Round2 Models has kept the Star Trek model kit license alive since 2008, when owner Thomas Lowe purchased the rights to the original AMT brand that had controlled the Trek license going back to the production of the original series Enterprise kit—for many years the biggest selling model kit of all time—in 1967. R2 has not only continued to produce new models from the franchise but has kept many of the original AMT kits in circulation, repackaging them and reissuing them periodically so that nostalgic older modelers can do a better job building them than they did when they were 10.
R2 created a buzz a few years ago when they unveiled an illustration of what some of the starships from CBS All Access’ series Star Trek Discovery would look like if released at different scales: 1/2500 (which puts the original Enterprise at around 4” long), 1/1000 (which makes the Enterprise just under a foot long), and 1/1400 (which would put the Enterprise at 9”).
At 1/1000 the Discovery would be a whopping 28” in length, but the show by then had introduced Captain Christopher Pike as a character and depicted his Enterprise as a larger, showier version of what we saw in the original series. Despite its increase in size, at 1/1000 the Polar Lights Disco Enterprise came in at a quite manageable 18.9” long—around the size of the original, 1967 AMT Enterprise model.
Round2 has released models of the USS Discovery, Captain Georgiou’s ship the USS Shenzou, and Pike’s Enterprise in relatively small 1/2500 versions but the popularity of Pike and the prospect of a new show set on Pike’s Enterprise has inspired the release of a nice 1/1000 Polar Lights model, along with a lighting accessory add-on kit and a separate set of Aztec decals.
The model itself boasts 75 parts, which includes a LOT of clear window pieces as well as clear pieces for the forward warp engine domes, rear-engine caps, and inner warp engine grills. The design itself is a neat modernization of the original Matt Jefferies Enterprise that preserves many of the original ship’s details while making some of its familiar lines a little sleeker. Originally the design would have looked even closer to the Jefferies Enterprise with right-angled, “straight” warp engine pylons, but ultimately the pylons were swept back and shaped similar to the “refit” Enterprise first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The engines are designed to look a bit more related to those of the NX-01, which is a neat touch, although of course, this messes with the canon we all know and love. We’ve seen, for example, Sisko and the gang on board the original NCC-1701 design in DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations” and even Star Trek Enterprise incorporated the Jefferies Enterprise design into its Mirror universe episodes as the Defiant—so is Discovery set in an alternate timeline? Or is it just a TV show and not actual future history? The debate rages on…
The basic Enterprise kit is terrific—a great, manageable size and a super easy build, although you will spend a lot of time putting in little clear window pieces. In the era of computer-based starship design, daunting levels of detail are possible, but the model retains the basic, smooth look of the original ship for the most part. I only found one notable inaccuracy, which is the area in front of the bridge, depicted in the kit by a large, clear, convex shape while the actual area seems to be more of a convex scoop with some lighting areas built into it. This would not be an easy fix for the average modeler but I can see a simple aftermarket or 3D printed part being produced for it that would still allow for lighting.
The legacy of the Enterprise kits, in general, has been an ongoing struggle to avoid “nacelle droop”—the tendency of the joints connecting the warp engine pylons to the secondary hull to be weak and poorly engineered, with the weight of the warp nacelles causing them to droop or misalign. This situation has gradually improved over the years and while early prototype photos of the kit displayed some droop, the engineering of the actual kit is superb with very strong, locking connections for the nacelle-to-pylon, pylon-to-secondary-hull and the secondary hull neck connection to the main disc so that the kit assembles superbly with the warp engines straight and secure.
Round2 has made a lighting kit available for the Enterprise that costs about the same as the model itself. The lighting kit (not incorporated into our build) consists of a number of prewired LEDs that plug into a circuit board that is set inside the secondary hull of the model, as well as colored clear plastic parts to replace some of the model’s clear parts. There are clear red nacelle domes for the front of the warp engines, red impulse engine vents, clear blue engine grills, end caps, and a couple of other small clear parts for the warp engine lighting. The kit also provides two small motors that turn two inner clear domes with “fan blade” details molded into them included in the model kit in order to reproduce the familiar “spinning” warp energy effect at the front of the nacelles. One odd ramification of the lighting kit is that the Enterprise shuttlebay doors and the U-shaped deck extension behind them is molded in clear, which will create a light-blocking challenge since there’s an LED positioned directly behind the doors—apparently the reason is so that light can be transmitted into the deck piece and, if masked properly, give you a little lit-up shuttlecraft landing strip.
One artifact from the age of computer-generated visual effects design where Star Trek is concerned is the era of super elaborate Aztec paint schemes and the resultant headaches for modelers. The Aztec paint job on the 1979 Enterprise refit seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture was done to add visual interest to the ship so it would hold up on the big screen, and this design aesthetic became a familiar one on subsequent Federation starship designs—but those were depicted by quite large models (the movie Enterprise miniature was 8 feet in length) that gave Hollywood model makers a pretty big canvas to paint on. Now with starships mainly rendered as CG models, the paint schemes are even more elaborate (artists can duplicate an elaborate Aztec pattern with a keystroke as opposed to painstakingly painting section after section on a model). While aftermarket adhesive paint masks are sold for a number of starship model kits so that Aztec patterns can be painted on, Round2 has offered a number of elaborate Aztec decal sheets for their models, normally sold separately to give the modeler a choice to either paint or use decals to recreate this unique look.
Is it actually any easier to apply decals to the entire surface of a model than it is to mask and paint an Aztec scheme like this? It’s debatable. Round2’s decals are quite good and they do contain a level of detail and subtlety in variations of Aztec panels that would take you forever to paint, but decals can’t quite produce the iridescent effects and variations in reflectivity that you can get with paint. If you’re going to use the decals, you need to paint the surface of the model and make sure you have at least a semi-gloss (if not glossy) surface to apply the decals over. Always wet the surface of the model and use a setting solution like Solva-Set to make decals lay flat over details. The downside of using the decals is that they do cover up some fine surface detail on the kit, although the decals also do set into much of the detailing fairly well.
Round2 recommends that you cut the larger decals into smaller pieces to make them easier to work with and I HIGHLY recommend you do this, especially at the beginning of the process. After you’ve applied a half dozen or so you will get used to the process and become more adept at positioning the decals correctly and flatly. In general, the slower you go sliding the decal off the blue backing paper, the fewer bubbles and wrinkles you’ll wind up with. That said, I take my hat off to anyone who can do this entire operation and not wind up with a few wrinkles or folded over decals. Putting a final flat or semi-gloss coating over the finished product is essential and will help tie everything together and minimize any obvious mistakes, and you can also touch up problems with paint after you’ve clear coated.
You’ll need to apply all the Aztec decals and THEN, after clear coating, apply the kit-supplied Starfleet pennants, registry number and name decals over the Aztec decals, and then apply one final clear coat. You may want to mask off the nacelle and primary hull domes and other large clear parts to keep them from getting a frosted look if you use semi-gloss or flat clear coating. The final look of the Aztec decals is impressive and probably far beyond what you’d be able to do with paint at this scale. While many of the panels are in a dark metallic gray, the decals themselves are transparent to light so you can (and will) apply them right over many of the kit’s windows but when the lights are on they will shine through the decaled areas perfectly—this also gives a better scale effect to the window areas, and in a few cases like the leading and trailing edges of the warp engine pylons, the decals will even cover up seams, eliminating the need for some sanding and filling.
I elected to retain the kit’s clear warp nacelle domes and painted them clear orange to give them a look closer to the original Matt Jefferies Enterprise rather than the red look that has been seen on warp nacelles starting with TNG’s Enterprise D. The final look manages to conjure up the feel of the classic 1960s-era Enterprise albeit with an impressive, modern slant.
The final model
On the whole, this is a great little kit and demonstrates the scale of this newly-imagined Enterprise next to the original 1960s version, the 1979 refit, and a number of other Star Trek ships that Round2 has released in 1/1000 scale—Pike’s Enterprise is BIG. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more ships from the Discovery series and the upcoming Pike series from the company.
Round2’s Polar Lights Star Trek Discovery U.S.S. Enterprise 1:1000 Scale Model Kit is priced at $53.99 and can be purchased at hobby shops or discounted at CultTVMan for $48.99. The lighting kit is available for $76.99 and you can also pre-order the Aztec Decal Set for $22.99.
More photos of the finished model
Jeff Bond is co-author with Gene Kozicki of the upcoming The Art and Visual Effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture from Titan Books. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @lazymodeler.