Sunday, 26 April 2020

FanSets: Welcome to Picard

Here's a delivery I was overexcited to see drop through the letterbox!

Ok, so we're all looking forward to anything coming our way during the current situation we find ourselves in but this one has managed to make it all the way from the USA to bring some metallic goodness into my Star Trek world.

Those clever fellows over at FanSets have built up a splendid reputation over the years with their pin badges, starting out with Star Trek before branching out into numerous other franchises with equal success.

My belief is that this has a lot to do with the pride, effort and accuracy in their work which is perhaps most evident from the fact (and this is a damn good fact) that their Picard family crest was actually used in the filming of Picard! Yes, they are that flipping good their items are used for actual, physical Star Trek productions so there.

OK, it's been a while since I've had anything from FanSets so from a production perspective the badges have now gone from a single pin and metal clasp piece to double pins withmore finger-friendly plastic caps. There's a few benefits to this so I'll cover them now. 

One is that the badges stay vertical much more easily plus the rear metal caps had a tendency to come off whether you made sure they were on tight or not possibly resulting in lost caps or more cutting, lost badges. Thirdly, the caps are much easier to handle when you're putting them onto clothing for example. They don't catch, they hold firm and as a bonus you can see them if dropped since they're bright yellow. Overall, this is a massive improvement and I can confirm all the above when I stuck on my new min-Picard combadge to pop to the shops.

Now I've added five new pins to my collection and before we go into the trio from Picard let's look at two associated with The Original Series

Taking them in season order we have The Menagerie's wheel-chair bound Captain Christopher Pike. Thinking ahead let's hope they do an Anson Mount Discovery version but for now this is magic. Somehow FanSets have managed to replicate the look of Sean Kenney replete with radiation burns and coiffed white hair that marked the former Enterprise captain's return to the series.

The wheelchair itself is elegantly simplistic with just the "Yes" and "No" lights  adorning the front of the enclosed unit before giving way to a matt black finish edged in white. Why do I like this one? Because it's an oddball one - unusual because it steps away from the usual standing pose and is tied to a specific and very memorable episode - or should I say two episodes...?

Secondly we have another figure that links to my favourite episode from The Original Series so getting it was a no-brainer - Kirk in his spacesuit from The Tholian Web.

Ironically, Kirk is probably the character we see the least in the third season story given that he's stranded in interphasic space for the bulk of the narrative however the suit and the captain repeatedly appear in ghostly form throughout.

The head sculpt is replicated from the original Kirk figure (which we reviewed here)but the rest of it is all new and very, very, VERY cool. This is screen accuracy at its best down to the inclusion of the blue, pink orange tubing over the silver suit, the bell-jar helmet and, if you look really, really closely there's even the nameplate "Kirk" in place.

Amazingly - and I actually Googled the suit to check, FanSets have managed to capture the correct number of buttons on the piping which is in the exact places it should be. Truly mindblowing detail on this one and well done to the team for getting it this accurate on this kind of scale. Take note Eaglemoss!!!

Now let's step forward 50 years and set our sights onto the newest arrival, Picard and three badges available now from FanSets.

First up and available for a while is the aforementioned Picard family crest which doubles as a combadge on the family estate. To say this is screen accurate is like saying Data is an android; it's fact because it WAS used in the show so through FanSets you can own something that is guaranteed 100% correct to the show in size, colour and build - that's another incredible thing to add to the list you can associate with this company.

Nor is it a shoddy design with a lack of precision that you might expect for something so small as the badge features the full crest with a slightly raised edge in gold to trim it off. It looks and feels fantastic.

Second is the Visitor badge seen clipped to Picard's jacket when he visits Starfleet HQ. Double pinned to the back, this solid oval metal one-piece badge intercuts the Starfleet delta in negative space with a gradual domed surface. The "visitor" script is slightly set back into the surface with the lettering precisely painted up. While you can't slip it on as easily as Jean-Luc did, it does mean that the next trip to your regional office might be a little more entertaining. 

Finally there's the latest iteration of the Starfleet combadge. Taking a lead from the version seen in All Good Things... plus The Visitor and Endgame, the delta is now just a raised silver trim over two rectangular - to a point - sections. Also this is a rare one from FanSets in that it's two pieces joined together to form the combadge. Only drawback to this one - it's not 1:1 scale which was disappointing but it's a good pinhole suit badge or worth sticking on your club tee when you're out lockdown shopping as it might end up drawing in a conversation!

The quality of all five badges is unquestionable and FanSets continue to produce a superb range with new items coming very regularly. Even if you're not into Star Trek you might be swayed by one of their other, equally brilliant, collections.

I'm very happy with these five especially with the updates to the fixings which I hadn't seen before which help relieve a bit of anxiety that you might inadvertently lose one at the worst time possible. I for one always look forward to seeing what's coming and with the first looks at their Picard range there might be another order going in fairly soon...

You can check out FanSets full range of pins at their website right this damn second. Go makes sense...just go and grab the credit card first...!

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Saturday, 25 April 2020

What’s the Bonus? USS Reliant Concept and Pike’s USS Enterprise

Another two bonus editions with no more confirmed as The Official Starships Collection nears its end. 

What a pairing we have to look over as well with two classic designs given that out-of-the-main-collection spin which allows anything to go.  

Stepping up to the plate first we have something that kind of got off the drawing board but not quite as we have it presented here. Effectively a Miranda Class variant, this was the original proposal for the Reliant but the orientation of a signature on a design document flipped her over and the rest is cinematic and Star Trek history. 

The main collection has stuffed us full of the numerous configurations of this design and now Eaglemoss have dropped in the original plan. I was cautious to say the least at having another one of these on the shelf however I have repented, seen the light and have to say this is a stunning starship model. Beautifully finished with a striking aztec paint job, the USS Reliant is covered in detail and provides the first solid look at another of those what could have been elements of the franchise. The overall build is a spin off the issue 11 original with the topside of the saucer and add-on Engineering section metal with a slot in underside, warp engines and torpedo pods added in as the plastic elements. 

Lets start at the front and work back as we have a better look at this concept. The topside of the saucer carries the distinct paint pattern plus the registry and do take a good note of the precision achieved with the red bordering on the letters and numbers - it's spot on for once! The red striping around the saucer runs parallel to the registry and over the phaser ports we have two of the Starfleet deltas - all of which is in keeping with the screen-approved version we all know.

Massive screwup though along the side with the ship having something of an identity crisis in the form of the USS Antares name emblazoned around the side - heard a few of those "typical Eaglemoss" chuckles to this one but it's dead small so don't be too put off.

The red edging stripes are excellently placed with the Reliant even down to the ones around the perimeter of the engineering works to the rear. They are precisely aligned to the edge of the recesses; brilliant.

Panel lines are also well presented with a good paint finish still allowing them to be visible and not swallowed by the greys. It helps to show off the raised works around the warp core and the red impulse engines just over the rear lip.

One other niggle with this one - those very well constructed warp engines just aren't level. The port one on mine is definitely tail down but again the detail on the drive units is sublime with distinct panel lines ship registry and customary translucent warp grilles along their centres. As a model that never actually happened it's come out rather well. 

Having those warp nacelles over rather than under means you do get to see all those mechanical gubbins at the back without a rollbar hanging over them and it means that we have two torpedo launchers where you would expect the underslung engines to appear.

The underside, as with the top is a work of model art with the ship name and registry centrally placed and the yellow phaser bank emplacements also clearly marked. The detail is a carbon copy of the "official" USS Reliant so you would expect it to be up to scratch since that was the model where Eaglemoss finally seemed to be hitting winning runs every time following a series of early blunders on paint jobs, odd scales and badly copied decals.

So yes, we can talk about the well placed and perfectly "lit" windows on the bottom of the saucer, the fact that the hull fits together like a hand in a glove with the RCS thrusters and those red/green running lights also perfectly painted in - but we need to give a good mention to those funny little pods.

Now these two are correctly labelled up as the Reliant and not the Antares which is a good start. You can clearly make out the grille and panel lining on these two small additions even down to a glimmer of twin launch tubes on the black front surface. I love that Eaglemoss have even gone to this length to detail a barely visible item - but more on that kind of thing when we come to Pike's USS Enterprise in just a moment. 

As this is a concept you can't really compare like for like even though a good solid 90% of what it was is on screen in The Wrath of Khan. Even if you gave it just a tiny margin for error over those stupid Antares decals it can be forgiven because this is yet another great bonus edition bringing never before seen items out for the fanbase to enjoy.

This is what makes the collection exciting as I've said before and fingers crossed that we can get the Romulan Warbird concept version very soon! 

In the magazine this time the first four pages are dominated with CG plan views and beauty shots of the concept starship before another quartet of pages handed over to the design process with suitable emphasis laid onto the original engines-up Reliant as well as how it turned out the other way.

Last up there's coverage of Nicholas Meyer's process of turning the script around in a matter of 12 days in an uncredited rewrite which brought together a series of great ideas from other screenplays to be moulded into the Star Trek classic we have today - plus there are a few notes in there on things that didn't make it to the final cut...

If I was silly enough to have a swear jar, I would have triple-filled it after analysing the USS Enterprise; The Cage special edition (bonus edition actually...). 

On first hearing of this one I was overjoyed that we would be able to add this one to the collection and stand her alongside Kirk’s version, the ISS Enterprise and if you got one, the SS Yorktown. All of these had subtle differences (Yorktown was just a set of decals to be fair) but this promised a lot of changes to reflect how the original model came off the production line for the first, cerebral, pilot episode. As you would expect from the model, on first impression it’s identical to the issue 50 NCC-1701 but you would be wrong. 

This one has the translucent bussard collectors last seen on the ISS Enterprise, the engine cap grilles also from that same version and a slightly oversized deflector dish at the front of the secondary hull... BUT THAT’S IT.

As for the build there is one minor structural change on the underside of the saucer where the dorsal pylon connects (as shown on the ventral view) but honestly, that's it. There's a lot that's incorrect here and Eaglemoss should be kicking themselves that they are charging £19.99 for a ship they have released three times previously and couldn't be that bothered to "de-age" back to its roots.

Even the magazine covers the differences - the lack of detail on the inside edge of the warp nacelles, the smoother finish to the shuttlebay doors, the wooden, solid red-painted bussard collectors, the lack of grilles on the warp engine pylons - all details that are identical to the issue 50 USS Enterprise and most hideous of all, the bridge module is the same height when it should be taller here!

You can feel the rage burning ever more fierce with each look because all of these could have been avoided. This is effectively the ISS Enterprise with a new set of stickers and a big deflector dish and that my friends, does not cut the mustard in any sense. The biggest raising of a mid-digit to collectors is the magazine because it highlights how crap the model is - my god it even has exactly the same windows lit as the issue 50 version so I can imagine this was fairly cheap to turn out.

You can't fault the build and for once I'm not going over it because there is so much else here that disappoints and takes away from what could have been a real winner with some serious visual differences which would have excited fans and made this a worthwhile addition to the set.

But it doesn't, it isn't, it won't ever be and this is one despondent fan who feels that it's money that could have gone elsewhere. Christ am I angry.

So to the magazine and once you've rolled past a few pages of reminding you how unworthy the model actually is, it does manage to whip up some decent interest with coverage of what work went into the creation of the Enterprise interiors and some of the changes that occurred between the pilots and the series. Oh - another bugger up is that the contents page here shows the contents for the USS Voyager Concept model - thanks for the proofreading.

This could have been amazing and even the cover of the magazine shows what should have been in the box but goddamn you Eaglemoss, this isn't what we signed up for. It's a cheap shot that with a few amendments could have been easily saved. 

The Reliant is an easy head-and-shoulders winner here and it's incredible that we can have two slightly altered versions of two well known and well loved ships that can end up bringing about two so vehemently opposed views on their execution. While one has truly hit the mark and is fully in keeping with the style of the movies and most significantly the model it would become, the other just, well, isn't in any way shape or form. Good magazine though...but that's not the main reason we come to this collection is it?

So that's all we have for bonus editions at the moment - there are no announcements for more and that might mean this is the last one off the presses. I do hope not however as ending the run with a fairly disappointing halfway attempt is a souring of the good work that Eaglemoss have put into the bulk of the collection over the last seven years.

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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Saturday, 18 April 2020

Breaking Borg, Part III

The last time we saw the Borg, they were seemingly vanquished. The Queen has been corrupted and the virus implanted by Admiral Janeway had apparently sealed the fate of the Collective, infecting the core to destroy the body.

But is that where it all stopped? The Borg we’re back to their malevolent best - possibly their most dangerous form since Picard drew a line and allowed them to go no further. 

Picking up 18 years after the events of Nemesis, 2020’s Picard brought the Borg out of semi-retirement but this was a very unusual Collective and focused purely on one, lonely disconnected Cube.

A cube that had been severed from the Hive mind and subsequently held by the Romulans as a reclamation centre, repatriating drones (XB’s) from the horrors of the Collective. 

Led by director Hugh, the facility seeks to restore something to the lives of these apparently broken individuals and Picard shows us, within the events of The Impossible Box that these drones are struggling to regain themselves after a life of enforced servitude.

Del Arco's take on this version of Hugh is a lot lighter and more sensitive than I would have imagined. He is a shining example of someone who has truly regained his individuality and has sought to better others lives. I'm not in the least shocked by his extreme reaction to the execution of the other XBs by Narissa but Hugh is now the exception to the rule. While I, Borg may not have initially seemed a good idea, here we have the expansion of Picard's decision in the right way that Descent, Part II didn't quite muster. Here Hugh has a strong purpose, he leads and sees the positives everywhere while Picard and Seven actually have a leaning towards the darker events of the galaxy. 

Notably Picard chooses in no way to ‘cuddle’ the Borg and give them a humanising slant that we have witnessed before and has been done with every major alien race in Star Trek. In this series we are exposed psychologically and physically to the terrors of assimilation and years of torment associated with being part of the Borg Collective. 

The Impossible Box in fact takes us back to Wolf 359 and, as noted in the review of that episode, Star Trek actually addresses PTSD. Jean-Luc is visually shaken by his first trip back to a Borg cube since he was partially assimilated into the Collective and for a few moments we see him revisiting that traumatic time. It’s not something that dominates the series but it is addressed and dealt with alongside the correct material. Family dig into the immediate aftermath and here we have the long term effects and we have Jean-Luc interacting with the two people who can understand his pain the most; Hugh and Seven. 

Picard does nod to First Contact but it’s real focus is The Best of Both Worlds as well it should be. That was the keystone of his experiences with the Borg and the series hits the damage caused by their incursion head on.

Picard does nothing to make the Borg seem less than menacing. Seven’s own past with the Borg is resurrected with the savage murder of Icheb for the acquisition of Borg technology pushing the visual envelope of the franchise that bit further than ever before. This also reflects the severe hatred for the Borg - there’s no grace in removing the implants for profit and they are only seen as a resource nothing more even in XB’s.

The future of the Star Trek universe isn't quite the utopia we have seen before by the time we get to Picard. A lot's changed with contempt for the former Borg drones just being one tip on the iceberg. The Borg threat itself may not be as present as it was thanks to the intervention of Admiral Janeway but the fear of assimilation is still there.

When Seven reconnects with the limited-scale Collective in order to defeat the Romulans, one of her first actions is to reactivate the dormant drones and reconnect them to a smaller hive mind controlled by her. It's a dangerous narcotic for the former Borg with a demonstration that the Collective is a brutal force even in reduced numbers.

Ultimately these XB's - or whatever is left of them by the end of the series have chosen to stay away from returning to the unified consciousness. Perhaps the most telling moment of the season is the conversation between Seven and Picard as she leaves the La Sirena which delivers the blow that neither has ever truly been the same since their time with the Collective even though its two decades in the past. There's always going to be a part of each of them which will be associated to that period.

What Picard chooses NOT to do is answer what has happened to the Borg in the years since Endgame. The acquisition of the Artifact indicates that the Borg have been active since Voyager ended but it does nothing to indicate what damage was done to the Collective or how it survived or rebuilt itself following Admiral Janeway's attack. 

We don't even know if this was a lone cube which assimilated the only Romulans to ever to part of the Borg or if there was a fleet - it's all kept very vague and in some respects this goes right back to the more ambiguous roots that we discussed in Part I. 

Picard has taken just one element of the Borg and focused on it, choosing to dig into the torments and terror that comes from life after being separated from the hive mind and leaving us to imagine what has occurred elsewhere.

The cube is still terrifying and the fact that they have been collecting new drones nods to the fact that the Collective are back to their singular, emotionless focus to become better and strike down everything in their path. The Borg are, it seems, very much still out maybe this isn't the last time we'll be seeing them in the franchise.

As we've seen in this three part overview, the Borg have certainly had their fair share of change - they have been adapted to the show and each of the times they have been utilised either on the big or small screen. Picard has returned the mysticism to the Collective while at the same time bringing the horrors of their actions back to the fore and away from the occasional sensitive mush that Voyager meandered into during its sixth season. 

Even if you don't agree with moving corridor walls and a slightly different aesthetic to the Borg (not the first time), you can't help but feel that Michael Chabon and his Picard team have really gone back to the roots of the Borg and what made them interesting. I was originally intending to deal with Seven in here but now I think she's worth her own future supplement - and that's on the way.

You can read the rest of Breaking Borg here

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Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Two-Pronged Attack: The Official Starships Collection Issues 172 and 173

We're now just eight issues off the end of the regular collection run and you get the sense of deja vu...

Not necessarily from the Xindi-Insectoid Scout Ship from issue 172 but certainly from the Arcos. As you would expect, more on this gripe in a moment but first let's take some time to look over this forgotten gem from Enterprise

I've no real recollection of this ship from one of the prequel series' biggest foes so it'll be a case of digging out Hatchery to jog the grey cells (not like I've got enough time at the moment...) but hey, it's a stunning design and I'd go as far as saying it's actually better than the Fighter we saw WAY WAY WAY back in issue 24(!)  - that was almost six years ago in July 2014!

Slimmer, sexier and all round more "insecty", the Scout is all beauty and simplicity in one ship and should have been appreciated in Enterprise a lot more than it was.

While the Fighter was themed around its three aggressive horns, the Scout sticks to a more standard two pronged format with twin, elegant pincers sweeping out from the sides and projecting forward of the bug-eyed cockpit. 

The projections as well as 80% of the ship are in metal and with the connecting section to the tips being so slim, this does well to help maintain the structure and strength of the model. A couple of the recessed panels here aren't too well painted in but the blue energy points and the edging lines are very clear. The remainder of the sweeping wing/arm/pincer is just as good with four darker panels and then a distinctive fan pattern curving up the inside edge.

Again the paint here is very precise with the ridges in grey and only the dipped sections in that swirling energy blue that's present at the tips as well as the shoulders and rear wing arcs.

What marks this as a much better design than the Fighter is that it looks like an insect. The bulbous (plastic clip in) "eyes" coupled with the pointed nose and finished with the over-reaching antennae from the back complete a very distinct image and make this one of the Xindi's best looking craft. 

The model certainly benefits from all of the above and I'm even going to say that those energy swirls look great - something that previous ships have failed to capitalise on or have really achieved their potential - especially those organic attempts on the Species 8472 bioship for example.

Those rear antenna are also one of the add-on plastic pieces to the Scout duplicating the grey and grey panelling from the larger forward thrusting pincers. These do also have, to the back, some finely painted in engine exhausts with the tips, two rear points on the antenna and sections to the back of the wings all in a light purple. It's an incredibly minor touch but shows the level of attention that has gone into bringing this craft to the collection.

Flip her over and there's even more to appreciate. The metal wings continue the pattern established topside complete with the finned blue patterning however I have spotted that the fill colour hasn't quite made it into all the corners on one side - barely.

At the centre we have an inset piece to finish the ship with a separate raised delta-shaped piece slightly lighter than the main hull and what you can only assume are two energy weapons of some form pointing forward. 

The Scout is dead simple in terms of elements but is neatly packed by using add ons to fill out the craft. Standwise it sits gripped from the rear with the plastic grip closing around the sides of the hull and the top of the curved wing. 

Now, the magazine cover actually makes this ship look a little stumpier than it is - someone decided to resize the image I'm betting. All of the mages make it look a lot more grey grey than blue grey, even including some blurry images from Enterprise's Hatchery episode. 

Visually there's sod all to really go on to compare this to the "real" thing but all the parts seem to be in the right place and the distinct look we have here is clearly present in the three images we have of the ship here.

The Ship Profile follows the long-established standard of offering up a few details on the Scout before retelling the narrative from the episode and then opening up a double-spread to show a good sized triple view of this time's headline vessel. 

Four pages are handed over to the design process from the seminal John Eaves with a steady balance of text to sketches that cover both the episode's Scout ship and the Xindi shuttle.  Then, led into with a full page pic of writer Andre Bormanis, we have his background and interest in Star Trek plus notes on how Hatchery came to be.

Right; Arcos.

Just 14 issues ago we reviewed the Batris and now we're here with a reworking of the design that would appear in The Next Generation three years later in the 80th episode, Legacy.  

At the core you can see that this is still the Batris. The long hull shape, the bulky central cargo container and that plough-like nose are screamingly evident but this is a "pimped" version of that flying breeze block. With a splash of paint the bright brown and reds are gone instead replaced - pretty accurately here - with a total grey wash out. 

There are a splattering of accurately placed viewports but as with the Xindi-Insectoid Scout Ship, it's minimal screentime doesn't allow for any real scrutiny. 

What is most useful to look at here and compare to the Batris, much as we did with the Smugglers' Ship and the Bajoran Freighter almost 80 issues ago is look at the amendments that were made to the model for its returning appearance.

Much of the upper hull surface detail is identical to that of the Batris with a few additional greebles. The big changes are the vertical bridge fin to the nose and the addition of four large engine units, two of which bulge out and round from the front of the cargo pods. 

With the new engines and the three already in place to the rear these all now have orange edging and do seem a little crisper than the brown original. 

Thing is I just cannot get even slightly excited about this one for a few reasons. One is that the surface details still seem to be slightly washed out against the monotonous grey overcoat, it's still as dull as it was the first time (which was allowed because it was the first time this one had appeared and thirdly - how come we get this but not the Kazon Predator Class for example? Did this, just as with the Smugglers' Ship or the multiple Miranda variants or Nebula Class options really need to be used to flesh out the series? 

This has very minimal alterations to the ship and of the pair I would have been happy just to have received the Batris and ignored this one. It wasn't onscreen for very long (less than the Xindi one I would harbour) and doesn't really deserve its own full issue. 

Ok, I'll step out a little bit and say that the additional engines and nose fin are well attached to the existing Batris design. There has been remoulding work to account for the additional greebles plus the ports into which the "juggernaut" exhausts curve out from so it's not all bad. It's slightly disguised from the original appearance yet my mind just keeps telling me precisely what it is even with all the bolt-ons.  A further gripe is that with the Batris some of the finer hull details were raised in grey but here they are all completely annihilated. One colour suits all except for the engines and you have to feel that this was probably one of those issues that could have been sacrificed for something more fitting.

Into the magazine and at least there's a few pages of reading to entertain you during these long, lockdown days and the cover does even more to kick you and realise how gorgeous this could have been. Sadly all that detail is lost under the grey and at least the mag reminds you of that several times.

The CG is fantastic with a good recount of the episode and details of the aging freighter. Hilariously there's ONE picture of the freighter from Legacy and it's so damn small it could be a Ford Escort Cabriolet and you wouldn't know the difference.

Do check out the magnificent plan views here. Really well detailed AGAIN and then head into the design story for the episode which, ironically, highlights that a lot of this episode was reworkings of sets from The Best of Both Worlds with a few accessories thrown in for good measure. 

As Legacy dealt with Turkana IV which was Tasha Yar's homeworld, it's sort of fitting that Denise Crosby gets to voice her thoughts on Yar's first season run, Yesterday's Enterprise, Sela and All Good Things... which took us back to a point before Encounter at Farpoint.

The magazine is easily the strong 50% of issue 173 with the ship a deep disappointment before it even arrived. Between now and the final issue at 180 we have a mixed bag of reworkings such as the Husnock Warship (the original which was then converted...) and the Sheliak Colony Ship alongside the Tarellian craft and the iconic First Contact Borg Cube.

Easily the stronger of the two entries, the Xindi-Insectoid Scout Ship is one of those class Enterprise CG designs that blitzes the older modelwork especially when it's a so-so reworking of a stronger original version. Honest opinion - you can skip and you won't be disappointed if you're picking and choosing. Problem is that if you're a long time collector and have stuck with it since day one....well... you're going to have to get it anyway...

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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Saturday, 11 April 2020

Face Off: The Son'a Flagship: The Official Starships Collection Special 19

If the gold USS Enterprise-D underwhelmed you then this might restore your faith in the specials.

One of the "lost" CG designed ships from Insurrection, the Son'a Flagship is well worthy of making an appearance in the larger, specials line.

Ru'afo's horseshoe starship follows the standard metal/plastic combo build including translucent parts and further clever use of hull lines to hide those pesky joins.

The speckled/aztec paintjob does break up the monotony of the pale grey hull, emphasising both the scale and variation in the metal. It seems to be constructed from two distinct pieces with the top of the ship and the engines in metal and the front and whole f the underside in plastic. 

Ok, so it's not made up of a lot of elements but the recreation in the musical-instrument-inspired surface is marvellous. To the back, Eaglemoss have recreated the ribbed skin of the flagship paralleling the internal workings of a piano and the strings of a harp. 

It's also surprisingly robust given some of the extremities. The spines to the rear (originally planned as the front) are part of the metal topside and the underside fins and "spoiler" are attached centrally and also at a further four points. This element too has a lot of wonderful panel detail and what I've spotted here is that the darker grey is only a fraction of a shade off the base colour. In the movie the differences in colour between the grilles and the hull was more pronounced and on the images in the magazine both these and the "piano wire" effect that arcs around the hull appear a lot darker.

This might have been influenced by lighting externally and on the ship but in some ways it does leave, at a distance, the Son'a Flagship looking a little flat since the speckled detail is only really visible at close range. 

The windows to the sides of the horseshoe curve are nicely aligned to the hull however the issue this time comes when you look to the front. The white squares don't line up with the shape of the curve, cutting it close at the top to the joint line and also bumping over a hull feature further down rather than following it round the ridge. The windows should go to the top panel line at the front but don't even though the more "squashed" row just below it seems to be in the right place.

The model's warp engines curving around the sides are as solid as the rest of the ship with the yellow warp grilles and red bussard collectors smoothly worked into the frame utilising translucent pieces to help bring the craft to life. 

From a few angles this thing is butt-ugly yet there's a majestic grace to it from the dorsal view that make you appreciate how artistic it is and just how impressive the transfer into model form is. This is a tightly built unit with all those joins concealed by the arcs yet it has lost some of the depth and spectacle in its move to diecast. Admittedly the reference materials for this one were, from what I understand, difficult to acquire and the result has to be applauded yet it seems to be a bit washed out and could perhaps have done with being a few shades darker to highlight the more subtle undulations in the shapes of the hull especially along those horned warp engines and to the front.

In certain lights the more interesting parts of the flagship just fade away into the general base coat and only with a little tilting can some of these recesses be seen. In fact the Son'a craft works better when it does catch the light, raising the details and showing off how clever the surface is - also not helped by the inability to use the yellow lighting that illuminates the top rib effect of the starship.

Described as smaller than the Sovereign Class USS Enterprise, the Son'a Flagship gets a mere three paragraphs of background to cover its features including the illegal isolytic weapons and its adapted ability to serve in the Briar Patch. A big double page CG of the underbelly follows this before pages six to 19 are given over purely to the design of the flagship. 

This traverses not just the lengthy process to come to the end result - which would ultimately find itself spun 180 degrees to fly "shoulder" first it also dips into the interior design for the surgery and the bridge but no where as much as is dedicated to the exterior concept. Also included is a plan view for the larger Son'a battleship and the smaller fighter which was an evolution from an earlier idea for the flagship.

As with all the special magazines, the additional pages mean there's a lot more coverage and a lot more from behind the scenes to read about - always welcome and more than ever with a ship that we only got to see in one movie.

The Son'a Flagship looks as great on a shelf as it does on screen. The scale definitely benefits the ribbed detail across the back plus it's a wise step to have made the rear "horns" as part of the metal section of the ship thus providing lots more structural support to this section. Even the ventral fins to the front are firmly attached and personal favourite bit has to be the ridge at the bottom of the metal hull lid which just overhangs slightly as it does on the CG original, creating a slight shadow and hiding a joint line at the same time.

Long awaited release for this model and not a disappointment in any way. Definitely a special worth acquiring for your collection!

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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