Thursday, September 4, 2014

Issue #11, U.S.S. Reliant, and Issue #12, U.S.S. Thunderchild

You know what?  Let's just go.

I could use this space to make excuses about so many missed updates...  but frankly I'd rather just get back into it.  So let's do that.

Issue #11, U.S.S. Reliant

As usual, the magazine opens with a recap of the ship's capabilities and history, focusing in this case on the Reliant's involvement in the plot of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  The Profile feature goes into a little bit of detail regarding Miranda variants, some of which lack the "roll bar" weapon pod seen on the Reliant; while the Classic Scene feature is a two-page recap of the climactic engagement in Wrath, the Battle of the Mutara Nebula.

The Profile also features a curious lapse, wherein one of Benjamin Sisko's postings prior to Deep Space 9 is misidentified as the U.S.S. Bozeman, NCC-31911.  In fact, that ship was the U.S.S. Saratoga, the second Miranda-class ship of that name; the Bozeman, as it appeared in the TNG episode "Cause and Effect" (5x18), is a Soyuz-class vessel of registry NCC-1941.

There is an inset box on page 11, containing (what I consider) a pretty juicy tidbit:
There have been two Miranda-class vessels named the U.S.S. Saratoga.  The first was the U.S.S. Saratoga NCC-1887 that encountered the whale probe in 2286.  The second was the U.S.S. Saratoga NCC-31911 that was destroyed by the Borg in 2367.
Since we don't start to see five-digit Starfleet registries until the TNG era, this implies that the Miranda class was a very long-lived design, with Starfleet continuing to build ships of this class well into the 24th century.

Designing the Ship goes into the thought processes and design tropes behind the Reliant, including the twin necessities that it be both immediately distinguishable from the Enterprise and immediately identifiable as coming from the same culture and technology base.

Surprisingly, it turns out that the Reliant's design is at least partly the result of serendipity: when producer Harve Bennett approved the drawings for the Reliant design, he had been looking at them upside down, and had signed off on them in this state.  By the time the error was discovered, Bennett was already out of the country and out of reach; so the warp nacelles were moved from above the saucer, where the drawing had them, to below, the position that had been approved.  The "roll bar" superstructure was created to counterbalance the nacelles.

The more Starfleet ships I see without the underslung secondary hull, the sillier the whole thing seems to me.  The Miranda class is one of my favorite Starfleet designs, precisely because it does away with the superfluous secondary hull and packs all the necessary bits into the primary saucer.  (Why the primary hull needs to be saucer-shaped is a separate issue altogether...)

The Reliant and the Thunderchild (see below) were the first models to arrive damaged.  In the Reliant's case, the roll bar, including the cylindrical phaser emitter, had come loose from the starboard pylon.  Fortunately, the judicious application of a little superglue set things to rights, and now you wouldn't even know it had ever been damaged.

Apart from that, the model is gorgeous.  Both the casting and the paint are beautifully detailed, with even the tiny text "U.S.S. Reliant" on the dorsal surface of the saucer and "NCC-1864" on each nacelle clearly legible.

The stand continues to be an issue, however.  Its grip on the rear of the model is quite loose, and while not as prone to falling out as the Romulan Warbird, a degree of care is still needed when moving the model.

Issue #12, U.S.S. Thunderchild

The Akira-class U.S.S. Thunderchild is the first model in this collection whose design is completely new to me.  Although appearing in at least two episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the film Star Trek: First Contact, I must confess I either overlooked it or have simply forgotten about it over the intervening years.

The Profile feature starts with the Akira class' origin as a response to the Cardassian Wars and the threat of the Borg, then goes into its capabilities as a sort of combination carrier-gunship.  Key design features include "catamaran-style" twin hulls; the weapon pod mounted between the twin hulls, boasting a total of thirteen torpedo tubes - seven forward, including two quantum torpedo launchers, and six aft; the bridge, protected by being hunkered down between the twin hulls; and the fly-through shuttlebay running fore-to-aft through the saucer.

Designing the Ship includes a number of very cool illustrations by visual arts director Alex Jaeger, the designer of the Akira class.  The text lays out the class' origin in Paramount's directive that the opening sequence of First Contact, the Battle of Sector 001, include never-before-seen Starfleet ship designs.  Jaeger's only guidelines were that the ships had to conform to the existing Star Trek design aesthetic, and that their silhouettes should be readily distinguishable from the new Enterprise-E.

Jaeger explains that his inspirations for the Akira design included the roll bar on the Miranda class, which comes through as the Akira's weapon pod; and the aggressive stance of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, visible in the Akira's hunchbacked profile.

Unlike previous issues, there is no feature regarding the physical shooting model...  because there is no such model.  Instead, there is a short, one-page article on the creation of the CG models used for the Akira class' appearances in First Contact, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

As I mentioned above, the Thunderchild and the Reliant were the first models in this collection to reach me in a damaged state.  In the Thunderchild's case, the port nacelle was loose on its pylon, and waggled freely.  As with the Reliant, however, a little superglue put a stop to that.

I quite like the Akira design.  It's recognizably Starfleet, while still bringing something new to the table.  As with the Reliant, the level of detail is all that could be hoped for at this scale and price point.  The Thunderchild's stand, however, works much better; despite the arms being shorter, the edgeward taper of the saucer and the upward angle at which the model is held mean that it sits snugly in the top of the display pylon.  The darker gray is lovely, and contrasts nicely with the blue warp nacelle "windows" and red Bussard collectors.

In the next post: Issue #13, Jem'Hadar Battlecruiser, and Issue #14, Cardassian Galor-class.