the extensive array of cargo pods have a terrible join line especially at the top which ruins the overall, pretty decent, effect. The gap is very noticeable and jarring considering the tender loving care that has gone into crafting everything forward of this point. It's only on the top of the rear propulsion block although the high level of detail does appear to reduce the further back you get.

The rear housing has much more simplistic, flat panelling which leads back to the engine exhausts and aside from the gap on the top, the rest of this back piece is cleanly formed. The underside isn't quite as sparkling with a long and fairly evident gap running the length of the hull. Ideally, don't turn it over and you'll avoid any disappointment. 

Bizarrely the Axanar Cargo Ship starts off looking fantastic at the front with lots of great angles, overlaid sections and then those wonderfully detailed and three dimensional cargo pods but then finishes in a bit of a mish--mash. Honest opinion: Slight Annoying.

The issue 167 CG only works to highlight how inadequate the diecast metal and plastic cargo ship is. There are a ton more raised detail panelling especially around thr upper cargo pods plus how the ship has been imagined with a slight level of weathering to the forward plates as well as dirt markings to the nose which while not on the model were in the episode to give it a more used and worn look. We know this can be applied to some of them smaller craft and if so, why is this one being ignored?

The ship profile covers the main stats of the Axanar Cargo Ship and draws them into line with the events of Fight or Flight. This is one of those episodes where we never truly had a decent view of the ship and the model recreation from,Eaglemoss is our best hope of getting close up on the amazing detail that many would have ignored. Remember too that this was a time before HD so it might have looked spectacular...! 

Further in and we have the design plan for the freighter followed by a piece detailing first contacts with everything from the Ferengi to the Borg to the Klingons with some others in between. The design backgrounds are always a good read and here we can see how an early Enterprise alien ship came to be and retained a familiar shape to do so. 

Next month's combo of the Suliban Freighter and Kes' Shuttle look a little more interesting although the Axanar Cargo Ship displays that winning CG Enterprise formula that has raised many a model from obscurity in this collection.

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