Wednesday, 6 July 2016

It's a Fake - and a Good One at That! The Official Starships Collection Issues 76 and 77

Two entries from the latter 25 years of Star Trek history this time and more precisely two that made their first appearances in 1997 and 1998. Even more notable, they're both shuttles...  

Issue 76 is one that will divide fans purely because of its character association. It's Neelix's shuttle Baxial. Likely to be remembered for being one of the heaviest additions to the series, the Baxial is a surprisingly detailed little ship. 

While its sporadic appearances in Voyager (just three) didn't give us too much time to see it clearly, the model does it a lot of justice. The metal front and spine are connected to the chunky rear section with the two mid-section side pods and the two landing pads constructed in plastic. The underside of the engine block and the nose are also plastic so the entire lower half looks to be a "slot in" to the metal upper. 

From the pictures used to promote this model it did appear very crisp and clean with the two tone paint scheme dramatically different. The brown/cream combo on the ship here is much better with even the smallest panels well marked out on the hull especially on that upper spinal section. The forward cockpit windows are blacked out as we've seen very often with these smaller craft and it emphasises the very angular design of the craft itself and of the application of the paint scheme. 

Aside from the airlock on the starboard side it's difficult to find anything that resembles a curve - even the slightest turns in the panelling have an angle rather than a smooth line. The metalwork on the Baxial is much stronger in detail than the plastic with the rear end being the most impressive. With the exhaust mainfolds and further tiny panel detai,l the engine block also carries three translucent exhaust ports to add that final touch - and these were only added in its later upgraded state from the seventh season.

The plastic undercarriage sections are very plain in comparison to the rest of the craft especially on the landing pads. I guess there wasn't a great deal of attention paid since this was a rush job and I'd err that there were more important angles that needed to be covered. However the joins on mine linking the plastic segments together and then onto the metal craft are very tight and clean. Can't fault the construction on the Baxial at all. 

One thing that is a bit disappointing is the stand. A very large clip, the stand fits around the rear of the engine block and I'm not convinced by its structural integrity. That said there doesn't seem like any other decent way to hold the shuttle and it does give it that 'air suspended' effect which has made a lot of these ships look even better.   

In many respects the Baxial model is a lot cleaner than the 'real' ship and comparing it to the magazine this becomes vividly evident. The one thing that the model hasn't been able to replicate is some of the subtle paint nuances, the weathering and the handful of antennae that are to the front and rear. If you think back to the Nausicaan fighter from issue 30, Eaglemoss somehow managed to recreate the antennae there. Maybe they were just way too small on this occasion.    

Even if your dislike for Neelix is a factor when it comes to this craft you have to admire the detail that has gone into its creation down to some of those extremely small panels and the snaking exhaust manifolds on the engine block.   

In the magazine we get the overview of the craft and its functions plus a reminder of its activity when we first met Neelix in Caretaker. Now we only saw the interior of the craft at that point and it would take until season three's The Chute before we were given a good look at the exterior. There's not really anything here to tell us how Neelix came by the shuttle or what its function was before Voyager so expect the usual retelling of key episodes such as The Chute and Homestead.  

The plan views this time are very good, adding all that missing weathering from the model while also giving a clear visual on each side of the craft. The designing section is pretty sparce here with just three paragraphs to cover the creation of the ship's exterior. This does indicate just how quickly it had to be designed and done via CG which wasn't the usual way at the time. 

Later appearances would see upgrades to the Baxial that were not present during The Chute.  Before Key Appearances we have a six page chat with Ethan Phillips not just about his role as Neelix (final appearance was Endgame not Homestead) but also as two Ferengi and that cameo in First Contact. It's a trip down memory lane with the actor recounting everything from favourite episodes to the makeup process and to the development of the Talaxian over the course of seven years.   

Ok. Biggie next. Issue 77 is the Romulan Shuttle. First seen - and only seen - in the brilliant In the Pale Moonlight, it was the first new Romulan design since the late 80s and the Scout Ship and made one huge impact. Being in such a huge episode won't have been a bad thing and the result here - in which we get to see the whole craft not just one angle - is great.  I know my podcast co-host Tiff is screaming blue murder right now because I have this little gem in hand.

Coated in the familiar Romulan green this time there's a more metallic tinge to the finished article and in fact there's two shades of green with a darker coat lifting the bird-like elements embossed to the back of the hull away from that lighter base coat. Just a note here that the model seems to be missing a couple of the silver wing edge trimmings that are on the upper hull at the rear of the wing - in the mag there is no 2-gap-three but a straight run. Also there seems to be a few more minor hull "blips" towards the tail that aren't on the pics of the original model either. Minor I know but for some it will be an issue.

For many the front end looks like the child of a reboot Cylon and Boba Fett (it was actually the Warbird design and a Spartan helmet) but it's still ever so distinctly Romulan with that pointed nose and the elliptical double wing cleverly woven into the back of the craft. That curve is a bit of a trademark which began with the Warbird and is also very clear on the Valdore from Nemesis.

This may very well be the ship with the most hype and excitement from the most minimal of screen-time. It has to be less than a minute at best but it's so damn good looking as a finished ship you can't help but be impressed.

Perhaps the shadowing and tones of the hull aren't as clear as you would see on the show and you do get less variation on a flat metal piece than the hull appeared in the show where space travel had (as with the Baxial) weathered it up. In fact pairing it with the Baxial this month is a bit of a stroke of genius since we have one very blocky shuttle and one curvy shuttle. 

It is, honestly, a great design, a beautiful model and one in my top ten for sure. I just love how they've replicated the lines, the curves and overall sleekness of this craft. While there are some highlights that the camera would pick out more I can't fault what Eaglemoss have managed with this shuttle and from every angle the finish (on mine!) is perfect. The metal/plastic joins are well hidden and defining what is made from what is actually a little more difficult. For reference the upper hull and the inside walls of the nacelles are in metal while everything else here is plastic - and its not to its detriment either.

The essence of the "bird" inspiration even goes down to the "feathered" tail effect that spikes from the rear of the main hull with the same ferocity as the fins on the engines. Finished off on the upper hull with the Romulan crest on the starboard wing and Romulan script on the port, the sides and bottom of the shuttle are perhaps even more delectable. Either side bears a silver toned hatch and panel markings all the way along and those twin warp engines have their own translucent blue collectors and warp field coils which offsets against the shine of the metallic green hull.

Apart from the horribly plain underside of the main/upper wing, the bottom of the Romulan shuttle is a ship fan's dream with every point of the hull surface etched with panels, machinery and even a couple of points of Romulan script on the smaller/lower elliptical wing. The level of reproduction here is mind-boggling and I would urge you to compare it with the photos of the screen-used model because it's virtually (not exactly) identical and only after a few glances can you notice the minor tweaks that were probably made to accommodate the detail in this much smaller scale for the collection.

As for the stand, it's a rear clip around the upper wing section and a very snug fit giving that "air suspended" feel once more. My clear plastic peg was a little big for the stand and did need a slight shave down to fit properly or the ship developed a lean after a few minutes. The Romulan shuttle is a clear work of art that somehow came together at lightning pace. Now perhaps as iconic as its lone episodic appearance, it's a niggle that it was never used again. 

So to the magazine and the 24 metre long shuttle (bit bigger than a Runabout) gets a little bit of its internals fleshed out as well as covering its armament, top speed and purpose which is more than we got for the Baxial. Mainly we get all the good stuff on page five before we're dropped into a synopsis of In the Pale Moonlight accompanied by a fair few screenshots from the episode itself. 

The plan views give is the ship from all the key angles and, as with the model, have some slight variances to the ship we received with the magazine. Bit odd that the collector's item is the anomaly here. We have four pages on designing the ship along with Doug Drexler's sketch and multiple shots of the filming model which was one of the last created for the series along with its landing bay set.  Quite funny to think the Baxial - which was seen more in Voyager only got two pages on its development. This was around for a blink-and-miss appearance and gets double that. 

As with the Baxial we also have a cast interview this time and it's with Andy Robinson who played Garak. While not obstensively focusing on the landmark sixth season episode featuring the shuttle, it does provide a look at Robinson's take on the role, Garak's relationships and his character transition from A Man Alone through to the finale, What You Leave Behind. Probably one of Deep Space Nine's most important characters, this is a worthwhile and interesting addition to the magazine

No prizes for guessing the Key Appearance section this week (seriously, do I have to say it?) with a good close up of the model which will have you squinting to check detail on your own miniature.

A strong month once again from Eaglemoss. Very, very strong and strong contenders for some of the best results to date (big statement but yes, I'll stick by it). Two solid ships where I really couldn't pick major fault. The build quality in recent times has picked up no end and these two are really nice to look at. Also note that this was a double shuttle entry to the series. We can effectively rule these two out from an alien set but doesn't this make a lot of small one/two person craft boxed very close together? We still have the Mission Scoutship from Insurrection close at hand as well and only recently we had the Bajoran Fighter for example.

Me probably being super-picky but hey, who cares what order they come in if they're as good as these two? As for next time we have the Voyager Aeroshuttle and Harry Mudd's Stella from the remastered The Original Series. After the brilliance of these two I'm happy to wait!

Was the Romulan Shuttle worth the wait? Is the Baxial actually damn good?

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