Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Scouting Around: The Official Starships Collection Issues 90 and 91


Monday 16th, apparently, is the most depressing day of the year but how can that be when you have a delivery from Eaglemoss?!

Especially this month as the first box of 2017 contains two amazing models (and I do emphasise the AMAZING part) which - let's be fair - has been a bit of a rarity recently.T o actually get two in the same delivery that are this spot on hasn't happened since the Saber Class and the Romulan Bird-of-Prey in my opinion but this couple have reminded us of just what the collection can deliver every fortnight when it gets it right.

To issue 90 and a true classic from The Next Generation. Only the third Romulan design to be introduced to the Star Trek universe (seventh issue to feature Romulans in the collection mind), the Scout Ship debuted in season three's The Defector and popped up in various guises over the years; not all of them green or Romulan for that matter.

Just taking her out of the box you can't help but be impressed. She looks stunning and I think that's down to the simplicity of the Rick Sternbach design. There are no silly curves, recesses or tricky niches to work into the model; just plain and simple shapes that make an effective and immediately recognisable design. It is a true beauty. That distinctive green tone and style harks to the Warbird which had appeared almost two years previous and paved the way for Romulan design forever more. The curves of that monster are evident here in the wings and nose and while there's no large open gap in the middle the venting and shape betray the family genetics.

The surface finish is exemplary with multiple panel lines, exposed machinery and a fantastic, simple, two shades of green paint scheme that makes this just a joy to look at. The wings (top plus front and back edges are the metal element here) curve out strikingly from the central "neck" section with the panelling giving that bird-like feather appearance and even the plastic bottom insert matches precisely in detail making this a really fine piece of work. Remember also this is one of the few early The Next Generation ships we've had in the series so far.

The forward "head" section is cleverly attached to the plastic underside which might have meant that the detailing has come out that little bit better than if it were in metal. Again, as with the rest of the hull, it's a masterpiece of panelling and precision. The tones of green are exact in their placement; the blackened windows are aligned perfectly with their marked ports and the lines are super-clean. That nose shape is such a distinctive sweep and the fitting of the parts around it are suitably clean meaning the bottom detail finishes nicely to meet the vertical lines from the front section.

This has to be one of the most accurate and best finished ships to date - I simply can't find anything that has been slightly misplaced - remember all those out of place windows on the earlier ships?!

Out at the end of the lovely curved wings are the two warp engines which are probably the most plain sections of the whole craft. There is a slight bit of panel "fanning" to the rear but there are translucent green segments inserted for the warp coils and the bussard collectors. Challenge here is that the longer segments don't really benefit from being see through since they are slapped right across the end of the wing. Bit of a bummer however I think that if they were painted it would cheapen the end result (more on translucence with the Saratoga so bear with me). Minor note too that my warp engines have a slight kink to them if you check her alignment out head on. It's microscopic and virtually unnoticeable until you scour every inch and angle.

The Romulan Scout Ship is a cracking ship presented perfectly on this scale. Ben Robinson and the Eaglemoss team really have produced a corking ship that delivers at every point and every level of expectation. Honestly this has to be in my top ten at this point. It looks great, it feels good and solid and displays marvellously on its rear grip stand - just a note with this though that the fit is very snug so watch out for some possible paint wear around the back of the wings.

Here's a bizarre thing too, the image on the front cover of the magazine doesn't look anywhere near as good as the finished model in any way. I'd go so far to say it actually look stoo clean and clinical. Weird because you open the mag and the pic on page four and five has a slightly weathered finish to it and looks the part. You then get to the plan views and that waxed and polished look is back again!!!

The Ship Profile section here covers not just the appearance of the craft in The Defector but also its suggested presence (in bits) in The Enemy. There are a few titbits of information on the Scout Ship class and Romulans in general here tucked amongst the standard episode recap material. Two pages cover the designing of the craft by Rick Sternbach and the line drawings relate just how accurate the model is to the plan - outstanding that we have something here that is that precise. Also interesting to see that the model was used not just as the basis for the Romulan Science Vessel but also for a ship in Voyager!

This time's feature piece is all about Ronald D Moore. Purely examining his time on The Next Generation from his hiring to write The Bonding in season three through to All Good Things... and many points in between. Certainly a great article to have in your archive since Moore is one of the most influential members of the team on that show and helped forge its identity. Six pages is a good chunk here but I would push for a part two for films, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Issue 91 marks a rare return to familiar territory. It's been rare to see variants within the main sequence of the collection with only the Enterprise refit and Enterprise-A and Voyager and Armoured Voyager springing to mind. Of course there have been the Mirror Universe "M" editions and the subscribers future Enterprise-D but now there's another.

Welcome to the USS Saratoga, a variation on the Miranda Class most familiar to viewers as the USS Reliant in The Wrath of Khan and later as the Brattain and Lantree in The Next Generation and others beyond. What is important to note about the Saratoga is that this isn't just a reuse of the excellent Reliant mould from issue 11 but a totally new product. 

Fans will recall that this ship appeared in the pilot of Deep Space Nine with Ben Sisko as its first officer and a Vulcan captain (who would later be better known as Martok!). While she lasted only a few minutes of screentime in the Wolf 359 pre-credits sequence a lot of the episode would be based around the tragic events that took place there and formed the person Sisko became. While you might grumble about getting a variant of a ship we already have, this one is well worth it given its importance to the show. It will also mean fans will be begging for a USS Bozeman very soon.

The Saratoga is a larger, more complex ship than the original from issue 11 and the loss of that rollbar is nothing when you take a look at what's been done here. For starters the stand is a much better, tighter and more secure fit than with the Reliant; mine has a tendancy to be a little slippy at times.

Eaglemoss have painted the base layers of the Saratoga with the distinctive Federation grey aztec scheme which is magnificently asymmetrical front to back, top to bottom. The fractional upping of the scale has meant that the craft benefits from a lot more finishing touches than were evident on the Reliant

OK it's not a huge size increase but it does mean that the RCS thrusters look a bit more accurately placed and the detail towards the rear of the ship seems to be more defined than on the Reliant. Point for point though the livery is the same with the Starfleet emblems on both of the phaser ports, the red striping around the saucer and even the "1" and "2" numbering still there on the rear-facing shuttlebays. If you will, this slightly larger scale has meant that Eaglemoss have been able to make subtle improvements on what was an early classic in the collection. Anyone else notice that the recessed pieces just behind the phaser ports aren't as deep as they are on the Reliant?

When you look to the rear and the greebling around the warp core you can see how the panelling now stands out that little bit more prominently and is ever so slightly more defined. There are also little blips on the hull upper surface that I can only assume are either lifeboat hatches or access ports - something that isn't present on the original. 

As we've stated the biggest difference between the pair is the removal of the rollbar and the addition of the two distractedly orange sensor pods on little winglets. The definition again on these is wonderful with the surface a patchwork of difference levels and elements to really bring it to life. A second change from the Reliant is that the Saratoga's warp engines don't include any translucent segments. Given this is larger you would have expected those to be here but on NCC-31911 we simply have the warp coils painted out in a shade of blue. Not sure why this would be the case since they are (slightly) larger units and would therefore have been easier to build?

The underside of the Saratoga is however virtually indistinguishable from the Reliant. Something that does become clear though is that the paint scheme on this new version is not as tonally different. On Reliant the two shades of grey are markedly apart while now there is only a slight tonal difference. It's a more subtle play on the paintwork and I personally feel that it's a benefit and also demonstrates how much the team producing these have learnt over the years. 

The rear darker "mechanical" area colour is still just as dark a grey as previously with the detail being a carbon copy but look at the precision of the paintwork and you can see that this is a much higher standard. Things are more pin-point accurate and there's not even a hint of bleed onto the hull colour. Also the underside construction now has the whole of the bottom of the saucer being a plastic clip-in rather than just the middle piece.

Just an amazing job on this one and I wasn't (as usual) expecting it to be this impressive but just with making some subtle changes, Eaglemoss have produced a winner and one that I'm very happy with. 

The magazine for issue 91 has some great new CG images of the Saratoga although the pennant in there has the words "United Federation of Planets" included on the nacelle pylons alongside the ship name so I do have a challenge on which is correct. For size I might surmise it was left off the model. As you might expect this profile section does cover off the differences across the Miranda Class plus the potted history of the ship.

In respect to filming the Saratoga this section briefly discusses the changes made to the model over the years between The Wrath of Khan and Emissary. Not a lot of detail and it actually discusses the requirements of filming the mock-ups from the original moulds which were used to create the destruction of the craft.

Ahead of the key appearances piece we get six pages dedicated to my favourite captain, Ben Sisko and the way in which he changed across the course of the show. Certainly one of the most fleshed out characters in the history of the franchise and one that received the most evolution it's not all just about shaving your head and growing a goatee apparently...

The USS Saratoga package is certainly a nice one that manages to bring the focus back to Deep Space Nine which I do feel sometimes gets a bit of a poor deal in the collection. There aren't a vast amount of ships that can be covered from that show but when we do get them the model and the magazine do the show justice and explore the wider universe. 

A great month for the collection with two amazing, top quality entries I can't get enough of. Also the month to pre-order your second shuttle collection (£75) and your Enterprise-A plaque if you so desire.

On collection news it also seems that due to legalities the Planet of the Titans USS Enterprise is being delayed BUT we will be getting the Phase II version and the Andy Probert USS Enterprise-C versions (as revealed via the Facebook collection fan group) so good news there. Oh and in case you missed it, here's a blatantly exploitative picture of the upcoming USS Kyushu that Ben Robinson posted on Twitter yesterday. Grrr!!!! Need this!!!! It looks so good!!!

Next month we'll have the Medusan Starship from the remastered The Original Series and the Suliban Cell Ship from Enterprise. Not a pairing that I'm particularly fanatical about and I'm not sure how it could even come close to the level of this month's duo...

Were these two worth the wait? Let us know below!!!

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