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Two years ago Master Replicas quickly sold out the first set of a limited series of pricey ‘studio scale’ models of the Original Series NCC 1701 Enterprise. This summer they will finally finish out the series with the final 500 models and pre-orders just recently opened up, leaving many collectors with the question of whether or not now is the time to pay $1200 for a model ship.
Quest for a ship of your own
If you’re a Star Trek fan, odds are you collect at least some Trek merchandising paraphernalia: DVDs, toys, model kits, soundtrack albums, books, etc. The extent to which you do this is a kind of measurement stick for your degree of fandom—any co-worker can look at your office or cubicle and judge just how Trek-crazy you are by the amount of Kirks and starships littering the space.
Trek merchandise ranges from easily affordable knick-knacks to ridiculously expensive collectors items, and probably no object from the series has been more fetishized than the Enterprise itself. It’s been reproduced in everything from plastic toys a couple of inches long to massive, six-foot unlicensed replicas and numerous model kits produced over the years by AMT and its offshoots.
For everyone who’s slaved over one of these kits trying to make it look exactly like the ship seen in the TV show, there are some seemingly insurmountable obstacles. One is that the kits reproduced up to a few years ago have not been “screen accurate”—they have all required modification to get closer to the look of the 11 foot miniature familiar to viewers, and this has created an entire mini-industry of “accurizing” garage kits designed to help you fix the inaccuracies of the AMT kits. Polar Lights recently saved everyone a lot of trouble by producing a very accurate 12” Enterprise—then they folded after being bought out by the conglomerate RC2, but after more corporate sales the company is due to get back into the Trek business in the fall).
As good as the Polar Lights kit is, it is relatively small and conveying the 947-foot size of the Enterprise has always been part of the appeal for a certain kind of collector. The biggest kit AMT produced of the original Enterprise was a 22” “cutaway” model that can be converted to a reasonably good reproduction of the shooting miniature. But even if you’re a master modeler, there are two major problems in achieving the look of the 11-foot model. One is “nacelle droop”—the tendency of the starship’s thin engine pylons, no matter how heavily reinforced, to allow the large and weighty warp engines to sag over time. The other is the difficulty in reproducing the ship’s elegant warp engine power effect, the result of a complex inner lighting rig of fans, mirrors and blinking lights built inside the ship’s translucent engine domes. Although LED technology has made reproducing this look slightly easier over the years, getting it to look exactly right in any of the smaller models of the Enterprise is virtually impossible.
Master Replicas Presents The Studio Scale Enterprise
This is all a long-winded way of answering the question I often see posted on model collector’s message boards: “Why should I spend $1199 on the Master Replicas Studio Scale Enterprise?” Master Replicas sold the original run of this 1/350 scale, 33” model a couple of years ago in a limited run and the last 500 are finally on their way out of the factory.
“Studio Scale” might sound like an odd term for a 33” reproduction of an 11-foot miniature, but MR cites the 33” miniature of the ship used to shoot some scenes in “The Cage,” “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” among others as the starting point for this reproduction. The 33” Enterprise miniature had no internal lighting, however, and this and many other details on the Master Replicas model are specifically designed to duplicate the look of the 11-foot miniature.
The Master Replicas Enterprise is a beautiful, impressive display piece that reproduces all the details of the original series shooting miniature, from the internal lighting, blinking navigation beacons (including one at the recently-revealed location of the ion pod), and an amazingly subtle and authentic reproduction of the engine dome lighting effect that would really allow this collectible to be shot as a working filming miniature and look almost indistinguishable from the original model used in the show. The effect involves layers of lighting and filters from the familiar radiant orange/burnt orange and yellow “fan” effect to the winking of subtle green lights deep within the dome, all timed to reproduce the scale and speed of the original effect.
The subtle weathering done on the 11-foot miniature is painstakingly reproduced on the Master Replicas ship, including some surprisingly heavy-duty brown streaking on the forward top part of the primary hull that was rarely visible on the series due to the camera angles and limitations of film and compositing at the time. MR also includes another detail not visible on TV screens of the era: a tiny translucent “phaser cannon” at the very bottom of the glowing white “sensor dome” at the bottom of the primary hull. This is visible in some behind-the-scenes shots of the filming miniature but it is obscured by the dome light effect and bluescreen compositing and may have even fallen off or been removed at some point from the filming miniature—MR provides this as a removable feature and gives you three of these tiny clear pieces since it is inevitable you will lose at least one.
In addition to the internal lighting, the inside of the model is provided with an extensive metal brace support system that is quite strong, meaning that the nacelles of this Enterprise will always stay straight and true. The ship comes with an extremely stable metal display stand that plugs into the bottom of the engineering hull with something like a large headphone jack, making it easily removable and pivotable on the base. And the 1/350 naval scale means you can display the Enterprise next to all sorts of other cool things—like Polar Lights’ 1/350 Enterprise “refit” from Star Trek – The Motion Picture or either of the two United States aircraft carrier Enterprise model kits that are out there. There is at least one inaccuracy on the Master Replicas model—the shuttle bay hangar “floor” doesn’t quite flow seamlessly into the U-shaped rear hull section the way it should, but this is not glaringly noticeable and if you’re determined to have 100% accuracy you can find people who make little plugs to seal this area. Otherwise, this is a beautiful reproduction and ought to be the last word in recreations of this classic vessel. I have yet to show my MR Enterprise to anyone, fan or not, who wasn’t impressed by it. $1200 is a lot of money, but for this level of functionality and size, as well as the kind of workmanship that should allow you to pass this beauty on to your grandchildren after you’ve turned them into Trekkies, well, to quote Ferris Beuhler, “I highly recommend it, if you have the means.”
Studio Scale Enterprise: The Movie
Here is a nice YouTube vid of the Master Replicas ship by ‘CessnaDriver2′ (note the audio clips and music were added by vid maker)
Pre-orders now open
The final 500 Studio Scale Master Replicas Enterprises will begin shipping in August and Master Replicas warns "this is the last opportunity to purchase this unique piece of Star Trek history." For more info or to place a pre-order, visit MasterReplicas.com. You can also pre-order from Entertainment Earth.
|Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Replica Limited Edition available for pre-order at Entertainment Earth|
(pre-order, estimated available in September)