By John Lester - images & text © 2003
The spaceship Matt Jeffries designed for Gene Roddenberry's characters to fly around the galaxy was nothing short of revolutionary. Hard to imagine now, when it's probably the most widely recognized sci-fi icon, but back then - you had flying saucers or cigars with fins. In either case, they were silvery.
Image: ... but wait, there's more!
Image: Saucer halves
Image: Instructions are clear, well detailed and cover all building options.
Image: For those who don't have the patience for decals, markings are provided on two sheets of "stickers"
Image: For everyone else, a nicely done waterslip decal sheet is provided.
^ The only place I had trouble - figuring out how the insert fit into the nacelle end cap. It should look like this.
Image: Port side view, assembled model
Image: Top view
The USS Enterprise has inspired countless modelers since the show first aired; there are very few American sci-fi modelers (at least) who haven't built at least one of the various plastic and resin models of the ship marketed over the years. ERTL's classic 18" kit was my first spaceship - slammed together in an afternoon when I was ten or so. I didn't know at the time is chock-a-block with accuracy errors - nor would I have cared at that point. Twenty years later, when I returned to the hobby, I did care - and found a whole cottage industry had sprung up offering corrections - or all-new kits in various media and scales.
The one thing the ERTL kit, and to a somewhat lesser extent their 22" cut-away version released a few years ago, had going for it was price. Sure, they weren't completely accurate, or even well-engineered, but they were inexpensive. Resin kits or the aftermarket bits to correct the ERTL kits' flaws may have been accurate, but they weren't cheap. Thankfully, Polar Lights has now made the issue moot with their new offering.
What You Get
Inside the small box are crammed three bags of styrene parts, another of decals and stickers, and a 1 page fold-out instruction sheet. You get sufficient pieces and markings to build one of four versions of the Enterprise:
The plastic parts are well-molded and well engineered. The kit is marketed as "Skill Level 1", so it's nominally a "snap-together" model (more on that later). Despite the rather large alignment pins, there were no sink marks on any of the pieces in the two kits I bought. There's no flash or other flaws either. The only downside I found is that some of the places where parts attach to the sprues are pretty thick, requiring extra care when cutting the parts loose. Detail is minimal - which is entirely appropriate, given the original's simplicity and the scale. Where there is detail, it's well done. One particularly nice feature is the two-piece clear bussard scoops. A grooved piece sits under the outer dome, enabling you to replicate the "ribbed inside" look of the original whether you light the model or not.
Assembly instructions take up the front side of the instruction sheet. There are three separate "tracks", each with three steps, outlining what parts are used with what version. Paint colors are indicated in each step (using letters that reference to a table on the lower left of the page). Tip - put big X's through assembly steps that don't pertain to the version you're doing - so you don't do as I did and inadvertently install the wrong pieces!
On the flip side of the page are the marking guides for each version. They're clear, concise and easy to follow. Whether you use the stickers or decals you get sufficient markings for all the windows, all the hull markings and pennants, as well as registry numbers and names for four ships (Enterprise, Exeter, Defiant, and Constellation - OK< five ships, as you get the ISS name and Terran Empire logos for the mirror-Enterprise). The drawings are also a good reference to make sure you installed the correct parts in the correct places as well.
Assembly & Finish
I slammed the kit together in about 20 minutes just to get an idea of how well it builds. Fit is fair all around - not up to Bandai's standard, but good enough. Parts align well, with no steps between them. You can reduce some of the gaps and seam lines by trimming a small portion from the ends of all the alignment pins (especially on the nacelles and saucer). I'd say it's a good kit for a kid to build, though there were a couple spots where I needed adult strength to force the parts to fit (the sauder-neck junction is a good example). The only problem I had during the entire process was with the nacelle endcaps for the "production" version. It's hard to tell how you're suppose to slide the domes in; the notches cut in them seem to indicate you push them in perpendicular to the centerline of the nacelle. No way they'll fit at that angle. I finally discovered that if you just lay them in at an angle, they fit fine.
While parts fit is good enough to keep everything where it should be, building this as a snap-together will leave you with a lot of visible seams. I'd suggest trimming the large pins back until they really are mere alignment pins, then gluing everything together. Fit is good enough that you can make most of the seams go away with judicous clamping, though you will definitely need to use putty where the nacelle pylons meet the secondary hull (and the nacelles themselves, for that matter), and where the saucer meets the neck.
Oh, and you'll probably want to take a sanding stick to the outside face of the lower saucer half, port side where it meets the "neck". Paramount's copyright is molded in fine, raised letters there.
There's enough room inside that the kit practically screams for lighting. You'll only need a few LEDs for that - which makes the project manageable for most of us (though no doubt some crazy person is already devising a way to cram tiny surface mount LEDs and a chip to regulate the rotating flashes that the filming models had in their bussard scoops). If you don't throw an LED behind scoops, you'll want to cover the hole that lets you see straight down the nacelle with a piece of scrap card or styrene - I'd suggest something shiny, to reflect light back at the viewer.
I'm not really much of a fan of the original series, but I DO like this model. It's affordable, well-designed, small enough it won't take over your home but large enough to have fun with, and it goes together easily. Polar Lights decision to provide stickers and decals, plus all the extra parts to build the various versions, makes it a kit beginners and "experts" alike can enjoy - we should really thank them for that. Best of all, all the things I praised it for a couple sentences ago also mean it's a kit-basher's delight ... as well as an excellent base for conversions (I already know of Lochnar and Larson class conversions in the works, as well as a thru-deck shuttle carrier).
Many thanks to my wallet for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 3500+ readers a day? Contact us!
This page copyright © 2003 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 2 August 2003.