Sunday, 3 May 2020

Make It Go: The Official Starships Collection Issues 174 and 175

Seen in the hands of a young Jonathan Archer, the Toy Ship curveballs it’s way into the Starships Collection as issue 174.

A pie-wedge shaped ship, the vessel would also appear in Similitude although it played a significant metaphorical role in the Enterprise pilot, Broken Bow

The overall shape of the craft is very straightforward with several raised panels on the upper surface to break up the matt white finish although you’ll probably be more drawn to the fact that the cockpit on this one isn’t just blacked out - it’s a rare occasion where you can see the interior.

The Toy Ship is one of the simplest designs transferred from screen to diecast form. The white base coat is visually striking against the grey and black raised panelling on the top and all of that is neatly finished, giving a crisp impression and looking just like it did on TV - in fact probably better!

Decals are at a minimum here but the paint contrasts really work along the sides too and the one-stop coat of dark green/grey across the base reflects the same combination of colours we are familiar with on the NASA space shuttle punctuated by the black nose and raised panels.

That cockpit feature is one bit that keeps drawing you back. Perhaps the disappointment is that the pilots aren't painted as they were in Broken Bow by young Jonathan Archer (I'm not expecting the actor to come and do mine by the way!) but it's that one little detail that does grind because it was so prominent in the episode.

To the back of the ship there are the chunky quad impulse units. While not utilised since this ship is anti-grav powered, the grille work sits forward providing a nice sense of depth to the units which are placed either side of more horizontal open space. In fact the rear of the Toy Ship is well worth looking over. For once it doesn't seem neglected and is very, very detailed to give a full 360 degree image.

Out to the sides are the bulbous warp engines. Now, why on earth the recent USS Enterprise bonus edition from The Cage couldn't have just painted on the bussard collectors as we have here I don't know but on the Toy Ship the choice to colour them is in keeping with the onscreen item. The design, shape and rear exhausts on these units have their parallels in the Phoenix and the various future starships and are accessorised with little winglets to the sides.

Those warp engines also have a neat little construction point with their curved undersides part of the metal underside while the nacelles themselves are add-in plastic pieces.

Archer's Toy Ship is one of those odd entries to the series alongside the monochrome spaceship from Tom Paris' Captain Proton adventures - and not a lot else. This might have been better as a bonus edition online rather than being part of the main line, handing over this issue to something like the Dreadnought missile or that Kazon Predator Class that's so obviously missing from the collection.

In the magazine we recount the sequence in which Jonathan and his father are flying the craft and its later season three appearance. What grinds here is the necessity to fill out space by repeating the same information at least three times within the space of four pages. Yes, we get he built it with his dad, yes it crashed...let's move on.

At least we have a good few pages dedicated to the design process turning it from a "real" world spaceship into something that would look correct in the hands of a young boy. The sketches give a good sense of how this was refined down and actually made a lot more simple than it started out to suit the scene.

Finally there's a short profile on designer Jim Martin who had a lengthy history on and off with the franchise culminating in his time on Enterprise but also fleeting mentions go to his work on Defiant and the Runabout for Deep Space Nine.

Then we move onto the Mondor. Reflecting the more simplistic nature of its Pakled occupants, the innocuous freighter has a lot to it if you give it a second glance.

The basic tapered rectangle shape isn't the most exciting although there's a slight resemblance to a stocky Concorde(!) with that drop nose deflector. The upper metal casing is heavily detailed with not just hull features such as hatches and various mechanical elements as well as a rusty red colour to highlight parts of the panelling but also significant aging.

The hull itself is blotchy, worn and dirty giving this ship some real age and beauty in one go. It really is an underestimated model just as its occupants were to the Enterprise in Samaritan Snare. That hull detailing is second to none and it doesn't overload the end product but actually helps to emphasise the more cobbled-together nature of the vessel on top of its basic structure. In some points it's hard for the Mondor to replicate its onscreen finery especially with the pipe along the port side led into by the rectangular grate. On the model these are a fixed part of the hull while onscreen and on the magazine cover the pipe sits slightly raised above the hull.

The addition of the piping to its starboard side might turn it into something of an intergalactic plumber's van but Eaglemoss have even continued the strained weathering and wear out onto this and the smaller barrel piece that sits behind it. As screen accuracy goes they've done an incredible job in putting this one into the collection with its simplicity being a real winner.

Ok, the Mondor won't be remembered for its super-exciting appearance or return visits to the franchise in other forms because overall it's bland but you have to admire how this one has been managed. The underside is equally as battered and worn with the fawn and beige colour scheme continuing and accentuated by the rusty red stripes and blue slats where the latter might indicate the ship's power source. Flipping her over means that you can also take in the blues of the deflector on the nose more easily since it tips downward and isn't easily visible from above.

There's also the subspace dish on the base of the Mondor glued into place and oddly the only piece not to exhibit any signs of that impressive weathering finish. This is one of the very few accessories planted onto the ship which makes this lump ever more interesting - all of the surface detail is placed onto a single metal section. The magazine cover does make a lot of it look more pronounced thanks to the wonders of angles and shadowing but even that correlates the locations of the windows towards the "pointier" end. There is an occasional panel that seems to have gone AWOL on the CG ( look on the port side on the angled side section before it turns in to the tail) but that's barely worth marking down for.

The underside, as usual, is a plastic insert that fits snug into the metal upper case. To the back you can see where it fits in under the recessed mechanical gubbins that adorn the rear. 

Issue 175 nicely covers the story and background of the Mondor alongside some more stunning CG renders of the Pakled freighter and while the plan views are (now a trademark) blandly labelled, they are super detailed and reflect well on the model produced for this edition. Even the subsequent section covering the six reuses of the ship is decent although as usual with these magazines it doesn't make too much of the changes made for each episode appearance. That said, some of those shots used for reference don't really allow a good look so you'd be very forgiven for missing them!

The big chunk of issue 175 though is handed over to the work conducted by Richard James for season two of The Next Generation following the departure of Herman Zimmerman. James' piece dives into the alterations he made to the standing bridge set to accommodate an Engineering station for Geordi as well as additions to the new Ten Forward lounge. The pic of the bridge station is awesome as are the other images used to show his work on Elementary, Dear Data, for the Pakleds on Samaritan Snare, Riker's neurological cap for Shades of Gray and significantly the original concepts for the Borg ship in the exceptional Q Who. Truly a great magazine here with lots of superb background material.

Of the two I really wanted to be excited about Archer's Toy Ship because of it's quirkiness, old school spaceship vision and because Enterprise has never let us down in this series when it's come to the quality of models represented. 

However, this month the Mondor has stood out that little bit more. That's down to the extensive surface detail, the neatly added on storage tanks and above all the brilliant aging completed across the whole surface. It's certainly surprised me that it's come out this well and this would usually be a ship I'd have been less than enthused to see. Top marks to Eaglemoss for still being able to throw in a surprise at this point!

Next month we're stepping back a little more with the Tarellian starship from Haven in The Next Generation's first season and the Sheliak Colony Ship from the show's third year.

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

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