Out next week in the US, and busily charting gaseous anomalies for a few weeks already in the UK, is the eighth issue in The Official Starships Collection, the USS Excelsior. I held off getting Hot Wheels' Excelsior last year, knowing this was coming along early in the series, so was it worth the wait?
Dork Dimension's review of the Hot Wheels Excelsior). One big plus for the Eaglemoss version features is aztecing print on the saucer - As the Excelsior featured a really distinctive intricate aztec pattern, this goes a long way to making the ship look "right". I cant help but feel this print would have been more successful is the model didn't have molded grid lines as well though; being quite a small model, having both the molded lines and printed details makes the saucer very busy - And looking at the Excelsior on-screen, the grid lines are no where near as pronounced as they are on this model.
While the aztecing and generally sharper finish of the Eaglemoss are definite improvements on the Hot Wheels version, I feel this particular model is a rare example where Hot Wheels has multiple other details that are actually better. The Eaglemoss model does not feature the darker ring on the underside of the saucer. It uses clear plastic on the sides of the nacelles as well as the top (this emulates the CGI model of the Excelsior where these parts glowed, but I'd have favoured the solid dark colour on the side, seen on the physical model). The Hot Wheels model features a more intricately molded deflector, while it's a simple printed flat circle on Eaglemoss. And finally the RCS thrusters on the Eaglemoss model are only printed on the upper-side of the saucer, while they should be a detail that continues down the side of the saucer and connecting to thrusters on the underside of the saucer too - Without that extra detail, the top of saucer thrusters are left marooned a small way into the saucer, rather than being connected to the edge.
These details aside, the model is still as high quality as you'd expect from the series. One other potential flaw though, is the scale; the Excelsior is the most narrow design in the series so far, so while conforming to the usual maximum length (just short of 14cm) the ship ends up being very small, just 5.2cm at the widest point of the saucer. This is actually exactly the same width as the USS Voyager model, but being a much more spindly design it feels a lot less substantial. I think it is probably best to have the conformity to a maximum size, or the series would feel very inconsistent, but never the less it does still result in a somewhat lightweight and delicate feeling ship.
Only the top of the saucer on this model is metal; an inset section of the bottom of the saucer is a plastic component, as are the entire secondary hull and the nacelles - This makes the model very light and front heavy. As I mentioned, the nacelles have clear components down both the sides and the top, giving them a glow effect in the right light conditions. With quite large clear areas there are some unfortunately visible pegs inside these parts, holding the nacelles together, which can be a little distracting from some angles.
One quite brave decision Eaglemoss have made is to make the design of the nacelle struts accurate. The Excelsior's supports are quite unusual, projecting sideways from a protruding hub above the engineering hull, so there is actually a gap between the supports and the top of the secondary hull. As far as I can tell every other previous pre-assembled model of the Excelsior has filled in this gap, even the forthcoming, and much larger, DST version - I believe AMT's model kit is the only other Excelsior model to keep the gap. It's obvious why all other models have closed the gap, with it, the Eaglemoss nacelles do feel perilously flexible - But then this is a display piece not a toy, so that's reasonable trade-off for the sake of retaining one of the features of the Excelsior which really adds to its elegant design.
Usually I feel quite confident declaring the Eaglemoss model of any given ship the best there has ever been. This time around the recently released Hot Wheels model does have a few extra details that make it a closer call. However the Eaglemoss version still has the advantage of not being a toy, and it looks better for it overall, I feel.
Continue after the jump for more photos, and a look at this issue's magazine.
With a nice cover image you might be distracted from the unfortunate typo in the information bars on the cover, which identify this ship as the "Celsior class". The rest of the magazine fares a bit better thankfully! There is a generous six-page article looking at the history of the Excelsior from prototype to the events of The Undiscovered Country. This is largely a summary of the Excelsior's adventures, but does include some extrapolation on the history of transwarp drive, to rationalise the lack of a transwarp revolution after the Excelsior's introduction.
This is followed by the usual two-page spread of orographic views, with a few inset panels of information expanding on the role of other Excelsior class vessels.
As one comes to expect, it's the design and production half of the magazine that really shines though, and this is one of the best examples in the series so far. The design section is filled with great photos of sketch models for different designs, and concept art, as it explains how the Excelsior class came to be. This is followed by a two page summary of the history of the filming miniatures, which was quite an interestingly varied tale for the Excelsior, so is another informative and enjoyable page of text.
For the sake of comparison, here's the Excelsior next to the similar sized Voyager model, and all the Federation ships in the collection as of this issue:
And here's a curious quirk in the release order, it just so happens that three ships in a row are all those that appear in the Voyager Excelsior episode Flashback.
If you'd like your own copy of the USS Excelsior, you can find it at any of these websites: Amazon.co.uk, Things From Another World, Entertainment Earth.
For all my previous reviews, the latest information, and a listing of all the ships in the Starships Collection, see my index page.