Saturday, 25 September 2021

To B or not... USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B XL

For many, many years I have winced at the redesigning of the Excelsior for use in Generations as the Enterprise-B.

We knew from the '90's Technical Manual that the B was Excelsior Class but it was only the seventh movie which confirmed that and also spun that visual twist. OK, for the movie all the go-faster parts were added so that the original model wouldn't be damaged when the B was inside the Nexus. However, they couldn't be removed from the model after filming hence it turns up in Paradise Lost from Deep Space Nine as the USS Lakota.

Over time I've warmed a little to the design. I was never a huge fan of the Excelsior back in the Star Trek III days and seeing it splutter and cough to a stop as the Enterprise escaped was always a highlight of the movie.

But perhaps this is like that proverbial fine wine and has aged better with time. Certainly the recent arrival of Eaglemoss' XL version of the ship has gone someway to doing that. Both the Excelsior and the Enterprise-B suffered from the restrictive packaging size of the Official Starships Collection, turning them into shadows of their grander selves. Here though we have a real chance to get under the hood of the B and see her in all her glory.

The weight of the ship is astounding. With this XL both the saucer and the majority of the secondary hull are cast in metal with only the engines and the top panel of the engineering hull in plastic. It feels the part and easily takes it head and shoulders above the regular issues just for this fact.

The light grey hull paint isn't azteced as one might have expected with the finish instead flecked with darker grey spots for depth. The dorsal saucer detail is wonderful with clear decals and well laid out colouring of the bridge module and stretching back towards the impulse engines.

The Enterprise-B has a very heavy paint scheme on that saucer with the channelling around the bridge particularly impressive but there is slight misalignment of some grey detail on the outer impulse units where it should fit into the marked recesses. Something that Eaglemoss have struggled with multiple times since day one. Again on the top of engineering hull there is segmented panelling keeping with the grey/blue colour scheme leading towards the shuttle bay.

This is one super-detailed XL and not just for the paintjob. The moulding on the B is very precise and gives a lot of light on the differences between it and NCC-2000. The only gripe I have as we look further down the ship is the grey accenting around that deflector dish is patchy at best. 

Yet its successes far outweigh a few minor paint issues. The stripe decalling around the warp engine pylons is spot on as is the inset grey detail. The engines themselves do contain those "B" upgrades including the grey tubing and the larger bussard collector units at the front. 

There is some give in these thin engines which are happily sitting in parallel from every possible angle. Including both ship decals and translucent sections, they definitely add a lot to the overall effect and banish the smaller series edition as a bad memory. I can guarantee it won't see the light of day for some time.

Underneath there is more blocked light blue panelling as well as the dark grey paint speckle identical to the top. One thing of note that isn't the same here is that the lower cargo pod area is moulded into the metal and doesn't recess as you might see on a Revell kit. It's forgivable due to the build process in this instance but is a little disappointing given the overall spectacle of this superb model.

The included magazine for this edition is sub-par however. Understandably most of the material on the B was covered in the main collection and given it had only one appearance there's not much that can be expanded upon. Ok, you could go into Beta canon but that's for another day. Instead we divert into the depths of Generations and the transition of TNG to the big screen followed up with an article on crashing the saucer of the Enterprise-D. It does at least remain focused on the movie that featured the B but as a special issue it falls far short of discussing the actual ship itself.

Removing the magazine from the equation here, the Enterprise-B XL edition is one of the best there is. Much, much better than the regular version (as you will have gathered) and with such an impressive aesthetic that you can only keep admiring her from every angle possible. Eaglemoss have just got this one right; everything from the RCS thrusters to the construction of the warp engines is solidly built. The choice to make this 75% metal is a huge bonus that really cements the quality of the replica. One of my favourites, pure and simple.

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