Decades-Old Fighter Mystery Solved! (January 8, 2019)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
We've solved a small Wing Commander mystery! This unidentified ship appeared in a single act of an episode of Wing Commander Academy ("Invisible Enemy.") It wasn't an obvious match for a fighter from the games and it was only seen the once. Well we’ve tracked down the original script for the episode and discovered that it was meant to be... a FERRET!








For reference, this is the P-64C Ferret (and P-64D Super Ferret!) patrol fighter as introduced in Wing Commander II:




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Original update published on January 8, 2019
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Wow. I remember a lot of speculation about it being a Rapier, but a Ferret - never would have thought of it! A very different interpretation, that's for sure.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
For sure, while there are some major differences that clearly lead to the confusion all these years, it's really interesting to see how the artist did end up interpreting these elements. The forward half, including fins with guns on them, is actually pretty close. And then in the back, it still has four fins/wings, and they're even the right shape and right position for the top two... it's just that the bottom two were flattened out and got engine pods on them.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Yes, that's true as well. Once you look closely, you can see how the different elements were re-imagined.

I actually rather like the final outcome, and a part of me wishes that the script hadn't identified it as a Ferret, but as some new ship not seen elsewhere. This particular configuration, with two small engine pods on the wings and a big central one is very unique in the WC universe, and for that reason it would be great if it were its own thing rather than simply a Ferret. But hey, maybe this is more like the sort of Ferret the Confed Handbook mentions from the early war period.
 

wcnut

Rear Admiral
IDK, the cockpit is too far forward like a modern jet, where as the ferret clearly took inspiration from an X-Wing and put it in the back with a long nose. The whole body and design is wrong. They just happen to get the placement of the guns on the canards next to the cockpit, which is something the rapier had too, or it really would be completely unrecognizable. I kinda question if the artist looked at the game or just looked at the rapier design and decided to go with that. Despite what the script says, it looks as if the artist did what they wanted and made a nice looking ship, so how can you take it that too seriously? Quarto if you want to call it something else, I say go for it :)
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I believe there's one more element that explains why it's not quite the Ferret we know: Larry Latham told me the story of how toy company reps showed up with a prototype they wanted to sell as the hero ship. Larry said he was happy to put the design in the show but there was only one episode yet to be animated. Since Invisible Enemy was the last episode to finish production, I suspect that these Ferrets are an attempt to turn the toy company ship into a familiar Wing Commander design...
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Wait, there were Academy-related toys? Did that actually happen, or was it a plan that never reached fruition?
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Sadly they never happened, the deal was contingent on a second season.

It would've been great, though. The same company, Playmates, did a toys for the same creative teams' previous show, Exosquad... and it's one of the best toy lines ever. You can see how WCA was made to be toyetic from the start: each "faction" had a base fighter (Scimitar/Dralthi) and a premium one (Broadsword/Grikath)...
 
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