Saturday, 6 September 2014

Renegades and Rhinos: The Official Starships Collection Issues 28 and 29

After last month's domination by Enterprise,  September kicks off with a trip to the other end of the Star Trek timeline,  namely my beloved Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Out of the gate first is the Maquis raider used by,  erm,  the Maquis. Actually a replica of the Val Jean from Voyager's Caretaker,  I am really impressed with the level of hull detail on this 60-something metre long ship. The scale works in its favour meaning we get a lot clearer map of the skin of this small craft but when you compare it to the crisp promo pictures there does seem to be some element of colour difference. Ok,  that's why it's called a promo image because things can change however it has kicked up a fair bit of dust with some fans respraying their models for a more 'authentic'  look. The real fist-biting moment though is the fact that the windows at the front are incorrectly marked and should be in the strip above, not the segmented sections as you can see in the pics of the model here and the image of the cockpit I've also included. Whoops. Thanks to the AVForum regulars for drawing my attention to that one.

The raider is almost totally rendered in metal which strikes it out over numerous other included releases and is very striking when you sit her on the rear-clip stand.  The raider was pretty well used through Deep Space Nine as the Maquis found themselves a more conflict - welcoming environment there once the two crews on Voyager had kissed and made up after Parallax.

Clear plastic detail is minimal,  being contained to just the small engine outlets to the rear of the ship however the remainder of the ship is much more eye-catching. While fans may want to see the Enterprise-D or a Klingon D-7, this is one of the models which shouts out Eaglemoss' attention to detail and the hard work they have put in the recreate these ships using the available archives from CBS. I was a fan of the Maquis when they dropped into the Deep Space Nine sphere of influence, especially the Eddington episode, For the Uniform which is among my favorites. 

It was also an outing for the raider but on screen you don't get to see the level of detail set into the metallic hull plating. The metallic paint finish does have a great sparkle in the light however when you compare the finished model to the apparent high definition promotional image from Eaglemoss, the panelling highlights don't stand out as well and it does seem to be a slightly different shade of grey. The odd thing is that in every image you see it doesn't look metallic at all and a fair bit more matt in its finish and in certain magazine pictures (page 10) there's a patch more detail around the nose section.

I'm pretty happy with the final result due to the level of detail which wraps fully around the hull and isn't limited to certain spots - probably benefitting from the unusually high metal to plastic ratio.  I tend to take these teaser images with a pinch of salt since we can't guarantee that they are the final version and you can do a lot with photoshop(!)

There's minimal plastic on the raider, limited to warp engines at the sides and impulse engines to the rear which are very, very small even on this larger scale model. I do like it but the promo images have made this ship look a lot cleaner than it did when it turned up. Even the cockpit windows seemed to be brighter on the page.

The opening profile pages are much less an episode synopsis this time around since the raider featured in a lot of stories but was never a key player if you will.  Covering the raider's origins as a modified transport it does focus more on its use by Eddington and Chakotay and key operations. The standard low-info views come with some additional highlighted views of the ship and the usual data feed side points before delving into the behind-the-scenes detail.

What marks this ship out is that it's not an original design unlike every single ship thus far and was actually a modification of a ship we saw back in Pre-Emptive Strike, the penultimate The Next Generation episode from 1994. No filming story this time as we're treated to a potted history of the Maquis (saw this coming) from their origins in Journey's End through to their total annihilation by the Jem'Hadar as revealed in Blaze of Glory. What really amazes me here is that while they were planted as a seed to grow for Voyager in the later The Next Generation episodes, they were much more effective in the conflict-rich environment of Deep Space Nine. Voyager on the other hand chose to tone down the dissent and conflict relatively early in its lifespan meaning later years could focus on marriage, 50's retro sci-fi, Borg babies and Jerry Ryan. 

Turning to the Jem'Hadar fighter - the first proper Deep Space Nine edition since issue 18's Solar Sailor - we have an unusual double in that both these ships are approximately 68 metres in length. The fighter though is the Dominion's second entry into the Starships Collection following the Jem'Hadar Battlecruiser in issue 14. That was a great model and the attack ship from the Gamma Quadrant is no different. There's a little bit more plastic than the Maquis raider with both the rear "beetle shell" and warp nacelles made from the lighter material.

The scarab beetle concept is very clear from the shape of the hull, especially from the underside. It's much smoother in profile than the raider with much less raised detail to see although I think the final product is more pleasing to the eye. The paint scheme too, which was toned down for the screen is also one of the more unusual using a shade of purple against the silvers and blues of the hull.  One thing I would have liked to see would have been the clear plastic sections used in the underside as my mind is telling me that this area was illuminated in the show and is then backed up by more than one shot of the pulsing strips at the rear. Why the engine pods don't have purple colouring in their transparent pieces is also puzzling me.

Construction is very good again with the larger scale allowing for more detail which means every panel and vent is perfectly marked out. Neither of this month's releases have any glaring mold lines or gaps where they're fitted together. The front end of the Jem'Hadar fighter for one is a single solid piece with the thorax/abdomen section a single plastic block. Only only on the raider can you see the separation line where the top and bottom have been joined.

For once the cover art on the magazine doesn't do the model justice, portraying it as a much smoother design and a lot less purple than is evident even in those wonderful silver tones. Bizarrely every other CGI image in the magazine then tends to make the fighter look overly purple as if trying to make up for it.

As becomes clear reading the magazine, which I didn enjoy this time since it didn't have any of the shocking printing errors that appeared in the Maquis Fighter issue (spacesbetweenwordshelps) and again the story of the ship and its appearances in Deep Space Nine are actually enhanced by the fact it wasn't a "key" ship in a particular story or the Enterprise

OK, so there is a fair bit handed over to the episodes The Ship and Time to Stand which featured the captured fighter  I never could work out why the upside down hatch looked like it did when it never matched any part of the fighter - nor why they all climb the wrong way through the ship.

I won't hide the fact that the Dominion were my preferred nemesis to Voyager's Borg so this magazine is a welcome addition to the library and the information on the "history" of the fighter brings together a lot from their first appearance in The Jem'Hadar through to Tears of the Prophets. There are episodic notes but also data on aspects of the craft and upgrades that took place during the war. The plan views seem even more sparsely labelled than ever and again, like the cover, are less detailed than the physical model.

The magazine also reminds us that the Jem'Hadar are unusual in the realms of major enemies that the crews met during their adventures in that they were never humanised, shown to have a weakness or allowed to grow beyond their origins. Nor did any of this change when they were viewed as individuals. They truly were developed purely as a force to be reckoned with.

Issue 29 does have a considerable amount of info not only on that but also on the development of the ship itself and it's angular origins. There's a great picture of the original filming model - which looks even more blue and purple than any other image. The thing with this issue is that there's no clear image of the fighter among the chosen images aside from the new CGI reproductions. Jim Martin's drawings are magnificent but what the quality of the pictures does reinforce is the need for Deep Space Nine in HD - the final image used on the On Screen section from A Time to Stand is the best example for this.

This month's offerings have certainly caused some rumbles in fandom - more with the Maquis raider than the fighter. What we do see is that Eaglemoss are going to town on this collection and doing as much as they can to recreate the ships exactly and it shows nowhere better than here in the smallest ships so far released. 

Speaking to +Nils W. recently it's also become apparent that Eaglemoss are cracking down on their replacements. Both his Nebula Class and Xindi-Insectoid ships came damaged and had to be returned before he could have them replaced. Me thinks that this could be because people are getting extra "replacements" to sell on a certain auction site beginning with an "e"? Or perhaps I'm being cynical. I can understand the need to get these damaged ones back if only to understand what's happened in transit or production but why has it taken this long? One of the Contingent still has a second Excelsior with two left nacelles. Is this a change in policy? What's your experience of getting replacements? Are you having to send wrecked ships back first? Let us know below.

Also we had a subscriber question sent out to see if anyone fancied some limited edition binders. Three designs were suggested featuring adversaries, the first ten issues and back cover images of some earlier Starfleet ships. I've included one of the promo shots from Eaglemoss here for reference. Anyone have a preference? I was more inclined to the green "enemy" one.

October brings us the Nausicaan raider and the third Romulan entry, the Valdore from Nemesis. The raider is another Enterprise release so we can expect sublime detail but very little general interest while the Valdore will be (timewise) the latest ship to grace the collection. I know a few people who are looking forward to that one and I can see a Romulan photoshoot coming on alongside the Warbird and the Bird-of-Prey. Oh and while we're at it, here's a gratuitous shot of the lesser-spotted Starfleet Runabout. This one's been in hiding for a while but finally we got some shots of the one ship that seemed to get skipped over. She's a beauty and definitely one I can't wait to get my hands on. Nice to see the addition of the weapons pod too although if it was detachable that would have been an extra tick.

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