Thursday, 14 May 2020

First Aider: The Official Starships Collection Issues 170 and 171

A missing delivery has slightly delayed a look at the Tsunkatse Arena Ship and the Denobulan Medical Shuttle.

Featured in, oddly enough, Tsunkatse, Penk's ship (as it's labelled on the base) was probably eclipsed by the appearance of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the Penthari Figher which is a bit of a shame since it's one very unique design.

The arena itself takes up over a third of the ship, with the bridge and engineering sections attached at either end to complete the design.  The silver base coat is elevated with the duck egg blue highlights that provide emphasis to the hull detail but also act to age the vessel, providing a worn finish. 

Comparing the surface detail to the CG cover model you can see this one's been a helluva challenge to Eaglemoss, perhaps a reason it's taken this long to appear in the collection. The forward section especially has lost a lot of definition in it's panelling but this does seem to improve as you move further backwards.

There is actually a lot going on with this one and the arena section has a familiar stadium feel to it. The buttress supports around the sides don't have the definition we see in the magazine but they are clearly present surrounding the combat oval. 

The TV ship of course had the benefit of some nice lighting across its surface to accentuate the recesses of the plating but also the sides of the arena and the Tsunkatse Arena ship model does fall flat due to the absence of this effect. What does add a striking point to her are the golden sensor palettes dotted around the edges. Providing a functional purpose to the ship, the change of colour does indicate their substantial purpose to provide media connections.

What does fall down slightly is the quality of the four radar style dishes. On the CG model and in the blurry magazine episode pictures you can see these are a mesh design and fairly fragile in construction. As we saw with Friendship One recently, rebuilding this in plastic and metal isn't easy so what we end up with here are four sink plungers sticking out to the sides. They are also part of the plastic insert clipped into the underside of the ship, but we'll address that when we turn her over.

The impulse engines to the back and the warp engines in the rear edge of the arena section are simply recessed elements within the metal of the top piece without any sign of colouring or translucent plastic to highlight their locations.

On the underside the ragged blue colouring is a lot stronger, darker and covers a much larger surface area. It almost makes you wonder if the blue is the top coat and teh silver is the colour that has worn through over the years of use.

Underneath the blue does have flakes of the silver present but it seems to be a flatter and more even covering than on the top. There it helped highlight panelling while here it adds, particularly to the front and rear sections, a look of severe wear to the point where it does look like it's disintegrating to leave the silver base coat.

Either way, this is a cracking effect and does counter those four sink plungers to a degree. The clever insert of the arena underside is also barely noticeable, clipping in between the two elongated sections bordering the centrepiece and also fitting perfectly against the two outer edge sensor palettes.

In respect to the paintwork and the combination of materials this is an epic build only let down with the unavoidably dodgy extremities. It's an interesting craft from an episode that really does date the series (seriously, go back and watch it...) but is a ship that feels right to have been included.

Issue 170 explains the reasons for the shape of the Arena Ship as well as it's layout and features which are key to its presentation of the Tsunkatse fights broadcast to millions. It's actually extensive when it comes to its role in the episode and the events that occurred, giving clear background on the vessel.  The plan views back up the worn look of the ship suggesting it's been in use for a considerable time, noting some of the key features such as the sensors and location of the main bridge. 

It's a good thing that the plans are so detailed because there are only two poor screenshots from Tsunkatse to be able to compare with the model and those are of the ship at a distance and then a close up of one part of one side of the central arena. That's disappointing and there are no pictures of the CG model used in the episode,only new ones created for the issue.

Rick Sternbach's design goes through a two page analysis including original concepts for the craft as well as how it was adjusted for the screen from his final plan. 

Taking up the remaining six pages of the magazine is an article on episode writer Robert J Doherty who was also involved in bringing Vis a Vis, Infinite Regress and Bliss to the screen for Voyager before embarking on a career on other shows.

Up next, what could be mistaken for a Vulcan craft but is actually a Denobulan Medical Ship or more accurately a Denobulan Medical Shuttle with its crew of one.

Coloured in the Enterprise-era rusty red sand tones that would immediately link it to the notable Federation race, the medical ship is the only series entry connected to the NX-01's physician, Phlox.

A stubby, weighty little number, this vessel was featured in the Augment trilogy from the prequel's final series which makes it just over 15 years since it's screen appearance. 

Unusually the single rusty red paint doesn't hide any subtle aztecing if you tilt it in the light. This one is a solid colour all over with a couple of minor exceptions for features. The panelling is clear with a cool set of lines reproduced from the CG model used in the show. The detail is, unsurprising for an Enterprise craft, spot on and the magazine does have some good stills from the episodes it appeared in to allow much better and more accurate comparisons than we could manage with the Tsunkatse Arena Ship.

Around the nose and I would believe due to reentry there are some scuffing lines and burn marks which would be caused by the heat of dropping into an atmosphere although aside from this "damage" there are no other signs of wear and tear present. 

The hull is indeed very clean with what appear to be black segments marking out windows to the sides and also on top towards the nose for the cockpit. For a stumpy little design it's sort of cute with the aquatic overtones clear from the fins to the top and bottom plus that shape which screams "fish" as loudly as possible. Careful of those two top fins which are an insert as they are slightly flimsy. 

But have a closer look at the images in the magazine and then at the ship and you'll notice that there are a lot of deep recesses in here resembling gills and a mouth. Around that probe at the front, the underslung "intake" and then around the oval-shaped sections on the side there are a lot of spaces and gaps which this blocky model have not been able to recreate - again a similarity to the buttresses on the Arena Ship.

But you're never going to get those fine slits and deep grooves on this kind of model and for the price you pay per issue for the collection. It's a damn fine approximation 99.6% of the time with even the exhausts and propulsion points really well coloured against the sand hull. Maybe the one to the back could have been more accurately painted since the rust segments were prominent on the sides but hey, that might have been a fiddly point on the ship.

I also can't quite work out if the plastic belly on this thing is one or two segments because of he very tight lip evident just below the blue exhaust points. This ventral section of the Medical Ship has the most detailing with a slight change to a two-tone scheme etched with finer silver detailing. For the underneath of a ship to get that kind of attention is odd and to have it completely repeated here is an honour of sorts.

I did suspect that I'd damaged it on arrival too since there was a white spot on the nose probe. Fortunately I realised that there are a further two more on the port and starboard sides which would indicate that they are running lights. Emergency averted thankfully and a minor detail well worth including.

Into the magazine we go with the Medical Ship we go and learn about how a specific one, the Barzai, was used by the Augments as part of their plan to get aboard Cold Station 12. It was subsequently cast adrift with the Denobulan pilot to stall Archer and the Enterprise in their pursuit of the fugitives.

Designed by John Eaves, the oddly vertically-orientated vessel is devolved back to its origins on the drawing board and "augmented" with original sketches to show it as part of the episode. These sections have always proved to be a winner and keeping it episode and ship focused has always made for a stronger magazine. Linked in with the plan views, this is no exception and nicely rounding off the story of the ship is an actor interview (not a frequent occurrence) with Alec Newman who played Malik in Borderlands, Cold Station 12 and The Augments.

This issue and the heavy little Denobulan Medical Ship give a quality 360 degree immersion into the story from that final Enterprise season and even with some parts of the ship which could not be fully realised in the format and size that we are given here, it feels whole which hasn't been said enough in this series - usually there's one part of the magazine for example that just doesn't quite hang together. 

In fact for both of these ships they have been presented in a good, thoughtful way which ticks every box when it comes to fleshing out the background of the ship and why it was in Star Trek. I honestly can't pick a winner this time because they are both middle of the road. There were no high expectations to begin with and both have fulfilled their aim as replicas. If there was perhaps a slight edge it would have to go to the Medical Ship but only on some of the panel detailing which it has an advantage on when it comes to scale as these two are at very different ends of that particular spectrum.

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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