Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fleet Scale Sci-Fi: 'not' Blake's 7 ships from Shapeways

I'm vey excited about this - being of a certain age, I am old enough to remember arguably one of the best Sci-Fi series ever to grace UK television, namely Blake's 7. Created by Terry Nation, the originator of the Daleks, it told the tale of the adventures of a rag-tag band of ex-criminals, adventurers and freedom fighters, and their struggle against the evil Federation.

Move over Star Trek - forget Firefly - this was the real deal - wobbly sets and ropey special effects- yes, but also probably one of the wittiest and most mature scripts ever seen in the genre, as well as having a candidate for one of the most evocative theme tunes ever to grace a TV show.

Moreover, it gave us the easily one of the best, unique and charismatic spacecraft designs ever created, namely the 'Liberator' or Deep Space Vehicle 2.
This was an alien craft found empty and drifting in space, that was acquired by Roj Blake and his band of freedom fighters as their primary weapon against the Federation.
Now many moons ago, Corgi Toys produced a rather cute diecast model of this ship, which you often see for sale on EBay, but it is rather on the large size for Fleet Scale gaming, so imagine my delight at finding some 'not' Blakes 7 contenders amongst the output of Shapeways in the US.

I am sure most of you have seen the increasingly interesting Sci-Fi related productions coming out of the various design studios over there, but this was my first experience at ordering from them, and I have to say I was quite impressed. More on that experience later, but back to the ships in hand.

The Liberator was designed by the renowned Dr Who set designer Roger Murray-Leach, and built by Space Models of Middlesex in the UK, with detailing by Martin Bower - I believe two models were created for the filming of the show; some great shots can be seen here:

and a fan site has the low-down here:

Of course, no heroic protagonist is worth his salt without a worthy nemesis, and the Liberator was most frequently at odds with the Pursuit Ships of the Federation - again, from the excellent fan site:

So, I just couldn't resist the LRV-7 Insurgent and Alliance Pursuit Frigates from Admiral Duck Sauce's shop:

Ordering online was a breeze, and a flurry of confirmatory and status update emails from Shapeways themselves meant the overall experience was smooth and definitely rewarding!
A fourteen day or-so wait, and I received a lovely package from the US via UPS.

The miniatures were in individual bags as you see in the photo at top, and were well protected by packing within the box - a good thing, as the material these are made of is extremely light, and I would imagine on the fragile side. Here's a photo of the two ships together for scale:

As you can see, the 'White, strong and flexible' material has a rather porous-looking, slightly rough surface - I'm yet to throw any paint in their direction, but I imagine they will be pretty thirsty - looking close, the knobbliness is apparent, but at a visual or gaming distance, I am sure it will not be noticeable - the proportions, clarity of sculpting and detail are all excellent - as you can see in this view of the underside, showing the precast attachment holes:

The only wrinkle in the whole process was that of the three Pursuit ship types, one was missing part of the rear engine drive detailing.
I could have made a try at geting a replacement, but given that this would mean missives back and forth to the US, I decided to compromise and accept it as-is; in any event, I wanted one of the trio to represent the white ship of the Liberator crew's arch-enemy, Servelan, so this can be made unique by removing the small strip of rocket motors and re-applying it to the centre - no great loss.

Apart from this small kerfuffle then, I would be pleased to recommend Shapeways for those hard-to get or otherwise unavailable ship miniatures - they are flying a bit close to the wind copyright-wise, but with my avaricious gamer's head on, I can certainly see around that!

It might be a while before I can get some paint on these little beauties, but in the mean time, for those of you who might want to wallow in some nostalgia, or for those who haven't a clue as to what I've been going on about - have some fun looking at these Fan vids on YouTube:

Remember - 'it was acceptable in the 80's!'



  1. I remember Blakes 7 when my local PBS station broadcast it. The excellent stories and character development more than made up for the special effects. I always thought that Servelan was pretty hot, too!

  2. Nice looking ships! In my limited experience with Shapeways (1 rocket ship and several land ironclads painted, a few more space ships primed), I've found that priming with spray paint helps reduce both the nobby-ness and the thirsty material.

    I have one pulp ship in one of finer materials, but haven't progressed with it beyond priming.

  3. Glad you liked the post guys, I've been hit by waves of nostalgia since receiving these - just wish I had more time at the moment to bring them on - thanks for the tip about the spray primer, CJR, I'll definitely give that a go - my only worry then will be trying to get a good-looking coat of white on the Liberator - I always think that it's the hardest colour to get right, irrespective of the under/basecoat used - should be an interesting challenge - can't have a bedraggled Liberator, now can we!