Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Official Starships Collection Issues 26 & 27: Prequel Opposition

Marking the first anniversary of the Starships Collection (a year - honest!) falls to the Tholians as their webspinner drops in at issue 26.

For subscribers this was a slightly controversial release as some retailers were selling the model on the Wednesday before it was officially supposed to be on the shelves which was coupled with many subscribers having to, unusually, wait until release day to receive their parcel.

Facebook opinion on this one seemed to be that it's one for the completists and why was this being released ahead of an Enterprise?  Well there has to be diversity and releasing all those signature ships early would kill the collection early on.

For me it was one on the essentials although I'd rather have had the version from my all-time favourite The Original Series episode,  The Tholian Web but here we have the more detailed John Eaves designed CGI creation from the 22nd Century and more specifically,  Enterprise.

Another heavy product from the halls of Eaglemoss,  the Tholian webspinner is a sharp little craft with some great hull detailing which marks it out from the Kirk-era original. Appearing in less than a handful of episodes it's not a major threat and nor is the design a stunner. It's very, erm, functional and in comparision to the Romulan Bird-of-Prey we'll talk about in a bit, very big, rocking in at 13cm in length. There's more than the usual amount of transparent panelling here in both blue and yellow (we are spoiled) as we're treated to another solid entry in the catalogue. The hull paint job is excellent, presenting a rusted, mottled effect which is very effective and harks back to the lighting effects used to colour the original version in the '60's as well as giving it a "used" feel. While it's not intricate, this does add a level of unique styling to the ship.

And my gripe with this one? Just that whoever glued her together was a bit heavy-handed since when looking from the back the three hull sections don't quite line up and there's a blob of filler stuck to the surface of one of the fins.. From the front you'll never notice but I know it's there now and it will bug me to some annoying degree. 

From every angle this ship is virtually symmetrical along it's length with only one of the three smaller flat metal panels between the uprights being distinctly different in its markings. I love the simplicity here, the angles, the methodology behind such a basic shape as well as the evolution of the ship but I can clearly see why this would be one for the completists - it's just not got the "Wow" factor you have from a Prometheus or a Klingon Bird-of-Prey; it's not one of those iconic designs or a Starfleet ship. the trouble is that for the next few issues it looks as though we'll be into potentially unappreciated territory with the Maquis and Nausicaan fighters both due.

The build quality of the webspinner is (apart from the gluing matter) spot on with the middle hull section in metal with all the plastic external fins and nose piece clipped around it. The rear fin points on mine did feel a bit sharp where they meet so watch your fingers - which should be fairly easy as she docks at the back onto the included stand.

It's a good fit too which allows you to see the whole hull from every angle and while it's not an inspiring design for everyone I'm more than pleased to see her arrival this week. The Enterprise entries have proved to be the more detailed and well built with both the NX-01 and the recent Xindi Insectoid Ship being some of the best vessels in the collection to date.

Unusually we get another Enterprise guest in August with that series' take on the Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Again, just as with the Tholian webspinner, this is an updated take on a design fromThe Original Series, in this case from the first season classic Balance of Terror. It's a bit of a risk supplying two ships from the same show which are redesigns/retro designs of two very fondly remembered ships and both models and accompanying paraphernalia provide more than enough to show it was done with a lot of love and respect for those icons.

I think we can also be assured that the Bird-of-Prey from Balance of Terror episode will follow in the expected 90 issues which were confirmed at the Las Vegas Convention last month. Hopefully the same will be true of the more basic Tholian design so we completists can be, well, complete. Here though we're into green territory more akin to The Next Generation's 24th Century Romulan vessels than the 23rd Century adversary colour scheme of grey.

It is a stunningly beautiful design, clocking in at 11cm wide and a central hull of 7.5cm in length (including stabiliser fin) lots of curves, smooth shapes and a predatory look that is echoed through all of the designs from this people. As with the Tholian ship it's not one that we got to see a lot of in Enterprise but her sillouette is easily recognisable and again it's a good replica from the original with a lot of hull detail marking out panelling, the bridge module and engine detail. Sadly there's no bird-of-prey on the underside (as there wasn't in the show) but for once the whole vessel has full detail coverage from every angle. 

She sits nicely in the mount clipped at the back so you get to appreciate the view with this "free-flying" position. Interestingly the closer you get the more you do spot with the Bird-of-Prey as there are some porthole lights around the main hull edge which you only see upon careful inspection. As I noted with the webspinner, this is a trait we're seeing a lot of when it comes to the ships being recreated from Enterprise; they are the best of the field whether you like what they are or not.

The main hull here is metal with the sweeping pylons and nacelles (including equally green and transparent casing segments) in plastic as you're probably expecting. The fit is exemplary with no evident joint lines anywhere on the ship. I took a good deal of time looking for them I can assure you but on this and  the Tholian webspinner the presentation is "A" grade.

As you'll have noticed I've gone for both the models this month before talking about the literary materials packaged with them. In Issue 26 the standard ship profile discussion covers a bit of basic memory-jogging info on the Tholians' first appearance in Enterprise as well as the ability to spin the legendary web. I'm still disappointed there isn't more annotation on the plan views in these magazines as here there's so much I would have liked to have understood about the Tholian ship aside from the bare bones which we always get. Yes, these images cover the core parts of the ship but I can't be the only one who finds these low on information.

Ever get the feeling we say the same things?! Possibly - because the design section and that on Reimaging the Tholians are once again brilliant reads. Any chance to see a John Eaves design and understand the path that led from the original 1960's shape to the heavily detailed 2000's revamp is a pleasure - and let's not forget the reuse of the original wooden miniature in The Way to Eden while we're at it.

The story of their reimagining discusses how it was the disappearance of the USS Defiant in The Tholian Web which prompted their first appearance in Enterprise but nearly didn't when Future Tense ended up seeing a few alterations to Mike Sussman's concept before it went in front of the cameras. Fortunately that episode kept the Tholians but they would turn up again to resolve the mystery of that vanishing starship in In a Mirror, Darkly two years later. While the 1960's gave us a glimpse of the alien webspinners, Enterprise and the advances in CGI meant we got more Tholian for our money and we get to see how important it was felt to get their return - and first full appearance in the show - just right. I think they managed it but here we do get to see what the path was that brought them back to TV.

Issue 27's green meanie follows the format too, giving basic details on the Bird-of-Prey as well as episode reminders of the first time they featured in the prequel show. As with the Tholian webspinner, there's a great shot of the Romulan vessel on the first page which has been an installation of each issue since the Enterprise-D. The pictures in the issues do vary in quality from some great new, clean CGI recreations to shots from episodes we've seen many a time before. With these being lesser-spotted starships a lot of the pics used aren't that often reproduced so there's a lot of material to take on board which you might not remember.

The love of the series is evident again within the Designing... piece this time with clear homage Balance of Terror and even a picture of the 22nd Century ship bearing the bird-of-prey graphic that was intended but never seen on screen. That itself is a big bonus as are some absolutely dynamite drawings from John Eaves. The more I see his work from Enterprise in particular, the more I really want to speak to him!
to the ship featured in

Moving away from this Enterprise-focused month of releases we do get some more detail on the origins of the Romulans and their appearance in Balance of Terror as well as The Enteprise Incident and their almost-didn't-happen return for The Next Generation in 1988. In regards to the backstory here it's been covered well but there won't be anything new for fans to uncover around the two The Original Series episodes nor will anything be garnered from the lipservice paid to their return in The Neutral Zone. Good for the newcomers but not the page-turner established fans will be hoping for. 

I wasn't clammering for these two models yet they are fine examples of Eaglemoss' work as well as highlighting how much had changed in the time from The Motion Picture through to Enterprise's third and fourth seasons. The attention to detail is magnificent and these pieces become not only a testament to Star Trek as a whole but to the ongoing advancements in technology and the talent of those involved with their creation.

Next month we'll be seeing the Maquis Fighter and the Jem-Hadar Fighter. Both look like brilliant additions and I'm excited for both to arrive and to have a month with a bit of series variety. Also over on Entertainment Earth we've got a glimpse of the Valdore Warbird from Nemesis. While the film wasn't great this was a spectacular addition to the Romulan fleet.

One point though - any chance of some entries from The Original Series soon? I know there aren't many we can expect because a lot were just lights on a viewscreen but when can we get news on the Fesarius or the original Bird-of-Prey or even the first Tholian webspinner? Releasing these reimaginings together does make the absence of classics even more obvious to us collectors....

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