Five years into Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, UK-based Eaglemoss Collections has developed a large fanbase among Trek model enthusiasts, producing over one hundred scale reproductions of vessels from throughout the Trek franchise.
From the earliest Constitution-class ship concepts to 29th Century timeships, from the Mirror Universe to the Kelvin Timeline and everywhere in between, Eaglemoss’ ships have been rendezvousing on fans’ shelves month by month with plenty more still yet to come.
This month, Eaglemoss takes its first step into 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, with another Kelvin Timeline special edition: the USS Franklin.
Launched just a few years before Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise NX-01, our historical analysis of the Franklin has been one of our most-read articles ever published, and we’re happy to see this 7.8″ larger-size starship join our own Federation fleet.
Eaglemoss’ Franklin is the largest version of the weary starship released to date, with both a mini-ship and all-plastic edition originally debuting last year as companion bonuses to the Star Trek Beyond Blu-ray release.
As with most of Eaglemoss’ starships, this model is made up of a combination of die-cast metal (the top half of the saucer) and tough ABS plastic (the underside of the saucer, nacelle struts, and nacelles) which gives the Franklin heft in the hand but not so heavy that it has difficulty staying on display in the included model stand.
This is also the most detailed version of the Franklin yet to arrive. From the tiny hexagonal hatch above the main bridge, to the ringed array encircling the top of the saucer, to the damage from its crash and subsequent relaunch from planet Altamid, this ship has a lot of texture to it which Eaglemoss has included in abundance.
While we really like this model, there are, however, a few paint-related issues that take some points away from the overall success of the Franklin model.
First, the aft hull and nacelles have none of the red striping details that are present in the on-screen, digital Franklin model, as well as the prior 2016 models. It’s not a big thing, but it’s an unexpected omission compared to all previous versions of the ship we’ve seen to date.
In addition, the lettering used for the U.S.S. FRANKLIN NX-326 text is substantially thinner than the graphics seen in Star Trek Beyond, which has made the dorsal registry difficult to read, and seems to have also caused a bit of a misprint on our model’s underside.
Thickening the text even by half, and reducing the depth of the hull plating indentations, would have made the hull markings easier to read and possibly easier to apply to the model as well.
Finally, the painted-on starship windows are a bit of an oddity on this Franklin.
While some windows seem to be painted on with no relation to physical hull detailing, others are placed in such a position that they seem to be misaligned from the ship’s molded windows – an odd yet seemingly intentional positioning, seen the same way on Eaglemoss’ official promo photos of this model.
The viewscreen/window portal at the front of the bridge is a bit rough as well, in our opinion with a quick splash of white paint to serve as a window into the Franklin bridge. A darker, more cleanly-applied paint would serve better in this space, or perhaps even an inserted dark piece of plastic (if manufacturing processes allow).
On the whole, this is a nice, mostly-faithful recreation of the USS Franklin — the beat-up 22nd Century starship that debuted in Star Trek Beyond — with a few paint-related quirks that could use a bit of fine-tuning, and would earn our top marks if adjusted.
Included as always is a multi-page, full-color magazine with interviews and concept art from Franklin designer Sean Hargreaves, much of which we’ve featured here on TrekCore over the last two years.
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We reached out to Ben Robinson, who runs the Official Starships Collection for Eaglemoss, and he with us a lot of insight into the development and production of the Franklin model – and why some of the detailing isn’t quite the same as seen in Star Trek Beyond.
Making the Franklin was a challenge for all sorts of reasons. In fact, I think it’s one of the most difficult models we’ve ever produced so it’s very gratifying that it’s getting such a positive response.
So why was it so difficult? We got the 3D model from CBS while [‘Star Trek Beyond’] was still in production, along with the Swarm ship and the revised Enterprise. I was ready to start work when the first trailer came out and I realized that the Enterprise on screen was different to the model I had. I’ve been burned like this before.
One of the things about doing CG in a movie is that you can keep tweaking it right up to the last moment.
Suddenly, I had a bit of a panic. What if the CG I had turned out to be nothing like the finished ship? I probably shouldn’t have, but I decided to wait until the movie was out. Of course, when it did, the Franklin turned out to be pretty much the same.
The next problem was that the reference material I had was based on Sean Hargreaves’ model and not the finished CG. The differences were subtle, but it was enough to be frustrating. Paramount weren’t handing over any more reference material and the movie wasn’t out on Blu-ray yet.
I couldn’t wait any longer, though, as I have bosses who want a certain number of specials a year. So I started doing my best to piece what I could together from the various trailers.
One of the things that I find with CG is that some details are built into the geometry and some are added with textures and bump maps. Ideally you want all of that when you start, but this time I was retrofitting some of the details like the position of the windows. Ideally they’d have been built into the model, but sometimes they had to be dealt with as paint.
The next problem was the color: the Franklin looked like it was made of concrete rather than the standard Starfleet materials. Getting the color of a ship right is surprisingly difficult. Color isn’t fixed – it changes as it interacts with light. After years of working on these ships I’ve got a range of colors for different eras, but the Franklin was something new and different and that meant lots of testing.
The bigger problem was the way the Franklin was distressed. The factory are very precise and they want to make every ship exactly the same. Distressing and damage really challenge them because they are random. Trying to work out how to ‘rust’ the ship was incredibly difficult.
The factory’s first attempts were horrible – they looked as if someone had just scrawled on the ship with a marker pen (maybe they had). I kept sending it back and eventually we arrived at something I could live with. I still don’t think that ‘rust’ is the right color, but hey, it’s not too bad.
So the model gets locked, with my best guesses about how it should look. That was months and months ago. Manufacturing and shipping take an incredibly long time. Then they release the movie in 4K. As I’m working on the magazine I can see all the details that I couldn’t see before. Arrgh! Still, I’m pretty satisfied with the end result and to this day I don’t think I’ve made a model that I’m completely happy with.
On the up side Sean Hargreaves is great. And I love the magazine we are able to put together. His artwork looks amazing and he’s really interesting about the design process.
And best of all now the model is out, people seem to love it! That’s always the gratifying bit and makes all the hard work seem worth it. And, of course, it’s ages since I moved on to the next thing. I’m working on models that won’t be released for another year. They all have their own problems. Some are easier than others.
I just hope that in the end they turn out as well as the Franklin.
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We’ve heard from Eaglemoss that the Franklin has been one of the fastest-moving Star Trek models they’ve released to date, with orders coming in hot from fans shopping through both their UK and US stores – so if you’re interested get your orders in quickly!
For fans in the United States, you can order the Franklin here at Eaglemoss’ store, with shipments heading out now. In the UK, you can order here, where shipments of the Franklin are already going out to fans in that region.
In Eaglemoss’ US store, TrekCore readers can use promo code TREKCORE at checkout for 10% off any ‘Star Trek’ collectible purchase $50 or greater (Starships, Plaques, Binders, Graphic Novels).