Friday, 17 February 2017

Passing in the Night: The Official Starships Collection Issues 92 and 93


January rocked out two solid entries for issues 90 and 91 - sadly February has come down with a bit of a bump.

In some senses it's not quality but screen-time which niggles with my opinion on this month's two starships. In the case of one it's a single episode craft from prequel series Enterprise and in the other it's a craft which managed just a few seconds on the TV in the remastered version of a classic episode from 1968.

You see the biggest gripe for issue 92 is that the Medusan Starship - straight down the line - only blips onto our screens in the final frames of Is There in Truth No Beauty? as the Enterprise reverses away and then we don't get to see the whole ship. No joke  but when I watched this episode the other day I turned away from the TV and nearly missed seeing it at all.

It's also a teeny tiny model, very compact with all the elements clustered closely around and behind it's spherical primary hull. Even the way it's packaged was a weird one since it appeared that if it were turned 90 degrees in the box we might have had a bigger ship. Anyway, let's deal with the hand we're dealt and go from there.

It has to be one of the smallest models in the collection given that it's whole footprint fits within the size of the standard black base yet there's still a good deal to say about it. With a clear reminiscence to the Daedalus Class (issue 100) with its globe-shaped primary hull it bears a lot of hallmarks to other Federation craft too with the distinctive warp nacelles almost identical to those on the USS Enterprise from The Original Series and those in turn connected to a stumpy secondary hull by spindly pylons. There's even a deflector dish that wouldn't look out of place on the Constitution Class cruisers.

That forward primary hull does have a subtle and worthwhile two tone "etched" paint scheme that manages to break up what could have been a flat and monotonous grey shape with a prominent bridge module and windows lining the equatorial line of the sphere. The windows do seem very washed out and barely recognisable in comparison to the magazine images and do seem to fade out against the grey hull onto which they're painted. 

The deflector dish is set into the metal lower half of the sphere, recessed back and on closer inspection it looks like it's actually part of the hull mould itself. It's a strong shade of orange from some angles and more of an off-bronze from a few others but the finish does seem quite artificial rather than something which shows wear and tear (again like the magazine cover). The lower half of the secondary hull is also formed in the metal mould and continues the etched two-tone grey pattern evident across the ship. Most notable are the ten "tubular prongs" that protrude from the rear. Honestly I have no idea what they are actually for and nor it seems does anyone else as the magazine only notes their existence. They are a little flexible too so just be aware when handling.

Saying that I would actually draw your attention to how the lower hull at this point sweeps upwards and how the upper plastic hull section droops down - very very similar to the rear of the Enterprise

The twin warp nacelles (capable of up to war six) are, in comparison to those prongs, damn well fixed in place with virtually no movement in them whatsoever. I have to admit that the detail on them is fantastic from the rear exhaust points and radiator fins right along to the (almost) perfect translucent bussard collectors. A little too much glue on the inside of both on mine kind of ruins the overall effect but I do like how these look on this craft especially with that little finishing Federation pennant flourished on the outboard side of each. They are larger than the nacelles on the issue 50 USS Enterprise and as such you get a much better chance to look over the design of that classic Enteprise element - even if it was reproduced nearly 50 years later for the remastered episodes.

Up on the top and the story of that grey etched paint job continues but this time there is a lined blue effect which is supposedly the section of the ship where the Medusans reside. The lines all perfectly align with each other but as usual there's a slight degradation of lines to the recessed markings on the hull. Same story different ship; it's something we see a lot.

As for the stand fixing this is perfect with the clips sliding square over the short nacelle pylons and holding the Medusan Starship nice and centrally. Y'see she does actually display really well but I'm not sure if her entry into the collection - even as issue 92 - can be justified when there are so many other ships that have made more impactful appearances have yet to join the illustrious ranks.

The magazine Ship Overview is a sprinkling of information on the ship merely describing its looks without too much detail before relying heavily on the third season episode from The Original Series that (just) featured it. The CG in here is great to look at and does even include "that" shot from the final seconds of the remastered episode just so you know it really was there. In the Designing section what does come across is that even though this was a blink-and-miss ship just as the end credits rolled there was still a great deal of thought that went into the shape of the craft because of the nature of the Medusans themselves and how that would align with the bipedal humanoids they were working with.

Finally the big draw here might be the piece exploring the final season of The Original Series from the perspective of the "man who killed Star Trek" Fred Freiberger. I've not seen him as that personally since there were a ton of factors riding strongly against him but as I'm watching the last batch of classic stories at the moment this has fitted nicely with my viewing schedule. It's definitely added a few things to think about even though it's a six page overview if nothing else. 

With that issue tucked neatly away in the binder and my Medusan Starship nestled up close to the Stella, it's time to crack open the plastic box and face the ECS Horizon.

So...well..yes.

I'm a massive fan of the ECS Fortunate model. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it but when it did arrive my word was I impressed. It was a work of beauty and detail in every way and still one of my favourite ships from the whole collection. So, when I heard that they were doing the Horizon I could not have been more hotly anticipating its arrival.

Problem is that the anticipation in this case far outweighed the result because I found the issue 93 vessel a bit disappointing.

For some reason I'm still having trouble pin-pointing (maybe I'll have it by the time I've finished this review), it feels as though it's a little unfinished.

The ECS Horizon bears obvious similarities to the Fortunate in it's linear shape and "tugboat" style but that's where the link seems to end. The former had much more style and finesse to its heavy-lifting nature but here all the fineries seem to have been toned right down. Let's start at the front and work back. 

The tugboat Horizon craft itself is a tiny thing perched right at the front of the five cargo modules we are presented with here. The detail isn't too bad but it does suffer from the microscopic scale due to the overall length of the ship. The panelling is pretty decently highlighted but the deflector dish is cumbersome and almost unrecognisable due to some oversized "prongs" protruding from the front. Two things that do hit you quite quickly here are that Eaglemoss have managed to run the ship name down both sides of the Horizon tug hull (very small) and that the bussard collectors are fitted in the translucent red. Now considering how many ships don't get that treatment and are a lot bigger than this does leave you wondering (Saratoga nacelle coils for example) but still it does provide a good finishing touch and means the Horizon isn't just a full-over matt finish. 

Sadly the rear engine exhaust ports are just painted in yellow but their location within the main structure of the ship would have been a right pain to try and add in translucent plastics. Both nacelles are parallel to each other and the main hull of the ship so even though this is probably the smallest actual ship piece in the whole series, there's not been any slippage in terms of precision.

That small tug and the whole bottom section of the five cargo pods are one continuous piece of plastic and also has a fiddly little plasma cannon notched into the underside. Again the panelling here is good but it does look horribly flexible and I've been avoiding touching it in any way save it might fall out or break. The same goes for the antennae which sits on top between cargo pods one and two. The forward piece on that is already bent slightly and I fear for it's survival after only a couple of days on the shelf. They are unavoidably both chunkier than they appear in the magazine and the episode just down to the way it has been made. Problem is it is a necessity since it's a distinctive part of the ship in both cases and Eaglemoss have done well just to make sure they are included; reminds me of the guns underneath the Nausicaan Fighter.

Due to the nature of this series we do lose the structural definition on the underside of the Horizon's cargo pods. Compare the blocked out section to the more "scaffold"-like nature shown on the cover and you'll immediately see the difference. Totally unavoidable due to the way in which these models are made as well as cost and time. There haven't been many ships where intricate parts like that have been replicated exactly - all I can say is let's refer back to the Bajoran Solar Sailor for experience in that area..

The remainder of the ship - the five cargo modules except for their underside - are all a single metal block. The panel markings from the tugboat all the way back are virtually identical Each is distinguished by the "0-1"/"0-2"...etc markings on either side and the minimalistic detailing works effectively. Again with the spine of the craft we are robbed of the skeletal nature of the upper structure but the definition of each strut still exists. I do think that the spotlighting effect, which is at the centre of each pod aligned with the spine, could have been a little brighter as I can barely see it against the cream/lightest of browns hull.

Hull colour is something of a challenge here too as the episodic images we get in the magazine make it look a heck of a lot darker than it actually is but we take that as a bit of a given now since it's a factor with almost every single TV starship we've seen. However saying all that there is a mix of tones in here which does offer a more weathered and aged effect on the ship echoing its generational use. That little bit of mottling in the metal and "dirtying" in the plastic makes a difference to the finishing effect.

Finally to the back and the aft cargo access and the panel definition is severely lacking. It's practically non-existent and does put a little downer on the overall effect. I actually think that might be the reason I think it's unfinished because the detail to the rear is so subtle whereas across the rest of the vessel it is quite easy to make out. 

Stand placement here is very specific due to a fractional change in the hull shape between modules 0-3 and 0-4. Try and slot it anywhere else and the prong stand just won't fit. It is very secure and fits like a glove. 

Over to the magazine and issue 93 overviews not just the design of the ship and its cargo pods but also the family-orientated nature of the vessel which had been operated by the Mayweathers for three generations. It's good that for once the magazine has returned to really focus on the ship and the aspects around it because a big chunk of the reading here deals with the "Boomer Culture" that was explored in both Horizon and the earlier Fortunate Son

I wasn't a huge fan of either episode but the background that is added here is a well thought out move that keeps this relevant and an exceptionally good reference tool in the series. Oh - and for those of you who like the designing bits there's a two page look at creating the ship. Sadly the process was a one-shot and done so there's not a lot to tell and in the case of this magazine it's probably the least interesting section because we actually get some decent background to add to your library.

A bit of a let-down to be fair this month on both counts. The Medusan Starship is a lovely model but I find it hard to justify its appearance when there are still more significant ships not even announced or months away. The Horizon in retrospect is OK. I think we were totally spoiled with the Fortunate and then expected the same whistles and bells on this one but didn't get that because it just never had it in the first place. Both ships are damn fine accurate to their screen counterparts and again we have to congratulate Eaglemoss for their work. You just have to wonder how many people will be hurrying to the newsagents to pick up these two especially given that the second Shuttles pack is arriving at doorsteps this week. Final words on these - probably for super-completists only and that might be stretching it.

Next month brings the Suliban Cell Ship and the USS Kyushu which is the first of the Wolf 359 kit-bash fleet. While I'm not really looking forward to the Suliban block, the Kyushu is a sure-fire hit for the collection and the start of a whole new series within the series. In case you missed it our archive has now been updated with the "unconfirmed" list of ships due out. We'll run our Anticipation Factor list when Ben Robinson nails these to the wall.

Worth picking up or ones to avoid? 

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