Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Review: The Official Starships Collection #10 - Borg Sphere

Issue ten of The Official Starships Collection was the Borg Sphere. The first Borg ship in the series, this model is very different to what has come before, giving Eaglemoss some unique challenges making what is probably the most intricately detailed model in the series so far.


At first glance the Borg Sphere is possibly the least interesting ship in the Starship Collection's line-up, being quite literally a sphere. But Eaglemoss have clearly gone to great lengths to make sure this model is anything but dull, having the detail-packed surface represent the ordered chaos of Borg design in all its glory.

There are layers of detail in this model that give it, at the same time, a uniform finish across the entire ship, but also something that is surprisingly lacking in repetition or symmetry. The panels, pipes, gratings, and whatever else make up the surface of a Borg ship, are formed in intricate detail from the molds, with the various paint finishes further bring them to life.

As far as I can make out there are four paint effects on the Sphere: A black or very dark grey under-colour gives the signature Borg darkness, with metallic grey finished across the entire ship then picking out the molded details. There are also several patches of green, with bright white centers, which gives the impression of the distinctive glowing sections we expect on Borg ships - I was a bit sceptical when I first noticed this effect in early photos of the model, but in person it definitely works, really giving that Borg glow. Finally there are also very small details in blue, just picking out tiny sections all over the ship; these are so subtle they are almost unnoticeable, but really help make the ship seem a bit more complete by adding a bit of variety to the finish which otherwise could be quite monotone.

Despite all the details on the surface, these have not really been used to hide where different parts of the model have been put together. All the joins are straight-forward curves, but are remarkably unnoticeable; this is probably one of the most seamless models in the collection. As usual the model is a mix of metal and plastic components. The metal sections make up the caps top and bottom, while plastic panels fill in most of the model around the sides. There are four panels, each making up an equal quarter of the ship, and each with completely unique detailing. You really have to look very closely to make out the edges between the side panels, but the join to the top and bottom is more obvious because both components form perfect circles - It would have been nice is these cap pieces could have had more irregular edges to hide that join among the surface details.

Those circular elements are the only bits of the model I feel don't entirely work. The concave detail at either end of the Sphere is probably it's most distinctive, most obviously designed part of the otherwise just busy looking ship. On both the physical and CGI model these areas feature segments, which come together finger-like around the depression at the center. On the model seen on-screen these are not uniform segments, they have distinct and different heights and widths, which makes this part of the ship look really interesting. In contrast, on the Eaglemoss model the segments are exactly equal all the way around, in an odd contrast to the lack of repetition elsewhere on the model. The detail in the depression is also a bit distracting, a very visible spoked ring which seems just slightly too strong a shape amongst the generally busy design.

Aside from that particular part of the ship though, this model is really quite remarkable. If Eaglemoss apply the same impressive level of detail to other Borg ships in the Collection then the Borg fleet is going to be pretty amazing.

Continue after the jump for more on the model, a look at this issue's magazine, and a review of the subscriber bonus Borg Cube too!

One benefit of the cap design is the shape allows the stand to plug into the ship, so there are no arms wrapped around this model, it simply sits on a little collection of prongs which slot in around the spoked circle. As the caps are identical this also means you can display the Sphere which ever way up you like.


Another unique aspect of this issue is the packaging. All the other designs in the series have been relatively flat. Even taller designs like the Constitution class are, in respect to their length, not that tall. So even though the Borg Sphere is smaller on the longest side than any other model in the series, just seven centimetres in diameter, because it is equally as tall as it is wide, it is too big for the standard box. The Sphere therefore comes in a special box all of its own, which has a smaller footprint than normal, but has enough height to comfortably accommodate the tall model.

One last thought on the model: Where is stands compared to others. As best I can tell there have been just five other Borg Sphere models, ranging from the larger and frankly weird looking Playmates version, down to the minuscule Johnny Lightning rendition, which is actually just an accessory for a Borg Cube model. There's nothing else available at this scale, and none of the other models even come close to the level of detail here. So if you fancy a Borg Sphere, this is definitely the one to get.




When we get to the magazine, it's pretty clear they struggled to find much to say about the Sphere, with just half the magazine devoted the ship itself.

Between the usual opening and closing "Specification" and "On Screen" pages there are four articles. We get a four page ship profile, which gives us the basics on the Sphere with the usual assortment of images giving us a general overview. The in-universe half of the magazine then gives another four pages to tell us about Borg assimilation, which again gives a good overview. The usual two-page spread with orthographic projections of the ship has been omitted in this issue - I guess because a black ball looks more or less the same from all angles.

There are just two pages given to the "Designing the Ship" article in this issue, with three pieces of concept art and a picture of the First Contact filming miniature. It does the job; I guess maybe there's not much of a story to tell for this ship, but I wouldn't have minded this section being longer. There is also no "Filming the Ship" section in this issue, which I think might have been a worthwhile addition given the physical and CGI models of the Borg Sphere have quite different looks.

Finally there are four pages given over to designing the Borg Queen. Given the wealth of concept art available for this subject I'm surprised they used mostly screencaps of the Queen on-screen for this section, rather than more behind-the-scenes imagery to match the text.

While the articles in this issue all did a fine job telling us about the chosen subjects, I much prefer when the magazines stay strictly on subject, and give us details on the ships. So for me this issues magazine was a bit disappointing for drifting into related subjects instead.

And speaking of drifting into related subjects... I thought now would be as good a time as any to take a look at the fourth and final subscription "gift", the light-up Borg Cube. This is the second extra ship for subscribers, after the All Good Things... Enterprise-D, but unlike that previous extra ship, this one isn't built to the same sort of specs as the rest of the models in the series. It's a novelty item, with the light feature, and more of a toy in comparison to the collector's models in the series.

The all plastic model is almost identical on all sides. Five sides are exactly the same, featuring a molded finish in the style of the First Contact cube, and a few cut-out holes with white surfaces showing through - These glow green when you turn the light on, but do look a bit naff when it's not on.

The sixth side has visible screw holes, a battery compartment, and the switch to turn it on, but it otherwise pretty much like all the other sides.

There are no paint effects on this one, it's just the single colour plastic. But the molded details are pretty good, although I think they're way off scale; this looks like a close crop into the details that should make up just a small section of the surface.

The light effect works pretty well, producing a green glow on the five regular sides.

The packing for this is also less impressive than the usual models, a simple white box with plastic inserts to hold it safely.

I've seen a lot of negative reactions to this model, in part it seems because Eaglemoss decided to use an image of a much more detailed Borg Cube when promoting this item - An image which I see has now been removed from their website. I never expected that image to reflect what they would send (they also use an image of DST's All Good Things... Enterprise rather than their own), so it's not bothered me, and I'm content with getting a bonus toy Borg Cube.

I'm sure there will be a regular issue sometime in the series with a smaller but much more detailed Borg Cube, and that will be just spiffy. Until then the two Borg ships still look pretty neat together, even if the Sphere has a lot more going on with the paint finishes.


If you'd like your own copy of the Borg Sphere, you can find it at any of these websites: Amazon.com, 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.

Find Star Trek starships on TFAW.com!

9 comments:

Fox said...

I don't know how many different versions of the Borg Sphere there are, but I find it interesting that the Eaglemoss Sphere's doodads (the hull "etchings") don't match the patterns on the First Contact sphere depicted in the magazine. Maybe they match up with the CGI version used in Voyager?

The Borg Cube also doesn't look much like the Borg Cubes in the show, but as it's not a "real" part of the collection, I guess it doesn't matter.

That said, I do agree--at first the Sphere doesn't look all that impressive, but the more you look at it, the more impressive it seems. I particularly like the gouged out part on the top(?) half that looks like it reveals a glowing "interior." Very good painting on that.

8of5 said...

It looks to me like they are trying to follow the CGI model a bit more, as if they were going for the physical model they couldn't have ignored the way it's detailed at the poles.

And I agree, those glowy bits really work nicely.

Chris said...

Have you gotten the Equinox yet? I've seen reviews and it looks like Eaglemmoss did just fine getting the starfleet pennants going the right direction on both nacelles with no backward registry number, unlike Defiant. But now apparently the Stargazer has backwards registry on the bottom of the saucer. I don't understand why they are so hit and miss with such a simple thing. Do you know if they have put out a corrected Defiant?

nwg said...

There are two Spheres. A smaller one in First Contact which is more of a escape pod and a bigger one as seen in several Voyager episodes. This model is from Voyager.

I nearly didn't get this one due to being a ball but I like it.

What I didn't like is they used the same bottom mount on the top. The Sphere does have a "hole" at the top but they should have blocked the bottom of it in.

Fox said...

@Chris: probably because, like Art Asylum, they outsource production to China. That means they can't keep a firm handle on quality control and can't easily respond to problems, let alone fix them.

The whole line is just riddled with QC issues. I bought the Akira six times, from local (USA) retailers, from Eaglemoss sub and from UK retailers. Of the six, FIVE had the deflector dish glued on wrong.

mcarp555 said...

@Chris - The Equinox has "EQUINDX" on the top of the saucer section. It's not readily apparent unless you really zoom in.

Chris said...

Ugh, the Equinox misspell is so disappointing. Good thing I really like that ship. This line could be one of the definitive Star Trek collections. I was thinking of going full nerd on this series and getting a complete collection, but with the QC, I'm just going to pick my favorite ships and hope for the best. I know they're trying to keep a low price point, but i would happily pay a few dollars more each for a better product.

mcarp555 said...

Chris,

Got the Stargazer today. No problem with the registry number anywhere on the ship ('NCC 2893'). One lower nacelle is labeled "UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETE", but it's sooo tiny you won't notice it without a very strong magnifying glass (I didn't, anyway).

8of5 said...

Chris: I do indeed have the Equinox, I think it's one of my favourites so far. The Stargazer registration is indeed backwards on the underside, however it appears to be on the studio model too, so that's an example of fidelity to the source material! No corrected Defiant so far, I'm not holding my breath.

As for QC overall, I'm very happy. I've not had any major issues so far. They've made the odd minor gaffs, but this line is still the best set of model starships ever made by a wide margin even considering those errors, and at very good value.