Monday, 20 November 2017

Not a Simpson in Sight: The Official Starships Collection Issues 110 and 111

The arrival of the USS Chekov marks the third model included in the Official Starship Collection to come from the infamous Wolf 359 encounter.

Another kitbash special, the effects team on The Next Generation sure knew how to fit a Galaxy Class model into numerous different configurations with this being one of the weirdest - if that’s at all possible. 

Beginning topside, the clear parallel to the Enterprise is that elliptical saucer replete with lifeboat hatches, the undersized bridge module and the oversized starship registry. Of course if we scale this against a Galaxy Class the registries would probably be the same size but on this much smaller vessel it looks clumsily large. The painted on windows mean there’s no misalignment - at least topside because underneath the square ones are totally out of sync with the recesses on the hull. Notably there is also a significant reduction in the number of lifeboat hatches again reflecting the smaller scale of the Chekov versus the Enterprise; yet the bridge module is still the same size...?! (Yes, I know, model constraints....). Right at the back of the saucer are two blacked out impulse engines. Comparing to the cover photo at least, these should have a hint of red to their rear but on the replica there's just more black.

That said, it is well detailed across the whole surface with a reduced number of hatches visible and the phaser strip standing out in the darker grey tone. The first major difference you spot is, of course, at the back of the saucer in the shape of the mission-specific pod bolted onto the top of the ship. The handlebar catches at the front suggest it’s a swing cap from something and has found its way into this kitbash. The back-end, to be fair, is moulded cleanly into the saucer and I would think this is probably a better and more polished finish than the original screen used prop.

The saucer itself is topside metal with the lower section has a plastic insert. Cleverly this topside metal also extends back to the upper "back" body section and out to the pylons giving a lot of much welcomed structural support. This leaves the secondary hull, nacelles and mission pod all made from plastic. 

On that lower saucer side that misaligned printing is annoying but at least the longer windows towards the outer edge are printed on. Again there's a distinct and crisp phaser strip arcing around the midway point and boundaries the windows and ship registry with that line marking the join between plastic and metal.

Underneath that hunking sensor pod is the instantly recognisable rear end of a Galaxy Class starship. Blended seamlessly into the saucer, the underbelly and warp pylons are glaringly obvious. They too bear the azteced grey two tone scheme that stretches over the Chekov’s hull. Eaglemoss have retained the phaser strips and paint job, as per the original model but now on top of the pylons are two repurposed marker pens. In what seems to be a running theme across the Cheyenne, New Orleans and Springfield classes these markers seem to be turning up with frightening regularity albeit heavily disguised under paint and decals.

Again, Eaglemoss’ work here is perfect with the slim nacelles looking exactly the same as the marker pen variant (!) used on the Cheyenne finished off with bronzed EM field coils and Starfleet pennants on both bearing the starship name and United Federation of Planets name. Around the edges and only slightly recessed are the painted on - no transparency here - warp engine field grilles which still have the distinct ridged line effect all the way round. It’s a small detail but adds that depth to the engines that would be lost if it had remained a flat surface. 

To the front of the nacelles we are blessed with those glorious emerald red translucent bussard collectors that add a touch of needed non-grey colouring to the starship. Around the edges too is a thin edging decal plus there’s a tiny registry label at the tips of both engines. 

Now to the underneath and this is where this mode starts to go in some real new and oddball directions. Remember the Oberth Class and it’s disconnected secondary hull? It’s back in a more streamlined form with the Springfield Class. Two almost right angle arms reminiscent of the pylons for the warp engines swoop down from the bottom of the elliptical main hull to connect to the similarly elliptical secondary hull. To the front of the unit sits a small, recessed deflector dish (didn’t have one of those on the Grissom...) which is brightly painted blue (similar to the paint-job on the issue one Enterprise-D with just a central gold detail to complete. This also seems to go against the more orange deflector pictured throughout the magazine.

Making out any form of details on the top of this small engineering hull is hard work given it sits in the shadow of the larger primary hull. Even though it's hidden by the larger primary hull, the top is still panel-lined almost identically to the bottom. The underside though does bear two phaser banks plus some greyed and raised panels, One other thing to notice is the decalling of Starship USS Chekov along the pylons in front of the dark grey grille style features. If we go by the magazine at least one of these two - there's one on each pylon - should read United Federation of Planets. However, seeing as how small this was on screen we'll never know for certain precisely what's printed there however comparing to the original Rick Sternbach model there is no legend on either secondary hull connecting pylon meaning, probably, this isn't screen accurate (the magazine makes it appear that the port side should bear the ship name underneath). On a good note though, both original and replica do have the Starfleet pennant at the centre line.

Also comparing to that original model there is some yellow panelling missing from the underside and the back of the warp pylons and Eaglemoss have added some "lined and dotted" detail at the back of the warp engines. Odd one this since it seems there's contradiction between the replica and the source material. One for the quality controllers too as my starboard nacelle has a distinct lean to the front meaning it's not parallel to its port-side counterpart. At least on a minor note they aren't two port nacelles or two starboard nacelles since each has a different rear pilot light to match the ones at the edge of the primary hull (red/green).

Finally, stand positioning here sees the plastic clip sliding over the nacelle pylons. I suspected it might have been around the edge of the saucer but no, it's a much more rearward grip around what is a very structurally sound area of the ship in those metal pylons. 

Into issue 110 and a brief overview covers the mission purpose of the Chekov and the Springfield Class in general as a frigate, crew complement and some of the class features plus of course there's mention of its appearance at Wolf 359.

Fortunately because there is so little onscreen footage of the Chekov we are treated to a lot of wonderful CG images of the ship which are all fresh and new - and contradict the model as we've already seen. Oddly if you look at it from the top it looks like an updated version of the NX-01 don't you think?

Anyway, the sparce details on the Chekov get covered in a mere three paragraphs with some further suggestion that this might well be the final ship of the class and was subsequently retired after the disaster of Wolf 359. The plan views offer up a great close up of the remastering of the class before this time's gem which covers the Little Known Ships of Star Trek. This is four pages of identifying some of the real hidden wonders of the Star Trek universe including the soon-to-be-realised Curry Class and one I really hope to see; the transport Lakul from Generations. In total there are nine and some of them are blink and miss them appearances.

Weighing in with the remaining six pages of article space is the work of illustrator Rick Sternbach. One of the true visual legends of the franchise, Sternbach is responsible for a lot of the looks of The Next Generation that set the tone for everything that came afterwards including phasers, the Borg and even, later, details for the Deep Space Nine station. It's a quality piece which covers not just the items that Sternbach created but also how his work evolved with the movement from physical models to the computer world especially where Voyager was concerned in the late 1990's. Thoroughly engrossing reading that is well illustrated with some great examples although I'm sure that's the Negh'Var (All Good Things... original version) on page 15 and not a Vor'Cha cruiser.

Now the follow on model for issue 111 is perhaps the most off the wall entry to date. While it did appear in Voyager it never actually left the holodeck so it's one of those where it might count but it also might not since it was never "real" - it's Captain Proton's Rocket Ship from Bride of Chaotica!.

First up this has to be one of the heaviest regular models in the collection and I'm of the mind that apart from a slim section on the underside and the stumpy little wings this is solid metal. It also might be the least colourful model yet produced due to its monochrome existence within the black and white Captain Proton fantasy cooked up by Tom Paris. 

Literally the whole of the ship with the exception of four recessed squares on the top and and emblem on both sides of the nose, this is a metallic, slightly sparkly silver.

But what will fans actually make of this one? It did leave me scratching my head since it is so left field. The Rocket Ship is stupidly retro in every sense from the slab of single colour through to the very design. Start at the front and there's a stubby Destructo beam weapon leading back into that missile-esque rocket nose cone that resembles the front end of a World War II bomb but then is accented with the horizontal fins and lining that hints at its 1940's and 50's inspiration. There's nothing subtle here in the recreation of this craft with very distinctive lines and points of separation from each section to the next.

What you do appreciate is how true to the intended era of origin the design is with the aeroplane style portholes and entry door positioned at the midpoint on the ship over the short wings. Now on those wings the finishing touch of the two rows of rivets is stunning and very period accurate. The embellishments here in the form of the winglets and again those parallel slats just ahead touch on that Flash Gordon ideology that evidently inspired this jaunt and the materials contained therein.

Finishing the tapered rocket look of the ship we have four pointed stabilising fins that protrude back beyond the rocket exhaust port. Very difficult to go into any more detail when that's precisely what is lacking - any detail. That is until you look on the bottom where there are two parallel darker grey markings that run from the nose right by the spark-like emblems to just behind the wings. They do break up the singular paint-job but the bottom isn't that plain. There are two, what appear to be rocket boosters, hung from the hull. These two are in plastic as there is a central insert to the  underside so they could be created separately and added in later. They are good and rigid as well so no concern over any movement from these appendages.

Overall though what’s not to love about this unique entry to the collection? No one else would have even considered doing this one because it’s not a “proper” starship from the show yet it’s a big part of the Voyager experience in its later years when they finally got a holodeck arc right (Sandrines...Fair Haven....) and this model is a representation of this success. 

I absolutely love the retro simplicity that the Rocket Ship presents. Original, heavy and lovingly recreated it’s a great issue. If I did have a grumble it would be about the very prominent join line right along the horizontal axis at the front. Bit gappy on the model I received but more than countered with the overall result. 

Given the weight of this one, the stand position is crucial and clipping around the rear tail fins utilises the most structurally stable bit of the craft - the hefty metal back end. 

Issue 111 dives firmly into the background of the Chaotica holodeck programme. The same size as the "real world" Delta Flyer, the magazine covers the usual array of craft features but more than that it discusses the creation of the Rocket Ship within the holodeck fantasy of Tom Paris.The six pages dedicated to the background covers all of the Captain Proton episodes with most notable coverage of Bride of Chaotica! This all makes it a bit different in the magazine since all of the pics are in black and white but the ship is absolutely spot on to the CG images most probably down to the simple finish of the monochrome rocket.

The Designing Captain Proton's Rocket Ship section is extremely short and a bit disappointing. The explanation is there that this was a pretty straight forward creation process and didn't take that much time since they had a very specific concept in mind. Bonus is that we do get some nice concepts but there aren't that many due to the linear creation stream.

The other six pages for articles are taken with Weapons of Captain Proton explaining the design process for the arsenal created for the Captain Proton episodes. Interestingly there are some elements of colour in the designs plus there's one that was never used - but was designed and built - for Tuvok.

Alan Sims and HMS Creative Productions were also responsible for the photonic lifeforms' scanners and Archania's reverse-grip pistol. There are some fantastic behind the scenes reference pics in here of the props designed for the show and again it provides a well-rounded story of the episode. This is a great example of when the magazine really comes into its own and wraps up a full package around a specific piece of the Star Trek franchise.

A good month that provides two unique and never before seen models from the franchise. I absolutely love them both but the Springfield Class does just win out because it's from the seminal Wolf 359 battle and adds another ship to the growing fleet collection. The Rocket Ship has classically simple lines and standing it alongside the 24th Century craft from The Next Generation you can plainly see the difference of 400 years and two very opposing design processes. This pairing is a top example of just how different and imaginative the creative team behind Star Trek could be when called for on a regular basis even after three series had been on air consecutively from 1987 to 1999 (by this point in Voyager). 

Next month we revisit the Nebula Class with the original version as depicted in The Wounded from The Next Generation with the USS Phoenix and secondly with the Lokkirim fighter from Voyager

Good and diverse additions to the collection this month? Was the Rocket Ship a necessity?

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