Thursday, 7 September 2017

Quality Quibbles: The Official Starships Collection Issues 106 and 107


There is no more satisfying sight when it comes to postal deliveries as the brown strapped Eaglemoss box on the hall table.

That moment of realisation that you have double ship indulgence at your fingertips, the hurried searching for scissors and that heart-in-the-mouth moment as you open the box wondering if both of the ships have arrived in one piece...there's nothing like it is there?

My experience with this month's ships has been murky. On the one hand there's - finally - the arrival of the Kazon Raider from Voyager and alongside it, a semi-cop-out with the Klingon Bird of Prey (Attack Position). Hopefully I'll explain my thoughts as we head through examining both of these items.

The Kazon Raider is, like the recently released Vidiian Warship, vastly overdue - by at least 70 issues. Cleverly spreading those key ships across the range does keep interest and means those waiting for specific ships or collecting from one series are kept on their toes but it does feel like these should have been a lot earlier.

The Raider is actually one of the smaller Kazon ships and shouldn't be confused with the significantly larger Predator Class ships that the Delta Quadrant baddies also operated. This is a much smaller, more manoeuvrable ship and is also one of the most distinctive designs, I think, in Star Trek history.

On first inspection this is one small ship - and it's also very front heavy with that drooping beak as well as the whole top section being metal. The whole ship bears a brown, sandy, dusty sort of paint job and it screams out for a bit of dirt washing because you know that the Kazon would never have maintained these ships in such pristine condition. In fact the only time it would have looked like this was in dry dock.

While it is instantly recognisable, this is one of those ships that doesn't "do" it for me from the off and coming to review it I find myself terribly uninspired by it. That's a shame because of it's importance to Voyager's early years for one and secondly because it's been such a long time coming.

Don't get me wrong, the actual model is decent enough but there's no pzazz here. You can admire the curves and the lines from the nose to the stern and especially at the business end there's some lovely layered panelling detail as well as - surprisingly - windows and inset colouring that's actually in the right place (looking at you, USS Jenolan) and accentuates that base brown.

Those little blips of colour from windows and from the yellow of the engines to the rear are essential to bringing the Raider to life just as much as the pointed, dangerous look of the hull. Even the addition of the Kazon emblem on either side of the hull The top of the ship doesn't really have any really fiddly bits on it and by that I mean mechanical parts, exposed circuits and the like that we've seen on many other craft. It's a lot more enclosed with more subtle finishing details perhaps only with the recessed bodywork on the sides showing any real "depth" to the ship.

The plastic section here encompasses only the underside and the wing-type appendages to the centre and the rear. If we're going to talk bland then this is perfect fodder because there is a horrible lack of detail. Of course this can be blamed directly back to the original model from which Eaglemoss were working but there's just nothing to get excited about when you flip the Raider over. There are a few winglets on the rear fins, a minor piece of engineering detail to the centre which is recessed back slightly into the hull but that really is it.

The problem is that the Kazon Raider looks too perfect. There's not enough panel lining on here, it's just too smooth and refined to make it "believable" as a representation of the Kazon craft. It bugs me to hell because even the drooping proboscis at the front looks sad and lacking in true depth and detail; it feels like a model three-quarters complete. Probably one that will go towards the back of a shelf and I have hopes that the Predator Class Kazon ship will come out a lot better.

Stand position with this one is rear-clipping with the clear plastic arm grasping the back end of the Raider. Not too tight a fit but very stable even with all that forward weight from the droopy nose and heavy metal front.

The issue 106 magazine is a belter, full of great reference material that the Voyager Companion book was lacking. Offering some great coverage of the Raider and it's operational history under both the Trabe and the Kazon, the magazine does well to tie in the craft's episodic appearances. I thought it had all started out in Caretaker but I was very much mistaken and corrected here.  Excellent insights into the Kazon too which are well worth adding to your library.

Designed by Dan Curry due to an overworked Star Trek staff in 1994, the Raider's evolution story is fairly linear although it did get some minor chops and changes. Take note too that it doubled as the Kazon Fighter with only a cockpit section swapout being the visual clue as to which scale of craft was being used in that shot. I would think that means we won't be getting the smaller variant of this one in the future since that would be the only alteration (saying that....).

Ahead of the two episode choices of State of Flux from season one and Alliances from the Kazon-heavy second year of Voyager, Eaglemoss fill us in on the creation of the Delta Quadrant's "short Klingons". Their background, you might be surprised to know was supposed to have been based around LA gangs and be only two factions rather than the indistinguishable 18 sects that the show intimated. I love the honesty in this section given the love/hate relationship the show and the audience seemed to have with the Kazon although the choice to finish their two year arc with Basics was respectable and the right thing to do. Great magazine and one I recommend for general background Voyager reference.

Now, here's one for you. I remember back in the day that a lot of people called for the Klingon Bird of Prey to be offered out in its attack and landed formations. I genuinely didn't think that either would be included in the full run but might have ended up as an online exclusive. I was wrong because as part of the main run, we have the seminal Klingon craft with it's wings down.

One of the first issues released (issue three), the Bird of Prey needs no introduction but, as with the Kazon Raider, I'm finding it very hard to get excited over a ship that has only a change in wing configuration from its earlier version. 

As you might have noticed, we seem to be seeing a few more of these altered models or variations on a theme - ReliantSaratoga and the upcoming Bozeman (which was requested a lot!), the Bajoran Freighter/Smuggler's Ship, Armoured Voyager...but this one really doesn't give much more than the original.

The worst thing is with the one I received and am reviewing here while I wait for a response from Eaglemoss (two days and i ended up calling to get a replacement) is that the wing cannon on the port side is glued on cock-handed. 

Hence my comment at the beginning around opening the box. I've been lucky that only the Xindi Insectoid Fighter (two halves I glued together) and the USS Rhode Island (nacelle cover again glued on) have come with some form of damage probably from transit. This is just poor quality control and lazy building. 

Anyway, more on that shortly as we move around this B'Rel class scout because it's not the only issue simmering under the surface.


This is for all intents and purposes a carbon copy of the ship from issue three. I'd be so bold to say that the main body and neck are probably the same mould or build to save time and money with only the wings being altered.

Annoyingly when you compare it to the Kazon Raider this has received something of a dirt wash to take the edge off the green paint scheme and make it look used. To the front and the bridge module there are some subtle panel lines across the top of the hull. The deflector strip round the front really stands out being a bold brown and unweathered and is the more distinctive colour on the ship. It doesn't pull you away from the overall effect but it is very distinctive with the rest of the hull being dirtied down. 

Now I have to note that, well, it's not absolutely a carbon copy because there are a couple more raised details on the surface of the bridge module which does mean there has been a slight update in four years. 

The grime and the panelling continues back along the short neck section to the main body where you do notice the windows have been painted on rather than marked somewhere near to recessed holes as we've seen elsewhere. Again there's nothing new here. Along to the rear the detail there does feel a little more refined but there's very little to call between this new version and the issue three original. Even at the back the gap in the engine block to slot in the stand is identical although I did think the clip fed in a lot more easily this time around.

Underneath the detail continues in line with the first version with all the mechanics you would expect to be in place right there. Their definition does leave a bit to be desired but again there does seem to have been a slight clean-up when it's come to the finishing touches. On the counter though, there's still no definition as to the landing leg panels or ramp - the underbelly is horribly still devoid of detail.

Of course the number one, table-topping difference here is the fact that the wings are down. First seen dropping to pick off the Merchantman in The Search for Spock it's an iconic feature of the Klingon ship and, begrudgingly, it's nice to have it represented. Along with the Enterprise it's probably one of the most famous and instantly recognisable vehicles from the franchise.

The wing panel feather detailing is replicated precisely from the first version and you can make out how the two have been constructed. It's down to the two shoulder sections being different. These are the pieces which move the wings into place and with the Attack Formation version they are, stating the obvious, larger. The grille system that interlocks and closes to draw the wings up is very clearly cut although the front of the shoulder blocks lacks any kind of definition between the two moving sections rather it's just a plain and simple grey slab. For all the detail and effort in all the other parts surrounding this wing mechanism it just seems wrong for this, for the second time, to be lacking that finishing touch.


Talking of that lack of completion which seems to be a running theme this month, what about the underside of the Bird of Prey? Well, it is absolutely identical when it comes to paint scheme even down to the asymmetrical reddish tinted sections on the inside edges of the wings - they are 100% the same which confirms that only the shoulder sections here are significantly different across the two ships variants.

The biggest sin with this one is that I have to review it with a wonky disruptor as noted. Someone in the factory decided to glue one of them on at a bizarre angle meaning I've had to request a replacement. If the glue wasn't as strong as it is I might have been able to adjust it but in this case it's a no. While it doesn't ruin the overall experience of the model it's frustrating that such a small error can be so noticeable. 


The stand position is identical again to the original issue three release allowing the Bird of Prey to hang ominously over the stand. Now all you need is to drop a movie-era USS Enterprise in front of it and you'll be off recreating the final moments of NCC-1701 from The Search for Spock.

Luckily the magazine is a completely fresh wedge of material. Initially the overview covers the differences between not just the K'Vort and B'rel types but also the variations internally that were evident between every single Klingon Bird of Prey. It also goes as far as exploring the times in which the different versions were in use (including the rarely mentioned D12) and what outward changes there were to be spotted - and there were a few due to circumstances!

An excellent choice here to do rather than the standard plan views is the inclusion of a list of notable Birds of Prey from The Search for Spock right through to Martok's IKS Rotarran in Deep Space Nine. Covering not just their onscreen stories, this section does, in part, make note of some of the changes that were made due to difficulties with models and the significance of the chosen craft in the franchise. There are some cool new CG pics and a few sketches that will be welcomed to see such as the one from Star Trek VI's storyboards (check that gem!) but you won't be seeing a ton of new stuff. The chunk of the goodies are in the text itself.

Finishing out the magazine we have a brilliant and insightful chat with J G Hertzler which was conducted just after the end of Deep Space Nine. It offers real depth to how Hertzler played the character, how he came to be a recurring character plus why he enjoyed the role so much even down to the gruelling three hour makeup sessions. 


While the model is fairly average in its execution, this pack is well-rounded through the choice of articles in the magazine. The Hertzler interview is a certified highlight of the releases this month, perhaps moreso than the models themselves which I'm quite surprised by. In fact I might even say that both the magazines - for their written content rather than the lack of original photos - are damn fine this month. 

In four weeks time we have the hotly anticipated Cheyenne Class from The Best of Both Worlds, Part II's Wolf 359 graveyard and the Borg Queen's Diamond - now that looks like a killer ship!

Loving the voyage into the Delta Quadrant? Worth a second punt for the new Bird of Prey? Let us know below!


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