Friday, 23 July 2021

Shuttles 6: Pick n' Mix

 The sixth instalment of the shuttles series from Eaglemoss covers TNG, DS9 and VGR.

Probably one of the more unusual pieces to enter the fray is the Sphinx Workpod. Bright yellow, the model is one of only two I can think of within the shuttles series that has taken the risk of a transparent passenger cover meaning that here we get to see the pilot seats within. 

It's got a weighty metal base too onto which the plastic "bug eyed" section sits and although rarely seen in the show, Eaglemoss have again managed to succeed in portraying the "lived in" look they achieved on the Starfleet Tug for example.

The blocky yellow patterning covers the work unit from tip to toe and it does have some of the cleanest decals I've seen in this sub series with identification numbers extremely visible on the front and sides of the base and Starfleet pennants along the tops of them. The base has some nice detailing with the lights to the front marked out distinctly and, for once, the engine exhausts avoiding any paint bleed from red to grey.

With its very visible paint scheme, the Workpod makes a big impression in this set but when you spin it round to view the flatbed it's even better. There appears to be "genuine" wear and tear on the rear platform which would be applicable from moving items on and off the craft. It's a brilliant and well executed touch that finishes off this unique craft near perfectly. Everything here just sits right - the inclusion of an interior, the fantastic paintjob and the added realism of a working existence. Great piece, well constructed and very solid. An unexpected highlight from the off!

Then there's the Fiat Multipla of shuttles with the USS Defiant's Shuttlepod 01. Seen in a few episodes including (firstly) The Search, Part II, the odd looking craft found itself later usurped by the more streamlined Chaffee which was included with Shuttles One.

Yet there's something very endearing about this out of the box design. The wide base tapering up into the passenger compartment is very specific to this ship and it's recreated well here. The colours, the panel lines and the finer hull detail all work well and align nicely but there are a few niggles with the edging alignment on the decals which has continued in the main ships lines and the shuttles as we've seen in sets two and five.

The 74205 registry on the sides and rear is perfectly fine but the one on the nose is blurred thanks to the off-centre edging and while just legible it plays havoc on the eyes!

A rare addition to this craft too is the translucent blue piece attached to the topside unit on the Pod. Taking a look to the rear it's continued in the mechanics which are exposed there. The mould of the hull is respectable yet the painting isn't up to par with a few frayed edges. The grilles and thruster units are cleanly painted in but the blue elements visible just don't match especially on the straight lines.

The front 5/6ths of the Pod are cleanly recreated but there's a lot going on right across the back end. Within the shuttles there have only been a couple with any significant amount of exposed workings and while they got away with it due to single paint coats, the Pod doesn't because of the multiple shades involved.

Number three in the box is the Hawking Type-6 shuttle featured at the end of Generations retrieving Picard from the Veridian III mountainside. What I'd immediately do is grab the Type-6 from Set One along with the Galileo from Set Five and line the three of them up - because they're all versions of the one from The Final Frontier. The Galileo is of course the original but you'll spot the striking similarities immediately.

The Hawking, in its own right, is a good model with a lot of familiar pieces. The addition of side windows for the pilot for instance or the changing of the engine venting from black to blue; the updating of the pennant and name but at it's heart we've been here before!

It's a good model if repetitive with good detailing and a simple paint job that can't go wrong. Once more the edging on the "1701-D" lettering is disgustingly misaligned to the black centres and that continues to irritate. There is an update to the engine blocks either side of the rear bay door featuring a grille effect rather than a flat slab of colour but overall this is one that you can't help but feel a little disappointed with considering it's already - 90% at least - been done with the better looking Galileo.

Last up for Set Six is Janeway's Armoured Shuttle as featured in Voyager's finale, Endgame. We've had an armoured Voyager in the main 180 issue collection so this was more than a logical choice to include at some point in this addition. Plus it's totally unique and looks like no other shuttle as it's covered in a grey protective shell.

The armadillo effect of the plating looks fantastic on what is the smallest of the four ships from the set and the defensive cover goes right down to the bussard collectors and warp grilles with their red and blue colours poking through slats. 

Noticeable only when you're very close is the speckled effect of the "metal" finish accentuated with the occasional light blue panel for exhausts. The whole of this piece is a work of art on a small scale given how many panel lines have had to remain distinct across the full 360 degrees of the shuttle hull. Indeed, the underside might even be more detailed than the top where the plate appear to stack up behind each other from bow to stern.

Each of the ships has its own lithograph print with stand bases for display and an individual magazine. They all cover only screen appearances of the shuttles with screencaps and CG with the back double page of the miniature publication including a more easy to read LCARS print.

This set of four is a real mix of quality. I'm a fan of the unusual Defiant Shuttlepod but the standout in this set is the highly detailed Sphinx Workpod that ticks every box from paintwork down to final touches. 

Check out all our Starships (and shuttles!) posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Shuttles 5: Movie Dominance

It's a bit of a shuttle bonanza this month from SKoST with sets two, five and six all getting featured over the next week.

While there was a more TV themed selection in set two which we looked at recently, set five turns much more towards the big screen.

Classed as instalment 17, the Air Tram is a product of The Motion Picture, delivering Admiral Kirk to Starfleet Command. While that introduction is impressive, the model less so.

A combined two pieces of plastic form the shape of this oblong transport. The aztec paint job, the blacked out windows and the decaled registry and UFP logos do help it stand out but tragically its 1970's design is the ultimate let down. OK, it's better it turned up in this set than as a standalone (or is it?) but this is probably the most uninspiring shuttle from the whole seven sets produced to this point in time (still sets four and seven to add to the collection but we'll get to them I'm sure...). 

Its onscreen likeness is captured perfectly well with the resultant model showing off the sleek shape and bisected with that red horizontal stripe also concealing the join. The red edging on the numerical decals too isn't very precise when it's sitting next to the Starfleet Tug and the Galileo. It's just ok if truth be told and yes, the nav lights and thruster points are all in the right place but the Air Tram is totally outclassed by the other three craft contained in the pack.

In contrast the Starfleet Tug is a weathered, slightly battered affair that immediately indicates its working nature. There's a bit of a sheen to the curved viewscreen at the front but the rest of this little craft is modelling excellence. It also shows up all the problems that face the 100% plastic Air Tram. Once more combining metal and plastic, the Tug paintwork has a mottled and uneven effect all the way across its distinct panelling. The "5" decals on top and sides also have a near perfect red edging effect that's evenly spaced to the central number PLUS the cross hatch pattern lies precisely along that rear edge. 

Even to the rear, the worn paint work comes through and on closer inspection of the hatch tape you'll spot that even that is showing slight signs of wear and tear. The black decals to the top are a little too clean as are the darker grey curve sections at the back but Eaglemoss have achieved a good recreation of such an often (in the movies) seen piece of Starfleet tech.

Applauding the Tug is one thing however the Voyager Type-8 shuttle is a mixed bag of all that is good and bad with this set. The recreation of the physical item is pretty decent. The panelling isn't perhaps defined enough for me but there's a good balance on the colours and attention to detail when it comes to the placement of the decals and the choice to go with the translucent blue plastic for the warp engines. Some of the venting detail on the sides and the RCS thrusters are marked in well BUT...

The paint and quality of the decals on this one is almost shocking. The window black is chipped in places and doesn't completely fill the frames, the red of the impulse engine intakes has bled out of its shape and most disappointing is the legibility of the decals. Ok, the Starfleet pennants are in the right place and crisp but everywhere else the markings are horrid. Borders are misaligned, blurred  and in the case of the blue script under the side windows it's even impossible to make out the letters. Yuk. 

To a degree even the paintwork feels a slight bit dirty and rushed on this one. I like the design here but its the finishing touches which don't add up to something better than the individual parts. Second dip of the pack - can we at least draw a 50/50 result with the final one of the set?

Keep everything crossed because this one's a favourite of mine; the Galileo from The Final Frontier. Let's get the jokes out of the way first. The film isn't Trek's finest hour but the shuttles (Galileo and Copernicus) are among some of its sprinkled highlights. Indeed, these shuttles would have an impact that can be seen in both TNG and in Generations where the original full-sized versions were hacked about to be used for other ships.

The horrid bit of the Galileo is that central, horizontal join line that screams at you every time you turn her sideways. On the port side it's also wider than starboard but that's my biggest criticism of a ship we haven't seen in model form other than as part of the AMT USS Enterprise refit for The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country. There's also a sprue point that's not been sanded out enough but I only spotted that in a super closeup check. This scale work better for the shuttle too with a decent single colour paint job providing that matte finish. The blacked window is properly coloured in and the RCS thruster ports are also painted in perfectly along the central lip of the ship.

The decals themselves from the pennant along the side to the "5" numbering is also spot on and evenly printed so you can actually read it. What I also do love are those blocky movie style engines hanging out to the sides. The support struts are a lot stronger than on the original TV Galileo model from set one although the painting of the grilles to the front and sides is patchy. 

The Galileo here has a distinct shape to her and one we would, of course, see again in several chopped up forms so it's good to get up close with the original version. I'm a little saddened that the lights underneath aren't painted in but it's a step up from the quality of the Air Tram and the rushed nature of the Type-8's paintwork. This one does have a super smooth finish that's not tarnished with lumps and bumps. It's also annoying that the Tug probably trounces this one for top dog in the set if only down to its build quality which doesn't give too much away.

As with all previous sets, each shuttle comes with its own lithograph LCARS print to display with it and a small mini (MINI) magazine. Each details purely the in universe appearance of the craft in question with some nice images from screen appearances and new CG created specially for this release. As with all of the sets I'll again note that some form of designing articles wouldn't have gone amiss with these!

Check out all our Starships (and shuttles!) posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Saturday, 17 July 2021

Shuttles 2: Four Small and Several Years Ago

Continuing our step back and move for completion, the second set of shuttles produced waaaaaaay back in 2015 have now been added to the collecton.

Packed up in one box, the four small units come with their own mini-mags plus a lithograph LCARS print for display. I have however chosen to keep the prints in their wrapping and fortunately away from my own greasy fingerprints(!)

In Pack 2 there is the Spacedock Shuttle from The Undiscovered Country, the larger Type-7 and the Type 15 from TNG plus the Pod 1 craft from Enterprise.

As with boxes one and three which we've covered previously, there is the option to display the ships on their own individual mini-stands but aside from the odd one, they look far better standing on the ground - as they naturally would in the "real" world.

Tackling these in numerical magazine order, we have the NAR-25820 Spacedock Shuttle up first. More recognisable if you flipped it over and stuck some warp engines on as the USS Jenolan from Relics, the Spacedock Shuttle is the most distinctive of the four. Showing off a more sleek design there is a good amount of hull detail although the painting doesn't line up exactly with the hull lines that indicate where it should be - especially along the side windows. 

What is good here is the application of the decals and some of the smaller thruster detail. That pennant on the side doesn't quite line up with the text which is horribly noticeable on this scale - just as much as the occasional paint bleed. The marking out for the entry doors is nice and clean but the grey misaligned paint just knocks it from being a good 9/10 to a steady 7.

The underside is more filled with greebles and also two very recognisable borrowed warp engines from the Galaxy Class Enterprise-D. Certainly a franchise that likes to reuse items. it's one of the most obvious I've seen on a replica for a while and is nowhere to be seen by the time it's refitted out as the Jenolan

Some of the joint lines are gaping around those engines and at the rear however the curving nature of the hull sides seems to be hiding a multitude of building sins and works in favour of the finished article.

Second in here it's the gorgeous Type-7 from early days TNG. When I sat this on screen it looked cumbersome, ugly and just terrible but I've clearly matured over time with the model from Eaglemoss looking stunning. The curves and lines of this one are so heavily '80's it almost hurts but importantly and in contrast to the Spacedock Shuttle, the paint all lines up!!!

The decalling is at A+ levels on the Hawking right down to the tiny registry on the sides and the alignment of the sharp Starfleet pennant. The joint lines from the main hull to the pylons and then to the nacelles aren't ll that clean but the fact that we have translucent bussard collectors and translucent warp field grilles more than makes up for it. The shape of this thing is just stunning and Eaglemoss have done it more justice than I ever expected even down to the tiny RCS thrusters and impulse engines to the rear. Magnificent.

The third is also an early TNG shuttle, the rather TV budget friendly shuttlepod that cropped up a lot in season two. Named here as the Aldrin, the pod was a boxy sprite that this scale suits perfectly.

Allowing for not just clear decalling, the surface features here are distinctive and easy to make out with hatch lines and particularly to the rear where there is a single porthole and some shaded surface greebling. The join line are stealthily hidden under that black central stripe but again, what's not to like with this result. Upping the scale for these shuttles has nailed the quality that can drop off on some of the larger-made-very-small models we've seen so many times. Ok, the windows are blacked out but creating the interiors would be a mammoth and expensive task on a £75 asking price (at time of writing £60 on sale). 

Finally and the only one of the four not to be in a shade of white, we have Pod 1 from the NX-01. Bullet-shaped and more in line with the design lineage of 20th Century space shuttles, the shuttlecraft from the Enterprise is a mix of eras combining the winged atmospheric capabilities of a chunky plane with the need to operate in space.

The work on this one again is excellent with that paintwork being spot on the mark. More impressive than the other three is the fact that the more metallic finish also has lines criss-crossing the hull in a lighter shade plus a lot more distinct panel lines. The hatch for example is a much more intricate (and timeline basic) design with multiple divisions in a fairly small space. Somehow it works.

The black paint around the engine block to the rear is a tad scruffy on the edges and sadly there's no good way of covering up the hull section lines with the central horizontal one very evident when viewed from the back and behind the wings. It's cleverly (slightly) concealed forward of this thanks to the alignment with the bottom of the passenger hatch so hats off to Eaglemoss for that clever positioning.

I do prefer the Type-7 just based on its look and design especially when it comes to the translucent sections on the engines which even the Aldrin pod doesn't manage but on detail you can't get better here than the NX-01 Pod 1. As a pack though these are among the best released together with four blindingly good and "realistic" replicas from the franchise. Could we get a few XL versions in the future perhaps?

Check out all our Starships (and shuttles!) posts HERE

You can find out more on the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

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Thursday, 15 July 2021

Discoprise: Extra Large

Taken a while to get hold of this one but it would be remiss not to review one of the mot controversial starship designs of the franchise. Is there any chance that tinkering with the classic TOS USS Enterprise design isn't going to anger anyone/everyone?

Eaglemoss have two versions of this one around. One a part of the now defunct (also read amalgamated into the larger Starships Collection) Discovery series. The box is a familiar size to anyone who's dipped their toe into the Specials (or the other XLs) with the USS Enterprise nestled nicely in secure polystyrene along with its chunky stand. 

Love it or hate it, this is an impressive model. A good mix of metal and plastic she's naturally front heavy due to the weighty saucer with the detail and quality evident all over the hull. The finishing pattern isn't the aztec you would expect, offering much more of a worn, beat-up and asymmetrical look that adds a few years onto the Federation flagship. 

Now it's hard to be a reimagining of such an iconic ship much less the Star Trek franchise where fans can be less than forgiving at the best of times and whether you like it or not, Eaglemoss have certainly recreated a more fitting and realistic starship here. Ok, the upper senor dome over the bridge is a little too clean for my liking but the detail, ringing of the saucer the phaser emplacements and the substantial increase in windows are all signs of just how much model making and CGI have moved on since 1966. There had to be adjustments for the TVs of today which have 1080dpi of unforgivingness built in. 

The secondary hull mirrors what's started on the saucer with extensive windows reminiscent of the movie refit and the connecting neck section a slight bit more squat and angular. Even the Federation pennants on either side of Engineering are embossed onto the hull and look better than ever. 

Remember too that the special issue here was produced off the back of a sole appearance at the end of season one of Discovery when we were still waiting for more tantalising season two detail. There are a couple of evident join lines in the underside of the saucer and around the forward piece of the secondary hull a few centimetres behind the main deflector dish although that's as big a gripe as I can manage. Will there be an updated Strange New Worlds super version - you can bet on it.

What I don't want to do is descend into the rabbit warren of critiquing the ship based on its representation in the series as much as the model is a quality reproduction of the rebooted Enterprise. Eaglemoss have excelled in it into the angled engine pylons and the envisaged more primitive nacelles that are something of a mix between the NX-01 units and the tubular propulsion of the TOS starship. Wisely Eaglemoss went with translucent orange bussard collectors and warp field grilles to give the design a touch of tangible realism to the replica. 

The more you look - and you can have a good look all over - the more you see how John Eaves pulled elements from other ships in the franchise history to keep the lineage in there but still managed to update and keep true. Yes, the shuttle landing deck is larger; yes the impulse engines are meatier and the deflector grid lines right across the hull surface are more distinct, but these are necessary conceits to move things on. 

As for build quality, the Enterprise is incredibly solid. The thickness of the engine pylons helps with this plus the scale means that those more flimsy parts on the small magazine scale ships are avoided. Where these larger ships do succeed even more - and it's easy to see here - is the accuracy of window and paint alignment. The embossed pennants are a good nod to that as are the secondary hull windows. The painting as a whole seems much more in sync with the body of the ship and stabilises the impressive nature of this replica.

Older fans and those who are more inclined towards TOS may well be offended but for anyone who is interested in Discovery, maybe an Enterprise completist or intrigued just how a classic is brought into the 21st Century, this is a good illustration of that CG progress.

The magazine accompanying is very two-sided with a quick series of stats from Pike's USS Enterprise before an in-depth look at how such a classic was rethought for Discovery along with even more extensive photos and first person accounts from (re)designer John Eaves. There's a lot of get into here both in the written word and the photos with a decent explanation of why the ship evolved into its Discovery form. 

As a model, Eaglemoss have been faithful in every way to recreate the Discovery-ised starship and it's a credit to them that it's come out so well and so fascinatingly well made. I think it's a great ship with a lovely, faithful update although it's not to everyone's tastes I understand. To have every iteration of the USS Enterprise you are going to need this on the shelf but whether you do... that's a hard question!

Check out all our Starships posts HERE

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Friday, 2 July 2021

Six of Six

Here’s a thought for you.

It’s 30 years this month since Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty Sulu, Uhura and Chekov filmed their final scenes for the last of the classic crew movies.

While admittedly the last time they were all on the Enterprise together was The Final Frontier, this would mark not just the first 25 years of what is now a 55 year old franchise but also the last adventure for this cast. In an odd twist it would only be 2018’s Destination Star Trek Birmingham where Sulu and Chekov would be seated at the helm and navigation console once more - and Kirk in the captain’s chair. 

Aside from Nichelle Nichols, all of the cast played their roles in at least one other official production, five of them however after The Undiscovered Country finished filming. 

DeForest Kelley had already welcomed in The Next Generation during Encounter at Farpoint, Nimoy in Unification and Scotty in Relics by this point. The Undiscovered Country would mark the final time both Nichols and Kelley would put on the uniforms officially. 

Deep Space Nine would miss out on an actual TOS crew appearance although classic Klingons and the Mirror Universe would be more than enough homage by the time we got to The Emperor’s New Cloak. Sulu dropped in once more for a retread of Star Trek VI from his perspective in Flashback to commemorate 30 years of the franchise. Honest opinion, it’s a mixed bag that was easily trounced by the superlative Trials and Tribble-ations.

Kirk. Scotty and Chekov would return for Generations (including classic Scotty continuity-with-Relics gaff) and Nimoy finally in 2009 and 2013 for the first two JJ Abrams reboots and still their legacy lives on. 

It’s odd to consider that it’s now been longer without The Original Series cast than we had with them - 25 to that point and now 30 years bringing us to 2021. It remains the shortest series by the time it was officially cancelled and still all 79 episodes endure more than many that have come since. The cast, especially in the movies, were a unique mix and represented Roddenberry’s united Earth vision. Ok, Abrams may have slightly ‘updated’ that by changing Sulu’s sexual orientation but otherwise the concept and balls to do something like that in the 1960s remains forever strong.

By the time that The Undiscovered Country closed filming, it marked the end of a long path to return Star Trek to the small screen with Star Wars initally scuppering that plan in the late '70s. The original cast were (by their own admissions on screen and off) coming to the natural end of their journey in 1990/1. It was time and they'd been talking about aging ever since The Wrath of Khan 9 years earlier. But could the franchise survive without them all turning up occasionally for another movie? It had worked on TV with The Next Generation slipping into view thanks to the popularity of the movies but...could it... could there ever be Star Trek without this crew around? We were about to find out and I think we can agree it did although they are in no small way responsible for the continued success of Star Trek to this day - down to the very DNA of shows such as Lower Decks and Discovery which have tipped their hats more than once to Those Old Scientists.

This may not be one of the anniversaries that fans necessarily honour or remember but it truly was the end of an era for Star Trek in what was near the peak of that ‘90’s Golden Age. The Undiscovered Country is rightly considered one of the best although the worryingly racist undertones don't play quite as they did in 1991 in a more enlightened 2021. Of all the six it focuses the most on its characters, allowing each of the main cast time to shine and not subjugating those beyond the "Big Three" Kirk/Spock/McCoy to background performances. It is a truly all-encompassing movie filled with action, a touch of comedy and classic Star Trek moments ending with a sign off for both the USS Enterprise as it is decommissioned and literally for the cast. 

Thirteen Trek movies have been produced over a period of 38 years so far (1978-2016) and notably just under half featured the full TOS crew, four with TNG and three Kelvin and again the influence of those initial six run right the way through even more noticeably in Into Darkness and the badly aging Beyond. Even now you know that if there was a choice to stick on a Star Trek movie you would be hard-pressed not to choose one and on this, the 30th anniversary of the end of the original era, it's well worth revisiting one crew's final, emotional and amazing cinematic adventure. Great to see you out there one last time...

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