Monday, 15 May 2023

Previously Unreleased: XL USS Stargazer

Gone and in an instant several long awaited models just didn’t arrive. 

It’s the oft repeated story of Eaglemoss and now, many months on we’re starting to see some of the ones that got away. 

Master Replicas secured a good chunk of the Eaglemoss back catalogue plus items that never made it to sale. The first of this bunch is the last XL model which was announced, the Constellation Class USS Stargazer NCC-2893.

Intended to be a Constitution Class a la the refit/1701-A USS Enterprise, the Stargazer morphed into a new class of ship for the TNG first season episode The Battle as well as a few other appearances later in the show under various different guises. She would also turn up at the Fleet Museum amongst other iconic vessels in Picard’s third season. 

The Stargazer was also one of the first 20 issues announced for the regular sized Starships Collection back in 2012 and certainly caused a few rumblings back then. Eaglemoss were notorious for producing screen accurate vessels which translated into ‘We Didn’t Check What We Made’ since errors fans couldn’t make out on screen were often copied straight to the ships. 

In many instances this was quite quirky as for example with the Stargazer the bottom registry was applied the wrong way round and was duplicated into its miniature version.

Not so it seems with the XLs. With the Equinox the grating spelling mistake (EQUINDX) was updated and in the quad-engined Stargazer we have the registry not updated but removed completely. 

In fact this ship, while actually pretty impressive, is something of a conundrum. Is it accurate because it certainly isn’t screen accurate so what is this final piece actually based on? Given it’s production history and lack of accompanying magazine you might have to wonder if it was actually completely finished before they boxed it up and shipped.

Yet Jean-Luc Picard’s first command and the first starship to complete the Picard Maneuver is a worthy purchase for any ship collector (if you can find one now).

From the top there have certainly been improvements to the finish. The RCS thrusters feature that little more detail (and relevant placing) with the grille work on the surface is far more prominent in a larger scale (and completely recoloured from the grey). The hull benefits from much stronger grid lines that aren't swallowed into the paintwork with the striping around the bridge also being a much crisper alignment and colour. Indeed, the whole bridge module itself has more finesse to its finish with the dome and levels much more recognisable. Even the striping is more in line with the classic movie style of grey edged in red rather than blotchy blue.

The issue for me comes in the alignment of the registry decals which tend to slip into the valleys of the surface and aren't that well aligned to the hull itself, following their own path rather than the curve of the saucer. Randomly this was something that the original version actually got right however the more screen accurate font and edging.

Moving towards the rear, the structure in front of the engine mount has received a total rehash with the recessed elements now raised above the hull and leading more naturally into the propulsion units. In fact this is where a lot of the visual upgrades really start to kick in. Detailing here makes it much clearer how these two strut leading to the engine platforms are reused necks from Constitution Class vessels due to their angles and also the inclusion of the photon torpedo launchers. Eaglemoss even managed to add more decal striping in here and window detail adding to the feel of scale.

While they have also updated the painting of the circular vents (four on this ship!!!), they're only in grey blocks rather than having a blue inset to really make it kick. But that's not to take away from the greater level of surface greebling and painting. Nor from the excellent paintwork on the two side located warp field generators where the lining is particularly ramrod straight.

Other XLs were known for just being upscaled versions of the originals with simply bigger parts using the same construction techniques. Noticeably on the engines of the Stargazer instead of having the cross-pylon as a piece and then the engines themselves being two halves with that all glued together, the model designers have simply adapted it into an "upper" and "lower" engine assembly. By virtue this adds a lot of strength and stability to the core of the model and reduces six parts for each engine pair down to just two.

Whether as a benefit from this or another detailing upgrade, the warp engines have much more small level touches with the tips split in grey and white rather than just a grey paint mess and again a smoother application of the Starfleet pennant along the exterior edge (in most cases!!!). To the rear the impulse engines are now painted in red rather than being just plain and simple base grey.

The forward shuttlebay door too is disappointing. There's no definition to its surface, only recessed and then painted grey, missing out on the horizontally ridged version that should be there and the same goes for the rest of the cargo doors around that saucer edge. Indeed the two which butt onto the warp field generators aren't even painted up.

Now here's a thing. I couldn't work out if this was an amalgamation of the original studio model and the one built for the Picard Archive in Remembrance for Picard itself. Looking at the shots of that ship there are certain similarities although it doesn't have some of the surface grille work present and has some very distinct painting differences. However, it actual in-line surface details do line up for the most part.

But then we flip her over and take a look at the work on the ventral side. Immediately that lack of registry (even the wrong way round) hits you straight in the face. As does the point that the forward two surface lump have been massively downsized and the greeble surface work in front of the pylon support is now gone. What DID confuse me and led to some heavy internet research is the placement of the sensor probe/aerial structure that sits next to that engine support. Again the platform that it its on has had some subtle revisions however the aerial itself (at least on mine) has switched sides. Now, on the Picard model and pretty much everything I could find it's on the starboard side if you're viewing from the front so why it's moved is absolutely inexplicable.

Stand fitting is pretty decent too with the clips sliding neatly around the rear of the primary hull and providing a decent mid-point balance that won't have it suffering from Warbird Syndrome.

There's something still brilliantly satisfying in just seeing this ship actually make it out of the warehouse and into the hands of collectors after such a long time. Bizarrely its arrival after the end of Picard seems equally fitting since that show included (at a distance) the Stargazer docked at the Fleet Museum. Indeed, this could be the last unreleased starship XL ever if not for a long time so definitely one to enjoy. But then, who knows? Maybe the licence will see a day.

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