Tuesday, 22 December 2015

An Animated Perspective: The Official Starships Collection Issues 62 and 63

It's been a good week for the Collection with the announcement that it will definitely reach a minimum of 110 issues.

Virtually in the same breath we also discovered that the series would include the iconic  Daedalus and New Orleans classes from The Original Series and Wolf 359 respectively. Yesterday (21st December) Ben Robinson dropped a lovely teaser shot of the Enterprise-E Captain's Yacht from Insurrection onto his Twitter feed. It's the first ship from the ninth movie which does give more hope that we will be seeing the Scout Ship and more soon. 

Likely too there will be a second shuttles pack, more specials (probably covering the Jellyfish from the 2009 movie and anything from Beyond) plus more one-offs such as the ISS Enterprise special. 

For now though we'll have to "make do" with the latest two issues and shoddy they aren't. First up there is the Voth Research Vessel from Voyager's third season installment, Distant Origin. Now I loved this episode and the angle on the evolution story that it spun as well as a couple of callbacks to events in the show and, for once, giving Chakotay something more to do than talk to his spirit guide.

The ship model is one of my favourites. It's pretty chunky for one with nothing really protruding from the main hull and being very compact on its design but it looks stunning. Unusually rear-clipped into the stand, the Voth ship has some lovely clean lines to drool over and is absurdly well detailed across all angles of the hull. I say angles when actually its a curved design with any of the features seeming to emerge seamlessly from the single rake of the hull. 

It is one of the smaller ships to be selected for the range and so benefits from that closer perspective which has allowed Eaglemoss to etch out panels and mark virtually everything from the model onto the metal upper and plastic lower sections.

What I can't seem to get over is just how smooth the curves are on the Voth Research Vessel and how well they have been presented. The colour scheme is very simple with light and dark grey highlighted at occasional points with a teal blue that draws your eye to one point after another. It seems to look good from any angle with the light working across the silver surface and catching the precise hull details as it goes.

One criticism and a small one at that is that the colouring of the primary drive reactors and emitters don't seem quite as green as they should be. On the ship model it's definitely teal (as noted) and there is a little something taken away with not being able to see the organic hue that the reactors give off on the screen but that's the limitations of the real world for you!

Nice too is that everything is in correct alignment. Not that it was an issue in the beginning since the vessel is only made up of two pieces - a top and a bottom - without any fiddly extremities to worry about (sad story but my Botany Bay now has a wonky tail fin). Nor are there any translucent sections sunk into the hull; it really is just one solid lump of ship. While that might sound a bit bland it's far from it because of the precision of the hull markings and the fit of the plastic and metal sections. It is exceptionally flush and overall is a great, if simple model. I might even say it's an unexpected favourite of the series to date.

Flipping open issue 62 we have a good report on the Distant Origins episode also covering the essential features of this small research vessel. One of the big things here is that the Voth ship is fitted with a transwarp drive out-of-the-spacedock hence the ease at which they could catch Voyager in the series. The coverage on the ship design is turn-and-miss and I actually thought I'd had a page taken out of the magazine since it was so brief. 

The only section which does get some decent space is given, deservingly, to Michael Westmore and his creation of the Voth makeup. I love the one-off race and the detail on what inspired their look helped give this issue an all-encompassing feel. Trouble is that with the Voth City Ship due in just eight issues (four months) I'm not sure what else there will be to cover on a race we only saw in the one episode.

Second out of the gate and the first ship to appear in retailers in 2016 will be the Antares. If we go all official here this shouldn't really be in the series as it only properly appeared onscreen in the more recent remastered versions of The Original Series and a slightly different iteration featured in The Animated Series. I'd actually say they should include a couple more ships from The Animated Series because they've never been done before and this one has turned out OK.

Actually I tell a little bit of a fib there because this is one damn small replica of the Antares. It's almost the size of one of the recent shuttles (yes, review of that pack coming soon) but somehow it manages to still look pretty good. I suspect it's almost on scale with the USS Enterprise we saw at issue 50 but it does seem a little odd how small it has turned out. The other reason for its size might be to do with the vertical size of the cargo bay and how to make that feasible with the collection.

Again the ship is a rear standing, sliding - just - over the "H"-shaped nacelle support at the back. The collection has definitely captured the feel of that 2000's retro 1960's spacecraft vibe in the model and I think for the scale this is a nice and unexpected winner.

Coated out in familiar Starfleet white, the Antares is very angular when you compare her to something like the original USS Enterprise from Kirk's day. The bow lines and cargo bay lines are unforgiving in their ramrod straight nature and they contrast well against the sleek, curved lines of the Voth Research Vessel. There are a lot of angles when you look at the Antares for a bit longer. No curves but everything seems functional and ramrod straight. The hull does betray that remastered nature with a two-tone white/grey paint scheme rather than one slab of white which would have been more expected from the original filming of the show.

The detail of the tiny deflector dish is very well done - is this one of the smallest details Eaglemoss have managed to replicate on a model that is itself not that big. The warp nacelles too are well made and sturdy with blazing red bussard collectors (standard plastic not translucent) and curved exhaust ports to the rear - although they don't have the bevelling effect of the original. Plus point to counter that though is that the nacelles and their pylons are all in metal for the first time in the series. 

However, when you compare her to the image on the front of the magazine you get a bit of a shock because there are some details clearly omitted from the model or added on to the CG reconstructions. Some of the red edging detail on the top of the habitat (front) module is missing as is the forward facing ship name and registry number. Both of these details are fairly obvious on the magazine - so why aren't they on the ship?! Whoops indeed and as you take a further look around the Antares there are one or two more of those finishing decals which don't align with the pictures in issue 63. 

Build quality is once more spot on. The upper deck and nacelles are metal while the lower hull and bottom of the cargo pod are made from plastic. The difference in materials did make a difference in the finish back in the first 20 or so issues but now in the 60's there's little to call and here I had to really check what was made from what. The Antares must be one of the more robust models too thanks in no small part to those metal engines. 
The magazine is a bit of a mash-up covering remastered episodes and, for the first and perhaps only time, The Animated Series. Whether we needed a crash-course key episode guide to the show has to come with the answer "No" but the rest of the issue is a good read as it lets us into the world of the remastered series. 

We'd already had a taster with the improvements on the USS Enterprise in issue 50 and even more on the SS Botany Bay last month but here we get an understanding of how The Animated Series actually influenced one of the bigger redesigns that took place in The Original Series to change the Woden of The Ultimate Computer from a DY-500 freighter into the Antares Class ship and how that same design was first brought into the series in the revamped Charlie X from early in the first season.

The magazine isn't packed to the brim with info but what there is does spotlight that early era of The Original Series and how it has been restored and slightly "improved" in recent years. Again I have to say that these classics are some of the most interesting yet.

Ben has suggested that with only a smattering of issues now announced and collectors now rapidly catching up to that point we are going to be hearing about future releases sooner rather than later. Talking of releases,  the first double of 2016 will see Zephram Cochrane's Phoenix paired with the Xindi Aquatic Ship. Another two rarities although the second of those will also be arriving on Attack Wing early next year but I doubt it will be anywhere near as detailed. 

Is the Antares smaller than you expected? Does the Voth ship surpass your initial thoughts? THIS AFTERNOON I'll be dropping a few thoughts on ships we'd like to see ahead of Ben's announcement of the next batch of ships (issue 70+) before Christmas Day.

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