29 May 2014

Trek Review: Official Starships Collection - Romulan Warbird

Issue 5 brings us to the mean green machine, the Romulan Warbird from the 24th century. This has long been one of my favourite alien ships.

The Magazine
This is the second alien race for the series and an appropriate green motif is brought into the magazine's presentation for the Romulans. 

For the flagship of a recurring race like the Romulans, there isn't as much information to go on from its appearances throughout The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The magazine does a good job of covering the important details, locations of primary systems and going through the design process - including how the ship would originally have been turned 90ยบ into an imposing and unorthodox vertical orientation.

Just like the NX-01, there is no section about filming the Warbird, instead we take a look at the development of the Romulans and how they were designed to reappear more often throughout the Original Series which instead went to the Klingons for budgetary reasons - pointy ears are expensive! There was also some interesting information regarding how the Romulans were very nearly killed off in The Next Generation in a storyline that was started but never given chance to mature. I do like the Romulans and this section was a good read, but I couldn't help but feel it came at the expense of information or images about the great Warbird - a ship that dwarfs a Galaxy class starship and part of a fleet that held the Dominion at bay during countless engagements during the Dominion war.

I'll have to say I'm not the greatest fan of the use of past tense in this issue. Lines like "The Romulan Warbird was..." don't read so well. I have not noticed it in the other issues so I figure they might be using present tense instead - which I think is more appropriate for those of us who like to feel more immersed in Trek lore and thinking it's all real or at least has a sense of being real and current. I also noticed a few other errors coming through from spelling to grammar (it's instead of its) and others. It just takes away from the quality feel of the issue.

The Ship
The Romulan Warbird was one of my favourite alien ships since I first saw it - which wasn't during the run of the series The Next Generation, but as a toy and in literature. It was only later I would see it in action and become even more amazed. The Warbird also had the distinction of being only the second Romulan ship to appear on screen after the Romulan Bird of Prey in Balance of Terror (not including the Klingon Battlecruisers in The Enterprise Incident) and what an imposing sight it was.

Eaglemoss have produced another faithful replica of the formidable Romulan flagship that intimidated the Federation, fought alongside and against Cardassian's in Deep Space Nine and was even portrayed in Voyager as part of an elaborate plan to steal a Federation starship. The hollow hull is indeed hollowed out (unlike the Micro Machine version which has a central support) and the green hues are recreated nicely to represent the main Romulan militant colour as opposed to the grey/blues of the Tal Shiar Warbirds. The painted body appears to have a weathered effect to it which also highlights areas and details of the ship.

Windows are etched and printed into the hull and the claw-like details underneath are on show. There are no translucent parts to create the warp engine glow like on the Federation models however. The Romulan Warbird doesn't wear many exterior markings aside from the logo of the empire which is recreated at the front of the ship.

The stand attaches to the rear, similar to the Klingon Bird of Prey but with a much better grip - although the Warbird still managed to fall from its perch while I was photographing it!

It's another worthy addition to the collection and aside from some of the minor issues with the magazine itself, the high standards remain. I rate this an 8/10.

24 May 2014

Trek Review: Official Starships Collection - Enterprise NX-01

Another delivery brings us Issue 4 of the Eaglemoss Official Starships Collection and this time we go right to the beginnings of Starfleet with the Enterprise NX-01. Controversial at the time of release (breaking the belief that Pike/Kirk's Enterprise was the first) and leading a series that brings up all sorts of arguments among Trek fans old and new when it comes to 'canon' - she was the lead ship for four seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise before it was cancelled.

The Magazine
This issue continues the format set out and we should expect this to continue (so I might even stop commenting on it!) With four seasons worth of information, there's plenty to go through and the narrative describes in fair detail the decks (A-G) of the ship and points of interest that can be found on each of them.

Weapon systems are looked at and the early issues that surrounded those during the ship's service as well as the engines and how a stable and more efficient warp field was generated and controlled.

Much like Issue 2 (USS Enterprise NCC-1701 refit), there is a section about the orbital drydock facility and homage to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Unlike the previous issues, there isn't a section on how the ship was filmed. I guess this is probably due to the fact that the NX-01 was all in the computer, but they do go through the design process - on how the newest (at the time) incarnation of the Enterprise was also going to be the oldest shown in the series to date. There are drawings from John Eaves which looked very similar to Pike & Kirk's Enterprise and notes from Doug Drexler himself, the designer of the final version and the inspiration taken from the Akira class, designed for Star Trek: First Contact.

My favourite section would have to be the NX-01.5 two page spread which actually details the Enterprise's unseen upgrade which may have occurred if the show went onto a fifth season. A shot (lifted from the Ships of the Line calendar series) of the SS Enterprise with a secondary hull is included and information on Doug Drexler's realisation of the ship becoming more like her descendant in the NCC-1701 of the 23rd century. The magazine is worth it alone for that, I'd only have liked a couple more photos included to show the refitted ship from the front!

I can only nitpick a minor typo on the rear page.

The Ship
This is the third Starfleet (not Federation :P) starship (and the third Enterprise) in the collection and the high Eaglemoss standard continues. Most notably, the aztec design is back and it really makes this model look great. Every detail has been covered, elevating this ship to Enterprise -D levels of awesome. 

The model feels solid and is a little harder to differentiate the diecast and plastics in the main hulls. The engines and pylons are of course plastic, with some of the construction around the engines showing seam lines from how intricately they appear to have been put together. Mine unfortunately arrived with the port nacelle detached, but it's a clean break and easily fixed. Held in the right light and the engines light up again which is a nice effect.

Hull markings are all on display and appear to be accurately recreated, especially the cargo bays on either side of the saucer. The deflector dish is probably the least accurately represented item on the ship.

The stand is a bit like the Klingon Bird of Prey's but it has a tighter grip on the ship so it doesn't fall easily when on display. It mounts behind the saucer between the engineering hull booms to the engine pylons.

I'm going to give this one a 9/10. We're back to Enterprise -D levels of detail and nearly worthy of full marks again aside a few very small issues I can point out. At four issues in and an average score of 8.25/10, I'm liking my "investment" in this collection so far.

Subscriber Gift - Enterprise -D Dedication Plaque
Along with the delivery of this and Issue 5, I received my first subscriber gift. Not the free binder for my issues, but the Enterprise -D dedication plaque.

This is a nice recreation and made from solid material. It appears to accurately record all of the names of those involved with Star Trek: The Next Generation including Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman etc.

I only just noticed while photographing mine that there are some issues around the 'U' of U.S.S., but otherwise it's a nice piece. 

In a recent survey that was available via social media, Eaglemoss had asked about the possibility of creating other dedication plaques for the Defiant, Prometheus and Voyager. I also suggested that perhaps fans would be interested in those for the other Enterprise's, Excelsior and perhaps even the Titan (Riker's ship post-Nemesis). It will be interesting to see if these pop up over the course of the series. I have to admit, I'd probably just prefer more models myself!

18 May 2014

B5 Review: No Surrender, No Retreat & The Exercise of Vital Powers

"Enough is enough."
- John Sheridan

No Surrender, No Retreat
Following reports of atrocities committed against civilian targets at Proxima III, Sheridan gathers the Whitestar fleet to free the colony from Clark's blockade.

Sheridan leads preparations for a surprise attack to liberate Proxima III, gathering intel via Marcus and informing the League World ambassadors of his intention to remove the Whitestar fleet from patrolling their borders and being used for this offensive. Meanwhile, Londo attempts to convince G'Kar to sign a joint-statement supporting Sheridan's campaign.

Once at Proxima III, things go bad when the lead ship Heracles opens fire on Sheridan's forces. Some Earthforce ships hold back or withdraw with one destroyed and eventually the others surrendering and returning the planet to their rightful government. Sheridan offers the Captain's to return home, defend Proxima or join his offensive and the liberation of Earth begins.

Meanwhile, after finding out that Sheridan has gone ahead with his offensive, Garibaldi leaves Babylon 5 with no intention of returning.

This is one of those turning point episodes and brings up a lot of moral issues, particularly with what Sheridan has to go through and the reality of his actions in the aftermath of the battle. It also brings up the question of soldiers at war, considering the orders they've been issued rather than blindly carrying them out.

There is also that nice moment where Londo reaches out to G'Kar, and feels like he almost has him convinced, only to have that door (temporarily) closed on him. It's good to see Londo's storyline heading back in a positive direction.

My rating: 7/10

The Exercise of Vital Powers
While Sheridan's fleet continues to liberate Earth colonies, Garibaldi arrives on Mars to meet William Edgars, his employer and owner of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies. Once there, Michael insists on finding out what Edgars is really up to that had him smuggling items past security on Babylon 5.

Of course, Michael meets up with Lise once again at the Edgars' residence and learns more about President Clark's rise to power as told by Edgars. To learn more, Garibaldi has to deliver Sheridan in order to stop the offensive that has Clark up tight and on guard. They believe that with his guard down and more 'relaxed' again, the mega corporations can make the necessary moves to remove Clark another way.

It is interesting that Edgars has Garibaldi interviewed in the presence of a telepath, only to have the telepath 'removed' later on - and then there's those three subjects that Edgars is overseeing - shedding perhaps a little more light on what he's up to - for the viewers.

Meanwhile, Lyta finds that she has some control over the frozen telepaths which sees a breakthrough finally occur for Stephen in Medlab. When Sheridan calls for an update, Franklin insists he knows why he needs to mobilise the telepaths - the realisation seems to shock the Doctor but he gathers what he needs and Lyta in tow, headed back to Mars.

This episode revealed more than I remember in the past. It is a bit slower than the previous two but it certainly remains important and a way for viewers to catch their breath. In the few shots of Sheridan's fleet that are shown, there is no action taken - but we do learn that they have continued to succeed in liberating colonies and turning Earthforce ships to their cause.

My rating: 7/10

13 May 2014

Trek Review: Official Starships Collection - Klingon Bird of Prey

Eaglemoss' Official Starships Collection brings us Issue 3 and the first alien ship of the series. What better one to start with than probably the most famous alien ship in the franchise, the Klingon Bird of Prey. First introduced in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, this ship appeared in each of the remaining original series features, The Next Generation, Generations and Deep Space Nine.

The Magazine
Issue 3 follows the nice layout and presentation that has been established with the prior two, introducing a red theme for the Klingons compared to the blue used in the Federation issues. There's plenty of information about the creation of the Bird of Prey and Leonard Nimoy's vision of a bird swooping brought to life for The Search for Spock.

Detailed information about the three different configurations for the Bird of Prey is included with new images for the magazine. I also learned a number of facts about the ship, including how the wings house the in-built warp field generators.

In the section that looks at the filming model for the Bird of Prey, I learned why in The Next Generation appearances the Birds of Prey were firing with their wings in the cruise configuration, as the model aged and the motors for the wing movement were starting to fail. Of course, by the time of Deep Space Nine and the many Klingon appearances in that series, the Bird of Prey was modernised into the computer and the wings were articulated once again.

A great publication once more, the only thing I noticed was that they incorrectly said the Bird of Prey commandeered by Kirk and crew in The Voyage Home was named the Botany Bay, when actually it was named the Bounty in reference to their perceived mutiny against Starfleet. I wonder if Eaglemoss might produce some corrective labels for the magazines in time, as the Star Trek Fact Files did?

The Ship
I want to congratulate and thank Eaglemoss at this point for releasing a model of the Klingon Bird of Prey with the wings in the outstretched, cruise mode. Aside from the AMT model kit (and maybe some rare examples out there), every other displayable or playable replica of this ship has always had the wings in the 'default' attack mode. This probably appeals to most, but for me I've always thought the ship looked way more impressive with the wings outstretched. Think of the scene in The Voyage Home when it decloaks above the whaling ship, or those scenes in The Next Generation when they attacked in Yesterday's Enterprise or even Redemption, Part II. It works for me anyway :)

I feel I can be less critical of this ship as it's alien and doesn't have Starfleet emblems and Federation labels (in English!) to pour over. The Bird of Prey is represented in a nice dark green with weathered panels and a 'used', militaristic look to it - as it should compared to the clean and nearly gleaming Federation ships. The cloak emitter around the bridge appears as it should and the disruptors on the wingtips are quite detailed for the scale. I also like the engine detail at the rear. On the underside, the red, stylised Bird of Prey has also been reproduced.

I can't admit to being the hugest fan of the Bird of Prey, only because it's been seen so often that I feel it lost its specialness, particularly with its many engagements and appearances on Deep Space Nine, but this is still a beautifully presented ship.

I can't fault the model, but the stand attachment to the ship isn't very secure as it latches rather lightly into the rear engine. It doesn't take much for the ship to fall from its perch. It is the least intrusive stand of the three so far, but they could have secured it perhaps a little better.

Still, three issues into the series and I continue to be impressed. I give this an 8/10. Much like the Enterprise -D set a precedence for Federation ships, this is a great start for the alien entries that will appear in this collection and its only let down by a minor typo in the magazine and a flimsy display stand.

03 May 2014

Trek Review: Official Starships Collection - USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (2271 Refit)

Issue 2 of Eaglemoss' Official Starships Collection brings us the first Enterprise to grace the big screen as well as having probably the best unveiling of any ship in all of Star Trek - the refitted USS Enterprise, NCC-1701.

 photo IMG_1736_zps2377ae1f.jpgThe Magazine
This issue follows the same format and presentation introduced in Issue 1. Readers are treated to an overview of the ship and details of its 18 month refit and onto the three feature films it stars in.

There are also two pages dedicated to the Drydock in Earth orbit where the Enterprise is first seen, a section I found quite interesting. 

The usual exterior overview provides a crisp look at the ships hull and other points of interest before leading readers into the design section which looks at artwork and the concept designs for how the Enterprise could have looked if it were redesigned completely - as it almost was for the Phase II series that didn't come to be.

We then get to look at the studio models and how they were filmed for the feature films and how sections were made for certain shots, like in The Wrath of Khan for detailed damage in battle. 

Overall, the information provided is interesting and perhaps more in-depth than provided in the first issue as this ship only made three feature film appearances compared to the Enterprise -D's many. This means that events aren't overlooked so much this time around.  

 photo IMG_1739_zpsdb1d97ff.jpgThe Ship
Eaglemoss have produced another great representation of a ship named Enterprise. The silhouette matches the screen version wonderfully! However, while all the hull detail was on show in the magazine and on the previous model, this ship is presented in a single colour overall. 

Similar to the Enterprise -D, the saucer contains the die cast element while the remainder of the ship is plastic. The engines include more translucent blue plastic for the grilles and ramscoops, which is quite noticeable on the model compared to the screen versions (since they didn't really light up in the films). While differing a bit from the representation we're used to, the effect looks great when the light shines through.

 photo IMG_1733_zps60ee64dd.jpg

Hull markings are nicely done, though the perfectionist in me thinks the upper saucer registry and name are slightly off centre. Windows are represented along the engineering hull and around the edge of the saucer section. Again, the ship is supported by a stand customised for it. I noticed it is not as sturdy as the one provided in the previous issue though - but it's not an issue. 

While not to scale with the Enterprise -D, the ship is a decent size for displaying.

As said with the review for Issue 1, Eaglemoss set the bar very high for themselves with the Enterprise -D release. I feel that while this Enterprise is a great representation, it has trouble comparing as many details haven't been included. They showed they could go to extreme levels of detail on the previous release but this one misses out on the hull aztec patterning, the different shaded engineering hull, neck and pylon colours and Enterprise written beneath the shuttlebay doors to mention a few.

Yet it is still a wonderful model and from what I've read it will be accompanied by her twin sister, the Enterprise -A at some point down the track. I rate this ship a 7/10.

As a bit of a plug for the magazine itself, readers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada can enter a competition to win a Galaxy class starship with their name (or name of their choice) printed on it. Check out their competition page to enter!