Friday, 17 April 2015

The John Doe Starship and the Intergalactic Binmen: The Official Starships Collection Issues 44 and 45

Has it really been four weeks since the Pasteur and Species 8472 bioship?

I only clicked yesterday and had to do a quick tally on the calendar but I reckon the arrival of the fourth special knocked my internal chronometer out of alignment.

So yes...another great Enterprise starship -  and only the second Starfleet vessel from the show believe it or not - the Intrepid kicks off April's entries. 

Making two episode appearances the Intrepid is a much more compact entry into Starfleet's ranks, acting more as a defensive craft rather than an exploratory vessel like it's warp five peer. This model is very, very plain but with good reason as I discovered and it does have a more cumbersome feel than the NX Class.

As always the primary hull is the more weighty piece here with the lower section in metal only. There is some dark window detail picked out across the surface which lifts the surface of the ship from being fairly non-descript. The aztec paint scheme does make its way right across every inch of the hull, nacelles and connecting section In contrast to the Enterprise it's also white rather than silver adding that note of distinction between the two which is probably more about making sure we, the viewers, could tell them apart on the small screen. 

The Intrepid is a little bendy in places and getting her out of the box was a careful operation - work from the front rather than trying to pry her out by the nacelles as there is some flexing in everything to the rear of the half-saucer primary hull. The shape is lovely and certainly holds firm as a precursor to the warp five craft but this model, perhaps because it was intended purely as a background starship, is very blocky in it's detail with a gold deflector, bridge dome and warp nacelle end caps with no blue sections to enhance the sides of those nacelles. That deflector isn't very accurate either, being more a slab of colour than screen accurate although scale and safety might be a factor here.

The bussard collectors do stand out against the rest of the ship in their crimson-red transparentness reminiscent of the USS Enterprise in The Original Series and, of course, the NX-01. Decal-wise there seems to be even less with a total of four - two around the sensor palettes at the edge of the primary hull and two on the underside of the nacelles.

Yet despite the very plain nature of the Intrepid, which meant it could be copied and pasted into scenes multiple times without fear that the registry would be spotted as the same ship, it's a beautifully crafted vessel with lots of recessed hull detail to the rear (which could have been a little more well-crafted) as well as a full covering of plating lines which, again, help to break up the plain paintwork. 

Stand positioning gets a nice tick here with the clip fitting to the nacelles and connecting section giving that more satisfying "flying" look.

For an Enterprise entry though, the Intrepid does seem to be very understated, Usually the series' entries are all bells and whistles with every intricate detail filled in to CGI-realised perfection and here the ship seems to go, quite interestingly, against type. Compare it to the complexities of the Romulan Drone or even the NX-01 and you're likely to agree.

The magazine covers the Intrepid's two series appearances in The Expanse and the show highlight, Twlight which saw it take an engine-breaking beating from the Xindi. Sadly there aren't a lot of photos of the ship from the show included in the magazine so we do get some fuzzy shots of the Enterprise alongside the computer created images for the production.

There's also some focus on the "Warp Delta" style ships from the title sequence and that were seen alongside the Intrepid in the series which means we will/won't be seeing a model of these in the future?

Designing the ship explores the discarded ideas and how Rob Bonchune tried to leash the concept firmly in the 22nd Century rather than the 23rd or 24th where some of the first drawings might have taken it. Unusually for the magazine series we get a close-up on a member of the show production team in the form of four pages dedicated to Bonchune who has already graced the collection through his work on the Nebula Class CGI model which he attempted to scratch-build for Voyager.

This is perhaps the stronger section here, understanding how Bonchune made his way through the ranks through knowledge, experience and a touch of luck to land his dream job and create ships and effects for Star Trek.

Going from the pristine curves of the Intrepid we jump a couple of Star Trek centuries and land heavily in the Delta Quadrant with the grimy, pollution-soaked Malon Export Vessel first seen in Voyager's fifth season.

At first the impression it gives is similar to that of the Intrepid in that it looks pretty bland as just a big stick but there's definitely more to this one than you might think. Looking particularly bulky and cumbersome, the export vessel doesn't scream spaceship at you being more function than form. 

Designed by Rick Sternbach, the Malon vessel is actually very impressive particularly around the waste containers and the cabling which wraps around them. 

For note this is the smaller of the Malon vessels seen in Voyager -  from the episode Night - while a larger version was seen later in the same season,  Juggernaut but the overall structure is very much the same. 

Rendered in a grim brown which adds to the pollution-soaked, unclean image of the Malon, the export vessel upper hull also carries the small exhaust towers and plating detail. To the rear there's the propulsion section which seems to have been a little sloppily painted.  It's also how the ship is attached to its stand with a clever little plastic sleeve/stand holding it at the back end. A clever way of displaying her but it might put a lot of stress on the engines over time given the weight of the rest of the ship hanging out in nowhere.  

However, it's the structure and detail of the waste containers that is the best bit here thanks to those unusual curves and the way they sit under the metal ship body. What does give me a bit of a head-scratching moment is that the pictures/CGI images in the magazine seem to give the ship a lot more shades of colour - albeit shades of grey as well as brown - they do make a better impression on the model but in "reality" it does look like it got a slap-on coat of brown all over.

Yes it's about the detail but also the way in which Eaglemoss have put the ship together. It can't have been a simple design process on this one but the result is certainly one of the best.  I'd go as far to say this is one of those months where the Enterprise release isn't the stronger of the pair and is definitely the less interesting of the two.

The magazine for issue 45 treads the familiar episodic details path for the introduction, covering the standard foray of details picked out from the ship's onscreen appearance plus a few titbits from the second Malon episode, Juggernaut.  The plan views are nicely presented but do re-affirm that the model which was used for reference didn't have quite as much detail as you might have expected which means that the recreation on the page does look a fair amount better than the model provided.

Time seemed to be the biggest enemy in the design of the Malon export vessel from Rick Sternbach but ultimately it came good with the final craft taking at least some of its inspiration from the 1950's trains of the USA. Certainly function takes priority over form here including one feature that Sternbach didn't purposefully add in but was suggested by fans. In some ways I'm surprised that we've had this before a Vidiian, Hirogen or even a Kazon ship considering their greater impact and larger number of appearances in Voyager - it'll be issue 51 when we get a Hirogen ship by the way.

The season five overview included here is pretty brief but manages to hit the key episodes (on the whole) in the year where Brannon Braga took over as exec producer from co-creator, Jeri Taylor. It is, as explained, a much darker season; a much stronger season in my opinion which steered away from the Seven of Nine focus that saturated a good deal of the fourth season but still gave us a great deal of Borg action as well as the memorable 100th installment, Timeless.

This variation on features through the two magazines does allow us to get a bigger picture on the Star Trek universe but it does stray from the headline title of a Starships Collection. I realise the magazines aren't the main reason we're collecting this series but on occasion I still find myself a little disappointed that the accompanying literature isn't as exhaustive on the craft and its associated race perhaps as I might have desired.

That said, this month has given us two very good quality entries but they are going to be easily eclipsed by issues 46 and 47 which feature the classic Enterprise-C and the Negh'Var, two of my favourite ship designs from the last 50 years. Also this month we've had the announcement of issues 61 through to 65 featuring the Norway Class from First Contact, the Voth ship of Professor Gegen from the Voyager episode, Distant Origin, the Antares from the remastered Charlie X, Zefram Cochrane's Phoenix and the Xindi Aquatic Ship. Quite a varied selection and I'd never have come up with Gegen's ship as an option even at a much later point - definitely a series curve-ball if ever there was one. Also, does the Antares count since it was only in the remastered version?

Just something to mull over!

Were you impressed with this month's starships from Eaglemoss? Drop your thoughts below! Don't forget you can still subscribe to the Starships Collection by clicking through the link in our left sidebar.

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