Sunday, 5 July 2015

Where it all Began: Official Starships Collection Issues 50 and 51

We are here. The legend,  the Big One,  NCC-1701.

We're talking The Original Series here not movie refit and a model that I know Ben Robinson has seen as a real labour of love.

Have they succeeded in meeting our expectations?  Well here we go....

Painted out in the grey that fans will be familiar with from pictures of the original model currently undergoing restoration she is,  as I expected, very plain. The models from the 1960's were indeed very simple and straightforward. Detail was minimal and hey,  this is a show that won't go beyond the decade.... No need to get too technical.

All the weight with this one is in the saucer with the secondary hull and nacelles all in plastic. Just be warned that you might end up with some scratches on the paintwork as the stand clasp for the ship is very tight at the rear of the saucer. The surface of the Constitution Class vessel is very, very plain. If you're thinking there are going to be panel lines, radial edges branching out from the centre of the saucer, then you're going to be disappointed. It's absolute basics with the Enterprise. The only significant details you are going to see here are the registry numbers on the nacelles and saucer and the Starfleet pennants. Anything you've seen in CG or Deep Space Nine can be ignored since this is The Original Series pure.

There are a few highlight markings around the impulse engine and on the underside of the secondary hull but that's it. Ben and the team really have gone back to the beginning here and gone simple. This is as realised and as delivered to the studio for filming. I can understand what he meant by being concerned how the entries from The Original Series would come out because they are devoid of the usual intricacies that we are used to from Voyager or Enterprise

The light details on the secondary hull are painted straight onto the plastic so there's no concern over alignment in that respect. However the metal saucer windows don't quite match to their molded indents. It's very hard to notice since the size of them is quite small and when she's on your shelf you won't even notice.

The nacelles are pretty impressive on the Enterprise with translucent bussard collectors and the various vents and exhausts very precisely painted and parallel. Their fit to the pylons isn't a totally snug fit but again given the scale of this legendary ship, you have to look past and see the whole picture rather than the tiny imperfections.

One thing that will continue to be a disappointment is the deflector dish. A few weeks back we knew that it was going to be an issue as Ben revealed it would be from a clear plastic rather than a solid plastic painted bronze. Now the problem is that the deflector has actually come out more a shade of orange than it is bronze. It's still a nice result, a clean finish to the front of the ship but the colour is, well, wrong. There are also some "iffy" joint lines on the secondary hull, especially on the port side on the Enterprise I received this week. There are some small gaps and the way it's been put together sectionally is not what I expected.

For the cost it is a spectacular model and certainly the best I've seen at this scale. I find myself torn because it's such a massive model in terms of lore and you really don't want to point out any of the challenges with the end result. You can tell there's a lot of love poured into the ship and the level of superb simplicity that oozes from the box when you open her for the first time. 

As you do look through the accompanying literature, you do tend to glance back a fair bit to the model and then back to the pictures for comparison and it's difficult not to be a little disgruntled - but remember that a lot of the images are remastered with higher detail and are not from The Original Series in its original format. Looking at those images and the photos of the original ship you realise just how subtle/non-existent those markings were and that we've been greatly affected by later Star Trek's attention to detail and minute that it looks "wrong"  when actually this is as spot on as you could anticipate.  

I think Ben and the Eaglemoss team have, given the high levels of anticipation over this one,  delivered a solid,  high level result. It might not be perfect (and I know one reason why but can't say just yet) but it's as near as goddammit possible given all of the factors which influence the collection. Is it one of my favourites? Without question.

The issue 50 magazine won't fire any new info at the average fan. It is, like the model, very much back to basics covering a very broad backstory of the ship from April through to Kirk (ignoring The Motion Picture and beyond) before turning towards towards the design process as recounted from Matt Jeffries. Fans will have seen a lot of these sketches before but they are well presented here and there is a coloured drawing I don't recall seeing before. The views don't quite match up with the model given that the shuttlebay doors are a different colour and there is more hull detail but it gives you a good idea of how much design and graphics have come since the original Enterprise first took flight.

Making the NCC-1701 doesn't reveal any huge facts we didn't already know but it's great to be reminded of some of the changes that were made not only between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before but between that second pilot and filming of the main series itself.

Closing out the issue are the On Screen moments - exceptionally hard to pick as I would have selected two totally different ones - probably The Doomsday Machine and The Tholian Web but it was always going to be a difficult choice!

Once you're over the high of owning a magnificent replica of the USS Enterprise, you'll be unpacking the Hirogen Hunter and issue 51. Voyager models haven't been that impressive so far and trying to remember specific alien vessels from the show has left me head-scratching a bit. There's the Dauntless, the Malon Export Vessel, the Borg Sphere(ish) and the Species 8472 Bioship are the only ones I could recall. After a quick list check they were the only ones, period.

Out of those only the Dauntless really grabbed me and that might have been because it's one of my favourite ships and episodes of the show. The rest were OK but not in my top ten.

The Hunter is probably the best alien vessel from the smattering we've had from Voyager. I'd even go as far to say that with the high level of detail it is the best starship produced from Voyager. There must have been some superb reference materials for this one.

A heavy entry to the collection, the ship has a large amount of metal in her with the plastic sections seemingly blending straight into the central section without a hint of a seam anywhere. The seams really are well disguised within the structure of the ship aside from the one under the nose but from a machining point of view this has to be one of the finest examples of what the factory can produce for the collection.

It's a polar opposite to the USS Enterprise in detail with every surface marked out precisely against the original model. There are a few lit/glowing sections which are far too small for replication on the model but it's understandable why these are omitted - cost, difficultly, probable endangering of eyesight from being so small to fit... the usual.

What gets me here though is that there are some really tiny markings in Hirogen that the factory have reproduced - just check out the underside of the ship on the pylons connecting the warp nacelles to the hull and on the sides of the nacelle cowling (those bits are in red on the plan views). They are very faint but definitely there - go and have a look and compare. Even the small etchings around the central section are reproduced and coloured - amazing. I spent a good while with the ship and pics side by side and was blown away by what has been achieved here. Just as with last month's ECS Fortunate, the Hunter is one of those ships you can pour over for hours, looking at every surface, nook, gun turret, indent and panel line. Each time you do there's something else that will catch your eye and draw you in.

As usual I do have one "however" moment and here it's the engines. The three grey/silver exhausts at the rear are just too clean and a little too "plasticy". There is evidence on the central sections of space weathering and it could have done with eeking onto other parts of the model. I know this is probably down to cost, production etc but it's a little bit of a shame given the echelons of brilliance that the rest of the ship climbs due to the evident focus on detail. I love the arcs of the nacelle covers, the horns, the abrupt angles, all of which we get here in abundance.

I actually think, after looking at the pics in the magazine that there could be even more detail on the Hunter but the scale here limits what can be done. The CG images too make it look like there are a lot more shades and colours across the whole surface of the vessel however this is still, as noted, the best Voyager entry to the series to this point and I suspect it will be a hard one to beat. She's not pretty to look at but she ticks every box you would want from a model in this collection and then some. I do think the Hirogen were the best baddie Voyager encountered and I hope Ben can push beyond the confirmed 90 to give us the larger Venatic Class ship from Flesh and Blood.

Top and bottom here, the Hunter is great from every angle and I'm really happy with how she's turned out (as you can tell). The rear position stand fits nicely and she's secure with the slight lean to aft. Totally well-presented. Only making her bigger would improve on this one and add more textures, rails and microscopic details. In my opinion, a perfect model.

So to the literary addition for issue 51. There are a few fuzzy screenshots in here but they run alongside some nice reference shots of the Hunter in CG, running lights an' all. The overview focuses more on the race as a whole rather than an episode synopsis which makes a change from recent editions although that was more due to the fact they were ships from single episodes. Even the plan views seem to have a few more notes than usual this time around.

Rick Sternbach takes us on a tour of the design process for the ship which seems to have been formulated quite early on with the sphere and spire concept showing up straight away. It is a much more aggressive shape than we had seen before and influenced by the internal designs produced for the Hirogen arc during Voyager's fourth season. The final piece turns towards other Hirogen vessels seen in Flesh and Blood so the title Designing Hirogen Technology is a little misplaced. It's a good read though, explaining how the race evolved for its final appearance in the last year of Voyager. I'm a big Hirogen fan so being able to look at the designs for their lesser known and rarely seen ships and base is a real pleasure. Just makes me want to get to that final year of episodes in my rewatch a little bit more!

Rounding out with a pick of Hunters and Prey for the On Screen appearances, this is a great companion piece to one of the real highlights of the series so far. For those of us who like to take a few pics of the models this one is particularly photogenic. Lots of good angles and light reflections to play with!

Issues 52 and 53 are due up next with the Centaur Class from Deep Space Nine and the Klingon Attack Ship from Enterprise taking centre stage. HOWEVER before that, there's a couple of articles you might want to check back for...

This week we're celebrating the 50th issue of the collection not just with this review but with two other pieces:

  • Perfect Ten - fans of the collection and friends of SKoST talk about the best models so far.
  • Chatting to Ben Robinson - I have an EXCLUSIVE interview with the man behind the collection including some great insights into the ships and a few hints of what we might expect.

So keep checking back this week or link up with one of our social media platforms to keep up to date with all of our articles. While you're at it, why not let us know your thoughts on the two latest issues from the collection?

You can also see our short review of the USS Enterprise on our YouTube channel.

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