Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Second Edition: EagleMoss Goes to the Movies

The headline is probably a little extravagant but with their second issue of the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, EagleMoss have turned back the clock to the '70's and '80's with the refit movie Enterprise.

I'll tell you now that this is my all-time favourite variant of the USS Enterprise from any movie, series or online gaming experience. The original design is a classic but this took it that little step further and succeeded by improving on its TV predecessor. Indeed, you can even see parts of it in the design of the JJ Abrams alternative universe starship in his movies which shows how significant a development it was.

So down to business and after the first issue's flight with NCC-1701-D, where could they go with this edition? The answer is that it's exactly, page for page the same format as that magazine but that's the whole point. This is, essentially, a reference tool that sits alongside the model which is the main feature here.

But let's look at the magazine for starters this time. Focusing on the refit Constitution Class there is only, The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock for onscreen material so once the initial specs page is turned, it's straight into a history of the ship following the five year mission.

Now the information is very brief here, keeping to fairly basic information about the 18 month refit although there is mention of the change in the style of the warp core from horizontal to vertical as well as the total redesign of virtually every system aboard. Significantly there are no comparison pictures which might have been welcomed to more recent additions to the fan base but clearly the intention here is to remain 100% attentive to the subject in hand. Given the short period of time the refitted NCC-1701 was in service, the operational history is short, running to just about four paragraphs which are essentially plot synopses of the first three classic movies. 

For the more ardent fan there will be little, if anything new here although the mention of the colour changing deflector dish raised a smile - there are more than a few times where the reason given for the gold or blue hue is ignored including within pictures in this issue! I think it might be worth EagleMoss just paying a little more attention to the content as inconsistencies in such a small volume will be picked up on very quickly. 

The choice of the drydock sequence in The Motion Picture as a classic scene is a good choice as it provides those first glimpses of the new ship and would get reused in The Wrath of Khan. While again, short, there is a good sense this is written by a fan who does love this moment and everything it stood for. Seeing this ship reborn after such a long absence was an important moment to Star Trek fans and it didn't disappoint. 

The piece on examining the exterior changes is necessary but, once more, it's nothing new to seasoned fans - a lot of the detail was of course added because of the move to the movie screen and a significantly bigger budget - and an eight year jump in technology of course.

What really makes this issue worth the read are the background sections. In the first edition the designing and filming articles were great and here is no different. It's a shame there's not more detail on the aborted Phase II project but at least we can see the transitions from TV to movie version of the Enterprise on the page as well as understand a little about the thought process that went into updating such an iconic vessel. 

Most of the sketches have been seen before but they are all excellently presented here and that's certainly a winning factor with the magazine - presentation is absolutely spot on. In fact the filming section even has a couple of images that I'd never seen before and was the best section of all. It is all very high-level in it's analysis of the ship and it's lifespan but it's incredible to learn how long it took to build the model, how much it cost for the late 1970's, how hard it was to film and just what level of detail was expected for the task in hand. Great read, well produced there.

Closing off with some classic moments and anecdotes raised a smile in this issue and I don't think you can quibble over the choices made in any way; Mutara Nebula and Genesis Planet. No need to say more.

So the model. Well, I'm actually a little disappointed. I asked for a second opinion from an online associate and his comment was that it looked "unfinished" and I'm inclined to agree. The Enterprise-D was a great model and very well detailed all over. Here, the saucer (metal) is well finished and painted with colouring of the thrusters and bridge sections. However, the plastic secondary hull and nacelles feel a little bit cheap. There is detail of windows and pendants but the torpedo tubes are unpainted (see right) and the shuttlebay seems undistinguished from the rest of the hull. While this has been done from original CBS-owned material I'm once again wondering on the accuracy. Could we compare to these fabled documents in the future perhaps?

I will give the creators top marks however on ensuring that the nacelles and saucer are all aligned. Too many times have there been models made where everything is at odd angles and really distracts from the product. I'd also suggest you get a spot of superglue on the stand base to keep the clear arm in place. The model sits well but does stay quite loose so be warned if it's going to be moved as mine has done several repeat performances of it's dying moments from The Search for Spock.

With that in mind my comments on the "minor" hull detailing might seem harsh but I'm concerned that EagleMoss are billing this as being an accurate collection then seem to have a slight misstep. Of course it could be that we were given such a great model last time because of the quality of reference materials available and the different times in Star Trek history they herald from - different times, different methods, different results and that's how I'll look at it for the next few weeks at least. The Bird of Prey and the NX-01 should highlight if my hypothesis there is correct.

Sadly the price of the magazine goes up next issue to £9.99. It's been great value at £1.99 for the first issue and £5.99 for this issue (although I was undercharged at WH Smiths at £5.40 for some reason). I'm not sure if I can justify this cost twice a month for a very basic magazine and a model that could be of varying quality. I look forward to EagleMoss proving me wrong as I do hope this series is an absolute runaway success. I don't believe for a second that this will be the last issue I buy but they might not be consecutive releases.

On a further note, taking a look at the packaging that the second issue arrived provided some more information on the future of this publication. While the next 28 issues have had their contents confirmed there are a couple of ships that we can definitely say will also be in the range at some point -the Enterprise-B, the Steamrunner Class from First Contact, the Fesarius from The Corbomite Maneuver, the Delta Flyer from Voyager and the Cardassian Hideki Class ship. Truly a great line up with more to be revealed (hopefully) sooner rather than later!

So, thanks EagleMoss for  what promises to be a great collection and two superb starter editions and models. Quality will be the key her to retaining the collectors. The magazine is a nice addition but it's all about the ships here and let's not forget that. We might grumble at the 18 pages of average, repeated info (for the most part) but never before has such a detailed collection been promised or attempted. "A" for effort.

Here's to issue 3 and the Klingons - good thing you didn't start with three really iconic ship designs....!

The second edition of the Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection is available now and you can find out more by visiting the official website.