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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